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Issue 69 - December 16, 2003

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Dec 16, 2003.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH

    “Freedom is only a hallucination…”

    Issue 68 – December 14-16, 2003

    www.mp3.com/stations/songstowatch - no longer available



    Wolverine – Cold Light Of Monday summary


    • Dawn: The first of several shorter pieces on the album, this is one track that works perfectly as an intro to the harrowing concept of this very cinematic work. Stefan Zell’s vocals are extremely powerful here, and the muted instrumentation fits the theme very well.
    • Sarah: Here we are introduced to the main character, a victim of domestic violence. This song progresses nicely, building from the spare guitar lines in its opening verses to a dramatic finish, which includes the only instance of growled vocals (used as counterpoint) on the album. Also of note are the eerie doubled vocals in the verses.
    • New Best Friends: The prerelease mp3 for this album, and one that has more in common with bands like Anathema, to name one frequent comparison point in this album’s reviews, than anything prog metal. A very heartfelt track and one of the best on the album, with a great chorus and a emotive guitar solo.
    • Tightrope: Here we have the first major question mark on the album. It begins with stop-start riffing, but instead of breaking into the body of a song, it instead becomes a sound collage with static, a voice scrambling for a signal, and orchestration hidden deep in the mix. Obviously intended to be aural depiction of the storyline, it instead comes across as a waste of space on an already relatively brief album.
    • Carousel: Fortunately the momentum is regained immediately, as this is the longest track on the album, and one that balances both the metallic (excellent galloping riff in the first half) and the melancholic aspects of the band’s sound with tons of tempo changes throughout, and Stefan’s voice is particularly commanding here.
    • Trust: Another short piece, this time a piano ballad with some electronic accompaniment. Again Stefan does a superb job of conveying the story within, and it serves well as a bridge between its surrounding tracks.
    • Pantomime: Another solid piece of progressive rock, with great guitar and keyboard work throughout. I’m reminded of Pain Of Salvation in places, especially the way they use their skill to enhance the mood of the song. One of my favorites on the album. Marcus Losbjer’s drumming is incredible here, and it ends on a disturbing note (“I carry your…child?”)
    • Red Canvas: Now we have another set piece that is questionable at best musically. Basically, it’s a percussive track with some keyboards. It only lasts two minutes. While it is essentially filler (unless taken in the context of the album as a whole), it does succeed in creating an atmosphere.
    • Dusk: Also on the extremely short side, but here there is some variation (half reprise of Dawn, half brief frantic instrumental), again it functions primarily to advance the story. This one could have been expanded into something more complete.
    • Tied With Sin: I first heard this on the original mix the band subsequently reworked, and it sounds much better here. The same dry and isolated feeling is captured nicely here, and the chorus is among the most memorable moments on the album.
    • The Final Redemption: Wolverine wisely decide to pull out all the stops on the closing track. It begins as a relatively normal ballad but progresses toward a spectacular finish. Along the way we get some excellent keyboards in the verses, more powerful guitar work, a well placed a cappella interlude from Stefan, and it all ends with a massive wall of sound with the climactic chorus (‘”losing you…was to be…my final redemption…”) being repetitive, but in the best possible way.
    Epilogue: While there are quite a few flaws on this album and it doesn’t quite match the dramatic intensity The Window Purpose had (or at least sustain it throughout because of all the short tracks), overall the highs definitely outweigh the lows on this album, and the band does succeed at making a more cinematic work. At its best, it combines the focus of Remedy Lane with the loose eclectic feel that Entropia had, and if there were a few more songs on the level of its best moments it would be an album of the year contender. I still recommend it highly as it is the work of a dynamic and ambitious band, and half the songs are fucking great. 8.5 out of 10.





    preliminary song list:



    Agent Cooper – Shallow Disease, Disinfect Your Mind: Progressive rock act who I’m guessing are huge David Lynch fans. The material on their EP is relatively normal though, and the former track is warmly melodic and highly memorable, and the latter shows them incorporating a harder edge.



    Amaran – Primal Nature, Wraith: This band is rapidly gaining momentum with their first tour of Europe and a new album Pristine In Bondage, due out in January. The former track, available at their official site, has an infectious chorus and Johanna’s voice is in fine form, while the latter displays their power that separates them from the beauty and the beast bands…



    Amorphis: Ethereal Solitude, Shining Turns To Gray: As of this long delayed writing, Far From The Sun still has yet to find release in America. This light be because overall it is a rather sluggish release, though most of the songs do have their moments, they just fail to get off the ground. The latter track is a B-side on the Evil Inside single, and surprisingly is of the same quality as the rest of the album.



