Samtar – Cryptic Tales From a Vision Obscured
Release Date: 15/10/21
Running Time: 39:38
Review by Steven Hooke
Of all the things 2021 has given us, it has given music fans a smörgåsbord of albums that would’ve otherwise never existed. From every genre and every tier of success, Taylor Swift, Trivium, IDLES, Wolf Club, clipping., Biffy Clyro, Weezer, Devin Townsend, Lordi, etc., they have all had a pretty substantial amount of free time due to having limited/no touring options, owing to the ongoing pandemic, resulting in quick follow-ups and short turnover between new album releases.
Lest ye be forgotten from that list is Samtar, the Wisconsin-based solo project who at the start of the year, released his second album “The Curse of Infinite Luminosity”, a wonderfully eclectic mix of Prog, Alt Rock, Jazz, Synthwave, Metal, and more. Whilst the rest of us have been getting better at screaming internally about the horrible state of the world, Samtar has been toiling away putting those thoughts into album #3, a considerably darker affair that leans on more Psych and Doom Rock elements for a broodier, more solemn sound.
Compared to the light and bouncy ‘End of the World’ which opens “The Curse of…”, ‘The Deadening’ opens “Cryptic Tales From a Vision Obscured” with an imposing presence, bringing a high-octane energy, but in a very different way, with drum work that has an air of Mastodon’s Brann Dailor about it. The album continues down a Dark Prog avenue, interrupted momentarily by Black Sabbath-esque final act of ‘How Long Do I Stay?’, before a System of a Down-inspired ‘Mother of the Void’ kickstarts a particularly strong run of form, ending with ‘The Abomination’, a great juxtaposing track that combines an upbeat hard rock riff, with a seldom-heard growl from our fair Mr. tar, and a fantastic post-chorus explosion of sound for the bridge.
In one of the more finicky critiques I’ve ever given to an album, the decision to follow-up ‘The World Isn’t Yours’ with a cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ on the Spotify version of the album is a startling misfire. The arpeggio’d chord progression of ‘The World Isn’t Yours’ somehow sounds more akin to the legendary Animals version of the song than Samtar’s own version does, and listening to them in sequence hurts them both massively, especially Samtar’s own track. His rendition of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ is still good enough to survive much of the calamity, with Samtar’s rather unique voice belting out notes with a howl very reminiscent of Eric Burdon’s iconic delivery from 1964.
Samtar’s foray into a more serious sound can be seen as an overall success, albeit just not perfect. His musicianship has, for the most part, adapted to the new style, but there does seem to be a slight lack in the same kind of character we saw on “The Curse of Infinite Luminosity”. Of course, the change in theme will be a crucial factor in that, and album highlights ‘The Deadening’, ‘Mother of the Void’ and ‘The Abomination’ prove that all is not lost, building on the framework laid down by ‘Wizard of the Mountains’ and ‘The Science of Irreversible Perception’ from the previous album. But some muted outings on certain tracks result in that loss of character and a resultant dip in fluidity across the release. Samtar’s creativity and willingness to experiment still has him in good stead to fine tune and come back again however, and it’s fascinating to think what he can add to his musical mind palace next.
01. The Deadening
02. The Only Thing She Ever Loved
03. Lost and Cold
04. How Long Do I Stay?
05. Mother of the Void
06. Ritual Night
07. The Abomination
08. The World Isn’t Yours
09. House of the Rising Sun
10. Illusion of the Spirit
Samtar – Vocals, All Instruments
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