Posts tagged music
Kamelot has, really, always been king of symphonic/power metal mountain. At least as far as I’m concerned, they’re the only band that’s producing interesting material within the genre. There’s good reason for that, too. Thomas Youngblood is a fantastic guitarist (and now producer?) and his composition is usually fairly tight. Likewise, Casey Grillo and Sean Tibbetts are both impressive in their ability to nail down rhythm. Oliver Palotai is great as well — though a tad overshadowed by his buddies.
But, okay, let’s cut to it – Roy Khan. Roy Khan has always been the reason you’ve listened to Kamelot.
As good as all of those other elements are, what really pulled Kamelot together was Khan’s incredible voice. It was unique, it was powerful – it was signature Kamelot.
But after Poetry for the Posioned Roy Khan decided to find God, and that sort of left us all wondering: what happens to Kamelot?
They answered by picking up Tommy Karevik (Seventh Wonder). Now, almost a year later they’ve released Silverthorn. So, can Kamelot live on without Khan’s fire?
Musically, it was a pretty good year. A handful of great albums were released, covering just about every genre I care about. As far as metal went, I had a hard time choosing only 5 albums to absolutely recommend. In fact, I was going to do a “top 5″ style article at first, but realized I couldn’t really do that in good faith — especially considering how diverse my taste in metal has become. I can’t say I’ve listened to absolutely everything this year, but I tried to keep up on as much as I can. Hopefully this means there is something for every metal fan on the list!
High On Fire – Snakes For The Divine
High On Fire is often described as stoner metal, putting heavy emphasis on repetitive, distorted riffs that can only accurate be described as “chugging.” This specific style has defined HoF since their inception. About the only thing that changes with their albums is the amount of refinement in their production, as their sound basically stays the same. For most bands, this can mean stagnation. After all, no one wants to hear the same album every two years. High On Fire manages to escape this by just being creative enough to pull in newer fans while not alienating their older ones.
Songs like the title track, Ghost Neck, and Fire Flood & Plague carry this album. While the other tracks are great, these three just stand out and push the album from simply good to solid. They bring in all the elements the band is known for while pumping in a ton of fist-clenching rage. Nothing like listening to twisted riffs while your ears are being hammered by mechanical drumming that just never ends. Quite frankly, it’s metal.
Kamelot – Poetry for the Poisoned
Kamelot stands out from the rest of the power/symphonic metal crowd. I feel that Roy Khan’s vocals combined with the creative direction they’ve taken since The Black Halo has made this band absolutely unstoppable. An album filled with dark, romantic (and murderous) undertones is almost expected of them by this point. After all, while Ghost Opera’s melancholic look at the world was pretty good, it just didn’t have that Kamelot edge that really made me stick TBH or Epica on repeat.
Poetry for the Poisoned, however, brought it in full. The album is dark, extremely so in parts — the first single, The Great Pandemonium, even has guest vocals by Bjorn “Speed” Strid of Soilwork fame. Not to mention the 4-part title track that explores the twisted love of a incubus-like vampire and his mate. The whole thing is just incredible.
…but, it isn’t quite as good as The Black Halo. Still, though, it is a definite buy.
Machinae Supremacy – A View From The End Of The World
A View is Machinae’s most versatile, energetic album ever — which is saying quite a lot, considering Machinae’s past albums. While it isn’t perfect, it is damned close. In a lot of ways this album is a return to form for the band, as they’ve gone back to home-producing just about everything.
Every track is loaded with “SiD” — the gaming-style electronic synth sounds that arguably made them who they are. Throw in some talented (and catchy!) riffing, and a much-improved lyrical style and you’ve got a recipe for kick ass metal.
Machinae has also gone back to their roots with their lyrics, choosing to switch between both up-beat, bouncy type anthems and revolutionary, fist-pumping warnings to the non-digital world. It is a combination that grabs you by the throat and holds you there for the entire album’s length. While I’d love to see a Flagcarrier style ballad, I honestly don’t mind as One Day In The Universe is one of my favorite tracks, ever.
I’ve got to say, if this was a top 5 list — I’d absolutely stick A View at the very top. It is that good.
Soilwork – The Panic Broadcast
Also known as: Welcome back, Soilwork.
