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Maudlin of the Well had a loyal fan base dedicated to their dreamy, avant-garde metal, and when listening to Bath and Leaving Your Body Map, it's not hard to see why. However, when they broke up and formed into Kayo Dot, many were disappointed as the band began to move away not only from heavy metal, but from any identifiable genre by throwing out all sense of structure and accessible melody. While their first effort Choir of the Eyes was an excellent and cohesive album, later albums pushed too far; often too difficult, unlistenable, and ultimately pretentious although commendable for the sheer talent on display. So when hearing that Toby Driver was to release a new maudlin of the Well album based on songs written before the formation of Kayo Dot, fans were both excited and dubious.
Fortunately, Part the Second continues the legacy of maudlin of the Well without too many of the elements which has made Kayo Dot unpopular with fans. The band mixes beautiful guitar tones, keyboards, strings, and other instruments, and has the ability to turn from dreamy landscapes to noisy, screaming nightmares to jazzy breaks without sounding forced. Fans of maudlin of the Well will not be disappointed; the first track is instantly recognizable as maudlin of the Well with trademark ethereal guitars and lightly picked harmonics slowly building up into a cacophony of shrieking guitars, and it should be as the song is actually a reworking of the first track off Bath.
The second song also follows in a similar style, beginning with a beautiful mix of keys and strings before becoming a whirlwind of guitars reminiscent of tracks like Bizarre Flower or Birth Pains of Astral Projection. A welcome return to the band is the guitar of Greg Massi, who's instantly identifiable solos were sorely missed from Kayo Dot, such as the jazzy funk of Clover Garland Island or the moody wailing on Laboratories of the Invisible World.
This is not a metal album however- while previous efforts were arguably metal, sounding like an even more spaced out version of Tiamat's Wildhoney and occasionally My Dying Bride, Part the Second rids itself entirely of the genre. There is a lot more space and mood in the music, such as Rose Quartz Turning to Glass which recalls Kayo Dot with Mia Matsumiya's violin winding us along oriental landscapes until the band kicks in with a Pink Floyd-esque trip into outer space.
That's not to say the band has lost it's heaviness. The final track is noisy and loud with guitars, trumpets, keys and shrieking vocals playing off each other over a strong rhythm section reminiscent of some of maudlin of the Well's loudest moments or the winding guitar work of Ephel Duath.
Part the Second is a beautiful and dynamic album, however because it's made of unrecorded and forgotten tracks from Bath and Leaving Your Body Map, it doesn't have the same cohesive flow as these two almost perfectly formed records. Occasionally it falls into a similar trap of Kayo Dot and disengages the listener as the space and mood widens too far, but the band will quickly return with a memorable melody which pulls the listener right back in.
Metalheads may be turned off by its lack of heavy riffing, but maudlin of the Well was never about this in the first place. Part the Second is a journey through various soundscapes and is an excellent listen for people who want to hear something unique.
Maudlin of the Well is one of those bands that I always heard about and was really intrigued to listen to but could never get a hold of because all their stuff is out of print. When I heard that this new album was available free for download on their website I jumped to the occasion.
The album is stunning to say the least. The best way to describe it is as a musical orgasm. It's passionate, but intense, and always excellent. Venturing beyond the avant-garde metal they are known for releasing in the past, "Part the Second" is much more. It maintains a steady level of "experimentation" to fulfill the avant-garde but ventures into numerous other territories. It includes a wide array of instrumentation, weaving in and out of itself to create a spectacular soundscape.
There isn't a weak spot on the disc, and the fact that the band released it free for download is incredible. The fact that is FREE also gives you a reason to go download it and listen, even if you don't think you'll like it. A metalhead might from someone's description of an album with little metal, which is filled classical setting instrumentation in an avant-garde setting, disregard the album. I can't blame them! Why buy something you don't think you'll like? You don't have to! No one can turn down free music, and the fact that it's incredible is just an added bonus.
Maudlin of the Well's newest release may not be accesible for everyone musically, but it is a magnificent masterpiece of an album. The music escapes from the common labelings and classifications of modern music and instead rests nicely in the category of the indescribable. Recommended for anyone.
A victory for the people who donated, a victory for music production, and a victory for the music listener. This is one hell of a journey, this is an album that will consume you, it will break your heart every time only to force you to fall in love again. First I’ll have to say, this doesn’t sound like anything maudlin of the Well had done previously, almost all of the metal is gone. I recently criticised Kayo Dot for the same thing, but this has done something different, it’s done it so well that you can’t help but forgive it.
The first cheerful 30 seconds of this is so incredibly uplifting, it’s insanely happy, especially if you know that it’s going to be followed by what is quite possibly the most awesome album of all time. A beautiful string arrangement comes in and really sets the mood for what this album is all about. The guitars resonate throughout and just add a lush flavour that you can almost taste, the layering is absolutely stunning. The vocal are perfect for the mood, out goes the harsh and in comes a completely clean vocal performance and it works amazingly well.
The slow build up is accompanied by sheer beauty and suddenly you’re thinking where the time has gone the whole thing just suddenly escalates out of nowhere. It will make you feel like you’re floating on top of the world. And before you know it, the first song is over. Another Excerpt feels like the start of a beautiful awakening, and the start of it is more classical in nature than anything. The build-up, the production and the atmosphere have all been created to perfection.
And there’s no disappointments, no anti-climaxes, just utter perfection, and buried deep in the mix is some incredible guitar solos that are just waiting to burst to the forefront, but never quite get there. Everything just seems to end so quickly, it never feels like you get a whole song, 10 minutes becomes one and everything feels lost, it can drive you mad just wanting more. Every now and then you’re just going to drift out of it and then when you snap back you notice you’re already halfway through the whole thing.
I’d like to take this time just to explain the sheer beauty of this album. There’s something to admire at every step of the way. Every note seems to be put there purely for your enjoyment. It’s like it knows exactly what you want and just delivers. The strings, the drums, the keyboards and the guitars; everything just works so perfectly, parts of this are pure silent perfection. And then other times it just overwhelms you with a beautiful wave of sound.
The closing track is quite possibly the only thing that can be tied down to make this overly familiar with motW fans, it’s the heaviest track, but that doesn’t explicitly say there’s any real metal on it, it just sounds more powerful. Yet it still retains that control, direction and beauty.
There’s not much I can say about this album that hasn’t been said other than that I’m absolutely stunned. My faith in new music has been restored, and I really hope that in 20 years 2009 will be remembered as the year that maudlin of the Well shocked the world with this total classic. And let’s not forget it’s available for free on their website.
I have also posted this review on: Musicbanter, RYM and Progarchives.