Review: Disturbed – Immortalized

It’s rare to find a band that correctly identifies when their own music has lost it’s edge and rarer still when said band actively does something about it. Disturbed are one such example, as following their distinctly average fifth studio album Asylum, which felt uninspired and jaded, the band chose to go on a lengthy hiatus to recharge and engage with other projects. Five years on from Asylum and Disturbed are back with their sixth studio album Immortalized, which intended to breathe some new life into the quartet from Illinois.

As soon as the lead guitar of introductory track, The Eye Of The Storm, subsides, it seems Disturbed are straight back to business, with the drop-tuned swagger of Dan Donegan’s guitar and David Draiman’s signature percussive roar in Immortalized. This is continued and improved upon in The Vengeful One, as the band add contrast to their heaviness with a mellow pre-chorus.

However, it quickly becomes obvious that Immortalized is a for-the-fans-only album. The band have tried to incorporate outside influences into their traditionally very strict formula, such as the whammy effect at the end of the pop-inspired Open Your Eyes or the swelling synths that introduce You’re Mine. However, these small bits and pieces on their own aren’t enough to attract new fans and serve purely as a way to add the occasional spice to the long-standing Disturbed formula.

Whilst this helps to add some variety to proceedings, other songs are just hard to place, like The Light, which tries its best to be a ballad, but an off-putting drum beat, an out-of-place vocal style and a short-lived burst into life make the song too confused to be successful. Meanwhile What Are You Waiting For is just painful, as Draiman tries to liven up an otherwise bland chug-fest with a cheesy pop hook that might as well have come from ABBA Gold.

Unfortunately by this point in the record all memories of the promising start is long gone. Who and Save Our Last Goodbye are both equally forgettable, with interchangeable percussive verses, but they reign superior over the following track Fire It Up. If there was ever a way to make the drug lifestyle that often surrounds rock bands uncool, then perhaps this song is the answer. Musically Fire It Up actually stands out from most of the copycat riffing present on the album, as it bounces around Peter Wengren’s groove, but lyrically it reaches new lows, with the forty-two year old Draiman detailing how taking “a puff from the leaves of the devil” gives him “illumination“, “inspiration“, “relaxation” and of course “rejuvenation“.

The record manages to pull itself together for the finish with a heartfelt, if a little bizarre, cover of Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence and two more-inspired Disturbed cuts. Never Wrong brings back the darker sound Disturbed are known for, whilst Who Taught You How To Hate possesses the menace that disappeared from the middle of the record.

Immortalized was not supposed to be a complete re-invention of Disturbed, but it was supposed to feel inspired and fresh. However, Immortalized failed to capture the spirit of Disturbed; managing only to saturate it. There are several moments where the band capture something inspired, however it is too often let down by indistinct riffing and poor lyrics – two signs that a band have run out of ideas. I originally wrote that this might be a for-the-fans-only record, but sadly I don’t even think it qualifies as that.

Overall: 4/10

Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and, as always, press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

James

Advertisements

Introducing: David Maxim Micic

For long term readers of my music blog, you might remember I introduced you to an upcoming female-fronted djent band called Destiny Potato about two years ago. Since then the Serbian progressive band have gone on to release their debut full length album, LUN, last year, but haven’t really broken through to mainstream attention as of yet. However, there is a success story to come from the Potato camp and that is the emergence of their guitarist’s solo career.

As well as being an accomplished guitar player, David Maxim Micic is also musically fluent on the keyboard and is trained very highly in composition, graduating from the Berklee College of Music in Boston, Massachusetts. Micic is yet to release a full length album, instead he opts to release his creations via a series of EPs. His fifth and latest EP, entitled ECO, was released yesterday (16/08/15) and once again it infuses his progressive ambitions with his virtuoso abilities, in easily digestible, yet impressive compositions.

ECO is the second half of a small series entitled Ego & Eco, which follows on from the Bilo series he began in 2011, which has so far accrued three efforts. ECO, however, is a notably more relaxed effort, letting gentle melodies flow from his strings and keys, such as the hypnotising and unconventional notes of 500 Seconds Before Sunset and the beautiful, orchestrated intro piece Universe In A Crayon.

