Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Review: Grimind - Escaped From Life (2004)

Grimind [ MySpace | Facebook ]
Escaped From Life

Like Italian symphonic power metal, atmospheric Gothic metal/rock has spawned innumerable bands over the past couple of years. For fans of this style of metal, of which I myself am one, such an influx of talent is nothing less than a boon. It is true that a certain degree of dilution comes with such a concentration of bands vying to contribute to the genre, but there are those who rise above the tide and further the genre through some unique adaptation or prowess. Switzerland's Grimind possess the aptitude to be one of those who rise above, a capability I found to be clearly evident on their third demo Escaped From Life.

Grimind's music can be most accurately described as atmospheric Goth rock with a heavy degree of melancholy, both in the melodies and lyrical content. Mainman David Agócs sings in a clean voice, full of longing, infusing a sense of sadness into the songs. Besides his vocal duties, David applies an equal amount of talent to the rhythm and bass guitars. A prominent component of the band's sound is the keyboard element, played masterfully by drummer (and main songwriter) Matthieu Cachemaille. He grasps the concept of using the keys sparingly enough to not overwhelm the composition, yet create a lush atmosphere that is wholly complimentary to the voice of Agócs and the guitar melodies of Arnaud Nicod-Clément. The appropriately titled first track is devoted entirely to the ethereal mood that Matthieu is capable of weaving.

I found "Pain and Emotion" to be the track on which the band displays their full potential. Matthieu's piano passages offer a glimpse of sadness, further enhanced by David's vocals, that is carried to a higher level by a crunchy theme riff from Arnaud. From this point, aside from expressive guitar leads and continued keyboard experimentation (particularly on "Deliverance"), Grimind settle into a pattern of predictability that tends to overshadow their wealth of ability. This is not to say that Escaped From Life is a subpar album, however. On the contrary, this MCD is fully worthy of taking a place aside the releases of the leaders of the genre. In order to excel and to extend their reach beyond the multitude of bands offering similar material, Grimind will have to continue leveraging their atmospheric abilities while also giving added weight to their six-string power. To this end, Matthieu shows that he is already well on his way to creating exquisite piano/keyboard accompaniments, an element that few bands master.

Before wrapping up this review, I think it appropriate to mention that the final track on Escaped From Life is a cover of "In Your Room" from Depeche Mode, indicating to the casual listener from where Grimind draws influence. Quite true to the original, particularly where the vocals are concerned, Grimind add just enough of their own identity to give the song quite a new lease on life.

So in the end, Escaped From Life is a quality MCD of atmospheric Goth rock, perhaps quite radio-friendly as well, that marks Grimind as a band that fans of the genre should seek out and be on the watch for.

Track Listing
1 Atmospheric Sensation (Intro) 2:02
2 Pain and Emotion 3:43
3 Silence Still Remains 3:37
4 Deliverance 3:49
5 Limbus 3:47
6 In Your Room 4:08

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Sunday, December 26, 2004

Review: Septer - Transgressor (2003)

Septer [ Website | MySpace ]
Pulse Records

Septer's debut album Transgressor is a superb example of American power metal, similar to bands such as Cage and Jag Panzer, infused with a traditional '80s metal sound. Originally forming in the mid-'90s, the band's creative output would not see the light of day until this 2003 release. From start to finish, Septer reach for the jugular and never let go.

The two aspects which make Septer a true contender in the world of metal are the killer vocals of Kevin Truell and the twin guitar fretwork of Orest "Hawk" Dziatyk and Paul Dailey. Kevin's growling style reminds me a lot of Biff Byford (Saxon) at times, though he also possesses an unwavering ability to reach the highest wails in a very Halford-esque manner. His execution of the chorus on "Blood and Dishonor" is flawless, giving that track staying power as one of the highlights of Transgressor. While Kevin adds depth with his range and ability, Hawk and Dailey put together some fantastic leads and solos to give every track on the album a uniqueness that keeps the listening experience from ever going stale. Again, I point to "Blood and Dishonor" to illustrate the skill of both guitarists with the solo. Lightning quick, yet expressive.

While the majority of the album flies in your face with speed and aggression, Septer doesn't fail to calm the torrent - if but only briefly. "You Better Believe" follows the assault of "Blood and Dishonor" with passionate vocals from Kevin, a steady grooving riff, and yet another emotional solo from Hawk. To further add to the atmosphere, there is a Spanish element to the final guitar solo that occurs immediately following a bit of a keyboard interlude.

Transgressor is an album of highlights, to be sure. Besides the skills already mentioned, drummer Jeff Kmiec does an excellent job behind the kit as he weaves together both simple beats and complex rhythm patterns. To complete the package, the production is excellent and the artwork top-notch. Having sung praise thus far, I must point out two specific instances where I found the band to be at their weakest. The first finds Kevin as being uncharacteristically weak on "Slipping Away", sounding forced and very uncomfortable. The final quip I have with Transgressor actually comes on the lead-off track "Die By The Axe". For the most part an excellent track, there are a few attempts at introducing progressive elements to the song which serve only to give the impression of being disjointed and out-of-place.

As the band readies their sophomore album, Kevin has been replaced by Dane McCartney. Not having heard Dane, I can only wonder what impact he will have on the sound of Septer.

Track Listing
1Die By the Axe4:27
3Blood and Dishonor5:33
4You Better Believe5:33
7Slipping Away4:01
8Last Days3:27

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