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Of One Blood
Of One Blood
Price: $11.29
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent melodic thrash, April 12, 2002
This review is from: Of One Blood (Audio CD)
Shadows Fall's influences are clearly discernible. Early Metallica, Iron Maiden, Slayer, etc. The music is crushingly heavy, but rarely doomy; thrashy yet never messy. Above all, it possesses a fecund melodic sensibility.
The two guitars work wonders, swirling around in patterns that remind sometimes of the complexity of early Dark Tranquillity, but also with the straightforward unity of Metallica. It's not quite New Wave of Swedish Death Metal, but neither is it really 80's melodic thrash. This is where Shadows Fall truly stand above the rest to be counted. It seems strange that no one has created this before, but the combination of a dense bottom end and a melodic contour is fully realised here.
The rhythm battery is noteworthy for it's cohesion and stability. Syncopation is not used greatly, as Shadows Fall tend to rely more on thrashy double time riffs and thundering double-kick bass drum grooves. However, it's mixed in with a progressive type expansion in the frequent fills. Ultimately, the drums and bass are barely noticed, and this is a sign of a good rhythm section. They power the songs along without a hitch, providing an excellent foundation for the guitars and vocalists to weave their magic.
The vocals are another of Shadows Fall distinguished aspects. Ranging from hardcore yells, to death rumbles, to clean melodies, there is a large variety on show. Yet, for all the adventure, it doesn't seem as fully executed as the instrumental music. The hardcore yells are adequate, but tend to lack a little passion; the death growls are not quite powerful enough; the clean vocals are somewhat off key at times (Crushing Belial). It's not that the vocals are terribly bad, just they could be quite a bit better. Let's hope this is fixed up in the forthcoming album.
Structurally, Shadows Fall rely on the Metallica type verse-chorus-bridge-repeat type formula. It's is played with in different ways, with intro- and outro-ductions, but ultimately the underlying foundation is there. Where Of One Blood tops Metallica, is that they do not play long for the sake of playing long. The songs are conservative in their length (4 to 6 minutes), which gives a strong sense of unity to the music. By the same token, it doesn't leave a great deal of room for interesting expeditions into uncharted territory. But this is not what Shadows Fall are about. Ultimately, the music is well arranged, never becoming too indulgent or becoming sidetracked in unnecessary passages.
In short, Of One Blood is an excellent album. For those who want something more than early Metallica, but not the outright showmanship of NWoSDM, Shadows Fall is definitely for you. Tight, melodic, and heavy. In fact, Of One Blood is quite possibly THE definite heavy metal album. Very highly recommended.

Price: $11.99
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38 of 44 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It's Tool... What else is there to say?, April 12, 2002
This review is from: Lateralus (Audio CD)
Well, where to start?
Melodically, Tool use mainly minor pentatonic scales. Being used prolificly in Medieval and Renaissance times, this lends a dark brooding beauty to Tool's music. It recalls dark ages of suspicion, prejudice, and simmering emotional discord. Tool also throw in non-Western melodic influences, with the flattened second scale degree, and the augmented second interval. Vistas of magical cultures are realised before our eyes, times and places beyond our mortal existence.
Rhythmically, Tool are an ever changing beast. Non symmetrical time signatures abound, there is little reliance on 'groove' to power the music. There is a kind of logical beauty to Tool's anisotropic rhythms, resembling the unearthly splendour that arises out of geometrical abstractions. The ethereal passage in 'Schism' floats in and out of space-time, carrying the sullen desire of a thousand lost and weary souls. The rhythm escapes physical restraints, venturing beyond what is thought possible.
Harmonically, Tool's exploration rarely ventures beyond the implications of the melodic framework. It is all heavy and doom laden, drenched in the sorrow of minor keys and non-Western scales. But within the vocabulary of a child, Tool speak with the poise and grace of a wisened adult. Harmonies soar with unity and simplicity, but drive straight to the essential being of existence.
Texturally, astral passages traverse the crowded mappings within oppressive and heavy spaces. Hurricanes are as common as light rain, and the eye of the storm is beautiful but ponderous. No respite is offered, sanctuary does not exist in Tool's universal vision. Fierce guitar tussles with haunting vocals, the bass worms it's way through lightless underground depths, while the drums mesmerise in their subtle isomorphisms and overt power.
Structurally, Tool play with chronological order, the very fabric of time is bent back upon itself. To enter Tool's physical universe is to abandon our own. There is no escape. Melodic themes are presented, then translated by violations of natural order. Motives are twisted by amorphous rhythms, yet the harmony remains discernible and somewhat stable. It is the sole acknowledgement to the world that was the point of departure. Souls are devoured in labyrinthine structures. Even the structures are devoured within the chaos, and spat out as perversely inverted reflections of the original. At the end, nothing is as it was, yet the point of arrival is a logical progression from the beginning.
In a new universe, we cannot possibly fathom why we understand the journey experienced, but we do. It is upon this realisation that the full impact of this new world occurs. The physical is no more. Only the soul survives, only the pure spiritual nature of ourselves.
Put together, the elements of Tool's music create an entity which is altogether umbrageous, anxious, melancholy, haunting, enlightening, cerebral, assurgent; in fact, beyond all superlatives. To put it simply, no other band do what Tool do. They must be treasured.
A jewel of human soul.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 8, 2010 2:58 PM PST

