The End strikes again! Always on the cutting edge of heavy music and producing classic albums like last year's "Prominence and Demise" by WINDS and this years "Shadows" by ENEMY OF THE SUN, the second monster release from the label in 2008 is SCULPTURED's "Embodiment". As it turns out, WINDS' Andy Winter plays keyboards on the album and is joined by mainman/ guitarist/ vocalist/ songwriter Don Anderson (AGALLOCH), drummer Dave Murray (ESTRADASPHERE, DESERTS OF TRAUN, THOLUS), bassist Jason Walton (AGALLOCH, ESPECIALLY LIKELY SLOTH), and vocalist Tom Walling. It has been eight long years since "Apollo Ends" was released, leaving one to debate whether Anderson and company would ever get around to releasing another avant-garde masterpiece. ClichÃ© to say perhaps, but was it ever worth the wait. "Embodiment" is a brilliant fusion of metallic heaviness, technically challenging progressive rock, and infectious melodies, a combination that only a paltry number of bands have ever managed to create.Beyond the impressive musicianship of the players, not the least of which includes Anderson's amazing guitar work and Murray's dexterous drumming, is the manner in which OPETH-esque death vocals sit side by side with clean singing during some unforgettable melodies. As atonal and complex as the arrangements may be, when the choruses of songs like "Taking My Body Apart" and "The Shape of Rage" hit the effect is one of near shock and an inability to shake the refrains from the brain. I cannot say enough of about the tunefulness that is at the center of these mind bending compositions. At 39 minutes across five tracks, these are obviously lengthy compositions, and yet a concept of time is not something that ever crosses the mind. While musicians may stand in awe at the playing, there is an intrigue about the songs and the manner in which individual instruments are brought together that transcends notions of virtuosity. For beginners, Murray is all over the place on his kit, at times making one questions how the guy can be so damn busy and still maintain a semblance of time keeping. In addition to Walton's active bass work and Anderson's accomplished guitar wizardry, it is Andy Winter's keyboard playing that is the secret ingredient. The organ tones, the tinkling of the ivories, and an approach that often softens the otherwise jarring work of the other musicians, is simply magnificent. Together with the clean vocal sections it is Winter's work that periodically gives the album a 70's progressive rock feel, except that this is unabashedly a metal album. And that's the beauty of "Embodiment": a mix and match of styles that somehow results a sound all its own. Those looking for mental stimulation outside of the music will find much to ponder and appreciate in Anderson's lyrical concepts, which, unsurprisingly, center around the mysteries and magic of the human body, and we're not talking the medical atrocities presented by the likes of IMAPLED and CARCASS. But then I'm sure you figured that. Buy the album and you'll find yourself listening to it over and over again. It's that damn good.
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