November 9, 2017

Dynamic Metal - Round Two

By Calen Henry. The previous article in this series got good traction so I'm back with a few more bands that do more than just make great metal. They also make great sounding metal. Solstice play Epic Doom Metal, a genre that is really big in 2017.
By Calen Henry.

The previous article in this series got good traction so I'm back with a few more bands that do more than just make great metal. They also make great sounding metal.

Cover art by Harry Clarke.

Solstice play Epic Doom Metal, a genre that is really big in 2017. New Dark Age, though, was originally released in 1998 and the dynamic CD master is on Bandcamp. It measures in at DR 12 and absolutely crushes. Their epic, melodic medieval approach to doom can be heard in numerous newer bands. Darkest Era sound like Solstice + Primordial. Khemmis take epic doom and apply the "kitchen sink metal approach" to blending the genre. Bands like Atlantean Kodex simply sound like Solstice. Plus, their "archaic language about castles and monsters" approach is everywhere in metal now.

Apart from simply being fantastic doom metal New Dark Age is eally elevated by the folk influences. The riffs, vocals, and lyrics are extremely folky and the album features numerous fantastic tracks that are straight up folk songs with no metal whatsoever. This commitment to "folkiness" can make the vocals seem a bit off putting at first. There are some sections that feature harmonies not usually used in metal. Bands like Darkest Era have much more approachable vocal styles. But the vocals on New Dark Age complete the sound and after an acclimatization period I found myself to be a big fan.

Album art by Dymond Starr Austin.

Dreadnought play the proggiest metal to ever prog. They might be best described as "blackened prog rock" All the prog rock trappings are there. Their albums are an elemental cycle with the title track from their newest album being 17 minutes long. They use flute, piano, organ, and saxophone as well as lots of clean vocals. They mix that with vicious blast beats and snarled vocals.

Lifewoven is the first in their elemental cycle, being earth themed. It is also, unfortunately, the only dynamically mastered album in their catalog measuring DR 10. Bridging Realms (aether themed) and A Wake in Sacred Waves (water themed) are both excellent albums but they are not at all dynamically mixed both coming in at DR 5 and DR 6 respectively.

Lifewoven sets up Dreadnought's sonic template from which they don't much deviate on later albums. Long songs with complex multi layered sections flowing between prog rock and black metal. Though sounding nothing alike their long form immersive approach to songwriting brings to mind Elder, and is part of why I like both bands so much.

Album artwork by KolaHari.

Æther Realm are part of an amorphous wave of new American (and Canadian) metal taking influence from myriad styles but always with a bit of melodeath, folk, and black metal. Thrawsunblat play the blackest version of it, Wilderun are the folkiest, and Xanthochroid are the most symphonic and cinematic.

Æther Realm, hailing from North Carolina, exhibit the strongest melodeath links but mix it with black metal, a bit of folk, a symphonic edge, and phenomenal production. The master for Tarot is DR 10 and it sounds incredible. The drums, in particular are punch of give the music a great visceral quality, like Vainaja (though sounding almost nothing like them). The mix doesn't emphasize guitars over other instruments so everything comes through wonderfully.

Tarot is an album that piqued my interest on production but really sells the music as well. The musicianship and composition are excellent as well and improved, rather than hampered by production.

Dead Congregation's Promulgation of the Fall is a modern old school death metal classic. It also sounds terrible. It's incredibly dynamically compressed (DR 4), to the album's detriment. Amazingly they followed it up with a two song EP that incredibly dynamic (DR 12). It's also, unsurprisingly, excellent. Hitting a sound between Ominous Circle and Vainaja. Worth a look for any death metal fans wanting great sound to go with great music.

Artwork by Anni Buchner.

Ruff Majik sound like The White Stripes weaned on stoner rock. The vocals are very "Jack White" and the music has the same frantic raw feel of early White Stripes but with a metric tonne of fuzz. The band also records their material live in studio which gives the music an organic spontaneous feel at the expense of some fidelity. So far the band has a trilogy of animal themed EPs and are working through releasing four parts of an album to coincide with the change in seasons. They're South African, though, so the season changes are opposite to what us northerners are used to. Of their catalog The Swan appears to be the only release with a dynamic (DR 12) master, but musically it's all great.

  1. John, I'm afraid that opinion is only DR 3. Please come back when you're a bit more dynamic.

  2. Ohhh!! John has been dynamically burned! Great article. The loudness war is such horse shit. Music is meant to be dynamic! I wish labels would follow Earache Records example and release dynamic range editions of classic albums.

  3. Thanks for this article! I can understand dynamic range might sound pretentious to some but it is an important factor in the mastering of an album. Perhaps a little write up about the 'Loudness' war and the extreme compression of music will open up a few ears.