Showing posts with label folk metal. Show all posts
Showing posts with label folk metal. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

video review: 'forgotten paths' by saor

Just catching up on a few posts here - and this is a fantastic album. One of the best of 2019, definitely worth it!

Saturday, February 16, 2019

album review: 'forgotten paths' by saor

So when I covered Astronoid a week or so ago, I mentioned that in my exploration of black metal I tended to gravitate towards more of the atmospheric side and the stuff that was blending in sounds from other genres, adding a little more familiar colour and texture to ease me in. And in 2016, after a draining year where I had again not covered enough black metal and I desperately wanted to hear more, I found an album by an English band called Saor, where they were taking atmospheric black metal textures and blending them with Celtic folk...

And the rest is history. That album Guardians wound up as one of my favourites of 2016, a windswept, textured experience balancing out acoustics, strings, and even bagpipes against the surging tremolo guitar lines and guttural vocals for a wild, cacophonous experience rich with huge melodies, and absolutely keeping them as a band to watch going forward. And for me, it was those layered melodies that sealed the deal - almost a visceral, borderline power metal appeal at its root, it was a band striving to sound epic and they absolutely nailed it, so you can bet I was interesting in their newest project. Four massive songs, with Neige of Alcest contributing vocals to the title track, this was one of my most anticipated albums of 2019 - so what did Saor bring with Forgotten Paths?

Friday, September 28, 2018

video review: 'fortress of primal grace' by vallendusk

Man alive, I really did enjoy this - great black metal, sorry I got to it so late.

Now back to the hip-hop train and an episode of Resonators for which I'm genuinely excited - stay tuned!

Thursday, September 27, 2018

album review: 'fortress of primal grace' by vallendusk

It seems like every damn year around this time I make the statement that I just don't feel like I've covered enough black metal... and to be fair, some of that has come with schedule complications I've been struggling to work through over the past several months, but this review has been overdue for long enough!

So, Vallendusk. I first covered the Indonesian band way back in 2015 when I working to get into black metal, and while I had really dug their breakthrough album Black Clouds Gathering from 2013 for flat-out insane guitarwork and some really striking melodic composition balancing acoustic passages with more atmospheric black metal, their follow-up didn't quite resonate as much as I had hoped, mostly through expanding their sound towards folk metal in ways that only seemed to detract from a rock solid core. And what got a little frustrating is that the talent was still very much there, but either through production missteps or the introduction of some awkward clean vocals and organs or just a few weird compositional choices held the project back for me. Still a good record, just not quite great... but for all intents and purposes, Vallendusk had redoubled on the raw atmospheric black metal this time around for Fortress Of Primal Grace, and while I'm extremely late to the party, that was effectively what I was hoping they'd do here. And considering nobody else on YouTube seems to have covered this, might as well be me - so what did Vallendusk deliver with this?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

video review: 'homeward path' by vallendusk

Goddamn, I'm happy that I was able to do this. Next up, Panopticon - and yes, then I'm going to be covering Arca, Alessia Cara, and Freddie Gibbs, so stay tuned!

album review: 'homeward path' by vallendusk

So here's one of my favourite things about this semi-professional music critic thing: the research. There's very few things that really grab my attention than venturing into certain genres and slowly beginning to untangle their more intricate elements or finding bands that might be related to what you want to cover. After all, if I want to be considered remotely credible when I cover a band, you need to know the context where it was created.

As such, when I prepared to cover Deafheaven's New Bermuda a month or so back, I knew that I had to hear more black metal than just Sunbather to build a workable opinion, so I went deeper. I found acts like Wolves In The Throne Room and In The Woods... that I'd actually argue I liked more, so I figured if I could find more black metal that brushed up against progressive metal or atmospheric folk, I'd probably find more acts that'd run up my alley. So when I heard positive buzz coming out about the sophomore record from Indonesian black metal act Vallendusk - thanks, Myke C-Town! - I figured I'd dig up their debut album Black Clouds Gathering and explore. And I'm definitely glad I did - like most Indonesian metal acts, the guitarwork was ridiculously strong, but I also found a lot in the untamed and bleak poetry to like to match with the huge melodies, with imagery that wasn't quite visceral or incredibly dark but set a fantastically creepy mood to pay it all off. In other words, it definitely had earned the critical acclaim it had received, and as such as I was curious to dig into their newest release that was dropped a few months back called Homeward Path - what did we get?

Saturday, March 28, 2015

video review: 'endless forms most beautiful' by nightwish

Another album from a favourite band of mine that just doesn't deliver. Not a bad record, but pretty far from great. Eh, it happens.

