Saturday, 27 August 2011

In Vain - Mantra [2010]

Did you ever wonder what would real American metal sound like? By ‘real’ I mean metal relying on blues, country or Indian music? I might be wrong, but seems like Norwegians from In Vain found a way to help us imagine it. It seems to me, that this might be one of the most underestimated bands in the world. 7 years, two amazing records and very few concerts and fans... Well, why don’t you try to appreciate their latest masterpiece - Mantra - one of the best metal releases of 2010?

Opening Captivating Solitude begins with peaceful, deep low riff that soon gets surrounded by a powerful mass of drums, intense guitars, cellos and above all – horrifying scream.  But, but. In Vain is famous for its five vocalists, so soon we also get wonderful deep singing and fat, fast solo broken by repeating clean parts again.

Mannefall opens with a bit stonin’ guitar and a mixture of growls and screams. Atmosphere gets pretty thick as they speak in Norwegian and backing vocals add a really devilish black feeling. Ok, so stonin’ black metal you say and wonder where that’s gonna lead. Oh, did we hear some change? the guitars get slightly more delicate and another vocalist mourns with a bit Indian spirit. The drummer shows off a little bit, but hey, if we’re into Wild West, shouldn’t we be proud?

Ain’t No Lovin’ with its acoustic guitar and bluesy sang lyrics:
Now I'm sitting here with
My guitar in my hand
Ain't no lovin'
No more lovin'

leaves no doubt for inspiration.

It painlessly passes to On The Banks Of The Mississippi and after short stoning intro we are welcomed by a choir telling us sad story of an old man. You could always forget it’s a metal band if not the heavy drum in the background and screamed&growled ‘chorus’. Again there is some cello plus a couple of violins hiding behind drum&guitars. Wonderful guitar solo (very simple, but lovingly anxious) and a bit Gojira-like drums strengthening it, bursts out in the concluding, beautiful and optimistic verse.

Dark Prophets, Black Hearts first show us some stunning guitar trips but soon gets into fact verses-slower chorus game. The chorus has also an interesting form of a hymn sang by them all, which gives more power to lyrics, calling us
To liberate
This world from
Greed and sickness

The following part of the song with slow drum and a number of delicate acoustic and tuned down guitars give an impression that the call might have been heard and the world is a better place. Around 7th minute the guitar gets so heavenly, that Eric Clapton shall indeed give his tears to heaven. But the outro still warns – you must care for your peace.

Wayakin (The Guardian Spirit of the Nez Perce) – shall I even say anything more? An old Indian telling a story, mourning cry and a riding melody accompanied by warriors’ screams. A group’s prayer to Wayakin with a metal background, occasional screams and instrumental parts that make me lose control. If Indians sang that powerful songs fighting Europeans, their opponents wouldn’t dare to attack. But again it slows down. Old style guitar solo changing to cello solo and old man’s explanation:
We look to the bear, the owl and the eagle as our brothers
To teach us how to live
They talk to us, we listen
The bear tells us of our strength
The owl of our wisdom
And the eagle of our freedom
It is time for us to remember

Last cries and we’re in the Circle of Agony. It’s a mad, a bit pessimistic tune complaining over the state of mankind with lots of growls, screams and yells and broken, thick riffs. Yet around 6th minute cello and acoustic guitar come to voice and give another heavenly melody.

Sombre Fall, Burdened Winter is probably my favourite. Simple piano interludes with jazzy guitar and intense sang parts. After the longest dreamy calm part cut guitar introduces us to saxophone solo – a passage to the choir-screamed a bit hardcore (but broken by melodic, quite clean guitar) part with one of the most awesome lyrics ever. A peaceful guitar-piano outro leaves us with 2minuted silent reflection.
And at last finishing hidden (or not) Wayphearing Stranger calms you down with tearing, a bit country farewell. Oh God, that deep, low voice and 70’s like female vocals! Even metalheads shouldn’t object!

