Mini Reviews from my Catching Up List 2

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.

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6 thoughts on “Mini Reviews from my Catching Up List 2

  1. One little complaint from me, though.
    I think Rivers of Nihil is Core along with the “technical” Death Metal (what we call modern death: Metalcore, really), not Death Metal. For example, there is some kind of break down involved in between every section, instead of having the seamless fluidity that you hear in Death Metal songs; songs in albums like Vader’s “De Profundis” (if you are not familiar with this one… I really recommend it).
    Also, this bouncy groove in this new music is borrowed from Nu Metal, it is different from the groove you hear in Death Metal in albums like the over-copied Left Hand Path or (the better example) Dismember’s “Like an Ever Flowing Stream”.

    • Tim says:

      I suppose it depends on how you define metalcore. To me, metalcore is a subgenre driven by angst and aggression, whereas stuff like Tech Death just uses the aggressive sounds of the double bass drums and chugging guitar riffs as a medium for their music, which may or may not actually be angry in nature (the Rivers of Nihil album is supposed to be about springtime, which I guess makes people with allergies angry). I also think the “breakdowns” here are much different from those used in metalcore. To me it seems to be more a change of tempo and an atmospheric sound that actually adds to the soundscape they are trying to create. The music does switch from atmospheric to pummeling death metal quickly, but it is much more fluid (to me) than typical metalcore breakdowns. Lastly, I think the groove here fits perfectly with the music. It reminds me of the groove found in Meshuggah’s music, while being completely different. Meshuggah uses a deep, rhythmic sort of groove to add a bit of intensity and emphasis to their music. The groove found on The Conscious Seed of Light is more a meandering groove that leads you through the music while everything else is pummeling you.

      But again, it’s not really as clear cut as it seems when you get to subgenres and what exactly they consist of, so others may completely disagree.

      • I agree with you actually.
        This is just my first impression. More thought and listening made it hard associating those stops with either Death Metal or Metalcore.
        Death Metal, I associate with related riff-evolution rather than music built on drastic changes, which is the trademark of modern metal. Looking at it strictly this way, it does fit more into DM, but there is still something I cannot put my finger on, but I am not sure what…

      • On another note, your definition of metalcore, though, is too non-musical. If Angst and Agression is what defined metalcore, you could put some punk in there too… and other music… including much Death Metal.
        This is an interesting discussion, how to musically and ideologically group metalcore?

      • Tim says:

        You’re absolutely right, my definition of metalcore isn’t very musical. Unfortunately, I know very little about music writing/composition and I’ve never played an instrument, so I tend to talk about music in non-technical terms. I should probably bone up on some musical terminology just so it’s easier to discuss actual music content rather than just how it makes me feel.

        Also, metalcore is supposed to have hardcore punk elements (hence the core), so I wouldn’t say it’s too far-fetched to say there are similarities there.

  2. Tim, I actually way you try to do it because I don’t think merely understanding some music theory is enough. After all, I think music is much more than JUST organized sounds. What I consider good music, at least. There is a thinking behind it, often an ideology of some kind or message. Music reflects life as the writer appreciates it or perhaps wants it to be. This is not unlike literature. You do not need to have a doctorate in literature to appreciate the life-reflecting/revealing nature of a novel. I do, however, believe that a lot of experience and certainly directed attention is required to appreciate these things more. Discussion with others certainly has given me even more insights.

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