DEMONSPELLS SONGS TO WATCH Scratching the surface to find the best new music. Our ugly lies will outnumber by far your beautiful dreams Issue 72 March 2003 My Dying Bride Songs Of Darkness summary The Wreckage Of My Flesh: This songs eerie opening soon gives way to one of the more memorable descending riffs on the album, and Aarons vocal sounds as tortured as ever. While Words Of Light doesnt break any new ground, its best songs stand their ground against the majority of the catalogue, and this is an excellent opener, though much like Cry Of Mankind it doesnt feel like one. The Scarlet Garden: Again we are treated to one of the band trademark lethargic yet shattering riffs, and this track has a good sense of dynamics. The organ towards the end adds much of the songs bleak atmosphere. Catherine Blake: Fast becoming a fan favorite, this track finds Aaron at his most powerful, both the sung and spoken parts are delivered with an authority that breathes life into the tale of its doomed title character. My Wine In Silence: This song was listed in the albums press release as their most commercial offering to date. Which in reality means that theres more emphasis on melody and it sounds slightly more palatable than most MDB would to a non-doom fan, but its hardly radio friendly and the desolate atmosphere remains largely intact. The Prize Of Beauty: Another eight-minute offering (nothing over ten minutes on this album, but per usual most of the songs sound twice their length) that draws on this bands strengths, and even the growls work pretty well here. And the songs extended coda ranks among their finest moments of dark beauty. The Blue Lotus: Probably the heaviest song on the album, and one that commands your attention throughout. Ive heard this song and album described as being like an erotic novel put to music, and I have to agree. And My Fury Stands Ready: Ill resist making an Yngwie joke here. This songs highlight is its extended middle section, which consists of a spare mournful passage over which Aaron intones a threatening monologue. A Doomed Lover: MDB wisely decides to close this album with an original after revisiting older material on their last two. This one may strike me as being the least impressive song on the album, but its still a logical and satisfying conclusion. Orphaned Land Mabool summary Background: This is the Israeli bands first album in seven years and my first exposure to the band aside from a handful of songs, and is intended to be an epic of great scope, its songs are based on a biblical narrative about an impending flood (full details available at www.centurymedia.de) and uses quite a few languages and much exotic instrumentation. Birth Of The Three: As one might expect, this song introduces us to the main characters of the album. It doubles as a dramatic introduction to the grandiose feel of this album, all of the melodies and instrumentation here are clearly designed to be highly panoramic in scale. Ocean Land: The prerelease mp3 of this album, this one, in which we first learn of the imminent disaster, makes extensive use of Oprhaned Lands folk influences, which gives the song a unqiue feel to it. It also contains one of the most memorable choruses on the album. The Kiss Of Babylon: This one also does much to advance the storyline and display how the bands origins and native influences have defined their sound. Much of the track is taken up by a chanting section which will remain in your head for a while, ending with a single female voice that leads directly into Asalk: the first of several interludes on the album, in which the vocal gives way to another folkish piece. Halo Dies: One of the more diverse tracks on the album, and one of the most impressive. This one makes the most extensive use of death vocals on the album, meant to symbolize the wrath of God (the songs subtitle). It also features heavy progressive touches, evident in the songs excellent keyboard-led instrumental break. A Call To Awake: Another strong track which finds a balance between metal, progressive rock, and the folk stylings, led by a propulsive main riff. The diversity of the vocals also does much to capture the listeners attention here. Building The Ark: The first of three consecutive tracks that lean almost entirely on the folk elements and evoke the feel of vast deserts, this song is especially driven by the exotic instrumentation and vocal chants. Norra El Norra: A devotional chant provides the main vocal melody here. I dont have any real problems with the heavily religious nature of the albums concept, especially since it has obviously inspired them to reach an artistic high point with this album. The Calm Before The Flood: A relaxing acoustic instrumental that provides a moment of rest before the climax to the albums storyline. Mabool: The flood finally comes, and music does much to mirror its impact, complete with appropriate sound effects and guitar lines that resemble rushing waves. The vocals also add to the dramatic intensity here. The Storm Still Rages Inside: This nine-minute opus is actually a remake of a song from their first demo. It fits perfectly here, as the music, largely instrumental on this piece, continues to evoke images of the flood and the songs closing section summarizes the feelings of the main characters after they are the only humans to survive. Rainbow: The album ends on a note of hope with this instrumental, meant to symbolize rebirth, that evokes a pastoral feel with its plaintive piano. And now, the rest of the list: Absolute Zero Further On, Sacred Cross: Part of my continued avant-prog exploration. Both of these songs are characterized by highly