The Panic Broadcast is a roaring, destructive and cataclysmic release. This is Soilwork grabbing their melodic death metal flags and flying them as high as they possibly can, declaring war on everything in their path. From the first track to the last, the album is absolutely brutal. While Soilwork has spent their last handful of albums searching for a “new” sound, TPB shows that all they really needed to do was perfect their old one. While this doesn’t quite sound like their founding albums, it does have that same sort of death groove that is intense (with an honest tablespoon of funk, seriously) yet melodic. It’s great.
Soilwork basically shows the world that you don’t have to kill the melodeath sound to make catchy, brutal songs. Late For The Kill, Early For The Slaughter and Deliverance Is Mine show that it is possible to have catchy choruses without making a song formulaic.
Now if only In Flames could do the same…
Blind Guardian – At the End of Time
Blind Guardian, while always pretty good, really hasn’t done anything groundbreaking for quite some time.
I’m happy to say that At the End of Time ends that trend. While this is quintessential power metal, the addition of extremely bombastic, symphonic elements really brings their sound back to the spotlight. While this sort of thing isn’t new for Blind Guardian or even the genre, it is done so fluidly that it increases the intensity of the traditional band.
With this album, Blind Guardian chose to focus their songwriting on various stories (such as both the Wheel of Time series), using them as inspiration for their direction. It seemed to work out pretty well for them, as while all the tracks stand on their own, the album feels pretty connected. Honestly, I was surprised that they managed to pull off such separation between the songs while keeping them sounding “together.” I’m not sure many other bands could do the same.
The intro track, Sacred Worlds, really is one of the main reasons I’ve thrown this album on here, though. It is just incredible and really serves as a great starting piece for the rest of the album. Even if you aren’t much of a Blind Guardian fan, I’d strongly suggest that track — though don’t forget about the rest of the album if you like it!
Machinae Supremacy has entered the fray once again with a new album.
The self-described “SiD Metal” band from Luleå, Sweden is known for a kind of music that isn’t really found anywhere else. This is band that combines metal, punk and video game music — a band that gained its momentum in the early 2000s by releasing tons of free songs through their website. From their origins as a internet-based act, they managed to get picked up by Spinefarm — an action that some fans feared as they thought it meant that the rebellious, pro-piracy band had sold out. However, when the band released Overworld all doubts seemed to disappear. Praised by both fans and critics alike, it seemed to cement them as a band truly loyal to their unique sound.
Does A View From The End Of The World follow in these footsteps or does it fall flat?
Let’s be honest — if you’ve been following Machinae Supremacy since their earlier days, then the answer shouldn’t surprise you.
In many ways, Machinae have gone back to their roots. This isn’t to say that Redeemer or Overworld explored extremely different paths, but they both “evolved” the band’s signature sound in two different directions. While they both were very solid albums, they left me personally feeling like something else could’ve been there — a rebellious, hopeful spirit that was present in the earlier web releases and Deus Ex Machinae. In short, it seemed like they matured just a tad too much.
When Robert and gang went back to the drawing board it seems like they felt the same thing. According to an interview, the band wanted a bit of their “old” style back, so they decided to record a good portion of the album in their own home brew fashion. I’m not sure exactly what extra control or tools it gave them, but it worked. Everything just seems much crisper compared to the past two albums.
Possibly where the “old stuff” shines through the most on this album is in the lyrics and just general tone. Yes, their are some serious undertones on some of these songs but there is also a bouncy, cheerful “gamer” sort of thing going on here. Songs like Indiscriminate Murder is Counter Productive and Crouching Camper Hidden Sniper seem to be Machinae purposely being silly, playing directly to the gamer culture that they are undeniably part of. It is easy to be critical about the lyrics and content (a song about camping in Call of Duty? Teabagging?) but if you go down that path you are completely missing the point. This isn’t Insomnium, kids. These songs are made to bang your head to when you need a jolt of energy. Or, better yet, listened to while smashing skulls online.
Another thing this album brings back is the hopeful, fist-pumping songs that they did so well during their early career. Remember tracks like Player One and Hero? They have some company in Persona, Action Girl (which could get away being called Player Two) and my personal favorite — One Day In The Universe, which is a track that tackles long distance (specifically online) dating.
