SEEN AND HEARD: OPETH, ARCH ENEMY, THE AGONIST, BLOODBATH
Well, yesterday at NCS didn’t go exactly as I had planned. We did have a couple of excellent song premieres and an interesting play-through video, but my old fucking day job prevented me from pulling together a round-up of new developments in the world of metal — of which there have been many in the last 48 hours. So I’m gathering a few in this post even though the reports aren’t as timely as I would have liked. By coincidence, all the items (but one) involve venerable Swedish bands.
Few albums in recent years have generated as much controversial commentary at our site than Opeth’s Heritage. It seems that all we had to do was mention that 2011 album, and conflicting opinions would come out of the woodwork like termites. It has been used as an example of both a band who betrayed their fans and one who felt free to let their artistic impulses dictate their direction rather than commerce. Some thought it was a fine album, others thought it was as dull as dishwater.
Yesterday, we got news about the band’s next album. Via an interview of Opeth’s Mikael Akerfeldt and Fredrik Akesson, Loudwire reported that the 11th studio (not yet titled) has been completed and projected for release in June. Loudwire has heard the album and wrote this: “Opeth’s songwriting is top notch on the album, but once again, the record features no guttural vocals.”
Uh oh. To me, that doesn’t sound good. Loudwire further included this excerpt of Akerfeldt’s discussion about the album:
“If it sounds like us, that’s good. And if it sounds like something we don’t know, that’s also good,” begins Akerfeldt. “This album has some parts that sound like us and some parts that sound kind of new too. It’s a bit heavier than Heritage at times and it’s a bit more melodic. I think it should be a bit easier to get into this record because there’s a lot of focus on the melodies. We’re a progressive band. Sometimes we sound like a metal band and sometimes we don’t.”
Note that Akerfeldt no longer characterizes Opeth as a metal band — in his mind they are now a “progressive band” first and foremost. Note also the statement that it’s only “a bit heavier than Heritage“, with an even greater “focus on the melodies”. My prediction? Most of the fans who were disappointed with Heritage are going to be disappointed again. Sounds like we need to make peace with the notion that the Opeth of old is gone forever.
The entire interview was videotaped and will be forthcoming shortly.
Only three days ago we reported the news of Angela Gossow’s resignation as the vocalist of this long-running and very successful Swedish band and her replacement by Alissa White-Gluz (ex-The Agonist). At that time I foolishly assumed that Ms. Gossow recorded the vocals for the band’s forthcoming album, War Eternal. I was wrong.
Yesterday brought the official release of a music video for the new album’s title track (directed by Patric Ullaeus), and we both see and hear the band’s new front woman. We also get to see and hear the band’s new co-lead guitarist Nick Cordle (ex-Arsis).
Unlike Opeth, this Swedish band is doing exactly what they’ve been doing for many years. To my ears, “War Eternal” is right in line with the best songs from Rise of the Tyrant, The Root of All Evil, and Khaos Legions. It’s catchy as hell, it didn’t take long for my head to start moving vigorously, and the guitar solos are loads of fun.
As for the vocalist, I think her mid-range raspy howls are strong — different in tone from Angela Gossow’s, but not strikingly different. And she is beautiful (yeah, I’m not past noticing such superficial things, so sue me).
War Eternal will be released in North America on June 10 by Century Media. Arch Enemy’s FB page is here.
As I reported at the same time as the news of Angela Gossow’s replacement by Alissa White-Gluz , I also noted that the latter was being replaced as The Agonist’s vocalist by Vicky Psarakis. In that earlier post I left links to a couple of YouTube videos that exemplified her vocals. But yesterday I saw a very short video teaser for The Agonist’s new album (also on Century Media) that included some of the new music — and some of the new vocals. The song races, and Vicky Psarakis sounds pretty nasty:
As you should know, at least if you read this post in February, yet another venerable Swedish band — Bloodbath — is recording a new album. Based on the original cryptic note from the band that spawned that February post, it became apparent that there will be a new vocalist on the album — one who is neither Mikael Åkerfeldt nor Peter Tägtgren. It provided a clue to the new vocalist’s identity by listing a string of deadly disasters that all occurred in 1971 — the year of the new vocalist’s birth.
Back then I did some research and listed a number of potential candidates. The one I thought was the most likely choice — and one I’d love to see in this band — was Jörgen Sandström, who is currently the vocalist for my beloved Torture Division and also the vocalist/bassist for The Project Hate MCMXCIX (he also provided vocals, bass, and guitar for Grave on their first three albums and also played bass with Entombed from 1997-2004).
Yesterday, thanks to a post at MetalSucks, I learned that Bloodbath have dropped another hint about the new vocalist’s identity. They posted the photo you see above on Facebook, with this statement:
“We start recording drums in… 4 days! Meanwhile, the new singer calls in from his abode to make a it very clear that he accepts no ‘smartphone metal’ on this album! So it shall be done!”
Now, the photo looks very much like an English call box in an English village, which suggests my Jörgen Sandström guess is off-base. One name I did not include in my original list was Englishman Nick Holmes (born Jan 7, 1971) from Paradise Lost. At the time I didn’t know he was born in ’71, but I also wouldn’t have figured his current vocal style as a good Bloodbath fit, though of course he might well dredge up the nasty gutturals of yore.
Another way to interpret the above photo is that it is meant to refer to a place where vocals are being recorded, which might not necessarily be the vocalist’s home area. That seems unlikely, given the use of the word “abode”, though I suppose it could be a temporary abode.
In between this latest hint and the first one I reported, the band also left the photo below, with this comment: “Behold the new Bloodbath lead beard!”
This could be consistent with either Jörgen Sandström or Nick Holmes, as you can see below. I’m sure more hints will be forthcoming.
