Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 15 Metal Albums of 2012

Perhaps it's the aggressive nature of the music or athletic prowess of the musicianship,but no other genre of music is held under such competitive scrutiny as the looking glass metal fans place on this infernal art form. I figured since that cats over at Metalsucks thought so much of their tastes to have a top fifteen i would go ahead and tack on five more to the top ten article i wrote for Hiplanta, hey its New Years and i'm fighting off chemical depression so i dont have the inertia to write a whole new blog so take what you can get becuase this is keeping me from blogging out a suicide note and posting on face book that im giving away all my things. In the event i do this ill post a list of cds up for grabs along with my brothers email and he can spread the metal in my memory, but if i make into 2013, then hopefully i can find a loop hole in the federally funded mental health and get on meds.

The criteria I used was we're they still standing on my iPod , how many listens had they acquired on my last fm and the magnitude of their artistic achievement ( this elmininated a lot stuff from bands who churn out the same old same old). With each entry I have included a little salve to soothe the ache caused by not seeing your favorite but inferior band listed.  So lets count them down.

15- "Thaumiel" by Ofermod, This is raw nasty black metal with a twist of death to give it enough grunt that they are growling about succubi giving them blow jobs, o.k to be fair they are just tasting their semen, so these guys might have had to do all the work and just needed a demon to dump it on. It's pretty mean barrage they hit you with and their are these weird sections of almost folk metal like clean singing that actually work, one of those hear it to believe its, and they handled those parts even better than the lame Eluvietie that came out earlier this year, the lack of hurdy Gurdy helped.

14-"the Giant" Ahab, Like another funeral doom band on here it's a late entry, but there's some top notch shredding on this one, I mean how many doom bands of this ilk can pull out a solo that sounds like it was lifted from mid period Frank Zappa. The vocals are relatively versatile and pretty interesting , the only reason it didn't rank higher is some of the slugger moments I have to be in the mood for and when you are talking about auicide to strangers in Sweden reading you blog well you need a gloomier soundtrack or medication. Which considering the hoops you have to jump through these days a noose might be preferred, but I can still joke about it so if you are feeling uncomfortable reading this it's metal get grim and get over, take my advice I'm not using it.

13-"With Hearts Toward None"-Mgla, This Polish blackened death outfit won me over with their admiration for Dissection...yeah Watain didn't have an album out this year and Mgla has much more of their own identity than Thulcandria. This spot could have been occupied by the new Anhedonist but I had iPod problems and haven't been able to give that one a solid listen and this one rips pretty hard so it earned its place on its own accord.

12-"Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric light" by Wooda of Ypres- This one often just squeaks in under what I consider metal, the lyrics add to its heaviness particularly considering their timely nature with main man David Gold's death. For goth infused metal this one hit the mark missed by My Dying Bride and Tiamat, though it offered a simpler take on being a stand in for Type O Negative. This album needed to be revisited as I enter the winter steel cage match with depression.

11-"In Somniphobia"  by Sigh , I'll go ahead and stop all of you kids hanging out at the Mall of Georgia right now and say the Faceless will not be on this list, the guitar tone was limped than a nursing home and the clean vocals belonged on a Cw teen romance show. Do yourself a favor if you think you are into progressive metal and check out Sighs new one as it progresses in ways Frank Zappa would have been proud of  and still has blast beats. Not the only album with sax on this list either, but it has some of the best guitar work.

10- "Wisdom of Centuries" by Khors, While the new Enslaved isn't awful they have stepped so far into Opeth territory to make it on here. So I choose a darker shade of pagan metal in Khor's new album which has more teeth to it than any thing Enslaved has done since "Vertabrae "  pretty epic so have your twenty side dice ready before you give it a listen.

9 "Al Alzif" by the Great Old Ones"  o.k the new Alcest isn't heavy enough to make it and the new Deathspell Omega is just an e.p. so representing the French this year is a band who bases their lyrics on the works of  H.P Lovecraft which immediatly mutes any argument against them. They still have enough ambiance and adventure to satisfy fans of the other French bands.

8-"Longing" by Bell Witch - This doom duo contains the bassist of Samothrace and I think this is a much more compelling listen than the Samothrace which is on a lot of people's lists. Look for the review of this to be posted tomorrow, it kinda feels like a soundtrack to this moment it my life for better or worse I guess when you are talking about drone heavy funeral doom.

7-" Dragged From our Restless Trance" by Bastard Sapling, if Krallice's new one didn't bring home the bacon for you this Virginia band summons Norway better than other American black metal bands, be prepared for ten minute skull fucking sagas of songs.

6-"All We Love We Leave Behind" by Converge,  While metal core becomes a thing of the past and the sludge band wagon runs out of gas Converge continues to do what they do, is it Jane doe? No is it even You Fail Me ? Not really but  them pissing on the singer of Suicide Silence's  set to record would still sound better than most band's on a good day.

5- "Eremita" by Ihshan  Yep , you are reading it right no Meshuggah. Rather an album with great production value than one where all the life is mixed out of them. You want guitar heroes Emperor's main man not only has a meaner growl than the Swedes have put to album he is also an under rated guitarist which beats out an overrated one any day of the week.

4-"Atra Mors" by Evoken the past  two years funeral doom has really gotten new life, some of the trailblazers for this are Evoken who can send chills up your bong in ways Neurosis can no longer since they have decided to become a Pink Floyd tribute band.

3-"Silencing Machine" by Nachtmystium  It's back to black metal, while High on Fire is busy ripping off  Venom and Motörhead I've been much more content listening to Blake Judd strip things down for some raw darkness and misery on this one and  he still remembers the value of  songwriting to top it off.

2- "Sorrow and Extinction"  by Pallbearer . I saw someone post that is sounded like slowed down eighties dungeons and dragons metal to them....and the problem with that is? Last time I checked some of the greatest metal ever came out in the eighties and the litmus test for good metal is how does it sound when I'm killing orcs . If you do not agree with this you don't know shit about metal so you have no voice in the matter.  These guys are killing lich lords big time like Ronnie James Dio.

1- "Ritual of Passing" by Atriarch You mean to tell me you mixed death rock with my black metal and smoked it with some doom? Well thank you very much I now have the perfect soundtrack to burn my family alive in their sleep before I slit my wrists on acid. In all seriousness folks this is not just chords and growling, but some real spiritual shit going down, chances are you might not get and then your probably weren't supposed to , must be heard to be felt, nothing else that came out this year was this dark and depraved.

Ahab: The Giant

When I first heard of this band it brought to mind Mastodon's opus about Moby Dick and made me think they just stuck to a limited range of nautical songs. But after seeing this recommended on some end of the year lists decided to give it a try. This has been a good year for funeral doom which seems to be turning the tables on Black metal for being the most innovative sub genre in metal. Ahab helps further this by offering a broad variety in vocal selections and most well produced and preformed guitar sounds.

"Further south " opens the album and alternates between an Emerson Lake and Palmer type croon on the verse to a deep boomy growl on the builds, this is done in a much more effective fashion than say Opeth, because it's not so good cop/ bad cop in it's call and response. I think some of this has to do with how the clean vocals are introduced as the song gently unfolds it only makes sense for them to hover in on the accent to the chord change. So there's some attention to detail in the songwriting for sure.

"Aeon'Lapse " has a similar morose intro section though even darker , with whispered vocals. It gets heavier sooner, but in a much more sludge like manner, with the vocals taking on more of a Neurosis like howl.About four and a half minutes in when the melodic break down occurs the guitars really get interesting. These have have chops and aren't afraid to show them off. This leads into shift in the chord progression and melody drone in the vein of Jesu. They aren't afraid to pick up the pace from the normal creeping malaise into a mammoth chug. at 9:45 the guitar solo takes on a very Frank Zappa like phrasing and intonation, which exceeds my expectation for this band from the second song.

"Deliverance" Is more standard doom fare in the last three minutes it transitions into an almost southern rock type rick before going into a more melancholy Pallbearer styled part. But this songs doesn't really live up to the bar the band set on the first two as every thing happens in the last three minutes.

"Antarctica the Polymorphess " sees the return of the subdued wandering intro, though part of their formula the guitar work during these passages makes them forgivable. When the big heavy riff lumbers out like a monster the introductory contrast is better appreciated. I think its in their more experimental moments when Ahab tampers with the genre cliches rather than indulges them is where they shine from the darkness. the mournful clean vocals following the more typical growls turn this song around, as well as the drumming which has a knack for switching gears, where their peers might drone into plodding. When the melody shifts to a more introspective tone and the guitar backs off into a twinkle it sets up the stage for the heavy to pound in.

