God bless – or Satan, we don’t discriminate here – Ken “Sorceron” Bergeron because despite all the lineup, location and style changes, Abigail Williams is still a functioning outfit. Walk Beyond the Dark (Blood Music) is the follow-up to 2015’s The Accuser which caught many by surprise considering that 2012’s Becoming was supposed to be the last hurrah after another band implosion. Abigail Williams has had more members drift in and out than the Church of Scientology and yet it still stands.
And that’s without counting Bergeron’s brief stint as vocalist for another lineup chewer, Michael Keene‘s The Faceless.
After several decades it would be completely forgivable for any band to ease their foot on the peddle as it were, but then again Amorphis are no ordinary band. It is well documented how they weathered a substantial transition in style through the 90’s from death metal with the classic Tales From The Thousand Lakes (Relapse) into a much more melodic entity with Elegy (Relapse) two years later. Continue reading →
At first Death Metal but now encompassing Folk, Symphonic and Prog Rock elements, Amorphis are a multifaceted Finnish Metal group with nearly thirty years on the clock (twenty eight, but who’s counting). Following on from the driven yet melodious Heavy Metal of Under the Red Cloud is their thirteenth album Queen of Time (Nuclear Blast), along with the production skills of Jens Bogren – whose previous work includes Amon Amarth, Kreator and Opeth amongst others. This record follows the same urgent, heavy yet tuneful ethos but with a much broader scope, with synths, choirs, violins, folk and prog all adding to the mix. Continue reading →
Symphonic Power Metal band Serenity is back with a new album, Lionheart(Napalm), and they are strong as ever. As on previous albumCodexAtlanticus, which explored the life and writings of Leonardo DaVinci, the band’s passion for history inspired the themes and lyrics of the album. Continue reading →
Times have been rather tumultuous for French progressive metal stalwarts Adagio since the release of their last album Archangels In Black (Listenable) way back in 2009. A continuing series of vocalist setbacks saw numerous changes in that time, with the latest seeing Mats Levén single year duration come to an end with him being succeeded by Kelly Carpenter. Jelly Cardarelli and Mayline Gautie have also joined as drummer and violinist respectfully. A mammoth wait for an album was also heightened by a crowdfunding campaign, and thus, the promise of big things to come. Now finally the follow-up arrives, revealing what is their most ambitious work to date, which sadly is not entirely a saving grace. Continue reading →
Mystic (Elderoth Entertainment Inc.) is the second album by Canadian Prog project Elderoth. While there is a live line-up, the album is entirely written, played, and produced by Collin McGee. He aims to mix exotic instruments with the Western progressive style.
From the first notes to the last, this music is very in-your-face. There is usually a scale being played by some instrument somewhere, possibly by several at once. At the start this seems like a minor quirk, but as the album progressed I found myself becoming more and more agitated. There is too much of everything.
‘This Shadow By My Side’ has a very busy intro, which sounds all right, and then a total change to the rest of the music. The change at 2:10 is really well done, but a mere 20 seconds later there is another ill-fitting change. Changes in prog are cool, but make them fit the music, rather than just stopping and starting at random every so many bars.
‘My Future’ has a really strange, almost disco-like feel at the start that is weird but not entirely unpleasant. The vocals aren’t necessarily bad, but they often sound constricted. He needs to sing more towards the end to the sentence so that the final word doesn’t just fall into an abyss of mumbling. This song has a very nice symphonic interlude that is really well balanced and is probably my favourite section on the album.
And then there’s ‘Falling Star’. Musically this is far from the worst song on the album, although it would definitely have been better off without the synths in the intro, but this song does feature some of the worst lyrics I have heard all year. Note to any songwriters: if your chorus sounds like you took your rhyme from ‘Twinkle Twinkle’, you’re doing something wrong. It was the most cringeworthy part of the album and I had to skip the rest of the song at some point.
There are a lot of really good elements and that for me is where the problem lies. There are too many different things going on at once for me to be at all comfortable listening to this, and there are too many changes that don’t work well. Perhaps it is less jarring for those who do not suffer from hypersensitivity disorder. I really hope Collin McGee learns the benefits of silence and calm, because I think he could do so much better than this. He has proven that he can write interesting lines with interesting instruments, now he just needs to not use all of them at once.
No genre is set in stone, but Black Metal has been through quite a series of self-discoveries since three goons from Newcastle covered themselves in leather and spikes. Belgian six-piece Saille represent what I can’t help but think of as the “niceifying” of Black Metal, and the nine symphonic, atmospheric tracks on Eldritch (Code 666) may come as something of a shock if you’re used to the nastier end of the genre.
Not that this is going to set charts alight anytime soon, of course – by true mainstream standards the factors that make Black Metal unappealing (harsh shrieked vocals, buzzing guitars, sparsely but effectively used blast-beats) are still present, but they’re assembled with a grace, a breadth of expression, even a delicateness that Euronymous would have taken as a personal insult. The pomp and bombast that often characterises much “symphonic” Black Metal is also absent, and it’s a welcome absence – this isn’t Dimmu Borgir thundering away like Mussorgsky conducting Bowser’s Theme, but a much more reflective and considered approach to melodic, keyboard saturated Black Metal. The main reference point that occurred to me while listening was Schammasch, and though Eldritch lacks the depth and profundity of their monstrous Contradiction (Prosthetic), it still speaks positively of their knack for constructing Black Metal which is both catchy and deep.
You’re waiting for the catch, of course, and in this case it’s that Eldritch doesn’t quite have the depth of ideas needed to keep attention across its nine-track length and starts to outstay its welcome a little. There are plenty of excellent ideas for the band to build on, however – from the spoken-word accompaniment of ‘Great God Pan’ to the churningly catchy melodies of ‘Aklo’ – that if they can trim their excess fat and develop more focus next time they might deliver something genuinely special.
For now, Eldritch comes highly recommended for anyone who doesn’t mind their Black Metal on the “nice” side.
If any band deserves the black metal tag, then it’s Ulver. Though sonically a far cry from what most associate with the genre, it is the spirit of the lawless master that Ulver have long demonstrated in their musical career. But of course, Ulver transcend tags. Never a band to stick to the tried-and-tested, the formulaic, or the predictable, they are a band that live up to their own name. Following their own path and sating their desires to the fullest, wolves they are. And whether or not you approve of any or all of their diverse oeuvre, it cannot be denied that Ulver are concerned with the music as a form of expression, of imagination, and, more importantly, of illumination. And it is this latter aspect that is at the heart of Messe I.X-VI.X (K-Scope).
Commissioned for Tromsø Kulturhus in cooperation with the Arctic Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra, in the liner notes of this CD, the band’s directive is stated thus: “Make something grand, gothic and Ulver-esque,” they said. “Ok.” And without being unnecessarily complex or attempting to challenge every boundary of music ever in existence for the sake of it, so they have. As the next release from this band in particular, while hardly a surprise that they should take such a step, it is simply stunning. Balancing the orchestral with the electronic in perfect measure, this is an experience that demands attention, and one that rejects as much as it embraces. In this work are melodies that captivate, arrangements that enthral, and soundscapes that engulf as much as there are distant depths, walls of subtle yet unfeeling noise, and unsettling tension hanging in the album’s ethereal shades.
This works as an album both to be put on in the background and left alone and as one to set aside for forty five minutes of pure indulgence. It’s uplifting and introspective, subtle and penetrating, all-encompassing and delicately defiant. The masters are at work. Of course it’s not without its flaws (Ulver’s vocalists have never had the greatest of voices) but they are far outweighed by the ambition and its realisation found at every instant. There’s no other way to put it: Messe I.X-VI.X is beautiful.