Provenance – Still at Arm’s Length

21/11/2003 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2002
Scarlet Records
8 Tracks
English lyrics

The Provenance look like the kind of people who would be far better off trying to save trees, lying in front of bulldozers and keeping all their possessions in shopping trolleys rather than ever playing in a metal band. Or doing whatever it is they apparently do. Still, looks can be deceptive. Still At Arm’s Length is a remarkable piece of work. This is Beauty and Beast music, but impressively mature. Technically it’s composite, structurally it’s diverse and it’s executed with flair and skill. It’s clear on listening to this album that The Provenance are the thinking man’s BnB band [even though Myriads would probably prefer that title, being the pretentious faux-intellectuals that they are].

The problem that I find with most BnB bands is that the female vocalist can’t generally sing. I mean, not properly. Think of all the BnB CDs that you own [if that’s your cup of tea], and then think of the times that the girlie goes off a little, sliding around while the extreme vocals grind and grunt away mechanically. This is where The Provenance differs – this is where they’re better, because Emma can sing. She has a beautiful full and strong voice. She clearly knows what she’s doing. No wavering, no going off, just pure, beautiful vocals. A real relief against the rest of the BnB bands that overcrowd the Gothic Metal sub-genre.

The Provenance are no strangers to making songs with unconventional structures. It’s difficult to know what to expect, so in the end you just give up trying. The result of this is that the album takes quite a few listens to get into and connect with, especially with the later songs. However, it’s undeniable that Climbing Ideals and Mimic are excellent tracks, but Tearful, Bitter, Broken really dominates the album as its best track by far, I haven’t heard such bewitching and perfect singing since I came across Sarah Bonnetti from Moon Of Steel. There’s also something starkly honest in the lyrics here, some passages really jump out at you, such as “for the first time in my life I really don’t know so help me out, I know that I’m blind so please feed me, I need it so badly” and “it’s hard with thoughts eating away at you, it’s tough to take a stand when you’re sad, messed up and tattered, feeling misunderstood”. This band obviously have something to share through their lyrics, there’s no compulsion to jam them in with the music for the sake of it as others do, they’re here as a serious cathartic release.

Because of the depth of the songs, Still At Arm’s Length will not appeal on first listening, it takes a little time, as with all albums which are well-crafted and have some intensity and depth to them. Don’t get too excited though, there’s nothing overly original here, it’s just that The Provenance do BnB a hell of a lot better than scores of other bands I could care to mention, but probably wouldn’t bother to. OK, the production could be slightly less gooey and Emma should probably have the microphone a little more than she does, but that aside, this is a seriously good release. This lot deserve to be appreciated.

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