"Fathoms Deep Below" deviates from the typical opening most of the song have had with pounding accent that carry an uplifting resonance strange on an album of this nature. It leads into a hopeful baritone droned vocal melody before descending into vocals deep below. The eerie twilight zone of a middle section,adds to the creepiness. where one of the odd things about this album is some times they experiment their way right out of the funeral home and into sludge, this section adds the flowers to the grave.

The title track takes giant stomps into an almost Alice in Chains or Katatonia like verse, with a double tracked vocal melody coating the chug before swaying into a very passionate chorus which has a goth yearning to it, think My Dying Bride without the keyboards. This vibe returns in more of a bridge where the chords are allowed to ring out and give things some space before contracting in on the growls and power chords.The melodic wandering in the second half of the song, sets up the build rather unexpectedly, but the build is more sludge than doom though I suppose it could be compared to maybe Electric Wizard.

The closer is a really odd way to end the album that i'm not really sure how I feel about the choice to use it here, thought to their credit it does make time crawl like molten lead, the bottom dropping out into a faint whisper made me think the song was over unless the speakers were cranked to he the faint resolve. The death metal section wakes you up a little and before you run out to weight it against your Incantation albums, death metal is the closest term of speech.

While the first half of the album is the strongest and I would prefer a little less of the sludge at time which can often fall into the well we have heard that before , its still over all a really good album so I will round it up to an eight and see how it stands the test of time.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Best of 2012

This was originally written for the hiplanta blog I write for my metal top fifteen that I'm writing for this blog will be up Sunday ...I'm still sorting the bottom five spoilers for that list will be found here as I did touch on some metal for this article

When it came to mainstream/ commercial music 2012 was pretty horrid, despite the Internet's ability to hold a treasure trove of awesome music waiting to be found, the American Sheeple continued to let the lowest common denominator sink lower making anything on commercial radio unlistenable. How ever a lot great stuff came out from the darker corners of the universe in fact having dug up some goth music blogs in Greece ( of all places, praise Pluto) so I'm going to amend this list after I finally get me iPod on some of the death rock revivalist stuff I have been chasing down all year. Some artists     like Cold in Berlin are excluded from the list as they are unattainable not only from iTunes but also from their record label , who I hunted down trying to get their stuff. 

My metal list after lots of downloading and digging through the nine levels of hell still stands strong so here's my list of the top ten non-metal albums of  2012, which will be followed by my album of the year which is also the number one album on my overall top10 list of 2012 , followed by  my top ten of assorted categories  and awards. So let's count down the non metal.

Top Ten Non-Metal Albums of 2012

10-"No Youth" by Wreck and Reference- Just because it's not metal doesn't mean it's not going to be heavy, as that's how I roll. This duo I comprised of a sampler who handles the croons and screams and a drummer, who holds this stark experiment in musical bi-polar together . Dark wave with an edge at times, these guys are influenced by metal as much as they are Kraftwerk and Godflesh.

9-"Les Voyages De L' Ame" by Alcest- If  I was going to have a shoe-gaze album of the year this ethereal French band would win it. Though unlike Sigur Rios, whose meandering drifts off these guys have a drummer whose into metal and knows how to drive the songs forward. Niege's vocals sound great on this, I think the reason it's not higher is it's a little straight forward in the songwriting department and it had to grow on me , but survived a year in my iPod.

8-"Unknown Rooms" by Chelsea Wolfe - This one came out in October and I just got my hands on it, so the even more ghostly approach to the songs is still growing on me , if  you read my personal blog Abysmal Hymns, I'm reviewing it Sunday and from initial listens will get at least a nine, so that should say something. Her voice is great it's just as depressing as an acoustic album with cello e.q'ed so bassy it booms like a doom album.

7-"The Haunted Man" by Bat for Lashes- Natasha Khan raises the bar for the experimental cold wave influenced pop diva contest so Zola Jesus look over your shoulder girl. Influenced heavily by Annie Lennox and Kate Bush, this is how I like my pop music melancholy even when I'm dancing.

6-"self titled" by Pinkish Black- Another electronic duo , this one a singer/keyboardist who can crush you with his left hand and a drummer. These two stir up a cauldron of very dense darkness that sometimes drones at other time pounds the point home, the album gradually gets heavier with each song and should be played loudly at night.

5- "Information Retrieved" by Pinback- These guys matured a lot on this album which traded in the quirky bounce of the past for a more brooding listen. The bass and guitar interplay is stellar and they are masters of setting melodies and harmonies ontop of one another in compelling ways. I give these guys credit for time and time again not taking the easy way out, even on the most commercial sounding track on here which could have come close to veering into the Fray territory , they still give it a creative twist making it an enduring album.

4-" Love Will Prevail" by Cult of Youth- Considering who the top three are these guys have accomplished something to have crafted a masterpiece that is able to sit next to  legends.  Morose yet still full of hope, the songwriting is really knocked out of the ball park. It borders punk and old wave and rolls along for countless listens o.k ....Last Fm said I listened to it 52 times since November . They really reestablished a musical indentity for themselves , and distanced themselves further from Death in June comparisons with the songs often boisterous energy.

3- "MMXII" by Killing Joke- I already had a deep respect for this band and their tremendous influence , but this really blew me away Jaz's  voice sounds invigorated with his pipes more powerful and fluid that singers half his age, so it should go on record age is never an excuse to to rock the fuck out. Sounds more relevant than any other industrial album that came out in recent years.

2-"Anastasis" by Dead Can Dance- This one was tough and I didn't want to say it was a tie, although this is a very different album than the number one band, and it's my two favorite bands going for the top spot.  this album has some of the years best vocals on it and I might have even listened to it a little more than the number one band's album, as it's an easier listen, but that's the reason it's not in the top spot Because they played it a little safe on this where the number one album was wildly experimental, relentless and darker. That doesn't take away from the fact this album sits next to the classics of Dead Can Dances epic legacy, even if it's a little tame and straightforward for them. 

1-"the Seer" by Swans,  A double album in a year where every one can only muster out an worth of  intensity Gira and company slap you with a double dose.  I love is album Because it succeed s on two levels, it embraces a return to their more classic sound but still tries new this and integrates it into their sound. Sonically this is heavier than most of the metal albums that came out this year. Gira. 's voice sounds  much better, the groove on this are thick and Sidney as their new bass player has now made himself at home. It like listening to it as one complete work and according to last fm I have gone on that adventure over four hundred times. It was all I could listen to for a couple weeks until i got Dead Can Dance and then they fought for my iPod. 

Overall top ten albums of 2012
1. The seer by Swans
2. Anastasis by Dead Can Dance
3. Ritual of  Passing by Atriarch
4. MMXII by Killing Joke
 5.  Love will prevail by Cult of Youth
6.Sorrow and extinction by Pallbearer 
7. Silencing Machine by Nachtmystium 
8.s/t by Pinkish Black
9. Atra Mors by Evoken
10. Information Retrieved by Pinback

Other bests
1 Best live performance ...Dead Can Dance
2 Best pop album ....the Haunted man by Bat for Lashes
3 Best Rap album...the money Store by Death Grips
4...Best post - rock ...Only the Ocean Knows by An Autumn for Crippled Children
5.Best Prog album... In Somniphobia by Sigh
6. Best Metal album...Ritual of Passing by Atriarch
7. Worst Album...Coexist by the XX
8.Best Black Metal...Silencing Machine by Nachtmystium 
9. Biggest Sell out....Shining
10. Best Tribute band....the Musical Box

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Musical Box

When it comes to Seventies Prog Genesis is where it's at. As a band King Crimson might have fared better over time as they never had an "Invisible Touch" period but the Gabriel years held better melody driven songs which didn't skimp on the sprawling jams or displays of chops."The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway" is an opus which showcased the band at it's creative peak.

The fact Phil Collins has joined the band onstage to play drums on the song the musical box and Peter Gabriel has taken his kids to see the band to show them "What Daddy used to do." should be an endorsement enough.

