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Things come and things go. maudlin of the Well, the avant-garde collective helmed by the visionary Toby Driver, is no exception, releasing three albums in five years before rebranding themselves as Kayo Dot. The move would have been inexplicable, and almost unnecessary - a quick glance at the personnel involved on their 2003 debut, Choirs of the Eye, reveals that the lineup of maudlin of the Well is still mostly intact - if not for the fact that the band have completely redefined their sound.
The album's release on John Zorn's illustrious Tzadik Records - its instantly recognisable cover art format synonymous with outsider, left field recordings - should provide a hint as to what Driver and co. have in store: a cacophonous rumble graces the introduction of Marathon, but as suddenly as it began, it fades away, with trumpets, guitars, distorted whispers (and eventually, even a clarinet) left in its wake. Though this sheer abruptness is certainly disorienting, another raucous moment soon rears its ugly head, this time accompanied by deathlike roars and gibberish chants. At the five minute mark the band even settles into a trippy improvisation with ambient Rhodes piano, reverbed guitar drones and quiet, distorted drums, along with some fairly incomprehensible poetry. This is followed by A Pitcher of Summer, which has earnest falsettos set against dreamy guitars, making for a very delicate atmosphere. However, its second half features a monstrous crescendo that terminates itself without warning. Despite being the shortest track on the album, its oblique, almost haphazard nature can be quite alienating.
On the other hand, The Manifold Curiosity, which blends elements of the gentler side of maudlin of the Well with an air of unpredictability, is, without a doubt, the song that will best appeal to newer listeners of the band. Serene strumming develops nonchalantly into a remarkable duet of flute and sax, both by the talented Terran Olson. Violinist Mia Matsumiya makes her first appearance on the record, her string contributions adding a new dimension to the group's already multi-faceted sound. As one might come to expect, the song has a fervent climax, with pulsating bass, screeching guitar leads, deafening chords and piercing cries, but even in the track's final forty seconds, the band go from tumultuous black metal blasting right into blundering, gigantic chords. A breather is very much in order, and thankfully, Wayfarer does just that, featuring more falsettos from Driver alongside placid, watery acoustics. Despite a particularly unnerving performance from Matsumiya, it's easily the calmest piece on the record. And while The Antique is basically the band's warped take on sludge metal, it's also the most expertly orchestrated track out of the five. Its contorted drone swells to a massive volume over the course of eight minutes, before the band pulls out all the stops - an ominous arpeggio loops until it seemingly collapses under its own weight to yield a gothic union of piano, sax, muted trumpet, synth and muffled crooning; definitely a mesmerising end to the record.
While the band would go on to pursue even weirder undertakings (the freakout jams of Blue Lambency Downward or the spine-chilling Coyote come to mind), Choirs of the Eye isn't exactly accessible either. Its staunchly drone-oriented nature actually makes it one of the least immediate albums Kayo Dot have ever put out (and that's saying something), so those seeking something a tad more gratifying should probably look elsewhere. Things come and things go, but Choirs of the Eye is a shining example of avant-garde metal that has stood the test of time.
The shortest song on this type of album is always something of an anomaly; they are often transition pieces, or perhaps they are a more conventional song that acts as an outlet and representation of what genre the band base their expanded sound on. Very rarely they are an attempt at a single. "A Pitcher of Summer" is complete and utter garbage; a banal juxtaposition of acoustic guitars and amorphous heavy riffs, complimented by irrelevant brass instruments and a truly hideous vocal performance. If you are going to listen to 'Choirs of the Eye' just skip this song.
Outside of "Pitcher of Summer", these songs are defined by their ability to adeptly transition between disparate styles in an effortless fashion. It certainly helps that Kayo Dot do not just violently mash clashing styles against one another, instead choosing to appropriately handle the transition depending on the needs of the song. "The Manifold Curiosity" is at heart a post-metal song with clearly defined peaks and troughs, the only bizarre features being the reliance on acoustic guitar and violin during the traditionally subdued sections, and a decent flute solo complimenting the first peak in aggression. The song is less about piling on riffs and distortion until they burst, the typical tension and release, but evokes the atmosphere of an overcast day erupting into a monstrous storm. The obscured poetry reading is rather tedious and could probably be dropped.
