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Issue 81 - March 4, 2005

Discussion in 'Songs To Watch' started by Demonspell, Mar 4, 2005.

  1. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    DEMONSPELL’S SONGS TO WATCH

    Scratching the surface to find the best new music

    Issue 81 – March 4, 2005

    “I’ve built my tower of song with words as bitter splintered bone…”



    Apologies for the delays in case anyone was actually waiting (I doubt it), although my procrastination will hopefully pay off with a longer list with most of the major early 2005 releases and a handful of esoteric goodies from the greater prog universe and elsewhere. Here’s the songs…



    Adrian Belew – Ampersand, Madness: A man who needs no introduction, his work in King Crimson is justly celebrated but his solo albums tend to be overlooked a bit. Side One, the first of three albums planned for release this year, is one of his most ambitious projects ever. The tracks here alternate between a power trio format with Crimson disciples Les Claypool and Danny Carey and some solo guitar experiments. The former instrumental is a very much in the mold of The Power To Believe, and the latter opening track combines the aggressive guitar sound with his gift for unconventional melodies.



    Beyond Twilight – The Path Of Darkness, Section X: After along hiatus and without Jorn Lande, who provided vocals on their first release, the second installment of this dark progressive metal project is ready for release. Both of these tracks are more stripped down than the occasionally excessive Devil’s Hall Of Fame, but both try to be epic and the mood is largely the same, and the former has a soaring chorus.



    Buried Inside – Time As Abjection, Time As Surrogate Religion: If one wanted to be entirely cynical about this new signing on Relapse, it’s easy to argue that Chronoclast has its share of pretensions, being originally conceived as a single composition later divided into songs bearing “time as…” titles. What prevents it from being dismissable is the quality of the music of course, this is a fine example of progressive –core, the technicality of DEP and the ferocity of Mastodon (to name two obvious labelmate reference points) are balanced skillfully. Samples available at www.relapse.com



    Crebain – Cries Of My Motherland, Cold Black Heart: Sure they look ridiculous (don’t look at the photo on metal-archives before checking this band out. It’s called Immortal Syndrome.), but this band offers up black metal in its rawest form and has released a split with Leviathan. The songs here aren’t exactly on the cutting edge, but if you like your BM as filthy as possible, you’ll have no reservations. Samples available at www.myspace.com



    Cult Of Luna – Leave Me Here, Vague Illusions: Often mentioned in the same sentence as Neurosis and Isis, their album Salvation didn’t appear at or near the top of as many year end lists as those excellent releases, but still got its share of praise. While they are definitely skilled in creating hardcore (for lack of a more suitable term) on an epic scale and the latter track is full of punishing sections, it doesn’t reach the level of a Panopticon or Sun That Never Sets. Former track available at official site.



    Dark Tranquillity – The Endless Feed, One Thought: The masters of melodic death return with their seventh release Character, which is very much in the same mold as Damage Done if a bit heavier at times. The latter track especially sounds like one of the flagship tracks from that album with its infectious chorus and precise playing. The drive of the former track, available at www.metalbite.com, is spoiled a bit by the intrusive keyboard breaks, but still makes its impact on another solid DT album, even if their sound is a bit predictable by this point.



    Dead Meadow – At Her Open Door, Beyond The Fields We Know: held in high regard amongst both stoner fans and the indie crowd, this band combines the instinct of vintage Sabbath with heavy psychedelic overtones. The nine-minute plus latter track finds the band at their trippiest, beginning as a sloth-paced track with sleepy vocals and culminating in a bass-heavy jam. The latter track from the newly released Feathers, available at their official site, is heavier but has a similar atmosphere fans of metal’s earliest days will eat up.



    Deathspell Omega – Jubilate Deo, Sola Fide II: The first of several entries in the “dominated discussions in 2004 but didn’t hear anything from it until 2005” list. Quickly becoming notorious for their overt and eruditely expressed Satanism, their album Si Monumentum… has showed up on the essential listening list of many a BM elitist. Without casting judgements on their philosophy, I can say these tracks are well crafted black metal and manage to sound both raw and epic at the same time, the latter being more dominant.



