Saturday, December 01, 2007

Hidden Treasures of Metal


Some bands and albums are completely fantastic and just don't get the love they deserve. Check these out if you are looking for some high-quality metal and are tired of the same old. Many of them I discovered years ago and often forget about, damn me.

There has definitely been no lack of bands to refer to themselves as being goth metal, gothic doom metal, metalic goth, and gothtastic meds, but here is one of the few that does it without necessarily doing it. Novembre are a band that embrace the moody minor keys, moaned downer lyrics, and chugging rhythm guitar of gothy doom metal in the fashion of My Dying Bride and Paradise Lost without getting too caught up in the style's melodramatic, over-synthed pitfalls. Aeolian leads dance over bare-bones rhythms while sung or bellowed or belched vocals drift in and out of songs like "Distances" off of Novembrine Waltz; bass and guitar melodies trade off over jazz chords in the powerfully building first half of "Tales from a Winter to Come" on Classica (which is a great song to listen to on a snowy day like today just happens to have turned out to be). These guys are still producing prolifically; "The Blue" came out earlier this year (it is decent but sounds a little like heavier and less ridiculous Sentenced). Proof that not everyone from Italy is as cheery as Roberto Benigni.

...And Oceans - A.M.G.O.D.
This is a weird band with a dumb name. However, even this dumb but quirky name is better than what they recently changed their name to - Havoc Unit. But I digress. A.M.G.O.D. was an excellent album with, again, a stupid title (it stands for Allotropic Metamorphic Genesis of Dismorphism; I think these guys eat thesauri for breakfast), but a genuinely unique sound. Their blend of black metal and industrial almost puts one in mind of some sort of bizarro Scandanavian Bauhaus. Of especial note are the tunes "Intelligence is Sexy" (a dancey geek anthem) and "Of Devilish Tongues" (a hard to follow but rewarding heavy piece). Somewhat like a car crash between Dimmu Borgir and The Matrix, only better than that sounds.

Labyrinth - Self-Titled
Another Italian gem. Straight up Power Metal done especially well. I bought this album for the appeal of the first track, "The Prophet," and initially didn't care for the rest of the album. Then I started to pick up some of the lyrics on that track and got a little put off by the bizarrely forceful Christianity of them (seems to be about the rapture or the end times or something). Eventually the rest of the album caught my ear though, and I got pretty bored by the first track in any case. The rest of the album showcases a much more interesting style, with organ and bass solos, harmonically creative melodies, and a number of incredibly well done pop-hard rock style passages. "This World," which is what generally passes for funky among metalheads, "Just Soldier (Stay Down)," with its really fucking cool choral bits and ass-kicking breakdown, and "Terzinato," with its killer verse riff that they might have borrow from Dying Fetus, are the biggest highlights of the album. Sorry, no elves here.

The lazy way to describe Sculptured would be as the poor man's Opeth, although to be fair they had their sound together (if not their production) back when Opeth were still quite finding their groove. They also thought up the brilliant stroke of adding a jazzy brass section to a metal band before even the brilliant Devin Townsend. And just think, all this while living out in lonely Camas, WA. The band is set to release their first full length album in nine years - only the third over all - in February. Hopefully this will be the start of a more regular routine for them. "Snow Covers All" is an excellent track from their first record.

Ram-Zet - Escape
Rather than try and explain this album too much, why don't I just have you guys watch the video for "Queen." Be forewarned, metal videos are rarely not completelly stupid. This one's main appeal (like a fair number of other metal vids) is that it has a sexy chick.

Fall of the Leafe - Volvere
Fall of the Leafe are one of my favorite bands and no one seems to care. This album is full of powerful melodies, spacey ambience, and catchy hooks with words that you can never quite make out. It's got heavily rock-influenced vocals and drums, proggy bass and rhythm guitars, and leads that I can't listen to without feeling them all over. It's not really like anything else out there, and it even varies dramatically throughout the album while still keeping a distinct sound. It also has some of my favorite song titles ever ("More Like a Situation," "Big Ol' Fat Rain Inside," and "Security Locks Are Good"). Sadly, Fall of the Leafe broke up recently. They did, however put out two more albums which I definitely shall be seeking out. The guitarist and song writer is apparently putting together a new act. I kind of want to send him a demo. Lord knows there couldn't be a better reason to move to Finland.

Spanish-language power metal from Spain; Darksun lisp through some of the best epic, synth-driven (think Kamelot, or a much less shitty version of newer Nightwish) metal that's there to be found. Not really that much to say about these guys beyond that, besides that it really makes you wonder why metal bands always feel like they need to sing in English.

Also, just because it snowed a bunch today, you should all go out and listen to Darkthrone.



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