Friday, February 28, 2014

Laibach: "Spectre"

Since their inception Laibach has kicked down creative doors, while maintaining a certain sound of their own, though a large percent of their work is cover - songs and re-mixes, the band claims it is against originality, so they are a bit of a creative conundrum. To say there is some new about this albums is  a  bit of a misnomer , but I find the sounds that are gathered here be they begged borrowed or out write sampled, to be entertaining.

For the purpose of this review I am focusing on the meat of the album and not covering the bonus tracks , as if they were intended to be on the album then they would have rather than just be relegated to pre-releases or deluxe editions.

Despite the opener when sounds like a Nazi drinking song, then rest of the albums tends to take a very dark turn. With lyrics focusing on the very dystopian direction the world is headed and the 1984 themes prevalent in the world today. Their album came with a manifesto that you can sign and pledge to their party and from the gist of the lyrics , it doesn't sound like a bad idea, as most of the lyrics have an anti-religious slant to them.

I had to a/b the song "No History" against Awolnation's "Sail" and found the two were not connected though there is a similar dub step inflected punch to both songs. There is a harsher dance groove to "Eat Liver!" that reminds me of  KMFDM and makes me very curious about some of the guest vocalists on this album as it sounds like it could be Siouxsie Sioux singing not only on this song but a few others.

"Americana" finds the band returning to more of the sound that Rammstein once emulated. "Eurovision" sounds like it samples Massive Attack. I like the chorus chant of "Europe has fallen apart." The collision of sounds is not always unsettling as "We are Millions and Millions are One" glides into what turns into a more electronic infused Siouxsie sounding number. "Bossanova" finds itself in a similar territory though , the vocals here sound less like Siouxsie and more like the singer from Savages.  

 The big difference I hear on this album is it is more edm and less industrial if we are even going to say this is industrial at all. I there is more of their traditional sound from the single of the album "Resistance if Futile", though it is way more dancey than expected. The vocals that creep up here remind me of Imogen Heap. The song does work well and combines ambiance with the more scathing grooves. I think this is what Daleks would dance to if they had a club.

I wonder if there will be any back lash for the band naming a song "Koran" as Muslim's tend to be rather protective of their religion in the media, just ask Salman Rushdie. The song starts of as an airy ballad.The gravelly baritone vocal counter point this as a call and response, though it can't say they take as daring of a swing at Islam as you would hope they might have the balls to .

I'll round this up to an 8.5 as I plan to keep this in my iPod for a while just off the initial listens , we shall see which way this grows on me but so far it's a pretty enjoyable listen.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Sado Sathanas : "Nomos Harmatia"

It's getting harder and harder to find black metal bands not intertwined with death metal. This German band is exception having got their start as a death metal band and then changing with the times into their current incarnation. These guys don't shun atmosphere, where most of their country men tend to keep things rather stiff and militant when it comes to the blasty side of things.

Despite having been together for so long this is the band's second full length. It's also the first to include their new bassist Robert Blockmann. The clean vocals on the second song are the first thing that really convinces me these guys mean business when it comes to committing to expanding their creative boundaries. Even though this type of low goth moan is not new to black metal, to me it's a gesture of good faith that they want to actually create music and plow you over with bombast.

There is a sense of melancholy to a song like "Ante Bellum" , but they tend to storm the gates too often in their powerful gallop to really fit the modis operandi of Depressive black metal.Even the fact that "Ante Bellu" is an instrumental doesn't bug me as it flows really well, in some ways reminds me of Moonsorrow, speaking of which what do we have to do to get a new album from those guys?

"Invertum" opens with a rumbling bass line and plunges feet first into this double bass explosion of epic blasting . When it does slow to swing into the more epic section of melody the song is most effective. "P.A.N Demonia" rips that a similar speed though swinging in the verses. At times  in some of the breakdowns you might even be inclined to lump these guys in with some of the Pagan Black Metal bands. There is that kind of viking metal quality.

They close out the album on a very dark note with " Codex Diaboli" it touches on that fine line I like where funeral doom meets black metal. Oppressive yet beautiful.This is another instrumental that I don't mind , though how long the instrumentals stay on my iPod when push comes to shove and I am trying to save space... well I don't know. It's not too big of a leap for me to round this one up to 9.

The Weekly Shuffle

If you don't know what this is by now I am not sure why you are reading it, hitting shuffle on the Ipod and seeing what pops up.

"Ramble On" by Led Zeppelin- One of my old bands use to cover this one, and I would ask the crow if they had their 20 sided dice ready. This is one of their many tributes to Tolkein, which is a strong argument to put the Sabbath vs Zeppelin debate to rest. John Paul Jones is the star of this show for sure.

"Movie Screen" by Chelsea Wolfe-No big surprise here. I like the trip hop element in this song and truth be told stumbled across Chelsea Wolfe in connection to the whole "witch house" movement that kind of came and went in electronic music. Live I think this songs comes across even better as in the studio it sounds like she is sometimes holding back.

"the Unknown Knows" by Voi Vod - A tragically under rated band that merged from the thrash scene of the 80's, they are one of my all time favorites. Like most of the under dogs I root for these guys had a lot going against them as they were too weird for your average Slayer fan at the time and they were from Canada. so they eventually began to give into being Rush's country men and things got proggy, even on "Nothingface" which was a break through album of sorts for them. Then grunge came. This song is one of the albums heavier moments , but still is filled with some of the punk sneer they tend to carry like Killing Joke. Way ahead of their time, if this came out today it would still sound current.

"Black Moon" by Killing Joke - Speaking of Killing Joke, "Pandemonium" has always been my favorite album by them as it blends melody with the stark industrial sounds that they pretty much single handedly influenced...ok Swans helped too.This song this typical of the great moodiness this album dwells on. The vocals sound great and the guitars have a lot of sonic coldness behind them. .

"Mourning Sun" by Fields of the Nephilim - These guys alway hit a perfect blend of dark sonics, menace and mystery and when you listen to this song you can really hear how it influence the most recent Watain.

"Sunbather" by Deafheaven- Well it's getting hard to separate these guy's music from their career choices, as the band is now playing Bonnaroo. A closer listen to this song proves the only thing separating them now from a band like Russian Circles is  their vocals. Kylesa has played both Bonnaroo and Coachella and they are still playing bars so their might be hope.

"I'm Still In Love With You" - Thin Lizzy- As far a ballads go, this one is done pretty right. Not a fan of love songs, as lyrically they tend to run the sames lines. The guitar playing and the drumming on this song kick all kinds of ass.

"The Stars Are All Out Tonight" by David Bowie- This album continues to grow on me with each listen, which is a good thing as it is probably the last we will get from him as he just had another Birth day and I doubt we are going to hear a 70 year old Bowie crank another out.

"Invaders" by Iron Maiden- Growing up I thought of this song as a fast forward classic as compared to the rest of the album it's fairly straight forward, but after covering it I grew a new appreciation for it.

"Forever Animal" by Beast Milk- Before the fervor that built around Climax last year, these guys were already kicking ass, though I caught a more Hawkwind vibe from them than the goth thing back then and his vocals have come a long way.          

Acheron : " Kult des Hasses"

I go back to 1992 with Vincent Crowley. When they came out around 88, I would have said this was black metal, as these guys or say Impaled Nazerene were satanic death metal , that was even darker than Venom so it only made sense at the time to think of them as such. The only and only album I have owned by these guys was "Rites of the Black Mass" which got a lot of play from me in high school. Even back them , I knew they were Morbid Angel rip-off's, but were darker and more melodramatic, creating their own rituals rather than growling a bunch of Lovecraft gibberish, which I later came to enjoy. At the time the fact Crowley was a member of the Church of Satan, is what won me over as some where around Seasons in the Abyss, Slayer came out and said all the satanic trappings they used were just a gimmick.

These guys still worship at the Altars of Madness, but crafting it in a more mature and masterful fashion/ There are moments which by todays standards fall even short of being death metal, like the groove heavy "Jesus Wept" which sounds more like something Lamb of God would do. The riff to "Thy Father Suicide" reminds me of Twisted Sister's "Captain Howdy". But even with these moment, and perhaps especially due to these moments it makes me wonder why these guys are not bigger at least in their respective genre than they are. They guitar playing in pretty top notch and drumming certainly holds it's own in a genre where drums are an athletic event as much as they are an artform.

