Albatross have good musicians, save for the vocalist, but all it does is exemplify the point that above-average skill at a musical instrument doesn’t always translate to proficient songwriting chops. Their ‘Kissing Flies’ side of the split EP with Vestal Claret is a commendable enough effort, coming as it is from an Indian band playing traditional heavy metal (and how many bands do that these days?), however, the cold glare of objectivity doesn’t shine an altogether flattering light on the work contained within.
Albatross are a four piece from Bombay with a fixation on all things that go bump in the night. From what I gather, they are big fans of Mercyful Fate/King Diamond and share that illustrious personality’s penchant for tales of horror and the outre. Personally speaking, I’ve never been a fan of the King’s theatrics, generally finding the music too long-winded in a lop-sided attempt at maintaining harmony with his quirky voice. Albatross take the long-windedness of their idols, and manage to surgically remove the good riffs, replacing them with plodding parts that go nowhere and serve no purpose other than padding up song lengths. An example is the slow, “exotic” melody in the middle on “Uncle Sunny” that goes on for nearly 3 minutes, with the vocalist merely following the notes to the T. A little nimbleness, a little sense of adventure, to break out of limbo would’ve been nice. John Arch, ex-Fates Warning was a past master at this, weaving altogether disparate melodies over underlying chords.
Which brings me to my chief beef with the band’s music – the vocals. Biprorshee just isn’t a very good vocalist. And this comes from a guy who’s heard more quirky metal vocalists than most. I find there are three types of clean voices; one, which is the conventional definition of the great voice (Halford, Rob Lowe, Dio, etc). Two, people like Mark Shelton, John Arch who have voices different from the norm, but are good singers nevertheless. And third, the bad singers who overcome their lack of skill with sheer balls-out enthusiasm and verve; Paul Baloff, Ozzy, Tim Baker, etc. The Albatross vocalist doesn’t fit any of these three.His lower register sounds downright whiny as if he’s singing with his chin tucked tightly into his upper chest. The higher frequencies are somewhat better but occasionally verge on the grating. The creepy, cackling side-effects that he tries to pull off are just bad, unfortunately. I suggest he check out the song ‘Spider’ off Manilla Road’s Circus Maximus to see what a schizoid, unhinged voice truly sounds like.
But hey, at least there is no homage to Sweating Bullets here.
Connecticut band Vestal Claret’s seventeen minute song ‘Black Priest’ completes the second half of this split. Claret play competent doom/heavy metal with progressive touches. It isn’t the most original stuff out there, but does a fair job jabbing at legends like Black Sabbath, Candlemass, Solitude Aeternus, with certain sections that wouldn’t seem amiss on a latter day Pink Floyd record. The vocalist, Phil Swanson, reminds me of Blayze Bayley quite a lot, not having quite the tenor of a Marcolin or Lowe, but solid enough to hold the music together and force his presence through. All in all, a reasonable song which doesn’t become tedious in spite of its length and feels more like a series of segues. Worth checking out.