Friday, May 31, 2013

Blood Ceremony: " the Eldritch Dark"

This Canadian band got lost from me during the deluge of "Vest metal" or " Occult rock" bands that flooded me two summers ago, when bands sailed in on the currents behind the Devil's Blood, you know Christian Mistress, Royal Thunder, Huntress, Witch Mountain. Orange amps and a female singer was all it seemed to take to be occult if you had some cryptic lyrics which eluded to the devil.

Blood Ceremony was most hippie of them and reminded me of  the Decemberists' Hazards of Love album when I first heard them, it wasn't bad but didn't stand the test of time which speaks for it'self. There newest release however shows sizable growth and not just of their beards. They have certainly done their research and dug up Deep Purple and Uriah Heap albums for inspiration. The albums vintage production helps foster this setting and they have captured some incredible and extremely authentic organ sounds. "Witchwood" opens the album with a 70's rock boogie, very blues influenced. The only thing that forces you to suspend your disbelief is Alia O'brian's vocals , where voice sounds young and lacks power but doesn't do the songs a disservice and certainly keeps them from sounding like an attempt to recreate the sound of dinosaurs. Her ability as an organist and flutist supersedes her singing ability. Some of the melodies on the opener remind me a little of the song "Black Mass" by Electric Wizard.

They mellow slightly on "Goodbye Gemini"  where the flute leads in , then the song takes on a Devil's Blood like stomp, breaking up with the flute solos that shockingly don't over Jethro Tull things like you would assume them to. " Lord Summerisle" which features male vocals that harmonize with Alia make this song too much of a tribute to Emerson Lake and Palmer's "Lucky Man" which I see as one of the low points of 70's prog in it's Moody Blues leanings and this song makes similar tonal mistakes, but then a gain I'm not a hippie and I no longer smoke pot so maybe its just me .

The syncopation on the verses have a bluesy White Stripes like swagger, but actually do more for me than any thing I have heard by Jack White whose personality obscures any any interest I attempt to have in his music. The Title track opens with a very Deep Purple organ line , then goes into the first riff that would come come close to meeting a more modern definition of metal. This is broken up by flute solos and has more stoner groove to it to be any flavor of doom.

On songs like this her voice takes on a sharper tone and fits better in this register when it's youthfulness doesn't betray the picture the band is trying to paint. Once again this is balanced out as she pulls the bands weight when it comes to musical virtuosity as all the solos are pretty much handled by the flute or the organ, Not that band is comprised of slouches by any means when they veer into the more jammy sections of songs.

"Drawning Down the Room" shows she really needto focus on the more alto end of her range as the more sultry melodies to this one compliment the accompanying orchestration. The riff which comes in at the three minute mark after the organ  solo has more balls to it than the majority riffs whihc stay pretty close to cannibas inspired Seventies grooves. The instrumental "Faunus" is well played but not entirely needed.

"The Magician"  end the albums on a slightly darker note but nowhere near as dark as the Devil's Blood's swan song released earlier this , They do match the Devils Blood in the authenticity of the era which their are invoking though their chops aren't in the same zip code as the Devil's Blood, yet this album is a great improvement from their previous work and places Alia as the worthy heir to be crowned queen of occult rock as her bands postiions themselves to be a suitable replacement to the Devils Blood.


Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hate Meditation : "Scars"

Not to be confused with the band from Finland this is Blake Judd's newest effort during his current  break from Nachtmystium. Fans of Nachtmystium's early work will be particularly pleased with this release as it is a return to raw more cvltish black metal, this is not to say all elements of experimentation are up in smoke with the rest of the burning church or that is color by numbers black metal.  The band on this album is Wrest on Bass , Job Bos of Dark Fortress on synth and Sam Shroyer of Vitandus drumming. Familiar faces though not a super group the likes of Twilight.

"The Deceiver and the Believer" starts things off in cascadian flourish of fury, yet their is a constant current  of ambient drone, for me this plays as one of the albums big strengths as I think its as important to be as heavy sonically as you are heavy as in metal, because with out the sonic factor it leaves the door open for the seas of cheese to flow in.

"Impure Rage" has the feel of old Immortal, Judd uses one of the more evil croaks I have heard in some time and that is saying something considering the amount of black metal I listen to. The  lyrics are more decipherable here and sound like a cheering section for a suicide. Their as some subtle melodies layered in the fray which take a few listens to pick up making this one grow on me, as on first listen I thought this song to be a one trick pony.

"End Times" stays the chorus with the blasty mcnasty, but the drums are buried in the mix. The croak is just as depraved, I like the line in " chemical decay I wither away" its a very stark narrative through the entire album and moments like the chords which ring out in what I suppose is the chorus has an almost depressive suicidal feel. In interviews I have read with Judd he has said he felt burnt out with metal and recently became a fan again so this album displays that and from other things I have read points to depressive suicidal black metal  getting him back into metal, which makes sense due to it's morose melodic layers.

"The Genocide March"  goes into a nice swaying verse riff  before resorting to a much more straight forward attack which reminds me a little of Nachtmystium. What becomes the chorus carry more punch in dropping back into a half time waltz and carries a creepy melody. The lyrics fuel the fires of Nachtmystium's Nazi allegations, but are no more incendiary than what Slayer has been writing for years, though they could be directed at Christians or the general populous of sheeple.

"Wrath and Revenge" is a very straight forward wave of blasts in your face, but the fact it is so straight forward causes the scathing elements to lose some of their bite after it drags on relying on the only dynamic until the last minute when it slows into a groove. The title track is more than likely my favorite as it borders on being shoe gaze it's so hypnotic but it doesn't force some fairy balladry on you like Alcest in the process. It revels in it's sluggish darkness and wanders off into some interesting places, i think all the transitions work pretty perfect and this is the most flawless moment on the album.

I under stand the reason the production value on this is muddy and comes nowhere close to sounding as good as any of the last three Nachtmystium albums but some times it plays to the albums favor sometimes not so much I think this is more of a passion project so budget restriction might have played in to this or they could have made a more conscious choice to want to get the old Burzum sound. I'll give this album an 8.5 though by the time the year ends it might have grown on me, if you are a fan of raw black metal go ahead and round this up  to a 9 as chances are rough recordings and straight forward song song structures are you thing.

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Sunday, May 26, 2013

the Weekly Shuffle

You know the drill, I click shuffle on the  old  ipod classic and review the first ten songs.

"Atrocity Exhibition" By -Joy Division, ...Off to a good start not one of the most popular songs put it certainly is one of my favorites , I like the tribal feel and how the guitar is just real noisy in the background. I love the lyrics to this one as well some of Ian's better work. "This is the way ... this is the way step inside..."

"Blood and Honey" by -Swans,...Generally I like their mid period stuff the best though the very hypnotic nature of this one is pretty chilling. Jarboe does what she does, and this is an overlooked goth classic. It has all theelements of darkness you would need. Where is my black Swans shirt I bgin to wonder midway through this one. Its a clear cut case of you don't haveto be metal to be heavy here.

"Eyes of the Insane" by Slayer,...Speaking of metal, this isn't one of their better albums but this song works. The drums are pretty insane and they are creating a different vibe from the normal way things have been after "Divine Intervention" though this one has more of a "Seasons in the Abyss" feel to it especially in the riff that comes in before the solos start.

"Watain" by Von,...Yes, the very song they got the name from, I don't think its the bands best work, I think will I appreciate what they do sometimes the application of it gets muddy in the cvlt production, before it was cvlt and just shitty. The dog is angry and it barks , coughing up demons is what it sounds like, the guitar is chaos.

"Departure" by Ihsahn,...This album continues to grow on me so that says something about it, I like the faint sax in the back ground and the work he does here is way more impressive than what he does in Shining. The main riff is pretty mean. If sounds like his growl is making him sick to his stomach, but it is such a good one drenched in King Diamond's influence. The  lounge jazz interlude is very Devin Townsend of him but it works for this song.

"Artic Swarm" by Immortal,...A mean album the riffs have alot of teeth and make you feel like you should be fighting frost giants from the back on a snow eagle. The drums pretty much rule the country side, the riff on this one is a little more straightforward for them but its still a powerful song. The break in the last two mintues is where the gold is hidden.

"Gather For the Attack on the Pearly Gates" by Darkthrone,...Really I think due to the muddy production on this one and the very straight forward blasty manner on this one it's more than likely my least favorite song on the "Total Death" album, it doesn't suck but it's not their better moments , the ambiance of the drone they acheived on earlier stuff is kinda lost here, this is a precursor to the transistion they are about to make.

"I Took a Trip on  a Gemini Spaceship" by David Bowie, ... the Heathen album took sometime to grow on me, it didn't as a whole really grab me when it came out , I think I wanted something with the same impact of  " Earthling" but Bowie of course goes where he wants to go . The drums on this just aren't as interesting and its somewhat middle of the road nineties rock.

"Heaven in her Arms" by Converge,...This one is equal parts angular and powerful in a way most bands only reach for. The guitar tone on the "Jane Doe" album is crushing. The riff that surfaces in the last minute and fifteen seconds is not just one of the most crushing riffs to appear on one of this bands album but to appear on any metal album period .

