Mechanical Poet – Woodland Prattlers
Wed, 16 May 2012 14:19:59 +0000
Usually when we come across a new artist or album, our first instinct is to classify them, be it metal, prog metal, hard rock, industrial, death metal, whatever. With Mechanical Poet’s debut album Woodland Prattlers, I tried to do the same, and after a few listens, gave up and just enjoyed the wonder of the incredible work I had come across. While definitely a progressive album with strong metal nuances, this work touches on so many genres that it creates it’s own definition. Released in 2004, Woodland Prattlers, and it’s companion album Handmade Essence, is the brainchild of Russian musicians Lex Plotnikoff and Tom Tokmakoff, with the addition of singer Max Samosvat. Due to artistic differences, the trio parted ways after the album was released, and though Mechanical Poet continued to release albums with other lineups, the magic of this trio was never touched upon again.
Though considered a concept album, Woodland Prattlers is more a sequence of scenes with no real cohesive storyline, it is more a magical, mystical journey through the forest. As play is hit, the scene is set with the introductory Main Titles. The aspect of this album that stands out more than any other is the imagery it invokes. As the soft notes of Main Titles fall upon our ears, we are mystically drifted into a lush forest, soft and gentle. The innocence is palpable but brief. Stormchild, the second track, and heaviest on the album, crashes the serene scene with a sense of authority and aggression. The rest of the album ebbs and flows between and through the serenity and the insanity that these two tracks set, and does it in a masterful way.
Musically the album is competent and tight, there are very few extraneous notes. The guitar work, though not flashy like some other prog metal bands, is fiery and aggressive, and carries the tone of the album well. The drumming is forceful and pounding, with a unique, almost dull thumping sound that really adds a special character and originality to the overall sound of the music. The keyboards are esquisite, and really carry the musical end of the album. They add the orchestral elements, the mystical edge, the folk air, is all painted with such a delicate and wondrous touch.
The real hero of the album though is singer Max Samosvat. Where some artist will employ a multitude of talented singers to create a concept album, Mechanical Poet decided to take the economical route, and have Samosvat do all the lead vocal work, a task he carries with an emotional performace bordering on genius. He doesn’t just sing the pieces, he creates and becomes the myriad denizens of the forest. He pours his soul into every character, and it shows brilliantly in the final product. From the dark anger of the thunder in Stormchild, the glum ground dweller of Bogie in a Coal Hole, the scathing despair of Ole Merry Years End, the whimsical farce of Swamp-Stomp-Polka, Samosvat hanldes the spectrum with precision and perfection, but never letting his soul leave his performance. Nowhere is this more present than on the epic of the album, Natural Quaternion, where the singer takes us through a multitude of characters and voices, including gnomes, sylphs, fire salamanders, and undines, giving character and personality to each in a masterful fashion usually only found on the theater stage.
Woodland Prattlers delivers on all fronts in a way that stunned me into submission with it’s unique and wondrous artistry. The many sides of it; the metallic thunder, the fantastic wonder, the sprite’s kiss, the dying year’s last wish, they all blend together in a rare and beautiful album. I liken it to sitting by a fireside, listening to a masterful bard filling me with true tales of mystery and wonder. I may be eight years late to this album, but the real tragedy would have been if I had never found it, musical works such as Woodland Prattlers are one of a kind, and should be treasured as such.
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