Monday, September 30, 2013

Inquisition : Obscure Verses For the Multiverse

Black metal seems to be at an odd cross roads as each album which comes out by the masters of the genre seem to be evolving further from the elements that have traditionally defined the genre. The new album by Inquisition is not different , sure it is dark and dissonant, but the speed factor has been slightly dialed back   and the emphasis is on the groove of the chords these guys seem to drag up from murky corners of the underworld. The result is often beautiful. The croak of the vocals remains intact as the guitar does all the singing. The dense ambiance of Dagon's guitar tone continues to open portals of chaos.

From the onset of "Force of the Floating Tomb" you can hear a difference in the quality of production. The biggest difference is that the vocals are no longer left dry. The guitars are crisper but retain the pain. The blast beat comes across as only an accent here, which gives it more effect when it comes in, the Double bass of  Incubus continues to hint his death metal influence.  The melodic edge picks up on the riff to "Darkness Flows Towards Unseen Horizons", the blast switch is flicked for a moment in the verses, before the more melodic playing which has numerous subtle fills and bits of flash to color it.   I do miss the samples that lead into the songs as it created an evil horror movie feel. This album does sound bigger. The solos are pretty impressive and something I am glad to see making a come back in the genre.

The title track has an almost Slayer feel to it. The groove possesses  more swing to it alternating between their infamous ambient chords that  ring out for moments before another assault .  Their is much more attention to detail in the interplay between the guitar and drums which fit into one another like puzzle pieces. leaving no fill hanging out as excess. There's some impressive panning on " Spiritual Plasma Evocation" the riff hammers itself into place, while working on a similar dynamic of allowing the more melodic chords room to breathe. The drumming finds itself stealing the show more on this album for sure.

The straight forward pummel of " Master of the Cosmological Black" at times is almost thrash and then at other death metal, but still sinister enough to fall under the black metal banner in fact some of the dissonance in  the melodic chords here remind me of newer Blut Aus Nord . "Joined by Dark Matter Repelled By Dark Energy" has one of the bands most melodic riffs , that is counterbalanced by bursts of speed. They toy with guitar effects on this one and Dagon breaks from his normal croak to go into a lower death metal growl for a phrase here and there.

"Arrival of Eons After" follow the epic formula these song seem to be taking , though it relies on speed more than some of the others . With the fine tooth comb they have gone over these songs with , this makes it feel like filler until the break down at the two minute mark. "Inversion of  Ethereal White Stars" makes up for any aftertaste of filler the previous song might have left as it is air tight. The verse riff is really catchy, which might make the more morbid cringe from behind their corpse paint , but it's so well written its hard to fault these guys for it. The riff after what seems to be the chorus rings out in a way that is almost rock n roll, with out this taking on the punk element of what gets labeled as black n roll. It might be the best song on the album.

"Infinite Interstellar Genocide" picks up the pace into the blast mcnastiness, that in the context of some of the creative writing that appears earlier in the album almost feels like a cop out. The guitar tone here has a weird rubbery density to it . In this song the comparisons to Immortal rise up from their icy grave, where some of the albums earlier songs had buried them.  The album closes with "Where Darkness is Lord and Death" that starts off in the familiar minor key churn, thats become their signature sound here.I like when this is combine with faster underneath to give a greater sense of movement.  I'll give this album  a 9 as it isn't as dark as some of their other work, there is still a great deal of growth even though some of the songs take on a very particular formula at times, which keeps it from being perfect, however I feel these changes in things like tone will continue to grow on me with time.

In Solitude : "Sister"

The Swedish band makes a very tasteful evolution with their new album.  They have out grown the Merciful Fate comparisons even only a few ghosts of  the influence haunting the riffs or  mournful wail of their singer Pelle. The album is darker but also more organic sounding , with less of the dual Iron Maiden harmony guitar parts that gave their first two albums a NWOBHM vibe. It's safe to say this is a much more accurate depiction of what the band is about live, as they were much more explosive, with a more primal punk energy.

The album's strength is they still held onto the elements of their sound which made the first two albums work and expanded the dynamic range of what they do. The spectrum of guitar sounds have broadened, there's  more warmth to the guitar sound, rather than just sticking to the classic metal chug the earlier work took on. This does steer the band towards the whole "occult rock" sound or even " vest metal" but without staring back to pay as much homage to the past, though there is more Sabbath influence on this album than Maiden or Fate, but also post- punk vibe like Feilds of the Nephilim , but not as deep in the bat-cave.  In some ways the vest metal elements seems like the Devils' Blood rubbed off on them a bit while they were on tour.

The acoustic guitar of "He Comes" is the first sign this album is going to be a much different ride. This comes across more like an intro than a song, even though there are low mixed vocals moaning in the background. The album kicks off proper with "Death Knows Where" .  The guitars still have a chug to them, and the compositions have sharp transitions like old Maiden, but the over all vibe is much different. A casual first listen might even fool you into thinking this album is more straight forward. While there is much more of a rock n roll feel here, the attention to detail in the song writing remains one of the bands strength's.

The more dramatic stylistic shift for the band can be heard on " A Buried Sun". Here Pelle's vocal approach takes on both more grit and darkness, showing more of a Birthday Party are  Nick Cave swagger or even Carl McCoy. The bass line slithers coolly underneath the dire like guitar riffs. This song isn't the only goth leaning the album takes and it is a welcome development from my perspective as music can never be too dark for my taste.

"Pallid Hands " bears more resemblance to the previous album than most of the other offerings. It packs an ample , and drives forward with the more Merciful Fate chug.  The very epic soar to the chorus also reawakens comparisons to the elder age of metal.  The guitars have more attack here than they have had on the first two songs and continues to build momentum as the song progresses.

"Lavender"  has a more Blue Oyster Cult feel to the way it kicks in. Pelle's voice has a harder percussive delivery to it. The bass player has really stepped up his playing on this album, it allows the guitars more room to experiment with different textures. The title track has more swing to its groove than anything we have heard the band touch on before. It is still metal and driving. When the guitars drop a little lower the groove takes on almost a disco feel like Kiss's "I Was Made For Loving You".