unconventional arrangements and an impossibly busy percussive presence, along with some bizarre vocal intonations on the twenty-minute plus former track. Agalloch The Grey EP: The second limited edition complement to The Mantle was sold exclusively on their recent tour (I hope LAmours burns) and through the Ends mailorder. Its contents are a hypnotic extended electric version of the Lodge, recently featured in their performances, and a dark minimalist treatment of Odal credited to Jasons Nothing project. I think theres a good chance that both could be representative of Agallochs next direction . Ahvak Dust, Vivisection: Another fascinating release on the avant-prog label Cuneiform, this typically eclectic collaboration creates dense and challenging soundscapes on its self-titled debut. The former track (also the bands name translated from Hebrew) is a dark sixteen-minute excursion, aided by strange drum patterns and occasional vocals, used more for effect than to carry a theme. Latter track available at www.cuneiformrecords.com Arsis The Face Of My Innocence, The Sadistic Motives : A recent release on the rapidly expanding Willowtip label, this is a bit more accessible than the abrasive recordings it specializes in, but still heavy enough to satisfy those who require a high level of intensity in their music. The latter track in particular wields a powerful impact. Both songs available at www.worshipdepraved.com Astral Doors Rainbow In Your Mind, The Hungry People: Rainbow on their mind would be a more appropriate title, as this recent Intromental signing does everything in its power to emulate Dios signature sound, Nils Patrik Johanssons (also of Wuthering Heights, more on that later) vocals leading the charge. Shameless in its derivative nature, but fans of vintage metal will find much to enjoy here. Beseech Forever Falling, Bitch: After 2002s largely successful Souls Highway (a favorite of this sites webmaster), these goth-metal stalwarts return with Drama. While I dont find this as engrossing as some of the other bands in the genre, there is still enough drama in these songs to sustain my interest, particularly on the latter track, on which the tradeoff between the male and female vocals is executed very skillfully. Blackfield Scars, Cloudy Now: More from the highly touted collaboration between Steven Wilson and Israeli singer-songwriter Aviv Geffen. The excellent latter track, a ballad that unexpectedly shifts into an impassioned anthem towards its end, was written by the latter and its original version was a hit in his homeland. The former track may be the emotional peak of this unassuming but satisfying album. Crooked Mouth Strange Days, Mass Driver II: Debut from this Scottish prog-pop band is a pleasant, if overall unspectacular listen. The latter track (theres no first part on the album) is definitely worth hearing, featuring an insistent pace and well executed harmonies on its chorus. Former track available on official site. Dreamscape Clockwork, Flow: The End of Silence is the first album by this German progressive metal act in five years, but despite the layoff and departure of vocalist Hubi Meisel their profile has increased enough for them to land an opening slot at Progpower V. Which should further increase their fanbase, as these are accomplished pure prog-metal tracks, recommended to anyone upset with Dream Theaters continuing decline. Samples available at official site. The End Fetesque, Dear Martyr: With a name like that, it was almost inevitable that this Ontario-based act would end up signing with you guessed it, Relapse. Obvious jokes aside, their debut Within Dividia, a concept album about a haunted dwelling, is a potent metalcore offering, the former track having quite a few sudden changes but remaining furiously heavy throughout. Latter track available at www.relapse.com Enforsaken Tales Of Bitterness, The Acting Parts: Yet another late entry in the melodic death field, so this band has to overcome indifference just to be fairly heard. Im as impossible to excite with this type of metal as anyone, but judged on its musical value this still holds up due to the obvious skill of the band, if only for instant gratification. Former track available at www.centurymedia.com Eyes Of Fire Fear, Anyone: This recent signing to Century Media has benefited from heavy promotion, including making an entire EP available to download on the CM page. Musically, this has influences from hardcore but has a higher melodic and emotional payoff than much of the genre, and the latter track has a chorus that resonates with the listener. New album Ashes To Embers out now, both songs available at official site. Falkenbach Aduatuza, As Long As Winds Will Blow: This band gets tons of respect from followers of Viking metal, and their second album Magni Blandinn is one of the definitive releases in the genre. On these tracks from their long-delayed followup, the epic atmosphere of the former album is preserved very well, especially on the latter with its dense instrumental layering, despite neither song being over five minutes in length. Goatwhore Under A Dark God, Blood Guilt Eucharist: I was surprised to see the video for the latter track on Headbangers Ball of all places, which I dont usually watch, but I must give credit for showing some knowledge of the metal community, even if their host is a licensed idiot. As for the music, its fairly standard death-thrash Gojira The Link, Inward Movement: An interesting French act I stumbled upon browsing through the reviews section at www.metalreview.com Both of these songs are brutally heavy at times, but add some odd touches to them, particularly