Thursday, November 28, 2013

Sometimes We Make Music - Forgotten Tales (EP) (2013)

What's in a name? Sometimes, nothing at all. A jumbled group of words representing nothing more than what gets listed on venue bills and album spines. Sometimes, though, a name says so much more than the words on paper. It might result in a double take, or serious inquisition, but seeing the name Sometimes We Make Music sprawled across your computer screen might seem like the former, when, in fact, it is quite literally the latter. Formed earlier this year after the disbanding of their main project, Ivar T. Oftedal and Danny V. Johannessen made the easy decision that they weren't done writing and recording together. That decision, though, paled in comparison to the next one they'd have to make; the name. Bucking the trend of ominous, sometimes bizarrely pretentious names, they went with one that made as much sense as any. Sometimes We Make Music was born that day in Norway, and after the release of their first EP, "Forgotten Tales," we can hope that "sometimes" quickly turns into "often."

With the opening instrumental, "Winter Is Coming," there is a noticeable influence at play here. But rather than let that influence dictate the track itself, "Game Of Thrones" is merely a setting. The composition here is outstanding, with the thumping drums complementing the cry of the guitar. But it is the symphonic element that ties everything together, through the use of horns and strings. Conversely, "The Warrior" is an exercise in dominance, with every series of drums pounding you further into the wall. But it is the vocals that fail to hit home here, lacking a real sense of identity or punch. Their delivery, which hovers between growls, screams, raspy cackles, and the occasional chant, is more miss than hit, particularly with the instrumental churning beneath. The chanting aspect, though, fits blissfully in the latter stages of the track, over a sea of crashing cymbals and keyboard fueled strings. The longest track on the EP which, not coincidentally, is also the most folk inspired might also be the best. "(For The) King Of The North" expands on the band's sound, instrumentally, while also solidifying it, vocally. The use of strings and keys here provides a sense of balance that might have seemed lacking. It quickly becomes an anthem; but not the kind of anthem that warrants a fist up. You'll nod, you'll sway, you'll find yourself completely immersed.

When the tempo rises, there is added energy thrust into the mix. The opening seconds of "Showdown" fall into the category blistering, stepping the guitar and drum work up into another realm. They remain the constant throughout the album, in the best possible way, always commanding attention and awe. The repeated segment that ties chorus back into verse is as dynamic as any on the album, and easily the most likely to lodge itself in your brain stem. But aside from the string and percussion prowess, the track also showcases the best vocal performance. While still lacking a solid identity, the changing styles and deliveries simply fit more snugly here, with little exception. And because of that new found cohesion between voice and instrumental, the closing track, "Troll," feels even more like a grand misstep. It strips away a lot of that uniqueness, and reverts back into a basic folk metal format. This is not to say it's an entirely bad effort, but it fails to capitalize on the momentum they worked so hard to build to this point. The vocals now descend almost entirely into black metal screeches, while the lead guitar crafts a hook that seems wasted here.

I think it would be fair to say that EPs like this one create a level of confusion in their wake. There is no doubting the abilities the members of the band possess; the victories are far more convincing than the stumbles. But those scattered trip and fall moments do make the band name feel more like a warning than a moniker. By no means can anything on the disc be classified as sloppy; it is more ill-conceived than anything else. Tracks that cross over the five minute mark can be dangerous and rewarding at the same time, but their length can also be their biggest fault. When a song feels every bit as long as the run time indicates, you would be best advised to trim it down. And more often than not, you find yourself looking to see if a track is almost over, only to see you've just crossed the halfway mark. In the five songs contained here, Sometimes We Make Music run the entire gauntlet of possible outcomes, with some great successes and disappointments along the way. I think it might be a logical starting point for the next step. Sometimes We Make Music should start making music more often.


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