Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Atriarch : Ritual of Passing

Atriarch is one of my favorite new bands, I mentioned them in my death rock blog earlier in the year and they are really coming out of the coffin on their new album, though in my first few listens have not found "Ritual of Passing" to be as dark as their previous work. When it comes to bringing the darkness they have already set the bar pretty high for themselves as their music seeps from the shadows like the soundtrack so a horror movie so much so, that the past month while I have been working in a haunted house I have been using the first minute of of the song "Plague" as my background music to torture a nun to.

This full length kicks things off with "Parasite". This one has all the sleazy swank straight from 80s L.a., the sneer to the vocals seem to be more influenced by Snake of Voi Vod, particularly "Dimension Hatross" era, this gets no complaints from me. Things drop back down to a doom creep for a few bars and then the blasty kicks in. I have found their black metal leaning to be marginal in what they do and it seems more of a way here to cause the song to implode and bleed into the second song "Prayer"

When the band digs into the tombs and crawls around in the dirgey regions of what they do, it's preformed well with the needed drone, and really depends on my mood how receptive I am of it. It is not my favorite part of what they do and would get bored by an entire album of it. The song "Altars" following their descent into doom brings back a more death rock sound allowed to crescendo into metal that displays the conviction in the emotional connected invested in music, rather than just ...oh we have a quota of heavy to keep or we'll lose our metal cred.

They Flip the dynamics around on the song "Altruist" and while the verse drones at a slower pace the screamed vocals dance around it capturing a perfect blend of what they band does. One of those songs I would play if asked to introduce someone to the band. The blast exit resurfaces, but the vocals over it are at first a goth howl before going into the wretched tone and then they break down into a doom stroll.

While there is a certain old school Swans element to the last track subtitled lucifer speaks with death, it is more like performance art than a song so not something I would factor in when scoring then album as like most things along these lines could have just as easily been omitted from the album.

Vocalist Lenny Smith breaks out his best Rozz Williams for a moment on "Offerings" which aside from that section stays true to their blackened doom label. Not that its a bad thing but I wouldn't say holding to conventions makes for their best song writing. I know we have had some debate as to the band Evoken's influence on modern metal and i think it can be heard here. On a song like "Cursed" the doom stays intact but the goth vocals allow their morbid narration to wander. They more spectral guitar tone used here allows for more atmosphere. The dynamic outbursts later in the song are kept on a leash making the climax have a more apocalyptic pay off.

Overall this album sees growth in the band most notably as a song writer and Smith has really improved as a singer utilizing his voice above and beyond just going from harsh to moan, his vocal inflections reflect a passion for anguish. I found myself going back to the two track which had a much more traditional blackened doom slant and tried hammering them in my head to see if I didn't give them enough of a chance or if I just wasn't sold on the use of those dynamic. "Offerings" only took another listen to win me over,Even though I'm not sure if I'm sold on the default blasty at the songs second half which gets sloppy and keep the band form scoring a perfect ten as with "Prayer" the other song I was suspect of still drug a little for my ears, but the album has some really awesome moments that could have eclipsed this songs tedium, so I'll give this one a 9.5 as the marks it hits it really hammers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Godseed : I Begin

This is not going to be for every one, while not commercial fluff like Behemoth or Dimmu, who I still derive entertainment from , it is not going to be ravishingly grim enough for those of you who only listen to lo fi 90's black metal on vinyl and if that's the case I'm not sure why you would be reading this in the first place unless you have a crush on Ghaal and wish it was you he had tied up and tortured for hours on end. Man crushes aside Ghaal has to have one of my favorite harsh vocal tones in black metal. Perhaps he just know how to communicate with the producer to get the perfect balance of effects to his snarl , what ever it is it works and he continues to give a stellar performance here.

Here Godseed sounds like a side project which came into its own as a band. This is an off shoot of Gorgoroth and I'm sure you have heard all the really cvlt legal battles and drake which went down so I'm skipping all that and focusing on how this experimental black metal band has tweaked themselves out into the purgatory not too far into void as Blut Aus Nord where they straddle the fence of what is considered black metal. It has plenty of the ugly Ambiant chords one associates with black metal though not as straight forward as Gorgoroth, but if you set it against a song like " Carving a giant " , unless we are talking about some of the bands more reaching moments like the song "alrande tre" where they have meshed Rammstein With the chorus to the song "kindergarten " off Faith No More's "angel dust" album.

If you listen to Gorgoroth albums with your arms crossed against you chest complaining how they aren't grim enough for you, then you won't like this ,so stop reading and go get over yourself. One of the non cvlt similarities this has is it is very well produced and while I can appreciate some raw black metal at the end of the day if it sounds like shit how good can it really be. This album needed this mix as there are so many subtle elements going on.

The opener "Awake" starts off your standard blasty mcnasty not falling far from the Gorgoroth tree. This one took a little while to grow on me as the stiffness of the blasts are a little static. There's a creepy bridge I like that breaks things up into a majestic gallop and the chanty clean vocals are a subtle touch. When the organ arrives it feels a little Borknagar and could have been implemented in the verses to loosen up a bit.

"This is from the past" has a powerful chug to it so when the blasts return they feel better than the did at the albums offset.the verses still retain a somewhat militant feel to them. The slower tempo of the b section works even if the riff takes on a repetitive drone.

"Alt liv" this one slaps you with big chords from the start and backs off into one of the albums Rammstein moments. This is where we have left the black metal at home and this one walks very close to Behemoth's side of the street. The therein song writing begins to appear to be take the riff of your b section and just drone on it with a gradual build.

"From the running of blood" this one kinda strikes me as Borknagar for a second, but also retained a lot of the elements I liked amount Ghaal era Gorgoroth. They bang this riff into the grou d before they explodes into some hyper blast maddness.

"Hinstu dagar" gets mean and back to the blasts. Ghaals vocals seem exceptionally scathing, this song is very straight forward until it gets to the syncopated b section. This approach is balanced out by the slower "Lit" where the guitar rings out into a drone and the vocals are performed more like a ritualistic chant. This songs floats of into borderline proggy drone.

"the Wound" the pace picks up and launches into a triumphant gallop. The drone here churns a little differently than the rest of the album with subtle layers of sonics until it blasts it's way out. "Blood line" is Combichrist industrial murk which never materializes into anything aside frame heavy breathing and a synth wash.when a beat comes in at the final minute and half . So I won't factor this ditty in when I adore the album.

While much better than what you might think a side project album would sound like some of these song structures could have stood to have been allowed to venture out , Becuase if you are going to experimental dont half ass it. The performances and production are not half assed and I think the more open minded fans of Gorgoroth should be pleased so I'm going to give this one a 7.5, as I don't seem myself really listening to this out side of shuffle mode once the new car smells wears off of the album.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kamelot : Sliverthorn

So lets go ahead and get the elephant in the room that is Tommy Karevik out of the way. The bottom line is he isn't as bad as I thought he might be. Primarily because of the Roy Khan impersonation, not as convincing as the old Alice in Chains trick they pulled with much better results due to Jeryy Cantrell's heavy harmonies. There are frequent guest vocals and choral vocals as well as studio tricks but his rather star search like vocal tone has more in common with James Labrie than Geoff Tate who I associated as an influence of Khan. The YouTube videos didn't lie and he has a more generic rock sound than Khan who's voice was darker in some way.

I started writing this review on my second pass through on the album, so began to notice sections which took on a happier prog metal element that I don't like because it reminds me of Europe, though I suppose they are going for more of a Helloween feel. I associate it with what I don't like about bands like Stratovarious and Hammerfall, though this album is not as shreddy or obviously metal as those.

