Where Memories Combine

Before I start my regular review, I would like to start with a complaint/rant.  What in hell is happening to heavy metal music?I went to a local bar last night to catch up with my favorite bartender and to get a couple drinks.  The bar has always had a fantastic music selection in its jukebox, but about a year ago, they got one of those machines that goes online and gives you thousands of selections from hundreds of artists, so you could easily spend an hour in front of the thing, trying to decide what you would like to listen to.  Because of this newfangled gadget, the number of selections is endless.  Woo-hoo!
The downside is that the management can no longer pick and choose which songs they are going to put in their jukebox, and that puts too much power in the hands of people with no musical taste.  So, as I said, IÂ’m sitting in the bar, enjoying my drink, and talking to my friend while trying to ignore the music that is blaring from the speakers, as one of the patrons has decided that appropriate bar music to go along with his manly daiquiri is metal.  I love metal.  Thanks to friends of mine who are something of metal connoisseurs, who introduced me to the wonders of good metal in the early 90s, I have a fairly extensive knowledge of old classics like Iron Maiden and more avant-garde bands like Dream Theater – both of whom I have seen in concert multiple times.  (Being a white girl raised in suburbia, I had previously only been exposed to late-80s and early-90s bubblegum rock and MetallicaÂ’s Black album – both, I am not ashamed to admit, I still love to sing to in the shower.)  So I am not one of those music snobs that thinks that metal is not music.
However, the metal that I was listening to last night was not music. No, let me change that: It was not good music.  My fiancé summed it up best when he said it was like emo-metal.  It was discordant, unpleasant, and the lead singer was whiny.  The sad thing was that this was the case with more than one band that was playing.  IÂ’m sorry that I donÂ’t remember the names of these bands (mostly because I was trying so very hard to forget), for I would have them plastered all over this page, encouraging you to never buy their albums, but IÂ’m telling you, I have heard cats meowing out mating calls that sounded better than this crap.So, people, I am going to make a plea: If you have to listen to heavy metal in a daiquiri bar – which is your God-given right as an American – please, please, PLEASE, have the good taste to put in good metal.  I would advise thinking of the other patrons and sticking to the metal “standards”: Metallica, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Anthrax, etc.  I know that these are old school, but people know them, they love them, they can reminisce about them, they are fun to drink to, and they have some cultural musical value. Now that I have gone off on my little diatribe, I will start my review of a local band called Cea Serin that I have been trying to see live since I first started this column over a year-and-a-half ago.  They were recommended to me by a friend who knew that I loved Dream Theater and told me that this was Baton RougeÂ’s version.  Â“Really?”  I said. “I must go forth and review them.”Armed with the knowledge of how to spell their name correctly, I went on MySpace®and tried to find them.  Using the journalist skills I had honed in college, I tracked them down and was able to set a time to go and see them in concert.  Then, for reasons that were never fully explained, they had to cancel the show.  Okay, so I waited and waited to see or hear of another concert that I could go to, and nothing.  I knew from messages that they were in the studio working on a new album, so they were not touring for a while.  As a result, I decided to wait for the new CD to come out.The long and short of it is that I am too impatient to wait for their new release any longer.  Instead, I borrowed my friendÂ’s CD entitled Where Memories Combine. I will review it now and the new one whenever it happens to be completed.

When I popped in the CD, I immediately realized that my informant was correct. Cea Serin is reminiscent of Dream Theater both in their sound and in the fact that they are not afraid to put out a concept album.

I, unlike many out there, love concept albums.  I do think that the songs have to be good enough to stand on their own, but if you can write several songs that work together and tell a story, I think thatÂ’s awesome.  Of course, I also like opera.

Growing up under my motherÂ’s musical tutelage, there was almost nothing in her collection but concept albums: The Moody BluesÂ’ Days of Future Passed, where there is a song for every period of the day; The Alan Parsons ProjectÂ’s Tales of Mystery and Imagination, where all of the songs are based off of an Edgar Allan Poe story or poem; Pink FloydÂ’s The Wallor Dark Side of the Moon (if you need explanations for those two, go shoot yourself now; you no longer deserve to live). These were staples upon which her collection and my education were based.

Later in music, they stopped doing these concept albums and started just filling discs with pop, radio-friendly songs, except for – and I find this rather ironic, considering the bad rap this genre has always received – heavy metal music.  On many metal albums, you could still find a concept or a story.  Iron Maiden is probably the most well known band that did and still does this, and Dream Theater did it with some of their CDs (my favorite being Metropolis Pt 2:  Scenes From a Memory). Where Memories Combine also has a concept or a theme running through it that seems to be one of memories, regret, and sorrow.

            The cover art of the CD shows two empty chairs, a broken metronome, and the quote “embracing the absence/where memories combine/that the tongue will incite/for the days left behind.”  This quote theme goes on throughout the compilation, both in the booklet and the music. The opening sequence “A Fracture in Forever” is not even a song, but rather, itÂ’s a collage of different quotes and sayings that gives you the feeling that a story is about to unfold.

The album has a rather melancholy feel to it in parts, but the music is tight with great guitar riffs and tight harmonies.  The music sounds a lot like Dream Theater, as it breaks off into songs within songs that keep the music interesting.  Cea Serin lead singer J. LammÂ’s vocals are not as delicate as James LaBrieÂ’s, but Lamm is more willing to venture into the growling tones that you would associate more with death metal.  The juxtaposition of his two vocal styles makes for very dynamic songs.

            Another thing that this album shares with several concept albums is the small number of songs on the CD. There may be only nine songs, but you are still getting almost an hour of music, falling only about six minutes shy.  The shortest song on the album is 7 minutes and 32 seconds long, with the longest coming in at 12 minutes and 33 seconds.  Needless to say, you wonÂ’t be hearing these songs on the radio, and I applaud them for not doing the cookie-cutter thing to try to make themselves more marketable.

My favorite piece on the album was “Scripted Suffering: Within and Without.”  I loved it because of the many transitions in the song, as it went from growly and rough to melodic and beautiful. They managed to pull it off.

            If you havenÂ’t managed to hear this band, then I suggest you go on MySpace and see how to pick up the album.  As for me, I will wait for them to let me know when they are done recording their new album (HINT, HINT), as I canÂ’t wait to hear what they come up with next.