Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dalek : " Endangered Philosophies"

Death Grips was a cool concept that believed it's own hype and lost track of it's mission statement. But long before that project existed Dalek was rapping out of the box and creating jarring hip-hop. It has what other's trying to make experimental and noisy hip hop often forget about...groove. It's a big dirty "Check Your Head" style beat, but more rough around the edges. I like how "Weapons" is dark and brooding with the track playing backwards to further weave a surreal web around you. The lyrics are thoughts on the world around them without getting to mired down in being political. When it comes to rap, I don't think they should trust either party. "Few Understand" inhabits a similar sonic space that DJ Shadow often occupies. It is more droning and atmospheric than the first songs.

" the Son of Immigrants" says a rise in imminent, but it's more of a call to wake up than to arms. Perhaps lyrical that is what is hinted at , but the music lulls you into a womb like environment. The hypnosis continues to bring the gnosis on "Beyond the Madness " The rap falls back further in the mix and feels more freestyled than the songs that preceded it. While it's very unconventional when compared to mainstream hip-hop, it does adhere to a formula in terms of song structure. The ambiance becomes more intangible, while the vocals step up in the mix for "Sacrifice", As with most rap, the chorus is the chanted hook. Here they break away from the formula and keep chanting the chorus so when it breaks down to what would be a verse it feels more like spoken word.

The beat to " Nothing Stays Permanent" has more of a 90s trip-hop feel to it. I like the dissonance in the verses. This is more like what I have come to known this project as over the years. Long time fans will find this one to be one of their favorite songs. Sometimes they let the ambiance linger more than others. With "A Collective Cancelled Thought" it's allowed to simmer for two minutes until they drop the beat in. It loses me in it's drone eventually. I think the execution is better on "Battlecries" where he name drops Ian Curtis. It's slower and come along the lines of what you might expect from Tricky. They do credibility for trying to compare Jackie Wilson to Elvis. The argument ends with you say Elvis everyone knows , Jackie Wilson only fans of early r&b over the age of 50.

"Straight Razors" is more compressed . It clocks in around four minutes. The rap is not focused on returning back to the hook and flows more freely. This is not to say that they deviate from the formula altogether they just don't adhere as closely. The closing song "Numb" is more sing song, so it's about as up beat as this album gets.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Hush : "Spirit / Wholes"

From the first song you can hear how they have captured the shoegaze spirit from the 90s and shove it into indie rock songs with more speculative guitar shimmer. They vocals have more form and function that vocals typically do in this genre. Their singer actually sings out rather than just breathing into the microphone. She has some attitude in her otherwise indifferent alto. There is more of a hazy punk rock clamor to the jangle of "Pay to Play". The guitar quivers with effects and the vocals sit back further into the guitar for this one. The bass comes up in the mix to give the song more balls. There is more of a Sonic Youth atmosphere to the woozy wall of drunken guitar clouding "Say Anything". There is a more drugged My Bloody Valentine sense of altered sonics on "Cold Shoulder" , but the riffs are still written with the angular quirk of math rock. There is a heavier undercurrent that opens "Cough" . This is contrasts by one of the album's most upbeat choruses. The vocals seem to be shared by the whole band, but if they were smart they would let the girl who sang on the first song , handle the bulk of the vocals.

 "Walk On" is more straight forward indie rock , with a decent sense of rock about it. "Wholes" is back to the song writing that made the first song work so well, even though it's more lo-fi and the vocals are not as forward in the the mix. The over all sound stays murky for "Honey" , but this is more of a stylistic choice for the given genre. There are some country influenced rock licks tossed into the surreal coast that can be noisy at times. The mood is similar and perhaps more country on "Wrong House", which lyrically sound like it could be sung from Goldilocks perspective. The best thing is the vocals most closely resemble what got my attention on the first song. I can hear hints of the Cowboy Junkies. The album closes with "Where I End". This is another song that highlights the girl with the more impressive voice of this band. Though here it's layered against other vocals that might not be of the same caliber. This song feels more like 60s pop than the country tinged indie rock thing they had going on in the previous song.

 I will give this album a 8.5. I think I have been pretty clear in regards to what I feel is the best path for this band to take in regards to what works best for them. There are some really good songs I wish all of them were consistent enough to measure up to the first song. It does improve when she takes back control of the mic later in the album. I will keep my ears open for what these guys do in the future, if you are a fan of shoe gaze or indie rock then they are worth your time .

