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Wake up and listen to what is happening in Russia - 80%

erebuszine, April 26th, 2013

There are elements surrounding this release that will doubtlessly have certain reviewers crying for a re-evaluation of this band's 'cult appeal': the elegant cover art and layout (good job, Andreas), the stellar ultra-clear production, the defensiveness on the part of the label in trying to categorize this release as being 'still metal' (not such a good job, Andreas), and last but certainly not least, the kiss-of-death in 'true' circles: a distribution/licensing deal with the bloated Century Media. Just for the record, I know that CM, obese giants astride the world scene as they are, have made many signing mistakes in the past (many of which still reside comfortably on the label when they should have been tossed by the wayside long ago - I know, harsh... but also true). They also have scored a lot of sweet deals which people on this side of the pond should be thankful for - not the least being the wide domestic release of Mayhem, Emperor and Gorgoroth. My feelings, politically, on Century Media are mixed... but most of the time I really just don't care. Who would be annoyed at the umpteenth EyeHateGod remix when the same company is putting Malicious titles in your corner megastore? You have to take the good with the bad, I suppose. Enough of that for the time being.

As I tried to make clear in my earlier review of Mental Home's 'Black Art', I feel that a band of this caliber and talent really doesn't have to justify their music on any level, least of all to ignorant music 'journalists', as they are following a program and method of progression that is completely original, and they are far enough out of the spotlight to remove any notions of 'commercialism' from their detractor's criticism. Whether or not this is something that other writers will be able to perceive and/or understand is another matter. At first I was put off the songs on this record because of the clean production, but when I sat down and really took the time to listen to the melodies and the messages within the music I concluded that my initial unease was nothing other than a defective defensive reflex. The guitar tones have been cleaned up a little, the keyboard is a little more prevalent (especially in the wide-ranging 'washes' where the synths spread vast melodic landscapes over the rhythm section), and the vocals have been changed a little to suit the new songs, but that is really all that has been modified. The Mental Home Formula (TM) is still very much intact.

Part of that formula is their concentration on building evocative songs around very strong, memorable melodies. As I said in my earlier review, I believe this band is one of the most talented in the world when it comes to writing emotionally passionate, driving, aggressive melodies (sometimes sounding almost like a cross between Amorphis and Dissection, if you can believe that) and while their music never collapses into a downright morose doom crawl, it is almost always filled with a tangible sense of melancholy and loss. This album is not different in any way. Listen to the almost-instrumental fifth song on this album, 'Against My Will', if you need convincing: it is the heaviest Mental Home song I have ever heard, pacing deliberately through a blasting opening to a woe-drenched epic chorus section, organ fills, bass-plucking transitions, expertly stirring solos (excellent lead work, Sergey!), tremelo-picked main riffs (2:51), and heavy-handed crunching (3:30) in the middle. Intense.

Almost all of these songs are very strong, however. Take the opening 'Downstairs' with its short intro of an orchestra tuning up (damnit, I thought of that years ago, they got to it before me) launching into a distortion-soaked guitar and keyboard duel through descending melodies that seem to actually fall through space, collapsing the choruses in upon themselves; the expertly-constructed follower 'Late to Revise' with has some of the best melodies of the entire album: both the opening/main lead (a supremely moving selection of ten notes repeated four times with a small variation) that sets the mood perfectly or the subtle chromatics of the keyboards playing a complementary run through the slow sections. The third song, 'Eternal Moan', is the selection, I think, that will have most people sit up and take notice, as it starts off with an elegant subdued piano piece (which lasts all of 45 seconds) and then lurches into life with quick-strumming guitars reminiscent of punk bands more than anything else, combined with lead and keyboard contributions that I can only describe as being Uber Pop Populi: meaning filled with that sugary Asiatic melodic sense that Russian bands seem to have taken as their calling card - a sense of melody that combines totally obscure references with the most blatant atmospheres. Strange, to say the least. This can be explained, I believe, by pointing to the overwhelming influence Asiatic sensibilities have had on the folk music of Russia - it is a country that stretches from West to East, remember. Or maybe not, I don't know. I would like to hear more, however.

This band deserves to be one of the most highly-lauded in the genre, and one of the most successful as well. I can only hope that the world soon decides to wake up and listen to what is happening in Russia, as this band is spearheading a musical movement that has been slowly boiling over for some time now.

UA

Erebus Magazine
http://erebuszine.blogspot.com

From Russia without much love - 60%

autothrall, March 30th, 2010

The first two Mental Home albums Vale and Black Art had the band primed and hovering at the edge of a breakthrough, especially considering the rather 'exotic' geography of their origins for their day. Russia was known for some mildly interesting heavy metal bands like Black Obelisk or Aria, but how many gothic doom bands were around at the turn of the century putting out records like this? The first Mental Home album to officially see its initial release through the quickly rising label The End Records saw its arrival a year after Black Art, but while technically a superior recording to either of its predecessors, it seemed the band had lost a little steam.

What went wrong? That's the quandary here, because there really is nothing truly negative to say about Upon the Shores of Inner Seas. It's not a long shot from the previous album, with the exception that it takes slightly more progressive flourishes. Sergey Dmitriev's vocals are more polished than before, and this honestly takes off a little of the emotion and edge, but to compensate he uses a slightly more nasal tone in some passages that quite reminded me of Snake from Voivod. The synths and guitars interact as well if not better than the earlier records, and the band has achieved a great tone here where they measure off one another, the melodies simply gleaming across the keyscapes created by Michael 'Maiden' Smirnoff. The problem would have to be the lack of truly memorable songwriting ala "Aevin's Cage", "Southern Calm Waters", or "The Plague Omen". This album has nothing so unforgettable, but it's otherwise a fairly even 37 minutes with only one 'stinker'.

