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Woolie_Wool
Facets of Predictability

Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 6:56 pm
Posts: 2116
Location: United States
PostPosted: Wed Jun 15, 2016 2:45 am 
 

Well I finally managed to force myself to sit through Dream Theater's The Astonishing, it is worse, so, so much worse than I ever could have imagined. I was expecting to give it a rating in the 40s or so--it's such a trainwreck that it comes within a breath of getting a zero. Here's my draft:

Dream Theater Dies on Broadway – 2%

Anyone who knows me for long will know of my enduring and absolute adoration for Dream Theater’s first three albums and their grandiose, brilliant, massively overblown yet infectiously catchy blend of classic ‘80s power metal and classic ‘70s prog rock. Those three will probably be desert island albums for me as long as I live. James LaBrie’s fiery power metal belting and Kevin Moore’s shimmering synth work will be burned into my brain for eternity. However, this is not one of those albums. Today, I have come not to praise Dream Theater, but to bury them.

The Astonishing is neither progressive rock nor power metal, nor even the tedious Wacken festival metal that replaced the USPM in their sound in later years. This is sappy, treacly, sticky AOR like you might find in a waiting room (but the bands on your local waiting room’s soft-rock station do it much better than this), with the majority of the running time devoted to piano ballads. And boy, do these ballads suck. Jordan Rudess is a Juilliard-trained pianist, but it doesn’t show here—his piano lines are sub-Elton-John schmaltz, plonking in the left hand, tinkling in the right, playing memorable melodies with neither. Piano dentistry (to repurpose a phrase from critic George Starostin) is what this is—mechanical, repetitive tedium occasionally interrupted with moments of nearly unbearable agony. His garish “orchestrations” are no better, all soppy film soundtrack strings and fruity neo-Baroque hornpipe fanfares. I pity Mike Mangini; it must suck replacing notorious martinet Mike Portnoy and not only getting nowhere near the respect and authority Portnoy commanded, but being left out of songwriting sessions and not even allowed to play on half the album because of the relentless onslaught of balladry. When he does play, it’s nothing special. He projects no personality or individual style whatsoever, obediently keeping time.

I mean, it’s not like it’s impossible to write decent AOR-based prog rock either. Dream Theater themselves did it on the first side of Images and Words, serving up two heartfelt ballads in “Another Day” and “Surrounded”. Those were passionate and energetic, and Kevin Moore’s piano work served as an endless stream of powerful melodies and rich textures. Eloy’s 1994 comeback The Tides Return Forever is nearly all prog-AOR, and is a perfectly serviceable album with great hooks, and that one did it despite having a marginal singer with a German accent thick enough to be a speech impediment. The Astonishing, for all its Broadway melodrama and “emotional” songwriting, is soulless. For an album that pretends to be a parable of the centrality of human beings and human feelings to art, the actual music sounds like a product of one of the “NOMAC” robots depicted in the story—a computer calculating the optimal way to tug the heartstrings of credulous hew-mons.

Oh yeah, the concept. This pulsating, cancerous mass of bad ideas has displaced the actual music as the core of this album, being heavily featured in the awful, awful, no good, very bad promotional material that preceded the album’s release, with maps and character bios and other ancillary bullshit you’d expect from a Japanese anime-themed RPG. At least the lyrics on their early albums, while being completely meaningless, at least sounded vaguely cool, projecting weird fantasy imagery with deliberately obscure language and letting the listener’s imagination fill in the details. If Dream Theater wrote “The Killing Hand” from their first album today, there would be a 30-page short story about the history of the titular Killing Hand and the country that he rules, some Killing Hand merch, Killing Hand desktop wallpapers, and maybe an animated narrative music video produced by a Malaysian sweatshop, and no one, no one, with an ounce of self-respect would ever consume any of it.

And as well as being soulless, dishonest, treacly, goopy, and infested with terrible ballads, this album is long. There are around thirty tracks (not including the occasional burst of Skrillex-like ambient noise/dubstep that comes out of nowhere and disappears just as quickly), all of mostly similar lengths and generally homogenous composition. The total running time comes out to over two hours and ten minutes, and believe me, it will be the longest 130 minutes of your life. Structureless balladic non-songs come and go, spewing trite chord progressions and the occasional plodding, chugging downtuned guitar riff that relates to nothing and resolves to nothing. Overture-like things cycle through numerous unrelated themes with no logical transitions or any sense that these abominations were even composed rather than being hastily stitched together from rejected opening themes from previous songs and albums. It is mostly futile to try to distinguish many of them; especially on a particularly dire stretch in the middle of the first disc, the ballads run into each other and you start to feel like you’re drowning in an endless sea of melted sugar.

On the occasions where the band does wake up and start actually playing together, the “heavy” riffs are almost impossibly enervated, wallowing like a teenaged boy refusing to get up and go to school. Solos are rare, perfunctory, and largely unimpressive both technically and musically. People like to complain about intrusive “wankery” in Dream Theater’s music, but a long, winding noodly prog hoedown in this album would serve as a sorely needed relief from the melodramatic vocal and piano horseshit. Here John Petrucci grinds out some basic Guitar Center arpeggios like he’s passing a rock-hard, fist-sized morphine shit and Jordan Rudess listlessly responds with a squealy fourth-year-student synth lead platitude (how does he manage to stay awake?) and then the band collapses in defeat. And normally at some point in a Dream Theater album John Myung plays some tricky bass thing to remind the audience that he exists, but not here. He might as well have not shown up to the studio sessions—no one would ever know the difference.

So with the band essentially comatose, a massive burden falls on James LaBrie and his singing voice to do something, anything, to move the album along. But it’s not 1993 again and his worn old pipes aren’t getting any younger, and it would be a Sisyphean task to save this dross anyway, so mostly he follows the path of least resistance and falls back on soft-rock clichés—the breathiness, always his biggest vice as a singer, is absolutely out of control here and his tone sometimes threatens to dissolve altogether into a hoarse whisper. Occasionally he attempts to affect a different tone to portray some of the story’s different characters, particularly the ludicrous, cackling antagonist “Lord Nafaryus” (I’m not kidding), where he goes for a Harry Conklin-like sneer but mostly sounds like a cat coughing up a hairball.

Few of the tracks on this album rise to the level of being worthy of the title “song”, but the few that do wouldn’t have made it past the demo stage on the Octavarium or Systematic Chaos sessions (to say nothing of the glory days of the early ‘90s, where none of this garbage would have even been conceived at all). First up is the lead single “The Gift of Music”, a tired Rush derivation that sounds like “The Trees” on Valium combined with the lyrical banality of “The Temple of Syrinx” and a shitty Flower Kings piano diarrhea splatter for a pre-chorus to add an additional shot of empty sentimentality. One thing it doesn’t sound like is Dream Theater, but neither does much else on this album. John Petrucci’s solo here is well above average for the album, which means it’s about 10% as good as what is normally expected of him.

“Act of Faythe” earns attention for sheer comedy value—like the sort of thing that might have played on The Simpsons when Homer undergoes some dreadful circumstance that imparts an Important Life Lesson that is milked for all the faux pathos it’s worth. It rides on the back of a pitiful maudlin minor-key string nothing and empty piano tinkling, eventually joined by vacuous backing guitar chords and a stock backbeat. James LaBrie gives the hands-down worst singing performance of his entire career, squeaking into the mic in a frightening teenage girl impression, outrushing breath overwhelming his feeble vocalizations. When I heard this I crumpled in my chair from laughing, it is so transparent, so cack-handed, so utterly incompetent at evoking an emotional reaction from the audience.

The album’s only lengthy song, “A New Beginning” is the only composition on this album that sounds like a Dream Theater song. It too is saddled with gross Baroque vulgarities, risible character impressions from LaBrie, and occasional interjections of piano dentistry, but it has a modicum of energy, actual bona fide metal riffs, and a few Yes-like prog rock melodies that manage to be mildly catchy. The bridge gets up off its ass and hauls, with frantic Hammond organ dueling with raging shred guitar leading up to a cathartic unison and an atmospheric bass-led groove section (so John Myung is alive after all!) that manages to have a real sense of swing (and is the one moment where Mangini proves to be better at something than Mike Portnoy—Portnoy would have ejaculated fills and clever little drumming devices all over this section and ruined the flow, whereas Mangini just keeps the groove rolling). If the entire album were composed like this, I’d give it a 60% rating and say it’s a bland retread of past Dream Theater glories—but it’s still an actual signature Dream Theater song, and in this company it’s a drink of clear, pure, cold water in the middle of a desert. It also saves this album—barely—from a zero rating.