"Horses in the Ground" goes back to the bands more classic metal roots ,with the King Diamond like mid-range moan soaring over the gallop. The influence Devil's Blood might have had on the band while touring with them appears here as well on the b-section.The guitar solos cut loose more which reminds me of Devil's Blood rock god pyrotechnics when it comes to the solos. The close "In Most Nigredo" floats in with a bluesy seventies prog like guitar line that leads into a doomy stomp. The stock metal chugs act more like glue to punch the arrangements together, an is a good example of how the band has really grown as songwriters. This album has already earned repeated listens, the more organic nature seems like a natural process of growth from this young band who have succeed in not painting themselves in the corner as being a wink to retro metal and continued to grow into their own, so this album get's a 10 as it's both a fun and powerful listen.    

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Gwar: Battle Maximus

Let me start this off by saying I'm a long time Gwar fan . By long time I mean Hell-o had just come out, so 1988. I have seen Gwar more times than I can remember , because most of those highschool era shows I was tripping so hard I once thought Oderus was Steven Tyler. This is the first album for Cannibas Corpse guitarist to debut as a new character Pustulus Maximus and also features a new bass player Jamison Land taking on the mantle of Beefcake the Mighty, which is a little weird in my book, as it takes them into the realm of Kiss who slaps the Ace and Peter make up on just anyone these days, so Gwar is more of a brand and less of a band so it's surprising this new album is better than it has any business being. If I Mike , as Balsac even though he didn't play on the first album he will count as an original member for practical purposes, and even then this album only has two original members, though Roberts played on Scumdogs, so I'm sure most of their fans at this point never heard of Nippleus Erectus .

The opener isn't Gwar's strongest moment and pretty much sums up many of the reasons I fell out of touch with Gwar in the first place as it is the sort of fast thrash riff that seems to appeal more to punk rock kids. After Salamanizer from Scum Dogs it's been hard for Gwar to write a better opener and even with "Madness at the World's Core" it has grown on me but is symptomatic of Gwar of late that defaults to being run of the mill punk soaked thrash, rather than paying a close attention to groove and hooks that they once did.

Songs like "Bloodbath" and " Nothing Left Alive" have their moments but feed into the thought that Gwar is more about the show than their music, which was not always the case. With everything up to "This Toilet Earth" they could have showed up in their street clothes and rocked. The first song that stands up and makes you take notice of it " Raped at Birth" sure it takes over the top lyrics and shoves them sideways with little lubrication into your ears, but they are set to has tightly coiled  riffs to the stage for Oderus' foolishness and theatrics.

"I, Bonesnapper" is pretty decent considering Oderus gives the mic over to one of the supporting characters.  After the doomish intro to " Mr. Perfect" the thrash tinged verses give Oderus room for his insane blabbering. Though it's pretty ripping it is odd to me that the title track is an instrumental, so I'm guess it's a soundtrack for some sort of onstage carnage that prevents any one from singing. "The Triumph of the Pig Children" is the first song that comes close to having an actual vocal melody in it's verses, reminding us that Oderus can actually sing when he wants to. Because of this I'm a little more forgiving of the simple barked chorus. It gets even more melodic on "Falling" which reminds of the albums the Butt Hole Surfers made when they sold out to the radio in the 90's . It's pretty decent for what it is  and doesn't go for what at one point of the albums token power ballad.

The album closes with "Fly Now" which captures most of the classic Gwar sound , but doesn't really do anything new with like some of these songs bravely attempt to.  This isn't Scum Dogs by a long shot but for a band that is making albums to showcase their theatrics it works better than some of the less dynamic thrashing they have been up in the past decade. I'll give this an 8.5.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Live Review : Pinback@Terminal West

The one word to sum up a Pinback show is... fun. The San Diego duo has a passionate fan base, that connects with the live performance in a passionate manner similar to audiences at jam band show. In fact there is some cross over with the Phish crowd. While the main liberties the band take with the songs live tends to be their energy speeds up the more driving songs, rather than extend them into sprawling wanderings to get lost in noodling. Not that they are short on the chops as bassist Zach Smith  has an extremely dexterous style of playing, make him arguably rocks most under rated bass player. Live you are reminded just how much he holds down the ship allowing Rob Crow's weird vocalizations room to play. it would be easy to try to just dismiss the band as math rock, but the angular nature of what they do is balance out by melody that is often more brooding than Minus the Bear.

Speaking of Crow, he was slimmed down and look much healthier than the last time they swung though a little under a year ago.He switched from beer to drinking Jameson, which might factor in and his voice was stronger than when they played Terminal West last November. This set list was much heavier on their newest album "Information Retrieved". The audience seemed much more familiar with the selections from this album as it's had almost a year to sink in , though some of the most frantic response came from the songs from the first three albums. Toward the latter half of the set there was a cluster of songs from "Summer in Abaddon" that took the dancing to a more feverish pace.  

In recent memory the only show I have been to that have illicited such a joyous response , was Morrissey who is notorious for having a worshipful cult of followers, Pinback aren't putting themselves on  the same platform to be adorned. They have a very down to earth stage presence and seem very gracious towards their fans. Crow took his breakdance breakdown earlier in the set, dropping to the floor to perform the worm. He then climbed down from the stage to lead a sing a-long, which had him surrounded in a circle of camera phones.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sargeist: The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence

This Finnish band named after a Rotting Christ song, was originally started s a side project by on of the members of Horna, but took on a life of its own. It also features members of Behexen and like the sum of it's parts they don't stray too far from the raw black metal sound. This is a compilation of all the songs that had been available only on cassette or vinyl which have been remastered for this release, though it makes me wonder how bad the sound of the original recordings were, as these are still pretty fuzzy.

 Like most heavy bands the attack of the first song gets by on merit of it's heaviness alone. These guys stick to a certain sound and vary little from it the tempo shows variance on the second song"The Rebirth of a Cursed Existence. The raspy vocals sound like they are foaming at the mouth with every word they spew. Normally I don't review compilations but the band felt like these songs should all be released together and had not been previously released  on cd  , so I see it less of a greatest hit and more of the first proper release they are getting, even though some were written ten years apart.

