Aug 252010

Ten days ago, we included some extended comments in one of our MISCELLANY posts about a Swedish band called Canopy, and we also put up a video of a Canopy song off the band’s 2009 album, Will and Perception.

We also found out that the day before we put up those posts, Canopy had released a new album called Menhir. We were so taken with the songs we heard from Will and Perception that we immediately got Menhir and we’ve been listening to it off and on since then.

It constantly amazes us how many talented bands are turning out excellent metal in Europe (and elsewhere in the world, for that matter) but are virtual unknowns in North America. Canopy is a perfect example.

We hope that Menhir changes that picture, because it’s packed with memorable music — a very strong follow-up to Will and Perception, which is itself an album worth tracking down. (our review of the album, plus a track for you to hear, plus links for free downloads — all that, and more, after the jump . . .)

Canopy has a knack for creating melodic death metal with power grooves and prog-metal flourishes, without ever losing an ominously heavy cutting edge.

The title track on Menhir is a good example. The song starts with a slow, dreamlike keyboard melody and a quiet guitar lead. Then the drums begin to clatter and the bass picks out a simple arpeggio.

Almost two minutes into the song, the intensity begins to build with a melodic, tremolo-picked riff that shifts into a brute-force headbanger when the howling vocals kick in at about the 3:00 mark.

Behind the deep, harsh vocals, the lead guitar weaves a nimble melody, the second guitar injects a stuttering, neck-snapping rhythm, and the drummer adds some very cool progressions on the toms, with judicious use of the double-kicks and blast-beats.

The song is more than 8 minutes long, but it’s catchy as hell and instrumentally impressive — and it’s only an example.  All the songs feature similarly inventive combinations of rapid-fire, intricate riffing and technically attention-grabbing solos, dissonant hammering rhythms and catchy melodies.

But that’s not to say they’re clones of each other either. “Earth Splits Into Fire” interleaves acoustic picking with merciless hammering and eastern-sounding guitar melodies. “The Entire City” begins with a thrash attack and features dynamic full-forward bass sweeps, galloping guitar leads, and quiet tinkling keyboard sections. “New Construct” is dark, dissonant, and at times mournful. And again, those are only examples.

All the song structures tie together, in ways that make sense, a blend of styles and tones, and combinations of awesome riffs and divergent tempos. And, of course, what makes it all work so well is the talent of the performers.

Jonatan Hedlin and Erik Björkman are super-sharp guitarists, capable of swirling leads, shredtastic solos, anthemic take-offs, and shudderingly heavy riffs.

The rhythm section is also unusually good. Peter Lindqvist seems to have just the right drumstrokes at just the right moments, to drive the songs forward, to accent their power, to make them even more interesting, and Daniel Ahlm‘s bass-playing is creative and almost always noticeable in the mix.

Last, but by no means least, Fredrik Huldtgren‘s vocals are vital to the sound on Menhir. They’re deep, resonant, and gratifyingly harsh — down in the timbre of Johan Hegg — and they give the music a dangerous edge even at its most melodic. But they never grow monotonous, in part because Huldtgren is equally adept at hitting black-metal-style rasps higher in the range and even passionate clean vocals on “Inward Burst”.

Bands that put out remarkable debut efforts like Will and Perception more often than not fall prey to what we Americans call a “sophomore jinx” — where the second effort falls short of the first. But that’s not true of Menhir. We’re not sure there’s anything on Menhir quite as inventive as “Decipher” or quite as magnetic as “For the Sickened Voice to Hear” from Will, but Menhir reflects a growing maturity in the songwriting, and it loses nothing in its enveloping power or the captivating nature of its rhythms and melodies.

We’re so high on both albums that we’ve compiled the most complete menu of options for obtaining the music that we’re capable of finding.

As for the new album, it’s available for digital download for 5 Euros at Canopy’s Bandcamp page (here), and at that same site you can also download individual tracks for a minimum of 1 Euro — and stream each of them first.  Or you can order the physical digipack at this location.

As for the previous releases, including Will and Perception, selected tracks can be downloaded for free at the band’s web site (here) or at (here), or you can buy digital downloads at iTunes or Amazon, or you can order the Will and Perception CD from Montreal’s Disconcert Music here.

Canopy has also made three of the new songs available for streaming via ReverbNation, and we’ve got the ReverbNation widget for those songs available below.

