Review Summary: This was something that worked, something that moved and breathed and spoke to me, through the screech of a guitar, the soft tap of a cymbal, or the rigid cry of a powerful set of pipes. This was something to pay attention to, something to hold on to...
Communic is a progressive power metal band from Norway
Oddleif Stensland: Guitar, Vocals
Erik Mortensen: Bass
Tor Alte Andersen: Drums
Running Time: 56:34 (there’s a version with 2 bonus tracks from their previous CD, but I’m just reviewing the core album itself)
Progressive melo-death power thrash black speed nu-hardcore industrial folk goth groove alternative viking doom post metal. There’s probably quite a few I missed. Well, I don’t know about all that, but I do know good metal when I hear it. I know because it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve heard before. Sure it might have parts, pieces, even glaringly obvious chunks of any or many of the sub-genres I just listed. But there’ll be something there that tells me that not just any group of guys good put something like this together. This wasn’t some lazy attempt at patch-work metal, or some half-hearted cast at and weak reel-in of a new idea. This was something that worked, something that moved and breathed and spoke to me, through the screech of a guitar, the soft tap of a cymbal, or the rigid cry of a powerful set of pipes. This was something to pay attention to, something to hold on to. This was truly great music. This is Waves of Visual Decay.
What do you get when you have a relatively unknown band classified in a genre that is know for showboating, showing off, wasting time, waxing pretentious, stagnating, repetition to the point of brain freeze, and other forms of sucking, whose sophomore offering has 7 tracks that average 8 minutes a piece? You get some serious f*ckin metal. The album begins with some odd static white noise, like a garbled TV signal. The guitars, aggressive and empowered, roll in, the drums follow, and the bass is right there, backing them up with a throaty chug that makes your shoulders bounce. Clean vocals pervade, but Stensland has a good range and knows when to sing and when to yell. Likewise, the drummer knows when to use his whole set and assault you with rhythmic rumbles and heavy snares, and when to cool down, back off, and let the smooth riffs carry you. He uses his double-peddling ingeniously, keeping the songs (that this applies to, see below) up-tempo without pummeling you. The bass isn’t always present, or entirely discernible, but when it IS there, it creates a very clear and solid backdrop that noticeably changes the feel of the song from flighty and energetic to thick and heavy. Even when you can’t make it out, you have a feeling it’s there, riffing right along with the lead guitar and lending a toned and powerful body to the songs; something that much power metal often lacks. The formula doesn’t change much throughout the album, but there’s enough variation in guitar rhythms, drum patterns, lyrical placement, and song types to keep everything running smoothly, to the point where you honestly forget where else you might have heard this riff or that one, this style or the other. Throw in a couple of power-ballad type songs, a handful of ripping solos, and a seriously epic (and multi-tempered) closer and an hour of 8 minute songs has passed as quickly as…as…something fast!
Despite them all being similar in one way or another, every song brings something new and refreshing to the overall soundscape of the album. It ends up feeling slightly less “progressive” than maybe it should, but to me that’s just the problem with all these genres and classifications. If one band or another doesn’t fit what they’re labeled as, then they’re usually labeled as no good. Communic manages to carry the same core sound through all of these tracks without ever making it boring, repetitive, pretentious, show-offy, or any of the other pitfalls of the type of music they play. Not experimental enough and too samey for some, perhaps. But for me, their consistency achieved a cohesiveness that transcends a handful of repeated riffs and sections of song structure. Lots of recent albums seem to have themes or concepts and I suppose this is no different, but in keeping with their own; the degradation of society and its impact on the human spirit, the similar sound that pervades the album only plays to this mood and lends the album a binding force that makes it easy to look past whatever repetitiveness you might have normally got hung up on. Here it generally slips under the radar, and it’s a masterstroke. This also helps to make 8 minute songs feel as if they’re half that length, along with each tack’s intelligent ummm…progression :). Combine all this with some rather excellent lyrics and each song stands both on its own and in conjunction with the whole of the album. Speaking of the songs:
1.) Under a Luminous Sky (8:22) -
What a great song title. From the aforementioned TV static, a sweet instrument combo fades in that morphs into a nice slightly off-timed riff, then back and forth for a bit. Right around 2:48, the band apparently feels that you might be thinking they’re not taking this whole metal thing seriously enough, and bust out a dark, crunchy multi-toned riff that breaks apart, smooths out, then gets transformed into a totally different dark crunchy multi-toned riff. Double peddling throughout, but interspersed in such a manner as to lend aggressiveness only where appropriate. The song peels out with a few more change-ups and melds perfectly into… (awesome opener: 4.5/5)
2.) Frozen Asleep in the Park (8:57) -
“Never reveal the family secrets
Hide the rats in your basement
There's an old lady in her gray rags
Who always sleeps in the park
Nothing can ever change the past
Her eyes look like they were made of glass
But now there is no more pain to feel
This morning she was found stone cold in the park
Drawn into drugs to drain the pain
Cold with fever - deny, or face the fact
It's not that far away from here
Not that far away from where we live”
Yes sir. Good stuff. This song starts with a pleasant guitar melody that breaks into an uplifting amalgamation of the instruments, complete with a speedy solo. Powerful vocals ring the lyrics clear. Multiple variations, continuously building on the previous sound, lead to a burst of blistering riffing at 3 minutes morphing into a catchy pounding a minute later. Another wonderful solo comes through around the 5:45 mark that really sends this song soaring. Everything comes together to close out the song. (excellent follow up track: 4/5)