Hades Archer : "Temple of the Impure"

I am not remembering correctly the older album I used to own by these guys , but it seems like this album is finding the band from Chile taking a few steps backward in order to embrace a rawer sound. The album opens with a very Mayhem like blitzkrieg.They way the blast beat is hammered goes to show you that it won't take you long to figure out that this drummer is a fucking badass. Th rolls off the fills coming off the kit are as good as anything Pete Sandoval used to do. Notice I am referencing a death metal band here rather than a black metal band. Well the drumming is more death metal than black metal. I know these guys have covered Mortuary Drape in the past so that is an influence. However I would say they are a black metal band and not a blackened death metal band. More Venom like qualities of "Sex Sex Sex Perversions" work for me better than the more punk tone that starts off "Great Moon Tide".

It's the groove to "Hecate Undressed" that is absolutely bad ass.So much so it makes me ignore the fact that the vocals are almost just spoken.  The solo works really well to add depth and show how solos should work with the song rather than jack off around them. They can fall into the trap many bands that play at this velocity fall into, as they come close to tripping over themselves and rush past the chances to write an actual song. They are often a few accents away from making it work like old Deicide used to. The title track works off of the throb that flows better for them than trying to rush through the songs as they keep up with the insane double bass.

They slow down again for "Apollyon's Brightness" . "World Inheritance" feels like it is just an extension of the previous song so it has little in the way of it's own personality.Not sure I would say this is the band's best effort though there are some solid songs on here some even elevated themselves to being impressive. I'll give this album a 7.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Queens of the Stoneage : "Villains"

I need these guys to quit fucking around and rock out. Is this possible ? The proliferation of kraut rock synths that open this album at first don't make this dream seem likely. But the do lock into 70s rock groove.It reminds me a little of Judas Priests disco moments...yes, Turbo lovers I am talking to you. That is not to say this is a bad thing, as I don't mind a touch of pop to what they do.  "The Way You Used To Do" is not as tightly written and sounds like they are jamming on a White Stripes b-side. With their first three albums , you still could see how this descended from Kyuss. On this album that connection is still blurred. "Domesticated Animals" almost sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Queens of the Stoneage.

Its good to hear that four songs in this continues to be better than expected. There is more of a mid pacing to "Fortress" The vocals sit well in the groove of the song. There's a more frantic punk like energy to the attack of "Head Like A Haunted House". Synths be damned they still managed to find the groove for "Un-Reborn Again". It's on the angular side. The bass line is pretty solid on this one. This is not only far from metal, but not even aggressive enough to be referred to a hard rock, When they back off even further on "Hideaway". This is my least favorite song on the album as it's the kind of ball-less meandering that weighed "Like Clock Work Down".

They pick up the pace for "the Evil Has Landed". There is a more Led Zeppelin like boogie to this . In interviews Homme has called what they do a rock version of electronic music and I can hear that here. On the closing title track of sorts, it's clear years in the vocal booth have improved Homme's singing . He has always had a pleasant voice, but showcases his croon to a fuller extent on this one. It's more of a ballad than I had  hoped for , but overall as a song grows on me. The first song got me enough to make me round this one up to a 9 and give it a shot on my iPod , it also made me miss their early work and want to hunt down those albums.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kuudes Silma : "Pelko"

Svart Records lives up to it's name , by delivering dark music and branching out from metal. This Finnish post-punk band, carries the revivalist torch in a manner not unlike Bellicose Minds. Male and female vocals share the mic to give a more layered delivery. This album sounds great and is cavernous to capture the 80s sound without being a slave to it. The opener has a lot of drive. They are not death rock purists or too punk for their own good and use synths to add a coating of atmosphere. The title track is more aggressive with the vocals becoming more forceful. The pace of the song stays just as brisk as the opener.They sing in their native tongue so to American listeners this might give the songs a more uniform feel.

