Thursday, 30 December 2010

God Is an Astronaut - Age of the Fifth Sun [2010]

When God Is an Astronaut released the promo single In The Distance Fading from upcoming Age of the Fifth Sun – I was amazed. But then, when the proper album came out in May, everybody started complaining about its being repetitive, badly produced or simply... boring. Was it the truth? Did Giaa commit faux pas hurrying with it and gave us actually... a bad album?

I had to check, so soon after the premiere I relistened all Giaa’s works and gave a listen to new “masterpiece”. Well, I got quite disappointed. It absolutely didn’t appeal to me, maybe I was flooded with a couple of amazing post-rock albums, maybe I just wasn’t in a mood for them. Around the summer, once I calmed down my disappointment, I came back to it, and it actually amazed me! Suddenly everything seemed fitting and charming. So what’s the problem with it?

I guess you shouldn’t listen to it any soon after discovering the band and being very into their earlier works or generally just after listening to them. It may strongly influence your opinion, mainly in point of its being repetitive.  The point is Age of the Fifth Sun isn’t an entrepreneurial album – but it perfectly summarizes what the band achieved in the eight years of their existence, much better than the “Greatest Hits” compilation would do.

These are new, absolutely original songs, based on the well tried (and liked) methods and ideas. It shows well how the band improved over the years, how they managed to develop their skills and pass what they want to in a most precise way. This is still Giaa we know, with spacey, emotional music, guitar passages, and “flying” feeling.

Then what’s new about it? Music is slightly simplified, but in a positive way, showing really aware composure and usage of instruments. More explosive drums (especially in the song Age of the Fifth Sun – the part from around 5th minute is one of my favourite drummings) and the pressure “growing up” on you. Unlike many post-rock albums, this is NOT the soundtrack for studying/reading etc. but an album that makes you experience it consciously.

Another thing I like about it is that Giaa finally seems to find a balance between heaviness and dreamy atmosphere, which used to tangle a bit in earlier works. On this album there are mainly two kinds of songs:  those that can “burden” you with a dark, anxious, sometimes offensive side (like Age of the Fifth Sun or promo single) and those that make you drift on imaginary sea (like Paradise Remains or Golden Sky). I guess you could say that this confusion between choosing dark or light side in earlier works was the best in band. It’s still here, but in more subtle way, and to me it seems that “splitting” them and letting both develop was like untying the wings for Giaa.

I must say that in each earlier album I had songs I loved, and the ones that seemed very average. Now, I have an album that I like since the very beginning till the last note. Apart from title song that I love more because of the drumming, nothing stands out - everything represents equally high level.
Then, recommended to all Giaa fans and enthusiasts of good instrumental music!

And hey, all you critics! Take a wonder whether you want Giaa to follow their own footpath, or change direction with every album becoming post-rockish Pain of Salvation?;)

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Once (Soundtrack) [2007]

This music has been close to me for a long time and a couple of emotional breakdowns. I should probably state I didn’t really like the film, yet the music is a totally different story. Cause in fact, this album tells a story – of a simple, though theoretically complicated relationship.

The soundtrack consisting of 13 songs (15 in Collector’s Edition) was composed by Glen Hansard of Irish The Frames and Czech singer&pianist Markéta Irglová (they also played main characters in the film). The two later on became a couple and keep releasing new albums as The Swell Season.

Musically Once is very simple – generally it’s either just piano (like in  Markéta’s The Hill), guitar or acoustic/folk band. But the purpose of this album is not to astonish you with incredible music skills, 10-minutes solos and opera voices. Don’t even try it if you’re looking for them.

Once can make you fall in love with its emotions (emo-bands can go cut themselves for years, but they’ll never reach it) and sincerity. Glen and Markéta are just honest in their songs and we can feel it. I’m also enchanted by their lyrics – also very simple, but catching what’s in your head when it seems so messy you just want to turn it off. 

All songs are very good (well, maybe Broken Hearted Hoover Sucker Guy is more of a joke than a song) but the best are absolutely Falling Slowly (it even won Oscar, wow!) , If You Want Me – with amazing Markéta and lyrics with which probably every (broken-hearted) girl could identify. Also Lies and The Hill gain a lot of love. My personal favourite –after all that time – still stays When Your Mind’s Made Up.