Our final genuine song of the album is “Losing Faythe”, which returns to comedy territory (the character and unintentional bathos seem to go hand in hand). So our hero’s girlfriend got unceremoniously killed off in the previous track (the unspeakably obscene “My Last Farewell”--I think the title alone should be sufficient to dissuade non-masochists from exploring further). This song is a horrific rehash of the lighter-waving religious anthem “The Spirit Carries On” off 1999’s Scenes from a Memory, a song which already danced on the razor’s edge between touching balladry and self-parody, but this version falls clear over the edge into the darkest pits of humiliating silliness. It begins with some blatantly fake weeping (think the end of Anthrax’s viciously satirical “N.F.B. (Dallabnikufesin)”, but this takes itself entirely seriously!), and sounds like something some sensitive-guy ‘90s Christian rock band would play in a coffee shop: “inspirational” garbage lyrics about the villain’s miraculous redemption with fucking atrocious puns (puns!) on the deceased Faythe’s name, delivered in a counterfeit Chris Cornell howl, oozing with slimy sentimentality, backed by the regimented plonk of Rudess’ dentistry and mindless atonal bloops from Petrucci’s guitar. The solo is dogshit, a cheap, slow-moving melody any beginner could come up with that lasts for all of ten seconds or so before its merciful euthanasia.

I suppose that’s supposed to serve as the climax of this shit sandwich of an album, much like it’s vastly superior forebear served as the high water mark for Scenes from a Memory, but “Losing Faythe” is such a consummate failure that it fails to provide any sort of resolution, either story-wise (apparently Nafaryus—*stifled giggles*—is instantly forgiven after he accepts Our Lord Jesus and his heart grows three sizes and never has to accept responsibility for anything?) or musically—the closing few tracks are a confused mess of jumbled themes regurgitated from earlier in the album that go nowhere and accomplish nothing. The album grinds to a halt and dies, its shambling hulk smashing itself to bits as it clatters to the floor.

The same, one hopes, will happen to Dream Theater’s career, to spare the boys from Long Island the indignity of having to continue on with this smoking, gaping hole blasted in their legacy. Not that I’m holding my breath—this self-indulgent, tragicomic farce seems to be doing quite well with critics despite its musical and artistic worthlessness and total lack of any connection to what made this band a vital and creative force many years ago. This hurts me. It hurts to listen to this album it hurts to write about this album, it hurts to finally be forced to accept that a once-unstoppable prog metal juggernaut, a band I once called my favorite, is finally, irrevocably dead as a creative force. This album gets 2% for “A New Beginning”, otherwise it has no redeeming qualities whatsoever. If you like Dream Theater, if you like progressive music, if you like music in general that has heart and integrity and human feelings put into it, stay the hell away. Dream Theater is dead.

Killer Tracks: “A New Beginning” is listenable, I guess.
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 12:52 am 
 

Woolie_Wool wrote:
Dream Theater's The Astonishing

I get it. You don't like it. Don't play with your food. If you want to shame an album, make your points acurately and demolish it systematically. Cut the word count in half, and that's just to start with.


mikey22 wrote:
I wrote help!

You need more help than we're able to provide here. Take it to an English composition tutor at your school. That tutor will be able to work with you one on one, teach you how to locate and correct your errors, show you how to select the relevant information in your draft and streamline your themes, and how to craft a composition in an organized way. If you want to progress in school, you're going to have to learn this stuff back to front, or higher education professors are going to punish you. If you don't take my advice, you're likely to get sent to a writing lab under very ugly circumstances eventually. Do yourself a favor and go there on your own now. You've shown a willingness to work, and that will serve you well.

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mikey22
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PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 1:44 pm 
 

Grave_Wyrm wrote:
You need more help than we're able to provide here. Take it to an English composition tutor at your school. That tutor will be able to work with you one on one, teach you how to locate and correct your errors, show you how to select the relevant information in your draft and streamline your themes, and how to craft a composition in an organized way. If you want to progress in school, you're going to have to learn this stuff back to front, or higher education professors are going to punish you. If you don't take my advice, you're likely to get sent to a writing lab under very ugly circumstances eventually. Do yourself a favor and go there on your own now. You've shown a willingness to work, and that will serve you well.


Thanks Grave_Wyrm you are a real true helper.

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Woolie_Wool
Facets of Predictability

Joined: Tue Jan 31, 2006 6:56 pm
Posts: 2116
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Jun 20, 2016 7:37 pm 
 

Grave_Wyrm wrote:
Woolie_Wool wrote:
Dream Theater's The Astonishing

I get it. You don't like it. Don't play with your food. If you want to shame an album, make your points acurately and demolish it systematically. Cut the word count in half, and that's just to start with.

And what's the fun in that? All my favorite super-negative reviews on M-A go to deliberate excess, like that amazing Napero review of The Glorious Burden, which is so beautifully insulting I aspire to one day create a review that is half as brutal.
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 1:16 am 
 

A) we're not talking about Napero. Napero is good at this.
B) His is a substantial, organized review with well-articulated and well-considered points of view comprehensively destroying the album in an entertaining way, all the while serving a larger point. Furthermore, it's easy to read even though it's long. Your review is neither comprehensive destruction, nor easy to read. It's just long.

If you aspire to a certain style, that's all well and good. For your own sake, though, aspire; don't ape. And don't try to throw a good review and a good reviewer in to meat shield for your comparatively lesser work.

I recommend that you start with a well articulated, shorter insulting review first. When you can manage a sturdy critique of one of your target's central themes as coherently as Napero did with patriotism, then you'll be on to something.

Don't get me wrong. I support your desire to tear this album up all you want. It's going to be all the more satisfying when you do so as well as you aspire to.

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2Eagle333
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PostPosted: Tue Jun 21, 2016 4:10 pm 
 

Generally, for a review trying to be highly negative, it actually seems to spend too much time not doing that or going in that direction. A long review of a 'long' album could easily be snide and work, that hence could make sense. Nonetheless, it spends a lot of time on back-ground and is forced to sort of shoe-horn its negative elements in, rather than framing things negatively from the beginning, and hence comes across as a conventional review with a bunch of expletives thrown in later. In addition, most of the 'negativity' is merely restricted to the choice of adjectives, and kept away from the overall portrayal. This makes the review seem slightly disjointed in this, and lacking in focus.

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Osore
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Joined: Thu Apr 10, 2014 9:55 am
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Location: Serbia
PostPosted: Fri Jul 01, 2016 10:33 pm 
 

Hi, I would like to ask a native English speaker to proofread my review because it was suggested upon its rejection. I don't think there's a lot to be fixed, just a small details, but I need to ask here because I don't know native English speaker in person.
I hope this is not a Herculiean request. Here's the review:


Shock chewing gum

Sorrow Plagues was one of my favourite bands in post-black metal niche until this record came out. An Eternity of Solitude and Disconsolate EP showed that David is capable of creating music enriched with lethargic, but strong sorrow that has enough variety which makes every repetition successful.

When single Aspiration (lately included into self-titled album) was released, I was satisfied with it because it provided something new and kept nice atmosphere. After a while, second single called Fade appeared and I immediately identified it as an evil twin of Aspirations for its overused elements that resemble violin or a synth (or other synthetic and artificial indefinable 'instrument'). When album appeared it was clear that this long sound is stretched like a cheap chewing gum through entire record except for the last song, Redemption.

I can forget usage of a drum machine (with decent dynamics here), but putting guitars in a background and giving them only a few small spots where they can settle down awfully repeated bright robotics in a favour of a more natural, forlorn sound that shares with it only the same notes. This is a clear example of how the same stuff played on different instruments (and software) can completely change the emotional effect.

Songs have a potential to develop, but they disappoint very quickly which is easy to hear on Surrender that sounds promising in first 16 seconds with nicely distorted, swirling guitar(s), before the drums appear, stepping on a mentioned gum that sticks vigorously for 3 minutes and after that recedes for a few seconds in a favour of some nostalgic notes which appear to be played on a piano (you're never sure with 'multi-instrumentalist'). Only Redemption succeeds in achieving good quality 'cheerful melancholia' typical for post music and it's not because it's the most post-rock and the least post-black track here, but because it doesn't want for us only to chew, it wants for us to eat, to feast on its black bile mixed with victorious spices in ratio 1:3. Length of Redemption is justified by ability to holds attention with 'positive gradient' (or crescendo) that is being built from the beginning until the end; same strategy and similar sound is used by post-rock bands like Sleeping Bear, Líam and If these Trees could Talk.

If you like uplifting post-black metal very distanced from black metal's essence, this record might be your cup of tea. And if you have auditory problems, don't worry, there's nothing to shock you.
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Osore
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 1:59 am 
 

I made some changes (bold) and submitted this 2nd version:

Shocking chewing gum

Sorrow Plagues was one of my favourite bands in post-black metal niche until this record came out. An Eternity of Solitude and Disconsolate EP showed that David is capable of creating music enriched with lethargic, but prominent sorrow and enough variety among successful repetition.

