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Space Metal - 85%

Simiankolya, April 21st, 2010

I've known about Dol Ammad for several years now, but only revisited them recently, finally giving this album a full listen. Dol Ammad is the creation of Thanasis Lightbridge, who does all the synth and songwriting, and has a full choir to do all the vocals. The project is a rare attempt to fuse the disparate genres of metal and electronica, and it does just that with a good degree of success. This brand of synthetic metal, probably better referred to as "silicon", is not going to be everybody's cup of tea, but I'd say it's worth a listen.

The album really has two parts, a four-track saga called "Thalassa Dominion" and then the rest of the album. "Thalassa" seems to tell some kind of epic story about space and stars and oceans, but with lyrics vague enough to refer to just about any overblown space opera. The best part of it is probably Thalassa Dominion part II, which combines Thanasis' synth talents with a very catchy metal tune, enhanced by the choir. The rest of the album contains some interesting synth sounds, whale and dolphin songs, and pretty decent songwriting, with a mix of ambient stuff in some songs and heaviness in others.

This seems to be the rule in metal these days: since every imaginable avenue of pure metal seems to have already been explored, combine metal with various external genres (i.e. folk metal). This is potentially a good idea for some bands (Turisas, anybody? Bal-Sagoth?), but often there is the risk of compromising the integrity of the metal itself, bastardizing it, if you will. All too often, a so-called "metal" band will sound like pop or folk music that just happens to have double bass drums and heavy guitars playing in the background (shame on you Ensiferum! How the mighty have fallen...), but the actual metal riffs are dumbed down or polished into non-existence to make room for the genre hybridization. Dol Ammad comes close to risking doing just this, with a few songs that just seem like they were written as ambient electronica and then had metal instrumentation added as an afterthought. Don't get me wrong, even though it's not my favorite, electronica is an interesting genre in itself, and Dol Ammad seems to do pretty well with that, but this is a self-proclaimed metal band, so I think they would do better to focus a little more on the metal, maybe with some thrashier parts and more guitar shredding. Otherwise, they run the risk of simply brandishing the trappings of metal to exploit metal fandom.

Still, in a few places, such as Thalassa Dominion part IV, there are more gritty instances of metal influence, even aping black metal in some parts. And the faster tracks, such as "Lava" or "Liquid Desert", are energetic and entertaining. The choir vocals throughout go from badass epic to just dreamy feminine whispering, which sort of fits with the basic concept of the album. And hey, if a bunch of hot Greek babes is singing at me, you know I'm gonna pay attention! Overall, this album has a lot of vivid imagery, with each song (to me anyway) conjuring up images of places and events on a cosmic scale. Thanasis Lightbridge is a serious music theory techno-geek who knows what he is doing. What else could you expect from a guy who named his band after a level from the classic PC game, "Descent 3"? But I digress...

The main point here is, Dol Ammad has a lot of potential, and a project as ambitious as this doesn't often show up. Very good electronica influence, but that takes a little power away from their metal aspect. If you are a purist of any kind, especially if you only like metal about ripping peoples' guts out and raping their corpse, this album is DEFINITELY not for you, but for those interested to see what happens when one tries to combine metal, classical, and electronica, this is a worthy listen. I think metal fusion/hybrid bands, as a rule, should bring us the best of both genres and fit them together in a way that really *works*. Dol Ammad tries this, and almost succeeds, with enjoyable results. I'm hoping they'll do even better next time around.