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Sea of Nectar - "Paramounts" (CD)

Sea of Nectar - "Paramounts" CD cover image

"Paramounts" track listing:

1. Traveling (1:18)
2. Paramounts (5:33)
3. The Embrace of Autumn (4:05)
4. Winter in the South (4:48)
5. Remembrance (4:32)
6. Endless Lair Delirium (3:47)
7. No More Dreams (3:56)
8. Nowhere Else to Be (5:00)
9. In the Fire of a Circumstance (7:16)
10. Remembrance (Live) (4:48)

Reviewed by on September 11, 2008

"Sea of Nectar’s first album, “Paramounts,” sounds a whole lot like the early jazz influenced Opeth with a good dose of Swallow the Sun thrown in for that stifling gothic doom feel."

Jazz-based progressive death metal outfits with a good dose of melancholy depression thrown in don’t always have to hail from that mythical metal producing land across the pond. The U.S. has produced a few contenders in the arena, such as the Washington-based band Sea of Nectar. Maybe all that ceaseless rain helped them get into their inner contemplative dirge metal core, or it could just be that the style has finally managed to get representation worldwide. Sea of Nectar’s first album “Paramounts” sounds a whole lot like the early jazz influenced Opeth with a good dose of Swallow the Sun thrown in for that stifling gothic doom feel. The production is kept muddy enough to make it sound like an indie Swedish or Norwegian release, but enough of a clean edge is kept around to make the whole package accessible to the average short attention span American listener.

The static heavy acoustic intro, “Travelling,” roots the album in Sea of Nectar’s softer and more melodic side before the title track arrives to show off the actual heavy stuff. The guitars stay distorted and lower in the mix whenever a song leans more towards the extreme end of the spectrum, letting the bass lines go for a walk and take the lead, but they come cleanly up to the forefront during the frequent acoustic incursions. Although Sea of Nectar feels at home playing with plenty of moments of furious head banging, they always keep a jazz or light rock spring in their guitar riffs to maintain a constant melody. The less harsh aspects of the music are reinforced by the frequent clean singing and dual male vocals, which frequently have effects added in to make them sound as though they were echoing from down a long dark corridor.

“The Embrace of Autumn” has the heaviest doom metal atmosphere and fully lives up to its name. The song sounds cold and bleak but with a hint of an upbeat tempo, much like the seasons changing and slowing down as they prepare to move into the domain of death before getting the chance to be reborn anew. The song also marks where the Opeth sound comes out in full force, as there are many instances in this song and beyond where it would be easy to mistake the music for one of the songs from the album “Morningrise.”

There are still plenty of tricks up Sea of Nectar’s sleeve to keep the album from getting repetitive and to stave off accusations of stealing other musician’s riffs, however. “Endless Lair Delirium” houses black metal style blast beats, guttural death screams, and trippy cosmic guitar riffs that give the impression of floating out in the depths of space all within the confines of one three and a half minute song. “In The Fires Of A Circumstance” also goes in a totally different direction than the rest of the album, officially hitting avant-garde status and going so completely out there that it will probably lose some listeners. The guitar parts stampede back and forth in utterly opposite styles repeatedly, swinging from one end of the scale to another without any warning or buildup as indiscernible whispered, spoken, and screamed vocals flit in and out of the song at seemingly random positions. Then the really odd parts begin, with abstract sound effects, a full twenty seconds of silence for no apparent reason, and weirdly distorted hellish screams that alternate between sounding like an Abruptum track and something stupidly over the top that would be heard on an Electric Hellfire Club album.

“Paramounts” should firmly hold the interest of fans of progressive metal and doom metal fans alike for the good majority of its run time. The album probably won’t hit many people’s permanent rotation, but Sea of Nectar could definitely work towards that goal by nailing down a more solidly uniform sound and making their own mark on the genre, rather than spending so much time emulating the great bands that came before them.

Highs: Jazz-influenced metal and a gothic doom feel

Lows: Sometimes sounds too much like others bands, muddy production, and a few of the more avante-garde moments will lose many listeners

Bottom line: Jazz-influenced gothic doom metal for fans of early Opeth or Swallow the Sun

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 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)