Fortunately they never try to replicate "The Manifold Curiosity" a few times and call it a day but they never come close to achieving that harmonious combination of coherent, recognisable song structures with unorthodox instrumentation or interpretation. For the majority of its running time "Wayfarer" is a listless mix of acoustic guitars, violins and floating female vocals like a poor facsimile of early Dead Can Dance; their only attempts at divergence come from two short lived bursts of crunching and squealing guitars. "Marathon" feels like it was composed from a mess of left over ideas and pieces that the band were reluctant to abandon. They're thrown them together into this convoluted collage, and while each section is well performed their relation to one another is tenuous and there's no satisfying conclusion.
With "The Antique" the album kind of slumps into a chair exhausted, so bereft of ideas Kayo Dot simply stick a heavy and quiet section together; 'Choirs of the Eye' modus operandi distilled into a fifteen minute song. It would be asinine to accuse them of being formulaic but this album is not challenging; the song structures, riffs and melodies are surprisingly palatable to the point of being unmemorable. From a metal perspective none of the riffs are unique or interesting either which leaves the album in a weird position; well-written and unique instrumentation used to produce a bloated album of average songs.
'Choirs of the Eye' is a very unique album, but with the band never excelling in any particular category and the obscene song lengths, it's a significant time investment with atrocious returns.
For one reason or another, multi-instrumentalist and composer Toby Driver's flagship band maudlin of the Well fell apart, and from its ashes came its new incarnation, Kayo Dot. Although many of maudlin of the Well's familiar quirks tranlsated onto this new name, there was a decided change in the sound; a move towards a more experimental and avant-garde sound. To me, maudlin of the Well's sound was very curious and dreamy, like a nostalgic childhood summer. Of course, childhood does not last forever, and enter Kayo Dot, leading Toby Driver's music out of the proverbial childhood nostalgia and into a much darker and challenging adolescence, one that is much more ambiguous and even frightening. Kayo Dot's first album 'Choirs Of The Eye' therefore is something of a transition album for Toby Driver and company, featuring elements of both the carefree innocence of his earlier band, and the avant darkness of his future material with Kayo Dot. The result is a multi-faceted album that may very well be Driver's greatest achievement, but one of my favourite progressive albums ever.
Unlike maudlin of the Well- which featured comparatively accessible songwriting and a clear sense of direction- Kayo Dot's 'Choirs Of The Eye' changes the approach, leading to many moments that could feel aimless to someone who is not paying close attention the the ever-changing textures and build up. While some have described this album as post-metal, the majority of 'Choirs Of The Eye' relies on quietness rather than heaviness to get the mood across. This is an album which hits that sweet spot between variety and cohesion. There is a dreamy, otherwordly vibe to all of the music here, but the tone and dynamic is always changing. Each track encapsulates a variety of emotions. For example, the closing number 'The Antique' goes from crushingly heavy, sludgy metal to jazzy piano and muffled vocals that could have easily been plucked out of a Radiohead album. There are plenty of surprises here, and until the very end, like some sort of quiet, intellectual action movie, the listener is kept on their toes.
These compositions do not have the same cohesive feeling to them that maudlin of the Well's music had, so really besides the potential single 'A Pitcher Of Summer', these will not be tracks that get stuck in your head. Instead, you will probably find yourself getting hooked onto certain parts of each song, and it will only be after many intent listens where a listener is able to predict each of the twists and turns in this masterpiece. 'Choirs Of The Eye' can get very heavy, but these spurts of metal are usually only momentary; much of the album instead leans towards mellw tones and textures; perhaps I may use the term 'avant-post rock'? The guitars are filled with echoes and reverb to rattle around in the listener's head, but the joys of the performance here are really about the non-typical instrumentation. Above all, violinist Mia Matsumiya's performance here is jaw-dropping, taking any violin arrangement here and making the strings sing with beauty. Another fairly strange aspect of Kayo Dot's sound is Toby Driver's voice, specifically his wide range of styles that he employs. Throughout the album, a listener will hear him go from mellow, mid-register singing, spoken word poetry, and soft falsetto, to choatic howls and screams. Often, all of this will be heard within the course of one song. In his work with maudlin of the Well, I was unsure whether or not I considered him to be a good or bad singer, but Kayo Dot has set me straight on the matter; although his voice does not have a great technical skill to it, he is able to express himself with great diversity, and pulls off most of what he tries quite impressively.