While many while dismiss certain elements as well that's what you are getting into with Finnish Black Metal, I  think all scenes should be held to consistent standards in regards to the quality of music they release. "Wrath Messiah" benefits from when they drop out of the the typical blasty mcnasties. Though they do tend to let fairly simplistic riffs drone on. Song to song this sort of thing does breed a certain redundancy. "Crimson Wine" takes on a darker tone to vary the feel slightly and almost sounds like a Slayer song in doing so.

Some of their more straight forward numbers take on a more punk feel like "Vorax Obscurum". These come across more as filler as even with straight up punk I don't like it to be this rudimentary, though fans of d-beat might appreciate. The old school blasting of "Unholy Black Happiness"  is not much more complex or dynamic than the punk influenced songs. The cvlt Darkthrone feel of "the Covenant Rite" has much needed ambiance to switch things up. The song writing is pretty basic two part progressions, they use the raw scornful nature of what they do carry most of the momentum. "Dead Raven's Memory" sounds like a continuation of the previous, which is funny considering this is a compilation.There is a guitar melody that picks up the slack mid way through. The guitars show they are capable of creating interesting melodies on "Dark Embrace" it's that they are just unwilling to compromise any measure of savagery to do so.

They do darken things down with "the Crown of Burning Stars" so when the build comes at the two minute mark there is more of a dynamic leap. The problem of many blast dominant black metal bands is they lose their effectiveness when make you numb to the beating. "The Moon Growing Colder" is an example of this is action. there is an epic cascade to the assault but with out a dynamic to play against it's comes across as a monochrome painting. Closing with "Nightmare and Necromancy" follows this pattern even though it does have a slight variation of a gallop to it . I'll give this album a 6.5 as it gives a little too much of the same, though they often capture a mean sweep to the feel, that is no doubt authentic, there are plenty of bands in my ipod that can do that and better.          

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Up From the Underground : The Como Brothers Band "Baby Steps"

It's easy to get tied into a genre or scene, especially in New York, where music community is tied into their local pockets. Yet the city holds a rich musical history and diversity and that diversity is what the these two brothers bring to their album "Baby Steps" . Getting their start in a Long Island  based Beatles Tribute band with Andrew as George and Matt as John, and the traces of the Fab Four still linger in their leap to original music, but is not hampered by it. The Beatles themselves employed a great deal of stylistic variance and that sense of adventure is what the Brothers took from that.   

The funk packed into the album's opener is pretty impressive, with a Stevie Wonder swagger that hits as pretty legit, even if its counter balanced by a more pop inflected take on the vocals. Where someone might Justin Timberlake takes on a colorblind affectation to adapt his vocal style, these guys seem confident in their ability to blend with whatever the musical back drop might be. "Numbed" comes across as more of a indie rock number as it shed the urban groove the opener held. These two have great ears for melody and know how to blend them into the cracks of the songs. The jump in stylistic changes might be a tad jarring, but the common ground is good catchy song writing.

They take a more mainstream approach on "Only Me" the lyrics narrate a tale of awkward romance, that is written in a very personable voice. This could be the theme song to any quirky teen sitcom, but not to dismiss this as bubble gum, as the song writing is highly refined. " Straight Face" takes on more of a Billy Joel feel, it feels like a New York summer in the Seventies, as it's very sax heavy.

The try their hands at folky ballad with a very western campfire feel, though some of the harmonies hold a hint of the Beatles on " Hang My Head" and then switch over into a more shadowy groove of "Late Nights" its hard to believe these are the same to guys who four songs ago brought you a frolicking teenage puppy love anthem. This song is miles of maturity away from that and comes across as a regret lament to hard living in the night life.

They return to the more beat up summer in Central Park vibes on "Hey Kristen," this song also comes the closest to dipping into blue eyed soul vocally. While definition this is pop music, it is in the same way Billy Joel or the Beatles more light hearted moments would be. This relatively guilt free pop music though I know for this site there is no such purgatory for some.

There is some really solid guitar playing on " Chasing Ambiance" the Paul McCartney influence returns in the vocals, though there is a slight indie rock indifference in the relaxed cadence. There's also a slight bit of David Gilmore in the soloing. The gears seem to be primed to returned to the blues slur of  New York grown pop. "Make a Move" opens with some doo-wop and then goes skipping into the bustle of the Big Apple.  The strummed guitar patten is pretty typical for Jason Mraz style pop but these  guys blend a very blue collar vibe to it.

They return to seedier funk groove on "Broken" in some ways it takes an indie slant a band like Minus the Bear might employ in  the casual approach to the melody. The western twang of re-verbed out guitar opens "Honestly" and leads into a more sweeping chorus. The song feels much like " Little Wing" by Hendrix, though the sweep to the chorus is much more  in the vein of say Travis or Coldplay. The album exits with a more funk tinged groove though it lies in the same neighbor as the their more Minus the Bear influenced rock moments.

The vocals are very malleable without losing their sense of identity, the back drop changes like that in a musical but there is not the sense these guys are just trying on different hats trying to find themselves but have already found their voice and like providing varied scenery for it .

Friday, September 13, 2013

Katatonia : " Dethroned & Uncrowned"

So the gloomy Swedes decided to take another stab at their last album " Dead End Kings" .  That album has grown on me, but an acoustic reconstruction of isn't much of a stretch. It works better than suspected on "the Parting" . The more organic reconsiderations given hear, allow the vocals to breathe more and the guitars open up their melodies. Things like strings and horns that haunt outside of the layers of harmony vocal are rather romantic. The use of effects on some of the wandering vocals compensate for the lack of distortion. Jonas' vocals sound  stronger here than the original version.

"The One You Are Looking For" sits more exposed in it's nakedness. The duet is more fully entangled when their voice enmesh. The instrumentation is  little too barren leaving to much in the first half of the song up to the strings. The darkness that had been whited out into a faint gray feeling on the last album has been further illuminated. The guitars take a greater role in "Hypnone", but everything else falls away. The vocal layers are interesting when everything else is peeled away from them. Jonas' melody line in the verse finds itself a little less compelling in this lighting. A little distortion creep in on the solo, dispelling this as purely an acoustic version.

Keyboards take over this version of " the Racing Heart' until the delicate guitar unfolds around, once it creeps into the meat of the song it moves nicely. The drum pattern is much softer of course and feels like a trip hop remix. It relies on the vocal layers to build the intensity. The Piano's also take over the beginning of "Buildings" but I was surprised at how well it all came back together for the chorus. It comes no where near the dynamic effect of the original. The guitarists get a chance show off their chops a little more in this version.