"Anthem" by Rush...Without a doubt a classic, influenced many metal bands and no one is every going to deny the musical genius of these guys, sure there are hipster scumbags who won't want to fess up to it but there is no doubt about it and this way during the time period where they came the closest to being an actual metal band.


Friday, May 24, 2013

Dark Tranquillity: "Construct"

Going into this I was still under the impression these guys were still Swedish Death Metal , which means lots of harmony guitar parts and thrash influence like  At the Gates or it could also be more crusty like Entombed or Dissection influenced with a little blackend thrown in but instead we get KillSwtich Engage like mall metal. It well produced and effectivly executed though a little slack in the song writing department. Apparently this is what happens even to metal bands who sell their souls  tyring to break into America.

I have seen a  couple of videos here and there and heard two albums at most in passing none of which I own as I generally have regarded them as being pretty bland.  Fans of the band will cite their metal pedigree as the band once held In Flames vocalist and the two guitarists use to play for Hammerfall and the Keyboardist was once in Tiamat, but aside from the traces of power metal in a few riffs In Flames is band they share the most common ground with.

The opener almost has a Katatonia vibe that would be more noticable if it wasn't for the one dimensional growl of their singer, who employs clean vocals much more on this album than past releases. Their is the hardcore stacatto chug of a Killswitch thrown in for good measure. Is there a coat of cheese on this ...sure but the song is well crafted , while I an adverse reaction to it, almost nothing on this album really strikes me as heavy. It would be heavy for Katatonia maybe though "Forsaker" is heaveir than anything on here.

"The Science of Noise" has one of the straightforward beats to it that I don't like before it Katatonia Switch Engage on us , the In Flames like guitar sort of appears here but it pretty cut and dry with the harmony parts as bridges. The blandness I think of them for is actualized here.  The moody "Uniformity"  works off the Katatonia vibe, though the are going for more the stadium metal epics here, so I can hear a little Arch Enemy , though it goes back to the Gothenberg sound  that Arch Enenmy despite being Brits try to emmulate, though the vocal melody here is very Killswitch with a little less dramatic emphasis. The lyrics must have been dumbed down for commercial appeal because I can't imagine grown men would write lyrics like this .

"The Silence in Between" is pretty middle of the road metal and that's my beef with these guys is that metal is not supposed to be middle of the road about anything. Yet there's no sense of darkness , anger or violence in this its prefomed well but sterile. "Apathetic" takes on more of a thrash feel, it sounds like recycled 3 inches of Blood riffs who are recycling riffs from the eighties there is a melodic moment and some effects on the vocals which help vary the sound.

The clean vocal on "What Only You Know" is at least hookier than most of the songs on the new Alice in Chains I just reviewed . It's over articulated more like Opeth. The mall metal quota is reach in the keyboard riff  to this one alone. The guitar phrashing on the verse is very Killswitch as well, as you can see it's pretty much a color by numbers with nothing making this their distinct sound, were they doing this first , sure but there is a conscious effort to indentify with other artist who are somewhat at least more succeful with American crowd, I suppose Katatonia it could be debated .

There's a very simplistic guitar leading intoi "End Time Hearts" the vocals by this point have bored the hell out of me this album is now a test of endurence.  Some of  the guitar melodies on this remind me of J-pop, it's way to happy to be death metal. The clean vocal takes on more of  a H.I.M like tone on  "State of Trust" every thing not only drops out on the verse but the production does as well, the clean recording quality of this makes the guitars very thing, one of the factors keeping this record from feeling heavy. God there's even a Linkin Park styled breakdown , the pop kin not the rap kind at the end.

The  are are always clues to let you know the amount of creative depth that went into making something like this things like the lack of thought provoking song titles , doesn't even prepare you for the riff that sounds like Disturbed's "Striken" on "Weight of the World". The closer "None Becoming" is a little weighed down by the Keyboards but the sense of melody is more impressive than the majority of  the album. They seem almost more comfortable in the Katatonia zone on this album.

I'll give this one a 4 , they are trying but seem out of touch with themselves here and grabbing for straws on a sinking ship, they should have taken a page from Slayer's book and stuck to their guns and made music true to themselves rather than this, but the potential for melody is there, I think if this was a more foucsed effort it could have been more realized.  


Alice in Chains : "The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here"

I was pleasantly surprised with their comeback album " Black Gives Way to Blue" and while I gave it  repeated spins when it was released, it hasn't really stood the test of time for me like the bands more classic material. The Layne Staley fill-in was hidden behind layers of Cantrell's vocals so he never really came out from behind the curtain. Well the band has grown  more comfortable with him and allow you to see more of him, though Cantrell still thinks he's fooling you with his multilayered vocals surrounding him. This causes one of the albums main problems which is the vocals are often overpowering the guitar in the mix like a pop album.

As far as the songs go, when Layne died it was easy to put the band up on a pedestal and overlook the fact that their 1995 self titled album was pretty lackluster follow up to "Dirt"  in fact if I go back and listen to it only half  the songs are woth a Damn that river. This album follow that tradition.

The single "Hollow" cranks things off, sure it's low tuned and half way decent , but compare to their other songs it sounds like a throw way for a Last Action Hero type soundtrack, The chorus is where the song really fails to do anything for me, but the sound is there it's just crafted around a lazy structure. They follow it up with more lazy songwriting in "Pretty Done" the guitar sound is there underneath the vocal layers, which if they are going to be in the forefront should at least be doing something interesting. Even Cantrell's color by numbers solo is buried in the mix.

"Stone" is the first song that gets my attention and sounds like the band gave half a fuck when they wrote it. Grunge has become radio rock so what might have passed as metal in the nineties is now classic rock. To their credit the melody weaves around the guitar and the lyrics aren't as silly as some of the cliche ridden things sung on this. The drive on this song is believable even if the bass heavy mix doesn't do it any favors .

"Voices"  is a step or two ahead of Days of the New, but it should be considering the influence they have on the band, on the first verse I think there is a chance I could like this song until the pop country sounding chorus comes in. The title track has a creepy element to it I like and when Duvall's voice tries to creep out of the shadows it's so effects laden you can't tell. Still the effect works for this song. Though this song does wander off like the dinosaurs into a tar pit and get muddy in it's direction though there are more good ideas jumbled together here than not.

"Lab Monkey" the lyrics try to have the Layne Staley junky appeal but come off as cheesy, they have sung about drugs in a much more believable fashion before. The choruses are once again this songs weak point and the hooks seemed to elude their writing process this go around. "Low Ceiling" is really straightforward like something one of the radio imitators like Five Finger Death Punch would have written, sadly its almost more catchy that some of the better plotted songs.

The snooze fest continues with "Breath on a Window" like the previous song , this one is a little too happy. The chorus is another pointless misstep as the crafting of any kind of interesting melody seems a fleeting commodity.  Then there are songs Like "Scalpel" that seems like the band has their sound on map qwest but keep stumbling into the Temple of the Dog album.

The only song that resembles metal is "Phantom Limb" the band finds themselves on this one , it has almost mid-tempo Slayer groove to it, Well Tom Ayraya does the little spoken word thing on "Dirt" so they are fans, though when the layered vocals come in it sounds more like a ambitious version of Godsmack , but it's better than most of the other songs on here. Less heavy the "Hung on a Hook" has a " Down in A Hole " feel to it, the chorus isn't this songs strong point but the hazy swagger it holds balances this out more. " Choke" is a ballad and once upon a time Alice In Chains wrote some pretty good power ballads , this one doesn't have a lot of power but the melody is one of the album's best.

Well You didn't think they could keep the winning streak forever, if you are a hard core fan you might give this another point I'm saying  a 6 is being generous , I'm not their biggest fan but I have a tremendous respect for the band they used to be.      


Deafheaven : "Sunbather"

The opening track and first single "Dream House" is a fitting name  if the house is on fire, in it's ascent to the cosmos. The blasty mc nasty has a more jazz like sheen to it rather than feeling like you are being hammered by it, in some ways this dulls the numbing drone which most black metal creates. The first four minutes blast along like fast Mogwai, then the tempo shifts like a meaner Explosions in the Sky. Yes, I am not referencing black metal bands here because this is by and large not a black metal album, though we can now think of it as they were influenced at one time by black metal and the shadows of those influences lay beneath what is largely a very radiant sound. Though if I was going to draw comparisons to any black metal band it would be one who has undergone a similar transition An Autumn For Crippled Children, it is very similar in feel to their last album if you need a point of reference.

"Irresistible"  is more like a piano outro for "Dream House" than a song unto it'self.  The title track that follows begins in a sonic drone that flows into a post-rock cascade that crashes into the punch of the drums. The screamed vocals are a static layer against the sheen of the guitars. The songs have a more dramatic ebb and flow than on "Roads to Judah" . Midway into "Sunbather" the blasties come in but only with the aggressive approach for a minute before the melody of the guitars offsets it and catches it up into the dreamy tempest.The blasts sneer back to life with more teeth to it and the drumming gets pretty impressive when it builds out of this to drop it back down and build it back up again. I'm not sure if its the production which is so clean of this or not but it doesn't come across as heavy as their previous album. The shoegazing comes in at the last two minutes, coupled withe jangle of the clean guitar which has a more Smiths like purity to its tone.

