(Andy Synn attended the performance of Devin Townsend, Tesseract, and Leprous in Nottingham, England, on March 18th and files this report.)
Despite the fact that this site is called “No Clean Singing” we’re actually big fans of clean sung vocals here… well, in the right circumstances anyway.
No, the site’s moniker originally stemmed not from a blanket hatred of clean singing, but from Islander and co’s growing dissatisfaction with all the bands shoehorning clean vocals into their songs in a desperate attempt to appear more “accessible”, and therefore more marketable, at the cost of both their overall intensity and their underlying integrity.
I personally have a lot of love, and a lot of respect, for bands on the heavier end of the spectrum who are able to integrate and incorporate clean vocals into their sound in a way that feels totally natural. After all, it’s generally a lot more difficult to hold onto a melody and to hit all the right notes than it is to simply scream your lungs out atop a parade of blastbeats/breakdowns/bombastic riffs (not that I’m attempting to downplay the skill and strain involved in being a good screamer/growler).
So when a show like this rolls around, featuring three bands whose singers are all capable of knocking it completely out of the park (and practically into orbit) with their clean singing abilities, you’d best believe that we’re going to write about it.
(Andy Synn presents a collection of songs to celebrate the International Day of Happiness, which the UN has established as March 20th — today!)
How are we all doing today? Good?
I only ask because today is apparently International Day of Happiness, so we should all be feeling that little bit brighter and sprightlier as a result.
Today is also the day when the UN releases their annual World Happiness Report and, wouldn’t you know it, but our Norwegian brethren (and lady-brethren) have only gone and dethroned the Danish as the world’s happiest nation!
So, in tribute to this momentous occasion, here are five bands who help make Norway the happiest place on earth.
(In this post Dan Barkasi continues his monthly series recommending music from the previous month.)
Here we go again! With May long behind us, there was a lot of material to sift through, along with a hell of a time at Maryland Deathfest to remember. All good things!
Overall, May wasn’t the best month this year, but that doesn’t mean there weren’t some gems to uncover. Quite a good amount, actually, with the selections coming from a broad spectrum. Hey, that’s why I’m here – to give you the goods from all over! I try to deliver. Maybe not as exciting as the pizza delivery guy bringing carb-loaded goodies, but I do what I can!
(Well, we might as well start off the new week by confusing the shit out of people. Here’s DGR’s review of the latest album by Norway’s Leprous, released in May 2013.)
Fair Warning: Tons of clean singing ahead, very few screams.
We in the metal community tend to use the phrases “prog” and “avante-garde” somewhat interchangeably to describe those situations in which the caveman side of the brain doesn’t fully grasp what is going on in the music. Either that or we call it “prog” when it’s soft music that we really like but don’t want to own up to it. Norway’s Leprous fall into the former camp, where even though things seem relatively straightforward at first glance, they’re really just a little off.
They have gained quite a bit of the spotlight since receiving Ihsahn’s blessing, as well as performing as his backing band for his discs and a bunch of shows. They’d been going for a good while before, but those developments coupled with the release of Bilateral really launched them onto a lot of radar screens.
Bilateral threw a lot of people for a loop. Nothing was really conventional outside of the instruments present. Every song had a strange, unnerving approach to it. When a song like “Restless” and its curveball of a music video was one of the most normal-sounding songs, who could imagine what oddities lay in the rest of the album? Bilateral was also incredibly difficult to describe and led to some stumbling examples of attempts to so – which proved amusing to watch.
Befitting their avante-garde/prog label, Leprous have returned with another album in the form of Coal filled to the brim with strange song arrangements, odd vocal approaches, and conventional instruments played in weird ways. Like Bilateral before it, Coal is incredibly difficult to describe. As before, the band have again deftly managed to avoid genrefication in any sense and have provided an experience that is all their own.
Here’s one of those posts that causes people unfamiliar with our site to become confused. It concerns Norway’s Leprous, who create music vastly different from the vast majority of music we cover here.
I am providing this post as a public service, because I know some of our other writers and many of our readers were quite taken with this band’s last album, Bilateral. The new one, entitled Coal, is scheduled for release on May 28 in North America and May 20 in Europe by InsideOut Music. I really like the cover art, by Jeff Jordan.
Today, Leprous released an official video for one of the new songs, “The Cloak”. Fittingly, it was filmed in a mine — the Konnerud Hill Mines in Norway, to be precise.
The song is languid, pared-down, ethereal, haunting, and memorable — and Einar Solberg unquestionably has got a set of quality pipes, if you’re into pipes that aren’t corroded beyond recovery. There’s some heaviness in the riffs, too, which I appreciate.
So, have a look and a listen while I go hunt for some metal that will strip paint from the walls.
(This is the fourth in Andy Synn’s week-long series of posts looking back at albums released this year. Andy previously provided his lists of the year’s Great albums, the Good ones, and the most Disappointing ones, and tomorrow we’ll have his Personal Top 10. Today, we have his list of “The Critical Top 10”. For more explanation of what all this means, plus Andy’s picks for the year’s best EPs, visit this location.)
So here’s the penultimate list of the week, the first of two ranked top-tens. This list will include the albums that I think are the very best of the best, the ones that best combine creativity, artistic ambition, song-writing, and performance. Regardless of my personal feelings and preferences, these are the albums that I think are critically superior to others. Though the ranking of them was difficult (as it always is when trying to compare artists and albums across metallic sub-genres), I’ve tried my best to give a sense about the critical and objective factors that led to each record earning its respective position on this list.
