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Issue 75 - June 29, 2004

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Jun 29, 2004.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH

    Scratching the surface to find the best new music.

    “I bend my thoughts in contemplation, challenging accepted insight…”

    Issue 75 – June 29, 2004 (unfashionably late per usual)



    Without further delay, some of the songs that will rank among this year’s best, and some others:



    Aesma Daeva – In My Holy Time, I Have Sailed With Odysseus: The music is this female-fronted band from the Boston area is gothic, symphonic, and highly ethereal. Both of these tracks have moments of beauty within their classically inflected arrangements, and the epic former track covers a wide range of ground. Both songs available at www.iuma.com



    Astriaal – Glories Of The Nightsky, Ode To Antiquity: A pair of tracks from these Australian black metallers who have been getting increased attention as of late. Both of the songs balance between ferocious riffs and progressive elements, the latter track has an effective build that creates a sinister atmosphere. Samples available at official site.



    Beyond The Embrace – Flesh Engine Breakdown, Within: On their second release following the well received debut Against The Elements, this band goes for a more mainstream sound, quite a few echoes of black album Metallica here. It’s not completely unsuccessful as the latter track is catchy and preserves some intensity, but most of the others are too nondescript to leave any lasting impression.



    Blut Aus Nord – Inner Mental Cage, Our Blessed Frozen Cells: The Work Which Transforms God, released late last year and picked up for wide release by Candlelight this one, is one of the more striking and inventive black metal releases in a long time. The former track, available on their official site, manages to sound relentless while having an unconventional structure, while the eight-minute latter track is firmly in ambient territory (though still metallic), the slowly unfolding soundscapes here are hypnotic.



    Borknagar – Future Reminiscence, Traveller: Two things are almost certain whenever Borknagar or Vintersorg releases a new album: It will attempt to sound more progressive than the last and the cosmic/philosophical lyrics will become more obtuse. I’m not sure about the latter, but the former is definitely true on these two tracks from the upcoming Epic, both throw frequent time changes at the listener (Lars Nedland and Asgeir Mickelson are as busy as ever) and will probably require more listens than Empiricism did.



    Cirrha Niva – Nostalgia, Le Parade: Dutch progressive rock act whose highly theatrical sound and performances have won them a few accolades, including the attention of Daniel Gildenlow. Both of these tracks are meticulously arranged and contain some powerful vocals, and they work well in establishing dramatic intensity. Former track available at official site.



    Cobweb Strange – Tea For The Sleepless, The Drowning Pulse…: Atlanta-based progressive rock act with three self-released albums to their name, surprisingly there is a growing prog scene there. The former track is a somber piece aided by minimal but insistent backing, while the latter is a lengthy track that has a similar atmosphere but is more active musically.



    Dark Tranquillity – Cornered, The Poison Well: Two years is a fairly long time between releases for them, and so fans have been treated to a DVD (which has attracted criticism for recording in front of an almost nonexistent audience) and Exposures, a compilation consisting of the audio from the concert mentioned above and non-album tracks from first demos to present. As with Katatonia’s recent retrospective, many fans will already be familiar with the songs therein, but newer ones will be pleased to hear that these songs among others are up to their usual standards. Former track available at www.centurymedia.de



    Disillusion – And The Mirror Cracked, Back To Times Of Splendor: A debut from Metal Blade getting rave reviews? Believe it or not, it’s happening with this German band, who attempt to combine as many subgenres as possible in grand fashion all over this album, making for an interesting hybrid but far from a total success. The former opening track immediately establishes Opeth as one of their reference points, balancing pounding riffs with slower passages, but some doom elements and Blind Guardian-like layered bombast also figure heavily (and somehow only occasionally sounding disjointed), and all three are pushed harder on the 14-minute title track.



    Dreadnaught – Tiny Machines, Northern Pike: These weirdo New Englanders attracted serious attention for the strange combination of progressive and Southern rock on their previous releases, which isn’t quite as bad as it sounds but still smacks of novelty. Undoubtedly sensing this, their latest Musica En Flagrante moves in a more jazzy & experimental direction, also ditching vocals. A variety of styles are covered on its tracks, ranging from the speedy former composition to the oddly relaxing groove of the latter.



    Drudkh – Glare Of Autumn, Wind Of The Night Forests: Heavily promoted by my good friends at Royal Carnage, this excellent though unacceptably brief release has parallels to their consensus black metal pick of 2003, Negura Bunget: the tracks here have a pronounced naturalistic bent and manage to sound primal and epic at the same time, the foundation riffs here are brilliantly contrasted with some of the best dark forest atmosphere this side of Agalloch, particularly on the latter track, which has a particularly haunting yet beautiful conlusion.