    Arise From Thorns: Remember The Stars, To Dance By Moonlight: Two songs from the act now known as Brave, one of the few acts on Dark Symphonies that hasn’t considered leaving the label (at least not publicly). Both of these songs project ethereal moods and Michelle’s vocals are as strong as they are on last year’s Searching For The Sun.



    As I Lay Dying: Falling Upon Deaf Ears, Collision: Heavily touted metalcore signing to Metal Blade, who have benefited from their album being specially priced and some high profile tours, including one with Soilwork. I’m still more a less a spectator than active fan when it comes to this genre, but it’s hard to deny the strength of the music here and the heartfelt (If you ignore the Christian overtones) lyrics.



    Atrox: This Vigil, Nine Wishes: This has been a stellar year for the Code666 label, with nearly all of its 2003 releases getting highly favorable reviews. This band’s Orgasm is no exception. The former track shows the band’s sharpening their edges musically while Monika’s vocals, though not as overwhelmingly present as on earlier albums, are still striking. Latter song available at official site.



    Balance Of Power: Necessary Evil, The Eyes Of The World: The melodic rock stalwarts have continued to get favorable attention after Lance King’s departure, and while the material on Heathen Machine is lacking musically at times, the band has not lost its ability to create a long-lasting hook, as the chorus of the former proves.



    Bardo Pond: Tommy Gun Angel, Aldrin: I’ve began a long overdue investigation into the indie/post-rock waters, and I’m beginning to like what I hear, having a love of well structured instrumentals sure doesn’t hurt. J This band has releases at least five albums in the past decade, and both of these tracks are full of the reverberating guitars and cosmic atmosphere that should attract any open minded listener…



    Bryan Beller: Seven Percent Grade, Supermarket People: Talented bass player who has worked with both Frank Zappa’s biological children and his illogical successor Mike Keneally. His first solo album View is a mostly instrumental affair, on which fine musicianship abounds, the latter has a leisurely feel while the former showcases some of the instrumental acrobatics you might expect from the aforementioned lineage.



    Beyond Dawn: Cold, Far From Showbiz: Yet another act on the Peaceville label that started life as a purveyor of doom but has now dedicated itself to exploring other realms. The cover of their latest album Frysh should make that clear, as should the atypical instrumentation. But the latter track does carry the requisite emotional weight.



    Condition Red: Time Passes By, It’s Not Too Late: Second go round for this project of Lars Eric Mattsson, guitarist long associated with the shred-happy Lion label, which has distinguished itself this year by putting out highly regarded albums by Ohm and Sun Caged among others. This one does avoid musical masturbation for the most part, instead having a heavy amount of midtempo tracks with female vocals.



    Dimmu Borgir: Heavenly Perverse, Eradication Instincts Defined: More from Death Cult Armageddon, which has taken the band further into the mainstream despite it being arguably their most ambitious work to date. And in my opinion also the most interesting, largely because of the epic symphonic arrangements, evident in the latter’s extended intro. And the former has some of the best guitar work on the album, unfortunately neither one coheres very well to these ears.



    The Dust Connection: Armour To Shatter, Desert Sessions: Unsigned Dutch band formed by Martijn Balsters, formerly of the prog-metal act Forever Times and an organizer of Progpower Europe. Both of these tracks from their demo are progressive metal with a heavier edge and the band states on their webpage that they have a willingness to borrow from other genres. Both tracks available at official site.



    Einherjer: Wolf Age, Ware Her Venom: Blot is this Viking metal act’s first album in four years, but the music is their strongest to date in my opinion. The former track succeeds in creating the trademark Nordic atmosphere (especially that gallop in the chorus) while preserving its melodic instincts. The latter track is similarly menacing and infectious.



    Enslaved: Battle Of Lindisfarne, For Lenge Siden (A Long Time Ago): With Below The Lights sure to appear near the top of many people’s year end lists (including mine), let us remember that this band has been incorporating progressive elements in their music since their first full-length. These two tracks from 1997’s Eld remain among their strongest to date. The former helped set the standard for epic Viking metal, while the former previews the otherworldly tones used throughout their latest.



    Estradasphere: The Dapper Bandits, Jungle Warfare: Described by www.musiquemachine.com as the most diverse band in existence, this band is eclectic to a fault and as such is difficult to recommend using this column’s format. All I can say is the band seems equally adept at jazz and death metal on the tracks listed here, and have tried their hand at everything in between…



    Eyes Of Fire: Hopeless, Disintegrate: Formerly known as Shiva and a recent signing to Century Media. While neither of these strike me as being really exceptional, there are elements here that suggest this could be a band to watch, especially the Eastern feel on the former. And I naturally have to applaud whenever CM signs something that isn’t apparently generic.



