Saturday, January 31, 2015

Live Review : Voivod @ the Masquerade

This was a show I had been waiting for since was announced. I think I was looking forward to seeing Voivod as much I was looking forward to King Diamond. So they are without a doubt one of my all time favorite bands. But regular readers know that means the bar is also raised really high for them. We got there right as the band was taking the stage. They opened up with "Warriors of Ice" off "War and Pain". Snake had a big smile on his face and seemed to be having fun right when he stepped on stage in a leather vest and Doom shirt. They followed this with one of my all time favorite songs, not just of their catalogue, but of all time... "Tribal Convictions". This is where sound crunched in and tightened it's guts. At first glance I thought Blacky was on stage and he was just low in the mix, since his bass tone has a growl to it that is just another defining characteristic of the Voi Vod sound, after all Away did not look like he had aged until I saw him up close when I shook his hand after the show, thirteen year old me would have been freaking out at this point.Later on Snake introduced the new bassist as Rocky and asked the crowd if he was greasy enough for them.

 One thing that is pretty impressive and speaks to the bands integrity is the fact the didn't just shove a bunch of new songs in your face, not that I mind the new stuff, but almost everything was off the first five albums. This is funny to me because when I listen to 'Target Earth" I sometimes think this is the album that should have come after "Nothing Face". Not taking any thing away from "Angel Rat" or "Outer Limits" as I love those albums too, that just the vibe I get from it. From "Killing Technology" they ripped into the beautifully dissonant thrashing space punk of "Forgotten In Space". This is the first song that grabbed my fiance who was at the bar for the first song and originally came to see Napalm Death. By the time Napalm Death was on and her mind had been blown by Voivod, she was having a hard time taking grind-core seriously after being bathed in what the Canadian metal legends do.

Of course as Voivod's career progressed they became more progressive with each album, so it only made sense for them to play something from "Nothing Face" next. So the even more winding road of "Inner Combustion" unfolded. Snake's voice was spot on all night. He contorted his face in a series of cartoon like grimaces through out. Away proved he is one of metals best drummers, his feet are insane. Chewy also did a good job with the old stuff, he also proved he can shred when he wants to thanks to his solo in the one and "Astronomy Domine" . Rocky doesn't have the same cutting tone that Blacky had for this era of their work, where the bass has more snarl than the guitar. Chewy does have a more traditional metal tone than Piggy as well, but he knows how to hit the dissonant chords to get their signature sound. The one new song is actually their new single "We are All Connected" which is being released as a split single with At the Gates. It's a good song that blends both sides the old and the new, maybe even more fluidly than "Target Earth" which was pretty spot on to begin with.


 They wrapped the show up with their punk fueled theme song "Voivod" and their last song which Snake dedicated to Piggy "Astronomy Domine"...the Pink Floyd cover off of "Nothing Face' which taught metal heads the world over about Syd Barrett era Floyd.I ran into the every one but Snake during Napalm Death's set. Napalm Death like Voivod , had not lost anything over the years. Barney Greenway, looks younger now than he did in their hey day. He was wildly energetic circling the stage like a windmill in a tornado. Their drummer takes a different approach than Away, but is pretty monstrous in his own right. I didn't realize Ringworm played this show until I passed their merch table, if situations were different that day I wouldn't have minded catching those guys. At is was I am glad I got there in the mick of time so I did not miss a second of Voivod's set. This is the show for 2015 others bands are going to be measured by.

Heavydeath: "Eternal Sleepwalker"





Sure they are crushing and droning and the vocals are mean as fuck, but how are their songs? Well I can keep going back to this album for repeat listens so that is a good sign. This Swedish band employs chanted  vocals that are often layered into the dry leather lunged rasped growls are effective in building upon the band's hypnotic leaning. It seems chanted vocals are becoming more of a thing these days, I wonder what is up with that ? T he opening hymn "Ascending" is a rumbling doom paced affair. The second songs just rolls out of the opener, the vocals a low baritone chant coming close to being actually sung as the band develops more groove as the pace picks up. Though most bands these days are beginning to adopt black metal elements, these guys are content to trudge somewhere between doom and sludge.

Their drummer is currently handling drum duties for Katatonia. This is much less melodic and more pounding than Katatonia, he has also played for Project Hate so he is all over the place. He is sticking to one slow and deliberate style of playing , by the time I am at "Bow Down" I was unaware that I was already at the third song.They touch on more run of the mill doom, though it is a tad burlier and launches into bursts of sludge on  'Eat the Sun" . The vocals grow more melodic and the harsher growls are not the only method of vocalization these guys rely upon. The title track sounds like a variation of the previous song, though a heavier harsher and slower take ."Heavy Death" the song, kinda of drones on and it ends up taking us into the closing song before you realize this isn't the same song which is one of the albums pit falls.

I like the sounds they capture, the album sounds great it's dense and organic , though I
am split on how some of the songs run together as it means they slowly begin to sound the same- I'll give it an 8 and hold my breath as to how it grows on me. This comes out March 6th on Svart Records.



Friday, January 30, 2015

Nocturnus:"the Science of Horror"





Who cares if these are just unearthed demos, they are going to be better than most of the shit out there. Reason being...Mike Browning was one of the founding members of Morbid Angel and " the Key" is a fucking classic death metal album, and one of the first to use keyboards prominently. The later part of this album goes back to 1987 before they included the keys. This is raw as most black metal, but has a strong thrash current running through it's veins. Guitar solos blowing your mind at every turn. Some of the chugs on here are just tough as hell. There is no way you can not head bang to this. This band separates the men from the poseurs. In 1992  after recording the "Thresholds album, Browning was fired from the band he created, so this chronicles the path to "the Key".

For a demo the vocals sound great on  the first version of "Before Christ After Death." The effects give almost a Voi Vod feel to them and the call and response on the chorus is just great classic metal."Standing In Blood" is the first song on here where the keys really reach out and grab you. The accent the punches perfectly. This creates a more progressive element than the band is commonly remembered for. These songs are raw and ravaging, a clear stepping stone to the sound they achieved on the Key.This rawness translates well on songs like "Undead Journey"which carries an unearthly chug. Jeff Estes proves he is the most under rated bassist in death metal.