Now on my fourth pass through I think I can have a more even handed listen.
"Sacrimomy" is one of the albums better tracks so a fitting opener, they are going for another " march of Mephisto" as The Agonist vocalist Anissa Gluz does her best Shagrath impersonation, so there's a lot of mimicry going on, as Amaranthe vocalist Elize Ryd doesn't have a distinct style of her own but tries to be a metal Sarah Brightman, fitting as the new singer Tommy was inspired to start singing after he hear Phantom of the Opera...the Andrew Loyd Weber musical not the Iron Maiden song.

The problem with this song that is more forgivable seems like the made a table of possible power metal chorus progressions and just rolled a twenty sided dice to pick them, they are very generic for the genre see Symphony x for details.it way to happy and frolicking for me where Roy Khan vocals had tighter hooks and don't sound so obviously European Festival in the rousing fist pump.

"Ashes to Ashes " works for me even though the bridge had a very radio hrs rock feel to it like Trapt or Lost Prophets mixed with Dream Theater. Granted Kamelot has a big itch to scratch as they are only of the only bands I still listen to who do the whole symphonic power metal thing , aside from Night Wish.

"Torn" the melodrama goes up a notch and the stage fans really start blowing the frilly pirate shirts once the chorus kicks in where the problems occurs and it begins to become a test in how high my threshold for cheese. The progressive metal label once tabbed to the band is even more unfounded as songs are even more straight forward than the previous two albums

"Song for Jolee" the ballad I knew was coming, isn't as offensive as I was braced for. Sure there's the whole Dream Theater almost Styx element, I like what is voice does on this one and might even say I like him as a balladeer better than Khan, just not better for Kamelot.

"Veritas" yTakes a darker turn like classic Kamelot and chorus isn't as offensive as the bulk of the albums the counterpoint the chorus the choir provides helps ns the "you will confess I am god" hook works well. This one gets in and out pretty quick so there not chance to muck it up with too much cheese.

"My confession" stays darker in the verse , with the chuggy pre chorus but were turn to the twenty sided dice for the chorus. I know Youngblood is the bands primary song writer so I began to think this is more of his doing and the new kid just came in and sang pre-written melodies, which explains the blandness because I session singer never holds as much emotional investment as one who shares in the song writing process. His girlish head voice which pops up before the guitar solo is one of the few original moments on Karevik's part.

The title track lays on the symphonic element from the get go. The get s heavy in a ghost opera sense. The chorus here skips going to the default dice roll though this one isn't very compelling, as it's more of the same.the choral break midway through is different bunch stays consistent with the more of the same feel to the album. The guitar blazes into attempt change, but it doesn't feel heavy at all.

"Falling like the Fahrenheit " clever song title though it's apparent they are trying to re create Ghost Opera here than break any new ground , the lyrics " like the shadows in my head/ you will play that ghost again" take a little different meaning here and I wonder how many of these lyrics are about Khan. The chorus goes slight Dream Tehater but are a little more like a Hoobastank power ballad. The final two minutes there's a brooding symphonic breakdown,another formulaic element to this album.

"Solitaire" starts off with a riff straight from one of the Helloween rip off bands, then the pre chorus gives you a little hope before the dice come out forte chorus. They tease you with the one heavy riff that only pops it head in for the pre-chorus.

The ballads are actually this albums stronger moments now which is an inverse of the Khan years."Prodigal son" is very ambitious but well executed it starts off as almost an aria with Karevik singing in a delicate sotto voce head register. It builds there skimming some of the happy territory I dislike and the guitar solo was a rather uninspired Brian May knock off. The guitar solos on this album seem to be an obligation to the genre rather than ever adding something to the song , they could stand to take a lesson from Karevik's country men the Swedish Shining on this front .

In scoring this album I didn't bother factoring in cinematic opening and closing pieces as they are not really needed. Since I was surprised this wasn't as bad as my fears of a Roy Khan less Kamelot had me imagine, I rounded the score up a half a point to an 8.5 which might be generous considering I don't see this being something I am really going to wear out like "Ghost Opera" which is a clear 10, even with the ballad missteps.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Interview : Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke

If you have read my review of Killing Jokes incredible 2012 album, then you already know the high regard I hold this influential band so it was a special honor to talk to Front man Jaz Coleman.

Wil...I really love the new album. How was the processor this one different now that you have been in this for 34 years?

Jaz...It was different, for the last album it only took two weeks. For this one it came in stages. When you are making records back to back its important to take your time. Normally Youthhas an idea and we jm on the structure of those songs. This time I went back with Jordy and picked it apart. There were different sessions. We try an maintain standards of our work.

Wil...Has your work in recent years in classical music influenced the song writing process with Killing joke at all ?

Jaz...Not really. They are two separate camps. It's a different approach and I don't let the, bleed over.

Wil...I think you work on the new album is one of the best vocal performances of your career. What do you attribute this to?

Jaz...what the music conjures up. I originally didn't want to be a vocalist, I started of as the keyboardist and was nominated into the position. So I attribute it to hard work and an attention to detail. Breathing, quitting smoking helped. 60 concerts in a row can really bash your voice. They don't give a fuck can do it, so I hav learned a lot of exercises and tricks of the trade like steaming.

Wil...Speaking of touring demands , I know you guys were slated to tour with the Cult and Mission U.k but dropped off , is this because it seemed like too much of a nostalgia package?

Jaz...It didn't seem fir to Killing Joke to be the third band on bill at venues we had just headlined. I don't have much time for Billy, but Ian is a nice enough chap. But nice guys aside they play such abysmal cock rock.

Wil...Have you guys given thought to going out with one of the bigger bands that you have influenced like Tool or Ministry ?

Jaz... We have never had the vision of being a stadium band. I don't like playing for more than 5,000. There is no intimacy. Playing rock star has never been important to me. Being an experimental band you don't have the same success but what you get it longevity.

Wil... The 2012 album is coming out in America next month but has been out in Europe since apri, was this Spinefarm's decision or what factored in to that?

Jaz...by the time I got to the sixth album it is something I accepted. We couldn't get released in America until 95 with Pandemonium. We have been indifferent to reviews. Albums now seen as massively influential now when they were released the press was slagging them.im grateful for where we are at Becuase when you think of stardom and other peoples lives... I mean just think of Kurt Cobain... How miserable.

Wil... I know a lot of your beliefs are based in a Rosicrucian system and wheni think of that I think of Golden Dawn and the whole transmutation of the three fold being and spiritual alchemy, who do see that connect with your musical process ?

Jaz...Tantra, unification, kundalini . The mantric chant, music is connected to the sexual liberation. Sexual repression and facism go hand in hand. There are very different layers of physical needs. Enlightenment can not occur with out opening the pelvic region. The judeo Christian moral codes have become no longer relevant. The music of the 60s brought about a sexual revolution. Take the pill, have sex for pleasure. It's the rhythm of rock, the rebellious nature is an important function. Sex not just for procreation, the idea of the nuclear family is becoming obsolete.

Wil...I think that is why , I know at least currently in the states we are seeing a boom in poly amory.

Jaz...Absolutly, it changing. Education is key . It doesn't end with schooling . Self educate. Looking at the mystery of Killing Joke, we are many things, producers, musicians, artists, composers, an occult master an architect. I'm very proud of what I have done, theres glory, gold and influence, we have never been a band with number one singles but we have had an influence. Every thing material fades but influence lasts. I have never been a material person. I carry everything in two bags. I'm very nomadic,there a lot to learn living in so many different places.

Wil...on 2012 the lyrics that really stood out to me were on the song "Colony Collapse" and the line..." changing our emotional development" I see this how America is putting them selves to sleep with social media but in the bigger picture how do you see this relationship with technology?

