I know what you’re thinking, this is some sort of prog dude with some kind of atmospheric progressive metal album from the nordic block somewhere. Well, that’s what I was thinking until I actually read who this was and listened to what it was.
The other interesting thing is if you look up “John Frum” in Google, you’ll get the following “John Frum is a figure associated with cargo cults on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu. He is often depicted as an American World War II serviceman who will bring wealth and prosperity to the people if they follow him. He is sometimes portrayed as black, sometimes as white.” (Wikipedia) WTF? Where do these bands come up with this?
Then I looked at who was in this band, and it all became very clear. This is Liam Wilson from Dillinger Escape Plan’s new project, along with ex-Faceless vocalist Derek Rydquist, Matt Hollenberg who has worked with Jazz composer John Zorn and metal band Cleric, and multi-instrumentalist Eli Litwin. After looking at this line-up, I was expecting super-group type music, and that’s what I got. I know that these guys are not household names, they are barely even known in their own bands fandom, BUT the music that is produced is truly extraordinary, although I will say, I was disappointed at the beginning of this release.
Why was I disappointed? Look, if you’ve read any of my reviews thus far I’ve been very consistent in the stance that I take when it comes to vocals, I prefer melody and harmonies over most vocal styles. Not to say I don’t love aggressive growls and screams, hell Arsonists Gets All the Girls and the aforementioned Dillinger Escape Plan are two of my favorite bands, along with Periphery and Between the Buried and Me. With those bands though, there is a melody either in the music, as in AGAtG, or the aggressive screams give way to vocal melody at some point. With death metal and a lot of doom or black Metal, there is no break, it’s just fast brutality with aggressive, guttural growls, which I never fully got into. What I will say is that some death metal bands feature some of the most impressive playing of any and all instruments I’ve ever heard…I’m not suggesting there is no merit in the art form, it’s just not my style.
So I’m not going to pretend that after such an incredible musical start to the first track “Presage of Emptiness” that I heard what I thought were somewhat typical sounding death metal vocals, I wasn’t disappointed, because I was. However, and it did take a few tracks, the music took me over and Derek Rydquist does enough from a vocal standpoint that I was able to really enjoy this record.
Now this is probably a coincidence, and I’m honestly saying that on this release, as far pure death metal style vocals go, this album has some of the best I’ve heard, but in my opinion the best track on the release was the only instrumental track entitled “He Come.” Brutal, heavy, melodic, and the drums on this song by Eli Litwin are fantastic.
The other shocker on this album for me was there are two tracks that clock in at over 8 minutes, and I have to tell you that after I discovered that this band was a mix of death and doom metal, I was kind of dreading these tracks for as a prog guy, nothing is worse that REALLY long, REALLY boring, drawn out tunes. These songs are quite effective, and it was a pleasant surprise for me.
The first of these 2 epic tracks is the third track, “Memory Palace,” which is so dramatic that it actually took me on a musical ride. I’m going to confess, I have no actual idea what’s going on lyrically, but musically, the build from a slow brooding beginning to a frantic and dramatic final 2 minutes was very well crafted.
The second of these tracks is track #7, “Assumption of Form,” which is just balls to the wall from the gate. Meshuggah-esque solos from Matt Hollenberg, with well-placed dissonance that shows off his time with John Zorn, a jazz composer, bombastic drums from Eli Litwin, and out of all of the tracks on this album, this was the best vocal performance by Derek Rydquist.
All in all, if you’re a death/doom metal fan, this is a really, REALLY good release. Heavy, brutal, and very musical. If you’re not a death/doom metal fan, if you can get passed the vocal style, then I’d highly recommend this release as an introduction to the genre.
Agree with me? Maybe not? Send me an email at TheProgtologist@gmail.com, OR if you have an album or artist submission that I should check out.
Presage of Emptiness
Through Sand and Spirit
Assumption of Form
Wasting Subtle Body
Bloodrock Rating: 3.5 out of 5 axes
Written by Chris Elio for Bloodrock Media on June 1, 2017