Every wondered what an instrumental metal band would sound like with a violin front and centre being electrified like a secondary guitar? Welcome to Carmen Sea. Their 2021 EP “HISS” is 30 minutes of pure metal. Huge riffs, big breakdowns, industrial drums smashing skins to smithereens and a violin going nuts like its been kidnapped by a horror movie. It takes a few minutes to tune your brain to it but Carmen Sea showcases its brilliance time and time again across its EP.
Each track has a wildly different take on the violin metal but they all play seamlessly into each other. On the opener “Frames”, it is as if we’re trapped in a horror movie escaping the baddie, The violin scrapes and stirs like it is dragging every last once of sweat from its body as the traditional metal backs up the symphonic horror. On “Black Echoes”, it’s the guitars that take centre stage in an all-out funk riff attack that is akin to falling down a spiral staircase but musically. It is chaotic, hypnotic and full of gusto as the band flexes their instrumental prowess.
The big grandstand moment is saved for the epic “Anthems For”. Here the violin is electrified into a synth sounding stab that gives way to a wall of guitars and drums for the tracks epic conclusion. If Carmen Sea wanted to do post-rock power chords, they could do it in their sleep. Then in comes a rousing guitar solo that stirs your heart and mind. It is one of the most satisfying moments of heavy rock I’ve heard from 2021. That explosion leads to the build-up of “A Last Call”. Here, the music is in constant building mode and the drums are what take centre stage here for the first half as they rumble and march on. Slowly the bass, guitars and violin join in for a cataclysmic finale that finally unleashes after four minutes. Strangely, the payoff doesn’t really come here, it pulls back too early but then I understood why.
The finale is the eleven-minute “Glow in Space”. This brings together everything “HISS” and Carmen Sea have to offer but a shade darker and more discordant. The violin switches from regal and serene to buzzing cinematic drama as the band transition from swirling ballroom rock to Persian riff-rock to heavy metal and back again. It is a true symphony and not for the faint-hearted. Carmen Sea really lands everything they set out to do with this single track and if you have the time – just let those eleven minutes take you on a pure rocky rollercoaster. It is epic.
“HISS” is a stunning EP and deserves plaudits for taking on something different and making their sound their own. Often when you hear a band bringing in an unusual instrument into its mix, it can be seen as a bit of a gimmick. Carmen Sea avoids all of that by showing that violins can rock just as much as guitars do and they can be sisters in the band together, sharing the limelight.
Recommended track: Anthems For
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