Jaz...the trans human agenda, nano tech and biotechnology . What might extend life might cause us to lose all emotional faculties. The ability to feel and cry homogenized. The defining aspect of humans is our humanity. that is traded in . I don't own a computer or cellular phone. Things I want to learn I search down. I want to use books Becuase the Internet doesn't provide all the details which come from the search. It took Sarah Brightman seven months to find me and the bass player of guns n roses tried to find me for six

Wil...does this self imposed isolation have a meditative quality which aides your creative process?

Jaz... My creative process is I take my self to the edge with exhaustion not sleeping for three days then I go in and argue with my band mates. It's the extreme options couple with earnest debate that breaks the wall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Interview : Venien of Von

The forefathers of American Black Metal,whose influence had a profound impact on the second wave of black metal which came out of northern Europe and shaped what we think of as black metal today. So it was an honor to get a chance to talk with Venien the man behind Von and found out what it's like to Be one of the founding fathers of modern black metal.

Wil...First let's talk about the recording of your 1992 album "Satanic Blood" . What prompted that and what was the process like ?

Venien...It was the show we that Erik of Watain asked us to do that prompted that. Shawn ...goat quit the band again after that gig, so had to handle pretty much everything
. the process took hold in the stood, there had been a lot of bootlegs over the years but this is going to be the first official release recorded in a proper way the way it was mean to be heard.

Initially when they process of putting it back together was back in 2006 in the MySpace years. Erik from Watain touch base with us and offered us to come out for what would be a record release for them and all of a sudden things started to develop . So as sort of a dress rehearsal we recorded a seven inch to give away .

Will... How was being back on stage and playing with bands you had such an impact on?

Venien... We came on late after Watain and Goat wasn't as prepared as I though he would be , so by not handling his business the show didn't go off as planned so it was rather bittersweet.

Will...so what does the future hold for you regards to live dates are you looking to do one off shows in a festival setting or really tour?

Venien...After the reunion show we came back to Pheonix and has dates booked like the hole in the sky festival and Goat called and asked us to cancel the dates. So we had to regroup and re think the live show but now we have a few dates of this year, the ritual of the black mass and next year do a world wide tour. We have a really cool set over and hour of not only songs of satanic blood but new songs, after all we have twenty years of material.

Will...So what was it like to have made the style of music you did in a time and froma scene that was mainly into thrash and what you guys did back in the late eighties early nineties is what people think off when it comes to modern black metal? What influenced that?

Venien... In high school I was into punk rock and when I moved with my dad for his work to Honolulu freshman year , I got a job where I met Shawn/Goat and we hooked up and were jamming in the garage. At the time he was more into Classic rock like Led Zeppelin. Working in a factory one summer I met Brent/ Snake and we got him to come in and just smash on buckets to create this really raw brutal sound. It was punk meets metal and then the elements like tremolo picking came in. We were in Venom and Sodom but wanted to make something more brutal and darker , just relentless. We were the band nobody wanted to book Becuase every one was into thrash.

Will...so what was it like to find out all these big black metal bands like Dark Funeral, Watain and Taake were citing you as an inspiration ?

Venien... We never knew any thing about it , we had no idea as we had never released an album, just demos until years later We heard the material we created surfaced through tape trading in the underground and these bootlegs surfaced. It's overwhelming to think about.

Will...so is there new Von music on the horizon?

Venien... Yes, there is "Tribal blood" which comes out in April of 2013, it is part of the Dark god trilogy. The dark god album is split into three parts the first is a progression from where Satanic blood left off. The second rise of the ancients is different but with similar theme and elements and then I have a solo album which has a lot more options and types of styles.

Will...so coming back , what are your thoughts on the current metal scene of today any particular band really stand out to you ?

Venien...Recording I have been in a self induced exile and I havent had the luxury to to invest a lot of music. The guitarists I'm working with now are in their twenties and are into everything as far as extreme metal and know all the different sub genres out there and keep me up on it, cus when we started playing there wasn't all that you were basically just playing metal. There's a lot of intense stuff out there and no particular bands I like more than others though, we did some work with Coffin Worm.

Will... So now twenty years later are we going to see similar occult Themes to what was on "Satanic blood? How is music now spiritual expression for you?

Venien...I dictate my own life. I defy all. I'm a free thinker and not tied to anything. So there are themes similar to Satanic Blood. The general theme is explained in another format all tied together as a story. As you get older you gain knowledge over the years. Organized religion never appealed to me.

Will...with the landscape for people consuming music now is much different now than it was twenty years ago what plans do you have in regards to getting your music out theere to the fans?

Venien ...Von Music is just myself , doing it pretty much d.i.y style. using pirate press to manufacture. Satanic Blood is being released in a booklet form with lyric sheets and liner notes. People can see all the art work I've done that goes with each song. Rather then the jewel case format it's 12x12 vinyl gatefold style.

Will...Well that gives you more freedom and will appeal to collectors, I'm excited for new Von music and to here where you guys take it , look forward to carchingylu guy love and will of course continue to feature you guys on here as the releases roll
out next year.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Shining : Redefining Darkness

The title doesn't lie. There is truth in advertising here. Darkness has been redefined here as something much lighter than what I normally think of and lighter than Shining's more definitive work like " the eerie cold" and "Halmstad". It's more of the same from The "fodd forlorare" period, though with a slicker production value and not coming out of the gate so blatantly black n roll.

In some ways the band sees where they need to go but can't synch there creative gps to get there in the most concise manner and the opening track is case in point. " Du, Mitt kontsverk" blasts of at a rapid pace akin to black metal but lacks the depth and destiny the band has displayed in the past as part of their sound . It might sound more fitting on the more well adjusted Enslaved's album. Kvarforth is grunting just as harshly as ever but it lacks the anguish and personality that is his trademark. The guitar comes in to give this song it's most redeeming quality. When the acoustic breakdown comes it feels very color by numbers though the clean vocals are improved and better produced.

"ghastly silence" Is forgiven for not being as heavy as their early work because it does succeed at creating a mood similar to "eerie cold" though here its like they have been taking their medication as the depressive and suicidal elements are toned down. In fact the new Nachtmystium conveys those feeling much more convincingly than here. The spoken section is not desperate sounding or depraved but rather goth...think My dying bride. But the song has a good sense of movement. The clean vocals are a little too emo Katatonia , sure these guys mke emotional music but it's cutting in a more destructive sense. The sax blurs the lines between their Norse counterparts , the black jazz ones who I ignored their existence since this was the only Shining for me.

The ugh at the beginning of "Han Som Manniskan" is very familiar and I'm not talking Celtic Frost. Once agin the guitar solos which shreds with a capital s comes in and saves the black n roll. The growls are a little more convincing , my only problem with the songs which brings back the bath tub moans is its a little derivative. The riff at the midway point is pretty killer and the guitar that follows it wins me over on this one. The solos are frequent which I'm o.k with because they are taking it to the next level. So I begin to think more of my problems with this album are production based as the grit is gone.

Hearing him sing in English is a little weird. "Hail Darkness Hail" has the ghostly vocal chant that reminds me Andy Laroque produced this and is why the guitars sound great for a King Diamond record, but I think they need rougher edges at times here. But give Andy credit as he know how to produce the hell out of some vocals. The spoken word section in the middle breakdown takes me back to their glory days though the clean vocals are bland from a melodic sense until the harmony comes in. This album needs to be heard by any metal guitarist who wants to learn how to play tasteful leads. By this point I have accepted the fact like Enslaved there is nothing black metals out this album.

