Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten

•September 15, 2014 • 2 Comments

Effigy of the Forgotten” is such an interesting album to review, maybe since it contains zero elements of the melodic department, instead having this pure, insane focus on rhythm. The guitars chainsaw through every song with a buzzing, conquering speed that almost never stops, while in between, cymbal chokes hammer down on you like large-caliber bullets. While most metal, even in the DM subgenre, usually has a bit of “space” in the mix to resonate within, Suffocation leaves none, holding you cruelly in their claustrophobic chokehold, your mind attacked by their labyrinth-like collection of riffs; and the calculated repetitive nature of this insisting battering on some songs like the title track, quickly grows close to being an overkill; the constant violence rendering its structure partly unimportant, serving just to contain and organize.

The only relief comes from those slower grooves that gave much inspiration for today’s modern BDM\Slam; and there are also a few catchier numbers like “Jesus Wept” and “Reincremation“, with their ultra-memorable main riffs. Many times, the band sounds so immersed in their own created chaos that the listener becomes unsure – where is his place in all this estranging music? But there are also middle-of-the-road options where the guys stick together the catchy and the chaotic very well – like “Seeds of the Suffering” and “Infecting the crypts“. Those are the real classic tracks here, me thinks. Give one of’em a listen and you will either immediately love it – or regret it – depending on your taste in music. As I said, “Effigy…” is not a forgiving listen..

Representing the convoluted nature of this album, the artwork does a good job. The place or world captured in this painting is really terrible, and was probably meant to reflect modern humanity’s demise and self-destruction with a glimpse into a possible, quite ugly future. The lyrics touch on that too if I remember correctly, though lately, I can less and less relate to this bleak perspective on humanity. It’s great as a creative expression of release – from conventions and from lies. Yes, extreme metal is maybe the greatest place and opportunity to unleash the angst and pent-up energy that life instills in you. But I wouldn’t wanna get lost in this dark chaos, and within the genre of DM prefer the less cold and more human perspective on life bands like ATG or (early) In Flames offer.

When speaking solely about rhythm though, of that “brutality” every metal site today likes to measure DM records with, then this here is the birth of it ! And with it Suffocation achieve a classic state, playing an important role in metal history, and inspiring some of my favorite bands to later come up with their own killer records. To sum it up, beyond enjoying the amazing drumming and guitar dexterity of “Effigy..”, this harsh and terrifying delivery of sound is hard to *love* in the deeper sense, but can and should be respected and hailed as the artistic monolith it is. A monolith of Death Metal !

8/10

Persefone – Spiritual Migration

•January 5, 2014 • Leave a Comment

Spiritual Migration” is an album that has rightfully caught many people’s attention with its unique twist; bear with me here: It’s Death Metal about Buddhism. Yeah you’ve read that correctly. we’re talking about a feel-good extreme metal album. Sounds off? But the concept seems to work surpisingly well, thanks to epic arrangements and a seriously powerful vocal delivery; witnessing these “enlightened”-type positive lyrics being combined with growls is one of the refreshing things I’ve heard all year.

Now add to this bold concept an insane technical prowess that many guitar players will envy (I really don’t understand how anyone could play these riffs, let alone memorize them) and you got huge amounts of potential here. It’s a goddamn riff goldmine that’s what it is! All you gotta do is hack away, it’s all gold. Well..theoretically.

The problem is that this really-awesome-in-theory idea quickly falls flat on its face in reality, mainly because the album loses itself in its own complexity. And though there are countless technical acts who’ll bore you to death with their “musical” endeavours, I was especially disappointed this time around because the premise as I described is at first so epic and promising. Why? Why should we be tortured like this? When all we crave is a few catchy riffs, a killer rhythms section and memorable song structures?

I really don’t have an answer. I don’t know why this band decides to go breakdown on me every few minutes. Is that trend never gonna let up? And I don’t know why they complicate everything, disjointing their riffs into a labyrinth of frequencies and puzzling syncopations that no listener could possibly remember. These two issues seem contrasting but they share something being the most obvious, biggest traps bands can fall into, composition-wise. No matter how good the album’s concept is (and it is very good), the aforementioned frantic composition style quickly becomes obnoxious to my ears.

To offer an example demonstrating a possible opposite direction, as always when speaking about melodeth we can use At The Gates‘ “Slaughter of The Soul“, with its memorable but intelligent melodic guitar-playing, its uber-solid rhythm section and furious vocalist. Of course this is not a review of ATG and I am not saying all bands should take their path, I only imply that metal music is better off being to-the point and should not obsess over the hyper-technical on such a ..stupefying level !

Still, if you are by chance a tech-freak or devour djents for breakfast every day(that is a good idea for a new cereal isn’t it ?), “Spiritual Migration” just might be up your alley. However, if you happen to listen to this band in an actual alley, please choose the street furthest from this oldschool headbanger right here.

6\10 

Exivious – Liminal

•November 10, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Exivious3
If you enjoy Cynic‘s beautiful & mind-boggling music, the instrumental work of Exivious just might be for you. With two of the band’s ex-guitarists playing in the group on their new album “Liminal“, you are guaranteed to get the exact sort of jazz\fusion wild melodic leads that you’ve come to expect, and more.

Although the obligatory reference to Cynic, do bear in mind that this is no death metal territory. To the contrary; Exivious are all about creating spacious, otherworldly soundscapes whose energy is never that of anger, the band continuously traveling through energetic momentums that carry them in a very organic manner through human emotions, unviolently.

