Disarmonia Mundi – Nebularium – 4/5
Ok, so this kicks off the large number of “unknown” band reviews. (I recently acquired a number of albums from bands I’ve never heard of but sounded intriguing), and this is the one to kick it off. I’ve been waiting for the time to give this a proper listen so I can get a review up about it. Why? Because its quite possibly the closest thing to Disillusions “Back To Times of Splendor” that I’ve heard since…well since I heard Disillusion :p
Ok, so that comparison may not be completely fair. They both play a blend of Prog and Melodic Death Metal but both tackle it from a different way. Where Disillusion was fairly straight forward, this is very much more of an avant-garde piece, consisting largely of Prog/Melodeath. There are classically influenced sections, industrial vocals at times, soft melodic sections filled with clean emotional singing, jazzy sections and deathly growls over riffs bordering the level of complexity and addictive nature of disillusion, in fact there are times when you wonder what exactly you’re listening to. Then it kicks right back into it and you remember.
A key thing to note is that it never really kicks into typical full on Death Metal aggression mode. If your after a blast-beating raw aggression, you wont find it here - This very much more a controlled and steady aggression. If most Death Metal aims to sound like its gonna jump you and rip your heart out, this is more like yelling at you before walking off only to be seen later on playing with a knife with a sadistic glint in their eye. Its controlled, but the aggression is still present, just perhaps more subtle.
The album kicks off with the aptly named “Into Disarmonia Mundi.” This track was actually somewhat disappointing, not necessarily bad but it doesn’t give a good representation of the bands sound, nor capabilities. It’s a largely good but linear, slow atmospheric intro track, extended out a bit to include some vocals and, rather oddly, a guitar solo. “Blue Lake” is where it kicks off, with an addictive riff and a scream it shows the musicianship of the members, utilising both growls and cleaner singing, with plenty of variation between the main riff it keeps interest high, until suddenly about 2/3rds of the way through, we hit a jazz…I hesitate to say “breakdown” of a sort.
This is by no means the strongest track on the album, but it highlights the ability of these two musicians in the array of sounds they are capable of producing. “Mechanichell” has a thrashy feel to it and “Burning cell” has a heavily old-school death metal sound somehow successfully combined with electro-vocals and a power metal solo for example. These guys seem to produce a never-ending stream of styles and sounds and slap them right in the mix.
The vocals aren’t as emotional as id like, which is a major down point for me. Their largely highly variable in sound and style which is where I expect the replay value to emerge, rather than specific ability in any one area, but luckily this is compensated by the guitar work and drumming – both done by the same guy might I add – who not only seems to be able to seamlessly incorporate a variety of styles, but do it in a way that evokes a particular sense. Be it a upbeat jazz beat, an aggressive drum section, an addictive thrashy or deathly riff, an evil tone or a quick emotional power metal solo, he seems to have got it down well. He’s by no means a master of any particular style, but most musicians would be happy to accomplish just one of these styles as well.
This is by no means a perfect album. This isn’t going to replace Disillusions place on my playlist anytime soon, and some of the tracks feel weak – but that’s to be expected when you consider how unique each track turns out – and for a prog album it feels rather short, clocking at only 47mins. Simply, what we have is a solid album which seems to have been overlooked.
Highlights: Blue Lake, Mechanichell, Burning Cells.
By T. Bawden.
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Mercenary - 11 Dreams('04) - 2/5
First off, I have to admit that i had a tough time getting into and then digesting this album. I think this was due to the crossed messages I had gotten from the lead off track. While this Danish unit are described as a power metal/melodic death metal band in the Metal Archives, my initial reaction to the opening track(after a naff standard pseudo-classical lead off), "World Hate Center", was one of confusion. Yes, the song contained many of the trademarks of the group description. Namely, it had the expected double bass barrages, the accessible type of black shriek usually attributed to MDM,clean vocals of a most pleasing timbre, adequate riffage, and sky burst semi hooky chorus. But then something strange occurred to me. While all of the elements were good to excellent in execution, the band seemed to be shooting wildly at various styles while not really having an identity of their own. As the song progressed,I was hearing many things that I had heard elsewhere, and it almost seemed like the band was progressing through a checklist of influences, leaving not a one unrecognized(it even features a Zep styled Middle Eastern bridge section fer Chrissakes!!!). Overall, I felt that it was well executed but uninviting and scattershot.
While this was hardly the beginning I had anticipated, I hoped that track two(the title track) improved on things. No dice. A clean voiced bore, the song was almost nu metal in vibe. The next track in line also didn't peak my interest, being another mid paced, cleanly sung tune, but again, not overly appealing to me in construct or delivery.
Needless to say, and this was after three attempts to get into the album, I was not really looking forward to slogging through the rest of the album for this review. Then, out of the blue came "Firesoul", in my opinion, a soaring masterpiece of spectacular breadth. Wow!! Where did this come from? On this ripping riff fest, the band seem to have found the perfect marriage of the styles that they strive for. Brilliant vocal work from Mikkel Sandager(the bands ace in the hole) coupled with a guest appearance by Monika Pedersen,carving axework, and a crunchy passion stamped with authority over every hallowed second.It also features terrific melodic hooks that most bands could only dream of. Now this is metal at it's most emotively effective.
So, things are looking up you think. Well, my hopes were peaked after this creative tour-de-force for sure. But alas, it is not to be. Without getting into much more detail in this already long winded review, what we get after "Firesoul" is a morbid semi-power/death ballad, a Fear Factory/Pantera clone,a new wave/dance toon(!?!?!?), another FF/Pantera clone, and must I go on? Again, identity fades, and a confusing mish mash of genre hopping occurs again.
While this band features many elements that are commendable(exacting solos, spartan but effective keys,solid drumming, solid production),the real reason for anyone to check it out is for Sandager's electric vocal performance. Able to do death grunt/black shriek with aplomb, and possessing of a pleasing clean vocal(Mike Patton is the closest comparable I can come up with), the man is a gem that needs discovering, and I would recommend this album on that merit alone.
Highly Recommended: Firesoul
By J. Costigan
Tacere – A Beautiful Darkness – 4.5/5
Ok, so I used to have something of a fetish for the whole female fronted symphonic power bands. (Nightwish-esque) and amongst my search for new bands, came across this one. (Though it should be noted they are prog/symphonic/power)
This is a band that stands out from the rest, building on the groundwork set by others. A dark foreboding atmosphere is ever present, aided by the relatively basic, but often addictive, guitar-work and beautiful keyboard work (utilising the sound of different instruments to provide such sounds as violins to the mix). There is the occasional solo, fitting and memorable if nothing spectacular.
