Review Summary: The Velvet Teen soars in this assertive orchestration of powerful music.
The Velvet Teen’s “Elysium” is by far their most ambitious album. One might say that it if beauty were a word to objectively describe this album then that is just the word I would use. Having been released in 2004 as their second album, The Velvet Teen sought a unique sound that departed (but not too far from) their original form in “Out of the Fierce Parade”.
Having now listened to all three of Velvet Teen’s released works. I can firmly say that “Elysium” certainly stands out as an Album with a capital “A”. The songs are not confined to consistent lengths—in fact, they range from four to twelve minutes in length, but this does not take away from the music. The album is literally composed without using a single guitar in any of the tracks, which makes for a unique and rather enticing melody. Every track gives you something else to enjoy especially the lyrics and vocals, which complement the style of music almost perfectly. I stress the fact that every track brings something new to your ears that you may or may not have heard before.
Primarily percussion and instrumental “opening track” that lulls you into the mood that Elysium begs you to feel. It is probably the shortest of all the tracks, running a good three minutes, but prepares you to be unprepared for the remaining songs.
“Penicillin (It doesn’t mean much)”
You can clearly see how this album is very much different from their last. This song in particular utilizes the dramatic appeal of the cello, and viola at the very beginning of the song.
Judah Nagler decides to unveil his distinct vocals in this track. I would be lying if I said it wasn’t as passionate as I have ever heard him before. Judah graces the song with an incredibly potent swarm of voice that is undoubtedly genuine. It is very easy to tell that there was a lot of effort put into the writing of the lyrics (which are just as smooth as the instrumentals).
“A Captive Audience”
The first few measures of “A Captive Audience” are repeated periodically throughout the song. This may seem as though it would be repetitive, but actually works quite nicely and conforms to an even greater melody as the music swells toward the end coming to a satisfying conclusion. You will notice the keyboard is used to its full potential in the song. And we are not disappointed to hear the viola once again at the end of the song. “A Captive Audience” is probably the song that most people think of when they talk about “Elysium". I find this to be a bit discouraging. Not that it’s a bad song, I just think that it is masturbatory to alienate one song in this Indie Opus as being the “cock of the walk of the walk” as it were. Still, “Captive Audience" is definitely a track that grabs your attention, and soothes your nerves while provoking your mind with its melodious lyrics.
This is the longest song in the album running a quick twelve minutes. It is versatile enough of a track that I didn’t seem to notice it taking twelve minutes to run its course. The percussion stands out in this song, especially during the first half of the song. The seamless transition from Judah’s soaring voice, and elegant keyboarding to a quiet (almost acapella style) verse are what make this track so enjoyable to listen to. Just when you think the song is approaching an end the keyboard pushes back into the scene accompanied with more incredible vocals, and of course, the noble viola. All the while we hear non-overbearing percussion and drum work that seems to salute the valiant path the song has taken. The song continues to draw you in. In my opinion, it would have more appropriate to title this track “A Captive Audience”, for that is exactly what you become right until the very end, making this a wonderful asset to the album experience that is “Elysium”.
Few are the times in this album where I feel apathetic toward the opening measures of any song. “Poor Celine” is no different. The song begins with keyboarding, and brilliant cello work yet again, followed by Judah’s voice (which has become lovingly familiar at this point in the album). The song peaks about two-thirds into its run time, and then finishes of nicely with a slower tempo that kicks back into up-tempo and increased volume. The music grabs you by the gut (and gave me chills). I may sound a little hypocritical when I say this was by far my favorite song on the album.
Once again, the song introduces itself with the use of a steady tempo and the use of a keyboard. It almost sounds as if there is a trace of bass guitar playing along about 30 seconds in, but this turns out be an electronic instrument that has been sneaked in to give that impression of being a stringed instrument other than a cello or viola. In “Forlorn” we continue to hear consistently orchestrated refrains with appropriate vocalizations that harmonize with a superb melody independent of the other tracks. A wonderful second to last song.
“We Were Bound (To Bend The Rules)”
This is the one song that conspicuously presents itself without a keyboard in its first opening seconds. Instead we hear a continuous electronic effect that loops back around and around almost like a racecar on a circuit. From here it is only too soon before we hear a refrain that is bursting with brightly popping electronic effects accompanied with vocals in a higher key. This makes for a song that (like Chimera Obscurant) is very versatile in both style and feeling.
The album ends, leaving you with the echoes of its life-infested music. In some ways this album almost seems too consistent, save for the very last track. However, it is this very characteristic that makes it an excellent album with a capital “A”. It is an ensemble piece that yet again showcases the talented musicianship of The Velvet Teen. Much to many fan’s surprise, “Elysium” is independent of the first album. Their third album caps off this surprise as being completely departed from the style and feel of “Elysium”. But, perhaps the very best part about “Elysium” is that at no point did I feel the need to skip ahead to the “good bits” of a song. The music was presented in such a way that there didn’t seem to be the audacity to define any part as being “the good bit” of a song. The Velvet Teen has spared us the anguish of having to nitpick our favorite songs by providing us with an all-around enjoyable experience. Simply excellent. Thanks for realizing such a damnably good album Velvet Teen. Keep it up.