Hollow - Architect Of The Mind


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Nuclear Blast America
Catalog Number: NBA6358-2
Format: CD
Total Time: 49:20:00

Last year, Hollow released Modern Cathedral to somewhat lukewarm reviews, but all positive. All writings usually mentioned the great singer, the crunching, raw guitars, and that the music was most enjoyable, although a bit straight forward and generic. I heard and understood everything that the critics wrote, but I fell in love with the disc instantly, citing the incredible, unique singer and cool, catchy melodies as the draw. I did see the need for a boost in some areas to get this band going, and with the release of their new disc, Architect of The Mind, the band sought to achieve just about everything that their critics wanted; more crunch, even more melodies, and an incredible boost in the vocal department. I wish to thank Andreas Stoltz, the band's incredible singer and primary songwriter, for putting up with my constant prodding of him to put the disc in my hands as quickly as possible, which he did immediately.

THE STYLE

Try to imagine what Lethal might sound like if they tried to write a melodic, powermetal disc in 1999, without jumping on a trendy sound, and minus any of their long, forgotten progression and you might have an idea of what this new Hollow disc might sound like. I can imagine Lethal writing this disc and receiving a huge reception for it because of the long delays and changes between Lethal discs. This would be quite a boost for that band's comeback if there ever was one; however, Hollow came flying out of the gate when it was raised and produced quite an impressive sophomoric disc.

The signature Hollow crunching guitars are present again, only with some extra crankage in the decibels and when you throw in dual guitars, you get even more crunch than you bargained for. In reality, throughout most of the disc, it sounds as though one guitar is constantly playing some rhythm chords and/or riffs while the second guitar either solos or plays along with the rhythm via some singular notes which really adds to the melodies of the songs. It doesn't sound like one big mesh of guitar sound but rather two separate guitars playing different notes but achieving cohesion at the same time. The music ranges from melodic, catchy, plodding songs to speedy, in your face power crunches. Overall though, the band never loses sight of the warmth and melodies, and you'll find yourself tapping your feet uncontrollably to "Secluded Dreams," or whipping out your air guitar to "Rain" or "Transcending Sorrow." The opening song, "Transcending Sorrow" sounds like it could be Lethal's "Programmed" for the late 90s, but quickly turns into melodic, signature Hollow from the second song and never lets up for a moment. This is one of those discs where you do NOT need a remote to fast forward through any song, as all are as outstanding as the one before it, and it's interesting how the band can maintain such a constant sound throughout, while managing to change up the rhythms of each song, and still maintain a sense of melodic warmth and steady beat without getting boring. The disc actually picks up speed and power as it goes along, and by song #7, "Binary Creed," you're either standing on your couch with your faithful air guitar, bouncing off the walls, or you're about to relinquish the disc to the CD rack forever. In my case, I'm trying to figure out how to actually get it to the rack as the disc has not left my player since I got it a few weeks ago. Incidentally, this is all achieved without the use of keyboards, which I find intriguing as my love for keyboards in my metal is usually essential, but here I don?t miss it at all.

THE BAND:

Andreas Stoltz / lead & backing vocals, guitars
Marcus Bigren / guitars
Thomas Nilsson / bass
Urban Vikstrom / drums

It would appear that we have a one man riot squad on our hands with Andreas Stoltz, who does all of the vocals, one of the guitarists, and writes all of the music / lyrics ... I?m not exactly sure what his role is as far as what's being done with the guitars, but below in my vocal section, you will see what I think of him as a vocalist. His lyrics are certainly a sign of mucho intelligence, and I tip my hat off to the guy for his performance, vocally and lyrically, not knowing his exact role as a guitarist. Marcus Bigren is the second guitarist, and I really can't comment on his performance because I can't pinpoint it, but if I had to guess, I'd say that he does most of the leads and is the guitarist heard complementing the crunch that Stoltz must surely be producing; or do I have it backwards? I'm sure Andreas will set me straight in the future - but nonetheless, the guitar work here is amazing to me in its own right, even though the work is not full of the usual shredding, blinding fast solos and runs. The interplay between the guitars is what makes this band, and if you analyze this approach and sound using headphones day in and day out as I have, you should come up with the same comments that I have on the great guitar work being displayed here. Between the two of them though, they pack one hell of a crunch - and the raw sound will just about rip your speakers apart. Urban Vikstrom is a very competent drummer, although he doesn?t get much opportunity to display his talent very much as the music focuses on the guitar work and lyrics more than anything else. The music was not written with many agonizing drum parts, but it's safe to say that the drumming is very well done for what he has to perform. Thomas Nilsson is virtually unheard on the disc, and this will be my main problem with the entire disc - and this only. The bass is just about non-existent, meaning that the guitars are so loud and crunching, that you cannot hear the bass; a problem that if it were fixed, this would be just about a perfect disc for me. I'll allude to the sound in the production section below.