Next up, I think it's about time I finally get that Modest Mouse review done... stay tuned!

album review: 'endless forms most beautiful' by nightwish

Back when I reviewed Blind Guardian's most recent and pretty damn awesome album Beyond The Red Mirror, I made the comment that it was one of two bands that got me into metal, and without those bands, I probably would never have become a music critic. The second band was always more symphonic, more gothic, and a fair bit more complicated to talk about. Yep, it's time to talk about a band of which I've been a fan for probably over a decade, the first metal band I saw live, a band that has been around for less time than Blind Guardian but is substantially more difficult to talk about. Yes, folks, it's time we talk about the Finnish symphonic metal titan Nightwish, a band that began in a campfire conversations in the mid-90s and spiralled away into becoming one of the most successful acts of the genre. And for the purposes of this conversation, I'm going to divide their output into three distinct categories, categorized by their female lead singer: the Tarja era, the Anette era, and the Floor era.

Nightwish began more in the realm of acoustic-flavoured power and symphonic metal, and their late 90s output was a time of developing a refining a sound that would become iconic, buoyed by the sharply melodic songwriting of Tuomas Holopainen and the glorious vocals of Tarja Turunen. Tuomas was always the band's mastermind when it came to composition, and the choice not to go with a heavy rhythm guitar section meant that melody was placed to the forefront over groove. It wasn't until 2002 and the addition of bassist Marco Hielata that the darker gothic elements moved much closer to the forefront along with some of their best compositions like 'Ever Dream', but the metal landscape was shifting too, with the success of Evanescence suddenly opening up a window for similar sounding - and better - bands to break. Suddenly, the symphonic metal sound was commercially viable, and Nightwish rode that wave to their - at that time - biggest album Once in 2004. And going back to that album, while the seeds were planted for their later expansion, it's also a very compromised record in terms of the subject matter, and I'd argue only about half of that album is very good or up to their usual standard.

And that compromised vision certainly did bleed into the band, which fired frontwoman Tarja Turunen in 2005 and split the fanbase in two with the arrival of Anette Olzon, signalling the second major era for the band. It was a time that signalled even greater ambitions for the band, who ditched any pretense towards following trends and grabbed up richer musical influences wholesale for 2007's Dark Passion Play. And yes, while Anette was not as technically refined and powerful of a singer as Tarja, she balanced against the loose roughness and eclectic style of the album far better, which was able to get darker without needing gothic pretense. Where pretense did become a factor was in Tuomas' writing, which had always walked the line of being too clever and yet bitingly straightforward. And the while the symphonic element became more and more prominent, first with the inclusion of Troy Donockley on the pipes and second with the heavier usage of orchestras, inspired by Tuomas' love of film scores. So it almost seems logical that that their 2011 album Imaginaerum would be paired with a movie and feel even larger and heavier than the last. And it was, and while I could argue that the album was even more self-referential than usual in terms of themes and lyrics, it features some of Nightwish's best melodic compositions and was overall a fantastic release.

But the problems weren't over, and midway through the tour Anette was fired and replaced with Floor Jansen of After Forever. Now there's a lot of ugliness to that conversation and nobody looks good, but it led to Floor Jansen joining the band full time along with Troy Donockley for their next album. Unfortunately, drummer Jukka Nevalainen had to take a brief hiatus and his drums were instead recorded by Kai Hahto, of the melodic death metal acts Swallow The Sun and Wintersun. Also in that intervening time, both Marco Hielata and Troy Donockley participated on the progressive metal album The Theory of Everything from Ayreon, easily one of the best records of that year, and I had to wonder if any progressive influences would be creeping towards Nightwish, especially with Marco as a secondary writer. And then I heard Nightwish was going to be discussing themes surrounding evolution on the album, even quoting Richard Dawkins! Keep in mind that the majority of Nightwish's material seems to fit in its own universe, and the last time they came remotely close to getting political was 'The Kinslayer' back on Wishmaster in 2000! To put things in context, Epica spent almost a decade trying to refinne their political messages before getting it to work consistently - I had no doubts that Tuomas was a good songwriter, but he's playing in a very different ballpark here!

In other words... look, even as a fan, I had no damn clue what to expect from this. Nightwish aiming for an even heavier sound, stabbing outwards with new subject matter and with a good half of the band changed, I had no idea what to expect, especially considering I wasn't really in love with Tuomas' solo album he dropped in 2014, written around the same time as this record. But I'm still a fan and at the very least it'd be an entertaining record, so what did we get with Endless Forms Most Beautiful?