Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Nocturnal Depression :"Near to the Stars"

At one point Depressive black metal was set to be the next big thing in terms of black metal, then Shining went and started making cock rock albums, so Totalselfhatred has now become my only hope. I was hopeful when I came across the new one by France's Nocturnal Depression.  France normally makes some pretty quality metal. This band has been around for ten years and this album is it's 6th full length. Two of the three members of this project preformed live with Make a Change Kill Yourself.. which is high pedigree when it comes to this sub genre.

First off I had to get over the shitty production. Sometimes this is easier for me to do than others. It works for the more jangly clean guitar on "Crystal Tears". Though that jangle creates a ragged drone as it ambles on for 13 minutes. The lingering intro "In the Arms of Fog" is a shaky instrumental and sound like it should be part of a longer piece as you are waiting for the anguished shrieks to sail in over the riff.

The bittersweet tragic sense of romanticism that this brand of black metal conveys so well is in tact when the ten minute title track is underway. The vocals are tortured rasp that is more emotive than anything possessing lyrical value. The riffs mainly shift from two themes, almost like a Burzum song. Some cool melodic , but simple layers of guitar sit like a light rain on this  The dynamic build is slow coming but it gets there and also has the slower break down to contrast when the storm really comes.

"Nocte Aeterna" is a slower almost acoustic song that is counter balance by the chocked growls . This capture the creepy moods and morbid melodic nature I want from this sort of thing. They hit every atmospheric mark, from the weird rain samples to the dissonance of chords in the build.

At four and a half minutes even the lingering noise that starts off the albums closing song, makes it seem like pop after the drone of the 13 minute zombie before it. Though it never turns into a song but remains just guitar jamming, almost like the scene in Last Days the Gus Van Zandt movie about Kurt Cobain , where he is just going at his guitar in a drugged drone.

Long songs like the title track don't normally last long in the old iPod, but then again I am always hungry for this sort of thing, it can satisfy the goth mope in me and the need more the balls of metal. So I will give this a 9 for now, the sound quality is the only thing holding it back.


Abigor: Leytmotif Luzifer

Around since 1993, this experimental black metal project from Austria has been flirting with industrial for some time. This is their 9th album and is a study of various temptations. The first is ego, which has some indulgence when it comes to the multiple guitar parts so I suppose its fitting enough. The next temptation is stasis which is similar to sloth if we are comparing these to the seven deadly sins. Like the track before it there are a lot of ripping guitar parts and barely more in terms of song writing to hold onto.

Emperor are the masters of this prog infused chaos, while they have taken a few notes at times it seems they are studying the wrong parts. The creepiness elevates with this song and some of the guitar slows into something you can head band to in between the shredding. I have no problem with shredding as long as you still serve the song, in fact I want to know you can but are using restraint to allow for other grandiose things like melody.

You might assume the satanic studies being delved into here would make me want to cut them some slack. Parlor tricks like that only worked on me when I was in high school. "Akrasia" is a little more melodic in it's intro.The need for speed here comes across like Emperor especially how the vocals are layered in the cleaner chants. I know these guys are talented to weave all of these parts together, but does that make a good song?  Defaulting into blast beats when all else fails should answer that for you. The calms before the storms on this album are great. The eeriness wins me over. There is some really outstanding guitar playing on this album as well.The really loose jazz like tendency to let the bottom fall out in a few break down section also works well in the same way it does for Mr. Bungle or John Zorn.

On "Indulgence" you have to wonder how this album could get any more indulgent. The answer comes in a trippy herky jerky element. The album by this point seems to be devoid of all industrial elements. There is a Deathspell Omega or Blut Aus Nord sense of chaos majick about things. the lower clean vocals that moan out from behind the mountains of madness work well and I would like to hear more of them. "Neglect" is more foot on the gas, than complex web of riffage though far from conventional.

"Compos Mentis" slows things down into a steadier crunch.They do of course build it back up into the blast. Which it bears saying when they do blast it is not done in the normal manner. This is very much a guitar players album despite impressive drumming.The arpeggios scream out from every nook and cranny at some points in time.The album ends with excess. The 11 minute epic, starts off with a very hellish lurching and swells up from the abyss from there. There seems to be more compositional nuances on this one. This chaos is confined in between the gnashing of teeth.  

You gotta admire these guys for the infernal ugliness they have woven together like something from a Clive Barker novel. Do I think Emperor does this type of grandiose mania better.. yes, but for what this is it's worth checking out if sonic density and madness is your thing.It's well executed and produced , but not what I am always in the mood for. I'll give this one a 7.5, if you are already a fan of these guys and know what you are getting into round it up another full point.

Conjuro Nuclear: s/t

The death rock tag continue to be thrown around.These is dark and raw and weird. All elements of death rock, but I am hesitant to apply that title to it.The second album from this one man band from Spain starts off with dark surf rock that crashed into a garage while wearing a jacket of metal wrapped around it. The second song goes down the same path, with faint growled vocals buried sparsely in the din. It seems like more of a song than the opening number which was more of an intro.

There are more cheesy little soundtrack interludes. The first song that really kicks off is "Divinorum". The vocals come across like really lo fi cvlt black metal. Which works for me . There is  a lot of drone and melody, so think a gothed out version of Burzum. The first real hint of death rock, is in the still metal driven "Intoxicacion". There are also some almost dark wave elements to the song that follows.

The have a very minimalist approach to song writing and sometimes, the drone of what they do works to carry it forward . At other times it seems as if they just had a good idea for a song that needed to be further developed before committed to wax. This often mixed bag , even some of the cheesy horror soundtrack moments are cool atmosphere that can at times be effectvily worked into the more song oriented context of what they do. However I would like the vocals to be more than a half buried after thought. These songs don't really translate like Autumn For Crippled Children can as instrumentals.

They do use the buried vocals to an almost "Jesus Built My Hotrod" effect on " Desechos Toxicos".They end the album with the first thing that has even more of a death rock feel, if we are saying death rock by way of maybe Alien Sex Fiend.The guitar line is darker and has more conviction to its drive some some of the more droney lines this album holds.

I like the vibe, the songs and production need more work. The vocals really need to come out to the fore front , but if those things are not gripes you have with lo-fi black metal with tinges of dark wave, then you might score this one higher than the 7 I am going to give this.

