Release Date: 02/10/04
How an album of this quality has flown so far under the radar is simply astonishing. Speaking of astonishing, the musicality of this record is downright impeccable. There are few, and I do mean few, bands who can play as technical of music while still being able to write even halfway decent vocal melodies, never mind the truly top-notch vocal melodies (and harmonies!) contained herein. Fun bit of trivia: this happens to be the second album I’ve reviewed where I discovered the band on Fuse’s Uranium (“Severe Emotional Distress” from the 2006 follow-up album The Scattering of Ashes, was the song/video). The Seriously Underrated Series is where I get to unashamedly gush about a release, so here goes. I apologize for the seemingly hyperbolic nature of the forthcoming review.
From the winding opening dual-guitar leads of “Splintered Visions” you know you’re going to be in for a hell of a ride. Quickly shifting and dropping tempos and vocal styles on a dime is this bands trademark, and it is perfectly displayed on this album. This album consists of some gloriously intense mix of progressive metal, melodic death metal, thrash metal, a breakdown here and there, high screams, low screams, and power metal vocals. Even though they keep it turned up up to 11, shifting rhythm’s and tempos with crazy technically impressive musical passages, they still manage to insert catchy vocal parts, which is perhaps the most impressive feat here. Though making me love an album this much that features such a heavy dose of power metal vocals is another special feat by itself.
“Embraced by Desolation” keeps the same elements as the previous track in the mix, with again, this great, big chorus wondrously inserted between the sonic chaos surrounding it. This one leans a little more on the thrash side of things though to impressive effect. Again, the musicianship is simply top-notch here. Part of the thing that makes the vocals so impressive here, as well as throughout the album, are the very tasteful and well done vocal harmonies. The performances all around, just great stuff.
“3-D Aperture” has some of my favorite vocal melodies on the record, and the whole opening of this song is just freaking awesome: switching between emotive, then aggressive, then thrash-y, before some flashy guitar leads and going into a fantastic chorus, which is a variation on the intro part – some great songwriting there. The clean guitar part that follows this for a few seconds is also a neat touch. This is one of those rare albums where with every change that occurs you can’t help but think “wow, that was a good idea.” Considering each song has so many parts, it’s truly impressive how many good decisions this adds up to.
“Beginning of the End” kicks off with a break down, a well-placed change of pace, before going into archetypal melodic death metal territory, before laying on an Iron Maiden-esque chorus, replete with a chills-inducing vocal harmony. When the break down comes back in with the clean vocals over it… oh man. Again, those good decisions!
“Point of Uncertainty” features another great chorus. The heaviness that comes in about halfway through the first chorus refrain makes for some interesting dynamics. The verses are thrash-y, then after the second verse – a super neat, high-register dual-harmonized guitar lead comes in with some really interesting drum patterns before heading into a sick break down and back to another thrash-tastic verse. The end of the track is also super neat here.
“Spiraling Into Depression” starts off with some breathing room, letting simple power chords linger a bit longer than usual before getting into some choppier rhythm’s followed by another thrash part. This is the bands most popular song according to Tidal and third place on Spotify’s play counts, so I suppose that counts for something. It’s kind of a crapshoot trying to highlight certain tracks, considering the incredibly high baseline quality of this album. There’s not a skippable moment on this album.
“Isolation” plays much like the rest here – great vocal melodies and harmonies, variety of vocal approaches, and switching on a dime between thrash metal and melodic death metal, while mostly using power metal vocals and featuring so many parts that it’s basically a progressive metal track. The vocal line “memories of isolation” is bound to get stuck in your head. If you’ve heard this album, probably just reading that line is making you say “damn you” to me. The instrumental interlude that leads into several distinct musical passages that starts a little before halfway into the track are all super neat.
Next up is another rarity: there are two ballads on this album “Buried in Oblivion” and “Morose Seclusion”, and they’re really damn good! It’s like this band took every lesson from about 1983 through this release in 2004 and applied it as a Master’s Thesis in metal history.
Before the album closes out with the second ballad “Morose Seclusion” though, is one more rager – “Black Sea of Agony”, which is another superb track, which you’ve hopefully come to expect by this point.
This is the best metal album you’ve probably never heard. If you’re not a fan of metal, I don’t think there’s much here for you, but this album should not be looked over by any even casual metal fan.
Highlights: “Splintered Visions”, “3-D Aperture”, “Beginning of the End”, “Point of Uncertainty”,