There's a pointless piano ditty before " For the god below" . By the time this one rolls around I'm thinking the. Whole acoustic thing is becoming overdone. A very Enslaved riff comes in, though the vocal pattern reminds me of Dissection , until the weepy Katatonia singing returns. I appreciated the Dissection worship, why should Watain and Thulcandra be the only bands with good taste. The solo around the four minute mark is the first one that I feel is slight filler, where the others really added something and the embelishments after this part are tasty. The lyrics to this songs as a love song to Satan is cute. The line about his devotion to evil I like. The solo at the last minute and a half is pretty epic and I don't use that term lightly. The solos steal the show on this one.

This might not be the direction I think the band should go in,but it's not bad I rounded the score down Becuase I think there is a lot of recycling from "fodd forlorare",which I and of its self was a great album, the riffs had more grit which made up for the formulaic Opeth clean vocal sections. I love real singing, I think there's some great singing with personality on this album, but like Opeth you know it's right around the corner and while not as trite as the old Killswitch Engage good cop bad cop exchanges it sometimes feels like these dynamics could have been explored to a greater extent . So taking this into consideration as well as they fact this was once a great dsbm band who longer makes dsbm , I'll give this one a 8.5 and see how it grows on the first song lead is once I get past the first minute and a half of Enslaved. But I lead own the new Enslve dso give me a depressed Shinging and I'll be happily morose again.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Live Review: Swans

My third live experience with Micheal Gira and Company. I had some trepidation about the venue a new arts complex called Terminal west, Tool artist was doing some sort of hippie freak out next door so while waiting for the doors to open dozens of scrambled burn outs wandered by confused as to what Swans were some even attempted together in line for tickets until informed they weren't the wrong building.

Once inside the venue reminded,e of the Bronze, Sunnydale's club in the Buffy the Vampire show, so it was disappointing when Dingos Ate My Baby did not open. Hawk and a Hacksaw did open and the duo played a set of experimental gypsy folk. While it wasn't really my thing, they played there instruments well, though there sounds sounded to similar despite my friend who likes them at told me all of there albums are different.

Swans took the stage at 10:30 and wasted no time to launch into the sonic flogging. Gira himself describes their live show as being " soul up lifting and body destroying" , damage control on the destruction part was aided by the earplugs distributed at the bar. I went the first twenty minutes or so with out there buffer and then experimented with them as I was up against the stage for the entire show turned to the right facing the flailing Gira as he conducted the band with fervent hand gestures. So the first half of the show I kept one ear plug in my left ear, used both for the second half taking them out for portions where I wanted too not use protection and get the full sensation.

The touring line up was the same as last year with Thor Harris on percussion , Norman Westberg on guitar, Christoph Hahn on lap steel guitar, Philip Puleo on drums and the newest member bassist Chris Pravdica. Pravdica appeared more settled in with rest of the band and his playing was solid.

They opened with " To be kind " and the set was half songs for their newest album " the Seer" including the thirty two minute title track. The rest of their set was new unrecorded numbers which fit nicely against the material from " the seer ". One song was very meaty and came the closet to be an actual metal song than Swans other work. Live the are a much different animal than their albums which show a broader range of wht the band does. On stage it's an exercise in keeping the tension churning and building to pounding crescendos.

Gira's voice was a more resonant croon, than the rasp at the edges it had had last year. This could be from the bluesier tone " My Father will guide me..." called for or his voice is just more warmed up from more frequent touring. This was most noticeable on the song "Avatar". He keeps onstage banter to a minimum, addressing the sound man to turn the house lights on so he can see the people who came there for the experience and to turn the air conditioner down. He later asked the front row not to take pictures as it made him nervous and then in closing commented on how Atlanta was the home of new condos and felled trees, he knew because he had lived here for four years.

The percussion was tightly synced Harris and Puleo were astounding as the hammered the droning punches together to accent the very tribal nature of what Swans do. Always hypnotizing the show had a noted effect on me, lending credence to Gira's self proclaimed uplifting nature to their music. I arrived at the show on the tail of a shit storm day, littered with obnoxious cunts of varied degrees but when I lost myself in the throb of of their music, the inner turbulence dissipated. This brought me to the conclusion to listen to more Swans and less death metal when if find myself running my gas tank on anger all day.

Judging from the crowd I was not the only one who felt the effect. In the front of the stages, people clutched themselves with eyes closed as the took in the sound enveloping them in an almost spiritual reverence. Live you feel Swans as much as you hear them. Part of this is due to the sheer volume the play at, the rest is the soaring nature of their guitar patterns which carve frequencies rather than just riff off of chords. It is also said Gira wants the air conditioning off to create the feeling of an Indian sweat lodge.

The crowd it's self was an interesting mix though heavy on the college aged indie rock hipster type kids, a demographic shift from the old goth crowd in the number of actual goths was limited to maybe two dozen a number about the same as the number of metal shirts I saw which ranged from the obvious Neurosis to Negura Bunget. I did spot an Obituary shirt but from judging by the gay mail man shorts this was for irony. I am guessing the decline in the goth contingent is some have allowed their to return to its natural color and re trying to blend in with "normal adults" in daily life or they know the Swans are sticking to their more current material with out Jarboe.

It could have been the mix but I noticed a more defined distinction between Gira and Westberg's guitar parts. Westburg kept the steady tension taunt accenting the abrasion as needed while Gira strummed more simmering chord progressions. This approach left Hahn to float over them with a layer ambiance and adding chaos to the dynamic builds in songs like "the apostate" where Gira's vocals live took on a snarl of a stooges era Iggy.

Overall, Swans are of course the most intense live act on the road and a clear example on what it means to be heavy without being metal. If my buzz from the show doesn't wear off by the end of the month Converge is going to seem juvenile when I see them in November. They maintained a level of musical integrity and relevance that's legendary and are an act any lover of intense or heavy music should catch after all they have had such a profound influence on everything from post rock to metal to industrial. Granted they are my favorite band , but I think the bias is in check s I went with some one who knows them by my t shirt and incessant rambling only and they went away wanting to hear more. So take there word not mine.

Set list
To be kind
She loves us
The Seer
The Apostate

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

My Dying Bride : a Map of all our Failures

With My Dying Bride you should know what you are in for...frilly shirtd melodramatic goth metal. Now do you find that entertaining? If not go check out my Neurosis interview for burly man doom. I can get down with a girly adolescent vampire novel or two so let's proceed.

From the opener "Kneel til doomsday" we get church bells toiling and the melancholy menace though things pick where I suppose the chorus should be but My Dying Bride has a fluid style of riff blending that doesn't really follow typical song structure and feels ,ore like movements that verse chorus framework. They pick up the pace from the funeral dirge doom tempo into a gallop and even revving up into a last beat so they are aware it's 2012 and Black metal has become a thing since they released "Turn loose the swans".
The harsh vocals show up on the first track but the album as whole is sung in the baritone goth moan.

"the Poorest Waltz" drops back to the dreary pace you expect from these guys, however the melody on the verse I very catchy and doesn't follow the typical phrasing I except from long time vocalist Aaron Stainthrope. Though he does fall back on the typical lamentations on " a Tapestry scorned". The growls on this one don't do anything to add to the song and the god forsaken spoken word moments make it sound like a book on tape only the drums try to redeem this one.

"Like a Perpetual funeral" starts off like typical doom metal and opens up for the vocals to carry the verse with sparse accompaniment. The drummer is the bands secret weapon so not sure why he sits the first half of this one out, when he comes back in to provide a enough of a back bone for the vocals to sit against. The song builds into a wandering guitar solo but the vocal refrain is a nice touch.