The lucky possessors of deluxe version shall also find on their albums bonus In Remembrance with mad Gojira-like guitars-drums combo, sludgy riffs and trancing, ‘boiling water’ chorus – as I would describe it. Alarm- psychedelic guitar solo? Mad growls? Saxophone Lynch-atmosphered interlude? Acoustic passage like Opeth? Or maybe ticking drums? Screaming in silence? You wouldn’t guess, they have it all! Well, this song is a pure fun for every metalhead;) Let’s bang our heads!

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Ghost Brigade - Until Fear No Longer Defines Us [2011]

The successor of one of the finest metal albums. Great challenge for its writers and a cause of anxious waiting for the fans. All summer, Ghost Brigade kept knocking to our ears – showing a single, announcing a video made by Fursy Teyssier – another fresh hot name in this industry - and at last, freely streaming new baby. They are just 6 years old and already did 3 albums. But I guess that we all wondered ‘will they be able to beat Isolation Songs? or at least keep that level?’ Let’s figure out.

The biggest surprise comes immediately – after thick&heavy Isolation Songs that brought to think of them as doom or even sludge metal, the opening In The Woods - an acoustic, clean-sung ballad - shocks with its fraility. Luckily, GB proves that they don’t need guitar effects to bring up a beautiful riffs and melody. As they explained – the story is ‘a memory’ of meeting the man who made a cemetery in the woods as a ‘home for broken dreams’.

Clawmaster was made a first single and it seems to be the most old-style song. There is a deep musical background with keys and distorted guitars + growl-clean singing combo we loved so much. The lyrics at first reminded me of last Insomnium song, especially the parts like:
I was your slave with no name
You defiled my body
But you couldn't destroy my soul
but in general, they speak of breaking the ties and gaining the liberty (of mind). The roles change, and our hero is now at command.

Chamber is one of the softer, easy-rock songs with a very catchy, nice melody. The combination of slow guitars and peaceful drum in verses gives a nice, trance feeling. But since it talks about sick, dying relationship there is a bitter drop of sadness in it, rising as the chorus drives heavier guitarilly.
If you want to disappear please follow me.

Traces of Liberty have a great, rare sludgy riff and vibrating background. Good, heavy old-styled song with a completely growled story of the darrrrkest side. 
Divine Act of Lunacy kind of follows this dark way – simple, low, stoning riff, but clean vocals and more noticeable drums. The lyrics apply to the album title and the whole song can be summarized in its powerful chorus:
Marching through fire without water
Cleanse yourself for tomorrow
Fear is forbidden

Grain is a dark, realistic love song with a bit of Katatonia’s spirit. Slightly distorted guitars, shy versus and again raging, brave chorus. Nice song with great chances to become (not only) teenage metal-girls favourite (;

Breakwater is a complex, long composition. It begins as a classic doom song, but soon – crack! – breaks into a floating, acoustic ballad – crack! don’t get used to it, we’re back to classic Ghost Brigade recipe – crack! crack! and a powerful outro-solo. Moreover, this song has one of the most beautiful lyrics from the album, talking about finding a courage to begin a new life – a fearless, free life.

Cult of Decay seems to be quite a new thing for this band. The guitar’s technique reminds electronic loop + it’s a simple, one line melody, in contrary to usual diverse harmonies and guitar talks. Moreover, there is an obvious, growled bridge and outro. The lyric is another dark story of broken human’s relationship/faith in world.
Torn is a pure fury – mixing sludgy, speedy riffs with more delicate, enchanting solo leading to a slowdown. A story of anger, that seems to fade though, and give place to a bit resigned sadness.

Ending Soulcarvers is a masterpiece itself. Sad slow melody enters as if the army of those who lost the battle. But as they say:
Rebirth through failure
Just like so many times before

The chorus breaks in rage again, but it’s the lines in between that seem to carry their most important message. The finishing solo, concluded by the cry “Soulcarvers” is simply eargasmic and heartbreaking.

