It looks like this blog needs a bit more growling to move it back to our metal roots. Lately, we were hunting about the folksy parts of the music industry a lot. And finally ended up in cheese-covered Power Metal lands, populated by fantasy cookie monsters and fairy dust.
So, it is great news that Meadows End finally came forward with their new full-length album The Grand Antiquation.
True to their credo, Meadows End kick off their 39-minute offering with a mix of Fleshgod Apocalypse, the hearty rumbling of Noumena, and a slice of Wolfheart. Yet this is a much more refined tune than Sojourn ever mustered. This does however not come as a real surprise. The latter was indeed somewhat of a patchwork record, with loads of tracks that came to see the light of day over time.
The Grand Antiquation by contrast gets you fresh material only.
Gone are the endless Nightwish-esque key interludes, and in comes something much more symphonic. An improvement over the last offering with a much more complex and straightforward approach to Melodic and Symphonic Death Metal, with a lemon twist and a shot of vodka to add spice.
Yet straight away, the truckload of bricks in there almost overwhelmed me. It is a mighty wall of sound that surrounds you right off the bat and continues to do so through to the bitter end. With a felt never-ending string presence and a totally locked-in choir performance. And this almost wore me out after a while.
This is – of course, and in part – inherent to the genre, where mixing both metal and classical elements risk teleporting you on top of some sort of tower of Babylon. A gazillion elements added to the fray quickly risk to cease making sense, and become part of a bewildering amalgam of sounds. In addition and depending on the band’s ideas, the arrangement can be complex – and confusing. Which will leave the master out in the lurch, if you get my drift.
The band’s improved performance becomes apparent as of Devilution.
Meadows End waste no time to make their new style and direction known to the public. This continues in the somewhat nervous Storm of Perdition. Which more and more reminds me of a piece a Fleshgod Apocalypse on steroids would have done.
It is interesting that the band started to introduce those Stortregn style solos, together with them mini-riffs proper to each track. And this turns out to be one of the main attractions of The Grand Antiquation.
You also get zones of comfort like Svept i Sorgepläd. Those that seem to step straight out of something the aforementioned Noumea did beforehand. Or the weird female chanting and fairy laughter in Night’s Bane. Which transforms a relatively pretty simple song into something that defies norms.
The Grand Antiquation is full of such moments. On one side, things often inexplicably tend towards the worse, the simplistic path in a way. Then, out of that mighty wall of bricks, you all of a sudden find these pockets of weird excellence that make no sense. Or seemingly make no sense. Like the Non-Dreaming Eye in its delicious variation, crowned by a pretty tasty solo in the middle. And don’t I always get a kick out of the video with its share of hairy manly men rocking away in a sauna. Of all places. All these guys with one single chick to cheer them on.
But back to the mastering, I do firmly believe that with less of a Berlin wall and more attention to dynamics, they could have worked it out in their favor. There’s a lot there that doesn’t really reveal itself. In other words, less compression and more of a master would have done this record a world of good.
And sometimes Meadows End move down funky road big time. In Significance of Man kicks off with this leathery pseudo-female front that made me wonder. Yet again, the track quickly disintegrates into the usual and comfortable growly complexity this record is so fond of. By the way, ’tis one of the most varied and interesting tracks on TGA with an ending Amorphis could not have done better.
But finally, adepts of Symphonic and Melodic Death Metal will relish this record, no doubt about it. The Grand Antiquation really provides fodder for a lot of them sub-genres that populate that area of the metal multiverse. Also, the powerful delivery will surely make for a great live presence. Which in these days of declining revenues is ever more important.
Sure, Meadows End did not re-invent the wheel, nor should they. This is rock solid Melodic and Symphonic Metal from the North. Intensely served, and straight from the roots of this metal-laden Yggdrasil, where everything stems from.
Check it out and enjoy!