Infestum: Monuments of Exhalted

I think an industrial band who gets heavier  might work better than a black metal band who adds the synth effects as an after thought and to be honest I haven't listened to this album enough to for a hypothesis in this regard. These guys have been on my shuffle radar for a  week or two and have popped up in the rotation three or fours times. I do know that to say these guys are black metal, refers to a Dimmu or Behemoth version of black metal so Industrial Blackened Symphonic metal perhaps.The strength of this becomes the fact they try to write real songs rather than throw a bunch of blasting riffs in your face.

This is the third full length this band has released since their inception 14 years ago. I can't imagine they have much competition in Belarus, but this also could mean when their line up has changed finding suitable replacements has taken longer as well. Their influences seem to be more metal than industrial. The Venom cover reaffirms this. In fact the more I looked into this band it seems the evolution of there sound started with them as more of a pagan metal band that blackened up and not have taken the industrial turn.

The one thing leaning them more closely to the black metal ledger is the cold dissonance they let the chords ring out with.This is especially effective in "Temple of Mirrors". The riff is staggered and the sprawling rasp of these really well produced vocals drips of of the guitars. The industrial elements just got the icing on the cake here. There is a slight Skinny Puppy wink to some of the more sung vocals on the song "Ordo Infestum".

I can hear some of the more pagan elements on "Iron Hammer Upon the Skull of  Slave". It rips into the more thrashing Behemoth vibe soon after."Zero Beyond" blasts by slightly like a Pysclon Nine song in it's best moments. The keyboards in the back ground add to the overall sound , but the barrage is pretty much a blur. The groove to "Obsidian Exile" is much more memorable. It churns in a manner like some of Immortals more melodic moments before taking off into a rapid flurry.

In the album third act more galloping blasts come out you . They are sometimes book-ended by catchy sections of punching riffs like those in "Renaissance". At others they are asked to hold the songs together by sheer virtue of their speed and viciousness.The title track is a strong number for this album to end on. it makes better use of the synths than they have been implemented through out the bulk of the album. the lower chanted vocal line is pretty creepy and add a different sense of dynamics and feeling to the song.

I like where these guys have gone with this over all. The album is not perfect as the need for speed many bands of this ilk fall into makes thing muddy in the songwriting department. I like where these guys are going with this and there are enough great songs to round this up to an 8.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Nothing @ the Mammal Gallery

If you ever go to the Mammal Gallery do not use GPS. It is hidden away on the outskirts of the GA State campus and the only reliable guides are crack heads and Marta police.The search would have been daunting expect for the fact I have missed Nothing in the past and was not taking no for answer this evening.

 The shop front entrance was deceptive and if not for the gaggle of punk rock hipsters gathered out side it would have blended in with the surrounding area. Inside the venue was a lot bigger than expected, about the size of say the Masquerade.The heat vicious and the turnout which was way more than expected only added to this. I did not know headliners Ceremony, another band I seem to miss every time they swing through was that popular. Iron Lung was the first band we caught. They are a sludgey taken on grind core. The snare was rather flat, but the drummer spent half of his time handling the shouted punk like vocals and the guitarist took to the more growled vocals.They did blend a mix of varied influences, despite the boomy loudness of their set.. Some of the riffs earned a head nod a most.

 We moved up closer for Nothing's set. They took the stage with Bright Eye's "Devil Town" , playing over the p.a as their fanfare.The first thing that stood out about there set and maybe it was do to being on tour with Ceremony, but these guys launched into their set with an energy more reserved for punk bands than shoe-gaze.The band's punk roots might be hinted at on their new album "Guilty of Everything", live they are paraded on full display. So a song like "Bent Nail" came across much more pounding. Thus answering the question I went in with... How is what they do going to translate to this crowd.

Their bassist held the most frantic energy live. He seemed to throw himself into every note.Not to mention I honed right in on the Morrissey tattoo he sported on his forearm, of course making him one of my favorite members of the band. He actually stood center stage while the two guitarists flanked him on either side.This also allowed me to hear which guitarist sang what part on the albums . Dominic Palermo handled the lower more monotone Hum like vocals, while Brandon Setta, took the higher airy more androgynous ones. The vocals were largely buried in the mix though being up close to the stage we more than likely caught the monitor mix so we caught more of Brandon's vocals.

Drummer Kyle Kimball clearly comes from more of a hardcore background the way he held his sticks as if prepared to bust into a break down. He made the most of the four piece set and kept the intensity level higher than the recorded work. Dominic midway through the set apologized with a slurred speech the fact he had way too much to drink, admitting they had come across some Moonshine, which Brandon confirmed was real deal moonshine. It might have made Dominic's vocals come across more mumbled, but didn't seem to after his playing otherwise and truth be told Shoegaze certainly lends its self to conveying an altered state of some sort. The bulk of the set was from their new album and the way in which the band took these songs to the stage continues to challenge and redefine what shoe gaze can be and doesn't limited itself to the 90's. Speaking of the 90's some of their more rambunctious moments gave the songs more of a Mudhoney like grunge feel.

We enjoyed the show, my ears rang the next day, but my girl friend who wore ear plugs was not bothered. The venue's heat did prompt us to leave before Ceremony took the stage as going home and catching up on True Blood after our week long tv cleanse, had more appeal than sweating it out. I hope to catch the west coast punks eventually in a venue with better ventilation or during the winter, my Norse blood just isn't cut out to swelter.    

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Healing : "The Childhood Home Ep"

Even though this technically would be "Brit Pop" considering the band is from London. This has little in common with the Smiths or the Beatles and is instead a blues based brand of indie rock holding more in common with the Black Lips with they did no have a punk rock background, however the vocals and the chord progression remind me of Steve Miller's "Fly Like an Eagle". The vocals are very relaxed and the guitar shifts from the more indie rock lo-fi jangle to a classic rock sound. "Losing My Way" retains smoothness, that almost gives this the lazy sheen a band like the Shins employs, it however also holds onto the blues slathered guitar tone of 70's radio rock. The songs are easy on the ears with the combination.The melodies are graceful and subdued. This first time where this rock elements really drives the song in a way that rocks rather than reflect is on "Tonopah". It does so in more of a Police like manner. The guitar lines silky in their attack. The builds are not explosive, just dynamically louder. The sugary smooth vocals deliver this narrative in a tranquil yet emotive manner. The vocals really hold together the tentative "Childhood Home". This song recalls Neil Young, though the airy feel of the instrumentation is very minimal. The drums are faint leaving the vocals plead to keep the melody strung to the loose arrangement like a fragile spider web.

