Scardust – Strangers
Release Date: 30/10/2020
Running Time: 53:02
Review by Beth Jones
(Yes, that is the ‘infinity’ sign!!)
A few months back I reviewed Wilderun’s “Veil of Imagination”, scoring them a technically impossible 11/10. I thought at the time that there was absolutely no way I would hear a better album this year, and probably not for a good few years to come. Well, it turns out I was wrong.
Scardust are a Progressive Metal band from Israel. This album, “Strangers”, follows the critically acclaimed debut “Sands Of Time”. It’s a unique concept album based around the idea of being estranged. The bands vocalist Noa Gruman composed the album with Orr Didi, who she also collaborated with for the first album, and it was mixed by Yonatan Kossov and
mastered by Jens Bogren (Opeth, Devin Townsend, Arch Enemy). Noa explains, “Written from multiple perspectives, it explores the ways in which people can be estranged from one another, from themselves, from society, from their loved ones and even from their own subconscious. After the overture, which introduces musical themes, the album separates into two parts. Every song from the second part is a mirror image of a parallel song in the first. Each pair of songs tells the story of a pair of strangers. They can be played together as a standalone piece, as individual songs or as part of the album, whatever the listener’s heart desires.” That’s bloody clever that is!!
There’s only one word to describe this album, and that’s ‘Masterpiece’. I’m usually pretty good with words, but it’s seriously left me chastising my own lack of comparable vocabulary to explain why I feel this way. So, please bear with my while I try and do it justice! But before I begin, I’ll say this. If I die tomorrow, at least I got to hear this album.
‘Overture for the Estranged’ starts the album, opening with choral harmony performed by Hellscore, the choir Noa formed for the original album. It took me right back to my choral days, from which I became estranged when I left school! Noa’s vocals float in over the top of this, in full operatic beauty, with unexpected cadences all over the place. We’re then led into a fully orchestrated section that Mozart would have been proud of, with the addition of crunching guitar, and thundering drums. It’s just spectacular! It’s like an opening overture to a top rock opera running on Broadway, or in the West End. This style is revisited throughout the album, too. Just for fun, it throws in some jazz and funk along the way, as well as the progressive rhythm changes you would expect from any great explorer of the genre. Right, that’s track 1 pathetically dealt with, like a boxer trying to cradle a new-born still gloved up! 10 more to go – stay with me folks!
Track 2, ‘Break the Ice’, is full on musical theatre, complete with chorus line from Hellscore again, and a melody so catchy I dare you not to hum along! Aside from the vocals, which are simply sublime, we get to see just how skilled the musicians in this band really are. With an awesome guitar solo, and some equally complex bass runs, cross rhythms, piano fills, and orchestral violins, it just makes me want to explode with admiration. I’m so emotional about this album, it’s untrue! The musical theatre feeling continues through track 3 (which is also one of my favourite tracks, more on that later!) and 4, but always with a progressive twist. Complexity is their absolute ethos, and they do it effortlessly.
Track 5, ‘Concrete Cages’ starts with folk instrumentation provided by German Folk musician, Patty Gurdy. It then goes through funk, and heavy riffs, and dives into a whole melting pot of extravagant instrumentation, choral harmonies, and just pure musicality. It’s heavy enough to bang your head to, but so intricately precise that it’s possible to hear every single note like there was no other sound.
Track 6, ‘Over’, returns us to some sort of metal normality, ramping up the heavy for a bit! It also let’s Noa explore her guttural vocals too, which are just as perfect as her operatic tones. In contrast, and forming the other part of the pair, if you’re listening to the album as paired tracks, ‘Under’ is pure funk / gospel/ jazz, complete with snare rim beats from the drummer, gospel choir harmonies, and solos a plenty. Track 8, “Huts” features a performance from Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir, just to add another element, because why not?!
The next few tracks continue exploring every theme imaginable, until the album is brought to a close with ‘Mist’. A slowed down track in which Noa’s vocals are just sublime. It’s a real ‘lighters in the air’ closing overture, that brings things to an end as stunningly as they began.
When an album is this good, it’s hard to pick out a standout song. But I have gone with the tracks that I’ve had on repeat over the last couple of weeks. ‘Tantibus II’, which is also the first single from the album, and ‘Gone’. ‘Tantibus II’ melds complex guitars with dark choral harmonies, and a hellishly catchy chorus! I actually cried when I first saw the video for this, I was so overwhelmed by how good it was. ‘Gone’ on the other hand, I love for a different reason – we discover the true skills of bass player, Yanai Avnet. It opens with a bass line lick, and he gets a solo section in the middle. This man’s got skills!!! More licks than an ice-cream parlour full of children, I can tell you. Bloody brilliant.
Everything is just bloody, bloody, unbelievably bloody brilliant!! I’ll shut up now, I’ve taken up too much of your time. “Strangers” gets infinity out of 10 from me, because my scoring system no longer matters. Buy this album.
01. Overture For The Estranged
02. Break The Ice
03. Tantibus II
05. Concrete Cages (feat. Patty Gurdy)
Noa Gruman – Vocals
Yanai Avnet – Bass
Yadin Moyal – Guitar
Itai Portugali – Keyboards
Yoav Weinberg – Drums
Westbrook Hay Prep School Chamber Choir
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