Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tribulation : " The Children of the Night"

While I liked the band's last album, but  found them much more fascinating of a creature on stage when I saw them open for Watain, so I am hoping some of those more progressive and wandering qualities have carried over from the road and right from the first few chords of the opener it seems like they have. There is an almost Opeth like lushness to the sound. They don't use the traditional metal crunch, instead just going for an organic tone that they are playing loudly. The vocals are more intelligible. The guitar work continues to impress on this one. They entrench the songs with dark melodies. Enslaved comparison are sure to abound here as well, but there is some more sinister lurking under the surface, where Enslaved sails their prog power long boats into Norse lore. They do hit a similar vibe to Enslaved when the pace picks up on " Melancholia" as the guitars have the brighter epic metal tone.

This journey they take you on is painted in a wide spectrum of guitar tones. The band very much has a sound that they have embraced and this doesn't stray to far from that they are just painting it with different colors. Some of these are more  trippy than others. The drums and vocals  take the most traditional metal roles allowing the guitars to venture out into the fringes. This is not to say they do not have bite to them, as a song like "Winds" finds a balance of attack and sonic wonderment.  Some of the punches are in a more Iron Maiden vein of metal than death metal. Aside from the rasp of the vocals you would not think of this album as being death metal, even in the most progressive sense of the genre. The bass player makes some interesting choices as he ventures higher up the neck. This traditional NWOBHM approach returns on the melodic "the Motherhood of God". The vocal rasp has much more in common with black metal than death metal here.

The first really dense metal tone is when "Sjalaflykt" kicks in. It doesn't take long before the song is bathed in atmosphere. The expand and contract nature of the arrangements gives ample room for them to play around with. These guys do this without boring you with 10 to 15 minutes songs, instead the very concise. Sometimes they do allow a song to reach close to the half way mark before bringing the vocals in, which seem to have less emphasis placed upon this this time around, sometimes they omit them altogether. The dive deep into the darkness with "Strains of Horror". If you wondered what it would have sounded like if DeepPurple had written the soundtrack to the Exorcist, here is a pretty good stab at it. I enjoy a good guitar solo as much as the next guy but its rare that they really add as much to an album as they do here. It carries classic rock flare , but maintains it's own voice. There is a stronger sense of metal majesty to the guitar duel that is "Holy Libations" that is a guitar players wet dream. After the interlude  "Cauda Pavonis" Tribulation brings the album so a pounding finale with " Music From the Other". This has a very Watain pummeling to until they back off and let loose the dreary melodies.  This is another step forward for the band that continues to grow with every album, they blend the more classic metal elements in with their more ethereal colors with ease earning a 9.5.

Royal Thunder : "Crooked Doors"

This band continues to evolve from the blues soaked stoner rock, they have put the Black Sabbath albums away and now have become more of an indie rock band that takes on a rough edged hard rock dynamic. On the opener "Time Machine" which the band premiered on Npr,  Parsonz puts some angry husk to her voice when the band begins to climax toward the end of the song. This is followed up by the first song the band released from the album "Forget You" which has a post-grunge  chug typical of  more radio friendly hard-rock bands. In some ways this songs has the ebb and flow of an Alice in Chains song. They have some interesting layers of atmosphere floating behind some of the more meaty riffs. I like the pipe flexing on the refrain of "You better run for your life".

They back off on " Wake Up"  and display matured depth to their song writing. It has a very classic rock feel on what might be the chorus, but Weaver's guitar playing is really what shines on this one. His soloing on this album has a very Jerry Cantrell feel. The blues returns but by way of the British invasion on "Floor". This is a little more upbeat than what I have come to expect from the band. This song clearly displays what a difference the change of drummers has made. It darkens slightly in the solo section and broods there for a bit. The song ends with some really fantastic vocal layering.

" The Line" is another song the band leaked earlier. It is a pretty straight forward rock song, a little more drive to it than the previous song. The song winds into a creeping western riff. "Forgive Me Karma" has a psychedelic ring to it. Parsonz's melody snakes into the guitar line and then relaxes with with the song's lazy bong fueled drift until it's time for her to unlock her inner rock goddess. The song uses restraint to keep it's foot off the monitor.

The bands blues tendencies rears up in a much different way on the rambling "Glow" . The band continues to explore new sounds on  the dizzying riff featured on "Ear on a Fool" that leans toward an almost progressive side. But it's when the band backs off an allows her to really have more room to build melodies that the song excels. Parsonz vocals are no doubt one of the albums strengths , however it's not her caterwauling that's the most impressive it's the more introspective moments like "One Day" that almost holds a power ballad like quality.The harmonized double tracked vocals make this my favorite song on the album.

The album closes with the two-part "the Bear". The first is a mellow affair, that has a torch song theatricality to it. The second part is even more fragile with Miny accompanied by subtle strings and a piano singing with a purer tone . This songs feels like something Jeff Buckley would have done.The band was never fully committed to being a metal band even they they had a fetish for playing with metal bands , but they have taken another step away from metal with this album. This is not a bad thing as the new direction lends it's self to a compelling array of sounds and emotive glimpses into who this band is. I'll round it up to a 9.5 and see how it sits with me for the rest of the year.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Swans Live @ Terminal West

Like drugs there can be only one first time with Swans, this was my fourth time seeing the band that over the years has evolved from the post-punk precursor to industrial into a more abstract channeling of spiritual vibrations at maximum volume. This did not diminish my experience, but it did give me a different perspective on several components to the proceedings. I went bare back and did not use the earplugs the venue provided, and instead gave them to a friend who was experiencing this for the first time. I figured after the first three shows I had already lost the frequencies that would be destroyed by not wearing them, but I was wrong. The ringing was gone when I woke up.

The line-up, which came together five years ago for “My Father Will Guide Me Up a Rope to the Sky” is still intact. Thor Harris is not just banging along with Phil Puleo, when the spirit moves him Harris plays a xylophone and a trombone at the same time. New kid on the block Bassist David Pravdica builds up the tension appearing volley this frantic energy back and forth with their fearless fearless leader Michael Gira. Gira has held fast to spitting in the face of the" greatest hits " styled tour and continues to challenge his audience and fans alike, yes you did read that right Swans now have an audience that is separate from the actual fans of the band. 

How is this even possible you are asking? Swans are becoming increasingly like the Greatful Dead in that some people appear to be going to the show because it's a good atmosphere to do drugs in, then there are people who actually have Swans in their iPod and listen to them during the course of their daily life. But this is a catch 22...you don't have to be familiar with Swans body of work to enjoy their show since all songs were pulled from last year’s “To Be Kind” along with some public woodshedding of songs they are banging into shape before recording down the road. However Michael holds the term jamming in contempt. They have been pounding out this set on tour for some time, so it's not like these are moments just being pulled from any old breeze that blows up from the bong.  This does fit the definition of a jam band, but if you are reading this I do not need to tell you Swans sound nothing like Phish. Michael Gira holds jamming in contempt. So there is some form of organic chaos energy birthing taking place. The majick comes when they start playing at 9:45 and then you glance down at your phone and another but the noticeable difference in the crowd was the presence of hippies abounding. This puzzled me, so this afternoon I went on Set List FM and began taking notes on what festivals they had played since I last saw them three years ago. At first aside from the Pitchfork Festival in Chicago it seemed most of the festivals they played were in northern Europe, until I got to summer of 2013 and found they played Bonnaroo. The mystery of why if smelled like sewage from where I standing eight feet from the stage and two feet from the dancing teenagers was solved. I am sure Gira notices this shift; he kicked a few children and scolded them about putting their hands in his sacred space.

This was my finance’s first Swans show and she confirmed that they did stop time with their sonic hypnosis and said it lived up to her high expectations, but thought vocals would play a more prominent role. I found when Gira did sing his voice was in fine form and seemed even stronger than when I saw them three years ago.  Things change but from the stage Gira and Company continue to create the cathartic ritual that many bands these days like to bill their shows as but are really just banging out the same old chords. I will continue to go see Swans whenever we are in the same state. The hippies will get arrested or get sober and I'll be standing at my same spot just left of the stage nodding my head ice water in hand. If you have not experienced them live and consider your self a fan of music that goes to extremes then they are a required course.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Report to the Dance Floor : Madonna's "Rebel Heart"

Me and the Fabulous Ms. M have been out of touch. After "Music" we parted ways, she went on to have a mid-life crisis and released four albums none of which had anything that entered into my consciousness, but then again when I quit doing drugs, I also quit frequenting gays bars. The first song on Madonna's new album "Rebel Heart" makes it apparent gays bars are where she has been hiding out making music. This is perfect for my climate so there is a bit of a nostalgic edge to this which gives me a appreciation for this album which in it's initial sales haven't impressed the rest of the world , but what do those sheep know about good music any way?