The drums also employ a very minimal approach to the beginning of "Shed One Tear". Though by the chorus they build. The dynamics of this song remind me of Elliot Smith's more drunken stabs at rock n roll. This and the previous song shed some of the blues elements, with the guitar break down at the middle section sounding more prog like. At seven minutes this is the albums longest song it give the band a chance to experiment a little and jam in the latter half of this song, which is a nice touch. The drummer shows he does have some chops despite the hesitation he seemed to play with earlier in the album. This jam like section is also used to make the most of the chorus when it kicks back in.

 These guys might take a few listens to really infect you with what you do. They hide their chops at times to like the songs breathe in the empty places.This is what gives their sound a more garage like indie sound, despite the very slick production that gives this album its distant warmth. If you like more laid back indie rock, that has a lot of thought put behind it's seemingly carefree jangle then these guys are worth you time for sure.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Domains : "Sinister Ceremonies"

After making a few best of the year so far lists I decided to check these guys out.It pretty straight up death metal right at the speed demonic nature of the double bass and the mean riffs that still retain hooks to them.This Spanish Death metal band has been around since 2005 , but this is their first full length. They have used the 9 years wisely to perfect their craft , though their former drummer is now the guitarist.

This is somewhere between Morbid Angel and Incantation.The opener does what most metal openers do and kicks the door down. The punchy follow up is "Mastery". The vocal delivery reminds me of old pre-Beneath the Remains, Sepultura. It's a lower to mid range rasp. The use of soloing helps to establish more melodic elements in a otherwise straight forward riff barrage. Not as grinding as some death metal it holds a certain 90's groove.

There is a more dramatic horror movie spookiness to the riff opening "Through Infernal Damnation". There are elements here that remind me of Vader. These guys are trying to write actual songs and not just get away with being as heavy as possible.There is an almost rabid feeling at the onset of "Raped By Darkness". The effects that coat the vocals arrival keep it evil. The more doom laden stomp that brings the song to an end is pretty tough stuff.

They spent the first half of the album using restraint when it comes to speed and some of that is sacrificed on "Eucharist of Relevance". They make for this with the excellently crafted riff to "Crowned At Dusk". It carries an almost Dissection type of darkness to it.
"Towards Pleroma" is the title track from their 2009 demo. It is a rawer song, but still has a good catchy melodic section. I can see why fans of old school death metal are going bat shit for this, but then again metal heads that get stuck in certain era's will over look originality. They nail the old death metal guitar tone , but their is a fuzziness to it that could stand to catch up with the times in terms of heft production wise.They start to slow things down at the beginning of "Labyrinth of Incense" , but can't resist the urge for long to jack the double bass up and often it resembles something closer to black metal than any of the other songs on this album, as well as offers a wider dynamic range of sounds.They creep around with some slower more moody sections. They close things out with the title track that holds up the heaviness established earlier on the album, soemtimes creating a more Bathory like epic , that is when Bathory goes for the most straightforward approach devoid of any folk elements.Early Death can also be heard hear , like from Scream Bloody Gore era. I'll give this one a 8.5 ,as it is well written and played, so I guess the big deal with this album is that most death metal trying to capture this sort of thing is not very well written?

Report to the Dance Floor: Clocks and Clouds' "Aliantha"

The first thing that strikes me about the new single by this 3 piece from Minneapolis is how very Phillip Glass the intro is as it racing your ears around in a dizzying drone. Even though the trio is comprised of just Cello, Violin and Drums, they manage to capture most things I want form music of any form be it metal, goth or post-rock. They have a dynamic ebb and flow. There is a emotional darkness and they have some ball to what they are doing.Said balls come in the way of the harsher effects they lace the beat with outside of the drum kit.

If dub-step is an ugly word to you, you might check your prejudice's at the door as the woobly robotic farts have never been put to better use. When juxtaposed against the chamber music, such tones are not left out in the open to just make you think the ghost of 2011 has left the building.The song is very precise, similar artists like Godspeedyoublackemperor would have turned this into a more indulgent and sprawling thing, but Clocks and Clouds, reins in such urges to serve the song. So the amount of songwriting awards they have won since there formation four years ago seems fitting.

The song has a lyric quality to it , so if instrumentals don't always speak you, and they some times bore me as well unless they are done right and this bands have scored well on that front. They keep my attention, not allowing themselves to just paint the background. Some of the morose melodies carry more of a classical cadence than something Mogwai might do.The builds in intensity is what retains the post- rock label here.

If you are feeling more adventurous and want more of what you heard here then check out their ep the Creation of Matter which can be found here... I get all manner of artists coming across the inner webs to me,rarely are there those who demand repeat listens like these guys have this after. So grab and glass of wine or your cigarette lighter and your you-know-what and prepare to let this project take you for a rather exotic ride.   

Novembers Doom: "Bled White"

I went into this album, with hardly any knowledge of seeing the name around various sites. I assumed they were a doom band , but they are more like Fear Factory of they abandoned all the industrial elements and replaced the Pantera fixation with groove with a taste for Swedish death metal. The band is not from Sweden , but from Chicago.Novembers Doom has been around since 1995, and this is their ninth album explaining why everything is composed so perfectly and interlocks in a flawless manner. They are melodically in the same realm as Woods of Ypres, though the clean vocal which tend to show up around their chorus' are sometimes a little Katatonia , in their morose chant like quality.

While the vocal approach is cool, the star of the show here is the drummer who constantly keeps the songs not only moving but more well defined.They move like a more technical death metal band ,where the guitar takes a more sluggish lumbering groove above them.This would not be called commercial , yet there is a lot of emphasis placed on the vocal hooks. "Heartfelt"has a coating of melodrama offset by the low death metal like growls, which are articulate and keep the lyrical themes very concise.The good cop/ bad cop approach to vocals has almost been overdone, these guys make it work better than any band since Woods of Ypres. My Dying Bride can also be a point of reference , in their music has an almost gothic gloom to it , but is still more metal than say Type O Negative. The band works best in their bleaker moments, such as "Just Breathe".It is almost like a doomy power ballad or if Queensryche got really depressed, though the chorus comes much closer to Katatonia.