    Dreadnaught – Bunnaschidt, The Torture Never Stops: Starting out as a Southern-inflected prog act and reinventing themselves as an adventurous instrumental group, the recent double album Live At Mojo summarizes both sides of this eclectic band. The former track is a nice run through an unusually charming tune from their American Standard album with some jamming added, and the latter is a rocking and faithful rendition of a Zappa classic, one of three FZ covers on the disc.



    Estradasphere – Speck, Randy’s Desert Adventure: This uncategorizable band has acquired a strong cult following over its three releases, renowned for a sense of unpredictability and experiments in every genre under the sun. Here are two tracks available for your listening pleasure at www.myspace.com: the former from their most recent album Quadropus is an FNM-ish ballad with sinister undertones (and proof that even total freaks aren’t immune to relatively concise tunes), while the latter has heavy traces of metal, jazz, Arabian music, and…well, just look at their list of influences.



    Extol – Gloriana, Essence: A longtime favorite of tech-metal fans, The Blueprint Dives is their fourth release, and finds them heading in a more accessible and less cluttered direction. Sometimes this works against them, as on the latter track, which has decent instrumental breaks but its clean vocals don’t really fit, especially one part that reminded me of Linkin Park (shudders). The former track, available at www.centurymedia.de, fares better but doesn’t rank among their best.



    Frantic Bleep – The Expulsion, Curtainraiser: Blessed with a semi-amusing band name and packaging that looks more suitable for a techno compilation, The Sense Appartus is poised to be one of the best debuts of the year and a worthy addition to the line of avant-prog metal. The latter track is dominated by vocal lines delivered in a manner reminiscent of La Masquerade Infernale, with less bombastic but still unconventional instrumentation. The former opening track (not counting the mandatory intro) is anchored by a brutal lead riff and goes off in many directions while remaining coherent, and sounds highly original.



    Gojira – Indians, Rise: One of the best kept secrets in extreme metal, this French band plays unrelenting metal with significant hardcore elements, the playing here is aggressive and extremely tight, and the drumming is especially impressive. The latter track ends with a percussion workout, and many of their other songs have unexpected twists. Both of their albums The Link and Terra Incognita can be heard in their entirety on their official site.



    High On Fire – Devolution, Cometh Down Hessian: Relapse continues their winning streak with Blessed Black Wings, despite their popularity among fans of stoner rock they come across (like many in the genre) as pure unadulterated no-bullshit rock & roll. The former track, available at the Relapse page, gets things off to a rousing start and the intensity continues with the latter track, propelled by forceful drumming and speaker-melting chords.



    Kaada/Patton – Crepuscule, Aubade: Yet another collection of vocal dementia from the irascible Mike Patton, which is paired against equally challenging abstract chamber music from John Kaada on Romances. Describing this material with mere words is difficult, but one thing that’s obvious is that the vocal intonations and austere arrangements here can be very eerie and unsettling, and the songs here will be a pain to sit through (especially the ten-minute latter track) to anyone unfamiliar with Patton’s experimental releases.



    Kamelot – The Haunting (Somewhere In Time), March Of Mephisto: The power metal veterans return with The Black Halo, which continues the storyline introduced on Epica. While the elaborate arrangements here are preferable to the endless Priest/Helloween/etc. cloning in the genre and I don’t fin Khan’s vocals are irritating as some do, I’ve become really indifferent to this sort of music. Especially when the former track’s chorus can only be described a monument to the gods of cheese. The latter track does have some nice instrumental sections, but that’s about it. Of course, the real excitement is now about Conception reuniting for Progpower…



    Manticora – King Of The Absurd, Playing God: The second band announced for Progpower VI (Orphaned Land…FUCK YEAH!), now here’s some power metal with actual power. They have been frequently compared with Blind Guardian, and while the riffs and their tendency towards huge choruses are certainly reminiscent of the bards, it misses the point as these guys have little use for orchestration and are much more immediate in their songwriting. Their most recent album 8 Deadly Sins is a concept disc which finds them branching out a bit.