"Downstairs" is a strong opener, with some guitar lines that seem lifted directly from the fog of inspiration that crafted Black Art, but though the song is dense and atmospheric throughout, I can't pick out a single riff that I truly care for. "Late to Revise" creates a shining moment or two that reflect the graceful cover imagery of the album, many of the synths the aural equivalent to a sun beginning to erupt over a cloud or moonscape, but once again it just doesn't quite make it over the top. "Eternal Moan" is the track I really didn't like here...it sounds like Snake singing over some sort of gothic metal swing band, cheesy keyboards trying unsuccessfully to create some uplifting melody behind the chorus. I feel like I'm engaging some sort of bizarre Russian-alien disco when I hear this track, where the two peoples meet to exchange genes, and when it transforms into slappy prog-funk around 2:10, I can feel my dinner attempting to exit an orifice other than the one I intended.

Sadly, the album never really picks up the pieces after this oddball shocker. At best, it only manages to level itself off with the first few tracks in a few spots, like the desperate melodic intro to "Bliss" or the glorious surges that accent the lazy, Voivod-with-a-keyboard atmosphere of "Breakdown". "Stained" is pretty boring, and the remake of "Amidst the Waves" from the band's Mirrorland EP, while superior to the original, is too little and too late to make up for the lackluster 30 minutes you've spend Upon the Shores of Inner Seas.

Perhaps the band knew they had hit a slump, or perhaps not. All I know is that we've seen a decade come and go with no further releases from the once promising Russian act. If this album is truly at fault, well, everyone makes a mistake once in a while. It's not that the material here completely sucks (aside from "Eternal Moan"), it's just short on inspiration. I'd urge Mental Home to forget all about this mediocrity, and head back into the more gloomy, culturally sharpened doom of the first two albums, writing songs both intense and majestic. At least one thing could be taken as a positive from Inner Seas: the production. With any luck, we haven't heard the last of them.

Highlights: Downstairs, Late to Revise, Bliss

-autothrall
http://www.fromthedustreturned.com

Bah... - 50%

natrix, April 24th, 2004

Mental Home definately took a turn for the worse with this album, and the main problem being is that they're striving for some new direction (which isn't that good) while simultaneously retreading old ground.

"Downstairs" starts the album off, and in my opinion, it starts it off on a bad note. The first riff is kind of thrashy, with some double bass thrown in, before going on to being more melodic. The problem is, this doesn't immediatley grab you with a strong hook, like on their other albums.

"Late to Revise" is actually the best song on here. It's got a nice melody, some double bass after the verses, and very strong rhythms.

After that, the album goes downhill pretty fast. "Eternal Moan" starts with some orchestrated keyboard piece, then goes off with a fast, almost thrashy verse, which has nothing to do with the beginning. In the middle, there's some strange funk bass playing and keyboard doodling going on that I find quite annoying. It's like they had ideas for three different songs, but couldn't put them together, so they haphazardly put them all in one song. "Bliss" slightly redeems the album, because it is much better constructed, keeping a doomy feel throughout. "Stained" picks up the pace a little, with a good opening riff that grabs you immediatly. That song sounds a lot like Mental Home's older material, and stays pretty heavy. Finally, they end the album with "Amidst the Waves," rerecorded from Mirrorland. It's not a good rerecording because they end up cutting out some of the best parts of the song, and basically turn it into two verses, making it seem really fragmented.

Now, the biggest gripe I have with the album is the vocals. They sound pretty similar to the past material, but really gritty, mumbly and weak, like Sergey's been smoking too much. To put it bluntly, he sounds like Kurt Cobain. Not good. Another pretty major flaw is the experimentation going on with this album. "Eternal Moan" is the main culprit, with the funky bass and really weak verses. These weak verses in question sound like really bad alternative or even pop music, and they show up in some of the other songs.

The end result is that there is a lot of really good material that continues in their old direction, and a lot of experimentation and goofy singing that is totally different. This makes for a pretty frustrating listen, because a lot of the album just doesn't flow.

A Dark Journy into Russia - 85%

Colonel_Kurtz, December 9th, 2002

I remember first receiving this record. I was working at my college radio station and was known to play metal. The boss came to me and told me there was some music he wanted me to try. Behold, my introduction to Mental Home. The very begining of the album has a full orchestra fine tuning their instruments. Slowly the bass kicks in and soon a full explosion follows which are lead by keyboards. This is the intro "Downstairs". The song is fairly straight forward with a nice catchy bridge to it. The music is very friendly to years and offers no brutality to it. The track goes on and soon fades out but it started up with another explosive track. "Late to Revise" is a very catchy song. It has a very nice keyboard loop to it that makes the song warrant repeated listens. After the explosive intro the song calms down a bit but then soon kicks into a "bouncy" verse. The song is extremely melodic and you can almost make out every word which is being sung. The song ends with a 4/4 bass drum pedal actions. The next song, "Blissful Moan" does not follow like the first two. This song might have my personal favorite intro of all time. It features a 45 second piano/keyboard solo which is downright beautiful. It basically paints a picture of the coldness and visions of Russia. Of course after the 45 seconds enters the guitars. Not only does this song have an amazing intro, but the bridge for it is also quite amazing. The bridge features a very nice bass solo with only the keyboards playing. The song is just breathless. The first 3 tracks are without a doubt the highlight of the album. "Against My Will" is basically an instrumental with only one line being sung through the whole song(that being the title). "Breakdown" has a very memoriable keyboard playing with the only flaw being the length of the song, which brings me to my last point. The album is too short. It is just under 38minutes which is a good length for only 8 tracks, but it does leave the listener wanting more. A ninth track would have done wonders for this disc, possibly giving the disc a 90. However, the length is only a minor flaw in what I feel to be a very beautiful and melodic album.