"Please Remember" feels like a  part from a Swans album but when the clean guitar strums its way in where Micheal Gira would normally sing to make it an actual song it instead like the other song I think of as an outro is more of an intro to " Vertigo". This song starts of with ghostly guitar and a darker tone. Sure its very Mogwai but the first three minutes of this album is some of favorite guitar work on the album . Even as it builds into a more intense My Bloody Valentine like drone, it stays dark and dissonant until the very metal solo comes in over it. The blast at the five minute mark here is more convincingly black metal in feel. At fourteen and a half minutes this songs ebbs and flows like the others so it does build up substantial momentum leading  into the final four minutes and is the most metal song of album and I get what I wanted earlier in the album which was to hear the harsh vocal provide a counter balance to the clean dreamy guitar. In doing so this makes the vocals sound more tormented and creates a feel similar to what the depressive suicidal wave of black metal bands did.

"The Pecan Tree"  blasts from the beginning, then a minute goes into a weird trippy My Bloody Valentine syncopated part where the drums hold it together, before it attacks again. It steadies fora few seconds into a gallop and takes off again. It keeps at this pace for the first four minutes and then floats off with the drums doing some rather interesting things underneath this. Another Explosions in the Sky comparison could be drawn here as the guitar twinkles like a star. The drummer also shines up in the sky, it's really highlighted on this song where some of his most innovative playing takes place. A sample fades in underneath the floating drone before they kick into a powerful build that focuses more on melody and is an exercise in restraint for these guys. Is this overall a more mature record, yes... and I feel it will continue to grow on me.

 The only problem I have is for songs which are so precise in the details of their construction, it seems a shame the vocals are pretty much an after thought. Some of this is performance for his scream is pretty one dimensional, sometimes it's more drawn out and accented differently but tonally it stays the same in a higher mid range. I think effects on them might have given them more depth because god knows all the other instruments have them on them.

So for this reason I give the album a 9 rather than a 10, because I think this keeps it from being perfect. This might take some getting use to for some listeners but then there were plenty of narrow minded metal head crying they had sold out when "Roads to Judah" because they production made it more hipster metal than their demo. I think if you are a fan of post-rock or black metal but open to what boundaries can be crossed in those genres then this is worth a listen without a doubt and will be getting many more from me.        

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Tuesday, May 21, 2013

R.I.P Ray Manzarek

This is the end my friend for Keyboardist Ray Manzarek for now sails with Jim in the Crystal ship after succumbing to his battle with cancer. Their will be a slew of eulogies and obituaries of various natures for him, but considering the fact the Doors were a huge influence on the death worshipping goth scene I'd rather celebrate his work. So here is the list of my top ten favorite Doors songs but it could also be called the Doors' top ten songs that influenced goth music or the top ten darkest Doors songs

10-Strange Days- Well there is aside from the bleakness of the subject matter and Morrison's voice this starts of with one of Ray's creepier Keyboard riffs, I'm sure Carl Mccoy has listened to this one a few hundred times.

9-Riders on the Storm- the song broods like a storm cloud but is off set by the delicate flourishes of the keyboard, the seem of being an outsider looking in is a common theme as they were lumped in with the peace and love bands of the time period when they have a very isolated theme, not unlike Joy Division

8-People are Strange - While Echo and the Bunnymen's cover of this fit the tone of Lost Boys, the opening notes to this song are darker than best Depeche Mode riffs.

7-The Wasp- hello Nick Cave, please tell us how much this song influenced you because the thought always crosses my mind when I hear it, sure it's way bluesier than average goth band ever dips unless you are the cult or the Birthday party, but the lyrics could be from a Christian Death album.

5-End of the Night- The guitar slinks like a shadow and the keyboards sound like they are from a funeral, if this was beaten the hell out of at an insane volume it would be Swans.

4-Spanish Caravan- the flamenco guitar reminds me of both Siouxsie and Alice Cooper, the exotic nature of the syncopation is very Bauhaus,and the explosion mid song is one of rocks best moments and pretty proggy.

3-the End , this seems like such an obvious choice I was trying to avoid, but I guess it's obvious for a good reason, the song was way ahead of it's time and soundtrack or many a drug fueled melt down.

2-the Celebration of the Lizard- they created a sanctuary and the song creeps under Jim's sermon.

1-You're Lost Little Girl- I actually heard Siouxise's version which was my door to the Doors outside of all their radio hits which shows their was a much darker side to the band.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Crown: " Psychurgy"

Here is yet another French metal band or duo rather, this time however they aren’t any sort of black metal, though they are experimental
Billed as two men and a machine, the two guitars churn against the drum programming which manages to sound relatively organic at the on set
Very droney and noisey the first “song” is muddy samples and white noise, the first actual song is “Abyss” it’s a slow Godflesh like pounding , though the post labels could be applied all over , what I do like about is it is the sonic heaviness.

“Blood runs”, comes back in where the last song left off, it steam rolls through the vocal pattern pretty much a static bellow 1:45 the clouds break and melodies breathes in. They have to encyclopedia of sludge riffs down to bridge pockets of soaring ambiance, which I think are more interesting than their heavier dynamic as most of the experimentation takes place during these sections. The harsh vocals are very monotone and use the same syncopation, the clean melodic singing is more well placed and produced, while they hand in the apathetic Jesu range, they are coated with varied effects to darken them up.

“Empress Hierophant” begins stripped all the way down to the beat and add layers as it goes. The Lower range vocals are similar to those Neurosis uses, the drone over a sparse verse, with minimal guitar accents, that create more of the throb, it feels like it should be perhaps the soundtrack to eraser head or utilized in a david lynch flim around the half way point. The roar of the vocals changes when they grow harsh here but by and large the song floats off into the smoke stacked murk of a post-industrial landscape. The vocals gurgle in the distance as if they are being flushed down the sewers.

"Serpent and fire"…ebbs from ghostly static that is sung under like a transmission from another plane. The soundscape drifts over the beat to a haunting effect. The low tuned guitar barges in with its chug, that is more organic than you would expect and in most instances keeps the band from leaning towards industrial like Batillus does. With that being said there are still moments like the beat to “Telepath’ however does flirt with more electronic leanings along with the robot effect placed on the vocals, the guitar creaks in through the cracks in the paint of this portrait, effected feedback swells build but this while cool sounding is somewhat incomplete when taken as a separate song and not a piece of a large work, it would make a great intro.

“We Crush the Open Sky” has a baritone clean vocal chant layered over the beat before the metal comes crunching, it’s very Neurosis but when Neurosis doesn’t sound like Neurosis there is a void to fill. Not they are bordering on being a tribute band, since they have their own fair share of experimentation.

The drugged pound to the title track suggests monolithic opiates are slathered upon a staggering giant. It ebbs away into another low raspy Scott Kelly like melody, to their credit these are concise dirges so even though some section have a drone to them they are not dragged in excess. The harsh vocals don’t do the sonic build here any favors and seem obligatory. "Alpha omega’s" first minute there is the only blast of the drum programming that could be called black anything, the guitar doesn’t really match it in tremolo picking but gives the faster pattern room to change the transition is an odd bridge , that makes for an awkward movement relying on the sample to fill the gap. The strongest part of the song has a more sweeping cascade of a riff the vocals which come in during the last minute seem the most hones this gets a 7.5 as they can’t shake the neurosis in the vocal patterns which after repeat listens gradually distracts me from hearing their true identity.

Burzum: "Sol austan, Mani vestan"

Despite the album cover I had a talk with myself to prepare for no metal. I like hypnotic ritualistic music , sure I have sat on the Wardruna album ,unable to really sit down and dissect it, this doesn't seem to be organic or earthy in any nature, though from the album cover I am sure Varg sees this as the music of the elves, though the reality is it is the soundtrack to the movie "Forebears" Varg made with French Film Maker Marie Cachet, a documentary about returning to nature and the connection with pagan ancestors.

Peter Gaberiel’s soundtrack to the Last Temptation of Christ sets the bar for going into this sort of thing though it was more world music in tone. Still they stood on their own as songs, rather than tinkling bell here and there so it sounds like im sampling keyboard sounds at guitar center, the second song comes closer to achieving this than the opener. “Runar munt..” or "You Shall Find Secrets" is more percussive to by nature it will move where the intro had no sense of progression. There is a droning quality to this, I wouldn't say this music is particularly dark in fact I would say the new Wardruna is darker.

The Tangerine Dream like synths of "Haugaeldr" or "Burial Mound Fire" sounds like it was left off of the soundtrack to a seventies sci fi movie. "Feorahellir" has almost a Cocteau Twins cadence to it but without Elizabeth Frasier to come in and actually make it a song, for what it is it's decent if not monotonous , which is the main problem with a lot of these compositions is they just seem like a cool keyboard part that he never developed into an actual song. "Solarguoi" or sung god, kinda drifts like a relaxation cd from any new age bookstore, elevator music for hippies would be on way to think of it.

"Ganga at solu" is more interesting than the previous song and sounds more fitting for the exploration of caves and historic reenactments the movie depicts. Like the other songs it sticks to the one thing rather than transitioning or adding layers for it to go anywhere."Hid" or "Bear's lair" is surprise surprise a synth patch that feel like waves a night, so the bears must have been into night swimming as that the vibe I get here. Two minutes of this was enough for me to imagine my horror when I looked up to see I had four more minutes.

