[Metal/Gothic] Evanescence – Synthesis (85%)

ortexAfter several years of hiatus, Amy Lee and Evanescence broke their silence by releasing “Synthesis”, an album providing a re-orchestration of their previous songs. Amy dropped the guitars and the drums to let place to other instruments. Amy is already gifted by a beautiful voice and a talent to play piano. When Evanescence mixed her voice with her piano melodics, this is where my auditory and limbic system explode into a serendipity.
Evanescence played a sort of gateway for me to explore the symphonic metal genre (this is how I got introduced to Nightwish and Within Temptation) but never went fully symphonic. How does the album stands without metal riffs and drums?
It stands good, some songs are impressive by their intimacy and their simpleness, some are kind of a disappointment. Let’s go through together the 16-tracks spanning a bit more than 63 minutes.
We start with “Overture”, an instrumental opening track that introduce us to the piano and violin tones that are the trademark of the album. The first track is the cover of “Never Go Back” from their third album “Evanescence”. Listening to the piano opening sequence is just a thrill on the skin, giving me some goosebumps. This is an example of a successful cover by its ability to remove the heaviness of the original and still sounds so wonderful to the ears. The third track, “Hi-Lo”, was one track that was initially planned to be in “Evanescence” but was not retained. As is it is, it is such a beautiful and intimate song that makes you wonder how it would have sounded in its metal version.
In the opposite, “My Heart is Broken” (the 4th track) sounds much better in its original cover because it already provided such a wonderful blend of the metal, piano and Amy’s voice. The 5th and 6th tracks were sounding as good as the original cover are “Lacrymosa” (The Open Door), “The End of The Dream” (Evanescence).
“Unraveling”, the 7th track posing as an instrumental and melancholic piano solo interlude is sounding so beautiful by its own.
“Imaginary”, the 8th track, is one of the biggest disappointment. The original one, already present in their EP “Origin” was simply perfect as it was, a perfect blend of Amy musical and vocal performance with the heaviness. It was one of my favorite of “Fallen”. This cover just axed it and fail to give justice. What the heck Amy on that one?
“Secret Door” is as good as the original one. Both were instrumental in their conception, very light and sober so they are very comparable. Some of the finest compositions of the band and kind of make you wish they pursued into the direction of Within Temptation or Nightwish. “Lithium”, another of my favorite from “Fallen”, also received the good treatment even amplifying the beauty of the original version.
“Lost in Paradise”, the 12th track, is another failed attempt and liked the original more than the cover in this one. “Your Star”, contrasts and shows how a cover can give back some justice to a track often went unnoticed in the original album (The Open Door).
Track 14, “My Immortal” is the litmus test. I have listened to two versions of the track back in the days: the radio edit version that was heavy and one bootleg downloaded from P2P (Kazaa or eDonkey, I don’t remember) that had the instrumental segment purely on the piano. The cover one revives the bootleg ones, embellishing it and making it even better. Damn, I wished this track and “Bring Me to Life” were not appended to the cinematic turd called “Daredevil”.
“The In-Between” is a piano solo new song written for the album. Oh my! Such a delight of listening Amy playing the piano on this one and emphasize the grave notes giving this melancholic feel to the song. Nobody plays the piano in the metal scene than Amy.
“Imperfection”, the last track is the last “meh” on that album. Not a big fan of it, sounds like a mishmash of styles that makes in my opinion an undigestible thing to listen.Be a judge by yourself you can listen to it below.
https://youtu.be/7_XoKJP1XK4

Now I am really mad and disappointed i missed on the latest Evanescence tour (due to scheduling conflict) because after 15 years and the loss of Ben after “Fallen”, Evanescence still stand strong of its feet and really should explore some facets of the symphonic metal. A recent meet and greet between Amy and Simone Simons (Epica) could open up some collaboration, especially with some input from Mark.

 

 

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[Metal/Gothic] Beyond Forgiveness – The Great Wall (80%)

