Friday, January 20, 2012

Eluveitie - Helvetios

A key selling point for metal is to make me feel like I’m riding a dragon through middle earth, preferably Mordor. Folk metal takes plenty of stabs at said dragon , yet It takes a party of high level bards to pull this off and hold the power and snarl required of good metal . Bands like Korpiklaani, fail their saving throws and end up in a drunken frolic with elves and not enough mithril in their sound. Switzerland’s Eluveitie gallops onto the battlefield leaving their inner elves back at the hearth of home.

This being the Swiss octet’s fifth full length, this is a much more refined machine, and churns with a focused energy through the snow capped Alps . The sounds are bigger, guitar tone has more crunch, the vocals carry a more acidic hiss and you would think these the things which make for a metal album , however folk metal sounds most authentic and less like Skyrim background with a balance of big production for epic sound and an organic warmth to merit to the presence of folk instruments. Eluveitie’s modern vision of Middle Earth finds me at the Shire asking Frodo where the strip malls and fast food joints came from.

The metal remains the meat of the matter here the layers of hurdy gurdy , violin and mandola , slavishly return to the same intervals played not only on the previous songs but of the previous albums . After further listens it is not as evident as on their previous albums, and require less effort disprove the theory when you have heard one Eluveitie song you have heard them all. It would be interesting if when they return to the studio later this year to work on the next acoustic album, if the band decided to take copious amounts of hallucinogens and find new parameters for these instruments.

If not the most inspired the execution of musicianship is solid front to back , my ears caught bassist Kay Brem’s chops have stepped up to allow the low end to churn with renewed precision. Considering how many musicians each player is preforming around avoids been a cluster fuck is an accomplishment int and of it’s self . The pound into a stomp veer into a dared Nu Metal territory, the results are varied as on the song “ the Siege “ more break neck In Flames styled thrash recalls less memories of Hot Topic stores best forgotten.

At the jarring inclusion of a song like “ A rose for Epona” I stopped to see how Lacuna Coil snuck onto my Ipod. In my heart of heats I never fully disagreed with the lament of the dreaded baby’s mother of this band ‘s previous albums , which was the vocals often sound like they are battling the rest of the band . Though Chrigel sounds best when he drops down more phlegm soaked depths of his guttural tone. The more modern tone of the album is more accommodating to his style this go around.

In the days of teenagers making there weekend pilgrimage to the mall to spend their parents hard earned money on cds , this album would have been hailed as the once that would have broken Eluvietie through to a wider audience , perhaps that might still happen if they find themselves on a package tour sandwiched in between Lamb of God and Halestrom. I think it is more likely that they will find themselves treading a middle ground of not being heavy enough for their once upon a fan base who has moved on to Kampfar or Taake and too heavy for the casual Nightwish fan.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ash Borer - self titled

As black metal heads into it’s 25th anniversary of existence as we now know it ,one might wonder why a band like California’s Ash Borer would be hyper vigilant against stumbling into main stream success. Despite the buzz generated by the spilt they did with Fell Voices ,It took me the greater part of 2011 to track down the band’s self titled full length debut .In keeping the kvlt cops happily grim , the band released the album in vinyl and cassette pressings of roughly 300 copies.Maintaining obscurity seems to be the mystique or shtick, making no effort to keep an online presence and only being referenced by the first letter of their first names.
This 3 song album clocks in just under forty minutes. It is best heard as one interconnected opus to experience it’s ebb and flow. Not unlike a horror movie setting it’s tone before the blood bath, the first minute of feedback ambiance of the album’s opener “ in the midst of life we are in death” warms you into the storm to come.The pummelling that follows is a hypnotic beating. the tremolo gallop snowballs into a wall of white noise .
. Like most of their peers in the American black metal scene they tip their hooded cloaks as much to Godspeed you black emperor as Darkthrone.The sonic drone comes at you with velocity and ferocity.The band gets lumped in with the trend of bands marrying shoe gaze to black metal, this is not accurate as the trickling guitar melodies are beacons in a chaos far more punishing than say Alcest’s heavier moments.
For a band obsessed with remaining the underground,the album is well produced. Raw and cavernous as needed, with dynamics intact capturing band’s live sound.Granted the vocals are a background howl and keyboards haunt the songs edges at best.The drums stir the fray with ominous accents a wise deviation from typical genre blast beat. This is most effective in the albums final three minutes when they break down into a half time pound and crush the speakers under the swell of guitar.
Think of this as more of a black metal Phillip Glass than the standard Wagnerian offering coming out of Europe. Ash Borer comes across as much more of a cinematic post - apocalyptic sound scape. If you need more verse to chorus structure you are already listening to that last Craft album so carry on. If the current crop of U.S.B, M, has left you wanting , this album offers a darker take on the genre than New York hipsters like Krallice and Liturgy. These guys aren’t out to make you dizzy with acrobatics, instead their tangible fury drags you into this aural mushroom cloud.
While my baby’s mother, the barometer for your average American pop consumer, thought the radio was stuck in the static between stations up hearing this album in the back ground any discerning fan of black metal would find the hunt for this album a wise investment in time . My ears seem to grow hungrier for it every day .i hope the band will get over themselves and make more of an effort to get their music out their to those with a similar craving.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

R.i.p Woods of Ypres -

I got my hard drive on “Grey Skies & Electric Light” , the now posthumous release of Woods of Ypres, the day after learning of singer David Gold’s death. It was set to be the band’s first album on Earache Records and put to rest message board babble of the band breaking up. the Canadian band was often tagged as being blackened Doom. Both black metal and or Doom felt like a misnomers , due to the more straight ahead hooky melodies that filled the void left by Type O Negative’s absence .
The weak opener “ Career Suicide ( is not real suicide)” could have been saved for a b-sides compilation. It spot lights their tragic flaw of looking back into 90’s alternative rock. Faith was restored by the second song “Travelling Alone” . The song’s feel is more of a logical progression from 2009’s “ Green Album” . The backing instrumentation on this track and through out the rest of the album stays solid if not adventurous.
Despite the sparse deviations into harsher vocals the album never muscles it’s way into territory heavier than an album like “ Slow , Deep and Hard “ . The mournful mood is best set in songs lending breathing room to piano and string arrangements. Even on the more ambitious pieces like “ Alternate Ending “ the Gold displayed his skill as a songwriter by not being bogged down by grandiosity like most post-“October Rust “ era Goth metal. The Peter Steely inflections are still present yet Gold has painted a clearer picture of his won narrative voice.
Where some metal bands fall into pretentious feigned melancholy, Gold had a certain honesty in his delivery. His voice is convincingly bleak , though more comfortable as a baritone , the awkward reaches for Micheal Gira-like low notes , on the outskirts of his range the only lapses into Hot Topic Nu Goth . Only on the song “ Modern Life Architecture” do the stumbles into this register inhibit the potential for melody. Gold’s voice always set the band apart and worked best layered with the double tracked harmony sections. The melodies marriage to the lyrical content makes up for this, as Gold was more contemplative and less pining. Morose and earnest pleas to the world around him, rather than the pseudo poetic musing of a post break up middle school cutter .
It is safe to say Ypres isn’t going to spurn an after death revival with this on as midway through the album my baby momma, asked why was i listening to the Crash Test Dummies. Fans of harder fare than Type o or Agalloch would find the band’s earlier work a more fitting entry point. Ypres existing fan base will find the album morbidly timely and a lyrical inscription on Gold’s headstone and fitting final chapter in the band’s legacy.