Crimson Blue – The Angelic Performance
Label: My Kingdom Music
When the term “Art” is thrown in front of the words rock, or metal, or any genre of music for that matter, the pretentiousness alarm starts going off in my brain. Crimson Blue come with a strong emphasis on the “art” of their music and an unfortunate lack of attention paid to the structure and balance of their sound.
There are some high points in The Angelic Performance, where the band creates an atmosphere similar to that of Myrath with the use of guitar with some serious Eastern twang in it (bringing to mind thoughts of traversing a vast desert), but these moments are never capitalized on and lead right into the problems that plague the album. Rather than building upon an already established sound, Crimson Blue often opt to go for the switch up, swapping their heavy distorted guitars and dirty bass lines for acoustics and synth/piano. The consistent changes make for a very disjointed experience, and even though I’m all for throwing unexpected things into music, at the very least it needs to flow with and add to the previous passage.
Vocalist Dani Hellström provides some technically good vocals that would fit right in with some symphonic acts, but doesn’t do much to distinguish her own voice. Not being able to quite reach the range of the operatic style of, say, Nightwishm, and not willing to dirty the cleanliness of her vocals with the brutality of Battle Beast or Arch Enemy, it all becomes a forgettable experience that washes over the listener, at times dull enough to put you to sleep.
Crimson Blue definitely have some good ideas, but The Angelic Performance is skewed with a lack of focus that prevents any of them from forming into a full concept. The album could serve as a blueprint for the band to figure out what direction they want to take with their sound, but as it stands right now, it feels like an unfinished, underdeveloped piece of work.
Whore of Bethlehem – Upon Judas’ Throne
Location: Texas, USA
Extreme metal is impossible to define. It seems to include pretty much anything harder than melodic death metal, including some types of thrash, death metal, black metal and grindcore, pornogrind and all that stuff. Whore of Bethlehem occupy an interesting space in this genre, defying some conventions, while falling squarely into others, combining some elements of black metal with plenty of death metal power.
One of the first things that caught my attention in Upon Judas’ Throne is the desire on the part of the band to insert changes of tempo and rhythm into some of the songs. While this pseudo-progressive elements can be positive, the truth is that they fail in the execution, and produce just a very cacophonous mixture of sounds. It often comes off as if they just got lost mid-song and tried to continue playing anyway. While the music is definitely very powerful, and has all the necessary elements to induce some headbanging-related concussions, the completely unexplainable changes really affect the whole experience (“Christ Crusher”, for example, really had me going until it went into those goddamn changes and completely killed my immersion).
The band reminds me a lot of Daath, particularly in the vocals department (where they show some often interesting changes from high pitched shrieks to low pitched growls), although they are not nearly as melodic. This caveat is not necessarily a bad thing, since I don’t think Whore of Bethlehem were looking to be seen as a melodic band anyway. The production is excellent for what the band tried to achieve, and it truly conveys the sense of power and malevolence that, I think, Whore of Bethlehem were aiming at producing; while the bass is, sadly, buried in the mix, this seems to be a common denominator in the genre anyway, so I’m reluctant to hold it against them, particularly when considering that this is an independent release.
Upon Judas’ Throne is an interesting album, but far from excellent. It has all the elements of a neckbreaker, but also many of the problems that you’d expect from the debut album of such a young band. These Texans have all they need to make it big in the extreme metal underground, they just need to be a bit more focused on what they put out.
ThunderWorks – Thoughts And Thunder
Location: Connecticut, USA
Let me just say, I love the name ThunderWorks, it brings to mind the delicious cheesiness of the likes of Dethklok, making me expect a zany, almost hilariously good listening experience. To my surprise, there is almost no cheese to be found in Thoughts And Thunder; instead, ThunderWorks put forward a serious brand of melodic death metal with some progressive twists, wearing their influences on their sleeves with pride.
The album kicks off immediately with speedy, high toned guitars, making a dramatic buildup for the drums to come bursting in along with heavy, skull crushing guitar work, and growls that are delivered at sonic speed. It all sounds very much like Amon Amarth, just without the Viking stylings. While the sane structure is applied to many areas throughout the album (build up, then knock ‘em flat), the parts that make it up are never quite the same. Sometimes they’ll slide in with a hollow sounding acoustic piece, bringing thoughts of Metallica circa Master of Puppets, and other times there will be a very forward bass line emulating the likes of early Opeth. Despite applying similar structures to their songs, there is still plenty of creativity present to make a varied and diverse sound.
Not only does the instrumental have a unique character, but the vocals do as well. Although growls are employed the most, they come out in a variety of different tempos, from long slow gutturals, to spitfire speed and everything in between. There are also some sections with clean vocals that, oddly enough, sound a bit like Tool, as well as some low chanted passages sounding akin to Janne Christoffersson of Grand Magus. The medley of influences and personal twists and styles that is Thoughts And Thunder only works in ThunderWorks’ favour, avoiding sounding too much like one particular band, while also taking lessons from those who inspired them.
Overall, ThunderWorks bring in a powerful sound that is well coloured with various passages of experimentation, without being pretentious. If you like melodeath, especially the kind with a little quirkiness of prog, Thoughts And Thunder is definitely worth a listen.