Still Life
Still Life
Offered by Big_Box_Bargains
Price: $11.16
22 used & new from $0.01

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great, but still overrated, April 11, 2002
This review is from: Still Life (Audio CD)
The problem with writing a review that has some negative criticism of Opeth, is that all the glazed eyed fans of this band will no doubt recoil in horror and scream heresy. Oh well...
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Opeth have an excellent mastery of melody/harmony/rhythm. In short, the riffs they produce are breathtaking. One after the other, there seems no end to Mikael Akerfeldt's inspiration. Heavy, jazzy, grind, thrash, folky, ethereal. This man can do it all. The atmosphere is undeniably dark. Brooding, melancholy, vicious, terrible. There is no respite for the grim view of unrequited love Akerfeldt presents.
Unfortunately, beyond this, it all falls down. As an arranger, Akerfeldt is amazingly incompetent. A total lack of anything resembling thematic development reduces the songs to a piecemeal, haphazard collage of riffs. Now, I hear the band's fawners cry foul: 'you do not appreciate the complexity, barbarian!'. Sure, Opeth's motto is progress through contrast. But when the contrast is not linked by unity, the listener loses emotional contact with the music.
However, nothing can really prevent me from liking Opeth. Some passages are incredibly moving, and it is purely the strength of the riffs which carry the album. This leads to say that Akerfeldt has mastered the art of 'microcomposition' but struggles with 'macrocomposition'. Perhaps Opeth's biggest saving grace is that this problem afflicts almost all metal bands. I don't necessarily believe it's a case of a band biting off more than they can chew, just flawed craftsmanship. Sure, through composition is totally valid, but thematic unity is still needed.
In conclusion, I'd most highly recommend this to all fans of interesting, progressive, melodic, and emotionally gut-wrenching music. However, if those bands who insist on writing circa ten minute songs are not your cup of tea, you would want to think twice about Opeth. Nevertheless, Opeth's talent is worth a chance. Quite highly recommended.

Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven And Hell
Themes From William Blake's The Marriage of Heaven And Hell
Offered by MEGA Media
Price: $19.38
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Yet again, Ulver rewrite dark metal., April 11, 2002
Expecting Bergtatt, or Nattens Madrigal? Or perhaps another Kveldssanger? Sorry, but you'll find none here. On the surface at least...
What Ulver presents us with in Themes... is an industrial/ambient/dark wave type of thing. Think heavy distorted bass and guitars, lots of synth and sound effects/samples, and drum machines. So what makes this different from other bands doing this sort of thing? That's easy... Garm, and Ulver.
First of all, Garm's vocals are totally amazing. He can be subtle and roving, but also beautifully operatic and powerful. He has no peer in the metal realm. The first track is a definite highlight in this respect. Beginning with heavy synth, bass and drums, Garm begins with a low baritone, then reaches higher, with some soaring harmony. The chorus is truly divine as the guitar comes crashing down, and Garm's vocals sail effortlessly above.
While the first track is the most immediately effective in it's brilliance, this is not to say the others are any less excellent. In fact, in this respect, Ulver have not changed at all. While the finished product of Themes... seems quite different from earlier works, the approach is very similar. It's very hard to put your finger on why Ulver's music works, but it does. Sure, the songwriting is intelligent and moving, but Ulver seem to offer something more than any other band. There is a subtlety to Ulver that is so infectious, and also indescribable.
If there is one problem with this album, it is the large gaps of silence. I have not actually bothered to do the math, but I have the sneaking suspicion that Ulver could have fit this onto a single CD. In itself, that is not the problem, but having large gaps of silence does have a detrimental effect on the album's 'flow'. In fact, having two CDs is quite distracting, as the album is really a singular entity, intended to be listened to at once in it's entirity. Changing the CDs halfway through is very annoying, as it totally disrupts the intellectual ecstasy you are bathed in.
In short, Themes... is one of the most amazing pieces of music I have had the privilege to hear, regardless of genre. Thought provoking (when was Blake not?) and incredibly moving (although not in an 'easy' way), Themes... is an essential work. Very highly recommended

