Weekly Recommendations!!

thumbs-up-ammo-guns-0 See! Even Walter approves it!

Things have been pretty slow on the blogfront. Well i am not going to let out another bunch of excuses and exaggerated moans. Screw it! Lets get on with it already.

With this new edition of posts, i try to bring to your notice a few bands that really have something going for them this year. Albums that i can hopefully coax you into listening. And of course, all the while hoping that you are not a conservative schmuck and is open to all forms of music. But i’d definitely try and stay within the confines of metaldom(did i tickle your conservative dongs there?). That said, these need not always be great albums but they sure are great listens. Hopefully i end up introducing you to something new.

Vex-Memorious

1. Vex – Memorious

I’ve always preferred old school Swedish death metal to the Gothenberg (gah! Swedish again but you get me). Probably due to their more reserved use of melody rather than spattering it all over the place. Most modern melodeath melodies(err! too much ‘M’ there) tires the listener as much as an hour of say technical death metal or listless drone does. Careful and meticulous placement of the melody is tantamount to a good record. Vex seems to get it. Coupled with their really raw and semi-murky production things pan out pretty well. Their sense of melody although subtly eye at the Irish band Primordial’ brand of folkiness, they seem to take it to their own little level. Check out ‘Terra Soar’ for instance, which is probably the best representation of their sound and maybe if you end up digging it move on to the entire bandcamp player.

Lantern_CoverWebCC

2. Lantern – Below

Speaking of old school death metal, Lantern’s Below is by far the best release the genre can boast of all year. Apart from that, Dark Descent is clearly on a roll once again. Quality releases from Krypts, Vorum, and Deprecation have all highlighted how the genre and label can still churn of gems despite being incessantly banked on. Lantern takes the cake though, for fully plowing the dark recesses of the genre and unearthing something completely whole. For instance the band does not limit itself to the staple OSDM diet and inculcates elements of doom, black and thrash primers to the genre. And yes the production is as raw as one might expect and yet it does not manage to diminish any of the quality beheld within.

Check out the track Entrenching Presences which starts off in beefed up Bolt Thrower fashion only lead you into another face pummeling riff.

 

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Kalmah – Seventh Swamphony

Achintya Venkatesh reviews the new release from Kalmah titled ‘Seventh Swamphony‘, released via Spinefarm Records.

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Cover art was done by the brilliant Juha Vuorma. He’s also done artwork for Autopsy, Edge of Sanity and other bands as well.

Tracklist

‘Seventh Swamphony’
‘Deadfall’
‘Pikemaster’
‘Hollo’
‘Windlake Tale’
‘Wolves on the Throne’
‘Black Marten’s Trace’
‘The Trapper’

Kalmah is one of those bands that I feel haven’t got the their due and deserved attention, even within the realm of melodic death-metal, overshadowed by a range of bands both within their specific sub-genre and furthermore by their world famous fellow ethnic compatriots, Children of Bodom, who in my opinion are even less consistent than the contingent of the second tier melodic death-metal bands from Finland, such as the immensely talented Wintersun (who also combine other eclectic folk/power metal elements in addition to their melodic death-metal style); the now defunct Norther, Swallow the Sun (who also have strong doom/death metal leanings) and Insomnium. Yet this is precisely what I would attribute Kalmah’s strong consistency and stylistic integrity over the years to – their relatively moderate popularity in turn leading to a cult following has only further fuelled the fire in their belly to continue to break boundaries and out do themselves, or at the very least annually churn out some reasonably unique and easily enjoyable tunes. Kalmah’s latest offering, Seventh Swamphony, once again a play on the word symphony in line with their thematic obsession with the environment, particularly revolving around the swamps of Finland, as well as a reference to the fact that the album happens to be their seventh studio album.

The album opener, which is the title track of the album, is a ball-busting start to the record, with blast beats, technical and blistering guitar solos, melodic, sing-along riffs and the right amount of dramatic keyboard work accompanying the riffage. The 2nd track, Deadfall too is in a similar vein. The 3rd track, Pikemaster is one of the standouts of the album and sees Kalmah’s ever so impeccable execution of grandeur in balancing melody and brutality, with a strong leaning to the former, of course. The next track, Hollo, charters into slower-paced territory and is a semi-ballad of sorts with an anthemic edge to it as the track progresses. The track features some emotionally evocative guitar work with harmonies at select and appropriate parts. Pekka Kokko alternates between roared, growled vocals, and subtle but somewhat tenuous clean passages.