The do keep up with the times and still have the power to blast through a song like "Misanthropic Race". It's pretty straight forward considering where the more extreme genres of metal have gone and finds it's self falling much closer back to death metal than they would like to admit in the days when every thing is black something as we have seen here during our focus on black metal in black history month.They are more focused on songwriting than the bulk of the tech bands and their solos have more form and function than even Morbid Angels'.The most black metal moment on the album feels to be "Satan Holds Dominion" which comes the closest to what we think of as black metal today.

I'm all for a little misogyny in metal, it gives it a more barbaric feel, lyrically "Whores and Harlots" has this in spades and the verse riffing is tightly syncopated making for stand out songwriting. They take on the fury of Deicide but keep it more melodic and have a bass line that you can actually hear on "Axphyxiation". The album closes with the punk/rocknroll feel of "Devil's Black Blood' , where they dumb it down into a more Motorhead/Venom style of playing. But you can't say this album doesn't have variety to it, which is more than can be said from many bands who just focus on heavy and all their songs end up sounding the same.

I am pretty impressed with what is being done here even if at times it is not the most original, but no body has ever said these guys were going to reinvent the wheel, what they have done is created one that is well made and thoughtfully crafted.The albums only draw back is at times it is almost too straightforward for my tastes these days , though as a teenager I would have no doubt given this album a ten all the way as it stand I am being generous with high hopes this will grow on me to round it up to a 9, but these days Morbid Angel doesn't sound like Morbid Angel so these guys can claim the empty throne.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Up From the Underground: Latimer House's All the Rage

After relocating to Prague this band began to create a brand of Brit Pop that is very different from you might normally think of . The genre lends itself for bands to either emulate The Beatles or the Smiths. Which side they fall on takes some time to surface as influences not typical of "brit pop" are more obvious.The vocals  are more casually spoken in almost a Lou Reed manner than the typical Brit pop croon. The jangle of the guitar is in similar vein to early Strokes.The only element that I hear bearing in common  ground to the Smiths is the bass line which to capture that Andy Rourke sound requires it to be pushed up front and a little more swagger. In fact I'd almost compare this band more to Johnny Marr's other project The The. Granted here we hold anything being compared to anything Morrissey related under more belabored scrutiny.

The tapestry they set their songs against is unique, the strings to "Burn" are rather Beatlesque. The more droning narrative to the vocals, makes me think of Current 93 or Death in June, if either band was given anti-depressants.The rather upbeat mood which coats the bulk of album, is often too hopeful for me.The skip in the step of  "Eye Can See" carries the zest of  "It's Getting Better".

The more Lou Reed elements return on "Open Your Heart". The guitar is rather straight forward almost like something Tom Petty would do , but with a surreal backing of strings and horns behind it , this reminds me of some of New Model Army's more experimental moments or even Cult of Youth if they were writing songs for Chicago... the band not the musical.

The Beatles influence on "Brit Pop" is unmistakable, the ear where Latimer House differentiates themselves from other bands steeped in Beatlemainia is the vocals are much more like Ringo Starr's than Lennon or McCartney. So if Ringo is your favorite Beatle then this album is a must for you, as there are moments on a song like "Bird Cage Walk" that seems to pulls from even Ringo's solo work. "Red Heart Sequin Blues" has a walking bass line and an old roadhouse boogie to it solidifies the Ringo comparisons, as this is something I can hear his All- Star band jamming on.

I prefer the more subdued vocal approach to the title track finds the band in a much more Pink Floyd like dream-scape, which seems to be an area that they should allow themselves to more fully explore as it is one of the albums strongest songs. Singer Joe Cook's voice sounds relaxed and tonally more resonate. The guitar playing also excels here as it is allows to drip like rain on the outskirts of the psychedelics, rather than having to adhere to the form of the riffs.

There is a weird blend of country and funk to "Love's Undermined". The Keyboards tend to dominate this song. They dip back into the Strawberry Fields on "Splash" though the vocal phrasing leans more toward Lou Reed, so if you have ever gotten high and wondered what it would have sounded like if Lou Reed has been brought in to replace John Lennon, you now have your answer.

The album closes with "Bubblegum" that marries "Delicate Sound of Thunder" era Pink Floyd, with 80's new wave , the likes of Men at Work or the Proclaimers. The strings fill out the background, but with a less Beatles flair. The vocals have some questionable moments in terms of pitch on this one, but perhaps it was a stylistic choice. This guy is no Morrissey by any means, and the lyrics tend to serve more for narrative voice than the melodic focus. So it would be like comparing Bob Dylan to David Bowie.

Overall, if you have a soft spot of 80's inflected Brit Pop, that's more Beatles than Smiths, like Utopia or Ringo's solo work then make sure you check this out. Though, happier punks with a love for the days in the 80's when the line became blurred for bands like Television, might find this worth a listen as well.


Digging Into the Covers- Whores/Rabbits Vs the Cure

To some extent you might think I would be the perfect audience for this as my tastes are split almost 50/50 goth(post-punk) to metal, though metal might lead 60 to 40 percent if we got down and tracked my listens.In some ways it makes sense as I have always heard the Swans and Killing Joke influence in Neurosis albums so early goth/postpunk is certainly an influence. Despite coming from a more Amp Rep background Whores  almost come closer to getting the darker elements right, but in both cases the vocals are the draw back.
I can understand these bands not wanting to sacrifice some of the hipster factor back making a more emotive stab at the vocals and attempting a Robert Smith approach, who was a little more dead pan himself in the bands earlier punk days, but it really takes away from the meat of the song.The changes of arrangement was expected going into this, though thought the bass might stick closer to Dempsey's tone. However the sludge treatment in both versions creates more of a sluggish wall of sound than lending such distinctions.

Whores covered the 1979 single "Jumping Someone's Train". The vocals come a little closer as Smith was a less dynamic singer during the early stages of the band's career and went for a simplistic punk attitude. Lembach employs a more Page Hamilton like phrasing to the way the main vocal line over accents the lyrics. They are more narrated and less sung. The lumber and feedback doesn't obscure the song, the doubled vocals on the chorus stray the farthest. There is a very Page Hamilton like phrasing to the way the main vocal line over accents the lyrics. They are more narrated and less sung. I has to go back and listen to the song again because I was surprised they did not go after the drum accents that the Cure using in the final 30 seconds of the original because they seem to lend themselves to a Neurosis like pounding, instead the go into more of a rolling tom fill and stop rather abruptly.

The Rabbits took a swing at "Give Me It" from their 1984 album "the Top". The more Neurosis elements, I could have heard in the Whores' version are delivered, here but Rabbits when full tilt at the song and lost all sense of dynamics, except for the more brooding intro which is the only place the song is allowed to breathe. The coarser vocals serve as a reminder that bands like like all too often make the vocals an after thought, as they seemed to be haphazardly screamed like an Eyehategod song.

If you are a fan of the Melvins and not a fan of the Cure, you have a better chance of liking this.It's not something I really feel that I need taking up space on my iPod, as the originals are already on there. So it's a mixed bag, the Cure is such a revered band that it seems as safe of a choice to cover as if they had picked Joy Division. Though their goth cred would have been more noted if they had chosen Swans or Mission U.k....whens a Fields of the Nephilim sludge cover album coming out ?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Cauldron Black Ram: "Stalagmire"

More blackness for black history month, the reason this particular band is so good is that it features two members of Mournful Congregation. Now would I rather have a new Mournful Congregation album...yes, but this works for now. It's the Australian band's 3rd full length and truth be told thats not a continent I associated with metal black or other wise.

This album sounds nothing like Mournful Congregation, instead in goes back to a more classic metal sound at times, think Venom more than Darkthrone when you are counting the genre lines. The album carries some big riffs that wow you with their heft. I can hear 80's Tampa death metal mixed in with some dazzling guitar work, that will appeal to thrash fans.

This forgotten era of  the original black metal that is invoked here is adorned in all the guitar flash and thrash leanings that it was spawned from. There is enough gallop and chug to make any metal head worth their salt want to head bang along. It's a lot of fun the vocals at times recall Deicide, the the way the rasp winds into the phrase, think Suicide Sacrifice.

