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SCULPTURED

Tech/Extreme Prog Metal • United States


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Sculptured biography
SCULPTURED is an avant-garde Progressive Death Metal project and the most personal work to date of the guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Don Anderson, better known for his other group AGALLOCH. The idea was born in the mind of the musician in the fall of 1996. The first demo titled "Fulfillment in Tragedy" was limited to 100 copies and introduced an innovative form of melodic and original Death Metal, that gained the attention of many labels towards the group's style. Subsequently, the collective signed to Mad Lion Records and later to one of the most important labels of our time The End Records. The group's debut album recorded with the drummer John Schlegel and singer Brian Yager "The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled" was released by both labels in 1998 and was a challenging, progressive effort. The group's artistic, romantic and classical-influenced approach to playing Death Metal with unusual instrumentation, including acoustic guitars, piano and keyboards, saxophone, flute and cello, was extremely extraordinary for an American artist at the time of its release. SCULPTURED were one of the few non-European collectives producing such forward-thinking music around the same time as the legends MAUDLIN OF THE WELL. Following the release of the debut, the group made a decision to abandon their label Mad Lion Records due to their poor job at distributing and promoting the effort, sticking to the much more faithful and reliable The End since then.

The group's career took a sharp turn with the release of the 2000 sophomore album "Apollo Ends". Joined by fellow AGALLOCH members Jason Walton on bass and John Haughm on drums, in addition to Burke Harris and Clint Idsinga on trumpet and trombone respectively, the new-lineup went into a direction completely different from the debut and also the one that has become the defining sound of SCULPTURED. Going from harmony to dissonance, from sensitive, emotional riffs to "incorrect", "wrong" chords and making the mood and the lyrics bleaker and more philosophical, "Apollo Ends" was a dramatically different creation compared to its predecessor. In the end of the year 2001 the group contributed a cover of the main theme "Suspiria" to a GOBLIN tribute album, that unfortunately never saw the light. Nevertheless, the track can be heard on another compilation titled "Phases: The Dark Side of Music". Owing to his occupation with AGALLOCH, which had gained enormous success, unreached by SCULPTURED, as well as other non-mus...
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EmbodimentEmbodiment
The End Records 2008
Audio CD$7.86
$3.98 (used)
Apollo EndsApollo Ends
End Records 1999
Audio CD$44.99 (used)
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SCULPTURED discography


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SCULPTURED top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.52 | 8 ratings
The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled
1998
3.88 | 5 ratings
Apollo Ends
2000
4.65 | 13 ratings
Embodiment
2008

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SCULPTURED Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Embodiment by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.65 | 13 ratings

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Embodiment
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by siLLy puPPy

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

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 Embodiment by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.65 | 13 ratings

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Embodiment
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by VOTOMS

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.

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 Embodiment by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.65 | 13 ratings

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Embodiment
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Conor Fynes
Prog Reviewer

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.

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 Embodiment by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.65 | 13 ratings

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Embodiment
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Equality 7-2521

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.

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 The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.52 | 8 ratings

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The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by UMUR
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

3 stars The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled is the debut album from Sculptured. Sculptured is a project band led by Agalloch guitarist Don Anderson.

The style on The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled is melodic death metal but with a the strange twist that there are some really great parts in some of the songs with trumpet. Itīs the only part of Scupturedīs music on The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled that I would deem progressive but it sounds great when that trumpet appears. The music is actually very enjoyable even though I donīt find the growling vocals very convincing or powerful for that matter.

The musicianship is good and there are lots of soaring melodic guitar leads in all songs. This is a very melodic album.

The production is not that good. I think itīs allright but only barely.

I think this is an exciting album and Iīll definitely check out the next albums from Sculptured even though melodic death metal is not my favorite genre. Sculptured has other tricks up their sleeve though and thatīs the difference. 3 stars is well deserved for The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled. Donīt expect the music to be overtly technical or challenging though. This is above all a pleasant melodic metal album.

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 Embodiment by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2008
4.65 | 13 ratings

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Embodiment
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by avestin
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars Reviewed for Sonic Frontiers at http://www.sonicfrontiers.net/php/review-162.html 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.

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 Apollo Ends by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 2000
3.88 | 5 ratings

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Apollo Ends
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer

4 stars "Matrix Metal"

(not to be mistaken with Neo-Prog!)

Apollo Ends is Sculptured's sophomore release and the first one that essentially sums up the musical ideology behind the project. Having been surrounded by a completely new line-up of musicians, including his group mates from Agalloch and trumpet and trombone players, but, most importantly, having changed his direction and way of thinking, Don Anderson created an album that has little, if anything, to do with his previous work. One of the compositions introduced on the debut album The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled was the short instrumental Fulfillment in Tragedy, consisting of solely cello and flute, in which he originally represented his fascination with atonal music, the invention of Arnold Schoenberg. No longer satisfied with the limits set by the ordinary tonality, keys, majors and minors, Don Anderson calls his unique, unconventional brainchild "The Charles Yves Of Death Metal", and quite rightly so. So, if the usual ways of writing music are abandoned in favour of less traditional ways, then how is the music actually written? Not having been taught music history myself to be able to understand the idea enough to rephrase it, I will simply quote Mr. Anderson himself:

I use the term "Matrix Metal" to describe Sculptured because I write using a reduced version of the 12-tone technique developed by Arnold Schoenberg. I create 4 x 4 note squares (matrices) from which I develop chords and melodies. Sometimes I use multiple squares at once. The basic idea is to choose 4 notes and place them in a horizontal row, left to right. Then invert the interval relationships vertically down the left from the first note of the row. Finally, fill in the square so that all the intervals are parallel. The rule is one cannot repeat a note in a row until all the others have been played. This way I am not relying on tonality or harmony but still able to organize, in a very strict manner, the music I make. It also forces one to avoid falling into reliable and habitual musical patters.