'Choirs Of The Eye' is one of those albums that listeners will take alot of time to wrap their heads around, although some of those coming off of a maudlin of the Well binge may be initially put off by the change in pace and style. After giving this many nights of engaged listening and awe, I could safely say that 'Choirs Of The Eye' is the most impressive, exciting thing that Toby Driver and co. have done to date; a sweeping epic that soothes, excites, and challenges. A masterpiece.
When I first read upon Kayo Dot I knew I was going to hear some odds things, some new things and some more odd things. But after I got my hands on this disc my expectations were blown away and scattered into ashes. This wasn’t odd at all, this was goddamn bizarre. Kayo Dot managed to merge some styles in music which were rarely if never merged before. Prog / Death Metal / Grindcore / Post-Rock / Free Jazz / Classical Music are all merged into one, thus explaining the avant-garde tags this band often gets.
Kayo Dot is a 7-piece band that consists of 3 guitarists, a drummer, a bassist, a violin player and a trumpeter and most of these people play some other instruments on the albums as well! Toby Driver is the main man behind the band. So far as I know he is the main song-writer, one of the guitarists and the main vocalist. His vocals are very impressive, as they go from Jeff Buckley-esque notes to extreme napalm death-like grindcore screaming. The rest of the band is very impressive as well, everyone knows how to play their instruments and they are virtuosi by any means. They never really show it of though which is a plus point as well because the end product isn’t some musical wankfest about overlong guitar solos and drum solos but a whole, where everyone is equal and all things fall in place. Another thing that I would like to tell about the band is that they are actually the same band as Maudlin of the Well. There are lot’s of the same members but they changed their name and some members thus creating Kayo Dot. You can of course definitely hear the resemblance between the 2 bands but with Choirs of the eye the band went into a completely different direction. And although the 2 final Maudlin albums are some of the best albums I have ever heard and are both in my top 10 albums of all time this new direction is even better than the old.
The album contains 5 songs and spans for almost 60 minutes. There are 2 extreme songs with hardly any understandable structure at all, 2 songs that are a little shorter and mellower and 1 completing masterpiece which sums up this entire album in one song. The music is very free and is never bound to any conventions. Although they never use the same riffs and almost never repeat a part they manage to completely combine everything into 1 piece of music with quite some spectacular build-ups throughout the songs.
I’ll take the album’s masterpiece “The Manifold Curiosity” as an example. The song starts of with some great melodies. There are a lot of different instruments playing at the same time and they make some of the most beautiful sounds ever, seriously ever! The melodies are completely interwoven and compliment each other perfectly. 1,5 minutes into the song comes this acoustic guitar riff which sounds a lot like something Maudlin would do. A sound comes that looks like Toby just grabbed a piece of paper and reads you the title. Then the vocals enter the song; they are much distorted and they are many effects on them so you can barely hear what he’s saying. Almost 5 minutes into the song it burst into a wave of never-ending melodies and a solo that sounds like a flute. It’s probably the most beautiful thing on the entire disc. The melodies are somewhat similar to the opening ones yet fuller and better. A good 7 minutes into the song the vocals come in again yet now it’s a spoken word section. The effects on the vocals are again so powerful that he is hardly understandable. After a couple of minutes the melodies return and this time even more interwoven as before. 10:30 into the song the metal riff enters and the soloing starts. They weird thing is that it can’t even be called a solo since every instrument is soloing at the same time. It’s more like a septet all doing stuff at once that doesn’t really make sense but makes sense all at once. This controlled chaos eventually turns into some extreme grind where Toby screams his lungs off going at immense speed. A weird bass line takes the entire chaos by force and the death metal riff comes in ending the song all of a sudden at 14:30.