 

 

The 5th track Windlake Tale exemplifies epic in every sense of the word – blistering leads; hauntingly emotive and dramatic keyboard work and a barrage of roared vocals. The next track, Wolves on the Throne features some excellent fret-work in the form of uniquely sharp, relentless and hard-hitting riffs complimented by the bombardment of controlled blast-beats courtesy of Janne Kusmin. On the other hand, Veli-Matti Kananen seems to know just how to complement and enhance those heavy riffs with breathtakingly electrifying keyboard work. The 7th track, Black Marten’s Race is a fairly conventional, anthemic Scandinavian melo-death song with some interesting keyboard work. The album closer, The Trapper, has a more marching pace relative to the velocity-driven songs on the rest of the album. This actually makes for a perfect album closer, and kudos to Kalmah for placing this appropriately in the track listing. All the elements, be it the vocals or the instrumentation are in an equilibrium of sorts, working together as opposed to trying to outshine the other, and is perhaps the most balanced track of the album. But to some, this closer might seem too slow or even plodding as compared to the other tracks and might not suffice as the theatrical and dynamic album closer that Kalmah intended it to be.

In conclusion, this album is an undoubtedly solid, but not particular groundbreaking release. The Kokko brothers have retained the crispness and sophistication that they derive from classic/power metal which has in turn lead to a unique brand of refined melodic death-metal, which gives a feel-good, invigorating vibe to the end product. Kananen’s keyboard work handles dramatism in a classy manner without descending into incessant melodrama, while Kusmin’s drum work also alternates between relentlessness and calculated restraint. Unfortunately, Timo Lehtinen’s bass is hardly audible in the mix throughout the album, except during a select segment of Wolves on the Throne.

Overall this album seems to only further reinforce the fact that Kalmah is a somewhat underrated yet formidable force in the melodic death-metal world and adds to their solid catalogue. Kalmah are well and back in shape after the sub-par For The Revolution and the return-to-form release 12 Gauge. They have lost that touch of blackened ferocity they once had and instead have replaced that with something vaguely thrashy, making them less unique but very enjoyable nevertheless.

 

 

Omnium Gatherum – Beyond

Today we have Jude Mascarenhas reviewing the new album from Omnium Gatherum titled Beyond, released via Lifeforce Records. We usually don’t go for a track by track review, but then Mr.Jude here seemed to be too enamored with the album that he insisted it’d be the best way to put it across to the reader. Read away lads!

Omnium-Gatherum-Beyond

Tracklist :

1. Luoto
2. New Dynamic
3. In the Rim
4. Nightwalkers
5. Formidable
6. The Sonic Sign
7. Who Could Say
8. The Unknowing
9. Living in Me
10. White Palace

Omnium Gatherum are a melodic death metal band from Finland that has been around since 1996.

With the level of experimentation going on in today’s metal scene it was a refreshing break to be reviewing some straight forward melodic death metal. Now while I have heard alot about omnium gatherum, I hadn’t actually heard any of their releases. which really left a blank slate while reviewing Beyond.

TRACK BY TRACK :

luoTo – the first track off the album gives off a very ‘sparkly’ feel but not in the R-Patz way. When you’re done listening to the first few seconds of that chimey clean guitar transition into that soaring lead passage. You kinda get the gist of what Omnium Gatherum is all about : Dynamics and ambience

The New Dynamic – A little cheeky for a song title but unfortunately here’s the part of the album that I really have a bone to pick with : The vocals. The vocals just don’t fit in with the beautiful soundscapes the instruments manage to create. It’s like shoving a piece of bacon between two slices of fluffy cheesecake. That too it’s generic over the counter bacon, not the good stuff. Now I know some of you are ok with pairing sweet things and bacon (You heretics) But I’ll take the soaring clean vocal delivery towards the end.

In The Rim – The driving tempo of the previous track carries on into In The Rim. This is a pretty straightforward track but I do believe the vocals actually gel with the music and the arrangement on the track is pretty amazing as well.

