Posts Tagged ‘ Alkaloid ’

Album of the Week 24-2018: Alkaloid – Liquid Anatomy

Two years ago, Alkaloid thoroughly impressed me with their highly creative debut album ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’. Despite the band members’ association with high profile metal bands – Obscura most prominently – it transcended the supergroup burden by coming up with a highly progressive, almost avant-garde extreme metal that forsakes most of the exhausting hyperactivity of most contemporary technical death metal bands and aims for atmosphere and maximum impact instead. Fortunately, Alkaloid found time in its busy schedule to record a second album and it manages to amplify all the best aspects of ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’ beyond what yours truly had expected at this point.

In a way, ‘Liquid Anatomy’ is slightly less extreme than ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’. There are still plenty of hyperspeed death metal passages to be heard and Florian Magnus Maier still throws his hateful growl around like there’s no tomorrow, but the focus seems to have slightly shifted towards the progressive side of the band rather than brutal force. Overall, Maier does more clean vocals here, which really enhances the immersive atmosphere of the material. Pink Floyd and Cynic appear to be the most prominent influences in that matter, but not as spacey as the former and much more organic and effective than the latter.

One would have to look no further than opening track ‘Kernel Panic’, which appears to mirror the first half of previous opener ‘Carbon Phrases’ stylistically with its gorgeously layered clean guitar lines and vocal harmonies punctured by blunt moments of aggression. Hannes Grossmann’s interestingly timed rhythms and and the guitar solos by both Christian Münzner and Danny Tunker are incredible. Anyone expecting pure death metal may be discouraged by the opener, but it is a brave opener that emphasizes the unique nature of the band. Those desiring a heavier approach will still be satisfied by ‘As Decreed By Laws Unwritten’ and parts of ‘Chaos Theory And Pratice’.

Personally, I strongly prefer the more experimental approach though. ‘Azagthoth’ profits from somewhat exotic rhythms, crazy lead guitar work and a perfect balance between pounding heaviness and sophisticated subtlety, while the acoustic-based title track is a beautiful extreme progmetal ballad, as unlikely as that sounds. The guitar arrangements of ‘In Turmoil’s Swirling Reaches’ are downright brilliant, but most attention will probably go out to the 20 minute beast that is ‘Rise Of The Cephalopods’. It is a highly dynamic track that takes the listener through all the extremes of Alkaloid’s sound, from the cleanest, calmest acoustic sections to some of the most thrashing death metal on the record.

My only minor complaint would be the production, which feels a little less dynamic than last time around and really does not benefit the amazing bass playing of Linus Klausenitzer. Sometimes you’d even have trouble hearing him if you pay close attention and that makes the record slightly less immersive sonically than its predecessor. The song material is a definite step up from what was already a high quality debut, however. As such, Alkaloid has not only outdone itself, but also proven that the band is so much more than just a new project with a prominent “ex-Obscura” label. Highly recommended for fans of progressive music of all sorts.

Recommended tracks: ‘Kernel Panic’, ‘Liquid Anatomy’, ‘Rise Of The Cephalopods’

Album of the Week 02-2018: Eternity’s End – The Fire Within

Everything Christian Muenzner touches turns to gold, or so it seems. Obscura was one of the very few modern technical death metal bands I loved, Alkaloid was one of the most unique progressive metal bands in recent years and ‘The Fire Within’, the debut album from his progressive power metal band Eternity’s End, contains some of the best contemporary power metal I have heard in years. Muenzner appears to be the melodic conscience of most of his bands and it is that side that of his songwriting personality that is on full display here. No song here is less than good.

Being a progressive power metal album, ‘The Fire Within’ contains all of the guitar harmonies, whirlwind guitar solos, memorable choruses, fantasy lyrics and Symphony X-isms you could wish for, but Eternity’s End adds a much larger dose of intensity and aggression to the mix. As a result, the riffs set the record on fire and the choruses sound proud and strong rather than tepid invitations to sing along. It helps that Ian Parry sings these songs, as these are his best performances since his early Elegy days. His clean-but-raw approach is perfect for Muenzner’s songs and he sometimes reaches heights I didn’t realize he was capable of reaching.