Any doom influence isn't hear until "Maw" and even then it's not too oppressive of an influence. The vocals take on more of a fiendish gurgle and are almost as easy to decipher as say Sodom or Celtic Frost. Coroner and Angkor Wat can be heard in some of the accents to the riffage as well.The melodic nature of the soloing recalls day when they worked with the song rather than against them.

"Discarded Death" has that straight forward snare beat that I dislike from death metal.It causes the song to feel stiff until the more Carcass like riff seeps in. The drums don't seem as focused and into created the same sort of hooks that the first two songs had. It's not until the songs final minute that some kind of groove bites out at you. Their is some ominous weight to the riff of " A Litany of Sailors Sins". The song grinds into a really raw sludge coated style of death metal.

They thrash back with a mean gallops on " Bats", the vocals show they are fairly versatile in the range of their rasp.Rather than going in a mosh friendly direction, they drag you for better or worse down into death metal. This trend continues on " Cavern Faver" , the drumming goes more blasty. The riffing seems more throw away when they revert into the atypical death metal sections.Its no until a minute into the song that it finds a good thrash, though I am not sure if it justifies the song being an instrumental.

Thing get darker on "From Whence the Old Skull Came". If you name a song that there is one one direction it can go , and power ballad are out of the question. The vocal chant the song lead in with , is a smart move.The vocal get more of a Carcass grit on "the Devil's Trotters". There is a slight return to the doom influence as the chants return. The chants taken on a more creepy spoken refrain that they open the final song with. This gets doomy in a slightly Celtic Frost manner, though the guitar takes a little more swing to it. Lower clean baritone vocals moan over some cool guitar work that resembles a sped up version of Mournful Congregation. It drifts into more My Dying Bride realms as it winds on, which is fine with me.

Some times this album lacks focus in the song writing which is generally inconsistent.I will give this album a 7.5, if you like early 80's precursors to black metal then this album is worth your time


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Mutilation Rites @ the Drunken Unicorn

Normally I like to wait until my ears stop ringing before I sit down to review a show, but if I was going to do that then it might be next week before I got around to it. It had to have been one of the loudest shows I have been to since the last time I saw Swans. Which is not what I expected, on album Mutilation Rites tend to layer guitar parts and color their songs with a fair amount of devil in their details. Here they slapped you with a buzzing wall of sound. But we are getting ahead of ourselves as it was not the least of the unexpected events that transpired.

The reception for the band was warmer than expected. If you were going by the forums and social media then you would thing the normal  perception of the band in the south  would be to wrongly lump them in with the rest of the Brooklyn metal scene. While their were a few familiar faces from shows like Deafheaven, it appears the general metal populous is not as  narrow minded or  as out right ignorant as this inner webs lumping of all the Brooklyn bands together crammed against the likes of  Liturgy and Krallice.

With locals the Pinecones, who play a drone heavy punk rock like a fusion of Mudhoney and Swans on a blind date to anarchist rally. So this drew a small percent of the hipster factor. Cesspool, where hard to take seriously as their singer only gurgled and made gestures that suggested he was making fun of death metal bands , which at best would be what the band was trying to emulate.

Then came Full of Hell. The singer stayed in the pit where he thrashed about in equal measure to his screaming and grunting. The band was as abrasive as they needed to be. The drummer exploded at his kit, keeping time with his head more often than not. Leading the pack in the type of hard-core Converge brought to life, these guys are intense and hard in a way hard core should be.

American black metal has crossed over in a big way seeing a band like  Deafheaven is now playing Boonaroo, some of the menace has been taken out. So what is a band to do?  Mutilation Rites, answered this question by cranking up way past what the Drunken Unicorn's P/A could handle manifesting some pretty punishing sonic emissions. Their volume spoke louder than words, their music was as much felt as it was heard. Being a very different experience than what is committed to their albums, it instead captured the drone of white noise shoved into the metallic intensity.

Before they began the assault the singer asked to not have vocals in the front monitors and the growls coating the drive of what they do just as another layer rather than really overtly accenting lyrics. In fact the difference between the recorded work and what was unleashed on the stage, made a distinction but the two art forms, much like a Swans show hits you over the head and entrances you at the same time.

The band focused more on selection from "Empyrean" which lended it's self to the exercise in sonics, better than their earlier more straight ahead metal material ,the thrash under tones and guitar heroics, were toned down for a more punk feel at time. The band came the closest to any I have heard yet match the sonic hypnosis of Transylvanian Hunger era Darkthrone and sold me on the balance between sonic harshness through the distortion of volume and being heavy as in metal. To a certain extent the layers of their more nuanced guitar work were sometimes sacrificed to the altar of volume, but any doubts about how "trve" this band is should be put to rest with the live experience.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Kreigsmaschine : "Enemy of Man"

Not relenting in our need to bring the blackness for national black history month, we find this Polish band with a German name features two members of  Mgla among it's ranks. Their guitarist and drummer. More ambient than Mgla, comparison to Ulcerate are not unfounded, though the bands forgos needless wandering into the more technical side and captures the ringing chords so in some ways it's not unlike Blut Aus Nord either, they find themselves in the same purgatory between occult death metal and black metal.

I like how dark this is and the sonic space this album typically inhibits. The album does tend to allow the songs to drone together in one bass laden throb. The vocals stay in a mid- range growl, that are often more of a bellow,   the vocals on this album  are better than say Ulcerate's vocals, but they are by and large an after thought when it came to the fine point of the song writing.

 Not relenting in our need to bring the blackness for national black history month, we find it coming from PolandThe album stomps to life with "None Shall See Redemption". It backs the needed punch in the dark to get your attention. The vocals circle a deeper drain as they gurgle in a some what lower register than they typically are through out the album's course. The drummer is pretty creative with some of his more technical experimentation with double bass, the drum mix is much better than your typical Ulcerate album where their treble mixed nature makes them sound sterile like a drum machine.

The only complaint it that all of the songs begin to take on a similar throb. On "Lies of the Father" this is done with enough lurching sway to make it stand out , but the general vein of drone in their lurching swing begins to numb you out once the album reaches "Farewell to Grace".

The formula seems to be give you some breathing room as the lights go low and pound the point home in the most spectrally ominous manner they can summon. The level and approach of ambiance is where they change things up, along with smart drumming which at times is the only thing to differentiate the riffing. Some songs carry more drive and gallop, but retain a similar feel.

The drumming is really one of the album's strongest suits, along with the bands ability to blend atmosphere with this darkened swamp of riffs. The lower throat singing type vocals that chime in midway through
"Asceticism and Passion" bring a new coating of creepy to things and provide some variance in the vocals they were beginning to really need mid way into the album .

The band comes at you with the same storm cloud in the albums final act. If you are not listening careful it begins to sound as if the previous song is still going. So dynamical things start to get a little opaque by " To Ashen Havens".  They blasties creep in a bit, but the song retains such a similar feel this is not fully realized.The progression are not so accented that stand out , but a blur of shuddering guitar.

The title track closes out the album at a similar pace as what the band had been riffing off of for the bulk of this lp. The syncopation shifts a tad here, but the drone retains the stain. They linger on the chords in a very sludge drenched doom manner now, before launching off into a elephantine shuffle.It hits in a similar monolithic manner as Meshuggah to me, technical but in an understated only the drummer gets the joke way.They simmer down and drone out the same way they came into this world. I'll give this a 7.5 , round it up if you are a huge Mgla fan.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Woland: " Hyperion"

On the out skirts of what we will consider black metal , exists  this Finnish band who is as tight and well put together as many of the heavy weights that have come out of black metal and then crossed over into metal for the masses...Dimmu, Behemoth, Immortal,...the songs are well written and lean more towards death metal.The riffs are spry and catchy, they darken up slightly on "Art Of Ascension" . The guitar is the album's strong point , but might also be considered it weakness to other , who could say it's perhaps too big and over produced lending it self to sound like mall metal. Be this as it may it doesn't dispute the power which a song like "Living Water" chug in with.

