Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 albums you are missing out part 7.77

Avatarium: Avatarium
(Doom Metal, Sweden)

Candlemass pulled the plug on their recording career in 2012 with Psalms for the Dead. I wasn't completely happy with the record, but it was a satisfactory ending for one the biggest doom bands from Sweden but it left me wanting for more. I was curious to know what the members are up to next and is there still something left in Edling's bag of trick that he's able to present us. Out of the blue mastermind Edling surprises me with a brand new band, Avatarium. 

Avatarium features members from Tiamat, ex-Evergrey, Jupiter Society and the new vocal talent Jennie-Ann Smith. The sound is similar to Candlemass and Krux, but somehow Ms. Smith's vocals makes it another ballgame and she really shines on this album. Avatarium is made of the trademark monstrous riffs and thick & heavy production Candlemass is known for combining them with delicate moments of beauty and frailness. You are able to hear tangents of pop and 60's influences, but make no mistake this is very much a metal album. Moonhorse kicks off the album to a good start and the guitar tone fools you into thinking you're listening to Candlemass, but once Ms. Smith enters you will be blown away. Surely combining doom and female vocals is not a new thing anymore, but there is demand for this type of music and Edling & co. are shamelessly exploiting that niche. However, they don't forget the most important thing: you gotta have good songs, the pretty figurehead is simply not enough. Overall the album is very dynamic and strong from start to finish, my only complaint is probably that it's not dangerous enough.

I can't really find anything negative on this album. Every time I return to it, I seem to be liking it more and more. Maybe if my craving and search for atmospheric, extreme, uncanny, extraordinary and emotional metal would not have been so great this year, this album would have ranked higher in my books.

Watch the video for Moonhorse below:

The Ocean: Pelagial
(Atmospheric Sludge / Post-Hardcore, Germany)

It is hard to categorize The Ocean, but does it really matter what the genre is? To me it doesn't, but I am helping some of the readers to make up their mind if they want to check the band out solely based on its genre. It's a good thing and it's a bad thing. I mean you could be missing out some really great bands just because the genre definition does not suit your liking. The same almost happened to me with The Ocean, but the album Precambrian (2007) changed my mind completely: absolutely stellar songwriting, crushing riffs and memorable songs.

Pelagial is the seventh album in the band's career and since they have existed only 13 years they have been very productive. The strange sounding name of the album and the titles of the songs like Hadopelagic or Abyssopelagic refer to the oceanic depth zones. Disappointed? No evil, blasphemy, hatred, misanthropy or anti-religion? Musically, the concept is explored by sequencing the music such that it is increasingly dark and claustrophobic in emulation of the diminishing light and increasing pressure that comes with oceanic descent (taken from Wikipedia). This is conveyed beautifully in the music and my favorite song, Demersal: Cognitive Dissonance, just happens to be the second last song on the album: it is heavy, dark and massive.

Another fact about the album you need to know is this: the album was initially conceived as an instrumental release, although vocals were subsequently added; the band has made both versions available so you can make up your own mind which one is better. Subsequent to the band recording the instrumental album, it was announced that the singer Loïc Rossetti had recently recovered from a disorder affecting his voice and would indeed contribute vocals to Pelagial (taken from Wikipedia). The album is musically very versatile and atmospheric, but the addition of vocals adds another level to it. 

I wasn't sure if the album would last heavy rotation, but after more than ten spins I have to confess that there are no signs of weakness or boredom. Pelagial is one of the strongest concept albums this year and all the hard work the guys have put into making this album really shows.

Watch the official video for Bathyalpelagic II: The Wish in Dreams below:

Soilwork: The Living Infinite
(Melodic Death Metal, Sweden)

When Soilwork announced that they will be releasing the first double death metal album in the history of metal, I had my doubts. Either they are trying to enter the limelight by doing something nobody hasn't dared to do before or then they are trying to prove for the fan base that they still got it. When I heard the first single, Spectrum Of Eternity, I was pretty much blown away: the sound was heavy, the song was brilliant and it had that catchy trademark chorus that will stick in your head like glue. To my surprise the next two single cuts were equally impressive, so I was sold that they are actually capable of pulling it off.

