Maelstrom - The Passage (2012)


The rise of the one man band is something we have chronicled over the last 14 months worth of reviews and interviews. Somewhere along the way, people realized there is an "i" in team, or no team necessary for the "i". Case in point, Maelstrom, a new post metal act from beautiful Florence, Italy. Captained, in full, by Ferdinando Valsecchi, this is another notch in the belt of solo projects. Taking all of the imagery and smoothly written melodies of art rock, and tossing them into a blender with the distortion and blast beats of post metal, Valsecchi has concocted a four song EP, titled "The Passage," that will have you believing that one is not the loneliest number; but it may be the most potent.

From the first chords, right into the initial blast of "In A Painted Black World," this is a post metal affair through and through. An array of drums fills the background as a series of descending guitar notes screeches through the air. Even as things fade away, the light guitar plucking gives a great sense of melody. The beauty is in the changes of tempo and tone, from hard and heavy, to light and sublime. Lyrics, delivered in a cautious Italian whisper, aren't the star of the show, but a great supporting character for the instrumental. As each word fades into the breeze, the ethereal guitar work and pounding of the drum kit prepares you to venture forth. This isn't all chords and chugging, however, as some deft finger work emerges in the outro. There is an almost lullaby quality to the opening notes of  "I Dreamt For A Brighter Sky," a sound that switches so suddenly to a fluttering guitar and cracking cymbal. This is not to say it loses that dream inducing state, but merely changes the color and texture of said dream. Distorted chords fill every available piece of real estate around you, and spoken lyrics come down on you from above. It is all so fractured, so disjointed, but in a way that makes perfect sense. The drum work continues to impress, with multiple beats happening simultaneously, without clouding the mix. Even when they present a more coarse blast of hits and crashes, they allow the guitars, and the simple melodies, to shine through.

The early moments of "...And I Wanted To Live..." remind us of some of the work of French romantic doom band Grey November, with building instrumentals surrounding a haunting whisper. But rather than a slow, exhausting buildup, you are once again launched into a land of clouds, however gray they may be. This track boasts the most melodic sensibility, relying mainly on clean strums of a guitar, to pair with that lingering voice. The drums, while maintaining their power in every downstroke, take a step back and allow things to rise and fall on their own. Separately, each piece of the track may seem overly simple. But together, as one wave, it all fits so well, so snugly together. In a completely surprisingly change, "...Until The Rest Of My Life" goes in a bizarre direction, complete with standard drum beat. The guitar work is strong, if not a little off kilter from the rest of the album. It isn't until the midway point that you get the real strength of the track, with darting guitars taking command in a flurry of activity. The drums change their pacing, slightly, allowing you to move forward. All of the set up, all of the rise and fall, is all in preparation for the last section, when everything comes out together. Every element locks in together, guitars with bass, drums on top of drums, in a rousing summation of everything this band has to offer.

Whether you take in this album as four separate tracks, or as one 20 minute chunk, there is an enormous amount of music to digest. Maelstrom isn't giving you standard, black and white post metal. Instead, what Valsecchi creates is something that is, dare I say, atmospheric more than it is heavy. This album walks a fine line between music for a sunny day car ride, and music for a stormy night alone. This alone makes it worthy of our money, or at minimum, our attention span. There aren't any hidden gems on "The Passage," nor anything you will need to strain your ears to hear. It's all out there, ready to be consumed.

8.5/10

Bandcamp - http://maelstrompost.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/Maelstrompost