While I'm a die hard fan of the Gabriel years and a dabbler in the early Collins stuff, I talked to people in attendance who had seen the real deal In seventy four and claimed the band plays the songs better than Genesis use to. This might be an exaggeration as when I hear the songs on the album I am always over comes with the fire the original bands played them with, but being I was not yet wetting diapers then I'll have to take their questionable word on this. The very fact I might even take this into consideration to be true is a testament to the ability of the Musical Box, I was particularly impressed with their lead guitarist and keyboardist though all the members shone as needed.

Marc Laflamme, had his work cut out for him considering Phil Collins is one of the greatest rock drummers ever, despite this fact being sadly buried by his solo crooning which the average joe now knows him for. Not only did Laflamme tackle the task at hand from behind the kit, but he also handled Collins vocal parts admirably. This I consider to be a key element in their sound as Collins harmonies with Gabriel set them aside from the other prog bands of their time who sought to emulate the moody blues or the Beatles. I also was amused by the fact Laflamme adapted Collins beard and the head band look of the seventies .

The Gabriel impersonation of Denis Gagne was uncanny in this mimicry of this era Gaberiel, the mannerisms of his stage present and even the in between song narratives were preformed with the same cadence. Having worked in theater I find his rapid costume changes to be equally impressive, though as touring band of their caliber the whole sowed is intricately blocked and rehearsed as Gagne often alternated singing down stage to elevated platforms behind the rest of the behind on either side of the stage. So next time you see Maynard James Keenan trying to be mysterious and aloof from his platform in the corner of the stage , know he can Gabriel for that.

Francois Gagnon, would be another understated star of the show, his note for note replication of Steve hacketts parts exceeded my expectations. All to often I tend to think of Genesis as being a keyboard driven band , which after hearing this live is a testament to Hacketts ability to serve the songs and manipulate his guitar in odd time patterns to blend and harmonize with the keyboard riffs. Sure there awesome memorable acoustic passage on the Lamb, and those received proper homage as well, but it was the first time I had really paid a lot of attention to the guitar solos.

As previously mentioned, Michel Cloutier ripped on all of Tony Banks keyboard solos which aside from John Lords playing on Deep Purples "In Rock" album I consider to me some of the most memorable keyboard solos ever written. There are many guitar solos you can sing along to as they are so iconic, just think any song by Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin or Black sabbath and the same theory applies to Banks keyboard playing during this time period. So these were some of the largest shoes of the evening to fill particularly on the more virtuostic first half of their set.

I would be interested in hearing their renditions of other albums, hearing it played. Put live did serve as a reminder all of the best songs on this double album were weighed heavily in the first half , so the second half delved into the more experimental and wandering passages . the band gets credit for hitting it note for note, even on the real albums they served better as back ground noise yet the classic nature of songs like the cage make up for this.

The slides used in the show were the exact same ones used by a genesis on this tour with all the lights staging and costumes replicated as well. I have only seen YouTube videos of the real deal on this, though some of the iconic images of Peter Gabriel in make re forever engraved in my mind.

The Musical Box delivered more than I expected, I ran into Brann from who plays drums in this band Mastodon, and we had a prog geek out moment where he was of the same opinion it certainly whetted his appetite for not being old enough to see the real thing. So if you are a fan of Genesis or early prog in general, these guys are a must see.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wreck and Reference: No Youth

For the first few weeks I owned this album I had it stuck in my head that the name of the band was No Youth and the name of the album was"Wreck and Reference" , so when I learned it was the other way around , it gave me a brain freeze and was hard for me to listen to the album until this freeze melted away.

This electric duo consists of a sampler / programmer who also sings and a drumme. the Jury is out if this is metal I will say but it contains elements of metal, is Author Punisher metal ? No abrasive yes, Wreck and Reference is much more melodic than Author Punisher, less Godflesh and even a blast like beat or two on the song "Nausea" which features ghost vocals that hold a monotone melody in the distance.

The opener " Spectrum" is like more chilling Xiu Xiu with a stronger Joy Divison influence, the effects coating everything the Korg pumps provides space and ambiance , to this stark landscape. The lyrics are abstract but from interviews i have read they are inspired by Cormac McCarthy. The harsh vocals which come in before the dissolution of the song at the three minute mark are angry enough to be on an American Black metal album, and share a punkish sneer typical of Usbm.

"Solstitial" the Xiu Xiu like sound creeps back into the chant of the vocals. the drums are very primal stomping around the soundscape. There's a weird spoken word section in the middle of the song and it builds in a Godflesh manner, the vocals shift into the harsher black metal like feel.

"inverted Soul" should already have you clued into the experimental nature of what s going on here despite the sway into the more colossal pound, the vocals underneath sound more hardcore than metal. There's a cold mechanical sense to every pitching being done and I think this lifelessness makes the album darker. The drummer works well around the often very opaque and noisy barrages of sonics they bounce against.

"Cannot" starts with a spoken word that builds into a harsh metallic synth and then dissipates back into the muffled monologue. I like the keyboard melody, the harsh vocals are cool Becuase they are passionate but not contrived by having to be cvlt or brutal , just an expression.

"I am a Slave" is another passionate catharsis, the vocals are a wept howl and the synth bass is convincing against the drums.the drone to the melody of the clean vocals is very unique this is what it would like if Phillip K Dick had metal band. sure there I'd Godflesh all over this one, but the manage a very original take on it and scrape up some pretty cool ounces to capture it with. "Obidence" is a seamless transition out of the previous song to the point as it could have been part of it as a longer work. Some of the songs do have this run on quality but to the ears it comes across as they are pieces of the same puzzle. The eerie break in this sounds like muzak piped into a mall in hell. The more articulated vocals after this break sound more authentic to who they are than if they had gone the more atypical growl route.

The wide range of different tortured vocal sounds is one of this albums strong points. The croon which opens "Winter" is a good example . The fact it isn't always in key , is o.k particularly given ome of the production tricks employed in their placement. Sometimes the oddness of the mix on this album is part of its appeal and certainly plays up the stark futuristic tone.

To say there were two other songs which didn't make it onto my iPod would be an exaggeration of the term song. Noise collages might be a more term. Either way they didn't seem to reall be a part of the album , tough some people are into that sort of thing,thus the glory of the iPod i can choose just not to acknowledge them as they are nt a part of what I consider to be the best listened use of this album. So taking that in mind I'm only reviewing the eight songs which are actual songs that comprise this album. So once I was able to put the brain freeze caused by the name mishap behind me I was able to rate this dense piece of electronic darkness a 9.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Bat For Lashes: the Haunted Man


Bat for Lashes or Natasha Khan , the British singer songwriter who got writers block before recording this album,so she called up Thom Yorke, who's band she opened for briefly on their last tour and asked what he does when he feels like he is going to die if he doesn't write something. Yorke told her to draw. So she took drawing and dance classes,I'm not sure if the dance classes made this album more dancer than it would have been without them , but this is non offensive dance music , not unlike Zola Jesus or the Knife.

Where Zola leans heavily at times on Siouxsie. khan does similar with Annie Lennox and to a lesser extent Kate Bush. The most obvious wink to Kate is on the opener "Lillies" though I can also hear some Sinead O Conneron this one as well, the thick fuzzed beat underneath the chorus , dispels this comparison , and lends credence to my theory that artists like Khan cam rout of the Witch House scene from a few years back where I got excited about the second coming of old wave goth, which did emerge more blatantly as cold wave Khans voice is the stand out here easily drifting up into her de
I ate head register always staying flexible and fluid pouring over a music which covers the space she leaves for herself in some of the minimal instrumentation, where the Xx were not as successful as they left the space but didn't have the voices to fill it.

The single "All the gold" is fancy without being silly , and doesn't go I to the formulaic places most dance music defaults to . The lyrics ride a balance between love songs and bitter in the same Zola comes across though Khan does see, to be as co dependent , even when she sings without you I have nothing left. This would be the perfect pop song of the year, it takes lot for this sort of thing to convince me but hits all the rights , the emotion is right where the beat needs it to be.

The opening beat to "Horses of the Sun " reminds me of Fever Ray , but them when I take into consideration she played with Radiohead those patterns are ore typical of their post-ok Computer era work, the chorus floats off like anthem of sorts. While this is dark enough for me the verses aren't her strongest melodies but the percussive elements are pretty cool so I'm a little split on this song.

My witch Ouse suspicions are given merit on the song" Oh yeah" which though it opens wi what sounds to be a sample choir , goes weird with backward layers swirling everywhere and the eighties keyboard sound. Khan's voices works well cutting through the chaos to ensure the melody previals,in this register she sound her most Sinead.

