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Issue 71 - February 19, 2004

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Feb 19, 2004.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH

    INTO ETERNITY SPECIAL

    “Once here, once there, now another life you’re living…”

    Issue 71 – February 2004



    Into Eternity – Buried In Oblivion review



    Prologue: Released late in 2001, this Canadian’s band second album (the debut is set to be reissued at an indefinite date) brought them out of obscurity and into prominence with its potent combination of ferocious death metal and progressive chops, with lightning fast guitar runs and intricate vocal arrangements (everyone in the band sings, and clean and death vocals are used on the new one about equally) being the band’s biggest strength. A few member changes later and Buried In Oblivion is ready for release. Century Media is promoting it heavily, and with good reason, as this album improves upon Dead Or Dreaming in every possible way.


    • Splintered Visions: From the start of the album, we get the impression that Into Eternity set out to raise the level of intensity, as devastating fast dual leads dominate this track, and Jim Austin’s hyperkinetic drumming tears (as it does throughout the album). We are also introduced to the clean vocals that differ slightly from DOD. The band doesn’t overlook their melodic side, as the chorus is highly memorable.
    • Embraced By Desolation: The verses here are reminiscent of tech-death bands, but soon there is a punishing shift to the pre-chorus, which is striking in its immediacy. The chorus that follows (“can’t take no more…desolation”) is among the catchiest moments on the album, and this song balances the various subgenres from which they draw very well.
    • Three Dimensional Aperture: Inspired by several personal losses suffered by the band between albums, this is another highpoint on the album. It opens with an instrumental variation on its main theme, then goes into a melodic death section with guttural vocals that would shame most Gothenburg bands. The contrast between vocals is brilliantly done here, especially on the chorus where growls immediately follow the clean vox. And to top it off, we get some manic soloing in the instrumental break.
    • Beginning Of The End: The fourth absolute scorcher in a row. This one isn’t as complex as the last three, but its pummeling riff alone is enough to carry the song. Again the vocal harmonies are incorporated perfectly, with the death vocals coming in at exactly the right places and the pre-chorus (“eradication of the mind…”) being infectious. The solos here shred without losing sight of the song, and the whole thing sounds like an instant classic to these ears.
    • Point Of Uncertainty: This is one of the shorter songs on the album, but it’s filled from first second to last with blinding riffs, and falls on the more technical side of the band. This song carries just as much energy as the others, although in a more compressed state. Of particular note here is the drumming…the cymbal crashes on the verses and the double bass towards the end are awesome.
    • Spiraling Into Depression: This song was one of several previewed on their tours last year, and is available at the Century Media website. This track is the most indicative of the thick wall of guitars that pervades the album, and once again the transitions between the verses are executed skillfully. And it features some of the more intense growls on the album.
    • Isolation: Yet another killer track, full of the combination of technicality and aggression that has made this band one of my favorites. The riffs here crush, especially the one that arrives towards the end, and the vocal harmonies on the chorus rule supremely.
    • Buried In Oblivion: This track is a change of pace from the rest of the album, as it is primarily acoustic (with some well placed keyboard and a great melodic solo) and has no death vocals. But it is still one of the best songs on the album, the acoustic work is excellent and the harmonies work especially well in this context. And the chorus (“impassable screaming…”) is an emotional highpoint.
    • Black Sea Of Agony: The longest track on this somewhat brief album, and arguably the most complex. It is a continuation of the previous track, and the reprises of its chorus are placed in a way that make the two songs fit together perfectly. But this track stands out on its own as well, having an instantly memorable chorus, great transitions (again the drumming rules all here), and some of the stranger clean vocals on the album in the opening verse. And again the death vocals are used to great effect in the ending.
    • Morose Seclusion: The second ballad of the album, and one that ends the album on an uncertain note. Again we get some great acoustic work, and the vocals sound just as arresting in this context, though not as unique when being layered over the heavy sections. This song has a spare atmosphere to it that is the exact opposite of the breathless pace that makes the album go buy very quickly…and compels you to play it repeatedly.
    Amaran – Pristine In Bondage summary


