The Path to Paradise Begins in Hell – Addendum, Part I

The Path to Paradise Begins In Hell

It’s been a hot minute since I wrote anything for the column. I have been trying to take things easy in the meantime, but life has been fucking with me. Not only has it been giving me more things to be concerned about, but has led to a worsened mental state and a depressive episode to boot. Don’t worry, though – I am feeling a lot better and I am in a better place mentally. With that in mind, we can now move towards talking about the leftover albums I didn’t have time to discuss.

After writing about progressive metal – shout out to Coheed and Cambria for being a fantastic introduction! – I began to think about all of the albums I have listened to over the years and decided to look over all of the genres I have written about. Then, I had an epiphany: what if none of the albums I have recommended as gateways to a genre were actually good? I know “good” is a subjective term, so I would understand if the picks were not to up to par for a new listener’s taste. Still, I thought about it, and I decided to list ten more albums – one from each genre – in the event none of the first three (and sometimes four!) were not up to par. After all, if three won’t do it, then four (five?) has got to do it.

Additional Albums for Your Listening Pleasure By Genre

I originally thought I could fit ten additional albums into the column, but then I decided to split them up because writing about ten albums is almost nuts.

Doable, but nuts.

Now, some of these picks remain personal, but I like to think it encapsulates who I am as a person. All right, let’s begin!

Symphonic Metal: Delain – April Rain (2009)

Delain - April Rain

Delain released an EP earlier this year, which is a taste of what’s hopefully to come. They even wrote the best melodeath track not written by a melodeath band of 2019 (looking at you, Omnium Gatherum!), so I am hoping we are seeing a shift in that general direction. However, because I have been seeking comfort in my music listening habits lately, I decided to sink into the first Delain album that I became aware of. While I did go back and listen to Lucidity years after I got into the band, I went with April Rain for this gateway, as it means something to me. What’s even funnier is that even though April Rain was released prior to 2008, but that was because, if memory serves, I first listened to Delain in 2008 and songs from April Rain were playing on Pandora.

Obviously, a lot of things have happened since then, but that memory is a fond one: me sitting in front of the computer, doing homework, listening to the station that Schmidty told me to create. It was an experience that I will probably never be able to have again.

With Hunter’s Moon being a step towards what Delain hopes to accomplish, my sense of nostalgia made me seek this one out, and it reminded me of how simple this album was in comparison to say, The Human Contradiction. April Rain had a simple formula: a talented singer who could sing a power ballad and emote it; music that was simple in its execution, but had rhythm, color, and enough variety that made this album a fucking jam; and a surprise appearance from Marco Hietala (of Nightwish fame), which further added to the album’s appeal. We are talking symphonic metal at its finest: a bit cheesy but fantastically rendered, with a bit of a well-known singer to boot. When I first heard this album at 15 years old, my mind was blown because metal could do that and it still sounded just as powerful as the other things that were being thrown at me. Listening to it again reminded me that I still knew the album incredibly well, even when I made the decision of leaving fandom in late 2014 / early 2015 and shelving it to focus on black metal. Despite all of this, April Rain still holds up even a decade after its release, which is a testament to both the band’s musical prowess and their legacy. Although their sound has shifted somewhat since their humble beginning, I can say with confidence that, with time, Delain will be one of those bands that everyone will universally regard as one of the best in their genre.

Speaking of black metal…

Black Metal: Ellende – Todbringer (2016)

Ellende - Todbringer

I am currently in black metal hell as we speak – I’ve been listening to so much black metal for the past two months that I decided not to spend much time talking about black metal as a whole. Thus, I will mention Ellende and go forward from there.

Although Ellende’s promo photography may border on the ridiculous, I have a soft spot for them. Back when I first started reviews – as a way to apply all of my recent access to knowledge of the genre – I encountered this band due to someone talking about them. It also helped that they sounded similar to a band I was into at the time, Dornenreich, and that one of the members played the cello. Due to my past as a former cello player, I was already excited to see how this band would fit a cello into black metal, a genre that was familiar to me but mainly focused on having three main instruments: bass, guitar, and drums.

