Monday, September 26, 2016

Warpaint : "Heads Up"

This album is very different from their 2014 self titled effort. The vocals are presented in a less layered manner, giving this a more straight up pop like feel similar to Luscious Jackson . It took a few songs for me to really warm up to it. Though upon a second listen to the sultry " By Your Side". There is a darker mood to this one. The guitar tones writhe around the beat which is more straight forward and almost trip hop like. "New Song" which seems to be the album's first single is much upbeat and the vocal melody has more of Euro- smoothness. The chorus is big and dancey without pandering to the likes of Lady Gaga. The band's strength is clearly their vocal melodies . They compensate for  what can be the some what odd space in some of the arrangements.

They capture some great Depeche Mode like guitar tones on "So Good" which is my favorite song on the album thus far. It works off a steamy groove and vocals that always fall right where they need to . "Don't Wanna" finds the vocals up close on the mic.  When the layers of vocals return it reminds me a little of their previous album, but overall there is a weird purgatory created of being more electronic yet more stripped down. The album's first slip up is the weird wavering "Don't Let Go" which never seems to get a grip in the first place. "Dre" is more like a dreamy laid back excursion Chrvches might go on rather than anything like the Dr. This song has more focus than the previous song, but is still surreal to the point of being murky.

The title track takes a brisk dynamic shift into an almost post-punk direction. "Above Control" finds the back doing what they are best at as both mesmerism and melody are in play. The album closes with the folkish ballad "Today Dear" which feels like the intro to a Brand New song. I guess the wanted a moment of vulnerability. Overall this is a great album with a few weird choices on it. I'll give it an 8.5 and see how it sits with me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bellicose Minds : "the Creature"

It's been three years since the Portland post-punk trio released "the Spine". Their newest opens with a more frantically upbeat number than I remember them having on their 2013 album. One their Bandcamp page the band says that they use big amps and electric drums to make music inspired by rain and cloud. This song seems a little too peppy for rain and clouds. The big amps are creating the great bass tone that opens "Exiled".  This song is tighter and the vocals fit more snugly into the grooves. The title track like the song before it is bass driven. This song glides more smoothly into the shadows. "The Mask" just fades into the background. One thing I have noticed is the vocals are not as aggressive as they once were so his voice isn't commanding you to listen.

There is more punk to the vocals of "Orwell's Troops". They punch out a little more despite being mixed back against the guitar. The mix might be what separates this album from "the Spine" . "Lost" feels more like their earlier work. The guitar coolly coasts around the bouncing bass line.  The chorus doesn't jump out at you but sits back into the moody pace of the song. "A Likely Outcome" is interesting for the first half of the song the vocals take more of a back seat. The vocals when they come in howl in like the wind from the distance.

The album closes with one of the more aggressive songs on the album "Villains" which is another song that will put a slight smile on the pale faces of even the most morose listener who went into this as a fan of "the Spine". There is almost a metal like pattern to the guitar riff. I'll around this up to a 9 it might take the kinder and gentler version of the band a little more time to warm up to me, but they get the job done. The other bands at the forefront of the post-punk revival have been pretty quiet this year so it's good to hear from these guys. This album came out under the radar last week with no hype around it. If you are a fan then it is worth your time to listen to it and hopefully with Halloween creeping up on us more of this will be coming out to play.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Die Antwoord : "Mt. Ninji and da nice time kid"

Ok here we go with the odd ball South African rap group's swan song. "We have Candy" is more theatrical than the kind of odd ball rap that they do best. "Daddy" is more dumbed down almost strip club rap until the chorus kicks and Yolandi takes over with a more interesting cadence. The production on this album is much better than their past releases. There is more an 80s techno to "Banana Brain" Yolandi starts off with singing the hook before the bass drops in to get the rave til dawn really going. Sen Dog from Cypress Hill shows up on "Shit Just Got Real". It works off the same principles and pulses that made Cypress Hill back in the day. Dita Von Teese offers her sultry whisper of "Gucci Coochie" which a Yolandi dominated track that re-visits similar ground they have already danced upon though it might be a little techno tinged this time around.

The guest spots continue with the prayer of Lil Tommy Terror on "Wings on My Penis" , which is more of an interlude. I'm totally sold on the cartoonish vocal Jack Black provides to " Rats Rule". He does his best Tom Waits impersonation. There is more attitude in the stomp of "Jonah Hill", but it turns into just another interlude."Stoopid Rich" finds Ninji rapping over a more trap like backing track. Yolandi's verses continue to be stronger than his. 'Fat Faded Fuck Face" is faded in the sense it feels like it is based off of some drug induced mumbling. Things are a little more cohesive on "Peanut Butter + Jelly". "Alien" is an odd childish lullaby sung by Yolandi. Dreamy and oddly creepy this song reminds me of 'Chim-Chimney"

"Street Light" continues off the darker mood of the previous ditty. This time Ninji is singing. This time around it's better than his previous attempts at singing. Yolandi handles the verses with Ninji falling in behind her though the overall mood of the song is more somber than the type of flow they normally excel at.Though this one grows on me. "Darkling" is another weird lullaby like ballad following in the footsteps of "Alien" but with a little more of a groove to it. They have a hard time staying out of the realm of nursery rhymes when they are not full on glow sticking it to ya. " I Don't Care" lulls on this childish sing song melody. It's more like a techno outro. I'll round this up to a 7.5 which is still a disappointment as they are capable of more. Guess it's better than they break up at this point.