    • Atropine: A great choice for an opener, as it is one of the more energetic songs on the album and has an instantly memorable chorus. More importantly, it picks up exactly where their debut A World Depraved left off…female fronted metal replying wholly on the metal aspect of the equation and none of the goth theatrics. One of several tracks available at their official site.
    • Revolution Without Arms: A short track (the whole album passes by rather quickly, and all of the songs are around four to five minutes), but there is still a lot to keep the listener occupied, and the lead riff here actually reminds me of Nevermore a bit.
    • Coming Home: I first heard this one in demo form (along with another track that ended up being one of the import bonuses), and naturally the finished version is sharper. Again, the song is heavy but highly melodic, and there’s a great bassline here.
    • Inflict: Opening with a preview of its infectious backing vocal on the chorus, this song was filmed for a video, also available at their official site. Johanna’s vocals are particularly strong here, and the music is forceful and holds up to repeated listenings.
    • Without Stains: One of the best songs on the album. The entire band gets to show off their skills here, as we are treated to some fluid soloing and another propulsive bassline. And the chorus (“all I asked for was the naked truth…”) has a superb melody that will remain in your head long after hearing it.
    • Katharsis: Here Amaran resembles a typical melodic death band, as this song includes growled vocals (by ex-Entombed frontman Jorgen Sandstrom) on its verses. As such, it is the heaviest song on the album, and the contrast between the death vocals and Johanna works very well.
    • 24 Pills: Probably the second most surprising song on the album, this one includes a spoken part on its prechorus, which adds to the creepy feel of the track.
    • Wraith: Another strong track, and this one contains arguably the best guitar work on the album, especially on the dual lead section that closes things. And we are treated to another outstanding performance from Johanna.
    • Crow Me: Dumb title, but it’s still quite a good song. This one distinguishes itself by being mostly midtempo and having an mysterious quality to it, I especially like the heavily reverbed riffs, prominent in the midsection from which the album title is drawn.
    • Primal Nature: This ends the album much as it began, a highly enjoyable track with a great lead riff and an infectious chorus, arguably the most memorable on the album. Also available on the official site. Intriguing but likely inaccurate comparison: Much of this reminds me of what Arch Enemy would sound like with a clean female vocalist…
    Vintersorg – The Focusing Blur summary


    • Prologue: The Reason: This is a brief orchestral sounding fanfare to open the album, the first Vintersorg project with all lyrics in English, and definitely his most ambitious to date. It also introduces a major flaw, the narration that shows up at either the end or beginning of most songs.
    • The Essence: This is one of the most wide-ranging songs on the album. It opens with an acoustic theme that resurfaces at numerous points. The response vocal in the verses is one of the more unintentionally catchy moments on the album. Quite a few prints of prog here, and the dialogue over an electronic backing is interesting…Vintersorg stretches his vocal range as far as possible throughout.
    • The Thesises Seasons: One of the more relatively straightforward songs here, but Asgeir Mickelson’s tricky drumming prevents it from sounding too normal. The song propels efficiently and there’s a nice piano interlude midway through.
    • Matrix Odyssey: From the hints of techno in the intro, this song has a cosmic feel to it. The verses are especially interesting, as the growls (never really Vintersorg’s biggest strength, though they’re tolerable for the most part) are offset by synths and wordless clean vocals.
    • Star-Puzzled: This one reminds me of the material on the last album, and pushes the progressive elements just as hard during its excellent instrumental break (unfortunately interrupted by a particularly bad narrative). Once again, the synths play a huge role here, dominating the chorus.
    • A Sphere In A Sphere (To Infinity): Vintersorg’s infamously convoluted lyrics go even further off the deep end here. The music is just as strangely constructed, beginning with an extended intro with several variations on its theme, adding counterpoint between the clean and death vocals, and then reintroducing the folk element last heard on the second track.
    • A Microscopical Macrocosm: The ballad of the album, if you can believe that. The instrumentation is mostly limited to acoustic guitar and keyboard, and the chorus is engaging even with the heavily accented vocals. The song also includes a lyrical link to the previous album.
    • Blindsight Complexity: Not all of Vintersorg’s experiments work, even on the best songs here some of the transitions are questionable. The song’s lead riff is focused enough, but the prog elements don’t really fit the song and sound particularly disjointed. And the narration is just a bad idea.
    • Dark Matter Mystery: The rhythm section does some of their best work here: Asgeir contributes a great offbeat rhythm while DiGiorgio’s serpentine bass dominates the instrumental breaks. And the song features one of the strongest melodic choruses on the album.
    • Curtains: The title may be normal, but the song certainly is not. The chorus is built around a carnival theme reminiscent of Arcturus (which comes across as being more comical than sinister, with his yells of “curiosityyyyy-ee-ee”), which is in sharp contrast to the verses, which are probably the closest thing to his black metal origins on the album.
    • Atrifacts Of Chaos: Another brief guitarless instrumental, relying heavily on synthesized string sounds. It has a mournful feel to it.
    • Epilogue – Sharpen Your Mind Tools: An odd way to end the album, this is another acoustic track similar to Macrocosm, though not of the same quality. The vocal weakness tends to reveal itself here, and the chorus has a particularly bad lyric: “the thinking of thinking evolves your thinking.”
    And now, the first list of song pairings in an unacceptably long time, and I apologize for not including the My Dying Bride review and Swano special as promised…both will be included in the next issue, and the latter will be an ongoing series.



