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Saturday 1 June 2019

Reviews: Avatar, Ævintyr, Kolossus, Shonen Knife (Paul S, Rich, Matt & Alex)

Avatar: The King Live In Paris (Century Media Records) [Matt]

Recorded at the 2018 Download festival in Paris The King Live In Paris is the Swedish avant-garde metal band's first live release and captures them in their glorious pomp in front of a baying crown. It's a set that saw the band in a period of transition, having gradually morphing into a more baroque outfit that they had been previously, The King Live In Paris is somewhat of a transitional album as frontman Johannes Eckerström puts it "This release is a version of Avatar that didn't exist a year prior, and that already has morphed into something else".

It sees them taking two from their most recent release Avatar Country, those being A Statue Of The King and the title track. The rest of the set draws from their previous albums but played by a band who are trying to once again reinvent themselves, totally commiting to the militaristic concept of Avatar Country. It's a schizophrenic ride through the melodic death metal mastery of Avatar who use swathes of synths to command the crowd as they run through the rockier Let It Burn, the brutal Paint Me Red, keyboard heavy Tower and the groovy Smells Like A Freakshow to get the French audience involved and singing every word back. The KIng Live In Paris is the sound of a band at the precipice of greatness, here you can't see their visual impact but you can hear why they are so wildly welcomed by the French crowd. 7/10

Ævintyr: Gjest Baardsen (Self Released) [Paul S]

Ævintyr are a progressive rock band that grew out of the Folk Metal band Lumsk, and the Chamber Ensemble Trondheim Solistene. You did read that right, part of this bands DNA comes from a Chamber Ensemble, so this is definitely not a normal rock band. The bands sound is a combination of rock, folk, classical, and maybe a little opera as well. All the music on the album was written by the band, but the lyrics were written by infamous criminal and songwriter Gjest Baardsen (1791 - 1849), who can now add album title to his list of accomplishments. This is the band's first album.

The core sound is guitar, bass and drums, all the instruments are clean, except for 1 guitar which has a fairly light distortion. So, this feels like a fairly soft rock. However, this is just the core, what makes this album special is all the things that go around the core. So, we get classical and folk instruments like Violin and Viola, and we also get Brass, with a trumpet being used throughout the album, to great effect. The other stand out element of this album are the 2 voices, one male and one female, and they are both so good. The male voice (I’m afraid I’ve only been able to find the names of the instrumentalists on this album, for some reason they haven’t credited who is singing), is folky, but powerful and very able to carry a tune. The female voice is stunning, borderline operatic, but not over the top, there is a huge amount of control being used. This can be heard on the track Tusind ønsker, where the vocals absolutely make the song.

The slightly strange thing about this album is some of the other bands I thought Ævintyr were reminiscent of, on the track Til By Og Fjerne Egne, I I can definitely hear a little of 80’s pop band The Housemartins, and on the track Tine I was reminded of The Beautiful South, so there is definitely a bit of Paul Heaton influence on the songwriting. There are some heavier moments as well. O frihed kjær! opens with a distinctly doomy guitar riff, and has a taut hard rock chorus. Another heavier track is Tunge taarer which feels like a brooding piece of hard rock.

Gjest Baardsen is a very strange album. You won’t have heard much like it, tuneful, poppy rock with trumpets and operatic vocals isn’t that common, but when it’s this good, you’d think you’d hears more of it. Tuneful, melodic and beautiful in places, it’s an album that will transport you away from all the drudgery of everyday life for 40 minutes. Genuinely unique and wonderful, this album reminds me that you can’t be normal if you want to be exceptional, this album isn’t usual or normal in any way, that's why it’s so special. 9/10

Kolossus: Veritas (964221 Records DK) [Rich]

Veritas is the debut album by Finnish melodic death metal band Kolossus. Kolossus take the traditional melodic death metal sound and add some gloomy Finnish melancholy, sharp thrash riffage and catchy elements from contemporary mainstream metal bands. The band are a tight cohesive unit with an impressive rhythm section and a good use but not over-dependence on melody.  The melodies play their part and work well with the aggression in the music. The vocals are a mix of harsh throaty screams and pleasant cleans and both are given ample use. Veritas is a promising debut for the band but not necessarily a wholly memorable album. The album has a great professional production and everything is well played but the songwriting needs a bit of work to really grab me.  Still the promise is definitely there and with further experience this band could be on to great things. 6/10

Shonen Knife: Sweet Candy Power (Good Charamel Records) [Alex]

Just in case you thought the name was a misnomer or ironic, Sweet Candy Power is sugary. So sugary in fact that just the sheer act of listening was giving me indigestion. Admittedly, there’s not a lot I can say when a group has one and only one dynamic to their sound, especially when the compositions overly simplistic. A guitar with just a little bit of fuzz serves as the main instrument throughout. Melodies are pleasant if nothing spectacular, and occasionally, as on Dizzy or Peppermint Attack, the minimal presence of percussion extends to a tambourine solo or a hand clapping part.

Just in case the syrupy texture of the…umm…instrumental elements weren’t enough, the lyrics are about all stuff sweet and yummy. We open with a piece titled California Lemon Trees. From there we are thrown into a myriad of treacly flavoured wordplay. Just listen to Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches, where our protagonist is consumed by an existential crisis comprising both the saccharine and the savoury, opening in one line ‘Today I ate ice cream. What shall I eat tomorrow’? To be fair, there are moodier moments. Never-Never Land is one such piece where the playing is slower and the notes deeper, yet even that is drenched in ridiculous simplicity and flavourless candy metaphors. My heart churns at the force of emotion on display, as does my stomach. 

Snarkiness aside, nothing here offends me necessarily. Yet, I can’t see any reason why anyone would take time out of their day to willingly listen to Shonen Knife. The lyrics aren’t just inane, but the musical content is bare and featureless. Not everyone will get this reference but Sweet Candy Power sounds like how the Shaggs would have sounded if they had a proper grasp of timing. Perhaps the low-fi aesthetic will appeal to some, but anyone who likes their music to be even remotely detailed or complex should avoid this album like a coffee flavoured chocolate 3/10

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the lovely review of Ævintyr "Gjest Baardsen". Just a comment on the singers.... The singers are
    Kristian Krokslett, tenor
    Maria Moen Nohr, mezzosoprano
    Stian Økland, tenor