    Esoteric – Morphia, The Blood Of The Eyes: For many committed doom freaks, this band represents the last word in the genre, some funeral doom bands may sound more somber, but few are as oppressively slow and sickeningly heavy as this one. The former opening track, available at their official site, from their latest Subconscious Dissolution actually opens with a discernable melody, which is of course supplanted by fifteen cacophonous minutes of doom at its most sadistic, no wonder why this band gives people nightmares.



    Fall Of The Leafe – A Waiting Room Snap, Song From The Second Floor: On their fourth album Volvere, this Finnish band further develops their sound while doing away with the death vocals for the most part, and focusing on their loping, Katatonia-ish riffs and enigmatic lyrics. The former track, available at their official site, contains a memorable chorus and sets a pattern for the rest of the album, which sounds more coherent than previous releases. The latter track is one of the more immediate sounding on the album, though still fairly adventurous.



    The Great Deceiver – Lake Of Sulphur, Conspiracy Theorist: Depending on who you talk to, this is either a successful departure from Tomas Lindberg’s norm or a sellout comparable to In Flames. There are some similarities with Anders & Jesper’s dismal current output, but thankfully the riffs are stronger here (check out the latter), it’s not overtly commercial, and they actually sound like they have a clue what they’re doing, making this an acceptable piece of modern metal.



    Hammers Of Misfortune – The Cobbett Curse, Sacrifice/The End: This San Francisco band have crafted a highly original (yet strongly rooted in seventies hard rock) sound over their two vastly different releases. These tracks from their concept release The Bastard are testaments to their inventiveness, the former laying excellent dual female vocals against acoustic guitar which leads into a Sabbathy atmosphere, and the latter being one of the best concluding tracks on a concept piece I’ve heard, gradually leading into an understated yet appropriate climax.



    Land Of Chocolate – Ungrateful, Military Mindset: For the second album Regaining The Feel by this Pennsylvania prog act, John Buzby (brother Chris is a member of acclaimed proggers Echolyn) went with an entirely different lineup. The songs on here are loaded with hooks and are generally accessible but with subtle prog touches, such as the backwards guitar and tricky piano playing on the former ballad. The latter track shows off their more aggressive side with tenacious playing and biting lyrics.



    Leviathan – Scenic Solitude And Leprosy, The Idiot Sun: Not to be confused with the mid-90s prog metal band of the same name, this is a one-man black metal project from a growing scene in the US. The music on these tracks contain the obligatory underproduced sound popularized by Darkthrone and their ilk, but the music itself is very dense and captures your attention throughout. The latter track is one case where the raw sound enhances the atmosphere.



    Marillion – The Invisible Man, Ocean Cloud: In one of the more bizarre success stories of the year, these washed up bums captured a UK top ten single through a dubious marketing scheme reminiscent of Iron Maiden’s Bring Your Daughter trick a decade and a half ago. And the music on their double album Marbles? Much of it is in the same bland adult contemporary vein as their last five or seven albums (echoing Geoff Tate’s similar misplaced aspirations), but as usual there are a handful of quality tracks, particularly the latter track, an eighteen-minute aquatic sounding opus that is one of their most progressive tracks in years.



    Melechesh – Kurnugi’s Reign; Genies, Sorcerers, and Mesopotamian Nights: Sphynx, the third album from this band and an excellent combination of death metal and Middle Eastern elements, would have made my year end list had I absorbed it sooner. These songs are from the earlier Djinn, its successor is still the better album overall but these and others rival anything on it, especially the former, which is highly technical musically while preserving the atmosphere.



    Kevin Moore – Sad Sad Movie, Mother Of Exiles: Everyone’s favorite former DT keyboardist (unless you can’t get enough of Planet X that is) has been busy as of late, working on a new Chroma Key album, scoring a foreign film, and doing radio broadcasts, one of which has been made available as an internet-only album on his website. The former track is from the soundtrack (Ghost Book) and would fit well on either of the CK albums, and includes vocals. The latter from the web album (Memory Hole) is an instrumental with samples used for commentary on the subject of immigration. Both tracks available at official site.



    Morgion – Ebb Tide, A Slow Succumbing: Plagued by the departure of Novembers Doom and the then Maudlin Of The Well, Dark Symphonies has found themselves a winner by signing these guys and releasing Cloaked By Ages, Crowned In Earth, an excellent work of atmospheric doom metal. The three-part former track is an expertly constructed epic that adds quite a few progressive touches, the middle section being a particular highlight. The latter is a similarly lengthy and despondent track.



