I’m still trying to clean up releases from last year in my review queue, so I will have a couple triple features coming in order to do that. This time I’m covering a few releases that have bright moments, but I just don’t have much to say about them (or maybe I do). Read on to discover three very different projects, ranging from progressive electronic to progressive metal to prog rock.
Leading off this Triple Feature is a German artist that goes by the name Level Pi. His true name is Uwe Cremer, and he plays a lush version of progressive electronic, krautrock, and art rock. His fifth studio album released late last year, called “Elektronische Philosophie” (Electronic Philosophy), and the record in many ways stays true to that title.
Uwe’s music is beautiful, to say the least. I love ambient electronic music, and he has created a steady sound here with plenty of crazy little accents and dreamy guitars. The core of the music is a plodding, consistent beat with merging layers of melody and texture. His songs grow and evolve with layer after layer being added, though I would never call anything he makes “climactic” in presentation.
I rather enjoy this album, especially the opener “Nachtfahrt” (Night Drive) for its mysterious style, “Don Quijotes Gehirn” (Don Quixote’s Brain) for its darkness and fantastic second half, and the closer “Durch die Jahrzehnte” (Through the Decades) for its methodical approach and gorgeous ending. My favorite is the title track, though, which I think has the most memorable electronic loop and a fantastic beat and synth line that filter into the song righteously.
I do think some of the songs are a bit unnecessary to the album, and I especially think that the 14-minute “Die lange Reise” (The Long Journey) is way too long for its own good; it stumbles along without much progression or change taking place, and it ends up feeling like filler after a while. Perhaps that is the point, to make you feel weary. Still, the album is solid, and I know I will keep listening going forward.
Back in 2017, a project headed by Norway’s Håvard Lunde produced a debut album called “Entity”, a noble effort that had potential written into its very blood. In late 2020, he released a follow-up called “Entity II: Echoes from a Cognitive Dystopia”, and I wasn’t able to work it into my schedule of reviews. My concern with this project, however, is the reliance on that “prog” sound, something that can end up feeling insincere if taken too far.
This album has 4 songs with almost 40 minutes of music. I’m not entirely sure what the lineup here is, but Håvard seems to play everything himself. The debut had a huge list of guests, and I assume the same here, especially multiple vocalists. Anyways, the music is progressive metal, but this time with more influence from death metal woven into the mix. The guitars are fairly brutal at times, and the keys are possibly the strongest aspect of the record. The music does sound suitably epic and mighty, and there are several instrumentals strewn throughout which sound absolutely divine, such as the keyboard-soaked moments in the middle of “In the Mourning Hours”.
But, unfortunately, I just haven’t been able to connect with this release. There is a glaring lack of hooks and great vocal lines, and even many of the instrumentals end just when they are getting good. It’s almost like a lack of balance and self-editing to some degree, wherein the best aspects of the sound are buried and the lackluster parts are elongated. The technical level feels higher than on the first record, too, but almost for no reason. The songs, too, really blend together to the point where I cannot pinpoint a favorite or even a least favorite. There’s simply nothing here that stands out in any way.
I almost get the feeling like this was meant to impressive prog nerds everywhere, and maybe it will. For me, it lacks presence, balance, and musicality. It isn’t a “bad” release, necessarily, just an uninteresting one that relies too much on prog clichés and showy musicianship. There is a segment of the progressive community that likes such things, however, and I feel they will appreciate this release.
Let it be known that I am only reviewing this album because I said I would late last year. I’ve been putting off this album, continually moving the review date. Why? This is Violent Silence, a Swedish group that shares members with another band I like, Hidden Lands. Back in 2013, they released an album called “A Broken Truce”, a record that I thought was beautiful and flowed richly. They are back after several years with “Twilight Furies”, an album that released late last year and somehow managed to lose almost everything I liked about their previous effort.
The line up here is Johan Hedman on keyboards and percussion, Erik Forsberg on lead vocals, Simon M. Svensson on bass, and Hannes Ljunghall on keyboards. The band, you will notice, does not use guitars. This is a dual-keyboardist setup, something that honestly appeals to me in theory. Simon and Johan’s rhythm section has to give the music the edge it needs, and they do an admirable job, with thundering beats and pulsating grooves. The keys, too, are pretty great, though significantly less infectious than I have heard from these musicians in the past. I do love the synth sound and the bubbly, zealous style of playing. Everything was here for another wonderful record.
But there are two problems. Firstly, I just don’t think the writing is good here. Most of the songs bounce along without any cohesion or direction, and you start to wonder if a new track has started or not. This is especially true because the first proper song, “Tectonic Plates”, is 17 minutes long, and almost nothing happens the entire time. The very next track is 13 minutes, as well, and so the album feels like it starts out the gate like sludge. Nothing grabs me. Nothing gripping is offered.
The second problem is the new singer, Erik. While this band has never had amazing vocals, Erik has one of the most off-putting voices I’ve heard in months. His vocals are gravel-throated, and I kept wishing that he would get a drink of water or something. You can almost tell that the band knows this weakness, though, since they tend to mix his vocals into background quite a bit. But even with a voice that I dislike, I can still appreciate great choruses and arresting vocal lines, but this album simply has none.
Because of this, it is a mercy when some of the tracks are either completely instrumental (“Dance of the Shuriken”) or mostly so (the title track). Those are the moments when the band’s core ideas shine, but those moments are unfortunately not that bright anyways, and the rest of the album is weighed down heavily by bad vocals and uninspired writing. This album ended up being a serious letdown for me
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