On the title track I began to take note of the fact the guitar tone on this album is a lot cleaner , more like funeral doom that relying on distortion. Here it makes the verses more haunting and the more spoken sections of vocals aren't as annoying here for some reason.

"Hail Odysseus" feels like an awkward misstep when it goes into the more death metal section. Aaron's growls no longer convince me of any menace or darkness and the Gilligans island lyrical conent doesnt warrant the delivery nor the chants which do ork with the guitar accents and grew on me after repeat listens .

It feels like "in the Prescence of Abscence" is the first song where The violin caught my ear on this. This one goes the way of the weep with the drums lingering oppressively behind and pausing for fills. The drone is established in the first three minutes.
Though this one grew on me over time as well. "Abandoned as Christ" just feels better even though it's more of the same from these guys and the lyrics are the albums best.

Overall the changes made as a whole don't shake the boat too much and fall into a color by numbers of what the band does and is good at, even among fans of modern doom this is ong be an acquired taste despite what the band has done to pave the way for what we call funeral doom, the book on tape drama can be a little much so I will give this one a 7.5 with room to grow on so by the time I do my best of we will see if it moved up into an eight and the "abandoned as christ" song is so good I want to give it an eight for that alone.

While metal heads are notorious for not wanting bands to change, some of the lulls of this album are when the band falls back on the same weary doom riffs from the early nineties this burdens Stainthrope with having to carry the songs and while his voice is unique he can all to often default his bleating pleas.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Neurosis: Honor Found in Decay

Twenty years ago when I heard "souls at zero" I became enamoured by how Neurosis mixed the cerebral sonics of a band like Swans with forward thinking metal like Voi Vod. A few years later my head was crushed by "through sliver and blood" and though the band wandered off into folky Tom Waits territory I have always respected what they do. In 2007 when the band released "given to the rising " it was good to hear them school the slew of sludge wanna bes which had sprung up.

"We all rage in blood" opens things up after its delicate build in the first minute and post rock feel In the way the verse drives is fairly straight forward for these guys. Scott Kelly's vocal stacks on a stacatto sneer as the song ebbs and flows. Not really heavy until the mammoth chords in the last two and a half mins.

The NPR streamed single "at the well " is the second songs . It is more long the lines of the bands post-times of grace output. Very slow tempo, with leonard Cohen esque vocals proceeding their trademark howl. After a few listens the eerie guitar line in the back ground made me appreciate this one more than my first listen which wasn't a fan of the tempo. Not that the almost doomy feel is anything new for these guys. The bag pipe break midway into this one is a nice color. I really like the vocal chant of in a shadow world seven minute mark leading into the build. The formula for the album seems to follow a pattern of brood into the song and explode into the climax in the last two to three minutes. Though even these heavier dynamic builds are not as heavy as anything before "times of grace" . Another point of Intrest is in the vocals which never go into the harshness of an all out growl, the restrain themselves to a howl and are maily sung in a throaty but forceful manner.

"my heart for deliverance" lingers in the intro like "set the controls for the heart of the sun" sort of thing before going into a oddly timed rumble of a shuffle. The drumming keeps it from being overly angular. It drifts off into post rock wonderland around the five minute mark before congealing through a blend of sampled dialogue into transcendent crescendo. The guitar line which leers out borders on psychedelic, though the vibe I get for the overall album is these guys don't smoke nearly as much pot as they used to.

"bleeding the pigs" is a blatant reminder that even after making the album with Jarboe they have not forgotten the earlier Swans albums. You would think such a wink at my favorite band would win me over no questions asked, but there is not the pay off a sonic eruption that a Swans song would really have.

"Casting of the ages" a very Mark Lanegan vocal line leads into the gradual build of this this one. It oozes into droning of smooth sludge, the humor keyboards provide a aural sheen over the molasses rolling under the vocal howl. Their lyrics have always had a veiled reference to hermetic mysticism, but on this song they come across more like Ronnie James Dio and seem a little recycled in their metaphoric imagery. they could have hovered around the bong a little longer before committing them tithe vocal booth or I could have stood to have smoked before listening and the lethargic swagger of this one would have floated me off the couch.

"All is found In time" things beging to get a little proggy, the drums go into the trademark tribal pattern Neurosis is know for before they even out into a straightforward Sabbath type thing. I have kept waiting to be crushed and it never really happens like a "locust star". This song does veer into very " no quarter" territory . I really like when the songs darkens up before getting King Crimson and
leaving you hanging.

"Raise the dawn" has the apocalyptic loom to it and the vocal phrasing Mastodon was imitating before they found there stash of Thin Lizzy albums.the swirl the ong decends into works for me evenif it doesn't really go anywhere.

In power and intensity I suppose it measures up with post "times of grace" material but doesnt rock as much as " Given to the rising" it is overall very middle of the road for these guys, while I understand they have mellowed with age it never goes to any extremes, committing to a more hypnotic drone might have give more challenge to the listener,I have been in debate about how to score this one because even thoughts not as heavy as I need it to be I do give them credit for expanding into some of the more post rock like sounds I hear on this album but the fact it's so Lukewarm dynamically irks me so I'll give this a 7.5 as they set the bar high for themselves and we know what they are capable of but whos to say it won't grow on me. If you don't know any better round it up a point.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Killing Joke : MMXII

One of the most influential bands still making albums today,Killing Joke has has a profound influence on metal and industrial music alike. Most casual metal heads know the, from the cover of "The Wait" Metallica recorded for their garage days e.p.? But bands like Tool, Ministry and Fear Factory ,Iggy as well ,ail the, a percentage of their royalties every month.

With their new album "MmxIi" the band looks forward while retaining the charm of their 80s hey day. This blend makes this one of their smoother listens since "brighter than a thousand suns". While I'm a big fan of their 1994 album " pandemonium" it doesn't pander as much for acceptance by the industrial crowd. Sure this would this still provide the perfect background music to read any Phillip K Dick novel to there isn't the same post apocalyptic feel and to be honest despite its dark gray edges is a pretty up lifting listen.

There are still some very heavy handed Ministry like moments, which reminds me of those late Tony Martin albums that have Alice in Chains production that feels weird to have your influences influencing you,while the chicken of the egg question is clear it's a mirror within a mirror. This however is not a distraction. In fact more often than not its the opposite and almost like "luke i am you father moments" when you here where guys like Justin Broadrick and Helmet barrowed from these guys.

At 52 Jaz Coleman's voice sounds great from the moody croon to the more forceful shouts. Often heavily effected, the delay and chorus are well suited to his style and I think a dry vocal would sound odd on this sort of thing. They are no where near as wet as Al Jourgeson or Orge's and Jaz has a superior set of pipes to either of those singers.

The opener "Pole shift" starts with a spacious and smoothly sung verse that builds into a very 90s industrial feeling chorus, reminds me a little of drummer Paul Ferguson's mid eighties band Warrior Soul. The guitar takes on more of a jangle than a chug thoughit does have more of a metal drive to it on the refrain.

"Fema Camp" takes a darker industrial feel with a "when the levee breaks " like throb.the angry chant leading into the guitar hook is very "filth pig" in delivery, the pulse of the song has an ominous flow to it which makes it a head bobber.

The vocal melody in the verse of "Rapture" instantly takes hold, the chorus is an almost Mortal Combat shout, but the bass propels it along and doesn't give you to contemplate if they took they easy way out on this one so I guess it means it works.

The oddly timed swing to "Colony Collapse" makes it one of my favorite songs on the album. It's followed by the very straight forward drive of "Corporate elect" which barrels into a chorus that reminds me of Motörhead. This simplistic approach this song takes is not one of the albums stronger moments even though I appreciate the vocal line in the verse.