US metal bands playing Gothic Metal or Symphonic Metal are fairly rare birds, in contrast to Europe in which I found the market on the verge to precipitate. Beyond Forgiveness (Colorado Springs, CO) is one of these band that attracted me attention with their EP “The Ferryman’s Shore” and released a couple of weeks ago their first album “The Great Wall”.
How does it fare for a first album? It fares very well, navigating into the current of gothic, symphonic and folk metal keeping upmost of the musical composition “hand-crafted” (in others not over-relying on the keyboards and the studio processing). The result is very pleasant, maybe lacking some ambitious songs that hook you on, but a very nice escaping album that result me in calling the band some metal “troubadours” telling tales, fables and fiends straight out of the middle ages.
This is an album spanning over 10 tracks spanning over 58 minutes. The good point is all the stuff inside are all original materials, no rearrangement of existing materials from their previous EP and singles.
We get into it by the “End of Times”, their first track. It is setting the tones: some good classic metal tones, from the early days of gothic and symphonic metal. Personally, I like that especially considering that a lot of new comers playing the “symphonic” card abuse and overuse the keyboards and post-processing. We quickly transition into the second track and third tracks “The Great Wall” and “Sanctuary”. Good stuff so far. “Imprisoned” fare into more the symphonic metal than the previous track.
“Interlude”, an instrumental melodic ballad track gives the rest of the wandering bard, very nice interlude allowing to appreciate the guitar plays from Richard and Greg. This interlude track also announce a transition in the album, towards a more symphonic type of tone. Whereas “Moment of Truth” sounds more like the first half of the album, “Never Before” has this kind of old-style Nightwish style into it that is not bad. “Dream Before I sleep” is what I call an acoustic track with the voice of Talia accompanied mainly by a piano solo. Good. “I will fight Till The End” brings back the heaviness, just for this track as the last track “Every Breath” brings it more a folk feeling to the music.
Overall the album is quite good but I failed to find something to hook me on. Usually I have one or two “must-listen” song in an album but not this time. The album is very homogenous, maybe a bit too much. Something is still missing to make it a great, I don’t know something bold.
Nevertheless, it is a good starter, give a try and if you like your metal seasoned into some old school gothic and symphonic, give these guys a try, their album is available on Bandcamp and iTunes.

[Metal/Doom] Candlemass – Nightfall (30th Anniversary review)

Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of Candlemass second album “Nightfall”, released a year after their seminal album “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus” and featuring Messiah Marcolin. It follows the same path set by their first album and further establish the basis of what will become the flagship band of classic doom metal. Considering the album was written, recorded and mixed within a year of their first album and simultaneously improved the quality of the song is in my opinion an impressive effort from the band.
It is a 10-track album spanning 46 minutes. We start with a melodic introduction named “Gothic Stone” that set the tone of the album: a bolder, heavier and more elaborated sound than “Epicus…”. Its only a ramp to introduce to the second track “The Well of Souls”. Messiah Marcolin nails again with his remarkable voice and putting into music the lyrics. The third track,”Codex Gigas” provides an instrumental interlude and a damn nice interlude allowing to enjoy the Candlemass sound by its own. “At The Gallows End”, the fourth track, is one of my favorite by the melodics, Messiah singing and the lyrics talking about death. “Samarithan” marks a step down but also a sound closer to what we call today modern doom by playing slow even in Candlemass standard.
“March Funebre” marks the second melodic interlude, providing a metal cover to the classic composition of funeral march, allowing to our introduction to “Dark Are The Veil Of Death”. A faster than usual Candlemass song, but still a nice a nice one.  “Mourners Lament” is instead sticking to the doom and one of my favorite, with its dark lyrics and Messiah’s voice. “Bewitched” is the only track that had an official video clip.

“Black Candles”, is the last track of the album, providing an instrumental epilogue to the album.
With this second album, Candlemass cemented the foundation of what we call today the doom metal genre, setting a milestone in the genealogy of the doom genre. It also settled for me Messiah Marcolin as Candlemass singer. Marcolin left the band after their fourth album but none of the singers that took over never reached the quality of Messiah.
If you want to enter the gloom of doom metal genre, Candlemass second album “Nightfall” should be in your itinerary before you decide to fork and head into stoner metal or into something much darker.

 

 

[Sciences/Stem Cells] Case report of a successful treatment of a junctional epidermolysis bullosa (Hirsch et al., Nature 2017)

This is a very groundbreaking case report here on a patient suffering from junctional epidermolysis bullosa (JEB). This is a genetic condition marked by mutation in the LAMB2 gene, a gene encoding for laminin beta-2 chain of the laminin complex. Laminins are part of the extracellular matrix and play an important role in cell adhesion such as skin cells. Imagine a concrete slab by which your house sits firmly.
In patients suffering from JEB, this slab is wobbly and crackle under the pressure due to some issues in the concrete composition. These patients end up having a very fragile skin that rapidly detach and have a low life expectancy due to high risk of infection and important handicap. Until now, no treatment has been successful, including skin grafts.
In this case report, the authors have taken skin stem cells from this patient and have corrected the mutation by inserting a correct gene copy of LAMB2 via retrovirus. Such stem cells were maintained and expanded into Petri dishes to form skin graft islands. Such islands where then implanted to the patients and successfully grafted in. Apparently the patient has been able to recover and live an almost normal life.
Another “Yes!” moment for science! If you are interested to read more about it, you can find it here:
https://www.nature.com/articles/nature24487

 

[Metal/Death] Cab Ride Home

I have a strong urge of listening something brutal this morning, in particular something from a band named “Cab Ride Home”. The video is a bit garbage (the audio is horrible!) but it is some good death. I let you with this video. Oh, did I mention that a certain Danica Roem is on the vocals? :p
https://youtu.be/aHvbLXyzank

[Metal/Symphonic] Nightwish – Angels Fall First (20th Anniversary)

