Metaphor - Entertaining Thanatos

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Trope Audio
Catalog Number: TA 042
Format: CD
Total Time: 56:57:00

I'm having a hard time reviewing Entertaining Thanatos (not that you'd notice by word count). Not because I don't like it or don't like listening to it. That's not the hard part - it's easy to listen to. Not to be confused with "easy listening," mind; nor is that some kind way of saying "it is pleasant, if shallow, pop." It's not. No, I'm being straight-up with you here. Metaphor don't have any sharp, unpleasant edges musically - verbally is another thing. Edges that is. And the lyrics are well worth looking at, reading and thinking about. So, yes, more points for Metaphor there. So it all glides along and down into your being smoothly, enveloping you in such a comfortable embrace... (deceptively comfortable, by the way).

No, the hard part is trying find just what exactly you need to know about this CD, beyond that I like it. Really though, isn't that enough? I mean, the mere fact that I like it ought to speak volumes, oughten it? No? Well then, go ahead. Shatter my illusions of grandeur (they were, admittedly rather fragile and flimsy to begin with).

Metaphor mix prog, pop, rock, and jazz (and more) all together into a mix that defies any one description except to say it's proggy. And yet it's not RIO (given the rock and jazz mix). And yet some parts could be RIO-like (given...). Generally, if you like modern prog rock, specifically that from the UK and US, then you will like Metaphor as well, who are from the US. Though there isn't really any one band I can point to and say, "there, that's it. That's who they sound like." Certain stylistic choices put them into a... style, a general genre grouping that is not symphonic prog with lots of widdly keyboards (though there are some widdly keyboards abouts (Marc Spooner)), or full of flashy guitar solos (though there are guitars... (Malcolm Smith)) or... it doesn't crunch or growl or spit at you - so we're not looking at prog metal, death metal or punk/hardcore... But... take the proverbial, ubiquitous, ever-present and running blender and throw in your IQs, Jadises, Echolyns, Spock's Beards, and others that often get mentioned in the same breath and... blend. And yet the whole is not a sum of the parts, just some of the parts, and they are only barely recognizable... Well, how would you be after being pulverized in a blender? More than just a little dizzy, I'll assume. In fact, you may be dizzy now just reading that paragraph.

Their approach also reminds me of a modern musical, the kind that plays off-off Broadway, and uses an original soundtrack, and hasn't put some sort of gloss or candy coating on the music (or story) so as best to appeal to those handing out Tonys. No, the music is raw, in a refined and tasteful way - meaning good to great production and balance, with an honest feel. It's the musical that's looking to make a point, say something to the people. Perhaps it's because the lyrics themselves are presented in a dramatic manner ... some of them at least. "Raking The Bones," for example. A "dialog" of sorts between "Narrator" and audience, with "Mother" telling another part of the story (based on "Chapter 15 of the Finnish epic Kalevala" it says). And just to contradict something I said earlier - but only slightly - this piece has a vaguely Genesis feel... Not so much in direct sound, as Mabry sounds like neither Gabriel or Collins... or Wilson, for that matter, to be inclusive. Although, you can't help but think of Gabriel later, during "Wheel Of The World," in the way Mabry is singing.

And the music -- played Smith, Spooner and the not-previously-mentioned Jim Anderson on bass guitar and bass pedals, Jeffrey Baker on drums (on most tracks), and Bob Koehler on drums otherwise -- has a Genesis feel without being overtly Genesis-like. It's just a Genessence, let's say. By the way, the band got its start as a Genesis tribute band, so the Genessence isn't totally in my head only.

But Metaphor are quirky, such as the deceptively cheerful "Call Me Old And Uninspired Or Even Lazy And Tired But Thirteen Heads In The Backyard Says You're Wrong"... What makes it cheerful is a piping recorder-like sound that gives it a childlike quality, but as you can see by the song's title alone, this is not a nursery rhyme. Hmm... more nursery cryme, then? Well, there's not kind of direct Genesis-references, as I said, but I did keep thinking of that album cover during this piece and "Raking..." And, of course, there on the cover to this CD is a man (the duly entertained Thanatos, we can presume?) with a scythe and two lopped off heads at his feet, so there's relationship image-wise, if only by coincidence. Not so much coincidence, of course, because we know the reference is to "Call Me Old..." (and to "Yes & No") and not some random image.

Let's digress - you'd miss my digressions if I didn't, you know. Who or what is "Thanatos"? He is the Greek god of death. Ah, well, that explains the two heads, the thirteen heads, and the recurring images of death here on this album. The album begins with a song about and to the great philosopher Socrates, "Socrates" - what were his thoughts and feelings as he drank hemlock?, the protagonist wants to know. The album's title is a play on words, too... "Entertaining" here means considering, thinking about, pondering... Well, let's say it can mean that. Thus, Metaphor could have called it "Pondering Death," but then it'd be too obvious, right? Because "pondering" doesn't have all those shadings of meaning that "entertaining" has. Your homework assignment - besides buying this album - is find all those shades (ha! Shades = ghosts = death, and that wasn't even deliberate) of meaning and have fun with it. Entertain yourself while you entertain your self. (Stop that; you know what I mean).

Metaphor handle some very dramatic, heart-felt material, as well - even in the same tracks with less "serious" passages. "Galatea 3.3" and "Yes & No" are two examples. Now by less "serious," I don't necessarily mean... I mean, their intensity is not the same, you might say it's whimsical. But there is such emotion and expression in Mabry's voice in the "serious" passages... ah, you gotta love it.

Thanatos isn't the only Greek god present here, as Aphrodite - the goddess of love - makes an appearance in "Galatea 3.3." Galatea was the name of one of the Nereids; Nereids are the fifty daughters of Nereus and Doris... you'll have to research the rest of that family tree yourself. Galatea is also the name - or a name - given to Pygmalion's treasured sculpture of a woman... you'll have to read his story as well, just know that in this song, Aphrodite teaches Pygmalion a thing or two about the "fairer sex."

You will find recurring musical themes here - the understated approach to "Socrates" comes back in "Yes & No," reinforcing that this is a concept album in the truest sense.

So anyway ... there's so much to explore here that I'm not sure where to start. Or end, really, I guess. But all things must come to an end, and so must this review, too.

By the way, it was New Sun's Christopher Scott Cooper who co-produced and engineered the album, while Tom Carr mastered it.

Socrates (7:59) / Galatea 3.3 (7:43) / When It All Comes Together (4:17) / Raking The Bones (7:43) / Call Me Old And Uninspired Or Maybe Even Lazy And Tired But Thirteen Heads In The Backyard Says You're Wrong (3:31) / Yes & No (17:49) / Wheel Of The World (7:55)

Jim Anderson - bass guitar, bass pedals
John Mabry - vocals
Malcolm Smith - guitars, guitar synth
Marc Spooner - keyboards


Jeffrey Baker - drums (2, 4-7)
Bob Koehler - drums (1, 3)


Tony Abena - sax (4, 7), horns (1)
Bob Acosta, Brooks Gregory, Ernest Herrera - horns (1

Starfooted (1999)
Entertaining Thanatos (2004)
The Sparrow (2007)

Genre: Progressive Rock

Origin US

Added: February 27th 2005
Reviewer: Stephanie Sollow
Artist website:
Hits: 605
Language: english


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