A couple of weeks ago, Derek from the Dallas, Texas progressive metal act Onward Me March contacted me about doing a review of their debut EP, The Golden Vine. Derek described their sound as a mix of “Opeth, Mastadon and Tool”. My already elfish ears perking up at the mention of “progressive”, I said sure. The album arrived in the antipodes at lightning speed, unusual since NZ Post has an inconvenient habit of losing every package sent to “Steff Metal”. So, I’m having a listen to The Golden Vine right now, and I gotta say, I’m impressed.
And I’ve just been listening to the new Amon Amarth, so if you can impress me after that, you’re bloody good.
It wasn’t until Eluveitie that I started to appreciate the shrieking, screamo-style vocals that are quite popular in the US at the moment. When I think of progressive bands, I do think of clean vocals or the very melodic growls of bands like Opeth. So it was a bit of a surprise when “Wolves of Despair” kicked up with a bit of a screech. It was the good kind of surprise though, like sleep sex or finding $20 in your underwear drawer …
The vocals switch from a deeper growl to the hardcore screech. Both sound excellent – the right amount of power without being grating. There are certain passages, especially in “Wolves of Despair” and “Of Pestilence” when I think a very melodic, very clean vocal line would have been better, but the grunt behind the dual guitar and bass is so intense that most of the time you really need those harsh vocals. There are no 10 minute soundscapes of guitar virtuosity, either, but you can hear the progressive influences in the guitar melodies, the time changes, the song structures. There’s a real groove running through the whole album, and you can’t say that about many bands these days.
These boys released the Golden Vine themselves, and it was mastered by Sterling Winfield (Pantera, Damageplan). It sounds great – smooth in all the right places, perfectly balanced … a really solid first release.
The best song on the album is the title track, “The Golden Vine”, which shows off Onward We March’s ability to write groovy, intense and progressive music. My other favorites were “Of Pestilence” and “The Human Aberration”. I would say the Mastedon influences are much more evident than the Opeth or Tool, but you give these boys a few years and a new singer (the one on the Golden Vine is no longer in the band), and we’ll see how their sound progresses.
Check out Onward We March on Myspace. If you’d like a copy of this album, add a comment below and I’ll send an album out the someone I choose using an arbitrary choosing system.