These guys have just stepped it up everywhere for this album.
While Overworld was without a doubt a landmark as far as Robert’s vocals go, A View really shows us what he can do. He still has a unique sound going for him, but it is just incredibly refined compared to their earlier work — and that truly is an excellent thing. Not to mention lyrically, these choruses are outstanding. Every song on the album begs to be belted out (like a fool) while you are driving down the freeway.
Jonas, Andreas and Johan pull off some awesome stuff here as well, all of the riffing on this album feels like a perfect mix between the serious, dark riffing and the bouncier, punk-based stuff from earlier tracks. Force Feedback and Cybergenesis both hit the mark perfectly when it comes to the strings. Seriously though, the verse riff in Cybergenesis is so Machinae that I honestly have no idea how else to describe it (and it isn’t the only one).
There was also some worry that the new drummer, Niklas Karvonen, wouldn’t be able to carry the torch passed to him by departing long time band member Tomas. Have no worries though as while Niklas’ style is noticeably heavier than his predecessor, he manages to fit in just fine.
And — of course — the “SiD.” Fans seem to always want more and the band certainly has delivered here. I can’t remember a single song on this album that is missing the stuff. More importantly though, it doesn’t feel forced or sprinkled on. Machinae continues to use it just like any other instrument so it never feels gimmicky (clearly, Machinae doesn’t go for those casuals). In fact, I couldn’t imagine any of the songs without it. Some of them are completely set off by the SiD, like Action Girl, Remnant and Shinigami.
My only real complaint is that major diversity is only really found on the bookends of the album. While the middle tracks are great, they can easily bleed into one another. This is really just because Machinae has such a solid sound now that even when songs go off in a “punk” or “metal” direction, they still sound very similar. If you’re the kind of fan who likes a lot of diversity in sound like on, say, Redeemer, you might be a little disappointed.
What A View From The End Of The World really shows is the band’s passion for their music (and the culture around it). Sure, they might have a label now and a few albums under their belt, but at heart these guys are still the same group of music-loving gamers that gave us Deus-ex Machinae.
In short, remember that feeling that you got when you first picked up an SNES controller? Yeah. This album is just like that.
Buy A View From The End Of The World directly from the band here.
For a few song samples, check out Machinae Supremacy’s Youtube page.
(And shouldn’t have)
2010 has been a pretty good year for music so far. A lot of albums have dropped from all kinds of bands — I’ve been personally pleased as a few of my favorite electronic and metal bands have released some great albums. Soilwork, Kamelot, Blind Guardian, Pendulum — I’m sure I’m forgetting a few in there.
However there was one album that came out this year that I haven’t seen much mention of anywhere — no metal blogs, no alternative blogs — it seemed to be ignored despite being something fans had been waiting years for. Perhaps there was just no place for them?
I speak of Anathema and their (relatively) new album, We’re Here Because We’re Here.
For those of you unfamiliar with Anathema, they started as a very dark “doom metal” band in the vein of older Katatonia or My Dying Bride. They were, at a time, “heavy” all the while having this incredible feeling of great melancholy-ish poetry. Over the years they changed dramatically as now they have more in common with atmospheric rock than anything else (think something like Katatonia, but softer). In many ways, the “heavy” parts of the music were replaced with depressing, airy sorts of chords and vocals — yet the feel of the band remained the same. So even though their sound changed dramatically, their fans still are pretty loyal.
Over the years their sound has progressed in this atmospheric vein, each album touching on different soft notes with the “meat” staying the same — powerful yet subdued vocals with careful lyrics and an emphasis on simple instrumentation. You’re not going to find exciting solos or bombastic drumming here. The focus is on the emotions portrayed by the songs themselves and really, nothing else.
We’re Here Because We’re Here is all of that, except while most Anathema up to this point has been bleak and depressing, We’re Here sort of looks at us with a slight smile, almost-bright eyes and a sense of hope that is quite infectious. This isn’t music celebrating life though, it is music celebrating rebirth. After years and years of effortless depression, this is a band acknowledging that hope exists and that it is important.
Now, this certainly doesn’t mean that every song is cheerful. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The beauty here is that the hope isn’t conveyed through a bright future, it is conveyed by simply saying “Hey -this- exists.” Wrapping all of these subtle hints within the music makes for a very good piece of audible art.
