When you approach a band called “Cthulhu Rise” you should feel a certain apprehension, at least I do – will this be a 3rd rate death metal band paying their generic, homage to their favourite horror writer’s most clichéd favourite pet, yet again? Fortunately, the Lovecraftian references begin and end with this orchestras name (and website layout): there are no lurking horrors from ye blackest abysses or whatever here (think more of the less-than-discrete nod towards Douglas Adams in the album title). What you have, on the other hand, is 50 minutes of eloquent and playful avant/jazzfusion-metal, taking the lead from three decades of post-Rock In Opposition jazz/rock experiments foraying into metallic spheres. The four Kiev-based musicians work their way through a veritable roller-coaster ride of uneven musical structures and tempos, jazzing it up and freaking out several times over the range of 11 nameless pieces.
The individual tracks are dubbed “opus”, their numbering quite probably signifying the order in which they were written: the music is obviously only “about” its own constructions – more on that later. In the melodic centre you find the keyboardist, lunging out in explosive jazzrock adventures, most often in the shape of piano but not irregularly exploring and abusing more tantalizing possibilities of the synthesizer (the laser gun sound in #29 sticks in your head a while after listening). His style is very vocal and fluent, obviously with a massive training in both jazz and art music, stealing the show most of the time, ranging from heavy percussive freejazz-hammering in sync with the drummer to the explosive leaps of the many solos.
The guitars that form the metallic base of the music are a bit too often neglected in the compositions, taking the role of chugging rhythms with the drums. The exploits that actually do take place in shape of bizarre melodies and harmonies and some nifty solos snaking their own way indicate that much more could be done in this quarter, with less restraint. Restraint is the nemesis of experimental music, drop the bouncy and unimaginative metal riffs and go berserk! As do the drummer and bassist, at various occasions, but they are as well turning into the basic groovy metal rhythms, that simply turn me off. That is, simply skip most of the metal elements, and make the music more free and experimental – it’s obvious that the technical and harmonical abilities are there!
Removing all words from a piece of music is always a double-edged sword: the absence of vocals, lyrics, and even proper song titles, turns the album into a blank slate of sheer music, where the listener is unhampered by external visions applied to the music – jazz/fusion/etc often lends to pointless tongue-in-cheek titles, and I’m glad there’s nothing of that here. On the other hand, even more than governing the listeners’ attitude, those applied visions steer the listener towards a certain atmosphere, highlighting aspects of the music, creating a tension that is unfortunately somewhat lacking in Cthulhu Rise’s music. In the best of worlds, their enjoyable flow of instrumental avantjazzrockmetalisms would suffice by itself, but for the whole expanse of the album, this listener loses both track and interest after a while (or at least I do). Too much is happening, while not enough is properly distinguished. All together it’s a wild and playful ride while it lasts but in the end comes off as quite faceless: though pleasant it’s somewhat anonymous, besides some great cues and hooks that cling to your mind for a few hours.
But on the other hand, if you’re deep into instrumental jazz-metal you probably don’t care and just smile your way through the album. Also, I have to add: wonderful cover art.
Release: June 2012
Avantgenre: Avant-Fusion Metal
Official site: http://cthulhurise.com
Review online since: 28.02.2013 / 20:00:13
1. Opus 24
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