It sure has been a while since I've listened to metal. Aside from the usual death metal/grind peppered into my playlist, I barely listen to any "real" metal. Enter The Ciem Show.
Let's dive into the basics first. The Ciem Show are a progressive/experimental metal band (with hints of doom) based in New Jersey. I met one of the members (Chris) at the Boris/Torche/Russian Circles show in Brooklyn and he was nice enough to hook me up with Lifelike Scenes, The Ciem Show's debut full-length.
Right off the bat, without even listening to the music, you can tell that these guys have put a lot of work into this album. After checking out the extensive (and I mean extensive) artwork that came with the album, I just couldn't wait to put this on my iPod and listen to it. And I'm glad I did.
The album starts off with the sound of a projector. Very fitting, seeing as how the album is called Lifelike Scenes, but that would be taking it too literally. My personal interpretation is that the projector at the start symbolises some kind of...fuck, I'm really trying to avoid the term "dream theater" here but I can't help it, it fits perfectly! The entire album, lyrically at least, seems to me to be based in a "dream world". I checked out the booklet several times because I was so intrigued by the lyrics, which evoked themes of dreams, consciousness, the abstract et al. Very nice.
Musically, this album is solid. There are some excellent riffs in here, and are thankfully not your typical prog/experimental wankery. There are even a couple of excellent solos (the one in "Theme for Lost Children" comes to mind). The drumming does its job, but doesn't detract from the appeal of the album. It's very clear that the drums are not intended to be the focal point of this opus. If I had to pick, I would say the guitars do most of the work here, but it's a joint effort along with the keys. The keys, instead of sounding cheesy, actually create a very gloomy, surreal atmosphere (much like the atmosphere in my dreams). Cool beans. If any of you have keen ears, you will be able to pick out the myriad of other, slightly unconventional instruments on this record.
A guilty pleasure of mine (not really guilty but whatever) is to define a certain band on a scale that consists not of numbers but of other bands. For instance, The Ciem Show's Lifelike Scenes has elements that remind me a LOT of Devin Townsend's side-projects (Ocean Machine and the like) and maybe a little bit of Meshuggah. The Devin Townsend reference leads me on to my final point of this blog-post: the vocals.
Okay, so I'm very, very, VERY picky when it comes to vocals and, unfortunately, the vocals on Lifelike Scenes got a mixed reaction from me. At times they fit the mood perfectly and I was really feeling them, at other times they reminded me of Devin Townsend, which was cool but a lot of the time I just wasn't feeling them. Maybe that's just me but clean vocals in metal is a bit of an issue with me. I usually don't dig them and more often than not, they make or break the record for me. Luckily, in this case, I was so impressed by this seemingly amateur effort that ended up sounding incredibly professional to me, that I didn't really care about the vocals. The music did it for me and, I know I may be contradicting myself here, the lyrics are just too awesome. Can't one enjoy the lyrics without actually enjoying the vocals? I don't know, don't judge!
Download link beeeeeloooooow.
Some extra information on The Ciem Show:
They are currently lacking a drummer so if any of you are in the NJ area and know of a drummer who is into stuff like this, you should ask them to contact these guys anywhere on the following pages.