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Rishloo - Terras Fames CD (album) cover



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3 stars Rishloo's debut release is a hard one to pin down. Hailed by many, and scathed by others, it lacks some of the originality that would later become much more apparent in the band's career. Having said that, Terras Fames is still a great little album, and certainly a fine introduction to the band.

The instrumentation heard throughout the record is simple, but deceptively so/ It puts me in mind of Pink Floyd's signature approach of conveying so much emotion through doing so little on the technical side of things. With the Floyd, the emotion arguably came from Dave Gilmour's soulful, honest guitar playing; with Rishloo, it is expressed through their singer, Drew. Seriously, this guy can sing better than most of the well-known frontmen in this genre. He has a style all his own, yet it would become more unique on the next album. Here, he is slightly reminiscent of Maynard James Keenan, and therein lies the reason for many unjust Tool comparisons these guys seem to get every time a new album is released. But I'll go into why that is a rubbish claim later in the review.

Not only is his voice spectacular, his poetic, intellectual lyrics convey a mind much more mature and philosophical than most would expect in a 21-year-old (which he was at the time). He often speaks in allegory, deep symbolism and at times, raw, profane-ridden cries for understanding and solace. But whichever side of Drew Mailloux you prefer, you cannot deny the guy is a brilliant songwriter.

The other bright light in this often dark, moody musical pool would have to be dave Gillette's guitar playing. He isn't a shredder by any means, but his clear lack of 'proper' music theory has caused him to invent his own approach at the instrument, with very intriguing results in my opinion. Moments like the mysterious, eery opening riff to 'Harlequin', or the mighty ending to the title track 'Fames' give me shivers even to this day.

Unfortunately, as many other reviewers will probably tell you, the rhythm section of this band feels a bit lacking, and at times completely non-existent. The drummer on this first album, Tyler, is decent, but he often plays is a predictable manner that at times drags the songs down when it is entirely unnecessary. Sean the bass player is barely audible except for small bits when his part is necessary to the song. It just feels to me as if these guys were all Guitar players at heart, and didn't give the other instruments as much attention as they should have to convey a well-balanced line-up. The drum and bass elements would strengthen considerably on the band's next release, however, so this error was apparently short-lived.

The song structure on this album is very free-flowing in nature. Nearly every track ends in a completely different place than where it began, and very few of them even have recognizable chorus or verse sections. It truly feels like a musical journey where no moment lasts for too long or wears out its welcome. That's a classic Prog staple. Typically on a Rishloo song, the same guitar riff may be played several times underneath Drew's varying vocal styles, keeping it fresh, then the song will switch gears completely, often times relying on the vocals to provide the pathway for the changes rather than the guitar. I have heard many times where the music was clearly written around the vocal melody, which to me seems like a fairly uncommon thing to do, but then again, I'm no expert on what 'typical' songwriters go through. The point is, however, that Rishloo has an unconventional approach to songwriting, and it affects their overall sound in a very positive way.

As a result of the essentially structure-less songs, the band has a very vocal-heavy style. That may not appeal to everyone, especially if you're picky about the singers in your bands, but believe me, the vocals in this band are very easy on the ears, and although they can get a little high at times, it never turns into a Geoff Tate thing where the guy attempts to be operatic. He just has naturally higher voice than most, a la Jon Anderson or, yes, Maynard Keenan. However let me make it very clear right here and now that Rishloo is NOT a Tool clone. Some people with the inability to make clear distinctions seem to think that because the band's singer resembles a singer from another band, then they are intentionally 'ripping-off' that said band. It's happened with FIsh-era Marillion, and it happens with Rishloo as well. Let me assure you if you have heard these comparisons and are worried to make a purchase: the only thing Tool and Rishloo have in common is the tone of their singers' voices. That is where the comparisons end.

If you WOULD want me to make a comparison for these guys, I would say if anything, these guys are much closer to Dredg or the Pink Floyd than they are Tool, APC, or any other Maynard Keenan groups. The style of music as I explained is very light, melodic and simple. Yes, there are dark moments more often than not, but even then, RIshloo has a clear, individual voice, and I think it is quite unfair to pigeon-hole them into a group of less-respected sound-a-like bands.

My favorite tracks from the album are ''Harlequin'', ''Seven Rings Left'', ''The Water Is Fine'', ''Lovely Room'', ''Illumination'' and ''Fames''. Really, I can't find much wrong with this album, except that when compared to the later releases, it's obvioud the guys were holding back a lot with this outing. I can understand. This was their first album, they wanted to make a good impression, they weren't signed to any label, they needed to succeed on their own, so they 'played it safe'. Nothing wrong with that. Although I would say that if you can only buy one Rishloo album initially, Eidolon is a far superior effort in almost every way.

Still, I can't deny that I have very warm feeling for this album, as I discovered it during a very pivotal time in my life, and I will always love it for being my companion during those days. However, for an honest, no-B.S. rating, I can only give ''Terras Fames'' a 3 out of 5. Nothing wrong with it, but Rishloo can and has done better work since.

I hope more people learn about these guys and enjoy their music as much as I have over the years. Not for everyone, I'm sure, because the music (especially on this one) is so simple, but for those who enjoy purely emotional, lovely, mellow Prog Rock, you really shouldn't pass this band up.

Happy Listening.

Report this review (#265845)
Posted Saturday, February 13, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars Risloo are a modern progressive band from Seattle who frequently draw comparisons with bands like Tool and A Perfect Circle for vocal similarities and Dredg, Amplifier, The Mars Volta, Coheed And Cambria or The Dear Hunter basically just by virtue of them playing modern progressive music without sounding too much like any of the 1970s Prog bands.

Terras Frames is the band's debut full length studio album, released in 2004, and obviously being the debut of a relatively unknown band doesn't have the most amazing production job in the world, at least compared to their later work or the releases of bigger, richer bands.

Compared to the two releases which would follow it, Terra Fames is a lot more restrained and normal sounding both in terms of progressive moments and metal sounding moments; the band don't use as complicated structures or as many guitar effects or experimental tracks and generally write comparatively quite straight forward music throughout.

The album also doesn't flirt with heavy moments and screaming in the same way as those that followed it as a general rule, and while there are a few big moments such as on 'Seven Rings Left,' they don't have the same explosive power and ferocity as the biggest moments on their later work have.

Despite the fact that their later work took things much farther, and are some of the genuinely best and most exciting records out there, that does not in anyway mean that Terras Fames is in any way even approaching being a bad record. Tracks like the powerful 'The Water Is Fine,' with its impressive drumming, as well as the fabulous 'Illumination,' and the album closer 'Fames,' are well worth the time of any listener and illustrate the vast potential of the band even at this early stage in their career.

The band's very strong talent shines through on Terra Fames and the lyrics are just as perfectly formed and impressive as on all their later work. The record is very pleasant to play from beginning to end and nothing on it seems particularly weak or out of place, there are lots of interesting musical ideas on offer and impressive musicianship throughout. Anything from this record would sound great on a compilation or live set amongst their later work as importantly it all still feels like Rishloo.

Overall; Terras Fames is something you should definitely pick up once you are a fan of Rishloo, perhaps not the best choice for your first Rishloo album, but still absolutely worth trying. The only criticism one could fairly level at the record at all is that the albums that would follow are better, but that is more of a compliment in favor of those records rather than a problem with Terra Fames.

Report this review (#524650)
Posted Friday, September 16, 2011 | Review Permalink

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