Things get even more primitive on the demos that follow as it spotlights the days before the band included keyboards. You can hear Morbid Angel's root woven into this. The sound quality at time really makes these diamonds in the rough. But if you are a tape collecting hipster who likes stuff to sound like this anyway, then here you go. These demos began circulating as tapes in the back of magazines like Metal Maniacs. The early lines between thrash and death metal are just being drawn on "b.c.-a.d." The rasp to Browning's vocals is not too far removed from the hateful rasp some black metal singers take on.

"the Entity" shows the band's dynamic range even without the aid of keyboard. They slow build the songs into a crazed outburst of rabid blast beats, long before there was any hunger in Transylvania. The Slayer influence can be heard on "Unholy Fury". The kind of meth propelled drumming that earned the moniker speed metal, threatens to tear the ragged kit apart. The rough charm of this collection, might just put the taste in my mouth for "the Key", which is a perfectly fine option, as it is an album that deserves going back and re-experiencing. Since this is a compilation, I won't score it , but the Key is a ten.

Thulcandra : "Ascension Lost"





Nothing is wrong with worshipping Dissection. Watain gets a lot of unfounded flack for having sound sound in someways similar, though Erik throws in ample dashes of Bathory and Fields of the Nephilim for good measure. From the first song of Thulcandra's newest the sound less like a Dissection tribute band and have begun to develop their own sound. It is a few blasts faster than the bulk of "Storm of Light's Bane". There also might be more of a shred fest going on here.As impressed as I might be by the first song, can they keep this up? They did skip the Reinkaos days. Uttering out some good Celtic Frost accent grunts before taking a more straight up epic galloping black metal feel. The vocals sound nothing like Jon. They are a harsher dried out croak of a rasp.

The drummer is from Secrets of the Moon, so it is not surprising that he has a nice touch or two in his cymbals and can break it down into the triumphant gallop at any time. This album is sparkling in production and seems like a more full realized version of the band. Midway into "deliverance in sin and Death" they strike upon a pretty massive thrashing chug. The main Dissection element to me are the acoustic breaks. But that goes all the way back to bands like Testament. In some ways this recalls the last Istapp album that came out in 2010. The chorus are layered and hooky. They work best int their most tightly coiled and powerful chuggging. The wheel is not eing redefined here but the band is certainly heading in the right direction. The clean guitar tone is not without some weight of it's own. The speed metal attack of "Sorrow of One" slows for a prechorus gang vocal.the album almost has too clean of a guitar tone to be black metal. For the record we are just going over the normal album's length worth of songs and not the bonus tracks.The vocal are almost understandable. I will round this one up to an 8 it's a vast improved for the band on the road to stepping out of  the Dissections shadow.  

Weeping Rat :"Tar"





Some post-punk that slipped through the cracks in 2014, my folks at Cvlt Nation wanted me to check this out for them since I am becoming there new go to goth guy, so here we go with a industrial tinged post-punk band from Australia that started off as a solo project and has become a trio in the past two years. There is a lazy drawl that harkens back to Jim Morrison in the vocal department. They float somewhere between shoegazed out punk and indie rock. the songwriting comes together on "Come to Consciousness".Satan's Bazaar finds them shuffling into the shadows some where between dark wave and the stark post-punk of some one like Joy Division. The bass player is really killing it, as they trickle out exotic scales as the static drum and the woobly waver of the guitar pour themselves over this like it's free form jazz from Transylvania. They don't allow themselves to be held in one place by their drum machine.

The echoed guitar of "Coil" slinks around the monotone narrative. The lush crystallized guitar puts them back into a more shoe-gaze glaze. The singer loosens up and starts singing an actual melody. There are some industrial flirtation, the beats tend to be the flimsier side of the spectrum. The bass gets meaty for"Leather Wrapped Rabbit Hole". The free form manner the singer spouts of opaque poetry is sometimes the only thing that holds the song together. The bass line gives a narcotic throb to the garden of dissonance taking root in "Transparency of Two."  some alluring sounds are captured amid the chaotic murk. The stream of consciousness flow to their song writing borders on psychedelic. They give the occasional punch to add more urgency to the dynamics.



One thing Weeping Rat has going for their often abstract ambiance is that is certainly dark enough to keep the painted frowns in the Bat Cave happy. The Cure like guitar dripping over the singers melodramatic ramblings certainly helps add to the dismal drone these songs carry. There are several moments where it sounds like they might break into "Fascination Street". With song titles like "Empty Hearse" this fact is not lost on them. There is a dream like laze to to the more shoe gaze portions of the albums third act ,which the band breezes in and out of from jangly indie rock. "Funereal Train" is a more angular take at the swirling cloud of dark shoegaze they continue to conjure. The chant of "bring me out of time" are the first lyrics that really cut through the din.

They rile the drum machine into something almost like a blast beat on "Deal With the Devil". Some of the sounds carry a similar feel as early Merchandise. The cleaner guitar pattering like rain drops over the distorted beats. The album closes on a similar note. The synths accent the pulse of the undercurrent running through the song. The singer maintains his moan, with the guitar becoming the real centerpieces.These guys might have elements of the whole Ian Curtis worshipping wave of post-punk, but paint blacker with this cavern of ghosts. I'll give this one an 8. There is a lot of promise here.


Interview : Away from Voivod


I was lucky enough to get the chance to interview  the drummer from one of my favorite bands Away from VoiVod.  Here is what was said.

Caught the show last night and you guys were amazing, one thing I thought was interesting was that all of the songs except for the new one were from "Nothing Face" and back and when I heard "Target Earth" I thought "Wow, this is the album that should have come after "Nothing Face" just from the vibe it had.

Away -We have three sets and songs from Target Earth are on two of them, but we have been debating that, since we are on tour to promote that album, What do you think, should we play more from Target Earth

I'm the wrong person to ask since I am going to like everything you play. How has the tour been so far? 

Away -Amazing, a very fitting bill, us with Napalm Death since we are kind of the same thing hardcore punk and metal



Well when you guys started out you were more of a punk band since in those days punk and thrash were so closely linked, so how did you get from "War and Pain" to "Killing Technology". 

