Saturday, September 27, 2003

Review: Divine Lust - Divine Lust (2002)

Divine Lust [ Website | MySpace | Facebook ]
Divine Lust

Divine Lust is a band firmly entrenched in the Gothic Doom genre of metal, as evidenced by their self-titled, self-financed debut album. Being from Portugal, the immediate assumption that they would deliver a sound similar to fellow countrymen Moonspell is not unwarranted. Be that as it may, Divine Lust strive to carve out their own identity while paying tribute to their influences - the aforementioned Moonspell, Type O Negative, Einherjer and My Dying Bride just to name a few.

The opening track, "Again", displays what Divine Lust is musically all about - heavy but effective use of keyboards; meaty and melodic riffing; complex drumming; mixed-tempo song structure. It's not until the second track, "Alone In The Dark", that we're fully introduced to the varied vocal stylings of Filipe Gonçalves. His primary deliver style is one of a deep vampiric baritone, though it's nowhere as deep as Peter Steele of Type O Negative or Erik Molarin of Beseech and in fact seems a bit forced and unnatural. Felipe also recites the lyrics in a gurgling death growl, a style which he is more than competent, and an upper-range falsetto - which doesn't work for him at all. The most common cause of failure for bands is a singer who, for any number of reasons, doesn't necessarily make the grade. After first listening to "Alone In The Dark", I was beginning to think that Divine Lust would suffer this very common fate. Then "Morrigan" glided from my speakers. With an opening more than vaguely resembling Judas Priest's "Turbo Lover" and an up-tempo riff that is simple but catchy, Felipe gives the song life with a voice that is much more polished and natural than he displayed on the previous number. Although the rhythm is mostly incomplex, drummer João Costa lays down a memorable piano accompaniment (he tracked the keyboards in addition to his duty behind the kit) that is prominent throughout the song. Felipe even steps up to deliver a guitar solo that is facile yet fits perfectly with the overall unpretentiousness of the song. The plainly named "V" is not a song at all, but a recitation of a portion of the fifth passage of an epic work by the Portuguese Renaissance poet Luíz Vaz de Camões called "Os Lusíadas" given by Felipe in his native language. Another highlight of the album is "Goddess Night", once again comprised of distorted riffs, lush keyboards, and a memorable piano accompaniment. Felipe combines his clean baritone with an occasional harsh interlude, both used effectively in conveying the mood of the song. While "Morrigan" is my favorite song on the album, the final track "Divine Lust" is a close runner-up. Starting off with distraught keys, pummeling double-bass, haunting female vocals and ominous riffing, a sinister mood is set just as the song slows and Felipe uses his fluid baritone to deliver the words of devilish lust. Depicting a scene that could be right out of Dante's "Inferno", Divine Lust displays their greatest potential by taking on a very epic and darkly progressive feel.

Aside from the questionable voice of Felipe in the very early stages of the album, the only issue I had was with the rather flat production. Being entirely self-financed, this comes as no surprise and doesn't detract enough from the overall quality of the record to warrant concern. As the band gains more experience and, hopefully, signs to a label I expect we'll be treated to a much tighter and fuller sophomore release. Fans of the Gothic Doom and melancholic styles of metal should drop by the bands website and check them out. Divine Lust is certainly a rising star of the genre.

Track Listing
1 Again
2 Alone in the Dark
3 Morrigan
4 Where Only The Weak Survive
5 V
6 Goddess Night
7 Your Cruel Thirst
8 Embrace
9 Scarlet Room of Passion
10 Divine Lust

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Monday, September 22, 2003

Review: Catch 22 - Awaken (2003)

Catch 22 [ Website | MySpace ]
Molten Metal

Looking for a solid album of in-your-face, no-bullshit American power metal? Do bands like Iced Earth and Jag Panzer get your headbanging juices flowing? Then get off your ass and buy a copy of Awaken, Catch 22's third release. Bursting forth from Marietta, Ohio, this four-piece has packaged thirteen raw and powerful tunes together in an album that warrants a position in Harvest Moon's Top 10 Albums of 2003.

Aside from the ferocious rhythm section, chugging riffs, and soaring leads, what impresses me most about Awaken is the intelligent songwriting of mainman & guitarist T.J. Berry. Whether the subject matter is government corruption or the rising tide of metal, Berry pens lyrics that are well-crafted and thoughtful. His vocal delivery is no less impressive with a style that fits perfectly with the music - aggressive, hard-edged, and strong.

Awaken kicks off in a powerful way with "Betrayal of the Masses", a call to arms to change the status quo of government corruption. T.J. growls the lyrics with stirring conviction and delivers a searing guitar solo. In addition to T.J.'s vocals and leads, the song is powered by the memorable riffing of D. Hall and Andy Brookhart's complex drumming. "Form" follows right on the first track's heels and delivers again in a big way. While not as memorable, the chugging riffs are powerful and call out for some serious headbanging. Religious (Christian) corruption is the subject of this song, with the well-crafted lyrics snarled with genuine emotion. T.J. throws in a couple of soaring leads and solos for good measure, making "Form" one of the many highlights of the album. Catch 22's showcase song is "Into the Black". Berry presents his introspective lyrics with his remarkable strength of conviction while transcending the multi-ranged ability of his voice. From snarls to screams, you can literally feel what he's singing. Musically, the song contains many time changes and altered moods yet they're so well-blended and balanced that the song can truly be considered a master composition. Elements of Sabbath-y doom and Dream Theater prog bubble to the surface at points throughout the song (Bassist Mike Allen stands out here with some really ominous bass lines), but the hard-edged aggression that is Catch 22's signature style remains the constant.

With Awaken, Catch 22 have declared that they're ready for a breakthrough to the elite ranks of the American power metal scene. They have the talent, the energy, the drive, and (most importantly) the songwriting ability to hold their own with the likes of Iced Earth and Jag Panzer.

Track Listing
1 Betrayal of the Masses
2 Form
3 Damaged
4 The Suffering
5 Into The Black
6 Blood on the Bricks
7 Awaken
8 Lost
9 Wicked from the Womb
10 Underneath
11 ...As Twilight Descends
12 The Otherside
13 Face Your Fate (The Calling)

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