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Callenish Circle – Graceful Yet Forbidding


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Norwegian release with 4 bonus tracks This is Callenish Circle’s second offering, a Dutch melodeath band that released five studio albums during their 15 years of activity. ‘Graceful Yet Forbidding’ was an album that got lost amongst zillions of sound-alike bands in the great ocean that was the genre at the end of the nineties. The band would later become a magnificent machine that produced some of the finest melodeath in existence. First thing to notice is that the production is not top-notch, especially when compared to their later material or to other melodic death albums at the time (1999), like In Flames magnificent Colony, Dark Tranquillity’s Projector or Gardenian’s Soulburner, to name the first that come to mind. But is not too bad, as you can clear hear all the instruments. The bass and Mr. Savelkoul’s voice are the two that suffer the most, a bit buried in the mix, but it could have been worse actually. To be honest, there is some improvement in this department, if you compare this record to their previous work, Escape EP from 98. In fact, the songs “Broken” and “Silent Tears” both have been re-recorded form said EP in this album, and though they’ve been trimmed a bit (especially “Silent Tears, by more than a minute) they sound way better than the EP’s versions, to the point of being some of the best tunes here. Lyrical themes include isolation, despair, frustration and dark feelings, and we have a “Run to the Hills” anti-colonial stance in “Oppressive Natives”. The music of the tracks here is varied and change tempo and mood. They display a mixture of sorrow and anger and are a bit longer and slower to Callenish Circle’s later material, sometimes plodding in a doomy mood, but the riffing is aggressive and lightning fast in some sections. The solos won’t blow your mind away but they work efficiently and both guitarist show they’re skilled enough. The guitar melodies are a highlight, since they’re memorable and varied. The bass traverses different stages, sometimes is interesting and sometimes you won’t even notice it’s there. The drumming is ok, nothing too special, neither flashy nor mediocre, it gets the job done. The vocals are something I particularly enjoy about this band. Patrick Savelkoul sings with two distinctive “voices”: a deeper death metal growl that is quite decipherable, and a raspier, more aggressive scream. I don’t know if it’s the production or that he’d master his technique later on, but he’d sound much better on following releases. His deeper growl is not particularly brutal nor menacing, so perhaps fans of Frank Mullen or Chris Barnes won’t be too excited. Sometimes it feels as though Pat’s just singing with a “normal” voice, but that’s something I do enjoy a lot. He doesn’t sound forced at all. The higher rasps add more variety and sometimes are quite aggressive and angry, as though he was about to tear his throat and vomit his guts, reminding me of At The Gates frontman Tomas Lindberg. The use of both styles is pretty balanced, a 50/50 I’d say. Now, a big problem with this album is the annoying interludes. This seems to have been the trend in melodeath bands, for most of their albums of the 90’s (and some of the 2000’s) are plagued by interludes that rarely add something interesting to the music or are interesting to listen and only disturb the natural flow of an album. I have to say that perhaps In Flames included the best, mostly acoustic. But Callenish Circle should have avoided them. “Inner Battle” sounds like a campy soundtrack to a SNES Castlevania wannabe videogame. “Passionate Dance” is a bit better, comprising only of a few guitar melodies and some sporadic percussion. “Alone” has a promising start that lasts only a few seconds, and then the song (d)evolves into a slightly more interesting companion to “Inner Battle”. In a nutshell, this is a solid album that shows the improvement Callenish Circle experimented during the late nineties, foreshadowing the great band they would become at the turn of the century. This is a transitory work, and fans of the band or melodeath fans should enjoy it. Greater things would come. Track listing: 1. No Reason 2. Forgotten 3. Inner Battle 4. Beyond… 5. Broken 6. Oppressed Natives 7. Silent Tears 8. Passionate Dance 9. Caught By Deceit 10. Shadows Of The Past 11. Alone 12. Silent Tears 13. Epacse 14. Broken 15. Mirror Of Serenity

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