Shaping Life And Soul
Well here's a surprise. With the reputation that Canada has had lately for churning out seriously killer metal, perhaps it shouldn't be, but one-man band Sequester (Ryan Boc) has produced an album that defies easy categorization or description. While generally fitting into the power metal genre, there are a lot of side influences here. Traditional and thrash metal, prog rock, grunge, and blues are all genres that are noticeable to myself, but the list certainly doesn't end there. Personally, I would peg Sequester as a somewhat mellow brand of mid-tempo melodic power metal, with an epic atmosphere at times (and that's trying to be concise).
The atmosphere is really what this album is all about. This is, especially for its genre, very thoughtful music, much more so than the majority of commercial metal (which is perhaps why it's self-recorded and released). The lyrics dwell on topics from ethics to video games and everything in-between. In a word, I'd decribe the album as contemplative. Whether discussing a book or a concrete situation of some gravity, there is a slower and more methodical approach taken by Mr. Boc on this release than one typically expects from a garden-variety metal band.
In part, that's why I like this album so much. With a slower take on power metal, the blistering leads and racing double-bass speed are somewhat scarce. But lo, the riffage abounds! I've never experienced slower, less flowery metal that has pounded guitar and vocal hooks into my head so subtly and proficiently. In truth, upon passive listen I didn't really think that Shaping Life and Soul would be the sort of metal that I'd really enjoy. Give it a half a chance though, and you'll probably wind up with it stuck on your car stereo all week long. It's almost uncanny how memorable this music is; the vocal lines in particular remind me of a hundred other songs at different times, but I can never quite put my finger on exactly what or who. Combined with Boc's rather distinct voice, this means that he is well on his way to distinguishing himself from the pack.
Rather than attempt to describe the music any further, I'd like to point out that this album is only available in digital format. This is very sad for the completists like myself who prefer to have the complete package (and are willing to pay top dollar for it), but budget restrictions are going to be a major factor for one metal dude with no label. You can find the album for sale at CDBaby, and download another work of Sequester's, the EP Nameless One, on the band's official website. Also of note on the band's site is the detail given about each individual track. An explanation and full lyrics are given for all of them!
In short, Shaping Life and Soul is a devastatingly memorable and touching work that weaves a collection of varied songs into a very personalized, accessible whole. No doubts about it, this is probably my favorite metal work of 2011 that I've heard or reviewed to date. It's one of those few albums that you truly have to hear yourself in order to experience and understand, and a difficult one to properly describe. Before I finish, I want to mention the track “Bhaalspawn” for being a great song based upon one of my favorite video games of all time, Baldur's Gate II (the whole Forgotten Realms setting is a favorite of mine, but this game in particular). For a song that's truly representative of the game and with a very cool lyrical interpretation of the life of Bhaal's child, fans should know to check this out!
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The Protagonist's Rating: 8.25 out of 10