Monday, February 27, 2017

Black Metal History Month- Azarath : " In Extremis"

This an album that makes me explore when does something become blackened and when is it just death metal, doom, sludge...etc ? The opening track off of the new album from Poland's Azarath strikes me as just being straight up death metal. The way the faint melody writes in the guitar riff could be the slightest hint , but how does this differ from what Morbid Angel does on the regular ? Drummer Inferno is from Behemoth, but that doesn't grand father then in as black metal. This experiment a bit here and there, but all death metal bands should be doing that rather than just dialing it in. This isn't to take away from what they are doing here, as that is impressive in the blast of the first song, but can they maintain that is the question posed to every band this heavy.

The vocals are very Morbid Angel. The way the layers chime in also remind me a little of Deicide. Death metal is not my thing as much as doom or black metal, so a death metal band needs to try a little harder to engage me. By the time we get to the third song "Annihilation" they are beginning to lose me a bit. They are going for a break neck blur, which is impressive drumming , but not great when it comes to how does this hold up as a song. What is being done here that I haven't heard before ?  While it is very much playing off of a formula fatal to the flesh, "the Slain God" does stand on it's own two feet better as a song. I think this is because it slows down and allows the guitar to create some texture.

I can hear where fans of older Behemoth would like "At the Gates of Understanding" . To my ears it snarls by quickly and doesn't do much to engage me. I am still listening for little bits of blackness to creep through by the time we get to the "Parasu Blade" . It is pretty much straight forward death metal. It does find a pit churning moment here and there , but cool riffs alone do not a good song make. "Sign of Apophis" is another that is all aggression and little else by way of substance and  makes me grateful that I caught all this the first time around when it sounded a lot fresher. "into the Nameless Night" makes it clear these guys are good at what they do . They question poised to me then becomes do I like what they do. I don't dislike that the what it is, I just have this need already met.The drummer is awesome and they are good at what they do I'll give it a 6.

Black Metal History Month- Rive : "Trist"

My favorite sub-genre of black metal is depressive or depressive suicidal as it was once called. There was even more feeling injected into this brand than that that of there more stalwart counterparts.There have been a couple releases so far, but in looking for something new to review as we wind down the month here, this was the only album I found. So it looks like 2016 might have been marginally more prolific here, but we are only a quarter into the year so it's too soon to say.  This project from Norway  opens their album with a somber piano piece. When it does kick in there is more of a straightforward aggression than what I typically think of as depressive black metal. The guitar holds most of the emoting in it's melody.  It is not until "Forsaken" that I notice the vocals going up into a more pained shrieked. The guitar seems to be the focus as the double bass is so stiff it might be programmed.

 "Heartless" is more dynamic in some sense, though the main riff of the song is pretty straight forward, the song's strongest moment is when it breaks down into a more melodic section and the vocals howl out of the normal gravelly register they are croaked in.  "Hviske" or whisper for Americans is darker, though displays the uneven production quality of the album. It sounds like everything is being played in another room. The synth more creates a cool atmosphere and I feel like song has more of what I want from this sub-genre of black metal.

What this band has going for them is the concise manner of songwriting, they do not sprawl out and kept things to under the six minute mark. They also give you are decent sampling of dynamics along the way to I think this speaks to their focus. This is not the best production you are going to hear from a black metal album and at some place it seems like that is the point. They are also not dependent on blast beats and you get more double bass, while the drumming is the weak spot, I think this speaks to having their own sound. All of this factors into why I will give this album and 8 out 10 .

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Cloud Nothings : "Life Without Sound"

It is comforting to know that one of the biggest indie rock bands at the moment does in fact know how to rock. They open the album with a more reflective tone and cruising on smooth melodies, but by the second song they remind you that indie rock has punk roots. There is enough of a jangle to take you back to the days band's like the Replacements held a place on college radio. If you missed the boat on the first two Weezer albums and Jimmy Eat World, then these guys have got you covered. They take a much more straight forward approach on "Internal World". Vocally the melodies are done justice by the plaintive mid-range of their typically relaxed singer. The pace really picks up to a more punk place for "Darkened Rings". They do relax back onto the bass line for a minute and lure you in. You get to here the singer's vocal cords tense up when they hit what is their heaviest dynamic.