Weird stuff like that constantly happens on this album, and they are never predictable as each section sounds very different. Every song has is own feel and you can listen to it over and over again. A few days ago and after listening to it way over 50 times I declared this masterpiece as my number 1 album of all time beating Tool’s opus Lateralus. Highly recommended for very open-minded people.
Written for www.Musicmademe.com
What the fuck is this. Seriously What the Fuck is this.
Kayo Dot - Choirs of the Eye.
I was expecting something quite mind boggling from ex-Maudlin of the Well members, however what we have here is probably the non-metalheads of the group homogenizing the music ... either that or they just came to the realisation that metal isnt cool anymore, or with age theyve grown bored of it.
If I had to describe this I would say "Post-rock noise with accompanying jazz/fusion guitar and the same sort of drumming used on the lighter/slower tracks on MOTW - Bath/LYBM and a random assortment of other instruments"
Now by that description it does actually sound good, but I think that these guys have gone past my point of appreciation, dropped 99% of the metal influences they had and said hey, hardcore and emo are popular now, lets throw in some random grindcore and emo twists in our songs to hook the suckers in.
So half way into the song you'll have a 20 second long piece of grindcore and then it will go straight back to the random experimental noise/post-rock and then at the end of the song the lead vocalist will start whining like an angsty emo kid about some random gibber that on the first listen was unintelligable.
There are some good things about the music, I like the drumming even though it doesnt really do anything, its full on jazz drumming through every song while most of the musicians just pure improv for the whole song, the guitar work is quite skilled, in fact pretty much everything here is of good quality but it was like a child that has never done a jigsaw puzzle before wrote these songs.
I apologise that I am not of these "muso" scenester kids with an art degree that plays jazz/guitar and listens to post-rock, noise and avantegarde music 100% of the time that thinks melody, structure and actual purposes for songs other than to improvise for 10 minutes while accompanied by a mass of other musicians just to make noises that create a fascade of atmosphere to overshadow the fact that this is a pointless song with nothing but filler and build-ups that lead absolutely nowhere.
This music is uninspired, it seems that the musicians in this band think they have done everything and outgrown their old style, and that the only way to retain "professional musicianship" is to create music that is abstract without coherence, with pointless buildups that lead nowhere to mislead the listener into thinking they've missed something. The bits and pieces of grindcore and emo are simply there to represent the uninspiration or passion for music that the band members seem to have lost and to hook in the scenester kids.
However there is no doubting that the musicians in this band are very skilled at what they do, and perhaps if all of the pieces written for this album were rearranged into something comprehensable that leads somewhere, with inspiration and purpose this album would have been alot better.
Maudlin of the Well - Bath and Leaving Your Body Map are probably my two favourite albums of all time, however it is clear to me that the intellectuals who composed those brilliant pieces of work have been led astray.
Summing up I give this album a mere score of 20 points for the skill of the musicians and the fact that some of the music is quite good - such as the guitarwork and drumming. Everything else just didnt quite work, and thus I am disappointed. I dont think this band should actually be on Metal archives as they are clearly not metal.
I'm sorry if I am not 'avant', 'indie', 'arty', 'original' or 'open-minded' enough to full understand this album of pure random ... I think it's just way over the top, good concept but bad demonstration.
This album has to be the perfect mixture of avantgarde and progressive rock/metal out there...or at least NEAR perfect. Man, this album is seriously some amazingly epic stuff. There's a great variety of instrumentation with outstanding lyrics and interesting yet nicely delivered vocal presentation. It's easier to explain once going through each individual song, because each is rather significantly different.
Marathon- 9/10 The first track kicks right off with some wonderful guitars played in quite a strange time signature, and then morphs into a string part. Then it builds into some doom metal with some growls in the background, and then strecthes a really soft part until the end of the song, which sounds fantastic. As it closes up, Mr. Driver finishes off with, well, a kinda cheesy, but very nicely spoken passage, and then the track is over. Definitely a great starter.
