Conor Fynes

Conor Fynes
MMA Special Collaborator · Honorary Collaborator
Registered more than 2 years ago · Last visit more than 2 years ago

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659 reviews/ratings
OPETH - Ghost Reveries Progressive Metal | review permalink
AGALLOCH - The Mantle Folk Metal | review permalink
DREAM THEATER - Metropolis, Part 2: Scenes From a Memory Progressive Metal | review permalink
RUSH - Moving Pictures Hard Rock | review permalink
DEVIN TOWNSEND - Terria Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLIND GUARDIAN - A Night at the Opera Power Metal | review permalink
LED ZEPPELIN - Led Zeppelin IV Hard Rock | review permalink
PAIN OF SALVATION - BE Progressive Metal | review permalink
BLOTTED SCIENCE - The Machinations of Dementia Progressive Metal | review permalink
EDGE OF SANITY - Crimson Melodic Death Metal | review permalink
CYNIC - Traced in Air Progressive Metal | review permalink
DEATHSPELL OMEGA - Fas - Ite, Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum Black Metal | review permalink
MOONSORROW - V: Hävitetty Folk Metal | review permalink
UNEXPECT - Fables of the Sleepless Empire Avant-garde Metal | review permalink
VOIVOD - Nothingface Progressive Metal | review permalink
KAYO DOT - Choirs Of The Eye Avant-garde Metal | review permalink
DEATHSPELL OMEGA - Veritas Diaboli Manet in Aeternum: Chaining the Katechon Black Metal | review permalink
COLDWORLD - Melancholie² Atmospheric Black Metal | review permalink
LEPROUS - Bilateral Progressive Metal | review permalink
DEMILICH - Nespithe Death Metal | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 169 3.65
2 Industrial Metal 48 2.65
3 Black Metal 46 3.37
4 Atmospheric Black Metal 42 3.45
5 Metal Related 32 3.09
6 Technical Death Metal 29 3.47
7 Hard Rock 28 3.23
8 Avant-garde Metal 28 3.54
9 Heavy Metal 24 3.02
10 Power Metal 24 3.40
11 Non-Metal 23 3.13
12 Thrash Metal 17 2.85
13 Death Metal 15 3.27
14 Folk Metal 14 3.57
15 Depressive Black Metal 10 3.00
16 Atmospheric Sludge Metal 10 3.80
17 Technical Thrash Metal 10 3.45
18 Symphonic Metal 10 3.05
19 Deathcore 8 2.38
20 Grindcore 7 2.64
21 Metalcore 7 2.86
22 Melodic Black Metal 7 3.57
23 Sludge Metal 5 3.60
24 Death-Doom Metal 5 3.20
25 Alternative Metal 4 2.13
26 Melodic Death Metal 4 4.00
27 Mathcore 3 2.67
28 Proto-Metal 3 3.17
29 NWoBHM 3 3.17
30 Gothic Metal 3 3.33
31 Groove Metal 3 2.83
32 Doom Metal 3 3.67
33 Symphonic Black Metal 3 3.83
34 Cybergrind 2 1.75
35 Funk Metal 1 4.50
36 Brutal Death Metal 1 4.50
37 Pagan Black Metal 1 3.50
38 Speed Metal 1 4.00
39 Stoner Metal 1 3.00
40 Melodic Metalcore 1 3.00
41 Neoclassical metal 1 2.50
42 Traditional Doom Metal 1 4.00
43 US Power Metal 1 4.00
44 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

BURZUM Filosofem

Album · 1996 · Atmospheric Black Metal
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'Filosofem' - Burzum (91/100)

"Do you think Filosofem and Hvis lyset tar oss would be considered masterpieces if they were released this year?" I asked a friend of mine a month or so ago. My experience with Burzum up until that point had been remarkably shallow, and the single-serving listens I'd given some of Vikernes' best-known songs had not done a lot to convince me the music had earned its status without the help of some over-discussed arsons and/or stabbing party that happened in Norway some years ago.

"Yeah I do," he replied; "The music has a timeless quality to it." Another friend noted Filosofem as the perfect embodiment of 'cold' atmosphere. I'm glad I've known folk who could interpret and experience this music outside the bounds of sensationalism; experiencing Filosofem has been a long time coming for me, and it's with self-admitted regret that I've let a monument like this pass me by for so long.