Then, a little more than halfway through the album, the message is suddenly given in plain sight: “Life is not the opposite of death. Death is the opposite of birth. Life is eternal.”
Previous Anathema albums tugged right behind your eyes because they brought you down into a place you didn’t want to be. This one still causes the same reaction, but for entire different reasons. It’s clarity, which might be the definition of hope.
The central message of this whole album is that if we realize that hope within ourselves we receive a sort of inner peace that is infectious. I can only wonder what inspired such messages in the first place considering the band’s older subject matter.
It would be really easy to simply go down all of the songs (much like I did the last album I reviewed) but I don’t feel that is appropriate here. The central message is in the whole package, and while it can be listened to on a song-by-song basis in order to really understand it you must listen to it all the way through. It isn’t a concept album, exactly, but the messages just line up too perfectly for it to be unintentional.
It is saddening to me that Anathema hasn’t received much attention for this album as it is one of their best, without a doubt — and quite frankly, it is one of the best releases this year. Regardless of the type of music you enjoy, you should consider picking this one up, especially if you need a little boost.
“Despair is for people who know, beyond any doubt, what the future is going to bring. Nobody is in that position. So despair is not only a kind of sin, theologically, but also a simple mistake, because nobody actually knows. In that sense there always is hope.”
So Kamelot has come out with a new album, Poetry for the Poisoned. Is it any good? How does it compare to Ghost Opera? Can it topple The Black Halo or does it fall short?
Let’s jump right in.
Poetry for the Poisoned is the ninth studio album from Kamelot, sticking them up there as a band that has quite a bit of experience under their belt. While Kamelot has had a pretty steady line-up over the years, they have gone through some changes here and there. With Sean Tibbetts taking over for Glenn Barry on bass, things weren’t exactly completely stable in the “off season” since Ghost Opera. Add to that an extensive touring schedule and it seems like the band simply hasn’t rested at all since their last outing, causing some fans to worry that Poetry for the Poisoned might come out feeling just as exhausted as the band.
Still, Kamelot hasn’t exactly given fans reason to worry with their past releases — everything they’ve done up to this point has been extremely solid, with The Black Halo being considered a masterpiece by many genre aficionados. Add to that whispers of a “darker” and “heavier” album (almost metal cliches at this point, if we’re honest) and a lot of curiosity has been swirling around.
And so here we are.
Let me put this out there immediately — this is a different Kamelot album. Without a doubt it is darker than its predecessors, an album full of songs about lust, demons, murderers and death… and yet there is a certain source of romance that this whole album toys with, hints of it coming out in Khan’s voice and in the jazzy, psuedo-blues guitar playing of Thomas Youngblood. The album twists and turns with melancholy thoughts and sounds that are new ground for Kamelot, yet it never tries to suffocate you with them.
Though despite all the “new” dark edges, this is still Kamelot. It is just new enough to be interesting without turning older fans of the band off. It isn’t trying to be a complete revolution for the band, rather simply a dark diversion.
Rather than giving an overlapping sort of description of the whole album, I’ll go through all of the songs and then provide you with my overarching thoughts.
The Great Pandemonium is a song that could have been tentatively called “March of Mephisto Part 2.” It has that same twist of evil swirled in with Roy Khan’s incredible vocals. With Bjorn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork, Disarmonia Mundi) providing guttural shouts in the background the atmosphere is absolutely insane. So far this is my favorite track on the album and I find it impossible to listen to without looking like a complete fool at my desk headbanging and throwing the horns in the air. (Don’t judge me!) My only complaint is that I really would’ve liked to hear more of Speed on this track as I don’t think he was utilized enough.
If Tomorrow Came reminds me a lot of newer Nightwish, with very bombastic choppy guitars reminiscent of alternative metal up front and synths fading in and out in the background. The chorus here is the best part of the song, in my opinion, as it is just impossible to get out of your head (as is the first verse). The guitar throughout this song is pretty forgettable up until out of nowhere Thomas brings us a delightful solo that seems to lift everything else up.