They lash back with "Unrest" which is almost more of a Morbid Angel like death metal, until the hooky sung chorus sweeps in.These clean vocals can be slightly predictable, but they are very well produced, which makes a bigger difference than you might think. When it comes to their more straight up heavier sound "the Brave Pawn" is a pretty speedy chugger.

"The Memory Room" gets back to the better balance of what they do, the mixture of dark melody and looming crunch.The clean vocals sit well in the song , when they do come in and even when they are the dominant vocal , they don't always follow where someone like My Dying Bride might go, ruminating in their grief rather than what might make the melody really sound different."Clear" also hovers in this direction the more A Perfect Circle like leaning.

 The darker goth tinged moments that recall the late 90's to me , dig themselves up from the grave on "The Grand Circle". The band has repeatedly stated they are not a doom band, this is not untrue but there are certainly shades of doom, perhaps not how people think of it today, and not overly Sabbath influenced either. When employing the type of dynamics "Animus" employ, the more death metal side of what they do stands out. Sure the clean vocals come in on the chorus as the established formula for this album seems to be, but I can't imagine them doing it any other way.The layers of guitar balancing the cleaner toned guitar over the over-driven metal guitar is always a favorite of mine. They close out the album on a dark not with "the Silent Dark". This song is not dramatically different from their dramatic approach, the drums continue to dominate, with the vocals coming up a close second.The song's ebb and flow takes a bit to really kick off like the others. I don't think this one has the song's strongest melody either, but it's still better than decent if based on the drumming alone. There is a good smackdown for the ending that builds things up in the epic manner you would expect.

Overall this albums succeeds in painting the kind of Sirrus radio friendly bleakness they set out to construct. I'll gave this one an 8.5 , I enjoyed it but not wowed by every song, yet seem to able able to just leave it on.

Mutilation Rites : "Harbringer"

The first thing I think of when I think of this band is I have no idea where my Mutilation Rites Shirt is.Seeing them live they were so loud all the riffs bleed together into more of a sonic pounding. So it will be interesting to see how these songs translate. There is more of a sonic element that is receiving attention to detail on this album, and the attack feels less thrash inspired. Not to say they don't throw some blasting in. it is just used much more tastefully. The guitar tone is more organic and spacious on this album as well, are some of the immediate thoughts that come to mind.

That is not too say this album is devoid of thrash influence as"Exhaling or Breathing in" has some mandatory heading in the riffage midway through.Their is also the ultra thrash filled "Contaminate" that is going to be a lot of fun for those into old school metal. "Suffer the Children" also has some thrash elements in the manner the speedy guitar shows it's teeth, but find some dynamic ground that goes into a more sonic place than what you think of when it comes to thrash, but the vocals keep everything blackened in some respect.

 The dense nature and adherence to their style makes it sound like "Tactical Means of Ouroboros" is a continuation of the previous song.The vocals somewhat attribute to this element, as the growls and screamed are barely articulated making the lyrical element totally obtuse.The drum break is where the song begins rather than it just being a renewed fervor for blasting. The verse riff and the low gurgled vocals are pretty straight forward to the point of almost sounding like death metal until the second verse takes a more sonic turn. The guitars eventually ring out in a more experimental manner that might remind you of Liturgy.

The only time it sounds like the almost get lost speeding through the labyrinth of blast beats in on "Gravitational Collapse." There are a few cool punches that help the song congeal into something more powerful in the song's third act.  The albums ends on a blast with "Conspiracy of Silence" coming out of the shadows with a very second wave of NBM sound, with only the spastic cadence of the harsh vocals to separate it  from Darkthrone. The main riff that is almost a call and response to the blasting part , has a powerful heft to it

Overall this album is short and sweet with the opener being the longest song on the album at 7 minutes. The song writing is more mature without the band having to abandon their feral tendencies.This album passes in a blur, sometimes the songs bleed in together and the pummeling numbs you out, but I think it's a forward step for the band and I will give this one an 8.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Necros Christos: "Nine Graves"

With their last album "Doom of the Occult"  the German four piece Necros Christos took the crown of emerging sub-genre called "occult death metal". If you are still shaky on what defines occult black metal, it seems to be a love of "Altars of Madness" and an addiction to re-verb. This creates a spooky cavernous sound with enough ambiance to support a few melodic solos.The word occult means hidden , so if they are hiding something in the caves of metal, the moniker works.

Their latest ep changes the rules , the only spooky are interludes proving not only do they love Morbid Angel, but they also own a few Dead Can Dance albums. The tomb raiding echo, is absent instead the band opts for a much rawer sound. The vocals sound more like black n roll era Darkthrone, lacking the low guttural gurgle. It is a give and take. The solos are still intact and their playing doesn't falter, however this is a much more straight forward sound. To the point I had to double check to see if this was the same band.

The more morbid leaks out slightly on "Va Koram Do Rex Satan". The warmer more organic production  throws off the sound that made their last album work so well. The lyric are more articulated and  add to the clearer structure of the songs. So if you were hooked on the darker more sprawling sound this might take some getting use to.

By the time I was adjusted to this more meat and potatoes approach, they pull out acoustic guitars and fall into an almost folk instrumental jam session. Unless you play guitar or need some background music for you next D&D campaign this seems like a waste of space on this already abbreviated release. They do come back stronger and darker on "Baptized By the Black Urine of the Deceased". With that song title how could they not. Production aside this is a return to what you want from these guys... densely dark death-metal.

The Morbid Angel and Incantation worship is firmly in check and these songs are largely posses with their own sense of identity. They close out this ep with the title track. It is tightly coiled with the riffs slithering around the drive of the double bass. The guitar balances out baring its teeth while holding down the melodic hooks. The bass is much lower in the mix than on "Doom of the Occult"giving the songs more of a Celtic Frost feel.

It is smartly written and deftly executed death metal. Their is more attention to detail than other bands of this ilk, time will tell if this grows on me. I'll give it a 7.5 out of 10, as for what this is it works well and fans of the more generic forms of death metal will eat this up. It is some hard black urine to swallow if you are hooked on their more occult sound. Though maybe this is what the occult sounds like since it was never defined.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Belphegor: " Conjuring the Dead"

I always though of this Austrian band as the guys who blended bdsm themes into their lyrical content. This novelty stuck with me for a album or so but some of the death metal elements were too straight forward and that kind of meat and potatoes blasting is what they greeted me with from the onset of their new album "Conjuring the Dead".

