Friday, October 15, 2010

The Cure: Carnage Visors (4/5)

Year: 1981
Genre: Atmospheric Post-Punk
Label: Elektra
TRT: 27:45

Until recently, very few people had heard this piece, or even knew it existed. It was written as the soundtrack to an animated short film Simon Gallup’s brother Ric directed. This short was used in lieu of a support band for the Picture Tour in 1981, and could only be found on the B side of the Faith cassette tape release.

I stumbled across it a number of years ago in a friends collection. I asked him about it and he gave me the back-story, and needless to say I was intrigued. Fortunately for me, I had the capability to do a tape rip and burn to CD (ah, the good ol’ days). At the time I didn’t dig it too much (but then, at the time I didn’t dig Pornography either, and now it’s one of my all time favorite albums). It was too minimal and too repetitive.

Fast forward a few years, and I again stumbled across the song, this time as an MP3 in my music library. Curious to see if it was as boring as I remembered, I put it on while reading. This time through though, it really clicked. I realized there is a lot more going on under the surface of this piece than is readily apparent. While it is indeed minimal and repetitive, there are a plethora of subtleties and hypnotic textures present that seem to just pull you in and hold you under. This is quite the sinister little composition. Bleak, dark, stark and I can only imagine that the film meant to accompany it was equally unnerving (something to do with toys and inanimate objects), though I still have not been able to track it down to see for myself.

Alas, my humble tape rip is no longer a rarity, as Carnage Visors was re-released on the recent Faith remastered deluxe package, and easily available to the masses. And while I’m sure the sonic integrity is much improved, I’d rather listen to my own dubious rip, “quality” be damned. There are some things that are better when left in obscurity, if for no other reason than to preserve their mystique. The forgotten and unknown often possess peculiar sway when discovered. That’s the way this was for me. I hope that’s the way it is for you as well.

01 Carnage Visors

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Thursday, October 14, 2010

Eluveitie: Slania (4/5)

Year: 2008
Genre: Celtic Death Metal
Label: Twilight
TRT: 50:05

The word “folk” followed by the word “metal”, has historically caused me to roll my eyes and ignore a band. With good reason I’d say, as nearly every time I cave and say to myself “well maybe THIS one will be good”, it isn’t. On paper it seems like it would be great. Metal accompanied by folk instruments? Hell yeah! Bring it on! Sadly, it’s always the same thing: a mediocre metal band trying to be “interesting” or “different” or “unique” by incorporating mediocre “folk” sections, often even those are synthesized, giving them an even more artificial feel.

So even after being burned time after time, I always kept a small spark of hope alive in a dusty corner of my mind…because on paper, folk metal should be amazing. And I finally found the band I was looking for all along.

Eluveitie (pronounced “El-vay-tee”) hail from Switzerland, and consist of eight to ten musicians. Their name is Gaulish, and means “I am the Helvetian”, which is taken from an inscription dating back to the Celtic Helveti tribe, the first settlers of what is now Switzerland. Many of their lyrics are also in this extinct tongue, taken from prayers, incantations, and other spiritual writings from that time.

Among the instruments represented in the band are mandolin, several different types of flute, violin and fiddle, bagpipes…et cetera. They also have a dedicated Hurdy Gurdy player. Which is all well and good, but now we get to the reason they actually pull off “folk metal” with flying colors: They can actually play some fucking death metal.

Slania was the first album I heard from them, and perfectly blends the whirling Celtic melodies, traditional folk songs from their own country, and their own take on the Gothenburg-style of melodic death metal. They make use of both clean and growled male vocals, mixing in some female vocals at times to add even more contrast. It’s their ability to balance all these different elements, and form them into a cohesive entity that impresses me, and keeps me interested past the “gimmick” appeal that had kept me from checking them out sooner. They've figured out how to make two drastically different sounds work together beautifully, without ever sounding cheesy or forced. Nothing is present just to be present. Every part of every song is there because it's supposed to be there.

And that's why it's fuckin' awesome.

01 Samon
02 Primordial Breath
03 Inis Mona
04 Gray Sublime Archon
05 Anagantios
06 Bloodstained Ground
07 The Somber Lay
08 Slania's Song
09 Giamonios
10 Tarvos
11 Calling the Rain
12 Elembivos
13 Samon (acoustic)

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