So this is a dance album, expecting anything more than smart pop is like critics who go into comic book movies thinking they are going wow the Sundance Festival. I was impressed by the first few listens , but putting it under the microscope might yield different results, the big hook to "Ghosttown" does sound like Lady Gaga, but Lady Gaga owes her whole career to Madonna so that argument is rendered null. "Unapologetic Bitch" has some dance hallish slink to Madonna's more rapped delivery, yeah , I guess she developed that skill on some of the albums I missed out on, I think she does it better than Gaga, who started off as more of a rapper. The production on this album is unearthly, I would listen to more pop music if it pumped like this. One of my instant favorites "Illuminati" feels like the middle section of "Vogue" parred up the funkier bridge in Katy Perry's "Dark Horse", but Katy please see the foot note we already made in regard to Lady Gaga's career and apply it to yourself.  The "every body in the party is shining like Illuminati " is well...dope.

Only she can get away with a song like "Bitch, I'm Madonna" there are elements that remind me of Aqua's "Barbie Girl" . Aqua refer to what we told Katy Perry. I can take or leave Nicki Minaj, which is pretty much the rule with all of the guest spots except for Chance the Rapper who is the only fool that really adds anything. Mike Tyson? give me a fucking break.  "Hold Tight" is the first song on here that doesn't wow me. Seven songs in well... suppose that's not too bad though we go for perfection around here. The acoustic guitar and balladry shows up on "Joan of Arc" and when it comes Madonna's ballad, I want to compare it "Live to Tell"...oh, yes I know her older catalogue like the back of my hand. "Iconic" even with the dumb Mike Tyson thing is better than all the other shit on the radio.

"Heart break City" sounds like something that could have been on the Twin Shadow album I just reviewed, but sung a tad less passionately . "Body Shop" is an odd song that I am not sure what to think of so it's probably good and it just is going to take some time for me to absorb it, as it doesn't really sound like anything I have heard her do before. It's about time to get this show back on the dance floor and with the battle cry of "Bitch get off my pole" Madonna brings it with 'Holy Water" though the lyrics seem to be implying her body fluids are what tastes like holy water, which at her age and life experiences I find that highly doubtful. "Inside Out" she continues down the path this album seems to work best upon. It's a little darker which is fine by me. I am not sure what they have done with her voice , but she sounds like a teenager here.

The album closes with a song I  do not think is the strongest, which makes me wonder why some of the other songs like "S.E.X" or the title track were not included, though the song "Rebel Heart" is only marginally better than "Wash Me All Over".  Oh, well it is what is, don't believe the hype saying this is a bomb, because it's not creatively , try to get the expanded edition there some songs that are actually better than some of these , but this still is getting a 9.5 as Madonna is back in biznasty.

Porta Nigra : "Kaisershnitt

This German duo sounds more French than German to me. They do not carry the stiff militant  nature of most German metal bands instead opting for a much more experimental approach not unlike Peste Noire. The blast you into a sample heavy freak out with an almost industrial feel shadowing the groove. "Femme Fatale" might not be as extreme as the opener of any where close to black or death metal, instead falling in line with what the "decadent dark metal" label the band gives themselves, it does show the duo carries a wide range of musicality. They keep their heads way above the waters of becoming another Rammstein, the tight chugged syncopation still holds plenty of head banging appeal for fans of more mainstream metal.

They shift from groove to groove sometimes jerking you back from one more violently than they do from others. Choruses of clean vocals ooh and ahh in the back ground. They can lock into tight head banging chug fests just a deftly as any more mainstream metal band, but have a dirty edge to the ambiance. The stomp to a song like " In Stahlgewittern" might come across as monotonous if that is what this band was limited to but that is not the case."Mata Hari" almost feels like something from the most recent Mayhem album. It's oddly timed with a spoken German narrative on the verse. The rest of the song it's a throaty but not totally growled bellow and a few bars of clean singing tossed about. The oddly named "Hepatitis Libido" is more straight forward than it's name might imply, almost like Angel Dust era Faith No More.

