A FIRE ON THE SEA. REVIEWS 1.
The Doorway shows a significant step forward in song-crafting and manages to roll forward in an almost effortless fashion yet has a serious and epic feel. For all bands the end product is the song and when it works as it should everything serves that end. All too many bands make decisions about who they want to be or what they want to sound like, what type of music they want to play, the image they want to portray etc. and then attempt to write songs to serve all that. On this album, and straight from the lead track through to the end, it sounds like Unsilence has spent the last half a decade serving these songs. There really isnt much point to trying to pigeon hole this genre wise as it does not conform to any set boundaries or sound like any other band. Suffice to say its roots are in doom, it has significant epic feel and qualities and a truckload of melody without being stingy with the metal. In the end it is just Unsilence.
Breaking Away continues all the qualities of the opener with a bit more of a rolling canter to the opening and some later sections. As Im trying to think how to describe these songs after multiple listens a few things occur to me: 1) This is a really cohesive album, these songs fit together and form a contiguous whole 2) All the songs are quite strong enough to stand on their own, you could listen to any one of them and know what youre getting with this album, but there is no sense of repetition or sameness 3) If you listen loud and without distraction each song and the album as a whole will take you places sort of an auditory equivalent to reading George R.R. Martin or Ste:ven Erikson.
I really dont know if it is those qualities or it is just that I plundered by Unsilence song description cupboard bare with my review of the last album, but Im having a very difficult time describing them in a different way. Given that, Im going to roll with the album as a whole approach, which I think given the cohesion works. What you have is 45 minutes of searing, lifting, transporting, epic, doomy, metallic goodness. The melodies and vocal lines inspire the desire to raise fist and sing along, there are head-banging section a-plenty, the musician ship is top shelf and always in service to the song whether in verse, chorus or solo, the production is powerful clear and gives good separation between instruments, the lyrics match the music well and are unspecific enough to leave you room to color in the rest of the journey as youre taken on it.
There arent any standout tracks (though personally Im a bit partial to the title track) for the same reason there arent any dud tracks or filler, the quality is unwavering. I think everyone will find personal favorite songs, or sections of songs, but no one will listen to one song, like it and then be disappointed in the album as a whole.
A damn fine album, which I think Ive
struggled to do justice with this review. If you like your metal doomy,
epic and song oriented you need to lend an ear to this. Unsilence have
now released two great albums in a row. If they can keep up this quality,
Im more than happy to wait another 5 years.
This release from Poland’s Nine Records follows on from the band’s exciting 2009 debut ‘Under A Torn Sky’. It takes Unsilence to a new level, creating deeply touching and emotionally mature slow and heavy music that has the X factor. Not the glitzy, formulaic Simon Cowell type, of course, but a genuine sense of mystery and power. Much of this comes through the larynx of James Kilmurray, whose unique vocals rise and soar like a doomed blend of Michael Stipe and Sinead O’Connor. Twenty years ago, with their original singer Andrew Hodson, Unsilence created some very decent death-doom but, since guitarist Kilmurray stepped up to the mic, the band has really carved itself a niche in the doom underground.
Inspired by the likes of Candlemass and Celtic Frost, Unsilence is the sickly child of Kilmurray and Kieron Tuohey, the latter of whom is also a member of doom prospects The Human Condition, along with drummer Jonathon Gibbs and bassist James Moffatt, both of whom temporarily join him on this recording (following the departure of long-time bass wielder David Elliott). ‘A Fire On The Sea’ was recorded at Full Stack Studio in Lancashire, England, with Matt Richardson handling the engineering duties.
The album features a richer and more balanced sound than the band’s previous recording, which goes hand in hand with a new sense of purpose and dynamism in the songwriting. The seven tracks typically last for six or seven minutes each, and are generally well-conceived and smartly-paced compositions that develop into something glorious. ‘A Thousand Seasons, for example, is a sophisticated and expertly-crafted doom metal opus, while ‘Breaking Away’ provides a sublime ‘otherness’ through the unusual vocals and harmonic genius.
As before, Unsilence are slightly over-reliant on Kilmurray’s voice, which risks suffocating the songs on occasion, and there are times when his over-elaboration proves to be a distraction. Unsilence are at their most potent when the unusual guitar melodies are given their own space to breathe, such as on the opening song ‘The Doorway’. Elsewhere, there are a number of mid-tempo excursions that add an almost stoner-ish hint and help to release some of the rising pressure. Similarly, ‘Old Tides’ is a brief, folky acoustic doom ditty that is an antidote to the claustrophobia, adding an element of surprise like a bunch of depressed wandering milnstrels knocking on your door.
Unsilence’s previous album, ‘A Fire On The Sea’ seems to draw inspiration
from nature’s elements, which inject an inner strength and organic power
to this contemplative collection of top-notch doom metal hymns. Unsilence
are a unique force of nature; they might not get round to releasing new
work very often, but when they do it’s worth the wait. ‘A Fire On The
Sea’ is a quietly magnificent triumph.