If this was the mid- 90's then this would come  across as being as black as something like Sameal did at the time. If Reinkaos is though of as black metal then this might pass for it as well. Counting genre's straws is bound to occur when riffs that sound like they would not be out of place on a Meshuggah record crop up. So black metal for the djent fan ?

Sure there is a touch of Dissection lurking around, it is not as rough around the edges or sonic as say Watain. This is much more rock n roll, tonally with the vocals rasp being fairly articulate. At times the singer reminds me of Tom Warrior. However when the clean vocals come in midway through the album ,I am not surprised

More melodic moments keep coming ,though the bulk lie in the guitar arrangements. They to touch on some epic frostiness amongst the tightly syncopated riffs of "Live Forever". This album could use a good dose of dissonance to counter balance some of it's precision, that at times feels a little sterile. The break with a lavish piano piece works better with the tight noise gated chug.

This album is well crafted and well played, the strength seems to come in the song writing rather than any individual prowess, though it leans towards the guitar if some one was going to be singled out. So while this is a good metal album, it is being marketed as a black metal album when the amount of elements in the music to support this claim is a bit of an exaggeration.    

In the competitive landscape of my iPod, I think this album is good enough to earn a 7.5 due to the craftmanship , but at the same time it doesn't beg for me to really devour it with listens .

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Hail Spirit Noir : "Oi Magoi"

Here we go continuing with all thing blackened for black history month. Its no surprise that the  history of  Hail Spirit Noir's members finds this band getting their start playing in prog bands, only to have butched it up a bit over the years. The Greek band's second album find their guitar tone slacking up a bit and the band further in Sigh's zip code.

The opener finds the band in the dizzying almost Mars Volta blur of prog jamminess, rocking out in more of King Crimson than King Diamond direction. There are those "Whole Lotta Love" breakdown moments where the guitars lay back like Jimmy Page and let the bass and drums keep a more jazz like groove going. The Deep Purple like keyboard tones helps win me over and the exotic scales the solo toys with seals the deal.

"Demon For a Day" finds more of a folk frolic skipping through some of the songs myriad groove, even the odd helter skelter Mr. Bungle like blasts popping in here and their for the brief black metal winks, that are further elaborated on later in the album. The flute solos help fuel the folk metal comparison, but these guys are too chaotic to turns these into the more traditional pagan drinking songs.  

At time a thicker gain guitar tone would make this more metal, but they are banging away at their guitars so I can respect the fact they are wanting to go a different route to heavy. In fact at times the harsh vocals are the only element that really keeps this metal. With a title like "Satan is Time" you would expect the growls to get more demonic rather than the clean vocal tone , that is pretty impressively sung with a lot of passion behind it, falling closer to the Moody Blues than what you would expect out of a black anything band. This in some ways reminds me of what the Swedish Shining was going for at one point, but these guys nail it better.

It isn't until the Satyrs start having an orgy that the real black metal busts out. Even when it goes a more traditional turn that don't default to a typical guitar tone, as things keep the loose organic jangle even when the speed of the storm builds. Two minutes in the going gets weird.

How many black metal-ish bands have a song about a mermaid, at 11 mins it's the longest track on this album, for a prog band these guys normally keep things pretty concise and cram a lot into each song. This songs like if Pink Floyd had been commissioned to make the Exorcist soundtrack. Though it takes on a more nautical sway, with a more Rush like accent to the groove and the vocals going in a more Arcturus direction.

Things go more 70's prog on "Hunters" though an old school Darkthrone type gallop launches this song into battle, with clean vocals providing the kind of dynamics more common on an Enslaved album, which is another reference point in terms of who this bands peers are when it comes to chops. Black metal fans don't fret though things pick up and get blasting midway into this song.

The album closes with the determined but slower chug of the title reminds me of Ghost jamming with Enslaved. Like most of their songs they are not content to just hang on this riff for long. It does seem to hold the most traditional song structure of the album, which is an odd choice as I would think they would want to pull out all the stops. They do drop down into the more Led Zeppelin like break down.

Overall I am really surprised by this album, it's one of the best metal release so far and really succeeds in that fact the metal elements come together rather organically. I will give this one a ten as it's pretty flawless and engaging, lets see how it grows on me , if you can't take prog leaning them it's just not for you.      

Ad Infinitum : "Woven Within"

Ok, now there's only 21 black metal albums left to cram into the black history month...or in this case black metal history month, though rather than looking back at where black metal has been it's history seems to be reflected back to it in new bands...or one man projects as the case of this project. The one man band seems fitting for black metal due to the genre's misanthropic nature.

This is one of four metal bands that use this name, two of which are from the United States, this project is based out of Kentucky, which is impressive as this feels like it was created somewhere much colored and less colored by the restrictive tendencies many southern metal bands have to not progress much beyond what ever last year's trend was.

This album take me back to bands like Cold World and when the Depressive Black metal scene was starting to gain momentum in it's early days. It is more atmospheric I suppose if we are going to count straws as the vocals lack the sniffling and gurgling that most DSBM  has and it sounds like the cold distance it creates is more of the emotional intent than self deprecation. Not as bad  as most of the earlier "ambient" or "Atmospheric" bands in over indulging themselves in keyboard sections that drone on, the song writing is normally  focused on keeping the songs moving. There is one three minute instrumental interlude and the  albums closing song "Surfacing" is a 12 minute synth drone. The actual songs that do more than drone are pretty worthwhile.

Songs like the "Observer" lock the guitars onto a drone and hang their in a hypnotic state of suspended animation. The vocals throughout the album are in the Burzum like mid range snarl, and coated in enough over drive to sit them into the guitar mix where they serve a layer of white noise, rather than conveying any lyrics.Some snarls are more accented, some are drenched in delay and add another coat of ambiance.

The title track is pretty punishing in it's straight ahead past into the gray landscape this album creates. When the riff shifts into a lower register the guitar takes on the more droning sensation it established and maintains for the bulk of the album with varied themes of melody tracked over it.This guy is good at the arrangements, in the sense that rather than verse chorus it works in movements of ebb and flow where the sonics take slight shifts.

Overall the mood that is created here is great, despite the few lapses in to synth over doses. I'll give this an 8.5 , it is much more black metal than alot of the genre mish mashes we have come across this month. Until the 200 download per month limit  is reached on Bandcamp the album can be obtained for free on their page and a limited edition pro-dubbed cassette version of the album is going to be released for all the mega -hipsters who are reverting back to tapes.  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Night Fell: "The Living Ever Mourn"

Moving on with our black metal for black history month trend, we are coming upon another genre crossing band in Night Fell. This Portland brings other elements to the table , but they are generally dark enough to sit under the black metal banner. In some ways it makes them more like classic black in the sense of early Mayhem and Celtic Frost. Their riff find doom laden groove, which make for a fun listen.

The guitars when played faster certainly capture the black metal sound tonally. I can hear bands like Craft in their dirty sound. The wretched vocals lean closer to the more deathly elements of doom. I don't really hear the sludge they get tagged with, it sounds like gritty , but straight up metal for the most part, the guitar riff to "I Am Decay" has a good hook to it . The drumming leans more towards death metal as well. It keeps thing moving even when it slows into a more doom like crawl.

The albums creeps into darker corners on " Empty Prayers" that holds a more funeral doom melody in the guitars and a clean vocal chant. This swings like a drunken pirates hymn. The Tempo taking a shift on " the Hollowing" the opening riffs is tensely pick as the toms build around it in a almost tribal manner before it breaks into more of a gallop.It tramples into some pretty epic storm the gates riffing, touching on the more trash flavored black metal. There is a weird break down in the finals minutes where drums pick up the kind of tension the guitar had established at the beginning of the song and the vocals take on a lower more spoken quality.

"Altars to Wrath" leans back into the more doom like lurch before taking off into a deathly chugged black swirl. The very melodic bridge section, is some what Dissection to me.   The album closes out with the song "Funeral Dirge" that opens with creepy guitar in more of a ...funeral doom place tonally, which lives up to the titles name and should come as no surprise, though when the song actually kicks in it goes with a more epic yet melancholy gallop.