In the seventies we  listened to a lot of progressive rock, punk and hard rock. Slowly, but surely we began adding what would be called alternative as we began listening to Killing Joke and Psychic Tv. The sound changed, we became better at our instruments and pushing the boundaries with prog and psychedelic . The Legendary Pink Dots were also a big influence during that time. That hard core element has always been important to us , we try to keep it in there except for two albums "Angel Rat and "Outer Limits". But we like that metal energy.

Why does "Dimension Hatross" have such a unique sound? Sonically it's different than the others, how did that come into being? 

Away - We recorded with Harris Johns and we started using sequencing like early industrial band were and it gave us a new way of twisting sounds. At that point me had been rehearsing every night for five years, so that allowed us to get pretty good at time changes. Up to that point on the earlier album we were more naive to we perfected our playing.

You mentioned "Angel Rat" earlier what type head space were you in when you recorded that album? 

Away - We were totally out of synch with everything else going on at that time , be it the death metal in Tampa,  black metal in Norway, or grunge. For us it was commercial, it's some peoples favorite album. We were lost in our own dimension, we try not to over think it , we just go for it. That one and "Rrrrroar" are the most extreme but in different directions.

I think with "Angel Rat" you guys were just ahead of your time. I have always seen you guys like David Bowie in that respect two steps ahead of the game. Which is why you influenced so many bands like Tool and Faith No More. How is it to hear your thumbprint on music like that?

Away - It's impressive to think we influenced Tool. He was in love with those guys when they came out used to play them on the bus all of the time. We toured with Faith No More and Soundgarden and Mike Patton was Voivod freak. He knew every note. He pointed out to me that the Young Gods had sampled "Technocratic Manipulators" and just changed the time signature of it.

Yeah, it's funny because right after that tour they put out "Angel Dust" which has that dissonant Voivod feel to it's heavier moments.

Away - Yeah, I always wondered about that.



So are you guys ever going to throw "the Prow" into the set? 

Away - We know the song. We are trying to rearrange the pacing of the set. We want to please every one. We ask people what they want to hear when we are at the merch booth, we have about twenty five song ready to play. But we only get to play eight in the set. So something like "Mechanical Minds" is around eight minutes and the new one is seven and a half.



Always thought you are one of the best metal drummers, there is something very tribal in your playing, how did that work into your style?

Away - From listening to the Pistols, I have always liked toms. I just began to use them a lot more like Killing Joke or Test Dept. On "Dimension Hatross" I just went crazy with them.

So sci-fi is always an element to your presentation and lyrics. Who are some of your favorite sci-fi authors? 

Away - Philip K Dick, William S Gibson, "Neuromancer" I'm still waiting for the movie of that to come out. As far as movies go Blade Runner and Mad Max.

Have you seen the trailer for the new Mad Max? 

Away - Yes, I can't wait. We stole bits of the soundtrack to the Road Warrior for "Killing
Technology"



Where did you find the new bassist?

Away - He was a childhood friend of Chewy's. He is as talented as Chewy is crazy. Going to be really great writing with him because he be able to add to the psychedelic and progressive side . There is also something angular about his playing as he is also into jazz.

So the new song "We are Connected" is coming out as a split single with At the Gates? 

Away - It comes out April 2nd, though it came out earlier on Spotify and Youtube.

Is this going to be one a new album in the works? 

Away - We are focusing on 7 inches and touring this year, with a new album early next year.

So whats it like being back on the road? 

Away - Amazing, We were supposed to go on a world tour supporting "Target Earth" then Snake got sick and had an operation we got a little antsy waiting around and then we parted ways with Blacky.



Snake must have had an incredible recovery, because I think his voice now sounds better than when you guys did that album with Jason Newstead

 Away - I think so two. His range is amazing and power has improved. Like Jello Biafra, I saw him and he has gotten better same thing when I saw P.I.L, Johnny was the same way.

What new bands are you into?

Away - When it comes to metal I'm retro. Priest , Maiden, Raven, Venom. We have played festivals with younger bands and I think Vektor is really good. Then there is stuff I always listened  too  like when we were talking about the tribal elements of my playing P.I.L's "Flowers of Romance" album is an influence.

You guys changed the way I listen to music. Before I discovered you guys I was listening to stuff like Maiden and Mercyful Fate. But I after I got into you guys then within five years I was listening to Killing Joke and Swans, who are another one of my favorite bands. Speaking of which I know you guys are into punk, but I have always wondered if you were ever into the darker side of it that spun out of punk like ...

 Away- Bauhaus?

Yeah, Joy Division, the Cure,  the stuff that became goth

Away - Blacky was into all that sort of stuff.

Which makes sense, stuff like the Cure and Joy Division are very bass driven, the guitar more of a layer

Away -Yeah, Snake and I started off into hardcore like Discharge and Killing Joke . Piggy was into the prog  As a drummer I tried to incorporate a lot of d-beat, which I got from Phil Taylor of Motorhead. They were as heavy as it got until Venom came along. There was nothing else that heavy.

What about Hawkwind? Lemmy came from those guys.

Away - Oh yeah they were a big influence on Voivod. Can that kind of Krautrock, Van Der Graaf Generator. They are one of my favorite bands.

They had violinist at one point.

Away - And they had this very beatnik sax player, when he left they added the violinist

Well thanks so much for taking the time to talk with me, it's been an honor, great to have you guys back.

Away - Thank you, hope to see you soon.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Poois: "Soul Spook Collector"



The NewYork based band has stepped up their game and gotten heavier this go around. While some of the quirky elements that brought a more eclectic ambiance is still in tact it's just less consuming.  If the earlier work brought System of a Down to mind then the results are something a little closer to more recent Mastodon. Singer Tim Kaim  gives his best performance yet, putting more guts into his voice , he digs down into a lower register to find some common ground with Troy Sanders tonally. To say they are more tongue in cheek at this point would be hard pressed, after all how seriously does Mastodon take themselves. Lyrically the subject matter leans towards frustrations of an average joe. and conspiracies that plague the common man.  On "Love Gun"...no, not the Kiss song, the band goes in a more Stone Temple Pilots direction. It's immediately evident two songs in that this album is really well produced and the vocal over dubs are one of the albums strengths in providing layers to their sound. You can also here elements of the Cult on "Love Gun" as well with the solos winking at  the 80's Hollywood scene.

