Monday, March 27, 2017

Tusmörke : "Hinsides"

What is happening here ? This is my first thought upon hearing the opening track from the Norwegian band's new album. There is a flute and they are singing in our native tongue here, but the wacky has been dialed way past 11. There are some electronic sounds in play from the keyboards that are way up in the mix making this sound like Kraftwerk with a side of folk. It is unique and not bad though, not dark enough for me and a little more on the upbeat side than what I would typically want to hear from them. The synth heavy version of the band does lead them into a proggier place. After reading their promo package the band has admitted this is going to be a less gloomy affair and feels like groove is in the heart of darkness.

"I Feel Like Midnight" reminds me of new wave Alice Cooper, so that's an easy sell and goes to prove just because you are pulling out all the key boards it doesn't have to be happy. "Rykende  Ruin" or "Steaming Ruin" is big grandiose prog, that doesn't pull me in until the big "In the Flesh" like ending. "Lyssky Drom" gets off to more of a flower child like start as it floats on a cloud  smoky folk. The bass line begins to guide the song into more brooding shadows. I am unsure of the kazoos that end the song, but oh well.

The album ends with the 24 minute epic "Sankt Sebastian's Alter" which celebrates the 666th anniversary of the Black Death hitting Norway. The drummer gets to flex his chops on this song.  Three minutes in and they are taking a break for a folk break down, so this is going to be a long and winding road. 24 minutes always seems excessive for me and I am generally opposed to any song being longer than the "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". There are some darker undertones introduced to the song around the four minute mark . Things really darken in a more dramatic fashion at the seven minute mark. This does make me wonder where can they go from here and pulls me back in. There is more of a building simmer that feels like they could get heavy if they wanted. Instead they go in more of a psychedelic jammy direction. I suppose if I was tripping I would not mind being taken on this journey.  At 12: 44 it does happen and they do get into a heavier stomp. Live this would be a lot of fun and the overall song length is what keep this song from really winning me over 100%.

I'll round this up to a 9, as managed to pretty much win me over with the changes in direction. Some elements are more of my thing than others , but none of it steps on the toes of the other parts that are in motions which is impressive considering how much is in play here.


Saturday, March 25, 2017

the Ruins of Beverast : "Exuvia"

 This German project is back in less than  a years time with more music. This time it seems like things are going in a darker more death metal direction. The album Opens with the title track which finds this project feeling more like atmospheric death metal with major melodic touches. Clean sung vocals are sprinkled in. The guitar solo towards the end really rips and makes it hard to hate on this guys for opening their album with a fifteen and a half minute song. There is a doomy and dark vibe to "Surtur  Barbar Maritime". The double bass is really killer and the arrangement is strange enough to lure me in. Things stay dark and creepy for "Maere". The overall mood of this album is pretty incredible as it takes you on a journey root in a throbbing darkness coated in fog.

They use lots of layers, even what sounds to be bag pipes going into "the Pythia's Pale Wolves". This song also uses an almost Alice Chains like minor harmony in the clean vocals that start it off.  By the end of the song it accelerates into a more blackened death. The vocals dropping down in to a wild feral growl that gurgles in the distance."Towards Malakia" feels almost more like a Urfaust. It even has the low baritone vocals that are sung at a bellow. The song drones along on a similar riff before breaking into blast beats which is the only part that really strikes me as being black metal.

"Takitum Tootem" works off more of a chaotic drone. Low gurgled death metal with an evil sounding atmosphere to it. It does build up after a chanted break down into a more sonic swell that is suitably the high point and brings the needed climax. However as a whole I don't think it is as compelling as what they achieve earlier in the album. Overall this album is pretty fucking incredible in terms of what the create as far as the mood and the over weight of the darkness these songs summon. This used to be a project that was in my periphery and I checked out when they released something , but this is their best work to date and places them on my radar. I'll give this a 9.5.

This is being released on May 5th.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Steel Panther : " Lower the Bar"

Hair metal ...cock rock or whatever you want to call the metal from the 80's that held a glam tinge and packed arenas, is what Steel Panther is. These guys are more of a parody, but in the process make some good music by mistake. It opens with a some what subtle ode to anal sex. There have more similarities of Bon Jovi  and Van Halen's more metal moments than anyone else. While they are a parody of the big hair school of metal I listened to in adolescent they are still clever song writers. The lyrics to "Anything Goes" are funny, but I am not sure this is the same level of songwriting that they show on the first song. The chorus is like "Cherry Pie" ,which is admittedly a more main stream take on the genre than I was into back in the day, but in this context it works better than say the Darkness. Lyrics seem to be the main hook of this album, because if you put the lyrics to "I Remember You" to "Thats When You Came In"  it would not be the same.