    Mar De Grises – Storm, El Otro: Despite being discussed at length among my colleagues at the Royal Carnage forum, I didn’t hear The Tatterdemalion Express until last month, otherwise it would have been a definite on my top 25 (and rivaled by only Riverside for best debut of 2004). This is prog-inflected doom at its best, influences from bands like Anathema can be detected but it sounds extremely fresh and is above all else highly emotional. The tracks listed here are long but rarely if ever threaten to become boring dirges, and the strength of the arrangements here are remarkable for a debut.



    Moonsorrow –Karhunkynsi (Bear Claw), Jotunheim: Simply put: If you thought Kivenkantaja was as epic as Viking metal can get, you’ve just been owned as baldy as Blabbermouth was by that fake press release (look it up). Verisakeet takes every element in this band’s potent mixture of bombastic flourishes, expertly integrated folk parts, and raging black metal and multiplies it by ten, and does it over a series of four consecutive monolithic compositions, beginning with the brilliant and hard-hitting opening track and culminating in the 19-minute latter track. Strap on your headphones and be transported back to the age of Vikings with this masterful release.



    Mouth Of The Architect – Soil To Stone, A Vivid Chaos: File under the post-hardcore banner, emphasis on post-. Their debut Time And Withering consists of four lengthy compositions that are mostly instrumental and possess dynamics similar to that on Isis’ latest. The former track, available on www.stonerrock.com, is simultaneously crushing and hypnotic. Definitely a band to watch in the future.



    Novembers Doom – Swallowed By The Moon, Dark World Burden: On their first album for The End, one of the states’ finest doom bands continues their trend of improving with each album. The former track, available at their official site, expands on the sound perfected on The Knowing and once again Paul Kuhr’s lyrics are moving and intensely personal (two other songs on the album address the birth of his daughter, one being the excellent penultimate acoustic track). The latter is a longer track where crushing metallic sections alternate with cleanly sung sections, and is also very emotional. Its closing guitar solo is played by producer Dan Swano.



    Overkill – Within Your Eyes, A Pound Of Flesh: What can I say about these thrash survivors, for thousands (and especially in the NYC area) they have been a metal institution. On their fourteenth album, they continue to pound out the devastating riffs like there’s no tomorrow. The relentless drive of the former opening track, available on www.metalexpress.no, is classic Overkill. The latter track is yet another over the top scorcher, punctuated by yells that are hysterical even by Blitz standards.



    Paatos – Sensor, Tea: Last year’s Kallocain received lots of good press, so naturally Inside Out has secured rights to their debut Timeloss, previously available only in their native Sweden. This album is much closer to the 70s-styled prog the members played in their previous band Landberk than the trip-hop influenced sophomore, but isn’t without a more contemporary edge, evident on the dense former track. The latter is a beautifully melancholic ballad.



    Primordial – The Gathering Wilderness, The Song Of The Tomb: The best known band from Ireland’s metal scene are back after Alan Nemthangea’s stint with Void Of Silence (recently disbanded…damn.) The simple gray and gold sets the tone for the music here, earthy and in touch with its pagan spirit and majestic in its presentation. The songs here head in a more epic direction than their BM-heavy Storm Before Calm, the former title track, available at www.metalblade.de, builds from its sweeping intro into doom metal of the highest order. Latter track, dominated by a similar guitar tone, available at www.metalexpress.no



    The Provenance – Going Down, Speeding To Get By: How would you like to be spat at? That isn’t a veiled threat, it’s the name of this unorthodox band’s second album, which gives the overused male/female contrast a new dimension with its theme of an abusive relationship. The latter track, available at www.metalexpress.no, ends the album and is a stark ballad with female vocals only, punctuated with eerie keyboard sounds that enhance the mood.



    RPWL – Sleep, World Through My Eyes: On their third release, this highly regarded hasn’t shaken their origins as a Floyd tribute band (the track Everything Was Not Enough lifts the “stone” effect from Animals, and sounds exactly like one of the big ballads on the Roger-less albums…let’s discuss the best songs here.), but has expanded their sound and produced their most rewarding album to date. The former opening track creates an inviting psychedelic atmosphere and manages not to sound derivative, and the latter title track is a varied epic that successfully modernizes their approach.