First off; it has been a nagging pet peeve to read review after review of Burzum's music that tries to separate an appreciation of the music with the ideas behind its making, much less the man himself. You see this kind of pussyfooting whenever someone's talking about an unfashionably right-wing group but it's never so pronounced as it is with Burzum. The appeal of mystically-inclined ambient black metal is arguably wider than Varg's politik, but a willingness to explore the music without opening oneself to the ideas behind the work is to miss an essential part of the point. Filosofem wears its intention in the very title; this album is a manifest philosophy, and though the music and lyrics don't touch upon the political specifics of his Odalist pro-racial agenda, that intent seeps through every minute of Filosofem.

Possibly moreso than any black metal album I've heard, Filosofem truly evokes a longing for an ancient past. For music crafted with the most minimalist, simple and repeated ingredients, the atmosphere is richly evocative; it is as if the music was robbed from another time, real or imagined. I do not believe Filosofem would be felt so powerfully, did Varg not feel so powerfully about his vision for a pure(r) Norway. Atmosphere in music is often intangible; it is as hard to replicate as it is to properly write about. In Burzum's case, Varg Vikernes managed to create an incredible (and, indeed, timeless) palette of sound with the seemingly laziest elements at his disposal. Foregoing the use of proper microphones or even a proper amplifier (the guitar tone was brought about using distortion pedals plugged into his brother's stereo) he created a sound that's all too easy to become lost in. Compare that to the tens-of-thousands of hours of mindless bedroom demos that have spawned forth since. Some of them might be decently imagined, but it's not likely any manage to spurn a session of contemplating your own philosophies in life. Filosofem manages to do this, and more.

Though it's easy to confuse his musical priorities with laziness, his tactical use of keyboards in his music enforces the notion of Varg as a brilliant composer. For one of the simplest motifs you'll ever hear in music, the brooding three/four note keyboard overlay on "Dunkelheit (Burzum)" is instantly and greatly memorable. Varg has a penchant for these hook-bearing 'earworms' that you almost never hear in an atmospheric or ambient context. "Jesu død" is just as impactful a track as the first without help of keys at all, with little more than a few repetitive guitar riffs to see it through. How Burzum's best work manages to do so much with so little is virtually indecipherable on an academic, objective level. It is music that can, must, and will be felt by whomever listens to it.

The sense of Filosofem doing intense things to the psyche with so few concrete ideas is best represented in "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte", the album's twenty-five minute centrepiece, and apparently still the thing most listeners (outside of the PC whiners) have the toughest time grappling with. As a fan of progressive music long before I came into black metal, I instantly loved how Vikernes' ambient music sounds so close to the Berlin School of electronic music, in the minimalist vein of Klaus Schulze or Tangerine Dream. The first half builds up a single motif; the second half is spent dwindling it down.

Of course, that brief description tells little of the way it affects the spirit while listening to it. "Rundtgåing av den transcendentale egenhetens støtte" feels both like a denouement to the 'metal' side of the album and climax in its own right. As a composer and musician, Vikernes' work on Filosofem is defined by how he economizes the use of ideas, and this 25 minute sprawl stands as a definitive realization of that intent. Bookended by parts one and two of "Decrepitude" (which seems to bridge the gap stylistically between the black metal and full ambient chunks of the album) the album's sequence doesn't place it as an afterthought so much as a full-bodied other part of the music that should be regarded just as intently as the three-or-so songs people are originally coming for. In a sense, Vikernes was already recognizing the close-mindedness of the lion's share of the black metal scene and was already playing against it pre-emptively.

Though the ambient centre of the album does seem to go between five and ten minutes longer than might have been optimal for atmosphere's sake, Filosofem still sounds bold and relevant. Even today, there are so few artists that decide to fuck what all others think or will think of their art. I don't get the impression Varg's artistic choices were done as a way to seem 'cool' so much as the behaviour of some of the Second Wave's other star players... He simply felt something deeply to the point that it defined him as a person, and he possessed the musical talent to bring that psychic energy into the material world with his music. I'll say again; those who wish to avert their fragile eyes away from the essential meaning of what he was trying to say are losing sight of what this music is really about. Without feeling something so specific so strongly, the supposedly 'universal' atmosphere here would not have existed to begin with.

SACRAMENTUM Far Away From the Sun

Album · 1996 · Melodic Black Metal
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'Far Away from the Sun' - Sacramentum (88/100)

More recent times have arguably given melodic black metal a bad rep. Melody, of course, is the most generally accessible side of music, and that accessibility would seem to conflict directly with a genre that would otherwise refute any concessions to the casual listener. Even if the impression of melody as benign musical ingredient has been enforced and reaffirmed by countless black metal bands since, the opposite was best exemplified by Sacramentum. Although they're typically overshadowed by the legend of Dissection, the overwhelming comparison is unfair, outside of the fact that, yes, they were both using melody with an evil intent, and both hailed from Sweden.