Overall this album surprised me in the both quality and songwriting, it held much more blackness to it than what I had heard about these guys and surprises me that this came out of America, so I will round it up to a 9.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Ashen Horde : " Sanguinum Vindicta"

Marching to cram 28 black metal reviews into the 28 days of black history month , we take a look at Ashen Horde's debut album. This one man band is pretty impressive for he attacks the songs with the kind of epic fury the guys in Immortal do. Rather than the arctic wasteland of the blizzard beast, he cranks this out in sunny Hollywood.

Off the bat this is more black metal than Lvcifyre, whose album I just reviewed. There is a thrash like under current that is also present in Immortals work as well, so since this is set up at the altar to the Sons of Northern Darkness, this comes as no surprise. There is more death metal or Behemoth like crunch at times on "Mind Over Slaughter".

The fast paced guitars come at you with a quick charge, however the songs are pretty well composed giving you time to catch your breath for a more dynamic ebb and flow than you might think you are going to get. The playing is also pretty technical at times, so if you are looking for cvlt hypnosis, this is not the album for you.It's remarkable that he is as skilled of a drummer as he is a guitarist.This guy also adhere to the cool riffs alone don't make good songs, but the almost 80's feel to the intro of "Baited Breath" shows he can write as killer of a riff as anyone. The more pummeling moments of the album like "Smoke and Shadows" suggests Emperor might be an influence as well, as their is the sort of organized chaos in the way the maelstrom of riffage is assembled then spit back out at you.

The thrash thing rears its head high on "The Burden of Sorrow" with blasts interspersed to keep things black. One thing about this album is it deviates from black metal in the sense there is little ugliness or dissonance,which I find a defining characteristic of the genre and what separates it from death metal. So this is very death metal friendly and furthers the trend of blurring lines in this regard. The crunch to some of the riffs in "Midwinter's Loss" in awesome despite not being very black metal.

The vocals are really the albums only weak point, they get the job done and vary in degrees of rasp, sometimes recalling the more Immortal croak, though not like Inquisition does in this regard and gives the project more of it's own sense of identity because of this. The rasp often finds it's self in more Skeleton Witch range.The lyrics are not too obscured in the rasp, though they seem to fall into pretty typical metal stereotypes, rivers of carnage and varied forms of hellish ultra-violence are explored. Despite these factors this is still a very solid debut and I don't mind rounding it up to a 9, worth checking out if you are a thrash fan who has been on the fence about black metal.

Lvcifyre : "Svn Eater"

Since it's Black history month herein the States, I'm going to try to cram in as many black metal reviews as I can for the second half of the month. Some of this will of course be more black than others, as there is blackened every sub-genre now. The line between black metal and occult death metal seems particularly fine and this is the ground the new Lvcifyre seems to tread.

This is the London based band's second full length, it's hard to tell how much of what they do as far a presentation is tongue in cheek like Venom and how seriously they take what they do. They feature the former Corpus Christi Drummer.

The album opens at more doom like pace and escalates into a more death metal direction midway though, Von comes to mind as a possible inspiration, though it's a much more well produced effort. The final minutes of the song find the band descending into the blast beats. The album relents little from there.

If you are really sensitive to the sub-genre police , then this album feels much more like a death metal album than it does black metal. Aggression seems to be the primary focus rather than creating any type of atmosphere or hypnotic melancholy. Every thing sounds like bulldozer belched up from hell, as the album chugs at high velocity. They do strike a good galloping groove here and there on songs' like "Liber Lilith".

These guys are animals in the way the attack the songs and their instruments. The guitar is dense as shit and the riffs club you with blunt force. On the title track they hit the more obtuse elements that I don't like in death metal, like the very straight forward snare hits.The growls are about as low of a gurgle as the ear will accept as a human voice. The blast sections might fools some people into thinking these guys are black metal.

By the time I get to "Fornication Waters" I am beginning to get the feeling this is too one dimensional so I am paying less attention to the ear beating and more to any hint of melody or ambiance. Sure it's heavy as hell, but that only goes so far for so long.They are pretty mired into what they do with the only other colors coming in on the interludes surrounding the guitar solos, which isn't enough of a pay off. Sure "Fyre Made Flesh" has a cool riff or two, but the rule around here is cool riffs along don't make a good song. "Nekvomanteion" changes the pace slightly and has the kind of ripping punches characteristic of "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh", but even post- Vincent Angel Worship, only works to a point.  

The album closes with the Morbid Angel tinged "Sinister Calling". While it's more grinding and brutal than anything the Tampa band touch, the more explosive guitar playing reminds me of Morbid Angel more than say Incantation, who might be considered the other band these guys draw inspiration from.This album should be brutal and punishing enough to suit even the most jaded metal heads, but if you require more than just heavy this might not be the album for you. I will go ahead and round this album up to a 6.5 , as it's impressive for the sheer punch it packs .

Friday, February 14, 2014

Dephosphorus : "Ravenous Solemnity"

I have really being hungry for new metal lately so I am forcing myself through this album despite the fact, my initial listens found me really turned off by the vocals, which at their bast remind me of Sodom, they are monotone bark, that never coughs up enough rasp to graduate into a full blown growl. The cool riffs don't make a song rule really hits these guys hard.

They have summoned up enough hype from the cool kids of the inner webs , who normally have at least smart taste in music, so my expectation were a little high on this one. A thrash vibe coats songs like "Dark on Dark" , but I can also hear ample hardcore influence, particularly on how these barks seem to be an after thought to the riffing, which sure is rapid and furious , but seldom carries enough hooks to balance out its punch.

Like bands such as Nails , these guys to smack you with enough heft to get your attention, keeping their songs brief like guerrilla warfare tactics, striking and then disappearing in the same blur they hit you with. This doesn't really strike me as black metal, though any black metal influence I did hear was on the first couple songs. They are rough , but the guitar lack any melody to really sell me on this. The vocals do change into an almost sung part at the end of "Astrocyte Portal" that makes me wish they had used some variance like this earlier in the album even if it is as brief as it is there.

At the rush three minute time most song clock in at they can cram quite a few jams in on this album, despite that the pacing makes many sound the same. The greek accents , remind me of the Portuguese accents of Sepultura, who is a good reference point as early Sepultura can be heard on "Storming the Sloan Wall".  Sure the guitar is fairly dexterous, but the need to give the songs some breathing room hit a desperate level when you get to the midway point. Like most bands with this much in your face intensity it only carries this album so far before the need for the finer points of song writing come into play.  

Their rough technical side married to the spastic nature of hardcore, it like a less metal version of Absu. They wisely slow down when the album comes upon the title track. There are other bands who at times they remind me of , like Craft , that I like , but some how most of the grooves that do surface on here don't gel with me or the blast back too soon. Its not until the last half of the album that it begins to utilize any variance or range of dynamics.

The drummer has to have some skills to pull this off , the blinding guitar riffs that fly pass like glass in a car crash are not shabby, but how its all woven together isn't showing me much more than a penchant for brutality, which is allowed to pass for some listeners. The punk influence here is more apparent than not , a song like "Hammer of Logic" really turns defining genre lines into counting straws.   Some of the more angular riffs work more for me than the sections of blasting in my face that end up sounding like white noise. By "Fountain of Daggers" I am like ...ok. we got it you can play fast, lets hear you write a song. The vocals do change into something that remind me more of Angkor Wat, the guitars don't get all too interesting beneath them. The vocals do begin to not come across as grating after a while.

The guitars do begin to hit some sonic spaces , but those are soon lost in the storm. What many might see as this bands strength can also become their weakness, they are un-relenting. The noise moniker gets thrown around in regard to this band and they are creating noise, it might not be the kind you are thinking of. They do hit a good groove on "Glorification of  the Anti-life Equation"/ The long annoying song titles actually are well suited for this album. They do touch on death metal moment more frequently than black metal moments, "Vicious Infinite Regress" is a good example of this.

" Blood Runs Red" closes the album out a more punk number, that feels like they are shedding the extra weight of riffage and finally getting around to doing what they have wanted to do for the entire album. it's clear to me as I anxiously await the album to be over ,that these guys aren't for me, the hit a few moments I like, but the total package of what they are is not what I want from metal. The rough show production, helps create the desire effect, but it would be interesting to hear what this would sound like with more separation in the mix.  I'll give this a 4.5 , if you like this sort of heavy handed riff chaos round it up a whole point.


