Thursday, June 9, 2011

The Tallest Man On Earth - The Wild Hunt

Whilst I listen to Gigan's incredible new album, Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes, which I picked up at the store yesterday, I'm going to cover another artist I've been listening to a lot of recently in a double post review-session extravaganza. It's kinda like the Tony Danza Tap Dance Extravaganza, except about a thousand times better and it won't sound like shit.

The Wild Hunt, like the fantastic Shallow Grave before it, is a true folk album. You've got a man and his acoustic guitar, and that's about it. From what I've gathered, both albums were recorded with bare bones single-microphone setups which gives the recordings a raw, almost DIY feel. I can't really imagine the cash Kristian Matsson paid to acquire a nine-foot mic stand.

Bad jokes aside, the music he's created with such a small setup is impressive. You've got your underlying chord progressions, your melody, and a distinct rhythmic strumming or guitar body pounding from Matsson. Basically everything anyone should expect from a modern Bob Dylan. "The Wild Hunt" is a great opener with a catchy, memorable refrain. "You're Going Back" has a perfect, traveling feeling like driving along an open road in the middle of nowhere, or riding in the cabin car of a luxury liner through a scenic mountain pass. "King Of Spain" has a similar sound but Kristian's galloping plucks make it feel like you're riding a horse rather than in a car or a train. The whole album, much like Shallow Grave, is very picturesque if you couldn't grasp that by now. Each song conjures images of real-life events and scenery.

Like with most normal chord progressions in music, he utilizes the subdominant (IV) and dominant (V) chords right before he ends most of his progressions, often meandering between the two. The music has a very aged sound, like it's perhaps decades older than the "2010" stamped on the album would initially lead you to believe. However, much like Bob Dylan, despite great songwriting, Kristian's vocals are honestly annoying at times due to the raw mixing. This wasn't a problem on Shallow Grave, and although he's improved his range somewhat, sometimes his voice has a grating twang to it. It's most apparent on "Thousand Ways" and on the piano ballad "Kids On The Run." Despite all the metal I listen to, I still believe vocals can make or break an album, and I have significant trouble listening to those two songs all the way through. Luckily the album is mostly devoid of this issue although it pops up a little in a few other tracks. It would've probably been a bit better if the mixing was more balanced, but all in all a solid folk release by a fantastic songwriter.

7.5 out of 10

1. The Wild Hunt
2. Burden of Tomorrow
3. Troubles Will Be Gone
4. You're Going Back
5. The Drying of the Lawns
6. King of Spain
7. Love Is All
8. Thousand Ways
9. A Lion's Heart
10. Kids on the Run
11. Like the Wheel (Bonus Track)

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