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.
Tonight I'm training my critical ear and rapier wit on a wonderful album from one of the various bands I've encountered via Pandora.
Sleep Now, Quiet Forest
Musical Genre: Celtic/World/Classical/Metal
Running Time: 55 minutes
# of Tracks: 11
Particularly noteworthy songs: Surya Namaskara, Fading Empire, Battle of Kadesh
Todesbonden - based solely on the name, and the metal part of that genre description, you probably guessed that they're some obscure Scandinavian band. Well congratulations, you're
completely correct almost entirely wrong! They're actually from Virginia. Definitely quite obscure though, so you got that part right at least!
Todesbonden is the brainchild of Laurie Ann Haus, an operatic soprano from various bands and projects you've almost certainly never heard of (I certainly hadn't heard of any of them prior to writing this) across a fairly broad spectrum, from Death Metal to Folk. As you might have guessed from my genre description above, Todesbonden melds many of Haus' disparate musical influences into a very intriguing whole.
Their lineup consists of the usual guitars/bass/drums/keyboards you might expect from a metal act, with extremely welcome addition of a violin - I cannot stress highly enough how much I love the string instruments. Session performers further expand the musical tapestry on this album with the addition of flutes and the kantele, and the end result is a delightful feast for the ears.
So what do they actually sound like? Good question! I've seen them compared to bands like Nightwish, but while I can sort of see how one might draw a parallel I'd be hesitant to make that comparison myself. For one thing, Nightwish, while certainly a female-fronted symphonic metal band that until recently featured an operatic soprano vocalist, is far more up-tempo and energetic fare - Todesbonden songs tend to be more introspective and contemplative, and the ratio of metal to other musical styles in their compositions is much lower on average.
In point of fact, depending on the song you listen to, you might not conclude that Todesbonden is a metal band at all - they definitely are of course, but it's as if they approached Metal from the other side: Symphonic Metal acts typically merge classical elements (strings, choirs, what have you) with another pre-existing metal sub-genre, thus starting from Metal and moving towards more classical fare. With Todesbonden, what you have is more like a world-influenced hybrid of Celtic folk and classical that decided their sound could use the inclusion of Rock's more awesome offspring - Metal is a part of their sound, but not necessarily the predominant portion.
The result is pure ear candy, a positively lush soundscape that seamlessly fuses all the best elements from the source genres together and creates something better than any of those parts alone. And I've basically exhausted my ability to explain their overall sound and I just started this paragraph... hmm. Ah! I should probably touch on just what I meant by "World-influenced" earlier: Todesbonden's main non-metal influences are definitely Celtic-folk and straight-forward classical composition (the song "Flow My Tears" essentially is just classical), but Laurie will utilize vocal techniques derived from Middle Eastern music in those otherwise Celtic sounding songs. It works surprisingly well - one of my favorite tracks on the album, Surya Namaskara, is an essentially lyric-less song I'd describe as a sort of Celtic battle march meets Metal, but with a wonderful Middle Eastern flair (I know that sounds weird, but give it a listen and tell me I'm wrong, heh).
My apologies for the crappy YouTube quality of the second track - I couldn't find recordings of any track on the album besides Surya Namaskara that didn't sound tinny, and since that one doesn't have any words in it I figured I'd best include something with lyrics, lest I give you an inaccurate impression of the rest of the album. The mixing on Sleep Now, Quiet Forest is among the best I've ever heard, so it's especially painful to me as an audiophile to hear YouTube butcher the balance, bleh. Hopefully you can overlook that!
And with that, another entry in the Guide to Music that is Good, unlike other music which is not good, comes to a close - as always, I welcome any feedback you care to provide me with, unless that feedback is you disagreeing with my definitive proclamations (as the sole arbiter of quality!) that the music I enjoy is good, in which case I'll still welcome it but there will probably be far more mockery involved.
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