Today marks the 20th of the release of the Finnish Symphonic Metal band Nightwish “Angels Fall First”. It is interesting to think that for some reason Tuomas does not consider it as their first album. Sure, it had a limited release, mostly in Finland, but I still consider as their first album.
It is interesting to listen back to this album in its retrospection. It is an 11-track album, lasting a 67 minutes. Coming back from that day, the first thing that comes into the attention is the use of keyboards elements wrapping the guitar riffs. But foremost, it is Tarja that brings on the attention. In my knowledge (and I maybe wrong on this one), this is the first instance of the presence of a trained of a professionally trained mezzo-soprano. Sure, femal-fronted metal bands were already here including in gothic metal bands like The Gathering.
It starts with “The Elvenpath” setting the tone, with excerpt quotes from the 1978 cartoon movie “The Lord of The Rings”. The second track, “Beauty & The Beast” somehow sounds like more Nightwish as we know it today, in which Tuomas keyboards lead the charge. A 10:22 track of some awesomeness in the blend of the instrumental symphonic elements with the guitars melodics played by Empuu. Thats it, the prototypical symphonic metal track that surely inspired many to also experiment the same in their studio. You can take anyone in a blind test, ask him or her the band behind the song and get “Nightwish” cited most of the time. I discovered this album much later than the release, but I can imagine the reaction folks had back then. “The Carpenter”, third track of the album is more in line with gothic metal elements, sounding more familiar. It is also the first track of the album featuring Tuomas in the vocals. I guess there is a reason Tuomas hates this album and also why he does not sing in the other albums :p. It’s okay but yeah kind of a let down from “Beauty & The Beast”. Just listen here.
https://youtu.be/Z4A5HwMOfW8

“Astral Romance” brings up the album to a higher level, that is another favorite in my playlist, some good old Nightwish here (I somehow prefer these kind of outdated tunes from their most recent albums). “Angel Fall First”, the fifth track, is somehow introducing us to the powerful keyboard ballads that Tuomas will produce later in his career. Again, Tarja’s voice is magnificent even in her beginning career. “Tutankhamen” brings the metal kick back in, making it very enjoyable. Again, I could serve it into a blind playlist and someone would swear this track is part of their later album. “Nymphomaniac Fantasia” is a nice one too, but maybe a bit “cheap” in my opinion. “Know Why The Nightingale” is another good one from the album.

“Lappi (Lappland)” is the only Finnish song but oh boy, I can guarantee a lots of headbangers rushed to a Suomi dictionary to understand the lyrics. But who cares? You don’t need to understand it to feel the beautiful in this song. Again, it hints us about the whiz inside Tuomas in handling the keyboards, much more at ease than singing. Some damn good old Nightwish!

The album concludes with “Return To The Sea” inspired by gothic elements and finally “Once Upon A Troubadour”, that is honestly not much my favorite. Blame it on Tuomas or not, I don’t know just not that fond.

[Videogames] Happy Fallout Day (10.23)!

Today is a special day for Fallout fans. This is the day when the bombs fell on the US in 2077, following the fratricide Sino-American War and setting the deadliest and shortest War of all human history: The Great War (10.23.2077-10.23.2077). It only took two hours to reduce the US into a nuclear Wasteland, whereas little is known from what happened to the other belligerents.
The Fallout lore is in that sense a very interesting piece of storytelling as we through the game witness lost lives in their last moment before the nuclear blast: those who were able to take shelter in the Vaults (without realizing they will become part of a social experiment without their consent), those who “doomsday prepped” in their cellars and in their shack, those to desperately tried to take refuge into the Pulowski shelters and some in the military that were sheltered into their barracks and forts, disconnected from each others. There were few lucky ones, protected by a giant dome over a piece of the Las Vegas strip that got spared, thanks to an enigmatic benefactor known as Mr. House.
Finally, those that did not have much luck and died within second from the huge thermonuclear blast, burnt by the huge shockwave and incandescent temperature from the explosion.
Those who were taking shelters in sewers, subways and other improvised shelters had yet to die from the intense radiation. But those who did not die will become extremely mutated and malmed, become dead men walking commonly referred as “ghouls”.
Yet mankind, at least in the US, was able to survive and slowly try to rebuild from the ashes, but only by being brought back into the stone age. Some maintained the chain-of-command from the military, creating what will become the Brotherhood of Steel and beginning their Sisyphean quest to gather and hoard technology and knowledge from “the primitive”. Some went into a revived form of tribalism, living from looting and from conquering new territories. Some revived evolutionary old traits of human society by bringing in bartering and crafting as a source of living. Some lucky ones had just to hop out their vaults and recreate Paradise on Earth thanks to the Garden Eden Creation Kit (GECK), living in a vaulted community.
This is what makes Fallout such a great franchise, witnessing the plight and resilience of humankind, trying to rebuild the wastelands on the ashes of the Pre-War civilization. I will be unlikely living that day but my children may live it and only the future will tell us if this date will fall into the basket of cranked Sci-Fi predictions or if it was good at predicting it.