The Perfect Element Part 1
The Perfect Element Part 1
Price: $10.49
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, April 9, 2002
Firstly, I'll get the bad things out of the way, so as not to leave a bad taste in my mouth after reviewing such a fine piece of work.
In an ambitious project like TPE1, there is always difficulties with consistency. For all their excellence, Pain Of Salvation (or should I say, Daniel Gildenlow) are not immune to this. Towards the end of the album, notably 'Song For The Innocent' and 'Falling', this album loses alot of gas. Fortunately 'The Perfect Element' picks things up and the album ends on a high. No doubt, much of this is due to the length of the album, as it is quite an effort to sit and really listen to 72 minutes of music as dense as this (rewarding as it may be).
Pain Of Salvation also have the tendency that plagues just about all ostentatious, 'intelligent' metal bands. The tendency to over-compose. For all the inspiration in repeating certain themes throughout the album, there are too many passages which are totally unnecessary. In fact, the way in which the melodic themes are dealt with are quite amateurish. They are performed, then left to a later time. There is very little development, if any at all. It shows a lack of craftsmanship, although I'd bet that Gildenlow will rectify this sooner rather than later. The main problem is that the replacement of the development of themes is too much new material. It becomes too difficult to digest so much, and emotional contact is lost with the music. Pain Of Salvation need to learn how to construct these 5 to 10 minute songs using a minimum of ideas, not simply throwing things one after the other, and then saying 'look we're smart, we'll throw in this recurring theme here and there'. It's a sign of a lazy composer. The music just ends up being too episodic for it's own good.
My other main gripe with this album, and all the bands work for that matter, is Daniel Gildenlow's vocals. He is a very talented singer, but I just wish he would refrain from all his 'oooh's and 'whoa's and excessive wailing all the time. This faux-pas dramaticism just doesn't cut it if you want your music to be taken seriously. Ultimately it just sounds silly. But really, this is purely my own taste. I know other people like this kind of thing, so...
But now to the good things. And unfortunately, my inherently critical nature prevents me from saying as much about the album's good aspects as it's bad. Which is totally unfair given that the good things totally outweigh the bad. Oh well. At least I have mentioned that the content of my discourse is not in proportion to the content of good and bad within the music.
Firstly, the music is densely composed. Layer upon layer of guitar, rhythm batter, keys/piano, and vocals. It reveals something new each listen, for many listens after the first. It is quite involving.
Secondly, there is a great sensitivity to the all the episodic swerves and the emotion conveyed. It is all very purposeful and passionate, and performed with great vigour. An excellent command of different musical textures and harmonic language is shown in the display of the different emotions.
Thirdly, the lyrics are quite good. Not brilliant, but far from the mediocre drivel that is spread these days.
In short, a great album, that shows the best of progressive rock/metal. It's probably worth 4 and a half stars, but I couldn't round up to a 5. Pain Of Salvation still have too many problems to be perfect, or that close to. Still, definitely a highly recommended purchase to those after intelligent, moving music. Great stuff.

Deadhouse Gates
Deadhouse Gates
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Paperback
15 used & new from $2.33

