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Do you ever have an album shine so close to your heart? That's how I felt with the third Officium Triste album, Reason! It has helped me decide which music I prefer, melodic death-doom. Any fan of My Dying Bride and Anathema would love this band. They've stayed long in the shadows but came out with good quality to help spread their name.
Reason lasts 42 minutes, yet has only 5 composition with an average of over 8 minutes in length. You would be thinking way more of the subtle changes and impressive production than the massive length. Each song glides through melodic majesty that sets them apart from the dark doom tradition of the "Peaceville 3". To top off the doomy music is vocalist Pim Blankenstein who normally does warm grunts and serene narrations. Sometimes the rhythms reach dynamic acceleration, but most of the time, it's all just primary doom at the slowest for me to tolerate.
First song "In Pouring Rain" is the shortest at only under 6 minutes. The vocals immediately start, floating through good guitars and beautiful keyboards. The drums range from slow to mid-tempo. There's also some guitar soloing. Next song "The Silent Witness" is my favorite of this album. It begins with a one-minute keyboard intro before vocals join in. I really like the guitar riffs and solos. Some parts have spoken vocals that sound good.
Track #3, "This Inner Twist" once again begins with a one-minute keyboard intro that also includes guitar. And of course, it has a guitar solo and beautiful keyboard section that leads to another spoken narration. I love that song as well!
"The Sun Doesn't Shine Anymore" is the longest song at 10 and a half minutes. It has yet another keyboard intro that leads to guitar and, at the one and a half minute mark, vocals. You get to hear great guitars, drums, and keyboards throughout that epic. The final song is "A Flower in Decay", which beings with a piano intro that soon switches to keyboard, and one more time, the vocals start after almost two minutes. More of the good guitars, drums, and keyboards await!
I love this album. Reason is something to listen to entirely to experience the heavy haze of slow mid-tempo death-doom that reigns in unconditional sadness. One of the slowest most intense albums I truly enjoy! Well done, Officium Triste!!
Favorites: "The Silent Witness", "This Inner Twist", "The Sun Doesn't Shine Anymore"
So a couple weeks before this review, I change the tempo of really slow doom metal songs by 2x and uploaded them into a video, which some of you consider "nullifying" to the intentions of the genre. Yet here I am reviewing an album that has one of the songs that I edited in that video. This is a bit awkward... But hey, maybe I can enjoy some of the songs in this album, regardless of speed.
Saturnus' Veronika Decides to Die (named after the novel by Paulo Coelho) is what I heard is total improvement for the band. I like the wonderful vocals that including deep growls, agonizing shouts, and spoken words. The tempo is slow while beautifully combining melodies and chords. A melodic album of tragic despair!
The album begins with the piano intro that opens the song "I Long". This is the song from this album that was part of the doom metal mix sped up to 2x. Maybe it would still sound great to me at its original speed. And it does! It makes the listener fall into a great guitar riff void. I love the original tempo as much as my faster version, the lyrics that are about yearning for a solution that you end up failing and willing to escaping your life, and its overall emotion. "Pretend" is a well-produced song where the bass swims through waves of distorted guitars, and the marvelous keyboards float over the guitar tsunami without sinking. The drum sections are greatly influential for the near-future.
The lead guitar tone in "Descending" really touches me. Same with "Rain Wash Me", best listened to in early December when there isn't any snow yet but it rains heavily and you let the ambiance fill the sound. The rain continues in "All Alone" which starts with a piano intro over a distant thunderstorm. The despair is so atmospheric and beautiful that would make you wanna fly away to heaven.
Then there's another great song, "Embraced by Darkness". The melody that I love makes it sounds like another followup from the previous track. The genuine death-doom production works its magic in "To the Dreams". The final track "Murky Waters" is played in a similar pace to most of the previous songs but it's done as a nice recap to the album plus some more memorable moments. If it wasn't for the better lyrics and greater guitar sound, it would've been too similar to the rest, but fortunately, those lyrics and guitar sound make the recap sound fresh. An enjoyable ending!
In my opinion, the songs here work well as chapters in the novel that this album is named after, as if they all tell a great story. Even without sounding too similar, they make a strong connection and stay united. Whoever this Veronika is, she shall never die!
Favorites: "I Long", "Rain Wash Me", "Embraced by Darkness", "Murky Waters"
Death's Frigid Wake
For better or worse, I love melody in my Metal music. Pure, unadulterated aggression has its place and I'm a huge fan of it under certain circumstances, but at the end of the day I value a massive and memorable riff with a distinct beginning and end rather than a one-note onslaught of palm muted brutality. Black Metal has been a driving force that guided me away from cleaner and more progressive genres of Metal and into the pits of more extreme Metal genres because it can sit so perfectly between being relentlessly brutal and intriguingly complex. The blast beat drumming and higher-toned tremolo picking can be brutal, but also peaceful and atmospheric. Long story short, Black Metal has a ton of layers to it that have been explored over the years, but Dissection's Storm of the Light's Bane may have the best mastery over the most layers I've ever heard.