the percussion in the former and the odd intro and time signatures in the latter. Both songs available at official site. Guapo Five Suns, Topan: Another recent Cuneiform signing, my interest in this English band was prompted by a review that compared it favorably to King Crimson. Like that band during its Larks period, this album (the bulk of which is taken by the massive five-part title track) relies heavily on sustained instrumental movements of alternating discipline (pun intended) and fury, and it develops its epic scope solely through the interplay of the musicians. Excerpt of the latter title suite available at www.cuneiformrecords.com Hammers Of Misfortune The August Engine pt. 2, The Trial And The Grave: An enormous favorite of Jim Raggi (his exhaustive review of their latest release is a labor of insane love), The August Engine is an ambitious release that defies easy categorization. Both of these tracks are lengthy opuses that go through a variety of different moods, and the music sounds suspended in time in that it has a definite retro-70s element while remaining defiantly forward thinking. The vocal arrangements also add greatly to this albums uniqueness. Iced Earth Gettysburg 1863: OK, let me see if I can get through this without offending a few people: Jon Schaffer is an egomaniacal asshole whose flag-waving conservatism gives metal a bad name (Does he have no idea their core fanbase is in Europe?) and hes fixated on the same triplet pattern, except when writing overblown revisionist melodrama like the centerpiece of his (excuse me, their) latest album. Its still somewhat listenable unlike their vomit-inducing 9/11 tribute and captures the battle feel Jon is aiming for, but this is the type of band Id urge people to avoid unless their unapologetic about their bad taste. In Flames Borders And Shading, Touch Of Red: And so is this one, whose approval rating over the last few years has taken an ever sharper dive than that of our incompetent president in the past year. How this band or anyone else could let their skills deteriorate so completely in the process of seeking mainstream approval (in a now discredited field) will always be a mystery to me. As you have probably already been warned, this is shiftless and passionless nu-metal punctuated by Anders incredibly awkward singing. Insomnium Death Walked On Earth, The Moment Of Reckoning: The Finnish group follows up its well received debut with Since The Day It All Come Down. While their first one inspired Amorphis comparisons, the songs from the new one have more than a few Opeth similarities, including frequent acoustic breaks, and an overall shift towards a doomier, though still highly melodic, sound. Katagory V No Response, Sands Of Time: A New Breed Of Rebellion is the second release by this promising progressive rock act from ultraconservative Utah, released after several lineup changes and an eternity of delays. The former track, available on their official site, finds them growing more comfortable with increased technicality, while the latter is the attention grabbing opener of the album. Kataklysm The Night They Returned, The Ambassador Of Pain: After being unceremoniously denied an opening slot on the recent Opeth tour (allegedly anyway), the veteran death metallers return with Serenity In Fire. The latter track, available at www.nuclearblast.de, is disappointing in that it sounds rote and doesnt come close to the intensity of their previous album. The former track is a different story, full of savage riffing and tight playing, and their new drummer does more than his part to fill the void left by Max Duhamels departure. Lord Only Verismo (Nosferatu pt.3), Curtain Call: This band is part of a growing community of progressive rock bands centered around the Atlanta area, of all places. The former track, the final part of a trilogy, features very frequent time changes and lots of tricky musicianship, but remains highly melodic throughout. The latter track adds some acoustic guitar to the overall picture. Samples available at www.garageband.com Lunaris Existence Unveiled, Casualties Of Piece: Cyclic is the second release from this tech-death act featuring members of the temporarily (who am I kidding?) inactive Spiral Architect hiding behind pseudonyms. Both of these tracks lean more towards the death metal side of the equation, though repeated listens will reveal the members varied backgrounds. Former track available at www.elitistrecords.co.uk Oyvind as you probably know is the replacement for Garm in Arcturus, though Id like to hear Ihsahn do a full album with them. Mister Kite How Long, From This Day On: After a varied debut that received several enthusiastic reviews, this oddly named Swedish quintet returns with Box Of Fear. Though released on Lion Music, this record is almost completely devoid of guitar theatrics, instead concentrating on songcraft, arriving at a decidedly retro melodic rock feel. Somewhat of a guilty semi-pleasure, though the choruses are catchy enough Mithras The Caller And The Listener, Beyond The Eyes Of Man: Im not going to go out on a limb and declare this the best British release ever, only someone lacking in competence would say something that absurd. J Worlds Beyond The Veil does succeed on a quite a number of levels however, the atmosphere here sounds like Morbid Angel transported into the space rock continuum, the tracks sporting an equal amount of cavernous riffing and cosmic atmospheres. The epic latter track is available at their official site, and the band recently signed to Candlelight I wonder if that review helped? Pain Of Salvation Reconciliation, Chain Sling (12:5): It