    Aborym – The Triumph, U.V. Impaler: The former track weaves a twisted landscape of futuristic black metal, heavy on the electronics, for over ten minutes. The latter, available at www.code666.com, is just as jarring to the senses, especially with Attila’s reptilian vocals.



    Alias Eye – The Great Open, Icarus Unworded: On their horrendously titled second album A Different Point Of You, this German prog group crafts detailed compositions with strong melodic appeal. The former track is a highly emotional extended piece, while the latter benefits from a complex arrangement.



    Atrox – Flesh City, Heartquake: The striking vocals of the recently departed Monika, though nowhere near as histrionic as on their first album, remain a love/hate proposition on their latest release Orgasm. The music here is often just as unique, an atmospheric blend of metal, prog, and psychedelic elements. Both songs available at official site.



    Blackfield - Hello, Pain: Yet another Steven Wilson side project, this one pairs him with Israeli singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen. Don’t expect anything resembling the spacier side of Porcupine Tree here, as both tracks are more or less pop songs, although laced with a heavy dose of the melancholy found throughout SW’s entire discography. Both songs available at official site.



    Blandbladen – Dimmland, I Grevens Tid: Forum suggested Swedish space rock act. Both of these songs are lengthy, genre-hopping, trippy excursions reminiscent of mid-period Ozric Tentacles, although not as heavy on the guitar soloing. Excellent incorporation of middle eastern elements on both songs, available at www.iuma.com



    Burnt By The Sun – Spinner Dunn, 180 Proof: Another metalcore act that has attracted heavy attention recently, now on the Relapse label. The former track has some savage riffs, and a midsection oddly reminiscent of Orion…let’s hope Lars never hears this album.



    Chalice – Child Of The Matador, Liaising Pandora: A pair of tracks from Augmented, the third album from this highly acclaimed Australian act. The material here carries the emotional weight of most doom metal, but is interjected with a strong, non-cliched gothic element and an ever-present melodic sense. Both songs available at official site.



    Cryptic Vision – Moments Of Clarity, Grand Design: This Florida-based project is the latest signing to the fast growing Progrock records label. Much of this is extremely well crafted (check out the harmonies on the latter’s chorus) and there is some fine instrumentation here, but it is a bit too safe sounding, and the material leans too far towards AOR at times, especially on part of the multipart former track.



    Dreamscape – Short Time News, The End Of Light: Third album from this progressive metal act, and first without vocalist Hubi Miesel, who has since recorded an impressive solo album. The musicianship on both tracks is top notch for the genre, especially the attempt at a twenty minute epic that is the latter, but it suffers from having a generic replacement on the vocals.



    Extol – Confession Of Inadequacy, Nihilism 2002: Their very name has been known to cause massive arguments about their beliefs being incompatible with metal, but focusing on music alone, Synergy is an extremely solid release. The latter track smokes, and the former is an impressive display of their technical abilities.



    Eyestrings – Dead Supermen, Slackjaw: Prog group who recently released a promising debut entitled Burdened Hands. The former track is a pleasant symphonic ballad, a direction in which much of the disc follows. An exception would be the latter track, an upbeat track with an enjoyable “drunken sailor” vocal delivery.



