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Choirs of the Eye

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Reviews

Average Rating
★★★★½
(19 Reviews)

Metal Album Reviews[RSS]

  • The other reviews here give you what you need to know. Kayo Dot has crafted together some of the most lush, experimental, and good music I’ve heard in a long while. The band (now much larger than Maudlin of the Well with the addition of symphonic players) plays around with different structures than the typical Verse/Chorus found in pop music, as well as musical arrangements.

    Don’t pay any heed to Blarno’s review. The guy’s an idiot. I mean, he’s actually suggesting the radio friendly sounds of linkin Park are “intelligent” and “extreme.” I think that says enough for his review.

    Posted on December 25, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • Maudlin of the Well were one of the most brilliant and tragically overlooked metal bands to ever walk the earth. They only made three albums, all of which are somewhat difficult to find now, and thus the band’s brilliance seems to have gone mostly unnoticed, even among avid metal fans. However, all is not lost. Continuing under the name Kayo Dot, the mad, eccentric genius of Toby Driver and the rest have continued to push the boundaries of music farther than ever before.

    If you are lucky enough to have heard MotW, but haven’t gotten here yet (in which case shame on you, but that’s ok), this is something very different. While Maudlin were more of an eclectic progressive death metal type band (think Opeth, taken to the next level), this album mostly diles down the metal influence, and draws more from post rock, and avant-garde jazz and classical music. The songs are long and epic, ranging from tranquil moments of beauty, to crashing walls of noise. This is best exemplified in the opening track, “Marathon”, which effortlessly goes from peaceful melodies to impentrable blurs of distortion. While music such as this could potentially seem messy and disjointed, these guys weave everything together so perfectly, the changes are so gradual and natural, you hardly even think about it. The use of additional instruments, such as horns and violin (the latter of which is contributed by Toby’s lovely girlfriend Mia) add even more the insanely dense textures of sound.

    “A Pitcher of Summer” is about the closest thing to a “normal” song you’ll get here. At about 5 minutes, it’s only about half the length of the rest of the songs, and is generally much simpler, and more melodic. It’s mostly acoustic, with the occasional electric guitars rising from the fog, with Toby’s gentle and mournful vocals hanging over like a ghostly haze. “The Manifold Curiosity” is worth a mention as well, with a buildup so gradual you never see it coming until it’s right upon you. Beginning soft and atmospheric, with swirling patterns of violins and acoustic guitars, it finally erupts into a maelstrom of metallic noise in the final minutes. Toby’s grindcore-ish vocals mimic that of a tortured soul screaming from the depths of hell. I could easily be swayed into believing that the band’s intentions in making this song were to lull the listener into a state of comfort, and just when you’re drifting into a peaceful sleep, you’re suddenly jarred awake, and get the living crap scared out of you. Pretty cool, I say.

    Because Amazon unfortunately doesn’t carry MotW’s albums, I feel compelled to discuss Toby Driver a bit more. In addition to being an insane composer, he also has one of the most incredible voices I’ve ever heard. Here, his vocals are used a bit more minimally, but once you hear Maudlin, you hear the full range of what he’s capable of. He can go from the gentlest, indie rock type vocals, to frightening growls and screams. It’s rare that a singer can conform so perfectly to so many starkly contrasting styles.

    Anyway, while Kayo Dot are not for everyone, they are a must-hear for those who want something interesting and unusual. And, even moreso, I recommend hunting down all 3 MotW albums, as they are all beyond stellar (I believe you can still get them on Kayo Dot’s website, and maybe Amazon will get them one of these days). Either way, hunt them down by any means necessary. More people really need to hear this band.

    As for me, I have yet to buy Kayo Dot’s sophomore release, or Toby’s solo album, but from what I’ve heard from each, it sounds as though he won’t run out of cool ideas any time soon.

    Posted on December 25, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I don’t even know how to write a review for this album. First of all, if you’re looking at this, and you haven’t checked out maudlin of the Well yet, check them out. They were an amazing progressive metal (loosely) band whose compositions continue to amaze me with their creativity and excellence. Also, the members of motW formed the new project, Kayo Dot, and though it has a different sound and some new members, slight similarities can be heard here and there. Like motW, the compositions are incredible, but as other reviewers have said, it’s much more abstract. That’s why I suggest getting some motW first (unfortunately not sold on amazon, and even hard to find otherwise…but try, damn you!).

