Archive for symphonic metal

Prog Promulgation 3 – Dark Prog

Posted in Devil Doll, prog promulgation, progressive rock with tags , , , , , , , , , on June 20, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Note: Prog is often called ‘pretentious.’ Thus, so are our personas. Although on the surface this may seem overtly insulting towards most musical genres, we only wish to immerse the reader in the pretentious lifestyle of prog. The music is still fantastic and necessary, and the pretention is (usually) meant with good humor.

On this issue’s journey into the depths of prog rock, the Red Barron presents to you a few darker, more macabre gems from the genre.  Be warned: as with all prog rock, these albums take patience to truly appreciate, but are well worth the effort.  Dark and moody soundscapes do not always please the ears of the general public.  However, you, fellow prog addicts, are not part of the plebian masses.  Dedicated listening will unveil the true beauty of these somber listening experiences.

Virgin Black is perhaps best known in the doom metal scene, but the progressiveness of the band’s music cannot be denied.  Currently finishing up the third part of their three album Requiem, the group has blatantly displayed its penchant for the Romantic era of classical music.  It is perhaps on their first album, Sombre Romantic, where the group’s progressivism and dark beauty can be most appreciated.  The album is survey of depression; while each track experiments with different genres, they all retain a sinister and dark mood, largely due to Rowan London’s fantastic operatic vocals.  While the experimentations with darkwave (‘Walk Without Limbs’), black metal (‘I Sleep with the Emperor’), and goth (‘Of Your Beauty’) are all spectacular, the eight minute epic ‘Museum of Iscariot’ is without doubt the highlight of the album.  London is so emotive that listeners can truly feel his gut-wrenching agony, and Samantha Escarbe’s guitar solo is one of the best in doom.   If you aren’t crying too much at the end of the album, be sure to check out the rest of their catalogue as well; while not as progressive, it is required listening for fans of symphonic metal or doom.

On a much more underappreciated note, we present Devil Doll.  Devil Doll is lead by the enigmatic Mr. Doctor, whose identity remains unknown.  The ‘Man of 1000 Voices’ presents an eerie and frightening atmosphere in The Sacrilege of Fatal Arms, one of his several magnum opuses.  If you, prog acolyte, have the intellect and will to listen through its 79 minute length, you will certainly be rewarded with one of the most intense and dark journeys in all of prog.   Truly, the masterpiece as whole is not comparable to anything else in music.  Orchestral marches, drowned out by frenzied shouting and political speeches, are interspersed between flat-out rock sections, complete with the howls and operatic singing of Mr. Doctor.  Still other portions of the track resemble German symphonies, where mournful violins, delicate keys and haunting whispers swirl around the listener like mist.  Each minute drags the listener down further into Mr. Doctor’s psychotic and warped mind, leaving one breathless and emotionally drained by the album’s end.  Although it is difficult to predict or comprehend at first, Devil Doll’s music is quite listenable, and holds up extremely well after repeated listening experiences.  Much like Virgin Black, the whole of the group’s discography is full of dark surprises and sublime tracks, so continue to listen on after you have become addicted.

Don’t be too scared, fellow listeners.  While Brother B and the Red Barron can stand it, we realize that this stuff can be difficult for the petite ears of others.  Persevere, and you too will become entranced with the darker side of prog.

Carach Angren – ‘Death Came Through A Phantom Ship’ Review

Posted in album review, black metal, Carach Angren with tags , , , , , on June 18, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

For me, Carach Angren was one of those bands that I just happened to stumble upon. Before I bought their albums, I had heard nothing about them except the reviews that were on the metal archives for their debut album, Lammendam. When I saw that they were labeled as “symphonic black metal”, I was quite excited, since this genre of music is one that I happen to enjoy and wanted to get more into. As excited as I was to hear this album, I never actually thought that Death Came Through a Phantom Ship would be this good.

The production on the album is clean, which helps the listener appreciate each of the instruments and the vocals on the album. The clean production really helps show the high quality of musicianship that is demonstrated throughout Death Came Through a Phantom Ship. There is some great tremolo picking throughout the album, and the riffs present in the album are quite well done too. What is great about the music on the album is how well it flows throughout the album. Besides the typical guitar, drums, and bass, there are violins, horns, keyboards, and a piano that are used throughout many of the songs on the album. With all of the different instruments that can be present at one time in the album, some would expect that there would be parts in the album where these instruments would clash in a manner that would be unpleasant for the listener. This may hold true for other bands, but not for Carach Angren. The instruments are all skillfully played and in turn, they complement each other well. With the different instruments present, the members of Carach Angren are able to create an eerie atmosphere, which complements the story that is being told throughout the course of the album. Atmosphere is something that can really help draw in a listener, if created correctly.