The drum beat of " In Cythera" reminds me of Police imitators Mutemath, the melody on this one is as cheesy as the term is "heart felt" as its empassioned yet introspective. The chorus goes to show where Justin Broadrick got the inspiration for the Jesu melodies.

"Primobile" gets darker and synth heavy, slight Gary Numan feel.the guitar leading I to the chorus does some interesting things to set up a very smoothly sung and cerebral pre chorus building into a more throaty bellow.

The industrial smack of "glitch" is blunt and forceful , though not the albums most original moments, forso e reason the keyboards in the chorus remind me of "no more tears". The album closes another harder driving song " trance" which gives a little more breathing room on the verse and also benefits from a more interesting bass line. The albums pristine production is really highlighted here as the instrumentation is busy but sits well along side one anorexic in the mix.

Similar my qualms with Converge the albums two more straight forward tracks dont do the work as a whole any favor but overall the bulk of the songs are great ,in fact this album feels a lot better to me as far as production and songwriting go that that Convnerge , but the two bands are so different there little comparison.This one will sit in my iPod and with its predecessors. While they are off the Cult , mission u.k tour I'd like to catch them this go around and think a 9 is fair for this one.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

VON : Satanic Blood

Formed in 1987 this San Franciso band should be viewed along side the originators of Black Metal as their style bears more in common with the 2nd wave of black metal than Venom or Bathory. " Satanic Blood" is being called the official release of the album recorded in 1992 before the band broke up. Von has another album which will be their 2nd full length coming out later this month, but since this is the album I got the promo of its what i'm reviewing so there.

This came out the same year as " a blaze in the northern sky" and of course Mayhem had been at this thing for a minute, there are still as with both of those bands traces of death metal, mainly in the vocals which are more gutturally growled than harshly screamed. Heavy on the blasty mcnasty in a time when blasty mcnasty wasn't that common. In my earliest idea of black metal aside from venom, Bathory and merciful fate , I also thought of Impaled Nazerene and Acheron as black metal. Here the sonic element similar to that Darkthrone developed around this time is very present in fact the first four songs lull you into a drone, it wasn't until it slowed down into a doomed intro that I realized I had heard a third of the album.

You can't expect a band like this to be remastering anything thing, so what you hear is what you get and it's a lo fi sound that Varg and the Helvete gang would be proud of and set the standard for the cold grim sound to come. This is beyond raw and is a gaping wound of sound. the cymbals swirl in a manner than sometimes causes you to forget where they begin and the guitars ends. I normally don't like this production style aside from early Darkthrone and even though I love Burzum, i tend to really only listen to the album where it sounds like he is paying attention to what he is doing. the vocals here could have used the most love in the studio as they sound like a dog hacking up a cat. In this case that isn't a bad thing as the dog is rabid so it fits the mood.

The bass hammers on the opening track " Jesus Stain" but loses the attention of my ears a the album, carries on. Of course the separation in the drums is a mute point, the they are pounded like a machine and when the bass churns like a train off the tracks behind them it still gets the point across shitty recording be damned. The second song "devil pig" carries on at a similar speed but the fast paced tremolo picking is a more straightforward blur.

I like the chaos of a song like "release" but it only does one thing, but Von proves they are more than capable songwriters on " Veadtuck" , but the majority of the album relies on a more one dimensional rapid fire approach, the songs begin to take on a very similar feel, I get the feeling I like the one song they keep rewriting and I feel the songs require a closer examination as I feel weird when I think this came out of America in the late eighties.

The bulk of these blitzes are under two minutes. The barking takes on chant like qualities and lyrical content obscured by their delivery based on the facts that Watain holds these guys in such high regard and the church of Satan is based out of San Franciso that these guys might be legit in their attempts to bring the darkness. Though Metallica hails from their so this jump in the fire could be a farce as well, but they seem more earnest in this pursuit. The fact the blink and it's gone element to the songs add to the difficulty of differentiating some of the songs like I know their is a solo I "Vennt" but that doesn't keep "evisc" from sounding like it is an extension of that song. The riff to " Goat Christ" is such a difference it almost fall into this pattern though the vocal variation of gagging bark that sounds like its from Deicide's Amon demos, help to set it apart. " dissection inhuman starts in a similar fashion but melts into a weird ambiance almost like the intro to the song "hell awaits".

"challice of blood" starts of strong with eerie ambiance of a second guitar haunting the chapel in the background and effected vocals which sound like the voices that called to Carol Ann in "Poltergeist" and though this song doesn't stray to much forth thematic tempo it feels different enough to stand on its own. There is a solo of sorts and when I say solo in reference to this band they make Kerry King seem like Marty Freidman. The solos are only for a chaotic texture.

On the song " blood Von " the band shows more dynamics in the jarring punches and the stacatto barked section is a needed shift in delivery to offer a degree of variance. "backskin" fakes it intro like its going somewhere else for a second and en charges full speed ahead like the others. The song " Watain" is similar but lacks the higher solo like guitar that added ambiance to the previous track. It also features a vocal bark that is not as interesting as well. "lamb" does a similar rhythmic dynamic " blood Von" had a little more sonic froma production end with swirling effects accenting it. The title track bring back the motto blast now and ask questions later.

So in scoring this I'll give the album a 6 despite the fact they are a one trick pony the trick blends the albu into one drone of a song with moments where look up from what I'm doing to take notice, the production value of the time didn't due it any favors even it it did set the cvlt standard. I look forward to their new album coming out later this month an reverently plan to keep this in my iPod til it's release.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Converge: All We Love We Leave Behind

I've been a big fan of Converge since I jumped on board with them for their third album the 1998 release " When forever comes crashing". Over the years Converge has evolved often complimenting my growing ears and always staying relevant. On "Axe to Fall" we weren't gelled with one another and it was the first time I didn't like one of their albums upon the initial listen. Later, when I went back and made it through the first few tracks which I found a little too busy with guitar acrobatics cluttering up the recklessly fast pace, I enjoyed it. "All we love we leave behind" finds us back in step with one another, though you know how I don't play favorites so the magnifying glass is out as I sit down for my third listen, and I doubt I'll be listening to much of anything else today.

They bringing all the various element which normally comprise the dynamic range of their sound. The abrasive hardcore to the darker creepy melodies. The busy guitar hero tricks of "axe to fall" return at at times but are more tastefully executed. Having survived the whole metal core flood of the MySpace days Converge is really one of the only bands of their ilk who have stood the test of time...while retaining their sense of identity , which is where they peers like Cave-in and Thrice fell short.

A lot people know Old Mastadon for the spastic hardcore moments well here is where they came from sure you can list all the hip Brooklyn vegan flavors of week and they all owe Converge a debt of gratitude. So we can bow at their altar all day and I'll never get this album scored and review finished so let's give this the old track by track exam and see how it holds up under scrutiny.

The opener "Aimless arrow" is quick and jerky with Jacob Bannon using an intelligible more punk inflected vocal rather than his rabid dog barking. This one punches in as smart flurry and is an interesting choice to open things up with.

The following two tracks are more the straight ahead fast hard core style, "trespasses" hammers in with a Slayer like relentlessness , superb drumming keeps the song from just becoming a blur of movement and some clever almost rock n roll guitar. "Tender abuse" is more punk in feel as it has a sloppier assault until it slows in the final thirty seconds.

The bluesy intro to "Sadness comes home" had me wondering if they had toured with the Mastodudes one many times, this is one of the more "axe to fall" flavored tracks but a prime example of a more mature approach to some of the busy guitar runs which cluttered that album. By this point in Brannon is back to the scalded dog howls, until a dark muttering shows up on the song " empty on the inside" which starts with a powerful stomp, it almost seemed like the b section to the previous song and breaks down into more of a march pattern.

