Since leaving Scar Symmetry in 2008, Christian Älvestam has become a one-man cottage industry. Actually, it may be more accurate to say that he and Finnish multi-instrumentalist Jani Stefanović have operated as a two-man cottage industry. Their results have ranged from okay to superior.
Both of them have joined forces in three bands: Solution .45 (okay), Miseration (very good), and The Few Against Many (superior). It won’t surprise anyone to know that my highly subjective one-word quality rankings increase in exuberance in direct relationship to the changing extremity of the music.
Solution .45’s last album, For Aeons Past (2010), is the closest of the three to the soundscape of Scar Symmetry — lyrical, melodic, slower-paced than the works of the other two bands, and featuring a roughly even mix of clean and harsh vocals. I gave it an “okay” rating simply because those aren’t the qualities I’m usually after.
Miseration, on the other hand, is almost dead center in my sweet spot. I reviewed the last album, The Mirroring Shadow (2010), here. I didn’t think it was ground-breaking, mold-shattering work, but I sure as hell enjoyed its marriage of big, fast, vicious, technical death metal, clawing tremolo-picked guitars, heavy groove, and razor-sharp production. Foregoing any semblance of clean singing, Älvestam instead gave his magnificent harsh vocals an album-length workout.
What I didn’t know about until yesterday (thanks to an e-mail from TheMadIsraeli) was the third post-Scar Symmetry project that Älvestam, Stefanović, and their bandmates have cooked up — The Few Against Many. For reasons I’ll explain after the jump, it’s the cream of the crop.
Now here’s what gives this recap some currency: As I learned from poking around Facebook yesterday, Älvestam and Stefanović are either writing or beginning to record new albums for all three bands, more or less at the same time!
As I mentioned, The Few Against Many were my most recent discovery of these Älvestam – Stefanović collaborations. To date, the band have produced one album — 2009’s Sot, which I think means “soot” in Swedish. It sports this mighty fine Dan Seagrave cover:
I’ve only listened to the album once through since yesterday, but it’s hell on wheels. To mention just a few of the highlights:
“Hädanfärd” is a bruising, bounding riff machine with brief flares of melody and stunningly gruesome Älvestam vocals, part sung and part spoken. “Bränd Mark” is marked by guitar work that alternately jabs, writhes, and stomps unpredictably and by a grim but infectious melody — and it’s even more fun to hear because of the short, surprising symphonic keyboard elements.
“Blod” makes wonderfully effective use of synth and guitar interplay, with strident strings and swirling keyboard notes playing off against head-jamming Gothenburg-style riffing. And if a heavy, hard-driving chug-fest is what you’re after, “Heresi” delivers in spades, while also throwing things off-balance with staccato guitar strikes working in tandem with the synthesized strings and keyboard runs.
The closing track “One With the Shadow” is initially a dramatic change of pace, slow and majestic at first and then beginning to fly, with flashing guitars and relentless double-bass. Grand orchestral sweeps, fiery guitar solos, a beautifully varied and powerful drum performance, and subdued piano interludes all contribute to the fascinating and unexpected progression of the song.
Sot is melodic death metal that both respects and defies convention, and in so doing achieves stunning results — and Christian Älvestam’s roaring vocals have never sounded better. I’m really eager to find out what The Few Against Many deliver on their next album. Here are three of the album’s songs:
“Hädanfärd”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/01-Hädanfärd.mp3|titles=The Few Against Many – Hädanfärd]
“Blod”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/03-Blod.mp3|titles=The Few Against Many – Blod]
“One With the Shadow”[audio:https://www.nocleansinging.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/08-One-With-the-Shadow.mp3|titles=The Few Against Many – One With the Shadow]
Now, here’s that official Miseration video that came out last month for the song “Dreamdecipher” from The Mirroring Shadow: