Saturday, June 23, 2018

Looking Back in Anger : Pantera's "Great Southern Trendkill"

 Now seems like a fitting time to go back and re-visit, what I always felt was the bands most under rated album. Their 8th album the band was fighting drugs just like I was in 96 which gave it a darker and more aggressive turn. The groove they are known for is still there, but the album opens with them blasting out from a much angrier place. "Drag the Waters" shows them doing this with a touch of blues that had always been there to some extent , but the swampier tones are really brought out here. "10s" is my favorite song as the lyrics resonated with me at the time, listening back well...I guess they still speak to my inner teenager, but there is a great depth in the layered guitars here and Phil really sings his guts out on this one.

On "13 Steps to Nowhere" Seth Putnam from Anal Cunt lends his screams. Vocally there are more layers, and effects added which is not surprising as he recorded the vocals at Trent Reznor's studio. The first part of the two 'Suicide Note" songs is almost more like an interlude, the two work together as a whole piece. The guitar has an almost country feel. The backwards guitar parts sounded really good when you were high. Until they lock into the "do it do it " part it kinda blasts by you, but they lock into some shit that is heavy as fuck for sure. "Living Through Me" is the first song that really revisits who the band was on "Vulgar Display" .  'Floods" is probably my second favorite song on the album. I love how the effects sit on Phils voice and the guitar is great, one of Dime's best solos.

"the Underground America" is big loud and angry, with some of  Vinnie's best drumming on here.Though it's not my favorite song on the album. "Sandblasted Skin" has some really mean riffs, but the last two songs feel like they are just throwing heavy at you for the sake of throwing heavy, almost like it was, "Well, we were really high most of the time we were in the studio so we gotta throw some more heavy shit in". But there dialing it in is better than the best most bands can do. This album gets a 10.

Totenwagen : "Notte di guai"

I immediately do not the vocals to the first song off this Italian band's new album. There are some dark moments, almost a Frankenstein like lumber that sounds ready for Halloween. But I am not sure if that makes this death rock. I has a black n roll feel in the sense that there is roughened brawn that blitzes through the bark off these songs. The vocals continue your their deal breaking bark. On the first song I told myself, rather than waste time hunting for something else to review I could let this album play and casually write in spurts as I wen since there is other stuff I could be working on. The vocals go in a more punk direction a few songs in for "Spit and Run".  This is an improvement as the music had up until this point been much better than the vocals which were dragging it down.

 You have to be careful what you hope for as once this happens the music all begins to sound the same. The only thing that really breaks this up is a weird almost medieval flavor to the interlude that comes in the middle of the album. It breaks things up for them to go back to a more punk influence frolic. There is another melodic folk metal feel that pops up against the gang vocals. So it's not like these guys are purely another gutter punk band dressed darkly enough for Halloween. The keyboards are what really draws the line in the sand with this and sometimes makes me think of Murder City Devils, who were also dark like this.

The more nuanced runs going through some of the riffs have echoes of Iron Maiden's first two albums. At the end of the day punk wins out. I'll give this album a 6.5, which is dramatically higher than what I might have imagined going into it as I was unsure I could make it through since I hate the vocals, but they switch those up enough for me to be able to make it through and here some unique things they add to their take on punk.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Marduk : "Viktoria"

The furious gallop of "Were-wolf" has a punk edge to it that reminds me of Motorhead. This is increased when the kids start chanting were-wolf. There is a darker throb to "June 44". So i have given this album several listens before writing about it, during this time it has given me time to compare the first time I heard thee songs to how they feel with repeat listens, this is where I notice some songs rather than grow me , grew annoying due to the uniform nature of the blast beats. This song is where I first notice it. "Equestrian Bloodlust" rages at such a similar speed the quick pauses are the only thing that really sets this song apart. Many of these songs run together even on something like " Tiger I" where they slow into a more deliberate pulse.

They waste little time speeding back up on "Narva". This album is not huge on dynamics, but it's an exercise in the band doing what they do well. In some ways it feels like this album is only a justification to go on tour. I get that we are 14 albums in with these guys so the element of surprise is non-existent. This begins to become and album that if I look away from iTunes, it all runs together and next thing I now we are three songs deeper. The unrelenting tempo is the main culprit here. "Last Fallen" feels marginally more intentional and less like a blurry temper tantrum. The title track doesn't do much to set itself apart but rages in the same fashion as the rest of this speed fest.