The Living Infinite contains twenty new anthems for the soilworkers and the total duration of the album is 85 minutes. Now if Soilwork would play funeral doom metal that wouldn't really qualify for a double album, but since we are dealing with melodic death metal the definition still stands and is valid. The album is melodic, it's catchy, it's fast and it has tons of memorable choruses. The production is crisp and clean, but it doesn't make it too flat or lifeless. Another memorable mention goes out to the drummer Dirk Verbeuren, he seems to be on fire on this album and delivers absolutely crushing and technical drumming. He seems move from slow to fast seamlessly and the blastbeats (yep, there's plenty of that) floor me completely.

I cannot help but wondering how in the hell are these guys able to pull off those sing-along choruses and melodies one after the other? Take Spectrum Of EternityThis Momentary BlissThe Living Infinite I, LeechDrowning With Silence and Rise Above The Sentiment just to name a few and you are forced to agree that they slay. Naturally there are a couple of songs that don't feed by appetite totally, but considering the total quality I am extremely happy and the album is indeed far better than I expected. Soilwork is back (not that it really was gone), but The Living Infinite is a worthy album in your melodic death metal collection. You cannot resists those choruses, the musicianship or the songwriting: these guys nail it and proudly take home the title "First Band that created double death metal album". Congrats guys!

Watch the excellent video for Rise Above The Sentiment below:

Dark Tranquillity: Construct
(Melodic Death Metal, Sweden)

Dark Tranquillity is one of the most prestigious melodeath bands from Sweden and they have existed more than twenty years already. You simply cannot put aside the fact that they have delivered some of the most memorable melodeath albums like The Gallery (1995), Damage Done (2002) or Fiction (2007), so whenever they release an album I am going to check it out and most probably I will like it.

Construct continues pretty much in the same vein where We Are The Void left off. This may not appeal to the hardcore death metal fans as there are even more clean singing on this album. The evolution means they are more adventurous and open to new ideas, not necessarily that they have gone soft or have sold out. Overall the songs are simpler and more straightforward and bear the mark of heavy bass and keyboards. Mikael Stanne behind the mic delivers once again on-par performance and his clean tone is really lush and pleasant like on Uniformity or State Of Trust. I tend to agree to some extent on the critique that the album can sound dull or uninspired at times, but this is not the album of the year then again it is not a total failure either. Songs like Uniformity, The Silence In Between, State Of Trust and None Becoming keep the album far from sinking making it eligible for purchase.

Dark Tranquillity is still a force to be reckoned with, even though over the course of time their sound has developed (some might say softened), but they are still capable of delivering quality tunes. They played in Finland in November 2013, but sadly I missed the gig due to my own stupidity. I will most certainly not going to miss their next gig, that is for sure! Namely this is a band that really delivers live and that is one of the aspects in live music I hold high in value nowadays.

Watch the video for Uniformity below:

Blood Ceremony: The Eldritch Dark
(Psychedelic Rock, Canada)

Blood Ceremony hails from Toronto, Canada and has been around since 2006. They play retro rock where the addition of flute and organ sends you back to 1970's instantly. I came across with them in 2011 when they released their sophomore album Living With The Ancients and fell in love with their sound. At first I thought I am being served some old school death metal based on their name, but as soon as I heard Alia O'Brien's soft, rich and warm voice and the Jefferson Aeroplane like psychedelic flute I was pleasantly surprised. Especially the songs My Demon Brother and Oliver Haddo left me in awe and convinced I needed to explore this band further.

The Eldritch Dark is an album that needs some time and space to grow in order to finally reveals its golden secrets and precious jewels. There are elements from rock to blues and to folk, but the whole album is very organic and the atmosphere literally sends to the meadows of Woodstock to protest against war and military-industrial and celebrate love, music, unity and nature. Compared to the previous album it's less doomy and heavy, but the authenticity and honesty make you feel appreciated and cared after. It is like a nice, warm bubble bath after a long working day and when you are through you feel rejuvenated and relaxed. Sounds a bit too feminine you say? Well, I think you caught my drift and listening to this album doesn't make you less cvlt, so you play as loud as you can!

The only complaint about this band currently is that they have yet toured in Finland as far as I know. They were supposed to come a few years back, but they something happened and they needed to cancel. I am pretty sure they are able to deliver live and until that happens I shall wait eagerly and play their albums when I am in the mood. 

Watch the official video for Goodbye Gemini below:

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