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Friday 16 November 2018

Reviews: Lethean, Sylvaine, Richard Sjoblom's Gungfly, Estrons (Reviews Paul S, Rich & Alex)

Lethean: The Waters Of Death (Cruz Del Sur Music) [Paul S]

Lethean have been going since 2013, this is their first album, coming 2 years after an EP. The band is a 2 piece Thurmi Paavana on vocals and James Ashbey on, well, everything else. The band class themselves as Epic Heavy Metal, which sounds great, but isn’t a label that is easily definable. To these ears it sounds a little like what I would think of as pagan metal.

First track Idylls Of The King sounds like a combination of Primordial and Kampfar, but maybe a little less extreme, it has that organic, slightly folk influenced sound, but not anywhere near full on folk metal. At this point I should mention the vocals on this album. Thurmi Paavana has a voice that is bordering on operatic, at first I was a little worried that this wouldn’t fit with the music. However she handles the vocals with so much subtlety and nuance that it never seems over the top. The fact that the music here is a fairly aggressive and harsh, helps the vocals fit, I do think that if this had softer music, then the vocals wouldn’t have fitted so well.

Seafarer is a little slower than the first track, and also has a bit of a galloping horse rhythm, with a much slower ending. In Darkness starts slowly, but gets faster as it goes along, with a bit of a 6/8 time signature. Time And The Gods is slower, more of a ballady feel to the first half, before getting more aggressive and faster in the second half. The vocals on this track are great, with very memorable melodies. Across Grey Water is a soft acoustic ballad for 3 of it’s 4 minutes before getting much harder for the last minute.

The album comes to a close with the 10 minute epic Devouring Fire, which vacillates between slow and heavy and fast and galloping, all with Thurmi’s amazing vocals making this very special. This album is beautifully musical, whilst not lacking in power or extremity. The music is very well written and realised, and the vocals take it to another level. Highly recommended! 8/10

Sylvaine: Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone (Season Of Mist) [Rich]

Atoms Aligned, Coming Undone is the new album from French/Norwegian multi instrumentalist Sylvaine and what an album this is. Deeply moving and atmospheric Sylvaine has a sound that draws upon doom metal, black metal, shoegaze and ambient influences bringing to mind such bands as Alcest, Oathbreaker, Solstafir and Deafheaven. Sylvaine could very much fall under the blackgaze tag with the mix of soft, shimmery guitars, dreamy clean vocals and black metal shrieks. Although very reminiscent of the aforementioned bands Sylvaine knows her craft and with the aid of session musicians Stephen Shepard and Alcest’s Stéphane “Neige” Paut she has cut an album of deep and immersive music which definitely takes you on a journey with its altering soundscapes. This album whilst extremely good is very reminiscent of Alcest to my ears - maybe a little too similar but considering I absolutely adore Alcest I don’t whether to regard this as a strength or a weakness. If you are a fan of the blackgaze or post-black metal sound then this album is a definite must listen though it will sound very familiar. 8/10

Richard Sjoblom’s Gungfly: Friendship (InsideOut Records) [Alex]

Inspired by ideas of relationships, the loss of childhood innocence and age, Friendship is told through the lyrical lens of memories of a treehouse while utilizing a vast instrumental palate. Ghost Of Vanity begins by setting a mood, giving music to a naïve sense of fantasy, which many might associate with childhood. An adept bass line floats above mesmerising synths which soon burst into vibrant colour, a contrast of thunderous instrumentation dramatically disturbing the ambiance. From there, the song adopts a playful tone before taking on a more frustrated face, proving conceptually inspiring yet by no means wonderfully textured, as neither movement seems definite. Friendship, on the other hand, feels cohesive. 

With winding instrumentals, the piece is able to musical evoke thoughts of comradeship, resentment and loss across 14 minutes never alienating the listener. Consequentially, when the lyricism does finally appear it take a striking and purposeful, not fabricated for the sake of serving a narrative. While I do not quite detect the same swell of emotionality from A Treehouse In A Glade, upon further reflection I respect how its intricate nature lends itself perfectly to the themes of creation and perseverance, especially when we begin to spy those values in settings outside of the hideaways we had as children. Outside of the occasional odd decision, the compositions on this album are usually either impressive, inspiring or both. Yet it would be difficult and unwise for me to overlook the deeply personal themes Richard Sjoblom touches on throughout.

While you can never fully detach the melodies a musician creates, from the words they write to accompany them, Friendship is an album that requires that treatment. Interesting ideas are brought to the fore here as our narrator challenges preconceived notions of adulthood, questioning on the aforementioned opener ‘what would you do to become as beautiful as those you see on TV?’ More often than not, however, the poetry settles for nauseating nostalgia and rugged romanticism. A large part of the problem is ballads in the vein of They Fade are not allowed to remain contemplative or wistful, without the shallow proclamations proving phony and distracting. Stone Cold is intended to present painful feeling over losing a friend, yet the end result is totally confused, due in large part to the absence of authentic emotionality in the wordplay. 

Of course, it’s not all cliché and sentimentality, some moments will evoke a smile with their thoughtfulness or humour, yet there are so many concepts destined to be better fleshed out, that you can’t help feeling a little taken out of the experience as a result. Sjoblom is, of course, conscious that he is making a prog, yet refuses to let restrict him. Drawing on Jazz, classical and traditional influences, the music is indeed puzzling, though by not unnecessary or wholly pretentious. 6/10

Estrons: You Say I’m Too Much, I Say You’re Not Enough (Gofod Records) [Alex]

Championing a style of angst-ridden alt rock, Cardiff’s own Estrons have been making quite a name for themselves in recent months. Chances are, if you pay attention to Womanby Streets live music scene, you may have seen them hit up Clwb-Ifor-Bach or play the annual Swn fest. While you can compare them to female fronted post-punk acts that came before them like Elastica, they have received some attention outside of their home-country, partly due to being an angsty, intriguing and unique product of their time, regardless of their presumed influences. Lilac opens the album with an exhilarating dose of distortion, as a fast paced rhythm sets in, and an infectious chorus destined to inspire sprightly audiences kicks down the door. Unafraid to show their socially conscious stripes, the song is a massive condemnation of emotional and physical abuse, something which becomes an enduring theme throughout. 

The adrenaline is carried across onto Killing Your Love and Make A Man, both of which have feisty instrumentation, euphoric lead parts, a positive and determined message, and Tali Kallstrom screaming every word with conviction. If there is one thing that makes this debut translate amazingly however, it’s the raw unfiltered attitude. Even the decidedly pop inspired moments like Stranger, Cameras and Aliens, are performed with a sneer and intensity, which despite not being a touch on the feeling emanated by their live shows, stamps in stone that these four musicians are ready and willing to leave an impression. From the unruly and thunderous Drop, to slow burning and bluesy Jesus…, there is a type of unpolished catchiness, standing somewhere between the huge hooks of AC/DC and the mawkish, punk attitude of the Clash. Estrons are capable of sombre thoughtfulness, and unchecked fierceness. Again, it’s not the easiest feeling to describe in words, except to say that it fills me with an inextricable surge of energy and vigour, making me hungry for more. 8/10

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