Jan 312013

So, this morning I was poking around a nice new India-based metal blog established by our supporter “Deckard Cain” (Metalspree), and what should I spy but the news that Fractal Gates have a new album coming and a new video streaming. You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I discovered this Parisian band 2 1/2 years ago through an insistent recommendation from one of this site’s original co-founders and was blown away by their 2009 album, Altered State of Consciousness, which I reviewed here. I was taken by everything about it, not only the music but also the artwork for each song and the sci-fi oriented concept behind the album — which is a tale of an apocalyptic future in which human minds escape into the depths of space, eventually to discover that they are not alone . . . and never have been.

The music itself was a kind of dark, brooding melodic death metal that at times reminded me of Insomnium, and I spun that album to death.

Thanks to Metalspree, I now know that the band have finished a new album — Beyond the Self — which will be released by Great Dane Records in February. It was mixed and mastered by the godly Dan Swanö with guest appearances by  Swanö himself (vocals) and by Septic Flesh guitarist Soritis. And based on a few samples, it appears there will once again be separate artwork for each song:

Sep 092010

Do you remember the first time you listened to extreme metal — of any genre? Do you remember which band it was? I bet you do. I know I do.

For me, in terms of my musical tastes, it was like I was traveling on a train and someone flipped a switch without warning and shunted the car onto a side track that headed off at a sharp angle into an entirely different landscape. The band that flipped the switch for me was In Flames. It could have been some other band, because it was a pretty random experience, but that’s who it was.

The music was so different from anything else I’d heard. It was like I’d unwittingly reached out and grabbed a live power line — it sent a current bolting through and just torched my head. I wouldn’t have been surprised if my hair had started smoking. That combination of fast, powerful aggression with harsh vocals and catchy, melodic hooks was completely arresting. I went off down that side track and never came back to the main line.

Since then, I’ve gotten into other kinds of music that’s more extreme than In Flames — certainly more extreme than what In Flames has become in recent years — but probably because of that first experience, melodic death metal is still what grabs me the hardest, and when I hear it done right, it still gets me charged up like nothing else.

Last week I listened to the latest album from a Parisian band called Fractal Gates, and it reminded me of what I felt the first time I listen to In Flames — not because Fractal Gates is an In Flames knock-off, but because they’ve succeeded so well in combining dark, threatening power with soaring melodies to produce a galvanizing result.  (more after the jump, including a song to hear, and some very interesting album art . . .)

Sep 082010

Last week, I got a series of attention-grabbing messages from my NCS collaborator IntoTheDarkness. In one, he urged me to check out a band called Yorblind, calling it “one of the best melodeath bands I’ve heard in a loooong time.” In another, he pushed me to hear Fractal Gates:  “Sooo good. In the same vein as Yorblind and Incarnia — new melodeath bands that kick ass. In Flames really was never this good lol.”

“In Flames really was never this good”?  Really?  Well, ITD is sometimes given to overstatement, particularly when he’s trying to get me to pay attention, and I’m sure he didn’t know I would quote him verbatim. On the other hand, when it comes to metal, he’s a lot harder to please than I am. So if his aim was to get my attention, he succeeded.

Oh, and I’m soooo fucking glad he succeeded, because, really and truly, these bands are soooo good. I spent much of the Labor Day weekend using them as a soundtrack to my R&R (what little of it there was), and the music just made everything sharper, more invigorating, more zap-headed. It made me happy all over again that somewhere in the dim mists of the past I started listening to metal.

I started out intending to write about both bands in a single post, but decided that just wouldn’t be right. So today the focus is on Yorblind, and tomorrow will come a few hundred words about Fractal Gates.  (more after the jump, including, as usual, a track to hear . . .)

Sep 042010

As fodder for this latest installment of MISCELLANY, I once again played the human pinball machine, randomly bouncing from one thing to the next, checking out new music and videos without knowing much about what I’d see or hear. With one exception, I’d never heard the music of the bands I checked out in this session.

As usual, this post is a log of what I heard and saw, without filtering. I spent so much time exploring that I’ve decided to split up the report into two parts. If you’re like me, you have the attention span of a hummingbird, so I won’t push my luck with a really long post. We’ll post the second part tomorrow. The subjects of today’s post are King of Asgard (Sweden), Fractal Gates (France), and Synapse Defect (U.S.).

KING OF ASGARD

I’ve lost track of where I first read about this three-piece Swedish band, but I’ve had their debut CD for a couple weeks. It was released by Metal Blade on August 16 and it’s called Fi’mbulvintr. And no, I have no fucking idea how to pronounce that.

From the band’s name, I deduced that it might be Viking metal — Asgard being the home of the Norse gods, and the king being Odin. The very cool album cover (by Ola Larsson) reinforced that guess. And I just sort of felt in the mood for Viking metal, so my first stop was to fire up this CD and pick a track. (more after the jump, including the chance to hear the music and watch the vids . . .)

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