The first ballad on the album is the piano driven "Laura" which goes back to a Kate Bush feel , particularly on the phrasing in the hook.nits one I would have to be in a mood for and puts the breaks on the albums ,momentum but there's no denying its a well written and well sung song.

"Winter Feilds " the keys at the beginning remind me of old Genesis, the verse takes care of that comparison, her breathy emoting is particularly poignant here. On the title track which leads off in her normal dark pop fashion midway through it breaks into a male chorus and militant drum beat when her vocals return in an etheric triumph to glide over the parade.

"Marilyn" is the first song where I heard any Siouxise, i can hear even slighter strains of Cocteau Twins as well in the phrasing. The bass synth underneath the verses is cool and the scattered piano works well, the chorus melody pretty much make she song despite the attention to detail placed through out." A wall" is similar in feel, as the album takes a darker turn in the second half, though "Rest your head" gets a little more danceable but like the previous two songs maintains a somber minor melody allowing the undercurrent of the beat to give it most of the momentum, this one even has a tad of a Cyndi Lauper feel but without the more blatant Madonna wanna be poppiness.

"Deep Sea Diver" starts off almost accapella with low mixed synth underneath her. The build is. Ery gradual piano worked in slowly similar to almost a post rock approach , more progressive than the structure so far, it could have stood to developed a more Ruth,if resolution instead of just lingering. It overall this album pays these types of builds off and maybe this being the one song that didn't click all the way for me will grow on me over time. So I'll go ahead and give this album a ten as there were never any songs I just didn't like , the last one just didn't go where I wanted but the strong points of the album make up for that slight disappointment and I'll around it up as the song was interesting in the same way a lot of later period Kate Bush is.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Ofermod : Thaumiel

If you don't know Ofermod and I were to tell you they are a Swedish black metal/death metal hybrid, you might be prone to think they are one of those almost mall metal bands with the harmony guitar solos all over the place or that they are worshipers of Dissection. Neither of these is really true. In some ways they blend their sound in a way that reminds me of Behemoth. But where Behemoth has become overly slick production wise, instead these guys have many more blasts and go for the throat without all the bells and whistles.

The first song on their newest album "Sisters of Rapture and pestilence" is an ode to succubi everywhere. It has a very powerful but creepy groove to it , and when i say creepy I don't mean sounds of the haunted house but exposing yourself at a funeral type of creepiness. Hearing them growl" drink of my semen" is pretty metal.

"Black gate" almost has a Dimmu like feel in the guitars. This song took a few listens to grow on me, as Midway into this one the riffs start to blur. Though there's a section that reminds me of Watain in the songs second half.The groove on "Calling of Setnacht" which follows is better though on the blast the vocals kinda forget what worked before and seem a little scatter, it also acquires a slight Mayhem feel. the very folk metal like clean vocals that show up midway into this one are a surprise. the Guitar solos start popping up here but it maintains a rawer feel than what most people refer to as death metal these days.

"Undead Moon" This one starts off with the biggest dynamic change as it plods along like what most people would call doom, though not enough to convince fans of Evoken. The folk metal vocals return here and in the first few listens I kept being so surprised by them and checking to see if I had mistakenly clicked on Amorphis. In first few listens I was unsure how I felt about them but grew to appreciate the color they add to this album. I am generally a fan of clean vocals so if you can introduce them in a way that makes me befuddled for a second then the transition was jarring enough to prove effective.Once you get use to them it becomes clear they are well sung with a rich mournful intonation

"Prayers Unto Warped Eternities" Has a strong verse riff, mid tempo then goes into a more blasty part near where the chorus would be expected to fall. There's a chanted section which would be closer to what you might expect from a chorus, to ominous to be frolicking but i'm sure a mead horn could be swung to this section. It leads into some nice dark picked out chords, which isn't where you expect it to go and it's these odd choices that gives this album an endearing personality.

"Choshekh en Sof" is a very dynamic song that makes me wonder why have I not being listening to this album more, the bass line at the end of this song is strong in a creepy way and the spoken word vocals that would not sound out of place on a My Dying Bride album work here.

"Chained to Redemption" From the beginning I though they were going to default back into the blasties, and while this one rips full speed ahead in more of a death metal mode with double bass flying, the tremolo section layered atop it gives it a little more of an epic feel. The last two minutes feel kinda like "Altars of Madness" era Morbid Angel to me, yet this songs being the most straightforward makes it the albums weaker moment.

"Via Noctis Veil of Garophias" Has a weird almost Immortal feeling at the beginning, maybe this is because the vocals take on more of a croak. The song also has more of a mid tempo swing to it accented by faster elements. The croak also reminds me of Attila from Mayhem, which is another strong influence I hear on this album though not one you will hear me complain about.

This album is a pretty enjoyable listen , not so cvlt you aren't having fun due to the grimness of it, the lyrics are decent and the songwriting takes chances rather than just adding to the ever growing pile of color by numbers black metal coming out every week.So I'll give it an 8 as it is well worth a listen to for fans of second wave black metal who want something with a little different taste to it.

The XX: Coexist

I've heard this band referred to as dark an depressing , though suspected this English indie rock group to be low key pop ,so I had to give it a listen as a purveyor of ll things dark and depressing which are two qualities in music we will accept here I'd they are not heavy, as they can create a heaviness on thei own accord.

The first song "Angela" is breezy pop , fairly subdued, it reminded me more of a less rhythmic Everything But the Girl, could be used in any type of fragrance commercial or sappy movie soundtrack.

"Chained" now this one I had heard before as they have a video for it, the bass line is really low in the mix and breathy male and female vocals work aroun one another,while this is not as offensive as say Coldplay its a little too closely related to r&b in its melodic progression to be dark, can this be done sure just ask Depeche Mode or even the Pet Shop boys, both of whom do this sort of thing better."Fiction" the dreamy elements translated over into the guitar and the minimal beats give it space to have a haunting effect but it feels more sterile anything though this song is the best of the first three. There are too many vocal moment which comes across like lethargic U2 in their tone.

"Try" this one starts off with definite r&b inflection in the vocal phrasing, there is space left for quirky little beeps and blips, the reverbs guitar is really well recorded and sounds good ,but there is somuch space it never goes anywhere interesting and the biggest offending factor is this music has no balls, there is a way to have no balls and et away with it because of the ethereal nature of what is going on...see the Cocteau Twins, who if they ever release anything new you better believe it will be reviewed here.

"Reunion" is a variation on the same thing we have encountered a slight steel drum feel in some of the blip but no sense of drive in the song leaves it pretty boring , the chords ring out but never go anywhere, and the blips never build into anything at this point I can never tell what's a transition in the song or a new song, for a change a beat comes in midway through, I suppose this cold be down tempo or chill out, all hip ways for saying boring me to sleep.

"Sunset" I don't mind the guitar at the beginning , I do mind neither singer does anything different with their voice rather than maintaining the some non inflected tone through out. this one does bring to mind Dirty Vegas for a second, but they were a little more interesting.

"Missing" it almost sounded like the male singer was going to do something different with his voice here, but ...uh no, this song wanders with out form aside from his pseudo trip hop Bono, the guitar comes in with all it's delay and reverb floating over some pretty inane lyrics and flat synth washes. Through head phones the technical placement in the mix of everything would sound good, so it's well produced like music is supposed to be so no cookies for that.

I liked witch house when it was a thing for a second last year and from that scene stuff like Zola Jesus and Chelsea Wolfe emerged, but there is a scare comparison as both of those ladies have more balls to their voice than this guys baritone, to say its a mope would be giving him too much credit as to emoting anything aside from his dead pan delivery.

"Tides" pace picks up into something that sounds very awkward like an eighties video game soundtrack slowed done. I know people that are excited these guys are on tour and I can't imagine how many times I would check to see what time it was with in the span of their set. I found shoving myself through the rest of the album, like eating food I knew was spoiled. I suppose I just listened to it so I cold say I gave it a solid listen , when it really doesn't matter as all the songs are pretty much variations of the same thing.

I'll give this album a two, as the sounds are good and if you combined every melody where they were almost onto a good ideas you might have one good song. So to clear things up consider this a public service to anyone who was fooled by their haircuts or them being referenced as dream pop, shoe gaze, goth or dark wave, you would only be gazing at your shoes out of boredom rather than being hypnotized. The fact this has sold pretty well and their is a lot of hype behind these guys is a testament to the power of the sheeple.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


After New York who has the best experimental metal scene, Chicago seems to be where the most forward thinking metal is coming from I the states these days.