Even those who, just like me, do not quite grasp the meaning of this songwriting way, will understand that the songs presented on Apollo Ends contain unusual structure and melodies far from traditional music. Indeed, the riffs may appear senseless to the unitiated listener, however, repeated listens will reveal that an atonal approach to heavy music can be quite enjoyable. Mark my words, some of the riffs will inevitably get stuck in your hand, regardless of sounding so bizarre and foolish (not in a bad way). The compositional work is also just as extraordinary as any part in particular - all kinds of unpredictable moments, such as a trumpet interrupting a heavy riff, so expect a lot of confusing breakthroughs, mind-boggling contrast between the clean vocals of Brian Yager and the actual music playing, bass guitar and even whistling solos and various additional surprises that form the quintessence of Sculptured's music. Sometimes when listening to the music, one can't help thinking that there are many groups playing their riffs one after another, without actually finishing them, getting the notes wrong all the time, and instead of correcting their embarrassing mistakes continuing the riff a minute after or even in duration of the next song. That may not be true, but works well to explain how it appears to one's ears. Unlike the debut, which used non-traditional rock instruments in special mellow parts, Apollo Ends, while keeping that trend, utilises trumpet and trombone simultaneously with guitar riffs and hard drumming. Despite being accompanied by friends from Agalloch on this CD, the music has absolutely no connections to their other, more well-known project, aside from maybe the raspy screams which are not far from Haughm's vocals on early group's output, so if you are looking for a group similar to Agalloch, look elsewhere. All of the songs here are solid avant- garde compositions, with thought provoking lyrics (no tragic romanticism of the debut to be found here! Whether that is good or not I will leave to you to desire) and darker, more serious moods and interesting moments. Of greater discrepancy if compared to the other songs are the two instrumentals Apollo Destroys, Apollo Creates and Summary, the former being a 10-minute long minimalistic composition divided on two parts - the first part being occupied by a droning, unmusical noise, and the other containing repetitive clean guitar playing; latter, much accordingly to its title, summarizing the album in just 40 seconds, containing fragments of already incomplete riffs and ending the album on the same note it started.

It would be safe to call Sculptured's Apollo Ends an avant-garde record, therefore, if you find unconventional compositional structure and bizarre riffs fascinating and pleasant, make this the Prog-Metal album you discover this year!

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 The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled by SCULPTURED album cover Studio Album, 1998
3.52 | 8 ratings

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The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled
Sculptured Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

Review by Trickster F.
Prog Reviewer

4 stars Beautiful, ambitious progressive Death Metal - 4.5 stars really.

Sculptured, the most personal project of Don Anderson was formed around the same as Agalloch, who they are often compared to because of it being the above-mentioned musician's group, however, the two do not share too many similar traits. The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled, released in 1998, is the group's debut album and not quite representative of the drastically different direction it would take later, yet still shows Don Anderson as an independent, forward-thinking and inspired musician trying to change people's perception of Metal.

Although it has been stated that the two groups have little in common, I would stil like to insist that if one enjoys Agalloch's lush aesthetics, he will appreciate Sculptured's debut as well. Do not get me wrong, former is practically John Haughm's project, with other members making constant, yet not as major contributions, whereas the latter is the brainchild, in which Anderson realized his ideas. The similarities between them are few, but still quite easy to grasp even on the initial reason. Raspy vocals, that are more sophisticated rather than extreme, colossal lead guitar work, an eerie atmosphere and a variety of influences that show themselves here and there. The style on this album is better described as Melodic Death Metal, that is not quite "doomy", but moreso atmospheric, even though some parts will remind an experienced listener of such albums as Brave Murder Day, The Angel And The Dark River and Dance Of December Souls, with the ideas of those albums implemented amongst various own, emphasized by unmistakably progressive tendencies.

There are two things that deserve to be mentioned first in order to explain the sound of this effort. First of all, there is an atmosphere of tragic beauty, romanticism, which is underlined by the songwriting approach, musicianship, and vocals - both Don Anderson's harsh vocal used in a way that is not harsh at all, often whispery, suitably for the music, and Brian Yager's clean, traditional, almost "poppy at times, singing. Lyrics enhance that feeling as well, and while they may be called cliché for their overdramaticism, they express emotion extremely well and one can't help but appreciate them for their sincerity and place in the music. The other is songwriting, including the choice of instruments, which introduces fascinating themes, intriguing composition progressions and some of the best riffs one may hope to find in this kind of music. Various instruments, unusual for Metal, are present here, including acoustic guitars, pianos, keyboards, brass instruments. In addition, there is an entire short instrumental Fulfillment In Tragedy consisting solely of flute and cello. The feeling of dissonance is noticeable here, and this is the beginning of atonal experiments that Don Anderson will continue in the next record, that will turn Sculptured into an avant-garde Metal group. Furthermore, there are film samples implemented into the music in order to underline specific ideas, particularly on tracks Almond Beauty and Our Illuminated Tomb.

The sophisticated sound achieved here is not peculiar to the american Metal scene, perhaps the only other collective producing such innovative, progressively thinking music in the same continent at the time was maudlin of the Well, and some similarities can be found between the two as well, as they play a style associated with European musicians. On the other hand, if one needs the definition of what the essence of Sculptured is, it is recommended to research the group's later work, as this album has not lead to any future direction, as the group took a different path with their new line-up.

With its lush atmosphere, brilliant musicianship and beautiful songwriting, Sculptured's The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled is an excellent addition to most progressive music fans' collections, and is an essential to those who enjoy Agalloch's Pale Folklore, Opeth's Morningrise and so on. The debut album establishes Don Anderson as one of the innovative geniuses of the genre, of the same class as Dan Swano and X-Botteri.

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