There is more of a rock groove to " Ich -Zerfall" . There is one really straight ahead riff that doesn't do much for me. The song is well written and they continue to throw clever samples in not just to fill the gaps , but to coat the songs in a manner similar to old Ministry, even though I would not really say this is industrial, just industrial influenced. There is enough shreddy guitar on this album to make most aspiring guitarists happy. The closing song which leads off with the clean vocals reminds me of Enslaved. The initial listens had a little more impact as I did not know what to expect now after hearing this one a few times it's settled in and I am not as blown away with it as I was a few weeks ago. This is more off beat than mainstream metal, but in comparison to some of the stuff we review around here not so much.This also is not black metal, but it is a fun listen I'll give it an 8.5.

Kesa : s/t

America thank you for your gallant attempt at bringing post-punk back now it's time to hand things off to Northern Europe. Svart Records is branching out to bring you this Helsinki based band Kesa who has a wide range of sounds at their command to pay homage to 80s post-punk. From the first song it's bass propelled and slightly militant, the album cover looks like a joke but these guys are serious as all hell. "Tuuli kaantyy" they show they are able to balance out the cold stark march with some groove and atmosphere. The vocals stay in the hard chanting.

Synths slowly begin to play a larger role and the vocals become slightly more sung which becomes increasingly apparent by "Sade". It's even bordering on cold wave on " Sul on" which is an interlude just leading up to the stomping Devo like groove of "Sotilaan mieli". The vocals curl their upper lip back up into a more punk shout.  The female vocals chime in to help out and adds yet another dimension to their sound and really makes the dynamics pop off more on this one. The guitar playing finds it's way into a ore melodic strum on ""Harju" which gives it a more Iceage mentality except for the new romantic elements in the synths and backing vocals . Something to the song also reminds me of "Leader of the Pack". So these guys are far from becoming another band that wants to be Killing Joke.

They veer  to the left of a more  new wave  direction. The groove and synth melodies work well with the vocals , the band's grasp of electronics is pretty impressive. There is a slight hint of industrial to the closing "Paaskyvuori" . The band doesn't take the song in the direction you assume it's headed in and continues to toy with you. The joke is "What do you call some one who only speaks one language"..."an American" , but those of you who are stateside and expect your music delivered to you in English might balk at this album and that's fine you can miss out. I'll give this album a 9.5 and see how it sits with me for the rest of the year.  I look forward to hearing more from this band.

Report to the Dance Floor: Twin Shadow's "Eclipse"

This album caught me by surprise I'll tell you right off the bat it's a strong contender for album of the year. From the first song he shows you how to make a chorus carry the most emotional impact possible.Who said pop music has to be a bad thing? More common with the 80s he sings in an urgent baritone, think Corey Hart but with a larger dose of soul injected in the phrashing. "When the Lights Turn Out" you can hear echoes of both Seal and Peter Gabriel. The 80s are back in a big  blatant way on "To the Top" which might find you checking the album jacket of your copy of "Dirty Dancing" or Top Gun" to see if this song is there. He doesn't coat the songs in same level of cheese , this feels really naturual, but I grew up in the 80s so some of this just takes me back there and maybe I am not as objective as I think I am being hear, but these songs are pristine from any angle you listen to them from. The harmonies are recorded as well as anything you could find on a Peter Gabriel album.

The duet "Alone"  touches on some common r&b element, it's darker from a more emotionally desperate place. The title track has a Police like tension to the guitar. His vocal is impeccable on this song.This song makes the hair stand up on my arms it's so good, and you know how tough I am on artists around here. "Turn Me Up" is making it on the mix I'm doing for my wedding on Halloween for the line "you got me needing you/ like it's some religion", if for nothing else. Maybe I'll try to Twin Shadow to play my wedding if I can sell my fiance on him.

The breathy narrative to "I'm Ready" offsets the slightly more upbeat background. By the time you get to the chorus it's pretty celebratory. A little happier of song than I normally listen to but the execution is dead on. If "Old Love / New Love" isn't playing at your cities' gay pride parade this year there is a problem. It has all the element of gay house you could want. It's also the first song where I can hear some Prince influence. If you don't find yourself dancing at any point in this album you a boring old white guy with no soul, go back to listening to AC/DC.

