Review Summary: As if in a dream that I've had a few times before.
Metal is not an expansive genre (generally). If I were granted one dollar for every metal album I’ve heard that sounds the same as the last one, I’d be straight ballin’. Still I find myself listening to maudlin of the Well’s Bath
extensively lately, and for the last time until my next epiphany within the genre (in which I’ll need this album to make comparison). The reason for such interest is because maudlin of the Well are quite above the sound and level of your average metal band – a statement solidified around the progressive and emotional output this album releases. Bath
is the courier for a hypothesized new-age of prog-metal, and whether it is put to use in the evolution of the genre or not, it will remain the milestone in the career of maudlin of the Well (even though Body Map is the better album) and in the musical life of Toby Driver, a composer whose style is drenched in the influence of his own creation, even today. Instantaneously surpassing the veil of generic metal, the album begins with the sensuous piece ‘Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth’. From the start one must realize that Bath
is hardly in the vein of popularized metal, instead taking on a more established and professional outlook in creating such sounds. Extending arms into pools of jazz, classical, acoustic, and ambiance, all the while keeping a developed theory-based lyrical backdrop in the picture, maudlin of the Well transcend metal after three opening tracks – an accomplishment repeated throughout the album.
Thing is, it shouldn’t be a difficult task for any respectable musician to ‘transcend metal’ the way maudlin of the Well does. While Bath
is most definitely an immersive and rather fresh work, the style used has already matured and motW were expanding upon it. That is the point of Bath
, which is to be as theoretically inclined and musically expansive as possible, while sticking to the same drawing board as bands like ‘Yakuza’ and ‘King Crimson’. Maudlin may be more progressive in a genre combining way than those two bands (still, KC does get pretty out there), however motW share the heaviness to ambiance ratio with them.
The most beautiful aspect to see in maudlin of the Well’s music though is the execution. With whatever influence drawn from however many different acts of various genres, motW writes a work of melodious and technical seduction that plays through the several styles used like it’s nothing. Bath
feels like Maudlin have been spending lifetimes mastering the secrets of every audible genre. The band also are adherents to strict standards set by themselves for playing, as no melody will be heard for less than at least three minutes, and will be no less perfectly jazzy and ambient than it would be if Coltrane and Armstrong were on woodwinds and horns (respectively). The heavier side of the music is also miles above average, backed by thunderously epic guitar work alongside bass-lines with a pulse like a bluesman on cocaine.
However heavy Bath
may be at times, it is purely avant-garde at heart. Crammed with Toby Driver’s ideas, dreams and writings, the album pertains to metal as scarcely as is allowed in order to still push the boundaries of the genre, all the while making it (metal) seem chaste to pugnacity. The maturity of motW’s music is what makes the band so distinctive as a whole. When you think of maudlin of the Well, you can’t put your finger on one sound or style only. For example, the transitions in ‘They Aren’t All Beautiful’, a song compounding death-metal intentions with brief escapes into quieter, ghastly notes that carry the melody and capture the feel of the entire song, delved into for about five seconds and then amplified for another few minutes. Or amongst the progress of ‘Birth Pains of Astral Projection’, from the feathery acoustic/jazz introduction into some of the finest heavy guitar work Toby Driver has ever set to record. The progressive influence is masked by perfection and taken into a completely different world, remaining undeniable.
Driver’s musical obsession with aesthetics is what truly wrote this album. Bath
is not exactly that brooding, heavy or dark like most metal (or even like other work by Driver) – in fact, the softer parts on this record successfully preside with their effect on the heavier side. Bath
was composed so professionally that the conflict of genres is absent completely, and instead of sounding forced it appears that no one genre takes a backseat to another – instead they work together to extract and display the beauty residing in them. This teamwork is only possible through a musical monarchy however, as the ambiance is much more prominent than the metal. Despite this paradox, one must recall while listening to Bath
that it is an album written with a second part released at a different time. These two albums (‘Bath’ and ‘Leaving Your Body Map’) coincide so that inconsistency is ultimately resolved.
With all the fantastic musicianship and evolving philosophical theory involved, maudlin of the Well’s Bath
does shy away from being a classic album. The music is progressive and interesting, yet spends all of its time conveying similar themes. Lyrics in music are the human way to connect with the songwriter, and while they are all of high quality on Bath,
they don’t relate to many of the listeners. Astral Projection is a practice Toby Driver is fond of, and he has every right in humanity to express that how he likes, however irrelevant it is to us. Yeah, Bath
is a great example of experimental music done right, but so are a lot of other albums. As I said before, you cannot put your finger on any single style involved with this album long enough to call it consistent aside from the two biggies, metal and ambiance. I’ve heard them two together before.