Sunday, April 27, 2014

Lantlos - Melting Sun (2014)
After Neige, vocalist of Alcest, left the more black metal-oriented band Lantlos after their last album "Agape," the future of Lantlos was murky. Thankfully, it has been nicely resolved with a complete shift away from black metal and towards post-metal. This isn't the kind of dark, depressive post-metal associated with acts such as Cult of Luna, nor is it technical in any way like Russian Circles. Rather, it's beautiful, bright, expressive, and downright uplifting while being quite heavy at the same time. I like to think of this album as "Shelter's" metal brother. From the winding ambient soundscapes filled with subtle, emotion-laden melodies to the raw intensity of the riffs, this is an album that sets the listener on a journey through forgotten corners of the heart and mind. It's hard not to be completely hypnotized by the vast, immersive sounds of this album, nor is it so easy to restrain your imagination from running wherever it pleases as you're soothed by the calm sounds of, for example, "Golden Mind." Perhaps the most captivating moment on the album is the intro on "Cherry Quartz" which transitions from serene to heavy-as-lead so gracefully and effortlessly it'll likely leave your jaw on the floor. The only fault I could find on this album is the sometimes stale vocals, but it's a minor issue on an otherwise incredible achievement. I absolutely loved Lantlos' second album ".neon" with it's dark atmosphere and Neige's melancholic howls, but "Melting Sun" marks a whole new chapter for the band and I can honestly say I love it just as much. In a word, it's glorious and a unique addition to the post-metal genre.

(Special thanks to Prophecy Productions for providing me an advance copy.)

Friday, April 18, 2014

Insomnium - Shadows of the Dying Sun (2014)
Finnish metal is renowned for its melancholic, melodic qualities and Insomnium are one of the best exemplars of these traits. Returning for their sixth album, these melodeath/doom masters aren't looking to re-invent the wheel, having basically settled on their sound starting with their third album, but they are making some minor tweaks. Perhaps the most noticeable tweak is the increased amount of clean vocals. Songs such as "Lose to Night" and "Promethean Song" feature some truly memorable clean choruses that might miff a few hardcore fans, but to my ears sounds like a natural progression of their sound. Another small way in which this album distinguishes itself from its predecessors is the use of black metal-esque blast-beats on "Black Heart Rebellion" and "The River," the latter of which displays an excellent tremolo-picked melody that could have been lifted right from a Woods of Desolation tune. "Ephemeral" is a bit of an odd experiment for the band as it's probably the most accessible song they've made yet, sounding like something modern In Flames might do (not that that's a bad thing by any means). One of my favorites on the album is the single "While We Sleep" which shows off some of the band's best songwriting skills with killer riffs, catchiness, and a soaring outro solo that you can't imagine the song doing without. My other favorite is "Revelation" which is probably the most 'atmospheric' track, especially given its dark, brooding, whispered vocals and beautiful melodies. Where I feel the album falls a bit flat is on "The River" and the title track which are both too long to keep my attention throughout. It also wouldn't have hurt for them to reach out into the musical universe and pull in some more influences (i.e. a folk song a la Agalloch or something doomy like Swallow the Sun) just to make for a more varied record. But those are still minor quibbles since this is probably my favorite Insomnium album since "Above the Weeping World." This album's formulaic approach can be forgiven for the facts that Insomnium are one of the most unique melodeath bands out there and, not least of all, that this is a great album. It might not hold up to the first three records, but it's something fans of the band won't be disappointed in.
(Special thanks to Century Media for providing me with an advance copy.)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Triptykon - Melana Chasmata (2014)
Coming on the heels of 2010's critically acclaimed "Eparistera Daimones," Triptykon, fronted by Tom G. Warrior of Hellhammer and Celtic Frost fame, have returned with another dark, brooding monster of an album in "Melana Chasmata." The oft-repeated phrase "don't judge a book by its cover" certainly doesn't apply to this album as the sick, twisted art of H.R. Giger perfectly matches the music. And the album doesn't waste any time revealing its sinister nature to the listener. Right from the opening of "Tree of Suffocating Souls" with its heavier-than-lead thrash attack and Warrior's trademark commanding grunts through the hauntingly beautiful "Waiting", "Melana Chasmata" is truly a beast of an album that hearkens back to the old days of Celtic Frost. The real genius of the album is its ability to seamlessly weave black, doom, thrash, death, heavy, and avant-garde metal into a singular, monolithic package that almost goes beyond genre classification. In that sense, Triptykon still hold firmly to the pattern established by Celtic Frost on such albums as "Morbid Tales" and "To Mega Therion" which influenced an incredibly wide range of bands and even spawned entire genres. The difference here is that Triptykon, especially on this album, have taken the classic Frost sound and expanded it into the territory of avant-garde with a heaping dose of dissonance and drawn-out, hypnotic tracks that make me think of such nightmarish things as Inferno by Dante. Indeed, the whole album is a trip through hell. "Altar of Deceit" is perhaps the heaviest track on the album, and perhaps the most violent part of the trip through hell, and features gargantuan riffs that sound like Black Sabbath on steroids. Another highlight for me is "In the Sleep of Death" which features some truly demented, almost psychopathic vocals that just plain creep me out (in a good way though). It is also worth mentioning bassist Vanja Slajh's beautiful, siren-esque singing which complements Warrior's fierce growls perfectly. And of course let's not forget Warrior's morbid lyrics which, as usual, fit the music like a glove. While I enjoy this album more than its predecessor, it's not perfect. "Black Snow" is probably my least favorite track here as it goes on for far too long than it should. Otherwise, "Melana Chasmata" is a fantastic achievement that shows not only shows Warrior/Triptykon's relevancy in the incredibly crowded world of modern metal, but also stands out as a uniquely dark and, in a very odd way, beautiful artistic statement.

(Special thanks to Century Media records for sending me a promo copy.)