What started off as frustrations of average joe in the lyrical department take a turn for the gutter as they go into sleazier subjects, pole-dancing and s&m.  Though the most nefarious subject might be the Home Shopping Network on "19.95". The songs dynamically ebb and flow, with melodic passages surfacing through out. They get heavier on "Pistols N' Pitchforks" though it still has ample amounts of arena rock to it. There are some phrases where Kaim's voice takes on a dramatic swagger not unlike that of Jack Black's meatier moments on Tenacious D, though without the Dio worship.

The band have capable chops working best tightly coiled together and grooving on songs like "Skateboard Punk". Guitar solos find ways to squeal out of the nooks and crannies of every song. The album continues to rock with sinewy riffs slithering around alt-rock progressions that are dirtied up like a stripper at a Guns n Roses concert. The backing vocal have that Sunset Strip blues feel on 'Tight Jean Jeannie". The pace changes the most dramatically on "Deep Darkest Night" that is a bizarre power ballad of sorts though midway it changes into a more staccato pattern with the pound of early Faith No More.

They return to a more cutting style of metal on what might be the album's best song"Hypnotic Regression". The vocals shift into a more extravagant soar, that build the most memorable memories as you get the sense band really takes themselves seriously on this song. The closing song goes back into more of a rock n roll strut. If you were to compare them to the current wave of radio rock fans of bands like Avenged Sevenfold, would find plenty to sink their fangs into. If you are one of my regular readers hear it's likely your tastes in metal might find this to be middle of the road hard rock when compared to what we normally classify as metal here as the vocals have balls but never growl and they are tuned higher than a and never use blast beats, but never the less if you want something light hearted and fun, these guys have stepped up their game and conceived an album of good time party rock.

Chelsea Wolfe's First Band - Red Host

So her new album is called "Abyss", it's allegedly metal, with Russian Circle's Drummer and the guitarist from Deafheaven onboard, But rather than waiting around for that thought I would give you a taste of her first band Red Host, which is slightly more metal than where she went for her first solo album "Mistake In Parting" that had an almost grunge like feel. "Hole in the Head" you can hear where elements of these riffs resurfaced even on "Mers" Dude's harmony vocals are a little rough, but you can hear where her vocal style here is pretty much in line with what she does today

Interview with Author Richard Lee Byers



Interview with Author Richard Lee Byers

O.k this guy's written for the Dungeons & Dragons Forgotten Realms series, D&D is pretty metal and his take is on the darker side which he is well versed in also having penned the novel he is perhaps best known for the Vampire’s Apprentice. So not only does he write epic fantasy and vampire novels but he also has written prose for Marvel’s X-men novels. So all the bases are covered when it comes to my reading interests. This Interview took place back at last year's Dragon-con, but I jut got the rights back from a another site I wrote this for. So here it is...

What is it like writing in a pre-existing world like Forgotten Realms?

 Richard Lee Byers: The most fundamental thing I can say is that it's like writing historical fiction. If I were writing a western, I wouldn't  be free to deviate from what the facts were of living in the old west. When I am writing forgotten realms, I can't stray from what has been established about life in the forgotten realms. That’s the most basic thing. You can't trash the setting. It has to endure beyond your particular story so that other people can use it. The company needs to continue to make money off of it and all that kind of of good stuff.

There are often certain key pieces of it you can't trash. A lot of times when you are first coming into one of these settings, you look at it and have a genuine intrest in it. You see there's this big conflict that’s infused in a lot of material or this big arch villain or this big mystery  that people have been wondering about for centuries.  Your first impulse might be "I'm going resolve that big conflict, or I'm going to take down that big arch villain, or I'm going to solve that big mystery”. A lot of times that's exactly the story they don't want you to tell. Those tensions drive a lot of product and are intended to drive product for many years to come.  Sometimes you can do a big story that usually comes because they decide they want to change the setting and move forward in a certain way and can you think of a cool adventure story in which this change will occur.

With  the new Forgotten Realms project “the Sundering” did you have to work with the other authors involved?

RLB: Each book in the sundering tells its own separate story about its own separate character so we didn't have to coordinate in the sense, that we coordinated earlier when we did the War of the Spider Queen, where its all one story.  Book one end and the characters are about to step through this door and book two begins with the characters stepping through the same door. The Sundering is not like that we all have our own characters, but we did have to coordinate in terms of being synched with the overall time line of the Sundering, to one degree or another each book had a particular job in terms of dramatizing certain events that were going to happen in the sundering.

You’re a fencer, does that help you write fight scenes?

RLB: It helps tremendously with the moves you can make with the sword. The basics of actual swordplay, beyond that you learn things that are relevant in terms of depicting any kind of hand to hand combat, in terms of feinting and distance and time. You can't realistically take it all the because modern fencing is not the same as sword fighting where you are trying to kill the other guy. The weapons are a lot lighter. You can do a lot of tricky hand moves.

Having written modern horror vampires in Vampire’s  Apprentice as well as Fantasy oriented vampires for Forgotten, how do you differentiate the two mythologies when writing them ?


 RLB: With fantasy vampires,  in World of Darkness or Forgotten Realms its pretty cut and dry that you are going to write it the way the Monster Manual says they are or every body is going to say you are not true to the world damn you. There is so much stuff you just pick what serves a particular story, when I did Vampires Apprentice Anne rice and Chelsea Quinn Yarbrough,  hit big with the glamorous sexy vampire anti hero, it  makes sense logically as vampires have a lot going for them so you can see why people fantasize about being one.  If you write them that way they are sexy, have super powers and are rich from compound intrest  over the centuries. When I did vampires apprentice I was reacting against all that, not that I though those books were bad , but they have already gotten that covered so maybe I should go back the other way, I picked the things for vampires apprentice, that would make being vampire a horrible curse that you would never want. although he can make people see him as a normal human being,  he is actually a rotting corpse. he is in constant pain, he can't feed on people without killing them because his bit is poisonous , and so he has to deal with the reality of being a murderer. I did every thing I could to make it nasty, because with these fantasy creatures, they aren't real you can do what ever you want, as long as you are consistent and don't change the rules on the reader half way through.  depending on what you do , some people who like a particular interpretation might not go along for the ride.