But we like to provide a public service, too, so we’re putting up two songs for you to stream without leaving our site. “Decipher” is from Will and Perception and “Earth Splits Into Fire” is from Menhir. We think they’re both excellent, and if you dig ’em, show this talented band some love and spread the word — or better yet, go spend yo’ money.

Canopy: Decipher

Canopy: Earth Splits Into Fire

Here’s that ReverbNation widget with more songs from Menhir:

  35 Responses to “CANOPY: MENHIR”

  1. Menhir is their third release, but I’m guessing they already escaped sophomoritis with Will And Perception – although only two of those songs were new; one was from their first demo and five from the 2005 demo with the same name. Then again, an older blog entry on mySpace said they were going to work on their second full length after Serene Catharsis after re-recording their ’05 demo, then a later one refers to Menhir as their third full release instead, which Disconcert’s promo page for WAP seems to support. I know, it’s just semantics.


    As you already know, I’m stoked to have learned of these guys and decided to not put off the purchase any longer, though I probably should have. I know it’s not much, but I’m in scrape mode at the moment. Will And Perception is next on the list, but it doesn’t appear that Serene Catharsis is available for purchase, unless I’m looking in the wrong place(s), although maybe contacting the band directly would remedy that. iTunes only has their previous release (and a single of “Decipher”) and I couldn’t find anything on Amazon. There’s a copy on eBay, but I have to watch the budget even more closely now. Maybe later. Disconcert does need an updated page to reflect the new album, unless it’s only through the band directly at this point.

    They still live up to the ‘perfect for fans of Opeth, Amon Amarth and Edge Of Sanity’ blurb and it’s a shame that they aren’t that well known. True, there’s so much metal out there, but certain bands deserve to get that extra push and I would say that Canopy is one of them. I haven’t had the benefit to hear all of WAP, but based on what I have heard, Menhir doesn’t quite trump those songs, “Will” being my favorite of that bunch, followed by “Decipher”. “Menhir” comes very close, while “Earth Splits Into Fire” and “New Construct” are great examples of what Canopy can do on this side of epic.

    My only complaint? At under 40 minutes (36:28), it’s not quite long enough. I don’t know why, but I like having albums that last a bit longer. Not saying they have to cram over an hour in, but another song would have made Menhir feel a bit more complete. Or a couple songs could have been a bit longer, like “The Entire City”. Just before the minute marks it starts to become awesome and it ended up being one of the better tracks on the album, even if a bit different than the rest, and I wanted it to keep going. “Zenith” was an okay way to end the album (and is pretty much an extended outro that “Inward Burst” leads into) , but bringing things to a close after little more than half an hour left me feeling underwhelmed.

    Still, an excellent album that I’m glad I grabbed. Many thanks to you for mentioning them during the Incarnia lyricfest and to Stéphane Paré for pointing you in Canopy’s direction. I’ve been listening to it nearly non-stop, taking a break to focus on a couple other albums I’ve had to get through. It’s going to the iPod next, so I’ll have to go through and make a little room for it – 2 GB doesn’t take long to fill up.

    • Aggh — my bad. I thought Serene Catharsis was an EP — should have looked more closely. Now I’ll have to track that one down if possible. If I find a manageable way to get it, I’ll leave a further comment. I would have enjoyed a longer album, too, because I like their music so much. An extended version of “The Entire City” would have been a great idea — extending the instrumental jams in many of these songs would have been welcome. Can’t help being greedy when the music is this good.

      • Their fist two releases (5 songs each) ran just under 28 minutes each, while some bands’ EP’s are actually longer than Menhir is – the line between the two length descriptions isn’t always clear. Will And Perception was going to be an EP, just a re-recorded version of their second demo. They also did a split with Chainsaw, according to their mySpace blog entries.

        I saw a copy of their first album on eBay for around $10-$11 total. But one copy someone has and isn’t charging much for is still just one copy. Once I have more money to play with, I may ask about getting a download of the first release at the same time I go for the second. Or maybe there’s another outlet out there.

        I assume you have WAP, right? How long does that one run? Their site says SC has a runtime of 52:31, but I don’t see a running time for WAP.

      • You can order a physical copy of Serene Catharsis from CMDistro online, at this location:
        But it ain’t cheap — $11 for the CD plus $5 shipping and “base fee”!

        • Awesome. It’s still reasonable and I’ll just have to wait until CM Distro has a sale/promotion going on to pick up some other stuff at the same time. My last order from them got me six albums for $33, plus one they added in as a freebie.