Although the potential candidates for the list were unavoidably influenced by my own listening tastes — I do, after all, only really tend to select the albums that I feel best qualified and most inspired to review – I have done my best to keep personal preference as far away from these judgements as possible, something that I hope will become clear when you see tomorrow how different the list of my top ten “favourite” albums of the year is from today’s list.
So here are the ten releases I think best represent the year critically. The ten that, ultimately, would be my choices to represent the year in metal music for posterity. Some of them have appeared quite commonly on other lists, albeit perhaps weighted differently, while others have largely been ignored by other sources thus far. Enjoy . . .
(NCS writer Andy Synn reviews the new album from Norway’s Leprous.)
Ok, I originally had a longer and more traditionally deconstructive review written up for this. But while re-listening to the album for about the fifth consecutive time, I realised nothing I was writing was really getting to the heart of this utterly genius, utterly addictive gem of an album.
Who/what does it sound like? Well there are elements of Porcupine Tree’s depressive progressive excursions and Devin Townsend’s ambitious mutant pop melodies, along with the bombast of Queen and the precociousness of early Dream Theatre to boot. Similarities to Ihsahn’s solo work of course abound, Leprous being the backing band he employs to give life to his beautiful and barren soundscapes in the live setting (the band also features his youngest brother-in-law, fact fans) as do comparisons with the off-kilter force of sadly departed esoteric metallers Oceans Of Sadness. Yet that’s not all.
There’s the unhinged madness of Sigh, the introverted progressive might of Into Eternity, a throwback 70’s haze that recalls Opeth’s more self-indulgent moments, a cock-sure strut that can only stem from the over-the-top 80’s output of Queensryche, the meandering and sleep-walking structures of latter-day Cynic, the unashamed, operatic excesses of Muse, the singular power of Enslaved, the madcap mentality of Arcturus… my god, it’s like an unholy amalgamation of everything vibrant and progressive from the last several decades, mixed up and spat out in this narcissistically beautiful, yet vaguely unnerving form. (more after the jump . . .)
I found a press release from yesterday in my in-box that I thought was worth sharing, because it’s an offer of free music and includes some very good bands (along with others whose music I don’t yet know). This is a sampler from InsideOut Music that includes songs from the label’s best 2011 releases. You can see them above. Not all of the music is metal, but with tracks from Devin Townsend, Redemption, and Leprous (whose fascinating new album will be reviewed here shortly), it’s tough to go wrong.
To get the sampler for free, go to this location (you’ll need to supply an e-mail address for the download code).
We’re jumping the gun on this post, since the month doesn’t end until tomorrow. Why? Uh, because this post is ready to go and we don’t have anything else finished for today yet. Work and other shit interfered with our grand plans for a Sunday post. We might still get another one up later today, but for now, feast your eyes on the barrage of metal headed our direction.
What we do with these installments of METAL IN THE FORGE is collect news blurbs and press releases we’ve seen over the last 30 days (or in this case, the last 27 days) about forthcoming new albums from bands we know and like (including updates about releases we’ve included in previous installments of this series), or from bands that look interesting, even though we don’t know them yet. And in this post, we cut and paste the announcements and compile them in alphabetical order.
This isn’t a cumulative list, so be sure to check the Category link called “Forthcoming New Albums” on the right side of this page to see forecasted releases we reported in previous installments. This month’s list begins right after the jump. Look for your favorite bands, or get intrigued about some new ones. There’s some awesome shit on the way.
This is the second post of the day, which we don’t do very often. As the title says, this is mainly a sappy thank-you post. Of course it is, because “sappy” is my middle name. Well, it comes right after my other middle names, i.e., “wordy” and “half-assed.”
For many months after we started this blog, no one posted any comments on what we wrote. Okay, to be honest, for many months no one read what we wrote. But even after the reading started, our words were greeted by silence. Figuratively, the sound of crickets.
Not all bad, because I’ve missed the sound of crickets ever since moving to Seattle from Texas years ago. I don’t miss the appearance of crickets, just the sound of them, on warm nights, when you can’t see them. Kind of a dreamy, hypnotic sound. The sound of nature around us, undisturbed.
Where was I? Oh yeah: No one posted any comments at NCS for a long time. But now that has changed, and it’s been an exhilarating change for us. We look forward every day to seeing what readers write, even when someone calls us retarded, and we feel kinda empty on the days when none come. That’s mainly because the comments are usually better than the posts we write.
Yesterday was a classic example, certainly one of the best comment days ever. We did a half-baked riff on band names and got a slew of comments that were smart and funny and creative and educational and took the discussion off in unexpected directions, which is part of what’s so much fun about the comments we’re getting.
And did I say the comments are educational? They’re really educational! Of course, when, like us, you start in a state of embarrassing ignorance, it may not take much to be educational in our eyes, but still. After the jump, I’ll tell you the things I learned yesterday, and one thing in particular that drew me back to an album I haven’t listened to in a while, and it was just a perfect end to a beautiful Indian summer day in Seattle.
But first: Thank you to the people who commented yesterday — to Dan, and ElvisShotJFK, and Brian, and Andy, and byrd36 — and to everyone else who has taken the time to add something to this site since we started. And we don’t mean to slight those who simply read and don’t write (which is mainly what I do on other sites). We are sappily grateful to all of you, too. But if you usually don’t write and are are tempted to write something someday, don’t worry — we won’t bite! (more sappiness, plus some music, after the jump . . .)