Review Summary: One of the strongest yet overlooked records of the year. A diverse blend of neo-folk, world music, and operatic doom metal led by Autumn Tears front-woman Laurie Ann Haus. Not For: close minded douchebags and Willfellmarsy.
What can I say about Laurie Ann Haus that hasn’t been already said? She is an incredible soprano singer/songwriter gifted in the arts of creating rich, textured music through a wide variety of musical styles and cultural themes. She began her career as a back up operatic female vocalist in the gothic metal band Rain Fell Within. She later started to work behind the scenes with U.S based melodic death metal act, Garden Of Shadows, providing backing vocals to the bands aggro sound. She wasn’t finished yet, acquainting herself with Finnish neo-folk act Tenhi and the neo-classical dark wave based Autumn Tears. This is one busy lady and I still haven’t managed to cross the tip of the iceberg yet. However, I feel inclined to put the other bands aside and just focus on her newest project Todesbonden. And as so eloquently put by my first purchase of Decibel magazine.
“Todesbonden is an exotic blend of world music, symphonic classical music, and epic metal, fronted by the versatile female vocals reminiscent of Balkan, Middle Eastern, Celtic, folk, operatic, and modern styles. “Sleep Now, Quiet Forest” is a diverse album that touches on different time periods yet held together by an uniform epic, fantasy feeling.”
That was quite a mouthful to understand in such a short period of time but I knew once I came across this band, that my life would change forever. Sleep Now, Quiet Forest is the bands debut album featuring Lauri at headmaster while new mates James and Jason helped strengthen the foundation for the music to grow. On Sleep Now, Quiet Forest, boundaries are crossed, genres are spliced, and each song transitions gracefully to the next without repeating previous ground. The 11 songs on this album sound more like chapters based on an epic story such as The Lord Of The Rings instead of your basic 11 track 45 minute odyssey. Imagine Therion romantically linked with Dead Can Dance, Candlemass, and Nest in a four-way relationship and you have a pretty vague but accurate idea of what to expect from this band. Rich piano notes intertwining with violin, heavy power chords rocking with operatic female vocals, acoustic guitar to spacey synth runs, it’s pretty clear that this band has an insatiable palette. Now it’s time to see if the band can really work all of these ideas into one massive, cohesive arrangement.
Starting with the vocals. Laurie is one of the most talented vocalist’s that I’ve ever had the pleasure of listening to. Dating back to Rain Fell Within and Autumn Tears, she fails to deliver anything less then a radiant performance with Todesbonden. Like a voice of an angel, she croons magnificently through the 11 tracks, shifting between powerful, emotional bursts to a softer and more delicate delivery shown perfectly in the Renaissance based “Aengus Og Fiddle”. The backing neo-folk acoustic guitar complements her vocals to strumming bass and towering violin arrangements. Along with the violin, flutes, piano, and cello are brought together to create a multi-skinned layering of instrumentation that should leave the listener in awe. The metal influence is brought by heavy, power chords courtesy of Jason Aaron Wood who also plays in avant-garde metal act Ol Sonuf. His approach is minimal, utilizing a slow and heavy down-tuned groove capitalizing on the generally slow tempo of the album. Nothing too special but efficient in providing a heavy edge for the melodic soundscape. Alex Hicks and Jason Ian-Vaughn- Eckert, wow, quite a tongue twister to say, weld together a sufficient rhythm section presenting catchy bass patterns with an impassively slow drum performance. I have no complaints with the drum speed because with all of the instruments being as closely binded together as they are in Todesbonden, there really is no need for an act of reckless abandonment.
Any album striving with the grandiose vision like this one must boast exceptional musicianship to succeed, otherwise, Sleep Now, Quite Forest would turn out to be nothing more than a jumbled mess of fragmented ideas suffering from schizophrenia. Fortunately, professionalism is a key element that helps glue together the essence of Todesbonden in a triumphant way. Song writing is very epic, composed by Jason Wood in such a manner that each track stands out separately on it’s own. Especially the cover song based off of the 1972 Wicker Man Soundtrack version of Lullaby. Lyrics are a strong selling point with “Battle Of Kadesh” posing as my favorite song on the album. Based off of the ancient battle pitting the Hittites and Egyptians, this battle is famous for quite possibly displaying the largest chariot battle of all time. Closing out the incredible display of instruments and songwriting, Sleep Now, Quite Forest contains a first-class production job courtesy of Jens Bogren, the Swedish mad man responsible for producing Opeth, Katatonia, and Bilocate records. All in all, Sleep Now, Quitwe Forest is one of the strongest and most diverse records that I’ve heard in 2008 so I urge people with an open mind to give this a trail. You should not be disappointed.