You have done some X-men prose novels, if you did your toe into writing comics what would be your dream DC character and your dream Marvel character?

Dream DC…Batman, that’s an easy one. Marvel becomes tricky, X-men
wouldn't be my first choice. I love Dr strange, I love spider-man, I love Hawkeye, I love the Thing. I had a Dr. Strange & Spider man or Dr. Strange & the Thing team up that I was going to pitch to Byron price,  that publishing program ended before I got a chance to do that.

What do you have in the works that we should keep your eyes open for ?

There is a private press Iron Kingdom, I have a novella set in that world, there's an Blaggards kick started project, Ragnarok. I have three publishers that I am waiting to get with my agent and negotiate the contracts, I have some self published stuff on Amazon , I recently did a collection of sword and sorcery stories set in my own world call the plague knight,  and more recent collection of horror stories.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Bjork:"Vulnicura"






Once upon a time I was a huge Bjork fan, then after 2004's "Medulla", she fell off my radar. So this morning I went back a listened to some of the stuff she has put out between then and now on Spotify, it all seemed like a rather logical progression. Even then the opening of her new album seemed a little soft to me. Her vice has not changed a bit. The backing tracks are just airy, synth and minimal percussion. I'm not expecting "Army of Me" going into this, so I am still keeping an open mind and hoping the rest of the album isn't like the first song. I don't adhere to Bjork can sing from the phone-book and it will still sound good.

The second song brings us more of her quirk. It's minimal beats , with over dubbed and effected vocals which influenced the likes of Imogen Heap. The melody to this song is stronger than the first, but I am not sure it is up to the level of her most classic work. This is followed by more ethereal ballad. They are well sung and dreamy. I think the reason this sort of thing works better for me with the Cocteau Twins, aside from the fact they invoke a different emotion, this the fact Robin Guthrie's guitar fills the spaces more for Elizabeth Frasier. Another problem with this tangent of sticking to string synths, is it makes all of the songs begin to sound the same by the time we get to "Black Lake". I think Bjork is also capable of creating more entrancing melodies some of these are just boring. The staggered beats that come in at the end of "Black Lake", but it's nothing we haven't heard from her before.

There is something to "Family" that reminds me of "the Dancer in the Dark Soundtrack" which was the last Bjork album I wore into the ground. This is also the first song on this album that really wins me over on the initial listen. Sure it's disjointed and experimental, but all the elements that need it to work are there. She continues to get her mojo back on "Notget" , which takes a slightly darker turn. The album seems to find it's legs as "Atom Dance" has interesting accompaniment. The beats slither like dark fairies around her crystalline vocals that have retained every ounce of youth since the days of the Sugar Cubes. Bjork must be a vampire. This is a particularly compelling song when it morphs into a duet with Antony of Antony and the Johnsons fame. Which makes sense not a lot of artists aside from Thom Yorke have the hipster cred  and pipes to show themselves worth of such. This also might be the best song on the album. It makes me begin to think about keeping it for this song alone.

The album doesn't end with as much of a bang. The sounds and songs it closes with are filled with her trademarks, but they feel a little dialed in here. The beats buzz and swirl with glitched out chaos, but what else would expect from her? I had to listen to the final two songs a couple of times to get more of an impression of them. "Mouth Mantra" might be the most interesting of the two and a lot of that has to do with subtle mix, as sounds fade in from odd corners of the song and the vocals teeter at those edges. The almost  industrial meets Philip Glass under tones the vocals drone over midway through are the high light. If you are a fan who has stuck with her over the years and want every thing to sound almost all too familiar with none of the risk or edge she once had then this will fit in with all of her other releases after 2004. If you are that person then you will want to add a point to the 7.5 I'm giving this album, which is not bad, but I know she is capable of more.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Sun Splitter:"Time Cathedral"




They have good drugs in Chi-town, it's often a trademark of their music. This freebases the weird. The first song is really just an intro consisting of  ambiance and noise. The first real song is a deeply unnerving dirge.  An eleven minute one that plods along in space waves until a chanted vocal comes in toward the end of the song. The go from one dreary epic sprawl to another, with more chanted vocals and the guitar creeping along. The riff are almost like funereal doom in the sense that they are very spacious and in that space is where the tension lingers .There is not that mournful dirge like quality to what they do, This is more cerebral than it is emotional.

"Star Lit " builds in tension but not aggression. It's metal and it's heavy, but not with the oppressive weight you associated with most doom, in some ways it reminds me of Megaton Leviathan in that regard. Once you are ten minutes into it you realize this chanting is where the vocals are going to remain. Trickles of sample chattering underneath the ending of the song. In the final minutes the song builds almost in a proggy Tool ish fashion.The shortest actual song is the title track that closes out the album, it takes on an almost industrial element and when we are treading the line between doom and industrial that means we are walking close to Neurosis' back yard. Rather than bringing the calm before the storm crashing down,  they  fade out into a swirling cosmos.

This must have resonated with many because the tape is sold out so now you have to go to Bandcamp to get the album. This is unique, if they had allowed themselves to be swayed by conventions and expectations of what doom or even metal for that matter should be then it would not have the same spark of originality that is the main factor propelling this album. I'll give it an 8. I appreciate what it is and enjoyed listening to it, it's one of those album where the atmosphere settles well in the background.

Halshug: "Blodets Band"




All the good punk these days is coming from bands north of France. These guys are from Denmark , so of course they are going to be punk as fuck. The first song they are still a little more musical than the scathing outburst they make on "Afmagt". The vocals are raw screams. The guitars are way denser than say Anti-flag, but these guys are going for a much crustier beast. The production is iffy, but what do you expect. The one to three go blast ahead in a blur sort of thing occurs, with guitar solos screaming out from the edges. This is more punk than I thought Southern Lord dipped into , but sludge punk must have seen it's day.

