Release DetailsLABEL Amaranth Recordings
RELEASED ON 11/29/2004
Rivers of Broken Glass
posted on 11/2004 By:
There are three things you need to know about The Soundbyte’s Rivers of Broken Glass: It’s a very, very good album; it’s as unusual as it is good; and it has very little to do with metal. This is one of those rare albums that has a sound and personality all its own. Difficult to describe and impossible to pin down into a genre, The Soundbyte are content to do their own thing. And when I say difficult to put in a genre, I’m not kidding. One could make an argument that this is rooted in rock, alternative, or metal, and be both completely right and totally wrong. Does it matter? Not really, it’s The Soundbyte, and if you are an adventuresome music lover with diverse tastes, this is an album that deserves attention.
Rivers of Broken Glass is the first album from The Soundbyte, a solo project from The 3rd and the Mortal’s Trond Engum. It’s a lush, expansive affair that manages to incorporate great variety between tracks and still maintain a very consistent feel. Engum blends dark ambient, experimental, and gothic elements, among others, to create a sound that is simultaneously familiar and unique. Much of the charm comes from Engum’s cold, gothic-like vocals. A clear comparison is difficult, sometimes the vocals are a little reminiscent of The Church, and at others someone a bit grittier, like Leonard Cohen. His voice often matches the mood of the music, like the cold, percussive “The Dark”, but just as often his somber tone is contrasted by more upbeat or brighter sounding music. This contradiction gives the songs great personality, and the James Bond theme on X sounding “Waiting” is a track that will be stuck in your head for days. The swaying trumpets and guitar riff is offset by cold, layered vocals that make the song seem darkly exotic. There are also prominent female vocals, sometimes as lead, sometimes as backup for Engum. Although the voice is different, the style is similar to some of PJ Harvey’s work. These vocals are fantastic, and are at their best when used as a moaning, wordless voice like on the Angelo Badalementi tinged “Monyon.”
The genius of Rivers of Broken Glass is that Engum manages to create something that is both unique and entirely listenable. There is nothing truly new or challenging about the music, The Soundbyte are just highly skilled at combining elements in an unconventional way. This dichotomy between dourness and melody makes the compositions sound more complex than they actually are, revealing Engum’s talent for songwriting.
Although The Soundbyte have little in common with most of the other bands reviewed at MetalReview, this is an intriguing album that will appeal to many of the same fans. If you’re an open minded sort with an interest in the unusual, the melancholy Rivers of Broken Glass is a must hear. This is a wonderful find and an album I’ll be listening to for a long time.
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