Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy – Návaz

I have a strong preference for music in a language I can understand, if nothing else than for the opportunity to mumble along. But "Návaz", the latest album from Czech band Silent Stream Of Godless Elegy, is a little gem, even if I can't understand a word of the Czech lyrics.
Návaz, like the previous albums is a doom metal album with strong influences from Moravian folk music and lore. What I like most about this album are the heavy contrasts: Quick, playful violins against slow, drudging guitar riffs; soft female voice against harsh male voices; traditional folk instruments and musical themes against modern metal.

Here is the opening track, Mokoš, which I think is quite representative:

 

Those who don't have the stomach for the above, thinking it is too noisy, might still enjoy the songs Sudice or Samodiva. More samples are available on their Myspace page. You can find the album at Amazon.

If you liked this music you should also consider checking out In Via (2010) by Illuminandi. Style wise it leans closer to gothic metal, more gloomy and bleak, but overall very much the same type of feel.

 

Lost in Thought – Opus Arise

If you're a fan of traditional progressive metal, you might want to check out Lost in Thoughts debut album: Opus Arise.

Released April 29th this year, Opus Arise features some very solid songwriting much in the style of Dream Theater and similar bands. The musicianship is generally excellent, and the production is stellar. On the downside, this is not a very original album by any measure, you will not find too many fresh ideas or expressions in this album. So if you're looking for something that takes progressive metal in a new direction; look elsewhere.

Here is the opening track, Beyond the Flames.

My favorite tracks include the slower Blood Red Diamond and the kicking closing track Assimulate, Destroy. You can find the album on Amazon.

Sadly the band had a car accident on their first European tour in late May, which left the drummer with a broken leg and having to undergo surgery. A news post comment from the drummer, and a recent interview seems to indicate that the recovery so far is going OK. Hopefully he will be fully recovered, back to playing drums, soon.

A friend told me that I should blog about music again. This was a shot at doing just that.

Berlin concerts awesomeness

A few weeks back I saw Gojira (warning: horrible flash based site, even the myspace page is better) at Knaack here in Berlin. While I hadn't listened to Gojira much before going, it was a great show. Nice venue, sound was good, kick-ass music and performance, and the crowd loved it. What more can you ask for?
The event was promoted by a company called Trinity Concerts, and apparently they do a whole bunch of good stuff this autumn. Here are the ones I plan to go to between now and Christmas:

  • 22.09.2010 - This Will Destroy You
  • 02.10.2010 - Anathema
  • 06.10.2010 - Porcupine Tree + Oceansize
  • 05.11.2010 - Alter Bridge
  • 02.12.2010 - Irepress & Constants
  • 08.12.2010 - Caspian

I might squeeze in Dark Tranquillity or Tarot or Apocalyptica on the 24th of October, and Ludovico Einaudi on the 16th of November too. Maybe even Sabaton, depending on how good their new album is. I was also hoping to be able to see Epica while they are on tour, but they are not playing in Berlin (!), and the Oslo date does not fit with when I want to go back to Norway. I guess Poznan is only 3 hours away...
In any case, I think I know one or two people that are mighty jealous of me right now. And they ought to be.

Musical highlights of 2009 – wrap up

Have you ever basically completed an email but not sent it, forgot about it and then, when you remember it again, procrastinated on sending it because you didn't send it right away? Well, then you understand this post.  😉

There has been at least 1000 metal, prog and hard rock albums released in 2009, which should amount to something like 1 months worth of music. I don't have access to any reliable statistics but it seems to me to be a significant increase over last year? I obviously haven't listened through all that, but I have in fact sneaked a peak of most of them. As usual there is a lot of shit (in particular like 70% seems to be run-of-the-mill crappy death-ish metal), but there was a couple of goodies.