Songs like "Leech" seem like they need more form to function and when left at the mercy of string patches don't hold together as well. To his credit Jonas' voice sounds great up on the mic  and it's clear phrasing is on of his strengths as a singer.  He never belts when the music gets heavier so hear  in this setting its more natural. "Ambitions" comes across like something from Opeth's "Damnation" album which took a similar approach. The cleaner guitar tone giving way to the more rock solos like Pink Floyd.

In many ways this is closer to what Anathema does on a regular basis these days. The strings give the songs a slightly more gothic sound and the harder strum of guitar is used to help build choruses on songs like " Undo You". The lack of percussive elements being the main draw back on the more symphonic and barren redirections. The piano parts don't provide enough of an anchor to justify this as they do for someone like Tori Amos.

"Lethean" shows where this works better than in other cases as the tension remains intact even with the breathing room. The line "We had plans but you couldn't make it" doesn't have the same meaning with out the punch of the original accompaniment. On  " First Prayer" where the drumming had been such a crucial part , the melodies and harmonies at least show that are capable of holding down the ship, as the programmed drums patter in the distance. Jonas voice sounds stronger here as he is not having to compete to sing over the crunch of distorted guitar.

The guitars work more intricately around " Dead Letters" and give it a much more Pink Floyd sound, but it floats like a cloud with little to root the song to the earth where its roots are.  The melody by the end of the song has to work that much harder to keep by ears engaged. When it works it's pretty chilling at times at others it drifts like a ghost in the back ground trying to get your attention but unable to connect to solid life so I'll give this album a 8 out of 10 as it's very much contingent on if I just want back ground music for ambiance, despite the melodies which hooked me into the first album still holding much of the same gravity.

Katatonia - The One You Are Looking For is Not Here (lyric video) (from Dethroned & Uncrowned) from Kscope on Vimeo.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

AkuYou: "Body as Weapon"

If  you are not careful this Atlanta band might have put out the year's best album that you will never hear , unless you yourself a favor and check them out. "Drift" has a dark sensuous swagger like Siouxise fronting the Bad Seeds instead of Nick Cave. It brings to mind the dark streets of New Orleans as seen from an opium binge, with the sax taunting like a the demon in the bottle. "Cranky' takes a more introspective throb. It has a similar narcotic haze to it, the sax relaxes into a more languid pace allowing the bass  to occupy the lower middle ground while the guitar paints in sonic swathes.

The singer continues to demonstrate an uncanny ear for melody placement on "Blinded" when the music takes a heavier turn her alto does bear a resemblance to  Concrete Blonde's Johnette Napolitano or even are more sardonic sneer of say Diamanda Galas while the rest of the band hands out a harsher drone with more in common with Swans."Locust" keeps an oppressive beat though the mood shifts into something on par with Morphine, as the saw takes the melody, leaving the guitar to go the more John Zorn route.

They embrace dissonance but keep songwriting in the sights, while there is a cacophonous buzz to "Whine" that is set against a vocal chant that brings to mind the hook in "Holla Back Girl" it some how all still gels, if only to coagulate briefly in the meat of the song.  The sax is used in a very innovative fashion, when the band dips into more sludge oriented territory it holds down the low rumble as well as the bass and guitar. The songwriting style is punk influenced in the fact it is right to the point and most stay under three minutes. They take on a Jesus Lizard like cathartic roar full of scorn and lewd sexual loathing on "Control" when there singer shrieks that she "wants to do you from behind"

I admire their ability to create such dark landscapes in your mind's eye like on "Upright" which is the title track of sorts. Her melody retracts back from the possessed manner she sand during the albums second act , the guitar approaches it's texturing in manner similar to a lot of post-punk bands, it's safe to say that fans of Godspeedyoublackemperor! can appreciate these guys. They re-embrace chaos on "Sybil" that is much more John Zorn in it's approach than the albums other songs. "Pokhara" comes from a more cohesive vortex of the swirling Diamanda Gala variety, it simmer down into a croon in the songs final moments.

"Walk Away" returns to more traditional approach. It has a dark jazz feeling yet brims with tension leaving you suspect the song could erupt at any moment given the bands abrasive tendencies. The bring things to a close with "the Fox" takes on an exotic drone that simmers and builds. Somewhere between tribal and psychedelic this song pulses with serpentine sinew.  I'll give this album a 9 out of 10 and color myself a fan, the only reason it doesn't get a perfect ten is some of the abrasive elements in a few songs I have to be in the right mindset for .

Live Review : Christian Death @ the Masquerade

O.k before we get into how the stage was set with cob webs draped over the drums and mic stand a roses abounding lets get the elephant out of the room...

Some goth die-hards will be reluctant to give the non- Rozz Williams line-up of the seminal death -rock act a chance, if they don't out right scorn it. Valor took over as the singer in 1985 and Williams tried to reclaim the name in 95 resulting in a legal battle. Which Valor claims never took place, maybe it didn't I was too high at the time to keep up or care about that drama. He said it all went down with Cleopatra Records and they didn't want to deny Rozz's fan and said his version just had to say featuring Rozz Williams. Sound fair enough as long as his version said featuring Valor Kand  but it's water under the bridge unless you ask the people over a on Facebook who are still trolling the Christian Death page to make sure justice is done.

 The conclusion I came to is's like Ozzy and Dio. Ozzy is Black Sabbath. Rozz is Christian Death. Dio is technically a better singer than Ozzy, just as Valor is technically a better singer than Rozz , however both Ozzy and Rozz have the personality that makes their bands come to life. Mob Rules and Heaven & Hell are good albums. Sex, Drugs and Jesus Christ is a good album. So it's ok to go see Valor as it was o.k to go see the Dio Sabbath. The big difference being Rozz Williams is dead, so there are no other options, so we get off the hook better than Sabbath fans because Dio could still sing his songs and he is dead , Ozzy is back with the band but can no longer sing.

