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Some Handsome Hands – Piano Trio

I consider me blessed because I was able to get this live experience twice, in 2006 and 2009, I guess. Three great pianists and, by the way, pretty ladies, playing the piano. Some of the music experiences I’ll never forget.

Check their schedule and, if they are in town, go watch them perform!

 

Grave Pleasures – Girl in a Vortex

Grave Pleasures are going to relesase their next album “Motherblood” this fall.

Time for me to celebrate my favourite song off their previous album “Dreamcrash”, called “Girl in a Vortex”. I love the video they made for this song. And this song’s climax with the odd solo just touches me a lot.

 

Review: Omela (Омела) – Aura

Omela are a Russian band from Moscow, formed in 2008. I listened to them for the first time in 2011 after the release of their second full-length album “Aura”, when I finally found out that Sergey “Abrey” Abramov, whose clean singing I already enjoyed while listening to Butterfly Temple, now had his solo project. And this particular album hit me at the right moment and wouldn’t let me go for quite some time! Now, 6 years later, I’ve listened to this record innumerable times, so that I’ve got most of the songs in my head, almost completely, and I can sing along half of the lyrics. Well, one octave lower, usually.

Abrey’s great vocals in tenor voice are something that you have to like or get accustomed to, as there are no death or black metal vocals on this album. But I wouldn’t recommend this album to strict listeners of black and death metal, anyway. In general, there is not much to criticise as his clean singing is of high quality and a certain classical singing education is audible. He also manages well in the lower tonal regions, which can act as a certain kind of relief and calm at some points. In general, I was a little astounded that I enjoyed his rather high-pitched vocals so much, because I usually can’t listen to most of power metal or a lot of classical heavy metal because I can’t stand the vocals for longer periods of time. But I like classical singing and classical music in general, so Abrey’s vocals already sounded somewhat familiar to me when I listened to Butterfly Temple many, many years before.

Musically speaking, this album has a lot to offer as well, which is at least equally important to me. The back bone of the songs basically consists of rather classical metal and rock (as far as I can tell), which is quite obvious when listening to the rhythm guitar section as well as the frequent and extravagant solos. But there is some harder influence as well, which makes the album even more enjoyable to me. This influence reminds me of the folky doom metal passages that Butterfly Temple are known for. The guitar work on this album is amazing and serves its purposes perfectly, either accompanying the vocals or giving way to some great instrumental parts. But great guitars and great vocals aren’t necessarily enough to create a great album. In case of “Aura”, the piece of art in its whole is created by the implementation of several classical instruments that play an important role.

In each of the 10 songs, viola and (traverse) flute can be heard, act either as rhythmical support or as the crowning element for some of the instrumental parts when contributing meticulously arranged beautiful melodies. The viola is played by Fedor Vetrov, whom I have to highlight specifically because I consider him an immensely talented musician. As a versatile multi-instrumentalist, he already contributed to a multitude of interesting projects by playing viola, violin, several flutes, oboe, bag pipes and other folkloristic instruments. With respect to “Aura”, the viola and flute make up an important part of the whole sound, but they are even complemented by harp (in “Gorkaya Osen”) and saxophone (“Gorkaya Osen”, “Nevidimaya”, “Vstretcha”, and “Svetlaya Voda”). Both instruments blend in perfectly, and the sax in particular creates several little highlights on its own. For example, there is a sad but light, hovering melody at the end of “Nevidimaya” that I find extremely touching.

In any case, the interplay of viola, flute, harp, and sax with keyboard, e-guitars and acoustic guitars creates a lot of variability and a huge emotional band width. Along with this, the drumming has to be highlighted as well. Although it does not have such front-line moments, the drummer does an amazing job accentuating the different tempi of the songs without even having to use blast beats or double bass (well, almost).

The stylistical characterisation of this kind of music proves to be difficult. I’d describe it as folk heavy metal, more or less. Metal-archives lists Omela as “Folk/Heavy/Doom Metal/Rock”, which I agree with as well. At least, this classification also implies that this music is not your usual party and drinking folk metal, but rather music that has a certain kind of gravity and seriousness attached to it. This notion is further supported by the high degree of professionalism that all of the band members show. Actually, this as well as the music itself is closer to classical music than to folk, most of the time, at least, which leads me to the consideration that this music might also appeal to open-minded listeners of serious, classical music, to whom metal music usually means loud noise.

The very well-balanced, meticulously crafted compositions on this record invite the inclined listener to a fascinating, versatile journey that lasts 70 minutes and never gets boring – at least not to me. There are a lot of emotional ups and downs, perfectly accentuated by vocals and instruments, with a multitude of instrumental highlights. This certain way of craftsmanship makes it possible to follow this journey even without specific language knowledge, although a certain level of interest in cultures and languages is required, naturally. But the rest can be read and understood (or, better, felt) to a sufficient degree by what is happening musically, even though there is a lot going on here.

