I am stumped. Sometimes you’ll find a ton of talent in a band. But for some reason, their work somehow doesn’t shine the way it should. And still. As a reviewer, you want to leave a few comments at the door. Because you see the potential, and it’s almost painful how these outfits seem to destroy their very own creation with the stroke of a few watery guitar riffs and a sloppy production.
Tough love or lost time and energy that would have been spent better elsewhere? Hold on to something. This may be beyond your usual Six Flags rollercoaster ride.
Graveshadow‘s latest album Ambition’s Price established itself as an often medium-paced gothically-tainted Melodic Death Metal piece. So far so good, but for some reason, it never made it onto the RMR ‘zine. Now, we laud the effort of the band to try and take it one step further with The Uncertain Hour. It was about time to put the pedal to the metal some.
And indeed, the record hits you with a weighty and often screamy load of alloy somewhere in between Lacuna Coil and an earlier incarnation of Unleash The Archers. A mix of Gothic, Melodic, and – predominantly – Power Metal that – at times – errs a tad too close to any of Morten Veland’s ‘nia outfits. Case in point, Graveshadow already extensively toured with Sirenia – and the aforementioned UtA. To say the least, the band proudly wears its influences like one of those badges at any of those friggin’ video game cons.
Now, The Uncertain Hour also likes its clichés. Just look at the band pics on offer sporting lightly-clad ladies with fake red hair1) and smug-looking shampooed males all around them. Echoes of Amaranthe and old glam without the abundant electronics? Perhaps.
To bring in Rachl Raxx Quinn must have been – as the band commented – a no-brainer. She sports an impressive set of pipes that are right up there with other heavyweights in the Power Metal realm. It’s thus sad that the growls just didn’t convince anybody over here. It’s an old issue, by the way. Gothic and Melodic Metal outfits often tried the unclean vocal thing. Boy, even some of the Symphonic and Power Metal folks2) dabbled in that art. But almost always, this ended in failure – with some notable exceptions, like the aforementioned Lacuna Coil or Mark Jansen from Epica. So in short, most bands abandoned the effort and finally let their female front just take the lead.
But there’s more. “Musically, we wanted to achieve a massive wall of sound for this record…“, the promo description quotes William Lloyd Walker, the master supreme behind the Graveshadow effort. And it does sound true. Right off the bat, The Uncertain Hour comes with that tsunami of sound. A mix that throws everything at you at the same time. So much so that the bass is barely audible, with the rest of the guitars at the top of the mix and front-center more often than not. And whilst Quinn‘s ceaseless and somewhat unmodulated vocals are loud to the point of wearing you out, they strangely sit in the lefthand background and stay there. Yet, the growls always appear slightly to the right.
So, Graveshadow created a wall of sound alright. Only it’s so bricked up, they lost a lot of the good and amplified some of the bad. To add insult to injury, they added reverb to pretty much everything, probably to add some atmosphere. Yet, that made the whole chebang often sound hollow and – at times – positively tinny.
So, where does that leave us? You see, the RMR crew didn’t spare any effort to try and like the record better than it finally did. The Uncertain Hour blasted out of any and all music machines available to us. From earphones, buds, car sound systems, and high-end wi-fi sets at the office. But it was to no avail. We always found that hollow, badly mixed sound that annoyed us as much as it fascinated us. Because you see, the talent and all the good ideas are there. Only, the production, sloppy execution, and a carload full of oldish clichés kinda killed the cat.
So, if they can clean this up for next time, I am sure that Graveshadow will go places. Other biggies in the Power Metal realm were able to do this. So why not these guys?
Ed’s note: Fancy Power Metal that truly kicks ass? Try Fellowship.