Ikarie — Corpeus en Sombra
In the days of 2019, out of the ashes of Nahemah, a new band Ikarie, was born in Spain. With lyrics based on “cosmic existentialism” and playing a blend of doom/post-metal, the band sounds on paper like something I should be interested in. Misty Graveyard, a middle-eastern black metal on-line magazine, has even listed this album in its top for 2021, alongside other giants of this style such as Darkthrone, Wolves In The Throne Room and Clouds. Being a fan of most on the list, surely this album will suit any fan of atmospheric doom such as myself?
Less than two minutes in and I can see why the album is rated well. Slow, heavy and atmospheric, with crushing growls and what can only be described as a “presence”. You know the album is there and it pulls you in.
Subdued intros, quieter and clean interludes and the addition of strings helps to build tension and atmosphere in between bouts of doom and melancholic metal. Slow, pounding drums sound throughout along with the deliberate chugging of the guitars, while melodic and thoughtful leads sail over the top with the bass keeping everything present and accountable. It is how I could imagine the “Peaceville Three” (My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost) sounding if they formed now.
I found on listening that I only had two real criticisms, one being that the slow pace does become a bit wearisome by the time Redencion comes along. However, it doesn't detract from enjoyment of the album at all I found. The other criticism I had was that it unfortunately suffers from the fact that it should and needs to be played loud to really get the full impact! It is an album when you want to sit in the dark, on a stormy night with some candles and just hear some loud, post-doom.
By the end of the album, I did find myself gutted that this was their debut. I believe it is the start of a trilogy, and I struggle to see how the next two can reach the bar that has been set so high by this album. But, “eager to hear more” is an understatement and I gleefully await it.
If you enjoy some Cult Of Luna, Deathwhite, Crown or any other previously mentioned bands, then you would be wise to have a listen to these folks.
Teramaze — And The Beauty They Perceive
It's hard to believe that only two years have passed since I last attended Teramaze's first European concert at ProgPower. With many tickets still burning in my pocket with anxiety it proved to be one of the final concerts I could actually attend for quite a while due to the Covid-disaster that postponed, eliminated and almost annihilated every other opportunity to witness a live show ever since.
Still, they say time flies when your having fun and disastrous as it may have been to the live scene, there's no denying that it opened up a whole new time-frame for bands to turn their devoted attention to new music. Teramaze has been one of those bands that embraced this opportunity to its fullest. After 2020's I Wonder and an early 2021 release of Sorella Minore, it is And The Beauty They Perceive that marks their third offering in just under two years. Each was met with high appraisal, although I confess to have missed them the first time around, passing me by completely unnoticed thanks to the sheer amount of other marvellous efforts. I'm catching up as we speak for I love the perceived beauty from Teramaze's newest effort.
Compared to DPRP's most recently reviewed album We Are Soldiers a few changes have taken place within the band. Dean Wells (guitar, vocals) is still firmly at the helm, alongside Andrew Cameron (bass) and Chris Zoupa (guitars), but over time the band has welcomed drummer Nick Ross amongst it ranks to replace Rob Brens. Most striking change is however that there's no sign of vocalist Nathan Peachey, still present at ProgPower, leaving Wells in full responsibility for the vocal department. A task he's fully equipped for. So much so that over the course of the album, I start to question myself why the band never opted for this scenario in the first place.
The album's strong opener And The Beauty They Perceive is a powerful example to Wells' vocal strength, instantly demonstrating a powerful melodic approach that expresses a delightful variety of emotion, feel and melancholy all at once. Reaching some high notes that emphasize his versatile range this excellent complex song is also the perfect illustration of many of the different faces of Teramaze's attractive melodic prog metal.
To me the seasoning with synths, an Australian ingredient they share with native bands Voyager and The Stranger, makes the music especially rewarding. Although I wouldn't be surprised to find out that some members have Swiss roots as well, for the highly dynamic rhythm section runs as precise as a Swiss watch, while the razor sharp riffs and catchy melodies cut like its versatile army knife equivalent. Musically rock solid, this song propels the album in forceful gear, instantly winning me over through its majestic symphonic interlude, ravishing guitar solos and pleasant Vanden Plas bombast in the song's coda.
With Jackie Seth, an immediate transformation takes place. Proudly maintaining the prog-metal intentions and intensities, it's the enchanting silky satin sheet of synth-waves and orchestrations that places itself amidst the catchy melodies that gives the music a lovely pop-like appeal. This welcomed Jolly-like attractiveness is beautifully enhanced by Wells' vocals and at times aggressive guitar play. In Untide, these irresistible pop structures, still firmly rooted in metal encasement, briefly embrace The Beatles while the engaging music is beautifully caressed by atmospheric synths and orchestrations on a constant basis.
In live situations, at least the one time I witnessed this, the band uses a sequencer to play along to these lush synths. In light of this in Modern Living Space it might be a good idea to audition a session player, for this song ups the keyboarding ante. They obviously can choose not to play it, but that would be a shame for this is simply an amazing and beautifully crafted, perfectly flowing composition. Blasting open with tantalising synths and incredibly catchy melodies, it reduces intensity into fragility, guided by piano. Then it enters epic realms of overwhelming movements that alternate with reflective passages. Soaring ever higher into a bridge that will have Dream Theater adepts fall on their knees with joy, it is brimming with melancholy and stunning play that reigns supreme. The song keeps on giving and giving. After diving into a gorgeous guitar solo, once again highlighted by a symphonic impulse, it finalises into the appetising opening melody of the song.