 The songs breeze by you at such a rapid pace, I almost lost track of "Sina ja mina" . The vocals are more shouted. The bass takes the traditional role in holding the song together. The drums sound almost programmed on this one. On the song that follows I can tell the drums are real. The verses break down and are musically more melodic while the vocals shout over these passages.The guitars really sound good on this one and I like how the female vocals trade of with the more punk male vocals. Midway into the album things take on a more Cure like tone sonically. The male vocals shift into more of a whisper which is as close to singing rather than yelling they seem to get.There is a harder and darker current to "Huhtikuuta" . The synths come up in the mix and vocals take throaty bellow. This is as close to metal as they get. The Cure influence continues to be felt and at first glance the album cover even looks like "Pornography".

The album locks in a more uniform groove on the back half of the album. They only vary slightly from the formula. The songs blend together until you get to the last song and then there seems to be more melody as it takes on an even darker mood.Overall this is a solid album, it's the band's second and they are going further into the shadows here. I like the fact that this is more firmly on the goth side of post-punk, while I am not sure how much air time it will get, repeat listens did find it grew on me so I will give this one a 9.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Cloakroom : "Time Well"

While they have a burly guitar tone there is no denying that the opener of  Cloakroom's new album is shoe-gaze. The drumming is very tasteful and the guitar tone shifts with fluid grace. I guess it could be grunge tinged at times if we are calling early Smashing Pumpkins grunge. The vocals sound like they are very depressed stoned and falling asleep. But that works for the mood they have created. "Big World" has more of an indie rock jangle to it. The bass is beefed up when they kick it with the distortion. The vocals also have more feeling to them.They actually contribute with a melody that helps carry the latter half of the song.

There is more of a stomp to the jangle of "Concrete Gallery" that reminds me of when grunge and indie rock met in the 90s , with bands like Sebadoh and Pavement. The hazy melody is somewhat up beat even in it's lethargy.  The is more weight behind "Seedless Star". It has more heft than even say Dinosaur Jr, so bordering on metal. But still not quite there in terms of heaviness. The first song that doesn't connect with me as strongly as the others is "Sickle Moon Blues" . I know slow is there thing, but it kinda drags a little without justification of dynamics to sell me on it. They drift off into a gospel version of the kind of slow core that Low invented. There is almost a country feel to "the Sun Won't Let Us Go". The vocals are more tuneful, but not mustering much more energy, though they do reach for a higher note here and there.

If I still smoked pot I think a song like title track would work better for me. Perhaps it might just need to grow on me. The clean strum of guitar is a nice dynamic change so they get credit for that. I had to listen to "52 hz Whale" a couple of times to get it and even then it still needed to wake up a little, though it does have the same hypnotic pull as Jesu if they were not metal. It's another song that takes time to grow on me and when I really focused on what was going on enjoyed it. The album closes with "the Passenger". They do rock out in short bursts on the last song and it's more dynamic than many of the songs. They also delve into more beautiful guitar tones as if this album didn't have enough. I'll give this one a 9.5.

Rebel Wizard : "the Warning of One".

I am still not clear on what negative metal is . Apparently if you are going off of what this Australian band throws down , it  means you shift between genres but maintain some nasty higher pitched black metal like vocals. I guess if Deafheaven was more into Judas Priest the results might be similar. The first song is slower and more melodic than "One I Know" which is more of a trash tone. In both cases the guitar parts are strong. There is more of a classic metal harmony on the second song. The production is interesting and pretty solid . It has a classic metal tone ( Think "Ride the Lightning") but the vocals make it more aggressive. There sneer and scowls are so feral you can't really make out the lyrics.Sometimes the vocals even sound like Gollum throwing a temper tantrum. By the time they get to the thirds song it is clear that thrash is a larger influence than any other they might try to claim.

Power metal has been a genre thrown around with these guys , and I just don't hear. Are there some big epic riffs, sure but thrash had big epic riffs like this back in the early 80s . These guys just dig back far enough into the hallowed halls of metal to pull from more obscure roots than their peers might be pulling from these days. The drummer doesn't really wow me until the last song. The end result is they roll a double bass avalanche over you. I can hear how these guys are doing a better job of tackling what a band like Death of Kings wants to do and are doing it better. I think the difference is these guys are not influenced by death metal, they are just taking the thrash thing to it's heaviest extreme.

This album surprised me and these guys delivered the goods with much more authority than I might have expected going into this. While you might call this blackened thrash, it's good solid metal. Straight forward , but done with enough groove to keep you locked into it. I'll give this album an 8.5, though I doubt I will really crave multiple listens to this unless I go through a real angry phase where I need something that is this mean to kick me in the balls.