I was blown away by Todbringer; as one of my first forays into black metal, it cemented me into liking the genre, back when I swore I wouldn’t touch it. Everything about it, from the sonic aesthetic to the atmosphere, was a highlight and I eventually grew to love this band and this album. They tread that line between black metal and neofolk so well that I could forget that I was listening to black metal for a solid minute. I even wrote something about it many years ago, as seen below:

However, as the album progresses, the music becomes melodic and hopeful, negating the aspect of death. Towards the end of the album, there seems to be an acceptance of some sort. Whether the person has accepted their death or has accepted that, despite the urgency and the need to die, they have decided to remain hopeful. The music is no longer aggressive and filled with woe; rather, it employs softer elements and focuses more on the musicianship. In the beginning, everything was about the musicianship in regards to the vocals and the emotional range the vocals and the music provided. Now, the musicianship takes center stage, allowing the listener to fully bask in the beauty of the music. 50 minutes isn’t enough to get a full experience; you have to listen to it again to fully understand it. (context)

Although I have not listened to their newest album – and I will get to it at some point – Ellende is one of those bands that I have followed since 2016 and have listened to most of their discography since then. Even if their aesthetic borders on the ridiculous and the gimmicky, I happen to like them a lot.

Symphonic Death Metal: Septicflesh – Codex Omega (2017)

Septicflesh - Codex Omega

Even if you don’t know Septicflesh by name, you know about them. After all, by this point, most people have heard the song “Anubis” which is fun to sing and to mock when you need a pick-me-up. You may also have become familiar with their album artwork, as they have a distinct style and appeal that seems to mirror some innate darkness that is incredibly poignant. You may have also recognized it in other bands’ albums, as vocalist Spiros “Seth” Antoniou also works as a visual artist and has done album covers for bands like Moonspell (see Extinct, as an example). The album art is definitely one of Septicflesh’s most recognizable characteristics, and it’s one of my favorite things about them.

Although my formal introduction to Septicflesh was Communion, Codex Omega was the album that truly made me like this band. While songs like the aforementioned “Anubis” and “The Vampire of Nazareth” made my commutes worthwhile and made my outlook on life a little better, they don’t hold a candle to the complexity this album offered when it was first released. In addition to the music being complex and incredibly well-produced, the lyrical content is also fantastical in nature. There are allusions to literature, mythology, and the Biblical canon, as well as uncomfortable references to the world ending if someone got ahold of this album and read from it. I even made references about it when I first got to write about it:

… I think the album places a lot of its focus on its lyrical content, which simultaneously gives you a lot of insight into the inspiration behind the song and lets you interpret the context as you see fit. Songs like ‘Dante’s Inferno’, ‘Our Church, Below the Sea’, and ‘Faceless Queen’ are straightforward in their insight and context; they are from The Divine Comedy; the works of Lovecraft, particularly “The Shadow over Innsmouth”; and the mythology of Tiamat, the primordial sea goddess in Mesopotamian mythology. However, the more ambiguous songs on the album, such as ‘3rd Testament (Codex Omega)’ and ‘The Gospels of Fear’, require a more thorough understanding of their subject matter. ‘3rd Testament’ is basically an inverse Book of Genesis that talks about the creation of Satan and his family through the written word and the imagination of man. Given that the Book of Genesis talks about the creation and eventual spread of Man on Earth, it would be no surprise that the Church would potentially accept a series of books about Satan in its canon. (context)

While Codex Omega didn’t make it into my official EOY list for 2017, it was in the cutting room floor for other interesting releases that people should have listened to. 2017 was an interesting year for music, and I didn’t want to talk about this album because I had written about it. Besides, it wasn’t going to beat my favorite album of that year anyway.

Melodic Death Metal: Insomnium – Shadows of the Dying Sun (2014)

Insomnium - Shadows of the Dying Sun

I originally had Omnium Gatherum in this slot, but decided to switch it to their sister band, Insomnium, due to already talking about Omnium Gatherum in the past. Besides, with Insomnium coming out with new material within the year, I just had to talk about this album. Back when I was still in bullet hell, I had heard of Insomnium, but I figured I wasn’t ready for it. After all, trying to avoid aspects of death metal was something that I was keen on doing until I got comfortable enough to actually listen to it.

To be frank, traditional death metal wasn’t my thing and I wasn’t going to implement it into my listening habits unless there was a cushioning or something that I liked before I dove into that end of the metal pool.

