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Skeptical Minds - Skepticalized
CD Reviews
Written by Doctor T.   
Wednesday, 05 January 2011
Skeptical Minds - CD Review
Skepticalized
Skeptical Minds - Skepticalized

CD Info

2010

FYB Records

11  Tracks

English Lyrics

 

 

 

Skeptical Minds is one of the big ones, Female Voices, a number of strong releases, large following, very well known. But that doesn’t mean they fit the mold, at least not the Symphonic Operatic Gothic mode. This is a different breed of cat. And that difference probably has a lot to do with their popularity. No one wants to listen to the same stuff all the time, a little variance in the model is good for everyone concerned, and Skeptical Minds provides that variance. So, how would we classify them, seeing as how all good reviews seem to feel they have to do that? Let’s try a couple options: Un nouvel opus s'inscrivant dans la voie initiée par le précédent, à savoir un metal électro aux tendances gothiques. Un ensemble relativement calme, à l’ambiance sombre, froide et mélancolique. That’s good, but in English we could certainly start by saying electronic, probably industrial, maybe power metal at times and with a dose of melodic female vocals. But, in the final analysis, this is not your average Dutch symphonic. And I do have a love for their type of music, as do many others. Marilyn Manson does appear regularly on my I Pod, as does KMFDM, Rammstein and other East German sounds in the same vein. It’s always nice to put something with that working beat on when the days get long and the code gets to the point where it just doesn’t compile. And I do occasionally like to cut a rug with a local hottie. . .and this music provides lots of opportunity for that kind of entertainment.

Skepticalized is a newer version of Skeptical Minds, some new personnel and some alteration in the sound. Michel Stiakakis, who plays lead guitar and is an original band member, puts it another way, "We don't classify it like a style because it's a mix of three main influences. We mixed electro-industrial loops, sharp metal guitar riffs and melodic female voice. That was the starting point. Yes, a kind of Indus-Metal... The idea was to put together the 3 influences of the 3 former members, coming from 3 different music worlds. We wanted to make something homogenous without a dominating part... each part is present and I think that's why it's difficult to classify Skeptical Mind's music... we don't have one unique receipt". Maybe those influences result from the differing backgrounds of the current members, they include Polish (Karolina - singer), Belgian (with Greek origins - Catherine - Cello), Italian (Gab - Drums & electro), French (Pat - bass) and Greek (Mich - guitars). That covers a lot of the continent. And it leads to some truly interesting music.

Unfortunately, my musical intelligence level is a bit below Michel’s and his explanations of how the music is put together was a little above my head. But I did get some of it, at least until we got to the truly technical parts. The band suggests the music can be characterized as Sad, Depressive, and Aggressive. Then, for each song, the band selects two of these words and makes a combination... Then music, ambiance and lyrics are developed in relation to those words. For example, No Way Out is an aggressive song and a bit depressed. Electro, guitars and voices are very aggressive too and energetic. Don't Wake Up is depressed and sad... which is why a piano is used... no guitars and soft melancholic voice.

Clearly, the music is technically sophisticated, and the electronic manipulation goes beyond that. SM makes heavy use of a cello. . . and this cello player is hard to ignore. But the cello is often used as a second guitar. According to SM, with a cello, you can have a heavy low-medium and bass oriented guitar sound. It can be used as either an acoustic or electronic sound. These often drive the sound with the guitars and base serving to provide rhythm components. And then SM adds the "electro", that sound that is manufactured. It’s a signature sound of many of the titles here. And it takes time to develop these sounds, years in fact. Which is why this production took so long to complete, it’s complex, it’s difficult to produce and it’s time consuming. But the result is certainly satisfying.

Skepticalized presents a range of musical styles that can vary considerably from one track to another. And sometimes, the music goes in some pretty strange directions. The 5th and 6th songs on the CD are Don’t Wake Up and Skepticalized. Listen to them and they sound like different songs, but, in a sense, they are the same song, the second being a "skepticalized" version of the first. Skepticalized, according to SM, is a vehicle to see "what's behind the appearance". There’s a dark and a light to everything; we generally see the light, skepticalizing allows us to see the dark. Consequently, Don’t Wake Up is the light version, which is, then "Skepticalized" on the following track. Michel Stiakakis points out that "both songs form one story.... it's separate in two parts... the white and the dark... we kept the same music lines and singing melodies... you can sing each lyrics to the other part...you can exchange...

We just changed the piano by darker electro... and you discover the dark side of the story... the hidden secret..." An interesting juxtaposition of the concept. And the lyrics play with the concept as well. Don’t Wake Up talks from the position of fear:

I can feel my fears, coming back again
What would I do if I loose you...
Danger...
I can feel my fears, coming back again
Would you stay home if I ask you...

In the second track, these fears have been "Skepticalized":

I have lost my fears, I have lost my pain
‘cause nothing can happen to you
No more
I have lost my fears, I have lost my pain
Please forgive me ‘cause you won't... wake up

On other tracks the twist happens in the same song. My Love talks about the psychology of relations with the same divergence of direction. Early in the song, the singer confesses her love:

You! I always gave what you want
I gave you all what you need
I am your only desire
I ,I know what you wait from me

Midway through the song, the tone crosses over, we enter the dark side and see the other side of the psychological duality.

Everything is fake in me boy
All the words I said to you
All the things you bought me
Are the gift I give to you
Everything is fake in me boy

As Michel says, it’s a prostitution story, not a love story.

There is much beyond the psychological manipulation to enjoy on the CD. There is some truly outstanding music. Some of the best occurs when that cello, played by the breathtaking Catherine, is allowed to shine. Broken Dolls provides a solid example of this direction. And the song is one of the strongest on the entire CD. According to Michel "We added the Cello in 2008 because we wanted to bring something new in SM's Music. In 2007, we composed Broken Dolls... A song written for us + 4 cellos (from Arkancelli, an Apocalyptica cover band). We played that song on stage with them and the experience was so exciting that we wanted to add a new element in our music: the cello." It is this willingness to explore new directions that is the strength of the music, in addition to the outstanding musicians producing it. And, of course, the hauntingly beautiful vocals of the lovely Polish vocalist Karolina Pacan are not to be overlooked either.

I guess there’s a reason for SM having been invited to the Female Voices Festival as often as they have. It’s a new direction each time. . with the lone constant being that listeners can expect a singularly high level of performance with each new iteration. This music will NOT disappoint.

9.5 / 10

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