The title track carries more of a Morbid Angel like chug to it. Think "God of Emptiness" or anything from "Domination". The bridge finds the guitars reaching into some interesting exotic chord progressions. The vocals stay largely in the guttural low end of death metal. The spooky middle section of the song makes it a winner in my book.

The chug to " In Death" is powerful enough to challenge the cool riffs don't make a good song law around here.The verse riffs is thrashier than expected from these guys As this album continues it's clear these guys are acting as a replacement for Morbid Angel .

"Rex Tremendae Majestatis" is where they start to break away from the Morbid Angel thing, though the album does return to that vibe. Toward the three minute mark things starts leaking melody. "Black Winged Torment" holds the first few elements of black metal.They album finds it's chug again on " Legions of Destruction". The snare sound on this album is a little tinny so they blast beats are not the most compelling, but it gives the album a more raw old school death metal sound. The conjure an almost more Watain like sound here.

The more Behemoth like elements rise up on "Flesh Blood and Bones". The syncopation is tighter and it feel more well written than most of the song's on the Polish band's album. The Morbid Angel vibe is mixed with a Mayhem like black metal on "Lucifer Take her ". The groove gives may to a redundant blast and the pitch harmonics are a little old by this point.  

They dip into some more melodic almost black metal moments on " Pactum In Aeturnum", but for the space on my iPod it's a too little too late in terms of originality. So I will give this band an 8.5, because they do capture some cool sounds and there are some pretty decent tunes on here, If you are a fan of this sort of thing then round it up as I am sure you will love it. This album ranked as high as it did on the merits of the sheer power of the chug they are able to survive on.

Merchandise:"After the End"

Their first album on the former goth label 4AD, the Tampa band gives me what I have wanted since the release of their Totale Nite ep, an entire album of well produced songs .It only makes sense considering they've headed into a more song focused direction. So what occurs is... they kick things off with a slightly Smiths like sway  to the upbeat guitar phrasing of the opener.This song rides the lines in being almost to straightforward and poppy for me, but the dead pan vocal approach saves it.

"True Monument" picks up where the opener left off , carrying it back into the more morose sound and lyrical content I want from these guys. It takes them until " Green Lady" to really hit the sweet spot I know they are capable of. The melody is not as down trodden as some of the stuff from "Totale Nite" , in fact it is more introspective and only half as cynical. It's a little dreamier and more like the Cure in some ways.

They nail it on " Life Outside the Mirror". It is a dreary ballad of sorts , where Carson Cox even lets his voice float up into a falsetto. The guitar lingers on every not even in the solo. Oddly the pace picks up on "Telephone". It more like 80's pop. The chorus is pretty strong and the use of real drums works in the songs favor. It is different for the band, the solo even reminds me of something that would be on a Zappa album. Strange as this song is in it's Billy Joel mannerisms, it still  gets pulled off well.

"Little Killer" whose video is featured below, is another upbeat and more straight forward rock like number. The vocals sell me on this despite the "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" accents to the guitar.Things slow back down on "Looking Glass Waltz" , which reminds me of a more slacker version of "Whiter Shade of Pale" , particularly when it comes to the keyboards in the back ground. The nuances in the vocals are subtle . but full of his personality.

The title track is more of an instrumental interlude with vocals only coming in during the final 15 seconds or so.A slower song with introspective and moody lyrics, that gradual picks up and allows his vocals to reach out of their more dead pan baritone. The song writing and the singing on this have all improved, live you can hear these guys have some chops and they are more displayed here. I';; go ahead and around it up to a 10.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Interview: Marissa Nadler

Folk singer Marissa Nadler rolls is touring she to promote "July", her first album for Sacred Bones entitled July. A review of the album can be found below.
I managed to catch  Marissa as she was heading out to discuss both tour and album .
Wil-So how's the tour so far ?
Marissa- It just started . I have already done a few groupings of date here and there, but this is the first show of this leg tonight. It's ever hot so far.
Wil- This is your first album with Sacred Bones, How familiar were you with the label and their artists before you signed with them? 
Marissa-Caleb from Sacred Bones reached out to me a few years ago. They have a very cool roster . I really like Zola Jesus a lot .
Wil- Sacred Bones is known for having artists involved in the whole goth or dark wave revival.How do you relate to that scene?
Marissa Nadler- My music has a dark edge, but I try not to pigeon hole myself . It is not punk or like a lot of the noise elements some of the artists they have use But growing up I think there was fifteen years where I didn't wear color, not that I get decked out in full goth regalia Wil- One thing that really struck me listening to the new album were some of the incredible harmonies , did you already have them written or did that come for playing around in the studio. Marissa- Thank you, I wrote them all before. They are part of the song , in the case of "Drive" the first song , I had it in my head to make them pop. The album was ready to go when I went in to record it. Wil - Anything you learned or discovered during the recording process? Marissa- I don't know. I'm happy with all the hard work.when I wrote this album , I had intense focus. I set out to write an album start to finish rather than it be a collection of songs. Wil-Any lyrical themes that are prevalent ? Marissa- The  record is all written in first person, so most of those aren't hard to figure out. Wil- there is a country undercurrent to the album is that an influence? Marissa- definitely , It cam e later in life as I grew up in Massachusetts so it's not easy to find. One of my best friends is a music writer and he introduced me to country . Tammy Wynette and a lot of those . They influence is that now my vocals are more relaxed. Wil- What other female singers have inspired you? Marissa- Patti Smith , the Horses album and Kate Bush.as far as country goes Connie Francis. Wil- When you play these new songs live are they evolving or staying intact? Marissa- Shows like the Atlanta date tonight, I have a woman who sings with me , because with out the harmonies they feel empty.Rather than use a delay pedal or harmonizer , it's better to use a human voice. She is also a cellist so the songs stay intact the instrumentation changes. So it's me and Janelle. I play a twelve string acoustic and an electric , she's handling harmonies and playing cello. I think for these shows it s ok to be stripped down. Especially in places I haven't played before like Atlanta. I have been touring for ten years , so have learned to keep the overhead low to make it work.

Up From the Underground: Xombie - "Capital X"

Rap and metal have been odd bed fellows over the years, from the earliest beginnings with Public Enemy sampling Slayer to it's explosion into the mainstream during the nineties where Rage Against the Machine opened doors for it's commercial exploitation. This five piece from New York is ready to make you forget the sour taste nu metal left in your mouth.