    This album has 5 compositions, all over 10 minutes except for “A Pitcher of Summer”. Each one has to be given repeated listenings, because they’re all pretty complex, and you notice new things about each one each time (especially in headphones). “Marathon” begins with a guitar chord hit repeatedly with a free-ish jazz rhythmic feel, and electronic sample, and implications of atonality. Then it quiets down to a beautifully composed French horn melody. After this it explodes into chaotic, atonal, free metal with screaming and gurgling vocals. It goes into a quick riff based section, and then quiets down for the rest of the song in a keyboards and guitar jazzy outro. The poetry at the end is really nice too.

    That’s just one song, and I didn’t describe it that well either. “A Pitcher of Summer” somewhat resembles a normal song, but then again, not really. There’s some really pretty guitar playing in this one, as well as some beautiful, Buckley-esque singing from Toby (until the end where it explodes into a loud part). “The Manifold Curiosity” is possibly my favorite from this album. There are many explosions of melody on several different instruments at once, which can be harsh at first, but now I find it pretty powerful. There’s also pretty slow sections, gorgeous violins, and a chaotic, Converge-esque ending. The end of this song is one of the heaviest, loudest, craziest things I’ve heard in awhile.

    Kayo Dot are true musical pioneers. They’re really thinking outside the box with this album. If you want a band that has a really unique approach to music, I think you’ve found it. I don’t listen to much classical, but the description of the album said that they’ve taken a classical compositional approach, but used elements more common to rock and metal. That sounds about right too me, but I hear elements of folk, jazz, and indie rock as well.

    It blows me away every time I hear it.

    Posted on December 25, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • I’ve been a huge fan of Maudlin of the Well for awhile now and have been anticipating on this release ever since I heard Maudlin of The Well would become Kayo Dot. When I first listened to this album, it was a lot to swallow on my first listen. The music is unpredictable and that’s exactly why I think it’s brilliant. With only five tracks, the band accomplishes more musically than any other band with ten or twentey songs in a CD.I’m sure a lot of metal elitists or anybody else that’s impatient would say the music is kinda slow moving. This slow motion creates a rich lucious doomy atmosphere that settles in your head then later hits you with something you didn’t expect, similar to the band Isis but more diverse, using different genres. The first track, “Marathon”, gets heavy after two minutes, then goes back to its slow moving music that eases your nerves, then all of a sudden, BAM!, it hits you with more heavyier music again and beautiful singing.Second, there’s, “A Pitcher of Summer”, the shortest song at five minutes, a calm song with no real sense of structure, when the instruments are starting to pick up, they start trailing away in the begining, then it inevitably builds up with a haunting chorus. The song gets louder towards the closing. There’s a good measure of where to put hard or soft parts in the music. This song kind of reminded me of Radiohead’s song, “High and Dry” cause of the style of singing.”The Manifold Curiosity” is the third song, with a lot to discover each time you listen, such as different instruments or vocal passages. In about four minutes into the song, there’s an explosion of melody using numerous instruments, I don’t think any other band is even capable of creating something that sounds like it cause of the variety of instruments being used. At the end of this song, the band creates an intense chaotic blizzard of sound similar to what you’d hear in Strapping Young Lad’s album, City, and the singer screams with a burning rage, like the singer in the Metalcore/Grindcore band, Converge, very heavy and reminds us that this band does use metal in their art.Track four, “Wayfarer”, is a song that transforms from eerie to lovely, with screeching violins that sound like they’re being used for a horror movie and dramatic singing. There’s a really good solo in this song too.And now for the last track, “Antique”, the song that gets as heavy as Dillinger Escape Plan and also ends up being kind of like a piano ballad song at the end. One thing I’ve noticed in Kayo Dot compared to Maudlin of the Well is there wasn’t that mush jazz elements, Maudlin of the Well was very jazzy. This new stuff is like Prog/Art rock, Doom Metal, Easy Listening, and Indie Rock, all with the band’s own unique twist. I think everybody should give the album a shot and not judge it on the first listen since there’s something new to find and appreciate in the music with each listen.

