Saturday 22 November 2014

11Paranoias - Stealing Fire from Heaven (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/11/2014
Label: Ritual Productions

‘Stealing Fire from Heaven’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

1. The Great Somnambulist
2. Paranoiditude (Beyond The Grave)
3. Surrealise
4. At The Cursus
5. By The Light Of A Dying Star (Neutron Start)
6. Lost To Smoke
7. Retribution of Dreams


Adam Richardson (bass/vocals) provides an insight into the recording process for the album:
"We have made full use of the 'automatic' process again on Stealing Fire From Heaven - not just the lyrical/incantation aspect, but the entire process - and it has rewarded us with this 'unseen apparition' which we love! It takes guts, blood, trance dwelling exploration of inner and outer space, and an unflinching will to make a record in this method....

"Surrealise, despite its 'born of nothing' approach, delves naturally into a mournful lament, of 'killing sadness' - that could only be divined and not written. We have coaxed Stealing Fire From Heaven from our consciousness and the stars into this dull dimension we (think we) know. Any idiot can write a great song, learn it and record it, but this traditional approach has become dead to us...

"Long live the new flesh!"

The Band:

Adam Richardson | Bass, vocals
Mike Vest | Guitar
Nathan Perrier | Drums


A new day, a new band (to me), a new album. 11Paranoias is a doom metal trio from England… or, at least, I think they’re doom metal. Don’t know yet. Let’s have a listen.

The first song, “The Great Somnambulist,” begins at a low simmer with a driving, but restrained bass groove, while clean guitar seem to improvise spacey licks over the top. Whispered vocals and some samples (or at least, they might be samples… they might also be various noises created with the guitar) join to create a mysterious atmosphere. While most of the instruments keep going on in this manner, the drumming switches to tom work to create more tension, and then the song abruptly seems to fall off, though not in a bad way, serving as an extended intro to the album.

“Paranoiditude (Beyond the Grave)” follows with a change in feel. More of the true opener after the previous track, noise precedes a funereally slow riff that seems to surround the listener in decay. Somewhat throwing me off balance, the drums occasionally erupt into fast bursts and fills even while the other instruments continue with their slow but relentless procession. I can’t decide if the vocals here are angry or rather just full of despair. A little over halfway through the song, all the instruments drop out except for the (filthy sounding) bass, producing the effect of dividing the song into two distinct sections. Interestingly, the vocals return before the guitars, which later join in to continue a slow build-up before a noisy guitar lead outro that is somewhat reminiscent of older Electric Wizard.

The next song, “Surrealise,” begins with a strange, depressed intro with a distant, improvising saxophone, creating an overall mood that reminds me vaguely of… well… being hungover. Not that it’s bad by any means, but it sounds like the soundtrack to that sort of painful, disoriented weariness. This transitions instantly to rage, as the band increase the volume, albeit playing the same chord progression, when the vocals enter. Here the overdrive is so intense on the guitars and bass that they sound almost like some sort of machine. As the instruments drop out, all that’s left is eerily echoing feedback.

As the last echoes of track 3 fade out, a slow and steady bass riff begins “At the Cursus,” while various sounds from the guitar precede the heaviness to come… and once it comes, it does not disappoint. Despite its slow march, this riff is one that gets the head nodding along. I’d love to see them play this song live if they ever make it over to the west coast of the USA. After a slow(er) break, a strange high part comes over the top of the sludgy riffing, which is a nice touch, expanding the sonic texture. Just when the song feels like it’s over; the band comes back in with an even heavier riff to close it out.

“By the Light of a Dying Star (Neutron Start)” has a similar feel at the beginning to the opening of the album, albeit, oddly, less dark, with an almost middle-eastern sounding groove, which expands into what sounds like a section that live is probably mostly jammed. When the song gets heavy, it does so with a crushing riff. This constitutes most of the song, but it’s such a heavy riff that that I’m pretty much okay with that. The even slower outro contains the first death metal vocals I’ve noticed so far. I like how overall this song goes from a relatively light atmosphere into darkness by the end. Suits the title and, I imagine, the subject matter.

No quiet intro for the penultimate track, “Lost to Smoke.” A slow waltz tempo, it is nonetheless the fastest song so far on this album. The opening riff is classic doom, and then during a break with building drum work, the time signature switches to 4/4, and when the band comes back in, things are not the least bit standard. At risk of overusing the word “spacey,” this section is very much that, and a bit of a trip. Even more surprising, the band is now playing a tempo that is very fast for doom… and steadily, deliberately speeding up. I have to admit, after the previous five songs, this one was a bit of a shock.

The final song’s intro continues in this psychedelic fashion, “Retribution of Dreams” even including what sounds like Hammond Organ at the beginning. The energy builds here mainly with increasingly complex drumming, and the crescendo is so gradual that at first I hadn’t even noticed that the guitar and bass had gone from clean(ish) to overdriven. In some ways, this experimental track creates symmetry with the opening of the album. Could have been a little longer though. The fadeout comes somewhat unexpectedly. But perhaps that’s the intention.

After listening to this whole album, I feel a bit tired, actually. It is certainly not “easy listening,” despite the solid grooving often contained within. Its texture is unfriendly and dense, though worth the effort to explore.

As always, I have a couple criticisms (I’ve never heard a record that was absolutely perfect). The simplest is that, biased as my opinion on this particular matter may be, I feel that the bass could be a little more present in the mix. Another aspect I find strange is the drum sound. The guitars and vocals are soaked in reverb and sometimes delay, and next to them, the drums sound somewhat dry (though I’m sure they have quite a bit of reverb as well, in actuality… just they sound significantly more up front than the guitars and especially the vocals). Perhaps this is intentional, as if the drums are right next to us and the guitars are booming from a great distance? The structure of the album as a whole is also somewhat odd, but putting the listener off-balance could very well be their intent.

Overall, it’s a very good album. Cover art, ‘The Temptation of Saint Anthony’, by Max Ernst, is interesting as well and somewhat reminds me of old Sepultura album art.

I’d rate ‘Stealing Fire from Heaven’ a low to solid seven out of ten (I should mention here, I suppose, that I would give very few albums ever released a full ten) on a number scale. Musically to me 11Paranoias sound somewhat like older Electric Wizard mixed with Ufomammut, though Adam Richardson’s vocals are considerably lower in pitch than those found in either of those other groups. Very cool band to check out.

Words by: Dan Brownson

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