The vocals on the album are mostly typical growls. Along with these growls, there are vocals where Seregor, Carach Angren’s vocalist, is simply speaking or whispering. These types of vocals help provide variety throughout the album, but they also help give the listener a sense that a story is being told. This really helps the fact that this album is a concept album, since it makes the story easier to understand for the listener. Added to this, the growled vocals are quite easy to understand, so the meanings and the stories present in each song are not lost as a result of the listener’s inability to understand the vocals. There are some clean vocals present on the album, such as those present in the opening of the song “Van Der Decken’s Triumph” and in the song “Al Betekent Het Mijn Dood”. In the case of these songs, the clean vocals to me sound exactly like what I would expect to hear from a crew working on a ship. This only adds to the story.

Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is a concept album concerning a captain’s decline into insanity and how this legendary ghost ship came about. One of the most impressive aspects about this album is that the members of Carach Angren are able to clearly tell this story while still being able to produce an album that is nothing short of amazing. The story itself is very good too, only adding to the worth of this album. From my interpretation, the album starts off in a more modern setting, where one sailor is explaining his encounter with this phantom ship. The rest of the album then concerns how Captain Van Der Decken becomes insane and this phantom ship comes to be. Since this story is a ghost story, some of these songs are truly chilling. Just look at the story that is being told in the song And the Consequence Macabre. To give a brief summary, Captain Van Der Decken (I assume it is, this song is in the first person, so no name is mentioned) is having a nightmare in which someone is attacking him, and his daughter is missing. He wakes up only to find that both his wife and daughter are dead. Well, that’s the general idea, but it’s probably best that you listen to this song to truly understand it.

Death Came Through a Phantom Ship is an album that does not disappoint. The music is superb, the vocals are great, and the story is chilling. If you are a fan of symphonic black metal, I highly recommend this album. Also, if you enjoy ghost stories or legends, or you want to see a band that can masterfully tell a story through music, I strongly suggest that this is the first album you should look into. This album is an amazing output, and I am greatly interested to see what Carach Angren will do next.

Sean

(Also posted on the Metal Archives, http://www.metal-archives.com/review.php?id=258064)

Sigh – ‘Scenes From Hell’ Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With each album, Sigh has consistently shown their listeners that they will never be pigeonholed into a specific genre.  While the origins of their music are rooted in black metal, orchestral, jazz, and avant-garde influences are also present.  Imaginary Sonicscape was a bizarre trip through a psychedelic atmosphere.  Gallows Gallery, the band’s foray into melodic metal, proved that they could retain a high level of musicianship and varied influences while creating songs that were instantly catchy and accessible.  With 2007’s Hangman’s Hymn, Sigh incorporated a large amount of orchestral influences, resulting in a highly symphonic and intriguing listen.  However, for the first time, Sigh overdid it.  The tracks themselves were fantastic, but long orchestral breaks made the album a chore to listen to.

Enter Scenes from Hell.  For the first time, Sigh does not completely reinvent themselves.  Rather, they have taken the winning formula from Hangman’s Hymn and stripped the filler from it, resulting in a cohesive and wildly enjoyable album.  The orchestral influences are back and more prevalent than ever, but the band has truly perfected their incorporation into the song structure.  Unlike other symphonic bands, who simply write metal songs and layer violins and trumpets over the riffs, Sigh make the orchestral atmosphere an integral part of the music.  Saxophone solos follow guitar solos, loud trumpets punctuate heavy passages, and violins and keys mingle with distorted riffs and blast beats.  Never have classical instruments sounded so normal in metal.

Don’t worry, Sigh have not lost their avant-garde side.  ‘Normal’ does not mean that you have heard this before.  ‘Prelude to the Oracle’ opens the album with a thrash riff, quickly bombarding the listener with a chorus of trumpets.  Songs run the gamut from intense blackened thrash to slow, doomy dirges, such as the exceptional ‘Funeral’ songs in the center of the album.  Of course, Mirai’s trademark howls and keys are backed up by Shinichi’s furious guitar shredding, but Scenes from Hell also boasts the addition of saxophonist and vocalist Dr. Mikannibal.  Her deep growls and solos, especially on ‘Musica in Tempora Belli’ add a new dimension to Sigh’s music.

Despite excellent song structures, insanely catchy melodies, and a new level of orchestration and experimentation, Scenes from Hell is not Sigh’s best album.  It remains a blast to listen to after repeated listens, unlike its predecessor, Hangman’s Hymn.  However, the production is strangely muddy – the bass is inaudible, more or less, and the guitars occasionally sound as if they were recorded underwater.  Considering Sigh’s popularity and the quality of the production on previous albums (Gallows Gallery notwithstanding), this is bizarre.  And, while it’s great to hear the band perfect the style that they dabbled in on the previous album, it is somewhat disappointing.  In today’s metal scene, with two-bit metalcore acts and ‘bedroom black metal’, it is always refreshing to find bands like Ulver and Sigh who constantly reinvent themselves and progress.

Even with poor production and a lack of progression, this is certainly one of the best albums of 2010 thus far.   Sigh’s brilliant combination of blackened metal with symphonic elements is one of the best that has been recorded, and is not to be missed.  While no one can predict what Mirai and crew will come up with next, it is fair to say that, considering their track record thus far, it will certainly be another monumental landmark in the evolution of black metal.

Adam