All in all, this is an amazing album that perfectly blends different styles and themes with nature-inspired yet very personal lyrics. It’s hard to recommend a specific song, because I have a new favourite with each listen – or no favourite at all. For some reasons I chose as starters “Gorkaya Osen” and “Vstretcha”, just click on the titles. There aren’t many full songs on youtube, but you can listen to them on myzuka.ru, if you’re not scared off by the Cyrillic letters. Furthermore, I can recommend you to watch the multiple live videos available on youtube, especially because you can convince yourself that Omela are a great live band and Abrey is an amazing live performer as well. Unfortunately, merchandise is still only available via their site at vkontakte.com.

(A German-language version of this review is available at stormbringer.at)

Animo Aeger releases new EP

The German-Swedish avantgarde black metal duo Animo Aeger just released a new EP, called “Ab-Fakt”, via Cirsium Kollektivet.

Check it out here.

 

A&A Cembalo Duo – “Danse Macabre” by C. Saint-Saens

These two young Russian harpsichordists show a lot of skill and talent with this great performance of Saint-Saens’ “Danse Macabre”!

Enjoy and support!

Мельница – Ангел (Melnitsa – Angel)

I’m just preparing a little series of reviews for some of my favourite russian bands.

Melnitsa surely are one of them with their amazing and versatile folk rock music, which also incorporates influences from neofolk, country, irish folk, and others. When considering their 2012 album Angelofreniya (Ангелофрения), one could argue to label their style as world music – despite the Russian lyrics that unfortunately hinder the access to this music to a considerable extent. That’s a shame, so I’m trying to get some more people to at least notice that there is such great music out there.

Angelofreniya features a lot of great songs, but the one I listened to the most during these days is Ангел (Angel). It features a slow build-up with an interesting rhythm, harp, guitar, strings and percussion, before it transists into something more rock-oriented midway through the song. I love these song build-ups and the instrumentation. Not to mention Natalia O’Shea’s beautiful, warm, expressive voice. On this song she gives you a good impression of her compass.

You can listen to the whole album here.

And check out their Facebook site!

Review: Klabautamann – Smaragd

Finally! After 8 years the logical successor of Klabautmann’s „Merkur“ is going to be released. An event that I have been awaiting with a lot of suspense and patience. Especially since some information of the band conveyed that the new album really would be in the vein of said release.

With “Merkur” Klabautamann gained some attention by mixing progressive black metal elements and jazzy flair, which made up a quite unique style they were playing. Although uniqueness was always part of their records, they then seemed to have found a sort of peak of their songwriting output, as this album showed more of the abrupt rhythmical changes while keeping them even closer together. When their approach seemed to be too eclectic on previous records, they managed to fuse their styles way better on “Merkur”, though the differences between the parts were even greater. Thereby, this album demanded a lot from the listeners, but one was rewarded with a multitude of tiny details that made every listen unique on its own – like it is the case with a very compelling movie, which has another effect on you every time you watch it.

After this fascinating release, many listeners (including me) expected the next album with a certain ardour, which they supposed to be in vein of “Merkur”. But these hopes were disappointed to some extent, as “The Old Chamber” sounded way more rough and like a somewhat traditional black metal release. When I first listened to this record, I couldn’t get along this particular style, although it was an interesting album and still sounded like Klabautamann. But after a year or so, I gave it another chance in a different mood, and since then I frequently listen to it and it has been constantly growing on me. And there certainly are some great riffs and rhythms on it!

Nevertheless, I was still hoping for a successor of “Merkur”, and this hope and my patience should be rewarded now with “Smaragd”. According to the band’s website, the new album follows said release, and the list of guest musicians supports this idea. Besides using acoustic guitars again, the band decided to use the support of Clemens Toyka, who is contributing trombone, which he has already done for Florian Toyka’s other project Island. In addition, there are Fredy Schnyder, the mastermind of Nucleus Torn, who is adding Hammond organy, and Anna Murphy (ex-Eluveitie, Cellar Darling, Nucleus Torn), who plays the hurdy gurdy in one song (“Murderers”) and sings in another one (“Frozen in Time”). The more frequent use of clean vocals is another innovation, for which the two Dutchmen Chester Gerritse and Ingo Kerstjens show responsible.

Trombone, Hammond organ, clean vocals, and even hurdy gurdy? One might ask this, fearing some folksy music on this record. But don’t worry about this, Florian Toyka and Tim Steffens certainly know what they are doing! The trombone blends smoothly into the sound, very similar to the effect it already had on Island’s self-titled album and the “Enigma of the Stars” EP. The same also applies to the Hammond organ. While both appear in several songs, they don’t stand out much as they rather act in the background, basically doing what other bands try to achieve with unobstrusive keys or strings. Like a well-dosed condiment, they don’t push into the foreground while they still are highly important for the overall sound and the atmosphere. And although Anna Murphy plays a solo part on her hurdy gurdy in the mentioned song, this is far-off the rather happy folk parts à la Eluveitie. This is also true for her fragile but expressive vocals in the final song, which actually reminds me more of her performance on the last record of Nucleus Torn, “Neon Light Eternal“. The clean vocal parts of both guest members, which have their most prominent appearances during the opening track “Into Depression” as well as the calm songs “In my Shadow” and “As the Snow Melted”, don’t sound too much like pop music, although they are very cleanly done and well-balanced. This is mostly due to their introverted-sounding intonation. If you want to draw another comparison, these songs are what “Noatun” was on “Merkur”, but reflecting the present album’s somewhat cleaner approach. Additionally, you have a lot of songs and parts on this album that one could already admire on “Merkur”, enriched by several nuances of which the guest contributions are only a certain portion.