Where many Scandinavian black metal bands (Dissection not least of all) owe part of their legendary status to their image and destructive acts, Sacramentum had no such pretence. Whatever respect they've earned from the black metal community in years since is derived purely from their music, more specifically their debut, Far Away from the Sun. Black metal was already becoming a saturated entity in 1996; with more than enough younger acts leaping on the heels of Bathory and Mayhem, Sacramentum weaponized melody in black metal to new heights. The result is an album as cold, eerie and memorable as anything I've heard in the genre's melodic sphere. And yes, I'm including Dissection in that tally.

The weight of my impression with Sacramentum lies in the way they've so effectively merged consonant beauty with an unsettling, aggressive atmosphere. The album's opener and single "Fog's Kiss" exemplifies the things Sacramentum do so well here. Where the accepted convention with an album of this sort would be to pad it with some kind of faux-spooky 'intro' (add blowing wind samples and howling wolves for bonus points), they begin Far Away from the Sun without a second to spare. It kicks off with an instant intensity that's rarely been replicated by acts in their neighbourhood. Nicklas Rudolfsson's drumwork is incredibly precise with his onslaught of blastbeats, but he also knows when to tone the aggression down. Nisse Karlén's vocals rush past with a far greater urgency than you'd expect from such a melody-centered band.

For such a tight combo, the riffs of guitarist Anders Brolycke still ring as the most striking aspect of Far Away from the Sun. Great riffs are hard to come by in virtually any type of metal, and this album is filled with them. Sacramentum revel in the genrebound tremolo-leads and the soaring rhythms, but some of the greatest moments here happen when Brolycke's riffs emphasize beauty over blackened convention. Such is the case 1:55 into "Fog's Kiss", where he diverts off course with a playful lead, or a strikingly gorgeous part three minutes into "Blood Will Be Spilled" where consonant harmonies are exploited in a rare case truly deserving of being called epic.

When it comes to my favourite melodic black metal albums, I may be torn between this and Windir's Arntor. While Arntor sounded like it had been composed from the depths of Romanticism, Sacramentum uses many of the same tricks to create a far eviller sound, more in keeping with the original intent of black metal. Sacramentum employ guitar harmonies that would put Iron Maiden's best work to shame, and the beauty in this music is often immense. Even so, I can listen to Sacramentum, and get no sense that they're offering this beauty to improve my life as a listener, much less give me a warm, consonant hug. If any comparison with Dissection bears fruit, it's in these two bands' common aim to use melody in a rare context, using it to create negative feeling through negativity. Even in black metal, that is a rare thing to behold. There's no rulebook on how to get those feelings across through generally beautiful means. Although melodic black metal favours mediocrity more than most sub-genres, the good stuff tends to be great, and Far Away from the Sun stands tall alongside the very best of them.

BLACKFEATHER At the Mountains of Madness

Album · 1971 · Hard Rock
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'At the Mountains of Madness' - Blackfeather (62/100)

Even if you're an ardent fan of heavy psych rock, chances are you haven't heard of Blackfeather. Considering they only put out a single complete album way back in '71 however, you can feel rest assured they haven't been a gaping hole in your musical knowledge 'til now. Blackfeather were essentially Australia's response to the British burst of fuzz-tinged psychedelic blues that saturated the progressive scene from 1970-71. This was a fairly integral stage in rock history; it opened the gates for progressive rock and heavy metal alike. If Blackfeather weren't the first Australian metal band, they were at least among the first. Their debut At the Mountains of Madness offers some material potentially worthy of that historical significance, but the album is otherwise marred by inconsistent songwriting and an execution that tempts being called half-baked.

To their credit, where a lot of the bands I've heard from their niche and era settled for tired 12 bar blues and a distortion box, Blackfeather give the impression that they aspired to take their sound to a more serious level. At the Mountains of Madness is rounded off with a fourteen minute suite ("The Rat"), and the album even came with a proper intro track-- a common thing today, not so much back then. Even two of the regular songs in the middle are listed as parts one and two of one another. At least in concept, it sounds as if Blackfeather were trying to take a loud, often simple kind of music to a higher artistic level. Couldn't the same be said of most of the prog rock bands we hold near and dear today?

The problem with At the Mountains of Madness, isn't its intent, but its execution. The introduction sounds awkward. I was expecting some kind of Lovecraftian debauchery. What I got was a spoken word entrance of a man receiving an apple from a questionable stranger and finding himself in a psychedelic realm. Again, this probably sounds good in concept, but Blackfeather don't really convince me. The forced vocals sound like frontman Neal Johns is trying too hard to sound like the host of a carnival. "The Rat" was a far greater disappointment. I'd generally expect an 'epic' to be the best track of the album it's a part of, but it comes off sounding like a weak Black Sabbath cut with mindless noodling to fill out the time.