is my firm belief that a live album is essentially without point unless it presents the songs in some kind of new light, and few concert recordings accomplish that goal as well as POS recent acoustic document. The latter version sounds less like the rock alter ego of Morning On Earth (as it did on TPE) than a clever attempt at binding the feel of the two songs together, and the emotional payoff here is just as strong. The latter track shows the bands familiarity with the folk idiom and presents a twist on their trademark complex harmonies as Daniel does not sing lead on the chorus, but contributes a soaring counterpoint vocal. Riverside Losing Heart, In Two Minds: Polish progressive rock act recently signed to the Lasers Edge label, their debut Out Of Myself sees worldwide release next month. The music here should satisfy fans of bands like Porcupine Tree and Anathema, the music here is full of emotion and the musicianship is powerful and rarely overtly proggy. The former track is a highlight, especially when it builds to a cathartic conclusion, complete with escalating screams. Root The Message Of The Time, His Eyes Were Dark: This Czech band has built a strong following while remaining in relative obscurity definitely a band that deserves a larger label to properly promote them. The music here is based in doom metal but goes further in its explorations, the deep chanted vocals which anchor the latter track add a disorienting feel, and the former track incorporates acoustic elements successfully. The Science Group New Indents, Marching Off: More avant-prog that will prove baffling to the uninitiated, this is a collaboration between several veterans of the outer fringes of the genre. These pieces from the album Spoors are incredibly dense works in which every instrument seems to be constantly shifting, and often sound threatening without resorting to chaotic playing. Samples available at www.bdrak.com Tiamat Cain, The Pentagram: Prey is the eighth release from the Swedish veterans, it continues in the vein of their recent releases but is definitely a stronger and more mature release than their last few lackluster offerings. The latter closing track continues Johans fascination with the occult and approaches the atmosphere of their most successful albums (Slumber especially). The former track, available at www.centurymedia.com, has one of their more memorable choruses. Wuthering Heights: The Road Goes Ever On, Longing For The Woods pt. 1: A surprise addition to the Progpower V lineup, this band has followed a curious path: releasing three albums with a common storyline but adopting a different style for each one. Their latest Far From the Madding Crowd goes headlong into bombastic Blind Guardian-like power metal, aided by Nils Patrik Johanssons commanding vocals and a folkish slant to the material, which does result in some unforgivably cheesy moments, but this should be welcomed by most power metal fans (Of course it will theyll listen to anything as long as it sounds like Helloween and/or Maiden. Just kidding, maybe.) CONCERT REVIEW Opeth at Irving Plaza 022704 This was my third time seeing Opeth (all at the same venue) in their ceaseless touring in support of Deliverance, Damnation, and most recently the Lamentations DVD. Controversial opening act Devildriver began the show, whose war of words with Kataklysm was highly publicized during the tour. They did not disappoint in that I was expecting a pile of horseshit, and thats exactly what they delivered. My feelings toward their set could best be described by the back of their own T-shirts: I could fucking care less. Moonspell followed and was only slightly more tolerable, due to my dislike of Fernandos vocals and the bands reliance on goth theatrics, including the infamous skullpole that provided additional percussion during one song (Southern Deathstyle from their latest one). Unlike the last tour, which featured superlative performances from Porcupine Tree and an all-mellow set from Opeth, this one would be dominated by one band only. Opeth took the stage to the rumbling Morbid Angel riff that anchors the first half of Masters Apprentices, a song that translated especially well live. It was followed by that archetype of Opethian dynamics, The Drapery Falls, destined to join obligatory closer Demon Of The Fall as a must for concerts for years to come. For many fans, what made this tour special was Opeth playing a trio of songs never performed live regularly until this year: The Moor (which was godlike, and found touring keyboardist Per Wiberg adding his own touches), a devastating rendition of April Ethereal, and Blackwater Parks title track, whose spacey interlude sounded incredibly great live. Although Opeth is well known for remaining almost stationary during their concerts, their stage presence was undeniable, and Mikael offered up some witty comments between almost every song, including introducing the band with We are Otep, prompting the audience to start a Philly sucks! chant, and leading the band in a demonstration of a 4/4 beat. Martin Lopez was an absolute monster live, especially on a potent run through Deliverance, which made it hard to believe his role in the tour was once in serious jeopardy. Damnation was represented by one song, a stirring In My Time Of Need, as Windowpane was cut due to time constraints. Id have to say this was the best show of the three, marred only by the opening acts and some asshole yelling pro-Bush remarks during a toast between a group of UM members present at the event. Ill conclude with a tired but wholly appropriate cliché: You have not truly heard Opeth until youve seen them live.