Today's all-European round pits power metal against melodic proggy genreblending. It's a contest of epic escalations, with Stratovarius's “Elysium” versus Textures's “Dualism”!
Textures won the coin toss, so we start with them. And what a strong start to the day! “Dualism” opens up with the complex, twisted, and gratifying “Arms Of The Sea”. The first track sets the tone for much of the rest of the album, cartwheeling from sludgy drone to emo epicness to djentish fits, all with the hint of an internal logic that you can only grasp when you sit down with the album as a solid piece. It's a subtle thing, this recording, and hides some of its gifts in layers that reward multiple listens (go figure). I've seen reviews of this album which in passing mention Mastodon, Incubus, and Tool, and I can certainly hear notes of all those bands, and then some (include latter-era Hagman). The album is not without its flaws, however; after a while, its rich multidimensionality can meld together with too much of a homogeneity. (Compare “Singularity” with “Sanguine Draws The Oath” for a prime example of The Sameness.) It's almost a solid hour, and it's a workout. But it's worth it, and Textures delivers an album worthy of the contest.
Now, we turn our attention to Stratovarius. “Elysium” is a blistering shredfest at times, elegiac at others, but always epic. The instrumental musicianship is seriously top-notch from the whole band, the power metal is delightfully cheesy (exactly what we want), and we even get some warp-factor-nine sound effects in the final track, “Event Horizon.” That leaves just one other thing to consider: Timo Kotipelto and his vocal stylings. Friends, I gotta be honest here. That shit is cringeworthy. Not since Klaus Meine have we heard such a butchery of the English language (not to be provincial here, but get it right or don't commit it to record). And when he goes for the shrivelling high notes, half the time he doesn't stick the landing. Think I'm being rough? Just listen to “Fairness Justified”. Really very distracting. But, is that distraction enough to cost Stratovarius the win?
Yep! Textures goes against Ghoul in the first Round of 16 on January 24th. Tomorrow, a grudge match of an even more technical nature: Arch Enemy versus Symphony X.