Napalm Flesh: Acoustic Madness

Posted January 13, 2011 in
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Whether it was planned or not, German underground metal label Prophecy Productions  releasing four albums of acoustic music this week is a mystery to me. It seems like it would be a planned move, and it gives me the chance to feature the four releases this week and emphasize the importance of acoustic music in metal. Since the term heavy metal was first conceived, it’s always been a subjective genre of music. Purists of the genre will say it has to have a distorted guitar to be metal, but really it’s all in the eyes of the beholder. These four releases all have extremely dark qualities to them, which is something generally associated with metal. I’m not going to sit here and preach and say that these releases are outright metal albums, but they definitely have the ability to appeal to fans of dark music and all that is metal. Enjoy the extended reviews of these four acoustic releases from Prophecy Productions—they’re all worthy of any music lover’s exploration.




Antimatter
Alternative Matter
Prophecy Productions
Street: 01.11
Antimatter = Anathema + Portishead + Pink Floyd
It doesn’t seem like 10 years ago that I encountered Antimatter’s first album Saviour, released on the formerly Salt Lake City-based The End Records. At the time I was still very much an angry youth—most of the music I dabbled in was chaotic, pissed off and usually of the heavy sort. When I came across this record, my mellow and acoustic musical palates didn’t extend all that far from the melodic acoustic portions of thrash metal. Saviour was an unknown experience to me: acoustic guitars, soft vocals, trance-like programming and orchestrated elements. It grew on me and in no time at all Antimatter’s second album Lights Out was released and I was interviewing the band’s founder Mick Moss, to promote an upcoming tour featuring Antimatter along with The End Records labelmates Agalloch and Virgin Black. Talking to Mr. Moss helped lead my still-fledgling musical tastes to understand that music doesn’t have to be distorted and harsh to wind a dark, disturbing and starkly depressing image. I sincerely attribute a large widening of my musical horizons to Antimatter. Antimatter celebrates its 10 year anniversary with Alternative Matter, a two CD package with 22 songs and a bit over one hour and 45 minutes of music. Thankfully, the retrospective offers much more than a look back and simple re-releases of songs. This release sports remixes and redone versions of classic Antimatter songs as well as live and unreleased tracks. The entire collection bustles with variety and showcases the depth of talent from Moss as well as bandmate Duncan Patterson of Anathema, who left Antimatter in about 2005 but has performed on all but one the band’s studio albums. If you’re familiar with Antimatter, this work is exciting in the sense that you’ll hear familiar vocals and melodies, but many of the versions fantastically recreate and draw new emotional responses from songs that you may have held in a different perspective before. Alternative Matter is an excellently conceived product that Moss put an intense amount of time and work into, crafting quality instead of regurgitating uninspired remixes or renewed recordings. The ultimate fan can track down the limited edition Artbook release of Alternative Matter, which contains an extra CD from the normal digi-pack double disc as well as a DVD and a 100-page booklet. If you’ve never experienced Antimatter the double disc is an extensive peek into the depth of sounds Antimatter offer in their full-acoustic or semi-acoustic nature. For me Alternative Matter, is an incredible look back and forward at a band that has staved off harsh anxieties and completely hopeless depressive states I’ve suffered throughout the last 10 years. Alternative Matter is an important piece of music that showcases the beauty in darkness and calm in life and the fact that distortion isn’t needed to be dark or epic. –Bryer Wharton

Nucleus Torn
Andromeda Awaiting
Prophecy Productions
Street: 01.11
Nucleus Torn = folk + renaissance music + classical music
Andromeda Awaiting is Nucleus Torn’s completion of a trilogy and marks a large deviation from prominent styles and sounds on their two prior albums, Nihil and Knell. Andromeda is in some ways a stripped down affair, offering mostly acoustic instruments. The electric guitar from previous albums is absent from Andromeda, providing a gateway to new fans besides the metallic type and creating an astounding piece of conceptual music that plays out almost like a classical music composition. The work is split into six tracks, each song flowing into one another in brilliant ways. At times the album is purely ethereal and gloriously spacious, containing a warmth to its structure. It very much feels like music for the season of fall and staring into the night sky, opening up listeners’ minds to comprehensions they may have not thought of prior. Andromeda’s instrumentation is lavish and rich with its string instruments, flutes and other musical variants. There is also a wealth of unconventional acoustic guitar playing that results in sounds unique to Nucleus Torn, notably on the album’s fourth track where portions of the strings keep the beat instead of providing the melody. Andromeda is a stunning conclusion to a trilogy of records from the forward thinking Nucleus Torn. Metal fan or not, the album offers an enticing and somber end to three albums of strong emotional and hugely satisfying songwriting. –Bryer Wharton

Nucleus Torn
Travellers
Prophecy Productions
Street: 01.11
Nucleus Torn = folk + renaissance music + classical music
Two simultaneous releases from the same band can be risky, but the release of the Travellers compilation features hard-to-find and interesting material from Swiss, acoustic/avant-garde/folk band Nucleus Torn, including the Krähenkönigin EP, Silver EP, Submission demo and two previously unreleased tracks. Some of the recordings have been reworked from the originals, which I have not heard, but I presume the reason behind the reworking and updating is to make this compilation have a direct flow, helping it feel like one cohesive album of music instead of just another compilation. While recording style and production values are similar throughout, the mixed and varied compilation that is Travellers offers a substantial look into the early works of the band and offers insight and juxtaposition to the band’s latest full-length Andromeda Awaiting. Krähenkönigin kicks off Travellers with four tracks of simple yet folksy acoustic guitar works with no vocals. Although not officially released until 2004, the EP was recorded in 1998 and offers a glimpse into the very beginning of the band, which feels a bit like a less dense precursor to Andromeda Awaiting. The Silver EP and Submission Demo follow, offering vocals, electric guitars and a wealth of other instruments, all functioning harmoniously together. There really aren’t many artists to compare Nucleus Torn to, especially these early works—it’s melancholy music that has the fantastic ability to challenge listeners every time they hear it, as well as possessing the ability to stir up emotional responses. Travellers is a great starting off point for Nucleus Torn. –Bryer Wharton


Various Artists
Whom The Moon A Nightsong Sings
Prophecy Productions
Street: 01.11
Whom The Moon A Nightsong Sings = a grand conceptual folk/acoustic compilation
This double album is one of the more brilliantly conceived compilations I’ve heard in quite some time. I’ll admit its mellow nature can act as effectively as a sleeping pill if you’re the least bit tired, but that’s the point. The songs are homage to all things associated with the night and the moon. You could spin these songs in the middle of the day in summer in a glass house in the Sahara desert and it would derive strong imagery of the pending night. Something about nighttime has always been enticing to me, and this compilation helps you escape to that place anytime— not nighttime in a bustling urban environment, but in lands completely devoid of humanity subjecting listeners to pondering their earthly propose. When the sun goes away there is a feeling as though you’ve been abandoned and things familiar can turn foreign or take different shapes. The compilation offers an exclusive track with the first recorded work of Empyrium in four years, as well as offerings from Dornenreich, Nest, Havnatt, an epic almost 15 minute superbly dark cut from Syven, and a rare and amazing track from Ulver that was recorded in 1997 and not released on any of the band’s full-lengths. The compilation delves further into the darkness and fantastical world of the absent of the sun as you listen. The cover artwork comes from Fursy Teyssier of French shoegaze/black metal band Les Discrets, and it’s a package to behold and cherish. Fans of folk, acoustic and metal apply and suffer no disappointment. –Bryer Wharton

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