Review Summary: A metalcore album whose claims to "progression" are actually grounded in fact.
Eden Maine was a band that basically took the formula of Converge's epic track "Jane Doe" and turned it into a concept in which to formulate an entire band around. In a sense, they were filtering metalcore (like, say, Poison the Well or early Killswitch Engage) through a lens of dynamic build up. It was an extremely interesting and successful concept that's only failure was its often repetitious nature. Eden Maine broke up in early 2006 and with them my interest in U.K. metalcore mostly waned. Earlier this year, while browsing a web forum, I noticed a thread based around a new release that had former members of groups such as Mahumodo and Eden Maine. Obviously, I took interest because I was surprised to see members of Eden Maine so quickly come back from their self-imposed hiatus, which from what I remembered had something to do with lack of funds and lack of ability to concentrate. Anyways, this was where my first introduction came to the group Shels, a progressive metalcore outfit who at the time had only released an EP that was at best just mediocre.
So, what does the album "Sea of the Dying Dhow" bring to the table of metalcore that hasn't been seen before? Well, for one, Eden Maine's guitaists instill their knack for playing heavy and doomy riffs and collaborating them with softer moments into the band. Essentially, the band has a kind of an Unearth meets Neurosis vibe when it comes to heavy sections. It works very well because while the riffs are slow and distorted, they are also catchy and highly melodical. This can be heard best on the track "The White Umbrella – Part 2," which trades off between lush acoustic sections and heavy post-metal explosions. The acoustic and "softer" moments on this album are gorgeous and remind me a lot of Between the Buried and Me's "Shevanel Take 2". The difference between a group like Opeth or Agalloch and Shels' softer sections are that there is little to no "classical" or folk influence in Shels' sound. Callisto had a few tracks on their release "True Nature Unfolds" that could be seen as similar to Shels' lighter sections, mainly because they are heavy with atmospheric synths and lots of steady repetition.
One of my favorite parts of the album is its willingness to not fall into clichés or the pitfall of most "post- metal" oversaturated repetition. Perhaps the most key example of this is the basically modern rock ballad that is stuck in the middle of the album. "Water – Part 1" is a powerchord-heavy anthem that seems to be in the same field as Cave In or Hopesfall. It isn't so modern rock that it sounds like Creed or Alter Bridge, but the simplistic nature of it and the lack of dynamics make it much more "radio friendly". Plus the bands ability to not fall into the pitfall of post-rock trappings, like an album that is based on the constant rise and fall of dynamics, is admirable. The band's developed sense of dynamic build up is shown in choice moments, like the explosion of distorted guitars in the middle of opener "The Conference of the Birds" that slowly morphs into an acoustic crescendo which builds into a reprise of the distorted section and a barrage of strings, brass, and even some heavy octave guitar work. The song finally concludes in an epic palm muted glory with some Isis-style screaming.
So, what is Shels exactly? In my opinion it is one of the finest attempts to incorporate metalcore aesthetics into a progressive rock setting. Basically, they succeed where other bands have failed. They are able to be progressive without being overtly cheesy (like, say, Between the Buried and Me's "Alaska"), and they are able to be progressive without entering realms of unnecessary pretension (like the middle of Pax Cecilia's "Blessed are the Bonds"). Sure, I could throw out a list of comparisons to groups like Kayo Dot or Isis in hopes that some of their fans might streamline through this review and check them out, but Shels really doesn't embrace the arty atmosphere of either band. Everything on this album is meticulously arranged, but is also grounded in a solid base genre of metalcore. Essentially, I guess it is the best of both worlds; complete originality and full blown clichés. Whatever is the key to Shels successful formula, it works and "Sea of the Dying Dhow" effortlessly proves that.
All music by *shels.
All music produced and played by *shels.
All drums and percussion by Tom Harriman.
Additional guitars on 'Water' by Hamid Jabbar.
Additional guitars on 'Sea of The Dying Dhow', by Behzad Torabi.
Additional vocals and lyrics on 'In Dead Palm Fields' by Ali - PDHM.
Additional bass on 'Indian 1' by Milton Guitierrez.
Trumpet on 'The Conference of The Birds' by Rob Walker.
Trombone on 'The Conference of The Birds' by Aron Sklar.
Additional vocals at the very end of 'The Conference of The Birds' by Cigol.
Words for 'Indian 1' by Kevin Hird.
Additional samples and atmospherics by Bijan.
Tracks 1, 4, 5, 10 & 11 were mixed at Criterion Studios, London by Mark Williams.
Tracks 2, 3, 6, 7, 8 & 9 were mixed at Pijama Party Studios, Los Angeles by medi.
The drums were recorded at Criterion Studios, London by Mark Williams except
the first section of 'In Dead Palm Fields', recorded in Los Angeles.
Trumpet and Trombone on 'The Conference of the Birds' recorded by Chris Latham
at Firehouse Studios, Pasadena.
I guess this is just more suited to me. It has the fluid nature of a record like maudlin of the Well's "Bath", it paves out an original sector of a pretty boring genre, and it just seems like a generally better album than PC in terms of how it is structured. There are really no weak parts in it in my opinion.
I agree their's nothing weak on here, but I feel the same about Blessed Are The Bonds. Anywho, I think it's time we stopped comparing the two. I was just saying that I can see the whole "everyone jizzing over it" think happening with this band too.
Anywho, White Umbrella Part 2 is my favorite track.This Message Edited On 06.22.07