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Esoteric impressions amid the stone carvings. - 81%

hells_unicorn, March 8th, 2012

And the path to oblivion, far from being straight and narrow, is an infinite chasm from which one never stops falling. But the mind does not perceive the fall, but rather a storm of experiences that blot out perception, an advent where things become nothing for a lack of ability to comprehend them all. It is a place where only speculation can reach, and even at that succeeding in being a blind man seeking after black diamonds in the wake of multiple dimensions of darkness. These words can no more touch its nature than any song or collection of songs employing its name, though many efforts have proven to be an interesting affair within their unavoidably limited and stylized scope. One particular endeavor seeking this realm comes from a part of the Balkans where these contemplations meet with a sinister crossroads of western and eastern influences, the 4th album of the obscure melodeath outfit Silent Kingdom.

To put this album into a box of a mere Gothenburg spinoff from a bit further south in Europe wouldn’t quite cover the nature of it, but it does give a pretty good place to start from. The earliest efforts of Dark Tranquillity and In Flames where melodic metal influences and extreme vocals were complemented by a somewhat more progressive attitude are the most appropriate analogy. Yet, there is also a slight nod towards the progressive side to the point of resembling early Dream Theater mixed into things, particularly whenever the keyboards take a prominent lead position. “Above The Bed Of Stones” takes a very free flowing direction in this regard, while managing to keep itself under the 4 minute mark and accessible enough to not be lost on the average early In Flames adherent.

As the album unfolds, it becomes very clear that brevity is at the forefront of what drives these songs, clinging to the older traditional death metal attitude of not hanging on for too long. But in similar fashion to that of Death’s middle era, the songs appear more drawn out than they actually are, working in an illusion by playing with the perception of the listener with a greater plurality of ideas within a smaller package. “Drown Them Back To Sleep” functions almost as an extended guitar solo, developing from a series of recurring melodic drones before erupting into a brief shred fest that rivals much of Jon Petrucci’s wilder solos. The vocal work mirrors the character of The Crown, in direct contrast to the general tendency of the Gothenburg three, and brings an additional wrinkle of brutality to fairly elaborate songs in the mold of “Straight To Sun” and “All Hails To Our Soil” which are far more atmospheric than even the keyboard happy Finnish adherents to the style.

Littered amid the short yet engaging songs are a number of instrumentals that really underscore the diversity of ideas at play. The intro “Under Your Might” begins as a dreary piano solo smothered in stage reverb, leading into a contemplative guitar passage that is somewhat folksy, but in the spicy mixture of east and west appropriate to the region of the band. “Old Ones” is a bit less sorrowful and more to the point, and reminds somewhat of a passage of a late 80s Queensryche song set to ballad form. The closer “The Knell” is more of a musical mystery, staring off in a fit of industrial noise and then drifting off into a quiet yet unsettling closing theme, as if an unfulfilled life had just come to an end.

Good albums tend to be experienced rather than listened to, and that’s the general category of “Path To Oblivion”. These are songs that generally tend to leave impressions rather than offering outright sing along ideas. Buried within them are the building blocks of the catchiness that typifies melodeath, but they tend to be so elaborate that they evaporate from the short term memory after a few minutes of silence. This is a good album, one that most who enjoy the lighter side of death metal should enjoy, but not quite of the same caliber as those which define the genre.

Prog-ish dark metal that works! - 75%

Lane, March 8th, 2012

Oh, metal from Eastern Europe, and some stone carving artwork on its cover. Smells like pagan! But no, at least not typical kind of pagan metal here. The band is Silent Kingdom from Bosnia and Herzegovina, and their fourth full length album 'Pathway to Oblivion' is a mixture of many things.

'Under Your Might' could be an intro for a prog metal album, which its piano work closely reminds of. But when the piano makes way for guitar work, it definitely feels more folk stuff from the band's homeland. 'From Dust' continues the folky feeling in metal way. Sharp, metallic guitars rip, loud drums pound, and sweeping synths make it feel epic. Heavy metal and thrash metal alloyed with folky and dark atmosphere, and with some semi-technical passages. 'Above the Bed of Stones' include some more proggy synthesizer playing and Borknagar-ish guitar stuff; it's dark prog metal, in a way. Also, some Amorphis stylings are heard; perhaps it's those Mid-Eastern spices in guitar and synthesizer work. The album continues in these trails... The band kept the songs quite short, and it definitely worked for their advantage. Plus, the songs roll very, very well indeed. But the similarity of the music is a slight con. Therefore, 'Old Ones' is a good breather. Almost all the music was written by guitarist/vocalist Amir Hadzic, so there's the reason for its similarity.

As the music is proggy at times, the musicianships must be good enough. The playing also rolls on well, and is tight. There's no complaining about the performances, except for vocals perhaps, which are a bit one-dimensional growling. But the music itself offer enough catchy stuff to listen to, anyways. The lyrical themes seem to handle humanity, and its trite side, e.g. betrayal, lying, history, etc.

The production is good all around. The music requires big sound, and it was achieved. It also requires clarity, because of all the elements it includes and the huge sound. That also was achieved. And let's not forget the kick, that is there, too. For a big part, both musical and visual sides were done by the band members, so thumbs up; it's not usual "short-sighted" work, as many bands have commited on their releases.

As I haven't heard the previous work from Silent Kingdom, I cannot compare this to them. 'Pathway to Oblivion' is a nifty little album. It has character, even though also familiar echoes. It sounds good and the band are in fire. A nice piece of slightly prog-ish dark metal, this.

(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com)