Barghest / Teeth - split cassette

This split between Baton Rogue's Barghest  and the California death metal band Teeth is dense from start to finish. While the two band occupy different genres that have both captured animalistic sonic oppression is very convincing manners. First up is Barghest. These guys are  still a feral as ever, but there is more focus within the songs that make this a much more palatable listen than some of their earlier efforts that I really wanted to like, but sounded like someone taking power tools to a trash can full of rabid kittens. This time they going into their punishing take on black metal with a little more ambiance. On "Born of Tooth and Talon" , there is still the sense that these guys grew up listening to Discharge rather than Iron Maiden . The rumble of the manic barrage  seem to have more direction and shows their maturation as a band.

They confront the problem that faces many "raw black metal" bands trying to keep it real, are really trying to keep it in 1991. The only time I want to hear that is when I go back to listen to "Soulside Journey" There is a more of metal storm brewing over "Coil Strike". These guys are not a Darkthrone or Mayhem cover band in wolves clothing. They do capture a similar drone that recalls that classic era in the second wave of black metal, but this is done in a very organic fashion. What I hear is who they are rather than who they want to be. 'They do not relent with the tempestuous fury and speed that is their calling card. 'Sterile Initiates" reins them in with more of a hammering gallop rather than a flood of tremolo picked guitar and blast beats.  Midway into the song a guitar melody rises from the angry blur to catch my ear. The Nameless Tongue" is one of their strongest offerings here. It has a grisly heart beat that pulses with bile, but carries a dark underbelly of melody when their attack slows into a more deliberate undulation.

The second side of this cassette split is Teeth's very interesting take on death metal. I went into this more familiar with Barghest and it's not secret to regular readers that I prefer black metal to death metal and I was over songs tipping the eleven minute mark back in 2014, so this band really achieved something by winning me over. Their side of this split is one twenty three minute song. It takes you into the sewers of hell and chokes you with demon feces. The vocals are a low growl that are more muffled against the mic than gurgled. These guys are not doom, but in contrast to Barghest they provide a much more dynamic contrast and are not afraid to break things down into droney clean tone guitars. This provides introspection rather than the normally monochrome aggression that most death metal bands come at you with.  Thick with atmosphere, but never lost in minimalist shoe gazing the more serene sections that leave you floating out into the horizon, make the battering blasts more of a brutal contrast.

Those blasts come at nine and a half minutes into the song. They are torn between finding that sweet spot of sonic heaviness and lashing out in a more traditional death metal manner. Even though the song does ebb and flow, I think the overall result they achieve, will not find fans of death metal wishing that these guys were any heavier than what they bludgeon you with here. There are some trickier technical punches and the band shows the ability to lock into some very powerful grooves. Fans of more mainstream metal will be able to find more common ground here and fans of bands like Ulcerate will be right at home. This one ships on October 6th and is only limited to 150 copies so get your pre-order in now.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Giraffe Tongue Orchestra : "Broken Lines"

Right from the first song it's obvious this is going to be a rock record rather than a metal album. With Ben Weinman from Dillinger  Escape Plan  and brent Hinds from Mastodon splitting the guitar duties this is very much a guitarist's album. There are solos bursting out of every nook an cranny. "Crucifixion" was the first song I heard from this album, at the time I wasn't so impressed, but on the second listen it has grown on me. Duvall backing off on the verses with a smoother vocal line, but once they go into the more straight forward chorus it sounds like Queens of the Stoneage. The album continues to improve as it progresses. I really the tension of "No-one is Innocent" . This one reminds me of Mastodon, though that might be in part due to Brent's backing vocal on the chorus.

"Blood Moon" starts off with a more electronic feel and has a more 90's alternative groove to it once it kicks in proper. While this song is certainly an eclectic take on rock it doesn't hook me in on the first listen and the groove seems like it's trying to hard. The guys fueling the grooves on this album are the drummer from the Mars Volta and the bass-player from Zappa Plays Zappa / Dethklok. So this should be easy peas for them. "Fragments and Ashes" sounds like it wants to find common ground between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tomahawk. The more angular tension is the songs better moments. Duvall's vocals are not bad they are not always consistent. They do show that he is far more capable than his work with Alice In Chains might suggest.

"Back to the Light" has interesting section, but as a whole is forcing a sonic Rubix Cube or dazzling alt-rock riffs together for better or for worse. The last minute goes off into a funk jam. The female vocals are courtesy of Juliette Lewis. "All We Have is Now"  is more of a ballad. The song is ...nice, but doesn't really go any where. They return to the funk on "Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want". The bass line at one point reminds me of "Sweet Dreams".  There are also echoes of the Cult on this one. A little too happy for me . "Thieves and Whores" starts off with a jazzy guitar interlude before launching off into some 90s rock. At it's heart this song a proggy chaos beating through it. This project could be compared to Faith No More, but Faith No More is both more fluid and aggressive.