I like the middle eastern flare to the opening strains of "Oil and Water" ,when the song goes into the gallop the vocals remind me of Only Living Witness.Three and a half minute in the riff age becomes almost death metal in its heaviness. This track had way more drive than I expected really only familiar with Lamont's work in the Bloodiest before I picked this up.

"One the Last day" takes a grungier , almost Soundgarden like take, with Lamont sounding more like Cornell than Ozzy to me Becuase his range is more comfortable as a baritone than reaching for tenor notes. The phrasing in the faster sections might be more Ozzy. The cello over the doomish descending patterns adds to the sonng's a mournful quality. The drummer on this album is fantastic.

"Man is Machine" Sludges it's way into motion , Lamont's wail takes on a lethargic moan as the distortions drips down like lava from the upper layers of hell. The Cornell approach is still there , the riff speeds up into a weird jazz thrash and the veer fro the grunge thing yet stay cleanly sung which I admire. A lot happens by the time they are three minutes into the song and it's an eight minute piece. Some of the palm muted riffs employed remind me a little of the Jesus Lizard at times and I suppose there could even be some Tool comparisons tossed about as well.

"Fire Temple and Beyond" begins with slower paced doom and the plead of the sax in the distance. The tribal groove creeps out of the shadow with the guitar. Flirting with going in a more Doors like direction. The chug rips out of nowhere, it's thick and unwieldy over the chant of ... No light suspended in the sky. The bass redeems some of the lowest common denominator nature of the chug allowing the guitar to venture off into more of a harmony. The vocals seem a little flat over the heavier progression, and where their delivery compensated for this tendency , where they sit makes this a little more obvious and where they were more Soundgarden earlier on they remind me mor of Eddie Vedder here.

"Mouth of the Lion" is much more straight forward post eighties metal. In comparison to some of the wildly winding sonic adventures it's hard to put something so single purpose in perspective.

"Species" starts off heavy and spastic with the vocals having more of a Tom Araya feel to them and this song is only a minute and a half so hard to get anything really established I that time frame.

"Lotus Array" the languid intro floats the song in on sax laced opium clouds. It feels a little like some from Miles Davis's "Sketches of Spain" period, the vocals lend it more of a Doors element, thought the Vedder still haunts them slightly. it dopes build into a little more metal section but the song retains its haunting quality even when the double bass comes in. I like how the sonic elements ride against the thrashier side.

I don't think the little excursions into the more straight ahead territory do the album any justice as the more epic soundscapes presented earlier on don't mesh with them in the albums overall feel or what the beginning really sets the tone for. The their credit the cooler elements of jazz and to a lesser degrees world music they bring to the table are so cool and work so well I have no problem rounding this up to an eight.

Weekly Shuffle

The fourth installment of my column where the old iPod goes on shuffle and I review the tracks that pop up.

"Rue D'Auseil" by the Great Old Ones, I recently reviewed this album so not be be redundant, I can say the album continues to grow on me. This song has a slow wind up better served as back ground music but when it kicks in has all the ambiance and experimental we now expect from metal out of france.

"She Lives" by Swans, ...I just wanna thank you, Gira's melodies are great here and one of the only things I miss about some of the newer stuff if the melodies aren't as focused as the older stuff, but it is heavier so's the Swans I'm not complaining

"Severence" by Dead Can Dance, ...Perry knocks it out of the park on this one, I think Bauhaus has covered this one. It's the subtle vocal crescendo that does it for me, as it's sparse on the instrumentation. Still wrestling ver who put out the better non- metal album this year these guys or Swans.

"Heaven knows I'm Miserable now" by the Smiths, ... A classic, I love when Moz let's his falsetto float out , the lyrics encapsulate how I feel on a daily basis, their songs always speak to me, especially when Caligula blushes.

"Gypsy" by Emperor ...yes a cover of the Merciful Fate song. Ihsahn doesn't back down from going for the high parts either though most are buried in reverb and not hitting it like the King but even Ripper Owens can't hit it like the King , so this is one of the better attempts.

"bbbTone" by Pinback, these guys have an uncanny ability to weave melodies around their off time exploits not unlike the Police at times and much more effectively than Modest Mouse's attempts at an often similar dynamic. The bass is crazy dominating on this one but it works.

"Gateways" by Dimmu Borigir, the symphonic nature of what is going on at this point could have as much cheese as Nightwish, but it all some how works when you crept the fact they no longer are making black metal but dark gothic symphonic metal, they slay Cradle of Filth and even without I.c.s Vortex they manage to pull it off.

"Somniphobia" by Sigh, this type of winding Bungle like prog hits you with so much I don't have as high a tolerance for it as I did as a teenager, but this album is great the keys are very Deep Purple at times and the weird toy circus break down is better than most of the devils carnival soundtrack, making me think Sigh should have handled the music to that.

"Moonage Daydream" Bowie at his most genius and Mick Ronson being the rock god he was never paid proper homage for being, I mean this song stacks up against all the greatest , Zeppelin, Beatles , Zappa ...whatever, classic no questions asked any one who can't appreciate this no matter what kind of metal they are into doesn't have an ear for music In the first place and should Styx in the bathroom and hum along to the reverberations of their own farts.

"I am the Earth" by Watain , while they are one of my favorite bands , I have given preSworn to the dark material as much of a listen . It seems not too different and I own I just got so stuck on the last two albums so maybe I'll start a classic metal column and review "Casus Lucferi" during the draught of new music January always brings.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Weekly Shuffle 12/12/12

O.k time for the third installment of the weekly shuffle where I review randome tracks from my iPod in again bag fashion.

"Fall Apart" by Death in June I guess this song is good for a soundtrack to the end of the world,the lyrics are the heaviest thing about this song, the typical morose folk you would expect.

"Iron Maiden" by Iron Maiden As a kid I had apet peeve against bands who wrote songs where they said their names, but I some how came to terms with this anthem which is a good case for DiAnno supporters thought e guys is pretty much a joke now. Steve Harris is the man on this one and the twin guitar riff set the bar for years to come.

" Hit Helga Tre" by Burzum, yeah I reviewed this album, as fare the post prison years Fallen might be my favorite , there is some pretty straight forward chug on this one an prefer a little more drone with my Burzum, still I don't shun this album like some people did and still stand by my Varg.

"Adult" by Ceremony the Second time these guys have popped up on the shuffle, this one is a little more straight forward almost to the point of being seventies garage punk. I like what the guitar is doing rather than just playing it safe with the a typical punk progression taking back to more of an Mc5 approach. Why do the stars never align for me to catch these guys live? This sounds like it would be a lot of fun and that says a lot as you guys should know I'm not big on the punk.

"Salterello" the second appearence for Dead Can Dance which should not be a surprise as my iPod is crammed full of them. This song should summon all nymphs you might have in your backyard if you play it loudly with you windows open and do a dance in the rotation of the sun.

" On the Wings of Gloria" by the Devils Blood, One of the best live bands I saw all year an deverything they touch has spectacular guitar playing on it. The manage to bang out Jefferson Aiplane era freedom rock with balls and drive to it and this song is one of the better examples of their power from their last album. the arrangements tend to be on the more straightforward side of jammy. The break down on this one is pretty cool the vocals glides over it well. It's the first time I noticed the growls in the back ground not that I should be surprised as they share a member with Watain.

"Black Drum Machine" by Xiu Xiu not sure why I didn't get around to reviewing this over here I know I did for hiplanta, anyway I love his voice, the strings don't really do much but provide an Ambiant wash underneath him making this pretty much just spoken word crooning, though I like what he does going into the last minute and a half before all the I'm sorries, for a song about a drum machine you wouldn't expect the music to be this minimalist by hey this guy is kooky I know.

"Vennt" by Von , the vocals are more death metal than what we think of black metal , the drums are blasty before blasty was a thing and from my interview with them they seemed to attribute this to their Intrest in punk, the chaos of the is pretty great.

"Your Lost Little Girl" by the Doors, I have been on a Doors binge lately as I read "No One Gets out of Here Alive" alternating between this and "Dance of Dragons" anyways I like Jim's croon here, and the jazz accents to the guitar , Ray was a little happy here and this one is pretty much middle of the road on the Doors dark o meter.

