I write reviews for musical albums. My main genre is metal, but I will probably do some hard rock as well. Any reviews other than the two most recent are shown on the right hand side under the "Blog Archive" tab. Thanks for reading!

Friday, March 30, 2012

Eluveitie- Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion

Source: Wikipedia
Album:  “Evocation I:  The Arcane Dominion”

Artist:  Eluveitie

Year:  2009

Score:  80/100

“An Interesting Acoustic Folk Metal Release”

If I was pressured to summarize “Evocation I” in just a few words, I would say that it’s a poppy acoustic folk metal album.  I highlight the metal part of this description, because this is essentially a collection of brief folk metal songs played acoustically.  Songs like “Brictom” and “Omnos” would’ve been great on any other Eluveitie album, had they been enhanced with the usual electric guitars.  In fact, I’m pretty sure there’s a metal version of “Omnos” that the band recorded.  With all of this being said, it is important to recognize that this is an acoustic album.  For this reason, I have scored it very objectively.  It is definitely a good album for what it is, but it’s not something I’ll listen to frequently because of its lack of metallic elements.  Nevertheless, I do enjoy it when I give it a listen.

There’s not much to speak of instrumentally.  The traditional folk instruments are the primary sounds that grace the album.  Because of this, the melodies are amongst the most enchanting the band has ever done.  The guitars, when used, are generally acoustic.  They are most often limited to strumming basic chords.  The main function of the guitars is seemingly to add a little extra punch to the music.  There’s a small acoustic solo at the end of “Voveso in Mori”, and it’s a very refreshing change from the folk instruments in the rest of the songs.

In terms of the actual songs, there are hits and misses.  Some of them are full length songs with clearly defined structures, while others are merely short instrumentals.  Ten of the fifteen songs are under four minutes, and five of these are under three minutes.  Most of the vocals are done by Anna Murphy, which is a strong departure from Eluveitie’s characteristic growls.  There are still a few grunts scattered about the songs, which is interesting considering the acoustic music.  Additionally, the female vocals are unconventional in some places which adds to the feeling of the music.  The lyrics are nearly entirely in Gaulish, a dead language.  I have always loved the Eluveitie songs done in Gaulish, as it is a beautiful sounding language.  One issue that is oftentimes present on Eluveitie albums is that the songs do blur together after a while.  On “Evocation I”, this is not too prominent; however, I still feel that it’s worth mentioning.

I can’t exactly pinpoint a favorite song, though I’d probably say “Brictom” if I was asked.  The song has many hypnotic folk melodies and some of the most prominent guitar portions on the album.  I also enjoy the layered vocals during the chorus.  It is quite simple and poppy, but it does its job very well.  If the band ever redid this as a metal song, I would be eager to hear it.  “Omnos” is the big hit of the album, and it’s much like “Brictom”.  However, it lacks the darker feel of that song and it’s much more mainstream sounding.  I believe “Omnos” was originally intended to be a metal song, and there’s a version in which the song has heavy guitars and a few growls.  “Carnutian Forest” is a beautiful instrumental piece (there’s singing towards the end, but it’s mostly instrumental).  There’s some whispering in the background of the song, which really adds to the mood.  It’s one of the better songs, for sure.  “Dessumiis Luge” is one of the most haunting songs on the album. The vocals are creepy as well as the aggressive nature of the music.  The opening song, “Sacrapos- At First Glance” has some of the strangest narrations I’ve ever heard in a song.  “The Arcane Dominion” is another notable song, as it features both harsh and clean vocals.  It’s also the longest on the album.  “The Cauldron of Renascence” is also very good for what it is.  It’s quite happy sounding, reminding me almost of a Korpiklaani instrumental.  “Voveso in Mori” is the song that oddly sounds most like a ballad.  The guitar solo is beautiful, though a little generic.  I think it’s one of the key songs of the album, though not necessarily one of the best.

Overall, “Evocation I: The Arcane Dominion” is a good release when one looks at what the purpose of the album was.  People expecting crushing guitars and growls will not enjoy this.  Structurally, many of the songs would have done well with guitars and other instrumentation but they do work well in acoustic form.  For these reasons I would only recommend “Evocation I” to die-hard Eluveitie fans.  My score of 80/100 is mainly objective, as the album is not the most enjoyable to me but I cannot deny that it is a solid release.  In terms of effort and songwriting, it sits right in the middle of Eluveitie’s discography.  It can get monotonous at times, but it listens fairly well throughout the course of the album.

Thanks for reading!  Comments are always appreciated!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Nightwish- Oceanborn

Album: Oceanborn

Source: Wikipedia
 Artist: Nightwish

 Year: 1998

 Score: 100/100

 “One of My All Time Favorites

 Nightwish… most people either love or hate them. I’m really a huge fan of their first three releases, and I enjoy everything else up until the singer change (although my dislike for their more recent releases has little to do with the vocalist). “Oceanborn” is their masterpiece. In all seriousness, I believe this will be considered a metal classic one day. It’s not for everyone, and I’ve come across many people who hate this album. Nevertheless, “Oceanborn” deserves every word of praise I can give it.