Decades/Failures : "002"

Right in time for Valentines I caught this new album by this dark synth act from Richmond VA. It takes the darkness of Joy Division and couples it with New Order's more dance oriented side. It is certainly cold and murky enough to suit the new wave of hipsters getting into goth, but jaded old purveyors of the scene should be able to appreciate the mood as well.

" I ( Never)  Wanted to Believe" , finds the color spectrum of their sound expanding. It doesn't stray far from the depressive side of the dance floor. This is fine by me. The vocals stay pretty close to the Ian Curtis monotone baritone.

"City Streets" finds things taking on a nastier edm that borders on club goth. This is an even darker turn for the band. The title track develops a more creeping vocal that stalks the more Daft Punk like synths that sound to have landed from the land of Blade Runner. The vocals remain plaintive in their dismal croon. The sense of dynamics circles some where around a surreal pulse. They veer close towards some of the synthier industrial moments even a slight Romeo Void element under coating a song like " Gentle Forces". It's impressive things continue to grow increasingly dark through out this album.

The oppressive electro cloud lifts on "Tell Me How". The vocals bury themselves in the mix, you can tell their in a voice chanting something, but it steers the song out of becoming synth pop. Things take a more dystopian turn when the album closes with " Everything Went Black". IN some ways this has a ballad feel to it ,as the song sways at a much slower bpm than most of the album until it begins to build before the two minute mark. I'm feeling generous so I'll round this up to a 9 out of 10, we shall see if this grows on me. The vocal can lean towards monotonous, and limit the dynamics slightly , but for the mood it's pretty perfect.    


Murmur: S/T

This is the second album by the Chicago "black metal " band. The first song will make you believe they  conjure up a pretty dark and dismal brand of black metal that simmers as much as it seethes. The drugged dissonance in their guitar tone frequents some very angular places. The vocals while raspy come closer to having a dsbm style anguish to them.  This  is the only time on the album they adhere to this sounds. The rest of the journey is much more proggy. These guys are pretty adventurous when it comes to the twists and turns on composition. Though they are not  too over indulgent in this keeping the song writing concise and for the most part around  6 minutes, with two epics at 9 and 11 minutes.

They shift gears with ease coming to a place that sounds more like "Souls at Zero" era Neurosis on "Bull of Crete" this is coating with an eerie guitar melody. The chorus finds clean vocals crooning , but set back far enough into the music where it doesn't diminish, the artful ugliness the band is creating. The drummer at times reminds me of the drummer from Russian Circles.

The epic "Al-Malik" is not unlike something Sigh would pull off , though in some ways the chaotic nature of the song reminds me a little of Sleepy Time Gorilla Museum. Here they are much more progressive than black metal, in fact it's more prog with a sludge like grime to it. Brilliant in it's execution if this type of excess is not normally in your diet it might be hard to digest.The more delicate touch of "Recuerodos" has a more 70's prog feel, think Emerson Lake and Palmer or Animals era Pink Floyd . There is great guitar playing here , but this song feels more like an interlude to me.

The first installment of the "Zeta 2 Reticuli" wind up at a sludge like pace for three minutes before the shouted vocal chime in. Fans of old Mastodon will appreciate this song . The part two is a tighter jazz swing, that would not sound out of place on a Tomahawk album.More hints of their dissonant black metal past bubble up on "Yellow King".

At it's heart this is much more of a prog album than any other metal subgenre, so the clean vocals that dominate " When Blood Leaves" is no surprise. I'm all for melody and actual singing in metal, however I think the more black metal approach works best for the band , rather than the other vocals colors employed such as the more throaty shout or this kind of post-rock monotone croon. The cover of "Larks' Tongue in Aspic" while an admirable task to tackle a King Crimson song, is a little redundant as they have already made that influence crystal clear.


Interview the Bands of Hammerheads 3

Saturday the 15th punks and metal heads will be drinking away post- valentine blues at the Basement in Atlanta for the 3rd Annual Super Bowl of Hammerheads, which is being billed as the Sharknado of Souls, ... I'll take Megadeth for 500. The Punk and metal scenes in Atlanta have an incestuously divergent history so I spoke with three of the bands on the bill about the show which seems to be a celebration of that fact.

Adam Edgewood of the Vaginas

So this show is a coming together of punk & metal bands, you guys obviously fall on the punk side of the fence. What influence has metal had on you?

We have always listened to metal, we grew up listening to it. We started out as a joke , we formed to play an open mic in Alpharetta and it kept going. We think of yourselves as a punk metal band.

How do you compare the entanglement of punk and metal scene in Atlanta vs other cities you have played?

There isn't a punk scene in Atlanta anymore. Metal is where it's at in Atlanta now.

What are you looking forward to the most about this show ?

Whenever do this show it's a party. Glad to bring our friends from Harkonnen out from Texas. Its always a killer show, with beer being sprayed every where.

What else do you guys have planned for 2014?

We are setting up another festival for may/june and we are playing with the Goddamn Gallows at Smith's Olde Bar.

Alex from the House Harkonnen

 So this show is a coming together of punk & metal bands,what side of the fence do you see ourselves falling on.

Alex- We are more metal. Grew up as metal kids, but still kinda both. We are almost more of a hard rock band. We have been playing with the Vagina's forever. We  are maybe a little heavier, though they are equally heavy just in a different way. In some ways similar so it always has been a good fit playing with those guys.

What album got you into punk-

Alex - Static Age. I mean we grew up into stuff like Sunny Day Real Estate and now more modern stuff like bands like Floor.

Whats the scene like in Arlington these days as far as punk and metal goes?

Alex - Its mainly metal in Fort Worth, there is still some fall out in the after math of Pantera ,with a lot of bands got new metal and stupid. There some bands playing sludge and southern rock , but it's a lot like it was back in the early 90's.

What are you looking forward to the most about the show Saturday?

Alex- Its a good party the is the third one we have played. Its always at pretty interesting venues.
We love playing with the Vaginas. There's always an after party and we will probably end up crashing at Adams. We have never played with Death of Kings before so are looking forward to playing with them.

 What else do you guys have planned for 2014?

We have a new album , so we are selling that, then work on the next album. 

Amos and Matt From Death of Kings

 This show is a coming together of punk & metal bands, and you guys are a metal band now but come from a punk past, so what album was an influence that brought you over to the darkside ? 

Amos- It goes all the way back to  listening to Iron Maiden and Megadeth. It's like you mean it's faster and more technical than punk well sign me up.

Matt- Scream Bloody Gore, it was an easy transition. 

How do you compare the entanglement of punk and metal scene in Atlanta vs other cities you have played?

Punk there is a little more interaction at the shows, with people getting up on stage and getting knocked out, that doesn't really happen at metal shows. 

Matt- there are a lot of punk kids that you see going to metal shows, then at house parties afterward you never know what is going to end up on the record player so theres alot of kids getting exposed to metal or punk that way.

Amos- I'll second that, there's a gray area where you see a lot of the same people at both shows.

What are you guys looking forward to the most about the show Saturday? 

Matt- With  all this bad weather, we have had to cancel shows, so I have been getting a little stir crazy so it will be good to get out and have a release for that restless energy. It's good to see friends and it will be positive energy. Excited to play with Harkkonen. 

Amos- My old band use to play with the Vaginas all the time, so it will be good to have a place for punk kids an metal kids to have a place to come together. 

Matt- Yeah we go back with the Vaginas, those guys always put on a great show you never know what is going to happen. I did sound for them once at Jack's Pizza and I turned up the p/a as loud as I could and it still wasn't loud enough, they just kept playing. 

So you guys just released Knifehammer, what else do you guys have planned for 2014? 

Matt- We are doing a 6 day tour hitting places like Asheville and Savannah, it will be the first time that we have played these places with the current line-up that's on Knifehammer, so looking forward to that, getting to check out local records stores. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Estranged: S/T

Portland's The Estranged have created an especially compelling take on the post-punk rebirth. Where most of the bands coming out these days dressed for 80's night tend to take on the cold distance of Joy Division, this band's album has a very organic warmth to it.The emphasis is more often placed on the punk in post-punk, and veers into the blurred lines between rock and punk as these guys pull from influences outside the batcave, you can hear strains of "Paint it Black" in "Hide" and they go after their songs with a much more rock n roll attack. This also leads to more punk moments, some in a more New Model Army sense others in a more straightforward fashion.