It opens with “Deep Tears of Tragedy,” with possibly one of the best solo’s on the album, a catchy violin sound, but all of this is nothing when it comes to the vocals. As is common with bands in this genre, the instruments often find themselves doing little more than providing a musical playground for the vocalist (though here this is not so much the case), meaning the end result must be nothing short of perfect to draw your attention.
Other bands have flaunted with the idea of “beauty and the beast” vocals, soft female vocals working with a more aggressive male voice (E.g. After Forever, Epica) but here they go beyond that. There is largely a 50/50 split between the vocals, neither side dominating, and both parties able to sing emotionally, varying pitch, volume and aggression. The result of this sounds like a constant argument between two people, both vying for control, a constant struggle or battle, and this is what puts them above the rest in the genre. The songs remain distinct, from the highly aggressive “Bitter, Regressive” to the heavily piano-laden “Black Roses” to the softer vocals on “phantasm,” often accompanied by only an acoustic guitar, each song retains a sense of individuality.
This is a band that attempt something I haven’t heard done before, or since, and it’s a shame they don’t get more recognition.
Highlights: Bitter Regressive, Black Roses, Deep Tears of Tragedy
Tacere – Demo (2008) – 3.5/5
The first thing to note is that a lot of the gothic sound has disappeared. The female vocals take over a lot more here but don’t have the same power, and the male vocals are clearly weaker. Some of this slack is picked up by the guitar and keyboard which have a noticeably bigger part.
Apart from that, the sound is largely the same - a solid effort but nothing spectacular. For a demo the production is phenomenal. It’s simply the weakness in vocals which carried the last album simply doesn’t match up here. The atmosphere isn’t as thick, and whilst there are moments of brilliance (see the entire of "Storm of the Century", it simply isn’t the same. Still good for a fix if you want more Tacere, but it shouldn’t be the first thing you hear from them.
Highlights: Storm of the Century.
By T. Bawden
Ok, why its taken me this long to review this band I really don’t know. Ive seen them live three times, have met most of the band – and not just after the shows. If there is one band I am obsessive over, this is it.
This band is something of a unique one. On one hand you have a progressive style of symphonic power, only likened to bands like nightwish in their gothic female-fronted style, but the other side is an almost thrashy, complex, bordering the neo-classical at times riff work, with a heavy prominent bass juxtaposing classically influenced keyboard arrangements.
So their debut album first reaches my ears, and it was clear to me then that this wasn’t your average band. Every instrument has their own piece, their own time to shine, none are overplayed and whilst there are better musicians out there, these are easily competent and somehow form a coherent bond which gel’s each track together like a carefully constructed tapestry.
The album opens with “Traces” showing off the vocalist’s abilities early on, as well as the Egyptian theme from which they take their name, before kicking into a melodic guitar solo over an interesting drum beat, ending on a short keyboard piece - A perfect example of the entire band showcasing their talents. This is almost a teaser track for what’s to come, and luckily it only gets better from here on in.
The vocals on this album are superb, full of emotion, clean, easily understood, plenty of variation and somehow working majestically over both the more aggressive guitar riffs, as well as the quieter periods. The guitar riffs are ever present and add a nice background for the vocals, are catchy and perfectly fitting if nothing extraordinary. The fill-ins and the solo’s, however, is where he has his time to shine, adding little touches between sections to smooth the transition and keep it sounding fresh, or replacing Julie Kiss’ on the vocals for his own brand of emotion. The same is true for the bass, keyboards and drums. They all have their time to shine even if the majority of their time is spent providing a general backing sound. This is part of what really makes them unique – they all have their specific role, but no instrument is left feeling redundant.
This is a breath of fresh air and new ideas brilliantly worked together to provide an interesting piece which can sustain multiple listens.
Highlights: Parfum, Obscure Oblivion, Dreadful Angel
To Mera – Delusions – 4/5
So their follow up album gets released two years later, and eagerly I play it the day of its release. Unfortunately, I can’t help but be disappointed.
There’s nothing especially bad about the album, it simply doesn’t feel like anything that hasn’t already been covered. It takes a slightly more aggressive thrashier direction, whilst maintaining their individuality, which may make it appeal more to some fans, but the cost of this is the keyboard segments prevalent in their debut seem to take far more of a back-seat, letting the abundance of unique riffs take their turn. It also takes a slightly more progressive turn, changing more abruptly between sections. One of the things that worked really well before was the little fill-ins done to smooth the transition. Though something of a minor complaint, it was a little touch that simply polished off an already strong track.
The album opens with “The Lie” full of almost shredded solo’s, aggressive riff work, which feels a lot less like background atmosphere now, and take on a life of their own. Also present is that oddly emotional enchanting voice, which has if anything improved since their debut.
The main problem is that no one element stands out, there isn’t as much to draw you in, and it ends up being largely interesting background music to drift in and out of – not that this is a huge problem. The music varies enough to keep you interested when you do return to it, and the emotion is once again able to sustain multiple listens. The exception to this is “Inside the hourglass” which is definitely the high-point of the album (if not the bands finest work to date). Not only does it showcase the best of each member’s ability, but has this bizarre familiarity to it from the first listen, as though you know precisely what’s coming.
This album is by no means weak, it simply doesn’t match up to the originality of their debut. They hint at experimenting in a slightly different direction whilst remaining distinct from other bands, but something simply doesn’t connect.
Highlights: Inside the Hourglass, Asylum, The Lie.
By T. Bawden
So, seeing as oddly I have seem to have time today, why not continue with another band I have great respect for.
Adagio – Underworld – 4.5/5
Now usually the whole Prog/power style of music bores me. Sometimes some neo-classical is thrown it to speed it up but it never really manages to catch my attention for long. Enter the exception to the rule. Most notably, they don’t just have neo-classical elements, there are very strong classical influences here too. I’m talking huge epic grandiose classical sequences – none more prominent than on the title track. And it’s not some sort of gimmick, or a one off intro, its clearly present all the way through the album, providing a distinctly unique sound.
The opening is strong, with a classical yet power metal feel to it, the singing is emotional and powerful, the drumming frequently varying yet allowing the keyboards to have their smooth melodic time working its magic, playing off perfectly with the - frequently virtuosic, always melodic – guitar work. No one element is overdone, but work in unison to provide a creepy, classical and dark sound whilst retaining that core Progressive Power feel. From the ballad “Promises,” the dark epic “Underworld,” the hard hitting “Last Profundis,” the instrumental “Niflheim” or the heavy choral work, and almost demonic sound on “introitus,” this is an album that explores different styles and for the most part does them wonderfully.
The only reason this doesn’t score a perfect 5/5 is that towards the end, some of the songs begin to feel sub-par to other work on the album, or it feels slightly similar to previous tracks, as if they were running out of idea’s. Nonetheless, this is a unique album which many could do well to explore.
