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Sculptured - Embodiment CD (album) cover



Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars Reviewed for Sonic Frontiers at and kindly approved for re-posting in PA.

A fantastic musical sculpture

From The End Records comes this fine release with an impressive lineup that not only promises but delivers beyond my expectations. The lineup is made up of guitarist Don Anderson bassist Jason Walton (both from Agalloch), Andy Winter on keyboards (Winds, Age Of Silence), drummer Dave Murray (ex-Estradasphere, Deserts Of Traun, Tholus) and vocalist Tom Walling.

Wow, what a start! This album opens with such a kick in your face heavy riffs mixed with great lush keyboards much in a 70's inspired Hammond organ style. What's great in this album is how they have progressed! This is wonderfully prog rock woven into metal form. This album is just full of progressive metal goodness: intricate guitar playing, fast changing rhythms, cool tunes, excellent playing, richness of sound, combined vocal styles (growling and clear) - a recipe for excellence. This is an excellent album, get it now! The production is great, clear and fresh. The songs are obviously well structured and have many intricacies built into them in terms of deviations from the main theme whether by time signature changes, vocal style, intensity or mood. They have done a remarkable work here that has caught me from the very first listen.

The choice to have only 5 tracks (though mostly long ones) has proven to be a wise one, as this album is a dense and rich experience and a longer album would have resulted in a less effective experience. The last songs, Embodiment is the Purest Form of Horror, is in itself a good reason to get this. It is a fantastic voyage between the fierceness of metal to the more melodic and mellow sides of it (reminiscing Winds somewhat), to a majestic part lead by keyboards and backed up wonderfully by the drums. It is a wonderful song and a good representative of the track they have gone to, or rather the level they have elevated up to.

If you're unfamiliar with Sculptured, then band that might serve as reference would be the obvious Agalloch to a certain point but mostly Winds and Age Of Silence, and to some extent Opeth. Fans of these will love this most probably. In any case, they have not changed their basic style or sound; they have improved it and progressed and fulfilled their fine potential.

In short - it is a great progressive metal/rock album! This has started my list of the best 2008 albums.

Report this review (#159877)
Posted Saturday, January 26, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars If you happen to be stumbling across this band, it mostly likely comes from the fame imparted on Sculpture leader Don Anderson by Agalloch. Unfortunately, Embodiment will appeal to quite a different fan base. Stylistic distinctions aside though, Sculptured have created a sadly overlooked masterpiece, greatly shadowing all their prior work which appears quite juvenile when held up to the light produced by Embodiment.

Sculptured differentiates itself from the post-rock influence of Agalloch being more in the extreme metal vein similar perhaps to Opeth and Death. Where Agalloch focuses on traditional harmonies and long extended themes, Sculptured rebels exploring radical harmonic territory. Don Anderson employs matrix methods and geometrical considerations in writing material to prevent falling into familiar territory.

Most of the material here is pretty brutal. The screaming vocals and massive riffs of Anderson backed by the mindblowing drum work of Murray amounts to an aural blitzkrieg. Adding variety to the brutality though we have Winds keyboardist Andy Winter who's contribution considerably improves Embodiment compared to previous releases from the band. However, perhaps the most important missing cog which allowed Sculptured to reach a new tier in quality would be vocalist Tom Walling who replaces Brian Yager (refusing to sing because of religious objections to the lyrics). His singing style is poor pop. Further his voice is honestly pretty bad. In some magical way though he fits perfectly into the band.

Terrifying, techincal, prog-metal. Must have.

Report this review (#198372)
Posted Saturday, January 10, 2009 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
5 stars 'Embodiment' - Sculptured (8/10)

As an existing fan of one of this supergroup's parent bands 'Agalloch,' I was at first, admittedly a bit cold to this completely different style. Whereas Agalloch is very folk and ambient based metal, the jump to avant-garde tech metal was quite a leap to take as a listener. Despite the praise friends had showered it and my love for Agalloch, I sadly passed this one by when it was released in 2008. Fortunately however, I was lucky enough to find it lying about in a record store and picked it up in the hopes that I had been wrong on my initial judgement of them. Luckily, I was.

Even disregarding the association with Agalloch, Sculptured can be a bit of a hard adjustment to make. Elevator-music style organs paired with technical death metal? Yes, this is an avant-garde metal band we're talking about here.

The extreme vocals here are solid and fit the dark, menacing vibe of the album. The biggest musical problem I have with the album (at least initally) were the clean vocals. While I usually really like clean vocals against heavy metal, I really did not find the vocals to fit the musical style at all... Maybe this was because the previous singer ran off due to conflicting views between his religion and the lyrics themselves but things didn't seem to work out; the singer just didn't sound 'good' in my ears. Like the organs however (which at first, I found distracting from the otherwise brilliant guitar riffage) they start to grow on me and I could now see why Thomas Walling was chosen for the job. He is actually a great singer but not in a metal style at all, which felt awkward at first but eventually just added to the album and band's character.

