24/03/2004 § Leave a comment
The first time I put this in the CD player I felt like I was about to be murdered. Far Away From Conformity kicks off like a mule that’s had a truckload of coffee. There’s no teasing you in gently, no soft intro, no calm before the ensuing tempest, it’s like someone waking you up by sticking a roman candle in your ear.
The Shadow’s Madame was a warm, almost melodic pastiche of black and gothic metal, however, this time round Cadaveria have made no bones and cut no corners with the kind of stuff they want to play. This is a band that are no longer creeping along gingerly in the wake of Opera IX, but who now seem to be screaming, “we’re going to play horrible, nasty, mechanical, edgy, gritty, die-hard horror metal and if you don’t like it you can fuck off and die. Yeeaaarggghh!!!” What a philosophy, but what a result. I was almost scared of this album the first few times I played it, but loving Cadaveria as I do, I was determined to work outside of my comfort zone and let myself be sucked in even further by its sensuality in spite of the fact that the album cover and my first impression of the music seemed to say pain, pain death and more pain.
Far Away From Conformity is certainly a step beyond The Shadow’s Madame. I thought things couldn’t get any heavier, or nastier, but I was wrong. However, Cadaveria have also thrown a little bit more variety into the mix, there are more tempo changes than before, more clean vocals than before, and even the odd bit of acoustic guitar [a nice gesture, but a little unconvincing]. In fact, there are so many tempo changes that it’s a bad idea to stay comfortable with the same line of music for too long. The first track, Blood and Confusion, is a ruthless rhino of a metal song, charging into you and pummelling you into a pulp with it’s heavy guitars and vocal screeches, though changing pace a couple of times and including some nice, almost rocky riffs. Eleven Three O Three moves similarly, taking off like a rocket, crash landing and taking off again before exploding in a violent shower of power chords at the end. Divine Rapture is probably the most eerie track on the album, with Cadaveria’s clean vocals hissing and bending snakelike round each other in the midsection and a glorious slow, heavy change of pace at the end. And that’s pretty much the theme of the album. All this and a cover of Blondie’s Call Me, for whatever reason, which unfortunately doesn’t do much for the original or for Cadaveria.
Something else got me by surprise here – I’m not normally one to notice the lyrics on an album, but occasionally I can’t help be impressed. I thought that given the structure and power of the songs, the lyrics wouldn’t be anything but angsty growls at ‘society’, but I was mistaken. Certain lines really proved me wrong, such as “bewitched by the eternal rhythm of divine breath, perverse he smiled to the prickly knock of rain drops…transfixed by an absolute lightning of freedom, he freed himself in an uncensored dance” and “feed on this embrace with love, respect and hope…entwine in a sacred knot the shining wefts of this harmonious desire…so that it can preserve itself and vibrate forever in magnificent poetry”. Cadaveria seem to have a lot to say, albeit about black magic, witchcraft and Satanism, and as a result I think a lot of this would go above most of our heads, but the poetry and sometimes the beauty of the words are in stark contrast to the gritty harshness with which they’re delivered, which makes it all the more alluring. Far away from conformity indeed. This was not the direction I expected Cadaveria to go in. I expected their next album to be something melodic but dark and something with more accessible riffs than the full-on, uncompromising guitar-fest that this is. Also, whatever Gothic elements were on The Shadow’s Madame have completely vanished from this album. Instead, Cadaveria have fused black and death metal here beautifully, and the result if undoubtedly striking.
This is one of those albums that, if you’re more into the Gothic side of things, you might really have to depart from your own preconceptions to enjoy. Sure, for some of you, the heaviness of this album might attack the very core of your essences to the point where you feel seriously ill, but those who actually go the distance will certainly not be disappointed by the myriad of dark delights on offer here. Don’t be dismayed, this is a seriously sinister album – a harsh, abrasive, undiluted solvent of heavy metal, ripe for abuse to your own detriment – but it’s scary how enjoyable it is. One of the best deals so far this year.
