Here’s the second grouping. Remember, I fully admit to not spending a lot of time with these. This is just an impression about whether or not I want to continue listening for it to be in my list of candidates for best of the year.
First up, Avatarium’s Avatarium. This is a “super group” combining iconic Leif Edling with some other people. The thing that is supposed to make this interesting is that it takes sludgy style metal and sticks a clean vocal female lead singer on top of it. Because some of the tracks on this album are so successful with this lineup, I see the appeal.
Some of these songs are really, really good. For example, the closer successfully merges these two styles with a steady build through the whole thing to a fantastic climactic ending. It is beautiful. On the other hand, a lot of these songs I just don’t get. Instead of merging different sounds, they take a strange choppy approach. This part of the song is pure vocal interest, then this part vocals disappear and it is pure sludge. Back and forth. It doesn’t work at all for me.
I think this group is basically getting a feel for what they can do, and so I’m excited to see if the next album is more unified. For now, I might love a few tracks, but as a whole this isn’t coming anywhere near my top of the year list.
Oddly, I decided to put SubRosa’s More Constant than Gods in this grouping as well. Although this band has a totally different sound than Avatarium, they can be described very similarly. They merge metal, electronic experimentation, and clean folk-song-esque female vocals. This album actually reminds me of the Kayo Dot from this year. I wasn’t too convinced on my first listen, but I’ve come around on this one.
Unlike Avatarium, all the songs on this album have a consistent unified sound they are going for. Some of these melodies get stuck in my head, and divorced from the sound of the band they sometimes sound almost like Irish folk songs or something. To me, these melodies are really well written.
The typical sound of the band is both haunting and beautiful. They layer voices, drones, and stringed instruments in an effective way. The songs organically move through all sorts of sounds, but still have a real sense of direction. It isn’t just meandering aimlessly. They use pitch bending to quarter tones as an effective technique to enhance the experience of the song and not just as a purely intellectually interesting exercise.
Even after several listens, I thought this wasn’t interesting enough overall to make the final cut, but out of this batch of albums I’ve become almost addicted to this one. I still get chills at parts. Every time it gets better, so I’m going to keep it in the running and am starting to think it might have a real chance. Since describing this is impossible, here’s a sample (but every track is quite different):
Moving on to death metal, we have Rivers of Nihil’s The Conscious Seed of Light. As usual (are we sensing a pattern?), I really wanted to write this off after a few listens. I thought, eh, pretty typical death metal. I’m not sure why I should keep this one around. At some point something changed though. I started to get it.
This is one heck of a complicated album. I basically heard that the first time through. What I was missing was the more macroscopic picture. Every section has its own groove. It is really hard to tell it is there if you just listen to the details. You have to feel it to notice it.
This actually surprised me a lot. The tempo changes, time changes, and crazy guitar work are complicated enough to make any mathcore band proud, but grooving is the last thing on a mathcore band’s mind. How they pull this off still amazes me.
They also have a huge dynamic range. They can be as brutal as the most brutal bands, but they also aren’t afraid to back off and let some atmospheric sounds happen. I think this also appealed to me a lot because sometimes some classic death metal can be a bit overwhelming to listen to. Maybe you could call it hand holding, but I like having a few seconds of calm to chill out before getting destroyed again. It all happens pretty naturally too. It doesn’t really break the flow of ideas when it happens.
Overall, I’m kind of loving this album a lot more than I expected, so I’ll keep it in the running. Last up is Nero di Marte’s Nero di Marte. I know this was recommended by a reader, but I sadly have to say I just can’t get into this one. I admit I listened to it the least of the group though.
It makes me think of a more experimental Gojira, which isn’t a bad thing. I did really like Gojira’s last one. The title track involves a lot of interesting tonal things. Overall, I do like it and find parts of it interesting, but I just don’t love it. I like it enough to keep trying. Maybe it will click like Rivers of Nihil in a week or two.