Review: Van Diemen ”Van Diemen” (Independent release)

Review: Van Diemen ”Van Diemen” (Independent release)

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Stranger in a Strange Land…

This record is more than just merely confusing. It’s been a difficult piece to stomach, hard to digest for a variety of reasons. This may or may not be a problem for the listener, depending on how you approach new music – and your patience.

A Tasmanian project at heart (currently residing in Germany), Van Diemen (which may just not be a U2 reference, considering the project’s original home base) is basically a one-man-band (all instruments managed by Patrick Schmidt) with only the vocals being provided by an outside force.

…and not exactly one to be reckoned with. The guest vocalists voice doesn’t sound too shabby when experienced in smaller doses, but a desirable amount of variation in his mid-range growls is just not really there, which doesn’t do the 50+ minutes album any favors. Nobody wants to hear a Jens Kidman outside of Meshuggah for an hour straight, especially not in a stylistically spacious project like Van Diemen.
On one hand, there’s some rather outstanding stuff on here; tracks like the partly funky opener, the mellow opening sections in “The Walking Gallows” and some of the later parts of “Crystal Tide” show that Patrick has a more than decent feel for captivating melodies and the technical chops to pull off some neatly put time signature changes. There’s material successful enough in evoking the image conjured by the lyrics, with the main man displaying some rather incredible skills on multiple instruments.

On the other hand, he does like to drive these ideas into the ground. The opening theme is often carried through minutes of similar riff-sets without truly taking considerable turns in ways that could diversify the songs a bit more within their runtime. This is especially annoying when the main theme or the basic ideas are kinda insipid, like “Run, Rabbit Run” throwing some kind of half-spoken/half-growled nursery rhymes and slightly awkward humor straight in your face. Some of these bits might make you chuckle a little, but they become irritating rather quickly. Could be me being a blockhead, though.

Also, almost everything on this CD is MID-PACED. Indeed, a whole lot of worthwhile guitar content to be enjoyed on this record, but damn – I wish there was some actual fury and flames! Many times I’m fooled to believe that NOW is the time to churn out some major thrashing riffs and yet it just doesn’t happen. The mid-paced swingin’ continues. The singer’s qualities would also benefit from a rougher, thrashier, actual melo-death delivery. Blast it up some more please! Shoot me with machine guns, spam a hail of bullets in my face – just STOP tapping me with that big o’ rubber mallet ’til I die of osteoporosis.

As it stands, this is an odd but interesting mixture of metal riffage, a bit of prog rock and some funky cleans thrown in for good measure. I don’t really see the melodic death metal tag strongly represented here, apart from said mid-range growl that about meets the current standard for the genre. The core of the guitar work is located somewhere between modern Evergrey, a stoner rock influenced swagger and perhaps a slightly stripped-down pint of Insomnium. If this sounds like your cup of tea, be sure to follow this band in the future, for I’m sure that through experience and time some odd choices and unnecessary fat will be trimmed and the undoubtedly great potential of this ”Tasmanian Devil” should be better represented in a sophomore effort.

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