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(49:56; Metal Rocka Recordings)
TRACK LIST: 1. Retrogression 1:28 2. The Cradle Song 8:25 3. Mister Babadook 5:29 4. Daisy Chains 3:08 5. Broken Toys 3:39 6. Imago 5:04 7. A Goodnight Shot 4:13 8. Burn the Witch 6:37 9. Catch Me If You Can 4:41 10. The Verdict 1:24 11. Shadows 5:48 LINEUP : Psychoberrie - vocals, keyboards Dr. Von Stottenstein - guitars, vocals Wolfy Huntsman - bass, vocals with: Martin Crawley - keyboards, accordion, arrangements John Badger - drums, effects Anabelle Iratni - vocals Russ Custard - vocals Matilda Stott - vocals Lorien Stott - vocals Chris Barton - voice Steve Walker - voice
Prolusion. UK band WARD XVI has been around in one form or another ever since 2013, but spent a few years developing as a band before releasing their debut concept album "The Art of Manipulation" in 2017. This album and subsequent touring and concert dates secured the band a growing reputation, and in 2020 they released their second concept album "Metamorphosis" on the label Off Yer Rocka Recordings imprint Metal Rocka Recordings.
Analysis. Dealing with concept albums can be a tricky deal, and handling a story line that carries over from one album to the next can be even more challenging. In this case, thankfully, Ward XVI have chosen to do so in a manner that doesn't warrant you to know the contents of the initial chapter of this story. Knowing the contents of the first album may make you shift the perspective of what you listen to from a lyrical standpoint ever so slightly I guess, but that isn't really an important point here. The story told works well, and combines very nicely with the music to create quite the stunning moods and atmospheres. The music, like the story, takes it's time to go into full bloom however. As this is a story from infancy to adulthood or thereabouts, the moods, atmospheres and arrangements used reflects this throughout as well, opening with a childlike innocence and concluding in a more twisted, passionate anger, range and fear more befitting of a more adult person. A lot of thought has gone into how this album develops on all levels, up to and including synergy between music, lyrics, intensity and even use of tonal scales. The latter of which is explored most hauntingly on several occasions, but perhaps more prominently on the very appropriate Middle east and possible Arabian sounds used on the song 'Burn the Witch'. The use of atmospheric elements is at times brilliant throughout, with instruments carefully applied to conjure eerie and ominous moods, whispered voices, dampened shots and cries, angelic and hellish floating non-verbal vocal textures, electronic noises and other elements employed in subtle and at times amazingly effective manners. Instrument motifs, sounds and effects repeated is put to very good use as well, be it as direct repetitions or as recurring affairs where the sounds are altered and twisted to suit the specific purposes of the song and lyrics at hand. The sounds from a musical wind-up toy (performed on a glockenspiel perhaps) can be mentioned, an eerie sickly circus like motif as well, and a kind of an oom-pah meets boogie motif too. These examples are mentioned as arguably the most prominent examples among many. In terms of style we are talking about metal here by the way, and due to the details described in some length above my perhaps obvious conclusion is that this is a progressive metal album. Probably not in a traditional sense or following any typical traits of the genre, but then again: Being unconventional is a progressive feature, isn't it? Hence those looking for the next Dream Theater or Fates Warning can safely look elsewhere, while those that desire something a bit out of left field should feel right at home here. That the concept explored revolves around a mother/daughter relationship is also a feature I note down as perhaps not the most typical of subject matters, and the word dysfunctional probably merits a mention in this context too I presume.
Conclusion. "Metamorphosis" strikes me as one of the most well thought out concept albums I have come across for quite some time. The manner in which the lyrics and the music are tightly interwoven can be most impressive at times, frequently reaching points of perfection and brilliance. The songs are well thought out too, with ample variation, clever use of dramatic effects, and with a stellar performance by lead vocalist Psychoberrie: If she hasn't considered acting in a professional manner she should, at least as a voice actor. A really well made and unconventional example of progressive metal, and one very well worth to seek out in my opinion.
Progmessor: March 2021
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