Gildan's Guide to Good Music
The world of music is a vast ocean of crap - join me on a voyage to the tiny isolated islands of excellence.
As the tagline not so subtly suggests, it's really easy to find terrible music - you have but to turn on your radio, and lo, bad music abounds. The good stuff though, well that's rarely quite so easy to find, and while some popular music actually deserves the accolades it receives, most excellent music languishes in comparative obscurity. And that's where I come in!
What I aim to accomplish with these articles is to showcase quality albums from bands you've never heard of, in the hopes that at least one of the comparative handful of people who actually read my rambling and
rampantly egotistical definitely quite humble reviews has found them useful.
Today I shall be expounding upon a band that only I seem to know about - this is something I think should really be corrected!
Musical Genre: Progressive Metal
Running Time: 44 minutes
# of Tracks: 8
Particularly noteworthy songs: The Path of Darkness, Sleeping Beauty, Section X
Those of you who consistently read these articles of mine may have noticed a certain underlying pattern to the music I've proclaimed (in my position as the ultimate arbiter of quality!) to be excellent: I don't much go in for "safe" music. Whether it's soulful and haunting, quirky and artistic, highly technical and complex, or just plain old kick-ass fistfuls of awesome, it isn't pleasant but innocuous music with the depth of a pencil line.
I'm pointing that out specifically this time around because Section X, as a work of music, is very different from things I've looked at before even though it shares many individual stylistic elements, and it may genuinely repulse some listeners - because as works of music go, Section X is hideous.
To clarify that statement, I don't mean that it's musically rubbish or naught but unrelenting 'br00tality' or what have you, but rather that it's genuinely aesthetically unpleasant on purpose: I don't really recommend 'happy' music as a general rule, but the folks behind this album want you to be disquieted and unsettled (I'll go into why in a bit) and they've achieved that effect admirably - sweeping choruses and exquisite melodic phrasing meld with ominous counter-melodies and twisted lyrics to create something distinctly unlovely. It's bloody fascinating and musically brilliant of course or I wouldn't be talking about it here, but before I delve any further in my examination of this band/album, it's important to be clear that this is absolutely not pleasant upbeat fare you could dance to or should put on in the background while you do something else; it's just not that kind of music.
Beyond Twilight is a Progressive Metal band from Denmark that has been around for 10 years now in their current form - when they originally formed back in 1990 they were just called "Twilight" and played Power Metal; the name change went hand in hand with a major stylistic shift (though even today their music retains certain aspects of Power Metal, albeit given a prog-style spin). Section X is their second album as Beyond Twilight, and like the first one (The Devil's Hall of Fame) it's a dark science fiction/horror concept album, produced in a style that fans have dubbed "Cinematic Metal". And when I say "dark", I'm not kidding:
Whether you'd pick up on all or even most of that just by listening to it is debatable, but what you definitely will notice is the quality of the instruments and vocals - the heavy synthesizer-driven prog-metal sound evokes the science fiction/horror film vibe the band wants you to hear perfectly, as does American vocalist Kelly Sundown Carpenter's impressive delivery: he moves fluidly from sinister to sincere, vicious and snarling in one moment and sweetly crooning in another. Like Jorn Lande before him, Kelly can achieve the sort of monstrous quality many bands turn to Death/Doom growls to evoke while actually singing cleanly (albeit ferociously and angrily), and his performance is both delightfully morbid and disturbing or hauntingly beautiful depending on the moment.
When combined with the infrequent additions of choirs, strings, and spoken word dialogs between the man and his clone (campy and awesome!), the result is a mixture that amounts to a horror film about mad science... that you listen to. And like a film, you really shouldn't watch (listen) to this out of order (don't put it on shuffle) - typically concept albums are mostly just a conceit the artists have, and whatever they claim it's about will only vaguely apply to the actual songs they present you with, if you can even tell there is some underlying concept at all; that's definitely not the case with Beyond Twilight's creations.
Though I've embedded a song as I typically do, I strongly urge you to click the box that pops up inside the little window as soon as the song starts playing, as that will take you to YouTube directly, but with High Quality enabled - it makes a profound difference if you're an audiophile like yours truly. And with that, another entry in the guide to music that is the opposite of bad is concluded - join me next time when I review that album you totally love (probably not unless you're actually me; in which case stop writing my articles for me, my hands are my own damn it!).
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