A Pitcher Of Summer- 9.5/10 This is indeed the NICEST song on the album. It has a mostly soft tone throughout the entire song, with very nicely sung vocals and only a little amount of time for a fairly heavy part. It may be the shortest song, but it's certainly splendid.
The Manifold Curiousity- 10/10 It's either between this or The Antique for my favorite track on this album, but I'll go with this because there's more happening in it. Starts off beautifully, and then slows down even more with an acoustic passage. The vocals are sung with a very strange distortion, but it's not hard to decipher here. Then it morphs into some heavy metal after a while with trumpets and guitars a blazin'. Then yet again, it slows down for more spoken words, done with multiple layers of course. Next it starts to get heavy again, and the crescendoes more and more and speeds up as it goes along until it goes to about Dillinger Escape Plan speed, and Toby's screamin' his head off. Then some slightly slower guitar chuggin' and it abruptly ends. This track is definitely the most action-packed out of all of them, and it's nice because it's the 2nd longest at 14:30!
Wayfarer- 9/10 This is a great song, but I personally don't like it as much as the others. It begins with acoustic guitar with some strings in the background, and more beautifully sung vocals. It's basically like A Pitcher Of Summer, but with the opposite emotion, and twice as long. And unlike APOS, we actually get more heavy parts in, but don't last too long. However, there is a really nice solo that kicks in later on. As the song closes, we get some loud orchestral sections, and then finally ending with a quickly played acoustic guitar riff.
The Antique- 10/10 Now this one takes a long-ass time to build up, but it definitely helps with the doomy atmosphere. After about six minutes of getting bigger and bigger, we get more deathy doom metal as Toby growls s'more. Then, it starts to get acoustic for a second, but then blasts into DEP speed again like it did in Manifold Curiousity, but I find the speed-up in this song to be much more abrasive. Then it starts to do some weird acoustics-meets-blastbeats thing, which I find is really damn cool. Then comes the most beautfiul part of the album. Now, let's paint a picture. We got a wonderful piano passage. We got Kermit the Frog. We got the weird vocal distortion. We got Kermit with the weird distortion singing the beautiful thing ever. And then as it builds up to the end, we replace some of the piano parts with a bunch of trumpets. Then when it's over, every single freakin' trumpet plays the same awesome note at the same time. I know it took a while, but this part was worth waiting through the doomy part, for sure.
So in conclusion, this album is definitely one of the best serious avantgarde releases out there. However, I did dock some points and choose Manifold Curiousity over The Antique because, well, I personally would've liked completely clean vocals on that beautful part because 1) I can hardly understand him. And 2) It actually kinda ruins it, even if it is interesting to listen to. But for the most part, the combination of instruments is fantastic (I know I didn't name all of them, but there's just so much going on!), the vocals are quite impressive if not experimental, the guitar work and drumming is indeed done well and fits the music, and it's got one crazy and intriguing story behind the lyrics. So for those who love an interesting and lovely-sounding CD, get Choirs of The Eye. Though I can see how people wouldn't like this album, I know the people who can see the true beauty behind it will appreciate it like crazed fanboys, or...well, at least have it at the top of their list for favorite CDs. I know I can hardly stop listening to it!