"Sparrows fall" is a minute and a half of straight ahead assault , while I can appreciate it for what it is I think the first few songs have already touched on this and Converge has already been here and done this, to the point is its fairly generic for them. " a Glacial place" offsets the outburst of the previous song as it darkens things up. Songs like this are my favorite thing about Converge, as they approach different angles of getting to the heavy parts, the double bass on this one will make any death metal drummer envious, ok maybe not Pete the feet, but it's pretty bad ass if we are going to use high school vocabulary.

"vicious muse" is another example of how Converge can craft smart hard core with our going into the more grind Core blam, blam, blam, ...which seems pointless when they are capable of writing songs like this. Punching in all the right places with a hint of old school gang vocals. "veils and veins" goes back to the very straight forward punk snare and the dog barking vocals.

"Coral blue" we go back to the dark and brooding side. Bannon gets close to almost really singing, I always enjoy these attempts because he is a fellow Morrissey fanatic so attribute this to his inspiration for the empassioned release. I also giggle when I think of him bum rushing the stage to give Moz flowers or a hug. There kind of a mike Patton vibe , like Tomahawk era to the vocals.

"shame in the way" is another short and sweet burst of aggression but I like this one better because it's more metal influenced than punk, and I suppose through out the years I tend to fast forward some of their more obnoxious punk influenced moments, as Discharge, Black Flag and Dead Kennedys aside I generally disdain most punk. With Converge the Discharge and Black Flag influence has alreadys colored the corners which I'm fine with, I'm even o.k with the winks of Minor Threat, who I also like I just haven't found any of their stuff that has transferred over to digital quality for my iPod very well, though may e I'll give it another search this weekend, and I doubt Converge will mind giving some time in their review to discuss such.

Speaking of Morrissey earlier "Precipice" reminds me of this albums , "there is a light that never goes out" lingering guitar that unlike the Smiths song is more of an interlude to the title track than a real stand alone song. The title track track has a nice build into the speedier section and the aggression is a good dynamic rather than the only color painting the song.

"predatory glow" closes things with a bulldozing chug that would have felt at home on"you fail me." I would say as a whole this album uses a lot of the same colors and sounds from "Jane doe" forward. Unless we are talking about what not sounds to be the juvenile outbursts of punk , this is not a bad thing as it remembers while walking forward as song writers, they don't need to reinvent their identity. So if I leave my fan boy at home and weigh the few sideways lapses with the continued growth in songwriting then I would give this album and 8.5 but will round it up to a 9 as the moments of greatness they do nail sit well next to their more classic output and despite my best attempts at being impartial this is my fucking blog and I can round up their score just on the basis of I like the sound of Converge being uncompromisingly themselves.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Evoken : Atra Mors

I love funeral doom might be my second favorite metal sub-genre after insert you adjective in front of black metal. I find funeral doom to be the perfect nap time music so I might take me a while to get through this before those molasses sweet chords hit me like narcolepsy. While they have been letting the flated fith ring since 1994, This new jersey band has the bar set high for them as Mournful Congregation has almost played every note worth playing in this realm and have weeded more morose power into every note than most bands can comprehend, what they didnt cover Esoteric and Loss have handled. Sure a band like Loss has expressed their adoration of Evoken, but they have brought fresh flowers to the funeral where Evoken has shown up to the wake with the same distortion pedals they were using in 1996.

What Evoken brings to the table sometimes falls closer to death metal if Obituary got really depressed and drove their tour bus into the ocean their ghosts might make music like this. The first song alone makes ample use of keyboards and varied shades of down trodden. It's not until the second song do I hear them really being able to capture the morose mannerisms of someone like Loss. There is something about what is going on that leaves the impression this is less introspective than Loss and there is more testosterone lurking under the murky waters of the jersey shore. This lessened glance inward slightly impedes their ability to craft the same sort of melodies their more cerebral peers weave. Evoken compensates for this by bringing a heavier loud dynamic which raises the death metal comparisons .

You might stop and ask why am I so bent on holding them up to be measured against others in this genre, and the answer is when I listen to music I ask what does this band have that is unique to all the others bands in my collection? If I can't answer that then what is the point have having albums by twelve different bands trying to sound like Candlemass , when I can just listen to the real deal? Or in Evoken's case Disembowlment.

If you like listening to varied versions of the same thing then , invest in some funeral doom and go slit your wrists Becuase it seems like a narrowed mind is one of the better places to start thinning the herd, not that glue sniffing isn't going to get you sooner or later.

By the time we are at the albums mid point " grim eloquence" the jury is still out in regards to this band, the first song grabbed me and the albums grip loosened from their. The dirge pace is plodding its way along but this song seems to rely on spacey sounds rather than having a clear direction to whose grave we are marching , not very eloquent.

Their clean guitar tones don't stray very far the normal range of metal guitar tones where the other bands I have mentioned tend to experiment more with sonic textures. It's safe to say these guys have to modes of operation the doody side and then escalating into a Disma like death sludge. They never build momentum exceeding what Obituary would consider mid tempo. If I had to wager I would imagine collectively the band listens to very little music out side of the realms of metal , where I know for a fact members of Loss listen to stuff like the cure and Christian death which give them a wider base of influences to pull from.

The closing number " into aphotic devastation" captures the gloomy ambiance I need from my Funeral doom right at the beginning. Their are paused sections of effected cleaner tone guitar and keyboards to break things up. Truth be told I think the keyboardist could have done a little more on this one some minor key melodies sliding around the guitar passages could work Becuase their is enough space for them at the general pace of the album lets chords ring out. The vocals don't step over everything even though they are a low death growl delivered with more power than the average funeral doom gurgle .

The big picture on this one is a mixed bag, mainly due to tunnel vision whe it comes to the places they draw from and if they took inspiration froma wider palate it would open their sound up more, but they tend to want to return to the sludgy death metal which might be where they feel most comfortable going. The opening and closing numbers I can say are solid start to finish, the two interludes pieces I'm not even counting as songs as they will be the first to be purged from the iPod. Overall I think even though the are death metal band flirting with funeral doom they keep and good balance of dynamics and it's an album ive enjoyed the repeat listens trying to figure out how to score this and where they fall and I think this one will keep growing on my as even "grim eloquence" starts to warm up to my ears, sure there are things Mournful Congregation might have done different or better but Evoken does the whole death metal thing better than most bands this side of Disma so I'll go ahead and give this album an 8 even if the test of time doesn't do it well it would only drop a point, as it well preformed and takes chances most doom death bands don't .

Therion : Les Fleurs Du Mal

It's safe to say if you are waiting around for something really brutal to happen on aTherion album then you haven't been around for sometime. Where their last album " Sitra Ahra " wasan outlandish occultic caberet, their newest effort, is less Andrew Loyd Weber and shoots for Puccini . It's too romancitc and delicate at times for the more metal comparisons of say Wagner. the emphasis is more on the symphonic than the metal though the songs are more concise and plentiful with sixteen tracks .though the first three sound all like one song to me though,give me a another listen and I'll get back to you on that.

I really dig the sultry turn the female vocals take on the song " initials b.b " the song has more swagger to it than you would expect Swedes to be capable of.  The bulk of this is duets some stellar bass playing. The guitar on this does remind me a little of  " dr feelgood " .  The song pretty much sticks to one groove and a lot of the keyboard. Parts reming me of the opening theme to " Game of thrones".