Tunnel of trees" by Deafheaven These guys blew Alcest off the stage and I like Alcest, this song this one of their more straight forward blast you in the fact numbers even then the guitar manages to capture a certain sonic quality I hope these guys have something new coming out in 13. The drumfill break down in the middle is pretty crazy and then they reconvene back to the space blast. I think they qualify for the transcendental black metal Hunter Hendrix from Liturgy was writing his college papers on.

Bastard Sapling : Dragged From Our Restless Trance

The triumphant gallop which kicks off this album is not something I would normally expect from an American Black metal band , much less on from Richmond Virginia. It returns toward the end of the first song bookending varied shades of blast which took a few listens to soak in. I think the initial shock wore off and i found myself measuring this against the likes of Taake and Tsjuder who I would think this would just be business as usual for those guys, but at th wend of the day the fact this is one of those albums that can play on endless repeat and I don't tire of it.

This bands strength over a lot of other Usbm ,is they get the metal part and not over thinking it, thus losing some of the fury like Krallice tends to, but then this can also be their weak spot as some of the riff age drones together . This is the element that had to grow on me.The more triumphant epic slow motion gallop sequences remain a constant and a breather after getting jackhammered by this skull fuck.

The execution is here , the right notes are played and the rolls come across the toms fast enough to satisfy those who are into that sort of thing. the first two thirds of this album works on two speeds blast your as sour and this power gallop. I like the power gallop. The first song "Prophecy born from Dismal Terrain" is a suited opener because of its bombast in this area and is the most efficient in its attack. The fact this one has the shortest running time means they also keep it very straight forward and there is less fiddling with dynamics.

The change in galloping speed on " Cold Winds Howled Across the Desolation" is subtle but like the title might suggest is more of a barren drone, this song also caused me To keep listening til I could attune more more concisely to what this band is about. The bass helps hold down the groove more on this one and the drums are not a flurry of fills like on the first song, the vocals stay in the same mid range rasp, occasionally the take on a slight croak like Immortal but the screaming is like on early Darkthrone a coating of abrasion. They do lure you in as the songs going over the ten minute mark dont seem tedious if you are locked into the drone the tremolo picking takes on to smack you in the head when the gallop rides in.

"the Apex of Suffering " does a different almost Iron Maiden take on the gallop at the beginning. There is more swing to this one though most of the elements from the first two songs are still present. They take the main riff and run with it, their are varied accents sprinkled about it and it slows down into anthemic chords close to the three minute mark before it swells back up into a roar and guitar solos come in.

"Beyond the void of Life" is significantly different Thant the other songs as they slow tho down, into a doomier feel at times. The clean guitar passage opening the song is moody and devoid of neo classical cheese, closer in feel to something Agalloch might do.It drifts into this allowing for about four minutes before it starts to really build and any metal rears its head. It has more of rock n Rollin thrash feel when the momentum builds.

Is this the most original band of the, but they know what they like and what they are good at and build from there. Unlike most UsBm bands theirs no sense that they're going to bust into some sort of Godspeed You Black Emperor section, as it remains glaringly obvious this album is about the metal. They have to be doing something right as its an album I can keep playing over and over Moonsorrow has a similar effect on me and both are the best soundtrack to ride into glory on the battle field to. All four of the songs I enjoy listening to but I can only give this album a nine as it generally sticks to the same dynamics through out which they do rock mightily.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

the Great Old Ones : Al Alzif

I had initially heard this French band was shoe gaze , like an ALcest sort of affair with a thing for H.p. Lovecraft. The Lovecraft part is true, aside from country of origin they don't have much in common with Alcest, being that they have a denser darker sound and sure their is a sonic dreamy quality to some of the sounds coming from the guitar but it really streaches the bounds of what I consider shoe gaze.

The album soars off with the title track, the guitar is soaked in reverb and delayed but not always overpowering the metallic nature of the guitars. The first song has a lot of drive to and the ambiance of black metal with out laying it on to thick with the blasty. There are elements of other things here and influences can be traced but they way it's all assembled and presented is pretty original the closet comparisons I could make if pressed to do so would be its in the same territory as Deafheaven and old An Autumn for Crippled Children.

Midway on the first song we get a melodic break down, with whispered vocals, not the cherubic croon of Niege, it builds not as dramatically as Alcest but in layers and then launches more along the lines of Desfheavne into the dizzying sonic storm clouds. The vocals on the first song are pretty one dimensional screamed midrange and are no where close to being the vocal point, the guitar is most centered in the mix.

"Visions of R'lyeh" has a more straight forward vocal pattern and the chug drives in a straight line as well, there ate a few break downs and the drums switch up the patterns with their accents but for the most part it's a constant barrage. while some may like to keep it simple I think the thistle albums weakest moment but even then it's still decent , they just display more interesting dynamics throughout the rest of the album making this sound a little like filler.

"Jonas" Comes in with a very heavy syncopated crunch, al,ost like something you would expect to hear on a Converge album, it backs away into a more surreal drift for the growls to close in upon and returns the the heavy riff. There's a drones undercurrent the leads into the blast section, the drums subtle tricks keeps it churning in the right direction, the half time feel is another Deafheaven like part leading up a middle section where they bring it down a notch for an Agalloch like spoken word croak the narrate the chords being allowed to drift and ascend. The constantly push forward through out this song and there is always a sense of motion.

"Rue D'Ausell" Has a string intro which mourns around the delicate guitar which twinkles in. By this time I have really begun to appreciate the guitar playing so by the time the solos come in I'm sold. It's the way they are introduced rather than any type of sheer shredding that makes them work. The vocals have some variance in delivery not not tone, as they are hammered into place with more of a hardcore cadence. There is also a wider variety of Majick tricks up there sleeves with fills, accents and punches. Compositionally this is one of their most original arrangements, while not gaudy its the type of road map you would expect to be following on an Opeth album.

"the Truth" has a more spacious intro than the previous songs, the growls slither in underneath the bass line, the tremolo shimmer cues the build and it seems like business as usual. Rather than take the easy way out and blast the hell out of there they allow the song to breath a bit , it reminds me of Blut Aus Nord a little when this happens as well as some of the sonic textures. The truth is though it ends up wandering around and all roads lead to blasty though credit is due that it doesn't happen when you expect it.

The big finish is the ten minute " My love for the stars" it takes the first minute to find up into the big riff and from their is a nice excercise in dynamics. It hit that sweet spot for me of being a good balance of sonic heavy versus metal heavy. the bass helps drive this once once it hits the stride of its gallop. The guitars are the sonic sugar of the icing atop this wedding cake in the marriage of ebb and flow. It's the kind of arrangement only Agalloch seems to pull of in this type of metal.

While the second and fifth songs arent bad , when set against what this band is capable of they come across as filler and when I score albums I divide the number of good songs against the total number of songs, for filler if it has some redeemable qualities I give it a half a point so for that reason I rounded their score up to an 8.5 Becuase the songs they hit the mark on they do it powerfully and with originality . This one might make my top ten list for the year, if not then I'll make a top fifteen as it needs to be recognized an do look forward to hearing more from this band.

Mgla: With Hearts Toward None

One of the buzz generating metal albums of the year of the variety cooler than say Cattle Decapitation, a Polish band with a Swedish sound. It's very Dissection, in that in doesn't rely to much on the blast, some exceptional drumming on this album and the songwriting isn't to shabby.

The songs are just numbered so that is how we are going to do it here

1- first off the guitar riff this opens with is where the Dissection comparisons started for me and when I say that I don't mean in the tribute band manner Thulcandria goes about it. The groove it hits a minute in is a winner in my book. Off the bat the drumming impressed me but the vocals feel one dimensional but in its open this wasn't a distraction.

2-this one is more melodic but darker and still powerful almost a sludge feel its a riff that wouldn't be out of place on a Tool or Neurosis album and I suppose you might as well go ahead and say Behemoth, but despite a homeland they don't have much in common with them.

3-the blasties break out and before this song I just wasn't hearing the black metal but this song qualifies it even has a drone to it and to be honest the riff sounds like a variation of the previous song just taken to a dynamic turn , when the drums go into the groove it's epic and that's not a adjective I throw around lightly to describe every gallop that shows up, but this section redeemed the song for me that seemed one dimensional before this transition. They revert back to blasty mcnasters and it seems a little like taking the easy way out to me, though there are some creative accents as they song winds down.

