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Sometimes you’re poking around on the internet and happen to run into some music that absolutely drops your jaw. Those of us who are in the business of incessantly searching for new material constantly, ever in search of such an experience, often find it when we least expect it. For me, this occurred with Swedish progressive power metal outfit Castillion’s 2011 sophomore release Pieces Of A Shattered Me. Poking around on Spotify, I noticed Castillion recommended as similar to a couple recent favorites of mine. If you’re not familiar with Spotify’s “recommendations”, know that they are sketchy at best, especially for small-time independent bands.
This time, however, I got a wild surprise. Settling in during a familiar short instrumental introduction, I was all ears for opener “When Reality Distracts”, which features a strange lilting, syncopated riff and some chromaticism that indicates a heftier dose of prog than will in fact be found on the rest of this album. It’s a strange choice for an opener, no two ways about it, and definitely one of the least accessible tunes on the album, as followup “Out Of Reach” quickly proves.
Ulf Sörman very quickly endeared himself to me as a singer with the sort of voice that immediately gripped me- for no immediately describable reason. Though occasionally just a bit rough ‘round the edges, Sörman mixes graceful, succulent melodies (“Whispers Turn Into Cries”) with a fully proficient hard-edged approach (“Rust On The Razor”), and comes across as a well-rounded musician with a knack for fitting the sound that the remainder of the band creates behind him.
And what sounds they are! Castillion is not a brick-and-mortar power metal band. Double bass is little-used, and drummer Johannes Berg takes a rather sparing approach that is, in its way, rather refreshing. While still maintaining guitar lines that are decidedly of the power/prog school, focus is subtly shifted off of the rhythm elements, and more emphasis placed upon vocals and, to a lesser extent, rhythm guitar lines. The closest example I can think of to compare this to is Saint Deamon. Though noticeably more progressive, Castillion runs with a similar, peeled-back approach.
“Whispers Turn Into Cries” is easily my favorite track here, followed by the great closer “Shattered”, the aggressive “Rust On The Razor”, the soft and drifting “With A Clouded Mind”, and the stomping “House Of Cards”. As noted, most any track other than the irregular opener is fairly accessible and sure to appeal to those who enjoy the kind of metal that, while entertaining and with a certain measure of melodic and rhythmic complexity, never becomes pretentious, overly technical, or difficult to understand.
To top it all off, the lyrics are varied and interesting here, and the English is almost completely flawless, making for an extremely accessible venture. In fact, I can think of little reason why fans of any flavor of power metal and melodic heavy metal would object to this. More likely, I think it ought to rope in those that, like myself, are taken off guard and utterly disarmed by the considerable musical skill that these Swedes possess. I am thoroughly impressed and delighted to have stumbled across Pieces Of A Shattered Me, and I foresee it staying in regular rotation for, well…a very, very long time. Seek this one out, you will not regret it.
Original review written for Black Wind Metal
Castillion from Sweden. With name like that they must be about power metal with castles and knights abound? For my surprise, the answer is no. This quartet are trying hard to range about their own path, which is progressive heavy metal spiced with many a thing. 'Pieces of a Shattered Me' is their sophomore album, and my first touch the band.
The lyrics are about fighting temptations that will cause only pain and misery, insanity, falling into pieces, and finally surviving it all. But is the end of this story happy. Give it a guess! The music follows this all very closely. The feelings it submit aren't happy in any way. The melodies are melancholic, unhappy, but still usually captivating. Mainly the music consists of heavy metal and is accompanied by a touch of power metal, but also thrash and doom. Also, out-of-typical rhythms are utilized in most of the songs for interesting twists, so Castillion manage to stay their head above that horde of generic bands. Progressive tag can also be awarded to the band for their compositions, which do not follow typical rock music etc. patterns at all, but are story-based. Mainly, the music is mid-paced, or slightly faster, and slower.
Castillion immediately brought one band to my mind, when I listened to this album for the first time. That band in question is Hollow, also from Sweden. Similar unhappiness, similar heavy chops, and even the vocals remind me of Hollow. Another band that comes to my mind is Falconer. There are folky tendencies in Castillion's music, and their vocalist sounds quite similar to Mathias Blad at times. Somewhere during 'Pieces of a Shattered Me', bands such as Brainstorm, Communion, Evergrey and Nostradameus come to my mind, and definitely more than once or twice. So, while being dark and cheerless, still it rocks out quite a lot. To tell the truth, some times it's impossible for me to listen the album in one go, because it's packed with such amount of dreariness. This time around evil isn't a demon from outside, but inside of man, and that's why this is so uneasy at times. But really, the album is a bit too long, simple as that. However, thankfully there is a "shuffle" button! And as the music is multifaceted and filled with about one million details (give or take a few, ha), so this can become a long-time spinner.
The production job is pretty choppy and somehow it has a 1990s aura in it. While the drums may have been triggered, they aren't to a considerable level, and otherwise no such studio trickery can be found on this platter. The bass guitar's sound level is too low, especially when thinking what tricks does the bass player perform. The cover art is too dark, but at least the lyrics can be found in the booklet. But still, it's all pretty well done for an independent release.
It's not easy at all to categorize this album, but that also is Castillion's strength. 'Pieces of a Shattered Me' already struck me on the first go, but then it kind of began to feel too labyrinthine. And I'm still searching for the exit. Tip: You can find more meanings in the previous sentence... No matter how easy or uneasy the album is, I wonder how Castillion still aren't signed? They are well worth checking out by those who like progressive heavy metal, with the emphasis on "heavy". I suggest you try fantastically melodic and swinging 'Out of Reach', ballad-ish 'Departure' which isn't gay at all, hard-hitting and heavy 'Fragments', and another melodic assault, 'Hollow'.
(originally reviewed for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)