Alley - _Amphibious_
(BadMoodMan, 2013)
by: Chaim Drishner (7.5 out of 10)
If you've never laid a hand on either Opeth's _My Arms, Your Hearse_ or _Blackwater Park_, or never had a chance to listen to Opeth's semi-legendary debut album _Orchid_, look no further, as Russian band Alley's _Amphibious_ is everything an Opeth fan needs when it comes to the latter's early recordings.

_Amphibious_ maintains a fine balance between really well done death metal and some progressive rock remissions, and while the album's gentler parts could sound a tad goofy and too mellow for the die-hard metal fan, in the grand scheme of things those are well incorporated into the metallic barrage and add a certain '70s vintage flair, a sort of sparsity and airiness without which the album wouldn't have sounded that engaging and captivating -- pretty much the very same modus operandi undertaken by Alley's bigger, older sibling, Opeth.

This long opus, comprised of almost seventy minutes of playing time, is a showdown of decent songwriting and apt musicians handling their instruments well and delivering some pummeling, dark and ballsy death metal that isn't even melodic, unless you wish to dub the gritty, macho death metal of bands such as Edge of Sanity as 'melodic death metal'.

There's nothing inherently melodic in the death metal of Alley; it's just dark frequencies, expanding and obliterating with their massive sound and wall of distortion -- yet it is definitely appealing. Think of the maelstrom of harrowing sounds captured on Opeth's _My Arms, Your Hearse_, try to reminisce over the nature of the devouring tidal waves of sweet-and-sour, soul-searching brutality contained within this massive musical work, and you'd pretty much pinpoint the sound of _Amphibious_'s metallic onslaughts.

The mellower, intervening parts are not bad either. They do not arrest the natural dynamics of the tracks, and their stark contrast to the death metal display can throw you off your feet with their abrupt tranquil beauty suddenly appearing, as if from nowhere, especially when you least expect them.

The momentary goofiness of the aforementioned mellow moments -- that occasionally flirt with grunge, especially vocal-wise -- is swiftly overshadowed by excellent progressive arrangements and a subsequent death metal intrusion that paints everything black and dark again, until the acute pessimism gets sun-washed again, by yet another set of optimistic, life-affirming, quasi-progressive rock set of drama and introspect.

That's how _Amphibious_ works; a roller-coaster oscillating perpetually between metal and rock; between the harshness of death metal's lightlessness and progressive rock's hazy, marijuana-fumed easy going and easy living.

Even the alternating vocals -- both the deep, harsh growls and the clean singing -- bring to mind Mikael Akerfeldt's phenomenal and quite polarized vocal performances; so per definition, it all boils down to this: if you like Opeth's early works, you are bound to love Alley's as well, as _Amphibious_ is the best album Opeth have never recorded, and therefore highly recommended.


(article published 10/9/2014)

4/21/2009 Q Kalis 6.5 Alley - The Weed
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