TMR

Cellar Darling – “The Spell”

 Posted by on August 7, 2019 at 01:04  No Responses »
Aug 072019
 

Some time last year I searched the internet for female-fronted metal bands. The results included Nightwish, Dark Sarah, Arch Enemy and Cellar Darling. From those, Cellar Darling had me the most curious. I read that they had incorporated such curiosities as the hurdy-gurdy in their songs, and because I have a taste for lute and other baroque instruments I took a listen. I should have persisted longer, allowing the whole of “This Is The Sound” to make an impression on me. Unfortunately, “Avalanche” is all I remember now. I cannot say why, but One More Time’s song, “Highland” came to mind at the time. Despite what you might think, this is a good thing. It seemed to me that Cellar Darling were bringing something other than operatic vocals to melodic metal. I still have this impression, listening to “The Spell”.

Prepare yourself to listen intently to this album. A girl enters a stark, unforgiving world. She encounters Death, and falls in love. She weaves a spell to bind him to herself, and follows him into the underworld. I was not prepared for this story, and still I remain conflicted. Both Anna’s voice and the band’s music serve the story, and I am filled with a deep sorrow when I listen to a song like “Hang”. “Burn” is another favourite, and I agree that Cellar Darling have a progressive sound – one that is not necessarily driven by intricate guitar passages or changes in time signatures that are impossible to repeat. There is enough grit to satisfy the metalhead, but “The Spell” is so much more. I appreciate the peaks and troughs where, after you experience the dread of entering a netherworld with the character you are given reprieve by floating in the embrace of a halcyon sea. These impressions will stay with me for a long time. Continue reading »

May 282019
 

For the instrumentalist, one of the bigger challenges is to create an own identity. At face value, the lead singer gives a band its identity, since his/her look and voice is one of a kind. He/she is instantly recognisable. Antonello Giliberto’s tone is his identity. When he solo’s, it’s like Paganini’s violin, technically thrilling yet maintaining strong melody. His love for the classics, like Johann Sebastian Bach and Yngwie Malmsteen (yes, I dare elevate Yngwie to that most celebrated category of classical composer) inform his compositions. When you read Giliberto’s biography, it is clear that he is a guitar scholar, having studied at Accademia di Chitarra Moderna, a Sicilian academy specialising in modern guitar. He has a keen interest in the expressive qualities of the guitar, as he’s attended workshops with Kee Marcello and Mattias IA Eklundh, amongst others. I was likewise pleased to learn that he contributed guitar on three of Gabriels’ epic “Fist of the Seven Stars: Act 2”, reviewed earlier.

His choral arrangements are impressive, and I enjoy his strong leaning towards neoclassical metal. “Wrath of the Northmen” stands out for me in this regard. There is a great appreciation of dynamics, as the musical crescendo towards the 5 minute mark dissolves into the peaceful ebb and flow of an ocean. I also enjoyed the contrast between choir and electric guitar in “Iron Shadows in the Moon”, and it’s amazing how well symphonic brass and distorted electric guitar work together. Neoclassical metal for the win! Continue reading »

All Things Fallen – S/T

 Posted by on April 26, 2019 at 17:30  No Responses »
Apr 262019
 

The thrill at hearing the organ run, bolstered by sawtoothed synths followed by the guitars, bass and drums crashing in is visceral. The guitars, at first glassy unleash a threatening growl before all is pulled back to foreground the voice. All Things Fallen is the brainchild of Markus Sigfridsson, guitarist for Sweden’s Darkwater, and on this album he also fills out the melodic progressive metal sound with contributions on bass, keyboards/programming and vocals. This is not a one man show; All Things Fallen benefits from the vocal talents of Erik Tordsson (End of September) and the rhythmic powerhouse that is Leo Margarit (Pain of Salvation) on drums.

The sound is full, melodic and powerful and the songwriters ponder the dystopian present, poignantly illustrated by the spoken word samples scattered throughout the songs. These spoken word samples appear well-researched, as they dialogue – in documentary-like fashion – with Tordsson’s lyrics. “Ex Nihilo” is a good example in this regard. Continue reading »

Hilastherion – “Psalm 59”

 Posted by on April 18, 2019 at 19:11  No Responses »
Apr 182019
 

In Psalm 59, David continues to sing praises to God, despite facing adversity. He concludes, “You are my strength, I sing praise to you; you, God, are my fortress, my God on whom I can rely.” (Ps. 59:17). Hilastherion’s “Psalm 59” is a mighty EP, with “Psalm 59” sounding as much like a song of praise as it does a battle cry. Hilastherion hails from Finland, the land of the midnight sun, which is home to many great prog and extreme metal bands. There’s something stark in the sound, like the icy beauty of a forest in winter time. “Psalm 59” is sung in Swedish (if I am correct), and you can hear the light and melodic contrast with the dark and dissonant. The band describe their sound as melodic death metal, but it is unlike the Gothenburg, Sweden sound. For me, it draws more on the progressive metal side of things and maybe it’s the symphonic elements that push it into that sphere. “When Sorrow Dies” is epic. It is cold and unblack, from the guttural rumbles to the blast beats and buzzing guitars, but finds redemption in the face of God. “Hymn to the Creations of God” celebrates God as Creator, and points to our responsibility as stewards of His Creation – a responsibility we often neglect. “Psalm 59” releases on Good Friday, and if the EP is a taste of what’s to come, a great album is in the making. Continue reading »

XIII Minutes – “Obsessed”

 Posted by on April 4, 2019 at 16:42  No Responses »
Apr 042019
 

The tragic tale of Cain and Abel is vividly told on XIII Minutes’ “Sibling Rivalry”, off their April 5th debut release, “Obsessed”. It’s a modern sound that reminds me of Soilwork, a great melodeath band from Gothenburg, Sweden. Prepare yourself for an aural onslaught, as the band are quick out the gates on “Victim-Less”. A dual vocal attack is sometimes a gamble in this genre, but here it works well. Mike Rowley does well to pull off both the growl in the verses, as well as singing in the choruses. The guitars are gravelly and aggressive, and the overall impression is of precision. The bass rattles in the middle of the mix, and I’m impressed by its presence. Wait a minute! The bio lists Aaron Smith on guitars – no mention of bass. Is it that he plays all the guitars (incl. bass guitar), or are they like alt rockers The Early Years who ditched the bass altogether?

An off-kilter “Self Portrait” is a nod to the peculiar Mr. Bungle, and here it sounds like they double-tracked Michael Rowley’s deep growl, the bottom register an ominous presence on this track. In their biography, they make mention of several dichotomies that include darkness/light, evil/good and sin/redemption. The voice embodies these opposites very effectively. The title track is killer. The guitar is strident, and Jamie Kucinski’s drumming injects the song with manic energy. Ah, and now there is no question! The bass is definitely present and accounted for. So, another question. With one vocalist, how do they do the trading off of screams in the climax? In my view, it’s testament to quality production work in the studio. Continue reading »