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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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Charnia – Dageraad

charniaThis is the next release in ConSouling Records’ series of ambient and post metal.The interesting point is that Charnia are four Belgian youngsters – new blood in the scene as of 2012. To paraphrase their sound in one sentence: it’s a nephew of AmenRa. The pristine instrumental ambient sections, although outnumbered, are impeccable. Most of the time however, we’re served textbook post metal. Very much so that, about ten milliseconds after the screams begun, I couldn’t think of anything else but AmenRa’s Mass III specifically. The production is strikingly similar too. the snare is a tad more powerful, and the vocals are pushed well in the foreground. The guitars are thick and gritty, but perhaps not as confronting. The fact that it’s so comparable means that Dageraad is more than decent. As you all know how Mass III sounds, I’ll spare you the details. If you don’t mind “band clones” (well, a half one in this case) and just want to hear excellent music: be sure to give Charnia a spin when your AmenRa CD needs a rest.

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Hypnodrome Ensemble – S/T

HypnodroneWe’re here to discuss the music, but a little context is definitely in order for this album. It’s basically a single track (41 minutes) that’s a live recording from earlier in 2014. Aidan Baker and Eric Quach (thisquietarmy) have performed a semi-improvisational soundscape, supported by three (3!) drummers. I’m not sure why they needed that many, but maybe I’ll found it.
The introductory section is an excellent build-up – the droning guitars are accompanied by nothing but cymbalwork. Of course it ventures into polyrhythms, what did you expect with six hands.
After about seven minutes, one drummer kicks in with a solid, fairly up-tempo beat, interspersed with snare rolls. For many those constant beats will be part of the trance, but I think it’s a bit of a shame as well. The guitarsounds are somewhat lost, especially their singular eeriness and climactic atmosphere. Then again, there probably isn’t another solution with three drummers.
Almost halfway through the set, peace returns and the pace slows down, with the percussion leaving some breathing room. About three quarters in, I start to get really bored with the same old kick-kick-snare-kick pattern. I have had it with a hi-hat hit every quarter note. Please mix it up with a ride. Or a cowbell. Or an iron bucket.
If you’re capable of gazing into infinity on this music, you’re in for it until the end – great for you. Otherwise, I suggest starting off with some less jumpy ambient.

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