Maudlin Of The Well
|©1999 Dark Symphonies
1. Ferocious Weights
2. A Conception Pathetic
3. Undine And Underwater Flowers
4. The Ocean, The Kingdom And The Temptation
5. Pondering A Wall
6. Catharsis Of Sea-Sleep And Dreaming Shrines
7. Blight Of River Systems
One of the most confounding aspects of being a truly adventurous, creative and unusual group is that ninety-eight percent of the music listening public (if not more) will have your music fly completely over their heads, causing nothing but perplexment and bewilderment at your efforts. Maudlin of the Well, a critical favorite to say the least, are one of those bands that must often run into a sea of confused faces blankly staring at their productivity. Simply put, a single listen to the band's debut will not even moderately scratch the surface. The entire landscape this band creates is as expansive as the desert sky and more complex than the deepest rainforest. In fact, it inspires would-be pseudo-journalists such as myself to come up with entirely silly analogies in an attempt to describe their efforts.
Maudlin of the Well has a rather large roster of members, which insinuates that there are as many conflicting interests and ideas as individuals involved in the band. That could possibly explain the wandering nature of the music. My Fruit Psychobells offers everything from light, slightly jazzy noodlings to ambient death metal collages that are somewhat reminiscient of Esoteric's atmospheric doom nightmare. This is the sort of thing that excites those who get little chills while listening to In the Woods. This is also the sort of thing that alienates those who need short, compact and needlessly formulatic metal that avoids adventure and exploration at all costs. Maudlin of the Well's creativity and playing are outstanding throughout this debut. The guitars constantly shift gears, traverse an amazing range of musical topography and contours, and create a neverending, shifting landscape. Vocally, there are many contributions from rough death metal growls to light female singing to soothing clean male vocals.
My Fruit Psychobells is an album that will take even the most adventurous and open minded of listeners a considerable deal of time to assimilate and get one's head around. However, the rewards of the time spent devouring the music are fully worth it. In interviews, the band has stated they put their best material on this debut and it completely shows. Considering the attention the band received with the dual release of Bath and Leaving Your Body Map, it would behoove many to search out the band's first release and see exactly how this all started. Phenomenal and absolutely enlightening.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 06/2002
Some (the press, the band's rabid fans, this site's webmaster) would have you believe that Maudlin of the Well is a novel, experimental and adventurous band who produces incredibly novel music.
Don't believe them.
At least on this album (and I doubt I'll subject myself to their other output to test the generality of this statement), all they deliver is a bunch of incoherent songs built from parts drawn from other bands' lesser music, package them under ludicrous titles, and affect artiste poses in the press to impress unrefined listeners with their oh-so-brilliant approach to music. But as a supposedly new artist, you know you have a problem when a less gullible listener (like yours truly) says "Ha! That bit sounded exactly like band X" every 2 minutes. "Ferocious Weights" is a lame My Dying Bride knockoff with some In The Woods warbling thrown into the pot and a plain horrible and gratuitously pseudo-random chord progression. Other songs, which I cannot bring myself to name by their simply stunningly grotesque titles (which make Solefald look positively meek by comparison), are straight out of really old Candlemass, Tiamat, The Gathering, Therion and Lacuna Coil albums. Except they suck. Hard. Not that Lacuna Coil or My Dying Bride were great prizes to begin with, but that's another story for another review. The more melodic songs sound like a blend of In The Woods outtakes with vocal lines even more meandering, incoherent and pointless than those heard on Solitude Aeturnus' early records. And on the rare occasion when someone in the band comes up with a tolerable idea, they just play that very same idea over and over for five minutes instead of trying to come up with another.
And don't get me started on the performances. In the course of the band members' musical development, everyone seemingly forgot that when the drummer goes "thwack" and the guitarist goes "strum" on the beat, they're supposed to do it at the same time. There's a big difference between missing the beat by a small fraction here and there on purpose for artistic effect and just being incompetent, and some of these guys fall squarely in the latter camp. Which is surprising, because clearly some of the other band members are quite proficient; but I certainly can't blame those who can actually play for not wanting to learn those truly awful parts for recording and leaving them to their authors instead.
What galls me most about this pitiful excuse for an artistic entrée is that a lot of time and effort was quite evidently expended on getting the album together (though most of that time was probably spent coming up with the most intensely horrid song titles and lyrics since the discovery of fire). Considering how understaffed animal shelters and oil spill cleaning crews typically are, I can only lament the fact that a dozen misguided individuals thought it was a better idea to concoct this bizarre monument to atrocity than to help kitties and penguins have better lives.
But let us not conclude on such a maudlin note. If you want to hear artists that truly push the boundaries and make great music, try Arcturus' La Masquerade Infernale, In The Woods Strange in Stereo, Mr Bungle's self-titled album, Devin Townsend, or Solefald's The Linear Scaffold. If your wishes are more modest and you just want to hear good music, hell, just about anything is better than this despicable waste of air waves.