Hailing from Strömstad in Sweden, Dissection were active directly in the middle of the Melodic Death Metal uprising at the hands of At The Gates and Dark Tranquillity releasing their cornerstone albums in 1995 and In Flames releasing theirs shortly after in 1996. Due to music being pretty insular back then, it's no wonder that an upcoming Swedish Black Metal band would pull influences from what was around them, causing them to release a more Melodic Death Metal tinged form of Black Metal that is so cleanly performed that it's honestly hard to fully explain. Despite being slightly lacking in certain early Black Metal elements like lo-fi, grindy production and incessant blast beats, Storm of the Light's Bane still feels like a full fledged Black Metal release with its harrowing and icy atmosphere. Tracks like "Unhallowed" and "Soulreaper" dial the speed up to acceptable 90's Black Metal levels all while adding their own unique flair, like the layered acoustic guitars on "Soulreaper". None of these additions take away any of the energy and, if anything, they all add to the experience by giving the listener a new spin on something they've heard before. While the Black Metal segments of this album are top notch, Dissection went above and beyond adding other styles and influences that actually make sense within the genre.
The Melodic Death Metal influence in Storm of the Light's Bane is no secret, and that's why it's so phenomenal. Many Black Metal artists rose to fame due to their diligence to the purity of the Black Metal genre, delivering some truly chilling and chaotic experiences. While that's all well and good, lo-fi tremolo chord progressions behind ferociously quick drumming with chilling vocals and icy production styles can only be done in so many ways. Although I'm a big fan of Black Metal in general, I've always found the meat and potatoes of the genre to be pretty dull and normally look for bands that attempt to break the mold in interesting ways. Dissection decided that Black Metal tremolo needed a little bit more punch, so they added more melodic riffs that were more complex with their abrupt tempo changes and didn't sacrifice any amount of heft whatsoever. Not only is Storm of the Light's Bane a chilling Black Metal experience, it's a crushing Death Metal experience as well, with these two genres culminating together the best on "Night's Blood" as well as "Retribution - Storm Of The Light's Bane". The more melodious riffing is interlaced seamlessly into the more classic Black Metal riffing, and that goes for the drums as well, swapping between furious blast beats and slightly slower but more forceful rhythms to complement the ever-changing riffing. "Night's Blood", "Where Dead Angels Lie", and "Thorns of Crimson Death" even have a slight Folk Metal element to their melodies just due to their structure and the use of short but effective acoustic sections that break up the album in an unobtrusive way. It's incredible to hear so many different riff styles come together to form such a cohesively heavy and bitter product, all while having transitions that border on being magical.
Storm of the Light's Bane is the best of both worlds of Extreme Metal packaged into a unanimously incredible 40 minutes of high quality riffing, amazing song structure, and unbelievable usage of different genres and influences. It's been a long while since a riff has hit me quite like the first Death Metal drop in "Retribution - Storm Of The Light's Bane" or the many, many riff variations in "Night's Blood" did. While the vocals can be forgettable as a whole, they tie the entire album together neatly with their mid-range screaming quality that doesn't quite drop into Death Metal territory nor does it ascend to Black Metal shrieking. Add in the atmospheric intro track "At The Fathomless Depths" and the very pretty outro "No Dreams Breed In Breathless Sleep" and you've got a clear contender for one of the most unique and best crafted extreme Metal albums of the 1990's. Obviously more modern Black Metal bands have incorporated more clear riffing into their repertoires as time has gone on, but Dissection came out of the gates using the generally new genre of Melodic Death Metal in ways that still sound killer today. Storm of the Light's Bane is an essential milestone in extreme Metal and I can hardly think of a single complaint I would have with any of its choices, it's just that good.
Here goes another Amorphis album review, this time in their earlier era in the melodic death-doom part of my Ultimate Metal Family Tree band challenge. After the gruesome death metal of their debut and demos, their second album Tales from the Thousand Lakes continues their path with the brutality toned down and a more melodic sound that has spawned many talented classic songs!
Tales from the Thousand Lakes constantly delivers heavy guitar and steady drums. Following the melodeath/black/viking metal direction, the band had never forgotten the harsh deep vocals that are a must for any death metal genre. Even though this is seen as a true classic in metal, rating this album 4 stars seems to be enough for me.
The intro "Thousand Lakes" delivers peaceful piano and an operatic choir, setting your mind in an ocean of myths and legends, all in completely instrumental keyboards. Then it directly segues to "Into Hiding", a faster track with great guitar heaviness guiding the song through jumpy solo riffs. In the lyrics, a man runs away after a town threatens to have him arrested for his bad deeds then rides an eagle to fly to a remote island to hide forever. One of my personal album favorites! Next track "The Castaway" starts with a catchy guitar tune, then the guitar gets heavier while playing that tune. That section could've been done better to fit the song better. That tune goes for the first minute and a half then switches to heavy riffing and a steady beat, while lightly following that tune. The man riding his flying eagle soon magically merge to become one and soar over the mythical ocean. A long well-composed track that could've been made better! Next track "First Doom" isn't any better. It starts with slow doomy heavy drums and good riffs, speeding up after a while. The eagle-man flies back to the northern land, transforms back to human, and tries to ask the queen for forgiveness.