They have purged the marriage of most of the cheese laden tricks of the genre that eventually gave this sort of thing the same credibility as hair metal.They do not rely on hiding behind down tuned muddy throbs, instead right from the opener they explode in with more hard core influenced metal. The guitars are well layered created a sonic flare to what they do that eliminates any Korn comparisons.

Clean vocals back the aggressive rapping on "Miss Behave" this coupling of vocal styles is more post-hardcore than anything resembling the boy band antics of Linkin Park. The guitars are consistently this albums' strong suit.They know how to create dynamic builds and breakdowns and work with the songs, rather than burying the vocals or making a swap of distortion the drums can't maneuver.

The first hints of anything slightly funk appear at the intro of "Polar Ice", but it is only a slight wink. There is a groove  established, yet the guitars never force the bass to do all the heavy lifting. Growling vocals chime in from the background, but are used tastefully. On this song the subject matter of drunk driving comes up and at this point you realize that they are not defaulting on whining about mommy issues, but making social statements.

Front-man Adam Crews never comes across as an awkward suburbanite with his flow. His vocal styling remind me of a cross between Atmosphere and Mike Muir of Suicidal Tendencies.  The hey on the hook to "Rotten Apple" is the first thing that reminds me of  anything resembling the nu metal of yester-year, but all other leaning toward P.O.D are scarce. The title track employs gang vocals and a section where the band drops out and lets Crews carry on his frantic freestyle, with a much more hardcore slant , though the exotic scales used in one of the bridges is more metal.

Up until the albums final moments on "Friday" they steered clear of using turn tables, but by the time they jump out of the punk chord progression, it's hard to hold it against them as the song is pretty funny and it's clear they are not doing this for the nookie. They only bands from the nu metal era they come close to sounding like would be are Rage Against the Machine and Hed Pe, two bands that handling the hip hop elements of what they did pretty seriously.

Regardless of how guilty pleasure nu metal might have been for you, these guys have enough in common with hardcore and a legit attitude in what they do . Granted if you only listen to stuff heavier than Darkthrone then anything with rap elements might be a tough sell. I do think this will appeal to hardcore fans going back all the way to Suicidal Tendencies and is well worth a listen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Judas Priest: "Redeemer of Souls"

I was afraid of this one , but  can it be any worse than that last Black Sabbath album ?  With KK gone and Tipton holding down the fort with the new guy,  the tone does seem thinner with the new guy. This rocks more than Nostradamus  , but is no Painkiller. Rob knows what he has to work with and goes for more grit that siren wails. The title track has a pretty decent gallop to it. This could have been written in the 80's , it's less slick and arena oriented than Screaming For Vengeance. So comparisons could be made to some of the earlier albums. They are making no attempts to do anything other than what they do current trends be damned. I think this album could have benefitted from some more modern sounding production, the song writing is pretty much intact.

Like Ozzy,  Rob is working off of charisma at this point , as Ripper Owens could knock some of these out of the park, when it comes to hitting the high notes. The note at the beginning of " Halls of Valhalla" is more strained and rough around the edges. Some of the classic metal elements come across a little like Manowar, and David Wayne of Metal Church is who comes to mind  Rob goes into his upper register. His crooning mid-range is still dead on.

This is far from their last conceptual spectacle. The songs are about as straight forward as Breaking the Law or Freewheel Burning. The melody to " Sword of Damocles" is pretty solid. The chorus sounds like any of the hundreds of power metal bands that pay homage to the Priest. The chug here hit's a little hard than most of their imitators. The falsetto in the break , is uncertain, but what is not is the fact they rock out the final minutes of this song.

"March of the Damned" is another solid song. Rob reminds me of Ozzy vocally at times in the verses. It's a little more radio friendly , if the dial is being turned back to 88. The intro to "Down in Flames" kicks off with guitar worthy to be a Priest classic. The sense of nostalgia is strong , even though they are doing a decent job of being their own best tribute band.

The power ballad  intro to "Hell & Back' once again show Priest is one of the few bands who didn't cheese that out, but can the same be said of the "Wrathchild" like riff in this one.The stomp of the middle section redeems their souls pretty well. The drumming is solid, but it feels like he is trying to hold back and stick to the arena drum sound.

"Cold Blooded" touches some where between "Electric Eye" and Van Halen, with a dab of Rage For Order Queensryche. The darker touch to this song, comes across more evil and works for my money. They should have gotten Iced Earth's producer is one thought this song brought to mind. They do touch on some killer riffs, but once upon a time every riff they touched was killer. "Metalizer" really wants to be Painkiller , but they can't get there and the guitar tone isn't the album brightest moment. The new guy must have wrote this one. The end section makes up for the rough start.

Blues is not where I think Priest would go , nor is it where I want them to go, but they end up there on
 "Crossfire". It has it's moments , but is too amateur to stand up against the rest of their catalog. At times like this it feel like they could not find who they are on their gps and it keeps re-calculating. "Secrets of the Dead" starts of like something Maiden would be more likely to do, until it goes into the restrained chug. "Battle Cry" also starts off like "Wasted Years" to me. it later turns into almost every thing you want a Priest song to sound like, so this look back at what they use to sound like is a mixed bag.

The album ends on a more "Rockarolla" moment with "Beginning of the End. This works its a semi ballad. If this album had been more produced like that Black Sabbath comeback album 13, it would hit me harder. These guys still have it when it comes to pulling their old tricks off and writing songs with thought behind them rather than just dialing it in when it comes to delivering the goods. I will give this one a 9.5 for now, as it works pretty well when I put Priest on shuffle so maybe I am being too hard on it, So I will listen to it louder and see if it grows on me.          

Up From the Underground : Random Order's Black Lipstick Kiss

The what is goth and what isn't debate can go on endlessly. It ranges from Dead Can Dance to Marilyn Manson, neither of which sounds like the other. So there is a lot of diversity with in the genre.  I am not trying to build a case for this  Canadian band that mixes surf rock and tangos up like a martini, but that might appeal to the bat cave kids as their day time listening. Most Goths I know listen to the Cramps, and the   title track of Black Lipstick Kiss  comes to being rock a billy. They also summon up a steamy swing feel . Think f the Cherry Poppin Daddies  if they were fronted by Lords of Acid's singer.

