Everdune "Legend of the Aces"
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Review by Staffan Öhman
On this album Everdune takes us on a musical journey that leads to something that are beyond what we are used to hear. I'm always impressed by musicians who dare to take the challenge to make music that stretches the limits of the genre that we call spacesynth.
The first impression of this album is that Everdune has chosen to go his own way and took some inspiration from the music that were made at the demoscene. From a musician perspective the album is interesting in several aspects and it is easy to like his unique style. The variation between the songs is great both in terms of tempo and sound and in aspects of melodies this album is a real goldmine as that is something that he has really focused on. The high detail level reveals that there are many hours spent in the studio which is appreciated by listeners like me who like to listen to the music over and over again.
Another thing that Everdune has considered is to build interesting song structures that are different from the usual copy-and-paste style that many musicians use. On this album the song structures are made in a way that makes them unpredictable and very interesting to listen to. Melodies are often played with a synclead-like patch and consists of long notes in contrast to the usual staccato style a'la Minaon War that is often used in spacesynth. No album is perfect and on this album I wish that the sound of the lead voices would have been varied more because it feels like the synclead patch has been used far too often. In this case I would prefer a more soft and analogue lead sound.
The album cover feels a bit anonymous and does not represent the music in a good way. Probably it would have looked better with a more technological style with a lot of details because that is how the music feels like.
The best song on the album is Dark Racer which is a real masterpiece with powerful bassline and catchy melodies. In my opinion the best songs are located at the end of the album and I especially like the slower songs like Secret Movements that have great atmosphere and feeling.
While summarizing this album it has to be placed at top level where I think it belongs. The music differs a lot from what we are used to hear in this genre which Everdune shall have credit for. It is recommended that you listen to the megamix at Everdunes website and make your own opinion and hopefully you have found something that you can wish from Santa this year. Everdune has spent much time on this debute album and it will be interesting to hear what his next material will bring. Will he be able to surprise us once again?
Review by TD Mak
I had high expectations for this album. Saul cranks out a lot of great music at an unbelievable pace, and given the high quality of the castaways from the album, I was excited to hear what actually made the cut.
Much of Saul's signature style appears in the album--the melodies are well-developed, and certain sounds (like the stabs) are pretty consistent from track to track, which helps hold it together, though one could argue that there should be more variety. Everdune music also generally strikes me as being a little less atmospheric and spacey than some others, and that mostly applied here, though there are some tracks with strong pads and/or spacey arpeggios. Saul has an uncanny ability to write melodies and stab sequences that (as far as I can tell) are completely original, yet seem almost instantly familiar, and that shows up very much in the album.
When I say the melodies are well-developed, though, I don't just mean that you come away from this album with some new things you can hum as you walk down the street. Many of the tracks spend the first couple minutes or so building a main theme, but in the middle, just when you're starting get bored and say, OK, I get it, something new kicks in to take the track in a new direction (though sometimes a melody from the beginning will make one more show at the end). It's not something that I'm used to--at first I thought it might hurt the coherence of each track, but in the end I decided it works.
Also worth a shout-out is the variety of chord structures in the album. 7th chords appear in a number of places, as well as sustained 4ths, and then there are a few more that sound pretty cool, though I'm not sure what they are other than not your standard 3-note major or minor chord.
I don't know a whole lot about mixing and mastering, but as far as I can tell they were done well.
On to the tracks!
Phenomenon - Has a nicely building up intro that works well as an opening to the entire album. It then quickly launches into a fast-paced stab sequence and melody. For this track, once you get used to the main themes, it jumps into a Middle-Eastern-style part, and then moves on to a new set of stabs.
Dune Run - Rhythm isn't normally the first thing I think of when I think Everdune, though this track has a good one that reminds me of a factory stage from a video game. Nice melody that reminds me strongly of a Konami track. This also has a Middle-Eastern-style part in the middle to break up the track. I'm also a big fan of the stabs near the end, for reasons I can't entirely name... something about the energetic-ness of it, combined with an epic feeling.
Beyond the Horizon - A slower, mellow track, which gives lots of room to the pads to show off. The sync lead part in the middle is excellent, as a break, for its lead part, and for the ethereal arpeggios that accompany it.
Thunderstrike - Going upbeat again with a stab sequence and a Koto-ish bass. I found the main melody on this one better developed than some of the others. Having it appear with a harmony probably helps.
Desert Empire - Surprise! How do you like violins to open your Spacesynth? The whole opening is pretty unique, using a slow, combat-like East-Asian style beat. Here the little story behind the album is told. I can't hear it real well, though it's not the sort of thing I pay attention to much, anyway. Stab sequence is catchy, great dance feel.
Operation Conquest - Another track with a catchy stab sequence (possibly bordering on cheesey), including pitch bends, and an extended melody that gets harmonized. In the middle we get a rock guitar-like sound (it was in a couple other tracks, though it's more audible here), something different that works well in the way it's used (especially around 3:42-4:08).
Way of the Warrior - Regal-sounding opening. I like it. More stabs with a little pitch-bend to make them more interesting. The part from 3:20-3:50 is super catchy and one of my favorite parts of the album, being the first part of it to have gotten stuck in my head. It also serves as the "break" for this track. 7th chords for the win! And it's followed by an interesting sync-lead melody. This picks up again towards the end in a cool way, staying in one key for a while before it starts moving around again. There are vocoders in the track, too. I can't understand them, though I don't really care; they sounds nice.
Dark Racer - I looooved this track when it came out on Spacesynth Revolutions. My favorite part was the spacey arpeggio, though the melodies and stabs were superb, too. I generally don't like it when a track appears on a CD when I've encountered it elsewhere, so I was glad to see that this was at least a re-make. The compositional structure appears to be the same. The most noticeable change to me was the arpeggio being an octave lower and a different instrument, though there are other instrumentational changes. In the end I think I like the original better--I liked how the arpeggio interacted with the saw around 4:30, whereas this time it mostly seems to serve as a background to the saw. Still an excellent track, though.
Secret Movements - Slowing down for a more relaxing track. Most of the leads in this album are varying forms of a sync-lead, but the one in this track is unique. Not quite sure what to say about it beyond that. I thought I was going to catch Saul on not having any interesting basslines in the album, but then I got here (and the three tracks after it...) and had to give up. Long, slow break towards the end, then we go back to our plodding melody with the nutty lead, and off in a new direction. The track ends on a fade-out. This doesn't bother me--I think it works in a track like this--though some would call that a no-no.
Quantum Speed - Happy, spacey track, with a slap bass. There's no part that really stands out to me, but the whole thing gels together well in its peppy, adventurous mood.
Legend of the Aces - Orchestral beginning... eh. But--it's in 6-8! Another win! The melodies and backround bits really make the most of the rhythm, from the filter-swept arpeggio at the beginning, the main melody, the stab sequences, the less melodic bits, the "break" melody around 3:30--and most primarily the part at the end.
Star Visions - A relaxed but upbeat track, which opens with a memorable chord sequence. Another unique, this time dancey rhythm involving a squelchy laser sound, which I like. The general sound of this track also differs from most of the album, is softer. It closes the album fairly nicely.
The tracks on the album range in quality from great to just excellent. It's hard to pick favorites, but I'd probably go with Dune Run, Way of the Warrior, and Quantum Speed. Major kudos to all involved in producing this album on a great addition to the Spacesynth collection.