Carmilla (Smokebomb Entertainment)

The Staves – The Blood I Bled (Atlantic Records, Oct. 28)

Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner Records, Aug. 25)

Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight (Sonic  Records, Oct. 17)

Carmilla (Smokebomb Entertainment)

Since the creation of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries in 2012, there has been quite an increase in vlog-style web series. Based out of Toronto’s Smokebomb Studios, Carmilla is the latest modern adaption of a novel that brings Sheridan Le Fanu’s 1872 novel to 2014.

Loosely based on the plot of the original novella, the story follows Laura Hollis, a sheltered, over-achieving, first-year university student who starts a video blog out of her dorm for her journalism class. After a night out with her roommate, she wakes to find Betty has disappeared with only a letter notifying her of an impending replacement roommate.

Because the webcam is always on, Laura’s journalism project not only documents her findings, but also records the developing relationships with her brooding vampire roommate as well her friends, floor dons, and even some frat bros. The video-blog format functions well both in terms of a framing device as well as a way into exploring a complex cast of characters and it suits Laura’s character so well that it manages to avoid feeling gimmicky.

One of Carmilla’s greatest successes is that it passes the Bechdel Test by a long shot. With a largely female cast and excellent LGBTQ representation, the creators have used YouTube as a platform to tell a story that you won’t find on primetime television.

– Allison Grogan

The Staves – The Blood I Bled (Atlantic Records, Oct. 28)

With their first release since their 2012 debut album Dead and Born and Grown, Watford England’s The Staves have teamed up with Justin Vernon of Bon Iver to produce their new EP, The Blood I Bled. Comprised of three sisters, Jessica, Emily, and Camilla Stavely-Taylor, the folk trio takes after singer-songwriters of the 1960s and 1970s and have been compared to contemporaries such as First Aid Kit and Laura Marling.

The new EP is comprised of four original tracks marked by the sisters’ signature harmonies. The Blood I Bled moves away from the more stripped-down feel of their debut album to a collection of songs that makes use of a variety of instruments and new sounds (the addition of trumpets was likely Vernon’s doing). The Staves gracefully transition to a more produced record without losing their authenticity and folk roots that sit at the heart of all their work. The title track of the EP showcases the band’s shift towards a bigger sound while maintaining the eloquent and understated songwriting skill set. The final track on the EP is a remix by Vernon himself that expertly blends the two unique styles without overshadowing the original song. The Blood I Bled makes a perfect addition to any folky autumn playlist.

– Allison Grogan

Opeth – Pale Communion (Roadrunner Records, Aug. 25)

After being out of touch with Opeth and the metal genre for a few years, Pale Communion’s critical acclaim and mystic allure has sucked me in once again. Opeth’s newest record has foregone death growls entirely, focusing instead on Mikael Åkerfeldt’s vocals and the talent of their new keyboardist, Joakim Svalberg.

While I can’t help but indulge the band’s new take on complex chords and countermelodies, I remain nostalgic for Opeth’s unique balance of harsh Nordic metal and folky acoustic sections. Despite some interesting changes to their style, their mediocre execution only leaves me yearning for a more traditionally Opeth-esque sound.

One of the great challenges of progressive metal is making music that is at once deliberate and technical, yet natural and spontaneous. Pale Communion fails at the latter; tracks like “Voice of Treason” are so proggy that they sound forced. It often seems as if the album is trying to imitate Rush or Dream Theater, abandoning the group’s distinctly Swedish sound in the process.

In general, Opeth’s recent work boasts all the ethereal melodies of Damnation and the technical experimentation of Ghost Reveries, but lacks the emotional impact and thematic unity that both earlier albums perfected. Pale Communion certainly deserves a passing glance, but ultimately pales in comparison to the group’s previous masterpieces.

– Daniel Marcotte

Hey Rosetta! – Second Sight (Sonic  Records, Oct. 17)

While Hey Rosetta!’s 2011 album Seeds and its extensive touring managed to cement a national fan base for the group, the Newfoundland group’s latest record Second Sight explores soundscapes and sonic palettes previously unheard.

If the album’s poppy and bright first single “Kintsukuroi” was any indicator as to how the album would take shape, then Hey Rosetta! has opted for a more visceral and upbeat sound than previous records. What makes these tracks such a memorable experience is their ability to incorporate their musical predecessors into the song’s frame, while still building choruses and verses that are distinctly Hey Rosetta! in form.

While the band does attempt to diversify their craft, they have not entirely abandoned the musicality that won them so much adoration on previous albums. “Cathedral Bells” instantly hits home with a sense of nostalgia as it warmly entices with their signature charm. Meanwhile, “What Arrows” cascades over the listener both lyrically and musically as each member of the seven-piece group exhibits their talents over the course of its seven-minute length.

Hey Rosetta!’s latest album is a true testament to their recognition as one of Atlantic Canada’s most beloved groups. The band’s new efforts may not be as instantly recognizable as previous works, but Second Sight should still find a place in the hearts of old and new fans alike.

– Mike Roy

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