Recently there was an idea emerging in my mind. Why not just try something different than the usual interview to promote a new album? That album was from German Melodic Death Metallers Words of Farewell. The guys accepted my challenge to review an album from a fellow group they didn’t know until then. (Which was Norways In Vain, similar in style). And then Kjetil Pedersen, Guitarist in In Vain also accepted to review „The Black Wild Yonder“ by Words of Farewell. Here are the results, unedited from Kjetil (git, In Vain) and Alex (voc, Words of Farewell). There’s also a german version of this article available over at Whiskey-Soda.de Webzine. Enjoy!
Words of Farewell – „The black wild yonder“, guest review by Kjetil DP (Guitarist In Vain)
So, Herr Frick of the Whiskey-Soda webzine asked me if I would do the honor to review Words of Farwell’s new album „The black wild yonder“, claiming it to be quite reminiscent of our latest In Vain album, „Ænigma“. Having no experience in music reviewing, and being totally unfamiliar with the band, I humbly accepted the challenge, just to wake up in a cold sweat the following night, when realizing just how incredibly stupid and cocky I would sound if I hated the album and had to butcher the effort of fellow musicians…
Luckily I had no reason to fear, because WoF has delivered a powerful, well composed and tightly performed album in the proud Gothenburg tradition. In general, I’ve grown slightly tired of this genre over the years, but WoF has that certain amount of progressivity and technicality in both riffs and song structures, which keeps this album fresh and interesting through multiple listens. First track „Continuum Shift“ kicks off with a grand melodic part, which is repeated as a chorus later in the song, and the contrast between this epicness and the thrashy riffing in between, makes this a killer opener for the album. „Telltale Notion“ follows up with some trademark synchronised chugging of guitars and bassdrums, filled out with some clever arpeggiated synth and guitar melodies, and a chorus line that has been stuck in my head the last couple of days. These two first tracks, plus the exquisite „Temporary Loss of Reason“, are really the highlights on this album for me, but there’s an equal high quality of songwriting throughout the album, with no real fillers to mention.
As a fellow guitar player I really enjoy the soloing throughout the album, clean and well played, with a few atypical melodic phrasings, and some creative and tasteful use of different sweep picking and tapping patterns. Kudos! The production is also more or less spot on, with great amounts of both power and clarity. Though the loudness monster might have bereaved the album for any possible variation in dynamics, that goes for more or less all metal realeases these days (our own included). I particularly like the clear definition in the bass guitar sound, making it audible as an individual instrument, and not just functioning as as a low frequency filler (Believe it or not, guitar players CAN learn to accept and even appreciate bass players!)
Also, let me just mention that I haven’t been provided with or checked out any of the lyrics, so I won’t give any remarks to the poetic qualities of the album. My guess is that they growl about Satan and stabbing baby seals like we all do, so that’s a thumbs up from me anyways. The vocals are pretty kickass as well, and though I would have wished for a little bit more variation in pitch and perhaps even some clean vocals to spice things up a little, I guess that’s just a matter of personal taste.
Now, as for the mentioned resemblance with „Ænigma“, I must admit that I don’t hear a whole lot of clear similarities. WE might be moving into a similar melodeath landscape on tracks like „Against the Grain“ and „Image of Time“, and there are certain progressive guitar passages on „The black wild yonder“ that easily would fit into an In Vain song, but in general, I see the WoF album as more of a fullblown, genre true yet original Melodic Death album with progressive edges, whereas our own „Ænigma“ is far more schizophrenic in terms of genres, instrumentation and vocal use etc. But then again, I find it quite difficult to rate and analyse our own music; it might be easier for an outsider to spot the similarities, so I’m certain that Herr Frick has his good reasons for comparing the two albums.
Never the less, I truly believe that the music of WoF would appeal to quite a lot of the In Vain fans out there, and vice versa. I really enjoyed the album, and I appreciate the opportunity to check out some new music that probably would have slipped under my radar otherwise. Words of Farewell, you’ve been awarded with the In Vain Mark of Approvement, an achievement easy comparable to a Purple Heart or a Nobel Prize. Keep up the great work, and see you on the road!
In Vain – „Ænigma“ , guest Review by Alexander Otto (Vocalist in Words of Farewell)
Primary note: publicly reviewing another band’s music is a challenge that we have never faced until now, so please forgive us if any of the general reviewing conventions are violated! We decided to first comment on each song focusing on the composition. Then, as we always appreciate feedback ourselves, we included a short criticism section. However, that section is not to be mistaken as a damning review as we really enjoyed In Vains music and the songs on Ænigma. The criticism is rather to be understood as a suggestion to make further improvements to the already excellent music! For those who do not have the time to read the full review we added a short summary at the very end. And now: Curtains up for In Vain’s Ænigma!
After listening to the album several times ‚Against The Grain‘ seems to be a good opener in the sense that it does show what the listener is in for. It doesn’t make any excuses for the courageous mix of Melodic Black Metal, Death, Doom and elements from other genres such as Gothic Metal or Progressive. The thing that possibly struck us the most were the different vocal styles which are already present in the first minutes of the album and set the tone to what is to come. The tremolo-picking parts seem to reference bands like Enslaved and for me personally the clean vocals tend towards the direction of Vintersorg, which is a compliment. The relatively long duration of the opening song may leave some eccentrics a little indifferent towards the end as the song does not contain any breaks or strong caesuras. Given that it is the opening track though this might be a calculated risk that will pay off with fans of this particular breed of music!
