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Friday, November 09, 2012

Two head-bangers and a head-tripper

Only a new book from an author I love is better than a new CD from a favorite band...and October saw three new releases from some of my faves! Though The Haunted Man and Apocryphon have been out since October 22, I've been sitting on thoughts about those two so I could put all my new music feels into one big post once Silverthorn arrived. And it finally did, and oh, was it worth the wait? Yes, it was. More on that in a moment; Bat for Lashes comes first. 

Now it had been three years since the release of Two Suns, and like most other fans I was on pins and needles for The Haunted Man. It doesn't disappoint--perhaps less mystical than its predecessors and more stripped down, Bat for Lashes' third record is as charming, strange, intimate, and charismatic as a devotee could hope. The first single, "Laura," is a heartfelt tale of doomed stardom, while "Lilies" is a track bursting with vitality (and one I can't wait to add to my springtime playlist) and "Marilyn"'s eerie background chatter harks back to "Bat's Mouth" from Fur and Gold. Like a Bat for Lashes album should be, The Haunted Man is a subtly demanding listening experience, not background music by any stretch, and a raw, rewarding album for old and new fans alike.

First Favorite: "Winter Fields." It's not overstating things to say that I am obsessed with this song, especially now as winter approaches the Cleve. According to iTunes, I have listened to the entire album four times and "Winter Fields" thirteen times since obtaining it on October 29th. Oops?

The Sword's latest release, Apocryphon, is a similarly powerful effort, one which combines the flavors of Age of Winters, Gods of the Earth, and Warp Riders to great effect. Mythology, references to science fiction, and riffs on fantasy tropes are all present, making for a melting pot of speculative, introspective storytelling via crunchy guitars and thrumming bass. The record features no instrumental tracks, a first for The Sword, and is perhaps less "finished" sounding than Warp Riders--but for a group like this, who are most fundamentally a live act, that isn't a bad thing. A few new elements appear on Apocryphon, most notably some trippy synth on "Dying Earth," and "Eyes of the Stormwitch" and "The Hidden Masters" have a pleasantly Western-twangy tinge...fitting, as the band hails from Texas. The Sword's original drummer, Trivett Wingo, left during the Warp Riders tour due to exhaustion and anxiety issues, and new rhythm fanatic Jimmy Vela III is shutting it down--I especially enjoy the feisty drum work on "Hawks and Serpents." I'm really looking forward to hearing this new material performed when The Sword come to rock Cleveland this evening!

First Favorite: I loved "Eyes of the Stormwitch" before I even heard it (who can resist that title?) and even more now that I've had it on repeat. PS: if you'd like to know more about the album artwork, check out my related post on Between the Panels.

Kamelot, as mentioned here previously, has recently gone through a lineup change, and Silverthorn is new singer Tommy Karevik's album debut with the band. This record had been teased as a "return to form," and indeed, compared to the proggy, doomy Poetry for the Poisoned, Silverthorn has more in common with earlier albums such as Epica. Karevik's vocals are part of this; as Khan's voice aged a bit, it took on a grittier edge than had been present during his fresh-out-of-opera-school days--which was appealing and added new layers to the music (for my money)--and the choirboy cleanness of Karevik's voice fits well with the symphonic musicianship and goth undertones of the new album. Silverthorn is nothing if not a production, in every sense: impeccable sound-mixing, extravagant instrumental pieces, guest vocals galore (including my favorite death metal queen Alissa White-Gluz, Elize Ryd, and Sascha Paeth), and a concept that extends to a full-color story booklet that came with the limited edition CD. As with any new album, particularly one showcasing a new vocal talent, it'll take a few listens before Silverthorn sinks into my brain, but it's certainly living up to the hype.

First Favorite: Like everyone else with ears, "Veritas" is my most-listened track off Silverthorn so far...especially after seeing this.

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