maudlin of the Well – my Fruit PsychoBells… a seed combustible

March 15th, 2000

The band is called maudlin of the Well (I think the capitalization is important), and “my Fruit PsychoBells… a seed combustible” is their first album of what they call astral/metal. On their website, for their influences they list TIAMAT, dISEMBOWELMENT, Faith No More, Tangerine Dream, Oxiplegatz, Jane’s Addiction, The Tea Party, My Dying Bride, the Gathering, Nirvana, Iron Maiden, Esoteric, Entombed, and Gorguts. Of course, they don’t really sound anything like any of these bands. The closest thing I can compare them to is Solefald. They don’t really sound like Solefald (although there’s an occasional similarity), but both bands throw a whole lot of influences in a big pot and mix them together like mad scientists.

maudlin’s most notable feature is their jazziness. I don’t really know what that means, since all I really know about music is metal, metal, and more metal, but I hear things that sound similar to Opeth parts that people call “jazzy”. In fact, some of the mellow sections on the latest Opeth album are pretty similar to trippy, atmospheric sections here, except that there’s less use of acoustic guitar. Some of it reminds me of In the Woods… as well. There’s heavy parts, mellow parts, upbeat parts, doomy parts, all sorts of vocal styles, and generally a bunch of cool things going on. Anyway, since I can’t really describe the music any better than that, I’ll just go ahead and describe the 7 songs on the album for those who like to read a lot.

First, the lineup listed in the album:

Jason Byron – voice
Maria-Stella Fountoulakis – voice
Greg Massi – lead guitar
Tobias D. – guitar, bass, keyboards, voice, clarinet
Jason Bitner – trumpet
D – drums

I don’t think I’m smart enough to tell the difference between a clarinet and a trumpet, so I’ll probably call both things “trumpet” below. The trumpet parts are very well done, they aren’t nearly as in-your-face as the trumpet parts in Sculptured. As for the production, it’s good, but nothing mind-blowing (I also don’t think a mind-blowing amount of money was spent on it). All of the sounds have a nice rough and natural feel to them, there’s nothing slick or processed about the album. The lyrics are the type where they’re probably really cool if you know what the writer is talking about, but in my case, it’s mostly like “huh, sounds cool, I wonder what the hell they’re talking about?” Oh, the booklet also has a really cool pictoral story running through it. Anyway, here goes.

Ferocious Weights (7:30): Searching guitar lines echo their way in from the far reaches of the galaxy until they find their quarry: majestic, epic doom metal, filled out with a tastefully placed trumpet. A female voice opens things up, and as things begin getting really discordant, a male voice takes over and the discord is taken to almost painful levels. Then the speed suddenly picks up and frantic soloing guitars attack each other mercilessly over a heavy groove. A quick stop brings an atmospheric keyboard section with dreamy female vocals. After a minute the majestic doom joins her voice shortly before the song ends.

a Conception Pathetic (7:01): Opens with a ferocious blast beat and a black-metallish roar, but then quickly slides into disjointed, bottom heavy death metal with keyboards (trumpet?) backing it up. Then comes a mellow section with nearly-whispered male vocals and slippery guitars. It continues to groove out for a while, escalating into a guitar solo which slides it back to the death metal and the growls. The song then winds up with only drums and piano.

Undine and Underwater Flowers (8:45): This one starts out very mellow, with a wandering bass line which is soon overlayed with quiet clean guitar. Eventually they join together in a melody, and are joined by an interesting sound which could be either a keyboard, a male voice, or a female voice. Some laid back drumming starts along with some far-away clean male vocals. Various keyboards and trumpet adds to the jazzy feel, and the song ends with several minutes of cool guitar noodling as the rhythm section gradually picks up the intensity and then fades away. A very atmospheric song that somehow reminds me of the songs played during the segments on Sesame Street, like when a kid is talking about how he works on the farm (and that’s a good thing!)

The Ocean, the Kingdom, and the Temptation (11:18): Clean, echoey guitar comes from far away, and is joined by other instruments and a speaking voice. The relaxed rhythm soon picks up intensity, reaches a plateau where someone noodles on guitar from inside a cave. Then come some more heavy riffs and growled vocals. There is a shift back to the mellow part from the beginning, but this time the heavy riffs are coupled with it. Then it’s back to pure laid-back jamming, with layered talking and singing. Then come some more heavy riffs with an extended frantic trumpet solo, which leads into a quiet part with strange sounds making a simple rhythm while piercing keyboard notes drop in from the distance.

Pondering a Wall (6:17): A lone male voice quietly starts things off, but then quickly erupts into a yell as the low, distorted guitars bull their way in. There’s a fair bit of discord, and it almost has a bit of a nu-metal feel to it. Unlike the doomier stuff earlier, there’s some fast and heavy guitarwork here, but it’s also broken up by the usual mellow sections with clean guitar. Some female vocals make their way in too.

Catharsis of Sea Sleep and Dreaming Shrines (9:30): Clean guitar and bass start this one off again, building into a catchy melody with lots of layers. In a rare and really cool occurance, the growls go over this non-distored music for a while, although they are eventually joined by the normal heavy music. Low clean vocals and distorted guitars meander together for a while, until the clean melody from the beginning returns, this time with some dreamy male vocals. Finally there’s some trumpet dancing with some minimal guitar and drums, which drop into heavy doom-death to complete the song.

Blight of River Systems (5:44): This is the second completely un-metal track of the album, and possibly my favorite. It starts of with a jaunty little piano melody, and relaxed male and female vocals groove together along some upbeat jazzy stuff. Eventually comes a great section with more up-front but perfectly at-ease female vocals dancing around the guitar melodies. Finally the song ends with a couple minutes of excellent Santana-inspired guitar soloing.

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