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Ayin Aleph - "Ayin Aleph I" (CD)

Ayin Aleph - "Ayin Aleph I" CD cover image

"Ayin Aleph I" track listing:

1. Hamlet (3:54)
2. My Bloody Marriage (4:01)
3. Aleph (5:55)
4. Grey Ashes (3:21)
5. Butterfly (4:22)
6. Bridge (0:42)
7. Walpurgis Night (3:37)
8. Sebastian's Prayer (5:26)
9. Army Of Love (5:41)
10. My Bloody Marriage II (4:17)
11. The Purchase Of The Cathedral (6:56)
12. Black Roses (4:55)
14. Es Muss Sein (5:38)
15. Alcove Rhapsody (4:10)
16. I Came (2:59)
17. Greed (8:36)
18. The End (1:29)
19. I Miss You (3:59)

Reviewed by on April 8, 2009

"Though at times her voice may sound like a Vaudeville sex kitten… more of the time, Aleph’s voice is a definite turn-off, with alternating operatic caterwauls and Bride of Dracula hisses."

Usually I’m all for artistic expression and music that is unique. But "unique" doesn’t begin to describe the sound of Russian-turned Paris native Ayin Aleph’s self-titled debut, "Ayin Aleph I." As a classically trained pianist and vocalist, Aleph brings to the table a definite Baroque-styled symphonic sound, complete with operatic vocals and a harpsichord, and mixes it with goth and occasional hardcore metal drums and guitar. Add to that the fact that there is an illusive, perhaps for superstitious reasons, track thirteen, that includes four seconds of silence, and the result is strange, to say the least.

First, let me say that I respect what Aleph is trying to do with her music. Combining two extreme, seemingly polarized styles of music is an ambitious feat. And while there are moments when the combination works, the vocal execution is horrendous, and the entire album ends up being a migraine-inducing mess. Though I may have been tempted to turn it off after the first fifteen minutes, I struggled through the entire thing. But by track seven, "Valpurgis Night," all I could do was hold my head and laugh, either out of hysteria or desperation.

A brief respite from the auditory assault comes in "Butterfly," which mixes some good, dramatic classical piano with hardcore drums and guitar. "Butterfly" sounds like a mixture of Wagner and Disturbed, which should be enough to make anyone quirk a brow, and yet, it actually works, sort of. Then there’s "Black Roses," a grindcore and Baroque combo, though I’m not sure if the track maybe just seemed pretty good because I was basically numb by that point.

As for the rest of the album, let me just point out that it’s sad when a harpsichord is the only good thing about a song, as is the case in "Aleph." Breathy, wailing vocals that sound a bit too much like Moaning Mona from the Harry Potter series help bastardize a classic piano composition into a swirling cacophony of discord in this third track.

It doesn’t take much to realize that Aleph has a fondness for the dramatic. Though the lyrics throughout are in English – with the exception perhaps of the German titled "Es Muss Sein," the lyrics for which are missing from the CD booklet – the way Aleph draws out every single syllable makes it virtually impossible to figure out the lyrics, even with a booklet in front of you. Unfortunately, in the case of "Alcove Rhapsody," some bold, erotic lyrics are completely lost on the listener between Aleph’s unintelligible wailing and the mostly 1970’s funk instrumentals, with the end result sounding like a bad, Victorian fetish-inspired porno.

Though at times her voice may sound like a Vaudeville sex kitten, as in "Hamlet," more of the time, Aleph’s voice is a definite turn-off, with alternating operatic caterwauls and Bride of Dracula hisses. And while the sometimes successful instrumental parts of the compositions could make a karaoke version of the album worth hearing, unless you’re an extreme fan of avant-garde, I think it’s safe to pass this one up.

Highs: The blending of hardcore with a Baroque piano in "Butterfly" makes for an interesting combination.

Lows: Aleph’s vocals are truly painful, and for the most part, unintelligible.

Bottom line: Without a doubt, this is an album you'll either love or hate.

Rated 1 out of 5 skulls
1 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)