Now that they years and the drug lifestyle have worn on Valor as well he sounds more like Rozz than he use to and after last night  the playing field was leveled vocally between the too but he still hits more of the notes than Ozzy 

Maitri who joined the band as the bass player back in 1992, took a more commanding presence on stage than Valor , who introduced himself as "Satan or at least that who some people think he is " this kind of deprecating humor took on a Spinal Tap air. Valor almost seemed apologetic at times and this being the third date of the tour  maybe he just needed to get his sea legs back on stage.   

 Maitri held the audiences attention for a few reasons depending on which members of the audience you asked. Young goth boys who hadn't ventured out from in front of their computers since dragon con to see a woman in the flesh where particularly enamored by her, as she was clad like a sequined stripper. Her high heels seemed like an odd fit to stalk the stage in while slinging her bass and her skirt was more like a few strands of black to decorate her panties. It was more than she is wearing on the cover of her album "lover of sin" and like Thrill Kill Kult they adopted a very over sexual theme since the 90's so they stuck to that theme, despite rocks steps toward feminism, but like metal this kind of sleaze goes back to the bdsm themes in early goth, so some objectification applies. Hey it worked for Lords of Acid.  

Drummer Jason Frantz did and excellent job of keeping the songs moving. Drummers are never the strong point to goth, come name some great goth drummers...I'll be waiting. The bass players normally run the show and let the guitarist and singer romantically waltz around the proceedings, so having a drummer that was really solid gave them more of a metal edge.  The newer material they Valor said was being introduced and sold exclusively on this tour was much more metal at one point there was a riff that reminded me of something from Metallica's Black Album,so almost dumbing it down metal. This did prompt Valor to explain what tuning his guitar down to drop d meant. 

The crowd did fill in a little better for Christian Death, though the Rozz resent would be one suspected reason for the low turn out. I only caught the opening band locals Board of Whores best attempt to win the crow over with a cover of Concrete Blond, when I asked the bartender how  the rest of their set was she said very 80's, so there is her word for. If asked a decade to pick for Christian Death featuring Valor Kand's set was I would say very 90's. It was a good decade for Cleopatra Records so little wonder thats where their evolution ended them up at. I think it would be a nice gesture to the fans and an olive branch to do a tour that served as a Tribute to Rozz, reach out to bands like Mephisto Waltz and Sex Gang Children with Rikk Agnew , Gitane Demone, and Eva O.  It wouldn't be goth without the drama and what else have they got to do. Sure if Valor swings back though town I'll saunter in again and hope for the best. 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Live Review: Chelsea Wolfe & True Widow

One of the problems with drugs is there will never be another first time.  It can only happen once. By not realizing this you can the dragon trying to recapture the majickal first time. Chelsea Wolfe is aware of this fact because each time I have seen her perform it has been a different experience. This time was similar to the first time I saw her on the Apokalypis tour opening for Russian Circles though the difference here is the show took on a much different feel. But I'm ahead of myself...

True Widow took the stage an hour after the doors opened. They were very casual in their presentation, at one point the guitarist asked for more lights on stage as "it was too dark for him to see his guitar and causing him to mess up." I own their first album but live there was the Texas twang to everything that I had not noticed before.  The guitarist reminded me of Casey Affleck from the Killer Inside Me.  Live the deliberate drag of the beat, had the plod of doom but was layered in such a coat of 90's slacker rock that it sounded like the ghosts of  Sonic Youth being pored a like molasses over the fuzz. I am interested in hearing their new album so keep your eyes peeled for a review of it here.

Chelsea Wolfe took the stage to dimmer lighting and the drone of atmospherics. The set was split pretty evenly between Pain is Beauty and Apokalypsis.  She swayed with the beat when guitar was not in hand. There was a sense she felt liberated  from being anchored behind an acoustic guitar as she had on the previous tour and the new material seemed to bring a new fascination of expression in the live setting for her and the With a full band the older songs are always going to sound fuller , the new songs held up well against her more time tested material which bodes well for Pain is Beauty, though there was an obvious shift in the darkness and intensity level when the new songs started up. We Hit a Wall,  had heads bobbing upon the first strains of the beat , though the other new songs were not yet as immediately recognized.

 The sheer power of these songs alone translated well live and won the crowd over.While the myriad of loops and sounds required Wolfe to employ various effects and back tracks it did not take away from the caliber of the talent required to pull the dynamics of the new songs off. Her backing band consisted of  the musicians employed on the Russian Circles tour  bassist Ben Chisholm , guitarist Kevin Dockter and drummer Dylan Fujioka. The  ghostly delay and chorus she used on her voice not to hide behind but use her voice as more of an instrument. It created better blend with the darker more electronic based direction of the newer material and blended the older songs with them. So it gave her voice more of a Cocteau Twins feel at time. Dry vocals would have sat oddly apart from the sonic wall the built so this was a wise choice on her part.

"Sick" which has become my favorite song on "Pain is Beauty" worked well live it carried more of a goth melodrama to it, Wolfe dropped to her knees in a more vulnerable position as a counter to the lyrics stronger men than you /  have tried to break me".  Her stage presence while it's always been intense seemed to have evolved with the new material . her body responds to the oppressive current of the music in a more sensual manner. She piled her hair atop her head while singing at one point and it felt like she was more comfortable in her own skin in doing this simple gesture. She is more relaxed in the darker tone.

It also was apparent that with this more tangible intensity level the live show now bring she would be able to fit more comfortably on bills with metal band. She has had cross over appeal with metal heads and has shared the stage with the more indie flavored black metal bands in the past such as Liturgy, but her new material would find her in good company for any one from Godflesh to Agalloch or even Katatonia.  There was a gaggle of college girl screaming out to Wolfe from stage left, at one point one girl screamed for Wolfe to cast a spell. This is amusing to me as her shows have held a ritual like atmosphere where the pageantry of this show was less bout the outer trappings set against her inner intensity and more of a communion with her self that created a celebratory catharsis. The second time i have seen her this year and would go see her again next week if she played which I think stands as a testimony to Wolfe as a performer who continues to evolve.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Placebo : " Love Like Loud"

A big fan of this band for well over a decade now but can't say I was too enamored with their previous album "Battle For the Sun" which seemed bland and a little too middle of the road. I was unaware this album was even coming out so it was a surprise when I across it. I believe it's getting a September 16th release in the States. The opening title track was a little daunting because it gave me flashbacks of the direction they went in on "Battle For the Sun" and I feared Brian had sobered up and lost his touch. Fortunately the rest of the album proves this isn't the case, though it does lack the drugged lamentation feel of their older work.