    The Gathering – Amity, Saturnine (acoustic): A pair of songs from Sleepy Buildings, a live album best described by the album’s subtitle: a semi-acoustic evening. Like Pain Of Salvation’s similar concurrent release (more on that later), both of the songs lose little in the translation and are played extremely well. Former track available at www.metalexpress.no, latter at www.centurymedia.com. Note: no songs from their most recent album Souvenirs appear due to being on a competing label.



    Hypocrisy – Born Dead Buried Alive, The Abyss: After a few releases considered lackluster by many, Peter Tagtgren’s vehicle returns with The Arrival, which as evidenced by the cover continues to explore extraterrestrial themes. Both of these tracks are heavy melodic death that should satisfy both longtime fans and newcomers. Latter song available at www.metalexpress.no



    Infidel/Castro – The Violence Of Hygiene, Mobius: Firmly in the impossible to accurately describe in limited words category, this avant-garde project has recently performed shows with Kayo Dot. The ‘songs” here are aural collages made from clever splicing of electronic elements and harrowing soundbites. It isn’t entirely unmusical however, as the piano underscoring the latter composition proves.



    Isis – From Sinking, The Beginning And The End: I know I’m extremely late in checking these guys out, but the error has been corrected. Both of these tracks from the critically adored 2002 release Oceanic justify the attention, combining monolithic riffery with an intimidating but fascinating futuristic atmosphere. And there is a surprising amount of melody present, especially on the latter.



    Mithras – Lords And Masters, Psyrens: This British death metal act’s second release Worlds Beyond The Veil, recently picked up by Candlelight, has been getting heavy praise recently, including a ridiculously fawning review in Terrorizer. The frequent Morbid Angel comparisons are still accurate, as both tracks (available at the official site) are positively drenched in the manic soloing and cavernous atmosphere popularized by Herr Azagthoth.



    Mono – The Kidnapper Bell, COM(?): Japanese instrumental act whose songs are lengthy post-rock excursions full of repetitive but hypnotic guitar lines. The fifteen-minute plus latter track (punctuation included) does an excellent job of contrasting between its quiet and tense sections, and the former also succeeds in creating a sustained atmosphere with minimal instrumentation.



    Morrigan – Anam Cara, Giants Of Stone: This black metal’s act latest release is appropriately entitled Celtic. Like Primordial, the native overtones are accomplished more through the primitive harshness of the music than superficial instrumentation. The latter track, available at www.barbarianwrath.org, has an epic quality to it, and the chanted clean vocals fit the song perfectly.



    Nest – Land Behind The Mist, The Silvershade Lynx: If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because this neo-folk outfit has agreed to do a split EP with Agalloch, the release is still undetermined. The dark acoustic stylings on these tracks should appeal to fans of said band and Ulver’s earliest works. Both songs available at official site.



    Nothing – Working Through The Nail, The Precision In Drowning: Speaking of Agalloch, this is another project of their highly prolific bassist/resident madman Jason William Walton. The material here consists of lengthy dark experimental soundscapes, but the songs avoid descending into aimlessness and the use of vocals adds instead of detracts from the atmosphere. Both songs available at www.eibonrecords.com



    Pain Of Salvation – Brickwork & other excerpts from 12:5: The long awaited recording of last year’s acoustic concert, and a stunning document it is. Nearly all of the tracks are altered to fit the acoustic format, and sound incredibly fresh and little of the emotional impact is sacrificed. Of special note are the Brickwork tracks, a pair of medleys that sound anything but clut and pasted together. The second is particularly excellent, beginning with some difficult instrumental sections (you MUST hear Idioglossia’s intro done this way) from The Perfect Element and ending with a jam growing out of a charmingly lighthearted reading of Ashes, and in the middle a poignant Second Love.



    Pelican – Nightendday, Australasia: This instrumental doom/stoner act has attracted frequent comparisons with the aforementioned Isis. Both of these songs are well over ten minutes and are dominated by droning riffs, yet there is enough subtle variation to keep things interesting throughout.



    Greg Rapaport – Flatline, Deceiving The Industry: Instrumentalist who has released a number of albums, his latest is Azrael Block. While there is plenty of shred to be found here, most of the songs here have thankfully more depth. The latter track uses clever editing to evoke an industrial (in the true sense) feeling, while the lengthy former track balances nicely between the jazzy and metallic influences.