3.) Watching It All Disappear (6:54) –
Super-power-ballad. Deep, acoustic strumming and some echoing symbol rolls greet us. A soft short solo leads in the drums, followed by the best singing part thus far. Strong lyrics here as well. Soothing ambiance rises and falls, almost unnoticeably. Suddenly around 2:30, sh*t gets heavy and a deep chug with some aggressive double peddling (though only for a moment) totally changes the mood. The song continues to build, layered vocals and a powerful base-line creating tension, until it’s broken in the last minute or so, the song closing out with a nice melody and another soft short solo that blends perfectly into… (fantastic power-ballad: 4.5/5)
4.) Fooled by the Serpent (9:00) –
Forget what you’ve heard so far. This song bursts forth with some high-pitched riffing and some undulating chorus backgrounds that meld into an almost shrill and sinister whine as the guitars turn evil and the drums make tight, pounding rolls. A, dare I say, serpent-like riff comes over it all and everything melts into a flurry. Some sexy off-time signature riffing breaks it up again and the clean vocals along with a backgrounded but noticeable bass rhythm make a quick appearance. Sounds are added and removed, then re-added but modified, then removed and re-modified again. Electronic ambiances that flow with the riffs complete the package until it all breaks away and soft guitars re-build into…jeez you get the idea. That’s just the first half. The Second half comfortably alternates between the soft and the heavy with some sweet soloing for good measure. The heavy section from the beginning makes a comeback and is morphed into a supreme collection of sound elements and the song stomps out with vigorous conviction. (the peak of the album and my second favorite track: 5/5)
5.) Waves of Visual Decay (8:12) -
Hey, it’s the title tack! The drummer kicks this one off; soft acoustic guitars and well-timed cymbals make a super-smooth intro that summarily breaks into a strong riff. That stops in favor of some more lovely vocals and some great lyrics.
“To understand the purpose
I'm embarked upon this life
A constant brief of flashes
Maybe this time I will get it right
The future sees the past
If I fail to conceive
The time has arrived
For killing the past
And come back to life
Come back to life!”
With these words, the song dives into long, carrying riffs, fairly different from the multi-toned chugs and the like you’ve heard thus far. A good deal more tonal and rhythmic change-ups and some more snazzy off-time signatures bring in an epic second half. Another soft section precedes a thunderous outro and a hell of a note from our lead singer. (powerful song, perfectly placed on the album: 4/5)
6.) My Bleeding Victim (6:42) –
The shortest song on the album, and my personal favorite. A low electronic hum, ripping guitars and smacking drums transform into a thudding attack that then smooths out and completes itself with a glorious sweeping electro-whirl that compliments the guitars perfectly. At 1:30, what I can only describe as a breakdown ensues that separates all the sounds nicely. The timing shifts around a bit, the chorus returns (well duh lol) and the attack becomes even more furious, switching between intelligently paced epic rise-and- falls and thrash-like riffing. Throw in a quick badass solo, a few more rhythmic variations, some tight lyrics, and a blistering outro and you’re left wondering why they ended it so soon. (supremely energetic, technically perfect: 5/5)
7.) At Dewy Prime (9:47) –
The last and longest track, soft guitars, thick bass, simple but powerful drumming and subtle ambiance introduce a speedy riff that ends with a an up-tuned whine that has an “epic closer” feel to it immediately. The soft strumming returns, and some nice vocals come in talking about the memories of one’s ancestors. The riffing powers up, then tapers off and the bassist works his magic backed by some spooky echoed vocals and electronics. The chorus kicks your face in with sheer epicness, the guitars soaring, the drums rolling and pounding, the bass humming. Halfway through the song beings alternating between the soft and the heavy much like tracks three and four, but adds some sweet soloing, then breaks again and re-builds with acoustic guitars and more fantastic bass work. Another short, awesome solo brings back the chorus with all its epic might, which leads into another smooth section. A high-pitched, soaring riff rises up and then fades into the beautiful sound of waves lapping against a shore. (one of the best album closer I’ve ever heard: 5/5)
So there you have it. At first glance (listen) you may you feel you’ve “been there, done that”, but with a more attentive ear, and some patience, you realize that this is, in its near entirety, exceedingly original, masterfully executed, and deliciously exciting. There isn’t a dull moment, a waste of space, or any point where you’d say to yourself “Booooring”, or “Sounds just like the last song!” It’s a collection of sonic elements that add up to one of the most ass-kicking name-taking metal albums I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I say experience because that’s what it is. Will it change your life? Doubtful. Will it be the best metal album you’ve ever heard? Not likely. But what it WILL do is breathe fresh air on your face and I guarantee you will bask in it from start to finish, many many times.
-Awesome guitar work. Interesting, energizing riffs that never feel stagnated or repetitive.
-Great bass playing (where it’s noticeable)
-Good lyrics and vocals. Nothing spectacular, but certainly a good deal above average.
-Perfect use of ambiance/electronics. These guys know how much to use, when, and where.
-Long songs. Might find yourself ADDing if you’re doing something else important, though maybe that’s not necessarily a bad thing ;).
-Not enough bass. I only say this because what was there was so good I wanted more.
-Lack of variety. There’s no flutes, bongos, harps, violins, or really any other instruments or elements other than straight up metalness. I don’t mind, but it might drag for someone looking for something more “progressive”.
-Not enough soloing. Same argument as the bass. What was there was so good I wanted more.
In the end, a powerful and superb offering (hence the 4.5 ;) from an amazing new band. These guys are due for a new album this year. Needless to say, it can’t be here soon enough.