All of the songs jack hammer your anus within two minutes. The temper tantrums that make punk what it is are in full effect. There is a hard core aggression to this and an almost metal punch. Some times with the bulk of punk the songwriting suffers, the title track strikes a better balance. Sure many of the songs bang it out in a straight forward manner and in doing so many sound similar. The kick up a pretty good racing rumble on "Total Destruktion". They have abandoned most of the rock n roll elements of punk in favor of hard core. The following song however falls into most of the pitfalls that come with punk.

The drummer defaults to many of typical punk beats, though can throw in some good punchy parts when the mood strikes him. At times I hear old 'Age of Quarrel' era Cro-mags in this. The coarse vocals are blurted out, they might be in English they might not it really doesn't matter. It does sound like this whole album was recorded through a blown p/a , which of course brings more a live sound. They close out the album with a similar temper tantrum that they roared into right from the first squeals of feedback. I'll round this album up to a 5.5. These guys are legit as it gets, but with that comes a pretty one dimensional sonic scope and this pony only does one trick which encompasses on emotion.

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Garden of the Worm: "Idle Stones"



Yes, Black Sabbath is worshiped in all areas of the world even Finland. These guys also listen to various 70's prog bands, this is not so surprising if you know that they named themselves after a King Crimson song. So pack up the bong when you head to the stereo for this one. Svart Records is really beginning to branch out, if vest metal is what's up next. There is a very jammy element to this so I am sure these guys are good live. This jamming causes the songs to run into one another, with the more pyschedelic power prog of "Summer's Isle" sounding pretty authentic to the era they are going for even it stumbles in a cloud of smoke that hovers over it.

Sometimes the stony groove are more angular than others. At times it sounds like this band heard Stonehenge by Spinal Tap and decided to base the totality of their existence around it. Though those moments are the less experimental. Even though I used the phrase "vest metal" I am not sure that these guys are really metal at all. Stoner rock isn't a label that I think of with these guys either as they don't have that fuzzy desert sound. Though funny enough they have a song called "Desertshore" which is dreamier than it is like anything Kyuss would do.

There is a slight doom tinge to the last song, though if you consider what we think is doom here it might not measure up to that level of dark and despairing.The layered vocals add another element of yearning  and the guitar playing is really soulful. Over all this is a guitar players album as they are the stars of the show. At twenty minutes the jamming may or may not be your thing it does create a druggy drone that sails you away. I'll give this one a 7.5, it gets a little indulgent in it's jamming which rambles on far too long for my iPod, but these guys are good musicians.

Decades / Failures: "Goodby3"





This project has grown  into a duo since their last outing and it gives Decades/Failures a bigger more post-punk sound than the stiffer cold wave they offered up last year. The bass lines are more organic. The vocals have distortion to them and are further back in the mix. They fix the need for a human voice, but come across like an instrument. The new post-punk coating finds them adoring Joy Division and Wire. The presence of more guitar fills things out and if they add a member every album by the next album these guys will be holding their own against the bigger bands of the post-punk revival. The next thing they need to acquire is a drummer as the thin beats of their drum machine limit what they can do dynamically.

"Fractured" wanders around despite the cool synth bass line that you think would anchor it to something. The vocals are even more distant and incomprehensible. Which is not a bad sound , I think on a song with less form, having the vocals hold it down might be more effective.  They are back to spookier dark wave with a pretty killer bass line of "Secret Superstitions". But a bass line alone doesn't make a song, not does ghostly keyboards. The vocal stick to the same stiff narrative voice. I understand the minimalist trent, but you can't minimize the elements needed to create songs that go some where, the drums are minimal enough, beyond that something has to have enough meat to bite into.

The songs range from four to five minutes with the five minute jams seeming like they drag a little. The Cure ish vibe to "Slow Waves" makes for their best song. The vocals don't have to do much , because the song is already laid out and they would then be the icing on the cake. Which is good because they are almost a whisper. The bass line add a little more drive on "Midnight to Six" , which is a pretty decent song, though it reminds me a really lo-fi version of She Wants Revenge. There is a darker and more heady element to the almost Kraut rock drone of "the 3 Line". The guitar tone is really cool here and this song is one of the clearest indications of how this project is evolving.

There is a Interpol underwater feel to the closing "Pretty Deadly" like most of the others songs it finds it's place and drones you into the slow motion dance floor riot that is brewing. The vocals are almost a robotic vibration at this point in the album.The synth sounds get better as the album progresses and they find their groove. This album is fun for dark rainy nights, I'll bookmark the Bandcamp, but I already have a bunch of stuff close to this sound on my iPod so I will give it a 8.5, the highest rating I'll give an album if I don't feel compelled to own it, but you might and it's pay what you want.

Skeletons : " Tripping At the Madhouse Gates"




When I read you are covering Life of Agony and Agents of Oblivion you get my attention. Once you have it you better deliver. Sure there is some Acid Bath worship going on here. The production wise this translates  in a somewhat muddy manner. The over blown blown out speakers that chugging on "Brain Sick" could benefit from having real drums driving it a little harder. There are some good ideas. I like the effects the vocals are drenched in. The problem is Life of Agony and Acid Bath are two of my favorite bands  this side of Type O Negative from the 90's , so if I am not all over a combination of the two then something is wrong some where. Most of the time the problem is the production and the drum programming.

These sound like a lot of the demos I made on my drummers four track when I was 19. The guitar is really fuzzed out and the vocals sound like they are being sun into a tine can. Dominic Goulding who is Skeletons, could benefit in finding himself an honest to Satan drummer. Other wise he is a pretty decent singer. His harsh voice succeeds in sounding like Sammy . In other news in case Dominic doesn't know already.. Acid Bath is getting back together without Dax Riggs, and the drummer has been reaching out to Slipknot's Corey Talyor, which could be a travesty waiting to happen. The album kind of loses me until "Problem of Hell" kicks in. The vocals take on a good drugged slur. The guitar chugs more like old Life Of Agony than the dirty sludge of Acid Bath.

