Monday, January 21, 2013

Promethean - Gazing the Invisible (1997)

Poor Promethean don't seem to have made much of a mark on the Music Market - they don't even have a Wikipedia page. They do, however, have three core members (guitar, vocals, mandolin, keyboard) and an eclectic blend of "friends in need are friends indeed*" with instruments - guitar, drums, flute, violin, cello and even recorder. Taking many aspects of folk music, they have blended it with a fairly light metal sound and applied vocals that are not disimilar to those of My Dying Bride (the singing, not the growling) and Anathema.

The album cover is kinda dreary really - sepia tones, a strange image that seems to consist of a kneeling naked person with their lower body turned to stone and their hair merging into smeared, surreal braids. The band name, in a font only slightly darker than the general green-browns of the cover is quite difficult to read and the lyrics are so tiny and white on sepia that one almost needs a magnifying glass to read them, like the songs, they merge into one and are divided by paragraph breaks but not headed by titles making you wonder if you are intended to just listen to the entire album from beginning to end.

The spine reads:
"When everything is nothing and all new is but the same cover the earth with your sins and never feel any shame"
 It is all rather avantgarde (like their label) but does not make for very impressive or eye-catching packaging - which kind of makes me wonder why I picked them up. I am glad they did, however, because although their packaging may be drab and kinda cheap, I do like their music.

This music has great atmosphere - I believe it is the folk elements. It is very much "Mood" music, the sort that you could play cheerfully in the background for ages, and never grow tired of. It is pretty soothing though - no roaring guitars or raging drums - making you quite realise how extremely eclectic the "metal" genre is.

I have decided to listen to this album from beginning to end to get the feel for it, then listen to it again and begin my track dissection. Thus I shall save it for now and begin the "breakdown" of songs later today.

Let's see if a dissection can improve my understanding of this album:

The CD begins with some discordant notes before breaking in to soothing folk music of "Eternal Fall". This theme continues through much of the album. The vocalist's voice is rich, deep and mellow with good harmonics.

More mellow folk sounds lead us in to "Polygon" along with a few of the more discordant screeching beats, and a steady thrum building hte the background. Vocals are whispered, quoting lyrics that are at once poetic and also somewhat nonsensical - the ones printed on the spine, in fact. We are then treated for some very mood-infused folk music, mellow, laid back, like an evening spent lounging in the sun, perhaps strumming your mandolins or guitars as you put your feet up, lean back and close your eyes, sinking in to the music.

Birdsong and flute marks the beginning of "Gazing", a sound invoking thoughts of two lovers, gazing into each other's eyes as they lie in a field of golden corn, the wind twisting and whipping it around them.

"The" is a lovely intrumental piece.

The pace picks up a little, but only a smidgeon, for "Invisible". It has some nice trilly bits, introducing butterflies to our cornfield, but ultimately the sun is still shimmering down and the sending striations of light upon the ground, between the stalks. It is also devoid of vocals.

The vocals return in "Don't Mind the Dancer" as a child skips and spins through the cornfield, turning circles whilst butterflies flutter around their outstretched arms and the wind shimmers and shines around them. The serenity and innocence is shattered as we enter into the second half of this track, "The Dance with the Diseased" with discordant twanging music and a barely audible ranting voice.

"All Blue is Beautiful" and so is this song, with its frolicking flute and some other sort of buzzy-sounding instrument (I really wish I knew what these things were called).It inexplicably ends with the beeping of a disconnected telephone.

Haunting chords usher us in to "The Kiss of All that Remains". The vocals begin again, with almost half the lyrics on the sleeve remaining for this song and the next.

And then my Windows Media Player spontaneously forgot that I have a CD drive.

Luckily I had already stored this album on my harddrive, and thus can listen to the last track.

Not surprisingly, "Flowing Downwards" is something of a slow and romantic tune - at least for the first minute or so, then abruptly it ups the beat and breaks into something a tad more aggressive (but only a tad, this is the soothing and laidback Promethean, after all). This song is like the river, at times relaxed and slow, sluggish between the banks, other times narrow, deep and dangerous. There is a hint of the ominous on the horizon - a waterfall, perhaps?
"...I'm a god now and the slaves shall serve..."

As far as this album is concerned, the songs do sort of merge together, and although I would compare it with Amorphis's "Elegy" I think it would benefit from having a couple faster-paced numbers. As it stands, it is sort of like a gentle flow of sound, all beautifully structured and very musical but no real stand out pieces.  For the most part, pleasant and soothing.

This earns it a rating, from me, of  7/10.

* Which I presume means friends WE need as opposed to friends that need us.

For some reason, possibly due to Orphaned Land, I have remembered this band, and now just want to listen to this song several times, very loudly:
If anyone can get me the CD this is off, "Cold Heaven" I will.. do something nice for you.   I had a copy of the video, taped from MTV, but alaso, time is not kind to Video Cassettes and it was devoured by mould...

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