Highlights: Underworld, Next Profundis, Niflheim
Adagio – Dominate – 4/5
Gone is much of the classical element here. It’s still present, but takes much more of a background theme. Instead the focus has shifted to a more aggressive neo-classical nature, which whilst still top-notch, means it loses a lot of its originality. The entire album is not as dark as “underworld” but with its occasional growls (e.g. Dominate, the title track) moves into a more thrash-like territory.
Much like “underworld” before it, the opening track is a strong, hard hitting typical prog/power affair. The emotion is still present, and if anything the musicianship has improved - the variety of riffs, high tempo yet melodic solos, and catchy chorus’s providing a new aspect to the band that had yet to be explored. My one gripe is the lack of softer melodic keyboard passages that were frequently present before also seem to have somewhat vanished in their new aggressive style.
Once again there is the ballad track (Kissing the Crow) which in my opinion easily surpasses “promises,” the dark almost black at times “Children of the Dead Lake,” Anthemic “Dominate” and brilliant cover of “Fame,” adding their own personal spin on the classic, repetitive is certainly not something that this band can be called.
So once again, we have a brilliant album from a band that deserves more recognition than they currently receive. Whilst not as original sounding as their previous work, this is a worthwhile addition to their repertoire.
Highlights: Dominate, Kissing the Crow, Fame.
By T. Bawden
This is to be something of a unregistered review (Not travelling through the normal way on facebook) but is a band I felt deserved mentioning. There are likely to be a few of these to come as interest from other parties seems to have dwindled somewhat. But now I’m babbling.
Disillusion – The Porter – 4/5
This is a short single by the band, prior to any full length release, which someone kindly uploaded for me. Being a fan of the band, I jumped on it expecting something magical, but I was sorely disappointed. The same standard of musicianship is present (A high standard) but its here they sound largely like their trying to adhere to the style of melodeath with a slight prog twist, resulting in a sound not too dissimilar from Opeth.
The vocals are still largely aggressive yet clean, but there are notably more growls than in future works, but the main problem I have with them is the distinct lack of emotion. Part of what I loved about this band is that emotional weight that each song contains, comparable to primordial’s “To the Nameless Dead” which simply isn’t here. The guitar work is once again complex yet both distinct and memorable, and the drumming top notch. Its only the lack of emotion present, combined with the fact they seem to be trying overly hard to play something which doesn’t really suit them. Nonetheless, this is a solid Single.
Disillusion – Back to Times of Splendor – 5/5
I don’t think it’s physically possible for me to praise this album enough. Ive been listening to it regularly for over a year now and its still as hard hitting as the first time I heard it. The aggression is back, and if anything has even more presence. It opens with a strong riff and harsh vocals which – Most importantly – sound like he’s spitting out angrily his frustrations, before switching to a calmer more melodic segment, yet still oddly retaining much of the aggression, but this time with a darker tone. The vocals I usually pay little attention to – I must confess – but here this isn’t an option. They stand out so well that you can help but hear what he has to say, even if you only acknowledge the tone.
The guitars working with the drums flawlessly transition between slow melodic passages eeking with despair and the more aggressive “pissed off” sounding riffs, and despite the often complex riffs they are incredibly addictive. None more so than the introductory riff for “Fall.” It really demonstrates their ability to write music when you’re capable of producing a work like this. Most artists struggle to make simplistic riffs memorable, so this must go down as something of a work of genius.
There is nothing bad about this album, the perfect combination of ‘catchiness’ drawing you in, and the emotion that sustains its replay value time and time again.
Disillusion – Gloria – 3.5/5
After their previous album I eagerly anticipated their new full length, and the first thought that went through my mind when I heard it was disappointment. Gone was the Disillusion I loved for this, Techno progressive metalcore. Needless to say I went back to their last album and for a good time it was forgotten.
Well, I returned to it accidentally (It was on a playlist on shuffle) and on came “Don’t go any further” and I was intrigued, and at first glance I underestimated it.
The first point I should make is don’t go into this expecting another “Back to Times of Splendor” as this album is VERY different. Largely the catchy guitar riffs are still present, with electro synth effects (e.g. Dread it) and an electronic voice replacing the growls. The emotion is still there, but has a far less epic feel to it, resulting in a solid album if not with quite the same replay value.
The band clearly realised they were faced with a challenge – try to remake a “perfect” album or try something different, and they chose the latter, and on reflection I’m grateful. Id rather they experiment with new idea’s than re-hash old ones. (I make it no secret that whilst initially I loved Opeth, I had come to realise they haven’t had an orginal sound for 20 odd years now. The same applies to Dream Theatre and a number of other bands).
I would go as far to say that a number of the tracks, whilst different, are approaching the level of quality as seen in ‘BTTOS,’ but then a lot of the tracks simply get stale very quickly. “Lava” is a great example of this. Nearly 4mins of the same riff, no vocals, and to be honest, I don’t know what they were thinking. Another problem is “Too many broken cease fires,” which sounds remarkably like the older style of Disillusion, and it simply feels somewhat out of place, despite being a strong track.
This is an album I feel has been underrated, as it has a number of brilliant yet original sounding tracks, just dont go expecting another flash of brilliance. Personally, I’m intrigued to see what they can come up with next.
Highlights: Don’t go any further, The Black Sea, Too many broken cease fires.
By T. Bawden
Exumer – Posessed by Fire – 4/5
This an album which I had to listen to multiple times to fully appreciate – not that this detracts from the album in any way. On the contrary, you find something new you like about it every play. I must have heard it all the way through almost a dozen times this week, and it has yet to get old.
Whilst on one hand they play a fairly heavily exodus-style of thrash, mixed up with this what I can only describe as progressive tendencies. It transitions sharply between quick shredding and more traditional maiden or metallica style riffs, blending the best of both sides of the genre, and it fits perfectly with the chaotic nature they’re trying to achieve.
Individually, I cant pinpoint any person in the band who delivers an exceptional performance. The vocals are standard thrash affair with the occasional scream to add some variation. They certainly aren’t bad, simply nothing extraordinary. The guitars have the definite moments, the solo for destructive solution for example stands out as a section of pure genius in an already strong track, but largely feel either simplistic and unmemorable or blatant exodus worship. The drums do an excellent job of transitioning between the differently paced segments, and no single beat is overused, but in a similar fashion as the guitars, they’re largely mediocre.
