My latest Metal mix disc to share with you is quite different from the previous one. "Island Of The Silver Skull" was a loving tribute to my 80's Traditional Epic Metal roots, played by newer bands who are keeping that flame alive. However, "The Iridescent Sky" is a collection of new songs from many of the bands and artists that I have been passionate about in the last 6-7 years of my middle-aged Metal Renaissance. It is intense dark music, that pushes Metal's boundaries in broad progressive strokes. This is not Prog Metal, ala Dream Theater, with virtuostic wanking overwhelming what little emotional content is felt in that music. It is METAL first, with Progressive influences, that owes a debt of gratitude to the great 70's Prog era, nothing more. It is METAL, it is atmospheric, it is dark, it is bleak and sombre, it is intense, it is inventive and creative, it is EMOTIONAL, and it kicks ass. Most of these bands are far from obscure in the Metal community, but they certainly are not commonplace in the musical mainstream, especially in the US. They deserve your attention.
Here is the track listing, with the band name linked to a web page where you can learn more about 'em, and possibly hear some more songs. The download links are after the track list.
1. Agalloch - The Pantheist 7:17 - "The White" EP <2008> (USA)
2. Primordial - Empire Falls 8:03 - "To The Nameless Dead" <2007> (Ireland)
3. Dark Tranquillity - Icipher 4:38 - "Fiction" <2007> (Sweden)
4. Novembre - Iridescence 5:11 - "The Blue" <2007> (Italy)
5. Opeth - The Lotus Eater 8:50 - "Watershed" <2008> (Sweden)
6. Ihsahn - Monolith 6:25 - "AngL" <2008> (Norway)
7. Vintersorg - Perfektionisten 4:15 - "Solens Roetter" <2007> (Sweden)
8. Manegarm - I Underjorden 4:11 - "Vargstenen" <2007> (Sweden)
9. Moonsorrow - Tulimyrsky 29:36 - "Tulimyrsky" (EP) <2008> (Finland)
Download Part 1
Download Part 2
The journey begins with "Pantheist" by Agalloch, a majestic and atmospheric acoustic based track from their limited pressing "The White" EP. Agolloch always brings you close to nature, evoking a somber, reflective walk through a forest or snow storm. Musically, this is closer to the expansive, progressive experience of their album "The Mantle," than their most recent release, "Ashes Against The Grain." It is sublime.
This segue ways into "Empire Falls" by Primordial, who take their swirling thunderstorm of dire warnings to the heart of the human tornado, with searing emotional cries and prophecies. Musically it is very dense and frightening, largely in part to the intensity and passion of vocalist Naihmass Nemtheanga, and the apocalyptic thunder of the band. Metal *does* have a conscience, and nobody exemplifies it better than Nemtheanga, and this band of brooding Irish revolutionaries.
Things move on to Dark Tranquillity and "Icipher," a mid-tempo piece that emphasizes the musicality of this legendary band. It is not one of their barnstorming stompers. Rather it is a dense heartfelt piece, emphasizing the emotion in Mikael Stanne's growls. Here is a case of where keyboards effectively add texture and feeling, with the whole band working as an integrated unit, evoking dramatic emotion through their collective performance.
Italy's Novembre are masters of melancholy, with the sad and plaintive clean vocals of Carmelo Orlando, who then shakes the roof tops with his intense dark growl. "Iridescence" is iridescent, with its colorful keyboard fills, and bright evocative drumming. Again, nothing is overplayed, by a band that could wank as virtuosos, but choose feeling over technical brilliance.
In most ways, Opeth need no introduction, the biggest band in Extreme Metal today. They have become polarizing in the Metal community, with those who unabashedly love their Progressive Death Metal, and those who are bored silly by them, loving to take potshots at the reigning kings. "The Lotus Eater" will change no one's opinion because it exemplifies what Opeth does best, playing a sophisticated Death Metal that is consumed by their love of old Progressive Rock. The trick is that they do it with so much emotion, and so many rich musical ideas. If people don't get the quick changes of music from one little trip into another, then they don't get Prog. Too bad. This track is inspired and evocative, and *nobody* growls like Mikael Akerfeldt, and nobody has such a beautiful clean voice. Opeth has always been about contrast. Here it is.
Ihsahn's "Monolith" segue ways in beautifully, with its proggy intro that then turns into a rich Black Metal riff with drum blasts, followed by Ihsahn's patented Black Metal rasp. What makes it different from old Emperor (his main band) and the legions of Black Metal hordes, is his totally inventive instrumentation, most evident being the colors and textures of keyboards, acoustic guitars, and clean vocals. This is very Prog too, but like Opeth, it carries the intensities of their Metallic roots. For Opeth it is Death Metal, for Ihashn it is Black Metal. And it kills!
On his "Solens Rotter" CD, Vintersorg coalesced his avant-garde Metal and Prog tendencies with his own brand of Scandinavian Folk Metal in a remarkably effective manner. The results are heard in "Perfektionsten," a tune that mixes his sharp growl with his searing and gorgeous clean vox, with a folkloric melody that is accented by avant-garde accompaniment. The programmed beats and keyboard accents remain supportive, and do not get in way of the amazingly catchy tune that should be played on the radio! HAH to that idea!
"I Underjorden" by Manegarm is Viking Folk Metal at its finest, harsh and intense, beautiful and melodic, precise and wonderful, propelled by blistering drum beats and soaring fiddle work. Scandinavia. Fjords. Nordic history. Runes. Stormy seas. What more can I say? And this leads perfectly into...
... the EPIC intensity of "Tulimyrsky" by Finland's Moonsorrow. Their music, and this track, is nothing short of cinematic. Their whole musical history and evolution is presented in this 29 MINUTE EPIC. Harsh Black Metal from their early days, sumptuous keyboard driven Viking Metal, very traditional acoustic Scandinavian folk complete with prominent accordion, drunken Viking choirs, warm 70's Prog leanings with analogue synths and long, evolutionary song structures, and their recent uncompromising turn towards harsh and grim EPIC songs that are never shorter than 14 minutes, and typically are 20 to 30 minute cinematic masterpieces. "Tulimyrsky" has more pronounced musical changes that the epics on their previous album, and brings back the accordion, keys, and blackened vocals of their past. And while it goes on for 29 minutes, I am never bored. I am immersed in a musical and cultural history that makes me just about jump out of my present skin and life, and back into a past I know I lived in... A secluded fjord, weathering storms on a Viking knarr, revering the old Gods, and clutching the ancient earth with my fingers. Yeah.
I post this disc for two reasons: 1) to share the listening experience 2) to expose you to these bands, and their music, which is far, far, far from the mainstream. SUPPORT THE BANDS! BUY THEIR MUSIC! Follow the links to their web sites! They deserve your attention!
Give Me 8 Cents,
P.S. The cover photo was taken by me with my 8 cent phone cam, and jazzed up with an ancient version of Adobe PhotoDeluxe editor.