Romania may not be the most metal country in the world, but there are still many bands that play variations of this type of heavy music. From folk metal masters E-AN-NA, BUCOVINA, and DIRTY SHIRTS to symphonic metal outfit MAGICA, to heavy metal band SCARLET AURA, all the way to progressive metal unit WHITE WALLS, the underground scene is quite active. Today I am presenting to you the newest album from WHITE WALLS, “Grandeur,” which is scheduled for an independent release on 23 October 2020.
Known for their mixture of complex riffs, gloomy chords, and intriguing lyrics, WHITE WALLS has left a mark on the Romanian metal scene in the decade since their formation in 2009. “Grandeur,” their third album, offers a more mature sound as the spectrum of musical avenues the band decided to pursue benefits from not just a neat balance of darkness and lightand heavy and mellow, but also a top-notch production value that emphasizes the arrangements and structure of each of the eleven songs. Opening with what could easily be a CALIGULA’S HORSE track, “False Beliefs” sets a very peaceful and serene tone, as it is mostly melodic vocals, bass, and playful backing guitar melodies, but soon enough everything is offset by a chunky guitar riff and pounding drums as “Eye for an I” sees the band kicking the door open in one swift movement. Balancing growls and cleans, the track moves along at a steady pace with some interesting guitar riffs and intense drums. Actually, Alexandru-Eduard Dascălu’s guitar parts are quite impressive throughout the whole album varying from melodic to heavy to progressive, giving the songs texture and nuance.
Melodic and heavy “Home is on the Other Side” features a pulsating bass groove that accentuates the vocal line beautifully most evident halfway through the song when there’s a drop in tempo to accommodate a sort of spoken-word passage, before picking up pace and intensity. “Holy Worse” is more aggressive with sharp guitar melodies and a melodic chorus section that plays well off of the harsh verses. This clean/harsh dynamic has been employed really well not only on this track but throughout the album, and I have to give a shout-out to singer Eugen Brudaru for his amazing vocal work. The next couple of tracks, “Velvet” and “Speaking in Tongues,” are dramatic pieces that feature some more pulsating bass grooves from Șerban-Ionuț Georgescu and syncopated drumming from newcomer Theo Scrioșteanu, where the dichotomy between heavy and mellow parts is more evident as the tracks ebb and flow between these two extremes, creating complex rhythms and invigorating soundscapes.
Released as the first single, “Starfish Crown” is as melodic as it gets, but still groovy, featuring only clean vocals, throbbing bass lines, and a cinematic ambiance that gives listeners a chance to catch their breath before “Locked-in Syndrome” hits with chugging guitars, pounding drums, and vocals that oscillate between sounding violent and serene as the song presents two sides of the same coin. Though it feels like the guitar is the focal point of the album, the bass is its beating heart; it is not in the background, like in many other cases, but quite front and centered to give the music more intensity and drive. WHITE WALLS has cleverly used it to accentuate certain parts of the song, and “Month’s End” takes full advantage of it, combining neatly with the other instruments to create a strong basis on which the vocal melodies can develop and soar. The progressive “The Descent” is quite an aggressive and dramatic number, with many twists and turns and an ominous vibe coming from the guitar lines. Vocally, this may be Eugen Brudaru’s best performance on the album, it’s so raw and emotional, while the highs are truly spectacular. Opening on a neat little drums/bass moment, the lengthy “The Slaughter (Marche Funèbre)” is as dark as foreboding as its title suggests, with another impressive vocal performance and intense backing instrumental that works well with the lyrical content. The ending of this song, and consequently the album, is very interestingly constructed as the music gradually fades until there’s only vocals and then just silence. This is such a neat way of closing an album.
Living up to its name, “Grandeur” feels lofty and imposing, with many subtle details that give the eleven tracks character and a vibe of their own. WHITE WALLS’ trademark mix of softer moments and more energetic soundscapes is well polished and on high display as the four musicians bring their A-game, making “Grandeur” quite a gratifying listening experience from start to finish. Highly recommended for fans of progressive metal in general, but especially for fans of such bands as KARNIVOOL, CALIGULA’S HORSE, ANIMALS AS LEADERS, or LEPROUS. This is good stuff.
Written by Andrea Crow
- False Beliefs
- Eye for an I
- Home Is On the Other Side
- Holy Worse
- Speaking in Tongues
- Starfish Crown
- Locked-in Syndrome
- Month’s End
- The Descent
- The Slaughter (Marche Funèbre)
Alexandru-Eduard Dascălu (Dasu) – guitar
Eugen Brudaru – vocals
Șerban-Ionuț Georgescu – bass
Theo Scrioșteanu – drums
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