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Sludgy post-metal seems to be all the rage nowadays in the metal community. Bands like Isis, Cult of Luna, and Pelican each bring their own special flavor to the ever expanding genre. All three bands have backgrounds in hardcore within their respective communities and that shines through in their music. Dissonant chords and screamed vocals (in the cases of Isis and Cult of Luna) are musical techniques ripped straight out of a hardcore handbook while Pelican brings unrelenting sludge and melody to the table. Callisto is an amalgamation of the three aforementioned bands and also brings in their own influences from free jazz as well.
Callisto's sophomore effort easily bridges the gap between their first atmospheric sludge effort and their later strictly post metal works. The guitars play a combination of jazzy and melodic licks, dissonant chords, and crushing power chords that all meld together into a cohesive melody that can attract listeners of all genres of music. The bass, which is actually audible, rarely sticks to playing root notes and fifths. The bass lines provide not only rhythm and support, but it crafts its own counterpoint that compliments whatever the guitarist is doing. The drummer has a very jazzy and syncopated style that at first doesn't seem all that flashy, but slowly reveals itself to be more technical that what first impressions may point it out to be. The vocalist repertoire consists of a hardcore shout and assortments of tortured yelps and barks. Quite clearly he is the least proficient member of the band, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
Each song on the album is an individual sprawling epic that becomes more and more advanced as the music progresses. The band loves to play off the loud/quiet dynamic that bands have been pulling since the Pixies, but Callisto manages to put the loud/quiet dynamic on it's head. There are buildups that lead back down to quiet bits that then buildup to another letdown. "The Fugitive" is a great example of that type of musicianship. Each song has it's own distinct quality and thus it would be an arduous task to try and individually critique each one. So, I'll solely concentrate on my favorite track on the album, "Woven Hands".
"Woven Hands" begins with a sample or spoken word piece, I don't know exactly what it is, and a soft keyboard pad that gives off a 50s B-movie vibe. Soon thereafter, the guitars and bass come in playing a soft melody. The mood changes slightly, becoming more frantic as the guitars move from playing just legato guitar licks to chords. This continues for some time until the distortion kicks in, hitting you in the face like a bulldozer going the speed of a sports car. The pace slows down to funeral dirge speeds, but it continues to get heavier. The guitars build up to an apex that couldn't get more intense and suddenly relieve the tension by getting quieter and introducing some horns. Just as suddenly as the heaviness turned into relaxation, the song ends abruptly, fading into nothingness.
Callisto manages to take the best elements of the biggest post-metal bands and combine them into a musical unit that operates with such intensity and emotion that it's almost unbearable. This album falls just short of being perfect due to some length issues, but nonetheless it is an excellent piece of work.
Originally written for sputnikmusic.com
I'm actually quite surprised that Callisto haven't received more than two reviews. Considering their popularity and the fact that they have two full-lengths, it really is shocking. I would have thought what with having an artist connection with Cult Of Luna, Isis and Neurosis that this band would have received far more attention than they have on such a site as Metal Archives. Truly astonishing. Well, even so, I have decided to take it upon myself and review the follow up to the debut full-length by Callisto, 'Noir'. The artist connection with Isis and Cult Of Luna are the most recognisable influences in Callisto.
Although a fair amount of the influence from both bands is plugged into this record, there are a few things done differently. Perhaps enough so to keep the audience happy and drive away a lot of the 'clone' tags this band will probably receive. Something about Callisto seems rather strange to me and I don't seem to be the only one who has picked up on it. As the previous reviewer said, Callisto don't much sound like a sludge band. Sludge is very distinctive because of it's muddy sound. Callisto don't have any such sound, this is quite unfortunate. They appear to be going for an early Isis sound mixed with a bit of Cult Of Luna. That's the only way I can describe it.
The vocals are particularly familiar, what with being a fan of Isis for a few years now. Markus Myllykangas gives a similar performance to Aaron Turner of Isis on their older records. Most notably 'Oceanic'. Though they aren't quite as visceral as Aaron Turner's style on 'Oceanic' they are decent enough to keep die hard fans of the sludge and post-hardcore genres happy. To the rest of us, well, they can tend to become fairly monotonous. This takes away a bit of the edge Callisto are attempting to gain with their solid and driven riffs.
They are fairly typical of the genre, it has to be said. Nothing new or different in terms of the vocals. A reference can undoubtedly be made to Cult Of Luna's vocalist, Klas Rydberg. They are screamed vocals, much like anything within the hardcore division of music. They aren't overly impressive, but that's only because i'm not a huge fan of the style anymore. It seems washed out and over used these days. This element makes them particularly annoying, but not so much that I cringe and turn away from Callisto.
The difference between Callisto and Isis or Cult Of Luna lies in the use of synths and sweet-sounding guitar riffs. The synths add texture and a fresh sound to Callisto. It's always appealing to me when bands use synths. I find the atmosphere they tend to create is almost euphoric when used correctly. Alongside the mellifluous guitar passages, the atmospheric nature behind Callisto is heightened. It peaks whenever Callisto opt for slower sections, which act as a welcome break from the more advancing tones and textures the guitars take up whenever the pace quickens. The guitars are used splendidly, as one might expect. They usually are the highlight of any album and this is no different.
The production isn't typical of sludge, as I said. It's clearer and adds a more polished sound to the instruments. Perhaps we could put this down to solid songwriting and well thought out structures. Everything is neatly placed and done with precision. There is a clear destination for Callisto and they aren't afraid to use innovation to get there, this is another appealing quality of 'Noir'. The dynamic sound of the guitars and percussion is wonderful. They act as a shield to the vocals, protecting it from criticism. This is another good element because if the vocals didn't have the back up that they do, they wouldn't be as effective. Atmospheric is exactly what Callisto are, but the sludge tag isn't as recognisable. As far as highlights go, that's got to be 'The Fugitive'.
Like the title says, is this cd actual sludge? It is heavy, I'll admit to that. However the slow and rough parts of the songs on this cd tend to lean more to the normal doom side. In principle its hard to described sludge because of its diversity.
The cd is a great listen because the slow and soft parts are good to relax to. Somehow they kind of sound like blues or jazz at some points. For example, in the first song "Wormwood" is a part where someone plays the saxophone.
The hard and slow riffs are one. With somehow a perfect way of making the soft sound fall into the hard sound and visa versa.
Anyone who likes music to chill to for a bit and headbang to as well, this band is perfect for that kind of thing. Hence why I give this cd so much points. Its a perfect mix between relaxation and frustration (or getting it out).