Ups

Besides 'Irepress - Sol Eye Sea I', my most favorite album of the year has to be 'Mastodon - Crack the Skye'.  I cannot put my finger on any obvious special/original influences, but somehow it's not like any other album I know.  Especially the sound. If anyone knows of anything like it, let me know.  'My Universe - Infinite Spaces' was a notable instrumental album for me, one I actually enjoyed! It's not often that I feel that instrumental songs can convey a story.
As usual I've kept most to metal, but a notable non-metal release was 'Fejd - Storm' (modern folk-inspired music, actually made by metalheads).  I'm not sure I'll come back to this album much but I absolutely loved it for a while.  Cute right?

Other nice discoveries that I've made this year:

  • Animals as Leaders - Animals as Leaders
  • Blind Ego - Numb
  • Black Sun Aeon - Darkness walks beside me
  • Hourglass - Oblivious To The Obvious
  • Agnosia - Trace Decay

A lot of the albums I anticipated also turned out great:

  • Indukti - Idmen
  • Isis - Wavering Radiant
  • Mew - No More Stories Are Told Today, I'm Sorry, They Washed Away
  • OSI - Blood
  • Porcupine Tree - The Incident
  • Riverside - Anno Domini High Definition
  • Shadow Gallery - Digital Ghosts

Downs

As a 'concert year' 2009 was pretty terrible for me. Which is my fault entirely: I went to no festivals and few concerts. Off the top of my head I can only recall two small Susperia gigs and Opeth+Ihsahn in Oslo + a couple of concerts with local/acquainted bands. In particular I regret not going to Porcupine Tree, Mew and Paradise Lost when I had the chance. Hopefully I'll make up for it in 2010!

As for albums 'Pure Reason Revolutions - Amor Vincit Omnia' was by far the biggest disappointment. It's something else than their previous album (the Dark Third) entirely; upbeat with driving rhythms and vocals. For me it ends up feeling a lot simpler and more "popped", and much less polished.  It's not really a bad album, it's just very far from what I expected and wanted. 'Scar Symmetry - Dark Matter Dimensions' is a quick runner up, highly anticipated but every part of that turned out lame. I suspect I am victim of several biases here, but it seems to me that everything Nuclear Blast touches turns to shit after a short while...

Other major disappointments include:

  • Amorphis - Skyforger
  • Queensryche - American Soldier
  • Stratovarius - Polaris
  • Dream Theater - Black Clouds & Silver Linings
  • Megadeth - Endgame

And even though 2009 is over I have not made up my mind about all the albums yet. Here are some releases that I might very well end up loving, but don't quuite know yet:

  • Callisto - Providence
  • Epica - Design Your Universe
  • Katatonia - Night is the New Day
  • Anekdoten - Chapters
  • Phideaux - Number 7
  • Redemption - Snowfall on Judgement Day
  • Tombs - Winter Hours
  • Paradise Lost - Faith Divides us, Death unites us
  • Seven - Cymatics

I've realized that I have a bad habit of not listening enough to albums and moving on to the next one way to fast. * For me at least, it takes quite a bit of listening to really "get" an album.  Takes a while before all the sounds turn into the known melodies, awesome rhythms and familiar words that you can actually dig. Even more so for those albums that have be potential to be mind-blowing, because they are often very different from what I'm used to.

*Not quite as horrible as my tendency to sometimes fast-forward in movies though....

Free Spirit – Pale Sister of Light

Whaaat, something not metal?  And no, I'm not gonna slaughter it. Cause I actually like it, and have in fact listened to it quite a bit. Yes, its cheesy as hell, and is nothing special far as musicianship go. But quite frankly, its catchy as hell and straight out rockin'. Can't resist it!

The production on this debut album is flawless and the quality of the songs are pretty even over the entire album. While I get tired of this kind of music after a while, I'm sure those who hold this kind of music close to the heart will love this album through and through into eternity.
If you think you might be that type you should check out Dokken - Lightning Strikes First (2008) while you're at it.