"Heljarmyrkr" or " Death's sarkness " is of course no where near as exciting as it's title its synths for hippies again, who unfortunately unless they are into Germanic neo paganism will never get to hear this, as I can see them getting stoned and doing yoga to this song."Mani vestan" or "West of the Moon" is rather lunar and in fact I wrote something just like this when I was tripping on mushrooms in 1996 and I remember feeling very lunar at the time as well, so this must be what the moon sounds like. "Solbjorg" or "Sunset" has more interesting sounds than most of the other songs on this aside from the one that reminded me of the Cocteau Twins.

Seems like a good way for him to get this out of his system and make another metal record. This album does do what it sets out to accomplish, most of this sounds like the sounds-cape channel on demand that I take naps to so I personally do not see the need to own this, even if I went back to doing drugs , though this would be a great I in a drug cocoon music as well or to help babies fall asleep. I will give this a 4, even though I might round it up if I get to take a nap but not anything I need on my ipod.


Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekly Shuffle

Yeah I Know I'm waaay off schedule for this it's been a weird week so oh well... so here I go clicking shuffle on the the ole ipod and letting my thoughts on the first ten songs rip.

"The Gateway" by Cult of Youth, .. I gotta think this is the biggest band on Avant records, any way this one rolls along nicely, its dark punk folk with an attitude, great album I have reviewed it on here and its no secret how I feel about this band. Sure it might be seen as rather down trodden to your average hipster but its my fun time music...but I think the Smiths are uplifting.

"Lethean" by Katatonia...Reviewed this one as well, this album has really grown on me to by the time I do the mid-term for 2013 it will get it's score rounded up, this one sounds good live, its still pretty middle of the road hard rock but well done and better than any of the lame perfect circle wanna bes on the radio these days, not that I have any clue what is getting played on rock radio which is going the way of the post office and newspaper I'm sure. The solo on this one is pretty tasty and the vocal hooks are all there particularly on the line "We had plans but you couldn't make it" Look for the review of Jonas solo collab the Pineapple Thief this weekend.

"Charlote the Harlot" By Iron Maiden,...There are some who view themselves as metal purists and will foolishly declare that the Paul DiAnno albums are better than the ones with Bruce and while the first two albums are great its just not so, Dianno has a raw rock vocal and would have been incapable of pulling off something like Hallowed be thy Name, I do like the melodic middle section in the middle of this on it reminds me of Thin Lizzy more than any thing actually metal. Even here it sounds like Paul is really straining to reach the notes.

"Trees Come Down" By Fields of the Nephilim... One of their more laid back moments , closest the really get to sharing common ground with the Cure, sure they are both goth but really what does that mean aside from dark, they come from two totally different places even here their is the tribal occult vibe brewing beneath the creep of the bass line. Carl McCoy has a really unique voice going down into a growl before there was anything called Black Metal, I'm sure these guys influenced Celtic Frost as well. The guitar solos sound very David Gilmore on this one. I can imagine listening to this in desert tripping on mushroom would be the perfect fit.

"Subway" by Peter Murphy...Wow, loaded down on the Goth this week here's Some solo Pete, his voice sounds awesome on this track, more electronic elements than Bauhaus ever used, majestic in it's darkness more romantic in feel then even his former bands more laid back work, this is marked by its early nineties production but still a great song. Kinda like goth chill out for dungeon after care.

"Modern Love" by David Bowie...Im going through the book on Karaoke and doing every Bowie song so I guess this one is waiting in the wings. This an under rated album, sure it got him back on the map in the eighties and has some big radio hits for him, but the attention to detail on these songs its unbelievable, I have owned this album for thirty years and it sounds just as good as the day I got it, even when it comes to doing pop Bowie does it well, the fifties flair is a nice touch to , lots of class.

"Mount North" by Immortal... Ok about time for some metal, I love the riffs on this album its really creative guitar playing and still manages to be black metal with out just relying on tremolo picking. It does border on thrash in the way the attack hits. Very viking in feel, though I know their songs are about their own mythology they had made up. kinda like a cooler version of what Coheed does, the double bass by it's self is more epic than any thing those guys could muster. I know some people don't take these guys seriously and lump them in with Dimmu and Behemoth, though Im down with some Dimmu they are more legit than say Cradle of Filth, but Immortal sure wears corpse paints and sings from the tops of mountain tops in the snow but they also rock.

"Conspiracy" By Circle of Ouroborus...I like this album even though the production on it is so god awful, but it doesn't demand a lot of repeat listens but I'm glad when it pops up on shuffle, my thoughts on it havent really changed since i reviewing it, the vocals might be the best part as every thing else was recorded underwater.

"Tyster Pa Gud" by Darkthrone ... I still like these more punk albums better than the retro metal sound they are pumping out even though its a pretty decent album, it hasn't gotten as many spins from me as Cult is Alive though, even with its bad solos and sloppier playing.

"Thorns on My Grave" by Emperor...Well meta; made a comeback this week, Emperor was one of the first black metal bands to stand u and say we want our shit to sound good and don't give a shit about the "necro" sound or being cvlt and because of that you don't hear their name spoke by hipster metal heads who only listen to Mayhem and Darkthrone... o.k they throw some Horna and Inquisition in as well, Emperor can play the fuck out of their instruments end of story and will shred a burning church to the ground. They might have held out on taking the corpse paint off for longer than Darkthrone, need to check a corpse paint timeline on that one. I LOVE THE GURGLED King Diamond influence vocals.

Skinny Puppy: "Weapon"

Once I discovered Skiiny Puppy senior year of highschool they became not only my favorite industrial band but one of my favorite bands, if the term bands applies to what they do though this album does find them as a three piece. The bar is going to be raised pretty high as it nomrally is with my favorite who you know I cut no slack and hold to a higher standard, so I wasn't blown away with the album's opener "wornin" which sounds like an outtake from the Tron soundtrack. Its not dark enough and lack the grit and grime of a heroin din. It's not bad , for what it is the song succeds it's just I have a different idea of what I want from these guys, as the lyrics are really the only thing that makes this Skinny Puppy.

This problem is solved on the second song "illsiT , which I think is a much more fitting opener. The synths are dirtied and have some metallic dissonance to them. Skinny Puppy has teeth, that is what makes the industrial, I don't want to dance to them I smear the walls with the blood of an overdosed hooker to them. The robot ghould chant of " this is a criminal age" captures the Blade Runner meets Requiem for a Dream feel I need and uphold their legacy. Now can the rest of the album do that ?

Well "saLvo" heads back to a dancier direction but the synth patterns are darker to give it a more "Too Dark Park" feel. Orge screaming screw it in the refrain gives it more attitude as well, I can take some Dancey Puppy as long as they aren't being pussies about it. The prodcution is pretty stripped down almost like old Depeche Mode, no swathes of distorted sampled ugliness in background like "Last Rights"

"gLowbel" sounds like it could have been on "the Process" though like most of the sparsely orchestrated arrangements on this album it's lacking guitar. The vocal melody on the verses has an angular quirkiness to it that works in the same fashion many of the melodies on their 96 album did. Things get real EDM on "solvent" whose simplistic beats gets surrounded by the Daft Punk synths, that Orger sneers around. Though this song does feature guitar thats really low in mix, and the mix through out the album keepsa sheen of android plastic on everything.

The shifts into more familar landscapes on "paragUn" that while robotic has more of a cyborg soul and some of the best produced vocals on the album and the synths get meaner on the chorus to help win me over. Their are some creepy moments of ambiance on this one that remind me of "Last Rights", the lyrics seem to take on more of social commentary than past albums are perhaps the clairty with which the vocals come across force me to pay more attention.

The vocals on "survivalisto" off set the bouncy nature to the synths and keep the beats from getting too happy though there seems to be more of a tug of war on this song and the synth sound might not have been my first choice as it could use some drugged out grime to it. On the other hand to balance out these moments there are songs like "tsudanama" whose beat is covered in a thick layer of overdrive and take the place of where the standard industrial metal guitar riff would normally go, the song stays very dense and almost buries the vocals. Though wehn they come back in higher in the mix with gnarly effects on them its pretty fucking effective.

"PlasiCage" isn't really industial and is still on the dancier bent they are on here but the movement of the song is very aggressive, it feels more like something from the "Greater Wrong of the Right" period. The "Last Rights" feel returns with "terminal" more in the fact it's ominous with alot flaoting inthe back ground to create a heavy ambiance rather than smack you in the face with it.

Does this hold up as a classic against "Last Rights" or "Too Dark Park" . well time will tell even after a few listens its really going to depend on how some of this grows on me, the clean un-glitched production really makes this more edm than indutrial though there are some strong moments, if they were heeding my wish list I would ask for more of Orge's "singing" voice think "Candle" and more guitar but for what it is there are enough dark edges on most of the songs to keep me distracted, so I will round this up to a 9.5 as its not perfect but pretty damn good after a few listens.

