(Andy Synn presents three albums from last month which he thinks you may have overlooked)
You know what times it is… well, what time it almost is… it’s almost time for my annual week-long round-up of the year in Metal.
But, before that, there’s still time for a few more reviews of things which you may have overlooked last month (and, don’t worry, I’ll also be doing some more of my “unsung heroes” posts later this month in order to catch you up on some of those albums you may have missed earlier in the year too).
Until then, however, enjoy these three succulent morsels of Progressive Death Metal.
DEMENTIA’S CREED – AIN SOPH ARAR
While Progressive Black/Death trio Dementia’s Creed already have a previous album and a self-titled EP under their collective belt, this is my first time discovering their music. And having gone back and checked out both their prior releases I have to say… Ain Soph Arar is a major step up for the group.
Oh, sure, it is far too long and self-indulgent for its own good – even if you cut both the instrumental interludes “Ain” and “Soph” and let the album end with the title-track (sacrificing anticlimactic closer “Mutare” in the process) you’d still have over an hour of music left to deal with – but the passion and ambition the band display here is absolutely undeniable.
Wearing their “Progressive” inclinations with pride right from the start – opener “Towers of Silence” is over ten minutes of intricate, rippling bass-lines, intense, rolling drums, and taut, trem-heavy riffs, all arranged in an artfully undulating, shamelessly bombastic manner – the group’s sound quickly draws some well-deserved comparisons with bands such as Cormorant, De Profundis, and Edge of Sanity (the former especially).
“Arrow of Time” is, if anything, even proggier, making greater use of a wider range of punchy, provocative rhythms and an even richer melodic palette, while “Rivers of Lost Faith” pushes the band’s sound further towards two oppositely polarised extremes, featuring some of the harshest vocals and hardest-hitting drums, as well as several of the quietest, calmest, and most atmospheric moments, of the album thus far.
Of course, it’s the really big numbers – the fifteen minute “Gold Laden Eyes” and the thirteen minute title-track – that will probably, and rightly, get the most attention as they’re the real “star attractions” of the album (although, just to be clear, I’m only eliding mention of “Embers of Eternity” and “Scourge” due to lack of space/time… and because I want to leave you a few surprises to discover for yourselves).
The former, to coin a cliché, takes you on a real journey through the various peaks and valleys of the band’s sound, while also introducing some extremely effective, moody melodic vocals into the mix, moving back and forth between epic intensity, brooding calm, and raging catharsis as the song unfolds.
The latter is even more about contrasts, whether that’s between its wholly instrument first half and its more vocally volatile second part, or the light-and-shade juxtaposition of poignantly proggy performances by certain members and the extravagantly extreme execution of others.
Sure, they’re still a little rough around the edges, and are potentially in need of a good editor, but there’s no questioning their drive or their talents, which makes this one a flawed but firm recommendation from where I’m standing.
IN THE SHADOWS OF GIANTS – THE QUIET WORLD
Much like the previous band, In The Shadows of Giants are a new discovery for me, and one I’m very happy to be able to share with our readers.
A word of warning though, this is another album that’s way too long – altogether it clocks in at almost 84 minutes of music, and even if you removed a few of the lesser tracks (pointless synth-y intro “Premonition” and stompy, but not exactly stunning, penultimate track “The Maw Beneath The Waves”) you’d still barely be able to fit it all on a single CD – and the band’s decision to tag their music as “Post-Death Metal” is more wishful thinking than anything else, as this is a clear case of Prog-Death over-indulgence.
The album’s first proper track, “A Violent Calm”, is as good an introduction as any to the band’s complex, convoluted sound, delivering the sort of semi-blackened, subtly-technical (just check out those lithe, limber bass-lines!) that reminds me of UK Prog-Death prodigies Rannoch, along with maybe a bit of Slugdge influence in the guitars too.
However the record really kicks into gear with “The Twilight Epitaph”, an ambitiously arranged four-parter which could, essentially, have been an album (or, at least, a very long EP) all by itself.