As a progressive rock album, At the Mountains of Madness was a failed experiment. Luckily, the four relatively conventional hard rock tracks in the middle are much better. "On This Day That I Die" is a hard rock ballad that serves as a much better showcase for Neale Johns' vocals than the intro before it. "Long Legged Lovely" might have been a great radio-worthy single, but Blackfeather padded it with more unnecessary instrumentation. "Mango's Theme" isn't so much a theme as an exotic-tinged instrumental, and they do it well. I've spoken of these tracks out of order, specifically because I wanted to save the last mention for "Seasons of Change". For an album that seems to balance out its excellence with mediocrity wherever possible, I'm amazed that they could have penned one of the strongest rock ballads I've heard in ages. "Seasons of Change" offers beautiful vocals and string arrangement, and a simple, yet effective song structure. If I'll remember Blackfeather for anything, it won't be their failure in handling longform composition, but the magic they conjured with this song. The seamless way it flows into "Mango's Theme" is just a bonus.

Blackfeather would follow up this album the following year with Boppin' the Blues, but that was just a live performance of standard boogie tunes, and, for better or worse, has sweet fuck all to what they were doing on At the Mountains of Madness. According to RateYourMusic, Blackfeather wouldn't officially disband until 1983, although you wouldn't guess it from their discography. Although they put out a live album and a few singles, and have been featured on plenty of Aussie rock compilations in the time since, I'll assume it's safe to say At the Mountains of Madness is the only significant thing Blackfeather ever did. The album is flawed enough to have me doubt whether they could have ever really made it big, but there is quality here amidst the pedestrian and the puzzling. Hell, if anything, just check it out for "Seasons of Change". If 1971's blues-tinged heavy psych scene ever spawned a would-be one-hit wonder, these guys would be it.


Album · 1998 · Melodic Black Metal
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'Arntor' - Windir (89/100)

In my mind, it is lamentably difficult to dissociate Windir's music from the ill-fated demise of the band's frontman and songwriter, Terje "Valfar" Bakken. That he met his end in a cold of a snowstorm feels drearily appropriate for the music he played in life, and might even seem amusingly ironic, were it not for the fact that friends and family lost a loved one that night, and the black metal scene lost one of its brightest composers. It has been over a decade now since his passing, and people still have his memory in mind when they listen to Windir. His ghost hangs over the music, and begs us to wonder what other masterpieces he might have conjured in the time since fate's deadly trick.

Yet, in spite of the supposed sensationalism that surrounds this and many of the other tragedies in the Norwegian Second Wave, it has never been enough to overshadow the music itself. People might still speculate over the circumstances of Valfar's death, but it's the brilliance Windir exhibited in their vastness of composition and arrangement that keep them sticking around. Arntor was the first Windir album I ever listened to, and it was an all-too rare case of a Second Wave album striking me as a work of genius on my very first listen. The pagan scene is replete with bands that wish to emulate Windir's approach, but none have managed to surpass the formula they perfected on Arntor. The only other artist I can think of that blended traditional black metal with such melody-focused songwriting is Dissection, and given the ever-legendary regard that band earned over the course of two or three albums, it's not bad company for Windir to be in at all.

The strength and significance of melody cannot (read: cannot) be overstated on Arntor. While melodic songwriting tends to get a bad rep in black metal and other 'artistic' genres for being simplistic, cheesy or both, Windir are anything but. The closest thing I could liken their style to outside of bands that influenced them, or were themselves influenced by, would be the Romantic-era classical composers, who gave up some of the pretense of High Classical orchestration to make way for a more sweeping and straightforward beauty. At least four of the seven tracks on Arntor give the staunch impression of classical music performed as black metal. Even (perhaps especially) at the band's most fast-paced and aggressive moments, the guitars are soaring through intensely melodic passages. They are not 'hooks' per se so much as vessels for a conventionally beautiful and sweeping atmosphere, made potentially inaccessible to outsiders of metal fandom only by the merit of the aggressive drumwork and raspy shrieks to be generally expected from the genre. To say that I might bring up Arntor to someone who was looking to first get into black metal shouldn't imply it is simply a gateway to be dismissed once a listener acclimates themselves to more extreme pastures; Arntor is conventionally very beautiful, but it is so at no cost to its depth and longevity.