Im sure if your reading this now your wondering how it got such a high mark. The answer is simple – their musicianship is nothing special but the tracks themselves are so beautifully worked out, so constantly changing it’s truly a joy to listen to. It often takes unexpected twists, and manages to keep up with the fastest thrash – then or now – whilst retaining melodic segments reminiscent of Metallica’s “Fade To Black” or Megadeth’s “Tout le Monde,” and most importantly – seamlessly integrating them together to form a cohesive song. The introduction for the opening track is a great example of their creative talents, a dark foreboding sound with a faintly heard church choir, before quickly turning into a quick paced riff. It’s the fact there is very little in the way of weak points that makes this such a unique listening experience. In fact, the only truly weakness this album has is that sometimes the tracks feel similar to each other, but clocking at only 38mins this is a minor gripe.
If it had more sweeping memorable riffs and solo’s, and had they managed to create something sounding completely different from the other tracks this would probably have scored a perfect 5/5.
By T. Bawden
Epicurean – A Consequence of Design – 3/5
So here we have a band called Epicurean, with their second album. Like many of the reviews Ive done so far, this is a band ive never heard of, and had little idea what I would find waiting for me.
Defining the bands sound is not an easy thing to do. We have some post-hardcore vocals, some mid-range growls, some thrashy riffs, power-esque solo’s, and keyboards doing a weird synth thing that reminds me of some symphonic/black ive heard. Metal Archives classifies them as “Melodic Dark Metal,” and I disagree. The idea of ‘dark’ gives a black, gothic impression which is not at all present on this album. In fact, it sounded to me quite cheery and light hearted. All in all, id probably call it melodeath with a thrash twist.
The vocals alternate between a post-hardcore style whine, and an almost-but-not-quite mid range growl, in a similar style to Dark Tranquillity. His aggressive vocals I initially thought were bad, but then I wondered if he was intentionally trying to find a balance between growls and more thrash-style singing. There are places where it works, (e.g. Illumination) and more often that not, where it doesn’t.
The guitars are largely standard thrash riff affair with virtuoso power metal solos. Theres little to really say, they aren’t bad but nothing particularly memorable. The keyboards on the other hand, despite having a small role do a wonderful job. They add a slight symphonic aspect and most of the atmosphere probably comes from what he does. (E.g. Dividing the Distance).
What we have here is a band that sounds like they couldn’t decide what genre of metal to play – so decided on them all. What we’re left with is an album of repetitive sounding genre-mashes. The album itself isn’t bad, theres simply little to draw you in. The power metal solo’s have no power behind them, the thrash riffs sound content, the post-hardcore vocals sound whiny, juxtaposing the growls which aren’t very...harsh (for lack of a better word). Whether its meant to sound evil, powerful or aggressive, it fails. It just sounds emotionless, and there isn’t enough variety on the album to keep me interested long.
(Highlights: Lithograph, Dividing the Distance)
By T. Bawden
What we have here is a piece of aggressive deathrash from Canada, circa 1996. This is one of those albums that does not really do anything wrong, but still seems to lack an unnamed quality that makes it more worthwhile. I really wish that I had more to say about this album, but it grabbed me as average in every way. I have listened to the album several times now, and I must say that nothing here stands out for those that are used to this sort of music.
I cannot even name a track that seems to stand out above the rest, for all the songs are just more aggression with different riffs, and possibly different lyrics.
The guitar is fine. Decent riffs, proper distortion, not boring at all. The vocals are enthused and pull off the deathrash sound nicely. The bass is inaudible and the drums have yet to do something noteworthy, but there is not anything done wrong here.
Consider this worthy to join a collection of deathrash if you simply need another artist to pad your collection, but to me, this just screams bland, for there is nothing to separate this from other acts, except for exorability. It is good enough for a few listens, but there just seems to be something missing from the picture as a whole.
On the other hand, maybe it is good enough to simply not do anything worth writing about, if one does not do anything that is wrong. Right?
By C.J. Ulferts
Cirith Ungol - "King of the Dead" - 3/5
This band plays a very unorthodox mix of two styles: Heavy and Doom. The instrumentation works very well, surprisingly. This is what would happen if Slough Feg and Black Sabbath had some sort of bastard child. This is filled with amazing drum and bass lines. In fact this contains some of the better bass Ive heard in a long while. The drums, are nothing super fast or technical but they manage to match perfectly, without overpowering the guitar riffs or being boring.
The guitar itself is interesting. The solos are very well composed, containing a lot of melody and still being on the slightly faster side. The riffs on the other hand are very polar, ranging from great to meh. Often times becoming to repetitive by the end of the song, especially in Atom Smasher. Overall this aspect is also very impressive.
Now for the vocals. Its not very often I find a band with vocals I absolutely hate. In fact only two come to mind immediately: Slipknot and Lamb of God. Now that number is 3. This band abuses reverb to almost no end, and the vocalist sounds like hes trying to make a whine into a scream. Though these vocals arent AS bad as Corey Taylor or Randy Blythe, as Im still able to enjoy the music part of Cirith Ungol while with the other two I cant even do that.
Highlights: Solos, title track
Avoid: Atom Smasher (IMNSHO)
This is a very solid attempt musically but a fairly poor vocal wise.
By M. Angell
Alejandro Silva Power Cuarteto - Orden & Caos - 4/5
The album begins with a buildup into a pretty cool, but generic riff. The song basically continues on with cool guitar leads and solos for a few minutes, without changing dynamics much but with some cool guitar work.
The following song, 4+ starts off like a metal blues song and then goes into another typical metal riff, then following suit with the first song, has a guitar lead over the riff. It then dives into a spotlight guitar section which, I must say, is very cool.
In a very welcome change of pace, the next song, Jakobshavn (sp?) starts with a slap bass intro, building into a guitar riff over it. Followed by a dynamic shift into something slower and more "sparse" in the riffing, this song is immeadiatly my favorite (so far). Reverting back to a bass spotlight, with a new guitar piece over it and then incorporating a guitar solo over it, this song demonstrates the true songwriting abilities of this band far better than either of the songs preceding it.
Marea Solar, again showing more dynamics of this band features a great, funk-metal intro, followed by an emotional, phrygian-sounding guitar solo over acoustic chords. Incorporating one of my favorite guitar solo techniques of shredding over a mellow backing track, this is another very impressive song on the album.
The next song, Retrievolucion, follows a more pop-metal template with very catchy, '80s hair riffs that are totally fine in my book, especially with the soloing going on over them. Plus most neo-classical metal guitarists these days tend to have at least a few songs like this, anyways (John Petrucci comes to mind, so does Vai). In fact, this song is very remincient of John Petrucci's album Suspended Animation.
The next song, BlackIron, starts in a way that I've never heard before. It's very original and creative, and immeadiatly hooked me in. The song continues to please.
