Sequester – Missing Image

October 28, 2014 in Reviews by blackwindmetal

Sequester - Missing ImageSequester - Missing Image (2014)

Reviewed by Daniel Millard

One-man Canadian studio phenom Sequester has arrived to plant its rather austere banner amidst the host of other 2014 releases. Though it only features six tracks, Missing Image should be considered Sequester’s third full-length studio album. However, if the small track count and cover art are any indication, things have been changed up a bit this time around. While topically, Missing Image continues Ryan Boc’s fascination with both fantasy gaming and literature, as well as one throwback to Ancestry’s subjects of Scottish history and folklore, the music is a bit of a different story.

This album recalls some of the mildest and most mellow moments of prior releases, but pulls them together to fill the majority of its 46 minute runtime. Riffs are often simpler, piano more prominent, melodies a bit more gently cultivated, and Boc’s voice noticeably reined in, without as much of his high range or raw timbre coming out as seen on Shaping Life And Soul. Consequently, I would hesitate to call Missing Image a metal album as a whole. Its approach is much more that of a mildly progressive rock album with metal tendencies (which are most prominent during “Hollowed”). Boc dabbles in minimalism, plays with song structure a bit more, and explores the tender side of his voice to an greater extent. He has mentioned that this album’s title and spartan cover art are a product of his lack of perceived image or theme for his band, but the project’s sound is well-established by now, and immediately recognizable by its small but loyal fanbase – amongst which I clearly count myself.

So, Missing Image is a bit of a different, possibly niche release. The reduced role of metal in most songs, softer dynamics, and tendency toward slow to mid tempos make it an album that I don’t find quite as engaging, and expect to revisit less often. Thematically, however, it’s another very satisfying round of intellectual storytelling and commentary upon a mix of subjects which I find extremely engaging and interesting. The album opens with “Hollowed”: the project’s longest and most ambitious undertaking to date. Kicking off with the hardest and heaviest drive on the album, the song morphs occasionally, featuring variations on the main riff, a brief spat of harsh vocals, a few pronounced bass grooves, rapid shifts between heavy guitar and clean sections, and yet maintains through it all Sequester’s signature, solemn tonal tendencies.

The following “Escaping The Mind” is decidedly one of Sequester’s stranger tracks, with eclectic-sounding changes in tonality and instrumentation accompanying similar observations on the ruminations of an idle mind. I’m not as big a fan of this one, but the stoic and distinctive strains of lead guitar that herald “The Architect” bring me back. This is a somber tune inspired by the Dragon Age video game franchise, and it boasts a great deal of creeping melody. “Bard” is a step back from fiction, and seems to be a dry commentary upon composition, carried out in an unhurried, almost languorous manner. “Horseman’s Word” brings the energy level back up after a couple of slower tunes, and is an interesting entry inspired by the Society of the Horseman’s Word, a now-extinct Scottish secret society. Finally, closer “First Law” is a trotting, deliberate song inspired by fantasy writer Joe Abercrombie’s setting of the same name.

By the time Missing Image wraps up, I’m left with the feeling that other than “Hollowed”, the rest of the tracks just don’t boast as much energy – with the exception of “The Architect”. This album is, as I mentioned, likely best for those in the mood for a more gradual, mellow approach, as well as interested in the subject material (and frankly, that’s a lot of metal fans). With the publishing of the lyrics on the band’s site, I anticipate that this will continue to grow on me. Recommended for prior fans of Sequester, absolutely, but this will probably appeal just as much or more to fans of progressive rock. Power metal fans should try an earlier work like Winter Shadows or Shaping Life And Soul instead. When I’m in the mood, however, this tickles my want of Sequester’s intellectual approach to music in just the right way.

3.5 // 5

Neonfly – Strangers In Paradise

October 27, 2014 in Reviews by Kevin Hathaway

Neonfly - Strangers In ParadiseNeonflyStrangers In Paradise (2014)

Reviewed by Kevin Hathaway

All right, fess up. Who among you dear readers downloaded Neonfly’s “Ship With No Sails” for Rock Band? That was my first exposure to this British power quintet. Once the excitement of getting to play power metal with plastic instruments died down (oh, who am I kidding, I still boot up Rock Band and Guitar Hero once in a while), I finally sat down and listened to Neonfly’s debut, Outshine The Sun. It was a pretty decent output with at least a handful of memorable songs, but largely cluttered with admittedly forgettable power metal. The follow-up Strangers In Paradise is basically the same deal. No really, the same deal. There is about as much musical evolution here as there is on a DragonForce album, and even that seems insulting to DragonForce after this year’s Maximum Overload.

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Therion – Theli

October 24, 2014 in Artist Rewind, Reviews by Sebastian Kluth

Therion5Therion - Theli (1996)

Reviewed by Sebastian Kluth

Therion’s Theli may be the most essential symphonic metal album ever released. It’s the kind of work that is necessary to listen to at least once in a lifetime of fandom. It’s an album worth exploring thoroughly for Therion fans, as it exists in many different versions and formats including bonus tracks and even additional live cuts. I’m aware of the fact that many bands experimented with heavy metal music and symphonic elements. Let’s cite Lizzy Borden’s Master Of Disguise or Savatage’s Gutter Ballet - which were both released in 1989, and followed by others. What makes Theli stand out among these other ambitious releases is the consequent will to fuse operatic and symphonic elements with doom, gothic, and even power metal in equal parts to invent something extremely courageous and completely unrivaled in originality. It’s something new from an intellectual point of view, but also from an atmospheric and technical approach. Sophisticated tracks including dark and raw vocals, full choirs, gripping riffing, vivid rhythm work, and the crowning keyboard orchestrations. Classical music and heavy metal have rarely come into such close contact as on this release. At a time when the metal scene seemed to be waning in power, bands like Amorphis, Moonspell, and Therion kept an entire scene alive with their determined approach to inventing and reinventing themselves with each new release.

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