Saturday, November 3, 2007

The Living Fields - The Living Fields

The Living Fields call their music 'epic progressive doom metal'. While this may be a good overall description, it doesn't do justice to the wide variety of musical styles presented on the band's self-titled album. Aside from the predominant doom metal parts of the music, there are elements from black, death, thrash and even a bit of traditional heavy metal, as well as violins, acoustic guitars, the tympani and (somewhat predictably) pianos to name a few non-traditional instruments. The music tends to segue from one style to another, with the only amalgamated styles being death and doom metal. This isn't anything to do with lazy or bad songwriting, simply because there are too many musical elements here to effectively blend more than two styles together.

The Living Fields, similar to Arcturus circa The Sham Mirrors, has a very wide, epic sound to the music, created both by the use and effective placement of pianos, violins and various other classical instruments and the lyrics which deal with worldly issues rather than the personally depressive issues employed by other doom metal bands. The music is labelled by the band as progressive, but that term can be interpreted in plenty of different ways, and this album is a good example of such an interpretation; the music has plenty of progressive tendencies: tempo and time signature changes, thickly layered vocals, a diverse array of instruments and a mountainous pile of musical elements, but I think that the band calls their music progressive on the basis of the last two points rather than because they write extremely complex, technical pieces.

Vocal stand out quite a bit; it seems like there are more vocal styles than musical elements at times. There are Alexi Laiho style screams, black metal shrieks, falsettos closely resembling King Diamond's vocals, throaty rasped growls similar to Dave Vincent's growls, Garm-esque operatic clean vocals and melancholic crooning ala Aaron Stainthorpe. Occasionally there are a few non-layered vocal lines, though most of the time vocals are double, triple and possibly even quadruple tracked vocals combining growls, screams, chants and falsettos. Riffs aren't so easily discernible because of the slew of instruments employed by the band: piercing, mournful pianos and violins in the vein of My Dying Bride, Master's Hammer style tympani accompaniment, acoustic guitars as well as very technical violin fiddling. The riffs I can make out are thick death metal chugs with a doom metal touch, Black Sabbath-esque crunchy straight chords like the ones displayed on 'What is Left Behind' and thrash breaks that sound like something from Metallica's Ride the Lightning. Even though the riffs tend to get overshadowed they still provide an element of heaviness and layering to the music. Drumming is pretty lively and propulsive, not what you'd expect from a standard doom metal band; aside from the standard driving snare and bass 4/4 beats there are odd time signatures, snare rolls, intermittent cymbals crashing along with the bass drums and violins, death metal blast beats and thrashy bass rolls. There are plenty of varying time signatures on the faster songs like 'The Overview Effect' and 'The Soil Giveth', supporting verse lines and breaks with plenty of rolls and fills propelling the music along. The only problem with the music is that there isn't a lot of tone variety; everything is in the mid-range, making the music sound slightly flat and less brilliant than they actually are. Despite this minor flaw, the production is very clean and pretty amazing considering that all three band members live in different parts of the world and have never met one another.

On their self-titled full-length The Living Fields display a sense of direction and vision that many bands take multiple releases to cultivate and to have done all this through long distance collaboration is a spectacular effort. They're one of the most talented new bands to have popped up in recent years, and with the vast array of musical styles displayed, there's something for everyone to enjoy here.

No comments: