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Groovilicious - 92%

eViLbOrIs, October 14th, 2007

Well here's a splendid proposition. A band that does absolutely nothing to follow any trend in any sphere of the musical realm, and yet manages to encompass them all, and even often surpass them.
Mechanical Poet are, in simple terms, a symphonic progressive folk metal band. What's special about them is, is that they never shove any element of their music down their throat as if to say 'You don't hear the folk??? Here's the folk, you bastard!!!' and write a filler Irish bar song. Everything just weaves together to create a subtle tapestry in which the discerning observer can find a zillion different possible influences, but you'll never be able to say for certain whether it was their intention to incorporate said influence or not. The music just flows. Everything that's there is there because it best suits the composition, not because the band thought it would be stylish to throw in string instruments, choir passages, and full on Disney-soundtrack instrumental passages.
There is an amount of artistry in every Mechanical Poet release that you will not find in any other metal band today (at least no band that I've come across). Woodland Prattlers is a full audio/visual tour-de-force. The lyrics booklet is not actually a booklet, but a little book, with every song occupying it's own little full color comic strip, with characters' speech bubbles giving you the lyrics, which are mostly small conceptual stories about, well...woodland prattlers. The art is excellent and often twistedly creative (and CUTE!) in an Alice in Wonderland sort of way. Best cover art you will likely ever see, by the way. I've owned this thing for almost a few years now and I'm still finding new quirks and objects in that messy room.

Song by song breakdowns are gay, but I'll describe a few just too give ya a better idea of what this shtuff is all about...

Stormchild - The true opener of the cd, which begins after a short orchestral introduction, is definitely the heaviest song on the album, with a completely unique guitar tone that is worth the price of entry alone. You could put some guttural death grunts over this thing and almost call it a faster but less technical Suffocation. Well...no....but it is ridiculously heavy and fast, especially after the intro, when you're expecting something nice and easy, with maybe some acoustics and soft symphonic flourishes.

Strayed Moppet - Another heavy one, but nowhere near as much as Stormchild. This is probably the most infectuous song on the cd, with a lovely electronic ditty running through the background of the chorus. It's about a zombie who has accidentally wandered into a pretty garden and is suffering for it, longing for the murky essences of his swampy home. Vocalist Max Stamvosat pulls off the zombie character perfectly, as he does every character he portrays over the course of the album (and there are lots of 'em).

Natural Quaternion - At approximately 10 minutes long, this is obviously the centerpiece of the album, and deservedly so. It goes all over the place (you'll have to see the lyrics book to understand that) before bringing it all home in a great big theatrical crescendo. It's really Mechanical Poet in a nutshell, this song. I don't know if it's the best song on the cd, but that's only because they are all so gosh darn good.

There's also Old Year's Merry Funeral, which is musically supoib, but even if it wasn't it would getby just on the lyrics and artwork.

So, like, yeah. Go out and get this thing, why dontcha?

Superdebut - 92%

ThySentinel, September 10th, 2005

BEST SONGS: "Sirens From The Underland," "Natural Quarternion," "Swamp-Stamp Polka"

Since this album was released in December 2004, I deem it eligible for 2005 awards, of which, I'm sure, it will snatch a few. And I thought Wuthering Heights was complex! Apparently prog-folk is spreading its wings into Russia. This album is not as much about constant riff changes (ala WH's "Far From The Madding Crowds"), as it is about changing the melody: melodies vary quite often here. That is not to say that this album isn't heavy: in places, it very much is. When Lex Plotnikoff actually uses his heavy guitar tone, the band just shrieks and thrashes away, especially on "Stormchild" and "Strayed Moppet." On other occasions, the Mechanical Poet trio just lets folk melodies flow, suffusing from the stereo onto our ears. "Sirens From The Underland," for example, must be one of the most haunting and tranquil melodic masterpieces ever created within or outside this genre, and one of the year's best songs, period. The multi-layer chorale in refrains... ooh, yeah! On several occasions melody and heaviness can be found in a single track: such is the epic "Natural Quarternion." Aerial keyboards and percussion of Sylphs, orchestral sounds and baritone vocals of Gnomes, folk rhythms of Undines, and plodding driving riffage and angry rasps of Salamanders constitute the fourplet of elemental perfection. "Swamp-Stamp Polka," telling a short yet funny tale of two trolls finding a silver coin, is another highlight. I would prefer for Max Samosvat's vocals to be a little more prominent in the mix, but it is obvious that the focus of this album is the music and the arrangements. His voice, btw, is rather hard to describe: he uses at least five different vocal approaches to highlight the musical theatrics; "Swamp-Stamp Polka" is a good example of that. When he sings aggressively, he sounds a little like Angel Dust's Dirk Thurisch.

Now, I have to tell you about the booklet. The booklet alone makes this cd worth owning, because -- check this out -- it is set up like a comic book, with page for every song, and all lyrics drawn as if characters were speaking or thinking them, with arrows and bubbly-squares. Fabulous! And the lyrics are definitely worth the effort that went into their layout: charming, literate (even though I suppose Thesaurus was used frequently by Mr. Plotnikoff), telling fairy tales (some tracks are based on Astrid Lingren's novels) and stories of various magical creatures, they are as lovely as they come in metal. Btw, some musical moments recall Tim Burton's "Nightmare Before Christmas," and the album overall has a very theatrical approach about it. Definitely a discovery of the year; I hope these guys will go far.