Random Order's lead singer Lynx purrs and growls as much as she sings. Sure there is a ska bounce at times, but New Model Army gets pretty jovial at times too. Horns are normally a no no for me unless we are talking Morphine, but somehow the rest of the band distracts me from them and they do help add a coat of Vegas after dark sleaze. Siouxsie fans should especially take note. This eclectic array of styles gives a middle finger to genre rules. Often staccato flamenco guitar sets it up for a latin sweat, before being cooled off by Lynx's sultry alto. 

 This album strikes me as being more about the feeling these songs invoke. This is a perfect soundtrack for   David Lynch  to pay homage to 60's beach movies or Russ Meyer. It's dirty like the French Quarter and has a similar attitude as Concrete Blonde just less emphasis on vampires.The darkest song being "Black Heart" which would win most of you over, unless you never stray from your Death in June. "Excess or Rise" reminds me of the Devils Blood, in it's 70's groove and blues laden vocals. You can trust me in the fact that I hate music that is too happy, sure some of the ska moments might have too much skip in there step for me , it's balanced out by some cool reverb heavy guitar, old school Robert Smith might envy.
The imagery is darker than the music , but to be honest isn't Switchblade Symphony? This is very organic is every way shape and form, though you can still dance to it, not that your d.j is going to throw this in-between Skinny Puppy and Sisters of Mercy, it would work against Oingo Boingo or some Horror Pops.  So what we have learned today is your iPod is filled with others sounds spreading out from the dark gnarled branches of goth's family, particularly if you are a fan of the first wave and 80's variety, so Random Order would fit nice in your shuffle mode. Click below for a taste and I can ensure you , that you will want more from where this came from.

Monday, July 7, 2014


This is the bands fifth album and is more mature than previous efforts in some ways, yet still manages to be a pretty nasty beast , this monster has just been cleaned up a bit. These guys are good at what they do and the fate of this really depends on how much you dig what they do, because they stick to their guns for better or for worse.

My Swedish is good enough to tell you the title means "Baptism of Fire" . Lets see what I can do with the rest of the album. The album opens with a thrashy pummeling, though the guitar tones are pretty clean yet the crust label seems to still stick to this band." En jobbigt jnvel" thrashes out from where the momentum of the opener seemed to be headed. It  almost sounds more like a transition than a new song. These are all pretty short and sweet right to the point. This riff is pretty tough and they attack it like a punk band , which is where I supposed some of this crust core stuff is supposed to come from.

The pace changes on "Synd" or sin. This is the first song that really catches my ears as the others blazed right past them. The guitars are much more precise and melodic, maybe not as catchy as the last albums riffs, they are pretty mean, even in the more harmonized At the Gates like parts. The raspy vocals are howled more than screamed, sometimes gargled with anger.

"Mer skadda nn nytta" has a little darker feel. The guitars rip into the chug a little harder making this one stand out with a pretty powerful riff, though the rule around here is cool riffs alone don't make a good song, this one comes close to challenging  that theory.

If break neck energy is your thing, then this might be right up your alley, but "Paranoia" almost seems to have tighter arrangements, this album just has better sounds. " Prästernas tid" is more straight ahead punkish thrash like the albums first few songs vented off of. It does take a slight melodic break midway into the beating they give your ears. The most solid songwriting shows up on "Victoria" . The lyrics are sung in English. The guitar melodies are actually melodic and if any comparisons to Bathory were going to occur they make more sense here.

"Tentakler" or tentacles rumbles up with an almost doomy intro riff and picks up the pace from there. If break neck energy is your thing, then this might be right up your alley, but "Paranoia" almost seems to have tighter arrangements, this album just has better sounds. "

"Slav Manual" find the snare being spanked at a similar velocity. The guitar riffs are raw and jagged, but until things slow down into hard accents this is hard to differentiate from the other songs, despite the triumphant gallop that rises up from the muck.The title track opens with a more distinctive riff, but the tempo goes back to all too familiar places. The guitars almost get to a pirate like folk metal place further into the song, which I appreciate because the more melody they can bring the better. The howling of the vocals also becomes more emotive on this one.

The blur of raw guitars speeding by continues on "Varningens klockor" or the Warning Bell.This is slightly black metal in the manner this song rips into you. The first guitar solo I have noticed fires off on this one too. Not to say there have not been others that rushed by me.  "Steg" or tread is another blur of snare and thrashing jangle, as it doesn't sound as tightly picked as some of the other riffs.There's another solo of sorts that gets somewhat buried.

"Martyren" or martyr, is much more melodic and utilizes then cleaner production to capitalize on their playing. This also brings a more folk or power metal feel to the majestic nature of the songs swell. They summon the kind of restraint that could have come in handy earlier in the album. The growling also seems to pace it'self differently here adding to the dynamics. "Hjnrspiken" has a lower toned resonance to the guitars, though it roars out at a similar speed, The solo does take a more rock n roll approach.

Clean vocals surface on " Under Skinnet". They are slightly buried in the mix and seem to be a woman guesting on this. While there playing doesn't really shift away from what they do the actual singing changes the whole ballgame. Overall I'll give this one a 7.5, if you are a fan go ahead and round it up to an 8. I think they almost key in on some black metal moments the punk simplicity on this has them doing a tango of one step forward one step back.

Morrissey: "World Peace is None of Your Business"

Before you think this is just going to be a biased worship service, there have been some Moz albums that haven't blown me away. " Maladjusted" and "Years of Refusal" have both gotten significantly less plays than his other solo fare, which according to Last FM not surprisingly comes in behind the Smiths. Like the Smiths this album is more eclectic than his previous work which tends to have a largely unified vibe. Here he uses all 18 of these songs to explore a world of sounds. I have the deluxe edition so I am reviewing all 18 of those songs rather than cutting it off at "Oboe Concerto" .

This is Steven's first album for Harvest. He has already released three singles . The first is the albums opener and title track, which is much less venomous than what I expected. This album is not a rocker like "SouthPaw Grammar" and holds more in common with "You Are the Quarry". I am warming up to the title track, the vocals did not fall where I expected them to which takes adjustment. The second song "Neal Cassidy Drops Dead" is a much better song and what I expect from Moz even with the more electronic elements. The lyrics are clever and bite where I need them too. Moz's voice doesn't sound aged except when he reaches up into his falsetto later in the album , but we will get back to that. There is a beautiful guitar break in "Neal Cassidy..." that is unexpected and a reminder that while it's no Johnny Marr on board , Boz and Tobias are no slouches.

