Thursday, 6 July 2017

Album Reviews: Spring

Here is my extremely late recap of the spring albums I've listened to - better late than never, I guess. At this point I doubt I'll do a monthly of summer either, especially since there are less releases altogether; so hopefully I'll pick up the regular schedule in September.

Junius - Eternal Rituals for the Accretion of Light
This beautifully flowing album is definitely one of my favourites from the past few months, and one of my favourites of the year so far. The relatively boring album art aside, this is a genuinely engaging record that even those who enjoy post-metal less than me could appreciate. As the genre indicates, it's an airy journey of sounds, but there are just enough blastbeats to go around for those missing that sweet black metal. There is some perky fun, stemming from a variety of factors, among which is the tribal instrumentation of indeterminable origins, and the fairly unusual clear vocals.

Allochiria - Throes
Another post-metal record, a little more of the screechy kind, with a little more focus on the guitars. I find that the softer, mellower parts are nicely balanced to that heavier sound, which uncharacteristically for the genre may even veer to slightly chuggy territory. It's less to my tastes, but those who appreciate good guitarwork would doubtlessly enjoy it more.

Pallbearer - Heartless
I live for a little doom metal! This year so far I haven't found the one that would break my heart, but Heartless is definitely my favourite of the genre so far. I say that, even as I know that an American doom metal band will never produce a record that's gonna end up among my favourites - I wonder why all of them are rather stoner doom, than melodic or death-doom, the latter two which are definitely my defining music choices.

Ophiuchi - Bifurcaria Bifurcata
If I've missed the soul-crushing grief in my doom, then here is in my black metal. Black metal never was and never will be my favourite genre, but lately I've had more appreciation towards it. It's a slow record, with many small moments of brilliance, doomy and sprawling and a little alien.
Listen to: the entire record is 4 songs, and it's not on youtube, I don't know what to tell you...

Ayreon - The Source
Here it is: an absolute monster of a double album, and undoubtedly one of my favourite records this year. I love symphonic metal, I love progressive metal, I love the theatrical and melodramatic, yet I've never taken to Ayreon. So I guess I'm very late, but for me, this is the breaking point.
There are many great things about this album. Its composition and instrumentation is honed to perfection that probably borders on repetitiveness for long-time fans, but is nevertheless an amazing technical and artistic feat. Yeah, you have your Hammonds and your cellos and whatnot, regular occurences for Arjen, but par of its charm is that it's so uniquely recognisable. As usual, it's a concept album, the tale of a fairly run-off-the-mill sci-fi origin story with adequate ESL lyrics. So what elevates this piece to amazing emotional heights?
That would be the amazing vocal conduction: everything from the assigment of the roles to the pairing of them is amazing. There are quite a few singers here that I don't know all too well or have never taken notice of. Tommy Rogers and Nils K. Rue are quite delightful, but Michael Mills is something out of this world. I also can't help but mention how amazing Floor Jansen is here, actually delivering vocal performances she seemingly wasn't allowed to on Nightwish's Endless Forms Most Beautiful.
It's really impossible to pick just a few songs to listen to. The album has many highlights, still, it is unbelievably long. The opener The Day That the World Breaks Down really showcases all that will be offered on the record, and is immediately followed by my personal favourite Sea of Machines. The opening trio, ending with the delightfully chunky and weird Everybody Dies is the strongest part of the album. There are some beautiful, slower songs; Condemned to Live, with the highlight of a Floor Jansen and Tommy Karevik duet, or The Dream Dissolves, with a wonderfully composed crescendo arc of vocal roles. Similarly, Deathcry of a Race, with its arabic passage and following soprano verse is a real tearjerker. (I really don't think I've heard many things quite as beautiful as Floor Jansen and Simone Simons singing together.) Unfortunately, the very end of the record sags a little, but it is largely due to the length of the album. Still, this is a beautiful, unmissable record. 

Voyager - Ghost Mile
A good progressive metal album, if a little less impressive that past Voyager records have been. It's a little mellower, leaning more prog rock than others, which wouldn't be a detriment on its own, but I do wish the heavier moments were more prominently featured. That said, the more rock ballad-y closers are some of the best songs on the album, and the curious vocals still make Voyager something well worth to follow.

Avatarium - Hurricanes and Halos
I feel liked that compared to their previous album, the weirdness is a little more toned down - this makes for an easier first listen, but I fear I might get bored of the record faster. Or, differently phased, its missing something that the previous album had, I just can't put my finger on it. All that might seem a little negative, but I did quite like the album; the good songs are quite good, and it's worth to check out at least.
Listen to: The Starless Sleep, Road to Jerusalem, The Sky at the Bottom of the Sea

Alestorm - No Grave But the Sea
Last but not least, Alestorm. I guess one does not expect anything extraordinarily intriguing from a gimmicky band, but they do always deliver the fun party-drinking music. So yes, the album is quite fun, taking jokes to the extreme, even if the music itself isn't anything revolutionary. But who's going to listen to progressive doom while cleaning the flat? Nothing would ever get done.

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