Goulding manages to rip off two Acid Bath songs at once and ends up sounding like Candle Box. It seems like he needs to step away from "When the Kite String Pops" and listen to some blues....or even the Doors would work, that way it would give these songs a little more depth.  The guitar gets good and pumped up on "Meat Wagon". The opening riff is the first time the album really finds it's own identity. When he tries to get heavier it sounds a little awkward like suburban death metal. There is a little Black Sabbath thrown in as "Two-Headed Girl" sounds a lot like "Hole in the Sky" . Of course Pantera is a far cry from some of the swampy ground Acid Bath once tread and some moments of "Death Parade" have a Down/ Pantera type feel. There is a really good heavy riff at the beginning of "Whore Princess of the Uterine Sea" , the production seems to have a meltdown at the same time the song gets good.

He is still learning what manner of heavy works best for him and the answer lies pretty close to "Incubation Manifesto" that almost delves in a Lord Mantis direction.  This works better than the "Dead Girl" like balladry of " White Room" .  The production is a huge problem and wearing your influences on your sleeve works better in some cases than it does others. I'll round this up to a 5.

Crimson Swan:"Unlit"




The genre lines are in constant debate on this blog and here is another entry that finds us asking the question what is "funereal Doom" This German band is melodic and more often than not trudges a dark landscape, but there is more of a Katatonia element to this album than I expected going into this. The mix is dense, very compressed and bass heavy. The samples do buy them some time to allow the ambiance to simmer. They wait until the second son to launch into something more akin to funereal doom. The delicate guitar finds alluring melodies. The growled vocals back off into more of an Agalloch whisper. The growls normally fall in a dry choked rasp. not as low as the sort of growling I think of when it comes to funereal doom. You have to admire the bands willingness to take chances one the clean vocal harmonies of both male and female vocals join one of the breakdowns in "Words of Perdition".

There is more often than not a classic metal majesty to their sound. the harmonized guitar tones and the fact they don't sound to be tuned down as low as other doom bands. the powerful chugs they build into is a lot like newer Agalloch who many comparisons can be drawn to even though Agalloch is not a doom band. Crimson Swan speeds up into more of a blasty black metal beat at times, so they are not just a doom band either. Though this might be called blackened doom. On the title track the growl is more sinister and you can hear sounds that are not far removed from Pall Bearer. When this put together it does bring them closer to what I consider funereal doom, but not to the extent that I am hell yeah this is an awesome funereal doom band, instead they are a really good doomy metal band.

The clean vocal melodies are always sure of themselves. If they can pull that off live I would be impressed , but live is where bands of this ilk, Agalloch included tend to have the most problems. When it comes to how heavy this band it, they seem rather middle of the road. The death metal double bass is there, the dissonant chords and even a blast beat or two. At the end of the day good song writing wins out on "Accusations"the synth melody coating the thick lumber of the riff and the clean vocals dominating the verses all work hand in hand. This makes for some classic doom, that is more modern in feel than say Solitude Aeturnus. They do drag themselves into more run of the mill doom on "Void Haven" which might fall in line with your expectations of funereal doom, but it is also less original, so you appreciate the rest of the album where the band defied cliches.

This album was an enjoyable listen from a band that shows tons of promise. If you like your doom to be very melodic with an old Opeth ratio of clean vocals to growls then these guys are for you. The clean vocals are all smartly handled. I'll give this one an 8.5 as it was their willingness to try new things that was more impressive than any crushing riffs, they did not come across that heavy to me , but are promising song writers.


Friday, January 23, 2015

Addaura: "and the lamps expired"



The rain and heroin that once flourished grunge in Seattle can also be used as a back drop for anguished black metal. This band is connected to the grunge history as Tad Doyle produced this album. This sets the band apart from most underground black metal as their is a lush ambiance to the atmosphere of their atmospheric black metal, because the sounds are thoughtfully produced rather than a couple of mics slapped in the rehearsal space. This doesn't polish the rawness from their sound as their is still a harsh scraping  fuzzed to the guitar mixed to the left. They are like vampire bats latching on to dynamics with a feral thirst . The riffs swarm onto one epic point in the song than hang there before flying back into the night. This is done to create a sound similar to earlier Wolves in the Throne Room, before their atmospheric elements began to take folk leanings.

The vocals are screamed with a gurgled torment over the frantic drumming that blasts most of the time, but knows when to drop into the more epic half time bursts. This is more of a two ep than full album. One of the tracks is just a sounds of the haunted house type interlude. They start the second song with a piano riff that reminds me of Sigur Rios. The song titles are little haikus with "the sun shines today also.on the oaks of that bird hill"closing out the album. This song the bands shows they have an even more original sound that the more explosive opener. They do run back to the safety of the blast beats four minutes in and then come back to some creepy post-rock. This method never comes across as contrived like some bands who employ similar elements. Perhaps this is because the songs stay focused rather than wandering off into the sprawl.

The use of keyboards is one of the band's strong suits as they know what spaces need to be filled. They never over do stringed synths to make it sound like an old Dimmu Borgir demo. The keys are always very organic and sit buried in the mix until there is a melody that needs to be allowed to breathe. I would like to hear what these would do on a full length. This is just a little taste and lets hope they won't wait another three years to dish out another nineteen minutes of this tasty black metal. It is worth the dollar they are asking for on Bandcamp. Since this is basically as single I didn't rate it, but if you have to have one I'll give it an 8.5. They only draw back is after hearing the second song, it made me think how they played in safe on the first, but really the main problem is I wanted more than just a little taste, so that says something, even if they would have probaly done this by giving me two more ten minute songs, which I really hate putting on the iPod, but it might have happened if they were as good as the second song.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Venom : "From the Very Depths"




One of the band's whose name alone seems to make them legends. They get credited for creating black metal just because one of their albums bears the same name. I remember getting turned off slightly by them upon realizing they only used satanic imagery as a gimmick like Slayer.  Finding out Slayer were not satanists was like finding out Santa Claus wasn't real. They are in the hot seat with their new album as it's time for the band to prove themselves. The last album I paid attention to was "Prime Evil" which came out in '89 and that had "Demolition Man" on it rather than Cronos. So Venom really came to an end after "Ressurection". This is more of a Cronos solo album than Venom. The rest of the band is Danny Needham who also bangs the skins for Tony Martin and Guitarist Stuart Dixon from Order of the Black Sun. Of  using the Venom name is smarter than calling this Cronos. No one will buy a Cronos shirt , but you better bet they will be buying Venom shirts.

