Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Album Review: The Murder Of My Sweet - Echoes Of The Aftermath

It was only a little more than a year ago that The Murder Of My Sweet released their big, sprawling, dramatic concept album, "Beth Out Of Hell". That album made a sizeable impact, and earned high praise from all around. It did not from me, however, because I had missed it when it came out, and didn't actually hear the record until far later. It was the kind of thing that was right up my alley, so I was disappointed in myself, but not in the record. Capitalizing on that success, the band is back in short order with a new batch of songs, this time without the grandiose concept pushing them to epic heights.

What we get this time is an album that promises the same kind of symphonic fervor, but with songs that are more straight-forward and compact. Hearing that, combined with the short time between the two albums, does throw up a few warning bells. Are they warranted?

The answer to that isn't quite so simple. It will depend very much on what you're expecting of this album. If you're expecting, or hoping, that it will be a continuation of "Beth Out Of Hell", you might be disappointed. Without the story and the scope behind it, this record doesn't feel as titanic in proportion as its predecessor. There's nothing wrong with having a more intimate record, but we can't pretend we don't judge things in relation to others.

However, if you keep in mind that this is a different beast, "Echoes Of The Aftermath" is just as enjoyable an experience as "Beth Out Of Hell" was. While I was initially disappointed by the preview tracks that were released, they make far more sense in the context of the album. The Murder Of My Sweet is much more of an album band, so perhaps it was just that one track on its own didn't have the right elements to blow me away as a single. But when I hear "Racing Heart" during the album's run, it not only fits right in, but it sounds fresher and more lively.

The band knows that it's not enough to slap some orchestral keyboards onto mediocre songs and claim to be doing something amazing (unlike some bands that will remain nameless). These songs are cinematic and lush, but they are at their core strongly melodic metal tracks that have an endearing vocal presence. Angelic Rylin doesn't have the pure vocal power that many of her peers do, but that actually works in her favor. Rather than throwing out huge bursts of vocal volume to drown out the melody, she uses her warmer tones to bend the melody into something more engaging. It's because of sharp writing, but also a keen understanding that sometimes less can be more. Oversinging these songs would not have made them any better.

When the band is hitting their marks, they make some fantastic music. The entire first half of the record is the kind of lush and melodic metal that speaks to both the metal and pop fan in me. That is the kind of music that has the chance of being something special, and I was preparing on first listen to hand out my highest recommendation. However, the middle of the album loses a substantial amount of steam, ironically beginning with "Flatline". There's a stretch of tracks where the bounce disappears, and the songs get bogged down in slower tempos and weaker hooks. They're fine enough songs, but bunched together after a string of great material, the difference in quality is more notable.

So to circle back to my comment about warning bells, there was a reason for them to be sounding. I don't know enough to say if it was because of the short turnaround or the pressure of following a huge record, but this one doesn't reach the same heights as "Beth Out Of Hell". It's a good record, don't get me wrong, but it's one where I can see room for improvement. It's long enough that it would have been a better experience to remove one or two of the slower tracks and focus on the warm melodies the first half of the album showcased. Like a real echo, "Echoes Of The Aftermath" is a little quieter, a little weaker, than the original. It's still good, but there's a reason bands have trouble following up the album of their career. Stepping out of a shadow is hard, and this album doesn't quite get there.

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