Sunday, April 24, 2011

Intro to Monthly Rulings & April's Ruling


When I do album reviews, I like being as detailed as I can. Personally, I listen to albums from a musician/production standpoint, and not so much as just a listener. Being a musician and an aspiring producer myself, I listen for details in the instruments and sound quality. What the guitars are doing here, what the drums are doing there, musical technicality, songwriting and arrangements, production atmosphere, so on and so on. I believe it helps me in becoming a better musician and producer, by picking out the same details from other bands and albums. Of course, I'm not claiming to be a professional. Keep in mind that these are my opinions. I might love one album's production, whereas someone else might hate it. Anything goes. So I present my opinions from a musician's standpoint. I hope others find my reviews interesting, useful and maybe informative. The world of music constantly thrives on itself, via many different mediums. That's what it's all about, right?

I used to do these album reviews on my online gaming forum, but since it's not a music-oriented forum, not many people really cared, so I stopped. So, I decided to take it to my own blogspot.

Typically, when I do album reviews, I review them as I obtain/buy new music. But since the last time I've done a review, I've gotten quite a bit of new music. It would take entirely too much time to catch up. So now, I'm going to do monthly reviews of albums; one a month. It'll be a featured album, basically. It will be entitled the Obsidian Courtyard's Monthly Ruling. It won't be based on when it was released, but more based on when I obtain it, absorb it and learn to love (or hate) it.

So, to kick off the Obsidian Courtyard's Monthly Ruling, I'll start with Disperse's Journey Through the Hidden Gardens.

DISPERSE - Journey Through The Hidden Gardens [2010]

I can't take credit for discovering this band on my own. My wife happeded to come across them on a crusade of finding progressive metal and rock bands. She put Disperse on our home stereo one night to hear what they're about. Long story short, it didn't take me long to get hooked to this band. I heard an expansive atmospheric sound, and it immediately caught my attention.

Disperse, from Poland, bring a refreshing flavor of progressive metal to the table. The album contains nine tracks that are about 7-8 minutes long on average, which are saturated with a very immersive, ethereal atmosphere. The songs are comprised of a healthy blend of musical technicality, tons of rich melodies, fitting vocals, and catchy songwriting. Some tracks are more progressive than others.

The musicianship is fantastic overall. The members obviously have a great command of their instruments. The drummer plays technical odd-time sections at times, and plays in the pocket at other times, and maintains quite well. The drums are never overplayed. They fit right in with the music and atmosphere. In a lot of more modern progressive metal, drums tend to be overdone and too flashy, but not in this case. Double bass is employed at the right times as well, typically during a very driving, catchy riff. There is a very mature element to the drumming, and it works. No flash needed here.

Vocals are in a mid range, and are executed fairly well. He doesn't soar with high notes, but his mid range blends in well. The highlights of the vocals is the vocal harmonies found in many places on the album. The vocals are also often lined with rich reverb, and at times, tempo-appropriate delay. More enhancements to the huge atmosphere, simply put. The vocals aren't spectacular, but the guy does have a pretty decent voice. At times, it's hard to understand the lyrics because of his extremely heavy Polish accent, but of course I won't hold that against him.

The bass stays in the middle, playing the necessary bass lines to the songs. It doesn't really stand out; the bassist simply does his job. Although I'm not too big on the tone, especially in the first track. It's fairly muddy. But it could definitely be a lot worse. I hope that in future releases, the bass is a little more prominent and the tone is a little more defined.

The keyboards simply put are a staple of Disperse's sound. The foundation of the immense atmsophere lies in the keyboard work. The keyboard, along with the guitar work (below) are the biggest, most important elements of the band. The keyboard player doesn't do anything flashy or super technical too often, although he is quite capable, as proven in a few spots. What you can expect is a very immersive, large wall of sound that projects a huge audio picture. The keys often sound very orbital and outworldly. If you can imagine the sound of floating through space or something like that, this would be it. He sometimes does provide a more traditional piano line to the song, but his main forte is a sci-fi like atmosphere. There are spots on the album where he does play a solo-esque or rhythm passage in unison with the guitar. The opening riff to "Entering New Lands" is a great example. If I could say one thing to the keyboardist, I would tell him to not change a thing.

But what stands out most is the guitar. A fair portion of these songs are pretty guitar-oriented, often lined with impressive guitar/keyboard unisons, in the vein of Dream Theater or Symphony X. The guitarist obviously knows his way around the fretboard, as the solos fit their respective songs extremely well; great phrasing and knowing exactly what to play and when, and chops from hell to boot. The guitarist has a very theoretical approach to playing and it works very well. Not only that, I found out later on that the guitarist, Jakub Zytecki, is only 18 years old. He is decades ahead of his time. Look him up on Youtube and see for yourself. The guitars often go hand in hand with the keyboard on both atmsopheric parts and technical passages. Clean tones are typically lined with miles of distant reverb, some tasteful delay that is never over-done, and sometimes jazz-oriented. Distorted tones are interesting. Rich-sounding, slightly mid-scooped and not too heavy is how I would describe his rhythm tone. The guitar mix varies a bit between songs; some sound a little more set back than others. There are also spots on the album where he dons an acoustic - for example, the opening track "Balance of Creators". The song opens up with a keyboard/acoustic guitar variation, and a very impressive, Spanish-sounding lick played by Jakub. Think "La Villa Strangiato" by Rush, to get an idea. This kid has worked hard at his playing abilities, and it clearly shows. I can only imagine what to expect in future releases. If you do a Youtube search, you can find some songs that will be on the next Disperse release (according to Jakub). Do yourself a favor and check them out, AFTER listening to this album, of course.

