Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Meads of Asphodel - The Murder of Jesus the Jew

Admittedly, I love a challenge every once in a while.  If you don’t set a seemingly lofty goal for yourself on occasion, you never push yourself and will end up wallowing in misery.  Well, what I had just set out to do certainly falls into the category of major challenge.  After listening to the newest album from the band The Meads of Asphodel entitled The Murder of Jesus the Jew, I was inspired to help broaden their audience.  My idea was simple enough.  Get the band to play a single concert that would be written about in the annals of music history as the stuff of legend.

It turned out that this was easier said than done.  First of all, the band was notorious for never playing a live show.  Ever!  I took this in stride however as in my research I heard the group’s vocalist, Metatron, explain in an interview that the band would consider performing if all the right conditions existed.  That was fine.  It would be up to me to make the stars align.  The second problem was finding the right time and place for the band to show themselves off.  My personal requirements for the concert were as follows: 1. The show had to occur in the United States (being a British band, playing a show in the States would help add to the mystique), 2. There must be a great number of people there to see the band (the more witnesses, the better the promotional opportunities afterward), and 3. The venue had to be unique (no matter how great the act, it’s hard to get casual observers pumped up about a band playing the same old stadiums, clubs, theaters, etc.).  Fortunately, I had an epiphany.

What would complement the musical and visual aspects of this band perfectly?  I know!  They can play at a Renaissance Fair!  It’s perfect!  A little research online came up with a list of all major Renaissance Fairs and Festivals around the US, along with how many people on average show up every year to each event.  It turns out that the biggest festival of all, The Texas Renaissance Festival, is held in Plantersville, Texas on Saturdays and Sundays beginning October 9th and running through November 28th.  The festival is held on a ‘900 acre open air theme park’ and entertains around 400,000 people every year.  All my requirements would be met if I could somehow finagle the directors of this festival into allowing a band they most likely had never heard of before to perform.  It was time to get in touch with these folks and do the Penfold name proud.

At this point, I feel the need to assure you waveriders that I did not actually lie when I made my proposal to the fair directors.  I answered every one of their questions truthfully.  Yes, the band is actually from England.  Yes, the name is an allusion.  It refers to fields of flowers in certain mythologies.  Yes, their music (especially lyrically) deals with medieval times.  Yes, they have received high praise for their music from several print and online publications.  Yes, those publicity photos in fact show three of the band members dressed in armor.  Yes, they would most likely perform wearing assorted pieces of armor.  Yes, this would be their very first live performance for the public.  Yes, they would need electricity for their instruments, but I know that you have the capability to provide the energy needed since there are ATMs and other electrical devices scattered around your premises.  Surprisingly, after just a few more questions they agreed to allow the band to perform on Halloween Sunday, October 31st.   Oh my, this was going to be good.

The Meads of Asphodel is an English black metal band.  Okay, now that the gross understatement of the year is out of the way let’s be serious.  Strictly labeling this band as a black metal outfit should qualify as a felony offense!  This is some of the most adventurous music I have heard in my life.  Is it bizarre?  Yes, it most certainly is bizarre.  It is bizarrely awesome!  I absolutely love the fact that from the very first minute of this album the listener fully comprehends that this band is a unique entity that for all intents and purposes will not be playing by the rules.  In fact, they relish writing down all the genre rules and conventions in a book, and then incinerating that book in extreme heat so as not to produce smoke or ash.  The rules simply cease to exist.

The Murder of Jesus the Jew is the fourth full length album from The Meads.  Not surprisingly, the lyrics revolve around the last days of Jesus and the people around him.  The vocals are suitably gruff and grisly but unlike many other black metal frontmen, Metatron never allows his voice to become screechy (at least on this album).  For the most part, and thanks in large part to the somewhat conversational vocal delivery, I like to imagine an old, bitter, gravelly-voiced storyteller working himself into a fury.  Also, it is important to note that Metatron cares very deeply about his lyrics.  Anyone who wishes can read a 60,000 word explanation of the concept for the entire album or the meaning of lyrics from each individual song.  All I can say is wow!

Trying to explain the sonic variety on offer here is a daunting task.  The album of course offers up black metal tunes with hyper drumming, mighty riffs, and foreboding atmospheres to spare.  Check out the tunes “My Psychotic Sand Deity” and “Jew Killer”.  What is more interesting to me however are the songs that either branch out to incorporate elements from other genres into the strong black metal backbone, or simply break the mold entirely to add more flavor to the proceedings.  “Man From Kerioth” adds some serious hardcore punk elements.  “Genesis of Death” could easily be sequenced on any modern progressive metal album if clean vocals were substituted and a few slower moments of the song were removed.  The clean-toned guitar solo that begins shortly after the sixth minute of this song is phenomenally epic.  Listening to “Of Tempests” I believe I am listening to a group of traveling minstrels performing for me in front of their parked wagons.  The acoustic guitar strumming and female background vocals are intoxicating and make me want to dance a jig.  Look I could go on and on, so I’m going to stop before I get too excited.

The bottom line here is that you need to investigate this band and get a hold of this superior album.  Do you like black metal?  Check out this album.  Do you like adventurous music that will take you places you likely have not been to before?  Buy this album.  Do you like music that will challenge your preconceived notions about modern metal music?  Buy two copies of this album and give the second to a friend.  Trust me, they will thank you.  If this album had come out in the US before the end of the year, it would have challenged for a very high ranking on my top ten list.  That being said, thanks to its January 2011 release I already have an early favorite for next year’s list.  Now back to the Fair performance.

Local news, both television and print, had a lot to report on Monday morning after The Meads played their concert.  Spectators fell into one of three camps.  There were the people who thoroughly enjoyed the performance, had their faces melted off, and left with the biggest smiles anyone had ever seen.  Then there were the folks who could only express absolute horror at the overwhelming display before them.  It should be noted that these people were nonetheless transfixed, and remained for the entire performance.  Lastly, there was a small portion of patrons that simply scattered.  In effect, they ran for the hills.  People from this last group formed the majority of interviewees after the fact, and they certainly added to the mystique I wished to generate.  No one knew where the band had come from, or where they had disappeared to after the concert.  Metalheads spoke in reverence about The Meads and their triumph.  Even casual music fans had now heard of the English band that played the Renaissance Fair.  With a solid foothold in the musical consciousness of the American people, my work was done.

-- Penfold

Buy here: Murder of Jesus the Jew

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great review. This makes me mad I didn't listen to this earlier. Nicely done. It's cool when you can literally feel the enthusiasm of the reviewer.

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