Then we have the melodic black/death classic "Black Winter Day"! It is a true combination everything in your metal wish list. It begins with a catchy keyboard intro before bursting into heavy guitars and perfect death growls. Later on, more guitar soloing comes in and the drums follow the song in perfect timing. This is a perfect and never boring track, and I knew it because of Children of Bodom's cover of the song. The man feels guilty of his bad crimes but feels like he shouldn't be. Next track "Drowned Maid" is almost as great as the previous track. It combines a heavy tune with guiding melodic guitars. Each of 3 tunes play in a different section. The lyrics deal with the man's first past crime; stabbing his maid wife and their pet hen and letting them sink in the ocean to drown, with their blood and flesh left behind. "In the Beginning" combines all great components but adds in singing together with the growling. The man realizes that the argument and murder of his wife might've been what began his criminal career.
Next song "Forgotten Sunrise" is interesting, starting with a beat following heavy guitars and a skilled solo, all in its first half. In the middle of the song, the heavy bass and leads make a good tune different from what was played earlier. Then the two tunes mix together for a good melody. The man's flashbacks continue on to when the man realized how corrupt modern times were and that was another contributing factor to plaguing the man into turning evil. "To Father's Cabin" is a different track that's a bit out of place but still well done. It starts with a clean catchy tune but loses its glory between the 40-second mark and the middle. The vocals within that section are poorly done and just boring spoken narration. After that mindless section, right at the two-minute point, the song has a great solo and flowing beat to end the track. The man remembers himself being a powerful old man who controlled the town. The last track in the standard edition, "Magic and Mayhem" starts with a graceful sad beat that isn't entirely entertaining. Then after the first minute, the guitars have some sinister grind. The man remembers his evil times when he was an evil rich man of power enslaving people and treating them poorly before being chased out of town. Back in the present, the man is now locked up in a dungeon cell, awaiting the "off with his head" execution.
So now the standard edition and that scenario is over, but there are a few bonus tracks from the Black Winter Day single/EP, starting with "Folk of the North", an instrumental track that acts as an intro to the bonus part. It starts with keyboards, drums, and bass before guitars join in, filling the song with magic and mayhem. Next track "Moon and Sun" is as slow and dark as the band's earlier material, but with a different beat. The tune isn't so catchy or exciting but it's pretty good. The lyrics tell a different story of a dark battle commencing across the land. The second part "Part II: North's Son" is more energetic. Catchy tunes and steady beats keep changing from fast to slow, and the lyrics talk about the land in desolated ruins after the battle. "Light My Fire" is a cover of a song by The Doors, excellently adding heavy tone and good guitar riffs.
All in all, the second Amorphis album that is considered is classic, Tales from the Thousand Lakes is an exceptional album with mythical lyrics. This is probably melodeath with hints of folk/viking metal. After listening to this album, it might encourage you to take a journey through different lands to meet new people, see great events, and discover the countries' greatest mysteries...after the current ongoing virus disappears, that is. Even though it's not the greatest classic for me, I would recommend it for anyone who wants something dark and heavy but not too deathly. It might just be worth expanding your metal library....
Favorites: "Into Hiding", "Black Winter Day", "Drowned Maid", "In the Beginning", "Forgotten Sunrise", and the two "Moon and Sun" parts that are bonus tracks
Convocation are a Finnish duo comprising multi-instrumentalist Lauri Laaksonen of death metal outfit Desolate Shrine and vocalist Marko Neuman of Dark Buddah Rising. They play epic and funereal death doom with great heaving, sorrow-drenched riffs and vocals that range from rasping, black metal-style shrieks to the more usual gutteral growling of traditional death doom and occasionally MN's unique, quite high-pitched clean style.
The album's four tracks span 45 minutes and as such are afforded the time to expound on their bleakly ominous atmospheres. The first two tracks, Martyrise and The Absence of Grief are fairly typical and really well done examples of this kind of epic death doom, taking their cue from bands like My Dying Bride, but shorn of the gothic overtones, which is just fine by me as I think it makes for a more pure doom experience. Third track, Misery Form, however, is a bit more ambitious, after it's unsettling intro it settles down into similar style to it's predecessors until just after halfway when it takes a more esoteric (small "e") turn and ends up sounding a lot like last year's Waste of Space Orchestra album, Syntheosis, of which Marco Neuman was part. Final track, Portal Closed, is an instrumental that again begins in conventional doom manner but which segues into a more reflective and calm finale, as if the listener has ultimately reached some place of tranquility after the myriad trials that previously beset them.
I really enjoyed this album, it's core of epic death doom is elaborated on just enough to sound fresh and new, whilst still retaining what makes death doom so appealing (to me anyway) in the first place.