Summary - fantastic! Very well done, extremely solid progressive metal. I'm really impressed by these guys. If they are all around the same age, then these guys will be absolute monsters in a few years. They have a very long, prosperous musical career ahead of them. This album is nothing short of amazing, in my book. It quickly climbed its way up to being one of my favorite albums of all time, and that doesn't happen very often. I eagerly await Disperse's next album, and from what I've heard already, it won't disappoint in the least.

FINAL VERDICT: Fantastic! 9/10.

Stick around for next month's Ruling. Up next on the stand - Crow Black Sky, and their debut release Pantheion.

If you have any commentary or suggestions, feel free to share. I'm always up for constructive criticism!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Algarothsyum - Spiraling to Realization Demo [2011]

My atmospheric blackened death metal solo project, Algarothsyum, has its first 5-track demo, entitled Spiraling to Realization, available for download. It was released in December 2010, then it was re-mixed and re-released in March 2011. 

I improved the production, atmospheric values and re-mixed the demo for several reasons. 1) I fixed this very bizarre audio issue in my laptop that was severely hindering me from using REAPER (the DAW software I exclusively use), and 2) I'm extremely nitpicky about my music, especially the production, and I couldn't leave well enough alone.  So, I went back and improved a lot of factors in the demo's production quality. 3) I want the demo to achieve a reputation for its sound quality, as well as obviously having good music. I always have the drive to out-do myself and improve.

But ultimately, it's up to you, the listener, to make that judgment call.

The 5-track demo serves as a peek into what Algarothsyum is all about. As mentioned before, the whole project is based on a post-apocalyptic life and survival theme. The concept will be followed through Algarothsyum's entire future catalog, not just on one or two releases. Each one of Algarothsyum's releases will continue a story of survival in a post-nuclear planet-wide wasteland. As copied from the blog entry on my ReverbNation page... "A very tiny fraction of the population survive such a catastrophe. Major cities and suburbs are destroyed. Lakes are dried up. Roads are beaten, battered and worn. Society, common law, and government have all collapsed. Months and years pass after the destruction occurred, and the few strong that have survived have learned to adapt and live in the wasteland."

That should paint the general picture. Future releases will continue forward with the story, and there will be a few releases that serve as prequels. Algarothsyum's catalog will ultimately be a saga.

The dark, melancholic, vast atmosphere is very present in the project's music. The intention of the music is to help you visualize a dark wasteland setting. I put a lot of atmospheric and environmental emphasis in the music. The lyrics/vocals are only a small addition. The rest of it will paint the picture.

Demo Tracklist 
1. Introduction - The Birth of a New World - (2:21)
2. A Journey of One, Pt. I - (4:33)
3. A Journey of One, Pt. II - (4:20)
4. Spiraling to Realization - (7:15)
5. Fallen - (1:41)

I performed on all instruments and vocals on the demo, as well as the mixing and production. The demo is in 320k MP3 format.


I hope you enjoy this demo as much as I've enjoyed producing it. It's only a fraction of what you can expect from Algarothsyum. I have big plans for this project in the future. Keep track of this blog for news and updates! 
- Vhyle 

Introduction Entry

Well, here it goes.

I started this to mainly share the details of my life's passion, which is music. Metal, to be more specific. And on the way, I suppose I can share a few other things as well, for the occasions that I might have something interesting to say.

My name is Vhyle in the music/metal world. It's a self-appointed stage name. Lots of people have 'em. But anyway, I'm from Georgia, and I play music. I've been drumming for 14 years, and playing guitar for over 10. I mainly play metal of different types, and sometimes jazz. I've been in several local projects and bands over the years, such as Damnesia, Jesus Christler, Malefic, Forbidden Words, and a few other smaller projects here and there. As of right now, I'm not playing in a full band, but I do stay active with my solo black/death metal project, Algarothsyum.

Algarothsyum is a solo project that's based around a post-apocalyptic, the-world-is-destroyed theme. It's an ongoing story of survival in the wastelands. Nations are destroyed, population almost completely gone, governments and laws have collapsed, and society ends. The project will be a continuing storyline, telling a tale of life and survival in such an environment. One of the most important elements that I focus on in my music, is atmosphere. There's lots of it, and there will be lots more in future releases. I try to convey a very dark, melancholic, open, everything-is-gone atmosphere in my music. Yes, it's that important.

I love recording either for my own project, or for others, when given the opportunity. Music, playing, recording and production are my ultimate life passions. I have recorded for several bands and projects, and have a decent collection of material in my music portfolio. I'll expand on that in later entries.

Audio mixing and production is also something I'm very much into. In the near future, I intend on starting a small production label. Ultimately, my life goal is to own and run a complete home studio.

Now to change directions - I'm 27 years old, currently enlisted in the United States Army. I'm married to a wonderful, very supportive woman, and in January we had our first child; a girl. I couldn't possibly express in words how it feels to have a family. There's nothing like it! Other parents should know what I'm talking about. Having a loving family is one of life's greatest pleasures. It's what matters the most.
I will be blogging about music, mostly - I'm going to do lots of metal album reviews on here. I've done lots of reviews over on a gaming community forum, but I stopped because most of them don't like metal. But here, I will review metal albums as soon as I get them. I'm a big CD collector, so I'm always scouting for new metal to obtain. I do album reviews from a musician's standpoint. I talk about the melodies, instrumentation, production values, stuff like that. 

This blog will also serve as news source for my solo project, Algarothsyum. Recordings, new releases, stuff like that. It will be posted here as well as the ReverbNation and Facebook pages. More details on Algarothsyum will be shared in a later entry.

And lastly, I will use this blog to ramble about anything else that I feel like rambling about. Military-related topics, the world, family, movies, and anything else.

So keep track of this page. I'll be making new entries regularly.

- Vhyle