At The Grove — Infinity
Two years after ...And All The Fear We Left Behind At The Grove, a "band" consisting solely of the multi-talented Dennis Abstiens, returns with the third effort, titled Infinity. An album that conceptually "delves into the eternal quest for the meaning of life and the boundless unknown that lies beyond", and comes along with strong expressive artwork by Niels De Roo that, when rotated clockwise, perfectly reflects the album's contemplative nature.
The album is released on "De Mist" Records, which a Dutch company whose name coincidentally (?) translates to "The Fog" Records, adding another nice imaginative dimension of reflection. Infinity shows a fine consolidation in terms of musical execution and an equally fine progression in both production and compositional terms. Admittedly, some of it comes at the expense of the musical diversity found on ...And All The Fear We Left Behind, as it leaves behind previously encountered elements of jazz, fusion and progressive rock. But a strong plaster on this mild wound is the album's overall tangible emotive atmospheric replacement that exerts a beautiful melancholic appeal which will connect to many a melodic oriented post-rock fan.
Guitar clearly plays a more prominent role this time around in Abstiens' well-crafted compositions. An aspect instantly called upon in The Call, which after an old-fashioned dial-up reveals edgy heavy guitars and tight structured rhythms with elegant riffs and layered guitar textures that hears Abstiens go for melody in spirit of Xavier Boscher. The subsequent In Search adds a delicate touch of groovy alternative ENMA metal to this, complemented by restrained but tuneful guitar melodies amidst a spacious post-rock atmosphere reminiscent of Collapse Under The Empire.
Moments later, The Fallen even erupts into speed metal shredding fireworks, after which the song continuously shifts subdued melodic gears and glides soothingly onwards, passing an ambient inspired bridge in the process. Like Dreamland, an energetic uptempo composition that showcases excellent rhythmic diversity and atmospheric refinement that brings to mind Michel Héroux, these wonderfully arranged and variegated compositions act as fine examples towards Abstiens' very competent craftsmanship.
When instrumental concepts are involved I personally find it important there's a matching correlation between song titles and the moods and atmospheres presented within these compositions. Abstiens masterly achieves this, as for instance on Lost Soul which after its chilling ambient opening resonates with strong feelings of sadness and solitude before it gradually gains embodiment and gently weeping guitars finish the song with a post-rock embrace.
Swinging between melody rich designs of grandeur and modesty, highlighted by brightness of guitar play that brings impressions of Baris Dai, the slightly darker atmosphere in Days Of Solitude gives another excellent transporting example. The album's finest corresponding demonstration is however the emotive Tears Of Grief. Here feelings of sorrow drowsily awaken from a contemplative foggy stream of guitars after which melodies under guidance of subdued pounding drums flow ever higher into an emotional plane of tangible eternal loss, to finally die down in ambient solace.
This deeply moving composition almost warrants a temporary artistic name change into "At The Grave" and acts as a wonderful illustration to Abstiens' perfectly flowing concept where the temporary is exchanged for the eternal. The latter also applying to One Last Struggle Within where tension of guitar beautifully transitions into oppressive melancholy embedded by elements of doom and graceful strains of relieving melodies.
After creating serene feelings of comfort and acceptance in Awakening, followed by a tangibly refreshing touch of uplifting contentment in Breathe, finally the concept of Infinity comes full circle in a completely reassuring way with a reflective message from the other side in the grandeur post-rock atmospheres The Call: Conclusion.
On balance, I'm still undecided whether I'm more attracted to the musical diversity offered on ...And All The Fear We Left Behind, or that I actually prefer Infinity's full immersive emotional experience. Hence, the steady rating. Maybe over time there will be a preference, but one decision I can draw without hesitation is the clear fact that Infinity is another well-crafted and fully satisfying album that's fully worth exploring. Especially for fans of atmospheric post-rock.
Comedy Of Errors — Threnody For A Dead Queen
I was introduced to Comedy Of Errors about 5 years ago when I stumbled across their 2011 album entitled Disobey and was immediately entranced with that magnificent song called, Prelude, Riff And Fugue. The stunning lead break and underlying riff in that one song alone, elevated the band into the stratosphere for me as I had not heard anything as compelling or instantly likeable for many years. I liken that track to the also excellent song called Frozen Flame by Kayak on their stunning comeback album called Close To The Fire. Although somewhat stylistically different from each other, both songs remain firm favourites and are used frequently when trying to convince other people to try some progressive music. That is often not always successful as I find many people's acceptance of prog music to be very limited, but I often put that down to an unwillingness to dive in at the deeper end with music that might sit outside their comfort zone.
I also don't personally recommend any prog music from my collection to women as, again, I find them to be a reluctant audience for the most part. That will never stop me from making recommendations to others, however, as I know intuitively, given enough exposure to music of this calibre, it can encourage others to be a little more experimental with their listening habits and not dismiss a band outright before giving them a decent spin.
