Anathema – A Fine Day to Exit: At first listen, I recognized the first track (“Pressure”) from the Milwaukee Metalfest; it’s an excellent song, and the rest of the album sounded pretty blah compared to it. After a few more listens, I really started to like the final track (A Temporary Peace) as well, making for an album of blah sandwiched between two great songs. But I kept listening, and the greatness of the bookends bled in towards the middle, and now I think the whole thing is a very fine album. Definitely very relaxed and very un-metal, the only uptempo and heavy song is really more punk than metal. It probably won’t top Judgement, but it makes an extremely strong set of three consecutive albums from Anathema.
Evereve – E-Mania: Finally got my hands on this Massacre Records title. It’s fairly similar to their previous album (Regret), which means it’s again quite a bit different than their first two. But I think it’s a definite improvement over Regret. In a nutshell, it’s rather heavy yet danceable goth-metal. It’s mainly “goth” just because of the clean, low-to-midrange vocals, which come from a “new” singer (the band’s keyboard player and founding member) who sounds remarkably similar to their previous singer. Musically, it’s quite a bit more ambitious than the “goth” label suggests. Not necessarily in structure, but in instrumental flavor. Every instrument plays an important role, with keyboards and guitars especially adding constant blasts of color into the basic mix, blasts of ever-changing tone and style. Drumming is also unexpectedly complex, and the bass provides a fat bottom end. I’d say if you’re curious what Samael’s Eternal might sound like with different vocals, this is for you.
Sleepless – Winds Blow Higher: Here’s a band from Israel, but they don’t sound like Orphaned Land, and they aren’t even really metal. They’re definitely dark though, and The End’s “Tiamat, Ulver, and Pink Floyd” comparison is pretty much dead on. That would be Perdition City-era Ulver, in case you’re wondering. However, there’s a more direct, if much more obscure comparison: the band is surprisingly similar to Maudlin of the Well, if you take out all their heavy parts. The arrangements are generally very sparse, but surprisingly musical. And they manage to pack in a lot of different instrumentation when you aren’t looking. One of the main highlights is a lot of lead bass playing, much of it fretless. There isn’t a lot of guitar, but there is some sax, flute, classical guitar, and a good bit of synth electronics, although the album maintains a very organic feel. There are a couple parts where the music suddenly becomes heavier, and even though it’s still somewhat subdued, the juxtaposition makes the effect very intense. Cool stuff.
Borknagar – Empiricism: It’s so crazy how this band started off as a “supergroup”, and now, with completely new members from it’s original days, it’s probably the most “super” metal band ever. Look at all the bands just one degree away: Vintersorg, Otyg, Havayoth, Solefald, Emperor, Satyricon, Spiral Architect, Enslavement of Beauty, Dodheimsgard, and probably some more I’m forgetting. Anyway, Borknagar continue their tradition of putting one amazing song on each album that greatly overshadows all the rest. Previously they were “The Dawn of the End”, “Ad Noctum”, and “The Presence is Ominous”; this time it’s “Genesis Torn”. However, this time the shadow cast might not be as dark as before. The rest of the album seems filled with pretty good songs, the music is probably the most ambitious they’ve done so far, the sound is considerably more open than Quintessence, and I have a hard time deciding which of Vintersorg’s vocal styles (clean or growled) are more impressive. So that’s good.