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very moving... Great novel, April 9, 2002
This review is from: Deadhouse Gates (Paperback)
The sequel to the quite good Gardens Of The Moon, Deadhouse Gates continues Erikson's breathtaking invention.
Firstly, perhaps it is just me, but Deadhouse Gates is less awe inspiring in it's invention. There is no 'gawd, would you look at that' type of thing in DhG, as in GotM with Moon's Spawn and the Azath. Personally, I find this to be a good move by Erikson, as more focus is on the plot and the characters. This is where DhG truly shines. Much like Shakespearean tragedy, the characters drive the plot, not the other way around.
There is no 'most important' plot within DhG, all of them contribute to the book. In fact, what emerges is synergy, where the entirity is greater than the sum of it's parts. Each thread has it's own throbbing emotion which is beautifully lugubrious. I must make special note of the Chain Of Dogs sub-plot. The final episodes are the most amazing I have read in all of fantasy. In my opinion, fantasy has never produced anything so heartbreaking as the final few chapters of DhG.
The characters are worth special note in DhG. They are all solidly constructed, drawing our sympathy, and in some cases - Mappo especially - our empathy. That Erikson achieves this is a true testament to his writing skill. To be able to handle so many characters so deftly and sensitively is a rare feat. Duiker, Felisin, Heboric, Icarium; all are followed with our compassion throughout the novel.
While there are moments where it seems characters are walking mindlessly, with nothing going on, there is an important point to these moments. The Seven Cities is a place where the soul wanders, and returns different to what it was. Ultimately, this is what drives DhG. The development of characters. As for claims that some plots are difficult to understand, this is quite untrue. DhG is driven by emotion, not the military intrigue of GotM, or the ancient mysteries of Memories Of Ice. To understand DhG is to feel.
Last, but definitely not least: the pace of the novel is still excellent. While the journies of characters are sometimes overwhelmingly detailed, they do not move in circles like Jordan's novels. Everything in Erikson is very direct.
In short, better than GotM, and without doubt one of the greatest fantasy novels of all time.

Gardens of the Moon
Gardens of the Moon
by Steven Erikson
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
54 used & new from $0.01

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, April 5, 2002
So much praise has been heaped upon this novel, that it seems trivial for me to add me comments. So I'll try to highlight some things that really haven't been mentioned.
Firstly, I'll second a lot of the endorsements and criticisms people have about GotM. The plot is great, it's fast and exciting and keeps you guessing. The characters are solid (although, Deadhouse Gates - the second novel - is much better in this aspect). Most importantly, for a fantasy novel, the invention is truly grand and inspiring. The faults have been well noted. Magic is undeveloped, and seems to merely be for fireworks and to dig the plot out of holes. A lot of necessary knowledge is left undisclosed (much of which is made known in the third novel Memories Of Ice). This tends to get annoying, rather than mysterious.
The thing I would like to note about the novel, is that for all the comparisons made to Martin, these two writers are very different. Martin is full of court treachery and intrigue, and tends to read more as medieval history. Erikson is more about ancient secrets, the bleak reality of a war torn world, and the unfathomable motivation of gods. As much as Erikson tried to emphasise the reality of the situation, the atmosphere of the novel is much more akin to the brooding nature of Donaldson, and also the magic of Jordan/Tolkien. The dialogue is also quite good, with some moments reminding me of the exquisite banter in Eddings' work.
My biggest gripe with the novel is in an early scene with a massive pyrotechnic display of sorcery. Erikson reduces his descriptions to 'a wave of sorcery' which is extremely disconcerting. He shows remarkable verbosity throughout the novel, but here he shamefully lets himself down with such a poor explanation of the magic. 'Sorcery' just doesn't explain anything. Perhaps that was the point, but it comes across as very lacklustre.
In short, I'll say that Gardens Of The Moon is a very good, but not great book. However, I'd have to say that it comes with my highest recommendation, purely because Deadhouse Gates and Memories Of Ice are truly brilliant. Can't wait for book four.

The Lightstone (The Ea Cycle Series Book 1)
The Lightstone (The Ea Cycle Series Book 1)
by David Zindell
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars What happened to Zindell??, March 22, 2002
For those who read Science Fiction, the name Zindell will seem quite familiar. His 'Neverness' and - to a slightly lesser extent - 'A Requiem For Homo Sapiens' were brilliant, thought-provoking books. So after seeing Zindell's new fantasy book, I was quite excited, and bought it without hesitation...
... And I was extremely disappointed. For starters - and this is my biggest gripe with the novel - his characters are the same as Neverness. Valashu Elahad is the same as Danlo Ringess, Maram is the same as Bardo, etc. Unfortunately, Zindell merely regurgitates the philosophical themes explored in his science fiction works in The Lightstone. Not as powerfully either. The plot is also largely unengaging and unoriginal. It reads like Neverness in the world of Robert Jordan/David Eddings.
The good things? Zindell's ability to write good prose; interesting characters; the exploration of weighty themes.
In short, a well written book with good characters and interesting themes. I'd definitely recommend this to people looking for something different from the usual fantasy fare, as its characters and themes stand out from Jordan/Eddings and even Erikson and Martin. The problem I have with this book, which limits me to a 2 star rating, is that I've already read it before in Zindell's previous works. Damn shame that.

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