SummaryVisiting the ancient city of the dream gods
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The idea of a progressive metal band that has more emphasis on adventurous arrangements than downright riffs sounds terrible on paper – fortunately this is where Payne’s Gray manages to stand out from many other bands. Kadath Decoded is a H.P. Lovecraft-based album and it shouldn’t be a surprise that we’re dealing with some surreal stuff here. It’s more about its mysterious atmosphere that absorbs you into another world than riffs that cause any extreme physical reactions, sure, but I’d be lying if I claimed that this isn’t one of the most surreal albums I’ve ever come across.
What makes Kadath Decoded work are its clever arrangements that add a good sense of ebb and flow to most of these tracks. Sure, at times it takes a while for the metal to kick in, but even during its softer moments this album has its enchanting effects. Take that serene acoustic introduction of “Moonlight Waters” for instance; it sets the tone for a great track that eventually unfolds itself as a progressive monolith and is built of out plenty of flexible, jam-like riffing. This method actually does make me wonder what Fates Warning could have ended up like in the mid 90’s, if only they had melted their fantasy-imagery of the early days with a more Rush-inspired progressive approach instead. Otherwise I’m not just sure to compare Kadath Decoded to; calling it a modern progressive metal album isn’t exactly saying much, as it’s not exactly a groove-laden or chug-based. At the same time Kadeth Decoded should still remind you of several earlier progressive metal albums in terms of vocals however: the soaring wails should please anyone who enjoys the same high-pitched delivery you’d encounter on albums such as Perfect Symmetry and A Social Grace.
Given its story-like structure it should be obvious that Kadath Decoded is best digested once it’s heard in its entirely, but as far as individual segments are concerned certain certainly stand out far better than others. “Sunset City” sets the tone for this record, where the vocalist resemble a wanderer who is about to travel through the unknown – something you can also thank the flamenco guitar passages for; they certainly add a foreign feel to the track. From thereon Kadath Decoded shows its more metallic side, yet there’s often a contrast between moving progressive riffs and calmer segments present. “The Cavern of Flame” mysteriously kicks off with some floating cleaner guitars and engaged bass lines before some moody keys present the metallic punch halfway through. “Nyarlathotep’s Reception” is as epic as any of these compositions get; from the tranquil start to the anxious wails of despair that present themselves later on to that metallic switch halfway through, this emotional rollercoaster becomes quite a journey of a song.
Unfortunately things do become shaky once Kadath Decoded shows its softer side and this does prevent the record from flowing as well as it should. The screaming cat segment of “Procession” and the overlong ambient-like “The Way of Ngranek” are without a doubt filler material, whereas the final doesn’t really add much to the album’s sense of flow either. Granted, it’s no surprise that this album is far from flawless; given its runtime it’s somewhat to be expected. Still, if old school progressive metal is your thing and you’re looking for something pretty unique and obscure, by all means feel free to give Kadath Decoded a shot.
Release date: 1995
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