To say the song " Love Like Loud" is bad is  an overstatement it  comes to close to being banal radio rock for Placebo. "Scene of the Crime" is more on par with what is expected of the band. It's driving with the glam edges, the other layers in the sound , namely synths add to the sound rather than take away from it.

The lyrics have always been the bands strong point and the winks are some what blatant in the stabs taken at social media on "Too Many Friends". Brian isn't taking himself too serious with the opening line " My computer thinks I'm gay / I threw that piece of junk away".  The chorus is big and bright , almost too happy for how I prefer these guys but the other components make up for this.

At the onset I was concern that perhaps Brian had gotten sober and lost his touch as the songs lacked the certain brooding sardonic shadow side than begins to show it's smirk on " Hold Onto Me". In some sense he can't win for losing as by "Meds" the ballads about chasing the dragon had begun to get contrived, but with out that strung out yearning and the sense that his make up is tear streaked. But one of the albums strongest tracks "Rob the Bank"  recalls every element that made the bank great to begin with. The lyrics are smart and the hooks have an edge to them , while the guitar expands its sonic reach beyond the norm for commercial rock.

The piano accompanying "A Million Little Pieces" doesn't burden the rest of the arrangement and helps it to move as fluidly as when the band used similar elements on "Sleeping with Ghosts". Brian's voice also feel most comfortable here as the Geddy Lee like pitch to his often nasal tenor was bound to not age well, though he has handled it admirably even here, though the first signs of strain are showing as his youth isn't immortal, yet his singing style hasn't lent itself to change like say David Bowie's and was bound to face it's mortality.
The build on "Exit Wounds" finds his voice sounding as androgynous as ever but the more electronic sweep of the songs lends it self more readily to his delivery.

The albums final act maintains it's momentum even getting back to a familiar dark bleakness of contemplation on"Begin the End" that find the guitar being just as lyrical in its phrasing as the vocals. Though it seems the album goes out on a slight whimper with "Bosco"  though it's a better song than title track which opens the album but is nonetheless a piano ballad even though the lyrics go back to his self deprecating addictions this time its narrowed down to just drinking. This album  restores faith in the band after the last one and for the most part is pretty damn good so I'll give it an 8.5 though they have released 10s for most of their career so its bittersweet.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Gigan: Multi-Dimensional Fractal Sorcery And Super Science

This is my first stint with this band. the albums opens with a lot of density to it. There is some sonic breathing but the very raw production makes me feel like I'm crammed into a crawl space of the ship in Event Horizon as " Beneath The Sea Of Tranquility" unfolds. Like Ulcerate and Gorguts the trend to marry atmosphere with this dark technical brutality continues here.  Like most albums of this ilk the fact you are being hit with this degree of heaviness catches you from the onset of  the assault and the band find the challenge to keep you engaged from their as heaviness alone numbs you out and loses its effect

They was no time hitting the threshold and blast into " Influence Through Ritualistic Projection" it morph into a slightly off time accent that doesn't strike me as capturing the mood of any ritual but is a different take on death metal. It takes an Electro-Stimulated Hallucinatory Response to generate more variety then the straight up snare wanking. Though to have the term psychedelic thrown around so much in regards to their sound there is no a lot of cerebral  window dressing . The leads are noisy and chaotic like Kerry King on some bad acid but three songs in it's as trippy as it gets.

The riff to Mother Of Toads hops around with an ugly distortion. The jazz like break down midway is pretty cool as well as the King Crimson spazz out putting this on the more progressive side of psychedelic. Fittingly one of the darker more intense moments where this album shines is Obsidian Sun. Where the manage to strike a balance of being as sonic as they are metal , though the scales are tipped in favor of metal .  There angular pound of  Cosmic Triangular Communications gets the point across. The opening riff is pretty cool and proggy for death metal , but you know my rule cool riffs alone don't make a song. This where I run into problems with a lot of death metal. The growls here are low mixed growls that vary slightly so they aren't monotone but its clear the vocals are where the least amount of thought was given.

They pick up to an even more blinding speed on Gibbering Hordes Of Zemiath, which I get is fast and we have layers of diddling guitar over it but is this a song or a riff ?  when it slows to the crazy wonky riff I'm more of a fan as the faster parts are precise yet still trip over themselves.  They don't come to their senses on  Bio-Engineered Molecular Abnormalities, in fact the keep up the crushing speed only making little weird guitar sounds for a few seconds, which is far from breaking the boundaries they seem to think they are and we reach the numbed out state where the fury loses its power and becomes white noise, but to their credit they made it to the last song before this occurs. I'll give this album a six but if you like middle of the road tech death metal you might want to round it up to a 7. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Gorguts: "Colored Sands"

I have little trouble saying this is one of the heaviest releases of the year, but I am having trouble deciding if that equates with being one of the best. Are their good songs being written here or am I being dazzled by weighty riffs? These Canadians can write about death with conviction as this is their first album after the suicide of their Drummer Steve MacDonald.

The opener "Le Toit du Monde" lures me in with dips into the more melodic middle sections and the hint of atmosphere haunting the edges of this war machine. Some times I hear this and think..." Well these guys are succeeding where a band like Meshuggah has failed when falling prey to the expectations of the masses. Sure this album has gotten a load of accolades but that means jack and shit to me. What they have going against them here is they come out of the gate so strong here and a common problem for many metal bands is they hit you with the heaviness on the first song that leaves your ears ringing but you numb out half way through because they lack dynamics.

By "Forgotten Arrows" the math comes in and begins a more calculated dissection of its self but still hit me as being more convincing than the last one by Ulcerate. The drumming has more power behind it , yet is precise and these guys have no problem with seamless transitions in the pace. But even in the face of a technical juggernaut like this the rule applies... cool riffs alone doesn't make a good song. The vocals are the bands weakness as they are low and guttural enough to convince me they mean business but still rather one dimensional.