The next track, Mantis A, is remincient of guitarist such as Marco Sfogli and Guthrie Govan, incorporating great tone, with technique and feeling in a less metal attitude.
Contrasting the previous song, Omiricon, starts off heavy as fuck with a groove riff going into a very prog metal section. The riffing and soloing in the rest of the song is top notch.
Prostitucion is another song that fits under the funk-metal category, but definitely more funk than metal. This is quite similar to Red Hot Chili Peppers in the beginning, then moving foreward into much more metal funk, then again changing dynamics into a soft section. I'm writing as I'm listening and am astounded by the sharp lefts this song takes, making it by far an album highlight.
Respira, the following track, has a very Van Halen feel to the riffing. It's a standard hard rock song, breaking no new ground, but still a nice break in the album, as it features vocals for the first time. The singing is subpar, I must say, but it's not terrible. Definitely the worst song on the album.
El Reto is a very metal song, which I am happy to hear on this album once again. Definitely one of the best songs on the album, the riffing is unstoppable.
The penultimate track takes the album back to neo-classical metal and is a very solid song.
The album closer, MetalHimno, begins with fanfare, then it is interrupted by an awesome drum beat, going into a prog rock/metal section, ending the album.
Overall, this is an awesome album that I'd recommend to anyone from non metal fans to the biggest die hard in the group. The guitar playing and riffing are great, and they certainly aren't afraid to take a step away from metal and delve into other genres.
By B. Meiselles
Clad In Darkness - Amidst Her Shadows (EP) - 5/5
Let me start this off by saying that I am not a fan of either black metal in general. That being said, this is one of the most powerful pieces I've heard, and I hope they make much, much more.
This band plays a combo of Black and melodic metal. The black is easily identified by the trademarked sound. Fast drums, tremolo riffs, and shrieked vocals are all done well, if not spectacularly. The parts that really make this album are the melodic bits. These remind me of those acoustic intros and interludes that litter the thrash scene. The real difference is that those intros are used for building suspense or excitement, or to bring a song down from its climax. Here the are used as the suspense, the climax, the excitement, and they are done well! The funny thing is that the black metal is rendered so weak in comparison that it is seemingly reduced to intros and interludes.
Forgive the track by track analysis, but:
“Foreword” is a bit of a misnomer here as there is no preamble. Straight off, we plunge into the coldest hell of the Norway. A strong scream and some serious black metal paint the early picture, but as a welcome surprise, there are hints of melody already. The big change comes around 1:45 when the first acoustic spotlight is shown. From there the track trades between black and those special guitar performances every 45 seconds or so. Spectacular and gracefully done.
“Reveries and Silence” I almost mistook this track as an instrumental, and it’s has enough depth and variety to pass for one. Really has to be heard, but with a diverse style of guitar, and a full-blown drum and bass solo, it well worth the listen. Tied with the closing track for my personal favorite.
“Anamnesis” is a short and to the point piece. Think of it like a metal sandwich with black bread, melodic spotlight as the meat, and a peculiar little thrashy riff as the topping. The special little riff really takes what might be seen as a throwaway track and makes the song superb and unforgettable. An example of these guy’s songwriting prowess.
“Amidst Her” This track stands out as the one where the vocals are most decipherable. They continue to be harsh, but with enough variance to showcase the vocalist. It also bears saying that this album’s relative shortness might actually help this mini-album as a whole, for it was part way through this track that the first urges of boredom struck. That is certainly not a strike against this song, just a note on my poor attention span. Just one more reason that you should pick up this EP.
In closing, if anyone reading this has a record label, I have to ask you to sign this band immediately. For anyone else, just give this a listen. It will be well worth your time.
By C. J. Ulferts
Eternal Legacy - the coming of the Tempest - 4.5/5
Whoah!!!!! This is a debut?!?!? I've heard many accomplished debuts over the years, some by bands that never again reached the heights of the initial blast(Fastway or Montrose for instance); others by bands that were merely making a mission statement, only to go on and match or surpass the exhilaration of the rookie offering(Iced Earth or Angra spring to mind). I am hoping for us all that this initial offering from Eternal Legacy is of the latter persuasion.
Upon spinning this album, the first thing that struck me was the superb musicianship. Potent axe work from the lead men, duel aggressively with the ample(and tasteful I might add) keys to create a wonderful blend of sonic might.The guitars are rippingly recorded, the solos melodic and memorable.Keyboards are of many flavours while expending with much of the cheese that can overwhelm many European types of this music. It is here that I must state that this is very much of the American style of power metal. The keys play a heavy role in the sound but this is a guitar driven band in every sense of the word. Drums are clearly recorded with plenty of cut, each tom beat, each crash coming through the mix with power and precision. Steve Dukuslow also manages to keep the percussion varied as well, which is a nice relief from the usual double bass cannonade generally reserved for this kind of epic power metal.
If I must point out a flaw with this band, I will have to say that it lies in the vocal performance. While Jason Vanek has an expressive and worthy voice for this kind of metal, I occasionally found him to be flat and/or strained during certain passages. Echoes of Helstar and James Rivera occasionally came to mind as well. But I will add that this is a minor gripe as I found the vocals to be more than adequate, and not detracting to the overall effect or epic-ness of the tracks enclosed.
The production was perfect for the music contained on this album. Plenty of bottom end(a must in my household!!), nice separation between instruments, and loads of full bodied tones on the guitars make for a thoroughly pleasurable sonic journey. Vanek's vocals sit nicely in the mix as well, not being overwhelmed by the bands output, but not too upfront as to reveal the vocalists shortcomings too much either.
As for the songs, what can I say? Hard charging, progressive power, done with aplomb and vigor. The enjoyment I derived from listening to this album has only been matched in recent times by the excitement I felt towards Avantasia's new one, and perhaps Timelord. Heavy enough to slake my most metallic of moods, but loaded with charming melody just where I would start looking for it.
So there you have it. A rave review for a band that deserves every bit of credit they receive. This is an album that will get plenty of revisits, as I derive great pleasure from within it's golden grooves. A stunning debut by a band of youngsters playing and writing way beyond their collective experiences. Mind blowing, and totally recommended!!!!!
STAND OUT TRACK - Shadow of Revolution
By J. Costigan
TRANSCENDING BIZZARE? - "The Four Scissors" - 3.5/5
Being a huge fan of Post, Black, and Avant-Garde this review might be a little biased but Ill try to leave that at the door for this.