"Wrong Side of the Tracks" is lyrically not much different from Faster Pussycat did on a regular basis. The melody and verse riff to this one is better than everything so far except for the first song so they can be semi-serious as needed. There is a more surreal grunge like filter on "Now the Fun Starts". Thus far it takes itself a little more seriously and might be one of the album's strongest songs as it deviates away from your typical cock rock. We back to more humorous tone on the grittier "Pussy Ain't Free". Which is as serious as a song like that can be. There is more of power-ballad like tone to "Wasted Too Much Time" . The big chorus of "I wasted too much time  fucking you" is catchy enough and keeps me from thinking of it as filler.

There is more of an upbeat "Fair Warning" era Van Halen feel to " I Got What You Want". The chorus reminds me more of Ratt. There is a more of "Ice Cream Man" meets Guns N roses vibe to "Walk of Shame" which is the first song that hit me as filler so far. "She's Tight" feels like their take on "Talk Dirty to Me". The chorus reminds me of Cheap Trick. There are also a couple of bonus tracks which are pretty decent , but for the purpose of this review we are sticking to the basic album tracks. I'll give this one an 8.5, it's pretty decent for a parody.


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Sabbath Assembly : "Rites of Passage"

It my be the addition of a second guitarist , but this album kicks off a lot heavier than I remember these guys being. Female proto-doom bands where almost a thing 5 years ago when bands like Blood Ceremony and Devils Blood really rose to prominence, Guitarist Kevin Hufnagel who has played in both Gorguts and Dysrhythmia , brings a technical prowess to the riffs. This makes them winding and angular while still holding a more classic metal chug. There is a darker touch to doom to "Angels Trumpets". Jamie Myer's alto is dramatic and exclamatory, she almost sounds like a witch from a Hammer horror movie from the 60s. I do not think once we get into the meat of the song that it doesn't draw you in until oddly enough a more tech death like riff surfaces and then they lock in behind it.

"I Must Be Gone" is darker and in some sense more melodic though it broods over the song before committing to it. It does build up, but I don't feel I really connect with it as much as I did the first two songs. More melodic layers are gradually introduced as the album progresses.  I lose time and fail to see where the darkly moody "Does Love Die" ends and "Twilight of God" begins. "Does Love Die" feels more like a neo-folk intro to the next song which would thus kick into the jams like a power ballad. It's the lonely wail of the guitar solo in "Does Love Die" that helps blur these lines , until I got a second listen in. Then I can hear the weird atmospheric ebb down that marks the beginning of the next song. It's has a creeping riff with a delay heavy clean to that smooths you back into the build up.

There are several things to like about this album. The fact it's proggy , but still has a darker mood coloring it. There is an almost Voivod like dissonance to "Seven Sermons to the Dead".  It also feels like Fear of God in how the vocals attack the chugged chorus like section. The closing song "the Bride of Darkness"  has an almost Iron Maiden feel to the way the riff gallops. There is a stellar almost Frank Zappa like solo going into this song's third act that is worth taking note of if you are into that sort of thing. While this is a guitar players album the riffs never seem like they re being written with 'Would this sound good to solo over ?" in mind. This is a pretty solid album, I am not sure how much air time it will get on my end , but can respectfully round this up to a 9.

Spectres : "Condition"

Well things have gotten interesting for these guys. They must have started doing a shit ton of drugs if this is the same band . If it is and the link of their Bandcamp page doesn't really help in the regard, then they have gone in a more A Place to Bury Strangers direction. There is some noise going into "Dissolve" but this song and the two before generally glide into shoe gazed out post-rock. The vocals are mixed further back and not as Joy Division of a croon which was the first thing that clued me into the fact this might not be the band I was thinking it would be. The noise does get out of hand and the coat of abrasion is a distraction to the angrier Sonic Youth tone of  "Neck".

"A Fish Called Wanda" relaxes back into a more reflective place. The vocals are breathy and chanting as the song grooves along it's own drone. There is a hypnotic droning element to most of these songs. The opener is murky where "A Fish Called Wanda" has plenty of room without being uncluttered to the point of minimalism. There is noise rock explosion to the dynamics of "Welcoming the Flowers". This harsher tone beocme the path the album begins to take you down. The feedback becomes a grating coating of distraction from what could otherwise be a pretty decent if not sleepy song when it comes to "Welcoming the Flowers".

" End Waltz" is another feed back beating for your ears to bleed to at high volumes. Why it's an instrumental and not just the beginning of the song that follows , I don't know. I'll call it an interlude. The album end with one of the albums more dynamic moments "Coping Mechanisms" which actually has really good lyrics something that is not always common with this sort of thing. I'll round this up to an 8, some of the noise could have been dialed back to allow the songs to shine more.

