October 2002 Archives
When Opeth's new album leaked onto the net on Monday, I was unable to resist downloading a few tracks to keep me sated until the official release early next month.
I've only managed to snag 1/2 the album so far, but it's enough to convince me that I will be lining up to buy the album the day it reaches our shores.
The three tracks I have now heard are: Deliverance, A Fair Judgement and For Absent Friends. These all have their own moods and set a strong tone for the overall album.
This tone is not as bleak as that expressed throughout Blackwater Park, which might make this album more accessible to some.
One of the biggest aspects that has changed the tone is the production. Taking a step upwards from Blackwater Park, the delicate moments possess a majestic beauty recorded as they are with live acoustic jazz warmth. Unfortunately there are not enough heavy moments in the three tracks I have so far for me to adequately comment on that aspect of Opeth. There is much attention to detail evident in the recording process, with every nuance of delicate guitar captured and the clean vocals taking on an anguished, impassioned feel in places that really pulls you in.
The instrumental "For Absent Friends" is exquisite, as with previous instrumentals, their short length and delicate melodies show Opeth at their brightest, constructing a simple, well balanced two guitar mood piece played on alternating accoustic and clean electric guitar.
"A Fair Judgment" reminds me most of Still Life, but thanks to superior production and arrangement it has won me over more so in one day than Still Life ever did! There is a glorious section mid-song where all other instruments drop out leaving a heavily muted, acoustic guitar picking a gorgeous folk melody only in the left channel as if it were drifting in from a nearby lo-fi radio.
Title track: "Deliverance" is the only one to feature Mike's trademark growls which are excellent but infrequent. Musically, this song differs most from any previous Opeth song, with significant changes in arrangement and phrasing of the riffs. It is in this track that the percussion changes are also most evident. Martin's drums have been miked and recorded in a totally different manner to all previous albums. The drums take on a more modern metal feel, with the double kick drum sounding like a cross between Fear Factory's machine like clarity and precision and Morbid Angel (in particular the sound, speed and patterns found on the "Blessed are the Sick" album). This is balanced by a jazzy, spacious sound to the drumming in the melodic passages. Guitar wise, the metallic sections are stripped back and quite aggressive and in places a lot more simplistic than seen on the last few albums, with usually only a single guitar playing chunkier chromatic rhythm patterns rather than the overlaid dual guitar melodies or even the lilting sonorous backing guitar lines that predominated throughout Blackwater Park. I have my doubts that this simple style will eventually grow boring, also the end of the song has a long outro that repeats a phrase arranged around the newly re-invigorated double kick drum which I feel is drawn out just a tad too much before it finally fades into a wash of piano.
Highlights are Mike's continually improving clean vocals, warm piano and keys courtesy of Steve Wilson and some of the best drumming seen since Morningrise and the departures of Anders
Lowlights: having to wait a month for the official release. The outro to Deliverance, some glitches at the end of "A Fair Judgment"
Recently I'd been making plans to visit Helen in November. Whilst there I am hoping to catch a few films in a festival that have already sold out in Sydney. As I was organising all of this, a thought popped into the back of my head: I wonder if I will be in Canberra for Metal for the Brain?
For those of you who don't know, MFTB is an annual music festival dedicated to local Australian metal bands. Any profits from the event are split between a yearly donation to the National Brain Injury Foundation and a donation to help care for a brain damaged metal fan Alec Hurley, who was the inspiration for the first MFTB in 1990. It has long been one of the biggest events in the local scene.
I was disappointed to find out that this years MFTB will not occur, due to the organisers inability to secure public liability insurance. This seems ridiculous, especially when the even has not had a single incident or claim in it's 11 year history. Metal is just another genre, the crowds are generally well behaved and don't consume much in the way of illegal drugs. Yet the insurance was obviously astronomical for a benefit concert that is not designed to make a lot of money.
I know this is probaly just one of many events that has been hit by the recent changes, however this cannot continue, we need arts, public performances and entertainment more than we need insurers.
Last weekend, I saw the Tea Party live for the first time in many years. I stopped really liking the band after their second album, following which they moved to incorporate electronic and 80's gothic inspired elements into their third album - Transmission.
The live performance was excellent, with a focus on capturing the essential energy of their performance. This differed from the theatrical overtones seen on their Transmission tour and the many middle eastern, stringed instruments incorporated into the Edges of Twilight tour. However, the mix was in general too inflexible to accurately represent the subtle nuances. For a long time fan, the nuances can be substituted from memory, however one cannot help think that a new fan might have missed too much.
In what has become a tradition I completely ignored the local support act as history has shown the support is picked to be as untalented and unrelated in sound to the headliners as possible. Previous support bands have annoyed me so much that half the Tea Party's songs have gone by before I start enjoying them. I wanted to avoid this re-occurance.
Surprisingly, The Tea Party came on stage about 10 minutes early and proceeded to inform the small crowd of 800 that unlike their 45 minute set at M-one, we were to expect a full 2 hour set. They kept to this promise almost precisely and delivered a broad cross section of their work, playing songs from all their albums and quite a few covers which were expertly made their own.
I must speak a little about the venue. The Tea Party had already toured on the back of their latest album - The InterZone Mantras, however Australia being one of their largest markets, they did not pass up the opportunity to return for a second, smaller tour. In this case the tour was obviously bankrolled by their appearances at the M-One rock festival - organised by Triple-M a national mainstream rock radio broadcaster.
Whether due to a restriction imposed by M-One or simply a lack of decent venue in Sydney (due to very short notice) all other performances were in outer metropolitan venues. This is smart marketing on the part of the band as my anecdotal research indicates a large proportion of their fanbase live in suburban or outer metropolitan areas. For an international band however this is an unusual step.
In my case, I saw them at Mingara Recreational Club, which is near Tumbi Umbi and Wyong on the central coast. The Tea Party had played at this venue before on a prior tour. Like most Clubs, the place was functional, the alcohol was cheap, and suprisingly the food went beyond edible stopping slightly short of gourmet.
Another suprise was how far Clubs have gone with the recent changes in smoking regulations, I managed to enjoy a quite decent meal and 2/3rds of the gig without being subjected to any cigarette smoke. With any form of entertainment, one has to be in the right frame of mind to really get into it and being able to breathe clean air and not feeling like a sardine added that last 5% to make this the best Tea Party gig i've ever seen.