Nightwalkers -Not really fond of this song. This track trudges along slowly and unfortunately puts a lot of emphasis on the vocals. You’ve got a musical break which is pretty trippy but it can’t save the song from sounding like a filler

Formidable – ok that intro sounds alot like Hotel California, but despite this heinous crime I really adore this track a lot as it manages to shift between sullen driving and upbeat trippy atmospheres quiet well and those clean passages have aurally pleasing acoustic guarantee some tasty bass licks to boot

The Sonic Sign – Cheesy intro. It’s like Dragonforce on valium. But despite that deceptively cheesy intro, the song does have some really nifty riffs, plus the best lead work on the album, they really do tear it up on this one.

Who Could Say – This song could easily pass for an 80’s pop-rock song (minus the uber-reverb on the snare drums) but the transition into that growling passage really hits you like a righthook cushioned with a dozen pillows. What the track lacks in complexity, it makes up with beautiful melodies, soul and an extra dash of epicness.

The Unknowing – This is the most, dare I say it, beautiful, track of the album. The track oozes epicness like a Lord of the Rings movie. The growls fit this track perfectly, and the addition of clean vocals would’ve hit this one right out of the park. The music is heavy but the overlay of subtlety and the generally soothing atmosphere make this a wonderful track.

Living In Me – The solo guitar on the intro could tell you that this is probably gonna be one of the heavier tracks on the album. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The last few tracks on this album is where Omnium  Gatherum really seem to hit home. The song is groovy, driving and has some really well-placed riffs. Straightforward in song structure but exceptional arrangement and sick riffs make this worth the listen. Also, the song has a sick solo with some stellar lead guitar passages.

White Palace – The sleeper hit on the album. Moderately paced and laced with that atmosphere of serenity. It’s almost like they want you to lie down in some open field, staring at the sky while you contemplate the wonders of the cosmos. This song could easily contest for best album closer of the year. Not because of extraordinary music or kickass riffs, but the ability to fit the mood of the albim perfectly and give it that final gentle push before it closes.

Just a heads up : It ends with the same riff on LuoTo, which probably is a hint that you might wanna play the album all over again.

 

PRODUCTION:

The production on this album is one of the vital elements as to why the album is so good. The ambience on the album with the synths and strings, and the underlying guitars gives you that feeling of ethereal awe. The same way you’d be impressed if you were to suddenly see a dragon burst out on the silver screen. While the latter is something we’ve grown accustomed to in movies.

The synths saturate the album while the guitars add the technicality without sounding wanky. The distortion doesn’t sound overly crisp but that suits the sound of the album just fine. The lead tone is probably influenced by a certain bald, sunglass-toting virtuso, but it is orgasmic (Ha..Zohan) The bass is actually audible and lends to the mood perfectly. I can’t imagine those sparkly clean guitar passages without those funky bass lines to add that extra tinge.

The cookie cutter growls just don’t cut it, even if clean vocals were to be properly introduced. The style and delivery is boring and stale and lacks the punch to perfectly top off the beautiful music.

Nothing special about the drums, just your regular melodic death metal drums. Lots of double kick, occasional half-timed blastbeats. Lather,rinse amd repeat. But hey, that’s exactly what this album calls for and I would’t have it any other way.

 

FINAL  REMARKS :

Few albums and bands can actually bridge the gap between heavy and ambient without overdoing any of the two or both. Omnium Gatherum have bridged a fine working link between the two but there is still a lot of work to be done when it comes to vocals. I do hope Dan Tompkins comes in on a silver shining horse, wearing a white cape, after being tossed down an abyss while battli-…..ok enough LOTR references. Here’s wishing Omnium Gatherum the best of luck and that they continue to improve on this beautiful work of art.

 

Heavy Prescription: Fractal Gates, Moth, V3CTORS

Fractal Gates fg

1. Fractal Gates – Timeless (feat. Sotiris – Septic Flesh)

 

Fractal Gates from France has been a recent discovery for me and it seems that they’ve been tailor made to suit my musical palette. They play a brand of melodic death metal with a solid footing in the progressive side of the genre and yet manage to be instantly catchy. Lately they’ve been working towards a new album ‘Beyond the Self’ which is to be released by the French label Great Dane Records in February. Below is their first single titled Timeless. The video doubles as a lyric video and a normal music video, and is simply great to watch and so is the quality of the music accompanying it. Sotiris, guitarist from the symphonic death metal masters ‘Septic Flesh’, play a great solo in it as well. The production is top notch as well, courtesy Dan Swano. Lyrics compliment the track greatly, especially the part when the vocalist shouts “Reason shall rise! Once you soar in its sunset”..  Go ahead and click play!

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