Maudlin of the Well
Bath and Leaving Your Body Map
Released: 2001, Dark Symphony Records
Reviewer: Michael De Los Muertos
Now here is a strange experience. Maudlin of the Well are a relatively new band (one previous release, called MY FRUIT PSYCHOBELLS) who call themselves “progressive, astral metal.” They’ve served up for us not one, but two albums – companion pieces to each other – which definitely take the listener on a very unique journey through several undiscovered provinces in the metal realm. While listening to these albums is something like reading a very long, dense, cerebral novel for a book report, as offbeat as they are they probably do offer some things of value to metal fans.
I almost don’t feel competent to review these albums, because what I “liked” and “didn’t like” about them probably isn’t going to do you much good. I’m not a fan of ambient, esoteric metal, stuff like Anathema, and I don’t listen to a tremendous amount of progressive metal. (Be advised, this is not “progressive” in the same way that Dream Theater and bands of that ilk are usually labeled “progressive”). Maudlin of the Well has a sound I’m pretty much unfamiliar with, and I’m not sure I like it. However, it is good music, and there are probably a lot of metal fans out there who would really enjoy this stuff. I also feel incompetent to review the albums because I can’t really describe them. In an attempt to leave you something of this review other than “you just gotta hear it,” I’ll say it’s often slow, usually heavy, and contains a lot of musical elements and progressions you don’t frequently hear in metal. There are acoustic guitars, airy keyboards, pipe organs, passages that sound like pop, passages that sound like jazz, passages that sound like death metal, and a lot of doomy stuff (which I did like). Even picking out tracks I like is difficult because they’re all so different, and at the same time because of the equality of their strangeness they tend to blur together in my mind. I liked “They Aren’t All Beautifull” and “The Ferryman” from BATH, and “Bizarre Flowers/A Violent Mist” from LEAVING YOUR BODY MAP. Part of the problem is that there is so much music here – fifteen tracks comprising more than two hours of running time – that I’m overwhelmed.
Maudlin of the Well are excellent musicians. Everything they play – all 67 or so different instruments – is played skillfully. Oh, did I mention this band has nine members? I don’t know whether they wear rubber masks and boiler suits, but thank Satan they sound absolutely nothing like Slipknot! Maudlin clearly has a lot of talent and an abundance (perhaps even an overabundance) of creativity. Given all these factors, the fact that these two albums didn’t do that much for me personally is probably of much less predictive value to whether you will like them than it normally would be, even for those readers with whom I share similar tastes.
Just one major bone to pick – come on guys (and girls), do we really need two albums at once? Guns N’ Roses was the last band I know of to have come anywhere close to getting away with putting out two separate companion albums at the same time, and when they did it in 1991 they were the biggest band in the world. Plus, this “progressive, astral metal” USE YOUR ILLUSION isn’t full of showy epics or flashy ear-catchers like “November Rain” or “Double Talkin’ Jive.” It took me forever to get through both of these albums, and when they were over I needed a drink. That being said, I can’t stress enough that my own experience with these albums probably isn’t of much value. Maudlin of the Well is clearly a very good band, and BATH and LEAVING YOUR BODY MAP are very good albums. That’s my incompetent opinion, for what it’s worth!