Part one, “Zenith Overtaken” is eleven-and-a-half minutes of seething tremolo and stomping chugs, interspersed with moments of eerie, synth-infused calm, that sits somewhere between the heavier side(s) of Gojira, In Mourning, and Becoming The Archetype, while part two, “Endure” is more bombastic and immediate, with a more energetic and uplifting vibe, as well as a sharper, hookier sound overall.
Part three, “Bleeding Wounds/Grieving Soil” is fifteen minute monolith of intense heaviness and atmospheric dread, which manages to be as engaging as it is intimidating, and once again dredges up some echoes of Rannoch and/or Luna’s Call (although not quite as professional or polished as either… yet), after which part four, “A Fracture Between Blackness and Birth” provides a moody instrumental coda to the piece which could, in all honesty, have served as the climax for the entire album.
That, however, would have robbed us of hearing both “The Atrophy” – which is, while possibly in need of a little bit of editing and tightening up, a fascinating work of heavyweight riffage and sombre, almost menacing, melodicisms – and the titanic “title track”, “To Walk Slowly Through a Quiet World”, which utilises every second of its nineteen minute run-time to push the band’s progressive, technical, and artistic ambitions as far as possible (and does so without neglecting to throw in some nice ‘n’ nasty riffs in the process).
So while The Quiet World is far from perfect (the vocals in particular could probably do with a little more work to make them stand out from the crowd) it’s still a hell of an ambitious statement of intent from a band whose talents are absolutely undeniable.
LASCAILLE’S SHROUD – THE GOLD FLESH OF THE SUN
Unlike the other two entries in this article we here at NCS are more than familiar with the work of Brett Windnagle, aka Lascaille’s Shroud, as we’ve been following his career ever since the release of his first album way back in 2013.
And though we’ve occasionally lost touch with what he’s been up to for a little while – he’s very prolific, and we’re very busy, so that was always bound to happen – we’ve always been keen to catch up with whatever he’s been doing as we know it’s bound to be good.
In this case, however, it’s not just good, it’s very good indeed. In fact, it might just be the best thing he’s done.
One of the reasons for that might just be that The Gold Flesh of the Sun is both the most tightly-written and tautly-structured album of Brett’s career, coming in at a full two minutes shorter than the next-shortest record in his discography, with only one of its five tracks actually breaking the ten minute barrier (and considering his well-documented love of songs in the 15/20/25 minute range, this is definitely something well worth noting).
That’s not to say I haven’t loved his more extravagant works previously – I definitely have – but it really feels like he’s managed to pack just as many killer riffs and cool ideas into a much more compact and cohesive package, without sacrificing his identity, or an ounce of intensity, in the process.
If anything, a song like “Starflesh Martyrdom” is Lascaille’s Shroud at their most intense, and most immediate, delivering six-and-a-half minutes of absolutely crushing riffs, commanding vocals, and soaring melodic leads while demonstrating that the band’s sound can by just as dynamic, and just as dramatic, within these limited confines as it is over more epic lengths.
“The Masking of Baru Cormorant” takes its time a little more, but doesn’t skimp on the heaviness or aggression when it finally hits its stride, and really showcases how vital the use of subtle, shimmering synths and electrifying melodic leads are in tying the band’s music together, while the mid-paced, stomping momentum and utterly massive riffs and hooks of “We Pray For Rain” combine to make it easily one of the best songs ever written under the Lascaille’s Shroud moniker.
“The Men Who Could Not See Themselves” is another Sci-Fi Death Metal masterpiece – brutally heavy when it needs to be, absolutely epic when it wants to be – that really reminds you that although comparisons to bands like Allegaeon, Scar Symmetry, and Edge of Sanity are still valid, Lascaille’s Shroud have absolutely developed a distinctive and instantly-recognisable sound all of their own, after which the dark and doom-tinged title-track simply serves to hammer home the fact that this is an album that absolutely shouldn’t be missed, from an artist who just seems to keep getting better and better.