When single Aspiration (lately included into self-titled album) was released, I was satisfied with it because it provided something new while keeping nice atmosphere. After a while, second single called Fade appeared and I immediately identified it as an evil twin of Aspirations because of its overused elements that resemble violin or a synth (or other synthetic and artificial indefinable 'instrument'). When album appeared it was clear that this long sound is stretched like a cheap chewing gum through entire record except for the last song, Redemption.

I can forget usage of a drum machine (with decent dynamics here), but putting guitars in a background and giving them only a few small spots where they can overshadow awfully repeated bright robotics in a favour of a more natural, forlorn sound that shares with them only the same notes. This is a clear example of how the same stuff played on different instruments (including programmed) can completely change the emotional effect on a listener.

Songs have a potential to develop, but they disappoint very quickly which is easy to hear on Surrender that sounds promising in first 16 seconds with nicely distorted, swirling guitar(s), before the drums appear, stepping on a mentioned gum that sticks vigorously for 3 minutes and after that recedes for a few seconds in a favour of some nostalgic notes which appear to be played on a piano (you're never sure with 'multi-instrumentalist').

Only Redemption succeeds in achieving good quality 'cheerful melancholia' typical for post music and it's not because it's the most post-rock and the least post-black track here, but because it doesn't want for us only to chew, it wants for us to eat, to feast on its black bile mixed with victorious spices in ratio 1:3. Length of Redemption is justified by the ability to hold attention with positive gradient (or crescendo) that is built from the beginning until the end; same strategy and similar sound is used by post-rock bands like Sleeping Bear, Líam and If these Trees could Talk.

If you like uplifting post-black metal very distanced from black metal's essence, this record might be your cup of tea. And if you have auditory problems, don't worry, there's nothing to shock you.
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 10:14 am 
 

I'm not sure you need to know a native speaker, just someone around you who knows how to speak English well. Are you in school? This is a job for whoever's teaching you English. There are compositional problems here along with the English errors that would likely be best handled by a teacher or tutor.

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Osore
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 11:19 am 
 

I'm at the University and I don't learn English for 3 years now. I think nobody outside metal would like to deal with this. I don't know anyone who's into this, I'm surounded by biology freaks.
*I noticed that I should've used forgive instead of forget.
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:15 pm 
 

There will be a writing center at your campus. Take it to them as an example and ask for their help. I'm sorry, man, I don't have the time to be an English tutor. This really should be part of your university's resources. My apologies.

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Osore
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Location: Serbia
PostPosted: Sat Jul 02, 2016 9:38 pm 
 

I understand you completely and I'm already feeling guilty for requesting such a thing.
I study at the University of Belgrade, Faculty of Biology which doesn't have a campus (some people blame former communistic regime, but I don't know why everything is scattered across the city) plus my Faculty doesn't have it's own building. Horrible! And if I say to you that there's no English besides for English 1 and English 2 which are elective courses with stupid program without writing tasks (for 9 years of English I had to write a text only one or twice as a homework 7 years ago).
We work according to Bologna declaration, but it's implemented wrong as a hybrid crippled monster of new and old. I think I said more than I should, sorry about that. Serbia is not a good place to live in.
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Last edited by Osore on Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2016 4:26 pm 
 

I'm sorry to hear that, man. I was kind of afraid your situation would be something like this. I'll have some free time eventually, and I'll keep you in mind.

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Osore
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 03, 2016 5:01 pm 
 

It's ok, a user contacted me and already helped a lot, the whole review should be corrected soon. Much appreciation for your responses! ;-)
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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 2:50 am 
 

Ah cool. Glad that worked out.

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MatsBG
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PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 9:49 am 
 

I would love to hear some feedback on my review of Manilla Road's The Courts of Chaos. Does the review feel too long? Should I explain the music more? It's my first one, so I know there are probably some parts that could use some work, but I feel uncertain of which parts. Thanks in advance!

The review is based on the reissue by Shadow Kingdom Records.

Spoiler: show
Manilla Road – The Courts of Chaos – 85%

Manilla Road, one of the underground’s most revered metal bands, is one of the few acts that, while staying true to their signature sound, also manages to expand and evolve their music without sacrificing the songwriting. The smooth and logical evolution from their humble first outputs Invasion and Metal to the more aggressive and complex albums of Mystification and Out of the Abyss cemented Manilla Road’s knack for seamlessly experimenting with their musical image, as well as elevating them to the status of one of the genres most interesting bands. But by the time of the release of the 1990 album The Courts of Chaos, the last album from their “golden era”, integral struggles surfaced, with bassist Scott “Scooter” Park losing interest in the music scene. Issues with touring and scheduling also led to the departure of drummer Randy “Thrasher” Foxe, leaving only founding member and band-leader Mark “The Shark” Shelton after the albums release. However, despite the split that would inevitably happen, The Courts of Chaos is heralded as the last true classic Manilla Road album. But does the album live up to the standard set by the preceding albums? Or is it plagued by the internal problems of a seemingly waning band?

Released after the speed-monster that was Out of the Abyss, Manilla Road opted for a more atmospheric sound on their 1990 album, and unsurprisingly it was just what such a follow-up album needed. “Chastised” for its emphasis on aggression, Out of the Abyss saw Manilla Road at a crossroad; either continue on the road of controlled chaos, no pun intended, or take a few steps back to the more atmospheric numbers like The Deluge or Dreams of Eschaton. Manilla Road, being prone to chasing new ways of presenting their style, brought in a heavier use of keyboards to emulate a more gothic or, for the lack of a better word, campy approach to atmosphere. Album opener, the instrumental Road to Chaos, is the perfect introduction to the style presented on the album, where a creepy keyboard-driven intro in the vein of classic Hammer Horror movies sets the tone. The epic title track and The Prophecy, with its almost Seventh Son of a Seventh Son vibe, are also perfect examples of the correct use of keyboards to further encompass a more gothic vibe without sacrificing the Manilla Road sound. But the album is not without its “thrashier” counterparts, where tracks like Dig Me No Grave and (Vlad) The Impaler serves as the more standard musical numbers, with the former sporting a catchy chorus and some brooding riffs, while the latter is all about breakneck speed. Special mention also goes to the song From Beyond, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name, where the musical soundscape sounds almost as weird and alien as the text it is inspired by. With an eerie, yet groovy beginning, the song quickly evolves into a chaotic piece highlighted by frantic riffs, aggressive vocals and paranoid lyrics. Surely one of the more memorable pieces from the album, even if the song itself is not one of the albums highlights.

The Courts of Chaos also emphasises the epic nature of Manilla Road more than the previous album, with epic numbers such as the aforementioned title track and The Prophecy, as well as one of the band’s crowning achievements; The Books of Skelos. The title track, Into the Courts of Chaos, is an almost ethereal number where the clean guitar and the soaring vocals tells a story of their own, without diminishing the epic nature of the lyrics. The Prophecy also excels with its grandiose keyboard licks, amazing guitar solos and a truly foreboding chorus. The real winner on this album however, is the CD only bonus track The Book of Skelos. Representing everything Manilla Road is, this song is without a doubt one of their greatest compositions. An amazing clean guitar intro reminiscent of the wonderful Dreams of Eschaton from the Crystal Logic album sets the scene, being the first of three parts. The second part, focusing on complex and hard-hitting riffs without letting go of the catchy melodies from the first part, sees the song delving deeper into the darkest corners of Manilla Road’s discography. The third part spirals out of control into a mayhem of thrash and speed, where Shelton’s demonic vocals contrasts his otherwise clean singing.

But despite the albums strong offerings, it is not without its flaws. The cover of Bloodrock’s D.O.A. feels out of place on the album, even if Manilla Road manages to sort of make the song their own. The songs heavy usage of keyboards fits right in with the theme, but it’s rather obvious that the song is not an original composition, which again hurts the flow of the album. It does not help that the song is presented in all its unedited “glory” either. Furthermore, the track A Touch of Madness, while not a bad track, has a couple Achilles’ heels; the songwriting and its length. By the end of the song, the otherwise fine main riff becomes a droning annoyance, and coupled with a forgettable chorus and a rather weak vocal performance by Shelton, A Touch of Madness overstays its welcome.

The members themselves execute their respective roles perfectly, with Shelton being the primary star on the album. The riffs, the solos and the vocals all come together with such ease that it’s a pleasure to listen to. Foxe, although programming the drums instead of playing them himself, adds one of the albums highlights, namely the keyboards. They never feel too prominent nor do they feel underplayed. And while the drums feel mechanical, the overall playing is as one would expect from Foxe, technical and chaotic. Park’s bass is audible, and while he is featured more prominently on tracks such as The Prophecy, it is sadly nothing extraordinary. The production on the album feels organic, save from the programmed drums, and all the instruments and the vocals are audible and without obvious flaws. The lyrics also fit the overarching gloomy theme well, with homages to both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. The cover art also deserves a mention as it fully represents the atmosphere on the album; dark and epic.