‚Image of Time‘ is a bit more melody oriented that its predecessor with a strong black-metalish chorus and a clear distinction between the parts featuring different tempos. It also comes across as a little more structured. The strong bridge part at the end builds up tension when polyphonic clean vocals float above the neat stop-riffing. In our taste, this climatic end could have been a little longer. We had the feeling that In Vain did not allow the song to reach its full potential in this passage.
After a fluent transition from the instrumental interlude ‚Southern Shores‘, which is a nice opportunity to digest the first two songs, ‚Hymne Til Havet‘ comes along as a sort of heart piece of the album having been introduced by the nice intro (if you like to see Southern Shores that way). After the first blackish, mid tempo oriented parts the chorus really offers an opportunity for festival crowds to sing along and raise their horns. A potential live hit for mid tempo fans! For some of us the amount of tragedy might have been a bit much, but I personally liked it. One of the absolute high lights of the album for us was the terrific guitar solo embedded in the latter half of the song which then fluently gives way to a reprise of the chorus. The outro is also loaded with pathos and epic sentiments, which especially I liked very much. For me there can never be enough!
One could think that In Vain are fans of the heavy metal TV-series „Metalocalypse“ and their sympathetic protagonists „Dethklok“. ‚Culmination of the Enigma‘ is more rooted in the death doom roots even though the double bass at the beginning and in between works against the rather slow picking of the guitars. Within the next few minutes the band introduces two new elements to the music, emotional screaming and organ, which we liked and which to our taste could have appeared more often next to the other instrumentation techniques on the album. All in all the song seems a little as if it constantly builds up to an epic climax that doesn’t really break loose. Latest after the well forged spoken interlude we expected a grand finale. Alternatively, the Norwegians return to themes that were introduced in earlier parts of the song. We really loved the well-crafted brass implementation in the short bridge part and towards the end of the song.
‚Times of Yore‘ starts off with a fatalistic atmosphere and uses some really aggressive scales. Certainly one of the most death metal oriented songs of the album and a nice change even though it is also more mid tempo oriented. Time of Yore does also offer the most variety on the album with its almost thrash parts around 2:40, the rock oriented part around 3:20 with a nice hard rock solo which sounds a little out of place in the album of the album but just right from the song, offering some variation. With a little gap in the middle I initially thought that the song would be over but it is far from, as the best part is yet to come. The following passage is again more on the doomy side and may remind some of bands like Novembers Doom or Nahemah (I personally don’t like to compare bands but in this case it seems to fit), certainly a highlight for fans of the dragged out excess that are long doom passages.
First of it’s a good idea to place the bonus song ‚Rise Against‘ at the best possible slot on the album rather than patch it at the end. Nice touch! Certainly the favorite song of most of our members as it turns out. Henrik said he felt reminded of Catamenia which is certainly a compliment. All in all the song has a spherical feeling to it and is also able to give the listener a breath. At least up to the midpoint where it’s mixed with a little prog passage to loosen things up. Afterward we again get offered a nice instrumental interlude consisting of an atmospheric pad, spoken words and a (maybe traditional?) wind instrument. The song is topped off with a terrific and strongly emotionally charged climax consisting of high and low growls accompanied by a blistering guitar solo, our favorite part in our favorite song of the album.
Another instant death metal song starting off with groovy triplet feeling. Possibly the most brutal track of the album, ‚To The Core‘ again shows how big of a repertoire In Vain have to offer. The second half of the song moves a bit into the direction progressive black metal with clean passages and blast beats with hymn character. I personally didn’t like the combination but the majority of the band found a great liking in this rather experimental combination. ‚Floating on the Murmuring Tide‘ is a very strong and epic opening with symphonic and opulent keys and a powerful vocal overlay of growl and clean power vocals (another new vocal facet), giving way to a very well-crafted saxophone interlude which is remnant of the days when Amorphis or Shining used this element, however seldom so effective as In Vain do here. The instrument is intertwined with the rest of the band in the following using the harmonic patterns that already served the intro. Afterwards the song ships into more restless, progressive waters. The second interlude employing both an acoustic and an electric guitar – and some rim shots in the snare, wow, haven’t heard them until here! – then heralds the end of the song and the album. This interlude can be said to be drawing the final breath before the last storm, in which In Vain once more fly towards a great climax, modulating into a higher key twice and layering saxophone, different vocal styles, a guitar solo and keys on top of each other. Afterwards the listener is gently lead into a long outro with a guitar solo slowly fading out. A classy way to end an album!
Summing up we would have liked the songs on Ænigma to have been a bit more coherent, meaning they could have been interlinked by the famous red line more clearly at times. Though this very line shines through particularly in the instrumental passages, the rest of the album could have had more of these compository-, and less of soundwise resemblances. This hints at the sound of the production as a whole: in our opinion, In Vain sadly lost some opportunities especially concerning the drum and guitar sound. The bass drum and snare drum sound could certainly have been more organic, which is certainly not because of Stig Reinhardtsen’s drumming skills, but the quite sterile production. The rhythm guitars can be found in the directly opposite corner, coming across a bit washy at times. A more clearly defined, perhaps crisp sound would certainly have done the otherwise neat production good. However, the definition and perception of sound is one of the key elements in music and up to every musician’s own liking. We are sure that Johnar Håland and Kjetil Pedersen kept this in mind modeling the guitar sound according to their own mental images.
If you like bands experimenting with different vocal styles, the atmospheric layering of instruments, blistering guitar solos, epic interludes, progressive parts, and the employment of the generally contrastive elements of death, black, melodic, and progressive metal, check out IN VAIN’s album Ænigma. You won’t be disappointed.
(Alex/Words of Farewell)