It opens with a much more metal sound than the original band ever had.The effects on Cronos' voice give him the needed command. I always regarded the band to be more punk than metal, in a similar manner Motorhead is more rock than metal. "the Death of Rock n Roll" finds the band back on the straight forward Motorhead. The rock slant takes a more "Black Album" Metallica direction on the groove fixated "Smoke". It has a powerful chug despite being more like post-Pantera metal. That makes this album comes across like "Cross Purposes" Black Sabbath when they started sounding more like the bands that influenced them than themselves. So all the metal hipsters that think they are so "cvlt" for wearing Venom shirts at this point might as well be wearing Volbeat or Machine Head shirts.  They come to more of a compromise between past and present on "Temptation" that still is filled with many of todays modern metal cliches.

Needham gets the job done behind the kit. Cronos' bass tone has always ruled and makes it's comeback on "Longhaired Punks" which lives up to it's name. There is a powerful pound to the jarring head bang of "Stigmata Satanas". The main riff feels more like newer Slayer. the simple chanted chorus is effective as the focus falls on Cronos doing what he does best on the verses. "Crucified" sounds like it almost could have been on Motorhead's "Orgasmatron" album until we get to the melodic break before the solo. More Metallica like riffs roar out from "Evil Law". Cronos puts a decent amount of husk into his voice on this one.

The almost power metal chug of "Grinding Teeth" reminds me a little of W.A.S.P's heavier moments.  This song shows that Cronos comes from the time  of classic metal where songs were written to pack a concise punch, so there are none of the sprawling ten minute drone filled epics we now think of as black metal. The allows the band to pack this album with 12 songs. While they take you back to the late eighties more often than not, it never feels like the band is wearing out their welcome in hell. Much of his is due to Cronos' charisma. The heaviest song on the album "Mephistopholese" has a Ministry like element to it. The classic metal bashing of "Wings of Valkyrie" is pretty memorable.

Well produced this album doesn't touch say "Give Me Your Soul Please" or Triptykon, but Cronos held is own in this solo effort. If you are a Venom fan and want a Venom album this is of course as close as you are going to get and at times might be a bitter pill if you want another "At War with Satan", but if you take this for what it is then its fun, kept me engaged but doubt I need this in my iPod so I'l give it an 8.

Up From the Underground-Ethan Jano : "I'll Be Fine"

  The Blue collar born Jano busts into his album with a energetic strum that reminds me slightly of the Violent Femmes, before some of the more country elements trickle in. Jano isn't going for pop-folk like beardos of alt-radio these days, but he is not Rome either. Instead Jano opts for a more 60's approach that artists like Phil Ochs who followed in the pick up your guitar and start a revolution scene Bob Dylan brought into the mainstream. It's the more somber moments like "Faithful Son" that have the most emotional resonance. His  strong, but  plainative  voice works best when countered with a more minor key guitar passage behind it.

 Some times electric guitar is employed to create a more hoe down swing. The wheel is not being reinvented when he comes to the cross roads Elvis once found himself at, standing between country and rock. The album continues to ramble down the rail road at an upbeat pace. It finally slows on the more blues based like of  "I Won't Go", though vocally he steers things in more of a country direction. By this point in the album you will be convinced this guy is legit and not some frat boy who is hoping on the bandwagon. The first song that feels like straightforward folk is the banjo inflected "All I Need is You". But the blues begins to win with boisterous banging of "No Idea" that is an adbrupt as a punk rock song.

Ethan's sense of melody is best showcased on the easy going vocal of "The Perfect Space". Lyrically the metaphors are rooted in a sense of story telling. This is conveyed best through the more introspective vocal approach on "the Burn" without Jano having to  sacrafice any of his robust delivery. He ends the album with a jubliant jamboree of "Wild Fire".  The lyrics to this one are also the most care free on the album.  If you like Americana and would like it to be slathered in blues speckled folk then this is the album you have been waiting for.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Cairo Pythian : "Touched"


So what's up with goth coming outta the Pacific Northwest? Cairo Pythian might have been the best kept secret. There have been enough post- punk band's worshipping Ian Curtis and friends so why no one at the alter of Love and Rockets. Often they weave a weird piece of dark wave that pulls out the rock n roll more than I anticipated. The synths are darker than the guitar solos that are more Brit pop. The singer can sing, on some songs he carries a seventies glam streak. But we are getting ahead of our selves because it starts of with a colder electro synth pop streak.

The lyrics have a silly 80's rock element that billy idol, but then again the lyrics to "So Alive" didn't break poetic ground. To their credit these guys pull from more places than just Daniel Ash. There are traces of "Controversy" era Prince to "Pretty Hate Machine" N.I.N. The poppier industrial elements don't give this too much of a mid nineties feel. The title track is one of the strongest arguments for the band finding their own sound through the myriad of influences.

The s&m ode "Asexual Cake" is sexual chaos not unlike some of Rozz Williams more experimental moments in Christian Death. This album heavily lean on punk rock side of goth.This guy really captures some iconic sounds in the narcotic glimmer Brit pop's sleazier side, surfaces on" Yesterday's Make-up" gives me flashbacks of pre-dawn partying I did in the late 90's. It's what was goth before goth was goth and bands were avidly worshipping David Bowie...as they should have been. This is not to say there isn't any edge or grit to what he does. There is plenty of creepy snarl on "Goin' Fishing". The thick coat of general weirdness would make Psychic Tv  proud at times with swirling ambiance dominating songs like "Forbidden Days".

The industrial elements are glamorized for the dance floor and not really for rivet heads throwing punches in latex. The genius in the production is the lo-fi indie rock distance the songs have to keep them from sounding like something on the oxymoron that is mainstream alternative radio. Yet the sound are crisp enough for the melodies to shine through, think pre-"After the End" Merchandise. They are goth enough to have a Dracula reference on "My Friend Renfield".

If you are tired of "cold wave" albums that sound like they were recorded on a four track in the bathroom and open to some genre defying drug crazed nonsense that is fun as all hell, do not waste another second of your life by not hearing this "band". I was able to just stop keeping score as I knew I was going to like each song. This one gets a 10 no question, the less song oriented drifts into the bizarre are balanced out by his keen ear for song writing.