As good as Parry, keyboard player Jimmy Pitts and the rock solid rhythm section of Muenzner’s former Obscura buddies Linus Klausenitzer and drummer extraordinaire Hannes Grossmann are, Muenzner’s riffs are really what make the record. They have a fat, beefy bottom end, which gives them a propulsive quality that many modern power metal bands lack. They are often fast, but Muenzner knows how to apply dynamics do his songs, often opening up an otherwise dense song with a strong chorus or a remarkable melodic passage, which is the case in songs like the excellent ‘Eagle Divine’ or the incredible ‘The Hourglass’.

Songwriting-wise, there is literally nothing to complain about here. The album has a really pleasant flow, moving back and forth between gripping, catchy power metal songs like ‘Demonblade’, ‘Moonstruck’ and the title track and more epic tracks like the monumental closer ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’. The latter feels significantly shorter than the eight minutes it actually takes to finish and the instrumentals are nothing short of breathtaking. Halfway through, the relatively midtempo, eighties hardrock inspired ‘White Lies’ manages to function as a breather without even getting close to ballad territory.

There is almost too much talent in Eternity’s End, but fortunately, all of the musicians involved are aware of the fact that the songs are more important than displays of virtuosity. Sure, there is some incredible musicianship going on, by Grossmann and Muenzner himself most prominently, but no single solo triumphs over the immense melodic qualities of this masterpiece of an album. Anyone whose heart beats faster upon hearing energetic, yet classy power metal should at least give Eternity’s End a chance. I can assure you more “chances” will follow. Here’s to hoping this will be more than a one-off.

Recommended tracks: ‘The Fall Of The House Of Usher’, ‘The Hourglass’, ‘Eagle Divine’

Album of the Week 09-2016: Alkaloid – The Malkuth Grimoire

Recently, I praised Obscura’s excellent new record ‘Akróasis’. It showed that frontman Steffen Kümmerer could make great albums even without the rest of the classic lineup. Last year, drummer Hannes Grossmann and guitarist Christian Münzner – along bassist Linus Klausenitzer, who is still in Obscura – proved that it’s also true the other way around. ‘The Malkuth Grimoire’ may not be as instantly recognizable as Obscura’s work, but it’s a downright fabulous work of progressive extreme Metal. In fact, while the music does expand upon the traditions set by the likes of Death, it’s really quite unique in atmosphere and structure.

Don’t mistake this for a simple Obscura spin-off. Alkaloid’s music is darker, sometimes even somewhat unsettling and several passages are really more progressive Rock than Metal. Part of that is probably the influence of singer and occasional guitarist Florian Magnus Maier, who is prone to adapt a darker approach in songwriting, but since Grossmann wrote just about as much material, it seems like he wanted to go in that direction as well. Maier’s switching between grunts and clean vocals – though still rather raw most of the time – really augments the shifts in atmosphere, which is where the album really outdoes any competition.

Besides, the band has three amazing lead guitarists. Münzner was forced to leave Obscura due to a disease that affects his fingers, but his dexterity, as well as the highly melodic nature of his lead work, really shines here. Danny Tunker, who played with the likes of Aborted and Detonation, also plays better than he ever has here, while Maier’s more abstract solo’s really add an interesting layer to the record. And that doesn’t even apply to Maier’s guitar sample collage ‘C-Value Enigma’, which brings to mind Zappa’s ‘G-Spot Tornado’. The album even closes with a brilliant solo section; the perfect conclusion to the amazing build-up of ‘Funeral For A Continent’.

What makes the album so unique is that it’s constantly on the move. A lot of modern, progressively tinged bands are just in your face all the time, but Alkaloid lets its music breathe. There’s a lot of clean and acoustic guitar moments – opening track ‘Carbon Phrases’ and the simply amazing ‘Orgonism’ for instance – to balance out the extreme heaviness of a track like ‘Cthulhu’ or the hyperactive speed of ‘Alter Magnitudes’. That’s also why the album’s longer songs, most notably Maier’s tetralogy ‘Dyson Sphere’ and the aforementioned ‘Funeral For A Continent’, stay interesting throughout their length.

To a certain extent, the same goes for the entire album. With a running time of 73 minutes, it’s an incredibly long album, but it still leaves you wanting more. In a time of increasing musical interchangeability, that is quite an impressive achievement. It does help that the musicians involved never let their obvious virtuosity get in the way of the music, but use it to augment the songs they have written. And isn’t that exactly what virtuosity should be used for in the first place? Let this album be a lesson to any progressive Death Metal band around these days.

Recommended tracks: ‘Funeral For A Continent’, ‘Orgonism’, ‘Carbon Phrases’