Mad metal circus...
Genre: progressive metal with metalcore and avant-metal influences
This release is actually quite good, I must say, but also a challenging listen if you are not used to progressive and avant-garde metal, and if you have a problem with genre transgression, then stay away. However, if you, like me, love challenging music that breaks down the genre boundaries within and outside metal, then "Mad Man Circus" by Romanian metal act White Walls should be just up your strasse.
Jest, the fist track "Friends for a While" takes us through several subgenres within metal, such as metalcore, thrash metal, deathmetal, grindcore, progressive metal, alternative metal and, to spice it up even more, the song has been generously drizzled with jazz chords and odd time signatures... and this is still just the first track. But "Friends for a While" is pretty much symptomatic of the rest of the album which is highly ecclectic and progressive without ever being overly technical. Still, this is a band who are not afraid of using dissonant jazz chords, odd time signatures and unconventional song structures, and lengthy samples of the sound of small waves in a lake touching to bottom of a wooden boat. This really is good stuff; hard-hitting metal which also has a lot of artistic appeal to it. White Walls certainly fit the label of "the thinking person's metal" which has been applied to the likes of Queensrÿche and Watchtower (I know, it's "the thinkng man's metal", but, hey, let's try not to be sexist).
I do have two issues with this release, though. Firstly, I think that guitar solos are sorely lacking from this album. There are none actually. There are some guitar lead melodies, and they work fine, but there are so many parts of the songs on this album that lend themselves perfectly to some guitar solos - and the solos could also have been used in the name of the obvious artistic mission of the band to create even more variation (they could have used jazz solos, shreddy solos, bluesey solos, neoclassical solos etc. for even more variation). So I think it's a shame that guitar solos are absent.
The other thing is the singer. Actually, Eugen Brudaru is a brilliant singer with a very unique and expressive voice. The problem is that he also uses a lot of metalcore screaming and yelling. Now, these harsher vocals admittedly fit the hard-hitting parts, but it's just that his clean voice is so unique and so hauntingly captivating (while the metalcore screams and yells, just sound like metalcore screams and yells) that it's a shame he doesn't use it all the way through the album. I mean, it's versatile enough, and it in those place where he does use his clean voice over heavy metallic music, it works better than fine. I hope that Eugen Brudaru will use, and experiment with, his magnificen clean vocals more on future releases.
But as I said, "Mad Man Circus" is over all a very interesting and captivating heavy metal release with music that is challenging and complex enough for the listener to lose oneself in. At times, the music reminds me of the great jazz-death metal acts Pestilence and Cynic, while at other times it's trashy or Gothenburg-like, while other parts again remind me of mid 90s Fates Warning etc. - but the songs on "Mad Man Circus" never lose their originality.
It's really great stuff! Metal for the thinking person!
I recommend this to fans of progressive metal, but I think that more adventurous metalcore and thrash metal fans might enjoy it, too. I certainly enjoy listening to "Mad Man Circus".