Not sure how the 2 mins are required to get into the odd musing that is " I'm Not a Man" . The vegan anthem this becomes , cheers itself forward past the weird synths , but never climaxes like I hope. Instead it ops for getting noisy and weird. This producer also worked with OingoBoingo so maybe that's where it comes from.

The second single is "Istanbul" which has some driven behind the jagged jangle of the guitars , with sitar sounds layered on the edges. It's smartly written and arranged even if it is not among Morrissey's most compelling lyrics. I want more cynical self loathing  and less of the world commentary, though that is some of the thematic elements this one draws from. The Latin guitar against the electric undertow of " Earth is the Loneliest Planet" brings you to a familiar place but with a much more psychedelic groove than what you normally think of when it comes to Morrissey. But hey it works,though a weird choice for the third single.

"Staircase At the University" is pretty classic Morrissey. Lyrical and vocally it hits all the right spots . Its a narrative that depicts the shamefully beautifully picture of dysfunction Moz is the best at observing. The vegan theme returns on " the Bull Fighter Dies". Moz is rooting for the bull, in this mid-paced number that feels like it could have been a Smiths song. The guitar takes on a more rockabilly vibe in some of it's phrasing.

More experimentation transpires on " Kiss Me Alot", but in the best way possible as all the elements you want from him are in place.This song has the swaying skip to it despite all the varied elements of world music that collide behind it. The more ballad like" Smiler With Knife" is at times as awkward as the it's title.This one is going to be the hardest to grow on me, I think the lack of percussion adds to this. The lyrics hit on some good points like  "sex and love are not the same" When drums do come in it's in the songs third act and not as effective, though after further listens the songs seems to become more droning and dreary almost like a kinder gentler Swans outro.

Another classic in waiting is "Kick the Bride Down the Aisle" . The lyrics are what was needed. Morrissey's croon is youthful for a man of his years. It doesn't rely on a big hooky chorus , instead sways it's way along rather gracefully. "Mountjoy" is an acoustic number, with a folk like strum.Some strings moan their way in the background. Moz's voice sounds fine here, but the melody doesn't do much for me.

The song that closes out what I suppose is the normal album, is " Oboe Concerto" that is a lazy crooner not unlike some of his other solo work, perhaps the more recent albums are the best comparison. It works for what you want from him. So if this is what you see as the stopping point then the album gets a 9. But real fans I'm sure will want the other six songs. So we aren't done here at Abysmal Hymns.

"Scandinavia" made several appearances on what was his last tour of sorts that met a predictable demise. This sounds like it could have come from "Ring Leader of the Tormentors". Its nice and dark, though being a Scandinavian I'm not sure what context I should take the lyrics. So I will take "then you came along" as being me, though he eventually ends up kissing the soil.

"One of Our Own" brings us back to more of the experimental moments, I find it makes more sense knowing the producer also worked with Dredg because this song reminds me of them. It maintains the darker path "Scandinavian" set the album on. The guitars are doing some interesting dissonant slices of sonics.  The return to balladry on "Drag the River" brightens the clouds. The guitars kick in but don't force things to rock, and let them breeze along.

"Forgive Someone" goes back to the more Cure like synths that haunt the surf like guitars. The guitars seem to be carrying most of the weight as Moz waltzes around where the melody should fall, but if he went the obvious route it wouldn't be him. This sounds like it might have been written years ago and they just got around to recording it or he has been going back and listening to his old Smiths albums.

"Julie In the Weeds" reminds me of "Just My Imagination Running Away With Me". The guitar tone is really cool here and for most of the album . This producer's strong point is certainly guitar tone. Halfway through almost progressive tone simmers up, but its more relaxed than say Genesis. Going back and hearing the falsetto at the end of this one , its not as bad as I thought it was. Though that yodel might be on "Art Hounds" . "Art Hounds" would be weird if this was the only song you heard from this album. It comes close to being a more rock number, like "Boy Racer". The sounds comprising it don't rock in that obvious of a manner.  Yes, these are the yodels I was thinking about , they aren't what they used to be, but don't make me cringe like I thought they would on first listen. In some ways his voice sounds older here like Bowie's does sometimes on his last album. The lyrics sound like they are taking stabs at hipsters.

If you stuck it out and tracked down all the songs , then you would understand why ultimately this can be rounded up to a ten. The fact I had to round it up means it is different and has to grow on you rather than grabbing you with a sob from the get go. But with each song it is fonder.  


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Fallujah:"the Flesh Prevails"

The  second album by this California band  makes me think these guys are more technical than not  right from the opener. Though it touches on what I used to like about the Faceless, but with less spastic bass playing. By the second song the stiffness that infects most technical death metal sits in, this lets up midway in the song and some feeling creeps in. The technical elements sound less by the numbers and are more progressive. Which is the difference between technique and progressive, while prog bands have chops they progress to other places with it, if they are good at what they do when it turns into just wanking then we are back to tech.

"The Night Reveals " gets off to a very Dream Theater start.It jerks you around like a roller coaster, though the sections of song are less defined here and we have dueling keyboards and guitars or they could both be guitars when it comes to the shreddy tone like Dream Theater uses its hard to tell which is which . It's things like the female vocals on the title track that allows this band to progress with out having to forsake the need to show off. "Levitation" finds this direction continuing as the bands finds a good balance, that makes their indulgences more listenable and fun.

On the other side of a electronic interlude lies "Allure" which starts off in a reasonably melodic manner. The shredding kicks in and we are off to a more death metal version of what Dream Theater does. "Sapphire" the bring back the sense of ambiance rather than staying busy bees. The harder verse passages offset the clean sung breaks that drift around guitar heroics. This is at least very interesting and hit enough punches to have solid enough footing to be heavy.

"Chemical Cave" closes things off by building up into the albums heaviest sonic moment, that soars off in a very redemptive fashion.My girl friend at one time exclaimed this album seemed too hardcore for here and I can see in some of the phrasing, but I think it at least helps give some of the technical elements more bite.
I will round this album up to a 9 it's pretty ambitious. There are not any band moments just ones where the need to shred just doesn't connect but the momentum tis album gathers speed them right by me before I have a chance to dwell on them and I can just let this album play so that says something.