While The Courts of Chaos appeared at the tail-end of Manilla Road’s “classic era”, there are next to no signs of the band slowing down or losing their touch with the music. The album represents the perfect stylistic evolution after the thrash record that was Out of the Abyss, and it also builds further on the epic sound established on earlier records with a heavier use of keyboards. Although plagued by certain weak tracks and an unfitting cover song, the album is a perfect blend of soaring epics, short and furious thrashers, and an amazing closing track. The internal problems that would eventually lead to the departure of Park and Foxe are also luckily nowhere to be found throughout the record. The Courts of Chaos ultimately serves as a sign off to Manilla Road’s “classic era” with a dark and atmospheric slab of epic heavy metal.

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Grave_Wyrm
Metal Sloth

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:55 pm
Posts: 3916
Location: Across the croggy plain
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:17 am 
 

MatsBG wrote:
Manilla Road's The Courts of Chaos.

It's not bad. Unclear in places, a bit repetitive at the end, but over all a strong start.
Notes in the spoiler

Spoiler: show
I haven't been exhaustive. These are mostly trims and notes to indicate a general reassessment.



Manilla Road – The Courts of Chaos – 85%

Manilla Road, one of the underground’s most revered metal bands, is one of the few acts that, while staying true to their signature sound, also manages to expand and evolve their music without sacrificing the songwriting. The smooth and logical evolution from their humble first outputs Invasion and Metal to the more aggressive and complex albums of Mystification and Out of the Abyss cemented Manilla Road’s knack for seamlessly experimenting with their musical image, as well as elevating them to the status of one of the :nazi:genres most interesting bands. But By the time of the release of the 1990 album The Courts of Chaos, the last album from their “golden era”, integral struggles surfaced, with bassist Scott “Scooter” Park losing interest in the music scene. Issues with touring and scheduling also led to the departure of drummer Randy “Thrasher” Foxe, leaving only founding member and band-leader Mark “The Shark” Shelton after the albums release. However, despite the split that would inevitably happen, The Courts of Chaos is heralded as the last true classic Manilla Road album. But does the album live up to the standard set by the preceding albums? Or is it plagued by the internal problems of a seemingly waning band?

Released after the speed-monster that was Out of the Abyss, Manilla Road opted for a more atmospheric sound on their 1990 album (Which one? Keep your subjects clear), and unsurprisingly it was just what such a follow-up album needed.(Yeah, I'm lost already.) “Chastised” for its emphasis on aggression, Out of the Abyss saw Manilla Road at a crossroad; either continue on the road of controlled chaos, no pun intended, or take a few steps back to the more atmospheric numbers like The Deluge or Dreams of Eschaton. (I'm foggy on this timeline. Who were they chastised by?) Manilla Road, being prone to chasing new ways of presenting their style, brought in a heavier use of keyboards to emulate a more gothic or, for the lack of a better word, campy approach to atmosphere (Emulate or provide? Campy on purpose, or is this just how it ended up?). :nazi:Album opener, the instrumental Road to Chaos, is the perfect introduction to the style presented on the album, where a creepy keyboard-driven intro in the vein of classic Hammer Horror movies sets the tone. The epic title track and The Prophecy, with its almost Seventh Son of a Seventh Son vibe, are also perfect examples of the correct use of keyboards to further encompass a more gothic vibe without sacrificing the Manilla Road sound (Beginning to get redundant with this phrase). But the album is not without its “thrashier” counterparts, where tracks like Dig Me No Grave and (Vlad) The Impaler :nazi:serves as the more standard musical numbers, with the former sporting a catchy chorus and some brooding riffs, while the latter is all about breakneck speed (Sentence is convoluted. Clarify and simplify.). Special mention also goes to the song From Beyond, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name, where the musical soundscape sounds almost as weird and alien as the text it is inspired by. With an eerie, yet groovy beginning, the song quickly evolves into a chaotic piece highlighted by frantic riffs, aggressive vocals and paranoid lyrics. Surely one of the more memorable pieces from the album, even if the song itself is not one of the albums highlights.
(I think this paragraph has too many ideas in it to be one long one. Reconsider organization.)

The Courts of Chaos also emphasises the epic nature of Manilla Road more than the previous album, with epic numbers such as the aforementioned title track and The Prophecy, as well as one of the band’s crowning achievements; The Books of Skelos. The title track, Into the Courts of Chaos, is an almost ethereal number where the clean guitar and the soaring vocals tells a story of their own, without diminishing the epic nature of the lyrics. The Prophecy also excels with its grandiose keyboard licks, amazing guitar solos and a truly foreboding chorus. The real winner on this album however, is the CD only bonus track The Book of Skelos. Representing everything Manilla Road is, this song is without a doubt one of their greatest compositions. An amazing clean guitar intro reminiscent of the wonderful Dreams of Eschaton from the Crystal Logic album sets the scene, being the first of three parts. The second part, focusing on complex and hard-hitting riffs without letting go of the catchy melodies from the first part, sees the song delving deeper into the darkest corners of Manilla Road’s discography. The third part spirals out of control into a mayhem of thrash and speed, where Shelton’s demonic vocals contrasts his otherwise clean singing.

But despite the albums strong offerings, it is not without its flaws. The cover of Bloodrock’s D.O.A. feels out of place on the album, even if Manilla Road manages to sort of make the song their own. The songs heavy usage of keyboards fits right in with the theme, but it’s rather obvious that the song is not an original composition, which again hurts the flow of the album. It does not help that the song is presented in all its unedited “glory” either. Furthermore, the track A Touch of Madness, while not a bad track, has a couple Achilles’ heels; the songwriting and its length. By the end of the song, the otherwise fine main riff becomes a droning annoyance, and coupled with a forgettable chorus and a rather weak vocal performance by Shelton, A Touch of Madness overstays its welcome.

The members themselves execute their respective roles perfectly, with Shelton being the primary star on the album. The riffs, the solos and the vocals all come together with such ease that it’s a pleasure to listen to. Foxe, although programming the drums instead of playing them himself, adds one of the albums highlights, namely the keyboards. They never feel too prominent nor do they feel underplayed. And while the drums feel mechanical, the overall playing is as one would expect from Foxe, technical and chaotic. Park’s bass is audible, and while he is featured more prominently on tracks such as The Prophecy, it is sadly nothing extraordinary. The production on the album feels organic, save from the programmed drums, and all the instruments and the vocals are audible and without obvious flaws. The lyrics also fit the overarching gloomy theme well, with homages to both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. The cover art also deserves a mention as it fully represents the atmosphere on the album; dark and epic.

While The Courts of Chaos appeared at the tail-end of Manilla Road’s “classic era”, there are next to no signs of the band slowing down or losing their touch with the music. The album represents the perfect stylistic evolution after the thrash record that was Out of the Abyss, and it also builds further on the epic sound established on earlier records with a heavier use of keyboards. Although plagued by certain weak tracks and an unfitting cover song, the album is a perfect blend of soaring epics, short and furious thrashers, and an amazing closing track. The internal problems that would eventually lead to the departure of Park and Foxe are also luckily nowhere to be found throughout the record. The Courts of Chaos ultimately serves as a sign off to Manilla Road’s “classic era” with a dark and atmospheric slab of epic heavy metal.
(This last paragraph is a collection of things you've already said. A conclusion should be your final thoughts wrapping up the story, so give this a more considered point.)

I totally skipped the middle because I ran out of time. Give the whole thing some more thought, and try to look for bits where you can either say things more simply, or where you repeat yourself and make a choice as to which is the stronger one to leave in. Mainly, this is a good first draft; now it's time to edit.

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MatsBG
Metal newbie

Joined: Thu Oct 23, 2014 5:02 am
Posts: 74
Location: Norway
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 10:26 am 
 

Grave_Wyrm wrote:
MatsBG wrote:
Manilla Road's The Courts of Chaos.

It's not bad. Unclear in places, a bit repetitive at the end, but over all a strong start.
Notes in the spoiler

Spoiler: show
I haven't been exhaustive. These are mostly trims and notes to indicate a general reassessment.



Manilla Road – The Courts of Chaos – 85%

Manilla Road, one of the underground’s most revered metal bands, is one of the few acts that, while staying true to their signature sound, also manages to expand and evolve their music without sacrificing the songwriting. The smooth and logical evolution from their humble first outputs Invasion and Metal to the more aggressive and complex albums of Mystification and Out of the Abyss cemented Manilla Road’s knack for seamlessly experimenting with their musical image, as well as elevating them to the status of one of the :nazi:genres most interesting bands. But By the time of the release of the 1990 album The Courts of Chaos, the last album from their “golden era”, integral struggles surfaced, with bassist Scott “Scooter” Park losing interest in the music scene. Issues with touring and scheduling also led to the departure of drummer Randy “Thrasher” Foxe, leaving only founding member and band-leader Mark “The Shark” Shelton after the albums release. However, despite the split that would inevitably happen, The Courts of Chaos is heralded as the last true classic Manilla Road album. But does the album live up to the standard set by the preceding albums? Or is it plagued by the internal problems of a seemingly waning band?