"Arntor, ein windir" is the song that has engrained itself in my mind the most, if only because it was the 'lightbulb moment' that demonstrated to me how bloody fantastic the rest of the album was bound to be. For Windir, the handling of melody and harmony are one and the same; much like a classical composition, there are often at least a couple of melodies vying for attention, and it is the way they connect and interplay that really matters. Windir occasionally bring clean vocals to bear, but their use of melody in far more in line with the expected Viking formula: deep-pitched, chant-like, and rich in harmony. While Arntor stands out most for its brilliant guitar writing, the more typical elements of pagan metal are executed just as well.

"Kong Hydnes haug", "Svartesmeden og lundamystrollet", and "Saknet" are, in hindsight, just as impressive and beautiful as "Arntor, ein windir", and possibly even bolder when it comes to the overall composition. While the first two are obviously separate tracks, they flow perfectly together, operating from the same tonal origin in such a way that it sounds like one is an inventive variation on the other. While the first three of these tracks are almost uplifting in their soaring melodic appeal, "Saknet" is a much more melancholy piece; without losing any of its conventional beauty, the album's final centrepiece is both predictable in its style, and startling in its refreshing emotional perspective.

There are, of course, three other tracks on Arntor I have glazed over. While they're all solid movements and don't threaten the album's relative 'masterpiece' status, I find it difficult to hold them on the same level of regard as the 'Big Four'-- judging from what I've read on a few other reviews, this tends to be a pretty common criticism. "Byrjing" falls into the done-to-death category of 'synthesizer album intro', the likes of which you've come across a hundred times on other albums of this sort. It's decently atmospheric and more purposefully composed than at least ninety of those mentioned intros, but it does little more than to set the table for the main course. "Kampen" and "Ending", on the other hand, are pretty standard pagan-black metal tunes. "Kampen" in particular is a nice surge of chest-bumping drinking energy in between the two larger epics, but it does sound like Windir were operating on a much less ambitious wavelength with these tracks. Even so; I disagree with the notion that these tracks have no place on Arntor. While they'll never be considered highlights for as long as the album enjoys a listenership, they offer a contrast and reprieve from the jaw-dropping atmosphere. They're solid pagan tunes, but what's more; they stand as a reminder of just how excellent and distinguished the best songs really are in comparison with most of the genre.

Although my personal listening diet often gravitates towards the cosmic end of black metal over its earthly, pagan counterpart, Arntor stands as a masterpiece of its style to my ears, and probably the best album Windir ever put out in their time. The melodic writing is some of the best I have ever heard on a black metal album. Despite his age, Valfar inspired the confidence of a true composer. Whether or not the material is consistent is unimportant when the sum of the parts is so rich and expressive. Everything is in its rightful place. Windir lives on!

FACTORY OF DREAMS Some Kind of Poetic Destruction

Album · 2013 · Progressive Metal
Cover art Buy this album from MMA partners
'Some Kind of Poetic Destruction' - Factory of Dreams (5/10)

Call them symphonic metal, prog, 'space opera' metal or whatever other five dollar term that comes to mind; Factory of Dreams is a band that first impressed me with their unique grasp of style. Although the band was essentially a one-man project of Hugo Flores', Factory of Dreams had a tendency to sound larger-than-life. Even when you stop to consider virtuosity and ambition are virtually pre-requisites to be noticed in progressive metal, these guys still managed to blow me away with how bloody outrageous their sound was. It was akin to hearing an opera staged by Norse gods while speeding through hyperspace... Outlandish descriptions aside, Factory of Dreams caught my ear from the start. Hugo Flores' latest outing with Factory of Dreams- "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction"- is relatively toned down in its orchestrations when compared to its 2011 predecessor, "Melotronical". As ambitious in scope as they were, the last album's hyperactive arrangements could be overwhelming, and scaling back the sonic density could well have been what Factory of Dreams needed to reach brilliance. Unfortunately, Factory of Dreams' fails to live up to the promise of its stylistic evolution; while certainly more song-based, the songwriting itself doesn't any more focused or effective. Especially when compared to my first experience with the band, "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" sounds like Factory of Dreams in lite or diet form. Downplaying many of the things that made the band such an engaging listen in the first place, Factory of Dreams' latest album feels close to your standard symphonic metal fare; the project's core style and level of musicianship are still here to some extent, but I cannot help but feel disappointed.

"Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" marks Factory of Dreams' venture into the world of concept albums. Their past material has always felt like it was telling a story of some galactic import, but the band is more explicit here about the sort of story they want to tell. From what I can glean from it (and without spoiling anything), "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" tells of the world's apocalyptic end, through the eyes of a girl named Kyra. With this concept, Factory of Dreams explores the chaos that would arise from a cataclysmic event of this scale, and the metaphysical relationship a human spirit can have with physical matter or sound, IE: music. The concept has potential, and fans of Ayreon's science fiction fare will probably find themselves at home with this story. Some of the ideas are pretty interesting here, but the concept seems to leave much of its potential untapped. It hints at something profound (fingers point to the concept's metaphysical conclusion) but the lyrics don't go much past a surface-level description of the resulting chaos that has been inflicted upon the characters' surroundings. The spoken word dialogue used to advance the story is completely lifeless and might have been best left off entirely. Luckily, the science fiction plot meshes very well with Factory of Dreams' musical approach, which retains the synthesizer-heavy, rhythmical pulse of albums past.

In regards to Flores' composition style, I get the same impression here than I got from "Melotronical". Although he's not too strong from a place of proper songwriting, he's an excellent composer and orchestrator. I don't think there's a single song here that stands out for its hooks or structure, but there are plenty of ideas throughout the album that grab the listener's attention. The songs on "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" suffer the tendency of biting off more than they can properly chew; the ideas are self-contained and don't seem to relate to the rest of a song. Choruses and verse structures can be picked out, to be sure, but I'm hard pressed to find a song here that sounds like the ideas therein were arranged to really compliment one another. At their best, Factory of Dreams' songs feel like vessels for a string of engaging ideas. By prog standards, that might sound like a listener's dream come true; after all, the attitude of an ambitious composer transposed onto rock music has often had the effect of working against conventional structures. Factory of Dreams' music can be wildly interesting, but "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" has significantly fewer inspiring passages than I was hoping for from the band. The crazy, over-the-top cosmic madness has been downplayed to a more comfortable level, sure, but what does the album do to really fill the gap? "Melotronical" didn't sound particularly well structured, but I was usually too overpowered as a listener to notice. The atmosphere still recalls the pleasant feel of rushing through the cosmos on the wings of orchestral fury, but it sounds so much more straightforward and restrained. Especially on the heels of "Melotronical", "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction" seems to simply 'exist' in the presence of the listener; the loose songwriting and washy production rarely serve to create compelling, standout-ish passages. The album's atmosphere often echoes or reflects the epic, but never becomes it.

In terms of being more 'straightforward', I should elaborate in saying that this impression is largely due to the greater emphasis placed on vocals this time around. Factory of Dreams have always been big on vocals, but it's usually come in the form of arrangements nearly as dense as the instrumentation. Jessica Lehto's soprano and Hugo Flores' own operatic tenor would often pass the vocal duties between each other, offering far more stimulation than you would normally expect from a vocal performance. Flores has once again enlisted the services of the talented Jess Lehto, but the vocal writing favours melodic lead performances over the dense harmonies and arrangements. She has a beautiful voice with an ethereal tone befitting a soprano, but the downscaled arrangements this time around make the vocals sound like a fairly standard fare for symphonic or gothic metal. The album's arguable standout "Seashore Dreams" features a vocal performance that dares to veer away from the generic (with an ethereal, floating ambiance that reminds me of Cocteau Twins) but it all-too often lacks the added power or identity needed to have really moved me. Instrumentally, Hugo Flores reprises his skill as a guitarist, offering some amazing guitar solos on the album - the Satriani-esque passage at the end of "Hope Garden" comes first to mind. The rhythm guitar parts are less successful; the riffs feel somewhat indistinct and washed down by the album's murky production.

Perhaps I'm too harsh on "Some Kind of Poetic Destruction", perhaps it suffers a more negative light from having the imposing duty of having to follow up one of the most original symphonic metal albums I've heard in recent memory. It's certainly true that I may have been more optimistic about the album if this had been my first experience with Factory of Dreams, but it's difficult to be as lenient when I hear this and know that they are capable of so much more. Going for a more song-oriented product was a logical choice for Factory of Dreams, but it's been a near-fatal decision for the band in this case. In sacrificing some of their far-out density and adventurousness, they have gained nothing in return. Add to that a mediocre conceptual angle, and you have an album that I cannot help but feel disappointed by. If there's any band that could make me love gothic-symphonic-space metal, I know it would be Factory of Dreams. This album looks like a misstep from where I'm coming from, but I remain confident in the band's abilities and potential to release great things again in the future.