“Note also the statement that it’s only ‘a bit heavier that (sic) Heritage’…”
Well, look at it this way: say your buddy sets you up on a blind date with a girl, but he first gives you the warning that she is “a bit heavier than other girls.” In your mind, without meeting her, how heavy do you make her out to be?
Thanks for catching my typo.
Strangely, I didn’t notice it until I copy/pasted it. When I read the article, I think my brain just auto-corrected without me noticing it.
Now if you want to see a glaring typo, pull up Ulver’s 3rd album on Spotify. I found that one last night. I wonder if Spotify would hire me as a spellchecker?
I have no Spotify. What did they do?
It says Mardrigal of Night instead of Madrigal. But that’s nothing compared to what used to happen if you searched for Ash Borer.
It doesn’t work now since Ash Borer has tracks on spotify. But before they did, if searched for Ash Borer, it would ask “Did you mean Ass Boner?” And if curiosity got the better of you and you decided to search for Ass Boner, nothing came up. Dunno why spotify thought to suggest that instead.
I make her out to be a “practice” girl, if you catch my drift.
I’m going to guess that Nick Holm is NOT the guy. My impression was that he’s damaged his chords and cannot growl the way he used to anymore. But i could be wrong.
I had that same impression, though I can’t pinpoint what gave it to me.
I think what Holmes has said in interviews is that he has trouble mixing growls with clean vocals – that growling wrecks his ability to do the cleaner stuff.
Certainly when I heard the versions of “Gothic” and “Eternal” on the Anatomy of Melancholy live album done with clean (well, harsh but not growled) vocals, I kind of assumed that Holmes’s growling days were done. But he did growl on the re-recorded versions of “Gothic” and “Our Saviour” on last year’s Tragic Illusion compilation, and did growling vocals live on “Gothic” during the subsequent tour. So maybe he’s found a way of doing it that doesn’t wreck his vocal chords.
Heritage was awesome.
The new Arch Enemy sounds fine, if unsurprising, but I have to say I was put off a little bit by the flat-footed, Teen Angst 101 lyrics. I mean, fair is fair, any substantial metal collection is bound to be filled with songs about Satan, horror movies, and hobbits, but you can ignore that to some extent when the lyrics are completely unintelligible. 🙂
I am a fan of Arch Enemy and The Agonist, but I’m not sure how to feel about this swap. The one thing I have with AE is that to me their style has seemed stale for the last couple of albums. I really like Alissa’s clean vox in contrast with her vocal fry technique but I can’t see that working in Arch Enemy. And maybe Vicky will sound similar for the Agonist. I’ll reserve judgment until I hear more from both.
I’m surprisingly into the new Arch Enemy, if only because it managed to exceed my expectations by maintaining the level of quality from Khaos Legions, rather than getting worse.
Also, I’m simultaneously downright terrified and extremely excited to listen to the new Opeth album. As my reigning all-time favorite band, I’ll always have an allegiance to them, though.
I loved Opeth up until “Heritage”. That album was sort of like watching your favorite restaurant burn to the ground.
Man, I would have a baby if it was Nick Holmes. And I am a dude.
If we get another Damnation, I’m all good. If we get another Heritage, I will puke.
The difference is all in there.
So Arch Enemy is more or less as unremarkable as they were before but their videos are now more fun to watch.
I can’t tell much about the new Agonist stuff from that teaser, but it doesn’t sound like a radical departure either.
New Opeth is always welcome in my book. I enjoyed Heritage; it still sounds like Opeth to me, just in a different skin. My only problem with that album was that the middle of it was boring, not that there were no growls.
(looking at the AE video) might be the lighting, but in many of the scenes she looks kinda superimposed. like they recorded her against a green screen.
I think its a combo of the lighting hitting her hair color and that crap film grain doing it. But man, would that say a lot about Arch Enemy as an entity if they could just green screen a vocalist in later.
I love both Damnation and Heritage, but I hope the new album sounds nothing like them. I’m really curious to hear what other non-metal territory Opeth can cover. Or is it just me?
I agree with you about the new album sounding different. That’s what I expect from a genius like Mikael. That said, how can you like both Damnation and Heritage is beyond me. ^__^
I can see why people are put off by Heritage, because it’s a quite radical departure from their established sound. But I think it holds up very nicely if you listen to it without expecting that sound.
The problem with Heritage was not its lack of “heaviness”. It was that it was boring. That’s what you need to fix. Good music is good music, regardless of the “heavy” factor.
Random Internet Comment Dude #5567329
Does he really need to “fix” anything? From what I understand he seems quite happy with Heritage, and I’d say that’s all that matters if you’re an artist. Not trying be a smart-ass, just throwing my 2 cents out there.
Only the listener’s opinion matters! The artist has no idea if what they make is any good!
Based on the picture from the chin up, I say it looks like Nick because of the nose’s shape. Just my first thought when I saw the picture. However, beyond that I don’t honestly think it is him for a few reasons, but I can’t help but think that nose belongs to him. Does anyone else see it? On another note, I would be happy with pretty much anyone, Nick, Jörgen, or some other well known growler. I trust Bloodbath with picking a good growler. Just look at the two they had before.
I have the same faith you do. As I’ve said before, I think it would be wonderful if it were Jörgen, but with Bloodbath’s history you just know whoever it is will have the right chops.
I loved Heritage, second favorite Opeth album and the direction they speak of sounds like an excellent way to go.
i’m really loving the new Arch Enemy track, but i was already a big fan of Alissa White-Gluz. she sounds like she was born for the job, and i’m equally impressed with her replacement in The Agonist. they posted a full lyric video today featuring Psarakis and she’s a perfect fit.
i have idea who the new Bloodbath vocalist is, but i’m still damn excited for their next album