Friday, April 30, 2010

Music Review - Dream Theater - Black Clouds and Silver Linings

Dream Theater ranks as one of my all-time favorite bands. There's nothing about them I don't like; from the insanely long and complicated songs and solos, the virtuosity of every member of the band, the self-referencing that appears on ever album, everything. I love this band, and I say that about very few band in the metal world.

Black Clouds and Silver Linings is the tenth full length album from Dream Theater, and in my opinion ranks as one of the best albums they've put out. I'm not a huge fan of their earlier music, from When Day and Dream Unite(their first album) until Metropolis Pt. 2: Scenes From A Memory, which I consider the bands high point and the high point of the entire progressive/rock/metal scene. I'd honestly put that album above Pink Floyds Dark Side of The Moon as the greatest album of the genre. While BCASL isn't quite on that level, I'd certainly rank it in the top 3 or 4 best albums Dream Theater have ever made.

After the previous album, Systematic Chaos, (which wasn't a bad album on its own, but for Dream Theater, it was pretty weak) I didn't have terribly high hopes for this album. Thankfully the band decided to basically do the opposite of Systematic Chaos, which is to say that they put a heck of a lot more effort into the songwriting than on SC. The writing here is the strongest its been in years; from the heavy and hard-hitting opening track to the gargantuan 20 minute Count of Tuscany to the arena rock ballad of Wither, the band is in absolute top form. This is Dream Theater firing on all cylinders, and the result is amazing. John Petrucci really gives a stellar performance (as always) on guitar, with some insane solos, heavy, complex riffs and some fantastic acoustic playing. Mike Portnoy is his usual brilliant self on drums, with a few really fast double-bass and even blast-beats thrown in, which is a first for Dream Theater if I'm not mistaken. Keyboards and bass, handled by Jordan Rudess and John Myung are both brilliant as well, though both are slightly more in the background than on previous albums, with less keyboard and bass shredding and placed in more supporting roles, though the keyboards do break out in a shred on occasion.

My favorite part of Dream Theater, however, is James Labrie, whom I consider to be one of the best male vocalists alive. I absolutely love his voice, and I think I'm in the minority for this, but I consider him to be a brilliant singer. While he's not hitting those ear-splitting high notes like on the first DT albums, he still puts on quite a show, with highs, lows, and everything in between belted out perfectly. While I happen to think his best vocal performance was on the Score 20th Anniversary tour for Dream Theater, this is definitely one of his finer moments.

Black Clouds and Silver Linings is Dream Theaters best album in years, and is hopefully a good indication of where the band is going musically in the years to come. Highlights from the album would be The Best of Times, a tribute to Mike Portnoys deceased father and one of the best Dream Theater songs ever written; Wither, a terrific power ballad; and A Nightmare to Remember, which is one of the bands heaviest songs in years. For anyone who likes virtuoso playing, brilliant song-writing and all around flawlessly executed music, this album is for you.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book Review - The Road

Sparse. Bleak. Dark. Cold. Challenging. Post-apocalyptic.

All these are words that perfectly describe The Road, the latest novel by Cormac McCarthy. This was my first McCarthy book, and it was quite a different kind of reading experience for me. This is minimalist fiction, I suppose; the only dialogue, narration and even punctuation present is the bare minimum needed to get the ideas across. This minimalism helps convey a sense of traumatized silence in the wake of a horrible, unnamed catastrophe that's left the world a shattered and broken place. It's a very emotional style of writing that is perfectly suited to the subject of The Road: a Man and his Boy, simply trying to survive in a world gone to hell.

This is a very personal feeling book; there are incredibly intimate scenes between father and son that really resonated with me, just because of the plain and bluntly emotional style its conveyed with. Most of the dialogue between the Man and Boy consists of one word questions and answers, but its the simplicity that really carries the emotion and feeling behind these simple conversations.

This is the real strength of the book, in my opinion: the naked emotional connection between father and son. Theres no pretense or selfishness; to quote the novel, "Each is the other's world entire." That sums up the connection between the two, and its conveyed beautifully through simplicity. The theme of "carrying the fire" used in the very end of No Country for Old Men is also picked up here and made into a symbol of the goodness that the main characters carry within them. It's this Fire that is a continual reassurance to the Man and Boy that they aren't losing their love and compassion for each other (and to a lesser extent the rest of humanity) in spite of the horror they endure every day simply trying to survive.