Cherry Glazerr : "Apocalipstick"

Here is a wacky indie rock band that works best off best clever, though they can build into a more punk infused punch on the opener "Told You I'd Be With the Guys". The lyrics are just as smart as the arrangements especially on "Trash People". There is a little post-punk and 80's new wave on "Moon Dust" which has a Police like swagger in the jangle of the guitar. In their most aggressive they don't get much more worked up than older Sleater Kinney. "Moon Dust" is more effective to my ears as it goes in a moodier place. The pick the pace up into more of a garage punk on "Humble Pro". This one is more straight forward and while it works for this song I don't think a whole album of this would work for me.

The singer has a good voice that can pull of the more balladic "Nuclear Bomb". There is certainly and element that might remind you of some of the more radio friendly riot grrrrl rock from the late 90s. The synths are the main thing that set them apart from the Elasticas of Alt-nation. There is a creep to "Only Kid on the Block"  then they transition into a more playful tone on "Lucid Dreams" . The melodies have a lighter mood than the synth line dancing behind. It's a good balance of organic and electronic sounds.

The beginning of "Sip o Poison" reminds me of Rasputina, but the energy reminds you of their punk tendencies. Though we are never talking hardcore punk, just aggressive without being metal and have more of the snotty recklessness to it. That ebbs back to a more introspective jangle on "Nurse Ratched", this builds into a more intense dynamic, not sure heavy would be the right way to describe it unless you are talking about "She's so Heavy".  "Instagratifaction"  is a more straight forward rock song. There is an interesting middle section that is more melodic.  One of their strengths is they do not pay by the rules when it comes to songwriting and throw lots of curve balls. They would obviously be lots of fun live. There is a slower almost Sabbath lumber to the title track that closes the album. Overall this album is sonic and compelling indie rock that's familiar in some ways , but they are very much their own person so for that I am going to round this up to a 9.5 and see how it sticks to my ears.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Royal Thunder : "WICK"

I really loved "Crooked Doors" I wore it out. This means the bar is held pretty high here. So I was uncertain of the slow droning riff that accompanies the more circular chant of the first song. They don't come out swinging like they did on the previous album. I went back and gave this song another listen after hearing the entire album, and it made a little more sense , but didn't really grab me. The snarl Parsonz summons on "April Showers" sounds almost like Blackie Lawless. This song snakes around but drones less than the opener and has more balls to it. She has a greater grit to her voice on this album for sure, but they have really backed off on the distorted when it comes to the guitars. Sure there is almost an "Amorica" like soul to "Tired". The only problem is they are not the Black Crowes. While she tries some interesting things with harmonies and less rock-centric melodies, it is not as focused as the previous albums. By the time we get "We Slipped" which is pretty uptempo, you might as well resign yourself that the metal trapping that gave intensity to other albums has been shed. The rock jangle is going to be hard pressed to grow on me in the same way the last album did.

 There is a more Led Zeppelin boogie to "the Sinking Chair". This is much closer to what I want from these guys. The distortion could have been more amped and taken the chugged section to a heavier place so this is production choice. She lets her voice go into more of harsher metal scream at some points, though this song is more of a mid seventies vision of metal that what metal is by today's standards. The very stripped down "Plans" marries a starker version of Janis Joplin to the Black Crowes. I like this one more than I thought I would when it started. Her soulful vocals really sell it. There is much more piano on this album than I remember them using in the past. I also have a much harder time envisioning how these songs would translate live than I do with their other work.

"Anchor" works for me right of the bat. It's not metal but has rambling moodiness that connects with me and feels more powerful. The vocals and guitar work together much seamlessly than what happens on some of the other songs. The atmosphere and the brooding that drives the title track both immediately work for me. It does kick into a harder rock direction. The shadows that color the mood are obviously of importance to me. There is a more stripped down intro to "Push" than what the song ambles into which feels more like a lost Jeff Buckley track. The vocal performance really sells this song. While it rocks more and moves pretty fluidly it seems like "Turnaround" is one of those songs that is going to need to grow on me.

The hypnotic winding western tinged riffs that these guys do so well are invoked on "the Well" . The doing go to the obvious big rock chorus off the back and build tension. There are metal influences under the surface but I would not say this is a metal album. By the album's third act it becomes obvious they have remembered who they are and what they should be doing. The album comes to a close with 'We Never Fell Asleep". There is a dagger like quality to how the lyrics are spit out on this one and they gain some punch as the song progresses.   Overall this one shows the band growing away from who they where and that takes some adjustment if you are invested in their old sound, but I'll around this one up to a 9.5.
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