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  • Posted more than 2 years ago in Witch Mountain
    I recently read an unusually poignant YouTube comment that described Portland, Oregon doomsters Witch Mountain as a perfect synthesis of the masculine and feminine. Hearing their sound, it’s difficult to disagree; they have found a remarkable balance in their music that lesser bands might only dream about. Witch Mountain were just as incredible this time around as the first time I saw them, a few months back. Although they were placed in a lineup of otherwise rock-oriented bands, the reception for Witch Mountain was fantastic, and for good reason; if their excellent studio material wasn’t enough to sell a listener, their live performance is a world of its own. I caught up with Witch Mountain drummer and doom aficionado Nathan Carson after the show to ask a few questions about the band. Cheers to Witch Mountain for putting on such a great show- I can’t wait to see them perform again!   Hey Nathan, it's pretty coincidental that you're wearing a Rush shirt, because listening to you guys this evening, I totally got a "Necromancer" vibe, particularly with Rob's lead playing- he's got a great Alex Lifeson vibe in his style.   On our last tour in November, we took a day off to see Rush in San Jose, we missed them in Seattle so right where we crossed paths, we saw them and sat on the Alex Lifeson side, soaked it in.   Yeah, I saw them a couple of years ago during their Snakes & Arrows tour. They're excellent!   I love Snakes & Arrows. Clockwork Angels too!   Witch Mountain- it's an interesting band name and really seems to mesh with your chosen style. Where did you get the name from; did it have anything to do with the Disney film of the same name? (Escape from Witch Mountain)   Well I won't say that that wasn't an element! We started playing doom metal in 1997 and there were a lot less bands playing within that style then. So, there was this whole tradition with bands with 'Witch' in the name. I mean, it was already a tradition 15 years ago, and now there's hundreds more! But we also loved mountains, we thought it was such a huge image. We were surprised someone hadn't taken that name already, and I'm positive that if we hadn't taken it then, someone would have the name now. Plus, we figured that if you're going to be as heavy as humanly possible, you should name yourself after a Disney movie.   We need Pixar metal next! *Laughs* So, doom metal- it's a tried and true style but I've noticed a schism within the genre, between bands that are wanting to 'modernize' by fusing it with more extreme metal styles, and the bands that are keeping it true to form. What's the appeal of this traditional sound in metal to you?   Well, obviously I grew up listening to Black Sabbath, then I got turned onto Candlemass, and at this point I was thinking it was a fluke of sorts. There were only a few bands followwing that sound and we've always liked post-apocalyptic films, really outsider art and extreme ideas, post-modern culture... There was one night when I was at my parents' goat farm and we brought a Saint Vitus tape and listened to it four time- under what circumstances I won't really describe! *Laughs*- this was 1996 and I got onto my parents' 2600 Modem and looked up this band and music, I found the Rise Above Records website- which is Lee Dorian's (of Cathedral) label- and read this manifesto he wrote about doom metal. He talked about Trouble, and Candlemass and Saint Vitus, Witchfinder General... And then it dawned on me; this isn't an accident, people are doing this on purpose. I had been playing in bands for years, but they had always been weird, progressive bands that sounded like whatever people were wanting to do- we never cared about tradition or genre very much... Then I heard this style- it appealed to me, it was accessible and approachable to me, and if I got the people together who were likeminded and also into the sound, then I could put my own sort of stamp or blueprint on the traditional form. Not copying it, but trying to add another facet to it.Now I think we're at that point where we're finally 'there'; we're clearly influenced by that genre, but we're influenced by other types of music- blues, touches of more extreme metal... We're not interested in being 'that' extreme all the time, we listen to Morbid Angel and whatever. Those influences seep into our sound- it was actually Uta's (the singer) idea to bring in harsh vocals- that was never something we had thought of doing before. Then there is also a double kick we use at times, but we keep away from doing the 'extreme' stuff all of the time...   It makes the extremity actually mean something!   Yeah, exactly! We want dynamics, and a lot of bands are so focused on being so loud, so heavy, so extreme that they lose the dynamics, the songwriting, the hooks, the audience! We want people of all ages and genders and lifestyles to enjoy our music, not because we made it sugarcoated but because we try to make it classic.   One thing that I noticed on the band's Facebook page is that you style yourselves not simply 'traditional doom' but 'traditional American doom', and that idea of describing the music as an American creation really reflects on the music. Take black metal for example; bands like Agalloch or Panopticon with their latest album seem to nail the image of the American landscape and folklore rather than the more generally peppy European variety. I get this feeling with Witch Mountain as well- it really feels as if your music draws more from the world around you. What do you think of the American form of doom metal, and how it contrasts with the European variant?   For one, I mean- this kind of music, it's gotten past the back-and-forth between continents... From early Delta Blues in America to England after the British Invasion bands with Cream and Black Sabbath, then Hendrix kinda steps in. It's not to say that we aren't lovers of music from all around the world, but the European bands are influenced by their scene and what things are like there. I notice alot more blues and rock here, and a more 'classical' sound over there in Europe, or marching influence there. We're in
