Sound: Sculptured, the creative output of Agalloch guitarist Don Anderson, had been silent for eight years before releasing their 2008 effort, Embodiment. It's safe to say that no quality has been lost in their sound in this extended period of time. Sculptured's tradermark, weirdness, has remained intact. What makes this band so "weird" is that their songs seem to be written to intentionally defy the conventional rules of music theory. While this may sound like it will make the album a dischordant mess of noise, the result actually creates a truly unique musical experience. Previous Sculptured efforts featured many brass sections over the odd brand of Death Metal that they play. The brass players have apparently left after this eight year period, but they were more than sufficiently replaced by the compitent keyboard skills of Andy Winter (of Winds fame). His keyboard playing creates a unique feel to the music, often enhancing the feel of the riffs and drum work. Often they take on the role of lead like in The Shape of Rage. They keyboards often add atmospheric "dream-like" sounds to the music, again evident in The Shape of Rage. Don Anderson's peculiar interpretation of traditional death metal riffs remains from previous albums. Despite the odd sound of these riffs, they are incredibly catchy and generally fun to listen to. The bass, played by Jason Walton (also of Agalloch fame), is equally as fun to listen to and generally remains independent from the guitar work.
Finally, perhaps one of the most impressive things about this album are the drums. Dave Murray, known for his work with Estradasphere, causes some of the most crazy drum beats I have ever heard. He appears to play offtime, yet be on it at the same time, delivering ferocious blasts of the drums over relatively slow parts of the song. It works incredibly well and also provides a fun listening experience. Another thing Don Anderson likes to do for Sculptured is take sound samples from movies or televison shows. These add atmosphere to the music and I feel that they work very well. Over all this CD sounds great. // 9
Lyrics: In the album booklet, it is stated that this album is dedicated to the memory of Don Anderson's deceased father. It is evident that this event has inspired the lyrics for the majority of Embodiment. Many of the lyrics deal with the themes of the fleeting nature of life, the lack of god, and death itself. While these are at times executed very well, they don't hold up to the lyrics of previous albums in my opinion.
Sculptured has two singers, Don Anderson who does the death growls, and Tom Walling who does the clean vocals. Dons death growls, not excessively brutal or excessively, are executed fairly well. Tom Wallings clean vocals add a nice contrast to the death growls. Ocassionally, the two will sound at the same time as on Bodies Without Organs, creating a brilliant sound. The vocals and lyrics are both done fairly well, but there is room for improvement. // 8
Overall Impression: This album leaves the listener with a brilliant impression and a feel for the sheer amount of musical creativity this avant-garde death metal band holds. It has incredible guitar riffs, fantastic drumming, and brilliant keyboard/piano passages. The most impressive song on the album is Embodiment is the Purest Form Of Horror, the large closing track. This song encompasses all of what makes Sculptured a great band. The only flaw that Emodiment has in terms of impression is that it only contains five songs. While each song is a fairly good lenght, the album still comes off feeling short, despite how full of content each song is. That being said, I still recommend this album to anyone who has a slight interest in metal as it is truly a brilliant work of music. // 9