Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Godspeedyoublackemperor! : "Luciferian Towers"

There is a a lot of talk going on round in regards to the world ending on Saturday, so I am glad these guys came out with a new one in case I need a soundtrack to ponder a desolate post-apocalyptic wasteland to. The opening title track so a slow atmospheric shimmer of the music coming to life with brass instrumentation blowing the melodies out of the fog. I would not say this is their most fully formed song or their best work ,but it does create a mood, and for that it is a success as the orchestra tunes their instruments and comes to life. While still heavily orchestrated in a manner not unlike there previous work, though perhaps a shade lighter moody wise there is a rock n roll like melody that merges from the high traffic density of instrumentation. II suppose when I say rock it falls some where between Radiohead and the Beatles as the melody sounds like a wist on "A Little Help From My Friends" .  I can also here some of the Who's proggier moments if we are going to dissect this by tracing it all the way back to it's classic rock roots.

"Fam Famine" has a little more tension in the feedback that brings this wave of sound in. It starts off more psychedelic in the trippy way the sounds dances around you.  The focus however is more ambiance that a song that moves in more than a droning pulse even with some of the melodies that hover over this but never land.The album closes with "Anthem For No State". It starts off not wanting to touch the ground either but have the weightless lunar feel of kruat rock which also makes me think of  walking on the moon. A western strum of guitar begins to take form and gives this song the sound as if it is a the soundtrack to a sad space western. Trumpets begin to blare more exotic chord voicing and the song begins to turn into one of Jimi Hendrix's guitar freak outs transposed for orchestra. The drums help give it some movement and further the spaghetti western comparisons. It does build into something with more of a powerful rock punch.

I think is album could have been a little more grounded. It does flow within the established guidelines of what these band does and is a fair representation of what they do though orchestral element might even be bigger on this album. I will give it an 8, though I do not expect to get more listens than the ones it took me to review this album, since it can be long winded in the ambiance. The band's ardent fan base with find plenty to latch onto here.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Wolves in the Throne Room : 'Thrice Woven"

Normally when I review an album I write as I am sitting there listening to it for the first time. This is not the case here I have sat on this one for a few days. I can say Wolves in the Throne Room is back to a more unabashed embracing of black metal. In doing so this doesn't mean that are being enslaved to blast beats or ignoring some of the things from their more experimental leanings that have made them who they are . Six albums and fourteen years invested in this , they have a clear understanding as to who they want to be in the present moment and continue to invoked the feeling of their surroundings.  Sometimes you need to step away from it in order to gain perspective. This album owes more to Ulver and Darkthrone than it does Godspeedyoublackemperor!

The album opens with a calm before the storm as crystalline guitar rings out. They kind of black metal they burst into has a lighter feel to the intention it is being played with. The vocals are the most scathing part of it. The riffs eventually get as mean spirited as something Watain would do. This might be a reflect in their changing and more cynical attitudes toward the world changing around them.Then there is a jarring as as it drops out into female vocals. Very serene and siren like. Then a darker riffs evolves out of this interlude, with the female vocals floating in the background. When they sing about the old ones being with them on the following song there is a sense they are talking about the ancestral spirits of the land rather than some sort of Lovercraftian horror. The ominous sense is more one of enormity when facing a mountain rather than staring into an abyss. That earth based feeling is conveyed in the husky gravel of the more Tom Waits like narrative midway into the song that sounds like something Neurosis might do. "Angrboda" is a more straight forward blast drive charge of more traditional black metal. While this might bore me if it was another band, with these guys it's a welcome reminder than this is what they do. They do throw in bridges amid the blasts with a sonic twist to keep me interested and not numbed out. This casts a colder shade of gray into the spectrum they are painting the song with. Here and at other points in the album is breaks all the way down to very minimal arrangements augmented with sound effects. It is effective here is it sets the stage for the change in mood.

 "Mother Owl, Father Ocean is more of an ambient aside rather than a fully formed song, in the way this band conceives fully formed songs. It might be a fully formed song for the Cocteau Twins , but not for Wolves in the Throne Room. Five and a half minutes into the eleven minute closer things turn to a darker current. This offer the kind of dynamic shift I need as come of their so called cascadian passages can shimmer to brightly for what I generally look for , but when used as a contrasting color I think it works the best. They also manage to hit that sweet spot where they are just as heavy sonically as they are metal. This is along with darkness is among the more important qualities I look for in heavy music. The blasts in the last three minutes of this song are well deserved and make sense , as they have proven that this alone is not all they are about. I'll round this up to a 10 as I think it's solid triumph in the band returning to old stomping grounds in a way that is not mired in nostalgia for what was 14 years ago while still giving their early fans what they have been wanting.