    Posted on December 25, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now
  • “Marathon” opens with a splatter of cymbals and oddly-tuned guitar being forcefully strummed. Then melancholy French horn wisps over strange tape effects, until heavily distorted electric guitars crash through this brief tranquility with gurgling, incomprehensible vocals and screaming, underlain with bright, pulsing Ligeti-like tone clusters. A long instrumental stretch follows, with Rhodes and echoic guitar spreading like shimmering liquid crystal flowing out of a decanter, colored with quiet jazzy drumming distantly heard in the background. Some quietly spoken vocals appear like a ghost lost amidst the lush tapestry of sound, accompanied by humming electronics. It is a tremendously beautiful series of sound evolutions and, at the 10-minute mark when it ends, you can’t help but feel that you’re being taken somewhere that is musically very different from that which has come before.This is pretty, well, DIFFERENT, even when you consider Kayo Dot’s previous incarnation, maudlin of the Well, was a pretty “out there” band. On the one hand is feels like a natural extension of motW’s progressions, but this is thoroughly more compositional and elaborate. But perhaps we could do with some more explanation. Maudlin of the Well was a startlingly original band that released three albums on the Dark Symphonies label, and even after all this time, I struggle to describe their music. It was rooted in metal, but with an ear for arrangement and complexity that transcended above the rest. Various influences from psychedelic rock, jazz, and classical music could be deciphered but the musical qualities were so well integrated that you wouldn’t call it a “mix” of anything. It was simply maudlin of the Well (Toby Driver adopted the term “astral metal” to describe the band), mostly beyond reference to other groups and styles just because any comparison would be unfair and inaccurate.Now, to Kayo Dot. motW came to feel that their future course in music was no longer suited to Dark Symphonies, and they wound up changing their name and signing to John Zorn’s label, Tzadik (!). Compared to motW, the _Choirs of the Eye_ is different and similar at once. Like motW, it is epic, eclectic, carefully composed and completely unlike anything else. Unlike motW, it is not song-based (except “A Pitcher of Summer”), and it is denser, more complex, and abstract. Kayo Dot is basically a locus between the world of modern composition and rock & metal, although metal itself is a dubious title. The music is not riff-based and lacks much visceral drive. So, I guess, this cannot be described as anything but Kayo Dot. They have created their own little world in the grand scheme of music. There is one important thing to keep in mind: Tzadik’s catalogue is incredibly diverse and one should not take the association with John Zorn to mean anything in particular, other than the fact that this band’s creative freedom is completely unfurled. I think I would quickly go over Amazon’s word limit if I were to describe each piece. Only “A Pitcher of Summer” is under six minutes, while each of the other tracks range from 10 to 15 minutes. Each one is a sprawling epic, full of changes and meticulous compositional attention — the realization of Toby Driver’s musical vision is so successful it saddens me that this is will only appeal to a niche audience (motW fans and… um…). And the diversity is nothing short of remarkable: “A Pitcher of Summer” is a delicate ballad with Toby Driver’s voice sounding curiously like Jeff Buckley, at least until his scream at the end with the blaring horns and booming din of distorted guitars — “The Antique” has a section of roaring doom metal onslaught, with growling vocals that sound a soul trapped in the frigid breath of winter, until the clamor breaks down, replaced by scintillating piano and gritty, sustained guitar wailing over it — there are romantic string and woodwind figures in “Wayfarer” and also a flesh-rending guitar solo — a ravishing clarinet solo soars over the other instruments on “The Manifold Curiosity”, a song that eventually reaches a stunningly powerful climax of metal fury that would leave most metal bands trembling (it’s not necessarily the most heavy music, but it’s incredibly *powerful*).Time and time again, listening to this album since its release back in October 2003 reveals new things — internally and externally — and I believe this is a very special masterpiece from a very special group of musicians. Very very highly recommended.

    Posted on December 25, 2009 - Permalink - Buy Now