CD Reviews

Midnattsol – 'The Metamorphosis Melody' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 14, 2011    
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An excellent and surprisingly heavy gothic metal album.

Midnattsol are a gothic folk-tinged metal band with its members originating from Norway and Germany. The band was originally formed in 2002, with Carmen Elise Espenaes and Christopher Hector at its centre. Espenaes is the younger sister of singer Liv Kristine from fellow metal band Leaves Eyes. The band recorded its demo soon after formation and was quickly signed to their current record label Napalm Records. ‘Where Twilight Dwells’ was released in 2005 and immediately struck a chord with legions of fans with their blend of atmospheric and powerful metal with folk influences. 2008 saw the arrival of the bands second album ‘Nordlys’ and their reputation continued to grow, gaining an even bigger army of fans. The success of the album was tempered somewhat with the departure of Hector for family commitments. After some searching the band finalised its line up again and settled upon Espenaes (vocals), Birgit Ollbrunner (bass), Alex Kautz (guitars), Daniel Fischer (keys), Christopher Merzinsky (drums) and Daniel Droste (guitar). They returned to the studio and on 22nd April 2011 Midnattsol release their third opus The Metamorphosis Melody on Napalm Records. Unfortunately since the completion of the record, Droste has now also left the group due to personal reasons. 

This critical third record is kicked off with the instrumental number ‘Alva’ which is a grand, soundtrack like number which lulls the listener into a false sense of security. You simply has no idea what is about to be turned loose on your ears. Suddenly the title track ‘The Metamorphosis Melody’ tears through your speakers like a relentless deranged madman, think Jack Nicholson hacking through the door in The Shining. The guitar progression is monumental, and a wall of sound is unleashed even before Carmen’s sensual vocals are added to the mix. This really is a beast of a track to get things under way with. With the exception of one ballad ‘Goodbye’, which has a very acoustic olde world composition, the rest of the album follows this very heavy riff, intense drum and bass paced formula. Some of the offerings here are slow crushing gothic numbers like ‘Spellbound’ and ‘Forlorn’. These are fuelled by the thunderous deep guitar and a slow pace in the rhythm section. Others such as ‘A Poets Prayer’ and ‘Motets Makt’ are much faster and driven by plenty of maniacal drum and bass work. Midnattsol are able to showcase plenty of diversity within individual tracks with ‘King Valemons Kamp’ being one such example of a very complex and epic number. ‘The Tide’ would also fit snugly into this descriptive category as well being another multi layered entry. The band closes out this release with ‘My Re-Creation, which has yet more thunderous progressions and insane double drum beats fuelling it along. This number, (and the album as a whole), draws to a close with a minute plus of intense musicianship as the band play out.

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This is an excellent and surprisingly heavy gothic metal album. Although the band state folk as an influence it is just that and nothing more. Some bands like Nightwish and Leaves Eyes use a heavier folk input by using old historical instruments, languages, styles and melodies. Whereas Midnattsol tend to have just the folk melodies mixed into their music, being played on current and occasionally classical instruments. They are also less reliant on the big orchestral arrangements. Instead the band creates a mesmerizing heavy gothic sound through the guitars, bass and keys. This album is definitely a notch up the scale of heaviness compared to other bands of their ilk. It is not as instantly memorable as other releases this year, but that is because there is so much going on all the time, this album needs to be absorbed. Each airplay gives the listener something new to find from the previous time. Almost all the tracks have a variation in their pace and intensity which keeps you listening from start to finish. Musically this album is undeniably well performed. Each individual member can clearly play to a very high standard and each has their part. There are some glorious riffs and progressions from the six strings, the bass and drum work is frenzied and the vocals and keys add delicious texture and atmosphere. The production and mixing side is pushed to its absolute limit due to the sheer scale and density of the music. This task was handled by Markus Stock (Empyrium) who no doubt had his hands full with this album and has done a fine job. Despite the wall of sound from the various sections, each member is found space to breath and play. But there is certainly very little room for anything more musically to be added; as it is Espenaes vocals treads very close to the line of being lost on one or two occasions when the music is at its most intense. Anyone with a love or interest in the heavier genres of metal should take a good look at this release. There is plenty of complexity and diversity for the progressive metal lovers. More than enough ear splitting guitar riffs and solos for the power, doom and thrash metal fans. But there is still enough grandeur and epic moments to keep the symphonic and gothic metal fans happy. The majority of those into melodic and hard rock may appreciate some of the guitar work, but overall this may be simply too heavy and oppressive to truly convert them. But for those whose love is rooted in the heavier echelons and realms of metal, this should resonate well and help propel the group to greater recognition. A beautiful and atmospheric release, (albeit an unexpectedly heavy one), which wants and should grab your attention. If it doesn’t, don’t be surprised if it hacks through your door to insist that you do.

Dave Scott

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