Beautiful Metal for the Mature Headbanger
You had to wonder, what were the kids raised on Metallica going to want for music as they grew up? Well, as a guy who was completely immersed in metal culture in late 80's through the mid 90's, it's interesting to see who is stepping up. Two guys my age, with roots back to at least the early 90's, are making truly beautiful music in the metal context. Devin Townsend and Devon Graves (previously called Buddy Lackey in Psychotic Waltz).
Dead Soul Tribe sounds completely different than Psychotic Waltz with the exception of Graves' flute, and his lyrical sense. His voice is more natural now, but is actually more powerful and shows better breadth. Lullaby for the Devil was my first full length DST album, but I've branched out since first immersing myself in this album. From my listens to those other works, I think this album may be the band's best. Graves has developed his melodic sense, and his composition continues to improve as well.
The music seems simple at first, but there are a surprising number of progressive elements that add considerable color to the music. For instance, Goodbye City Life is a mini-epic, clocking in at about 8:25, and evolves from ominous gothic march to gentle dreamy vocal and piano passages to melodic metal to shouted rant. Any Sign At All's rhythm in 11 (3+3+3+2) seems perfectly smooth. The crown jewel of the album, The Gossamer Strand, is a gentle instrumental piece featuring Graves' accomplished flute playing over a bed that progresses from slow keys to frenetic tribal metal. The flute is obviously influenced by Ian Anderson as Graves has repeatedly noted, but I also hear a metal guitarist's scalar and shredding sensibilities as well. The result is a sound that I've heard no where else. In the download age, I think virtually every music fan should have this track in their library, prog fan or not. It's that good.
Other reviews of the classic Murder of Crows complained about lack of melodicism, static guitar grooves without solos, and frankly, a sense of boredom. All of these drawbacks are at least much improved here and in my opinion conquered. The melodies are clear (including the title track's allusion to Metallica's Wherever I May Roam verse, and A Stairway to Nowhere's heavy Porcupine Tree influence) and each song is quite distinct. The guitars sound great, modern tone, tightly played, with some tasty soloing woven in. A few songs could use a little more variation in key and feel, and certainly all of the sounds used here (with the exception of the flute) have been heard before. Influences of Tool, Pain of Salvation, and perhaps Anathema are here but not as blatant as on earlier albums.
All in all, this is an excellent album. It's what I want to hear when I listen to metal these days. Modern, but mature. Intelligent lyrics. Textured, but restrained instrumental work. Not afraid to draw on aggression but exploring a broader range of emotion. In two words, adult metal.