On "Fatalist Flaw" I can hear echoes of "Gimme Danger" by the Stooges, if sung by a young Joey Ramone in one of his more crooning moments. Sure the new wave era is an element but always through a filter of punk with hints of the Dead Boys and the Clash. The vocals stay in a croon, thats rather tuneful in the day where every band is paying tribute to the monotone delivery of Ian Curtis, which is great for Joy Division, but they seldom capture the same desperation, since they have yet to hang themselves. The vocals have more hope to them than most.

The bass player really gets the job done and works over time to establish the same kind of muscular grooves New Model Army utilizes. Melodies are always maintained, the guitars linger at the edge of dusk without really being dark, like the more goth leaning post-punk. I can even hear faint hints of early R.E.M , the jangle of the string being picked out.

The more clanging ring of guitar dominates "Mark of Sin" , with the urgent vocals taking on more of warble,like the college rock of the 80's coupled with the punch of Gang of Four."Over and Over" that on more of a old Cure like tremor , but generally speaking the band has less of a Cure feel to them than what I had read about them before hearing the album. Here it's a more along the lines of say "Hanging Garden" in the way the drums cascade.

The Police like staccato bounce of "Play For Keeps" is a lot of fun."Another Stab" races along at a frantic jangle with the vocals accenting the kinetic pace.The album closes on it's dreariest note with " the Ride". It retain the upbeat pace that permeates the album, but the bass holds more of slink against the choppy guitar work and more melancholic vocals.

I'll give this album a 9, it's fun and good to hear another take on the genre, it's more rock n roll than what I normally listen to and not as dark either, but still manages to earn repeated listens,


Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Current 93 : "I Am the Last of All the Field That Fell"

The first album since 2011's "Honey Suckle Aeons" and it's turned into an even like this is a Leonard Cohen Tribute concert, as they have dragged out a who's who of the Avant garde elite, as this album features guest spots by Nick Cave, Antony from Atony and the Johnsons, and John Zorn.Not that guests appearances are
out of the ordinary for them as Bjork and Wil Oldham have both appeared on releases .

 I can never shake Tibet's days with Psychic Tv, so they seem like one and the same at times. Sure I share a similar spiritual path as Tibet, so I have all the respect in the world for the guy, but the first listen to this one it seemed better back ground music than songs. With Psychic Tv, Genesis will always rein the spooky eccentric poetic parts in with some trippy melodies where these songs as allowed to wander.

True , I don't drop acid any more. If I was to...I would this album out again to see what I am missing. There is a jazz feel to the first few songs. Over the years these guys have been labeled all sorts of things from industrial to folk, members of Death in June have been a part of this project, so it goes with out saying it's going to be dark. I would call this shadow jazz, if asked to create a genre for it. David Lynch should be all over this when he remakes Twin Peaks, it sounds like Tibet got really tripped out and wandered into a jazz jam and grabbed the mic and they all filled in the cracks behind him, I think this works better on "Those Flowers Grew" than the more spectral opener.But at eight minutes this loose jam could have been reined in by a more sober mind.

The poetry continues to flow in it's abstract flow on " Kings and Things" . The female vocals trace over the skeleton of the song.  I can hear the correlation between Tibet's lyrics and Crowley's poetry. As a poet Crowley worked better when channeling other minds from other dimensions or in a more ritualistic fashion. I think psychedelics is what these songs are channeling, in the even he is sober as a judge year then it's the damage of hard living speaking through him.

By the time we get to "With the Dromedaries" it seems the dreamy twinkle of piano is going to be the only constant accompaniment on this album. The lyrics on this song are stronger than the rants of the first few. The percussive elements wait a little too long to come in during the song's final minute. The first ditty that really comes together like a real song  is " The Heart Full of Eyes" the piano takes on a more exotic scale with the drums and guitar simmering in the background . His seeming free flowing proses , fills in the gaps here rather than having to hold the full weight of the song on their wobbly nature. Feedback darken the corners of the song without the guitar really making a rock presence felt.

This album requires an appreciation for drone and hypnotic noise. These hymns to the wild mind pour out in fountains that are formless.Antony's voice on "Mourned Winter Then" gives the song a little more focus , but then it stops sounding like Current 93, as it's a cosmic catch 22. This comes closer to baroque folk than anything thus far on the album, shedding the jazz like feeling the other songs took on .

There is a more brooding rock like storm building at the beginning of " And Onto Picknickmagick". Flute gives it a more prog rock trapping to the boiling background that bubbles to life.I think the potential for tension this song could have developed is lost when it fails to dynamically latch onto a crescendo. "Why Did the Fox Bark" opens with a hint of noise and metaphysics, it finds where it really wants to go in the lilted piano line that runs smoothly under the prose. This time it's more fluid than earlier attempts.

An actually groove erupts on " I remember the Berlin Boys" and I think why wasn't this happening the whole time.It has a cabaret like swing to it. There is also a more jazz like and reckless interplay between the piano and the drums on " Spring Sand Dreamt Larks" , but it's not as graceful in execution as the previous song.

The album closes with the Nick Cave number " I Could Not Shift the Shadow", I am not sure what he was asked to do but I more crooning and less of a gravelly spoken word thing would have made this more of a song. The whole "bury your naked church / into my mouth " line works well to take the album out. I'll give this album a 7.5, round it up if you like doing drugs and listen to your crazy uncle read esoteric poetry to you.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Aesthetic Perfection: " ' Til Death"

Formed back in 2000 by Daniel Graves, this industrial project is based in L.A and is much more EDM, than what I or anyone owning at least one Ministry album would consider industrial. The opener is much more of a intro piece and creates more of a martial mood than the dark pop that follows. "Anti-Body" is pretty infectious  and falls some where in-between a more serious version of M.S.I and a more Halloweenish version of the Faint.

The synths have a very plastic 90's house fuzz to them on " Lights Out", which straddles the fence on being too happy for my goth heart.The melody doesn't have enough teeth to hold me. I can see this being Aqua's evil twin or j-pop with less Sailor Moon and more Vampire Hunter D. I can say when this song is allowed to play, like most pop it becomes a more easily chewed bubble gum that you don't notice is in your mouth aside from the sweet after taste.

This guy is not a bad song writer, he has been at this long enough to know a good subtle hook. The harsher vocal he tries to go into , well sounds like a choking joke, when you normally listen to black metal. The sounds he presents , as not heavy or menacing , but some pretty well inter linked legos from the future.

"Big Bad Wolf" has a little more beef to it's bass line and when it's all said and done, you can give this guy props for being able to hold a tune better than most of his ilk. The vocals are more of a second tenor than the bat cave baritone. He knows how to reach into his head register and at the end of the day is more of a pop singer.It's a few shades lighter than the last Skinny Puppy, and much smoother. At times Graves' voice reminds me of the queen from Panic at the Disco. I'm sure high school girls are all over this in some dark corner of the private school system.

The bass line to "Showtime" falls much closer to Depeche Mode flirting with Celldweller. The ahhs are very Depeche, but its a mode I don't mind this band going into as at this point I am much more likely to catch them than fork over a hundred bucks for the real thing."Oh, Gloria" is much less compelling listening and loses the momentum this album was starting to build.

It would have been really disappointing if the song " the Dark Half" didn't live up to it's name at least when it comes to the synths behind Graves, vocals which largely stay in a similar register when they aren't doing Depeche Mode karaoke. "The New Black" comes closer to the dystopian sound you might want from industrial , though it still is not what I would call industrial.

The album closes with "Lovesick" that recalls the dark balladry of a "Waiting For the Night". This album could use a stronger sense of dynamics , but its good dumb fun for what it is , I'll give it a 6.5, if its your bag around it up to a  7.    

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

What's Metal in 2014?

