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Theater Of The Absurd - The Myth Of Sisyphus CD (album) cover


Theater Of The Absurd

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Honorary Collaborator
4 stars "The Myth Of Sisyphus" is the 2nd full-length studio album by US, New York based progressive metal act Theater of the Absurd. The album was released through Graviton Music Services in December 2013. The band's self-titled debut album was released in 2007, but only limited to 500 vinyl copies and only very few of them were actually distributed, as Theater of the Absurd were dissatisfied with the album. Therefore the two members of the band (Patrick Curley (Drums, extreme Vocals) and Mike Neumeister (Guitars, Bass)), took their time to develop their songwriting and playing skills before feeling ready to record "The Myth Of Sisyphus". So "The Myth Of Sisyphus" has more or less been in the making for 6 years.

Theater of the Absurd have hooked up with legendary producer Jim Morris and have recorded "The Myth Of Sisyphus" at the equally legendary Morrisound Recording in Tampa, Florida. That has resulted in a professional, clear and well sounding production, which suits the music well. Besides the two main members of the band the lineup also features lead vocalist Chandler Mogel (Outloud), female vocalist Kjersti Kveli and pianist Tor Morten Kjosnes, who guests on various tracks.

The music on the album is an eclectic and quite impressive mix of influences. Some harking back to 70s progressive rock and some sounding more like contemporary progressive metal. The vocals are predominantly male clean vocals, but there are occasional use of extreme metal vocals in the music too and also female clean vocals and even some operatic female vocals. The tracks are relatively complex both in structure and in dynamics, but not in a forced fashion and despite the relatively complex approach to songwriting, the music isn't hard to get into. The way the band arrange their tracks just seem to welcome the listener into the listening experience. I'm not going to mention particular tracks as highlights because I think it's a consistently high quality release devoid of dull moments. It's obvious the band's vision is to create both original and intriguing progressive metal and they succeed in that quest.

There is a playfulness about the whole affair, that's greatly charming and that'll keep the listener on his toes for the duration of the album. Tempo- and time signature changes, multible changes in dynamics and atmosphere in each track. This is music for the more adventurous minded progressive metal fan, who appreciated eclectic sounding music. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.

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Posted Sunday, December 15, 2013 | Review Permalink
Conor Fynes
4 stars 'The Myth of Sisyphus' - Theater of the Absurd (7/10)

The Sisyphean myth from Greek antiquity has always passed me as something of a quiet tragedy; a man, assigned with carrying a boulder up a hill, is eternally doomed to repeat his task as the rock tumbles down again once he has finished. It's not a far stretch to apply this principle of repeated disappointment and perpetual struggle to the human experience as a whole. In the artist's case, their work can feel like a constant uphill struggle, only to feel the recurring pang of disappointment when their art doesn't turn out the way they had aimed for.

Although I'm a relative newcomer to Theater of the Absurd, I do know that the New York-based prog metal act felt some of that same dissatisfaction with their first, self-titled album. "We wanted something more," said the band's guitarist, Mike Neumeister; "The record was immature?just primal. We knew right away that our creative impulses weren't satisfied." Although The Myth of Sisyphus might imply in its title that this disappointment is doomed to recur, Theater of the Absurd's second record feels remarkably tight and fleshed out. As the album's surreal artwork would imply, Theater of the Absurd take a more avant-garde and playful approach to progressive metal than you may be used to, although the vintage legends of progressive tradition hang steady in their sound. There are a couple of things that bug me surrounding the album's structure and production, but lively musical ideas and an exceptional standard of musicianship makes the album a worthy find for any acolytes of the genre.

Although it's very rare that I ever find myself writing about the album art itself, I have to bring up the album's cover. Although I wasn't too keen on the artwork for the debut album, The Myth of Sisyphus is adorned with a chaotic, colourful aquatic mess of a cover, one that continues to reveal more details the longer you look at it. I'm quickly reminded of Qui-Gon Jinn's foreboding aphorism at the beginning of Star Wars Episode I: "There's always a bigger fish..." In the case of this cover, there seems to be plenty of bigger fish in the sea, and they're all clearly hungry as hell. I've never been much of an expert on visual art, but I know what I like, and I think Theater of the Absurd commissioned art perfectly suited to the music it represents. Anyways, carrying on.