In the imagery and in the themes of the band, there is no space for anything devilish or creepy, no pale drug-addicts dressed in black and violet cloaks rolling over mossy tombstones and no dragons or clanging swords populate the doom ballads of this band from Lancashire.
Unsilences own doom is a unique blend of traditional doom à-la-Candlemass and epic, proggy heavy metal with a particular mood often bearing the dark or emotional flavor of traditional, (Celtic?) folk ballads. Album A Fire On The Sea comes about five years after Unsilences long awaited debut ful-length album, Under A Torn Sky.
That album was the fruit of the tormented, and often unlucky, story of the band and of a substantial sequence of fine Eps and demos (dating back from the early 90s to early 2000s) that the band started sharing via Bandcamp recently.
As reported in my interview to bands founder Kieron Tuohey (HERE), after starting as a doom-death band with growled vocals (like in the 1994 demo), Unsilence rapidly adopted clean and intensely melodic vocal style with the first singer Andrew Hodson (already in their 1996 demo). Hence back in the 90s Unsilence actively contributed to building up that intensely introspective stream of the British heavy doom scene together with like-minded Warning (then into doom/slow-core band 40 Watt Sun). Both bands were interconnected as members of both Unsilence and Warning also entered the melodic doom band The River. The line-up of Unsilences new album saw the core members Kieron Tuohey (guitar) and James Kilmurray (vocals/guitar) plus the periodical involvement of former drummer Jonathon Gibbs (also in The River) and the addition of bassist James Moffatt (also in The Human Condition).
A Fire On The Sea was released by the independent Polish label Nine Records during July 2014. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered at Full Stack Studio, Great Harwood, Lancashire by Matt Richardson fronting the sludge metal band Bastard Of The Skies. The recording studio is popular among many UK doom bands and was an excellent choice for getting the desired levels of heaviness and depth of sound. The new album comprises seven tracks for over 45 minutes. Six out of seven songs last over 6 minutes but these numbers wont mean much while youll find yourself spinning the album in a loop, captured by the strength of the riffs, the unique passionate melody and the haunting atmospheres in these incredibly rich and well-crafted ballads. The whole album relies on a smart dynamic songwriting where slower and faster, mid-tempo-paced parts continuously and smoothly alternate, and well-trained musicianship is combined with great inspiration.
While promoting the upcoming album the band had chosen imposing A Thousand Seasons as a teaser track. This one is probably the most mournful song of the album, the only one dominated by a slow-paced rhythm and a markedly funereal mood. In the other long tracks the pace is generally faster. Frequent insertion of tight riff charges and the consequent periodical excursions into pure f***ing heavy epic metal to headbang to would probably relieve the tragic tension created by the leading doom tunes and James Kilmurrays achingly passionate vocals. For example, the opening track The Doorway is no less than a killer slab of flamboyant heavy metal driven by a surprising combination of riffs and masterful interaction between the two guitar players. Breaking Away is another spectacular heavy doom ballad lead by a galloping rhythm and by a melody often reminding of traditional popular chants. Here and elsewhere in the album James particular voice, more powerful than ever before, is occasionally backed by Kierons in some short, charming choirs.
The soft noise of the sea waves and the slowly growing sound of downtuned guitars introduce the title track, an emotional yet martial folkish doom ballad, where the contrast between the aggressive sound of guitars and drums and the searing melody in James chanting is quite sharp and haunting. After the funeral mood of A Thousand Seasons, the track On Wild Fields (the longest one) is probably the most difficult one to pigeonhole for me as to the style. Its a mid-tempo, highly melodic, epic metal ballad yet quite melancholic where vocals are varied: distant, reverbered choirs often interact with James singing. The shortest track, Old Tides (2:47) is a magnificent, delicate acoustic dark folk gem, an intimate interval before the final wave of solemn epic doomy riffs in Unchained.
You may love their style or hate it, but Unsilence are unique and they are original. They crafted and moulded their style over almost two decades but they remained faithful to their old school roots, as their consistent production can testify. Album A Fire On The Sea is surely the result of such development but, for me, it is primarily a magnificent slab of metal, one of the best and most original albums of this year.
You can stream Unsilences new album on the bands own Bandcamp page, where you can also get basically hold of all the previous releases. But for supporting this great band and buying the digital or CD versions of the album you have to go to the labels Bandcamp page.
Review by Marilena Moroni.
OF METAL (NL).
I always thought Unsilence was a fine band,
but a band that follohws others. On previous releases it became clear
they look up to Solstice. That influence is still audible. Its also
clear that A Fire On The Sea is inspired by Warning as well.
You can hear the influence quite well and therefore we cant say
Unsilence is the most original band out there. The compositions and the
delivery of those are all quite good. Fans of epic doom with fragile clean
vocals will definitely dig this.
A FIRE ON THE SEA
A TORN SKY