The opening track entitled Satteliete Souls is one of the trippiest things I have ever heard. I wish I had some pot or shrooms for this. Sober its a little to slow for my liking and doesnt devolp much over the 2 and a half minutes it plays. The original synth beat loops continuously in the background a few times before a simple drum beat kicks in, followed by another weird ass synth loop. 2/5
After the first track I was hoping there would be a change in pace, and the second track did not disappoint. This song takes on a more straight up Black Metal approach, but throws in so weird synth beats, some that resemble carnival music, and some old 8 bit arcade style noises. It also mixes in some female vocals which fit surprisingly well. 4/5, only missing one point because of a monotonous drum beat. 4/5
The third track starts off with an interesting drum line and some heavily distorted vocals. Following a similar style to the first track, BM with weird ass effects thrown in. This song manages to have a melodic solo that doesnt sound out of place in this song, yet could fit into a movie like Top Gun. Think "Chariots of Fire" type sound, just epic. The guitar tone in places reminds me of the guitar on the level Metal Harbor in Sonic Adventure 2. Then it goes into another epic victory type solo by guitar to have it mimicked by the synth after a short time. 5/5
Fourth track, also the title track, starts off with a Gothic Metal styled synth over some blast beats that mellow out after a little, before we hear some vocals that sound like a computer talking. THis track shows a reintroduction of the female vocals that were on track one, though they are the featured vocal style for the track, with the second half of the song lacking almost all vocals. 4/5
Now we come to the halfway point, number 5. This track features some of the best drumming so far, IMO. It takes on more of an industrial sound that reminds me of Rammstein with the occasional opera styled female vocals. This track has battling synth and guitar riffs, playing a few bars from each before switching to the other. 4/5
Track six now, this is a fairly short album coming in at just over a half hour. This song starts off with a slow build to some nice opera vocals and a pounding guitar riff right after a frame of opera. Again some very interesting drumming in this song, and some more melodic soloing, though of a less epic sort. There is some sort of mechanical speaking in the background, that seems to be more for atmosphere that lyrics. About two thirds of the way through we get a nice synth breakdown a-la Genghis Tron styled. followed by another spectacular, though short, melodic solo. The opera vocals are present through most of the track. The last 20 or so seconds are of great 2nd wave BM style, that remind me of Darkthrone but with good production. 5/5
Number seven is a nice short song, clocking in at 1:38. It starts of with a spoken into, similar to Anaal Nathrakh's "Do Not Speak", before going into an Immortal style riff. Throwing in some Techno sounds for good measure. Again the drums are somewhat repetitive. 4/5
Track eight starts off with a nice spoken intro again, followed by a nice 2nd wave BM riff. Again we hear a weird as fuck synth breakdown that would not be out of place on a Genghis Tron album and some more integration of the female vocals, which work surprisingly well. Another epic melodic solo is in this song. A decent song but not one of the better on the album. 3/5
Track eight's title is a play on Bach's "Sheep May Safely Graze" titled "Wolves May Safely Graze." I have no idea how this sounds compared to Bach's song as I havent listened to it in years, I just remembered the title. This starts out with an almost Arch Enemy styled riff before going into more carnival sounding synth. Again I find the drums to be fairly boring for most of the track, around the 1:30 mark there is an interesting little patch. The female vocals seem less inspired here and almost forced onto the track. There is a pretty cool keyboard riff/solo around 2:20 and after that the song gets better I think. At about 3:30 there comes in an almost Celtic sounding part for a few seconds, and is one of my favorite portions on the album. 4/5 even after a slow start. 4/5
Here we are, the final track. Opens up with some bells and violin/cello(not completely sure which) music in the background. Fairly down tempo for the first half, before randomly picking up for a few frames, then back down. Interesting use of opera vocals in some weird language. This slow song manages to keep my attention unlike the first one, but still a weaker track. 2.5/5
Overall I was VERY impressed with this album. It manages to be extremely weird, yet cohesive. Fairly melodic and still heavy. Fans of all genres can find something to like on this album, though it does have some VERY weird parts that could defiantly steer someone away. The opening and closing tracks really detract from this album I think, they just dont fit in very well with the rest of it.
By M. Angell
Shah – Escape From Mind - 3/5
Let me start up by saying that I have never heard any material by Shah besides this album although after re-listening to this demo a couple times that will surely change soon. It also should be mentioned that I love thrash but grade very tough and hate it when its overly generic. I admit I was expecting some typical Metallica or Slayer worship with some added touches to try and separate them from the pack. Despite low expectations Shah proved to have a little bit of something of their own.
Although Shah obviously take heavy influence from the Bay Area scene the vocals are short grunts that most of the time are about as decipherable as the lyrics on Napalm Death’s classic debut “Scum”. However the choruses are done in gang vocal format and turn out quite memorable despite and catchy as one word phrases repeated. Despite the poor recording and muddy feeling on the vocals it actually gives the album a somewhat more humorous feeling then the recording would have otherwise.
The riffs are pretty typical Bay Area worship but are quite catchy at times. While Shah certainly shows the ability to stumble onto good riffs you can’t help but feel a sense of déjà vu every once in a while on the album (“Mad Future” in particular is some sort of weird Big Four hybrid track). While the main riffs lack a bit of originality what really stands out is Antonio Garcia’s well-executed lead guitar work. Moments such as the outro to “Outside”, the solo to “Escape”, and the solo on “Fire” showcase a strong sense of melody which gives this album character that many less inspired bands would kill for. Whether it’s the melody drenched leads or the fast theory based shredding this album has some good guitar work.
While there are standout tracks that would make good thrashers on any album such as the melodic riff-oriented “Outside” the technical yet aggressive “Fire” and the well written thrasher “Escape”. However most of the songs on the album are not nearly as grabbing and come off as slightly lacking compared to the better bands of the day. Its not that the music is poorly executed, in fact its very well executed for the day, it’s just that the song writing leaves a fair amount to be desired on most of the tracks.
At the end of the day it’s a good album considering its based on a demo recording. Shah shows both technical prowess and potential in the song-writing department for such a little known band. For those who can’t get enough of that thrash metal sound this is definitely a very decent release with a few keepers. Shah definitely shows potential for development in the song-writing department. While it lacks a few important points it makes for some decent thrash from the middle of the 80’s thrash metal boon.
An interesting side: Shah was one of the first thrash metal bands in the U.S.S.R. and the first to sing in all English.
By Z. Orloff
Grave – Into The Grave – 4/5
A common trend observed in Death Metal these days tends to be an attempt at making more aggressive sounding music. Often the melody gets left behind as focus is shifted to deep, distorted, quick guitar riffs and low-pitched, guttural vocals. It’s this notable lack of melody that turns me away from most Death Metal – especially those released in the more recent years, so here we have the re-issue of a the ’91 album by Grave. This is the first time I’ve heard them, in fact I think it’s the first time I’ve heard of them, and I must admit I was pleasantly surprised.
It opens with a track called ‘deformed,’ and right from the get go, an assault of deep aggressive riffs and a repeated crash of the cymbals is bombarded in your general direction. At this point, I started to get a little worried. The problem I described about a lack of melody clearly prevails until about a minute into the song, where it somehow shifts and a distinctive melody becomes apparent. All of the tracks shift between the frantic, aggressive, style and the deep melodic riffs providing a morbid atmosphere for the vocals to do their thing.
The vocalist here does well at keeping the violent sense to the music going throughout each of the tracks on this album. The vocals tread a fine line between brutality and clarity, and he manages to get a balance better than most I’ve heard. They’re consistent and fitting, yet it requires comparatively little effort to understand what he’s saying. My main comment against them is that they are quite monotonous (save for the odd scream here or there). Some variation on pitch would have improved this aspect.
The guitars on this album are instrumental in making it as good as it is. They’re no atheist – switching between completely different styles – but they succeed in varying between the raw brutality and melodic morbidity, whilst retaining simple riffs reminding me of the more recent bolt thrower albums - Simple, yet both effective and somehow catchy at the same time, (especially noted on the track “Haunted.”). No riff seems to get overplayed, and each song retains an oddly distinct flavour, despite resulting in the same atmosphere. The drumming follows a similar pattern, frequently varying, and not overusing any particular beat whilst keeping the tempo where it should be (no cymbal abuse or over-use of blast beats!) whether that’s savage aggression or gloomy unpredictability.
What we have here is an example of how Death Metal should be done. They don’t break any new ground, or do anything particularly unusual and the tracks occasionally blur at times, but this a solid album, playing their own take on a genre growing in popularity, and doing a damn good job of it.
(Highlights: Into The Grave, Haunted, Inhuman)
By T. Bawden
Before At The Gates became a melodeath band, they were one of the most interesting and unique progressive/technical death metal bands around.
With its raw, almost black-metal like recording-quality, this album is a very tense and intimidating album, and that production could take some time getting used to. Melodic but incredibly tense and alien-sounding riffs and leads overlap and swirl around each other in a way that is both incredibly beautiful and bizarre/alienating and sometimes, a violin is brought in so it's like having three-way guitar melodies/solos at some parts.Vocals are very raspy and sound more like they belong on a Burzum or Emperor album, but this actually works to improve the album, making it feel rawer and as if it was recorded in a very large, empty room. While the bass is nearly inaudible, it holds up well and does a great job of supporting the guitar. The drumming though, is especially good. The drummer barely seems to be able to contain himself, as he brings out a lot of colorful, tasty fills, like a hyper-excited version of Black Sabbath's Bill Ward, only with blast-beats, which are used sparingly in the album.
The songwriting and ideas present here are great as well. Sometimes, it's straightforward, melodic and dissonant prog/tech-death, but other times, it creeps along at a medium pace, suddenly bursting into moments of tense, atmospheric guitar acrobatics (no wanking though), alternating between high-speed agression, and oddly relaxing slower sections. And then, ah, the violin parts...goddammit, they should of kept the violinist and wrote their songs to accomadate a violin as basically the 3rd "guitarist".
A perfect album, highly recommended for fans of prog/tech death metal (and even black metal). It even beats out Demilich's mighty "Nespithe" and then takes a shit on Gorguts's "Obscura".
By J. Chan
Fate – V – 2.5/5
I have no experience with this band, I’d never heard of them before, and this is the album to introduce me to them.
The album kicks off without delay, with a slow but steady riff whilst the vocalist demonstrates his ability to scream. This brief period of promise suddenly hits a brick wall as soon as you hear the singer giving it his all. At first I thought it was a joke that I’d missed, sounding like he’s trying to impersonate the voices of “Itchy and Scratchy” from ‘the Simpsons’. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if I was told that he inhaled a load of helium prior to recording in order to get that distinctive ‘screechy’ sound which dominates this album. Without a doubt, this is the major flaw with this album, as it completely destroys the good work done by the rest of the band. You can’t leave it in the background as the piercing vocals demand your attention like a toddler screaming in your ear, and the music as a whole is too simplistic and anthemic to really hold your attention long. The only real compliment I can think of for the vocals on this album is his clarity – you can hear every word he speaks, but with lyrics like “You’re my lady, You’re my angel baby, And when I look into your big blue eyes you drive me crazy” (From ‘Everything About You’) perhaps it would have been better if I didn’t know what he was saying.
The riffs are without a doubt the best thing about this album, simplistic, catchy, at times emotional, yes their repetitive but at no point does it feel they’ve been overused. In fact, It’s a shame they weren’t given more focus. There are tracks where keyboards dominate the background riff (usually in the slower more emotional songs) and whilst fitting, id have liked to see them working in unison, rather than the ‘one or the other’ approach that seems to occur. The solo’s are standard affair, attempting emotion – succeeding at times – whilst keeping a decent speed. My main gripe with them is the occasional overuse of the whammy bar just leads to a messy sound.
On re-listening, you do get accustomed somewhat to the vocals. Their still not enjoyable, but their tolerable, and I became able to appreciate the catchy sing-a-long chorus’ on some of the songs, particularly noted on “Butterfly” and “Ecstacy.” It becomes a more enjoyable listen, but certainly nothing special.
If you think you can survive the vocals, this isn’t a bad album, but possibly one only for the traditional/power enthusiasts. For everyone else, it’s a safe bet you can skip this one and not miss out on much.
By T. Bawden
Dezperadoz - The Legend and The Truth - 2/5
I am quite unsure of what to say about this album and this band in general. They seem to be a solid band with a strong gimmick that does a decent job of fusing two genres. So then, why the low score? They fuse generic country and generic metalcore (If they aren't particularly metalcore, they steal the thing I find most annoying about the genre).
After the token intro track, there is a nice heavy riff. Nothing special, but I'm looking forward to a normal heavy metal album. Then, the pitch harmonics begin. I cannot express to you how much this sound annoys me. The pitch harmonic has become a symbol of generic, boring, and might be the sound that is killing metal.
The first two songs are fine enough, excluding the dreaded P.H.s, but the band actually begins to entertain around Deadman Walking (a mostly country song), Rawhide (The most enjoyable 'metal' song on here), and Tombstone (A medicore track on it's own, but a great follow up to the previous tracks).
Hellbilly square is a great track. I like it, it's funny, catchy, and has a good sound. Defiantly the track to remember. Echoes wraps up the concept nicely with a collection of the intro used in most of the songs. Normally this would fall under the boring recycling label, but they pull it off, and are smart enough to stick it in the back. Echoes is all the fun of this album rolled into four minutes. Alex is 30 seconds of outro overkill that feels tacked on and useless.