For a genre that's intended to represent the most forward-thinking musicians in metal, it's disappointing that the progressive metal term carries with it so many preconceptions and stereotypes. Although I knew Theater of the Absurd played a more avant-leaning take on prog metal, it was still pleasantly refreshing to hear the band circumvent many of the generic prog metal trends in favour of something more playful and inventive. As opposed to demonstrating their skill through excess and overt technicality, Theater of the Absurd remain focused on composition, leaving plenty of room open for melody and thoughtful dynamic. Although galloping riffs and the sparing use of harsh growls ties the band indelibly to their metal labelling, they more often skirt the grey area bordering upon conventional hard rock intensity. Hard rock and classic prog icons such as Genesis, Rush and King Crimson feel like a greater influence on the band's sound than Opeth or Dream Theater. True culting metalheads may thirst for something heavier, but Theater of the Absurd make this mix of old and new their own, and that's a greater feat to their name than any degree of relative intensity.

True to the band's name, there's a very theatrical element at play in Theater of the Absurd's music. Dramatic piano chords and quasi-operatic vocals chime powerfully overtop their traditional metal elements, giving the music the impression of being a rock opera or stage musical. Even if there isn't an overtly defined plot or story tying this album together, it would be pretty easy to see Theater of the Absurd's dynamic sound transposed to the theatre stage. Most of all, Theater of the Absurd give this impression of live drama through the structure of their songs, which feel pretty unconventionally pieced together. Where even most progressive metal bands would tie their songs together through the effective use of repetition and central motifs, The Myth of Sisyphus flows as would an emotionally heated dialogue between characters. Although vocal melodies are important to Theater of the Absurd, there aren't any recurring hooks that leap out, or even motifs that could be defined as the nexus of their respective track. Rather, as was the case in the also-recently released SwineSong by recent avant-garde metallers Omb, the songs flow organically, without paying too much heed to holistic structure. In the case of the band's instrumental work, this comes off as a great success. The fluid structure means that listeners can look forward to being consistently engaged throughout the album. Unfortunately, the structure pays a great expense in terms of memorable songs and vocal melodies. Although I can recall many particularly excellent self-contained ideas throughout The Myth of Sisyphus, there aren't any songs that stand out as being memorable from start to finish. Though the vocal melodies feel well-suited to the theatrical edge of the music, they don't seem written with melodic hooks in mind. Like a rock opera, the ideas are meant to advance the emotional state at the given time, and while Theater of the Absurd have succeeded in this respect, parts of the musical experience are left feeling empty.

It's a shame that the vocal melodies don't stand out, because the vocals themselves surely do. Chandler Mogel has an incredible, quasi-operatic vocal delivery that could not fit the band's sound more perfectly. With range and depth to spare, Mogel's vocals are a consistent highlight of the band's sound. The female voice of Kjersti Kveli and harsh vocals of drummer Patrick Curley add some welcome colour to the performance. Kjersti's soft voice fits her role smoothly, and while the black metal-derivative snarls feel shoehorned into an otherwise hard rock-based sound, the harsher moments work well to bolster things on the darker side of the emotional spectrum. Instrumentally, Theater of the Absurd have plenty to be proud of here. The band's core of Curley and Neumeister have talent aplenty to spare, and Tor Morten Kjosnes' abundant pianowork is gorgeously arranged. Although the album is well-mixed and sounds professionally recorded, The Myth of Sisyphus suffers from a fairly dry production that undoubtedly robs the original performances of some of their emotional timbre and dynamic. Especially in the case of Curley's drumwork, the performance itself sounds great and well-balanced, but the sound itself sounds restrained, as if whatever live ambiance that may have lingered in the original recording was sucked out to make the music sound clearer. Whatever the case, Theater of the Absurd's production is functional and doesn't impede the music, but is dull in of itself, and works against some otherwise incredible musicianship.