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in Is there a METAL equivalent to Mogwai?
    Russian Circles, perhaps?
  • Posted more than 2 years ago in Wintersun
    Wintersun has had a pretty strange and special career. After a particularly excellent debut, they went all but silent on the recording end, to the point where the much long-awaited sequel “Time” had earned a place somewhere in between a modern legend and inside joke among metal fans. Finally seeing a release last year, “Time I” was one of my favourite records of 2012, although there were clearly some who didn’t share the same enthusiasm. Seeing the band live with Eluveitie was one of the most exciting shows I’ve been to in recent memory, and with the release of “Time II” somewhere on the horizon, I had quite a few questions to ask. A big thank you to Jari Mäenpää for taking the time to answer!How’s this recent tour been? Any interesting stories, particularly good shows?It’s been a really great tour for us. The fans really overwhelmed us. We didn´t have much expectations, ´cause it´s our first tour in the US and Canada, but from all the fan mails and Facebook comments we had a hunch it could be amazing and it sure has been. People have been waiting for a long time for us to come here, so finally we could make it happen. LA, Montreal and Quebec was particularly special, nice big venues, sold out shows and crazy audiences. We loved it!In a few words, describe your goal and aim with Wintersun. The words ‘epic’ and ‘progressive’ certainly come to mind when listening!For me it probably would be to make the perfect album whatever style that may be. I don´t like to limit myself and Wintersun into any particular style or genre. If our next album doesn´t sound anything like "Wintersun", but as long as it kicks ass, then great! I want Wintersun to be really diverse and be able to do anything. Also we want to grow as musicians and live performers and make really special shows. Maybe someday with a live orchestra even and shoot a DVD while where at it.When did you first pick up music? What were some of your musical influences growingup?There were always music around me when I was a kid. My parents listen to Elvis and Finnish schlager artists. My father also was a musician, he sang and played guitar, so I guess I´m following his footsteps. But I wasn´t that interested playing music, until I was 14 and my friend got a guitar and he was showing me these Metallica riffs. I just loved how the guitar sounded, especially the heavy crunchy tones. My dad had build me a guitar few years before, so I picked that up and started learning and I pretty much knew immediately that this is what I want to do.Suffice to say, “Time I” has received some pretty huge acclaim since it came out. What do you think of the way it’s been received by the metal community?Mostly it has been a huge success and all the comments have been very positive. Of course there´s been few criticisms about the album length and the material being too different than the debut, but that was expected. All I have to say is that there are shorter albums with less instruments and tracks and there´s never going to be another debut album. So all in all we are very happy with how people have received the album!What went into the process of writing “Time”? To my ears, it seems much moreorchestration-oriented and less riff-oriented than the debut.Yeah, that was the direction from the start. The truth is I´m a bit fallen out of love of the guitar. Maybe because I don´t have an amp at home and even if I did, I couldn´t crank it because of the neighbors. And there just isn´t that much feeling playing modelling amps with headphones. I´ve actually played the electric guitar in my home acoustically now for many years hahaha! And getting a great guitar tone is really hard without the proper studio environment. I would need my own studio to spend few months to search for that ultimate tone! So I guess my writing and arrangement interests have changed bit towards to the orchestral and synthetic instruments, ´cause I mainly compose and work with a computer at home, so the computer is almost like an new instrument for me. Also I wanted to put more focus on the vocals and the songs, rather than guitar riffs, but of course there are still very recognizable "Wintersun riffs" on the TIME albums.What was the most difficult part of recording “Time”? I hear you ran into some problemsalong the way…Definitely making the orchestrations. I didn´t have the resources to get a big computer farm which I needed to work fast with the orchestrations. I only had one computer so I had to use lot of time consuming and frustrating workarounds. There were also lot of technical problems along the way, battling with unstable software, lot of hardware breaking and so on... All that caused me also lot of stress which slowed my working rhythm as well. Also producing all the acoustic guitars, vocals and everything else was really hard without a proper studio. So it was just huge struggle.Especially given how good “Time I” was, I’m really looking forward to hearing what Time II will sound like. How do you think “Time II” compares to the first? What can fansexpect?It will be equally as epic and massive, if not even more and I´m aiming to upgrade the production to make it sound even bigger. There´s gonna some "fast stuff" and shredding (7 guitar solos), so all those metal heads and guitar w**kers that have been asking for those are going to be pleased. The songs are very individual and different from each other, there´s a big contrast within the songs and I´m sure some of the stuff will be a huge surprise to many people.Looking back on the debut, how do you think it holds up now that it’s even more ambitious sequel


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