"The Devil's Song" has the same buzz of tremolo picked guitar running through it. At this point Marduk is beginning to feel like the AC/DC of black metal. The vocals sometimes go from this screamed mid range rasp to more of a shouted declaration. The blast beats have already numbed you out at this point and the guitar melodies are buried in the rushed anger coursing through these songs."Silent Night" is their last chance to do something different though at this point it would not even matter. They do slow down and churn out something that is darker and posses more melody, which is frustrating because why did we just get hit with that blur of songs that all sounded the same? I'll give this album a 7. CENTURY Media is releasing this, if you are a fan of the band you might not notice my complaints as you have lready heard the first 13 records which sounded no different.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Craft : "White Noise and Black Metal"

Things have changed for this Swedish band. I loved how "Void" was very hateful. People now say hate like it's soiling their soul.. Would you want to listen to black metal that doesn't have a soiled soul? But right from the smoother guitar tone of the first song it's obvious things are now very different for this band. The sonic sprawl of their sound allows them to get away with more blast beats than before It is however not as hateful as I hope which took at period of adjustment for me. Now that I have sat on this album a few days it will be a more accurate listen. I can hear things like how the bass lines are more nuanced and melodic. This melodic underpinning becomes more pronounced on the throb of "Again".

After repeated listens "Undone" has a slightly diminished impact and seems like it continues a theme started on the previous song. Not a bad song, but it runs together with the first two songs. There are moments that deviate from the formula and the overall sound of the band stays strong. "Tragedy of Pointless Games" has more form and function at times carrying a more rock n roll groove. This rock n roll feeling can also be found on the more riff oriented "Darkness Falls" . Up to this point the album was beginning to remind me of Inquistion, and while this song also finds the vocal croaking out their narrative, it also feels like we are getting another side of this band's personality.

Aside from the muttering in the song's last minute, "Crimson" is not dynamic enough to justify being an instrumental. "YHVH's  Shadow" finds them reverting back to the blast beat.The song does build up into more of crescendo. There is a dissonance to this song I like. So closing in on the 4 minute mark when things slow down it flows very naturally into the shifting mood.The song :White Noise"is not noise . In fact it summons up a pretty powerful chug. One of the album's most straight forward song, but also one of the most effective. I'll give this one a 9. It's less confrontational and more mature, a phrase that might not seem to be praise in many black metal circles , but here it works for what they are doing. Released on Season of Mist.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Sear Bliss : "Letters From the Edge"

Hungarian metal band Sear Bliss begins to trade it's black metal roots for a touch of death metal. They have always been adventurous. They wander off into melodic passages to provide a wider range of dynamics than your average metal band. They manner in which this goes down on the first song reminds me of 90s bands like Samael or Tiamat. "Seven Springs" gets more symphonic, but this happens in a very organic fashion. This also brings a more romantic element that places it more toward the black metal side of the fence. The melody to "A Mirror in the Forest" carries a majestic march that gives it a more viking metal feel, in it's sense of high fantasy. At the solo it gets a little darker, but darkness doesn't seem to be what this album is about.

This album is colored with a wide range of guitar tones and benefits from excellent production value all the way around that doesn't forsake their edge. As a whole their sound seems to be going in more of an Enslaved direction when they are ready to rock. Low almost spoken vocals wait until the second act of  "Abandoned Peaks"  to come in. These guys get credit for writing very concise songs, only once do they tip the ten minute mark, which is cool because it makes it stand out from the other songs. "Haven" is slower and more straight forward, a step more towards a mainstream metal direction. They go a more straight forward death metal route with plenty of melodic nuances on "the Main Devide" . They stay in this more moderate but dark and heavy almost rock n roll direction for "Leaving Forever Land". This is the ten minute song so there was plenty of time for them to revert to blast beats so that happens. Five minutes in and I am trying to figure out if there is any where else for them to go with this that is more worthwhile. It breaks down into cleaner guitar tones that lead to a more deliberate and melodic section.

