Mordiggan – Metamorphose

28/10/2004 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2002
Brennus Music
10 Tracks
French lyrics

I don’t mind admitting that I was wary about trying this one out, but due to various methods of exposure to the French culture over the past few months, I decided to acquiesce in its favour. Having a metal band from France just seems very silly to me. I remember when I was listening to FFF a few years ago it seemed fine, but now I just think that when people sing in French in an aggressive way that they’re taking the piss. I imagine Monty Python could not have made any reasonable prediction that whenever I think of singers in French rock bands now I think of a Frenchman on top of a castle shouting in a stereotyped but strangely accurate way, but unfortunately that’s often the case. However, this makes no mark on my impressions of Mordiggan, since this time I can take it all seriously again, the reason being that this little-known band have come up with something rather good here that throws any preconceptions and stereotypes hors de la fenêtre.

And thank God for that. Otherwise the beast of transcontinental discord that feasts on stereotype might have urged me to throw this one on the ‘experience’ pile along with my Sattre and Saint Exupéry. But French cinema is getting more assertive, and there’s no reason why another area of the Arts shouldn’t follow suit. We’re all prone and vulnerable to the vestiges of media surging through our subcultures after all. Mordiggan have come up with quite a superb piece of work here, an album of ten really quite stunning songs [all killers, no fillers, as they say] and I breathed a sigh of relief at the thought that someone somewhere is producing decent material when many of the bands at this end of the metal scene have settled into their formulas.

The BnB in Metamorphose is very good indeed, and though none of the stuff here is startlingly original, that doesn’t really matter since the songs are so good in their own rights. However, don’t let the moniker of BnB make you think that you’ll get some violins and choirs here or maybe even the odd synth filling and bloating the background chords, you’ll get so such luck, but you might find some flutes cruising the cadences. Either this band are traditionalists or they’re on a budget, and judging by the slightly mushy production I’d say it was the latter. Nevertheless, this can be overlooked very easily because the songs are so good and the vocals are first class. Sophie has a beautiful voice and she hits the notes effortlessly. It’s a pleasure to be relaxed enough in the company of a composite vocalist so as not have to worry that she’s going to slide off her vocal register at some point. What’s also nice to see is that the clean male vocals harmonise with the female a lot of the time, which is a nice simple touch that you’d think there’d be more of in BnB. The growls themselves are few and far between and are perfectly inoffensive, probably only existing so this band could call themselves a BnB outfit.

It all starts off with the wonderful Prelude au Crime, which is probably the track I’ve sat and listened to the most off any album over the past few months. The distortion is intentionally jerky, though fast-paced in places. Mordiggan seem to realise that loud passages can be just as effective as complete silence, and they really use the rests between the chords to thoroughly impressive effect. Signe de Vie, Visionairre and Peur de Vide are all fantastic numbers and each track seems to beat its forerunner until we get to the shockingly heavy Des Lignes et Des Hommes. However, though the BnB here may be top-notch, it’s not the kind of stuff that everyone will like. A lot of people reading this could think that Mordiggan sound like one of the most amazing bands to come into the scene for a while, though they’re likely to appeal to only those who favour the grittier rather than the polished side of BnB. We’re steering totally away from the world of TSOTB and Sirenia here into the realm of Dakrua and Darzamat, though punctuated by French flair, but there’s nothing laissez-faire about it.

Getting into Metamorphose doesn’t take long and once you do you should be very surprised with what it gives to you. Mordiggan are clearly a band with a lot of promise, and like with much new talent knocking around at the moment, I get the feeling that the best is yet to come. The only thing that would really need to be sorted out on their next offering would be the production and then we’d all have a splendid album on our hands, apart from those of us who have a problem with the fact that Mordiggan sing in French, though if they sung in English we’d probably be back in Monty Python territory. However, French is a beautiful language which just accentuates the whole concept of BnB when set against a heavy musical backdrop. I’d be shocked if this band did anything but get even better from here.

Naamah – Resensement

19/10/2004 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2004
Metal Mind
9 Tracks
English / Polish lyrics

There comes a time when you get the rare privilege of putting an album on and knowing very soon that you’ve hit on something special. Even though this is a Metal Mind release, which are most of the time good quality anyway, I didn’t expect something of this calibre to come from Naamah, whose last album was an unremarkable offering. There were certainly glimmers of hope there, though I didn’t expect them to remain anything more than that, but after what can only be a year of thorough dedication, they’ve put together one of the best pieces of music that I’ve heard for a long time.

Ultima, the predecessor to the rather annoyingly titled Resentement, didn’t necessarily lack in song-writing rather than in execution. The album was very badly produced, the mix being upside down and back to front and some of the tracks sounded dizzy and confused, the result being a rather disorientating musical experience. This time round they’ve got some very good production – everything is clear and crisp, the bass especially coming out beautifully in places, and the song-writing is in a completely different league to on Ultima. Naamah have decided to go for an almost jazzy approach to writing metal, the only other band I can think of who have attempted something similar being Illegal Aliens. But parts on Resensement even reminded me of Atrox, so good is the technicality and the skill with which the material here is put together. Naamah haven’t so much come on leaps and bounds, as have been catapulted to an altogether superior echelon.

