Title:Smooth Comforts False
Label:Ethereal Sound Works
It’s been three years since the Portuguese Gothic/Death/Doom Metal formation THEE ORAKLE put out their debut full-length “Metaphortime” (2009). See my review here. After their EP “Secret” (2007, review here) it was clear these guys and girl have a lot of potential and the full-length was a very good indication of that. Different from the EP was that the music had a more progressive influence. Logically THEE ORAKLE played several gigs in promotion of “Metaphortime” and perhaps along the way contacts were established with other bands for guest appearances on the follow-up, “Smooth Comforts False”.
This new album came out in February 2012 via Ethereal Sound Works. It contains nine new tracks totalling a playtime of over 40 minutes. Next to those guest appearances – Adolfo Luxúria Canibal (vocals, MÃO MORTA), Yossi Sassi Sa’aron (bouzouki, ORPHANED LAND), Marco Benevento (vocals, THE FORESHADOWING) – the music still has a progressive touch, even quite Jazzy. New to the compositions are the trumpet (by Ricardo Fornoso from Spain) and the saxophone, played by Fábio Almeida. In terms of line-up, Romeu Dias (guitar) was replaced by Pedro Mendes.
“Smooth Comforts False” kicks in with “Faraway Embrace”. Actually, the kick isn’t given from the start, which is rather spacey, as if in a cocoon like on AYREON’s “Universal Migrator, Pt. 2”. The music fades in with heavy rocking riffs and pounding drums at the forefront. The focus lies without the smallest doubt on the guitars. With the bombast also come the growls. Mica counters nicely with her clean vocals, adding a more emotional touch. Melodicness comes out in the chorus, mainly through the singing and backing keyboards. Guitar solos were not forgotten. To break this block of power or stop that train from crashing, the band, surprisingly I must say, chose to head into a Jazzy direction halfway. A very nice move, though. But doom and darkness come creeping in again anyway. This gradually becomes something more firm and a duet between Mica and guitarist Pedro is then due before the aforementioned bombast takes over command again. All in all, a beautiful piece of dark Metal.
“The Psi-Drama” offers blastbeats, though the drums follow the guitars, it’s nothing like Death or Black Metal. Midtempo Metal it is with dark, atmospheric verses. Again growls take the lead in the vocal department, while clean, female chanting is reserved for the bridge and chorus where both vocalists join forces (or counter each other). No Jazz here, but a slow, doom and gloom filled melodic piece with Mica on vocals. After the solo, things get darker and oh yes, there IS a touch of Jazz here. This trumpet moment is strange, I must say. It sounds so out of place, and yet has its charm. “The Psi-Drama”, not so easy to grasp. “Mysterious Hours” begins with Doom Metal. THEE ORAKLE is a Doom Metal band, so that’s normal. But they add a good slab of power through the guitars. The Jazz touch lies this time in the clean, atmospheric verses. The singing is very good, but the vocal lines don’t flow that well, or rather, there seem to be a few syllables too many. Power and darkness take form in the chorus, at which point the growls take over and the music becomes more voluminous. The guitar solo is sad, inline with the backing organ. It’s hard to make a comparison, but I found the chorus sounding similar to the music of the Swedish Gothic/Doom band DRACONIAN. And that’s a good thing, as this is one of my favourite bands in the genre.
“Foretoken” is a midtempo interlude with atmospheric Doom Metal. It’s straight-forward, gets bombastic in the second half and heads towards “Evil Dreams”. This song begins acoustically, but the Metal bursts/rolls in with growls. Dark, haunting melodicness can be heard in the bridge. Again the melodic aspect (guitars and keyboards) comes out in the chorus, but the growling remains. Female vocals serve only as backing instrument. Saying this is a happy song is an understatement, couldn’t be further from the truth. Like before, a Jazz moment is due halfway and that’s where Mica does get a moment in the spotlights. What a contrast! It’s as if the sun has scared away the dark, the sorrow. The acoustic guitar and organ are more prominent now. The brutal musical attack towards the end seems to signify: well, the sun is up, it’s going to be a nice day, but you won’t soon forget that bad dream. In other words, another job well done by these Portuguese.
Another threat is next: “Winter Threat”. Well, the album did come out in February, which is still in the winter season. This is also a Doom song, but with enough melody. Clean, Jazzy verses with female vocals stand out. They are joined by clean male vocals in the bridge, entering the power ballad chorus in a harmonious fashion. But alas, this beautiful picture is ripped to shreds as darkness sets in, as Pedro unleashes his demonic growls. Yep, your mood ruined once again. I’m referring to the contrast in this song, of course, not that this change sounds bad or doesn’t fit. I have some problems with the title of “The Bridge Of The River Flowing”. Maybe it’s correct English, but perhaps in a poetic way. The song itself, the music, is dark and begins slow before haunting keyboards, harsh guitars and vicious growls lead the way. It’s nice to hear Mica’s clean voice contrasting with this assault. The chorus is, as you might assume, nothing but doom and gloom, but melody was added to enhance the listening experience. Speaking of which, there is a lot of attention for powerful guitars, drums (which is very good, I have to say – firm and with a progressive touch) and growls. Maybe a wee bit too much, in my humble opinion.
Two more songs, first one being “Hopefulness”. This is a very nice, atmospheric kind of song. It’s still Metal and Doom. Again you get Jazzy verses with female vocals, while male whispering is added in a next instant. The chorus is a sad and emotional one. Slow, too. “Rescue Of Mind” is totally different, as it begins in a Thrash kind of way. Nice! Heavy grooved Metal is next with electronic touches… and growling vocals. However, this powerball needs to make way for melody in the chorus, where both vocalists share the microphone. The chorus does sound violent in the second half. The Jazz moment is provided by the saxophone. An original twist, you might say. The last few minutes, no THEE ORAKLE, or better, there is music (dramatic somehow) to back Hitler’s speech. That’s Hitler, right? My ears didn’t fool me there?
Let’s recap: “Secret” was a good EP, showing the potential of this band. And they have great potential. “Metaphortime”, their debut album, clearly confirmed that and showed this band can get far. Three years later the follow-up is ready: “Smooth Comforts False”. The first listens I gave this album were very pleasing and although the album ends after about 40 minutes and the band didn’t write standard, straight-forward tracks, I did feel the album should have been longer (i.e. contained more songs). But after several weeks, and considering this album does require multiple spins to show all its secrets, I can safely say the number of tracks and playtime both suffice.
So, long story short: THEE ORAKLE continue to prove what a great band they are, even if they are far from the popularity of MOONSPELL, for example. These guys and girl deserve to be heard and even tour in Europe. “Smooth Comforts False”, offering Gothic/Death/Doom Metal with Jazzy influences, is without the smallest doubt one of the best releases of 2012. Sounds like a standard phrase, but as it’s applicable, I use it.
- Faraway Embrace
- Mysterious Hours
- Evil Dreams
- Winter Threat
- The Bridge Of The River Flowing
- Rescue Of Mind
Pedro Silva – vocals
Micaela Cardoso – vocals
Pedro Mendes – guitar, vocals
Ricardo Pinheiro – guitar
Luis Teixeira – keyboards, samplers
Daniel Almeida – bass
Frederico Lopes – drums