CAN YOU IMAGINE a male singer whose voice is, improbably, even higher than Jon Anderson of Yes, and who, even more improbably, like Anderson, fills his songs with elves and pixies and Lord Of The Rings-style mysticism? Can you imagine this guy, an American fronting an American band, then adjourning to Reykjavik, Iceland to record his third album under the supervision of Jonsi, the similarly high-voiced singer of Sigur Ros?
We already know what it’s going to sound like, don’t we?
When I plonked this platter in that archaic device, the CD player, I knew nothing about this group, but immediately I thought two things: Iceland, and Sigur Ros. It really is that obvious.
I don’t even want to imagine what Death Vessel might sound like with a conventional rock lineup (Coldplay on ice?) because it doesn’t bare thinking about. What they’ve done to distinguish themselves is fill the sound with old pump organs, glockenspiels, kalimbas and metallophones. And then they’ve added ‘ambience’. Like Mum (another Icelandic band) on their 2004 album Summer Make Good, there’s the sound of weather, and the items that groan and ring when the weather has its way with them. It’s a very attractive sound, and makes you feel like you’re snug and intimate in a wee cocoon in the depths of winter.
But after sitting through the whole thing, I’m really not sure. I am sure that Death Vessel’s one proper member, Joel Thibodeau, is an intense, well meaning and talented individual, but after a while, the home-made and homely sound and those vocals start to grate a little.
I guess if Death Vessel had struck me as a highly individualistic band, I might have bought into Island Intervals, which is full of frankly preposterous but imaginative lyric writing and story scenarios. But it’s that whole Icelandic thing that scares me away. It’s not that it’s bad, just that Sigur Ros have rather become a parody of themselves at this point, and who needs another band that instantly remind you of them?
Well, maybe quite a few people, and good luck to ‘em. For those who can immerse themselves in Island Intervals without wishing the guy would grow scrotum and growl occasionally, I’m sure it has riches that relatively few contemporary pop or rock albums could claim. GARY STEEL
Sound = 3.5/5
Music = 3/5