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Heir To Madness - "The Citadel" (CD)

Heir To Madness - "The Citadel" CD cover image

"The Citadel" track listing:

1. Citadel of Self
2. Bliss
3. Wondrous Wrath
4. Manhole
5. Arbiter of Somnolence
6. Last Line of Defense
7. Siamese Suicide
8. To the Fairest

Reviewed by on June 8, 2011

"'The Citadel' is a treasure trove of blissful melancholia put to music."

There's something to be said for one-man bands. It takes talent and considerable patience to be able to write, perform, and produce an album by one's self. Jason Wiscarson is one of those rare talents that can somehow manage to compose for bass, guitar, drums, keyboards, and vocals and play each instrument himself, as well as produce the album. Such types of people would likely have been symphony composers hundreds of years ago. With his project, Heir To Madness, there is a definite Opethic spirit of musical adventure at work throughout the debut album, "The Citadel."

Wiscarson wears his Opeth influence on his sleeve, as well as the influences of Porcupine Tree, Fates Warning, and O.S.I. among others. These influences are immediately obvious after the first two tracks. "The Citadel" is a concept album in the spirit of such influences. Thankfully, Wiscarson provides a breakdown of what the lyrical themes are on his website. Without such an explanation, the lyrics are smoke and mirrors -- the main theme is the human ego and the mind-construct, which pretty much allows for the music to go anywhere Wiscarson wants.

The music is very much a cross-breed of "Damnation"-era Opeth, Agalloch, and "Materia"-era Novembre, and is topped off with pure clean vocals reminiscent of Between The Buried And Me. Decidedly heavy, but not bludgeoning, distorted guitars drive the melodic metal portions of the songs, with various synths and bits of programming taking a purely assisting role in the sound. Wiscarson paints a musical portrait of the human mind through lengthy explorations of the subtle and the overt, never really letting one instrument run unrestrained compared to the rest.

One big point of note on this album is that the clean electric guitars are tastefully performed and full of delicious tone. The production is flattering, if a little muddy and guitar-heavy, often unfortunately masking the vocals. The drums, although programmed, were mixed to sound fairly realistic (as far as sampled drums can go) except for some of the cymbals. A common pitfall of one-man projects with programmed drums is to have them over-play. That pitfall can be found on some of the heavy parts of the album, but the rest is wonderfully balanced.

"The Citadel" is available for purchase on CDBaby and Amazon.com, as well as for download (name your price) on the Heir To Madness website. Being an unsigned act, these are likely the only ways you will be able to get ahold of a copy of "The Citadel." The highlights of the album, "Manhole," "Last Line of Defense," and "Arbiter of Somnolence," are the best representations of the Heir To Madness sound, and will likely draw fans from the My Dying Bride camp as well.

This album is geared toward contemplative listening, but doesn't require the listener's full attention. Instead, it only requires time. It's definitely prog, but not the “head-up-their-own-ass” kind, and there's no sign of self indulgence. "The Citadel" is a treasure trove of blissful melancholia put to music.

Highs: "Manhole," "Arbiter of Somnolence," and "Last Line of Defense"

Lows: Vocals get buried behind the guitars in the mix.

Bottom line: A heavy and beautifully bleak prog-metal album that could easily serve as a companion to Opeth's "Damnation."

Rated 4 out of 5 skulls
4 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)