With respect to the music itself, this album has a very interesting and enthralling structure. Tim and Florian show their entire repertoire when it comes to the guitar and bass parts, and even in the calmer passages there is a whole lot of intriguing rhythms, chords and melody progressions that force the listener’s attention. And anyway, the black metal parts offer this unique approach that already got me fixed when listening to “Merkur”. One thing that has to be mentioned are the rhythmic variations and, in the same breath, the drumming, which is complex and fits the different atmospheres very well. It’s particularly impressive how smooth Patrick Schroeder plays all of these odd time signatures that have already been a trademark on “Merkur” and “The Old Chamber”. If you’ve got a soft spot for odd time signatures, then there’s a lot of 6/8, 7/8, 10/8 and 11/8 going on that you can feel and try to follow.

Vocal-wise, Tim delivers a great performance with a diverse and accentuated vocal style, where the variations in growling and screaming go perfectly with the different moods and emotions of the passages. To me, that’s another positive development in comparison to previous outputs.

With respect to the dynamics of the songs, the songwriting in itself, Klabautamann mostly stay true to presenting alternating parts of black metal fury with mid-tempo progressive black and calm, jazzy parts, while some of this gets mixed up occasionally. Thereby, they develop interesting arcs of suspense that have to be digested a little by the listener, i.e. it might take a little effort to really get to appreciate what is going on here. As was expected, this album presents a lot of different, contrasting elements, but it most certainly does not feel off balance. Quite the contrary, to me it appears to be even more balanced, less abrupt than “Merkur”.

The first half of the album seems to be a little calmer that the second one, an impression that is mostly caused by the solemn parts of the opening song and the two non-metal pieces. The second half is more rapid, furious, before the album superbly ends with the touching calm song “Frozen in Time”, which hopefully does not mark the ending point of Klabautamann’s output. The greatest portion of (progressive) black metal can be found in „My Terrifying Mirror“, „Under Feral Skies“, Enemies‘ Blood“, and the eponymous track “Smaragd”, which is why I’d like to suggest these songs to those listeners who appreciate this rougher side of the band the most and who might have to take some effort and understanding to get along with the clean vocals.

To conclude this review, I have to say that this record came up to all of my expectations and partly even surpassed them. I’ve listened to “Smaragd” for about 50 times now, but this record still doesn’t get boring, there still are new things to be discovered or to be looked at/heard in a different light, so that the album evokes a slightly different emotional setting each time that enthralls me anew. Here and there, I simply want to shout along and to shake my head, then again I find myself singing along with these fragile clean vocal lines or even inclined to do some awkward kind of dancing. For this reason (and others), this album is going to be a steady companion for quite some time!

You can order the album here and listen to 3 already published songs.

Cooperation with stormbringer.at – The Austrian Heavyzine

It’s been a little bit calm around here during the last months. This is mostly due to the collaboration with stormbringer.at, an Austrian metal zine, which started about a month ago. Since then, I’ve been occupied with translating revies, writing new ones based on promo material, conducting interviews, and writing livereports.

I consider this cooperation to be a great possibilty of reaching more people and getting into contact with the metal scene, especially in Austria, the country that I live in since more than 6 years.

At the end of most of the English-language reviews and interviews, you’ll soon find links that lead you to the German-language versions!

New content will be there soon!

Island – Apex

The whole Zeitgeister Music collective is heavily underrated, at least in my humble opinion. Their best-known act probably is Valborg, followed by Klabautamann. The latter are one of my favourite bands – not only of this collective, but in general. Another one of my favourite bands is Island, a now split-up project masterminded by Florian Toyka and Christian Kolf. They started playing a unique variation of progressive death/black metal (on Orakel), then developing into something that bears a closer resemblance to progressive rock (especially on Island), while still retaining some of the extreme metal influences (Enigma of the Stars). All of their outputs mean a lot to me, and they never get boring because of all the interesting rhythmic changes, the unique and memorable riffs, the vocals, the impressive song-writing skills, and so on.

I can practically listen to their stuff for several days in a row, but I guess the track I listened to the most is “Apex” off Enigma of the Stars. I particularly like the build-up towards the final part with its intense and interesting rhythm as well as the emotional density of the final part itself, during which the use of brass instruments is a great feature, giving this part its peculiar atmosphere.

Listen to it here: Island – Apex

 

 

 

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