It's easy to see why the previous clean singer could not handle the lyrical content. The lyricist here very clearly states his beliefs here. Most of the words deal with the non- existence or impotence of god, and existentialism. Obviously the lyricist has taken some courses in philosophy, but there's a lot of quotable lines here. As long as you're not religious (or if you are, not easily taken to offense) there's some brilliant poetry here.

The highlight of the album has to be the finale, which can only be described as 'magical.' Intense polyrhythms mixed with melodic beauty is something that dreams are made of. The albums trails of much unlike the energy it came in with; with a fragile piano melody and timid narration.

For fans of avant-garde metal, it shouldn't take too long to realize that this is a future classic of the sub-genre. I personally prefer the sound of the sister band Agalloch alot more due to the fact that there's alot more emotion involved but this just proves something that was already evident; the members of Winds and Agalloch (and Estradasphere, in this case) are brilliant musicians and highly talented. A great piece of tech metal and a piece teeming with thought and layers to peel back and enjoy. Great material, to put it simply.

Report this review (#278209)
Posted Friday, April 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
5 stars My problem with modern "technical" death metal tag is the lack of personality, focus on brutality and similarity between tracks and bands, bringing a boring headache. But this album is progressive, technical and circumspective. This Agalloch related band describes it's music as "matrix metal". As a sci-fi lover and a Sprawl Trilogy fan, I was looking forward for this band after a reccomendation, maybe it would be cyberpunk related. And after all, I really enjoyed the experience. The keyboards are very important and present. Some riffs and bridges reminds me of Death riffage accompanied by a hammond organ. Play the whole album. It's excellent.
Report this review (#977155)
Posted Thursday, June 13, 2013 | Review Permalink
siLLy puPPy
PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams
5 stars SCULPTURED is a unique avant-garde metal band from Camas, WA in the USA. Although EMBODIMENT: COLLAPSING UNDER THE WEIGHT OF GOD is their 3rd release it is so far the only one I have had the pleasure of gracing my auditory system with. Reading about their history it seems like this is a different album from them since they have included brass instruments in the past and have Thomas Walling as a new vocalist on this one. After an eight year gap between albums it seems like changes were likely. This band is known as the second band for Agalloch members Don Anderson (guitar) and Jason Walton (bass). Although there is a scant trace of the folk metal of Agalloch, most of this music sounds nothing even remotely close to that band.

To me this music sounds like a successful hybrid of the tech death metal that Death was famous for mixed with an alternative metal approach as found on "The Real Thing" album by Faith No More. On the tech death metal side we get the complex riffing and sudden time changes as well as the growly vocals. On the "Real Thing" side we get many influences including funky bass lines, loungy piano runs, guitar chord progressions and riffs that Jim Martin employed and just some of the overall feel that the album exuded. SCULPTURED doesn't stop there though. Those are the two biggest influences I can detect but there are others as well. This is an album that really figured out how to balance everything quite remarkably. There is always a tension when they go off on some highly progressive time signature journey and it always feels like the whole thing is about to collapse but they always manage to incorporate everything into a larger melodic framework. There is also samples from the 1981 film "Possession" as well as from a short film called "Camera."

I'm actually quite impressed with this album and find it more than holds up on repeated listens. Although discovering an album so masterfully done is cause for excitement, I am quite apprehensive to seek out their earlier albums for it seems that they aren't at the same technical level as this one going by the reviews. I probably will visit them if I have the chance but am happy to say that this album is quite deserving of the reputation it has earned in the avant-garde metal world. I also quite love all the art work in the booklet which is imagery from the National Library Of Medicine. Great album all the way around. 4.5 rounded up

Report this review (#1234830)
Posted Monday, August 4, 2014 | Review Permalink
5 stars Sculptured is the personal vehicle for Agallloch member Don Anderson's twisted brainwrongs of avant-prog metal strangeness. With Agalloch taking off to the extent that it's done, Sculptured releases have been few and far between, but 2008's Embodiment is a rather magnificent specimen which takes technical death metal as its launching-off point for wild and deep explorations of diverse musical territories. With a sound about as diverse as your typical late-period Mr Bungle album, it ranges from the atonally noisy to the blissfully melodic and calm, often within the same composition and occasionally, impossibly, at the exact same moment. A genuine avant-metal oddity which doesn't deserve to be left in the shadow of Anderson's Agalloch day job.
Report this review (#1853083)
Posted Tuesday, January 2, 2018 | Review Permalink

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