I wanted to avoid this as much as possible, but I’m going to do some reviews of stuff I don’t like. I feel more comfortable with this in this situation for a few reasons. I’m not going to assign a number, so I will hopefully not offend people too much. These bands are fairly big names (as far as metal goes) and have overwhelmingly glowing reviews elsewhere. Lastly, I seem to only be praising things recently, so it is good to point out that I’m actually quite particular about what I like. It is only because I carefully curate what I listen to that I get so much positive and not much negative.
First, Sevendust’s Black Out the Sun. I just don’t get this. Hunting around for reviews you’ll find that 4/5 stars is pretty much the standard. They get praise like “best album to date from a highly influential band,” or Heavy Blog “still a tour de force of alternative metal.” I just don’t get this album. Rather than describe it as a great collection of songs with a few that are filler, it is more the opposite to me. It is mostly filler of standard, unremarkable generic rock fare you might hear on the radio.
There is even an unironic comparison to Jon Bon Jovi. I’m not sure why we should consider this a good thing. These types of comparisons I’d agree with and perfectly sum up why I just don’t find it interesting. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a few good moments here and there, and I totally understand the appeal (even literature professors are allowed to enjoy the occasional romance novel), but I don’t understand why the reviews are so good. I think there are plenty of bands that can give you the same sort of Nu-metal pleasure you’d get from this, but don’t drag with so much boring genericness.
Next up, Anciient’s Heart of Oak. This is a step up from the last album, but still suffers from the same types of problems. I’d classify most of the album as “good” with some “really good” elements, but nothing really stands out as great and/or really interesting. There’s some prog elements, interesting time signature things, and stylistic things. I also enjoyed my time with the album, but its overall feel and sound is again very generic and forgettable. I think the main problem is that their attempt at fusing sludge and more upbeat styles is that it ends up just sounding like a slower, more boring version of the upbeat genre.
I’d periodically find myself doing something else while listening to this and later realize I was still listening after huge portions went by. When searching for reviews of this you’ll find this on the top of half-way through the year lists. It gets 9/10’s and praised as brilliant. Like I said. It isn’t bad. I’ll definitely check out their next release because there’s a lot of potential, but overall it is just blah. I wouldn’t go out of my way to recommend this or anything. I fully admit I could be missing something here.
Lastly, we have Persefone’s Spiritual Migration. Ugh. This one is so, so close to being great. Any long term reader will know that I just can’t get into symphonic metal of any type. I’ve tried. I really have. Persefone isn’t really symphonic metal, but they use some of those elements. I must say, this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to enjoying the style.
Let’s just get past the synthetic string sound which I could probably forgive as necessary to any non-millionaire band with a huge budget. But seriously. That ruins so much for me. It doesn’t even seem that important here, because this band uses so many great synth sounds which don’t mimic real instruments that could have continued to be used in these places. Even the keyboard synthetic “choir” sound is fine and would work in its place.
This album sounds to me like Dream Theater and Born of Osiris got together. It is really great for large parts. They even have the ability to slow things down and write beautiful music. The problem is that there is a fine line between beautiful piano music and pretty new age muzak, and unfortunately I think it gets crossed a few times.
Long time readers will also know that I absolutely hated Born of Osiris’ The Discovery, and I just made a comparison to them. Actually, if BoO took what they do and made it good, I think it would sound like this (*cringe* waiting for the angry comments on that). The first 3/4 of this album is a really great prog album except for the few minor things I brought up. Then when it should end, it sort of drags on too long and in a really repetitive djenty nonsense way.
So there’s that. I would actually recommend this album, but only with the above information being known to the person. Probably most people wouldn’t care about the synth strings, or the subtlety of whether or not it turns into muzak, and maybe you like grand djent endings. If that is you, then you might make this album of the year. For me, there were just a touch too many problems and it makes the blah category for overall full listen-throughs (probably still around 7/10 though). This is so close to great that I bet with the experience of another year or so this band’s next release will be really, really great.