Marilyn Manson : "Heaven Upside Down"

I have mixed feeling when this album opens . I am glad to hear the return the return of distorted guitar . I not' really like the more straight ahead punk rock like pounding , but my it will grow on me. "Tattooed in Reverse" has a more groove to it. The distorted guitar is back. The distortion doesn't have a metal low end to it. Instead it's very dry and mid-range. So more of an industrial tone and not the beefiest at that. It is a fact that this album is angrier than "Pale Emperor". I want Manson to do be pissed , but I think the songs are no where as infectious even including the lead single "We Know Where You Fucking Live". The song is ok, but I don't see it getting stuck in my head like the bulk of the songs from "Pale Emperor". Speaking of that album it's the same band that played on "Pale Emperor " which has returned for "Heaven Upside Down".

There is a more hip-hop like beat to "Say10". This one is the darkest song so far. The guitar comes in at the chorus a more classic Manson feel. The beats begin to get a little more interesting as the album progresses. Some of the more bluesy undercurrents of the previous album begin to return. With Marilyn Manson  I want hi to be as dark as possible but still have groove and melody. It seems like this is where he is going with "Saturnalia" . It is the most goth song on the album up to this point. He comes back strong on "Jesus Crisis" announcing he writes songs to fight and to fuck to. "Blood Honey" has more of an industrial power ballad feel. It does kinds step back into the 90s which I am fine with. He admits that he will fuck every broken crazy girl, which I can certainly relate to. The title track is alright , but doesn't go above and beyond like some of these songs.

The album closes with "Threats of Romance".  This one has an almost White Strips like stomp to it. It's more piano driven with lots of swing and a 70s rock n roll feel during the first verse. The lyrics in the chorus are pretty clever "I liked you damaged , but I need something left". I'll go ahead and round this one up to a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. The last album certainl did and over the years he has proven to have that effect on me.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Dawn Ray'd : "the Unlawful Assembly"

This band from North England  are equal amounts angry and atmospheric with folk elements draped in-between. When they do five into their anger it is genuine black metal. The vocals are in a similar static white noise scream as say Deafheaven. The songs are very concise. They squeeze folk melodies over the most furious of their blasting moments. By the time they hit the third song we are getting a more straight forward blasting attack that lacks the more defining qualities that gives this band their sense of identity. In other words it sounds like all other generic black, perhaps with a slightly slicker coating of ice over it. The first shift in dynamics is is jarring right turn into folk with clean singing on "A Litany of Cowards" which finds the lyrics being more political than I would like. I am better with this being screamed as it's not as in my face. Not that the singing is that great to begin with, his voice is rather meek. Considering that these guys used to be a screamo band I would think the singing would be better.

You can hear the shades of their old emo past in the folky intro of "the Ceaseless Arbitrary Choice" .  They do win me over with the lower goth vocals toward the end of the song. Why were they no singing like that all along, I might have put up with their peace and love hippy lyrics.After this they prove that even a screamo band can make run of the mill black metal . It's not until they bring in the violin that they really sound interesting .  It more screaming about how they can not tolerate intolerance, which I guess is some kind of millennial logic of rather than be ok with other people having beliefs I don't agree with I am going to have a temper tantrum. This is what happens when you have a generation of parents who think it's not ok to spank your kids.  By this time in the album their blast blast beats have bored me.

"Island of Cannibal Horses" sounds like it will be a death metal song but its not. I do like when bands scream over clean guitars and mellow arrangements. This does call them out again for their emo past, but I can deal with it here. The singing is a little better when they close out the album with " A Thought Ablaze" it sounds like a lighter version of Death in June, I hope these kids don't know their politics or they would really get their panties in a wad. The lyrics really ruined this for me, but while there are moments and even a few good songs they have not really exceeded expectations . I will round this down to a 7, I think they do have potential, it is just not fully manifesting here.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Makeout : "the Good Life"

Wait is Myspace still a thing? I mean I have a soft spot for the first wave of emo. Then it collided with pop punk for miked results. I mean I like the first Brand New album which delved into this sort of thing, and I like the first Taking Back Sunday album. These guys dial up the pop and infuse it with pop culture so I feel like I am reading a teenager's texts set to music. If Taylor Swift was a guy less enamored with pop and having not country background, she might sound like this, but then she wouldn't be Taylor Swuift either, so there is that. There is an 808 hip hop beat introduced on the 2nd song. So this is where this kind of music went after that cover of "Lollipop". I think some of the the more dramatic girls I am friends with on social media on the basis of breast size might be into these guys as they would relate to the lyrics and think it was something real for adults to singing about and not get the joke. I am not sure these guys are really getting the joke They do remind me a little of the Nightmare of You on "Lisa" . It's a little more serious but not as catchy as the first two songs.

The verse riffs sound like the big Fall Out Boy breakdowns and some of the Used sappier moments. 'Ride it Out" is a song just waiting to be on the soundtrack of some CW show. The verse works for me , though the chorus is slightly anti climatic considering how big these guys normally go. There press release compares them to cross-between Paramore and Steel Panther. I don't hear any Steel Panther. The songs are all in the two and a half to three minute radio range. There is more of an upbeat tension to "Open Minded" but the lyrics pretty much suck. I need these guys to at least have clever lyrics because if that is not there then I am supposed to take them more serious than is possible. The ballad comes when it comes to " You Can't Blame Me" . This finds the band getting back in a direction that works better for them. To be from Boston they certainly sound like they are from Los Angeles. I guess Berklee is teaching them to whore out as soon as they can.

