It’s no secret I (Brian) love records stores. I mean, where do you think many of the albums we review come from? Whenever I travel, whether it be in the US or abroad, I seek out local record shops. One of the fun things about the shops is discovering new music. Yes, apps and streaming services that do this are all the rage nowadays, but it’s not the same as going to a store where the employees are just as passionate as you are and asking for some recommendations. It’s also fun to take that one step further and ask them for some local acts that you should know about. The results of that quest, friends and freaks, is what brings us three of the albums this week. Oh, and we listened to the new Opeth.
La Armada – Crisis EP (Fat Sandwich) – heard in and recommended by Reckless Records, Chicago, IL (specifically the Loop location, though I also shopped at the larger Wicker Park store)
Occultist – Death Sigils (Primitive Ways) – recommended by the owner of Vinyl Conflict, Richmond, VA
Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner)
Yautja – Songs of Descent (ForceField) – recommended by The Groove, Nashville, TN
Exodus – “Salt The Wound” from Blood In, Blood Out out 10/14 via Nuclear Blast
Amaranthe – “Drop Dead Cynical” from Massive Addictive out 10/21 via Spinefarm
Unearth – “The Swarm” from Watchers of the Rule out 10/28 thru eOne (NA) & Century Media (Europe)
Beyond Creation – “Earthborn Evolution” from Earthborn Evolution out 10/28 thru Season of Mist
Ne Obliviscaris – “Painters of the Tempest part II, movement III: ‘Curator” from Citadel out 11/11 thru Season of Mist
Set & Setting – A Vivid Memory
I realize this probably won’t surprise you, but it surprised me to say this: I love Opeth’s Pale Communion. I didn’t love Heritage, but I didn’t hate it either so I didn’t know what to expect from Pale Communion. Similar to Nick, it took me a full listen to accept the heavy use of the Hammond organ. But once I got used to what the sound/tone color of this album was and started focusing on the songs themselves, I grew to love this album. As you point out, the flow of the album works tremendously well. Instrumental songs/passages are spaced out well, and guitar solos come at just the right time and are very good in and of themselves. And again as you point out, the production is fantastic. I am going to compare the production of Pale Communion to a Rush album in two ways. First is that each instrument/part both stands out in the mix and blends in with the rest of the band. Second, and I generally don’t make note of this, is the drumming (Neal Peart of Rush being one of the best drummers ever). I have to give special mention to drummer Martin Axerot on this album. The drumming on Pale Communion is not anything flashy or technically brilliant, but I can’t say enough about how well the drumming on this album works within the context of these songs. There aren’t a lot of albums I can say this about, but Pale Communion would not be the same without the drumming on this album. Even though I could say that the drumming really stands out on the track “Voice of Treason”, it’s really the whole album that the drumming actually makes me notice and listen to it, which for me is a rather rare thing.
I realize where you guys are coming from with the Cynic comparison, but I don’t think it is a good comparison. Sure, both Opeth and Cynic started out as metal bands that now play prog rock. But the difference is that Cynic plays modern digital prog and Opeth plays 70s analog throwback prog. That Hammond organ you noted that features so prominently on Pale Communion is straight out of John Lord from Deep Purple in the 1970s. The vibe that Opeth creates on songs such as “River” with those sweet vocal harmonies is quite different than anything on Kindly Bend to Free Us by Cynic.