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M.I.GOD. – Specters On Parade

M.I.GOD.
Specters On Parade
by Santiago Puyol at 05 March 2019, 7:35 PM

M.I.GOD. are a Metal band from Nuremberg, Germany, that define their style as “sophisticated Metal”. That definition certainly goes well with their dramatic and somewhat eclectic approach to Metal, with a dash of Prog and electronic influences. “Specters on Parade” is an hour-long concept album, first half of a double project, and their first record as a sextet (their previous projects were released as a quartet). The number of members is something easy to feel in the epic nature of the record.

This mammoth of a 21-track record actually comprises 15 proper songs (including intro, outro, two interludes and a bonus track). The rest of the tracks are short instrumental and/or ambient tracks, with sporadic dialogue, that act more in the capacity of “filling in the blanks” when it comes to the story. From a musical point of view, some feel a bit disruptive or add little to the overall feel of the album. Still there are a few great moments there, like the way “The Sleeping Cruelty” adds to the horror atmosphere with a creepy music box, or the great ambience in “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”.

Getting into the “meat” of the record, things get started with lovely-turned-creepy instrumental “Vertigo”. Soft piano leads the track on until things get horrifying with a distorted voice that almost screams. After a dramatic, whispered “help me”, the first proper track starts.

“The Solitary Ghost” introduces what seems to be the narrative of the album- a some kind of Multiple Personality Disorder manifested as “spectres” or “ghosts” in the mind of the protagonists; or that’s what I’m getting at least. This is one of the heaviest songs on the album and uses harsh vocals (some of the few here) to good effect - mostly as a haunting way of underlining the madness in the protagonist. A great solo and some electronic touches gets everything moving.

“We All Belong to the Dark” follows, with great electronic percussion and some OPETH-like, middle-eastern influenced melodies (sounding especially interesting with headphones) while “Titans of the Void” has a really catchy chorus, highlighting one of the best qualities of the band - they know how to write a hook.

A late-period PORCUPINE TREE-like riff opens “Atelier Macabre”, getting the remarkablemid-point of the album started, comprising the strongest tracks overall.  “Atelier” has an interesting syncopated rhythm, superb vocal layering, and a chorus that evokes “The Drapery Falls” by OPETH but never sounds like a copycat. There’s some shredding in the middle, with a catchy solo, and some really heavy riffing.

The title track comes next, opening with a military-drum intro and some riffing that would not feel out of place on “…And Justice for All” by METALLICA, if it weren’t for the great production. Around the 1:30 minute mark, things get into an OPETH-vibe again. Being a little over 8 minutes long is one of the Proggiest tracks on the album. Some synth-heavy orchestration gives a theatrical vibe to the track - something the GHOST-like vocal melodies contribute to. Halfway through the song there’s some great tom-tom action and a spoken word passage that brings to mind the very beginning of “The Number of the Beast” by IRON MAIDEN, possibly because of the biblical nature of it.

The lovely and psychedelic, acoustic-based “Sonata in Tenebris” acts as both an interlude and an intro to “Tears of Today”, which is probably the catchiest track on the album. I’d argue “Tears of Today” is also the best track in the album, with an amazing, melodic riff, emotional singing, and alternative rock sound. It has an early 2000’s feel to it, with an almost Post-Grunge vibe;  a power ballad in disguise. “Chances” is the last track on this middle-third of the album, following the trend of catchy choruses and Pop sensibilities, throwing some nice synth work and a nasty riff.

The last third of “Specters on Parade” seems to pale a bit compared to the rest of the album, although there’s still enough stuff to keep an attentive listener interested. Both “Weight Of A Million Souls” and “Bound to a Daydream” feature great soloing, while “The Threshold” has a groovy bassline and some DEFTONES and THRICE vibes that make it really catchy. Things get to a strong ending though with “Terminus: Life”, a kind of a cliffhanger finale in song, and a bit of a reprise of “Vertigo”.

The cover of the Eurovision song (“I Feed You My Love”) that serves as a bonus track it’s extremely catchy and the original song (an electronic-heavy track) lends itself perfectly to the dramatic style of the band.

Overall, “Specters on Parade” is an interesting album that suffers a bit from its narrative-driven structure. The interludes feel disruptive at times, compromising the flow of the record, and if you are not paying attention to the narrative or have trouble following it, it can be a bit distractive. Although the album has a strong personality, at times it feels too much like other bands, specifically OPETH and NE OBLIVISCARIS in the heavier, more technical sections.

The production, while excellent in some aspects, sometimes works against the material, mainly because of a lack of dynamic range/more compression that is needed in some of the songs. The worst offender here are “Sonata in Tenebris” and “Tears of Today”, the former being an acoustic-driven track that gets as loud as the latter, which makes the transition between them feel a bit underwhelming as the riff in “Tears” should explode the second “Sonata” ends, but instead comes at a lower volume.

Still, the catchiness of the choruses - and especially of “Tears of Today”, - as a whole suggest that maybe embracing a Poppier approach to songwriting could help the band explore their full potential. Some of the hooks really get stuck in your head. Also notable is the vocal power of Max Chemnitz, which occupies a weird middle place between Dickinson’s classic Metal melodrama and Åkerfeldt’s raspiness, with just a dash of GHOST theatricality. All in all, there’s plenty to like and love here, and a promise of something better to come.

Songwriting: 7
Originality: 7
Memorability: 8
Production: 7

3 Star Rating

Tracklist:
1. Vertigo
2. The Solitary Ghost
3. Tongues Of Poison
4. We All Belong To The Dark
5. Embracing The Neon
6. Titans Of The Void
7. The Sleeping Cruelty
8. Atelier Macabre
9. Specters On Parade
10. Sonata InTenebris (Interlude I)
11. Tears Of Today
12. What's Your Favorite Scourge?
13. Chances
14. The Call
15. Weight Of A Million Souls
16. Cluster (Interlude II)
17. Bound To A Daydream
18. Between The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea
19. The Threshold
20. Terminus: Life
21. I Feed You My Love
Lineup:
Max Chemnitz – Lead Vocals
UliHolzermer – Lead Guitars, Backing Vocals
Dan Heß – Rhythm Guitars, Backing Vocals
Mick Steger – Bass Guitars
Dodo Schmitt – Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Eric Wunderlich – Drums
Record Label: Fastball Music
     


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