CD REVIEW: Half in Twilight - Of Mourning's Dawn
By Alex Jasperse - 02/25/2007 - 11:56 PM EST
Artist: Band: Half in Twilight
Album: Of Mourning's Dawn 
Genre: Heavy Metal, Progressive Metal, Progressive Rock
Production/Musicianship Grade: 4/10
Songwriting Skills: 4/10
Performance Skill: 5/10
Metal, as a genre, has always been stigmatized. Whether it’s being called ‘satanic’ one minute, dubbed ‘unlistenable’ the next, or being blamed for the social idiocy of the day, it’s never really had a great reputation. So if you dig past the highly constructed and commercial metal acts that weave in and out of popular mediums, there’s a world of creativity waiting to be discovered. Metal is perhaps one of the most diverse musical genres, both lyrically and musically. The balance of brutality and beauty, fast and slow tempos and virtuosic and masterful playing is what makes the metal world one of the most sophisticated and experimental genres. Unlike many other genres, it does not impose musical barriers.
Hailing from Illinois, Half in Twilight’s debut release, Of Mourning’s Dawn, is a guitar-driven progressive metal debut. Tempered with no small amount of classic metal and virtuoso riffing, it is a mish-mash of awkward passages in which melodies and riffs are recklessly pasted into what unfortunately feels like a preschool art project.
(There goes my introduction, then…)
Half in Twilight’s debut is a difficult album to come to grips with. The influences are obvious, with much of Jim Sanders’s guitar leads and backing riffs coming straight from the Dream Theatre and Opeth back catalogues. Without a doubt his chops are technically astounding, however, under his lead, the band has a hard time directing and grounding their ruthless experimentation. Tracks like “Strength” and “Buried Alive” weave in an out of raging ‘80s leads and chorus-driven arpeggios, forgetting that there needs to be a resolution before unleashing the next musical idea. As a result, much of the record gives off a very pretentious and mostly exhausted air.
On a production level, it sounds as though of this album was recorded in two hours in someone’s basement. Noisy and garbled, the vocals are off-key, the playing is sloppy and there’s this underlying feeling that the album is headed for disaster. By the end, it’s frustrating to keep digging and imagining that there’s some artistic originality beneath the album’s deflated exterior.
While on one hand the originality factor can be easily dismissed, on the other, the complex arrangements offer a glimpse into the technical capabilities of the group. Still, with many tracks suffering from the lack of an internal coherency, several like the 10-minute “Never to be Spoken Of” and “Proud” are still worth taking notice of. It may take some time to digest Dave Struyf’s piercing and abrasive vocals (coming off like a less disciplined version of Dream Theatre’s James LaBrie), but thankfully his airtime is cut short by Jim Sanders’s toolbox of dated metal passages.
Like so many metal acts before them, when the guitars loom large, the drums typically follow suit. Luke Blackburn’s percussion skills scream for more attention than given, and are best highlighted with his deft and quick transitions from soft melodic drumming to brutal, pedal-powered blast beats. Unfortunately, as is the case with the other musicians in the group, Blackburn’s drumming does almost nothing to push the group ahead of their counterparts (nor to resuscitate their monotonous compositions). His ability to communicate the intended sophistication of their music sadly becomes sidelined by more forward-looking competitors in the prog-rock and metal realms.
It is obvious that Half in Twilight have consciously disregarded the realization that to create an album composed of largely repetitive material is effectively a death sentence. And as a result, their adherence to imitating a once past sound has shut many of the doors in determining its artistic validity. No doubt this is deliberately dark, heavy and despairingly intense, but it noodles and thrashes about in a haphazard manner for far too long – coming across as a look-at-me competition more than an artistic statement. Is it a deliberate throwback? Perhaps. Is it an anger release? Perhaps. Is it a group sound? Not at all. Is it original? Not in the least. But it may just be a good start.
The Verdict: 4.3/10
For more information, please contact Half in Twilight at firstname.lastname@example.org
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