Delvoid – Serene
Location: Oslo, Norway
According to their press release, Delvoid mix the beauty of Sigur Ros with the muscular aggression of Tool. Well, for once a press release actually hits the nail on the head. Serene is full of haunting, ambient melodies provided by organ-like synthesizers and quiet guitar-work, as you can hear on the “Intro” and “Outro” tracks. Those two tracks serve as perfect bookends for a pretty dramatic album that can create in the listener a wide array of moods, ranging from quiet, melancholy introspection, to full on rage. “Cocoon” is probably the best example of the overall vibe; the music begins right where “Intro” left off, gradually building up, adding some Maynard James Keenan-esque vocals along the way, before careening headfirst into a sludgy riff that takes you somewhat by surprise. Much of the album follows this formula, with long instrumental passages of audio ecstasy (at least if you’re a fan of Mogwai or Sigur Ros) followed by shorter bursts of the heavy prog-infused sound that made Tool so famous.
The production is pretty impressive, with smooth transitions between quiet and loud instrumentals; the mixing can get a bit tricky when working with a band with the kind of dynamics that Delvoid create. While I enjoyed most of the record, there were a couple of exceptions; “Steambreather” sounded a little too much like Tool, while the heavy section of “Cocoon” sounded slightly disjointed from the rest of the song. Delvoid are at their best when creating serene melodies, like on “Transient,” but that’s not to say the heavy parts don’t work; “Carrier” mixes the quiet and heavy dynamics extremely well. Still, the bumps on Serene are few and far between, and with just a couple of small tweaks in their transitions, Delvoid could really make a big name for themselves.
Watercolour Ghosts – Watercolour Ghosts
Location: Perth, Australia
Watercolour Ghosts combine elements of prog rock, shoegaze, and post-rock to create a highly emotive form of post-metal. Formed only 3 years ago, they’re made up of veterans of the music scene, which certainly explains the highly accomplished musicianship present on the band’s eponymous debut EP.
Intensity is the name of the game here; even when they aren’t playing anything particularly heavy, the pace at which the musicians are playing gives the music a sense of urgency. “Despondent” sounds like it belongs on a Russian Circles record, or could even pass for a slightly less heavy Rosetta track, but Watercolour Ghosts manage to not sound derivative of either of those bands. The vocals are all beautifully sung throughout; at times they’re more mid-ranged, similar to those of Chevelle’s Pete Loeffler, but can also go into a deeper register, as can be heard at the beginning of “Like Animals.” The drums keep things mathy, and lay down some pretty cool rhythms on tracks like “Collapse” and “Breathe.”
The sound on Watercolour Ghosts stays pretty melodic throughout, though, as I said before, even in the quieter moments, there’s a palpable tension that always keeps the listener on the edge of their seat. Transitions between loud and soft musical passages are handled with absolute precision, which is a testament to the collective experience of each member of Watercolour Ghosts. Coupled with the expert song-crafting is an excellent production that gives the music an extra set of dynamics; the heavy guitar parts hit hard, while the more shoegaze sounding guitar bits sound dreamlike.
Fans of Russian Circles or Red Sparrowes should take notice, as Watercolour Ghosts hits a lot of the same strides. Another similar band that comes to mind is The Dear Hunter, though Watercolour Ghosts are a bit heavier at times. While this might turn off a lot of listeners that are looking for something more in line with Isis or Neurosis in their post-metal, I would strongly suggest giving this band a chance if you’re into shoegaze, post-rock, and metal, especially when all three of those things are mixed.
Wilt – Moving Monoliths
Label: Bindrune Recordings
Wilt’s sophomore album finds the band expanding from a duo to a five-piece, and while I haven’t heard their previous effort, the material heard here does seem to me like the work of a band stepping up its game. The album’s structuring catches attention, with three ten-minute-plus tracks (an unholy trinity, if you want to get cute) followed by a coda of two minutes or so, and while they’re not tied together with sub-headings or the like, there’s enough sense of conceptual work to it to score a few points for dramatics.
The atmosphere is wintry in a pleasing way, and the band takes its time establishing the mood before launching into pounding drums and tremolo guitar. There’s some interesting work going on with the layering of elements in the mixing, and the folding in of extra guitar undercurrents adds bite without placing too much burden on the listener or leading to an audial mess. On the flip side, those who like their black metal raw and straightforward will likely be disappointed by the blunting effect of the mix, as the thrumming of the guitar and bass get so swaddled around the drumming’s impact and the vocals that neither has much chance at piercing your ears.
Speaking of the vocals, while they’re serviceable in their anger and howling, there aren’t many times in which they really distinguish themselves. Still, they’re worked into the rest of the instrumental vibes neatly enough, mostly by having a singer who overestimates his rasping facility and ends up sticking out and sinking it all. In contrast, the whispered portions (though they do verge on over-dramatic indulgence) feel more suited to the overall mood of the music.
Really, it was the instrumental patches which grabbed my attention the most, as with the break-out clean guitar tones towards the end of “The Elder”, the last of the three big tracks. The band’s way with transitional melodies is impressive, and it feels like there’s still room for them to grow on future releases. It’s not quite that their retention of traditional black metal staple features is hurting them, but refining the balance between those and the band’s desire to slowly explore sprawling winter wastelands is a venture which should lead to some interesting material, as long as they don’t get dispirited and settle for rehashing.