Three of ECO‘s six tracks (Satellite, The Flock, Stardust) also feature guest vocalists and although they are not particularly needed, they do provide another vertex of intrigue to Micic’s music. All three performances are well considered and are careful not to detract from the musical foundation, but it’s Miyoki’s emotionally powerful vocals on top of the heavily percussive Stardust that rises to the top.

Contrast this album with EGO, which was released last month and you find a big difference. EGO was intentionally heavier and more guitar-focused, coming through four longer and more progressive songs.

His Bilo efforts are also worthy of your time. Which each successive EP his ambition and skills developed, culminating in Bilo 3.0 which was the first of his EPs to truly grab my attention back in late 2013. The Bilo series amalgamate the styles portrayed within the EGO & ECO records, combining the beautiful melodies of ECO with the djent work of EGO. However, don’t let the djent style put you off, because underneath (and most of the times on top of) the poly-rhythms and twanging strings lies a superb musical display, that at times, is simply breathtaking.

To discover more of his superb music please visit his bandcamp: https://davidmaximmicic.bandcamp.com/album/eco

Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and, as always, press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

James

I don’t ‘get’ Ghost

From the outside it seems that Swedish heavy metal band Ghost (formerly known as Ghost B.C. in the US due to legal reasons) have a solid foundation for success.

I, like many of their cult-like fans, were drawn towards the band for their unusual stage presence and the mystery which surrounds the band as a result. The five instrumentalists in the band are simply referred to as Nameless Ghouls and on stage they all wear the same silver masks and hooded robes. Meanwhile their lead singer, who is known as Papa Emeritus*, is dressed as a satanic pope, using skull face paint and more decorative dress.

Despite Ghost’s wishes for anonymity, it is widely rumoured that Swedish musician Tobias Forge is Papa Emeritus and that Dave Grohl has made guest appearances on stage. However, apart from this, the band member’s identities remain a secret, leaving a shroud of mystery over the band, which in today’s digital age is rarity. The last mainstream band to accomplish this was Slipknot, but over time side projects and the increased media scrutiny that comes with success, has led to every band member becoming unveiled, including the extremely media-shy Craig Jones.

Having such a strong image and an accompanying intrigue factor has proved to be a catalyst for their success, as the brand gets fans on board before they even listen to their music. However, here in lies the problem for me: Ghost’s music is too bland in comparison to their intimidating satanic look.

With their name, their look, their mystery and their satanic links, I fully expected the band to be re-inventors of the metal genre with a powerful sound, like Slipknot were in 1999. Instead Ghost produce middle-of-the-road, traditional heavy metal, with average tempos, a haze of vintage keyboards and melodic pop vocals. The only hint of their image in their music is the satanic lyrics and the odd heavy riff, which soon subsides into organs, danceable drum beats and memorable melodies – hardly the music of the devil!

This is not to say their songwriting isn’t good. Jigolo Har Meggido is a catchy classic rock number that fuses the psychedelic rock of the ’60s with the progressive rock of the ’70s, whilst Year Zero layers choral vocals over a galloping riff to great effect. But despite the focused writing and the diverse influences on show, I can’t help myself wanting more. Listening to their second album Infestissumam, I am waiting for the band to unleash their instruments; to crank up their amps, but Ghost seem happy to cruise by, recycling ideas from decades gone by. I feel the band are just missing a sense of urgency from proceedings; a bit of adrenaline or octane perhaps.

Ghost’s third full-length effort, Meliora, is due next week and despite my reservations, I am interested to see what direction the band have taken. The first single Cirice has embraced heavier riffery, but the same flowery vocals remain, however this is corrected with the second single, From the Pinnacle to the Pit, which adds the odd menacing vocal and a rumbling bass riff to the mix – giving me reason to nod my head.

This is not supposed to be a negative blog post, after all Ghost are a big part of today’s metal scene and it would be silly for me to discount their success. There are many elements of their music to rave about, but when I listen to their music I am waiting for it to spark into life; to reach full vibrancy. I am hopeful that they will convince me one day; that I will suddenly ‘get’ them, but until they do, I’m afraid they remain in a bizarre no-man’s-land between pop, classic rock and metal that doesn’t really appeal to me.

Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and, as always, press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

*Papa Emeritus III is now used to reflect their third studio album.

James

Review: BTBAM – Coma Ecliptic

Like so many other progressive bands, in the tale of the tortoise and the hare, Between The Buried And Me (BTBAM) definitely take on the role of the tortoise. With every album the band seem to grow in both ability and ambition, taking them from a very understated beginning, to a point now where they are producing some of the most unique progressive metal within the mainstream eye.

BTBAM - Coma Ecliptic (image from metalblade.com)

Between The Buried And Me – Coma Ecliptic (image from metalblade.com)

BTBAM’s seventh studio album, Coma Ecliptic, was released last month and once again the band have managed to push their songwriting even further to ensure their continual rise to the peak of progressive music. Coma Ecliptic is a musical feast, featuring the expected complex interplay between guitars, keyboards, bass and drums, taking the ideas of Dream Theater and injecting them with even more ferocity and pace.

However, Coma Ecliptic is arguably the most mature record BTBAM have recorded to date. There is a notable step away from the once-dominant death metal elements, allowing the full extent of their progressive side to be heard. The biggest change on this front is the reduction of death metal screams provided by vocalist Tommy Giles Rogers, as he has begun to experiment with his clean voice. On Dim Ignition Rogers utilises a bizarre hoarse drone vocal technique, whilst the incredibly catchy verses of The Ectopic Stroll experiment with a maddened scat-style, taking on a character from the concept that permeates the record.

However it’s not just the vocals that are showcasing creativity. Musically Coma Ecliptic is very diverse, with industrial-inspired chopped synths on Dim Ignition, sharp stabs of orchestral melody on Turn on the Darkness, schizophrenic piano playing on The Ectopic Stroll and a 1970s prog styled organ interlude on Memory Palace, all adding to their unique progressive metal sound.

Both of these elements help to create a very accessible record. Although at eight minutes long, Rapid Calm is the most mainstream-appealing song on the record, with a central keyboard melody, predominately clean singing and a supremely addictive outro. Similarly Memory Palace is more concerned with guitar riffs and progressive ideas than death metal complexity, keeping it very much accessible despite its ten minute run time.

BTBAM have managed to create an album that caters for a whole spectrum of fans. There is enough death metal elements, like the frantic styling of Famine Wolf, to please fans of old, but also the introduction of more clean sections and progressive bombast across the record, like those throughout Option Oblivion, will appeal to a new kind of fan; one who will go back through their discography picking out tracks like Informal Gluttony for its melodic choruses and Bloom for its experimentation and bizarre nature. Occasionally there are tracks that achieve all three criteria, like The Coma Machine and King Redeem / Queen Serene. The former is a sprawling epic, whilst the latter juxtaposes a pristine acoustic first half with a bellowing second half (that features a fantastic musical hook), all played out over a twisting seven minute arrangement.

Like previous releases Coma Ecliptic is a concept record and, like previous releases, it is notoriously hard to follow, especially during the screamed sections. However, this doesn’t subtract from the overall experience, as the music is the real foundation of the concept and after seventy minutes of full-frontal progressive metal you do feel like you’ve been on a dream-like journey; the opening keyboard lines of intro Node seem like a distant memory as the closing solos of outro Life in Velvet fade away. Overall the sense of time and progression is well executed, despite not quite understanding why the word velvet appears quite so frequently.

BTBAM have come a long way since their self-titled debut in 2002. Although there were signs on predecessor The Parallax II: The Future Sequence, Coma Ecliptic is finally the record which will gain them plaudits for their progressive music outside of the death metal community. Previously their experimentation has been too tightly confined within their death metal brand to be truly accessible to the wider prog fan, but I feel if there was ever an album to get those fans on board, it would be their highly creative and superbly musical seventh studio album.

Overall: 9/10

Join the RockAtlantic mailing list by clicking on follow and, as always, press like if you enjoyed this blog and let me know your thoughts in the comment section below.

James