Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Project Masquerade - Nothing But Everything Will Remain (2011)

The pressure of major labels leads so many bands to write and record entire albums in weeks. They work tirelessly to put out the best product possible, but the strict deadlines and "dollars & cents" nature of the industry lead to albums being released prematurely. Mediocre albums, too much filler, and the collapse of a business all hang in the balance. That is why now, in 2011, when someone dedicates almost three years to one album, one dreams, one vision, it is time to take notice. And when Noud Smeets completed work on the Project Masquerade album "Nothing But Everything Will Remain," rest assured, it was ready for you to hear.

There is no rush in getting to the meat of "Disease," and you will be thankful for each note. The intro is broken into two pieces, with the first feature a softer, acoustic guitar and a outrageous, rumbling bass line. Each drum hit will rattle your beverage of choice. The guitar distortion kicks in, signalling the countdown. The tempo peaks as the cleanly delivered vocals enter provided by Chandler Mogel. Their strength builds as the song progresses, gaining power and momentum with each verse. The beauty of the guitar work is in the variation. Lightning fast crunching notes dominate the verse, but more melodic styles take the chorus and bridge sections. The contrast is key, especially over the span of eleven minutes. The rhythm section is not to be taken for granted, holding down the sonic fort as guitarist Noud Smeets explores with some intricate fret work. The more subtle fingerings give way to a blazing solo, with the thunderous low end accenting every note.

The concept of finding your soulmate is explored in a pair of tracks, beginning with the drum clinic on "Carve Your Soul," which is impressive, with the flurry of double bass pedal work shaking your eye sockets. As fast as the kicks and snares are delivered, Smeets' climbs up and down the guitar neck, delivering scales of a intense nature. The periods of intermittent chugging and thrashing are perfectly timed, carving out a place for a stirring vocal performance. Amidst the crashing of drums and guitars, the combined vocals of Dmitri Kostitsyn and Suzy Silversteim are otherwordly. His coarse, bitter screams and growls are paired with her sweet, angelic voice in a daring mix.

The atmospheric keys and electronics begin part two of the duo, before the whine of Smeets signature guitar sound screams through it all. The track is a slow, distorted stomp, with the glorious low end presence that is so often lacking in modern metal. The smooth, melodic vocals of Michel Zandbergen are the perfect match. The light tap of cymbals shines through, before the power is unleashed. Zandbergen shows his vocal range, with his voice soaring over the top. Smeets cruises up and down, before igniting a groove of staggering proportions. The continued heavy handed drumming is a worthy platform for the solo work, before allowing the vocals to re-enter and complete the sound.

Lightning fills launch "Killer Of Life," with the soft whisper of vocals building to the screams of Daniel Verbrugge. This is a thrash track, pure and simple, whipping your head back and forth. The guitars are low, with distortion crushing down on each note. The accuracy of the instruments is key, with stop and start moments coming frequently. But the highlight of the track comes just over two minutes in, as the deathly screams give way to a guitar solo that has something that thrash lacks: soul. Dutch singer/songwriter Grain lends her amazing vocals talents here, as well. The contrast of her clean, heavenly voice is unreal. Smeets rattles of blistering passage after blistering passage, changing tempos at will, keeping minute seven as fresh as minute one. Verbrugge ends the assault with a grunting scream that you won't soon forget.

The completely instrumental "Masterplan" is Smeets at his shredding best. It is as if he tells a story with each note, bending the strings to conform to his musical vision. But the backing band is key here, with the deafening bass and drum beats turning this into a well rounded composition, rather than a four and a half minute guitar solo. You may lose track of time very quickly, trying to keep up with the pace set. Nothing is forced, nothing is simply thrown in. The background thrash is expertly timed, while the guitar melodies that dominate the track are pitch perfect and spot on.

The album's finale, "King Of The Wastelands," displays that ability to combine the heavy and the melodic that Smeets was known for over the course of two decades in the business. The music provides the hard and heavy punch, while the vocals of Chandler Mogel are once again utilized. He is in his element on this track, giving a stirring performance, all the while standing in a sea of harsh, distorted notes. The rolls and fills used to tie each section together deserve attention, keeping the song cohesive and flowing. The solo that brings the album to a close is a fitting end, climbing the scales to new heights.

There is something to be said for the dedication and persistence that leads to a man spending the better part of three years recording and perfecting an album. That kind of care isn't seen much in this day and age, leaving bands to cram an entire album recording into weeks. When Noud Smeets releases "Nothing But Everything Will Remain," he will have the opportunity to do something that few others can. He can hear the finished product, and say that he is happy with the scope of the album, rather than just saying it is "good enough." And that makes all the difference.


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