Theatre of Tragedy, Lacuna Coil, Sirenia

The bands mentioned in the title have some commonalities:

All are female fronted bands in the gothic metal genre or there about
All have albums that I'm a big fan of (tho those are a bit old)
All released new albums this year ("Forever is the World",  "Shallow Life", "the 13th Floor" respectivly)
All the new albums were major disappointments. At least for me

Now, I'm not ruling out that my taste in music has changed or that I'm otherwise biased. But in any case the end result is the same; I'm enjoying these albums less than the previous ones.

Both Theatre of Tradegy and Sirenia have new female vocalists, and I think that they are most of the problem. They just seem like such dolls! There is nothing wrong with their singing per se, but it seems thin, pale and lifeless. Where is the variation, contrast and edge? Gone.

In Theatre of Tragedy I'm also missing the previous cybergoth/electronica influence so prominent on Assembly (2002) and more blended in with gothic metal on Storm (2006). Now it just feels plain.

As for Lacuna Coil here is a song illustrating the decline?*

The intro is not good, and when the insanely stock riff after that comes in the refrain; Da-da-da-da-da-da I'm thinking - "okey, this sucks". That thought never really left. The verses that follows are just a tiny variation of the intro, and the entire song is just  intro->refain->verse->REPEAT. Original huh. And the lyrics could just as easily have been used for Britneys next hit when you think about it. Not to mention the "fake" bass beats that are used for emphasis on several spots. Ugh.

But I bet the record company, MTV and casual listeners were pleased. In their world it doesn't take more than a pretty chick (that she has a bit of attitude helps too) and to keep the music generic enough to be "accessible" to make a "great song".  I sometimes wish that I too was that easy to please. But not today. *puts on Epica - the Divine Conspiracy*

* to be fair, this is probably the worst song on the album. If you want to check out one that I actually think is pretty good, check track 1: Survive

Subsignal – Beautiful & Monstrous

Subsignal emerged from the ashes after the german progressive metal band Sieges Even split up about a year ago.  On-board is lead vocalist from Sieges Evens last two albums ("Art of Navigating by the Stars" and "Paramount"), Arno Menses and the lead guitarist, Markus Steffens.  As I am a huge fan of those two album, this release was filled with both excitement and a bit of anxiousness. Will they try to do the same and fail? Will it be something entirely different? Awesome different or crappy different?

I've heard through it a number of times the last week and a half, and I can say that it is very much in the same direction as Paramount. Meaning that the music is mostly on the soft side (yet with plenty of contrasting harder parts), progressive and technical but without wankery. While some are probably disappointed that its not harder or more aggressive ("you call that metal!?") and find the lead/backing vocal interaction a bit cheesy, it's exactly what I loved about Sieges Even.  Hard to tell if I will come back to this album again and again as I do with Paramount and Art of Navigating by the Stars, but right here and now it's perfect.

Youtube has plenty of songs from the album if you want to hear more, or you can just go buy it from their webshop.

Sons of Seasons – Gods of Vermin

Sons of Seasons was founded by Kamelot keyboardist Oliver Palotai in 2007, and this is their debut album.  I actually did not know that until just now when I looked it up on Wikipedia, so this band was entirely new to me when I first hear this album back in June.

If one is to compare with the recent Kamelot albums this tones the power and symphonic aspects down significantly, instead being more progressive and aggressive. Some might see this as a surprise, but the keyboards actually dominate a lot less! And I think most will see that as a good thing. Maybe its because Oliver is also doing guitars.
My favorite track is definitively the title track (and intro leading up to it), varied and polished like prog metal should be. The vocals are what I find the most refreshing; mostly clean but ranging from snarls to straight out aggressive to tentative and soothing.

Seeing as they signed straight to Napalm Records I guess that there is someone out there that agrees with me in that this is a pretty good album and debut. Looking forward to hear more from them. Recommended for everyone thats into progressive metal and looking for something new!

Musical Highlights of 2009

I originally planned on doing a post on some of my favorite albums of 2009.  But I was having some trouble picking out only a few, and I don't really want to limit myself to my favorites. So I'm doing a series of posts, showing some favorites, some disappointments and the occasional oddity (musical or otherwise). Consider it a kind a of Christmas/advent calendar, if you want.