Sound: This is a new band that cropped up last year, having reviews in both Metal Hammer and Terrorizer (the magasines) I thought I'd give it a listen. The sound is one of immense depth. The main genre is hard to determine, the band mix a multitude together. There is a predominant Progressive/Technical Death metal sound, its apparent everywhere, but there is also the heavy element of Symphonic Black Metal, as the guitar riffs are accompanied by 'epic' keyboards. There are flashes of obvious displays from many influences such as the polyrythms of Meshuggah, the odd time signitures of 70's prog (and modern day prog) and the continuous heavy bombardment of chunky bass and down tuned guitars of todays death/groove metal. The vocals are very typical groove metal growls, basically 'gravelling' your voice while you sing a note, like Rob Flynn from Machine Head. There is the occasional Black Metal shreik to accompany the growls, but there is just one track with vocal melody (Reform Part 1). For me though, the growls arent very amazing and have a lack of effort, and the singing is too limited, even though the vocalist is quite amazing in both respects. Another point to make is that, unlike traditional prog, the songs are notably short, the longest topping 5 minutes. The recording quality is surprisingly brilliant, it has a futuristic sheen, everything is organically made, yet is has a polished, cleaner sound to it, no background distortion or things like that which is surprising given that its recorded in a homemade studio made to watch South park videos with (band quote) but honestly, its one of the best recordings I've ever heard. The band members are multi talented, and contributed to all parts of the album while they have a set and stable live line-up. Tracklist:
01. Intrenity: as an opening track, it shows what this band is truly about: deep, groove based riffs with complex rythms and orchestral backgrounds. Though opening alone is a beautiful strings arrangement on the keyboard and gets me fully drawn into the song.
02. Alterra: one of my favourite songs on the album (and possible, ever) its also the shortest. It opens with a flanged drum roll and breaks into this rediculously catchy guitar riff followed by an epic fill of both the bass and the guitar, similar to the song Holographic Universe by Scar Symmetry. The breakdown that follows is choral background followed by a slower, more complex pattern of riffs that sets your own rythm off balance, showing their technicality.
03. Nocturnum: one of the faster songs from the album, it instantly hits you in the face with a barrage of minor key riffs and choral peices with another sudden epic breakdown, leading to a drone-doom-type bridge with bass drum gunfire, that slowly turns into a singing passage with a female vocalist (a guest presumably) and continues till the end with a soft ending and random fades of distortion.
04. Consequences: this is a definate example of their affirmity in metal. Its Final Fantsay style opening is followed by a fast thrash riff with well placed orchestral notes and it bursts into a freefall of heavy chords and growls. One of my favourite songs from the album.
05. Interlude: a short instrumental peice, and the shortest track. Its inclusion may seem unneseccary but its a good break from the heaviness and rush of the last track. And very well composed too.
06. False History: one of the few tracks with a solo, its a heavily groove orientated stonker of a song, the guitars being 7 strings set with whammy bars to create a G note in the main riff. Its sheer catchyness is enough to like it, if not, love it and the solo being short but very sweet.
07. Abiogenesis: the longest track, it has a highly atmospheric touch to it, particularly the minute long intro. It then starts with slow, heavy beats following the intro, and goes into a slightly less memorable riff that picks up again at the bridge with an 'epic battle' style riff. The heavy intro is also played as the outro, and it was well placed in my opinion.
08. Reform Part 1: the only song to contain the vocalist singing cleans, its heavy bombardment at the beginning setting the scene for a short whispery verse to an epic choral bridge with clean singing accompanied by Black Metal shrieks (similar to Gotherfall). A definate like.
09. Reform Part 2: a flanger plays into a death metal barage of tremelo riffs and symphonic brutality. The growls take a deeper note to fit the scene, making it the heaviest song on the album too. and only after a minute and thirty, an epic Dream Theater styled solo is played to totally upset the mood and confuse you but it quickly reverts to its heavier and powerful Symphonic death side. The suddenly shifting tempo almost makes you think it changes song and the 'danger warning' keyboard riff makes you feel like its the end of everything.
10. Right To Exist: as the last track, its opening is comparativly softer to that of the rest of the album. it quickly breaks into an adamant/decadent riff of soaring groove which progresses further into a more thrash orientated/meshuggah style version of the same riff, followed by an odd combination of pinch harmonics and orchestra backdrop which follows to a more melodic, epic riff with a complex rythm following. the rest offers a fine finisher to an album while it fades out on a light operatic peice. // 8
Lyrics: The lyrics are unconventional. They borrow from sources of punk related articles and that of thrash metal. They centre around the ideas of the creation of life (Abiogenesis), Suppresive empires and war and the ever constant need to change the world for the better, and even dabbling in philisophical approaches to the way the ideas are presented, such as 'lives of the many, decided by few'. The music exemplifies this greatly, and compliments the epic keyboard backdrop of the songs. The vocals are placed at uncoventional points in the songs, and verses and choruses don't follow in a traditional fashion. The vocalist makes use of the main metal vocals: punk influenced groove/death growls, black metal shrieks and the one off use of clean vocals. He performs the growls rather effortlessly, but they sound a little empty, you could say, not very well performed. The shrieks however, are pretty well done, and sound close to the black metal band, Gotherfall. The one off cleans, however, are very well done, they compliment the songs in a power metal style. The inclusion of a female vocalist in Nocturnum is also a great performance. With this, the atmosphere is set for a terrific album. // 8
Overall Impression: This band is entirely unique. Their style has no set genre, progressive being a bit vague to describe. It interested me first because of the rave reviews from Metal Hammer. It scored an 8 in the underground section of their reviews, and I'm heavily into new forms of prog music. I couldnt compare it to anything really, unless you managed to mix Nachtmystium, Scar Symmetry, Opeth, Hacride and Sepultura all at the same time.
The songs all have their ups and downs, but the ones that really stand out are Reform Parts 1 and 2, Alterra, Consequences and False History with tight haggling from the other songs. My least favourite is probably Abiogenesis, while the lyrics are inspiring, its main riffs are a bit plodding and not very memorable.
What I particularly love about this album is its exclusivity and it being very unique. As an underground band assigned to Candlelight, I would love to see this band elavated to a higher level than it is now. You will not find much out there with this degree of sonic perfection, mixing the most techinical and simple of ideas to create a bombardment of Epic Metal that will leave you stunned.
But that said, exclusivity lead to me having to find it in a music shop in Amsterdam (and not in England where the band is actually from) and its harder still to find on the internet. But if you can get your hands on even just a handful of MP3's, its well worth the effort. And even if I'd loose/break the CD, I'd go hunting all over for it again.
This band and this debut album shows that the underground stream of metal music has evolved elements that need to be shown. The metalhead world needs a band like this, as the few famous prog bands out their barely cover the styles covered by Xerath.
And I could recommend this stonker of an album if you like Opeth, Scar Symmetry, Meshuggah and all forms of technical/progessive death metal. // 8