Cue Misha and the delights of melodeath.

And we drift far away in our dreams
Gather further distance while we sleep
Build a wall of glass thick and deep
We hear but choose not to listen

Back in the early days of our friendship and my education into melodeath, Misha recommended three bands that I should listen to: Omnium Gatherum, Insomnium, and his personal choice Sybreed. I already discussed my love for Sybreed’s swan album, God Is An Automaton, so I figured I could talk about this album and what it means to me. As one of the first albums that introduced melodeath proper, Shadows of the Dying Sun was an album I picked up post-university, back when I was at my lowest point. Depressed and with a lot of time on my hands, I decided to dive deep into the music pool, beginning an archive that documented the albums I listened to. One of the first albums I archived was Shadows of the Dying Sun (which has since moved to the top of the archive), writing my thoughts on it and then moving on to the next shiny thing that was sitting in my album’s list. Of course, I went back to it to just let it play, reminding me that things would get better, even when the album title was as morose as my mood was. Eventually, I shelved it, as the album had served its purpose during that time.

Relistening to it now is like being covered in a safety blanket after a traumatic event – it’s a balm to my exhaustion and frazzled nerves at the end of the day. The songs “While We Sleep” and “Lose to Night” kept me going despite everything that was my depression, my deep loathing for myself, and my sense of worthlessness. Listening to it reminds me of how far I’ve come, despite everything that has been thrown at me, and how I am still kicking. Shadows means a lot to me, and I have to come to appreciate the genre because of it.

Industrial Metal: Blood Stain Child – Epsilon (2011)

Blood Stain Child - Epsilon

If you thought I was going to name another German band after listing both Rammstein and Eisbrecher, you are dead wrong.

Cue Blood Stain Child, a Japanese metal band who holds a special place in my heart.

I feel the winds of life
Will the sun rise, will it shine on me?
I’m void I’m in this spiral fate
I can’t escape from here

I previously mentioned Blood Stain Child in the melodeath part of the column, as their earlier albums showed an adherence to that specific genre. However, after going back and listening to most of BSC’s discography, I can say, with 95% confidence, that Epsilon, the band’s fifth album, begins to lean towards the industrial side of metal. I originally came to BSC thanks to Misha, who introduced me to this band after we talked about Dir En Grey. Although I am aware of who Diru are, BSC was unfamiliar to me, so I decided to listen to them, and I never looked back on that decision.

Epsilon is the beginning of their shift into trance melodeath, which was reflected in the sudden, prominent use of electronica in their music and their change in vocalists. Although Ryo’s vocals, no less impressive than Sadew’s on Mozaiq, were on the higher range, he was able to emote and keep up with BSC’s intensity and sound, as if fully committing to that video game aesthetic. It also showcased him as a more versatile singer, being able to shift from a clean tenor to a screaming banshee in a matter of beats. Sadew’s vocals, in comparison, were on the lower end of the vocal range, which was an interesting contrast to the music. Epsilon is also the culmination of a series of EPs released, reflecting the slow change of sound. On Epsilon, things were more streamlined and they were fully committed to the EDM-like sounds they had previously flirted with. Since the release of Epsilon, BSC has continued in this vein, coming into culmination with the song “Kamui,” which I think sums up their sound very well.

Listening to Epsilon now feels like eating a bunch of Sour Patch Kids in one sitting. At first, you are completely overwhelmed by the heaviness of their sound and their chaotic nature; but then you start picking up on the whole picture, and you begin to appreciate them as a band. Although this album is not my favorite of theirs – that would be Mozaiq – it shows a band that can still rebuild themselves even years after they first began. I have yet to listen to their newest release, Anteras, but I have hopes for it. After all, I like this band and Sadew is back on vocal duties.

Consider this Part I of the Addendum, as writing about five albums was a start.

However, don’t worry – Part II will be coming in a more scheduled fashion, once I have scheduled things properly. After all, grad school starts again this week and I may have to be more streamlined with my time, which means planning a lot of things ahead of schedule.

Tune in next time as I discuss the second half of the Addendum and show you some more albums before I get to talk about genre specifics again.

Hasta la proxima!

– Hera

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