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'll be looking at the third album from a band that released an inter-connected set of 3 albums across the 1999-2003 interval, and then largely disappeared from the world stage (though they apparently still exist and have undergone several line-up changes in the interim).
Musical Genre: Gothic/Symphonic/Folk Metal
Running Time: 44 minutes
# of Tracks: 8
Particularly noteworthy songs: Tragical Memories, Seclusion, Crimson Tail
I know I always say "you've never heard of this", generally with some minor provisos/exceptions for dedicated fans of whatever sub-genre I'm discussing, but seriously: You've never heard of Penumbra.
For one thing, they're a Gothic Metal band, so that narrows the typical audience quite nicely all by itself. But Penumbra isn't just a Gothic Metal band, they're a French Gothic Metal band that hasn't released an album for 7 years. France, after all, is generally not known for it's plethora of Gothic Metal bands (or Metal at all really).
Not that you'd know they were a French band unless I told you that, as - like most European metal bands - they sing in English, and the vocalists don't really have identifiable accents. Note that I said "vocalists", as Penumbra actually had 3 (at the time this album was released), two men and one woman, providing for a mixture of harsh/clean male vocals and clear sweet female vocals - and that's before they add a full choir (yay!).
The result is the sort of sweeping symphonic fare you might expect from much more well-known Gothic Metal bands like Sirenia or early Tristania, albeit with it's own unique touch as Penumbra works an oboe into the typical guitar/bass/keyboards/percussion mixture, along with the almost obligatory guest string quartet and whatnot. The Folk part of the genre description I typed up comes from their infrequent use of instruments like bagpipes (and what I'm pretty sure is a mandolin), which is certainly an interesting addition; the music itself is not in any way "folksy", and yet those elements blend perfectly with the more traditional symphonic/gothic mixture.
From my research for this article, I've discovered that the subject of the album is the final part of an inter-linked narrative about a fallen angel who loves a mortal woman - something I neither knew before I bought the album nor picked up on when I listened to it the first time, so clearly the typical "you don't really need to know it's a concept album to enjoy it" rule is in effect. For those without a proper grounding in Gothic Metal, so long as you don't go in expecting happy, uplifting music you can dance to, are able to tolerate harsh vocals used in moderation, and enjoy music with a flair for the dramatic (that is absolutely not something you'll ever hear on the radio), you should be fine - if not positively delighted. For those like me with an active appreciation for Gothic Metal, this will be pure ear candy.
And with that, it's time to bring this article to a close. Thanks for reading this segment of the ongoing Gildan's Guide to Good Music, wherein
I'm always right (also, awesome) I use my knowledge of obscure music to a better end than simple snobbery (though I still get in plenty of that). Until next time, may your ears remain blissfully free of the abominations the world at large gussies up and pretends is actually music instead of sonic torture!
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