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Artemia - "Something Special" (CD)

Artemia - "Something Special" CD cover image

"Something Special" track listing:

1. Amelia
2. Ghost of the Avalanche
3. Sex Drive
4. Empty V
5. Love You Crazy
6. The World Keeps Chugging Along
7. Lightning Strikes Twice
8. Home is Where the Heart Is
9. Nightmare
10. Nobody Makes Good Movies Anymore
11. Catchy Name (The Industry)
12. Friends Fields and Fences
13. Dispersions

Reviewed by on June 12, 2012

"Artemia does manage to make 'something special' out of this debut release, stepping out of its own shoes a couple of times, but making an admirable barefooted run with a blue collar authenticity behind its production."

A virtual unknown coming out of the east of the US, Artemia takes a bit of a coy approach to heavy metal by not devoting itself entirely to it, but providing just enough of what's needed. Shifting from silky and shimmering clean bits (developing organized themes within a progressive rock framework) to layers of distorted guitar harmonies and riffs, the music is driven by the guitars, although the drums play quite a large role in the mix. With the first song mentioning Amelia Earheart, the second detailing a ghastly encounter of being trapped in an avalanche, and the third comparing sex, women, and suped-up cars, the songs are lyrically diverse while remaining surprisingly musically consistent. The latter song is even delicate!

Drummer Michael Dinkins provides spot-on and mood-fitting instrumentation, never toying with the idea of going all-out when he's hanging back on parts that need subtlety. Jason Easler and Eric Rinker maintain clean and bright guitar work that smacks of an even blend of Opeth and Frank Zappa in sound and technicality, respectively, but keeps on the soft side during clean bits. During the metal passages, the Opeth worship is more pronounced, though appreciated. This blend needed to happen to loosen up the downer vibe of the doom-and-gloom tinge it's been given before by others. Bassist Nick Laws provides the necessary balance and manages to stay audible in the mix, which is a feat for heavy metal.

Blaine Prescott's vocals are clean all the way through the album and provide levity without becoming simply humorous during the tongue-in-cheek innuendos in places on the album. That's another thing about the writing -- playful sexuality is injected in various places, being more fun than crude. "Love You Crazy" is positively sexy in its back-and-forth guitar lines, whereas "Sex Drive" is softer in feel. "Catchy Name (The Industry)" takes a different attitude, jabbing in mock-rap at the empty nature of the popular music business model and those who choose to bend over for it. Mocking a different area of entertainment, "Nobody Makes Good Movies Anymore" leans especially towards Frank Zappa territory with all of its ridiculous voice acting.

Prescott and the bandmates' backing vocals make for really effective blends in harmonized passages with songs like "Lightning Strikes Twice." "Home is Where the Heart Is" surprisingly blends both classic and modern riffing while Prescott changes his vocal delivery to a more rhythmic and less melodic style inconsistent with the rest of the songs. The guitar solo is hysterical and fun and the drumming is reminiscent of old Iron Maiden, but it feels like a misstep for the album, along with "Dispersions" and "Friends Fields and Fences." "Nightmare" is a highlight, bright and full of synth, reminding of Yes and Alice Cooper in its chorus.

Artemia does manage to make "something special" out of this debut release, stepping out of its own shoes a couple of times, but making an admirable barefooted run with a blue collar authenticity behind its production. The production is clear and punchy, and while the latter half of the album leans more toward synth, drums, and vocals, attention is always paid to clarity. For a first go, this album likely won't grab, but if it catches the listener on the second listen, it will stick.

Highs: "Nightmare," "Ghost of the Avalanche," "Love You Crazy."

Lows: "Dispersions" and "Friends Fields and Fences."

Bottom line: An adventurous prog rock/metal debut with nods to the classic and the modern.

Rated 3.0 out of 5 skulls
3.0 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)