"Clorkwork" finds the backing vocals too big and silly. The lyrics show improvement, though they tak about being jaded once again, which is cliche I can only handle once. They chorus gets bouncy it's so happy. They really give there producer props, but I think this would sound better with a more compressed practice room type sound. They just used the Fall Out Boy Pro-tools settings on this one. There is piano that has not real need to be on this album when we get to "Till We're Gone". The chorus finds them really cheesing the fuck out. It's this point in the album that I started alternating between listening to this and the new Exhumed and they are certainly at polar opposite ends of the spectrum. The bass tone gets beefed up a little bit for "Salt Lake City".  "Secrets" is strummed Dashboard Confessional break up song, though it has a salty vapid flavor that is not like Dashboard. The brief punk of "Where is My Charger" is just an interlude. "Blast Off" doesn't offer anything we have not heard from these guys are their on the cuff influences.  I'll give this album an 8 as it succedes at doing what they wanted it to do , not the most original thing I have ever heard but I am sure it's the soundtrack to someone's senior year in high school and they are more likely taking this more serious than a grown ass man like myself can.

Superjoint : "Caught Up In The Gears Of Application"

They have dropped the Ritual for this era of the band. I just figured out that Hank the III is not in the band any more. Instead Wovenhand bassist Stephen Taylor is onboard along with the drummer from Warbeast, so this is more of a House Core Records all-star band. It's very dense and heavy. The opening song is more oppressive than where they wind up by the time they get to the more punk "Ruin You". The title track is pretty feral as well. They do lock into more of a groove that hooks me in by the end. Phil keeps things at a gruff grumble. In many ways this more closely resembles Eyehategod. The songs are all very compactly written.

The brisk "Sociopathic Herd Delusion" feels more like filler than what I know these guys are capable of doing. "Circling the Drain" still sticks to the roughened version of what they are doing here, but strikes me as being more interesting. If you are familiar with my for with Cvlt Nation then you might have a better understanding as to why the lyrics to this song strike me as being more compelling. "Asshole" which bears the chant "shit comes out of it" is more run of the mill hard core though like most of this album it is slathered in a coat of New Orleans sludge. "Click Baiter" allows Phil to voice is anger towards the Internet. It has a more melodic riff that cuts in, but is not really covering much new ground.

"Mutts Bite Too" comes closer to the swampy waters the corpse of Acid Bath floats in, though without the more melodic vocals. The drumming might be the best on this song. This might be the album's heaviest song. "Rigging the Fight" may or may not be about the election, but Phil is a hug fan of boxing so he might be mad at Don King. "Receiving No Answer to the Knock" finds the guitar opening up more room for grooves and melody while Phil grunts and barks like he has for the bulk of the album. I'll give this album a 7.5, it's a little one dimensional for my tastes, but if you are looking for rough and rumbling tough guy shit from New Orleans then this is for you.


Amenra : " Mass VI"

This band from Belgium is back with another piece of despair. With members of Oathbreaker in the fold they deliver a lush take on metal. The atmosphere might be even thicker on this album than it was on the previous releases. I am not hearing this as just a sludge band as the Neurosis worship has been washed away in favor of a sound that has more emotional depth. The anguish howls of the vocals and their accompanying guitar parts really pack the heart punch here.It starts off with the kind of aggressive sludge you expected from them though the anger almost borders on hardcore. Then thye begin to float out into something else six minutes and tinder sung vocals with a Sigur Rio like feel to them whisper into the waves . The guitar sound on this album is pretty awe inspiring and massive.

The guitar has more of a tremolo feel to it that blackens things slightly. The vocals grow more tormented in their conveyance of emotion. The bass and drums keeps things at a more sludge like pace. The over all sound s huge and the depth of the shadows painting it feels darker yet more clear in the way the mix lends space to every instrument. Lightly sung almost whispered vocals lead into "A Solitary Reign" . There is a call and response with the screamed vocal echoing the lighter vocals until it crescendos midway into the song and the screaming takes over . In the song's 3rd act the vocals float over the sonic storm not unlike older Alcest. The album ends with the 11 minute "Daiken". There is a brooding drone for the first two and a half minutes before they thunder down on you. While this sounds great they are playing it closer to more familiar territory here. The more subdued vocals do return and trade off with the more vicious screaming in the songs final moments.

I'll round this up to a 9.5, while these guys got my attention again I suppose time will tell how much rotation this gets from me. The only thing going against it in the iPod is the length of some of the songs it's more of an album to let play when i am sitting in front of my computer. It is superbly crafted and finds these guys hitting their stride.