REVIEWS - 6
These reviews have been published in Avant-Garde Metal online music magazine. Reviews here are reverese chronogically ordered with respect to their publication date.
SUBTERRANEAN MASQUERADE suspended animation dreams
One of the missions of the investigative metal journalist is perhaps to trace back the cultural heritage of the musicians in the “musick” they make. Yours truly, is perhaps one of the mates that takes this mission quite seriously.
SM hails from Brooklyn and its industrial and recently gentrified neighborhoods. Well, this already tells us a lot about the band. An inevitable yet smooth mixture of elegant genres and various musical traditions, “suspended animation dreams” promises a lot, and truthfully keeps its promise. SM is the only band I know that is closest to Naervaer and the genre it represents. Presenting pure a la European avant garde tunes with surprising instrumental richness, this album deserves much closer attention.
The album opens with a rather smooth tune. The smoothness of the melodies is then heavily disturbed with the masculine vocals. The next song, albeit preserving the smoothness but introducing a bit more rockish means, has always sounded to me as a song composed and performed by a rockish chamber orchestra. In this song, the aforementioned mixture of different instruments and the cultures is carefully embedded into a sad and a bit depressed atmospheric aura. The third act, “No Place Like Home” has always been my favorite SM piece. The sound of harmonica, masculine yet quite sad vocals together with the simple rhythms reminds me of the ideal music that I always look for. A sudden attack of brutal vocals definitely make this piece a climax of creativity and musical composition. The next song is another example of SM being the metalic melting pot of American musical heritage. The song starts off as a simple and nice song and is joined with the choral vocals that turn it into a brilliant composition. The last song I will mention is the final act. The song X posits itself as a perfect piece as the final hit of this album. First and foremost of all, female vocals, no surprise here, turns it into a quite impressive song. As you will possibly get yourself familiarize with, X is a very good representation of SM’s style: starting with an easy tune, make it complicated on the way and finish with a rather powerful attack of vocals and guitars. After all, once X is finished spinning in your boombox (?!?) you will feel the sensation!
Remember, “suspended animation dreams” is the soundtrack of life!
FORGOTTEN SILENCE senyaan
I honestly don't remember how many FS reviews I have written throughout the ages for various fan/zines. And, I don’t really know why I feel like writing a new one every now and then. Perhaps, I just miss the legacy of Czech scene.
Back in those years (yes, I am talking about late 90s), I was an eager listener of virtually every underground Czech band I could find and access. From noize bands to folky metal, or from atmospheric melancholic doom metallic goth rocky compositions to brutal death metal, Czech scene amazed in each of its move. Furthermore, the spirit of the underground had been so infused to the entire scene: endless correspondence with the bands, sending “well-hidden cash” in the regular mail, waiting for several weeks till your CDs arrive, exchanging amazing underground flyers… Tons of reasons can be given to account for why Czech scene was so active and “giving” back then. After that, naturally, because of the Internet boom, it has just faded away, and became a legacy.
Forgotten Silence was one the miracle bands of that era. They were so great that I haven’t met any metalhead who didn’t enjoy them, or who dared to criticize them from a negative perspective.
Senyaan was perhaps their masterpiece which introduced them gloriously to the scene, and was repeatedly used as a reference for the future generations as to how a “non-standard” and avant-garde metal album should be made. Forgotten Silence, not only exemplified this text-book procedure, but they also kept the success and tradition in their other works - nevertheless in a rather declining fashion in my opinion.
Senyaan is a concept album. It tells a story, chapter by chapter. It was one of the very first examples of female vocals in Central European atmospheric scene, and maybe one of the initiators of that vogue. Not-so-unexpected style of female vocals, on the other hand, has been contrasted very successfully with male vocals which are stunningly well sang in different styles. Sometimes, it whispers quietly with a relatively moody tunes on the background, sometimes it screams in agony and hope to try to make himself heard.
The musical technique of Senyaan is also superb. A clever mix of usual sounds with some avant-garde experimental tunes definitely create an surprisingly brilliant output. Some people tend to call Senyaan a rather atmospheric act. I slightly disagree with that perspective. After listening to it thousands of times, I have developed a rather fierce attitude towards the reviewers who call the pieces that they don’t get as “experimental”. This term barely explains what FS has achieved. Perhaps, yes, they experimented, but their experiments work, succeeded and moreover has started a new direction in the atmospheric metal.