    Soilwork – Stabbing The Drama, Stalemate: Figure Number Five was one of the more poorly received releases of 2003 and put the band in dubious territory, going from Gothenburg copyists to mallcore bandwagon jumpers. So for their latest release, they’ve decided to make an album that sounds almost indistinguishable from FNF, except being slightly heavier and I don’t hear as many keyboards (maybe, either way Sven Karlsson is being wasted in this band). As with the last, they try to put anthemic choruses on almost every song that end up being stuck in your head at the worst times, like the latter track…make it stop, Speed!



    Spiraling – A Face For Radio, Texas Is The Reason: Prog fans will recognize the name Tom Brislin, he’s toured with Yes and filled in on keyboards at Camel’s Nearfest appearance. But don’t expect any Wakeman-like flights of fancy (or borefests depending on your mood), this is undoubtedly a pop band. Some of their songs are a bit too cutesy and sound stuck in the 80s, but the ones listed here are energetic and infectious. Both tracks available at www.myspace.com



    Strapping Young Lad – Shitstorm, Two Weeks: What is with Devin Townsend appearing in commercials for The Osbournes, is he begging Sharon for a fifteen-minute set on the second stage? Just had to ask that before getting on the subject of Alien, said to be closer to City than 2003’s underwhelming comeback. The former track, available at www.centurymedia.com, will satisfy those who want nothing more than for Devin to tear his vocal cords apart while the others set their instruments to 11. The latter is the complete opposite, here Devin blurs the line between SYL and his solo albums (again) by including a mellow track with no screams whatsoever.



    Therion – Kali Yuga pt. 2, The Khlysti Evangelist: To the surprise of just about everyone, the first band announced for Progpower VI (following an unauthorized leak, shame on you.) These two tracks are from Sirius B, the darker companion to the relatively accessible Lemuria. The latter track, available at the PP website, makes good on their stated goal to recapture their metal instincts, while the former is a typically elaborately arranged piece.



    Tristania – Endogenesis, Cure: After a long break, one of the leading goth metal bands returns with Ashes. The classical pretensions of the first two are in increasingly short supply, and focus more on the vocal melodies, witness the slow burning latter track. The former track is more metallic, but lacks the sense of distinction that made Widow’s Weeds a confident debut.



    Tub Ring – Raindrops, The Promise Keeper: Zoo Hypothesis is the latest release by these often fascinating oddballs. They are especially gifted at subverting pop clichés, the former track is anchored by a bouncy and optimistic sounding melody but adds odd breaks and less than happy lyrics. The latter track, available at their official site, is an unconventional but energetic rocker.



    The Vision Bleak – Wolfmoon, Metropolis: Formed from the ashes of the excellent neo-folk band Empyrium, this band’s self-described horror metal couldn’t be further from the overwhelming sadness of Weiland. The Deathship Has A New Captain has an intriguing concept and is highly enjoyable at points (I’m still trying to get the chorus of the former out of my head), but more often than not comes across more as novelty than serious project.



    Voyager – Time For Change, Cosmic Armageddon pt. 2: Australian progressive metal whose debut album Element V created a stir in the progressive metal community as a self-release, now available on the DVS label. The songs here can be complex and incorporate diverse influences including some death metal, the latter in particular makes some abrupt changes, ending up as a bombastic power metal track. The latter, available at www.dvsrecords.com, is a more melodic and coherent offering.



    Wintersun – Starchild, Battle Against Time: This began as a parallel project of Viking metallers Ensiferum but quickly became a full-time project, their debut has received its share of rave reviews. If you’ve heard either of the Ensiferum albums, you won’t be surprised by the Nordic-themed power metal here, although the songs tend to be a bit longer (than they need to be IMO, the feeling I get is what could be a solid, punchy four-minute track becoming exhausting at seven). The former track is played at a lightning fast pace, and the latter can be heard at www.metalbite.com
     
  2. Demonspell

    Demonspell cheating the polygraph

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    test - it wasn't showing up on the forum index for some reason...
     
  3. BenMech

    BenMech student of the d'eh

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    another pretty good column, Demon.

    On thing: Spat is The Provenance's THIRD album, not their second. You most likedly missed "25th Hour; Bleeding", their debut.

    And where is Gozira's homepage?
     
  4. JayKeeley

    JayKeeley Be still, O wand'rer!

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    Good work. Glad you made mention of Mar de Grises.
     

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