Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cast a Fire - These Troubled Waters (2010)

I like finding out about new bands and discovering new music.  It's always a thrill to hear about new and up-coming groups ready to stake their claim on whichever genre or style they're adhering to, or even more so when bands forge ahead into new or relatively uncharted territory to do something new.  Either way, getting introduced to new artists making fresh music is enjoyable.  It's especially rewarding when you find groups that, even if they're not broaching new territory, have something worthwhile to offer.  Such is the case with Cast a Fire.

The style Cast a Fire plays is nothing groundbreaking or that hasn't been done before, to be sure.  The waters of gothic metal have been sailed so much the last 10 years that some might say every port is chock full of ships waiting to dock.  The bands that either do the best job at their particular subset of gothic metal get to dock their ship and offer their wares, while those that don't quite get the job done have to continue to sail along the shoreline, eager to catch the eyes (or ears) of a potential label, fan, etc.  So while Cast a Fire's approach isn't unique, they do a sufficiently good job with the style that they should have little trouble reaching port.

The guitar sound kind of rides that line between the heavier sounds of Paradise Lost and the more melodic sound of the heavier modern hard rock bands on the radio today.  In other words, there's definite crossover appeal for their sound.  But overall guitars sound good, with some nice layering going on at times between riffs and licks, and occasionally guitar atmospherics with riffs.  The guitar playing is generally understated, though the guitarist cuts loose once in a while with a nice solo.  Keyboard work is definitely important in the mix with this album, and it does a fine job of capturing that atmosphere you want in a gothic rock/metal release, utilizing electric piano, faux-choral effects, straight keyboard sounds, bells, and other elements quite well when necessary.  There are some nice folk elements present in the album's title track as well, which is a nice addition.  Acoustic passages have that nice clean sound but retain the "guitar slide" noise, which is always a nice touch if done right like it is here.  Drum work is great - plenty of dynamics throughout the material to prove the drummer here knows how to best suit the material without showboating.  However, he can really rip it up when the song calls for it, and he does just that on occasion.  Bass work is nice, suiting the songs just right and providing the right amount of extra thump during the heavier moments.  Vocally, the album is a nice mix of low-end traditional gothic vocals, some growling vocals in a couple spots, a handful of well-placed screams, and a more mid-range vocal which is where Bruno seems most comfortable.

So what's not to like?  Well, the first obvious thing is that it doesn't really innovate in any way, just does a nice job of treading through waters already traversed.  That's not a bad thing, necessarily, but for those looking for something new they won't find it here.  A somewhat glaring issue with this album is specifically with the song "Still Mystery" in that there's a bridge section with sort of a softly spoken faux-rap section.  It's not a "rap" in the strictest sense, but that's how it comes across, and it's quite cheesy overall.  The other issue is that for an album of this caliber, it's a little short with only 8 full songs.  "Prelude to Infinity" is just a short intro/segue into "Ash, Dust and Memories" (an album highlight), but "Vasto Negro Infinito" sounds like an unfinished song idea or intro just sort of tacked on at the end with no real purpose.  It is a nice simple piano melody, but it just feels like something that should have been further developed into either an extended intro for another song, their next album, or something else.  It closes out the album okay, but just feels unfinished.  Other than these minor issues, the album is strong on the whole, which is what will keep most listeners (like myself) coming back for repeated listens.  The memorable songs and good melodies definitely lend themselves to that.

From a style perspective, think heavier Evanescence melded seamlessly with "One Second" era Paradise Lost, and mix in a few minor prog rock-influenced time signatures, and you have a pretty good idea of what this band sounds like.  If that doesn't sound like your idea of a good time, then Cast a Fire may not be for you.  But to those who haven't had their fill of quality gothic hard rock and metal, then "These Troubled Waters" is a solid entry into the genre, and a CD that will undoubtedly open many doors for this young band.  With a bit more work on their songcraft, this band has the potential to do big things.  Recommended.


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