Released after the speed-monster that was Out of the Abyss, Manilla Road opted for a more atmospheric sound on their 1990 album (Which one? Keep your subjects clear), and unsurprisingly it was just what such a follow-up album needed.(Yeah, I'm lost already.) “Chastised” for its emphasis on aggression, Out of the Abyss saw Manilla Road at a crossroad; either continue on the road of controlled chaos, no pun intended, or take a few steps back to the more atmospheric numbers like The Deluge or Dreams of Eschaton. (I'm foggy on this timeline. Who were they chastised by?) Manilla Road, being prone to chasing new ways of presenting their style, brought in a heavier use of keyboards to emulate a more gothic or, for the lack of a better word, campy approach to atmosphere (Emulate or provide? Campy on purpose, or is this just how it ended up?). :nazi:Album opener, the instrumental Road to Chaos, is the perfect introduction to the style presented on the album, where a creepy keyboard-driven intro in the vein of classic Hammer Horror movies sets the tone. The epic title track and The Prophecy, with its almost Seventh Son of a Seventh Son vibe, are also perfect examples of the correct use of keyboards to further encompass a more gothic vibe without sacrificing the Manilla Road sound (Beginning to get redundant with this phrase). But the album is not without its “thrashier” counterparts, where tracks like Dig Me No Grave and (Vlad) The Impaler :nazi:serves as the more standard musical numbers, with the former sporting a catchy chorus and some brooding riffs, while the latter is all about breakneck speed (Sentence is convoluted. Clarify and simplify.). Special mention also goes to the song From Beyond, based on the H.P. Lovecraft story of the same name, where the musical soundscape sounds almost as weird and alien as the text it is inspired by. With an eerie, yet groovy beginning, the song quickly evolves into a chaotic piece highlighted by frantic riffs, aggressive vocals and paranoid lyrics. Surely one of the more memorable pieces from the album, even if the song itself is not one of the albums highlights.
(I think this paragraph has too many ideas in it to be one long one. Reconsider organization.)

The Courts of Chaos also emphasises the epic nature of Manilla Road more than the previous album, with epic numbers such as the aforementioned title track and The Prophecy, as well as one of the band’s crowning achievements; The Books of Skelos. The title track, Into the Courts of Chaos, is an almost ethereal number where the clean guitar and the soaring vocals tells a story of their own, without diminishing the epic nature of the lyrics. The Prophecy also excels with its grandiose keyboard licks, amazing guitar solos and a truly foreboding chorus. The real winner on this album however, is the CD only bonus track The Book of Skelos. Representing everything Manilla Road is, this song is without a doubt one of their greatest compositions. An amazing clean guitar intro reminiscent of the wonderful Dreams of Eschaton from the Crystal Logic album sets the scene, being the first of three parts. The second part, focusing on complex and hard-hitting riffs without letting go of the catchy melodies from the first part, sees the song delving deeper into the darkest corners of Manilla Road’s discography. The third part spirals out of control into a mayhem of thrash and speed, where Shelton’s demonic vocals contrasts his otherwise clean singing.

But despite the albums strong offerings, it is not without its flaws. The cover of Bloodrock’s D.O.A. feels out of place on the album, even if Manilla Road manages to sort of make the song their own. The songs heavy usage of keyboards fits right in with the theme, but it’s rather obvious that the song is not an original composition, which again hurts the flow of the album. It does not help that the song is presented in all its unedited “glory” either. Furthermore, the track A Touch of Madness, while not a bad track, has a couple Achilles’ heels; the songwriting and its length. By the end of the song, the otherwise fine main riff becomes a droning annoyance, and coupled with a forgettable chorus and a rather weak vocal performance by Shelton, A Touch of Madness overstays its welcome.

The members themselves execute their respective roles perfectly, with Shelton being the primary star on the album. The riffs, the solos and the vocals all come together with such ease that it’s a pleasure to listen to. Foxe, although programming the drums instead of playing them himself, adds one of the albums highlights, namely the keyboards. They never feel too prominent nor do they feel underplayed. And while the drums feel mechanical, the overall playing is as one would expect from Foxe, technical and chaotic. Park’s bass is audible, and while he is featured more prominently on tracks such as The Prophecy, it is sadly nothing extraordinary. The production on the album feels organic, save from the programmed drums, and all the instruments and the vocals are audible and without obvious flaws. The lyrics also fit the overarching gloomy theme well, with homages to both H.P. Lovecraft and Robert E. Howard. The cover art also deserves a mention as it fully represents the atmosphere on the album; dark and epic.

While The Courts of Chaos appeared at the tail-end of Manilla Road’s “classic era”, there are next to no signs of the band slowing down or losing their touch with the music. The album represents the perfect stylistic evolution after the thrash record that was Out of the Abyss, and it also builds further on the epic sound established on earlier records with a heavier use of keyboards. Although plagued by certain weak tracks and an unfitting cover song, the album is a perfect blend of soaring epics, short and furious thrashers, and an amazing closing track. The internal problems that would eventually lead to the departure of Park and Foxe are also luckily nowhere to be found throughout the record. The Courts of Chaos ultimately serves as a sign off to Manilla Road’s “classic era” with a dark and atmospheric slab of epic heavy metal.
(This last paragraph is a collection of things you've already said. A conclusion should be your final thoughts wrapping up the story, so give this a more considered point.)

I totally skipped the middle because I ran out of time. Give the whole thing some more thought, and try to look for bits where you can either say things more simply, or where you repeat yourself and make a choice as to which is the stronger one to leave in. Mainly, this is a good first draft; now it's time to edit.



Thank you so much for the feedback. And as you said, now it's time to edit ;)

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Grave_Wyrm
Metal Sloth

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:55 pm
Posts: 3916
Location: Across the croggy plain
PostPosted: Wed Jul 06, 2016 5:31 pm 
 

You're welcome. You have a lot of information in that review. As you go through it, don't hurry through the editing process. Just think about what you're going for and whether or not each bit of information serves that purpose.

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HeySharpshooter
Metalhead

Joined: Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:12 am
Posts: 447
Location: United States
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 1:40 am 
 

Hey guys!

Some of you may remember me, I used to be somewhat prolific, though I wasn't real popular.

Anyway, I haven't written a review since the Review challenge last year. I lost the spark and the time. But I've been itching to get back into the swing, and just finished my newest review. However, the format is different from anything I have done, and before I submit it I would like some constructive feedback. I'd also like to maybe hear from a mod if this would be acceptable on the site. This review was just me experimenting and trying to find the spark. Feel free to let me know what you think.

_____________________________________________________________________

(italics missing, are in the actual saved draft)

A phone rings

Unknown: Hello?

Unknown:: Hello? Yes, um, hi! This is Nuclear War Now records right? My name is Apollyon, the new album from Irkallian Oracle? I am calling because I saw your wanted ad on Craigslist? It said you were looking for another "subterranean, occult black/death album for limited release," and let me tell you, that describes me perfectly?

NNW!: Yeah... uh, are you high? You're...speaking strangely.

Apollyon: Oh, yeah? Oh, shit, um... sorry. I do that thing when when I nervous.

NNW!: The upward inflection thing.

Apollyon: Yeah... I just saw your ad and I was really excited. I could use the job.

NNW!: Well, I am always looking for new talent. But its a competitive field. I get six calls a day from albums looking to sell, but I have a pretty specific album in mind for this position. So I need to ask a few questions. Consider this your interview.

Apollyon: Okay, ask me anything. I know I am the right album for the job!

NNW!: First of all, what does Irkallian Oracle mean?

Apollyon: I don't know, some shit about the British underworld. Death and shit.

NNW!: Good, good... okay, what about your sound?

Apollyon: I cover the Death Metal alphabet, from Imprecation to Incantation. You looking for lots of mid-paced tremolo riffs, stretching for minutes at a time, I got you covered. Of course, I like to mix things up, ya know, be really original and throw in short bursts of really fast riffs and drumming. Build up a little energy ya know, threaten some quality before draining the whole fucking room with more mid-paced riffing. Set up and knock em out.

NNW!: Song lengths?

Apollyon: It takes me an hour to get through six tracks. I take my time, so don't expect fast work.

NNW!: Not a problem. That works actually. How about chanting, gongs, etc.

Apollyon: I'm Buddhist, which as far as I know only includes chanting and gongs. And pot.