Kylesa: "Ultraviolet"

Kylesa's adventurous spirit of the past few years earned them them the most likely to become the next Mastodon award. This album is no exception even with the opener " Exhale" There is more stomp to this song than found on their past couple album sand the rapid vocal trade off reminds me of their " To Walk a Middle Course" album.

This is also their first album with bassist Chase Rudeseal who plays with a dexterous propulsion that helps "Unspoken" spin with a surreal magnetism into more of a progressive tone with the verse riff possessing the tight " Undertow" era Tool syncopation to it though I'm by way of Tool you could draw Mastodon comparison's if you are think "Crack the Skye"

"Grounded" – has more of the Mastodon rocknroll feel to it, though Laura’s vocals float in a more ghostly manner of it. They are also aided by the production in heavy layers. This doesn't really hit me as the most inspired song on the album and seems like it's new rock n roll tricks atop some of the more lumbering riffage we have heard from them.

Not that I mind Them revisiting similar territory as it works really well when the sludge guitar sound returns on "We’re taking this" , Laura’s vocals get so gruff it can be hard to decipher them from the roars of her band mates, not sure if the more ambient transition works as well as they have pulled these sort of dynamics off in the past, though it has grown on me and the " what goes around come back around" while not lyrical genius is pretty mean.

"Long Gone" goes into a more hypnotic attack and is a good balance of the two modes of dynamics they now employ. I am not sure how I missed this drum break on the first listen. I take it this is the work of the dual drummer thing they have had going for a minute now, though listening to the album I tend to forget that its an element.

The abbreviated attack of "What Does it Take" is pretty straightforward and these songs could be more satisfying for those who have too short of an attention span for some of Mastodon’s prog epics. It's on the more punk side of what they use to do but sounds weird when applied with the range of sounds they now employ.

Their new found maturation of melody really spreads its wings on "Steady Breakdown", the most evolved singer of the band. The melody has an serpentine sensuality, and the almost shoe gaze glaze of the guitar winds around the songs dark corners. It becomes clear how this is a much darker album as Low tide opens like a Cure song mixed with a little Mogwai in the way the effected guitar floats. I can even hear a little deathrock in Laura‘s voice on "Vulture’s Landing", though the song it's self has way more drive than Siouxsie. There is also a lot more soul poured into the few guitar lead which spill out of songs .

The very radio rock intro to "Quicksand" weaves into a riff that reminds me of the Catherine Wheel, though with the movement of one of the Deftones more modern grooves."Drifting" does exactly that with layers of Cocteau Twins like guitar that shimmers around the dreamy vocals until things build in the last minute. I like the fact this album is darker and the use of vocal melodies is a focus rather than an after thought on a much more consistent basis, the fact this might not be as in your face as their other albums is going to take a few listens to get use to but they are pulling from places I like so I'm already more than half way on board. The production is excellent and I like they make a different feeling album every time they go into the studio which show their continued growth as song writers, I'll go ahead and give this album a 9, but include the disclaimer that this isn't a metal album buta step forward for the band none the less.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Queens of the Stoneage : " LIke Clockwork"

If you watched last season's Californication and you wondered what an entire album by the fictional rocker Atticus Finch might sound like then Josh Homme has certainly offered his answer. This album is about as likeable as that character as well. Homme whose former band Kyuss was quiet innovative even though they certainly hadn't beaten bands like St. Vitus, Candlemass or Trouble to the title of Sabbath worshipers,put a different spin on it by adding a glaze of desert dust to their bong water. Queens of the Stone-age then released three really good albums before the just so-so "Lullabies to Paralyze" and then rather flat mis-step of "Era Vulgaris" ...well after five years in the making this album rocks even less than that one, in fact not at all. There is nothing remotely metal about it.

It appears Mr. Homme just discovered the Rolling Stones disco period and makes repeated attempts to replicate it when he's not slumbering his way into piano ballads. The album should open with the title track for despite being a yawning ballad contains the most accurate line "it's all down hill from here" which must be in reference to his career. So if you want to see what magazines or blogs are being paid off by record labels this is the test. Instead the album opens with one of it's only songs that feels like a complete thought "Keep Your Eyes Peeled" that's a much darker turn from "Era Vulgaris" and could have been a b-side to "Lullabies", it's lazy in a drug sluggish way rather than the majority of the songs which are just lazy in the I don't give a shit way. If they had taken this feel and run with it for the rest of the album it would have been an improvement.

"I Sat By the Ocean" sounds like a veiled cover of Honky Tonk Women, with the feel of the recycled bits of things they have already worn into the ground, the big difference being, the thin digital production that takes all heft from both guitar and bass.The low end is missing from the album leaving every thing sounded like 8 bit static. The Blundering balladry of Atticus Finch begins on "the Vampyre of Time and Space." the most vampiric thing about it is it sucks."Of I Had A Tail" gets to the Stones disco, with an over produced fuzzy chorus chorus that goes no where. The lead single "My God is the Sun" should rock but the production has compressed all the power right out of it . "Klaopsia" the ballads return with an obnoxious At the Drive in like choral punch. "Fair-weather Friends" goes back into the balladry leading into something that sounds like bad Guns N roses power balladry that transitions into a more progressive section thats a messy train wreck. "Smooth Sailing" is what Homme imagines Muse's take on Emotional Rescue might be. " I Appear Missing" is the other half way decent song on here, the chorus works really well for me though there is some wanding in the songs second half that might have grown on me if I intended on keeping this.

Not even the addition of Mars Volta drummer Jonathan Theodore can help this god awful mess, that begs the question what was Homme hearing in the play back while he sat in the studio and who were the jack asses stroking his ego to co-sign this garbage.I'm committed to listening to every album I review all the way through and by the sixth song it really got painful. It's a powerful case for illegal downloading as I couldn't wait to get home and delete this piece of shit from my hard drive I can only imagine how pissed I would be if I had actually paid for it. Ok this album fought hard for the 2 I'll give haven't heard something this bad since the new Ghost album which might even be better than this.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Savages : Silence Yourself

Growing up...well hell even now, I'm the goth considered the token metal head by other goths and by metal heads their goth friend. Unfortunately then blending of the two genres has had mixed results best case scenarios being Type O Negative and Atriarch, worst case ...remember Nu Metal, Marilyn Manson... so when I find a post-punk/goth album with some punch and aggressiveness to it i'm pretty the most tragic way possible.

Formed in 2011 is is the London band's first Full Length  is very well crafted. Gemma Thompson's guitar fills the gaps and knows its role in the rise and fall of tension. Sure there is no denying the Siouxsie influence, not just in Jehnny Beth's voice but in some of the herky jerky transitions that give it the abrasiveness of punk. I once read a quote by Rozz Williams that death rock came about as punks who like Halloween  here the punk attack lies heavily in the drive of the bass which propels the opener "Shut Up", as the album progresses I can discern more where their personality lies.

The crisp production isn't too interested in slavishly recreating the vibe of the early eighties. The smoothed out end sections where they allow things to simmer in the night air are really strong, they know where they want to take the songs thus making their dynamics work really well. Would say the focus here is more on rocking than dancing in the bat cave. On the first listen reminded me of Cold In Berlin, though Ayse Hassan r doesn't secretly wear a Tool t-shirt underneath their Siouxsie Shirt.

They are convincing when they bust into the chorus of "I Am Here", Fay Milton's drumming is pretty impressive on this , though not the only song they make the most of the floor toms on to create a tribal feel. On " City's Full" an ode to over looked beauty in the vapid urban landscape, they take a breather towards the end though this one drones on the groove more. This song also establishes the tone of the album that they aren't keyed in on just one element of a sound and plan to beat it to death since like a hammer is their only tool.

It's on "Strife" where they album lays back in the darkness and get out of your face opening up room for melody. Here is where the delicate balance of trading the punch for beauty comes in like boxing in a glass house. Ayse Hassan's bass lines keep the forward and a sensual under current  like night driving with a dashboard covered in cocaine, there is still an edge it's just sharpened in a different direction. "Waiting for a Sign" continues its lazy narcotic lull allowing you to get a closer listen to the singer pipes. I think the guitar is particularly strong here as well, weaving around the bass line.  This also lets the build around the minute and a half mark have a higher ceiling to soar against.

the dancey "She Will" takes on a more Joy Division bass line with the guitar a ghost around it until they reconvene on punches, then back off again on the verses, then they build it way the fuck up with dense intensity, that hits the dark aggressive sonic sweet spot for me .

The bass driven "No Face" lunges at you with metallic swipes, with getting actually metal, yet their is some aggression being vented here. While "Hit Me" has a little too much of a blitzkrieg bop for my personal tastes I see where more punk inclined listeners will approve."Marshal Dear" comes close to being a ballad , i think the Piano is a really eerie touch to the song to make it sound like something from a David Lynch soundtrack, even before it takes a turn into lounge jazz.

In the whole goth revival of the past few years, they would be the best of the Siouxsie Worshipers, I even prefer them over the Yeah Yeah Yeahs , who younger listeners born in the nineties might want to compare them to. This is a pretty astonishing debut from a such a young band and comes highly recommended to fans of post-punk. While it's one of those rare albums I can just leave on and let it play on endless repeat and leaves me looking forward to the see where they go from here I still have to give this album a 9 for the one misstep where they take the punk thing too far so too keep it from getting a perfect ten.

