|Jason / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||3:54|
|We Will, We Must / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||3:07|
|My Night / Chantal Acda / Toby Litt||Chantal Acda||5:40|
|Own Time / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||5:55|
|Arms Up High / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||5:01|
|Lost / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||3:29|
|Backdrops / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||7:40|
|Wintercoat / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||3:24|
|We Must Hold On / Chantal Acda||Chantal Acda||5:41|
The song cycle The Soul Fox by Lori Laitman, chronicling the dissolution of a marriage after infidelity in short, deft strokes, gets top billing on this release from the U.S. label Equilibrium Recordings. But Kansas-based soprano Julia Broxholm, in her own notes, offers the opinion that "there has never been a more exciting time for American song," and it's actually the program as a whole that's most compelling. There are two sets of very short songs, one by Ned Rorem, who certainly served as inspiration for the younger composers on the album.
The other is unique: a "Collection of Epitaphs and Elegies" by various composers, just a minute or two in length, filtering the basic idea through different prisms. Broxholm and pianist Russell Miller round out the program with contemporary songs by a male composer, Eric Ewazen, setting works of a female poet, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and an older group of songs by a female composer, Amy Beach, setting texts by Robert Browning. You can speculate on the influence of gender in these works, but the bottom line is that the program is unusually stimulating and coherent. Broxholm's voice will be a matter of taste: its size is well suited to these songs, but the pitch may be uncertain at times. An unusual recital recommended for those interested in American art song.
Come's Near Life Experience covers both old territory for the band as well as heading in new, exciting directions. Singers/guitarists Thalia Zedek and Chris Brokaw weathered the departure of the band's original rhythm section a year ago, to be replaced by 11 different musicians for the recording of this album, including bassists and drummers from groups like the Jesus Lizard, Retsin, Tortoise, and Rachel's. Whoever's playing on the tracks, it's clear from the opening of "Hurricane" that Come is a re-energized, even more powerful band than they used to be, and that Near Life Experience is their most concise and affecting release yet. Come's trademark bluesy-punk sound is still apparent on songs like "Hurricane" and "Bitten," but the group stretches in different directions with gentle ballads like "Weak As the Moon" and "Slow Eyed." Zedek's voice is as gravelly and emotive as ever, and with the different song styles on Near Life Experience, has even more room to express itself. Brokaw also sings lead (a first) on two of the album's more accessible tracks, the single "Secret Number" and "Shoot Me First." Though it's only eight tracks long, Come packs more musical experiences into Near Life Experience than most groups do in an entire discography.
America's most profound European-inspired doom metal act has returned with one of the most beautiful, refreshing listens of 2001. Owing much to the famous U.K. scene of the '90s, this act melds Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Anathema, and Paradise Lost together with a touch of Mental Home and a sprinkle of their own unique brand of cunning, lethargic doom. The vocals are both clean and gruff, but always painful, aching with the same, painful emotions one would have upon a spouse or loved one's death. In fact, both versions of "Silent Tomorrow" found on the album are perfect examples of what Novembers Doom invoke throughout the thrust of The Knowing. "Everything is beauty, and I have no love to share" and "each time I close my eyes I only wish for my end to come -- no angels sent for me," vocalist Paul Kuhr croons, as methodically heavy riffs crash painfully into quiet, oppressive melodies.
Opener "Awaken"'s glimmering guitars yearn for hope, before the gorgeous melancholic leads sink into the churning "Harmony Divine," which crescendos into walls of disharmonic guitars and feedback, before violently cutting out. Each track follows this brilliant formula, some playing around with slower and faster tempos, others simply walking the path between quiet solitude and chugging unforgiving. "In Faith" sounds fresh and original, yet it could have been easily culled from Paradise Lost's Shades of God or Icon, with its urgent, grim outlook and Gregor MacKintosh-inspired guitar mastery. Ten-minute epic "Last God" is filled with Turn Loose the Swans-era My Dying Bride goodness, almost like a sequel to that album's title track, but with more of a modern American doom twist. Heavy as all hell, the band mixes atmospheric keyboards, female vocals, and repetitive, opulent guitar riffery like masters, effortlessly showing just how talented this Chicago act have truly become. The Knowing sticks to a malleable formula, sounding fresh and consistent on every track, minus the funky mind-trip of "In Memories Past," which is wholly unique to Novembers Doom's sound. After the creepy record-skip that introduces the song (Gehenna's "Devil's Work" outro anyone?), Mary Bielich's funk-driven bass takes charge, calling forth mesmerizing, catchy guitar and vocal lines. Propelling along in a strange-'70s groove fashion that recalls a meeting of Cathedral's Garry Jennings, Saint Vitus, and Anathema (vocally), the song is held together by the relaxed, flawless rhythm section. A pleasant surprise indeed, as is the whole album with its bold arrangements, its technical virtuosity, and its command of the doom genre. Novembers Doom appear to have a rare gift for crystallizing the finest elements of doom oh-so-precisely, while simultaneously giving those European masters a serious run for their superiority.