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Kali Yuga – Kali Yuga

kaliThe band’s name sounds familiar to me, and indeed, upon digging in the archives I have found my reviews for their 2011 and 2013 releases as well. It seems they have shifted more towards melodic death metal and reduced the metalcore touches (what’s left of them is disguised as melodic metal). That’s one of my tips they’ve taken to heart. And there’s another advice they seem to have read: finally, the drummer’s tossing in some decorative and creative hits, beyond the ordinary patterns. So little effort and so much positive vibes for the active listener.
The gritty guitars appear to be downtuned quite a few steps, and thus easily manage to construct yet another solid wall of classic sounding death metal. Lots of power chords and lots of melodic lines – it’s an incredibly smooth album to listen to. But smooth also means traditional, in the sense that many of the lead parts are rather cheesy and mundane. A simple approach, but one that works: that’s what counts, right?
As far as I can judge my own reviews after a few reviews, this self-titled release is Kali Yuga’s best: more complete musicianship produced powerful songs that in the end do manage to surpass a predictable, mediocre level.
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Dirk Serries & Rutger Zuydervelt – Buoyant

dirkserriesDirk Serries has, over the decades, worked on numerous projects and countless releases. It’s therefore no surprise that in 2015 (so far) he’s featured in two new albums: one solo (which will be subject of another review) and one where he’s teamed up with Rutger Zuydervelt (Machinefabriek), another soundscaping artist with an ever-growing oeuvre.
As I’m getting to know more bands and albums in the ambient/drone/soundscape genre, my preference for these instrumental and rhythmless tracks seems to be determined by a single question: does the music paint a scene so clearly that I can immediately visualize it? Basically, the same experience as with impressionistic composers: no clear-cut onset or ending for a scene in which life steadily comes and goes. (Even though the artist could have an entirely different idea or reason, of course.)

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Le Seul Element – Meradiam

leseulThis release has a sense of singularity to it. The CD is wrapped in impressionistic and abstract artwork, with the booklet’s blurry pictures each representing a track. And you could describe those tracks with the exact same words: blurry, abstract and impressionistic. The French composer is a master-soundscaper, but with a particular focus on noise and piano.
That’s to say, these elements give Le Seul Element its key sound. Many passages are still – dare I say it – traditional soundscaping, with drawn-out guitar notes and ambient sounds. But regularly enough, either noise or classical piano fragments are injected. The piano is truly mesmerizing (partly because it uses silence to its advantage) and, although it is surrounded by melancholy and emptiness, encourages a feeling of hope and expectation. Fear not, with ghostly echoes and grinding noise these dreams are quickly shattered and some sections are turned into difficult obstacles. In true impressionist vein, the songs do not have a clearcut beginning or ending, nor a strong climax. Still, each one does summon a certain emotion or invites you into a trance-like enchantment. Very recommendable, especially because on a few occasions you’ll hear vocals or even drums; both perfectly fitting although they’re gone as swiftly as they’ve come.
Great album – I’d say you need to be in a specific state of mind to enjoy it, but Meradiam simply ensures you’ll be getting to that state of mind in a matter of minutes.

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Vermillion – Sentience

vermillionI flipped open the (highly qualitative) digipack before reading any promo about this album. On two inside panels, a story is told, spanning all the tracks. Cool to read, even. I then guessed (correctly) that Sentience is an instrumental album – that’s always promising and a question mark at the same time.
These guys attempt to mix progressive metal with fusion and djent elements. Now, the mixing itself does not seem like an issue. All kinds of waves are pulsing out of my speakers: heavy 8-string djenting with seemingly odd time signatures (but those are probably in 4/4 like Meshuggah’s). Or how about a complex, counterintuitive drumbeat to jazz things up? Or some soundscaping with nicely layered guitar effects and electronica? And those minor sounding guitar leads are sweet too, a great vocal replacement but so typical of instrumental progressive music.

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Bitterness – Resurrexodus

480789German band Bitterness has been going at it for over a decade. With “Resurrexodus” they’ve released an album reminiscent of the past, both visually and musically. (And although I’m usually not too fond of wordplays or concatenated words in titles, this one is pretty cool.)
Of course, while many riffs are relentlessly driving or contain typical motifs, the production is more contemporary: the main emphasis is placed on the guitars. Rather gritty and dry, they sound as if they’re trying to jump out of your speakers. This frontal assault is supported by perfectly mixed in drumset and vocals – you can hear that the amount of reverb and delay is exactly right for both the snare and voice. And the guitar leads are bathing in effects, making them stick all over the place (like they should). Did I already mention I love this mix?
In a few songs, Bitterness resorts to not-so-classic thrash elements, but I can’t imagine anyone experiencing discomfort at hearing a few melodic deathmetal phrases now and again. Another good move is layering the vocals on the occasional chorus, to keep the monotony at bay.
Not all songs are great, but most of them are. In short: this album can keep you entertained.

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Battalion – Only the dead have seen the end of war

80661_battalion_only_the_dead_have_seen_the_end_of_warIt’s been six years since “Welcome to the warzone”, and Battalion have now launched their third full-fledged campaign called “Only the dead have seen the end of war.” The artwork is sober but excellently elegant – the band picture idea is superb as well.
Battalion are a death metal band by nature, and that nature isn’t going to change anytime soon. You’ll be hearing either double kick runs or blastbeats, about ninety percent of the time. Which, for the rather pure approach to the genre, is a healthy ratio. And while we expect nothing less, it must be said that some drum rolls are as fun as impressive to listen to.

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