Review Summary: It seems the year of 08 belongs to progressive death metal
Island are a band which have a sound all of their own, they mix death metal, post rock, ambience and even a sprinkling of jazz into one unique package that refuses to settle down. Moments of pure beauty go hand in hand with crushingly heavy guitars and the hoarse growls of the vocalist, and a simple verse can quickly break down into a jazzy section in a moment. The keyboards throughout gives Orakel a sort of dream like quality and a certain beauty that contrast the heaviness in a way that I have never heard before. Island are a lot different from your usual progressive death metal band, whereas most merely have a soft side and a heavy side, Island somehow make their heavy side beautiful at the best moments, and make their soft side haunting and powerful.
Indeed, one listen to the opening track, Journey Through The Jewel
, and you know something special is in the works. It just highlights what the band do so well. The first third, crushingly heavy in it’s execution; Dominating guitars, hoarse, bellowed vocals, a wonderful groove and unrelenting drums. But then, just as the heaviness seems to be getting a bit repetitive in it’s use, everything stops. The keyboards begin playing a haunting melody, the bass takes center stage, everything has slowed down, it is only as you are being drawn into that when the guitars come and take over again, but playing the same melody that the keyboards were, highlighting it’s beauty in a way that is simply out of this world, it is impossible not to be drawn into the charm and grandiose of this song when it gets going, but then, just for good measure, the band get incredibly heavy at the end, reintroducing the vocals and pushing the intensity up to it’s fullest, ending on a breathtaking note.
After that, you can simply enjoy what the rest of the album has to offer, each song with so many different breaks and moments that it can be hard to keep track of in one sitting. Executing an almost jazzy breakdown in some songs gives Orakel an unpredictable and exciting flair, one that a lot of other bands would love to have. At no point is the listener bored, at no point do you know for certain what is going to happen next. There is no formulated structure throughout the songs, no chorus, yet there is repetition used in it’s best form. Not overdone so that it gets tiring but used to keep the songs making sense, and stop them being too eccentric and all over the place. It is a strong point of the band that they can keep each song from developing into an unorganised mess and give them all with an identity all of their own.
Vocally, the album has two styles, the death metal bellow used in the heavy moments to the subdued, Katatonia-esqu clean vocals that give it even more of a haunting atmosphere. This is definitely not a vocally dominated album though, as in a fair few of the songs you don’t even get to hear them that much. Really, the true highlight is the guitars and keyboards, from the crushing simplistic riffs that are used to the epic melodies that go hand in hand with the wonderful keyboards. Acoustic guitars are used a lot in the album, though when they are, it is hard to distinguish anyway, as they fit in so well with the heaviness that you won’t place any emphasis on them as you listen. The transitions between everything the band has to offer are quite seamless, and it makes for a wonderful disjointed listen that you can relax to and enjoy. Orakel
is a fully acoustic track which makes for a good break-up between the heaviest side of the album and the two more experimental tracks in the middle (Serenity
in particular features almost every aspect of their sound), and then you have the untitled seventh track, which is fully electronic. After this, the album gets a lot softer (but no less experimental), featuring almost zero death metal growls and more melodic riffs, it certainly is a change of pace from the beginning, but one that the band manage to pull off just as well, with tracks like The White Ghoul
featuring a leading melody that might make your skin crawl and an added emphasis on the groovy basslines.
I can’t really recommend any particular track to listen to, as each and every one offers something different, this is an album that you should listen to complete in order to get the most out of it. Island are a promising young band, and one that look set for big things. Island have released a gem of an album in Orakel, one that displays a wonderful sense of experimentation and creative flair. These guys certainly don’t play anything that you’ve heard before, but what they have done is made an album worthy of attention. It’s hard to put into words what sort of music these guys play, but it doesn’t matter, once you’re done listening you will be speechless anyway.