This is a thoroughly challenging book to read, however, and there are some very disturbing and graphic scenes that depict the state of the world its bleak, post-apocalyptic  and savage state. Eerie scenes of confrontations of vicious and even cannibalistic travelers are the norm in The Road. McCarthy pulls no punches in describing some pretty horrific scenes, and again it's the sheer simplicity of the descriptions that really makes it so horrific.

In spite of all the dark and dreary and even disturbing imagery, The Road is at heart a simple story of two people trying to survive and how their love for each other is what keeps them alive and going day after day. Simple but heartfelt emotion between father and son is beautifully portrayed here, and makes The Road one of my favorite books from recent times.

Top Ten # 1 - Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino is probably my favorite filmmaker alive. While he's not terribly original in terms of story or concept (since every movie he's ever made has been a tribute, homage or remake/interpretation of another work) his style of making films is completely and absolutely unoriginal. In my opinion, Tarantino flat out writes some of, if not the, best dialogue in film. No other director can hold my attention with film after film 2 hours or more in length and comprised of 70-90% dialogue like he can. Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill 2, Jackie Brown and Inglorious Basterds were all examples of that; movies almost completely driven by amazing dialogue. I'd say that's Tarantinos strongest talent.

Reservoir Dogs, the independent debut of film of Quentin Tarantino is the high point of all the above listed qualities. This is, in my opinion, the best American  movie ever made. This film is savage, ferocious, fiery and has an intensity level that very, very few movies I've ever seen can rival. This really is the product of a master filmmaker and has a stellar cast, with Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Tim Roth, Chris Penn and Lawrence Tierny all giving brilliant performances.

This movie has one of Tarantinos more unique concepts: this is a heist movie shown without the heist ever shown. All that's shown is how the men involved deal with an already bad situation that steadily goes from worse to even worse. It's an interesting idea that takes away from the countdown style of most heist movies and turns it into live ticking clock style that adds a real intensity to the film.

Intensity here is the key word, and this film is bathed in it. The situations are intense, the men are intense, the dialogue is intense. The violence is especially intense, even for a Tarantino film, and I'd argue that this is the most violent film his ever made. **Spoiler warning**: this movie contains some very intense scenes of violence towards a police officer that is barely averted from becoming even worse.**

What I really believe makes this the best American film ever made is the combination of three things: the intensity, the realism and dialogue. Simply put, this movie feels real. There's no stylization or fancy effects or digital anything here, and combined with Tarantinos masterful dialogue, this feels like your really a part of the heist and not just watching. Secondly, as I already spent a good deal of words explaining, the dialogue. The banter between thieves and killers, ranging from Madonna to Pam Grier and a particularly brilliant monologue by Steve Buscemi on why he doesn't tip are the best I've ever heard. Combine those two with the through-the-roof intensity and it makes one explosive package.

Reservoir Dogs is the peak of American film-making, and remains Tarantinos best movie and my favorite by him. Raw, savage and brilliantly filmed, Reservoir Dogs stands as my Number One Movie of all time.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Music Review - Flogging Molly - Float

This is actually an album that took me quite a while to get into. The previous album, Within A Mile of Home, was a bagpipe laden punk album, with heavy guitars and a breakneck pace. In an almost complete turnaround, Float is nearly devoid of any punk, heaviness or anything resembling either of those two. I was expecting another album full of crazy drunk Irishman music, and I was pretty surprised at what this album really is.

Float is basically a folk/rock album, though I use rock here very loosely, as theres no heavy guitars or or dominating percussion here. Hints of Flogging Molly's previous punk attitude creep through every once in a while, but the majority of the music here is laid back, relaxed and mellow Irish folk tunes, with a slight leaning towards rock, mostly found in the faster songs. The writing here is much more traditional Irish, with most of the songs made up of multiple instruments (violin, fiddle, pipes) playing the same melody. Every instrument here is handled brilliantly and supports the other perfectly. The tightness of the band is just fantastic throughout the whole album. Songs range from softer acoustic pieces like Us of Lesser Gods to faster songs like You Won't Make a Fool Out of Me, which has a brilliant transition about midway through the song from guitar to flute being used as the lead instrument. There's really not a weak song here; every one is catchy but not cheesy, well-written and engaging.

My favorite thing about this album is just how relaxed it is; even the fast songs have a very chill feel to them but at the same time it's clear just how passionate the band is about their music. Theres also a real personal feel to it, and while a lot of the lyrics don't have immediately obvious meanings, one can tell that most of them deal with personal themes of the band members. This is a perfect album to play when driving at night or just sitting and reading and relaxing in general. There's just a good laid back feeling present on every song.

The highlight of the album, if I had to pick just one, is the last song,  The Story So Far. This is probably Flogging Molly's best song; a poignant, soft, slow ballad with a very nostalgic feel. The outro is just fantastic and definitely the bands finest moment.

In conclusion, while maybe not as immediately accessible as their earlier music, Float has slowly become one of my all time favorite albums. Chock full of catchy melodies, great vocals and lyrics and a relaxed but slightly nostalgic feel, FLoat gets a hearty recommendation from me to anyone who likes good, laid back Irish music.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Music Review - Ahab - The Call of the Wretched Sea

I love the story Moby Dick, by Herman Melville. It's terrific, dark and entertaining story about one of the most hard lines of work ever, whaling. All the characters are memorable and the monologues of the insane Captain Ahab are some of the best ever written. So a band that makes an album based on this story allready have a pretty good chance of winning me over.

Ahab play a style of music known as Funeral Doom metal. Basically, this is a super slow and super heavy version of death metal, with the deep, guttural vocals, hugely down-tuned guitars playing crushing chords and leads and slow, heavy, and massively echoing drumming. There is honestly nothing special, musically speaking, about Ahab at all; they are the perfect example of generic funeral doom. However, they are also the perfect example of being so good at what they do that nothing groundbreaking or genre-defying is necessary. The music here perfectly conveys the feeling of Moby Dick; dark but not really evil, heavy but not really extreme and very entertaining.

To those not well-versed in the metal world, this record will probably sound extraordinarily extreme, but really, its not that extreme at all. I'd actually almost call this a chilled-out metal album, as its repetitive and long (the songs here range from almost ten minutes to over twelve minutes long, with a short instrumental) structure, combined with the elegant and almost dreamy guitar riffs and leads really make for a relaxing listen, at least to me. There are times when the metal rages furiuously, or at least as furiously as funeral doom can be  raging. The opening track is a good example of the whole album: a very slow, soft opening, a heavy and intense middle section with guttural growling vocals, slow, dirge-like drumming dominating with some mid-paced drumming to be found and very long and simple but effective soloing and leads. Variations on all these are found throughout the album, with deep chanting vocals, keyboards and even ambient all making appearances, some mere cameos and some for longer spans. All of it is very well put together and not a note is out of place; the writing here is simple but top notch and avoids the pitfalls of a lot of funeral doom metal, namely pure boring repetition. The drumming here is a big point here; it's slow, heavy but also very dynamic and engaging, which definitely keeps the music moving and prevents stagnation.

While nothing groundbreaking at all, Ahab have pretty much made the definition of solid but not amazing album. From the mellow opening of Old Thunder to the eerie ambience of Of the Monstrous Pictures of Whales to the extremely slow and plodding The Pacific, this is a highly satisfying album that perfectly captures the feel of Melvilles masterpiece novel. Pick up this album for a perfect introduction to funeral doom or just a solid funeral doom album in general, and you won't be disappointed.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Top Ten # 2 - The Proposition

**I reviewed this movie some time ago when I was first starting my blog, but since it was before I had begun the Top Ten countdown, I'm going to review it again**

The Proposition stands as one of the most brilliant films I've ever had the pleasure of watching. This is a powerful, brutal, savage and bleak western that really has cemented itself in my mind simply one of the finest things to ever come out of the film industry. 

The Proposition is without a doubt a harsh film, and I honestly can't recommend it to any but the most hardened movie viewers. The level of violence in this movie is staggering, ranging from classic western style shootouts to brutal and sometimes sadistic executions. It's an unforgiving look at life in the Australian outback that pulls no punches to emphasize just how harsh it really was, and believe me the point is well made. But while it is indeed a very violent and dark film, it also has a very tender and meaningful side, as the violence is simply a product of the story, rather than the other way around. There are scenes of intimacy and love that are touching and, as cliche as it may sound, heartwarming. If one can get past the brutal nature of the movie, a very thoughtful and poignant look at the softer side of the people living in the Outback is seen.

Nick Cave and Warren Ellis did the music for this movie, and as usual did a brilliant job. The music lends an eerie, unsettling and occasionally happy feel to the movie and perfectly emphasizes the moods and emotions of the characters in the film. 

The dialogue, story, and cinematography are all outstanding. Each completely compliments the other, and there is no filler dialogue or shots here. Every single line and shot is meant to be exactly where it is and nowhere else. 

Since I already wrote one review on this film, I'm not going to drag this one out any further. The Proposition, quite simply, is one of my all time favorite film and certainly one of the finest ever produced. While it is extremely violent and in places very hard to watch, The Proposition is a brilliant film which I recommend at least one full viewing, though be warned, that the violence can be excruciating to watch. Nick Cave (who wrote the screenplay) and John Hillcoat (director) have truly made one of the finest films of the decade with The Proposition.

Sunday, April 18, 2010


The 2004 film The Alamo was a flop. It did terrible at the box office and didn't come anywhere close to making its budget back. It's too bad , really, because it' a really cool and really intense movie about the Battle of the Alamo that deserved a lot more recognition than it got.

Billy Bob Thorton plays Davy Crockett, a man who's as equally adept at killing Mexicans as he is at playing fiery tunes on his fiddle, and towards the end of the movie he says and does something really profound.

As the Mexican army plays its nightly reveille, the American men remark how much they hate the music they're hearing. Davy Crockett promptly takes his fiddle and plays a perfect harmony with the music of the Mexican army, and after the song is done a dead quiet falls over both camps. He then turns to his men and remarks:

"It's amazing what a little harmony can do."

Not a single shot is fired, insult hurled or sword raised for the entire rest of the night.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Top Ten # 3 - There Will Be Blood

I went and saw this movie by myself, expecting nothing more than a run-of-the-mill western. I left the theater completely speechless. This is hands down one of the greatest films ever made.

When I reviewed The King of Comedy, I talked about earth-shatteringly good performances. This film contains the second of only a bare handful of acting performances I'd ever dare to call earth-shatteringly good. While the entire film is absolutely brilliant, the acting here stands at the pinnacle of acting in modern times.

Loosely adapted from Upton Sinclairs book "Oil!", this film is a stark look into the dark, twisted, gritty and disturbing side of the American Dream. This is a journey back into the brutal Christianity of the old American west, with psychotic preachers bellowing hell and damnation every step of the way and crazed oil men who will do anything for profit. This is a movie about what happens when, to quote one of the many theatrical posters for the film, "When Ambition Meets Faith."

Daniel Day-Lewis is in top form here, as always. His insane method acting pays off here as he delivers one of the most fiery, bloodthirsty and maniacal performances in recent memory (and dare I say, of all time). Honestly, this tops Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction for sheer savagery. There are scenes of acting here that are almost terrifying to watch as Day-Lewis completely becomes Daniel Plainview (and they actually scared the production crew when Day-Lewis was being filmed) . I truly can't say enough how absolutely amazing the acting is here. All the characters here are played perfectly though, especially Plainviews adversary for the majority of the film, the quietly deranged Reverend Eli Sunday, played by Paul Dano. If Day-Lewis is the high point of insane, fiery acting, the Dano is the opposite, playing one of the most unsettling roles I've ever seen in a film. Theres an underlying presence of insanity that every once in a while makes an appearance, and its some of the eeriest and plain old weirdest acting I've come across.

Brilliant acting is just one strength here as every aspect of the movie is completely perfect. The music is unsettling, tension-building and eerie and probably the most eclectic music choice I've heard in a movie. The cinematography harmonizes with the music in tension building and really adds to the weird and off-kilter feeling the encompasses this film. 10/10 for every facet of the actual film-making.

The highlight of this movie though, is the ending. A nearly half-hour long sequence builds to the point of pure insanity captured on film; this ranks as my absolute, all time favorite ending of any movie I've ever seen. Without giving away any details, I can firmly say that the climax of this film is the height of film as a whole; this ending left me speechless. This is the most perfect sequence I've ever seen in a movie.

To conclude this particularly long-winded movie review, please, do yourself a favor and see this movie. This is one of the best movies I've ever seen, and I'd really say it's one of the best movies of all time. Powerful, incredible acting, brilliant cinematography and a terrific script make There Will Be Blood my Number 3 Top Ten Movie of all time.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Top Ten # 4 - No Country for Old Men

If I had to pick one single word to describe this movie, it would be hard. This is a hard movie, set in hard country with hard characters. If I had to pick another word to describe it, it would be different. This is a very different movie, with nearly no score, very little dialogue and very little action. Combine these two and it becomes one of the best movies I've ever seen.

Adapted from Cormac McCarthys novel of the same name by Joel and Ethan Coen, No Country for Old Men is a very simple and stark look at the lives of 3 interconnected (but never interacting) men in hard Texas country. Simple is key here; as stated above there is nearly no music and very little dialogue, but surprisingly the film doesn't fall flat on its feet because of this. Rather, it lends strength to an already impressive story about the perils of the drug dealing business.

The big talent here are Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem and Josh Brolin, and each of them bring some very impressive performances to the table; Jones with his rough old-time police personality, Brolin with his Texas-bred laid-back (but not lazy) mannerisms and Bardem with his absolutely chilling portrayal of a psychotic and slightly philosophical hit man that would give Hannibal Lector the willies. All three do superb jobs here and completely flesh out the characters from McCarthys novel.

Cinematography plays a key role here; clever and interesting shots and angles are used to set the mood where music normally would fill in. Action sequences are minimal but very effective when they do appear. The dialog,while also minimal, is superb and one of my favorite aspects of the film. Tommy Lee Jones narration is something I could listen to all day, but really all dialogue here is fantastic (as is to be expected, since most of the script came directly from the book with little or no changes).

While this is a minimalistic movie in the normal sense of dialogue, music and cinematography, it brilliantly sets the mood of this very bleak picture. For reasons that seem hard to describe, this film works perfectly in every way. The Coen brothers really outdid themselves with this one, and its slowly become one of my all time favorite movies. While it is an extremely violent and bleak movie, it also retains a sense of almost relaxation; the lack of music and fast moving action shots really allow the movie to flow at a very even and relaxed pace which I love. It makes the movie easy to watch, in spite of the fact that its so non-conventional. Watch this movie and really give it your full attention; if you do your in for one interesting ride.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cigar Review - CAO Brazilio Gol

Continuing my current CAO run, I decided to give the Brazilia Gol a try; having only had it one other time a long while ago it was more or less like trying it for the first time, and as with all CAO cigars I was most impressed.

This is a much darker and stronger cigar than its Italian brother and leans more towards cocoa/coffee flavors rather than the spicy and bitter Italian. Coffee and cocoa were the dominant flavors during the first third of the smoke, and towards the second third the earthiness almost completely took over, which is something I love about CAO cigars. Towards the end of the cigar the strong coffee taste returned, though the cocoa was nearly gone and there was a bitter taste to it.

The burn alternated between even and uneven, but there were no unsightly fingers or other signs of a badly burning cigar. The ash was solid and dark grey and fell in solid clumps all three times I ashed the cigar and the burn even with each ash. The draw was perfect, neither too tight or loose and every puff was accompanied by a large cloud of smoke.

Overall, this dark and strong cigar is definitely recommended by me; it would go great with some good strong coffee after a full meal and gets a hearty recommendation from me.

CAO Brazilia Gol
rated 7.5/10
Brazilian wrapper with Nicaraguan filler
Lighting method used: 3 match

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Cigar Review - CAO Italia Ciao

This is one of my favorite cigars, hands down. There's 2 or 3 cigars that are sort of my go-to cigars; whenever i don't know what to buy i just go with one of those. The CAO Italia Ciao is one of these. It's a consistently good smoke, which is a quality all CAO cigars have and why CAO is my favorite brand.

This cigar has all the features that I love in cigars: a perfect draw, neither too tight or too loose, a fantastic burn with nearly white ash and some great flavors. This is medium-bodied cigar, leaning towards stronger more than milder. The flavors that jumped out at me were spicey, peppery, with that earthy taste I love in CAO cigars. Towards the last third of the cigar or so it became slightly more bitter, like strong bitter coffee.

The burn was terrific, and even almost the whole way around except near the middle part of the smoke where it unevened, but after a few more minutes it evened itself out and stayed that way until I finished smoking it.

This is a great cigar, and I recommend it to anyone seeking a good medium-bodied, great burning and great tasting smoke.

CAO Italia Ciao
rated 8/10
medium-to-full body with strong tendencies
Italy, Nicaragua, and Peru filler with Honduran wrapper
Lighting method used: punch with a tri-jet lighter

Top Ten Movie Countdown #5 - Goodfellas

Martin Scorceses Goodfellas, to me, stands as one of the pinnacles of American film making. This is without a doubt one of the best motion pictures ever made; there is literally no weak spot here. A stellar cast including Ray Liotta, Joe Pesci and Robert de Niro, a brilliant soundtrack, absolutely superb story and dialogue combine for what I believe to be the peak of Scorceses movie making career.

