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For my first album review, I’ll review the latest album I’ve listened to, Dan Swano’s Moontower. For those that don’t know him, he’s pretty famous in the metal community for having tons of side projects (I think over 20 bands!). This is the only album actually released in his name. He’s also famous for making multiple albums himself, on which he plays ALL the instruments. This album is no different. Dan’s Swedish genius leads him to play everything, drums, guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals.
The overall style on this album sounds like a heavier Rush mixed with growling vocals. For those that are not familiar, growling is a vocal technique that originated in death metal bands. It is essentially, singing with the stomach (as far as I know) instead of the throat (though some artists use a more throaty sound). Dan’s growls are top notch here. For the majority that will scoff at the first listen of the growls, let me give some credibility to them first.
To me, growls are important in certain metal bands. With just normal “clean” singing vocals, a lot of Opeth’s and Dan’s music would sound very awkward. Growling vocals are not evil, but they can be intimidating. Think of them as the opposite of falsetto vocals. They can represent anger, power, etc. So if you’re a bit apprehensive on the growls, just listen to the music a bit more and you’ll get used to them. And once you’re used to the growls, you start to love them. (I do, and I first heard Opeth when I was 11!)
Music-wise, the music is very keyboard based. For most of the album, guitars take the background, only becoming prominent in certain spots, while keyboard melodies take the forefront. This is both good and bad. Sometimes, the keyboards just won’t fit and make the songs a bit cheesy. Other times they are perfect in the atmosphere. In any case, it does create a fresh and awesome sound that hasn’t been duplicated very often (or at all).
Vocals – The growls here are awesome, very fluid sounding, and powerful. However, the clean vocals are used enough! Dan has a great low singing voice, but its seldom heard.
Music - The music here is also awesome. The guitar riffs are great, yet not very memorable. The guitar and keyboard solos are technical and sort of want to make you air-guitar (or air-keyboard) . But very often, the keyboards take up too much of the forefront and make the music cheesy.
Emotion- The album overall creates an slightly epic and powerful atmosphere. However, its hard to pinpoint what emotions are being represented in the music. The growls say anger/power while the keyboards suggest happiness. Don't expect too many shivers down your back during this album.
Lyrics - The lyrics are a bit atheistic, which bothers me a little bit as a Christian. They sound skeptical on the supernatural and deal with life and deception. They aren't exactly Satan-loving, but there not God-loving either. Still, the lyrics aren't anti-Christian or Satanic so they don't bother me too much. But the lyrical style is a bit literal and not very metaphorical. For example, the lyrics of "The Big Sleep" sound like a person talking ("I mean, I'm alive, and I plan to be"), not like poetry (which I like in lyrics).
Misc. - The production here is perfect. The album is complex and technical, but the songs are definitely too short. The album is only about 40 minutes. I think the songs should be 2 or 3 minutes longer, they make me long for too much more. But the album offers a very fresh sound that I haven’t heard before (or probably ever will).
Overall, the album has its flaws, no album is perfect. But if your looking for a fresh sound with keyboards like Rush combined with Scandinavian metal, you can find it here. Standout tracks on the album are Sun Of The Night, Add Reality, and Encouterparts. This is awesome progressive metal and shows how sophisticated one can make (death) metal.