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Sculptured - The Spear of the Lily is Aureoled CD (album) cover




Tech/Extreme Prog Metal

3.56 | 14 ratings

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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.

Trickster F. | 4/5 |


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