For this album, the band have certainly made a concerted effort to produce an extremely melodic and accessible album which I must admit I am enjoying more and more with each listen. It involves less dramatic themes and musical motifs than any of their previous works but the absence of such, is not noticed here. With three long epics over the 12-minute mark and a handful of shorter tracks, the band are calling for your attention to take them seriously as they definitely deserve far more awareness from the public who, for some reason, have bypassed them for far too long.
The music offered here is highly polished, very atmospheric and consistently engaging. For the three epics, the band find no difficulty in exploiting the inner depths of their musical abilities and easily create a series of passages that drift along effortlessly at one moment but then make a tangential move sideways to explore further concepts.
The keyboard wizardry of Jim Johnston really comes to the fore throughout the album but one can expect that from a talented member of such a band who have managed to release six highly rated albums since they reformed in 2011. The extended guitar solos, drumming and bass work are also along similarly professional lines and help to embellish their overall sound.
This is quite the majestic affair overall and as the playing is tight and well controlled, I can really find no fault with any of the contents. With dreamy soundscapes and a floating and melancholic style that permeates throughout many of the songs, this is the ideal album to help you unwind or when in a pensive mood. Easily worthy of four glasses of Shiraz! Another great achievement guys!
Grant The Sun — Voyage
A country that needs little introduction in the metal world, Norway has spanned numerous bands, genres and counter genres. Out of Follo comes the group Grant The Sun to drop their debut album Voyage into the world. Described by Metal Hammer UK as a group who are a "unique twist on multi-layered instrumentality". Let's see if they stand up to the hype.
Blue Desert starts the journey. Multilayered, melodic and light vocally, it comes across a bit like some of Devin Townsend's more djenty areas. Machina follows on, a harder introduction, more in line with the chugginess of the likes of Meshuggah (indeed, Meshuggah's guitarist Fredrik Thorendal assisted with the Grant The Sun's 2019 EP Sylvain), before leaning back into the layered melody, accompanied by off beat drumming. At first, I didn't realise Death is Real has started, being a similar sounding main riff to Machina, albeit it with a bit more palm muting. The modern prog syncopation does unfortunately start to grind a wee bit by the end though. However, I am pleasantly surprised with the more post/prog sound of Mariana. More atmospheric, emotive than previous tracks and a touch more of a shoe-gaze vibe to it. Disappointingly though, there is still an amount of "chug, chuggah chuggah" to it — even if it is at half the pace.
For side two, Vertigo leads the way. Again shining through with some interesting textures that showcase the band's skill with building stunning soundscapes. Even the return to chugs fits in, sounding just different and melodic enough to create a stand-out track. Hits Like A Wave and Seadevil manage this as well, with more focus on flow and sound over heavy chugs and off kilter drumming. Finally, Grant The Sun closes us off for the evening. I feel that here the album comes close to getting it properly right. But is just missing that something to make it. It perhaps repeats slightly too much, or is too similar in composition to the rest.
I felt the album was trying too hard to be both a heavy hitting djent/prog-metal album and psychedelic. Sadly this meant that it tried to cross two bridges at once, and instead fell into the river. Various parts had potential, but devolved from the multilayered melodies into scattered drumming and solos that felt out of time. However, they are a young group and have managed to grab attention from Meshuggah, so perhaps it is just not for me. Either way, I'd be curious to check back in a few years and see what their next release is like.
For fans of Meshuggah, Devin Townsend, The Ocean and Extol.
Hashshashin — Śaraṇaṃ
Hashshashin are a trio from Sydney, Australia, who blend hypnotic rhythms and melodies with traditional folk music from Afghanistan into a form of psychedelic music. That does not happen a lot. On structures that include several changes in time-signatures, it is something I've never heard before.
The name implied psychedelic or at least hypnotic music, so that expectation was met. But don't expect mid 1960s psychedelic pop, or late 1960 psychedelic rock like The Doors and the likes. Parts do remind me of the Zemzeme album by Kooch. This is trippy stuff, and mostly just that.
The hypnotic element in the music is omnipresent, but the whole atmosphere is more important. It is interesting that it evokes an atmosphere I've recently felt in the music of two other artists: Albert Bouchard's reworking of many Blue Öyster Cult songs in his three-album Imaginos saga, and the Dark Side Redux by Roger Waters. Acoustic, dark, hypnotic at times and menacing at other times. For just three tracks and a short running time, I do miss variation or power.
On Bandcamp this album is also sold as LP. As nothing is said about vinyl-only bonus tracks, I have to say the 40 AUD (25 USD, 24 EUR) is quite steep for 24 minutes.
The melodies are very nice, production is very good and clear without taking anything away from the atmosphere. For my taste this takes a bit too long, especially when the second half of the last track is cooling down from a trip that didn't last very long in the first place. I do have the munchies now...