Archive for progressive metal

Ghost – Meliora

Posted in Classic Metal, Doom, Hard Rock, Prog, Psychedelic with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 21, 2015 by Badass and Grim

Ghost-Meliora

If you’re not familiar with the nameless ghouls by now, Ghost are an act who’s members perform in complete anonymity with the exception of their anti-papal frontman Papa Emeritus. Drawing musical inspiration from the diverse strands of rock and metal’s history and delivering the result through enigmatic and theatrical stage performances:

To put my cards firmly on the table: I’ve always found Ghost a difficult act to get on-board with. A synthesis of Classic Rock, Doom and Satanism looks on paper like something I couldn’t help but love, but I always found exposure to the reality wanting and overly cheesy. With the exception of “Elizabeth” and “Secular Haze” the first two albums amounted to so much “meh”. So with low expectations I hit play, and to my surprise was completely blown away by the following 42 minutes of perfectly executed rock heaven.

The album opens with “Spirit”, queue classic horror choir and theremin, before the guitars drop in and we’re away. In a lot of ways “Spirit” is a microcosm of the album as a whole, moving seamlessly between its psychedelic, proggy, and hard rock elements. We’re treated to a synchronised solo in the best of the classic rock tradition and firmly within Thin Lizzy territory.

“From the Pinnacle To the Pit” lays down the filthiest bass riff before the rest of the crew join in, with much more emphasis on the heavy metal hue of Ghost’s music. The songs middle eight demonstrates the band’s seemingly inexhaustible reservoir of catchy vocal hooks.

“Cirice” is the point where I went from surprised interest to hero worship. The verse is heavy as hell, the chorus is solid gold 80’s rock , and the solo is going to melt your face and pull your heart-strings at the same time.

After the transition of “Spoksonat”, “He Is” opens like a something from the Amelie soundtrack, before morphing into a hymn to Satan. A frankly beautiful hymn to Satan; had it been composed by Simon and Garfunkel. The chorus rings out: “He is, he’s the shining and the light without whom I cannot see; he is insurrection, he is spite, he’s the force that made me be.” These are irresistible vocal harmonies, and feels like flower-power just got svart-dyed. Again, slamming guitar solos that wouldn’t be out of place from Gary Moore.

Of all the tracks on the album “Mummy Dust” is the only one where I found my old objections rise again, with the title and chorus a little over-baked for my taste. That said, I’m a miserable bastard and don’t understand fun, so I’m sure most of you won’t be able to gobble down enough “mummy dust” if you know what I mean…on reflection maybe that was an instruction for it’s successful enjoyment rather than a title track.

“Krieg”

“Majesty” chugs away like a Sabbath or Maiden track, but you can tell we’re building to something here, and sure enough we hit a chorus that wouldn’t be out of place on Headspace’s “Anonymous”. This is all progressive melody and uplifting guitar/organ duty.

“Devil Church” is a lengthier abridging track continuing into prog territory, very much in the vein of Focus or Rush. After this the album opens out into “Absolution”, all brooding vocals until the 3 min point when Ghost awaken the synth-lords of old, descending from on-high riding stellar space arpeggiation.

“Deus In Absentia”, the album’s closing track, is a suitable anthem to close with which I’m sure will become a staple of Ghost’s live show and a favourite sing along for the crowd.

This is the perfect execution of what Ghost seems to have been striving towards since their inception, bringing together the best elements of the root genres they draw from and presenting a synthesis which is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Meliora is a hugely positive step change in the quality of Ghost’s song writing, and it’s hard to find anything to fault with this superb album.

I can’t believe I’m about to do this:

Deej

9/10

9/10

Orphaned Land – All Is One

Posted in Folk Metal, Prog with tags , , , , , , on July 1, 2013 by Badass and Grim

Orphaned-Land-All-is-One

My first encounter with Israeli act Orphaned Land was the truly epic “Never-Ending Way of ORwarriOR”. I was completely hooked by the 78min mix of death, prog and traditional Middle-Eastern music, and have nothing but respect for their aim of using their music to build bridges in their incredibly fraught region of the world. They continue this trajectory on recent release “All Is One”, although shedding the remaining vestiges of their death metal influences, using clean vocals to further increase the clarity of their message. I’d normally get a little wary around this level of politics in metal (Barny Gumble in the back of my head is shouting “Preachy!!! at Green Day”, but in this case the message of “hey guys, we’ve been at this for a few thousand years, do you recon’ we could stop slaughtering each over now” is such an obviously unobjectionable question that I’m 100% behind them.

Planting the flag firmly for the cause of tolerance and peace the album cover is a bold mission statement with the Crucifix, Crescent and Star of David intertwined and radiating, “All Is One”, for myself highlighting the inherent stupidity of three religions which for the most part venerate the same figures and with so much textual overlap fighting each other with such bitterness for so long.

So onto the music. The songs are definitely a lot snappier than the previous release, and the total album length has come down some, but this has only served to distil the quality of these musicians and songwriters. There is a great mix of progressive riffing and the use of folk influences. The latter are definitely stronger than ever, but they don’t overwhelm the fact that this is still a metal act. Songs like “Ya Benaye” do for middle-eastern traditional music what Tyr achieve for scandanavian folk, creating a refreshing mix of new and ancient. The strings in this album are also excellent, performing flawless glissandos throughout, a technique which is incredibly difficult to accomplish on the violin without sounding like a bag full of cats being thrown down the stairs.

Particular favourites include “Brothers”, which focusses on the legendary patriarchs of Arabs and Jews, Ishmael and Isaac respectively. In the biblical tale, Abraham has Ishmael by his second wife / servant Hagar, and when his wife Sarah gives birth to Isaac, she makes Abraham cast Ishmael out into the desert. The track is from the perspective of Isaac asking his brother’s forgiveness and reconciliation “Forsaken like a nomad, deserted in the flood, forgive me brother…from this tiny cornerstone we can build a realm of light”, which has obvious overtones in light of modern events. “Let The Truce Be Known” is also a moving track, and is the story of two boys who grow up together, end up fighting in separate armies, meet during a ceasefire only to kill each other the following night.

Metal is a genre which is often escapist and fantastic, so its incredibly satisfying to listen to a band with something relevant to express in their art, and which is so thoughtfully and beautifully articulated as in this album.

Deej

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