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Fight Against Time - 80%

Perplexed_Sjel, November 26th, 2008

Modern day metal is more varied than ever before. However, the distinction between what is and what isn’t good has become more difficult and subjective than ever before because of the level of experimentation some bands are taking to. Its easy to establish what is good from the old school scenes of each of the genres and sub-genres within metal because the music is still accessible in the modern era, but with this new breed of hybrid acts and the establishment of new sub-genres, the classification rules have been altered significantly and we, as listeners of the metal industry, are finding it difficult to collectively establish what is the stand out material from the modern era of metal. To an extent, the old school makes it easy to distinguish between good and bad and how far the gap is between the two, but nowadays, these issues are a lot more confusing and perplexing than ever before due to experimentation and, most notably, hybrid acts that are seemingly dominating the scene. Waldheim, a Spanish band formed in 1999, are one of these modern day bands that I am referring to. ‘Fight Against Time’ has taken the best part of a decade to hit the public, but it has and with some force. This band is a fine example of the experimentation that is occurring within our scene these days and although, in some cases, it is exciting, there are numerous concerned consumers who’re displaying their disarray at the evolution of metal.

In my eyes the inclusion of bands like Waldheim, who take influence from several genres and sub-genres, are a product of this evolution and its dangerous, daring, but most of all its exhilarating. ‘Fight Against Time’ is a odd record that takes many different forms in a short space of time. I’ve not encountered such a varied band for a long time and that speaks volumes for itself since I’ve been exploring a lot of avant-gardé bands of late. It is stated that this band, Waldheim, are primarily gothic and melodic death metal, but there seems to be a bit more to the equation than that. For example, the structures of the songs indicate a progressive nature and, on occasions, I am even reminded of some prominent power metal bands (namely Pyramaze). Of course, the power metal genre has suffered a lifetime of neglect from me, so I’m not in the best position to openly state such an opinion, but given the fact that I’m opinionated, I cannot help but do so anyway. I just hope I’m not scolded for such a comparison by avid power metal fans showing their disgust at my lack of knowledge surrounding the genre. I hold my hands up, I really don’t know that much but, in my humble estimation, there is something about the way in which the guitars are structured that reminds me of power metal, and specifically, the earliest Pyramaze record, ‘Melancholy Beast’. Other such strange conjurations of potential influences are drawn out throughout the record, which backs up my statement about the ever changing nature of the modern day metal scene. Despite the experimentation on this record, there are lacklustre elements of course. The male vocals and the often too fast nature of the record, which is probably adopted from the power metal vibe.

Again, as well as the tagged genres for this artist, the evolution of the songs present on this record remind me distinctly of progressive metal too, which is a positive trait. Normally, melodic death metal comes under a lot of fire for its approach. Cynicism is rife towards the sub-genre that has inspired a influx of mediocrity to the industry. Considering the hybrid nature of this band, there should be no criticism aimed at the inclusion of another melodic death metal band to the Archives. Why? The level of experimentation presented on this record is phenomenal. This experimentation comes mainly in the form of a male and female vocal duet, which consists of a lot of variation. Guttural death metal growls, screeched and shrill screams, operatic singing and clean female vocals. Don’t let this fool you though, the experimentation isn’t always good. I must admit, this is perhaps the first time I’ve enjoyed operatic vocals as much as I did on this record, ‘Fight Against Time’. Why? Well, in comparison to the majority of the male vocals presented on this piece, they’re the best thing since sliced bread. The male vocals, for the most part, are tediously overbearing in whatever form they choose to come across in and make the vocals on the new Cryptopsy record look good (Ouch! Tongue in cheek moment there!). Having said that, as the record progresses, and the listener in invited into the more sublime moments (like the performance of the emotive keyboards), one tends to forget that the male vocalist is even performing on this record, which is a good thing in hindsight. His performance is atrocious and is the main stand out negative on the entire piece.

Aside from his numerous failing renditions of death metal growls and even what seems to be an attempted black metal rasp, one can get back to the true nature of this piece. The production is perfect and suited to the splendiferous content. The pace of this record is important and, once again, reminds me of the tempo in which the majority of the best power metal bands play in. Its fast, for the most part, and uses a duel guitar performance which portrays the lyrical themes very well. There are also numerous guest appearances on the record, many of which lend a hand in performing guitar solos for the respective songs. Songs like ‘Fight Against Time’, the title track, are fine examples of the general content on the record, although the male vocals dominate more on this song than they do towards the end of the record, thankfully. There is a distinctive medieval feel to the soundscapes, which is provided by the ever present use of keyboards. The keyboards, provided by the second woman in the band, are also very symphonic, creating mellifluous moments amidst the haze of the fast pace that is projected to us by the guitars and the vocals, which work in tangent with the guitars. The bass is as accessible as any other element, which is a good thing. It has a fairly ineffective sound though, which I found disappointing. It doesn’t tend to vary from the content that the guitars provide and seeming as the band utilizes two guitarists, why must the bassist emphasis even more the lead riffs? Strange. Perhaps the most pivotal aspects to this record are the most clichéd - the performance of the two female artists - one being the keyboardist and the other being a primary vocalist. Both of which add extensively experimental textures to the recording. The emotive sound which comes from the record is mainly provided by the vocals, but this record doesn’t appear to want to explore the emotional values that often constitute much of this type of music. All-in-all, this is a very good debut (minus the male vocals!) and is produced perfectly (it better had be after 9 years!) to suit the needs of the listener.