Review by Rog The Frog Billerey-Mosier
Review date: 07/2004
|©2001 Dark Symphonies
1. The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth
2. They Aren't All Beautifull
3. Heaven And Weak
4. (Interlude 1)
5. The Ferryman
6. Marid's Gift Of Art
7. Girl With A Watering Can
8. Birth Pains Of Astral Projection
9. (Interlude 2)
As you might expect with a band sporting nine members, Maudlin of the Well has quite an unusual sound and is currently enjoying a rather healthy underground buzz concerning the follow up efforts to their 1999 debut, My Fruit Psychobells...a seed combustible. Rather than the typical sophomore slump release, Maudlin of the Well has chosen to release not one, but two new albums simultaneously, perhaps attempting to show Guns'n'Roses how it should have been done. The two releases are titled Bath and Leaving Your Body Map. The two albums feature artwork that hints at the other: Bath shows a path leading away from the viewer while Leaving Your Body Map offers a bathtub. All the artwork is done in a fashion somewhat similar to the sketchbook style of Radiohead, with vibrant, pastel colors throughout.
For new listeners of this ambitious outfit, it's nearly impossible to grasp Maudlin of the Well's extreme breadth and width of musical endeavor upon one listen. In fact, the first listen to Bath can be an aggravating experience as the band winds through more musical styles than one can shake a rather large stick at. Transitions between softer, acoustic guitar passages and other warmer, fuzzier moments into a quagmire of death and aggressive doom metal may have many puzzling on just how the band got there. The simple fact of the matter is that one must dedicate several listens to Bath before honing in on the album's charm. The previously jarring transitions begin to make more sense and the album comes together as a whole.
In the band's biography, influences from old school metal such as Iron Maiden and King Diamond are listed, as well as newer outfits such as Tiamat and Esoteric. Believe me, you can also throw in a cavalry's worth and never pin down precisely who they sound like. The production is marvelous, allowing all the various instruments and members their proper place in the mix. The quieter sections have a great warmth to them, particularly in the opening number, "The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth". The heavier, thrashy doom sections, such as the latter parts of "Heaven and Weak" or "They Aren't All Beautiful", are clear and sharp. Those moments have that thoroughly massive sounds that do remind me of Disembowelment or Esoteric (two mentioned influences) to a good degree. The vocals range from soft female cooing to crusty growls to a clean, somewhat robotic voice that reminds me of prime Voivod.
As the two albums were recorded together, they are also meant to be listened to together. Bath is definitey the harsher of the two, although the harshness is kept in full check by the serene moments. Once one feels washed and cleansed by Bath, Leaving Your Body Map is your only choice and you are required to proceed directly there.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 08/2001
|©2001 Dark Symphonies
1. Stones Of October's Sobbing
2. Gleam In Ranks
3. Bizarre Flowers/A Violent Mist
4. (Interlude 3)
5. The Curve That To An Angle Turn'd
6. Sleep Is A Curse
7. Riseth He, The Numberless
8. (interlude 4)
9. Monstrously Low Tide
Acting as the companion disc for Bath, Leaving Your Body Map lives up to the suggestion of the title and is the sparse, quiet journey of the two discs. Whereas the first disc of the two had more death metal influence and harsher moments, Leaving Your Body Map often is a surreal and dissonantly disturbing trip, yet surprisingly calm at its heart. The band explores more atmospheric territories and gives the listener an extensive and long visitation in some strange realms.
The CD does begin with a harsher number than what much of the album contains. "Stones of October Sobbing" reminds me of what Pan-Thy-Monium might sound like if they lightened up and shook their collective tushes a bit more. "Gleam in Ranks" comes across as a demented light jazz outtake mixed with lounge as performed by an escapee from your country's finest mental institute. As the album progresses, the music opens up into considerably less hectic and dense arrangements. The various atypical musicians (atypical for a metal band, that is) have more time for their input: horns, viola, etc. There is also crooning over acoustic guitar to give an occasional folkish edge as well. The moods switch from oppressive to considerably more contemplative and introspective.
By the album's meandering end, one realizes that the entirety of Bath and Leaving Your Body Map do indeed work together as a cohesive whole, much like a two part novel. The more one listens to this album, the more one realizes that there are few extraneous moments that can be easily skipped over. Maudlin of the Well has accomplished something that few artists are truly able to pull off: an extensive, lengthy double release that does not sound as though a good half hour could be left off with no detrimental effects. One may still get the impression that the band has only taken the first step towards utter brilliance, though. These two albums suggest that the band is only at the brink of what they may accomplish in the future. As it stands, Leaving Your Body Map is the companion disc for what may turn out to be the most ambitious and adventurous albums of the year. Recommended entirely to those with pioneer spirit and an explorer's heart.
Review by John Chedsey
Review date: 08/2001