    Riverside – The Same River, The Curtain Falls: This Polish’s act’s first demo has been widely circulated and has received numerous positive reviews, leading to a deal with Laser’s Edge for their proper debut Out Of Myself. This draws from the same well of melancholic prog that bands like Porcupine Tree and Anathema have been highly successful in, although not as strong melodically. Still a highly interesting debut and a young band worthy of attention.



    Sonus Umbra – Bone Machines, Self-Erosion: Spiritual Vertigo is the third album from this highly regarded progressive rock act. These guys have a fairly unique sound, best characterized by the snakelike guitar lines and heavy acoustic use, and accented vocals. Former track available at www.rosfest.com, the site of a prog festival at which they and several others are scheduled to perform.



    Sublux – The Clear, Bargaining With God: Another band that represents a challenge to accurately describe here, they specialize in lengthy and moody songs, both of these tracks feature mournful and ethereal instrumentation and have a spiritual tinge to them. Samples available at official site.



    Subtlerage – Now, The Hunger: One-man project that has released several albums, both vocal and instrumental. Both of these songs from 2002’s Meditations are highly emotional and contain skillful piano playing, the former being a slowly developing 10-minute track while the latter hits harder. Samples available at official site.



    Swallow The Sun – The Morning Never Came, Out Of This Gloomy Light: Finnish doom act who is receiving mostly favorable reviews for their latest, and in my opinion definitely worthy of being a leading contender in the genre. The former title track is a good example of their style, balancing confessional tones in the verses with orchestration not unlike My Dying Bride.



    Template – Precious Pressures, Can’t Take A Joke: This Australian band is starting to get some serious attention in their homeland. The music here is basically smartly arranged modern rock with slight prog tendencies, at times akin to a more melodic Tool. The former track benefits from from a memorable chorus and insightful lyrics.



    Ten Year Drought – The Bomb, Shadows Walk: A recommendation from the Katatonia forum, this Canadian band specializes in the sort of fragile melancholy music that tends to appeal to fans of that band, though nowhere near as metallic. The latter track is particularly emotional in its relative simplicity. Former track available at official site.



    Violent Silence – Curtains, The Way Of Exploding Fist: On their debut, the first thing you’ll probably notice about this Swedish progressive rock act is the absence of a guitarist. Keyboards are used as a lead instrument here, but rarely in a flashy way, instead the tones are urgent and fit the pull of the music, which at times carries the experimental spirit of Discipline-era Crimson.



    VLE – Ancient Song, A Scene From A Tree: Described rather modestly on their website as “a virtual listening experience” and the music as “eclectic dark experimental soundscapes”, the songs I’ve heard do live up to such lofty billing for the most part. The former does a great job of building a haunting atmosphere from spare instrumentation. Samples available at official site.



    Wheatstone Bridge – Application One & Two: Another unsigned progressive rock act, these tracks are part of a trilogy that makes up their demo. Both of these songs are well worth hearing, as they have atypical arrangements that make good use of acoustic guitars and the instrumental sections often appear unexpectedly. Both songs available at www.soundclick.com, one of several music hosting sites that have grown since mp3.com’s demise.



    Windir – Todeswalzer, 1184: Of course, it will be impossible to talk about this band’s music without mentioning their leader Valfar’s recent accidental death. A shocking turn of events for sure, as his band was just starting to gain major recognition and had signed a new record deal less than a month before. Both of these songs from 1184 show that this band could have easily helped energize the stagnating melodic death genre.
     
  2. BenMech

    BenMech student of the d'eh

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    Again Bryan. Much worth finding. Wish you could give us some url's to link to.
     
  3. Alex999

    Alex999 Member

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    Well, I really must be picking up the Pain of Salvation.

    However, Mithras: possibly the most incompetent live band I've ever seen. Saw them supporting Bal-Sagoth and return to the Sabbat last march, and boy were they shite. Terrorizor loved them for some unfathomable reason, but the bassist/singer couldn't even play the same speed as the drummer. What is the point of someone keeping time if everyone is just going to barrel ahead however they damn well please? I'd love to give them the benefit of the doubt and blame the on-stage monitoring and that they couldn't hear themselves, but I expect they are just lousy musicians.
     

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