There is a more rock n roll strum to "Entire Entirely".While it has a little sneer to it, it almost feels like garage rock. Speaking of rock n roll the opening chords to " Modern Act" make me think of the Rolling Stones. This is one of the album's strongest songs returns to the sound they opening up the album with a little rougher around the edges.  They meet somewhere in the middle on "Sight Unseen" which feels more like middle of the road punk rock. They get a half a shade darker on "Strange Year" , though dark isn't really these guys thing. I do like the moodier tone as it makes the more howling explosion more powerful. They almost touch on an Ice Age like place, but obviously don't do the same drugs.

I really like when these guys use a clean guitar tone, even when it jangles a little. They ease back into a moodier moment with "Realize My Fate" which backs off from the more uptempo punk place they have used for the bulk of the album. When they lay hard on the chords its creates a really nice sonic pulse. They build it up all the way until things get heavy for these guys in the albums second most intense moment. I'll give this guy a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. If you like indie rock that knows where it came from this is worth your time.

Arduini / Balich :"Dawn of Ages"

Here is an interesting album, that caught my eye in it's claims to be progressive doom. While that might not be a fitting description, what is deserves attention. After chugging with a fair amount of atmosphere they bring husky more power metal vocals that are from a Dio school of thought. Things get bigger when the vocals come in. The tempo lumbers up to something a shade more brisk than where Black Sabbath would typically go. "Forever Fades " finds them galloping into more traditional metal waters and while they have a dense ominous chug they are not really doom even when it slows into more longingly blue based moan. There is a heavier "Into the Void" like attack to "Into Exile" and enough atmosphere injected into the chorus to make this song stand out. At over 11 minutes this is not confined just to their Sabbath worship , but branching out into a grander narrative. The guitar interplay gets a little more interesting toward the end.

It's not until the 13 minute "Wraith" that they lean into a more sorrowful doom direction. Something about this songs sounds like it could be one of Iced Earth's more power-ballad like moments. Whatever the case it might be the album's strongest song as it's the first one where I am convinced of the feeling being poured into it. There is more of a Whitesnake type feel to "Beyond the Barricade" so think hair being blown about by fans in front the monitors than anything actually metal like we think of metal today. Still this punch emulates my favorite Whitesnake moment in "Thrill of the Night" so it works for me. This works for me in the first four minutes of the song, but we are talking about a 17 and a half minute song.

After the sprawling epic they streamline things down to the three and a half minute closer. They also slow down to more of a doom like pacing.At almost two minutes into this and more guitar solos being indulged I begin to get the sense that this is more of an outro. Overall even with some of the heavier winks to 80s metal this is above solid into pretty impressive blend of straight up metal, it might not be a doom album, but it is heavy metal in the strictest sense so I will give this bad boy a 9 even though it is not something I can see myself listening to on a regular basis.

Crystal Fairy : " s/t"

Holy shit! I guess I have le Butcherettes confused with the Ravonettes going into this because this chick can fucking belt it out with rock god size balls, I know she is from Bosnian Rainbows but it didn't all click now. The opener packs more of a punch and "Drugs on the Bus" takes a more winding prog grunge jam. You pretty forget this is a super group as Buzz Osborne and the dudes from the Mars Volta all take a back seat to Teri Gender Bender here. "Necklace of Divorce" is a much more solid song with room for melody and groove. "Moth Tongue" is still burly and angular but it feels a little more blues based than the previous song, almost slightly Zeppelin but through a filter of sludge.

The song named after this band is a boogie that has a harder rock edge and makes it clear this fuzzed out production is a big part of their over all sound.  "Secret Agent Rat" is a few degrees heavier than more rock direction this album seems to be planted in. They do more of a 90's alternative soft to loud dynamic that reminds me of PJ Harvey on "Under Trouble". It is also atmospheric in the same manner Queens of the Stoneage are. With those comparisons made its still a strong song. Things get a little more intense of "Bent Teeth". If drives like "Louder Than Love" era Soundgarden. It sounds like Jello Biarfra joins her for "Possession". This could be Buzz.If you wanted to know what Rasputina might sound like as a punk band this gives you a hint. There is a more 60s rock feel to "Sweet Self". "Vampire X-mas" is more like 70s hard rock almost bordering on metal. I'll give this a 9.5, which is higher than anything I have heard from Buzz on his own in a minute. This album was just released on Ipecac Records. Fans of female fronted rock go ahead on get this now.