  2. “It constantly amazes us how many talented bands are turning out excellent metal in Europe (and elsewhere in the world, for that matter) but are virtual unknowns in North America.”

    Amusingly i’m currently working in the other direction, trying to spread the word about certain American bands that I find artistically stimulating (as a counter to the artistic-bankruptcy of so many of the USA’s exports – not that this is just an American problem of course) – mainly Martiden (naturally), The Funeral Pyre, Ludicra and Cormorant. Oh, and Lilitu (as they were). Maybe the usual suspects to people on the blogosphere, but I’ve legitmately loved Martiden/TheFuneralPyre/Ludicra/Lilitu for years, and am a recent convert to Cormorant and feel people should know about them.

    I’ve added Canopy to my list as well. Looking forward to hearing this.

    • Yeah, it works both ways. There are many talented bands here in the U.S. and Canada that deserve to be better known, not just to those of us here, but abroad. And of course, there are bands hailing from small counties that have difficulty finding a wider audience or bands from countries where one might not expect to find much local metal. As for our bands, I agree with you about Martriden and Cormorant, while I should look into the others you’ve mentioned, just to see if they fit with my tastes, either long term or whatever I’ve been listening to recently.

      As I’ve mentioned before in posts here at NCS, metaldom is rather flooded and it’s not always easy to dig through it all to find the really good stuff worth keeping around. And sadly, that means some bands remain buried in obscurity for years, never to get much exposure beyond their home audience. For every band that manages to capture enough attention, there are three or four (or more) that go unnoticed, while cookie cutter bands are able to stay in the foreground along with the bands that have managed to earn their exposure.

      • What’s really annoying is when you discover a band that you love… only to realise that either they’ve changed/broken up or that most of their early material is out of print. And then you think of all the time you wasted when you could have gotten in on the ground floor with them at an earlier date.

        I’m killing myself to find copies of “Memorial” and “The Earth Gods” by Lilitu that are a) guaranteed to be of good quality and, b) aren’t in the region of $200.

        • It’s also the same when you return to a band that you were into, only to find lineup changes and craptactular albums released after they fell off your radar. It’s not always easy to keep up with all these bands and when they splinter, it makes it even worse, since there’s a tendency to try to follow members’ new efforts.

          The premium price to get a hold of a used copy of an album that was never produced in mass numbers is insane. And to find a sealed copy of some older albums that fall in the same category… It’s no wonder that they sometimes go unpurchased with some of the prices people want to charge.

          • That’s about the only time when I can justify to myself downloading a copy off the web — when I just can’t find any other way to get an album legitimately (usually because the band is obscure and the album isn’t a recent one).

        • There are some merchants on Amazon-US selling The Earth Gods for $15.50, identified as “new”.

          • I saw those… i’m highly suspicious of them though.

            Have messaged the band themselves, but they’re not all that active anymore so will have to wait and see!

    • Andy, I’ll be forever grateful to you for turning me on to Martriden. They could use a whole lot more exposure in the US, as well as overseas. I’m a big fan of The Funeral Pyre, Ludicra, and Cormorant too, and now definitely need to check out Lilitu. That’s a new name to me, but they’re in some pretty fine company if you include them with those other bands.

  3. Within 20 seconds or so of listening to Decipher, the toe starts tapping. My first is impression is that this song is catchy as hell. And it has just the right amount of melody to balance the heavy parts. The mix on this song is awesome and lets the band showcase their technical skills (which are considerable). One thing I like is they know when to back off the technical aspects and just drop into a good groove. And they don’t get all technical just for the sake of showing off.

    The opening to Earth Splits Into Fire is unique and fun as hell to listen too. Once again, after the intro, the toe starts tapping. This is some good stuff, showcasing their ability to go with a heavier sound. The bass line in this song kicks ass. I like that I don’t have to focus to listen to it, it really stands out in the mix.

    I am definitely going to have to pick up Menhir and Will and Perception. And I am going to go check out Martiden/The Funeral Pyre/Ludicra/Cormorant/Lilitu.

    • Glad you liked the songs! You mentioned the prominence of the bass line, and that’s one (of many things) I really liked about the production, and something that I don’t run across very often in the kind of stuff I listen to.

      • I was checking out Edge of Sanity’s MySpace page and found a band that reminded me of Facebreaker, with that old school Swedish death metal sound. Their name is Ribspreader and they have an awesome, headbangable groove to their sound. The mix for Flesh for the Freaks is butt ugly horrible, but the others are pretty decent. Go check ’em out.