    Farmakon: Loosely Of Amoebas, Mist: One of the best debuts of the year, and further evidence of Lee Barrett’s ear for signing creative young bands. Sure, the persistent Opeth comparisons are a fair assessment, especially vocal wise, but the transitions between the acoustic and heavy sections in the latter are executed in a very different manner. Likewise, the jazzy interludes in the former suggest a more varied palette of influences.



    Frameshift: Gene Machine, Message From The Mountain: A major coup for the fledgling Progrock label, and yet another DT-related side project. Don’t run away just yet. James Labrie is the link here. Stop running, as most of what I’ve heard from this project is very intriguing, and the melodic qualities and strength of the arrangements here should make a good antidote to those disappointed by Train Of Thought (not to mention none of Portnoy’s ongoing flirtation with nu-metal).



    Graveworm: Drowned In Fear, Losing My Religion: Yes, that is the R.E.M. standard given the full overblown symphonic black metal treatment. And it is a gas to hear, especially the vocal being delivered in both screeching and low growls. The rest of Engraved In Black follows in the path of the band’s previous releases, fans of Dimmu Borgir would likely be pleased with it.



    Greyswan: Sleepless Night, Alone Among Thousands Of People: Doom metal act I’ve seen recommended in a few places, including this site’s Katatonia forum. Both of these songs should satisfy ravenous fans of the genre, I sense a debt to My Dying Bride here. The latter track does a good job of conveying the isolation implied in its title.



    Henry Fool: Late Show, Pills In The Afternoon: Fans of Porcupine Tree take note here, as this features SW’s No-Man partner Tim Bowness on vocals and is on their Burning Shed imprint. The former track is a five-part epic, relying heavily on the melancholic aura associated with both bands mentioned and it also includes a great instrumental section. Latter track available at official site.



    Into Eternity: Isolation, Embraced By Desolation: I’m planning an in-depth review of Buried In Oblivion around its February release, but I’ll include it in advance for two good reasons: I’ve heard all but one track in unmastered form, and it would top my best of 2003 list had it made the deadline. Without defeating the purpose of giving the album a detailed analysis, let me say that both tracks are utterly amazing, among the best combination of aggression, technicality, and catchiness I have ever heard.



    Jag Panzer: License To Kill, Death Row: Their latest release is the combined result of not owning the rights to their early catalogue and heavy demand for the material within. So we get rerecorded versions of tracks from Ample Destruction and concurrent releases, preserving all sorts of 80s metal traditions both noble and dubious. And it demonstrates that this band’s gift for writing sharp riffs and memorable choruses (see the latter track) was there from the beginning.



    Korpiklaani: Wooden Pints, Before The Morning Sun: Formerly known as Shaman, this is one of the latest round of bands plundering Viking folklore for inspiration. But unlike many of their ambitious counterparts, this band takes the opposite approach, with these songs having the same atmosphere of drunken revelry that many find engaging in this genre.



    Lark Echo: Welfare, The U.S.E. 2019: Another self-released progressive rock project that has found its way into these pages, and brought to my attention by the good folks at www.progrock.com. Both of these songs are well structured and contain some good guitar work, though the vocals may be an acquired taste.



    Lord Only: Nosferatu pt.1, Time Out: …and yet another, again discovered by means of the same station. The former track is an impressive mini-epic, going through quite a few different moods and the musicianship, especially the bass playing, is solid throughout. Both songs available at www.garageland.com, a site I’ll need to start digging through now that mp3.com has been sold down the river.



    Magnitude Nine: New Dimension, Sands Of Time: The prog metallers return with their third album Decoding The Soul (nice title and great artwork on the cover), due out in January. Based on these tracks, the band is in fine form and the well-traveled Corey Brown’s vocals stand out, but there’s one problem…we’ve heard it all before, and done better (both by themselves and others).



    Mechanical Poet: Frozen Nile, Clue Of Scarecrow: Recently signed to Code666 on the strength of an enthusiastically received demo, this Russian band should fit well with the eccentric visionary acts on the roster. Both of these tracks are rooted in progressive metal, but cut the solos and add a dark cinematic atmosphere and powerful vocals of a decidedly non-power variety.



    Negura Bunget: Negrii, Sala Molksa: The elaborately packaged ‘N Crugu Bradului has received many rave reviews for its combination of primitive black metal and Transylvanian mysticism. These tracks from earlier releases further illustrate this band’s unique approach to the genre and are as dynamic as the previously mentioned album’s best moments. Former track available at www.demonichorde.com



    No-Man: Sinister Jazz, My Revenge On Seattle: Two more tracks from this Steven Wilson project, here from 1996’s Wild Opera album. The latter track is a vibrant example of the lush and moody tracks he and Tim Bowness specialize in on these albums, while the former lives up to its title with a noirish sax accompaniment and its silently threatening refrain (“you’re never coming home…”).