Naamah have really made a point on concentrating on the intricacy of the music here, which doesn’t mean they’ve thrown in lots of power-chords and blast-beats, Resensement isn’t about that. It’s not a Hershey’s bar or a Cadbury’s Dairy Milk, but more of a Godiva truffle, a beautifully appetizing extravagance which deserves to swirl around your mind and be savoured and appreciated. There are so many things going on at once and so many time-signature changes, that it’s great to be able to sit there and examine the musical components that make up the quite challenging songs. Naamah have really made an effort to show off their new-found song-writing and technical skills, with there being many instrumental passages on the album, but they’re all so good and different from one another that you don’t really see them as being fillers between vocal sections, but statements in their own right.

None of the songs are particularly short numbers, either. Apart from the piano version of Twoja at the end of the album, there’s nothing shorter than six minutes here, with Daydream parts One and Two being both over ten minutes. Even though in many cases it’s the norm for long songs to make the listener all too aware of their length, each song here is fleshed out with so many striking different sections that you don’t really want the track to end. There are some wonderful parts to Subsistence, while Alright could almost be excused for being jazz if it weren’t for the odd moment of creamily heavy guitar. Don’t be fooled though, Resensement is undoubtedly a work of home-grown Polish metal with some deliciously heavy sections, so it very much sits on the right side of the metal fence.

Anna’s singing has improved too. She seems to be capable of what very few singers are in metal at the moment, and that is putting expression into how she sings. It’s so usual for vocalists to pelt notes out and sing piano and forte when the song demands it, though not necessarily with feeling. Anna undoubtedly feels the song’s subjects, my only criticism being that on a couple of occasions she slips slightly below the notes, but the sentiments she injects into them make up for this.

Resensement is nine tracks long, however, two of them are unarguably fillers: Subsistence featuring twice, in English and in Polish, and Twoja being reworked as a piano track. Nevertheless, it’s hard to really criticise Naamah and Metal Mind too much for this since the seven tracks before these are of such a superbly high standard that it’s good to have something familiar at the end of the album so you can catch your breath, relax and mull over the fantastic musical experience that this band have taken you through. Resensement really is a staggering work and something that I would never have expected Naamah to produce. It won’t appeal to everyone, especially those who like their metal unadorned and uncomplicated, but those who prefer the more intricate and introspective side of the genre will see this as a real luxury.

Desdemona – Version 3.0

14/10/2004 § Leave a comment

CD Info
2004
Metal Mind Productions
12 Tracks
English lyrics

Version 3.0 runs for 62 minutes from start to finish. The total amount of playtime I have given this album is 62 minutes. I can’t believe that I waited so long for Desdemona’s next oeuvre in their repertoire only to be presented with this dreary dodectet. So what does it have to say for itself within one hour? Well, not much at all. 3.0 is not so much of an inspiring oration than an ugly, cacophonic pastiche of electronic clatter, bad lyrics and pretentious sound bites.

However, surprising though it may seem, I don’t want to be too negative about Desdemona since I have a lot of respect for them. The Polish metal scene is coming on in leaps and bounds and Metal Mind have been putting out a lot of good material recently with high-quality DVDs and CDs being produced at a rate of knots, so it’s unfortunate that there’s a bad apple in the bunch at all, but I suppose MM can’t keep up their red hot, full tilt pace forever. As well as that, Supernova was such a brutally brilliant album that I thought this band could do no wrong. Well, I don’t know what’s been going on in their heads over the last year, maybe they’ve been listening to too much Radiohead, but they’ve decided to lurch into the glorious and varied world of electronica.

Now, electronica is one of my favourite genres. It’s quite hard to make bad electronica. You just have to be able to have a good beat, a good chorus, some sampling thrown in, and you’ll have a track that will impress and please a lot of fans. Whereas metal generally either rock or flops, 99% of electronica will appeal to someone somewhere. That other elusive 1% is hard to find and you really have to make an effort to fall into its black hole, and Desdemona have done it beautifully unceremoniously, plunging themselves head-first into the chasm of musical bleakness. So what’s wrong with it all? 3.0 takes us through twelve tracks of Desdemona’s new direction, but one thing’s clear from the moment you first put this on – its not a direction they should be going in. Not only that, some of the songs are so bad that it’s like they’ve made a concerted effort to shoot themselves in the foot having completely lost respect for their own music.

The album starts off badly, really badly, with Zombie, which has some awfully harsh metallic chord punches with Agata singing “I had heart, I had soul” over and over again in a simple jostly little tune done with the vigour and maturity of a childish playground taunt. It doesn’t get better from there either, The Sinner starts with the line “They call me the Satan’s whore” before some thunderingly ugly keyboards pummel your ears for the rest of the track and which actually made me feel sick. And that’s basically the way the whole album goes from there, staying on a steady theme of awfulness, with Eternal Flame [no, not a Bangles cover] and Midion being the only two saving graces, not because they’re that good, but just because they’re not as atrocious as the rest of the album.

3.0 is a marvel in bad music. I really don’t understand the band’s motivation behind making this. Even power noise and some of the harsh nightmarish dins produced by bands like Dysmorphia have something going for them in an aesthetic way, whereas 3.0 has nothing. If there were some regulatory body that filtered out the good from the bad music before it hit the markets, 3.0 would have been tossed on the reject pile in seconds, not only because it’s bad, but because music at this level of hideousness should only be played to people with seriously unhealthy masochistic tendencies or jaded audiophiles who think they’ve heard everything. It is a thoroughly ghastly, unsettling album. I really can’t recommend this to anyone.

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