Down here at AMG, we work our asses off to bring forth “similar band” references and genre classifications, define the intentions and directions of an album, and even evaluate the recording/mixing/mastering processes of the release in order to satisfy the insatiable hunger of the AMG hordes. We review the good, the bad, the meh and all in between. But occasionally something else happens during the late-night, booze-soaked hours of promo research. Occasionally you come across another band in your member searches and band references that distracts you so badly from the promo at hand that you completely forget you have a fucking review due that night. Thankfully, the Mighty Overlord has allowed us to pursue those other releases that we would otherwise have passed over [When did we allow this?! – Steel Druhm].
While researching for my review of The Deathtrip’s debut album, I assumed guitarist/songwriter Host’s other project was also an old-school black metal band. Wrong! Turns out Mr. Paul “Host” Groundwell writes, plays, and does backup vocals for Thine; a UK-based progressive rock band that shares similarities to Katatonia, Anathema, and Green Carnation. Curiosity piqued, I was immediately taken by their very Katatonia-esque sophomore release, In Therapy. But it wasn’t until I finished my review for The Deathtrip, that I realized that Thine had a 2014 release called The Dead City Blueprint. One year, one man, two awesome releases? Could this be a Christmas miracle?
TYMHM 2014 bound, TDCB’s moody landscape is haunted by the Katatonia-meets-Ava Inferi guitar and vocal progressions of opener “Brave Young Assassin,” the Watershed-era Opeth organ passages found in “Flame to the Oak,” and the Green Carnation worship of “The Rift.” An album with a constant flow of moodiness throughout could potentially suffer from an overly repetitious formula from song-to-song (much as In Therapy does), but TDCB has just the right amount of diversity to keep everything memorable.
The excellent songwriting, the simplistic leads that lay melody over every track and the captivating vocal performances by Alan Gaunt gives this dead city tons of life. Add duel vocal harmonies to beautifully arranged choruses and you get standout tracks like “Out of Your Mind and Into a Void,” “The Precipice,” and “Scars from Limbo.” Gaunt can get you shamefully swaying with the upbeat, Audrey Horne-like “The Precipice” or drag you deep into a calming sadness with “Scars from Limbo.” Doesn’t matter which moody mood you’re in, he nails them all.
But the crème de la crème of TDCB has to be the production. This is one of the best productions I’ve heard this year. When I ran the numbers for this little DR9 beauty, I just about shit my pants. This album is about as smooth and clip-less as it gets. While not as seamless as the production of Opeth’s latest, it’s pretty damn close. So, cuddle up, pour some brandy and pull TDCB from that vinyl-shaped sock you have hanging on your furnace.
Tracks to check: “Out of Your Mind and Into a Void,” “The Precipice,” “The Rift,” and “Scars from Limbo”