Release DetailsLABEL N/A
RELEASED ON 11/21/2006
Smoke and Origination
posted on 12/2006 By:
I’m all for breaking out of comfort zones, and Smoke And Origination from Ontario’s one-man band Christopher is about as far removed from what I’m used to listening to as you can imagine. Perhaps it was for the best that his quest to become Poisonblack’s singer never came to fruition. All things for a reason, possibly? After the initial shock wears off, the stylistic departure Christopher presents might not go over very well with the crowd here, but a little patience will pay off as Smoke And Origination's quality begins to emanate in a way that is valid to metal, albeit barely, and is also quite good in and of itself.
It isn’t easy to digest at first, and metallic leanings only play a supportive role overall. Instead, atmospheric electronica is the main course, highlighted by Christopher’s breathy, smooth-as-glass vocal melodies. The album delves wholeheartedly and unapologetically into world music structure, with the arrangements flowing from one part to the next smoothly, limited in strict repetition yet still focused from a songwriting standpoint. When metal does make an appearance, it is usually in the form of eclectic leads, or surprisingly, a teasingly heavy bottom-end (“Frailty Scan”).
The steady, rhythmic pulse of “The Following Vision Was Staged” exemplifies the abstruse mixing of the aesthetic found on Ulver’s Blood Inside, with a lighter sounding Empire-era Queensryche, along with a few darker urban synth elements. The production is even better than that of acts with a much, much larger budget to work with, and complements Christopher’s music perfectly with a slick, airtight sheen. Awash in sound effects, acoustics, and gentle tribal percussion, along with vocals which test the strength of the human scrotum with an unbelievably spacious range in both tone and note span, the near-eleven minute “Spaghetti Terrorist” alone is one of the most gracefully epic pieces of work I’ve heard to close out the year. It escapes me as to how some have labeled something so sophisticated with the ‘industrial’ tag.
Some of it could be Bowie. Some of it sounds a little like Bauhaus, even approaching the attitudinal cynicism of Gary Numan or Marc Almond on “Sharp Knives”. The pure nature of such music doesn’t lend itself to being mere background music, yet something about the sprawling nature of this disc eventually takes away from the impact of the high-quality songwriting. It sounds a bit overdone, honestly, but the music itself is never anything less than classy, and the majestic “An Addendum” puts on a clinic in statuesque Novembre type balladry, with a vocal performance that makes me think this dude has probably sung more pitch-perfect Queen tunes better than any dozen cover bands paying tribute that legendary outfit.
Smoke And Origination is at once somnolent, avant-garde, animated, and overambitious. It could also very easily go over a lot of people’s heads since nothing here really is directed at appealing to an extremist metalhead. Even as an acquired taste directed at a niche audience, and despite the somewhat overwrought scope of this endeavor, Christopher has provided a decent ‘escape’ album for what it’s worth. My compliments, but it took a bit of working to get to that point. Definitely not an easy sell.
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