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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.