The title track does well to lead in softly and come back in strong as it gives the album some ebb and flow. Once they are back into the song at full blast  into the meat of the song is where it gets hard to really differentiate itself from some of the riffs that before. The solos tend to clutter the chaos than if they were given the space to stretch out. When the chords are allowed to ring out and reach for the darkness they sound better than when crammed into the more claustrophobic passages.

Though it starts of lost in the momentum like a child running down hill, "Enemies of Compassion" does develop a pretty mammoth riff that it returns to like a thematic element rather than a cheap plot device. However when these guys just straight up go into bludgeoning mode it's not their strong suit as they want to keep too many balls in the air. It's when they let the song breathe in the final two minutes that it gains the most power. They do know when to lead off with a good riff and let it groove before bringing in the circus on top of it, " Ember's Voice" is a good example of this, but it doesn't feel like the road map is very clear on where they should go when they deviate from it, until the slow the pace down and congeal around it.

They take things down to a doom pace on "Absconders". The transitions here are more like the next logical step and seem more natural than some of the jumping through hoops found in other odd places, but the song starts to be come white noise and loose my attention after the first six minutes.  Once again they drop the introduction down to a simmer before pounding you with the meat of the matter on the album closer " Reduced to Silence". They offer sparse breaths of dark cool air in-between hinting at the tension before dropping the hammer back down. This is done more tastefully than expected even though they show an aptitude for dynamics they sometimes forget when overzealous with the heavy. They find some sonics toward the  end the song with as the blur of brutality numbs into white noise. It's these more morse glances towards doom where the band makes the most music rather than banging the lowest notes they can find around.

I'll round this up to an 8 but I don't see it having much continued growth with me as my ear was caught on the initial listen but with each repeated listen it gets more obtuse and collides into slightly boring, though I do like the gray shroud wrapped around the feel of this album.

Crystal Stilts: "Nature Noir"

This is the 3rd full length from the band currently base in Brooklyn, it starts off at a lazy drugged 60's shuffle, with a Morrison like baritone moaning into the bathtub down the hall. The guitars nod off in a manner not unlike some of the less droney moments of the velvet Underground. It encapsulates everything I like about music from the decades, all underground New York Art scene and none of the hippy crap.

The drugged haze begins to clear for something with a little more spry in its step with "Future Folklore" but stays to the Quaalude left of the Stones even at their most Satanic and majestic. The Benzedrine boogie here is a more hopeless party indicative of the lyrics"back to the underworld/back to the sea / back to the garden just you and me."

They are more optimistic in their hung over strum on "Sticks and Stones". I prefer the lower more somber vocal tone to the first two songs. They stay in a dreamy strum of acoustics on "Memory Room" which keeps the more stoned slacker monotone than the album started with.  This band has often been labelled as being post-punk and I don't hear anything to back those claims until the Jesus and the Mary Chain appear. It shows back up on "Words Gone Weird" but unlike like most post-punk or goth, there is some sort of tension and this album is far too relaxed for that label, closer to being psychedelic.

They work the best when creating a bleak oasis of psychic garage rock like " Darken the Door" that wanders off into Doorsish exotic scales and circus waltzes. I have a sinking feeling there was more experimentation being done with drugs than the sonics which tend to return back to acid drenched meanderings that happen to have enough melody to hold them together despite the best attempts of the jangling guitars to lead them elsewhere.

The title track bathes in the heavy reverb of a western and still manages to find a subtle groove. The indie attitude is all over this thing far more than any punk sneer as it is far to dazed and confused to bite back, but it works for this album. Of course I can do without the camp fire guitar strumming and want things to keep the morose feeling and they tip toe this balance when they bring the album to an end with "Phases Forever".  I no longer do the kind of drugs needed to really feel this type of floating exit the album makes but I can recall it.  I'll give this album an 8,  seems like it will grow on me, overall I was caught by surprise by these guys as there is a certain down trodden feel to the album I enjoy a great soundtrack for coming down.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Chelsea Wolfe :"Pain is Beauty"

It's not a secret how I have been dying to get a hold of this one and it has been worth the wait. With "Unknown Rooms" it took a listen or two or it to grow on me but with this album by the time I reach the build of the opener "Feral Love" it grabs me. It's darker and heavier than "Apokalypsis"

"We Hit a Wall" is filled with a desperate beauty, I have already reviewed this song and its as stellar as it was the first time I heard it maybe even more powerful now that I know what to expect from it and can just bathe in it. The electronic elements don't take the easy way out by just droning and Wolfe's voice glides over it like the lonely ghost she always is. The vocals are produced in a similar fashion to other other album very reverb drenched. This is for atmosphere because the gods know she has the pipes to pull this off however she wants.

There is almost an evil Depeche Mode feel to some of the movement in the electronic elements, the ethereal vocals set against the almost retro "Enjoy the Silence" like beats in the end create more of  Cocteau Twins sound. I think its funny that when I brought up Wolfe in the state of the Goth scene panel it was scoffed at by some, but this is the future of dark music in fact at times she makes the likes of Siouxsie seem too peppy. Zola Jesus is going to have to watch her back and come correct if she hope to even be able to touch watch is being done here.

The David Lynch garage swing of "Destruction Makes the World Burn Brighter" is different for her, the darker elements shade the edges in the way the backing vocals haunt the corners.There are moments that sound like they belong on the soundtrack to a transcendental horror movie, "Sick" being the song that brings this to the forefront of my mind. The line  "I'm not the kinda sick that you can fix" is very powerful and when her voice hovers into an acapella section its rapture.

Like a David Bowie this is another reinvention in her approach , but there are still many trademarks to her sound presented and given the spotlight in different ways but still fitting nicely in her body of work. There's a dissonance to "Kings" that could be heard as Krautrock, or obviously dark wave. She drops it back down into "Doom Folk" as she has been most commonly labeled with the strum of  "Reins" sitting against down tempo funeral march that gathers speed as they start down hill. Her voice really shines out of the darkness here, a little more delicate than from what we have heard put to album but a similar style employed live.  The post- rock nuance of the guitar sets a chilling back drop.

There is a twisted Bjork like turn taken on "Ancestors, the Anicents" it has a very powerful throb and the electronic elements do not detract from this still sounding very organic. There are even some slightly proggy elements to some of the guitar playing here. This album is dynamically here strongest as it builds toward the ashes of a burned heaven, drifting like smoke higher than she has soared before. The drumming is also noticeably stronger on this album.

