Capsule Reviews II
So I did a couple of miniature re-reviews of what I was listening to in 2010 almost a year ago. I figured that doing something similar for 2011 might be interesting. I’d say that 2011 showed off a more focused, coherent version of Invisible Blog with snappier writing – a more serious attempt at the whole blargosphere thing. Furthermore, between stuff like Bal-Sagoth, Gargoyle, and Septicflesh, I discovered quite a lot of good music. But what holds up?
- Bal-Sagoth – A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria (1994): In fact, Bal-Sagoth quickly became one of my favorite bands after I gave their debut a listen. It is definitely darker and nastier than anything they’ve put out (with the possible exception of The Cthonic Chronicles), which makes good counterpoint to the sometimes rather goofy moments on their other albums. Remember that time Lord Byron got enchanted by sylphs?
- Therion – Vovin (1998): Having been ultimately very disappointed with Theli, I found it quite impressive how much Therion improved within the course of one album. While there weren’t very many stylistic changes and things are even poppier than they were on the previous album, Vovin executes a lot of the symphonic metal tropes in more interesting and creative ways than its predecessor.
- Devin Townsend – Physicist (2000): This is a weird one. After all, it has more overt pop in its DNA than Devin’s previous two solo albums while having a production closer to his work with Strapping Young Lad. It has a couple of artist-definingly strong tracks like “Kingdom” and “The Complex”, but the others aren’t particularly memorable or interesting.
- Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind (1983): Actually, this is the sound of Iron Maiden settling into a formula. Sort of. The thing is that the earliest Bruce Dickinson albums were something of a period of transition for Iron Maiden, and Piece of Mind is at least somewhat transitional. The band does a better job of writing epics on their next two albums, and was better at concise, punchy songs back in the Di’Anno days.
- Septicflesh – Ophidian Wheel (1997): While it does enhance the multi-vocalist techniques we saw on some of Septicflesh’s earlier materials, Ophidian Wheel is a step down in atmosphere and songwriting. Some of its tracks would probably feel better if given a Revolution DNA style makeover; they’d certainly sound poppier, although that’s not really saying much.
- Absu – Tara (2001): Tara sacrifices some of the relative accessibility of its predecessor for added technicality and song complexity. My preferences within the “Celtic” era of Absu are kind of arbitrary – sometimes I want what Tara provides, sometimes I don’t. Either way, they’re not THAT different, although Tara sounds more overtly like an old speed-thrash album at times.
- Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus (2011): I remember the firestorm this album unleashed with its stylistic decisions. Honestly, it’s not very good at being “industrial death metal” or whatever they sought, but (and this is a big but; I can not lie), I still give its more ridiculous tracks a spin occasionally. Personally, I was expecting to give this album a 0% rating when I reviewed it, but that didn’t end up being the case.
- Susumu Hirasawa – Vistoron (2004): There was a time when I obsessed over musicians for months at a time – Hirasawa had his turn, but that was long over by the time I started this blog. I’m still attuned, though – compared to most of his solo works, Vistoron adds in a lot of pure electronica elements that I’ve learned to appreciate and understand better in recent years.
- Arcturus – La Masquerade Infernale (1997): When I was deciding what to put in this capsule, I realized that Infester was not the first band I gave the “Raocow” treatment. This isn’t all that compelling to my current ear/brain complex. Put it on and I’ll tell you how it’s a work of obvious skill and merit, but how often do I actually seek out its signature sound? It could just be a case of burnout, since I do lose interest in even the most excellent music I listen to.
- Emperor – Prometheus: The Discipline of Fire and Demise (2001): Back in the day, I said this album was “…very hard to write about in an intelligent fashion,” but I think I was able to figure out why things sounded the way they did. Nowadays, I’d say whether it’s worth your time is more of a style preference thing – if you enjoy Ihsahn’s solo work and perhaps want a more aggressive version of the style it employs, devour this album. But most of what I listen to executes its genre of choice at least somewhat successfully…
The lesson here, perhaps, is that by 2011 I had a better grasp on what sort of music I liked than I did in years past. Looking back, I tend to be more positive about the albums I wrote about, with less time spent infatuating over works I would ultimately ignore or reject. For better or worse, this has narrowed my criteria for both listening to music and writing about it on this blog.