Whether it is an odd impressionist painting or some seemingly transcendental psychological thriller film, there have always been obscure works of art. Those who defy the usual framework for their respected arts are seen either as ridiculous or visionaries. Kayo Dot, is a combination of both; Defying obscurity itself. Their Debut “Choirs of the Eye” is the epitome of bizarre, full of more ideas and oddity than any record of recent years; it is a truly progressive piece of music. The band utilizes elements of free-form jazz, progressive rock, blues, and even death metal (which is especially evident halfway through “The Antique”). Kayo Dot Consists of eight members, all of which bring something completely unique to this outfit, whether it is the “serene-one-moment-violent-the-next” guitar work, crashing drums, blaring horns, screeching violin, or one the most unique vocal styles ever, via Toby Driver. This 20 something young man has the ability to shift from hushed whisper like singing to the foulest of death metal screeches. All of this is encapsulated in 10 to 20 minute bodies of song, creating a difficult but ultimately rewarding experience so unique and special, that once you become adapted to “Choirs of the Eye’s” extreme diversity and eclectic content you will not be easily removed. This record was created by those who wanted to manifest as many different styles into one entity while still keeping it cohesive, therefore those who seek to find “difficult” and truly progressive music, look no further than Kayo Dot’s “Choirs of the Eye”. -Paul Cooley/Panoptic Journalism
Most metalheads view the dreaded "emo" genre in much the same way most straight men view a prostate examination - they feel if they enjoy it, it automatically makes them "gay". However, if one looks past the stereotypes associated with the 3-letter "e"-word, a whole world of emotionally potent music can be discovered. Bands such as Moss Icon and Indian Summer (the latter sometimes rivalling the grimmest of black metal bands in terms of emotional intensity) personify the genre designation - emotional and chaotic music, with a healthy dose of introspection. Although not emo by any means, Kayo Dot's "Choirs Of The Eye" pretty much lives up to the above description. A similar feeling to the bands mentioned above is found on here, courtesy of both the music itself, as well as the inward-looking lyrics.The album's five tracks are mini-epics unto themselves, running the gammut from softer acoustic passages to devastating crescendos, such as in "The Manifold Curiosity". Playing their own brand of prog metal (no surprise considering the members are from Maudlin Of The Well)), there are naturally some moments of fretboard indulgence - see the song "Wayfarer" for an example of this. Also present is a soundtrack-like quality that gives the album an all-encompassing feel to it, like watching someone's life story from birth to death. Although most metal fans probably won't go out to pick up albums by Maximillian Colby or City Of Caterpillar after listening to "Choirs Of The Eye", anyone looking for intense, emotional music will find something to like here. All in all, a very haunting, enjoyable musical journey. Get this one now.
This album flows seamlessly from being lightly played, quiet ambience into heavy riffing sections, and it works almost perfectly. The melding of all the different instruments on here is amazing, and they all add up into a sound which should be blissful to anyone's ears.
The vocals have two dominant ranges, normal singing, which is performed pretty well. And the growl, which tends to be drowned out a lot of the time by the huge build-up of all the instruments, which is a bit of a disappointment, really. Sometimes there is also spoken parts, just to add to the calming effect when singing and growling isn't needed.
The musicianship is perfect, and sounds very tight most of the time, and amalgamating with the previous elements of the music, making some of the most calming, and yet agressive songs ever recorded onto one CD. The range of musical styles used here is amazing, and the movements come just when they're needed, bursting into a heavy section just as a quiet section is about to become tedious.
This album should really be owned by most people, as it is completely and utterly adaptable, and works on so many levels. Although, it seems to be best for a restful background ambience, but without being the same over and over.
I've been a huge fan of Maudlin of the Well for awhile now and have been anticipating on this release ever since I heard Maudlin of The Well would become Kayo Dot. When I first listened to this album, it was a lot to swallow on my first listen.
The music is unpredictable and that's exactly why I think it's brilliant. With only five tracks, the band accomplishes more musically than any other band with ten or twentey songs in a CD.
I'm sure a lot of metal people or anybody else that's impatient would say the music is kinda slow moving. This slow motion creates a rich lucious doomy atmosphere that settles in your head then later hits you with something you didn't expect, similar to the band Isis but more diverse, using different genres.
The first track, "Marathon", gets heavy after two minutes, then goes back to its slow moving music that eases your nerves, then all of a sudden, BAM!, it hits you with more heavyier music again and beautiful singing.
Second, there's, "A Pitcher of Summer", the shortest song at five minutes, a calm song with no real sense of structure, when the instruments are starting to pick up, they start trailing away in the begining, then it inevitably builds up with a haunting chorus. The song gets louder towards the closing. There's a good measure of where to put hard or soft parts in the music. This song kind of reminded me of Radiohead's song, "High and Dry" cause of the style of singing.
