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An aperture of Gothic architecture divided by cool and molten scenery. Frozen demons upon centuries of isolated courtship now visited by a wanderer with a quest. The album art, lyrics, and synopsis all contrast each other on reciprocal terms of clashing opposites. Phavian are latently amidst the secondary counterpart therefore entitled, “Meridian II”. With the main line-up and the addition of two other guest musicians, the music too, develops variation throughout the course of its contingencies.
I have a feeling many female-fronted bands are getting attention over looks or novelty instead of music itself. In a male-dominant terrain, one would be inclined to find these instances rather luring. Somewhat possessing a sexist view, I think a lot of women vocalists sound amiss being in the realm of metal. However, they do sound more compatible providing backup rather than lead (see Wolves in the Throne Room). You can thank Elizabeth Matson for being the first female lead vocalist to ever intrigue me without growing weary and destructive upon my favorite pair of appendages (talking about my ears, you pervert). I’m not really sexist to be clear, I can tolerate Tori Amos, Janis Joplin, Stevie Nicks, and Mary Elizabeth McGlynn (to name a few). On the contrary, none of these women are in the metal scene but I do think they can tear the balls off some men in vocal ability. Getting back to Elizabeth Matson, I do think she’s a heavenly women, her vocals subdue my mentality’s tendencies of embracing depression. She’s glorious in experimenting with her own vocals. I’ll even say she could be Mikael Akerfeldt’s twin sister in regards to vocals.
Staying within the topic I presented in the previous sentence, “Meridian II” is the continuation of Opeth’s debut album, “Orchid”. An opinion I’m prepared to follow to my impudent death. “Orchid” is my favorite Opeth album so you can just imagine how “Meridian II” affected me. “Adam's Ale” is a good starter to see the fusion between these albums. Progressive metal with folk-influences, can it get any better than that? The answer is no. Acoustic guitars are the essence of what comprises true folk music and in this song, my soul felt transcended. There were congas, maracas, and a hint of Latin-inspired vocation. Now “Purl” is a real heathen. The initiating acoustics reminded me of one of my favorite video games, Dino Crisis (Save Room soundtrack). These guitarists’ greatest conveyor of perfect harmony are their acoustics. This is one of the attributes I wish to see more of, it is most effective in “Meridian II”. Another desirable aspect was Gavin McGuire’s backing vocals. It’s a shame I didn’t notice them until my third listen. Nonetheless, it bounced off cathedral walls as his vocals were omnipresent in a haunting séance.
Providing a distorted reflection, “Mirror Skin” is an organic piano piece executed by Plavian (Orchid’s “Silhouette” is also a instrumental piano piece meaning more inclination in connecting both albums). However, there was a discerning difference. “Sihouette” is more complex and creates a vast array of internal imagery dependent on the individual. “Mirror Skin” takes its manner slow letting you absorb the impact of each note’s residue. Regardless, both are great pieces of art. Progressive metal plus piano is a big yes! Another characteristic I should mention is in every song, the guitars sound subtly different. Both “Adam’s Ale” and “Watersong” sound similar to the axe work in “Orchid”. The former with folk-acoustic resonance and the latter with a somewhat progressive but in addition black/folk sonority. While “Orchid” was full of Akerfeldt’s black metal vocal lineage and growls, “Meridian II” virtually had none with the exception of Gavin McGuire ending the record with a cold dissonant growl.
“Meridian II” is only the second installment of four concept albums. You can bet I will tackle the other two. I have not heard “Meridian I” so I cannot give a comparison in how it differed. Seeing as this is the continuation of “Orchid”, I highly doubt it’ll surpass this album. I can only hope Phavian keeps up this stride with the upcoming two.
Originally written for www.metal-temple.com