This is the fifth installment of my ‘Unknown & Underrated’ series.
In Part 5, I take a look at three very different bands yet again. First up are a progressive rock band that have a flair for the dramatic. Then I choose a melodic doom metal band that are perhaps bigger than many I have looked at before, but who need more exposure in the UK especially. Finally, I focus on a shoegaze band/project with a background in black metal. The common thread? They all feature in my music collection but given their undoubted quality, need to find a place in many more collections. That’s hopefully where this blog comes in.
Everon – Bridge
Whilst Everon are clearly a band that explores the progressive rock genre, there are some aspects of their sound that mark them out as being relatively unique. The band do employ some great musicianship with interesting time changes, intricate melodies and lots of light and shade. However, unlike the bands that instantly come to mind upon the utterance of the word ‘prog’, they don’t over-do the self indulgence and don’t tie themselves in intricate instrumental knots and cul-de-sacs.
Blessed with a very nice production, the songs on ‘Bridge’ (and indeed all of their albums for that matter) are all very strong, able to stand alone or, through a clever use of musical themes and motifs, as an epic whole.
What I particularly like about Everon is the way in which a simple melody on a quiet keyboard, can transform into a bombastic and anthemic wall of sound. The guitars are properly gutsy, the drums pound and the keys explode to create masses of atmosphere. I often sit back when I’ve not listened to this band for a while and marvel at the massive juxtaposition between the lighter moments and the sheer bombast of the grandiose choruses. And yet, it really works well.
The vocals are also one of the band’s strong suits. Oliver Philipps has a slight accent, but this does not detract from a consistent performance that runs the gambit from quiet and introspective, to all-out emotion and impassioned. There are even a couple of rare occasions when a growl joins the fray as a counterpoint to a crescendo or chorus.
When I listen to Everon, more often than not, I feel uplifted and am left with a smile on my face. When music does that to me, I know that it must be damn good.
Swallow The Sun
Instead of picking just one album, I feel compelled to discuss this band in more general terms. Why? Because without any kind of over-exaggeration, every album that the Finns have released is worthy of at least an 8/10 score. In actual fact, high nines would be more accurate.
It is also fair to say that Swallow The Sun is a bigger name than I usually feature on this blog series. However, I just feel that in the UK particularly, there needs to be more awareness and love for this band. I have seen the guys play live on these shores a few times and whilst their stock is rising, I believe they are well worth a headlining tour to give their impressive back catalogue a proper airing.
Swallow The Sun are a stunning melodic doom metal band with death metal overtones from Finland and they have a really uncanny knack of being able to pen brutally heavy and oppressive music that also manages to sound beautiful and fragile at the same time. In fact, the band, led by Juha Raivio, have themselves adopted the description of ‘gloom, beauty and despair’. This is probably as apt and succinct a description as you are ever going to get.
The compositions are generally mid-length but with a fair few that cross the eight or nine minute mark. In that time, the musical tapestry that they weave is often breathtaking. In the early days, the music focused most on being crushing and was dominated by the deep growls of Mikko Kotamaki. As the band have grown over the years, their music has evolved slightly, although it still remains true to the ‘gloom, beauty and despair’ tagline.
Alongside the mid-to-slow-paced riffs and melodies, the band treats us to acoustic guitar passages, greater diversity in the compositions as a whole and an introduction of clean vocals. The greater diversity has led to a slightly more progressive feel, in turn increasing the longevity of the music, whilst the addition of clean vocals to Mikko’s armoury has been a real boon. The mix of growling and singing has added an extra layer of subtlety and sophistication to proceedings that only serves to better contrast the brutality at Swallow The Sun’s core.
Swallow The Sun are not averse to writing massively long epics either as their mini-album ‘Plague Of Butterflies’ demonstrated via it’s 35-minute, three-part central piece. The use of guest musicians is a nice touch too, with Katatonia’s Jonas Renske and ex-Nightwish crooner Annette Olzon both featuring within the band’s discography.
The latest album, ‘The Emerald Forest & The Blackbird’ is the most obvious place to start. However, if you pick any of their albums, you’re unlikely to be disappointed because Swallow The Sun are very special indeed. Just don’t blame me if you get hooked!
Alcest – Écailles de Lune
A few years ago, I got heavily into the whole ‘post black metal’ genre and one of the bands that has stuck with me right up to the present is Alcest, even though ‘post black metal’ only tells half of the story and threatens to mislead just a little.
Alcest began life as a solo black metal project courtesy of Neige but has since developed over the years into something that only loosely borrows from the black metal scene. These days, Alcest are better described as principally a dark shoegaze band with black metal and progressive rock overtones.
The core of the Alcest sound is still routed in metal with the album’s standout track, ‘Écailles De Lune (Part II)’ beginning with a more traditional black metal sound. However, as with much of this album, the track quickly transforms into a poignant affair complete with ambient sections and clean almost ethereal vocals that, depending on your mood, can threaten to overwhelm you with emotion.
The combination of heavier sections and the lighter, more aesthetically beautiful passages creates a wonderful and engrossing sense of drama with the ambient parts acting as moments of quiet reflection within the more technical and extreme tumult that occasionally surrounds them.
If you read my previous blogs in this series and you liked Agalloch, then you are almost certain to enjoy Alcest. There are plenty of differences between the approaches of the two bands. However, the manner in which they are able to incorporate a myriad of different influences in order to create atmosphere and evoke strong feelings in the listener is eerily similar.
Alcest are able to show that music with an extreme core and background can be beautiful and that you don’t necessarily have to be full-on prog to be a thinking person’s band.