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(55:40, Altrock Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. QXP-13 Space Modulator 3:53 2. Eat a Bag of DiX 5:14 3. Hapax Legomena 4:51 4. Nocturne op.33 4:19 5. The Cascades 6:45 6. Snack(s) the Song 7:17 7. Osedax 6:21 8. Mymaridae 6:30 9. Variety Pack 2:55 10. Fairies Wear Boots 7:35 LINEUP: Wally Scharold – guitars; vocals; keyboards; percussion Matt Lebofsky – bass; vocals; keyboards; percussion Carolyn Walter – clarinets, saxophones, bassoon Jamison Smeltz – saxophones Matt Guggemos – drums Travis Andrews – guitars
Prolusion. The US band MIRTHKON was formed sometime in the late ‘90s, but did not stabilize as a band unit until the mid 2000s. They released their debut album "Vehicle" in 2009, following some initial EP productions. "Snack(s)" is their second studio album, released through Altrock Records in 2013.
Analysis. The avant-garde section of the progressive rock universe is an expansive and diverse one, and Mirthkon is one of the bands that are most active in the metal-oriented parts of that universe. You need a taste for monumental guitar riffs and feisty soloing to be able to enjoy their material, but just as important is a certain taste for jazz. When that is said, this isn't a band that can be described as jazz metal as such either. They do incorporate some jazz-oriented details true enough, but they do so in a rather different manner. While you can't deny the metal foundation this band has, the most important instruments throughout aren't ones with any tradition to speak of in the realm of metal. Saxophones and clarinets are vital ingredients to the sound of this band, and you might say that just about everything is built up to complement those instruments. This is exaggerating matters just a bit of course, but the flamboyant, dramatic and dominant sounds of clarinets and saxophones on different constellations are key ingredients throughout, and the main contributors to the jazz-oriented side of this band's repertoire as well. The manner in which these instruments are explored have more in common with chamber rock than jazz, however, and in terms of categorizations you might describe Mirthkon as daring explorers of chamber metal. Beneath the flamboyant reeds, bass and drums are active contributors to the proceedings, often fairly intense at that, while the guitarists supply monumental massive riffs, quirky and technically challenging scale runs, free-form gentler excursions as well as calmler, plucked motifs, often combining two or more of these modes of expression and also supplementing with a great number of additional details. Intense soloing and a bit of shredding can find their way into these excursions too, but no matter what angle the band takes on their material, the compositions tend to come across as challenging and demanding creations, of the kind where the use of atonal details and chaotic soundscapes are just as natural as the sole instance of chamber metal, flavored with Kraftwerk tendencies, you'll find on Snack(s) - the Song. I don't know any bands I can readily compare this one with, as I'm not all that well versed in the field of avant-metal, but Mirthkon comes across as a high-quality act whether they share certain traits with other artists or not. A lot of thought has gone into this production, up to and including a nice and original booklet with fun artwork that may or may not be a sardonic commentary on certain aspects of the daily life in the US. Be that as it may be, this is still a high-quality recording by a high quality band.
Conclusion. Adventurous avant-garde metal is what Mirthkon explores on their second studio production "Snack(s)", with roots in heavy metal, thrash, chamber rock and jazz. The compositions are generally intense, challenging and quirky affairs, music that demands much from the listener and most likely quite a lot from the performers too. If technically challenging. RIO-flavored, avant metal sounds like something that might interest you, Mirthkon is a band that merits an inspection, and "Snack(s)" comes across as an album that represents this band fairly well.
OMB=Olav M Bjornsen: December 5, 2014
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