I think this very “un-violence” matter is the key to interpreting the abstract listening experience you get on “Liminal“. While the chords and lead guitar are often distorted with high gain as with most rock\metal, it can be confusing to see phrasing and scales which are very “natural” in meaning, I. E expressing human emotion but not falling into emotional traps, not treating emotions as absolute truth. More bluntly put, the music might for example, trigger melancholic feelings in a certain person, but by itself, does not sound melancholic at all. How odd, right? and how interesting.

Even without going into any such philosophical depths at all, though, I think you’ll find this album to be a calming, enriching experience that will remind you what music can be. Each time I listen to groups like Cynic, Exist or Exivious, it makes a lot of what we call “the music scene” suddenly look pale in comparison, and even a bit obsolete. I don’t think it’s obsolete, I’m just glad groups like Exivious are here to give us such bright contrast and color, and must say these are hard to take your eyes off of (well, more like ears). A good release, no doubt about it. 8/10

Ayreon – The Theory of Everything

•November 9, 2013 • 1 Comment

Ayreon’s 8th studio album “The Theory of Everything” might sound like a very “smart”, lyrically complex album, but the “Theory” issue is only a background plot device that gives vibe and drive to this very familiar story about a genius outcast mistreated by society; “Society”, in this story’s context represented by different characters: The Father, The Mother, The Psychiatrist, The Girl, The Rival. And although these characters differ, they all have the same main motif to their roles, which is misunderstanding the young genius (or “The Prodigy“), and treating him badly according to on their own interests:

-The Father totally disregards the emotions of his son, treating him only as a tool that functions\dysfunctions.
-The Psychiatrist is driven only by his education & research, and to promote the latter he is willing to put the prodigy’s life at risk.
-The Rival represents violent competition and manipulation.

Other characters like the girl or the teacher are more balanced, but almost everyone – except the mother – pushes or pulls at the prodigy, abusing him while falsely claiming to “help” him. If you take the “Theory..” issue out, this story feels common & very familiar. It could easily be tje story of an intelligent kid with Asperger\ADD\etc, pick your favorite syndrome. I won’t spoil the entire thing for you, but the story is tragic, as most characters are oblivious to their doing, and even the mother, who can see the truth through her compassion, alone by herself cannot stop this collective abuse.

Regarding the music itself, although claimed to be “four long tracks divided into various segments”, I found the division into many mini-tracks makes it very hard to put the pieces together, mentally speaking. Almost each track has its own unique intro and outro – more like a rock opera or a theatric play\musical than “four long tracks”. Now add to that the huge musical variation this album features and you got an immeasurably segmented thing going on. Describing the different genres at hand would be futile, just know this is prog rock done the right way. Arjen Lucassen is one incredibly inspired guy and he makes DT‘s last album look awful. I mean, MORE awful.

However, in terms of musical coherence, the album loses me halfway. I really want my rock\metal to have something to hold onto, be it a repeating chorus or a kickass riff. Repetition is important, even in prog. Creating tension and breaking it is powerful, yes, but without some repetition in between, songs become a disorienting experience. I get that going “full-prog” or how’d you call it perhaps means the composer gives himself complete creative freedom. I respect that kind of art and my guess is listeners will immensely appreciate it. But you certainly will not be rocking to this CD in the traditional sense, unless you are a diehard fan of Lucassen, or are obsessed with musicals.

7/10

The Very Best Of Progstravaganza 13 – PART II

•September 25, 2013 • Leave a Comment

It’s time for part II of our lengthy journey to review Prog-sphere’s Progstravaganza 13 ! The tracks on this second installment are quite different, and heavier than those found in PART I. If like me, you like your prog heavier, this one’s for you !

Well then, while the first songs in this catalog were, for the most part, kinda light weight as you understand, two real heavy contenders finally enter the stage in the form of space rockers Temple Of The Smoke and sludge\stoner band Pike.

Temple Of The Smoke‘s “Moth Of Time” is a good instrumental piece where quiet and bright psychedelic patterns turn to heavy riffs and vice versa. The band reminds me at certain moments of My Sleeping Karma but are less about hypnotically circular phrasing, instead having a more freeform, unexpected experimental\progressive structure.

Pike‘s “Ned Land” is so doomy and sludgy, a slowly growing storm, angry and despairing, crushing you with a buzz that doesn’t let up. ‘definitely not an easy listen, this is an ambitious, massive song, with interesting vocals, and I would love to hear it re-mixed.

Following numerous cheesy, tedious and puzzling tracks, we stumble upon a real surprise in this catalog – “Requiem Aeternam”, by the band Eyevory. Now, this 10 minutes track isn’t perfect, at first sounding even amateur, and it somewhat is, but you just can’t ignore the crazy endeavour these guys quickly get themselves into. It’s one the most lively, original instrumental sections I’ve heard in a while, commanded by non other than a flute! Eyevory‘s creative sense of melody is just a joy to listen to, free from inhibitions and unafraid, going places and genres you’d never expect. It’ll put a smile on your face.

At 32#, “Dark Symphony” by “Le Reverie” is the total opposite of experimentation, doing the “modern metal” thing by the numbers. The group executes this style very well compared to other similar bands on this tracklist. They have good female vocals, catchy hooks that keep you interested, and a bit of a southern US sound to’em too.

This concludes part II of this series. Stay tuned for part III !

 
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