At first I wanted to say that it’s a catchy, easier in listening album, that shall be good to encourage new listeners or to get to some great scandinavian metal radio... I wanted to say it's a solid music, although it simply can't outshine my love for Isolation Songs... But now, all I can say – don’t take that melody out of my head:

Let the undone come to life
And feel the love engraved
To the undivided presence of hope and innocence


Thursday, 11 August 2011

VAST - April [2007]

As the summer reaches its maximal sunshining and hottness limits, I wouldn’t be myself if I gave up on lovely, lazy records and so images of peaceful countryside changing by the train-window reminded me of great VAST (Visual Audio Sensory Theater) that found me in August 2010.

This horribly unappreciated American band committed a couple of really good rock albums – mixing industrial and folk influences with good old rock&roll and acoustic beauty. I could easily write an ode to Nude or self-titled Visual Audio Sensory Theater, but let me take a more interesting in its diversity road, and lead you to the April.

Our trip begins on a lonely street in the middle of night. Suddenly a girl offers to pick you up, one leads to another and out of nothing you find yourself “lost inside and urban maze”. But the poor girl’s devotion can’t change the fact that your lips must say You’re Too Young for me. What’s left then? take a guitar and play it slowly to at least give her a touching farewell.

Yet it seems she stuck in your heart, but know you sing in some club. Quite a success achieved, there is a cute violinist, a drummer and another guitarist that helps you out. But nothing can change the fact that you keep wondering: did she ever needed Dedicate (A Place For Me)?

At last you found a peace of mind and understood that Everything Passing By is not coming back... You experience new love and in angelic mood change the guitar for piano. Ah, right, you didn’t lost the band, the extra guitar, violin and drummer still support you. Oh, yes, you’re happy and like poor Faust cry ‘let me stay here forever’.

You felt so confident, that now dare to say Sunday I’ll Be Gone! Your love’s disability to make a decision makes you confused – be closer than the stars or go away on Sunday? Well, you ask her in shrinking voice and nervous drummer binds on one rhythm and guitar climbs up the notes...

Ok, a couple of drinks and you’re a reagge rocker – do you remember how that saxophonist got after you? oh, and a new bassman? wow, you say, it’s all because I’m a Frog, a now I’m a song. Oh, psychedello small bridge? Yeah, we lost the troops.

But after the great high fun must come a melancholic hangover. Once again you sit at the piano and with loveliest, lowest voice you apologize lost lover. The violinist forgave you from the first notes and makes sweet, encouraging eyes to your beloved. Oh my love, gotta say I did as well, now I’d also give everything just for One More Day with you...

Yet your girl is a badass. So, she betrays her new guy for you and once you showed her A Tatoo of Your(her) Name across your soul and gave her a lovely rock&roll, she wants you to get rid of him (he’s a beater)... Too bad that it gets you straight to court and as she claims you’re crazy you claim ‘I’m gonna get this thing removed when I can’. Nothing helps, you scream as you get your 100,000years and r&r gets really mad.

So, imprisoned you become friends with half-african half-latino dude and seduce guard-girls with your cute ‘Is It Me you’re looking for?’ and rumba rhythms. Of course you managed to smuggle violinist.
One got you out of jail, but in your pride you discover that you feel like ‘I’m Too Good’ so together with your mates reaggeing wonder and decide you to break the ties.

Foolish man. You had no idea she was a witch. Sitting in the corner of your room, the guitar seems to be your only armour as you whisper scared to death ‘She Visits Me when I’m asleep’. But your friend violinist once again saves you, taking her big friend cellist and giving the armour triple power.

Seems it’s all fine now! The big cellist stays, supported by that cool bassist and your soul makes a big talk how ‘I Am A Vampire! (...) I’m a wolfman! (...) I’m a mummy!’ Nice to hear you’re doing so well, ex and future criminal!:P

Finally, you found someone perfect, calmed down and ready to settle down, MAN! you BEG her in ethereal voice Take Me With You! yet not too much pressure, you’re calm and she’s a hell of a guitarist. I bet she smiles at that final drum. Yes, she takes you.

The trip’s finished but the wheels still seem to go round. So play again, or get Nude!