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Monday, May 13, 2013

R.i.p...Slayer 1983-2013

SurMetal lost a great songwriter when Jeff Hanneman died though I never thought for a band who the majority of their songs are about
death their fan would be so Necrophobic, the weeping on facebook was a little excessive. He died an alcoholic death so go have a drink in his honor though what you should also be mourning is the death of Slayer, sure the corpse of the band will be dragged out on life support just like bands like Yes and Deep Purple drag out the corpses of their less than classic line-ups, metal finds it self over the hill so now we are going to get to see the bands we grew up with turning into Cheap Tricks.

Slayer had been placed on a pedestal, they were the band that made punk rock kids feel like they were into metal for liking, and the first five albums took the blue print bands like Priest and Maiden laid out and hardened its arteries. I was a fan of the band until some where around Divine Intervention I read an interview with them where they admitted the whole satanic thing was just a gimmick for them and then I gave up on them until God Hates us all, during the break up I pretty much just went with band more serious about the Left Hand path like Merciful Fate, Morbid Angel and Deicide.

I heard about Jeff's death and though well there goes Slayer, As I new he wrote all the gruesome Nazi songs, but it wasn't until I sat down and complied the data in regard to what percentage of their best stuff he actually wrote did I realize how bi of a hand he played in being the Aggresive perfector of their best work, I guess King's spiked gauntlets distract from the fact he's writing all the filler .

My favorite Slayer album "South of Heaven" Hanneman almost wrote all by him, then Kerry King stepped up his game on the Seasons in the Abyss album, which could be argued is the last classic Slayer album, while I like Divine Intervention, Lombardo doesn't play on it. I did notice that over time King and Hanneman wrote less together with Hanneman not really contributing much to albums like "Divine Intervention"

SO LETS LOOK AT THE FACTS ... I only counted Show no Mercy to Divine Intervention and then added on God Hates us all as the album in-between and after are pretty lame, even though I have tried to like them over the years.
sonsongs with music written solely by Hanneman

Die by the sword, Fight til Death, Tormentor, At Dawn they Sleep, Necrophiliac,Hardening of the Arteries,Angel of Death, Altar of Sacrifice,Reborn, Post-mortem, South of Heaven, Live Undead, Behind the Crooked Cross, Read Between the Lies, Behind the Crooked Cross, Spill the Blood, War Ensemble, Blood Red, Spirit in Black, Dead Skin Mask,Seasons in the Abyss, 213,Disciple, God Send Death, Threshold. Deviance,
and out of those I would say 17 of those are some of Slayers best songs

had a hand in co-writing with Kerry King

the Anti-christ,Metal Storm, Crionics,Black Magic, the Final Command,Haunting the Chapel, Captor of Sin, Hell Awaits, Kill Again,Raining Blood, Necrophobic, Jesus Saves, Criminally Insane,Epidemic, Aggressive Perfector,Mandatory Suicide, Ghosts of War, Hallowed Point, Born of Fire, Divine Intervention, SS-3,Serenity in Murder, Mind Control,Blood Line,

I would say out of those 14 are almost the rest of of Slayer's best work


35 percent Hanneman single handed wrote the music for

34 percent he co- wrote with King

so 70 percent he had a hand in writing

and almost half of those are Slayer's best stuff.

Lets hope another Slayer album is not released unless its Jeff song's from the vaults. Here comes the pain because the touring incarnation is like Kiss without makeup at this point or even Kiss with Make up now. I Metallica was the Van Halen of metal as they made it digestible to the general public, whiel Slayer in terms of sticking to their guns were more defenders of the faith, but when your tours all sponsered by Jagermeister then its not very metal to die any other way. SO have a drink for Slayer today.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Arckanum : " Fenris Kindir"

This is the 8th album by this black metal project whom for some reason I just caught onto the fact this is a one-man show master minded by Shaamatae, who handles every instrument in a manner that makes this project seem like a cohesive unit playing off of one another. He has been at it since 92, so he certainly has had time to perfect his craft.

His subject matter has been Gnostic chaos, a subject he had even written a book on, so this isn't a Slayer gimmick. The lyrical content of this album which is penned in old tongue Norse , focuses more on wolves , particularly were-wolves as a metaphor for his metaphysical exploration.But unless you are fluent in this tongue then it's pretty much a mute point.

The wall of noise the album opens with is the title track that is an intro for "Tungls Tjugari" That starts very drum driven with a tightly palm muted riff coiled around it. Their is more restraint on this album and focus on song which will lend it self to Watain comparisons would I would argue this is far from being a sell out. The bass can actually be heard, the vocal layers are also a strong point as far as production goes. He has a dry rasp more than a black metal shriek so think Bathory. The arrangements are particularly thoughtful rather than the formulaic drone most bands of this ilk seem to take on. The grit on the guitar also makes this album stand out as it gives the records a very characteristic sound.

The grunted chant leads off "Dolgrin" it,s a brisk mid pace for black metal I suppose where its upbeat but not blasty ,though there are moments for that and I think those are where this project is really excelling, but the thrashier leanings closer to what Darkthrone is doing these days. If you want boring color by numbers , heard it all before black metal then you are looking in the wrong place and might not even feel this is legit for church burning.

The thrash influence even feels more apparent on "Hatarnir". This song remains raw , but has some gallop and groove to it. The lower growl layered on this on is pretty nasty and mean as are the punches that come at the midway point. The weird vocals which fade in from the t.v Carol Ann got sucked into during Poltergeist are a cool parlor trick, and I think it is this song where the album takes a turn into some really cool new shit. Things get creepy on 'Hamrami" some elements which might make you want to say pagan metal begin to surface but for the love of all that is chaos don't call this project that, though this is more of an interlude to the album as a whole than an individual song with metal riffs and such.

Another wolf song "Fenris gangr" follows, its pretty raw and dense piece of work, the blasties lay back under everything. They way the drums tie it all together is pretty thundering. The guitar sound will pretty much lacerate you like handling rusty razor blades. Sounds from a ritual of some kinds were wolf majick is going down at the start of "Vargold" and it's a formula fatal to the flesh here for him to throw in a spooky interlude thing for every song they have. This leads into "Angrboa" a very ripping Watain like ditty, with its fair share of the roots based in punk. the witch vocals chime in after the first minute. They do kinda bang the main riff into the ground in the firs two minutes of this song, so the tempo change here is very welcomed as the song lecherously creeps off into the shadows.

"Uskepna" begins with more monster factory noises. but the verse riff really slams into things. The ughs... punch in the right spots and the drums fill in the gaps. This one slows into almost a dirty sludge tempo. The guitars get a little muddy in the rawness but this clears up by the time we go into the b -section like riff. It does carry over into a pretty epic galloping riff. "Spell" turns back the clock a little in terms of raw thrash like stuff being cranked out, in the slower moments the Celtic Frost influence can be felt though things are generally more abrasive. 'Sobols Sigr" is another interlude more string oriented and medieval in tone before going into a cover of Necromantia's "Lycanthropia" which fits in well with the rest of the album.

Overall the album is a little heavy on the interlude bits which could have been worked into the songs more though the do provide some melodic balance to the over all rawness of the album. I will go ahead and give this one an 8.5 as I have enjoyed the repeated listens I have given this one and can see this album continuing to grow on me, as far as the one man metal show goes this project has set the standard for being able to achieve a raw organic better than other such studio projects .


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Interview: Hvall of Vreid

Windir was one of the first wave of Norwegian Black Metal bands whose members have gone on to form Vreid, with still black in their intent the band has a broader scope of sounds they pull from as evident in their 6th album "Welcome Farwell" so it was good to catch up with Bassist Hvall

Wil-The New album "Welcome Farewell" almost reaches back to the Windir days, How did that come about in the songwriting process?

Hvall-I didn't reflect much on the direction I just focused in my studio. Listening back afterwards then I can see where the listener might be hearing the first album and the Windir days.

Wil-I noticed a more thrash like vibe through out the album and on the way the guitars attack, whats this attributed to?

Hvall- Well the guitar sound is pretty much the same I think its more how the bass and drums are recorded and how they sit around the guitars in the mix.From the start the focus was on the main riff of the song, if a new idea exists I try to give it more focus and clarity. We rented a cabin before we went into the studio and I think that helped capture more of a live feel.

Wil-Windir formed back in 94 making you guys a part of the first wave of Norwegian Black Metal, in forming Vreid how important was it for you to break away from the limitations of that legacy?

Hvall- We didn't want to continue doing the same thing, though a lot of the elements are there. With the old stuff there were so many multi-layers with the drums so to sit down and focus on stripping it down was refreshing. There have never been limits not limits of our own as we like what difficult and our main focus is to just create the most authentic music to us, even though we draw from listening to may types of music.

Wil- What music do you see as being an influence on you this time when you headed into the studio.

Hvall- My record collection has pretty much stayed the same its all the old stuff. Stuck in the seventies, stuff like Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath.

Wil- Any new artists?

Hvall- There are single songs here and there but overall there is a band from Norway that's more of a rocknroll punk sort of thing called Kvelertak.

