posted on 3/2008 By:
To be honest, I have no idea how the hell to label a band like Germany's Island. Progressive death metal? I suppose that's about right. The Orakel side of this release certainly maintains a number of death metal elements, but the band's later material -- the Island EP generously tacked on to the end of this release -- strays from the brutal blueprint into something I suppose I'd just have to call...progressive metal? Nope, that doesn't really work either; this is definitely not music painted from the same palate as say, Fates Warning, Pain of Salvation, et al.
Ugh. Labels can be such a fucking bane. Island play progressive heavy music that swirls in loads of discordant measures with sporadic flashes of bludgeoning brutality, schizophrenic pinches and stretches of quiet, jangly moments that are often quite beautiful. And this old dog is definitely investigating the hydrant these fellers have marked; this release does an excellent job of melding multiple styles into something that's wholly enjoyable and undoubtedly worthy of fans of progressive extreme music. There you go. There's the 10cent review. Read further if you need more particulars...
The first six tracks of this disc represent Island's inaugural endeavor, 2004's Orakel, and stands as a fine example of a band putting their best foot forward. This is some heavy shit right here, folks, and it's gonna land you all over the bloody map. "Journey Through the Jewel", "River Source", "Grund", "Ueber Dem Thai" and the untitled sixth cut all bend and cut through multiple moods and meters, but the general idea is to basically beat-the-living-shit-out when things are heavy and fairly mechanical (some clobbering riffs and RUMbling bass lines when this bastard's death metallish), lull into a fidgety calm when things are discordant and Sonic Youth-like (honestly, you could substitute the Sonic Youth influence with any of the more angular, divergent bands of yore, but S.Y. are undoubtedly the lords of jagged strumming), and occasionally drift into junctures of complete serenity when things are at their most quiet (check the absolutely beautiful acoustic layering on the instrumental self-titled track). The gruff hollerin' found throughout Orakel is also tempered very nicely with generous doses of well-executed clean vocals akin to something latter-era Enslaved might do. Hell, we even hear smidges of Deathspell Omega when things are at their most schizophrenic, accelerated pace (the beginning of track six, for example). In essence, Orakel's all over the metal map, but the transitions are really quite seamless, and the harsh and pastoral play off one another beautifully throughout the record.
2005's Island EP rounds out the last portion of this disc (tracks 7-9), and while it's obviously cut from the same band, it's missing much of the cutting urgency and brutality found throughout the earlier material. The harsh vocals are essentially gone (save for some screaming towards the end of "Veritas"), and things are a little more direct with less complexity. Certainly not bad, mind you, but here's to hoping the guys find some sort of heinous influence to ensure future material refocuses on the gratifying contrast between the ferocious and the mild.
The lines continue to blur as heavy metal endures and forges ever forward, folks. And while it's comforting to know that we still have plenty of artists, old and new, with their roots firmly set in nothing but good ol' tradition (thankfully, we'll never have to worry about hearing funky slap-bass on a Sodom record, and it's highly unlikely that Cannibal Corpse will ever tug at our heartstrings with the sound of a lonesome pedal steel), it's refreshing to see artists flexing their inventiveness to help keep the engines fresh; something Island manages to do very, very well. Experimentation, when done intelligently, is most welcome in my book, and our friends at Vendlus Records have once again uncorked a fine gem with Island's Orakel. Certainly worthy of your hard-earned cash.
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