s.r. prozak / musical morass
Macabre 'Sinister Slaughter' - Infested since its inception with the
fascination with the obscure, morose, morbid, and gruesome, grindcore
progressed into a less elemental and more intricate genre with bands
like Macabre. With this offshoot of the genre, grindcore becomes tight
and compact, losing its characteristic loose, muddy, abrasive sound.
Yet still it grates -- not as much in the musical assault sense, but in
the phenomenon of structured musical power in conflict, producing
frighteningly apt short blasts of grind. Macabre structure their album
around 21 serial killers, with a lyrical fairy tale matching each. Sung
in goofy variations on classic grindcore howl and growl, each song
remains distinct, with touches such as non-distorted guitar intros and a
cappella parts adding even more variation. Potentially Macabre are the
most apt musicians in their genre, playing stuff easily as heavy as any
other band with effortless technical prowess.
Cynic 'Focus' - A great album and a great disappointment. Cynic, whose
release was easily the most anticipated in death metal, earned their
fame by playing progressive death metal on their own and for other
leading acts. On their first album, Cynic produce the incredibly
technical music all anticipated, but without the progression to a newer
form of metal most hoped for: as the leading musicians of a genre, Cynic
were hoped to bring modern metal from the clone-slump that has embogged
death and speed metal. Instead, what one ends up with is almost a
composite, although a little more integrated: one part death metal, one
part jazz-fusion, and one part progressive. With incredible tempo
changes, difficult guitar work and incredible bass precision, Cynic have
proven they can play, but seem to have fallen prey to that traditional
hangup of progressive metal bands instead of concentrating on bringing
the music beyond what could have been extrapolated from listening to the
top five current acts. Not to denigrate this release -- this album is
excellent listening, with plenty of complexity for discerning (and
perhaps bored with crunch-crunch-smash death metal) listeners.
Therion 'Beyond Sanctorum' - Since Swedish death metal exploded into a
large portion of the market some years ago, a common complaint has been
that all Swedish bands sound very...Swedish, that they have stereotyped
themselves. Therion have held out as one of the most unique acts, with
"Of Darkness...", their other US release, being distinguishable from
related acts. "Beyond Sanctorum" takes the musical vision on "Of
Darkness..." -- a dense darkness in art, coupled with the
environmental/political conscience of their lyrics -- and expands it on
this fantasy epic relying partially on the creations of H.P. Lovecraft.
In that sense it is not unique -- thousands of metal bands have done
Lovecraftian songs -- but Therion place it into a complex story of an
album. Rich with quirkiness and unexpected intricacy, "Beyond
Sanctorum" takes a listen or two to get into, and then furnishes the
listener with hours more of in-depth listening.
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