Sometimes, if not quite often, the heaviest obstacle for a decent and respectable listening to, and subsequent reviewing of, an album is not the music and visuals itself, but rather the blurb on the promotional sheet attached to the CD, composed by the label; that is, by the person whose financial investment and lies behind the release, construed to attract customers and, mainly, guide the lazy scribe supposed to present the album and orchestra as favourable as possible. Said obstacle only evokes its ugly head when said blurb does not convey a true picture of said album and orchestra, thus having the opposite effect as intended – a CD not living up to what it’s described as. Which is why I have never gotten a full grip on this self-titled debut album of UNIVERSE217’s – I’m writing this review now because I’m ashamed of the delay rather than because of having reached an agreement with myself of what I actually think of said album.
So let me be frank: U217 is not avant-garde. It is doom, yes, but I hear little real progression or experimentalism on this CD. They are, however, quite hard to classify. Of Greek origin, this quartet bears many traits similar to or parallel with bands like IN THE WOODS… and THE GATHERING, and a hint of BEYOND DAWN, especially their mid to late 1990’s work. Mournful and morose, slow in pace, but with touches of more upbeat rock, melodies evolving and retracting, echoing dizzily their complaints; epic without turning silly, sad without turning, well, silly. It’s heavy and rather experimental, with some ethnically sounding percussion and acoustic guitars, but music-wise they do not hold up a high enough level for me to retain my interest. Good? Yes. Genius? No. I am also slightly displeased with the sound – my fullest respect to the band for keeping to themselves, DYI and all, but the guitars really lack the punch and width and pure power needed for anything akin to Doom Metal.
But there is one massive part of U217 I haven’t touched upon yet – indeed, the most important if you ask me, and probably anyone who hears this band (including the blurb-writer): vocalist Tania. “…one of the most expressive vocal performances ever” – if we’re talking about metal, I would not disagree. If one looks at her most famous gender&genre-peer, Anneke van Giersbergen of THE GATHERING (yeah, I know, not very creative to drag along that comparison, but it is not a far-fetched one), Tania is what she would sound like if every approached by true emotions deeper than splitting up with a boyfriend. This is not a denigration of van Giersbergen, I have a deep respect for her as an artist and a vocalist, but a placing of Tania in relation. The latter is, by far, the strongest clean vocalist in metal, maybe in all of rock even. And I am not talking only about “female fronted” metal and rock – I’m talking all of transgender ROCK here. She rips her heart out, like standing on a high cliff shouting back at the wind; if true emotions were ever sung, here they are. Comparing Tania to other clean vocalists, I would put her close to Jan Transit of IN THE WOODS… in terms of phrasing, and Agnete M. Kirkevaag of MADDER MORTEM in terms of timbre (though Tania is a bit sharper, more piercing than Kirkevaag). Don’t know what else to write. At certain parts of Universe217, the vocals sends shivers down my spine. Three minutes later, I’m falling asleep because nothing is happening. An interesting band, without doubt – listening to their new tracks on Myspace (EP “II” released on Duplicate this year), they have grown in abundance, reaching many more dimensions than before. Also, it seems it is on stage that their true genius and heaviness is presented. In conclusion: go see UNIVERSE217 live, and buy their new EP. After that is done, go ahead to this debut. Good, not great, except the vocals of course.
1. In Your Head
6. Nobody’s Sincere
7. I Don’t Give A Damn (In Your Head Pt3)