She reverts back to the acoustic guitar on " They'll Clap When You're Gone" this song is the closest thing to what she has done before, so if this growth frightens you then this will be your favorite song as it strikes me as being a left over from another session. While if this was the direction she took this album as whole I'm sure I would like it but it seems like an old song used as filler considering the magnitude of sonic scope she has showed us she is capable of producing. But taken aside by it's self its not a bad song and has a emotive build not unlike those on Unknown Rooms.

The piano driven intro to "the Waves Have Come" doesn't stray to far from her past as well but it's done in a creepier manner to distract me from this fact and by the time the drums come in then the movement has you caught up in this tragic dance . By the next build you have handed her the crown to take the throne as the new queen of goth. Though its a title she will surely reject. She closes this out by dropping it back down to just her and her guitar for the fittingly titled "Lone"  though it builds into a  cowboy ghost of a campfire fire song.  I'll give this a ten since it's the highest rating I albums on here, her glances back to the days of her and her guitar will take time to grow on me after being blown away by the dynamics of the album as a whole.    

Up From the Underground: The Boston Boys - "Keep You Satisfied"

This  Boston based band sounds like they belong preforming on a corner of Bourbon Street with the blues inflected roustabout title track that sets their e.p. sailing. Boston is a college town and while from their chops some of the boys obviously attended Berklee, they are more focused on getting the frat party moving than dissecting jazz riffs.

The pop hooks to "Amelia" create an odd juxtaposition between a Justin Timberlake groove and Dave Matthews, while they might be trying to capture more of a roots music sound by the addition of a mandolin and a fiddle, they are used in a manner much more similar to Dave Matthews than anything on the Oh Brother Where Art Thou soundtrack.  The vocals carry r&b nuances in phrasing and benefit from the mix and creative bells and whistles they dabble in on the production side.

The groove is the focal point to mid tempo "Endless Creation" . To these guys credit they manage to have a lot going on around the melody, with every instrument employing fill heavy embellishments to create the jam feel. Sometimes it brings to mind the solo work of Paul Simon, but this could also be said of David Matthews.

"Honeycomb" dances more of a jig around its self. They instrumentation swirls around itself while giving the vocals plenty of room to breathe. The r&b elements slide a little further into the spot light here. It becomes apparent every player is bringing a unique skill set of influences that are being mixed into this jumbo.

The ballad "Take Me Under" reminds me of something Ben Harper might do. The song seems a little too sparse in its attempt to become intimacy, as this sort thing isn't the band's strong suit. They work best when they are throwing a lot of different grooves, sounds and melodies at you and truth be told this folkish ballad is better left to those who that is their forte.

Overall this is a lot of fun and would be welcomes to any party in the French Quarter, though they have a built in audience in their hometown. There is a huge demand for this sort of thing, though only for the more open minded here at Abysmal Hymns, if you appreciate the Dave Matthews Band for their chops and ability to blend unique sounds then you will appreciate this effort as well, as they do not come across as a Dave Matthews Tribute band by any means having a compelling sound of their own.

Ministry: " From Beer to Eternity"

In some ways this feels like 1994 with both bands putting out albums so close together. Where Trent has hung up his industrial hat , Al is not so apologetic about it. This album feels a lot less mall metal than some of the other post- Darkside of the Spoon albums.  The opener is a weird one slower paced , yet more dynamic than what we have been getting from Uncle Al in recent years. As a whole the songs are more dynamic and tend to just pound out the machine drone like they did on "Filth Pig" the only draw back to this is the slick product and glitch blips here and there make this seem less apocalyptic in scope.

The lyrics to "Punch in the Face" seem pretty juvenile to me and the mix on the vocals is a little dry making the gruff quality sound more overtly metal like Fear Factory, but aide from that it's by no means a bad song, but as you know if I'm a fan I hold the bar pretty quality and don't like to make excuses because of their legacy. It's pretty powerful stuff and will be a hit with more mainstream metal heads. When it comes to industrial strength metal, the song "Permawar" does a better job as a whole, there is a greater range of dynamic and it's evident Al took more care in the song writing process. The vocals in the verses dumb it down into more of a straight forward Pantera like metal thing.

They stay on a similar Fear Factory like course on "Perfect Storm" in the fact there is more metal groove than the industrial pound of their most classic work. The samples work more like a call and response than to create a mood like they have in the past ,  the vocals in chorus redeem the song for me and the build at the solo section rocks as well.

The samples feel more like a White Zombie album than the more cerebral tone Ministry should take. The album becomes a glitch ridden sound scape of samples that feels more like a Ministry album, this changes after " Fairly Unbalanced". They begin to take a harsher more experimental direction with the samples and beat you with them similar to the approach that frequents "Psalm 69" . This bleeds over from the end of "Fairly Unbalanced" drowns "the Horror" in it's chaos but keeps it breathing with the pulse of the underlying beats. Fans of Pyschic Tv and Swans will find it very pedestrian but for those who didn't seek out anything more experimental then I 'm sure there will be a fair amount of bugging out but the stoned masses. "The Horror" bleeds into the chaos of the next song.

 The march of " Lesson Unlearned" helps to constrict the album back to together as they flex their metallic muscles and it almost sounds like a groove laden version of KMFDM with the female vocal hook.  "Thanx But No Thanx" starts off in a manner that reminds me of the Lords of Acid song " Marijuana in Your Brain" if  Williams S Burroughs got a hold of it. While I can appreciate the quirky nature of  the first half of this song it feels more like a Tom Waits b-side that I'm not sure I really need to have in my ipod and it could have been put to better use on a Revolting Cocks album. When it builds into the heavy guitar the hooks it cool but it feels like two songs were smashed together.

There is more experimental ambiance to "Change of Luck" serves as one of the albums more interesting moments. The closer "Enjoy the Quiet" is just a static sound scape. While the album includes two remixes for the purpose of this review we are just looking at the sources because if the remixes are better then why didn't they just do that in the first place. I'll give this album a 9.5 and room for it to grow on me, I think the production could stand to be thicker but over all it delivers much closer to home for where I want Ministry to be.