THE VOCALS:

I've just added Andreas Stoltz to my list of all time favorite singers. In my Modern Cathedral review, I alluded to his unique voice and style, and on this disc, I believe that he had a vision or something, as his performance is godly. It is his performance that keeps me coming back for a daily dose of the disc, and putting a singer as a reason to keep playing a disc says a lot about his performance. First, let me try to describe his voice. If you took the tone of Tom Malicoat (Lethal), added in the whispering, lower voice of Midnight (Crimson Glory), and added a dose of a small boy-like quality to it, you'd have his voice. Just the mention of the names that I compared him to should tell you what he is capable of pulling off. I'm still amazed by the jump in quality of his performance from the first disc, which was excellent in it's own right, to his incredible performance here. From low, whispering, melodic intros, and onto the more powerful passages, all the way to the higher ranges of some of the more dramatic songs, Andreas plows through each with a mission and a certain vengeance that seems to be missing in a lot of singers these days. It's as if he's trying to convince us of what he is singing because his life depends on it - you can hear total conviction in his voice, and he definitely believes in what he is doing ... Each song is filled with a combination of what his voice can do, and he changes his tone and approach within each song - almost as if he's using his voice as another instrument rather than to just sing the songs. Strangely, he doesn't hit the higher notes as much I'd like him to, but that shows control and discipline, as it's obvious that he has a range that most singers would love to have. He seems more bent on bringing some of the painful lyrics to life rather than show off his ability, and it's this very quality that makes him one of the better singers I've ever heard. I'd pay top dollar to hear him sing church hymns, or Christmas songs - the guy has my vote for singer of the year.

THE PRODUCTION:

Sadly, this is where I've had any problems with the disc, although I've overlooked any lack of production quality in favor of the songs, crunching guitar and soaring vocals. I rarely do that, and will put a disc away based on poor sound alone, but in this case, even though the sound isn't what I'd like it to be, the music and vocals easily win the CD tray on a daily basis. I'll start with the vocals, which are superbly recorded. Anything less would have been a tragedy not to be able to hear a voice this good right up front in the mix. Andreas' voice screams clearly and precisely no matter what the power level of the song happens to be. Again, hearing this through headphones will give an even clearer picture of what this guy sounds like and can do with his voice. The guitars are so raw and crunchy, you?d never figure that the music is so catchy and melodic to have such bone crunching sound behind them and still make it all sound like power metal. You can clearly hear the separation of the guitars and what each one is doing at any given time in the mix. I'm blasting out "Shadow God" as I write this; one of the speedier songs on the disc with tons of twin leads, rhythms, and all kinds of crazy interplays. Unfortunately, I think that the heavy recording of the crunch has overpowered the bass, and it's virtually impossible to hear the bass notes apart from the guitars. Thankfully, the voice recording was left intact and as clear as water. The bass has either been overpowered by the smoking guitar sound, or someone forgot to turn the decibel knob to the right during the recording. It is a shame - with all this crunch, I'd expect my walls to shake with music this powerful, and even my subwoofer fails to accommodate me and produce any sort of acceptable bass. I'd give anything to hear this thing re-mixed with the right amount of bass; the disc would become perfect. The drums also lack the precision of the other recorded instruments, but nowhere near as much as the bass. The drums are easily heard, as I can hear high hats, cymbals and anything else Urban chooses to pound on. Of course, the kit suffers from the tin snare sound that I hate, but I've come to accept this sound in prog metal and even though I don?t like it, I've accepted it grudgingly. At least the drum kit is up in the mix as are the guitars and vocals, so the lack of bass doesn't take away from the overall enjoyment of the disc.

THE COMMENTS

This disc is nearly perfect for me. It has the right combination of melodies, catchiness, power, rawness, and an amazing singer to boot. There isn?t a song on the disc that needs fast forwarding from the remote, and this is all done without the use of keyboards which I personally find amazing. I don't buy discs based on vocal performance alone, but in this case, I would make an exception - Andreas Stoltz puts on an amazing performance, and if you know the performance that Daniel Gildenl?w from Pain of Salvation puts on, then you know what I mean when I speak of Andreas. If you're a Lethal fan, and like some Siam-type melodies, and a dose of maybe some Steel Prophet / Division twin guitar work, then you?re bound to love this disc. This is melodic, power metal disc from start to finish, which runs about 50:00. Each song is more powerful and melodic than the next, and the disc seems to build to a powerful crescendo as it nears the end. The band only needs towork on their production skills for the next recording, and I can only hope that they can capture the performance of this disc and hold onto the magic that can make them a household name. Aside from the bass complaint, this disc has it all - and what makes iteven more fun is when discs come from out of nowhere and land in your CD player and refuse to leave. Architect Of The Mind is such a disc, and I'm still trying to trick it into moving into another player so I can listen to other music. Highly recommended ...


Tracklisting:
Transcending Sorrow (4:28) / Cogito (3:16) / Rain (4:45) / Shadow God (4:38) / Secluded Dreams (4:28) / Walls Of Confusion (5:28) / Binary Creed (5:07) / Deified (4:42) / Alone In Darkness (4:16) / Shutdown (3:41) / Father (4:23)

Musicians:
Andreas Stoltz - lead & backing vocals, guitars
Marcus Bigren - guitars
Thomas Nilsson - bass
Urban Vikstrom - drums

Discography:
Hollow (1997)
Modern Cathedral (1998)
Architects of Mind (1999)

Genre: Melodic Metal

Origin SE

Added: August 1st 1999
Reviewer: Larry "LarryD" Daglieri

Artist website: moderncathedral.blogspot.com
Hits: 766
Language: english

  

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