Album Reviews + Napster

January 28th, 2001

I ordered 7 CDs from The End Records last Wednesday, got them on Friday.
They were out of stock on one of them (Dusk), but as usual their service
was top-notch. 6 CDs for $60. I imagine you could pay that much for
only three CDs at a mall store, with the only difference being the mall
store CDs wouldn’t be nearly as cool.

Misanthrope – Immortal Misanthrope: Yeah! With their fifth album,
it seems like Misanthrope has continued with their streak of improving
with every album. And no, their first album doesn’t suck. Anyway, it
continues pretty much where their last album (Libertine Humiliations)
left off: Avant-garde melodic death metal, albeit less avant-garde than
in their early days but still very unique. Think Dark Tranquillity’s
“Haven” with twice the speed, twice the intensity, four times the synths,
and a bit more showmanship. Would have most likely been near the top
of my “best of 2000” list if I had gotten it in 2000.

Odes of Ecstasy – Deceitful Melody: Somewhat different than what I was
expecting, since dweeb kept describing it as “festive”. Thus I was thinking
it would be something pretty happy, but it’s really mostly in line
with their first album, just maybe a bit more developed. Basically it’s
beauty & the beast metal, with a good emphasis on “metal” rather than
“goth”, which is how I like it. I also like how they sneak in a creepy
song near the end of the album like they did on their first one.

Love History – Anasazi: A Czech band, which, as far as I can tell,
automatically makes them good. They have the characteristic sound that
all Czech bands I’ve heard seem to have; it’s very hard to describe,
but I really like it. All types of singing (male, female, growls),
a solid metal base, and things just seem to be written and played more
creatively than most bands. But it’s not creativity just to be different,
it seems like their natural way of writing music. Cross Root’s The
with Forgotten Silence’s Senyaan, and you’ll get something
pretty close to Anasazi.

Enid – Abschiedsreigen: From The End’s description and the sound clip,
I was expecting something similar to Angizia: piano/keyboard-led classically
influenced music with a Germanic touch. It’s that, but more. Unlike
Angizia, it gets both fast and heavy, sometimes sounding something like
a cross between Haggard and Dimmu Borgir (ok, maybe that’s a stretch).
Very interesting.

Let Me Dream – Greyscales: The End called them “Uptempo death rock with
growly and clean vocals” which sounded good to me, and Dark Symphonies
saying the album was a must for Vintersorg/Havayoth fans sealed it for
me. It doesn’t really sound like Vintersorg or Havayoth; rather, it falls
somewhere in between. It’s covered with Havayoth-like synths, has a
mix of black, rough-sung, and Viking-style vocals, and pretty much a
solid metal base. It does sound Finnish, since it’s Finnish.

Dawnbringer – Catharsis Instinct: American band playing melodic death
metal, perhaps with the goal of sounding Swedish, but thankfully since
they aren’t Swedish, they’re unsuccessful at that. If they had a clean
singer they might be called an American power metal band (like Iced Earth,
Nevermore), but their growler, even though he’s very low in the mix,
takes them out of that category. I think all of the interesting and
creative riffs will help this one stand out from the pack a bit.


Now, the CDs I got from Napster. I figured it out how to get it running
at work this week, so it was my first time actually trying it out. I
downloaded 3 albums, and I fully intend to buy at least two of them.
Since my players at home and work can read CD-RWs, it makes it pretty
nice because I can just burn a temporary copy until I buy the real thing,
or just erase it if I don’t like it. The only reason I bothered to
get these albums is because it’s easier than it is to get a hold of the
real versions. Since I don’t have golden ears, I can’t really tell the
difference between high-quality mp3s burned to CD and real CDs, and thus, I
would gladly just pay the record companies to download the songs from them.
Unfortunately, there’s no one ready to accept my money yet, so I’ll have
to eventually pay them the old-fashioned way. Obviously I realize not
everyone feels the same way as I do, which is why Napster is such a big
problem. Anyway, it was interesting to actually try out Napster finally.
Here’s what I got:

Skyclad – Folkemon: This one grabbed me immediately, unlike the last two
Skyclad albums (which have never completely grabbed me). At first I
thought it must be a whole lot different than Vintage Whine, but upon
going back to VW, I realized it’s pretty similar. The difference
seems to be in the energy, which is just bursting out of Folkemon. I’d
say it combines the style and heaviness of Silent Whales… with the
attitude and vibe of Oui Avant Garde a Chance. It might become
one of my favorite Skyclad albums.

Helloween – The Dark Ride: Yet another winner from Helloween. As usual,
they make steps forward and do something different, while still hanging
on to bits of what they’ve done before. Cool atmosphere, and it’s
Deris’s least-annoying performance yet, as he uses a lot of his lower
range and does a lot of cool whispering.

Opeth – Blackwater Park: Ok, I’ve only listened to it once, which is a
stupid time to say anything about an Opeth album, but I’ll say something
anyway. So far it’s pretty much what I expected. Which is something not
too exciting, and something that sounds very familiar. Sure, it’s well
played and well produced, but I don’t really hear anything significantly
different than what they’ve done on their last two albums. The change
between Morningrise and My Arms, Your Hearse was huge, but since then
it seems like they’ve just been doing the same thing. What I would love
to hear is where Opeth would go next if they were to make another stylistic
change similar in magnitude to their first one. But the band seems happy
treading water, or maybe that’s just what happens when you quickly churn out
album after album. I guess if you loved Still Life, you’ll love this too.
Me, I’ll give it plenty more chances to grow on me, but I think at its best
it can only stand as the most refined variation on a theme rather than an
outright masterpiece like Morningrise.