"The Manifold Curiosity" is the third song, with a lot to discover each time you listen, such as different instruments or vocal passages. In about four minutes into the song, there's an explosion of melody using numerous instruments, I don't think any other band is even capable of creating something that sounds like it cause of the variety of instruments being used.
At the end of this song, the band creates an intense chaotic blizzard of sound similar to what you'd hear in Strapping Young Lad's album, City, and the singer screams with a burning rage, like the singer in the Metalcore/Grindcore band, Converge, very heavy and reminds us that this band does use metal in their art.
Track four, "Wayfarer", is a song that transforms from eerie to lovely, with screeching violins that sound like they're being used for a horror movie and dramatic singing. There's a really good solo in this song too.
And now for the last track, "Antique", the song that gets as heavy as Dillinger Escape Plan and also ends up being kind of like a piano ballad song at the end.
One thing I've noticed in Kayo Dot compared to Maudlin of the Well is there wasn't that mush jazz elements, Maudlin of the Well was very jazzy. This new stuff is like Prog/Art rock, Doom Metal, Easy Listening, and Indie Rock, all with the band's own unique twist. I think everybody should give the album a shot and not judge it on the first listen since there's something new to find and appreciate in the music with each listen.
Well god dammit! After hearing this album, every other album in my collection is going to drop a few notches in the enjoyability scale... Choirs of the Eye redefines my, uh, definition of "perfect." This is a *tremendous* work of sonic art, and it is indeed the best album I've heard this year. Perhaps it has the potential to be the best album of the decade or the past two centuries? Well, that's pure speculation on my part... but I can say this is a flawless, progressive, experimental masterpiece.
I kinda feel a bit awkward reviewing this album on a metal database, as this is NOT a heavy metal album. It sounds like Esoteric or Skepticism at times (super massive awesome doomy heavy), and there is plenty of screaming and growling... but the music journeys through a myriad of different moods, and there are only a handul of guitar parts that can be construed as *metallic* riffs. Even when the band is at their most violent, it transcends any subgenre under the heavy metal umbrella.
Band comparisons? Yeah right. The absolute closest relationship I came up with while listening to this album (for the seventh or eigth time through) was "In the Court of the Crimson King" (King Crimson) meets "Metamorphogenesis" (Esoteric). I personally doubt anyone would agree with this description. I've heard another person describe this album as "Jeff Buckley + Sigur Ros + Isis + the Boston Philharmonic = Kayo Dot"... it all depends on the person hearing it. Individuals are BOUND to comprehend this mass of sound *individually*.
Instruments listed? Guitar, cello, doube-bass, bells, electronics, flute, clarinet, alto sax, various keyboards, french horn, trombone, violin and viola, trumpet, and even a camera (...). There is LOTS of music going on at all times. Sometimes there will be 4 guitars playing non-parallel noisy lines creating giant walls of sound, and at other times it will be a solitary droning keyboard. The mixing job is awesome, though, so if you listen to this album on headphones (and you have a good set of ears), you can carefully listen to each individual instrument track, loud or subtle. As for the instrumental performance on this album... it's flawless, I think. Whereas on maudlin of the Well's last double release (Bath/Leaving Your Body Map) the instruments were very loose and kind of sloppy at times, Choirs of the Eye is VERY tight where it needs to be tight, and loose where necessary.
The vocal performance is quite effective. Toby Driver is the main vocalist, as far as I know, and he sings quite emotionally at points, sometimes creepily, and sometimes screams more viciously than most grindcore front-men. All five of the main band members perform vocal duty, though. During the massive, dense sections, nearly everyone is supplying growls and screams to add to the textures. At some points, the lyrics are poetically read off over the music, and it always works. The vocals, just to reaffirm, are VERY effective.
Bottom line: If you're a fan of experimental music, long dynamic songs, and are tolerant of extreme vocals, pick this up immediately. I have yet to hear a body of music sound remotely similar to this, and I've heard very little music that sounds half as well-composed. I haven't been this excited over an album in years. Mind-blowing, AWESOME music. Album of the year. That is all.