I keep feeling like hindsight is going to bite me in the ass here. What we have is one odd duck of an album; a pretty unique splicing of off-kilter, Voivodian song structures, crossed with somber, somewhat prosaic passages reminiscent of Agalloch or mid period Opeth. Sounds pretty awesome on paper, doesn't it? Too bad it isn't that simple!
In actuality, "Philosopher" is a pretty ambitious, yet somewhat flawed work. To me, the problem lies in the conceptual, not in the execution. To give credit where credit is due, these guys are phenomenal musicians. Not to downplay the guitarist, but in particular, the rhythm section is like clockwork, just dead on, all the time. The bassist is just a monster; his basslines are hard-hitting and inventive, and his tone is to die for - evocative of Yes's Chris Squire's mid-rangy punch. Also featured is Alex Hernandez on drums, fresh from his departure from Immolation. While his talent will be missed in Immolation, it's a treat to hear him expand his abilities outside the context of death metal. (FYI, Immolation is truly THE Death Metal band for the discriminating metal head. Do yourself a favor and check them out if you haven't already)
It is also important to note that the production on this album is stellar. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that this is one of the best sounding recordings I've heard in a long time. I think what I like the most about it is that it doesn't have the sonic fingerprints of some trendy, "metal-producer-of-the-moment" smeared all over it. It's just a clear representation of the music, elegant due to its simplicity and clarity. I guess my main problem with this album is that Requiem Aeternam suffers from what I'll call the "hybrid metal band syndrome". You probably already know what sort of band I'm talking about - in a misguided attempted at diversity, band X throws every stylistic element but the proverbial kitchen sink into their musical stew. I will admit, there are some bands that do this well, so I'm not completely running down this songwriting approach. However, a lot of bands use this method as a shortcut to creativity, trying to be all things to all people all of the time. Also, not every riff you write is going to be gold, and these bands I'm referring to all need to learn the discipline of self-editing.
Who knows? This may be an album ahead of its time, and a couple months down the road, I'll be digging this with a spoon. However, in order for Requiem Aeternam to become the true powerhouse that I believe they have the potential to be, they need to learn a bit about restraint in order to capitalize on their strengths.
--Timmy D. 03.08.05
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