Black Metal History Month - Rebel Wizard : "Triumph of Gloom"

This project from Australia is self described "negative metal" this riffs blend the big melody of power metal with blackened thrash. The first song finds samples sitting in the space vocals would normally occupy. So if you wanted to get into Iron Maiden , but the operatic vocals  are too much for you then this might be your jam. The second song finds them lashing into a more traditional storm of feral black metal. The howling scowl of higher screamed vocals really cement them into this burning church. Fans of Mutilation Rites will dig what is going on here. The first song is more well constructed as when things accelerate the run off sheer piss and vinegar. There is more double bass driving the similar fury of  "Trampled by Wolves and Sheep" .

"Ease of Wretchedness and Wonder" finds the more melodic elements returning to the guitar riff, though the vocals stay pretty nasty. The riff to the bridge going into the verse is pretty fucking killer. They continue to work off of hooky riff melodies on " A Spell of Sorrow" .  This does speed up into a blast beat. Some pretty crushing thrash riffs kick out of the blasting. "Eat the Worlock " works off of sheer anger and little finesse in song writing. They get back into more winding Iron Maiden like riffs on " Sorcery" . This is just enough infusion of song writing and melody to keep my attention and from it just being a temper tantrum that fades into the background.

The samples return for "Hemorrhage wonders" the riff is slower and more powerful. Vocals come in towards the songs final moments to dial up the intensity level. The close the album with the high velocity thrash attack of " Defenders of the Gloom". The guitars once again takes up all the spot light with the black metal vocals the only thing earning the corpse paint here. The drumming isn't shabby, it's double heavy but clearly comes from more of a thrash place. I'll round this up to an 8 as it's attitude makes up for a lot here. This is fun and if you are totally devoted to black metal it will broaden your horizons slightly without making you any less grim.

Black Metal History Month -Sons ov Omega : "Reign"

In knowing what black metal is, it is just as important sometimes to study what it is not. Black metal has become a genre everyone wants to hop onto even by really reaching to squeeze themselves into the definition. We are gong to take a listen to a band who does this to some extent. This band from Sweden is more of a melodic death metal band than the black metal band they claim to be mixing clean vocals in a manner more heavy handed than even Enslaved. The first song is not bad, this albums sounds good and is well executed. Th pace eases back more some more melodic layers on " Fields of Ember' this is also the first song that speeds up into something that warrants them be considered blackened. The blacker momentum is carried over into the attack of the song after this as well. Though it kind of goes by me in a blur and doesn't really pull me into it. Lyrically they are all over the place "Nuclear Salvation" doesn't reall adhere to the album's occult themes Maleficarum" . Sometimes the vocals go into more of a croak that reminds me Shagrath.  There is a more mid-paced groove to "Malleus Maleficarum"

"Kali" finds them steering out of metal into a more hard rock place. But this is hard to argue against since it might be the album 's best song. They loosen the reins on the lead guitarist buy the time we get to "Brain Wave Zero" and allow him to rip out some impressive solos. There is a more classic metal feel to the chugs that drive this and it has more in common with Amorphis than black metal even when it speeds up. The racing guitar riff of "The Tempest" strikes me more as progressive death metal and the lower growl of the vocals helps to confirm this. There is more of a power metal meets thrash feel to the attack of "Deluge". Dark elements lurk around some of these guitar parts and the song is very well written, but these guys have a clearly scattered vision of what black metal is or isn't.  It ends with "Cthulhu" which is dark enough to make the cut as black metal though not the best song on the album as it works off of a more monochrome throb.

Overall this album is an enjoyable listen though the wheel is not being reinvented, while this can appeal to fans of black metal it does pull from many other metal genres and dilutes it from even being a blackened death metal album, I'll give it an 8. If you want something more easily defined as black metal this might not be for you.