Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Rick's Discoveries Volume X

Calling this article a “Discoveries” article feels a bit odd this time around as 6 of the 10 albums covered here are from bands that I’ve had previous exposure to (and actually own their previous work), but even though they’re not “new” bands, I think they warrant attention. They’re all great releases and in most cases the back catalogues of each of these bands should also get a bit of your attention. So let’s consider this a Discoveries article with extra bonus material if you feel so inclined to look at each of the artist’s previous efforts.

Blueneck – Repetitions

This is Blueneck’s third album and, although their first two never grabbed me, this one is slathered in brooding, dark, atmospheric soundscapes. Taking the post-rock template, Blueneck keeps it mellow, but deceptively dark and melancholic. The interplay of the confessional and restrained vocals with the organic musical accompaniment pulls on your emotions, tugging you further and further downward into the band’s dark, yet hopeful, workspace.

Arch / Matheos – Sympathetic Resonance

John Arch and Jim Matheos are probably most well known in prog circles as being members of the great Fates Warning. On this project, they don’t distance themselves from the progressive metal genre, but instead embrace it and go for the gold, with 3 of the 6 songs on this album each clocking in at over 10 minutes in length. Arch keeps his vocals in check, not using his oft-disliked screeching (thank goodness), which lets you focus on the underlying music. His vocals aren’t bad, but they’re simply window dressing on the compositions and guitar work of Matheos. Check this out if you’re a fan of Dream Theater or Symphony X as you will not be disappointed.

Voyager – The Meaning of I

Continuing on the progressive metal track, Voyager offers up their latest power metal influenced progressive metal album. Although, truth be told, there isn’t a whole lot of power metal aspects to this album outside of the vocals and the occasional song galloping. This is much more of a combination of Dream Theater (sorry, they’re just a go-to reference for most prog) mixed with Mercenary and Fear Factory than a Nightwishinspired effort. What gives Voyager a unique flavor is the very well placed and utilized keyboards. They don’t hog the spotlight, they aren’t cheesy, and they aren’t superfluous. No, instead they add just the right ingredient to the band’s progressive mix.

Every Discoveries article needs at least on djent band, right? It’s such a growing genre that there are a lot of underground artists working hard to find their way in this new-ish genre (yes, I know Meshuggah has been doing this for a while now). Shades of Black fall into the instrumental section of the djent genre, but they pepper the djent template with some double-bass rolls, pseudo-breakdowns, and some eastern influences. It’s these extra flairs that make Shades of Black more than just another regular, industrialized djent band.

Dead By April – Incomparable

Go ahead and poke fun now. Everyone did when I included these guys in my top 10 a couple of years ago. Dead By April are pop music, through and through, even though they are “melodic death metal.” Every song is focused on creating a catchy hook, every keyboard line tries to worm its way into your brain, and every riff is meant to stick with you even if you don’t want it to. If there were ever a definition of what pop-metal sounds like, it would be Dead By April. I unabashedly and unironically love this band and this album because it is one of the catchiest releases I’ve heard yet this year.

Cliff Martinez – Contagion soundtrack

When I went to see Contagion, one of the standout aspects of the film was the score. Similar to Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross’s score for The Social Network, Martinez uses an industrialized and stylish approach for Contagion’s score. It provides a great backdrop for many of the montage scenes that take place throughout the film. Listening to the album without the accompanying images had me worried it wouldn’t hold up, but the themes of the score shine on their own. If you enjoyed the score for The Social Network or Nine Inch Nails’ Ghosts album, this will be a great addition to your music collection.

After 2009’s amazing Beyond the Legend, I’ve been anxiously awaiting any new material from Memories of a Dead Man. Even though it is not another full length, Maze is an EP that is definitely worth your attention if for nothing more than the opening two tracks, both being epic post-hardcore tracks, complete with brooding build-ups, explosive cathartic outbursts, and a rough edge that most post-hardcore bands nowadays eschew. And to make the track “Spoken Yet Never Heard” even better, it contains vocals from Rosetta’s Mike Armine. Each of the tracks has guest vocals from different bands, giving each song a bit of a different feel, making this EP extremely diverse. It only makes me even more anxious for more material from this extremely underrated band.

Lydia – Paint It Golden

If you were part of the Decoy Music community back in 2008, you’ll remember Lydia. It seems like they were all the rage and loved by everyone… but then they dropped off the radar, released an EP in 2010, and seemingly fell into oblivion… until they resurfaced with Paint It Golden. Admittedly, Lydia fall outside the bounds of what I usually listen to, but their indie/dream-pop combination is extremely easy on the ears and quite heart-warming to listen to. The melancholic and wistful lilt of the music combined with the emotive vocals makes it all seem quite ethereal in nature.

MuteMath – Odd Soul

Let’s take another trip back into Decoy Music history—back to 2006 when MuteMath’s self-titled album was cracking top 10 lists and getting tons of love. They were taking the then-popular indie rock sound and adding well-placed electronics and atmospherics to it, making for something unique. Their follow-up, Armistice, wasn’t as well received since it felt like they were simply trying to be Coldplay, but Odd Soul shows them returning to the sound they started out with, but adding a ton of maturity. Combining blues, alternative, pop, and some electronics into their indie rock template freshens up what has become a very boring genre.

Omega Massif – Karpatia

This album is massive. Omega Massif have been playing sludge/doom/post-metal for 6 years and are on album number three with Karpatia. They had an epic release with 2007’s Geisterstadt, so the bar was set pretty high for this effort, especially having waited four years for it to get to us. Omega Massif might have reached the same level of greatness as their last album, even surpassing it ever so slightly. This band likes to mix theirCult of Luna-esque sludge together with the drive and thickness of early Pelican and the fullness of The Ocean’s sound. Bringing these elements together is what gives this album such a large, thick, meaty sound.

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