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Gwynbleidd - "Nostalgia " (CD)

Gwynbleidd - "Nostalgia " CD cover image

"Nostalgia " track listing:

1. Nostalgia (10:04)
2. Egress (3:21)
3. New Setting (9:45)
4. Stormcalling (8:22)
5. Adrift (2:45)
6. Thawing Innocence (6:00)
7. Stare into the Sun (5:59)
8. Canvas for Departure (8:53)

Reviewed by on November 6, 2009

"Like any reminiscence of times long gone, there is bound to be the bitter with the sweet, which provides a valid reason for full force death metal to blend smoothly into acoustic segments."

There is still a lot of room to explore sounds that mix progressive and melodic elements with the most extreme forms of metal, and Gwynbleidd is well aware of that fact. “Nostalgia” is only their first full-length release, but the high-end production and overall flow of music speaks of a band that knows where it wants to go and what it wants the audience to feel.

Gwynbleidd’s preferred mode of playing becomes apparent within the first minute of the massive opening title track. The core sound of the album is heavily focused on the interweaving sounds of two guitarists playing off each other to produce a unique melody. Without using any keyboards or synth effects, Gwynbleidd can effectively make their music sound folksy or symphonic just by changing the direction of the two guitars. Each song exudes a vague feeling of nature and untouched wilderness without ever actually breaching the territory traditionally held by folk music.

The melodic aspects of the guitar work lead into an issue that is simultaneously the band’s greatest asset and its greatest weakness. Simply put, “Nostalgia” sounds an awful lot like the early works of Swedish progressive death metal titans Opeth. The transitions from melodic to brutal, the layering of guitars, the strong bass presence, the extensive song lengths, and even the album artwork and layout all feel like a mixture of several of the initial Opeth albums. Anyone who didn’t care for “Morningrise” through “Blackwater Park” may as well skip the album, as strong echoes from that entire era of music are heard throughout the tracks. Anyone who loves those discs will also find plenty to love about “Nostalgia.”

One of the biggest ways that Gwynbleidd sets themselves apart from any other death metal band with a progressive edge is their ratio of brutality to melody. While the album has its share of growls and distorted guitars, a large portion of the disc is made up of long stretches of laid back material that lacks vocals. The acoustic parts and toned down segments strike on the right balance of sounds to create a mood that is easy to get lost in and listen to repeatedly without getting bored. The band also sticks primarily to growling vocals during the album’s run time, using clean singing only on brief occasions.

The atmosphere of “Nostalgia” shouldn’t be surprising considering its title and premise. The songs are rooted in themes of people and locales lost to the past and are based on the band member’s relocation from Poland to the U.S. Like any reminiscence of times long gone, there is bound to be the bitter with the sweet, which provides a valid reason for full force death metal to blend smoothly into acoustic segments.

To spice up the nostalgic sound there are a few unique elements worked into certain songs. The end of “Stormcalling” has one of the most noticeable instances when the sound of all the instruments get sucked into the eye of the storm like a strong torrent of wind is passing over the music. The end of the track flows directly into the acoustic opening of “Adrift,” as though the listener passed through the storm and now floats along peacefully. One of the album's strong points is the seamless transitioning that occurs between segments and entire songs. The whole disc could easily run all the way through without the listener realizing it.

While Gwynbleidd hasn’t created the most original sound with “Nostalgia,” they have released an album that is immensely enjoyable to enthusiasts of progressive and melodic death metal. Fans of Opeth or anyone who enjoys the dual guitar sound should make a point of giving the album a listen or two.

Highs: Amazing interchange between the two guitars, manages to sound folksy without using keyboards

Lows: Sometimes they sound too much like Opeth for their own good

Bottom line: A new talent has entered the arena of progressive and melodic death metal. Fans of Opeth should give this one a shot.

Rated 4.0 out of 5 skulls
4.0 out of 5 skulls


Key
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)