        And Vader’s new album Necropolis has been showing up in my Ipod a lot lately. If you haven’t heard it yet, you definitely need to check it out. And pay attention to their cover of Fight Fire with Fire. It kills me to admit it, but their version sounds better than the original. And they also did a very good cover of Black Metal.

        • Yes, Necropolis rules! On Oct 10, Vader is playing in Seattle with Immolation. I can hardly wait. And I just listened to “River of Rot” on the Ribspreader myspace page, and man you do know what I like! That is some very cool shit. I am absolutely exploring that band’s music further . . .

          • Glad you liked it. When you find out where you can get Ribsreader’s albums at, let me know. It is must have material.

            • All three of their full-lengths (including the 2009 release “Opus Ribcage”) plus the 2006 “best of” collection, “Rotten Rhythms and Rancid Rants”, are available on iTunes. Amazon is selling the same four albums for digital download, plus Opus Ribcage as a CD.

        • I think anything Dan Swanö is involved in at some point is worth a listen, Ribspreader being no exception.

          Vader’s cover of “Fight Fire With Fire” is pretty kick ass. Like some of the other covers I’ve heard from them, it sounds a bit different than Vader I’m used to hearing (which is, admittedly, limited). But it works, and that’s what matters.

          • Speaking of Dan Swanö, I’m planning on an Edge of Sanity listening session this weekend (since I’ve somehow managed never to hear Crimson or Crimson II).

            • I hope you have more than those two to go on. As I’ve said before, I’m quite fond of Purgatory Afterglow, which was my first exposure to EOS and it served as a gateway album to broaden my perception of what metal could sound like.

              It’s not that the stuff before it (I’ve only heard Unorthodox and Spectral Sorrows among these) or the stuff after Crimson sucks, but Afterglow and Crimson are the absolute best Edge Of Sanity had to offer and the former album would make it to a list of ‘essentials’ first were I to attempt to make one, but there’s a good chance both would make the cut if the list were long enough – although I couldn’t really rank such a collection.

              All that aside, I think you’ll like what you hear.

              • Yep, on your recommendation, I’ve got Purgatory Afterglow to hear as well.

                • Purgatory Afterglow and Cryptic definitely float my boat.

                  Still haven’t heard Crimson II however.

                  I have Heaven Shall Burn to thank for introducing me to Edge Of Sanity to be entirely open and honest with you all though!

                  • I only figured out quite recently that “Black Tears” was a cover of an EOS song, and I’ve loved that HSB track since it first came out on Iconoclast. Your comment prompted me to go watch the official HSB video for that song, which always makes me smile:

                    • Good man, I LOVE that video. Interesting mix of the “pointlessly abstract” storyline type of video with the performance footage. I always get a real kick out of the change halfway through.

                      Controversially I prefer the HSB version actually.

        • Trivia: Dan Swanö did guest vocals and a guest solo on the first Canopy EP “During Day One”.

  4. So far MENHIR has been purely self-released. Some distros will be contacted in the future, but it will stay within out hands. Nice to see all opinions and reactions, obviously there are still ears out there willing to listen thoroughly – a rarity these days. As for the album being a tad short, there was actually a song left out due to lack of time production-wise. I myself like LP-length records (maximum 45 mins) unless its a very proggresive act, but indeed menhir would’ve benefited from having that final song on (would have been another fairly long exploration to, 6-7 minutes). But it’ll surface in due time, short but sweet will have to do for now 🙂

    • Oh, and in terms of personel:

      Fredrik Segell is a permanent member on guitar (yep, three guitars in canopy) and has been contributing with riffs on New Construct and Inward Burst as well as several solos.

      Mario Santos Ramos (vocalist in Feared) is handling lead-vocals in Inward Burst.

      Also 100% cred to Ronnie Björnström för mixing and mastering my production with the best possible results.

    • Thank you for writing! And btw, I fixed the misspelling of your first name in the post. Sorry about that.
      As you can see, lots of us will be following your news and waiting for more music, though we already have many awesome Canopy songs to keep us occupied for now.

  5. This band is just too great , I love their music , I wonder how I discovered this band cuz they seem to not be very well known. Anyway I agree that Canopy deserves to be pushed up to the top because they’re making some awesome music , All hails from Morocco.

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