CD Review: “Alba” by Sleeping Romance

Sleeping Romance’s sophomore effort, Alba, is prime with heavy riffs and soaring operatic vocals. “Where The Light Is Bleeding” is a crushing track with pounding guitar riffs interspersed with piano and strings that accentuates the somber mood of this song. “Lost In My Eyes” is a fast paced catchy tune with intricate guitar harmonies that are both beautiful and haunting. Vocalist Federica Lanna’s voice is so serene yet powerful as she sings of fighting to uncover the truth. “Touch The Sun” continues the theme of self-discovery and determination. Musically, the song is groove oriented and features horns during the track’s midsection. “Forgiveness” is one of the longest songs on Alba and the centerpiece. A song about a scorned former lover, the emotional content of the lyrics makes way for a musical roller coaster of baroque riffs and guitar virtuosity. “Across The Sea” is a placid ballad that paints a picture of a crew resting for the night as the ship sails to its next destination. The title track is the penultimate song and barges in like an army through the gates of its enemy’s castle. The rolling percussion crashes like a battering ram while the guitars are lockstep in the melee. The unorthodox rhythm changes on the song add to the chaos making this a thrilling track from beginning to end.

This record is notable for its superb musicianship and songwriting. I have stated numerous times that symphonic and power metal bands are infamous for crafting pretentious compositions that go nowhere. That is not the case on Alba, as the songs are catchy but maintain a degree of complexity. The duel guitar attack of Truzzi Federico and Fabrizio Incao is both pulverizing and grandiose. Lanna’s vocals are strong and coherent and complements the sonic assault backing her.

Alba is a very good record and perfect for the season. There is a cold, rigid emotion on this album which makes it suitable for the Autumn and Winter. The album is somewhat accessible for casual fans of metal, although some tracks are fairly heavy. That being said, fans of Delain, Xandria or Serenity should definitely check this album out.

For news and tour dates check out the band’s website:

http://www.sleeping-romance.com/

CD Review: ‘An Outsider’ by Rhine

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Six months ago I was elated with the discovery of Rhine’s debut album, Duality, which enthralled me more than any other progressive death metal release had done in years.  I even had the honor of speaking with founder and frontman, Gabriel Tachell, digging deeper into the LP which he had written, performed, and produced single-handedly.  Now, here I sit with an advanced copy of Rhine’s sophomore release, An Outsider, which will hit music stands Feb. 5, 2016, elated once again.  Tachell has managed to conjure up a collection of tracks that take the edges of Duality and expand them, with deeper lows, groovier rhythms, and even more magnificent melodies.

If I had to vote on one song that best captures this entire album, it would undoubtedly be the initial track, “Dreaming Of Death.”  With its breathy, ominous opening; its shifting set of nail-pounding riffs; and its flowing landscape of moods, it captures much of what has made me love Rhine.  Tachell’s voice switches back and forth between pleasantly clean vocals, guttural bellows, as well as shrieks which bring to mind Coroner’s Roy Royce.  Yet, towards the end we’re carried away on a wave of acoustic guitars coupled sparsely with piano and orchestral strings, airing at times towards sounds of early Opeth.  Next thing you know, we’re surrounded by an uplifting, cathartic climax of instrumentation which throws us off the cusp into the ocean of the rest of the album.

One might wonder how things could possibly get better after such a stunning showcase.  Yet, whether we’re talking about the heart-melting guitar solo from “Spell Of Dark Water;” the eerie organ-work in “Somewhere;” or the regal horn/harpsichord section of “P.R.E.Y.,” which surely must herald the coming of a Wall Of Death at live shows, each manages to be a Grade A Prime Cut.  If the last mention didn’t alert you, even the unabashed humor has made a return.  This is most noticeable on the track “Into The Unknown,” which features a trade-off between brutally harsh vocals and Tachell’s frolicking falsetto, not to mention…well, I don’t want to spoil everything!  Just be prepared.

An Outsider is an extremely diverse offering, combining tongue-in-cheek moments with extremely serious and bleak subject matter.  Our ears may hear a circus-esque piece of instrumentation and later hear lyrics such as “it’s hard to want to live just to die.” As life blends randomly moments of joy and sorrow, so Tachell blends seemingly disagreeable tones and moods into a musical landscape.  And you know what?  It’s superbly done.  An Outsider is a grand release that will undoubtedly lead Rhine to some deserved recognition.