Dear Editor and The Zodiac are pretty much the same song, as Dead Editor is the intro to The Zodiac. This is I think the creepiest song Kamelot has never done simply because of what it is about — the Zodiac killer. When John Olivia (Savatage, John Olivia’s Pain, Tran-Siberian Orchestra) suddenly comes out over Khan my eyes lit straight up. It is deliciously evil, digging its hooks in and startling you to the bone. This is a song about a killer who was never captured, an incredibly twisted man that chases a thrill and that sort of feeling is portrayed wonderfully. It seems too short to me, though. I really wish it was as long as Memento Mori as I feel it would’ve been a perfect song to stretch out. Alas, wanting a song to be longer is pretty telling of its quality.
Hunter’s Season stands as the longest single song on the album (not counting the Poetry for the Poisoned series) and to me it also seems to remind me quite a bit of Ghost Opera. It has that same sort of bombastic operatic feeling, the drumming almost a part of the orchestra rather than the “up front” sound. Where this track really scores though is the solo by Gus G. (Firewind, Ozzy Osbourne) halfway through that sounds almost discordant. Gus G. really shines here — while you can clearly tell it is in his style, he manages to bring in a “Kamelot-y” feel as to fit it in musically.
House On A Hill is a ballad with Simone Simons (Epica). Do you really need to know any more? This feels very much like The Haunting to me, except slower and with a hint of The Fourth Legacy style acoustic guitar that hints at where this band has come from. Once again, it feels really short to me even though it is over four minutes long. Near the end the guitar is just intoxicating, probably my favorite acoustic bit that Kamelot has done so far.
Necropolis is stuck right in the middle of the album and while I like it, I feel as if it isn’t quite as strong as the other tracks. The chorus is really strong (a trend on this album) but it just seems very generic at its bookends. With that said, the middle of this song is great. The violin-guitar dueling thing never gets old, I just wish that theme was carried throughout the whole song.
My Train Of Thoughts is a song completely built around a chugging sort of chorus that seems to build up as the song moves on. While I love the chorus here, the real meat of this song is right after the 2:50 mark when everything seems to “wake up” and push it over the edge. The choir added to the final verse is haunting — especially how it hints at the next track.
Seal Of Woven Years is an excellent example of how to use an orchestra in metal. The first thirty seconds or so set up the rest of the track, letting it build on itself with a proper pace that doesn’t feel rushed. This lets the orchestral bits stand on their own without sounding like a gimmick. In addition, this track reminds me very much of older Fourth Legacy era Kamelot, the echoing cries of Khan in the background very much bringing me back to tracks like Alexandria.
The Poetry For The Poisoned series is really one song split up into four parts that can stand on their own but are really meant to be listened to in sequence. It is an epic about an Incubus who hunts his prey, stalking her, catching her and then latching on. First of all, before we discuss anything else — I was completely unaware that Simone Simons could hit such notes. Color me impressed. Secondly, there are so many separate elements in these mini-songs that it feels very much like an epic. I really wish that this whole album was built on this concept as the execution here is perfect. The end of the trilogy (Dissection) is incredible — everyone involved shows off just a little bit as it comes to a screeching, discordant halt. More.
Once Upon A Time serves the same purpose that Serenade did on The Black Halo — to give us a song to pull the album together while still letting off steam from the ending of a major story. The way this song begins once again reminds me of Kamelot’s past however it quickly evolves into something much darker and brooding. It is the perfect track to end the album on as I feel it pulls your spirit up after the trouncing it received during the more sadistic parts of the album.
Ultimately, Poetry For The Poisoned is an excellent album however it doesn’t quite hit the mark set by The Black Halo. While many of the elements are there, I feel that TBH has a little more cohesion. If Kamelot decided to use the whole “Poetry for the Poisoned” concept for the entire album I feel that it probably would’ve surpassed TBH. Still, the songs we’ve received are quite excellent. I can’t name a single song that doesn’t have a chorus that is addictive. I’ve only had the album for a single day now and already I feel its hooks being planted firmly under my skin.
If you haven’t picked up this album yet I strongly suggest you do so, and while you’re at it buy a second copy — Kamelot is currently releasing it through their own independent label meaning that they will be getting more from individual record sales. Help ‘em out! They make great music.
(Note: excuse the typos! I have a headache from staring at my monitor, so I’ll have to come back to double check this! I wanted to get it out the door before I have to deal with class tomorrow!)