The title track is more proggy. The verses make a little more sense than the past few songs. The drumming really shines on this one and Duvall has a lot of soul in his voice here. The vocals are harmonized more like Alice In Chains, though it's unclear what is supposed to be the chorus. I did however enjoy this album much more than I thought I would so rounding it up to an 8.5, though doubt this will make it over to my iPod. If you miss the more progressive moments of 90's alternative then this is for you.

Asphyx : "Incoming Death"

This Dutch death metal band released their first full length in 1991 and have been storming the gates with their very manic take on the genre ever since. Their lead growled did some time in Pestilence, which gives them an edge over being just another death metal band from the 90s. There is more of dry snarling rasp to his weathered voice.  He is also the sole long standing member of the band. These guys are upholding a legacy of a band that hailed from  an era where writing songs came before just being heavy. For the first two song that certainly does the trick for me though I begin to wonder what else can they do?  They do a pretty good job of recreating the feeling of 90's death metal. By the time we get to the third song some of the charm is wearing off of this.

There is a great deal of energy thrusting the riffs of "the Feeder" in your face. They lyrics seem to be about some kind of sci-fi parasite. There is an almost Obituary like gurgle to Martin's tortured vocals chords. 'It Came From the Skies" describes the horror of cosmic rays with a very Slayer influence riff coming out of the verse. This song is compact and catchy , which is a winning combination for these guys. There is a more doom like deliberation to "the Grand Denial" which also makes it one of this album's most convincing songs. They even take this song out with a clean guitar section. Thy go back to raging  on the title track. There is a bigger gallop to "Forerunners of the Apocalypse" which you can check out below. They get darker on " Subterra Incognita". Unlike Auroch whose album I also reviewed today these guys have the needed restraint to not ruin a good thing with un-needed blast of speed and ride the shadow waves of this more brooding beast. They do build the song, but just don't bust into blasting haphazardly.

They do speed up into a more rabid thrashing, but one with a solid groove to it on "Wildland Fire" it reminds me of some of Obituary's more uptempo moments and allows their drummer to show off his double bass. Here the do cut loose more and let their acceleration carry them way in a few places. They same one of the best songs for last in closing with "Death the Only Immortal". It has one of the meanest bass tones I have heard in some time. I'll give this album an 8.5. It has some strong moments and shows great maturation as a band due to it's restraint. When it comes to death metal this might not not always be dark enough for me. If you like straight up no frills death metal from the 90s then this is your jam go ahead a round it up.

Century Media is releasing this album September 30th.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Auroch : "Mute Books"

On their 3rd album this band from Vancouver reaches deeper into the dissonant darkness and still manages to touch on moments of melodic beauty. This doesn't mean that they totally back off from some of the more straight forward death metal cliches, they just run into them when they decide to speed things up. To say this is occult death metal might be an exaggeration, as it doesn't have the cavernous Incantation like bellowing. The vocals do get very low and gurgled almost to the Cannibal Corpses level. The guitar is generally pretty tasteful and on the first song balances out these outbursts. "He Wreathes the Cross" finds them playing into the more heavy handed death metal conventions, which is a little bit of a let down after being shown what they are capable of on the first song.

They back to that darker and more atmospheric place on "Say Nothing". They create an enthralling pulse, but them given into the more savage urge to beat you with speed. The layered vocals make this chaos a little more interesting than if it had been straight up grunting.  But I feel these more brutal displays of speed for the sake of speed are passages to be endured rather than enjoyed. Sure there is some fucking mean as hell guitar work going on, but mean it's all teeth gnashing at once is it really anything we haven't heard before. The sections where the more spoken female voices come in is more intriguing than being blasted to hell and back.

'Tipharethagirion" sounds more like something Deicide would have done. It denser and hammers you with a more noise ridden barrage. Chaos really unfurls in a Slayer / Morbid Angel fashion when it is time to get to the guitar solos.On " the Keeping" They touch on some of the creepiness Slayer once invoked when they did serial killer love songs.This is discarded in favor of brutal bashing after the first minute and then they return for some morbid reflection which to my ears is more powerful than the obvious steam roller sections.The second half of the album finds the songs getting more compactly written. "Her Bidding" is like the song before it in the first minute carries a more interesting vibe that is sacrificed for the sake of beating you into submission. The song does winds it's way around to some more interesting touches which says a lot considering the song is only three minutes long.

They close with a more furious storm on "Cup of Hemlock". It's fast and feral with the low sewer drain vocals giving way to higher snarls where a chorus would be. I'll give this album an 8 as it is very well executed. My only problem with the album is when they go blasting off into some of these sections that throws all caution to the wind for the sake of speed I feel that they are taking the easy way out, but I think that is a genre wide problem and these guys are only doing what is expected and giving it their own spin. If you want brutal death metal with an occult twist this album is worth your time. Profound Lore is releasing it October 21st.