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I checked out this album due to the great MA reviews (it had a 97% out of 16 reviews when I picked it up) and was pleased to find it almost as good as advertised. If you're a fan of Cryptopsy or Nile, you'll definitely find some familiar elements here, but combined in a totally unique way that creates a very special product.
The drums (Tomás Corn) are very good, comparable to Flo Mournier in both style and quality. They're jazzy in some places, incredibly fast in others, and throughout they are incredibly varied and interesting. The distorted guitars are nothing particularly special and could probably do with some solos, but overall do a fine job in the rhythm department. Acoustic guitars also pop up frequently, adding another layer to the music. The bass (Andy Maresh) is barely perceptible, but it's chugging along too. The growls (courtesy of “Ptoe”) are very low, probably too low, but I suppose the intent was to make the lyrics seem more “profound” by being recited in such an extreme way. There are also substantial clean vocal parts that are unfortunately not sung that well (also note the thick Czech accent!). Finally, the keyboards (Pavel Marcel) are used in a very tasteful manner (except for the last track, anyway).
The best part of the composition is the sheer energy and creativity put into each song. The riffs are awesome and played with such vigorous variety that one never feels complacent when listening to this album; everything flows smoothly without any boredom setting in.
This energy does have its negative points, though. What passes for song composition in this album is basically a constant switching off between “brutal” (i.e. distorted guitars, growls, grinding riffs) and “melodic” (i.e. clean vocals, clean guitars, melodic riffs). This, as I said, keeps your attention, but it also makes each of the songs somewhat similar to each other. It would have been nice to have some sort of concrete grouping of “abrasive” and “clean” sections, but instead they just schizophrenically switch off for 60 minutes.
Another negative: no solos. They aren't all that missed, actually, but it would have made the album deeper.
Middle Eastern riffs and interludes are a common occurrence and relate to the Christian lyrics (more on that later). These are very tastefully done and make the songs more interesting. There's also some synthesizer stuff that sounds pretty cool.
One last thing – “Walking In the Gardens of Ma'at.” This song, which just happens to be the only non-metal one here, is terrible. It's a bunch of bird noises set against some synths that just play randomly (or at least they SOUND random) for eleven straight minutes. I shit you not.
Without a doubt, the lyrics are the greatest part of this album, and they are what I will dwell on the most in this review. So far from being merely art brut Czenglish, these guys obviously got A's in English class. Here's a good example:
“I am searching for the land where I will fall on my knees
and will be weeping for a long time.
Where my mind shall extend on the sky
and my heart shall speak the language of the trees
and open like a water-lily
by touches of morning sun...”
Already, you can tell how queer these lyrics are for death metal. They are at times extremely sentimental (“His heart he offers them / ...and they spurn. / Then in silence and seclusion / ...silently he weeps”), and all relate to a common theme: Christianity. Oh sure, they mention Ma'at (Egyptian goddess of justice), but the sentiment comes right out of the New Testament (“On the Way Home” is the most obvious example, “Sadness and Strength” is another).
For most metal fans, this is rather unnerving. Christan-inspired death metal? What's next, Satanic Christian-rock? White supremacist blues? Fascist hippie rock? Now, you might say, “Death metal is just music; the lyrics can be about anything." This is technically true, I suppose, but generally speaking though, death metal lyrics pretty much always relate to death and the negative things associated with it (pestilence, zombies, hell...). This, of course, fits the music. But a death metal band that seems to advocate Christian nonviolence and pacifism (“Flowering Entities”) or eternal life in heaven (the whole damn album) is just too radically different. Growling “let's become the islands of peace and harmony” while being backed up with distorted guitars and drums getting the shit beat out of them just doesn't make sense.
Despite the contradiction, the abstract nature of the lyrics and the flexibility of the music makes it gel together reasonably well. What one ends up wondering, though, is why exactly this Christian band created such brutal death metal/grindcore when they seem to be far more interested in a softer, more folk music-inspired spiritual journey? It seems like they could have dropped the extremely low growls and blast beats and made a damn fine album anyway – less appealing to metalheads, but perhaps more coherent overall.
Positive Points – great drumming and lyrics; creative, energetic, and intelligent.
Negative Points – the music is its own contradiction; no solos; each song is arranged the same way.