Guest Column: Three Bands You May Not Know But Should By Okular’s Andreas Aubert

Guest Column

We’ve reached out to our metal and hard rock brethren across the land, asking that they contribute prose to our recent series of guest columns. We ran a recent series on Five Albums That Will Change You, and the response was overwhelming.

The new topic is Three Bands You May Not Know About But Should, and we asked that each guest writer jot down a brief description of what makes each band worthy of our attention. Today, we continue this ongoing series with a stellar entry from Andreas Aubert of Okular.

Lykathea Aflame
This band from Czech republic has released only one album thus far, Elvenefris from 2001. This is a release which might take some listens to really get into, but I believe many people who make the effort will come to appreciate this as something very unique and innovative. Indeed, it has received 21 reviews on metal-archives.com, with an average score of 96-percent, as well as 10/10 on metal-observer.com.

The music can be characterized as progressive and atmospheric Brutal Death Metal with grindcore elements, with the majority of the songs being slightly long in duration. The music has technical elements, but is overall progressive rather than technical. The complexity is found in the structure of the songs and the combination of many different elements, more than the riffs themselves being overly technical. The occasional use of synthezisers and clean vocals/spoken words, as well as some clean guitar passages, makes the album at times very atmospheric. For these elements, the band might possibly have drawn influence from Gothic Metal, in example mid-90′s Tiamat. There is also a presence of middle-eastern influenced melodies.

An influence from Death, Morbid Angel and Cryptopsy can be traced in the riffing, which is brutal yet also slightly melodic at times. The influence from Cryptopsy is present also in terms of the very fast and chaotic drumming style and the deep, brutal vocals. The vocals are undecipherable for the most part, but very powerful.

The production may not be superb, perhaps the snare sound specifically might take some time to get used to. But I think one can get beyond those concerns after a few listens, and even start to appreciate it as something which adds to this albums uniqueness.

Spiritual longing and inner peace is the overarching theme of the lyrics. Song titles such as “To Give,” “To Become Shelter And Salvation” and “Land Where Sympathy Is Air” is not exactly ones average death metal/grindcore subject matters. But why not? I think they are pushing the envelope for what extreme metal can be, with their merging of things which are usually seen as opposites. The music might be seen as an expression of extreme masculine force. Yet that force is here used, seemingly, to support a quest for inner peace and an embrace of introspective qualities. Finding inner peace is not for cowards, it requires strength and determination. One might say that this album exemplifies that such masculine force can create a framework which gives space to the expression of more subtle and vulnerable, perhaps more feminine qualities – here expressed both in terms of the lyrics and the more atmospheric parts. Highly original!

Withering Surface
This Danish band released their debut in 1997. Musically, they were highly influenced by the whole Gothenburg sound that was flourishing at the time, yet they also presented a slightly a more atmospheric sound than what the Gothenburg bands often did at the time. I first came across this band via their second album The Nude Ballet from 1998, which in my opinion is their best release. After that they went in a more modern and less progressive direction, still very good, but not as unique.

I will therefore focus my presentation of Withering Surface by describing The Nude Ballet. The album has many Gothenburg style riffs and melodies, and the music is neither overly brutal nor specifically modern. The many good riffs and melodies are presented within a framework of slightly progressive songwriting, enshrouded in beautiful atmospheres, with some use of synthesizers. Apart from the screaming vocal style, which is very well executed, there is some use of more melodic, yet still harsh vocals. Think of mid-90′s Sentenced as a reference for the latter. Bass and drums are more progressively executed than what is common within the Gothenburg genre. Mid-90s Sentenced, Amorphis and even Tiamat might be references which examplify what I mean by atmospheric elements.

The album has the romantic/erotic interplay between man and woman as an overarching lyrical theme. The form is slightly poetic. I wish to give credit to the band for choosing this slightly unusual subject, considering the musical genre. The music has a distinct Scandinavian quality, melodic and wild at the same time. Some of the melodies are almost reminiscent of melodic black metal bands, such as Dawn. There is also something about the listening experience which can resemble the beautiful yet slightly wild Scandinavian natural scenery.

The album does not stand out as something deeply groundbreaking or unique, but it is still a good album. I appreciate it for the good songwriting and its good flow.

The second best album of the band would perhaps be their fourth and last; Force The Pace from 2004. This time more aggressive, straightforward and catchy, still avoiding many of the traps which many of their contemporary Melo-death acts fell into — at a time when the genre was becoming increasingly repetitive, predictable and boring.

Disincarnate
This band, led by guitar virtuoso James Murphy, released only one album: Dreams of the Carrion Kind, through Roadrunner in 1993. Unfortunately it did not receive much attention. Murphy had by that time played in both Death (Spiritual Healing) and Obituary (Cause Of Death), and has later played with Testament on the albums Low and The Gathering, among other things.

Dreams of the Carrion Kind can be described as a mixture of the sophisticated and melodic elements of Death, mixed with the brutality of Deicide and the heaviness of Obituary.

James Murphy is a very talented guitarist and this was quite innovative for its time. Some of the riffs, with their melodic sensibility, use of artificial harmonics and bends/vibrato, may at times also resemble the virtuosity of Dimebag Darrel. There is a moderate level of lead guitar work here, which for the most part functions as an integral part of the compositions, rather than being some kind of wankery just for the sake of it.

The production has a slightly brutal and raw feel to it. The drums and vocals, in particular, are fairly aggressive. This is well balanced with Murphy´s melodic playing. There are even a few sections resembling death/doom here. It is unfortunate that even in recent years, this album has not received the attention it deserves.

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