Overall, the only criticism I could have put is perhaps the following. How could such a brilliant work not been re-released after 12 years?
CRADLE OF FILTH darkly darkly, venus aversa
Some people seek comfort in the familiar. They like to eat the same meal, go to the same shows, sleep with the same wo/men. Now, we can add listening to CoF to that list.
We all know, CoF has turned to a album factory - a similar album for every two years, one or two “nice” songs, and the repetition of the same-old same-old in the rest of the album. Nevertheless, in the past albums (such as Thornography, Nymphetamine) I used to be able to discover some slightly unfamiliar tunes, some nice moments. However, I failed to do so in their latest attack. It is as aggressive and melodic as the previous ones. But, what happened to originality?
The album opens with a same-old same-old gothic interlude that introduces the concept of the album. If you are one the lucky “few” who recieved the promo-single before the release of the album, you might have seen the similarities already. Not much has changed. One or two, classical CoF melodies and some fill-in songs in between them.
This album is definitely a measure for how dedicated fan of CoF you are. This measure has got tougher and tougher during time. Now, you really need to be a dedicated fan to enjoy this album.
DIABLO SWING ORCHESTRA sing along songs for damned and delirious
DSO is a quite interesting band. They extend the cliche genre of operic metal to a new level - a completely new level. Schizoprhenic tunes, crazy vocals, clever use of symphonic instruments, rather funny mood (as opposed to the depressed one familiar from doomy operic metal) made DSO rather interesting. Nevertheless, DSO’s long-awaited second opus is, quite frankly, not as great as their debut. The debut shocked us with their aforementioned originality - that was great and all. But, the second album sounds just like a cheap replica of the first one. Moreover, it is not as melodic as the first one. I really would have liked to think that this is just a “continuation” of their debut - an Act 2. But, no, it does not even meet such a criterion.
The reason is simple. They set our expectations quite high in their debut - which was great. A Swedish band from the cradle of technical death metal, mixing the elements of that genre with some operic tunes, and adding some avant touches. Melodies were much rememberable, much fun. On the other hand, the second album shares a familiar element with the debut: it is fun to play such a music. I mean having such an ensemble on stage with strings and brass alongside the regular metal stuff, looks a definite fun. Yet, there is some balance that needs to be preserved. In this album, the band seems to shift the balance from entertaining the listeners to entertaining themselves.
Finally, if you want to taste DSO, start with “The Butcher’s Ballroom” and later perhaps insist on “Sing along songs for damned and delirious”.
Since its release ten years ago, Skiftninger has gained a pretty special status among the folks who are into avantgarde tunes. Being the Norwegian duo's final act, Skiftninger saluts the listener with its deep roots in experimental and atmospheric music. It is not an easy task to even attempt to describe what makes this album special: let it be its plain compositions or its vocals that go back and forth between insanity and melancholy, Skiftninger deserves a close attention from all open-minded folks out there.
The album opens with a rather moody piece which is woven with raven cries and harmonica touches. The first song, Plan, also gives you a lot of hint about the rest of the album - vocal techniques and compositions throughout the album, for one, become evident here. The next song rushes you to the depressive corridors of the psychatric ward of the album with its impressive (and yet melancholic) vocals, cries and whispers. While you get more and more absorbed by their melodies, you will feel detached, and perhaps lost. I am not perfectly sure if it is something that a listener asks for. Let me be frank, it was something that the vast majority of the metal bands have failed to do so in the past decades for the folks who ask for it [luckily, in this webpage, you can read about those bands which are exceptions to my observation]. The mood of the album has its ups and downs. One of the up- points,without question, is the song "Bob Dylan is the Fucking King". A la folkish, yet mystical tunes of this song surely will have an impact. Blended with a cute female vocal and the harmonica, it is going to motivate you, make you listen to itself many many more times just to grasp its short, quick and emotional melodies. To keep the story short, Naervaer's, in my opinion, classical album deserves a highlight in its 10th anniversary, not only because of it is uniqueness, but also because of its timeless tunes.
Naervaer is a unique band. In the past decade, like a lost lover, I searched and searched for something that is at least remotely similar to Skiftninger. I failed desperately each time, and felt more connected to Naervaer. So, don't try asking Naervaer out, if you don't think that you can handle this.