Wil- You mentioned Alice Cooper , I think with him he gets overlooked by stuff like "I'm Eighteen" when on albums like "Killer" there was more of a progressive rock feel, are you into more of the progressive rock stuff as well?

Hvall-Absolutely,I like to go back a rediscover the classics. those are my favorite bands to see live and its the classic bands that have inspired us from artwork to lyrics to production.

Wil-I think despite todays technology the older albums were more innovative in terms of how they experimented, like Jimmy Page and all of his micing methods, there was a fuller sound without pro- tools and all the plug ins.

Kvall-Exactly, simplifying things, rather than hiding behind technique and making things really solid.

Wil-So You guys are headed to the states as support for Melechesh, what part of touring the states are you looking forward to?

Hvall- Playing for people,there are some cities where they are very dedicated, places like New York, L.A and Toronto. I also just like to travel and travelling the states is always an amazing adventure.

Wil- Well, Festival season in Europe is coming up are there any big one you guys are excited about?

Hvall-We had to pass on some of the European festivals to play the states, though we are playing Brutal Assault , which is one of my favorites as it's in an old fortress and the fans there are extremely dedicated.

Wil-Its been a big week in metal as Jeff Hannemann passed. What would you say your favorite Slayer album is ?

Hvall- Show No Mercy, and Reign in Blood is a classic its one of those albums where 50 years from now when someone asks you to define metal you can point to that one, Though it might not be a popular choice i have always liked Hell Awaits.

Will= How big of an influence early on would you say Slayer was for you guys?

Hvall-Alot of influence as those albums came out as we had begun playing ourselves, bands like Slayer and Death are are the reason for me deciding to pick up a guitar.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013


O.k We are back with it last week has been crazy, so getting back to giving the ipod a click and reviewing whatever pops up, here we go ...

"Behind the Void" by Liturgy, ... For these guys I guess this is one of their more straight forward blasty mc nasty jams, this album is much rawer than their last effort and who knows what is up with the band at this point I know Triple H here has a new project that sound almost like Tool, but anyways in regards to this song it's not their finest moment but more thought is put into the sound than scores of other more cvlt bands.

"Mermaids" By Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds.. Yeah off his newest album which I have already reviewed, the lyrics start off a little silly but the song itself has stood the test of the past few months so far for me. I like the chorus, it has a smooth reflective quality I appreciate.

"I Wait" By Bell Witch...This gloomy dirge is a little long winded but I like the sonics this band manages to rumble together as a two piece, the vocal variations keep things interesting even as the funeral drone marches along. At the three and a half minute mark there's a powerful build and I prefer this to Samothrace hands down.

"Ablutions" By Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum...This was more than likely the best album that came out in that year. the competition was "In Sorte Diaboli" and this isnt really a metal in comparison. Carla's voice reminds me of a medicated Bjork here and if you wanna swear to me this is the most original song ever you have never heard Frank Zappa's 200 motels album, but I like when the vocals come together at the end though I can live with out them counting chickens and counting sheep.

"Wild Eyes" by Night Sins ... it's an odd mix today, I have reviewed this album as well, it still sounds good to me so thats gotta be worth something even if the keyboards sound a little thinner to me when i listen to it now. Always good after ten p.m. listening or rainy afternoons, glad when this pops up on shuffle but the album as a whole hasnt burned up the ipod.

"Alison" By Slowdive...I guess the song every one knows by these would be this one, but the crowd of people who know it is limited to shoegaze fans who wee doing drugs in the nineties, so there a certain age demographic there to this. This band should have received more recognition, there a few bigger band who did this sort of thing and I think these guys pulled it off better.

"Freezing Moon" By Mayhem...I like Attila's delivery on this one and the song it self goes to show you can be black metal at more than one speed. As far as black metal goes "De Mysteriis" is a classic. The production is a few steps ahead of Burzum and Darkthrone , but keeps cvltists happy.

"Fall Down" Pinkish Black...I reviewed this full album last year, still sounds good to me don't wear it out like I did when I first got it and yes this is an album I actually bought after listening to it on spotify for awhile. This one is a little more aggressive than some o the others moodier tracks on the album, bass on this sounds like Godflesh to me.

"Bird of Prey" by Uriah Heap, .. I read an interview with King Diamond when I was a teenager where he said this song was a big influence on him so I tracked it down and have remained a pretty big Uriah Heap fan over the years. They are like a more hippy version of Deep Purple, their keyboardist rock the house down.

"Passover" By Joy Division...I have been in an Ian Curtis mood for the past few weeks and find my self listening to these guys more on an ever increasing basis, this song is very stark, the guitar sits back from it allowing the the vocals to ramble on, but I like how the instruments pop in and out of this drone they are grooving on.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Author&Punisher : " Women & Children"

O.k... with no time to grow on me and fresh out of a nap I decided the most jarring way to review this new Author&Punisher is just in real time as I hear it like a virgin for the very first time. This is Tristan Shone's fifth album as the one man industrial monolith, I can say from the first song , the albums title track that his sense of dynamics and song writing have improved , this one moves at the speed of explosive hot lava that is melting a robot invasion. Big robots like the kind coming in Pacific Rim, doom for the Decepticon's. Did I even spell that write I'm not a Transformers fan but the dino-bots were kinda cool and I think they would dig this album. Where the first song kinda brought to mind Ministry's cover of Lay Lady Lay, "In Remorse: at first recalls Skinny Puppy's more melodic moments before crashing down on planet cyber-sludge.

From what I'm hearing so far in the first two songs, a lot of my gripes about the first album are being cleared up, there's more melody and dynamic without sacrificing the mechanical crushing, who said electronic music has to be for pussies. Where a lot of industrial tends to fall into two big holes, they are either a metal band with a drum machine or a electronic band playing guitar hero metal karaoke, this is legit futuristic robotics in the chaos of action.

the vocals are the biggest improvement and here is a sure way to win me over or turn me off, I like variety, here there's what could constitute as real singing, at least on par with Justin Broadrick, but there is still moments the more distorted harsher tones emerge, on "Melee" the song structure changes and wanders off from the build to even more crushing pattern he tends to establish. This album works well when I listen to it while watching the "Maniac" remake with the sound off...yes they re-made it, it stars Elijah Wood.

The dark melodic nature of "Tame as a Lion" comes from a place almost like Final Cut- era Pink Floyd before the robots get possessed and sound sorta like David Vincent. So think Pink Floyd meets the more robotic elements of Morbid Angel. "Fearce" most closely reminds me of the previous album. The fuzzed out machine punches and chants return for revenge, though it's syncopation is more varied rhythmically, and less monotonous, even when Shore is in the process of pounding the point home. This album is more richly layered, and goes to darker depths while still being less claustrophobic than the last, I don't maybe I'm just in a better head space to receive this one with open ears.

"Miles From Home" begins more like something from the Tron sound track, layers of Tangerine Dream like synths. This drones on for the first three minutes, the beat slowly rumble up from its cosmic slumber beneath it, this dies down like the foreboding of a horror soundtrack and leaves room for vocals to call out from a worm hole of reverb. While I like this one its the most obvious filler interlude considering the caliber of the other songs he has been throwing at us thus far.

On the last song we wind back down into Pink Floyd's zip code with morose crooning over piano that begins to build until its takes goes to take a more sinister turn and he fakes a left turn back into the piano ballad. The pay off for this one is in the last minute when the heavy comes back leading up to this something about the melody reminds me of Neurosis. So all and all I'm pretty pleased with Mr. Shore on this one I'll round it up to a 9 because I'm not totally awake yet and have only one cup of coffee in me at four thirty but the two songs which felt more like filler the last two actually still had some cool moments and sounds I just think they dont stand up to the other songs on the album but are still interesting and might need time to grow on me.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Katatonia @ the Georgia Theater

I walked into a surprisingly packed room for a college town that is more known for their love of jam bands this was a surprise, though I am sure the show drew from the surrounding areas. Jonas' vocals were a little muddled and this is in a room that doesn't see many loud in a metal sense bands on it's stage so it took a few songs either for his voice to warm up into the set or the sound man to fine to it but when either case fell into place the results were satisfying.

The last time I caught these guys was on the Great Cold Distance tour, so the fact the set was divided up between the last four albums with Dead End Kings and Night is the New Day taking the bulk worked for me . I was still glad to hear songs like " My Twin" thrown in. Having not seen the current line-up, what stood out to me was The lead guitarist also sang back ups in addition to Anders so the vocal layering on the albums was done much more justice. This incarnation was not only tighter musically but in terms of stage presence they cam across more metal, even though metal is often a loose term in regards to them the past two albums. I have always adhered to the fact a metal band should hit the stage like a pack of wolves,and there was a more aggressive element like this in light of the more melancholic nature of their music. Songs like "July" and "Soil's Song" carried a particular heft to them.

While Daniel gave a performance that demanded he be given more recognition when it comes to metal drummers, their songs really hang on Jonas, who provides the most distinctive component to their sound, he is also one of the few front men in metal whose voice can be described as delicate, his voice held more depth to it than the last time I have them where he was more introspective in his total delivery. Here he hid behind the veil of dark locks and mid set emerged , and engaged in the stage banter as well as seeming to make a concerted effort to rock out. This shift didn't seem forced.

