Maudlin Of The Well - Bath

Year of Release: 2001
Label: Dark Symphonies
Catalog Number: DARK 12
Format: CD
Total Time: 60:54:00

Bath is one of two new albums from Maudlin Of The Well, the second being Leaving Your Body Map. I wasn't initially sure what to expect, really. Sure I had some vague idea from writing the news page, but still, my expectations were rather nondescript. Knowing the label that was releasing it, I expected something ethereal. With a name like Maudlin Of The Well, I expected something darkly sad. And while my expectations were correct, they were also incorrect. Let me elaborate.

This is an album of varying styles from the gentle and sparse acoustic instrumentals to harsh, growling vocals. The first, set forth in the opening track "The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth," is what quite characteristic of the label that released this - Dark Symphonies. That ethereal, lilting music from Brave and Autumn Tears, for example. Here we hear acoustic guitars (at least one with shimmering steel strings), flutes, clarinet ... think contemporary instrumental. Midway through, light percussion is added. Subtly, everything builds until two thirds of the way through, however, the song explodes open, everything playing at full intensity (but we haven't reach metal yet). Yeh, you gotta know that I love it. A pause and then the speed metal of "They Aren't All Beautiful," with death growls, hellish shrieks, and rapid-fire drumming, chugging guitars -- all the hallmarks. This is the sound of one shouting against their inner demons. (And a bit of humour there, too, I gather, as the song's title also references the contrasts). Take out the death vocals, which, while effective, are not my favourite thing (anywhere), and you have a very cool track, sure to please the metal head in you. Shades of Evergrey (et al) in the style, but one has to add a bit of throaty trumpet to that (a cool ingredient to this). The lyrics here are very grim with lines like "You inspire the ugliest things." Grim is an understatement. You can see the subtext here and it is more than grim, but brutal. Guess that's why it's called dark or death metal, eh?

This followed up by the Porcupine Tree-like "Heaven And Weak," a hazy, dreamy, psychedelic track, mainly understated, but with a really sweet guitar solo. Again, it is not the voice of a well-adjusted individual we hear, but a wounded and tortured soul -- the kind of individual we hope to never meet. The bile that lies beneath rises to the surface for the last portion of the track, the dream-time becoming the cold, harsh reality - dreams become action. PT comes to mind as well with the closing track "Geography." Like the opening track, this is acoustically based and sparse, with light, clean male vocals.

In yet another contrast, we must also mention the playful instrumental track 9 (represented by a symbol rather than a title), with it's "do, di-do, di-do, do-di-do" kind of singsong rhythm. It hints a bit of jazz, but doesn't quite go there.

Just such contrasts will be found here throughout, female vocals here, male vocals there, and demonic vocals elsewhere. Even in its harsh moments, it's beautiful. But also interesting; it an album that you must listen to over and over again just to explore the different textures that it presents. I couldn't possibly encompass the entirety of the CD in a few simple words (not that I ever do anyway). But in fact, the album needs to be viewed as one work. Referred to by Dark Symphonies (and the band) as "astral metal," it is music informed by both the Goth and metal music camps, with a touch of the Romantic. That is, Romantic, as in the Romantic poets of the early 19th Century, some of whom are quoted in the booklet, such as William Wordsworth and Percy Bysshe Shelley. And yet, especially for me, John Keats and William Blake also come to mind as I read through the lyrics, which themselves are presented as poetry is often is, with line numbers. Though I've not divined the purposed of doing so here, the lyrics are written in a very "poetic" way. I put that in quotes only because in most cases, the nature of lyrics are, essentially, poetic verse set to music (whether rhymed or unrhymed). No writing credit is given, but nearly every member is a multi-instrumentalist: Jason Byron on vocals, keyboards, and percussion; Jason Bitner on trumpet; Toby Driver on vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, cello, and percussion; Maria-Stella Fountoulakis on vocals; Sam Gutterman on vocals, drums, percussion, and guitar; Nicholas Kyte on bass; Greg Massi on vocals and guitar; Terran Olson on vocals, keyboards, clarinet, flute, percussion; and Josh Scipp-Williams on guitar.

The longest track is the 10 minutes "Birth Pains of Astral Projections." From a sedate and pastoral beginning, we move to chiming guitar (I thought of classic Dream Theater), crisp percussion, and growly vocals. Then, more than two thirds in, light rock with clean vocals - there is a sense of dreaming here is the breathy way the vocals are delivered. Of course, we are also treated to some tasty guitar leads, in the best mellow-metal tradition (Metallica's "Fade To Black" comes to mind).

I can see why there is a great deal of buzz about this band - what they are doing, taken alone, isn't unique, but the mixture of these elements, how they are set against and with one other, creates a unique experience. As the the press release says: "Life would be pretty boring if you only experienced one emotion all the time, wouldn't it?" While, like life, the emotions on this release are varied -- the demonic aspect cathartic, the lighter moments elating. Released last August, this is clearly one of the best releases of 2001. I urge you check it out for yourself.

[Maudlin Of The Well later changed their name to Kayo Dot, but the MOTW name has been brought back up for the fan-funded free-download album Part The Second, released in May 2009. DS re-issued Bath in 2005 with bonus tracks -ed.]

The Blue Ghost/Shedding Qliphoth (7:57) / They Aren't All Beautiful (5:36) / Heaven And Weak (7:42) / (instrumental track) (1:38) / The Ferryman (7:50) / Marid's Gift Of Art (3:41) / Girl With A Watering Can (8:44) / Birth Pains Of Astral Projection (10:34) / (instrumental track) (2:12) / Geography (5:00)

Jason Byron - vocals, keyboards, and percussion
Jason Bitner - trumpet
Toby Driver - vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, cello, and percussion
Maria-Stella Fountoulakis - vocals
Sam Gutterman - vocals, drums, percussion, and guitar
Nicholas Kyte - bass
Greg Massi - vocals and guitar
Terran Olson - vocals, keyboards, clarinet, flute, percussion
Josh Scipp-Williams - guitar

My Fruit Psychobells ? A Seed Combustible (1999)
Bath (2001)
Leaving Your Body Map (2001)
Part The Second (2009)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: February 23rd 2002
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 717
Language: english


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