NNW!: Alright, you are doing great. What about pointlessly long, slow sections of Funeral Doom or Dark Ambient, long enough to lose any and all interest?

Apollyon: ...

NNW!: Hello? You still there?

Apollyon: You...

NNW!: Oh, I get it.

Apollyon: Want...

NNW!: I get it.

Apollyon: Slow...

NNW!: Fucking stop!

Apollyon: Oh shit!? Sorry?

NNW!: Relax, relax. Honestly, you've done great. I only have one more question. How do you feel abou-

Apollyon: Fallen Angel of Doom... is better than Gods of War

NNW!: I'll see you Monday.

..............................................................

A week later, on the job

Apollyon: Hey bossman... I got a question.

NNW!: What? Oh, yeah. How's it going for you this week? You liking the job Apollo?

Apollyon: Oh of course... some kid in Nova Scotia described me as "soul melting darkness itself," and a "must own release." I even checked his RYM lists, and I am number 2 for 2016. And its Apollyon...

NNW!: Hey that's great Apparition, just great. Listen, I got a lot on my plate, so if you-

Apollyon: Boss, I know you are busy, but I have a few questions. I mean, there are a lot of albums just like me walking around all over the place. I mean, when I wrote myself, I thought I was pretty powerful stuff ya know, on to something. And I mean I have gotten some praise, and it feels good... but there is so much noise around here, and it all sounds a lot like me.

NNW!: Nature of a business my friend. Nature of the business. We sell albums the kids in Nova Scotia want to over night mail to their apartments. When I took you on, I knew you were a good fit. But like I said, its a competitive industry.

Apollyon: Right, I mean I get that and all. But then I see this album around, Grave of the Archangels, and I mean that guy is fucking killing it around here. He kinda seems to get all the good assignments, and a few other ones too. Through the Cervix of Hawaah was frankly being a dick earlier, lording her lofty position over me and a few of the other guys and making me copy her reports for her. And I see a bunch of people following around Obsidian Codex all day, bringing him coffee and his mail. He walks on water around here.

NNW!: Well not all of those are mine, we share this space ya know. But you also understand, those albums earned the extra perks. They have done genre defining work.

Apollyon: But I am just as good as those albums right? I can take on those big assignments and get all those listeners. I know I can!

NNW!: Listen Apocalypse, I got a meeting in five minutes. We'll chat later.

Apollyon: ...
..............................................................

two months later, in the parking lot

Apollyon: Hey boss! Hey! Wait up!

NNW!: What? Who are you? If you are looking for a job, just call the number on Craigslist. I don't have time for an interview now.

Apollyon: Shit boss, you too?

NNW!: What do you mean? Wait. I do know you. Apollyon right?

Apollyon: No, Apollyon. Oh, I mean yes. It's me.

NNW!: Why are you still hanging around here?

Apollyon: Boss, you gotta tell me whats going on. I haven't had any work in weeks. That kid in Nova Scotia, nucleardeathfuckk666? I checked his RYM page, and he changed my score! I'm at 2 stars now! 2 FUCKING STARS BOSS!! He took me off his list. No one is listening to me. A couple of people like "Elemental Crucifixion..."

NNW!: Well like half of it anyway.

Apollyon: Sure, fine, whatever. The point is, I can't get any work done. And yet I still see this asshole Grave of the Archangels...

NNW!: Let me stop you there kid. There is a reason no one is listening. You are just... finished.

Apollyon: But I barely started!

NNW!: I kept telling you, the field is competitive. It is also saturated. I got another 15 albums that sound just like you on the docket. You're just another drop in a big, big ocean. And you gotta know, I actually do like you.

Apollyon: Really? *sniffle

NNW!: Sure. You are not terrible or anything. I don't do terrible. But when you were walking around, and you heard all those other albums. You had to know what was going on. You had to see that in a genre that, frankly, might only have 500,000 fans in the entire world, that you would be facing a serious up hill battle. And sorry, you didn't make it... most don't.

Apollyon: But muh arts...

NNW!: It's not all bad news. You are not out of the game yet.

Apollyon: What!? What do I do to get to the top?!

NNW!: Well, let me tell you. Everything is a trend, and the thing is trends tend to be cyclical. Eventually, this whole Old School and Occult Black/Death trend will die down. And some new, ridiculous sub genre of Death and Black Metal will be all the rage. Probably like Super Funk Death Fusion. And that will be popular for a while. You, well, you are gonna fall off the fucking map. Time is gonna Sansa Stark your ass.

Apollyon: But that sounds worse!

NNW!: Wait, wait, let me finish. So you see near the end of that cycle of popularity, albums like Grave of the Archangels and others will be start to make a come back. A few new bands will imitate the sound, and kick off a new revival period...

Apollyon: *whimper

NNW!: And then as a rising tide lifts all ships, it happened this time around. People were digging up all kinds of obscure shit. I mean I forgot Jumpin' Jesus was even a thing until a few years ago when I heard from everyone that The Art of Crucifying was better than every Death Metal album released in the early 2000's.

Apollyon: Jumpin... what?

NNW!: I know, I said the same thing. But it means that some 20 years from now, some kid on the super internet is going to be jamming you on his iPhone 26S and telling everyone who will listen that Death Metal was better back then. One day, you'll be nostalgic, you'll be different. You'll be old school.

Apollyon: Wow.

NNW!: You're welcome. Now go home. See you in a few decades for a repress. Limited edition colored vinyl.

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BastardHead
Worse than the PMRC

Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:53 pm
Posts: 9200
Location: St. Charles, Illinois
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:02 am 
 

Without even reading it, I personally love those types of silly gimmick reviews, but that particular kind doesn't really have a place here unfortunately. One of the saddest days of my life was when I had to reject a dialog between the members of Fear Factory where Dino kept eating pizza and a Gojira review where it was reviewed by the panel of American Idol.
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Erosion of Humanity
Destroyer of the Gods

Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2012 5:12 pm
Posts: 5703
Location: Chicago
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 9:37 am 
 

I liked the review and it made me laugh a fair bit. I think it was good so I hope you publish it somewhere.
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BastardHead
Worse than the PMRC

Joined: Thu Aug 18, 2005 7:53 pm
Posts: 9200
Location: St. Charles, Illinois
PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 10:53 am 
 

Okay I'm no longer drunk so I actually read it. Yeah it doesn't really have a place on MA but I did love it. This line in particular:

HeySharpshooter wrote:
Apollyon: I cover the Death Metal alphabet, from Imprecation to Incantation.


Absolutely cracked me up. I do hope you publish it somewhere, because I really like it. Unfortunately it just isn't going to be here.
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Xlxlx
Argentinian Asado Supremacy

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:42 pm 
 

I kinda don't get why it can't be here. The rules don't actually forbid gimmick interviews, from what I remember, and I know pretty much exactly what the album sounds like after reading that. Plus, it's hysterical.
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stainedclass2112
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 2:55 pm 
 

This reminds me, there's a review for the Metallica single "The View" in which the writer basically writes the review in a format mocking the song's lyrical structure (at least that's what I get from it). I personally think the review is pretty funny, but is that technically acceptable? I mean, it has been accepted so I guess that one is, but at what point does a review like that become unacceptable?
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Lich Coldheart
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:08 pm 
 

If you're talking about Napero's review, that one did not need to be "accepted".
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raspberrysoda
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:15 pm 
 

Yeah, was thinking about that too lately, I've written a review poem for a Sloth song (which described the music) and the mod that rejected it said that he couldn't accept it. At what point could reviews like these be accepted here?
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Diamhea
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 4:38 pm 
 

If you get modded.
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BastardHead
Worse than the PMRC

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:19 pm 
 

Well... no. Gimmickry in certain doses is more than allowed, I personally have reviews where Sam Elliot narrates his experiences meeting me at a Hypocrites Anonymous meeting and where I review an album from several different angles, including as a frisbee and a coaster, and Napero has his poem for The View (and an infamous one for Daudi Baldrs that he took down on his own). The thing is that those are all loaded with musical description, and despite the gimmicks of what Nappy does he always spends a vast majority of the time talking about the music itself. This one describes the music well enough, but that's mostly a benefit of the album in question clearly not having a whole lot to talk about and it's easily summed up in a few sentences. The issue is that there are way more sentences than that. A majority of the review goes on to talk about the politics of NWN and the nature of reissuing mediocre material at a premium. It's a good review and I definitely like it, but I'm saying it doesn't have a place here because more time is spent on non-musical aspects than the actual music, not because he isn't a mod.
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Diamhea
Eats and Spits Corpses

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:24 pm 
 

I was taking the piss, BH. :-P
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BastardHead
Worse than the PMRC

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PostPosted: Sun Jul 10, 2016 7:42 pm 
 

I need to make it clear in case any idiots wander into this thread!
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HeySharpshooter
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Posts: 447
Location: United States
PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 1:59 pm 
 

Hey guys thanks for the feedback.