Pre-Order/Buy An Outsider here: From The Band

For more on Rhine, visit:
Official Website
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Bandcamp

Interview: Gabriel Tachell of Rhine

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When I first heard his one-man debut album, Duality, I was as struck as during my initial listen of Opeth’s Blackwater Park. Who was this musical wonder and how was I just finding out about him?  So I wrote to the man behind the Seattle progressive death metal band Rhine, frontman and guitarist Gabriel Tachell, and I decided to ask him a few questions. He graciously answered them in full and I’ve enjoyed what he’s had to say. Join me as we talk about how the band came to open for the legendary Sepultura, cabbages, and the group’s second album which is currently in the works!

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I’m interested to hear about the origins of the band. What was the intention when you began Rhine, and where did the name come from?

Well, I guess my intentions have always been to make interesting music that draws from all of my musical influences and life experiences. To make good sounding albums that are unique, pushing some boundaries, and can hopefully reach people and inspire them the same way I’ve been inspired by my favorite artists. I’m also trying to create a place that I enjoy being in. That’s kind of how I think about music. I listen to an epic Devin Townsend or Opeth record with headphones and it really takes me somewhere emotionally and creates associations with places and imagery.

The name is taken from the river Rhine for a few reasons, one being that I just think it sounds cool. It’s a single word name that is easy to remember and it’s pretty ambiguous, it doesn’t scream out “death metal.” Personally, I’m very drawn to water and spent a lot of time in rivers growing up, and then there’s also the fact that I lived in Germany for all of my elementary school years, and have fond memories of that part of the world.

Rhine at Flights Pub in January 2015.

Rhine at Flights Pub in January 2015.

Rhine’s debut album, Duality, was really a one-man show. What are some of the moments of creating that album that stand out to you?

It was a pretty frustrating and tedious process, but I learned a lot. One of the cool things was this sound booth I built, mainly to feel comfortable singing without being heard. At that point in my life I had never performed metal music live or been a front man for a band, and I was living with friends who weren’t exactly into metal, so I was pretty shy about being heard. In the room I was renting, I built a 4ft x 6ft isolation booth with double walls. I could literally scream as loud as possible in there with my roommates right outside the room watching TV, and they couldn’t hear a thing. I covered it with black canvas inside and had it lit by a red light bulb. It was a quiet, dark little space for me to get crazy in.

Lyrically, what was the focus of your first release? What should people take away from the listening experience?

The theme of “duality” isn’t strictly adhered to throughout the record. But the idea of duality is something I think about a lot. The balance of good and evil in the world, happiness and sadness, dark and light. The last song explores that theme the most I’d say, moving through happy sounding parts and dark sounding, evil, sad etc. All the songs vary a lot lyrically, some are nonsense, some are politically driven, there’s some cheesy gore, apocalyptic fantasy, social anxiety, satire, whatever. Some people just like the sound of the music without being able to understand the words. I’m like that sometimes. With some songs the lyrics and music evolve together and really click, and sometimes I just write instrumentals first, then try to write words that describe the “environment” the music has already created.  I generally prefer music with vocals because they add more emotion, and sometimes you can just make sounds with your mouth and that’s all it takes to get the point across, words are just sounds anyways. That’s something I’ve always thought Devin Townsend was good at, you listen to his albums and you hear all these ooohs and ahhs and stuff going on in the background, all this wordless vocalising. I’m more interested in people taking away the big picture, the vibe, not the specific meaning of each song.

Rhine - Duality CoverThe album cover for Duality looks like it could be a Rorschach ink blot test or a demonic Mickey Mouse. What is the real idea behind the image?

The idea came from me cutting a cabbage in half to make some sauerkraut and noticing how beautiful the inside was, so I stuck it on a scanner and had some fun in Photoshop. I manipulated it in a way that there’s a mirror image thing happening, trying to keep with the theme of duality, and now when you look at it you can see other images the patterns have created, the most obvious being a kind of “moth” shape, or for you a demonic Mickey Mouse, haha.

Rhine recently opened up for Sepultura at Studio Seven in Seattle. Can you tell us how that event came together and give us some memories of the evening?

It was really fun. Our bass player broke his low B string in the second song, and my volume pedal was half way off cutting my gain way down for the first two songs before I figured out what was up, but the energy was still great. A lot of venues add local bands to open for touring acts. We ask for gigs like this all the time, and this one came through.

Who are the current members of Rhine?  How did the band’s present line-up come to fruition?

We’ve got Carlos on drums, Alex on guitar, James on bass, and I do guitar/vocals. James has been a friend of mine for almost 10 years, and he’s been on board to play with me since I started looking for band members. Alex and I hooked up through craigslist and turned out to know some of the same people in other bands. He helped me audition a handful of drummers before we found Carlos, also on craigslist. Once we met him we were playing our first show within 4 months. All great guys and good friends. James is from the northwest. Alex and Carlos are both East Coast transplants. Carlos is actually from Nicaragua originally and immigrated to Florida with his family when he was 11.

