Reviews for November 28th, 2012

Funeral – Oratorium

Funeral, a doom metal band from Norway, has recently released their sixth full-length, “Oratorium.”

I must admit that despite such a simple sounding name and a history dating back over twenty years, I had never heard this band. I saw “Oratorium” on iTunes last week, listened to some clips, and looked them up. Why hadn’t I heard of them? I don’t have an explanation for that oversight, but I did learn a little more about the band.

Two of the bands founding members have died, one from suicide and the other from an unspecified cause. The band has also had a number of lineup changes, including several different vocalists. In fact this latest album is the first with their latest singer. So, yeah, doesn’t sound like stability has been their strong point.

Despite all the trials and tragedies Funeral has managed to release what I consider an exceptional doom metal album. I went back and listened to a little bit of their earlier work, and while it was pretty good, “Oratorium” sounds like their most solid and polished effort yet.

Seven songs clock in at 73 minutes, and while a little slow getting started, the album quickly grows on me. I can’t help but think of My Dying Bride while listening to “Oratorium.” These slow, despair-riddled tracks come across like doom incarnate. This is the perfect companion piece to complement the inevitable holiday depression which creeps up this time of year.

Be sure to check out “Will You Have Me?” below.

Norselaw – Moonhunters

Norselaw contacted me through Facebook and sent me a CD through the mail. If there was a bio sheet included, I seem to have misplaced it, so I cannot say where Norselaw is based, or whether there are previous releases. “Moonhunters” is a five song EP which sounds self-released.

These songs remind me of the old days when I was recording my own songs in my basement. They definitely have that home recording vibe going on. They sound good enough to get the message across and show what these guys have to offer, but I would personally clean it up a bit before releasing it on a label. On the upside, this is the raw essence of metal, unpolluted by the expectations or bottom line of the corporate machine. Releases like “Moonhunters” help remind me to not be such a production snob.

I hear definite potential in these five songs. I like what Norselaw is doing; I “get” it. My understanding is that Norselaw, the person, is the creative force behind this project, and bass and drums are provided by Theon Greyjoy and Jaime Lannister, respectively. It sounds to me like they love them some George R.R. Martin. Anyway, as a former one-man-band myself, if there is one thing I learned from the dismal failure of my own music, it was that not trying to do it yourself will probably pay off better. At least until you have the cushy recording contract to prop you up. What I am getting at here is maybe try expanding the band a little, add another guitar player or something. Then scrape up the cash to get a more professional recording done. As much as I want to say you can make it on your own, the odds are always going to be better with outside help.

So, yeah, I dig what Norselaw has going on. Are they ready for mass consumption? Probably not, but you gotta start somewhere right?

Souls of Diotima – What Remains of the Day

Souls of Diotima is a female-fronted gothic metal band from Italy and “What Remains of the Day” is their second album.

One of the first things I noticed about this album (after the symphonic intro to “Pandora”) was the chunky and rumbling sound of what I assume is the bass guitar. It brings a rude and raw sound to a style of metal that tends to be rather dainty, and I like that.

The next thing that catches my ear is that while they have all the expected elements of a gothic symphonic metal band, the symphonic keyboard element does not overpower the metal aspect of the songs. There are certainly moments where the metal takes a back seat, but when the song is metal, the song is metal. Too many symphonic bands neglect the metal aspect of their music, but not Souls of Diotima.

These are the simple things that a band really needs to emphasize in order to stand out in this style, because there seem to be female-fronted symphonic metal bands everywhere you look these days. Strong vocals (which they have) and beautiful, sweeping songwriting (which they also have) are not quite enough to reach the front of the pack anymore, so it is good to hear they have more going on than just that. Plus, who doesn’t want to hear a song called “The Battle of Marduk and Tiamat”?

Check out the video for the album’s title track.

Mephorash – Chalice of Thagirion

Mephorash is a Swedish black metal band and “Chalice of Thagirion” is their second album.

This is old-school style black metal here, no keyboards, just fast music and harsh vocals. Above I mentioned the abundance of female-fronted symphonic metal bands, well, if there is one thing we have even more of, it is old-school black metal bands. So when it comes to this style, you either have it or you don’t; you either catch my attention right away or you end up in the trash bin of mediocrity (or worse.) Mephorash has my attention.

So what did they do right on “Chalice of Thagirion”? Well, first of all, the production is pretty clean even though it does not sound slick or super produced. The vocals have good separation from the music. I was stunned that the very first line of lyrics on the album I was able to clearly understand, despite being performed in a harsh vocal style. Little things like that go a long way toward slaughtering the competition. Good songs help too.

I give Mephorash a double fisted horns-up on “Chalice of Thagirion.” Make sure to check these guys out. Here is the track “Legion, For We Are Many.”

Bloodredsky – A Cross to Bear & Hell to Harness

Bloodredsky hail from Finland and “A Cross to Bear & Hell to Harness” appears to be their first album. I am a little unsure how to label them. Their site calls them heavy duty stoner-rock and compares them to Kyuss, Danzig and Motorhead; three things rather unlike each other.

I guess I can kind of hear that in the vocals a little bit. It does kind of sound like Lemmy doing Danzig songs. Unfortunately, while I love Lemmy and Danzig, the vocals on this album don’t really do it for me. I will say the vocals have a rather unique sound, but at the same time they grate on me.

Vocals aside, the music is pretty good. The production sound is quality and very listenable. Check out the track "A Hero To A Few."