4- back to the more melodic take on things, this has a churn similar to Nachtmhstium but without the punk underbite. I am beginning to pick up on their formula of let's riff of variation of this theme then bookend end it with blast sections.

5-mid tempo the chords have a nice ring to them, the straight snare pattern isn't my favorite as this drummer has already done some more interesting work but before we fix it let's have a blast...beat that is. I can hear a little Immortal if I open my ears up its in the way they let the chords ring out.This guys feet canfucking fly though and I do like the fact the lyrics are discernible.

6- the beginning makes you think they are going for an old school metal opening they head fake to the left hand path and it powers along. The riff is pretty driving so it distracts me more often than not the snare is a little stiff, the disco hi hat works and gets it lubed up. It gets into Watain/ Bathory territory , particular with vocal chant.

7- this one opens with nice cymbal work and takes a drone into the actual song with spoken words muffled in the back ground. It builds into the blast. The double bass is the only thing that really provides variation once the vocals kick in. The drums switch up in what would be the chorus section but is a more driven variation of what they have been droning on. This is pretty powerful stuff in the feel it captures, though maybe not the most compelling song writing even though it's not a faceless blur of blast beats. They have generous sense of dynamics yet in the last three and a half minutes of the album I was hoping for some thing a little more sonic and it stays pretty straightfor forward. They playing in dead on and excellence is in the execution here though the influences are worn on their sleeves I'm split on scoring this one so I'll round it up to an 8 as the bands it's derivative of are some of my favorites so, that the way to steal

Friday, December 7, 2012

Faustcoven: Hellfire and Funeral Bells

This came recommended by my friend in metal Grim Kim, and I can see why this was her album of the year. This project of Gunnar hansen and no not the Hanson brother of the same name this one is Norweigan, has been churning it out for almost eleven years now. It's a good blend of doom and black metal, which in some sense is what the whole suicidal black metal is about sonically, though this is less cavernous and not about slitting your wrists but the sort of unholiness you would expect froma band called Faustcoven.

The production is raw and gritty , with the live drum sound still being mixed the same way is if Hansen was still programming them like he was six years ago. The songs take precedence over the production which...random thought number 293, makes me think this type of raw black metal would sound great on vinyl, not that I have owned a record player in the past fifteen years.

There some smart songwriting on here like right when the riffing felt like it was getting stale on "When the wolves howl for blood." they switch it up with a acoustic passage,but up until that sound the album held me for the first three pretty solidly and this was an album I woke up wanting to hear this morning so that's a good sign. So now to put it under the microscope and see song for song how it holds up.

The title track this album opens with is pretty strong, though after the bells when this thing kicks in the production was hit me first then when the vocals came in and I got over that I found myself more receptive, if you like your metal raw then this shouldn't phase you. The growls come in a little muffled and feel kinda Darkthroneish with the riffing leaning closer to a darker less bluesy St. Vitus. The accents jump out in the right places and the gallop comes in just right as well. I like the faccthe bass is not only present but is well thought out on its own accord not just following the kick.

"Convent of Earthly delights" kicks in with a "Hole in the sky" type groove before it descends into the doom. The howling sounds in The distance add to the ambiance of the transition and the vocals take on a deeper more death metal tone in parts, I like the delay on them I always prefer a wetter sound to growling. This vibe fittingly transitions into " lost in the forest of suicide " so I lied about the wrist slitting thing, but that's fine with me as I endorse it as a life choice you gotta thin the herd somehow. Do I think there are other bands that do what is being attempted on this song better, yes...but Hansen is taking an admirable stab at it. It does provide more dynamics to the album as a whole, though not the strongest song on here, the creep factor could be pumped up but I'm used to listening to Evoken and Esoteric when it comes to this sort of thing.

"When the Wolves Howl For Blood" sounds more death metal to my ears, the verse riff sounds like something from an old Unleashed album and despite the reverb on the vocals at the chorus it still sounds like less dense Disma, though a little more midpaced.

Writing for a horror blog as well of course I know "Dr. Karswell" is from the movie "Night of the Demon" this is one of the albums better songs the samples give the song interesting interludes and the riff is pretty crushing as well. More on their doom side, which I think is is more doomy death metal than black Becuase the album doesn't really have the ugly dissonance in the chording which creates ambiance, this doesn't diminish the guitar playing , as there are actual solos and the riffing is simple but at times very powerful.

The opening to "Choir of Mentors" has a very haunting lurch to it. At ten minutes it has a few twists and turns there's a very seventies hard rock riff that's cool but this awkward chromatic one that kind of blunders up the flow for me. But overall this is good stuff and worth checking out not record of the year or even making my top ten buts worthwhile listen even with the some times unwieldy riffs or lags which is why it gets at 7.5 from me which is stil nothing to be ashamed of on here.

The Weekly Shuffle

The second installment where I put my iPod on shuffle and review what ever pops up.

"Technocratic Manipulators" by Voi Vod. This band was so far ahead of their time it's ridiculous. I think Dimension Hatross was their creative peak as they started going in a more Floydish route on Nothingface. for those who say good music is just matter of opinion I think that can be argued, as how well it stands the test of time gives it a more definable quality and Voi Vod is a good example of this. Think they mistepped on Angelrat or they would have gotten the recognition they deserve.

"Mandatory Suicide" by Slayer. I think South of heaven is my favorite Slayer album, the songwriting is more balanced blend of melody and groove with the teeth to it that these guys are known for. This album wasn't the heaviest thing even back when it came out but it was more well written than their peers at the time. Sure Tom came closer to singing on Seasons but I think the spoken word section at the end of this one is just as effective and Dave's double bass underneath it rules.

"VI" by Mgla. I haven't been able to give this "With Hearts Toward None" album a solid enough listen its on my reviewe before the years end list, which I need to get cracking on. The drums stand out as they deviate from what you expect from this sort of death/black metal hybrid. In Poland dreaming of Sweden must be this guys mantra though as its in the same color spectrum as old Dissection.

"Hello Space Boy" by David Bowie. There is more than likely going to be a Bowie song on the Shuffle every week because my iPod is just loaded full of it as he is my Elvis. If I was going to introduce Bowie to Metal head this is one of the songs I would play for them as it has the industrial pound to it. This is one of the rare cases where Bowie jumped on a bandwagon rather than create, but when you take Scary Monsters into consideration he was just revisiting ground he already laid. The piano underneath this is incredible. Reeves is getting it done here as well metallic in the guitars slicing through the song but keeping texture what an awesome player I miss him.

"the Gateway" by Cult of Youth. I already reviewed "Love will prevail" it's no secret I hold it in high regard , I like where the vocals sit in the mix on this and the drums are getting it done as well, the guitar is a little lost but the song has drive to it an interesting layers keep being introduced through out.

"Figurative Theatre" by Christian Death. Speaking of standing the test of time I can't tell you how many times I have blared this album since high school, most of those I was high out of my mind so this album always holds things on it that sound new to my ears, some of the best lyrics ever penned. Rozz Williams albums with these guys are iconic.

"Void Hanger" by Darkthrone yes there is a band named after this song because that's how awesome Darkthrone is . I like the post cvlt years. The singer of eyehategod said "Plaguewielder" is his favorite album. The lyrics on it seem more mature and less hoary than the stuff that came after this which has more of a Venom feel to me. I like those punches in the verses. The gallop section is pretty rocking your face off as well. The blasty mcnasty at the end winks at what you first loved them for without apologizing for where they were going at the time.

"Life Eternal" by Mayhem, another case where it might not be their cvltest moment but I like it. This is pretty melodic for these guys. The vocals on this one are an acquired taste they work for me like early Celtic Frost. The drums are really where it is at one this song. Though the bass work is audible and pretty damn good to compliment the drumming, allowing the guitar to drone on top of this. Until today I never realized how long this song is as it normally takes a hypnotic throb in the background. Of course when these guys go blasty they do it well.

"Look at you Over there Ripping the Sawdust from my Teddy Bear" by Alice Cooper. A hidden gem from the Special Forces album, it reminds me that Alice could at one time really sing, I like his croon on the chorus. Like disco Kiss , new wave Alice is a favorite of mine, Still I don't think he belongs on the Dio tribute album coming out as he doesn't have the chops in this day and age to pull it off.