As I said, this is not virtuoso music. What’s its purpose then? Once is a bandage on an aching heart, it makes you think you’re not lonely in your suffering and... there is actually hope for you, cause you can win with every failure. Ok, maybe I’m getting a bit far from music and that becoms a weird review=) But...

Recommended to everybody enjoying simple but true music and/or needing some mental support!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Septic Flesh -The Vampire from Nazareth (single) [2010]

Fans waiting for a new album are always anxious and hungry, which is well known to all the bands. So, while Septic Flesh is occupied with finishing a successor of Communion, the fans are gifted with Christmas-snack, a single The Vampire from Nazareth.

I must admit I’m into it, totally. There are so many elements involved, all the instruments, choirs, male and female vocals, growls, that it’d be easy to overdose and just kill the listener. But Septic Flesh manages to control it all with its magic wand.

The song starts slowly with ethereal female vocal which reminds me a lot of the great pieces Preisner wrote for Kieślowski films. This motive appears a few more times, but in the meantime we come to the regular part of song with impressive growl and amazing energy of riffs and drums. Around the second minute the rhythm becomes irregular in a nice, making-you-belly-dance way. The third minute brings choirs and some dreamy yet powerful instrumental.

The whole song has an “epic”, kind of cinema-like atmosphere and with all its carefulness for details it is yet full of emotion and passion. I can’t wait for the real album!

Recommended to all "good metal" fans=)

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Manes - Vilosophe [2003]

There was certainly something weird happening in Norway at the beginning of the millennium, since a couple of important – firstly – black metal bands and musicians turned to more avant-garde, experimental music -  Ulver, Solefald, Ihsahn... But today, I’d like to say a few words about the most breakthrough Manes album – Vilosophe

It is only 47 minutes of music and 8 songs having almost nothing in common with black metal, since the band is brazenly flirting with electronica and jazz. Manes managed to build an awesome, intimate atmosphere, that makes you feel like if this album was written especially for you. The effect is strengthened by the multiplied (and sometimes distorted) vocals. The guitars are rather in the back, slightly overshadowed by synthesizers and spectacular drums. Yes, I must praise those drums, that build such a hypnotising, almost trance feeling.

We are introduced to this album hearing a telephone talk, but worried woman gets overcame by the music - Nodamnbrakes is a pretty devilish song, with screams and voice in the back and very emotional vocals. Well, don’t be surprised if you suddenly realise your head is uncontrollably moving up&down...
But hey! The second song suddenly takes us into much calmer, dreamy place and we start to wonder if it’s still blackish Manes... Well it is, in a totally new clothes – 11minutes of a pressure growing up inside of you, which is best summarised by the title itself: Diving with Your Hands Bound [Nearly Flying]. Indeed, this piece may make you feel tied up and desperately trying to move, but who told you it’d be easy? The moment you realise now you’ll certainly fly... it breaks.  Nope dear, you were just *nearly* flying. After all it is said that we miss most what is close to perfection, but perfect is not.
Number 3. White Devil Black Shroud. Quite honestly, one of the few songs that have a right to accompany me in bed. Beautiful, ascetic keys and that vocal... You know I can’t feel, you know I can’t love... – but I’m in heaven anyway!
After such a hypnotizing part it physically hurts to listen to next song - Terminus A Quo - Terminus Ad Quem. Don’t misunderstood me - it is excellent with its powerful drums and some more screams&distortions. Listening to it alone I love it, but after the more dreamy part of album, the guitars at the beginning are ear-rapists.
Death Of The Genuine [The Redemption Ritual] continues the more “metal” crusade with fast rhythms, aggressive singing and low-driven recitation. Ende makes a little step back to more atmospheric and building up construction, as well as The Hardest Of Comedowns – they are both kind of raw, more depressive songs. Especially the seventh, which makes me even think of gothic music.
The album ends with Confluence [The Vilosophe Crux] which is basically a poem in German slowly growing to croak and slur to be ended by a gun shot. I’d much rather this album had a more impressive finish, but it’s the band who decides, so after a paradise of sounds we get pessimistic “you’re in hell” stop. Nevertheless, "play again" seems obvious.

My opinion: Highly recommend (with little minus for the end and a bit harsh passages between the songs)