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Hobbits in outer space - 60%

oneyoudontknow, January 3rd, 2009

The bad (or some may say good) aspect of a concept album is to point to its loopholes and fallacies. Not consistent, not logical and overall bland are some of the arguments that could be brought forth... in fact many more are often possible/plausible ... also in case of the Oxiplegatz's Sidereal Journey. No surprises, as a lot of metal bands, especially those of the extreme genre, seem to have some problem with the issue of getting music and lyrics into a sound concept.

Luckily this has only in some respect to do with the lyrics, as they are pretty tolerable and endurable; torments to the ear like those on Star One's debut:
We have found the seventh sign
Down in the catacombs
When the seven points align
They will lead us all back home
(-> Mr. Lucassen watched a little bit too much television and this was the result of this)

do not appear on this release; yet, and this is by no means a surprise, the depth is wanting and shallow. It is basically a science-fiction story bereft of a good deal of its core essences, which left parts of its spine and ribcage exposed to the world, whereas it is possible to identify it as such; beyond this... nothing. Actually, judging from the songs, the listener gets the impression that the whole story takes place in a short time frame; somehow amazing when considering the vast distances mankind has to face in the scenario.

The description of the music is pretty tricky due the way the songs appear on this album. Its length of round about 41 minutes had been cut into 33 pieces (*); which makes an average of ~1:25 per song... no this is not a grindcore or noise album. The compositions actually vary between 0:31 and 2:30, which is not very much. So, what is this all about and what should someone expect on this album? Generally have the tracks been merged together into conceptual frames, i.e. certain passages of the story, and these can be identified through certain arrangements, atmosphere and style. Further it is necessary to emphasize that the transition between them is occasionally gapless and one idea follows another one; Several Planet in Orbit... to Enemies !?.

The music consists of space ambient interludes (or parts) and metal riffs; these might be sorted under the term 'thrash' or 'thrash-influenced'. Also solo parts appear now and then, but they sound slightly displaced but are well performed though. Some ideas are not limited to one track only, but do also in some respect on a preceding one. A drum-computer in the background, mixed way too much in the foreground, gives the songs some momentum. Two different kinds of vocals appear on Sidereal Journey; male and females ones. While the former are not bad, in variety of styles and amongst them are screaming and 'talking', the latter could use more power; especially when the voice reaches for higher scales.

This release is not bad, it is just unconvincing. For a concept album it is too shallow and offers too few neat little facets to the listeners, too few of the twists and turns in the story. Just like the Hobbits of Lords of the Rings, 'man' moves from one location to the other and finally all are happy and well off. The story and drama of the scene is not build up and accordingly remains everything vague and unclear. Little impact have the fragments of hope and questioning if the path to walk upon would be a right one, but none of these have an impact on the fields that are entered later. This fragmentation of ideas is also reflected throughout the music with its sequence of ideas and motives, of which hardly something is seen (heard) again once their part is gone by. As the songs are well crafted and the production endurable, Sidereal Journey is listenable, yet the album is not able to fascinate over its whole length. 60/100 should do it.

(*) the reason was, when I remember it right, it had been mentioned in a magazine, Legacy/Deftone if I am not very much mistaken, to enable to listener to pick a certain 'favourite' stage in the story line; which would be difficult in case all track had been merged together as one.

Sci-Fi black metal concept - 88%

yogibear, January 17th, 2005

Sidereal Journey
This is a one man project by Alf Svensson. He was at one time a member of “At the Gates” and played on “the red in the sky is ours“. He played guitar on this classic melodic death metal album. On this release he has taken on quite a task and that’s a concept piece of music that tells the tale of an alien race that realizes that their sun is going to be swallowed by a black hole. They plan and build what turns out to be some “generational” space ships with most of the people being put into stasis or suspended animation. This tells of their journey to their “new home” and the trials and dangers they encounter.

The musicians on this are: Alf Svensson who plays just about everything from guitars, to synthesizers, keyboards (electric and acoustic), bass and drums( I think they are a drum machine). He does most of the singing and vocalizing of the many parts for which he has written the lyrics to. There is a female vocalist named Sara Svensson who may well be his wife or his sister as the notes don’t really say as much. Andy La Roque is credited here as to “adding vocals and mixing“.

There are 33 tracks that are all tied together as one long song suite. The music lasts roughly 41 minutes. The music is mostly black metal and death metal mixed in with symphonic orchestral snippets and some slower and almost commercial bits that to me were a bit “cheesy“. The guitar, bass and drums when they are played are all mostly black metal in the style and ferocity with their “staccato” fast beats and sections. The guitars are single notes played fast and are used mostly as rhythm guitar figures. The black metal sections are interspersed with the other types of music to make a quite interesting and varied piece of music.

There are maybe 2 or 3 actual guitar solos but they are very tasty and fit well within the sections they are played in. There are many orchestral sections that are very well done and mixed with the black metal makes for a very ingenious mélange of music. The guitars used are very “dialed in” in that they seem to be almost as if Alf searched for the “perfect” guitar tone and distortion for that specific section and came up with some gems for the tones he uses. He probably had some cool modeling amps to make the choices easy as the project developed.

The middle section of the cd, about 13-15, are where I would say have the most strange/cheesiest bits of music on this superb work. The worst offender being the “several planets in orbit” section with the chorus and melody sounding as if coming from a Walt Disney movie. Sara vocals throughout are very nice but they are mostly only used for the slower unstacatto sections. The keyboards and synths Alf plays are spectacular as they are what adds and makes the sections fuse together. There are very nice piano parts mixed with string synths. Many and superbly arranged styles of keys are used and intermixed.

So an involved piece of music from an musician who fuses black metal with symphonic and orchestral sections to arrive with a unique and challenging concept cd. I think this is something that not everyone will appreciate as a piece of music since it carries more weight if you listen to it at a single hearing. Not everyone can do that but the final outcome of Alf’s vision is oh so tasty and I for one think its wonderful.