"Little Red Corvette" by Prince. Hey there is no shame in my game,not only am I glad this came on but it reminds me to put more Prince on my iPod. He is one of the best guitarists out there, with a impeccable tone. Sure this is a pop ditty but he does pop ditties better than any more...well maybe not better than the "Let's Dance" album but close. You can be as brootal as you want but can't deny the mans talent. An unreal voice as well and he knows how to use his range to serve the song.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Aluk Todolo: Occult Rock

Despite the title there is nothing really Occult or rock at least what I consider rock on this album, this French band gets the black metal tag throw around on and in the beginning they have blast beats that sweep you off into their drone, there are a lot of other elements a post-rock math to some of what they do, Swans are an obvious influence some of the riffing reminds me Alice Cooper dabblings with prog on Killer.

The first two songs run into each other pretty seamlessly like on body of work which truth be told this album seems to be more movements than playing and like most more drone oriented bands that aren't the Swans it's more about the playing and dynamic solve and coagulation of it all rather than songs , where there is hooks and chorus sections. So the first movement is a very droned out tremolo guitar rolling t you in pretty furious cascade it brings to mind black metal, in like early Dark throne it has a kinetic sense of motion that creates its own atmosphere , but the closet lack metal this portion comes to is Fell Voices, but it never launches into the animalistic catharsis they get to Becuase there are no howling vocals to convey that.

The second movement which is the third song according to my iPod, is a more groove oriented orchestra of noise, the feed back is used to jab at you like old sonic youth while the bass takes on a more math rock groove if it was a thicker tone I'd see some Jesus lizard in it. The bass slinks out into another movement ,which takes a darker turn the feed back sits against it to create a back drop, like the evil twin of something Mogwai might do but guitar so doesn't try to steal what would be the spotlight back introducing the melody, yet this is dissonant yet I wouldn't say so abrasive there's ota sense of melody just not one that hooks you in. The ebb and flow here is brought by the swells of feedback, if this was the first "song" you had heard by these guys there is no wyatt you would draw the black metal comparison. There is also the first guitar solo of sorts that apears here, though the term would be used loosely it's notes picked out singularly , no shredding.

the next movement dark swells ring out behind the bass line which now is becoming the albums prominent instrument. They ramble into post punk groove and shade of feed back circle around this pattern, this section isn't the albums strongest point as like the previous section there's to much movement in the bass line for it to be a drone , suits a groove that is jammed upon. The bass modulates, it's well played but not interesting enough to comprise the song it's self and the guitars preoccupation with feedback doesn't really lend a hand much, there is a sense of of dynamics though the guitar knows when to drop out, but I don't think it's really going for less is more. When it comes back in shimmering it's a useful effect but the bass transition is a little awkward and just sounds like they are jamming in the living room after getting really stoned. Speaking of which occult must be in this case French for stoned out of our minds.

I guess the most rock n roll movement is the sixth ditty, where the bass is driving in a more straight forward fashion than it has earlier in the album, the guitar seems to be searching for the right place to sit. When the guitar being to chill and pick the chords around the bass they have a good thing going its one of the more melodic portions of the album, but when the bass and drums shift into a more straight forward pattern it leaves the sound feeling empty and an awkward place for the guitar to just drop off.
the bass and guitar resume their dysfunctional relationship of the bass having to hold things together while the guitar loses its shit and shit is lost in a noisy fashion here and I'm wondering where the black metal of the albums opening movements went.

Things take a noise punk turn in the seventh song, the feedback is more dizzying here and washes out leaving the pass and the drums to shuffle back off like a Bauhaus b-side, the guitar peeks back in making sure the coast is clear. One of their strong points is holding odd grooves, think knowing when to transition and when to head else where in the albums second half is where they are challenged. I do like how the guitar switches up from its normal modis operandi of feed back swelling into little harp like plucks.

In the final movement the distortion comes as there was lack of heaviness permeating the album by this point. It is slow but not doom and not dense enough to be sludge so it rumbles along like Neurosis lite, and breaks down until I Nader stand that here's where the vocals should go and perhaps a lot of hat they have been doing would have worked if vocals had held it together ,but what they were Doug. Wasn't always engaging enough for them to swing it as instrumentalists alone. I do like the whale song feedback the guitar back off into at one point but when they slightly retard the tempo and sludge along , there just isn't a sense this is heavy enough to convincingly pull it off.

If you are one of those people who hates vocals and listens to only instrumental music this might be for you and add two points to the score, while I really like where the album started it was like dating someone who makes a great first impression by leading you to believe one thing and then the more you go out with them the more you see that just isnt there, the majority of this is pretty unobtrusive back ground music for me, I'd still round this album up to a six while I really only like the first partthere are still some interesting sounds and moments it just loses steam , if they could have kept up the intensity of the first few movements it would have been a different story instead it drifted off into jams which weren't always sure of themselves so if you thought Amsterdam was the only place in Europe to get good weed think again.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Weekly Shuffle

This is a new weekly feature I'm going to do where I put my iPod on shuffle mode and review the first ten songs that pop up, it will maybe shed some light on artists that fall between the cracks in the album reviews and give a more comprehensive look at some who I might reference when reviewing artists. Ok so here it goes first up

"Repeating the Circle" by Ceremony. Off their "Zoo" album this song is a little darker than some of the more straightforward punk moments, the bass drives it and the wandering guitar melody would appeal to fans of more goth inflected post punk, and I tend to stray for the simplistic nature of most punk rock so for me to like these guys there has to be more it.

"My Death" by David Bowie, this is a b side from and import disc and is a more recent take on the song which originally appeared on the live "Ziggy the motion picture soundtrack" which is one of the best live albums ever. This is a cover of a song by Jaques Brel, but Bowie owns it , I like his version of "Let's spend the night together" better then the Stones original. To Brel's credit the lyrics are some of the best written ever.

"the May Song" by the Gathering , Night Time Birds remains my favorite album by the Gathering, despite people telling me to listen to "Home" I downloaded "Home" and this album still wins out because it's still in the realm of being considered metal, the chorus to this one has a nice punch to it and one of Annke's better hooks in my book.

"Duchess" by Genesis, the twilight of the acceptable Phil Collins years, here the descent into pop was well underway, but if you are going to do pop they were still using their thinking caps, the programmed drums creeping into play, this song takes it time and builds atmosphere two and a half minutes before the vocals set in isn't bei a slave to radio play and Collins was breaking away from being a Peter clone but sang with some balls to his voice...for Phil Collins, it's pretty majestic stuff.

"Here I Dreampt I was an Architect" by the Decemberists, "Castaways and Cutouts" was before they really entered their proggy phrase, but still some great songwriter and wry dark lyrics, though this is one of their rare non murder ballads for this time period of their career. Sure they are sellouts now, however hipster and graceful they managed to spread to the masses and water down their sound, the old stuff is not tainted by this enough to not keep its place on my iPod, this song hs a nice sway to it and interesting keyboards.

"Crucifixtion" by Deiphago, in the process of getting around to reviewing their album "Satan Alpha Omega" it's roughly produced raw black metal that hits with its blown speaker intensity. It might be a little too straight forward for me but we will get around to that when I review , if you like your black metal as raw as a bloody steak in the meantime check these guys out.

"the Accusation Chair" by King Diamond, while my love of the King has never been hidden opportunity to review anything hasn't presented himself , I wrestle with my self over which is better "Abigail" or "Them, and rather than resolve that here I can say this little four minute ditty is one of the heavier moments on this album and recaptures the darker vibe of "Abigail" particularly at the solo section midway through, and the " no where to hide" vocals influenced tons of black metal singers the keys are cool on this one too I always forget that part.

"As the Bell Rings the Maypole Spins" by Dead Can Dance, "Aion" is an under rated album by them that I have come to appreciate more over the years, it has a more ritualistic feel than there other lumps that went more cinematic in scope, Lisa Gerrad sounds great as she does, the percussive elements are toned down on this one and the vocals we've their around the song so not one of their more belly dancing inspiring songs.

"Necrophiliac" by Slayer, "Hell awaits" was at one time one of my favorite albums but as a whole didnt stay the test of time ,but this one is classic, the riff that comes after the line" I feel the urge the growing need to fuck this sinful corpse" is mean as fuck, the variation of it doesn't hold as much weight later in the song but hey we can hear bass, how many times did that happen after this album?

"the Ocean" by Led Zeppelin, ... The fact this song still brings to mind the sample of it used in "She's Crafty" , attributes to a slight burn out of it and while its not my favorite Zeppelin song of the thrity five songs of theirs which made it onto my ipod this one made it cut, the guitar on this is what brings it on home.