It's hard for me to actually describe why I love this movie so much. The easiest way is to say that everything simply works, and works beautifully. The cinematography is superb, with lots of trademark Scorcese shots and sudden stops to allow for narration. The music, comprised mostly of Sinatra or Sinatra-eque crooning compliments the movie perfectly and adds a real happy go lucky, fun feel to what could have been a very bleak film. The picture moves along at a good clip and never gets bogged down, which is quite a feat for such a long and dialogue-centered movie.

The actors here are all in top form and clearly having a good time playing blue-collar mafia men, and the chemistry is almost tangible; it really feels like everyone in the film has spent their whole lives being gangsters together. Not a whole lot more to be said on the acting, its nothing more than perfect and some of the best out there.

Being a crime movie (and more specifically a Scorcese crime movie), there is a enormous amount of bloody and brutal violence (shootings are the norm, as are beatings and stabbings) and an even more enormous amount of harsh language, but honestly, somehow, the atmosphere is kept light throughout it all, mostly due to the music accompanying each sequence. Hearing Sinatra belting his top hits while hitmen go about their business turns out to be quite a combination.

This is Martin Scorcese at what I believe to be his best, and in my opinion certainly hasn't made anything since Goodfellas that's quite on the same level. Rarely do all the above factors combine to produce something so profoundly good as Goodfellas, and when they do, as I've spent most of this review expounding on, its pretty darn awesome. While not for the faint of heart at all, I highly recommend Goodfellas as one of the top American films ever made.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Carrying the Fire

In Cormac McCarthys book The Road (and to a much lesser extent in No Country for Old men) the characters frequently reassure themselves that they are "carrying the fire." What does that mean? In the context of The Road, it means carrying all the good traits of humanity, like love, courage, hope, when the rest of the world has almost literally gone to hell. It is this "fire" that keeps them alive and is something that the characters have to constantly say to each other. This is obviously something everyone should try to do. However, to a person of Christian faith, it means something different. Well, perhaps not so much different in what it means, but in exactly what the fire is is what's different.

The fire a believer is supposed to be carrying is not the qualities of a person (though it certainly isn't bad to carry these qualities). It is the qualities of the the Author of our faith. That is the fire that a believer is supposed to carry. The same qualities in name (love, courage, hope, etc) but instead of simply carrying your own of these qualities, carry those of the Author and Finisher of Our Faith.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Music Review - Ihsahn -After

Ihsahn, the main man behind the renowned and almost revered black metal band Emperor, is back with his 3rd full length album, After. His previous work aNgl was very Opeth-like, with lots and lots of acoustic interludes, soothing fretless bass work and very well sung clean vocals. After is almost nothing like aNgl, as this album forgoes most of the softer acoustic moments (though they are still here, the first 3 minutes of Undercurrent is almost entirely acoustic) in favor of an extreme jazz metal kind of atmosphere, with several uses of saxophone and frequent jazzy and almost bluesy guitar work.

The first thing I noticed was how much better the album sounded production-wise; it has a much heavier and beefier sound to it that aNgl was sorely lacking, particularly in the drumming department. The guitar is good and heavy and has a thick lead tone that sounds fantastic during rhythm and solos alike. Something I didn't like was how the bass was pushed a little more into the background on After; it makes some appearances but its frequency has been toned down and regulated to mostly providing a low end to the music. The saxophone sounds rough and raw and fits the overall sound of the album perfectly, but it itself tends to sound out of place on some of the faster tracks. On slower songs like On the Shores, the raging sax solos fit in perfectly with the doomy jazz-esque metal, providing a real film-noir atmosphere; but on other songs like A Grave Inversed it simply whines through a stream of fast notes that don't really sound that good.

Ihsahns vocals have only gotten better; full, thick screeches and calming clean vocals intertwine their way throughout the album, complimenting and contrasting each other throughout.

Overall this is a good effort from Ihsahn; not the best I've ever heard but a solid album nonetheless. The mixing of experimental saxophone, jazzy guitars and extreme metal guitars and drums make for an interesting listen, and I highly recommend this to fans of dark jazz, avant-garde and heavy metal.