 If I had to label the album with a genre, it would fit the best as a power metal album. However, it is much deeper and almost darker than other albums of that genre. There’s a great atmosphere to be found here; something I would describe as celestial and majestic. At the same time, “Oceanborn” is also a surprisingly relaxing album. The songs, while diverse, all fit together when the album is listened to in its entirety. This is exactly how I like my favorite albums. The songs do not all sound the same, but they are chained together by a similar feeling. “Oceanborn” is best experienced as a full album, but the songs are great by themselves.

Instrumentally, I have no complaints. Perhaps there could’ve been less keyboard solos (and more guitar solos) or a louder bass line, but I hardly notice this when listening to the album. This is not an album where one should expect complete technical mastery, and it’s not meant to be. The appeal is mostly in the songwriting and the atmosphere. Nevertheless, “Oceanborn” is the Nightwish album where the guitars shine the most. There are more solos and riffs thrown in than on their other work, and the guitars are also louder in the mix to counter the keyboards. Vocally, I believe this is Tarja Turunen’s best work. Her voice sounds both more youthful and heavy (more metal) than it would on later releases. I also enjoy the occasional harsh male vocals. They are not overused and they complement the female vocals very well. There are not many true symphonic elements to “Oceanborn”, as the songs get their dramatic feeling from the keys and guitars. Speaking of the keyboards, they are fairly enjoyable. They work best when dueling with the guitar (“Sacrament of Wilderness”) and when providing an atmospheric backdrop (“Passion and the Opera”). The drums are done well. There are some good fills and double bass passages found throughout the songs, but they are not very flashy. The bass is not exactly bad, but it is very low in the mix. Sadly, it does not play much of a role in the album.

Perhaps the most known non-ballad song on “Oceanborn” is “Sacrament of Wilderness”. It’s still performed live very often, and deserves its place as one of the best. I love the aforementioned dueling guitar and keyboard between the verses. Despite all of this, there are songs that I think are even better. “Stargazers” is the opening track and maybe the most reminiscent of conventional power metal. It’s a faster song, with a great middle section. Even though “Passion and the Opera” was released as a single, it is one of the lesser known Nightwish songs out there. There’s also the small detail that it’s my favorite Nightwish song of all time. In fact, there is little to justify this title. The song’s main riff reminds me a lot of 80s speed metal; it’s fairly aggressive for Nightwish standards. The vocal melodies are quite beautiful, and they give a great surreal feeling to the song. “Gethsemane” is one of the most melodic songs from the album. It’s a bit slower, and features a brilliant chorus. There’s a small keyboard part towards the middle that reminds me of “Beauty and the Beast” from Nightwish’s first album. “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” is the most aggressive track on the album. It features many great guitar riffs as well as good performances from both vocalists. In addition to being the most aggressive, “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean” is one of the most dramatic tracks on the album. It fits quite a bit of structural shifts into a mere five minutes. “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion” is another dramatic song, with many brilliant individual pieces and two vocalists. It’s also structurally challenging, but it does have a chorus that repeats at the end of the song. “Moondance” is a cool instrumental that retains some of the folk influence found on the band’s debut. It’s both calming and upbeat at the same time. “The Riddler” is the ‘poppy’ song from the album, but it’s still very good. The chorus is beautiful. “Swanheart” is one of the best ballads from the band, and it’s the best of the three ballads presented on the release. “Sleeping Sun” is one of the weaker tracks, but it’s one of the most famous from the band. The original version found here is much better than the 2005 rerecorded version. “Walking in the Air” starts off slow, but builds into a great metal song. “Nightquest” is a bonus track found on the commonly sold reissue, and it is actually one of the best Nightwish songs out there. Even though it wasn’t on the original release, it still fits in well.

 The Nightwish fan in me recommends “Oceanborn” to everyone who has ears, but I realize that not everyone will enjoy this album. For those metalheads who can tolerate operatic female vocals, “Oceanborn” will surely be a worthwhile listen. However, I avoided Nightwish for too long because I'm honestly not too keen on opera singing. Give “Passion and the Opera” and “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion” a try, because they both deserve a listen. Power and speed metal fans with open minds should enjoy this, as well as anyone into the female-fronted metal genre. I am obviously a huge fan of “Oceanborn”, and it’s up there with “Tales From the Thousand Lakes” and “Somewhere in Time” as one of my all time favorite albums.

 Thanks for reading! Be sure to leave a comment, as it’s my favorite album that I’ve reviewed thus far!

Best songs: “Stargazers”, “Gethsemane”, “Devil and the Deep Dark Ocean”, “Sacrament of Wilderness”, “Passion and the Opera”, “Moondance”, “The Riddler”, “The Pharaoh Sails to Orion”, and “Nightquest”.