Theater of the Absurd will hopefully earn some well-deserved fans with this latest release. If the debut couldn't be considered an artistically satisfying release, this one should make the band proud. Even if it feels like there is work yet to do before Theater of the Absurd reach unrestricted excellence, The Myth of Sisyphus is an impressive statement for progressive metal, particularly so for its wizardly instrumentation.

Report this review (#1092297)
Posted Thursday, December 19, 2013 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
3 stars THEATER OF THE ABSURD are basically a 2 man band out of New York City with four guests helping out with vocals, keyboards, mellotron and piano. This is their second release and as others have mentioned their style of music is in the Prog-Metal vein with an avant flavour. I must say that the music is very technical at times and with the abundance of acoustic Grand piano we get almost a classical vibe going on. We get both clean and harsh male vocals along with female vocals.

Certainly "False Idols" stands out as one of my favourites with the instrumental gymnastics going on although I prefer the more laid back passages. "The Lesser Gods" is okay but I really am not a fan of the clean vocals that remind me of STYX for some reason. This is more of a bombastic tune and one i'm not a big fan of it. I do like the guitar before 3 minutes though. Female vocals follow with plenty of piano and drums standing out then back to the bombast. A calm after 5 minutes. "Trade Winds" opens with the piano being the focus although the drums and guitar come and go before the male vocals come in. Again technical and complex are words that come to mind. Best part of the song is the instrumental bit coming in around 5 1/2 minutes. "Rising Tides In Still Water" kicks into gear fairly quickly and builds. Intense is the word. This is great as female vocal melodies come in. A top three tune although the growly vocals after 3 minutes and later are a let down.

"For Nostalgia's Burden, Part I : Our Quiet Fears" opens really well for my tastes as we get some atmosphere and check out the acoustic guitar that follows. Nice. Reserved vocals join in and this all sounds so good until it kicks in with growly vocals after 3 minutes. Back to the reserved vocals and sound. I like the female vocal melodies late. "For Nostalgia's Burden, Part II : In My Time Of Solace" opens with picked guitar as drum flourishes come and go. The guitar starts to grind it out as the intensity picks up. Growly vocals before 2 minutes and they will come and go. Clean female and male vocals trade off as the drums dominate instrumentally. More growly vocals as themes are repeated. "Black Wind From Mr. Takamine" is a short 1 1/2 minute instrumental that is pleasant to say the least. "Changing Direction" opens impressively and it's almost jazzy actually, then what sounds like organ joins in followed by clean male vocals. A calm follows with laid back vocals. The intensity rises after 4 1/2 minutes and harsh vocals join in as well.

I've said many times that we all have different tastes when it comes to music and this album is the perfect example of that. I'm impressed with the way these guys play but I prefer the more traditional sounding Prog-Metal or at least Metal that has plenty of melancholia and atmosphere. I'm not big on the male vocals here or the acoustic piano. I agree with Connor on the 3.5 stars but for me it's closer to 3 stars than 4 stars.

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Posted Sunday, January 5, 2014 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
4 stars US project THEATER OF THE ABSURD was formed back in 2006 by Michael Neumeister and Patrick Curly, a creative duo with a liberal taste in music that covers many of the better known experimental bands in rock and metal. "The Myth of Sisyphus" is their second full length album, and was released through Graviton Music Services in 2013.

Experimental, avantgarde and highly challenging progressive metal is the name of the game for Theater Of The Absurd. Their sophomore production "The Myth of Sisyphus" is the kind of album that manages to combine everything and the kitchen sink in a good way, and while somewhat too disorderly for me to raise the flag to the top on this occasion due to my personal taste in music I can safely conclude that this is a high quality affair, and one that comes recommended to fans of bands like, for instance, Cynic.

Report this review (#1258715)
Posted Sunday, August 24, 2014 | Review Permalink

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