I have just one quick question:

If I modified the review a bit to focus more on the album and less on the other stuff, would the format work?

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Grave_Wyrm
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PostPosted: Mon Jul 11, 2016 6:32 pm 
 

HeySharpshooter wrote:
If I modified the review a bit to focus more on the album and less on the other stuff, would the format work?

Reimagine it as an interview, using prompted monologues as your device. Cold calls are always awkward.

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Grave_Wyrm
Metal Sloth

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:55 pm
Posts: 3916
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PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:25 am 
 

I'll put one up for once. Grave Miasma has been a band I've given a fair amount of thought to and loads of listens to over past few years. My reviews tend to lack flavor, and I want to change that. I've been working on this for a while, and I'm almost done, so Empyreal et al., I could use a fresh pair of eyes to help me polish it.

Grave Miasma, Odori Sepulcrorum
Spoiler: show
Tenebrous Lixivation - 88%

This is the night of nights, where worlds collide
And where incense shall rise.

- "Seven Coils"

Between Grave Miasma’s inception and this baleful black/death full length, seven years, 2 EP’s, and several layers of touring accumulated on top of them. They could have changed their style by now, adopting the faster-paced brutality of their black/death contemporaries, Pseudogod or Wrathprayer. They could have invested in more rapid, shuddering death metal signatures and fallen in with Teitanblood. However, along with Cruciamentum, Venenum, and the now defunct Witchrist, those bands have inconsistent and somewhat incohesive bodies of work. Grave Miasma started less elaborately, but steadily got better.

Grave Miasma deliberately avoids drastic or rapid change. Exalted Emanation (2009) established the formula: unstable, rolling compositions featuring thick-and-low production, thundering brick work moving easily between double and half time, moaning solos interspersed in their languid mid-range tremolo riffs. Realm of Evoked Doom (2010) developed those themes, displaying more compositional flexibility and featuring a well-deployed whammy bar. Both of these works incrementally improve on the original concept. Odori Sepulcrorum furthers it still. The noxious and spectral coagulum they’ve brought to maturation here is the result of patient dedication to a private vision.

Odori Sepulcrorum is a musical ossuary—a dank place choked with sweltering, unhealthy vapors. Conditions here are meditatively hostile: a ferocious consciousness reflects on a gallery of the man-world’s interpretations of demise, avoiding the trope that death is a tragic routine of torpor and decay. Here death is phenomenal. Disorganized mythical and philosophical visions populate the lyrics, straying through multicultural occult philosophy, grim summoning, the exalation of the bardo—the coiling thoughts of a dreaming reliquary.

Sorrow, eclipse, elation
- "έσχατος"

Despite the production’s relatively good hygiene (the way a tunnel is cleaner than a cave-in), Odori Sepulcrorum evolves Grave Miasma’s confrontational, amorphous style. Wide, sour guitar lines swing heavily over pummeling drums. Oddly gleaming solos leap from the morass with new agility, hard and sharp the way an unfinished shear can be—bent and dented ringing. The instrumental tones have spent years fermenting together in the same clay vessel. They pour together, thick and ever folding. An unbeautiful and gaseous substance rears and tumbles, mixing with the fierce pall of Y’s stentorian vocals, his attention forever preoccupied with esoteric states. Gargantuan energy is trapped in an ambiguous space, its weight caused more by pressure than by mass; a bright light flickers, unlikely to be fire.

Mystic light of the dead
Lead us towards dissolution
Hidden chant of a voice
For your utterance bears no source.

- "Ovation of a Thousand Lost Reveries"

Extreme metal is not required to break boundaries or redefine genres. There is virtue in the simple ambition of identifying your methodology and spending your time getting good at it. It would appear that Grave Miasma have been doing nothing else. Like the preceding EPs, the restless arrangements coax a surprising amount of variety from a comparatively few number of notes. With years of experience the members’ musicianship have grown more nuanced, more supple, and more confident. As such, Odori Sepulcrorum feels almost luxurious. Despite so long buried in one place, this project shows neither stagnation nor distraction. The miasma yet pervades.

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Lich Coldheart
Stares into the Void

Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:44 pm
Posts: 983
Location: Frozen dead land where sharp winds blow
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 4:58 am 
 

As promised, I'm posting here the draft of my latest review - "Crying of the Sun" by Metalwings. I hope you won't find the metaphors too strange or too purple but, anyway - feel free to tear it to shreds. :)

Spoiler: show
Rating - 97%

<<This is a beautiful symphonic masterpiece of a single, coming from a relatively young metal band from Bulgaria. Its enchanting melodies spellbind you from the very beginning and you can do nothing but enjoy the beautiful performance of the band, which is as warm as a sunny day of July and refreshing like the touch of a cascade teardrop.

The song flows nicely, being well-structured and composed. There's a keyboard part which is followed by a few lines charmingly sung by Stela Atanasova that surrender the spotlight to the male-sung chorus and that is one of the greatest choruses that I've heard in symphonic metal that is not performed by a female singer. This whole sequence is repeated a few times throughout the song and sounds just as great every single time, leaving you wanting for more despite its being repetitive. Not to mention that marvelous part when a short violin solo comes in, being followed by a guitar solo and then a keyboard one... absolutely brilliant and elegantly put together.

The dual vocal attack of the two Bulgarian singers is nothing less than flawless. Atanasova's nightingale-like voice provides just enough warmth and passion as to make the song feel like a soft summer breeze and how melodic, effortless and at the same time fragile do her vocals sound! It's like the beauty of a teardrop that you only have a few seconds to enjoy before it falls and fades from existence for eternity. Likewise, Dracovallis' chorus comes in with a refreshing and colder approach, adding tension and a darker feel to the song by bringing in the "scream of pain" of a distant sun that is forced to leave "when the shadows fall and the darkness rise". The way the accent is put on the word "pain" and the line "crying of the sun" gives the record a gothic vibe, which, surprisingly, doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the female singer.

The synaesthetic effect is fueled by the guitar riffing, as well. Satisfactorily diverse, it is just as pronounced as not to be drowned in the background and soft enough as not to ruin the apparent feeling of fragility that results from the listening experience. Also worth mentioning is the balanced dose of emotion that was infused into the solo, turning it into a perfect emotional climax.Additional bonuses this single has to offer are a pretty varied and nice drumming and a balanced production. Sure, Arsov's performance doesn't stand out that much but that's the case of many symphonic metal bands that do not incorporate extreme elements in their music and, despite their supportive role, the drums have their shining moments. Also, given the warm atmosphere this record provides, I'd say the production is tinged more towards an organic sound than the sterile, modern one, though the notion of organic production might not have a clear meaning in this genre. Anyway, there's clearly been used a sense of balance in here during the mix, as all the instruments sound great and equally strong, none of them being overpowered or drowned.

And there is really something magical about this song - something that forces you to press replay over and over again like an addict. Personally, I'm glad I discovered them and now that this composition's written I'll just go back into the "night of the endless dreams" to listen to the "crying of the sun". Farewell.>>


EDIT: Just noticed the double post. Could a mod please remove the duplicate and remove one post from my post count?
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Last edited by Lich Coldheart on Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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HeySharpshooter
Metalhead

Joined: Sun Sep 17, 2006 3:12 am
Posts: 447
Location: United States
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 1:47 pm 
 

Grave_Wyrm wrote:
I'll put one up for once. Grave Miasma has been a band I've given a fair amount of thought to and loads of listens to over past few years. My reviews tend to lack flavor, and I want to change that. I've been working on this for a while, and I'm almost done, so Empyreal et al., I could use a fresh pair of eyes to help me polish it.

Grave Miasma, Odori Sepulcrorum
Spoiler: show
Tenebrous Lixivation - 88%

This is the night of nights, where worlds collide
And where incense shall rise.

- "Seven Coils"

Between Grave Miasma’s inception and this baleful black/death full length, seven years, 2 EP’s, and several layers of touring accumulated on top of them. They could have changed their style by now, adopting the faster-paced brutality of their black/death contemporaries, Pseudogod or Wrathprayer. They could have invested in more rapid, shuddering death metal signatures and fallen in with Teitanblood. However, along with Cruciamentum, Venenum, and the now defunct Witchrist, those bands have inconsistent and somewhat incohesive bodies of work. Grave Miasma started less elaborately, but steadily got better.

Grave Miasma deliberately avoids drastic or rapid change. Exalted Emanation (2009) established the formula: unstable, rolling compositions featuring thick-and-low production, thundering brick work moving easily between double and half time, moaning solos interspersed in their languid mid-range tremolo riffs. Realm of Evoked Doom (2010) developed those themes, displaying more compositional flexibility and featuring a well-deployed whammy bar. Both of these works incrementally improve on the original concept. Odori Sepulcrorum furthers it still. The noxious and spectral coagulum they’ve brought to maturation here is the result of patient dedication to a private vision.

