Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry Christmas '07: Maudlin of the Well - Bath/Leaving Your Body Map (2001)

So what's Follycle going to do with his blog for Christmas, you ask? Well, seeing as I'm a Jew, I really don't *have* to do anything. But I'm a nice guy, so I will. And today's gift is the upload and review of two tremendous CDs, Bath and Leaving Your Body Map by Maudlin of the Well.

I hope you enjoy them as much or more as I do.

Rating: 9.4/9.1

Toby Driver is famous in progressive rock circles these days largely because of his current main band, Kayo Dot, whose two albums have made waves. However, before Toby Driver was well known, he was in this obscure, out-of-print metal band named Maudlin of the Well, and what a band it was. They managed only three CDs, the latter two of which were released as companion pieces.

Maudlin of the Well is, in essence, about what you might expect if Kayo Dot were to write actual songs instead of the flowing pieces that mark their sound. Whereas Kayo Dot is using radical new song structures, Maudlin of the Well innovated slightly more quietly, twisting existing song structures in new ways. The result is what one might call astral metal. It mixes the ambience of post-rock and the aggression of metal, but not at all like post-metal bands such as Isis. Instead, Maudlin of the Well’s sound is built around its hypnotic qualities.

Bath is the more melodically inclined of the companion CDs, even in its most metal moments. One listen to the first song, “The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth,” with its two short musical phrases that intertwine with a beautiful melody, displays this fully. When it hits you the right way (which takes a few listens), it becomes absolutely transfixing. Following this is “They Aren’t All Beautiful,” which seems at first to be the polar opposite. It is based around a mish-mash of three or four brutally heavy riffs. However, repeated listens (which are needed to grasp all the complexities and subtleties) show that this death metal cocktail is just as hypnotic as the atmospheric textures of “The Blue Ghost/Shedding Quliphoth.”

Throughout the rest of the CD, the music hovers within the range established by the first two songs, often mixing the two. This is best seen in “The Ferryman,” which starts with beautiful organ followed by even more beautiful guitar strumming, then grows into a tremendously heavy monster, then mixes the organ with the riffing. Also notable is “Heaven and Weak,” which starts out very beautifully (in the traditional sense), then grows into a massive bone-crushing riff. In between these, however, is a section that has a textural riff, vocals, and a guitar solo all going at once. However, it is structured in such a way that it doesn’t sound cluttered. That is truly the genius of this CD. It takes convention and turns it on its head, mixing that that seemingly shouldn’t be mixed and making it sound good, and, most importantly, keeping an entirely uncluttered sound where other bands would be unable to do so.

Almost immediately, Leaving Your Body Map establishes itself as different beast than Bath. Whereas “The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoph” barely got loud at all, and even then only at the end, “Stones of October’s Sobbing” lets only a minute and a half go by before entering an interesting with an only mildly heavy backing and “cookie monster” (though still decipherable) vocals in the forefront. Once the ultra-fast riff enters, there’s no doubt, and for the rest of the CD, Leaving Your Body Map continues this trend of being more immediate and heavier. That said, the album still has the same effect as Bath, inducing a trance-like state on the listener. It manages it in different, faster, louder, and more initially exciting manners, but it is ultimately the flip side of the same coin as Bath.

Leaving Your Body Map retains the complexities and subtleties of its predecessor. Just listen to the section that I mentioned in “Stones of October’s Sobbing.” In that section, a mildly distorted, non-aggressive guitar line is mixed with highly aggressive growled vocals and a beautiful woodwind phrase that pops up again and again. Even when the CD seems obvious, such as on “Gleam in the Ranks” and “Riseth He, The Numberless (Part 1),” there is more going on than meets the eye. On “Gleam in the Ranks,” a guitar line races through a set of tight-knit riffs, backed by a pounding rhythm and dynamic vocals. Little things pop up at each turn, however, such as the keyboards that show themselves near the beginning. “Riseth He, The Numberless (Part 1)” achieves the same effect in a different manner. After a one minute introduction on the trumpet, it shifts to what seems to be a straightforward death metal song. However, there is not one riff but three or four, each similar in feel but at different speeds and with slightly different notes.

It is these types of subtleties that make Bath and Leaving Your Body Map such interesting albums. However, they are more than just complex “astral metal” CDs. There is also the purely beautiful on each. The four “Interlude” tracks are all fairly simple, beautiful instrumentals, and songs such as “Sleep is a Curse” from Leaving Your Body Map and “Geography” from Bath are similarly gorgeous. The subtleties may make the CDs interesting, but it is the diversity that makes them so ultimately captivating. As Bath and Leaving Your Body Map both show, Maudlin of the Well are one of the greatest bands the world of metal has seen. Extremely recommended.

Here you go.

Maudlin of the Well


Shakespeare said...

They are truly brilliant. Great reviews.

Follycle said...

Thank you.