Meadows End – Sojourn (2016) – Review

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RockmusicRaider Review - Meadows End - Soujourn - Album CoverNow, imagine you would marry the evil twin of Nightwish to Insomnium and giving the female front of the former the boot first. You would in all probability beget a magic child called Meadows End. Their style mixes the Gothenburg kind of Death Metal with some more symphonic elements, which saddles you with a sound that is pretty unique – albeit sprinkled with some Omnium Gatherum in places – and striking in its independence. And it is this sense of independence that is prevalent throughout the record, starting with the fact that no record label had its say in the production of Sojourn.

The Swedish Melodic and Symphonic Death Metal band Meadows End came into being way back by the end of the last century and kind of cruised the #metal underground for long years. By 2009 (yeah, that late..) the band decided to blow their ballast tanks and rise to the surface of this mighty #metal ocean. The result? Ode to Quietus in 2010, followed by The Sufferwell in 2014. These two records gave Meadows End some acclaim amongst critics, but did not really get them out into the light as the records would indeed deserve. 

Their third full length album Sojourn now due in 2016 is a concept record of RockmusicRaider Review - Meadows End 2016sorts, collecting a gaggle of initially 12 re-recorded tracks Meadows End wrote between 1999 and 2006, seen unfit for the knacker’s yard just yet and worthy of preservation. Add one more to that list, if you count the bonus track Everlasting, depending on the version you are listening to. More to that track further down.

But what am I saying by released now? Actually the contents are already pretty much known. Because marketing rulez: I really love this crafty way of publishing one song every month in 2015 to a dedicated YouTube channel kicking up some dust with the audience. 

Meadows End‘s liberal use of keyboards kind of makes them stand out from the crowd of basement-heavy drum beat, clash and stamp, blood and bones Death Metal gigs. Now that might not be pleasing to some of our more hard-core purists for whom synthesizers and keyboards are for girls or worse. But here it fits with the overall, kind of Amorphis-esque flavor of them keyboards, complete with a more mid-tempo delivery most of the time that always gets you this freshness that other bands lack. And it also sets them apart from the full tilt, 200 mph aggressive stance that bands like Arch Enemy like to display. This again speaks towards their own melodic brand of this Symphonic Death Metal universe. Sometimes throwing some special violin solos into this #metal struggle for soundbytes adds a special touch to the album. Where to find this violin thing? Heathen’s Embrace has got it for ye and a good one too; my favorite track.

Check out Heathen’s Embrace:

Now, the record sports a few issues. Compression is pretty damn rampant and prevents all the numerous different, layered elements to come out an shine in their own time. Overwhelming, but somewhat ubiquitous drum work with growls taking over the soundscape at every corner. Ever present keyboards somehow there, but not quite crisp enough. And you have issues getting to the guitars on some of the tracks. And this is a real pity. ‘Cause some of that stuff is actually really good.

Now, there is some redemption to that in the second half where we see some much better soloing more solid riffing going on than is apparent at first. Clench the Feet of Fools is a good example of that. This track includes some better use of a choir and extended, almost folksy symphonics. And some heavier, juicier tracks like All of Them or Forever Haven appearing all of a sudden towards the end of Sojourn, almost reminding me of some Power Metal with a Progresssive/Melodic twist. Now, those definitely increase the quality of the riffing overall. I like that!  

Preferred tracks on Sojourn are first and before all Heathen’s Embrace stellar in its delivery, Amidst The Villains, Nightmare’s Reef formerly called Area of Thieves and interesting in the melodic turn it takes – with a pretty solid solo to boot. Plus the aforementioned All of Them and Forever Haven. And you know what? The epic bonus track Everlasting actually puts a fitting end to a highly interesting album. This one really pulls out all the stops and by doing this Meadows End produce one of the best tracks on the album. Hells Bells! A long wait to get to the good stuff. Cool riffing, a decent solo, the orchestral use of string instruments, choir elements – all there. Now one would fear that this will get us a song like a dusty stuffed animal, but nope. If only the mastering would have worked better, I’d call it stellar. But otherwise really well done.

Now, Sojourn is – by definition – a mixed bag, given the fact that they strung that one together from pre-existing material. With this album, however, Meadows End puts a refreshing, independent stamp on this somewhat dusty Death Metal genre that is – apart from some really good players – in danger to get buried in the soggy underground of this dark and smelly universe. But then the exceptions will always confirm the rules and Meadows End is one of them.

Sojourn will officially launch end of February 2016.

*****

Record Rating: 7/10 | Label: Self-Released | Web: Official Site

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