I was having one of my defining metal conversations, in regards to the new Cynic, and felt that metal is something that can be defined, as it contain certain sonic properties, while these are quantifiable in terms of decibels and gain levels in distortion. I think sheer power and aggression along with technique are other defining qualities, that keep it separate from genres like punk, hardcore and grunge. Sure it might come down to splitting hairs and counting straws, but for defenders of the faith, this knowledge is the first line of defense. Though there are some bands who try to play down the fact they are metal, when it becomes a bad word.

It was brought up that music is objective and who is anyone to define this, well the term came from a music critic, and last time I checked you are reading this article so I guess I must be qualified or you wouldn't be reading this on this site or any of the others this is going  article to be syndicated on. So lets break it down with the abcs and set the record straight for what metal is in 2014. I'm going to give several examples to use as a guide, not trying to write the encyclopedia of whats true or false, just a reference point for those who haven't been listening to it for almost 30 years.

The base line we are using here is Judas Preist, Iron Maiden  and Black Sabbath, if you are not consistently as heavy as these bands you are not metal.


Metal - Atriarch, Anthrax, Altar of Plagues, Amon Amarth, At the Gates, Acid Bath, Accept,Arckanum, Ahab, Amorphis

Not Metal - Ac/dc, Aerosmith,  Alice Cooper, Alice in Chains, Andrew Wk, Audioslave, Alterbridge, AFI, Anti Flag, At the Drive In


Metal- Black Sabbath, Burzum, Behemoth, Bolt Thrower, Brutal Truth, Bloodlet, Blood Bath, Blind Guardian, Borknagar, Black Anvil,

Not Metal -Bon Jovi, Breaking Benjamin, Buckcherry, Britney Fox, Boris, Black Veil Brides, Bush, Black Flag, Blink 182, Blue Oyster Cult


Metal -Converge, Carpathian Forest, Candlemass, Cannibal Corpse, Carcass, Cathedral, Coroner, Crowbar, Cradle of Filth,

Not Metal- post Traced in Air Cynic, The Cult, Coheed and Cambria, Clutch, Cinderella, Candle Box, Camp Freddy,


Metal - Deicide, Dark Angel, Dissection, pre-Sunbather Deafheaven, Darkthrone, Dimmu Borgir, Dio, Death, Down, D.R.I

Not Metal - Danzig, Def Leppard, Drop Kick Murphys, Dream Theater, Disturbed, Deftones,


Metal - Evoken, Eyehategod, Enslaved, Entombed, Exodus, Exhumed, Emperor,

Not Metal- Evanescence,Europe, Extreme, Epica,


Metal - Forbidden, Falkenbach, Fear Factory, Fight, Fates Warning, Finntroll,

Not Metal- Faith No More,Fly Leaf, Foo-fighters, Filter, Faster Pussycat,


Metal -Godflesh, Gorgoroth, Gwar, Gojira, Grim Reaper,

Not Metal - Ghost, Glassjaw, Godsmack,Guns N Roses, Godspeedyoublackemperor,

Metal- Helloween, Hexis, Hell Hammer, Hammerfall,

Not Metal - H.I.M, Hollywood Undead, Halestorm, How to Destroy Angels,


Metal - Iron Maiden, Incantation, Immortal, Into Eternity, Inquisition, Iced Earth

Not Metal - Iron Butterfly, Isis, In this Moment,


Metal - Job For A Cowboy, Judas Priest

Not - Metal - Jane's Addiction, Journey,



Metal -King Diamond, Kampfar, Kreator,

Not Metal - Kiss, King's X, Kamelot, Katatonia, Kvelertak, Kyuss, Kylesa, Killing Joke,


Metal - Lamb of God,Leviathan, Loss of Self

Not Metal - Lacuna Coil, Led Zeppelin,Life of Agony,


Metal- Metallica, Megadeth, Marduk, Morbid Angel, My Dying Bride, Ministry -post Pslam 69, Mercyful Fate, Manowar, Mayhem,

Not Metal- Monster Magnet, Motorhead,Marilyn Manson, Motley Crue,


Metal- Nevermore,Neurosis, Nocutrnus, Nile, Nachtmystium,

Not Metal- Night Wish,Nazereth, Nine Inch Nails,


Metal- Obituary, Overkill,

Not Metal - recent Opeth, Post Dairy of a Madman Ozzy,


Metal - Pantera, Primordial, Primal Fear, Prong,

Not Metal -Porcupine Tree, Paramore, Pearl Jam, Pentagram,


Metal- Queensryche- first three albums

Not Metal- Queens of the Stoneage, Queen,


Metal - Rotting Christ, Rainbow, Russian Circles,

Not Metal- Ratt, Rage Against the Machine,Royal Thunder, Rush


Metal - Slayer , Sodom, Sanctuary, Sepultura, Slipknot, Skeletonwitch, Shining (swe), Savatage,

Not Metal- Scorpions, Steel Panther, Spinal Tap, Soundgarden, Shining(nor), Swans,


Metal - Taake, Tyr, Trouble, Testament, Twilight

Not Metal -Tool, Twisted Sister, Type O Negative, Torche, Them Crooked Vultures, Thin Lizzy,


Metal -Unleashed

Not Metal - Uriah Heap,


Metal - Venom, Voi Vod, Vio-lence,Von ,Vektor,

Not Metal- Valiant Thorr, Van Halen, Volbeat,


Metal- Watain, Wolves In the Throne Room,  

Not Metal- Whitesnake, Wolfmother, White Zombie,  W.a.s.p,

X, Y, Z

Metal- Yob

Not Metal -Young gods, ZZ-Top


Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Zoso @ the Variety Playhouse

The fact that a tribute band packed in as many people as they did in their two night stint at the Variety Playhouse, is a testament to Zeppelin and the band's ability to capture their magic. The first night the band Zeppelin's first four albums, not pulling a Phish and playing them front to back in their entirety, but blending the material in a way similar to how the real band arranged their set lists.

Their John Paul Jones, was equally skilled at pulling off the keyboard parts, making the jammy "Song Remains the Same" styled version of "No Quarter. But while we are talking "Song Remains the Same" it was one of the last songs I expected for them to play off of "Houses of the Holy" and along side "No Quarter it proved to be one of the shows brightest moments.

John Mcdaniel's Jimmy Page reminded you that even as charismatic as Robert Plant was on stage, Jimmy Page was up in their fans faces. John struck all the classic Page poses that have adorned posters for years, and also took on the feat of replicating the rock god guitar heroics. It seemed his tone could have held more bite and perhaps some of it was in the mix, other wise he was a satisfying Page.

 Matt Jernigan filled the slot of the golden god, well his voice fared the best on "Ten Years Gone" because for me Robert Plant might be known for his mighty upper register, but it was his more subtle touches and use of melody to expand the dynamics of their songs , that really made Zeppelin stand out from their peers at the time, many singers like Ian Gillian to Rob Halford could throw their voices up into the rock yodel, but the attention to detail Plant gave more sedate sections is where other singers might not be able to capture his feel. Though often very Coverdale in tonal quality, Jernigan knew how to serve the songs and when to go into Plant's more add libbed vocal scats.  

It never struck me how popular "Moby Dick" was until seeing it preformed l never realized how popular it was, as  drum solos have never really been my thing, however Zeppelin came from the era where such decadence was showcased, and Greg Thompson, who capture both the primal nature of Bonham's vulgar displays of prowess in this regard as well as his innovative touch. You can tell he understood Bonham was influenced by jazz drummers the likes of Gene Krupa, which the first part of the legendary solo gave a nod to.

They were not apologetic about what they were doing, they came out and take hold of the crowd in a similar , though less frenzied manner , but carried the Hammer of the Gods well. I do wish I had gotten the chance to catch the show in city other than Atlanta, as the demographics lent the crowd to  flourish  with ex-frat boy types, more than neo-hippies, the age range dipped down into plenty of high school kids proving Zeppelin's music lives on for generations. Sure some of these  former frat boy types who saw Zeppelin as the precursor to other party bands like Widespread Panic. In some ways I suppose this is true, as Zeppelin opened many door, never the less it was upfront where the drunken fools paraded for the bulk of the performance. But if you live in a more cultured part of the country make sure to catch Zoso when they bring this show through your town,as it comes the closest to recapturing the magick of the world's greatest rock band , which are big shoes to fill.