Unfortunately the rest of the songs follow the same fatal flaw as the first two tracks, which renders them completely un-enjoyable in my eyes. Somebody tell these guys that just because you've got a strong gimmick doesn't mean you are allowed to make generic boring mainstream crap and expect to get away with it.
So, if you are not nearly as tired of the pitch harmonic as I am, add two of three point on to my score, for they are what truly ruined the album for me.What I want you to take away from my review is that these guys play a solid mix of country and metal, suitable for casual fans of either genre. Serious fans of either genre will rather listen to the straight up stuff then this.
By Collin. J. Ulferts.
Armageddon-Three - 3/5
This group originally fronted by Jonas Nyrén (In Thy Dreams), started out as a side project of Christopher Amott's. After a few line-up changes and 3 studio albums the group evolved into the three piece that it is now.
Christopher Amott- guitars/vocals
Tobias Gustafsson - bass
Daniel Erlandsson - drums
Although their first two albums were wholly Melodic Death Metal releases, this album has been labelled a Power Metal album. These guys sound like a more agressive version of Evergrey. Christopher Amott takes over on vocal duties and does not dissappoint. Needless to say I was pleasantly surprised by his abillities as a vocalist. The albums starts out with the intro. Gathering of the Storm which is pretty much a 59 second Christopher Amott solo track.
I would say the stand out track on the album would be Heart of Ice, Stranglehold and Well of Sadness. Overall the album is pretty good. However there are a few times when you can tell that English is not these guys first language. A couple times the lyrics don't really fit or are just kind like "huh?". If you are able to get past that you should really like the album. I has plenty of hooks and cheese for any power metal fan, but also plenty of shredding for everyone else who might be interested. Honestly I would even go as far as to call this a straight of Heavy Metal release instead of Power Metal. Because with the exception of Rainbow Serpent there are no over-the-top lyrics, no keyboards, no chants or choir choruses and even a little double bass thrown in there.
By M. Lewis
SLAUTER XSTROYES - "Free the Beast" - 4.5/5
Having released a cult debut album in 1985 called "Winter Kill" that struck a chord with many heavy metal fans, the 1987 follow-up album didn't make much of a splash because it wasn't released.
Well okay, it was shelved for well over a decade until it was issued in 1999. All that matters is that it -was- released, and it fucking kills. Taking off after their debut they don't sound too far from MERCYFUL FATE at their peak, and this time around SLAUTER XSTROYES are more aggressive incorporating some thrash elements here and there. The complexity has risen, there's even a bass solo early in "Wicked Bitch" that wouldn't be out of place on ATHEIST's "Unquestionable Presence." But the real standout here are John Stewart's massive vocals, sounding at this point sounding like the bastard child of King Diamond and CIRITH UNGOL's Tim Baker.
It should be noted that only the first six tracks of this release are the actual second album. The remaining tracks are various unreleased studio whatevers that the band found under their piles of band shirts and empty boxes of Kraft Dinner. They're a nice little bonus, with songs spanning their entire career including some of their earliest recordings in 1981. They're all good listens, although some tracks are incomplete with raw production and no vocals and are probably going to be most appreciated by die-hard fans.
Fans of MERCYFUL FATE will enjoy this. Although the blatantly Satanic image is absent from this album there's a sinister feel to this, all thanks to the ominous guitar riffs of blazing songs like "Syncopated Angel" along with Stewart's ungodly howls. Highly recommended.
By F. Lancelot.
(P.S. Since no rating was given, I issued one based on this review).
RIOT - Fire Down Under('81) - 4.5/5
A certified classic by one of metals unsung, this album is at the pinnacle of what a release should be. Bright, gleaming production wrapping a high octane jolt of state of the art(in it's time) metal, a band doomed to fail giving it their all.
From the opening chug of Swords and Tequila, the clean burning title track, and personal fave, the supreme rifforama Outlaw, a statement is made as to the might of this powerhouse metal institute. Altar of the King also breaks from the pack as a brilliant groove filled raver, as does No Lies.
Couple this raft of terrific tracks with outstanding guitar work from main man Mark Reale, and the made for metal lead vocals of Guy Speranza, and what you have is an essential spread of classic metal that should be a solid part of your listening rotation.
Into Eternity - The Incurable Tragedy - 4.5/5
I come to this bands 4th album no stranger to their previous work, not to say I was a fan. Although being distinct, releasing their own brand of metal, something always felt missing, leading to a largely mediocre affair. I was fully expecting more of the same distinct yet somehow lacking music, yet I would quickly realise this was not to be the case.
Although a prog band at its core, with an odd blend of melodeath, a healthy chunk of power, both black and death vocals as well as the obvious classically influenced sections, this is bordering on the avant-garde, yet at no point does it feel out of place. But what truly separates this album from their previous work is the emotions that are present at every moment, from pure aggression to despair, it involves the listener at every step in this epic tale. Drawing on personal emotions (After a little research, I discovered the lead guitarist lost two friends and his father to cancer since their previous album) its apparent that he’s poured his heart out on this masterpiece.
The short introductory track is nothing uncommon anymore, and often feels like a requirement for any metal album. Here, it fits perfectly, setting a depressive atmosphere and perfectly juxtaposing the track to come. With blistering pace the album truly gets underway. Schizophrenically switching from low death metal grunting, high pitched black metal screaming, a soft emotional chorus, and both doom-y and power-esque riffs this gives a clear indication of what’s to come.
The vocals here are nothing short of outstanding. The sheer number of styles they manage to successfully incorporate, though there are a large number of cleanly sung power metal vocals, the bassist and guitarist both contribute significantly to the end result, yet they all manage to display a unique twist on the emotions running through this album. Nowhere does this become more apparent than on “A black light ending,” switching between slow riffs and deep growls with a distinct aggressive tone, quicker paced riffs and higher pitched black metal growls reminiscent of “sigh”, and into the chorus which would be fitting for the final scene of a musical (albeit a metal orientated musical).
The drumming frequently changes pace and seamlessly integrates passages to form a coherent song without ever appearing overpowered, and for the most part the guitar work does the same, though at times it feels like filler. Fortunately, these passages quickly change into something else, keeping it sounding fresh and interesting. The classically influenced “Incurable Tragedy” breaks up what could otherwise become a tiresome exercise flawlessly, and sound like something I wouldn’t expect this band capable of.
This is not an album tailored to everybody’s taste. The sheer quantity of styles incorporated is bound to have people wishing more of one in particular, not to mention the chaotic way the styles run together is sure to turn many away. This is an album which requires intent listening from start to finish to truly appreciate the level of detail present, but the end result is a worthwhile one.
(Highlights; Tides of Blood, Black Light Ending, The incurable Tragedy)
By T. Bawden