The band is currently working on its sophomore release. What can we expect from the new album? Can you fill us in on any details to sate our curiosities?

You can expect improved production quality, better singing (especially clean vocals), and just greater musicianship overall. I personally think the music is becoming more original sounding, also much more progressive on this record. There were originally going to be three tracks that are over 10 minutes long, but I cut one of them out because I want to save it and turn it into an epic 30-40 minute long song like Edge of Sanity’s “Crimson.” That song also happened to be the working title track for the album, so now I’m still working out a new album title. But yeah, I’m really happy with the new material; there’s some really sweet melodies and rhythmic play as well as really dissonant odd time stuff.

Since Duality was really something of a solo album, how does the new release differ in its writing dynamic?

A lot of the writing for this record actually happened the year after I released Duality, long before the band became a real thing. I got side tracked for a while, living in the UK with my girlfriend for a year, then coming back and joining an experimental/prog rock-ish band called Alex’s Hand that I worked on two albums with. I also released a short electronic record at some point there too. Rhine got put on hold for a while, but after I left Alex’s Hand I got serious about recording again. We had a hard time finding a drummer, so I actually hired a session drummer from Vancouver, BC, named Sean Lang to play on the new album. Carlos joined the band after all those tracks were already done, so it’s really just been me again working on it solo. But at least this time I didn’t try to play the drums myself! There is some collaborative writing in the works, you can expect more involvement from band members on future releases.

Listening to your playing, on a variety of instruments, it’s easy to hear how versatile you are. Can you tell us more about your music background?

Well first off, I will say that I’m not actually a good enough drummer to play all the material on that record all the way through. I did record real drums and played them myself, but they were heavily edited and almost all of the double bass was programmed. I didn’t want to make a solo record with straight up midi drums, so I did this as a way to make it sound as real as possible. I honestly don’t consider myself to be a really great guitar player either. I’m pretty unconventional; my rhythm is pretty solid and my leads are just a bunch of legato stuff I’ve figured out how to play fast without actually having to pick very much. I feel like composition is my strength, and my guitar skills just barely keep up with what I write. Coming up with grooves and playing bass comes pretty natural for me, I’ve always been very rhythmically oriented and felt like I should have been a drummer all along, just didn’t get an early enough start. My parents are both classical musicians, so I was playing piano and clarinet from a pretty young age, and singing in choirs. Picked up a guitar when I was 14 and that was that. I got a bachelor’s degree in audio engineering and composition from Evergreen State College, then did an internship at a big studio in Seattle shortly before I started working on Duality.

Who are some of your inspirations, musically and ideologically?

Rhine - Band 2aI’ve gone through phases of listening to tons of genres of music, in a truly geek out kind of way. The number of albums I’ve listened to more than 50 times each is huge, and it covers everything from free jazz to afro pop. Some of my biggest metal influences are Opeth, Devin Townsend/Strapping Young Lad, Enslaved, Hypocrisy, Dan Swano/Edge of Sanity, Steven Wilson/Porcupine Tree, Between the Buried and Me, Ulver, Bloodbath, Lamb of God, Gojira, Arcturus, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum… I also have to mention Prince and Depeche Mode because they are definitely my absolute favorite non-metal artists. Ideologies are a whole other conversation, not really sure where to begin, so I won’t go into it. I’m very liberal… I’ll just leave it at that.

Can you walk us through your gear setup?

I play a 7 string Schecter in drop B tuning. I’ve got a Peavey 5150 II with some mods I’ve done, running through a vertical 2×12 cab I built. I use a Boss Gt-8 for effects and a Morley Bad Horsie wah. The cool thing about my setup is that I’m able to switch my amp channels with the GT-8. Many people don’t realize this, but combined with the 4 cable method I really have endless versatility, and I’m not using any digital distortion or amp modeling. Alex has also got this setup running with his Marshall head now, it’s great. I also use in-ear monitors just for my vocals. I have a cheap little Behringer microMon on my pedal board that I can plug a mic into, then give the thru output to the sound guy. Works like a charm, I have a coiled headphone cable wrapped around my instrument cable, and my earbuds plugged in right by my guitar jack.

What’s the last thing you listened to?

Fever Ray, self-titled.

What is your hope for Rhine’s future?

I’d like to tour all over the world and work on records with producers I admire. I’d like to quit my day job so we can bust out a new record every 1-2 years, and then in 10+ years, we’ll be much better musicians and songwriters with a huge discography.

Why should people listen to Rhine?

To see if they like it.

 

For more on Rhine, visit:
Official Website
Buy Duality:  From The Band!
Facebook
Youtube