    Nokturnal Mortum: Novaja Era Mechej, Unholy Orathania: Designed as a teaser for a full-length album, The Taste Of Victory is their first release since being dumped from The End for embracing the NSBM movement. Despite being at odds with their ideology, I can greatly enjoy the former track on a purely musical level, especially since it pushes their folk elements harder than on previous albums and has an intriguing vocal arrangement.



    Novembers Doom: Tears Of The Beautiful, Forever With Unopened Eye: One of my favorite doom acts, and one that has managed to stay just as emotionally resonant upon going for a less restricted sound. The former track from their debut is one of their best efforts in a purely doom format, while the latter, available at www.martyrmusicgroup.com, shows them beginning to expand their sound.



    Orodruin: Peasant’s Lament, Epicurean Mass: Yet another name to add to the Tolkien inspired in name only list. This is a very promising doom act with two releases to their name, I think. The former track is an excellent melancholy offering, while the latter finds the band demonstrating the strength needed to compete with doom’s upper class.



    Poverty’s No Crime: Walk Into Nowhere, Do What You Feel: The Chemical Chaos is the fifth release for this German progressive metal act, and the first to be picked up for US release. Anyone looking for something innovative will be disappointed here, but it is a satisfying listen and it’s hard to deny the melodic strength of these tracks, especially the latter.



    Psycroptic: The Color Of Sleep, Battling The Misery Of Organon: Australian death metal act recommended to be via discussion on this site. Both of these tracks combine the relentless onslaught of grind with the dynamics of the more technically inclined bands in the genre.



    Quarkspace: The Strangest String, Dancing Swan: Fully independent space rock act who has released a series of albums entitled Spacefolds and has received some good press in the prog community. Pulsating electronics abound in the former track and the latter consists largely of an improvisation with a spoken piece read over it. Samples available at official site.



    Scariot: Inner Mica, E-Pollution: The latest in the “adored by Perpetual Motion, ignored elsewhere” file, this Norwegian act specializes in aggressive power metal. I’ve seen frequent Nevermore comparisons and while the riffs do bear some similarities, they aren’t anywhere near as potent, and the overall sound is closer to Sanctuary (but that may just be the high register vocals talking…)



    Sigh: Seed Of Eternity, The Dead Sing: New album coming soon from Japan’s most bizarre (metal anyways) import…finally. Both of these tracks from Hail Horror Hail find Mirai and company at their most epic and innovative (though lacking the audacious hooks spread throughout Imaginary Sonicscape), and his use of keyboards as the primary instrument put bands like Dimmu to shame IMO.



    Sleepytime Gorilla Museum: Baby Doctor, This Neighborhood/Swisspin Kills The President: The live shows of this avant-horror-prog collective have quickly become revered, and they have recently released the imaginatively titled Live. Much of it consists of onstage improvisations and bizarre monologues from Nils Frykdahl, the latter track contains both. The former (mentioned in the press release for their lone album despite not being on it) is a lengthy and frightening journey.



    Swallow The Sun: Silence Of The Womb, Deadly Nightshade: This Finnish doom metal act is getting a lot of attention for its new release The Morning Never Came. The band for the most part eschews the dirges for a more epic, orchestrated sound, and the dramatic intensity is high throughout, especially on the latter.



    Tad Morose: Anubis, No Mercy: The veteran aggressive power metallers return with Modus Vivendi (do you need to remind me of those assholes?), their third album for Century Media. The band does make attempt at capturing some of the more grandiose sounds on their early albums, but for the most part sticks to straightforward metal, with the latter track having one of those instantly memorable choruses…



    Thieves Kitchen: Spiral Bound, Chovihani Rise: Shibboleth is the third album for this British prog act, who prefer to call themselves a “creative rock band” on their website. The 22-minute plus title track lives up to the description, going through many compelling sections and having inventive instrumentation throughout. The former is extremely short by their standards (just under 5 min.), but is a great piano-centered ballad with good vocal work from Amy Darby.



    This Empty Flow: Drops, Rebuilt Passage: More melancholic stylings recommended to me on the Katatonia forum. The former track is very muted instrumentally and the vocals sound just as detached, but it is still emotionally powerful. The latter successfully incorporates electronic elements. Both songs available at www.eibonrecords.com



    Violent Silence: Squeal Point, Shoot It In The Head: The debut from this Swedish progressive rock act with a name straight out of the 101 rules of progressive metal (recorded two years ago) is starting to get some favorable reviews. One distinguishing feature is the absence of a guitarist, which the band makes up for with clever use of keyboards and tight instrumental interplay.
     

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