    Necrophagist – Stabwound, Seven: This band’s debut Onset Of Putrefaction quickly became a favorite among death metal fans, immediately putting them within the first class of technical death acts for its blazing guitar work. Recently signed to Relapse, these tracks pick up right where the debut left off with more highly skilled harmonic runs and incredibly fast drumming (here done by a human being), which reportedly expands on the previous album while largely dropping the gore-soaked lyrics. Both tracks available at www.relapse.com



    Paatos – Gasoline, Reality: On Kallocain, their second album and first for Inside Out, these highly acclaimed Swedish proggers move in a more trip-hop direction and arrive at a sound similar to that on the Gatherings’ last few albums. The latter track is a good example of this languid and highly atmospheric sound, and the vocal melodies here are a consistent strength of the album. The former opening track aims for a more darker tone. Mixing on the album done by Steven Wilson…now where have I heard that name before?



    Matthew Parmenter – Now, Modern Times: Astray is a solo album from the long since inactive leader of the well regarded US prog outfit Discipline. The music here is often very personal in nature, the former track building from its delicate introduction largely through Matthew’s deep vocals, culminating in a Mellotron-enhanced crescendo. The latter track is a twenty minute epic that captures the full range of his talents and ambitions.



    Spastic Ink – Multi-Masking, A Chaotic Realization Of Nothing Yet Misunderstood: Leave it to Ron Jarzombek to write a composition whose acronym spells out the word acronym. That brand of humor figures heavily on the track itself, with some clever dialogue interspersed between the twelve minutes of tech-metal mayhem that acts as the centerpiece of the long-delayed, guest-laden Ink Compatible opus. Hear this one for yourself at www.metalexpress.no, and enjoy more of the theory-perfect playing on the former track.



    Summoning – Elfstone, Khazad Dum: Although I’ve always admired the work of this band, I didn’t give their earlier albums a listen until recently, and both of these tracks help explain why Dol Guldur is usually considered their best effort. The latter track is one of their best examples of their symphonic and highly atmospheric sound that is the perfect aural complement to Tolkien’s opus, and their songcraft is far ahead of most black metal bands.



    Therion – Blood Of Kingu, An Arrow From The Sun: After an extended absence, Christoffer Johnson’s vehicle is back with a vengeance, releasing two albums simultaneously in the form of Lemuria and Sirius B. The latter leadoff track (available at www.metalexpress.no) from Sirius, the more adventurous of the two, regains the intensity largely missing on their recent releases while retaining their trademark orchestration, and marks the return of death vocals, and the latter track from Lemuria is also heavily metallic, here dominated by the male choir vocals that people seem to either love or hate.



    Thought Industry – Jane Whitfield Is Dead, Worms Listen: Finally got around to checking out some of the earlier work from these enigmatic technical metal pioneers, in particular 1993’s Mods Carve The Pig. The former track expertly balances between the technical elements and their more alternative leanings, sounding highly energetic in the process, this being the case for most of the album, especially on its first half that would turn a few metalcore fans heads. The latter shows off the more melodic side that dominated their most recent album while retaining a certain weirdness.



    Threshold – Mission Profile, The Art Of Reason: A last minute addition as I heard these songs from the upcoming Subsurface the day before this posting. The former opening track is among their heaviest tracks to date, but still firmly in the progressive metal vein and features Mac’s habit of tweaking his voice, which doesn’t detract from its anthemic impact (not sure about the lyrics, but they sound critical of either Bush or Blair to me.) The latter track is the obligatory epic, and like on previous albums it showcases all of their strengths and has an excellent arrangement.



    Vehemence – Spirit Of The Soldier, You Don’t Have To Be Afraid Anymore: This band has become a ubiquitous presence on metal message boards thanks to its extensive word of mouth promotion, but fortunately they match their billing on much of their new album, which explores the subject of euthanasia. The latter track is one of the most impressive on the album, showcasing their strength at surrounding ferocious death metal with clever arrangements. The former track is more conventional, but it is anchored by a savage riff and will please any demanding death metal fan.



    Steven Wilson – The Tobogganist, To Wear A Crown: Earlier this year, a compilation of unreleased electronic music by the brains behind Porcupine Tree was made available by special request and limited to a miniscule 350 copies (no, I don’t own one, heard it through online radio, thanks for not asking.) Both of these tracks are hyperactive techno that may surprise even those familiar with Steven’s electronic excursions, though about half of the remaining disc is more ambient sounding and all of it is recommended listening for PT fanatics.



    Thus ends this chapter. Now make haste to your nearest theater and see Fahrenheit 9/11. And RIP Quorthon, without whom Viking and black metal would either not exist or have taken on a different course.
     
  2. BenMech

    BenMech student of the d'eh

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    Demon, if you could edit in some url links thorughout this entry,you'd kick ass.
     

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