Winter is not coming so soon, as they back off for some moonlight contemplation. The female vocals draw Nightwish comparisons and not unlike the last album it's in the same territory of metal though mostly darker and if I say goth its frilly shirt Theater of  Trajedy variety not Sisters of Mercy flavored

"Polichinelle" is  more operatic, though it has the slight feel of Sigh , when the solos parade in, this song has a "fiddler on the roof" feel as it stil has movement rather than being an aria for the sake yodeling.

While they are not going to be everyone's cup of  tea, the operatic female vocals sound very genuine and do what they do better than even Tarja Turunen's pseudo diva warbles. How many time have you read in reviews that some one is a trained opera singer ? Just Becuase your voice teacher has you sing out of one of those fifty Italian songs for the female voice doesn't mean you are trained to sing opera. The catch here is even her best dramatic soprano begins to make her parts all sound the same.

I miss Snowy Shaws  vocals even if he was only on one Dimmu album, he has a quirkiness to his tone which negates the power metal cheese leaning.  He could have really off set this album and I don't feel he is being utilized enough here.

The guitar work on the last album was more interesting, the solos had colors of their own to add to the musical land scape being laid out. Here it seems obligatory much like Transiberian Orchestra where it's almost like they are trying to say.

" oh yeah , did I mention we are also a Rock band, so don't let that other Yanni non sense fool ya"

After repeat listens the song " Mon amour, mon ami" grows on me as it is dark enough where a lot of these other arias are a little too much like one of Sarah Brightman's albums where she is pretending to be an opera singer because she was in a musical about one. Metal with classical aspirations can be done effectively as long as the band is not apologetic about being a metal band, Therion's problem is they try to hide this fact,allowing strings to take a more dominate role than what is most effective. So it end sup being mediocre classical music with guitars doubling what a bass section would be doing. The guitars are often too low in the mix which clues me into the albums guilty conscience. At their most present the stay on a night wish chug never building up to the needed gallop.

"dis moi poupee" starts with goth affected vocals ans then waltzes off into middle of the road opera territory. The guitar solo is rather decent in this one, but the build swell of the chorus chiming in distracts from the rest of the song.

With a song entitled "Lilith" I wold have expected something a little darker, which is a reoccurring theme with this album. Theres some nice bass playing on it and the chorus of layered vocals is not as intrusive here.

"en Alabama" gets off to a good start but the male vocals cock block the chorus. The song has a good slink to it otherwise but it's almost like a lacuna coil thing where the males vocals come in and spray a canister of hard on begone.

Snowy Shaw's thunder get stolen after he delivers a Ripper Owens quality yodel, things get happy and feel like they devolve into a Blind Guardian song. If you think that's a good thing you don't know that I view that flavor of power metal as randy eld music, and elves are way less metal than dwarves or even hobbits.

The arias keep coming with more divas than devils at this party is a misstep, by the last two songs I begin to think this might have been better branded under a different name. When a gallop does resurface it lacks any real drive, perhaps this is a production mistake? Granted this was one I was surprised to see had come out so it's not like my expectations were very high or it is an album I eagerly anticipated, so I'm pretty objective here and in fact trying to make allowances for what they they are trying to do. I will go ahead and give this one a 4 , if you like flowery power metal that is more Sarah Brightman than Manowar you might even add a point, not sure how Therion fans will react to this offering as metal is less of a color than the powdered wig feel to the majority of the album.

n the last album.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Review Revisited - Wizard Smoke: the Tickler

Disclaimer - this review was edited as per request of the band who felt it held an intensely personal angle taken towards their members, motivations and supporters. They also felt it to be insulting and nothing to do with the musical material in question" So to prevent delicate feelings from being further hurt,let it go on record that unless you are one of my all time favorite bands ever, I have no feelings one way or the other about you. Thoughts on your music... sure, But I have much more important things to occupy my mental space with after the 20 to 45 minutes I gave to review your album. Ok sometimes even less, but before you let your corpse paint run it means that I already was listening to it a lot in the car or at the gym, so have a solid notion of what I like about it. Other than that you are either enriching my iPod or taking up space on it.

 the review was originally published October 1st , so it tool the band a year to contact me directly, after they had spent time crying about it on various forums. So if you are a band aching about a review, feel free to contact me and depending on my mood and level of caffenation, I may or may not tell you to fuck off and that this is my blog so I'll write whatever I want, since Freedom of speech makes those allowances. However Dan of Wizard Smoke was polite and courteous , so I was more willing to work with him on this. Though I told him this and it goes for other bands. If your singer seeks to represent a brand he represents (your band is a brand you are selling) by portraying himself as a jack as in public media, its a hard image to shake when listening to the music. Just like it was hard to take solo Ozzy seriously when he was acting like a fool on reality t.v. I had more  emotional investment at that time than I do with your band, which is none. I'm likely apathetic about every thing else about your music. The golden rule when allowing your band to be represented with a level of frivolity or in any manner is to grow thicker skin. Now that we have those ground rules out of the way here's the review, which since it was originally written the band has since gone on hiatus and played what was announced to be their last show.

This two song release by Atlanta's Wizard Smoke is roughly clocks in at twenty mins.  They were the last of the sludge band wagon, as sound of slow southern steel grinds to a halt with death metal and thrash returning to prominence like in the late 90s.

The first song "Christian cross" is typical for the bands sound , though when I heard the song "weakling" I almost got a dsbm feel from the agonized nature of the vocals ,t here they are pretty run of the mill and indecipherable. Though on this track the guitars are the focal point and fortunately the most interesting element. By the eight minute mark the song implodes into generic sludge. I like the accented hits which ring out, because  even if these guys aren't fans it's a reminder of what an influence Swans have had on this genre.  After a revealing last interview, its fair to assume when the joke is up they are nominal metal heads at best,  one of the guitarists  owns a Preist album, other wise the rest of the band falls in line with whatever soundtrack the East Atlanta indie rock dictates, which when left to social trends migrates to shows the hipster sect as deemed the place to party. While in the local metal community the band got  flack for the non-metal elements,  those were actually the bands stronger qualities.

The synths don't add much, the keyboardist holds a chord here and their never utilizing single note melodies, so no Deep Purple here. The most talented member sounds to be the bassist whose embelishments add offer variance and leave room for The guitars more melodic single note ascending patterns that are the more powerful moments r. I'm not sure how they are earning the psychedelic label as there is nothing really Trippy or etheric going on its pretty a typical sludge, with a few winks to noisy post punk.

Old snake... Feels more like Clutch or late eighties Corrosion of Conformity, the singer makes an attempt to sing in a throw back blues style and his throaty bellow, sounds like a mimicry of Clutch lacking in any personality of its own. They do get credit for not defaulting into a total southern rock thing. At a minute and 15 seconds into it when the guitar wanders out  from under him, you see how little thought was given to  melody here. On the second verse when the vocals are doubled in a wise production choice, though the lack of harmony sounds like a drunken bar sing along.

I do like the transitional break down at the seven minute mark, but cool riffs do not automatically equate solid songwriting is the mantra here .  The solos are very simple and text book blues rock but add to this song, even if these guys are in now way shape or form shredders of any caliber .

I'd say if you are a fan of this sort of thing it's worth a listen , it didn't have any staying power  in my iPod , t theres not much of this kind of thing in my collection aside from Naam, who employs a wider scope of melody. e. So the collection of little cool parts lands them a 4 in my book, call it a 5 if you aren't in Atlanta and had the displeasure of being exposed to some of the distracting exposure in the local media the singer has received.

Ithe whole sludge thing had its fifteen minutes called last year and bands like Royal Thunder who come from a similar demographic moved on to the retro vest metal crowd. Halcrow doesn't have the pipes to carry them into a more melodic direction as  demonstrated here, But buy them a Pbr for giving it the good ole collage kid try.