The album closes with "Shroud", another song that finds the band stepping down a slicker more stream lined direction. The growled vocals the only thing really anchoring it to being a metal song. The horn section joins in to give an added symphonic kick. This album really excels and shows growth. I am sure some might frown as it is not as cvlt as their old black metal fan base might prefer, but it's good music and that is hard to argue against. I'll give it a 9.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Dopethrone : "Transcandian Anger"

This Canadian band has unleashed it's 5th album of bong fueled doom. I have been sitting on this one while letting the manner in which the band  crosses over from stoner metal into doom with the ominous darkness  soak in with a few listens. While they are good at what they do , as soon as two songs in what they do can take on a more uniform sound. Some of this is due to the fact that the rasped vocals are pretty much a one trick pony. When they use things like samples to add another dimension it works best for them. They need as many different layers of sounds to keep things different enough. The charge into a more muscular bulldozing with "Killdozer" living up to the name. This puts them closer into being sludge. It's almost like an over-driven black metal  version Motorhead covering Black Sabbath. When they slow down for "Scuzgasm" then it's getting redundant.

They tend to do better when picking the pace up into more of the sludged out jamming. The vocals sneer with a rasp from behind the wall of guitar rolling at you. The lyrics to this one however are easier to make out. It does slow into more of a lurch and lumber, but this works better dynamically than other attempts. "Snort Dagger " is back to the slower more doom flavored heaviness, that comes across murkier here. It drags as intended, but doesn't feel that it works off what they do best as effectively. Next is a cover of  ZZ-Top's "Kush" which they have re-titled "Killbilly Kush". This adapts well to their style.

They close the album with well balanced blend of doom and sludge for "Miserbilist". This one has more stomp in it's chug.I don't think these guys are as mean and nasty as Fistula, though with their use of samples they are heading in a similar direction. I'll around this up to a 7.5, it's not the most original thing I have heard, and the vocals are a one trick pony , but they are very good at what they do..

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Lizzy Borden : "My Midnight Things"

Ok lets get one thing out of the way first. Why the fuck is there a cover of 'Silent Night" on here? There is no excuse for that and the first thought I had been I heard it was "I can't delete this fast enough. Now on a more positive note. His voice sounds great. Though I am trying to find what is really him  by searching through layers of vocal overdubs. By "Obsessed With You" the Queensryche influence is more prevalent. His vocal is little lower , perhaps with age but "Long May They Haunt Us" sounds like a more rock n roll version of who this band used to be. "the Scar Across My Heart " is a little too happy, a little too rock n roll and a little less metal than I want it to be. I am using "Visual Lies" as the album I am measuring these songs against. They do the best job of bringing a new modern sound to what they are doing while maintaining their classic identity on a song like "A Stranger to Love".

I don't mind the effects on his voice at the beginning of "Perfect Poison". I am trying to be ok with the gratuitous use of synths  here. The guitar is trying to hold tension as they decide if they want this to be a power ballad or not. Not the album's best song, but it doesn't suck either. They commit to a ballad for better or worse on "Run Away With Me". When they try to shift dynamics and go into a rock section it sounds like Styx's cheesier moments. "Our Love is God" actually rocks so this album runs hot and cold. The chug of the guitar sits well against the vocals. The reprise of the title that opened the album is more ballad like take on the song. His voice doesn't sound half bad, and while I would be prefer to hear a harder rock take on the song, this stripped down version is good for what it is.

The vocals continue to have Queen like layers of harmonies on "We Belong In Shadows". Despite the song's title this is not that dark in fact it might be a little too happy for me. The keyboards sound like 80s new wave, but the vocals are too Aldo Nova, oh...right some of you are too young to know who that is , well you did not miss much. The there is another reprise this time it's "Long My They Haunt Us". it's beginning to sound like a musical. Once again this could be worse, it's not the direction I would prefer to hear them go in, but they pull it off. The album closes with an updated version of " Waiting in the Wings " from "Master of Disguise" which is the album Lizzy and I parted ways on because it was such a departure from metal. Here the song works in this context and they did a great job bringing it into today. It sounds a little like Alice Cooper's new wave years. I'll round this up to an 8.5 as it might not measure up against the classics , but his voice is holding up and it's a better comeback than I could have hoped for.