16/03/2004 § Leave a comment
2003 was quite a messy year for the big fish in Transmission. Mark Jansen, having left After Forever, went to start Epica, who had a full-length album in what seems like very little time at all, and not a bad one either. Then After Forever rush out this – a six track offering which is neither an EP nor an album, but a ‘mini-album’. Oh PLEASE! For God’s sake. What is the point of that? I’ll tell you what the point is. AF didn’t have enough time to make a full-length album so were pushed to make something that was long enough so that people could still charge full price for it, and that had to come out round about the same time as Epica’s The Phantom Agony. No? Someone tell me where I’m going wrong. Hang on, this ‘mini-album’ has four, not six original tracks? Shock horror! And one of these is an instrumental? Will wonders never cease.
Now that we’ve broken Exordium down into its bare components, lets look at if for the wretched, measly little soul that it is. Or is it? Well, one thing’s clear since Mark has left the band [and its not just the inclusion of the green Blake’s Seven style jumpsuits], and that is that After Forever have gone less Gothic. There are fewer choirs and fewer classical parts because those have all been taken over to the ‘other side’. You can see them all sitting in a room debating it, can’t you. “Guys, I don’t think we’ll be seeing much more of Mark.” “No way, does this mean we have to write all the songs ourselves now?” “How do you do that?” “Dunno, but we can rehash some old Randy Crawford stuff and try to make it sound poignant.” Genius.
The new After Forever stuff is much more guitar-driven, but not to the point where we’re being suffocated by power chords. There is still a tinge of the old AF song-writing magic in it. However, up till now any AF album has started with an instrumental, and this one is no different. But what’s surprising is that it’s not a classical one. Instead, they’ve gone for a more metal instrumental, which is a little disappointing, but which bleeds nicely into the first vocal track, Beneath, which is an absolute cracker. As soon as I heard it I fell in love with AF all over again. Sure, Mark may have gone to do his own thing, but this means that all the other lurkers in AF have been forced to the fore and the result is some pretty damn good song-writing. The only bad thing about this track is the middle part where they try to do some news quoting over palm-muted chord chugging, which might inspire the odd Dutchie [which is most of them] with a sense of awe, but it doesn’t travel well, certainly not over here, and the result is laughable. Apart from that, it’s all first-rate.
The next track, My Choice, is another brilliant number with the same message that AF [and now Epica, surprisingly] have been preaching for years, the whole idea of choosing your own path and going your own way. Hopefully the idea is that if they say it enough times it might actually sink in. Unfortunately, the rest of us listen to it, think, “how true” and then go back to our day jobs. Which AF don’t do, for reasons that I won’t go into here. The final original track is the wonderful Glorifying Means, the only track with grunts in it, and a fabulous chorus. But what makes all these tracks so magnificent more than anything is the fantastic vocals of Floor, who has never sounded so good. As soon as I heard Beneath, I was reminded just how amazing she is, and having got used to the vocals on Decipher, it’s great to hear her sing something different. She really lifts the music and truly is an extremely talented vocalist, a joy to listen to.
So it’s a little bit of a let down that the next two songs aren’t originals – a cover of Iron Maiden’s The Evil That Men Do, which Floor does surprisingly well [for a girl, yes] and Randy Crawford’s One Day I’ll Fly Away, which is an odd choice, and they could have really made something of the way the music climbs the scale at the end of the chorus, but hey, you can’t have everything. Still, this is quite a treat for six tracks. OK, it’s a bit cheeky to call it a ‘mini-album’, but there’s still some stuff here for the enthusiastic AF fan. My only reservation is that after Invisible Circles, everyone will forget about Exordium since it was just brought out to bridge the gap with Decipher. It’s not an album that will travel the timelines well, since though its tracks are good, there’s nothing truly sensational here. However, what it does show is that in spite of Mark’s absence, AF still have the ability to make excellent music.