To me Modern Living Space is the outright radiant highlight of the album. Thanks to this magnificence, there is a mild shadow present over the next few tracks. Perhaps a slightly different running order would have shed a different light onto these songs. The moving ballad Blood Of Fools keeps the pace of the album in a firm grip. Next to passionate vocals by Wells, it's the lovely melodies that guide the song smoothly onwards, incorporating a beautiful sensitive solo that adds melancholic bliss. It is however the subsequent well cared for ballad Waves that doesn't entirely dip into Teramaze's strengths. It does show Wells to up his vocal game with a wonderful emotive performance, but the title's magnitude is merely repaid by a gathering of small rippling pleasantries.
The returning joyous prog-metal shower of Son Rise replenishes this short straying intermission forcefully, replacing elegant atmospheres with bombast, exciting riffs and exuberant melodies. By the time Searching For The Unimaginable invades with its soft spookiness, the flow of the album is fully restored and enters into to-the-letter prog-metal excitement. Full of flawless alternations in which dynamics, musical eruptions, and wonderful synths predominate, the song shows some beautiful harmonics and ends committed in piano refinement showcasing the band's excellence in arrangements and compositional creativity.
Finally, it's the epic closer Head Of The King that pulls out all the stops. Mindful of the grandeur and overwhelming melodies of Darkwater, it shows unleashed guitar excesses, challenging rhythms and warm touching vocals as meticulously arranged transitions keeps the flow of thrilling dynamic melodies festively afloat, once again igniting Vanden Plas attractiveness in its victorious stream. With astonishing ease, the wondrous compelling composition then wades through different atmospheres. It shortly bows down in restrained reflective play to ultimately make its way into a gallery of magically melancholic guitars. Reinforced by Wells excellent vocals, this second epic finally ends in true musical brilliance.
Stepping up their game with three high quality releases in under just two years, And The Beauty They Perceive proves the band is not short of inspiration, and modern prog-metal devotees can be assured to add another outstanding album to their collection. Overall, it's a very convincing consolidation of the path the band have set out for themselves, and this road is becoming more and more to my liking at each turn.
Once again, it goes down a storm, especially in the epic compositions Head Of The King and Modern Living Space, that bring out the best in Teramaze. In these majestic compositions they take the time to fully develop, implement and create their own identity. These songs alone give this album the upper edge to previous albums for me. Hopefully the band can continue this winning streak and gain the recognition they deserve. By the looks of it we don't have to wait long to find out as they have just released their new single Ticket To The Next Apocalypse. Bring it on!
Thumos — The Republic
The End Of Words by the antiquity-influenced project Thumos was a short but effective EP, which fell upon a listener with all the weight and indifference of a Zeus statue, precariously fixed in a provincial Greek museum of archaeology. The post-metal wall of sound mixed with melancholic harmonies did a great job of burying my ears six archaeological layers down. With all the praises to the short release, I was wondering how would the anonymous members manage to make a longer record, and wouldn't it sound dull.
My concerns were confounded (pretty much like Cicero's opponents) by The Republic, which turned to be a very solid record. What made this Thumos release a standout is the fusion of post-metal rhythmic patterns and wall of sound with black metal harmonies. While for many prog-heads the term “black metal harmony” is a contradiction in terms, I assure you that it not only exists but also plays central role in shaping of Thumos' sound. No, there are no inhuman shrieks (the album is instrumental, after all) or pseudo-satanic imagery here, but the Phrygian phrases and introspective misanthropy of the best black metal projects are carefully transposed to post-metal territory.
The opener The Unjust features lo-fi sound and a riff in the vein of Emperor (I see sheer irony in the fact that the album named The Republic is influenced by the Norwegians). The second track The Ring reminds me a lot of the viking black metal akin to Bathory, with its martial drums and upbeat harmonic riffs. The third number drifts away from the icy waters of black metal to the more elegiac sound of If These Trees Could Talk and God Is An Astronaut, and is probably the most accessible track on the record, with a killer main theme.
These three tracks make a great sequence and are probably the strongest opening of a post-metal album in many years.
The Cave is the nearest that Thumos comes to avant-garde black metal, with some blast-beats and post-apocalyptic dissonant riffs straight from Blut Aus Nord legacy. With the following The Regimes growing even more mournful, and continuing the studies of Blut's atonal ideas, to evolve finally into a contrastingly beautiful majestic coda.
The Just is where a listener could restore his breath and dwell again in the more lyrical, post-rockish aspects of Thumos, and The Spindle weaves every thread into a tapestry of epic-ness.
While not complex as such, The Republic is a very effective record, simultaneously catchy and dissonant, where all the details are well-thought and balanced against each other. It features a solid number of well-written riffs, strong compositions and great sound that would appeal to extreme metal fans, lovers of post-rock and to some of the more adventurous prog lovers. After all, it's good to have a record that you can both headbang to and carefully listen to with earphones on. My only minor complaint is that I would prefer more instrumental nods to Greek and Roman times, to match the visual side of Thumos. Well, maybe that is something to come next.