November Roundup: Prog, Death, Dad & Black
Newest of musicks from Fates Warning, Diamond Head, Writhing, Megaton Sword & Old Sorcery.
Fates Warning – Long Day Good Night
Long Day Good Night is the longest Fates Warning album to date, tracking 72 minutes. Unlike the majority of their work, it’s not tied together by a (semi-conceptual) thread running through the record. Unless you’d be willing to count “revisiting moods from throughout their career” as a thread, but it shatters the album into clusters of songs instead of creating a conceptually sound arc. Though the album begins with a very calm mood, the first few songs represent the melodic and heavy take heard on the last couple of albums, the groovy riffs finding their counterpoint in Alder’s soft vocals, though the hooks are fewer, and less effective than on Theories of Flight, and a solo or two from Frank Aresti could have done wonders.
The second batch recalls the tranquil, easy listening material of the early ’90s and provides many of the albums highlights, but also demonstrates the trouble of clusters, placing all similar songs in a row, causing the arc to stagnate rather than progress. “Scars” and “Begin Again” could easily have been cut from the album, and it would have been all the better for it. Both tracks are rather dull, straightforward heavy metal pieces that could have been joined in the bin by the stumpy “Liar”, and the album would have still passed the hour mark.
Luckily, betwixt them is “When Snow Falls”, an excellent melancholic and synthetic piece with a restrained drum performance from Gavin Harrison. Elsewhere Bobby Jarzombek doesn’t exactly let restraint rule, but his performance is the most consistently admirable on the record, whereas bassist Joey Vera gets to shine on the album-defining epic “The Longest Shadow of the Day” that evolves from dialogue between the strings to Jarzombek’s rejoicing, slows down to give room for Adler and a Gilmour-esque guitar solo before rising again to close with Michael Adbow’s(?) angular soloing. And much like the record, it is at its very best when avoiding the heaviest material.
Cutting away the lengthy mid-album slog, and re-arranging the order of the remaining tracks would have made for a moody and deliberating record that would have continued Fates Warning’s triumphant return, and possibly turned a new leaf for the band. Now, the finest bits are bogged down with filler and excessive length. Just as Adler’s last year’s solo debut, which seems to have affected its material as much as the band’s own past, Long Day Good Night is easily at its best at its lightest and airiest, and just like that album, would have greatly benefited from focus, preferably its strengths, and discarding the weight of the close past.
Diamond Head – Lightning to the Nations 2020
If you’ve ever wanted to hear Diamond Head‘s combined magnum opus and debut as a re-recorded, and not even a bit re-imagined version with more congested sound, plastic kick and stuffier singing, now’s you chance. It’s one of the most pointless re-recordings of the last few years, although also one of the most understandable, if that makes sense. I would’ve preferred another re-release of the original though, and this one doesn’t even seem to touch upon any problems, real, imagined or for promotional purposes invented of the original. At least there are a few covers tacked on as bonus, and uh, uhhhhhh, well at least they “returned the favour” to the band that’s responsible for elevating them to their cult status.*
Writhing – Eternalised in Rot
The two-song debut EP of an Australian trio, Writhing‘s Eternalised in Rot presents a death metal band skilled in their craft but aside from the tech crowd, yet not afraid to embellish their fairly straightforward material with a proggy flair. There’s also a hint of melodic flavour in their music, imagine something akin to Necrophobic if they were a beefed up death metal band instead, with a dash of Ulcerate from a decade past. I for one can’t wait to hear how they hold up in longer form.
Megaton Sword – Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire
If you’ve been hankering for more debut-era Visigoth (ie. Goodogoth), but also want it to be covered in the manjuices of Bathory‘s and Cirith Ungol‘s love child, you might be in luck, because the Swiss Megaton Sword is not entirely unlike what one might imagine the result being. Uzzy Unchained will divide opinions, but his vocal delivery, which, strangely enough, reminds me of a young Billy Corgan, is the perfect fit for Megaton Sword’s music, similarly to how Ironsword would lose much of its charm without Tann’s gargling-on-testicles “singing”. A couple tracks, “In the Black of the Night” and the closer “The Giver’s Embrace” could have been pushed further to maximize their effect and the kind-of-ballad “Crimson River” is predictably the weakest link here, but all in all Blood Hails Steel – Steel Hails Fire is a most excellent way to start winding down on the heavy metal year 2020.
Old Sorcery – Sorrowcrown
Though Old Sorcery remains a dungeon synth project, Sorrowcrown takes a detour to black metal. It’s a somewhat odd choice at first, given the existence of Warmoon Lord, Velchij Vrajitor’s black metal band, but ultimately, these song would have been more ill fit on its discography than here. Lingering, massive and epic are some of the words that have undoubtedly raced through its creators mind as Sorrowcrown was written. Its atmospheric black metal often trades riffs for walls of chords, though accompanied by a wistful lead or a simple synth melody. The opener “Fortress of Molten Silver’s” growth from its melancholic first notes to Emperor-ian rage and continued development towards its Summoning-esque closing moments, and unwillingness to stay in one place sets it apart from most of the style’s bands. Here, it works wonders.
Unfortunately, the other songs can’t quite match its exhilarating journey, despite working on similar pieces. “Voidborn” features Sorrowcrown at its riffiest, and “Phantasm” comes close to dungeon synth’s ambient side, while the closer “Blades of a Reflection” combines these two takes for a Burzum-inspired sound. Although it’s a good album, it tends to work better as individual pieces, transcending its influences better that way, as the density can get impenetrable in larger doses.