Odori Sepulcrorum is a musical ossuary—a dank place choked with sweltering, unhealthy vapors. Conditions here are meditatively hostile: a ferocious consciousness reflects on a gallery of the man-world’s interpretations of demise, avoiding the trope that death is a tragic routine of torpor and decay. Here death is phenomenal. Disorganized mythical and philosophical visions populate the lyrics, straying through multicultural occult philosophy, grim summoning, the exalation of the bardo—the coiling thoughts of a dreaming reliquary.

Sorrow, eclipse, elation
- "έσχατος"

Despite the production’s relatively good hygiene (the way a tunnel is cleaner than a cave-in), Odori Sepulcrorum evolves Grave Miasma’s confrontational, amorphous style. Wide, sour guitar lines swing heavily over pummeling drums. Oddly gleaming solos leap from the morass with new agility, hard and sharp the way an unfinished shear can be—bent and dented ringing. The instrumental tones have spent years fermenting together in the same clay vessel. They pour together, thick and ever folding. An unbeautiful and gaseous substance rears and tumbles, mixing with the fierce pall of Y’s stentorian vocals, his attention forever preoccupied with esoteric states. Gargantuan energy is trapped in an ambiguous space, its weight caused more by pressure than by mass; a bright light flickers, unlikely to be fire.

Mystic light of the dead
Lead us towards dissolution
Hidden chant of a voice
For your utterance bears no source.

- "Ovation of a Thousand Lost Reveries"

Extreme metal is not required to break boundaries or redefine genres. There is virtue in the simple ambition of identifying your methodology and spending your time getting good at it. It would appear that Grave Miasma have been doing nothing else. Like the preceding EPs, the restless arrangements coax a surprising amount of variety from a comparatively few number of notes. With years of experience the members’ musicianship have grown more nuanced, more supple, and more confident. As such, Odori Sepulcrorum feels almost luxurious. Despite so long buried in one place, this project shows neither stagnation nor distraction. The miasma yet pervades.


So a few thoughts.

The opening sentence is choppy and ugly. I would approach that thought differently.

Not sure how I feel about the quotes. There isnt much context.

You have some nice prose here, but it feels excessive. I know because I do the same damn thing. What I do is just pick my favorite poetic bits, chop the iffy stuff, and fold the keepers together into one paragraph. Its a long read for what amounts to "Incantation clone."

Being that I am familiar with the band and know thier sound, I know what you mean. But to the uninformed, this review may not give the clearest picture. A few more grounded musical descriptions might help.

Overall, I like it. It just needs to be tightened up a bit. Better than most I read.

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Grave_Wyrm
Metal Sloth

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:55 pm
Posts: 3916
Location: Across the croggy plain
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 2:17 pm 
 

Thank you, HeySharpshooter. I agree with your notes, and thanks for the compliment. Now that I'm looking at it again, it's really obvious where I need to reorganize ideas and snip distracting phrases. There's nothing like a second opinion.

What kinds of musical descriptions would be grounding? I don't disagree, I just need elaboration. Or maybe an example or two of descriptions that didn't really work. I think the musical description is decent, personally, but it's likely getting lost in the more purple flavors. The first paragraph has given me trouble since day 1.

It's seeming like the concepts and some good imagery are there, but clarity of communication is getting overwhelmed by the rhapsodics. Also, I need to just say any given thing once and move on. That's my take away.

Other thoughts, anyone?


Lich Coldheart wrote:
Crying of the Sun" by Metalwings.

Notes in the spoiler
Spoiler: show
Rating - 97%

<<This is a beautiful symphonic masterpiece of a single, coming from a relatively young metal band from Bulgaria. Its enchanting melodies spellbind you from the very beginning and you can do nothing but enjoy the beautiful performance of the band, which is as warm as a sunny day of July and refreshing like the touch of a cascade teardrop. (What's a cascade teardrop? I don't find tears refreshing. Odd metaphor.)

The song flows nicely, being well-structured and composed. There's a keyboard part which is followed by a few lines charmingly sung by Stela Atanasova that surrender the spotlight to the male-sung chorus and that is one of the greatest choruses that I've heard in symphonic metal that is not performed by a female singer. This whole sequence is repeated a few times throughout the song and sounds just as great every single time, leaving you wanting for more despite its being repetitive. (It's more than that, let's be honest. It's basically the entire second half of the song.) Not to mention that marvelous part when a short violin solo comes in, being followed by a guitar solo and then a keyboard one... absolutely brilliant and elegantly put together. (Your approach to musical description I think needs to be less linear. "A thing followed by another thing and then another one" isn't effective. "The composition switches focus easily between violin solos, keyboards, and guitar solos" would be more clear, if you see what I mean. It's more accessible to describe combinations as a whole, rather than describing them in sequence. A bit like describing food, really. Music and food have become almost synonymous in my mind these days.)

The dual vocal attack of the two Bulgarian singers is nothing less than flawless. Atanasova's nightingale-like voice provides just enough warmth and passion as to make the song feel like a soft summer breeze and how melodic, effortless and at the same time fragile do her vocals sound! (Awkward grammar) It's like the beauty of a teardrop that you only have a few seconds to enjoy before it falls and fades from existence for eternity. (You have to admit that's really emo.) Likewise, Dracovallis' chorus comes in with a refreshing and colder approach, adding tension and a darker feel to the song by bringing in the "scream of pain" of a distant sun that is forced to leave "when the shadows fall and the darkness rise". (I'm guessing you're working in lyrics here, but it's not really working for me because the sentence is clunky. I would say don't bother.) The way the accent is put on the word "pain" and the line "crying of the sun" gives the record a gothic vibe, which, surprisingly, doesn't have anything to do with the performance of the female singer. (Eh?)

The synaesthetic effect is fueled by the guitar riffing, as well. (What synaesthetic effect?) Satisfactorily diverse, it is just as pronounced as not to be drowned in the background and soft enough as not to ruin the apparent feeling of fragility that results from the listening experience. (Basically just too many words. Say the same thing more simply) Also worth mentioning is The balanced dose of emotion that was infused into the solo turns it into a perfect emotional climax.

(New topic, new paragraph) Additional bonuses this single has to offer are a pretty varied and nice drumming and a balanced production. Sure, Arsov's performance doesn't stand out that much but that's the case of many symphonic metal bands that do not incorporate extreme elements in their music and, despite their supportive role, the drums have their shining moments. Also, Given the warm atmosphere this record provides, I'd say the production is tinged more towards an organic sound than the sterile, modern one, though the notion of organic production might not have a clear meaning in this genre. Anyway, there's clearly been used a sense of balance in here during the mix, as all the instruments sound great and equally strong, none of them being overpowered or drowned.

And There is really something magical about this song - something that forces you to press replay over and over again like an addict. Personally, I'm glad I discovered them and now that this composition's written I'll just go back into the "night of the endless dreams" to listen to the "crying of the sun". Farewell. (Again, not feeling the use of the lyrics.)>>


I had a different experience. I found the song dull and pretty uninspiring. Tame, really. Nothing about it would addict me. It's just sort of .. "nice." It's interesting that their textbook song construction would be this magical for you. A minor quibble: her vocals don't sound much like a nightengale. The bird has a varied and clear voice wheras hers is softer and doesn't change much. She reminds me of a wooden flute more than a bird.


Last edited by Grave_Wyrm on Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Lich Coldheart
Stares into the Void

Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:44 pm
Posts: 983
Location: Frozen dead land where sharp winds blow
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:23 pm 
 

Thanks for your feedback, Grave_Wyrm. I'll post an edited version of the review soon.

PS: Too bad you did not like the song. I do find it really great. Also, "wooden flute"? C'mon... :lol:
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Grave_Wyrm
Metal Sloth

Joined: Sun Mar 04, 2012 5:55 pm
Posts: 3916
Location: Across the croggy plain
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:46 pm 
 

Lich Coldheart wrote:
Thanks for your feedback, Grave_Wyrm. I'll post an edited version of the review soon.

PS: Too bad you did not like the song. I do find it really great. Also, "wooden flute"? C'mon... :lol:

I found it boring, but whatever. It doesn't suck; it's just boring.

You've heard a wooden flute, right? I just heard one at an operatic recital not too long ago, that's what made me think of it. The breathy timbre is pretty similar. But sure, if you want to use a played out simile, be my guest.

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Lich Coldheart
Stares into the Void

Joined: Tue Jun 11, 2013 12:44 pm
Posts: 983
Location: Frozen dead land where sharp winds blow
PostPosted: Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:50 pm 
 

Grave_Wyrm wrote:
But sure, if you want to use a played out simile, be my guest.

No, I'll change it. :)
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