If the crowd was there for Opeth, then they fooled me, I think the band and their audience live reached a middle ground, where Katatonia emerged from behind the bleak gray clouds to get in their face and the audience was opened minded enough to embrace them, even the one guy in the crowd who growled in between songs, seemed to be appeased, as what they might have lack in death metal power they made up with the dark edges of their songs. Going into it I wasn't sure what side of themselves was going to be seen and I was glad they showed up with their evil twin.

Peter Murphy@Terminal West

After seeing Bauhaus in 98 on the reunion tour, the bar was held pretty high as they were beyond stellar that night. So I went into the show with some trepidation after the publicized personal difficulties Murphy encountered a month or so ago which I though might have put the tour in jeopardy, So I was stunned by the performance that ensued. First off Peter was enjoying himself and every minute onstage. Secondly his voice was on point. He had every ounce of power and range , perhaps even more so than in 98. He looked great, The mug shot I had seen of him online obviously was the syndrome and catches no one at their best, though you would think the LAPD, would be more prepared given the high influx of celebrities they encounter. This was the subject of a blog I wrote earlier last month and Murphy upheld my rule of I want my rock stars decadent as long as they can bring it live.

I like the Terminal West as a venue even if its location isn't the most preferred for me personally as I am never on the west side of town. I do like the fact it looks like the Bronze inside and with the Peter Murphy crowd I expected it to be more Goth gone wild, which would further the Buffy vibe, but instead it was more like the Buffy episode where they eat the cursed fundraiser chocolate bars that turn adults into kids. There were lots of forty year old women who had once had a goth phase and they have since forsaken their Clairol Blue Black. This however was not a problem for me as i was up against the stage the bulk of the show with the ex-goths behind me.

It was also cool for them to open with "King Volcano" and there are songs like "All We Really Wanted Was Everything" that when I heard it preformed live renewed my appreciation for it. The bassist helped give "Double Dare" and even more metallic stomp. The highlights for me were some of my personal favorites "She's in Parties" , "Silent Hedges" and " In the Flat Field" all of which took away the case of the I wish He would play.... So in that respect I left the show very content. Though now I would like to catch him again to here him play his solo stuff.I was pretty surprised that songs from "Go Away White" were included in the set, I like the album but I'm not sure the general fan considers it to be among their classics.

While the Bauhaus show had the luxury of bigger budget behind its staging,Murphy held the theatrical elements present in his stage presence alone. He did have a hand held l.e.d white light he used to eerie effect he did no rely on it adapting his prescience to fit the tone of the song some times retreating to the back of the stage for more introspective moments. My doubts were laid to rest at this show and the glorious Mr. Murphy has the mythic pedestal I have held him up on in my mind firmly intact. This wasn't just a case of graceful aging gliding through the nostalgia this some one who tool command of both the stage and songs making them every bit as relevant in that moment, if you the Trent Reznor's of the world can be so lucky. Whatever personal drama he has garnered in the press be damned, because if they can rock like that then I agree with Bill Hicks and I want my rock stars on drugs and in the lap of decadence, after whats option b some watered down Coldplay bullshit?

Interview: Katatonia

I guess even though my entry point for these guys was "Viva Emptiness" I consider myself a long time fan since it's been well... a decade and most of you kids were listening to bad myspace emo then. I caught up Drummer Daniel when they came into town and here's what he had to say.

Wil-So the new album Dead End Kings , is much more open and spacious than the darker contrast of Night is the New Day. How did this progression come about?

Daniel-It was easier now after the past three or four album. It was pretty natural and more like a sequel than not, though I didn't write any of the music.

Wil-How is it as a drummer playing around all the other layers that have been gradually introduced , particularly the more electronic elements?

Daniel-Pretty easy, at least live where its just another show. Everything is on a computer back there as a backing tracking and I can listen to it but more often than not I mute it.

Wil-And what about in the Studio?

Daniel-I play around Jonas and the guitar. Try to come up with fills, Jonas was the drummer from the beginning , so I go in and interpret the beats he has on the demo and he comes to me with the ideas of what he perhaps couldn't pull off.

 Wil-How's it touring with Opeth again?

Daniel- Its the same as the last tour. Bunch of friends hanging out and playing music, they are the easiest band to tour with because we know each other so there is no drama.

Wil-Last year you guys went out with Alcest and Junius how was that?

Daniel-Junis was right up my alley musically. They are pretty cool guys as well, one of them is my drum tech now so that should tell you how well we got along.

Wil-Well I can see the common ground with Junius as both of you are more sonic when it comes to being heavy rather than being heavy as in  metal.

Daniel-That sums it up, dynamics and melodies are more our focus.

Wil- I know for me you guys were a perfect fit on Viva Emptiness which was my entry point to the band , as I grew up a metal head but was also always into goth like  the Cure and Bauhaus, so do you see old school goth as an  influence?

Daniel- Not an influence on my end, I was always more of a rock guy. I never listened to like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest but listened to stuff along the lines of Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine and the Foo-Fighters. Perhaps it is more on Jonas' end.

Wil- Nine albums later whats the vibe like in terms of the songs you are drawing from live?

Daniel-It's more difficult to decide. We like to keep it as fresh as possible with newer stuff,but when we headline we go back as far as Discouraged Ones. We like to swap songs out maybe add one that was harder to pull off in the studio to keep ourselves focused.

Wil- Going back to influences, what about progressive rock because I have noticed an increased  emphasis on some of the more technical nuances to your playing?

Daniel-When Jonas gives me the programmed drums, I just try to come up with smart fills and make it not so repetitive, it sometimes ends becoming difficult to play live but thats a problem I guess I create for myself. I have never been a drum fan, I don't have a favorite drummer, I have never gone to drum clinics and I could care less about drum gear.

Wil-So you are just more focused on songs?

Daniel-That's correct.

Wil-So this week Jeff Hanneman from Slayer died. Do you have a favorite Slayer album?

Daniel-I never really listened to them, but the one song I like is Angel of Death which I think he wrote.

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Devil's Blood : 'The Tabula Rasa or Death and the Seven Pillars"

The Devils' Blood had a strange break up. A tasteful one , but it left many questions and many more are raised on their post-break up release. One of them being if this album had seen the light of day before the break up would it still have occurred? Because rather than the freedom rock , Fleetwood Mac syrupy rock anthems of " the Thousandfold Epicenter". This album while not as slickly produced pushes the creative boundaries in a more progressive rock direction that would have I think put them in Opeth territory as far as the audience it could reach. It certainly slays the new Ghost album, and delivers the classic rock sound but with more balls. Its a darker album so maybe it reflect where their heads were at in terms of what lead to the break up, suggesting drugs and depression but not creative burn out.

Boldly the album opens with a 20 minute opus called "I was Promised a Hunt" which opens with vocal layers and winding slowly up into a heavier section which even includes forceful , though not growled male vocals, which come from Selim. His sister's voice opens up more and is not all belted out in the same Grace Slick manner as it tended t be on other albums. There are plenty of guitar solos from Selim , who is one of the best live guitarist I have ever seen so its not cumbersome unless you don't have the stomach for solos at all then they were never the band for you to begin with.

The do return to their trademark sound on " Lullaby of the Burning Boy" though even here the darker tone settles over the song, the guitars roll over one another but still leave lots of space. "If not a Vessel?" has a classic seventies boogie to it, with guitar solos blazing from the beginning, but not being overly Foghat there is still a lot of punch it. The Devil's Blood might have always only been metal by association, live they had enough drive to hang with metal bands though even there they would wander off into psychedelic jams. The post chorus chant on "If Not a Vessel?" is cool and the bass player really earned his paycheck on this one, though I often suspect on their albums Selim did more than just play guitar so I tend to look at these as a single product rather than whose doing what.

I might even like this album more than the ones they released while together, due to the fact it is so much darker there are moments where it could be Siouxsie and the Banshees until the guitar solos come in. "In the Loving Arms of Lunacy's Secret Demons" has a Moody Blues swing to it think " I'm Just a Singer In A Rock n roll band". The way the guitar rolls around the snare hits on this is really innovative on Selim's part showing he knows what to do when he is not soloing and I hope he continues to explore other creative outlets outside of his current gig with Watain.

"Dance of the Elements" simmers into its pulsing build, it has a Tool-like quality though I would be surprised if any one in the band listened to much Tool ,so older heavier Pink Floyd might be a better comparison. The majestic nature when the bas drives the song with the wall of guitars creating ambiance behind it reminds me of early King Crimson as well. The guitar dances around the bass where keyboard parts would have been found in early prog.

A biog step of growth is the use of so many varied guitar tones and effects. They form a mystical back drop behind the vocals on a "White Storm of Teeth". There is still a Tool-like brooding to the riffs on this one. The guitars come in a paint a coat of feedback over the tribal pulse, before it allows the song to relax back into the hypnotic movement. The title track, starts off with more of jam like feel, but with harder accents than the Phish crowd would be able to stomach. Not generally a fan of instrumentals these are so well played that guitar work wins me over.

As of right now I'll give this one a 9.5 as some of the more jammy instrumental portion could be trimmed to make this album perfect and are not the sort of songs I see getting lots of constant rotation on my end though would have transitioned well live if we had gotten a change to see them preformed.