Painted Black is a progressive death metal band that you may not know of, hailing from Lisbon, Portugal. So, why should you care? Well, for those with a proclivity for razor sharp musicianship, masterful progressive songwriting, or crystal clear production, Painted Black’s 2017 album, Raging Light, is huge. With this album, Painted Black perfectly captures the essence of progressive metal and delivers a massive, passionate work of modern songcrafting — one which any self-respecting prog metal fan should feel confident in purchasing.
Raging Light is a bit over 60 minutes in length, which can be considered lengthy by industry standards, but still average for a progressive metal album. The album features eight full-songs, meaning that there are no instrumentals or interludes. The songs are busy, dynamic whirlwinds of aggression and blazing instrumentation, evenly mitigated with engrossing passages of grand orchestration which are always elegant in their magnitude. For the most part, tracks blend into one another seamlessly.
Vocals are perfectly balanced between harsh and clean, courtesy of Daniel Lucas. The delivery from the singer is vanilla for the genre, though this is more of a pro than a con – anything more extreme would only hinder the polished sound of the album. The harsh vocals maintain a mid-ranged fry throughout, and are surprisingly clear and relatively articulate. As a foil to the aggressive screams, the record’s clean vocals are delivered in tastefully harmonized baritone, and are somewhat reminiscent of Jonas Renkse.
As with any progressive album, however, the vocals are typically not the center of attention. The true pillar of excellence upon which this album stands is its transcendent guitar work, performed by guitarists Luis Fazendeiro and Goncalo Sousa. Both of them can easily be described as the melodic death metal manifestation of progressive idol John Petrucci, and clearly possess the technical merit to warrant such a claim. Their style involves punishing riffage, merciless solos, and frequent punctuation of guitar phrases with blistering scalar runs. When paying special attention to the guitar tracks, songs like “Dead Time” are enough to leave a listener feeling out of breath, wondering how much more the poor fellow’s fingers can take. Considering this, special mention should also be given to drummer Marcelo Aires in keeping up with the guitars, often note-for-note, in their equally crushing rhythms and constantly shifting drum patterns and rolls. The resulting concoction is a rich, powerful, and ever-changing voyage through some of the best qualities of the genre.
Any progressive metal album, however, can contain the heretofore mentioned elements of virtuosic instrumentation and unorthodox song structure — yet these works too often prove to be forgettable or mediocre, at best. The main element which makes Raging Light so compelling is its laser-focused approach to songwriting. Where most progressive albums tend to periodically lose themselves in either a mire of tedious instrumentation or a cacophony of complexity, Raging Light strikes a flawless balance between dynamics and repetition. Phrases are explored enough for the listener to become familiar and comfortable, yet there is always something new or exciting happening. Guitar riffs will repeat, but may be picked differently or end with a different fill. Chuggy, syncopated passages will be balanced with a graceful synth melody or ear-catching keyboard or guitar solo. By crafting each song with a precise sense of balance, Painted Black prove that they deeply understand the way each musical idea fits into the song or album as a whole. Throughout the entire album, there is not a single section which seems out of place or forced, and with the album boasting complex instrumentation, widely varying textures, and frequently shifting rhythms, this is a feat which cannot be praised enough.
While unlikely to top any major charts or make big sales figures due to its challenging and aggressive nature, Raging Light is undeniably a supremely designed and technically masterful benchmark for the progressive metal genre.
Painted Black triumph once again in rising above the quagmire of convolution that so often bogs down the brand at large with each technically impressive but melodically vapid release. Raging Light, instead, boasts all of the high-flying instrumentation while still balancing compelling melody and rich texture — giving 2017 a frontrunner for album of the year. For those prog-heads who are fortunate enough to discover this album, it is certain to be a deeply memorable and frequently revisited experience.
Visit Painted Black and order Raging Light at their website, here.