He even finds some Brit Pop New Wave in him on "Half Life" which is one of the tracks fighting for my affection enough to be called my favorite song on this album. Every song is good, "I'm Ready" is the only song that has to still grow on me. He is not afraid to experiment with odd sounds and effects on his voice" Watch Me go" being one of these places.  Of this album gets a 10, it's a crime if you don't check it out.


King Woman : "Wrong"

Dark and droning,almost to the extreme this album is dense and heavy in the way we love them to be around this circle of hell. In someways similar to the blues drenched doom of Royal Thunder, this is less rock n roll and more hypnotic.In fact it often finds it self having just as much in common with shoe gaze as it does doom, the lines get blurred in the most delicious manner.There is that depressive mourning quality to the music. The guitar sobs with it.The distortion is thick, but in the same way it's thick for a band like Hum. The deliberate delay of the drums doesn't prolong the pregnant pauses , but keeps the songs moving. People rave about the slow core of bands like Earth, but this hits that spot some much better and has plenty of metallic power behind it without really being overtly metal in some ways.

 "King of Swords" is more of a sonic soup to soak in than anything to bang your head to, maybe bang dope to. The singer moans "no love , love is gone" with a stoned apathy masking any pain. Her husky alto is not androgynous, but she expresses herself unlike most female singers, a less sexed up Fiona Apple is a fair comparison in terms of register. The first song where the guitar takes on a brighter tone is "Burn".The thundering drums keep the sunshine out. Her whispered vocals here have a more Jucifer like quality and then the sounds get really mind blowing. She doesn't belt it out but seems to be using a measure of restraint. It's pretty refreshing to have a doom album where all of the songs are not over ten minutes long.

Every thing is very concise and to the point, but uses the time wisely to take you on a journey. The only hints of ever plodding are a few seconds here and there on "Candescent Soul", but dynamically they are still on point even there, they only complaint is I just want more this ep is a bit of a tease. I'll give it a 9.5 1

Marriages : " Salome"

This trio spawned off of the Red Sparowes and have been killing the stage opening for the likes of Chelsea Wolfe after releasing the impressive "Kitsune". The first thing that grabs your attention this go around is their singer. Her singing gets the most improved award for the album. Not that she was a bad singer before, her vocals have really stepped up to the next level and given the space to be used as an instrument just as impressive as the guitar, bass or drums. She was a more purring alto, which she flexes into some vocal lines that are more aggressive that the guitar that has taken on an even more dreamy quality time time around. At times this gives them more in common with A Perfect Circle or Tori Amos then the Russian Circles post-rock they brewed before. Sure some of the melodies are more radio friendly, but this is a far cry from selling out. You can't blame a girl for wanting to sing.

There is a more heavenly soaring into the same stratosphere the  Cocteau Twins once flew on "Skin" though Emma's voice reminds me more of Dolores from the Cranberries here than Elizabeth Fraser. The bass drives many of these songs leaving the drum to pound dizzying circles around it. The sleeker song writing is really showcased on "Santa Sangre" which shows how much the band has matured to use the restraint it takes to serve the song and allow the vocals to become the focal point rather than just another texture. "Southern Eye" finds them drifting from a Cure like throb into a more gutsy crunch that has more of a straight ahead rock attack than their previous work. The bass tone stays thicker and more distorted than the guitar even in these moments.The darker more introspective musings continue with a similar formula, but with an even more emotional impact on "Binge". The title sounds like they are playing underwater, its so dreamy and distant. Only her vocals really reach out from the murky wall of sound they have created which would make most shoe gazing bands envious.

"Less Than" takes the shoe gazing guitar tone sets it against the hard rock beef of the bass. Emma's yearning takes on a Tori Amos quality, fitting into between the syncopation perfectly. this delivery makes the lyrics stand out, I could not tell you want any of the songs on "Kitsune" were about , but here the message is much clearer. "Love, Texas" finds the back in narcotic pulse of the Cure. They close out the album with "Contender" which shifts it's way through a similarly effect forest of tingling guitar and pleading vocals.

It's very easy to give this album a 10. They deserve all the praise they might get for not being afraid to shed some of the pretense of post-rock and just focus on writing good vocal driven songs. Emma has stepped up to the mic with a vocal performance few albums are going to be able to beat this year. Chelsea Wolfe better bring her A game.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Godspeedyoublackemperor! : "Asunder, Sweet and Other Distress"

Like Swans these guys are a non-metal band that has influenced tons of metal bands. They start their newest album out on an intense cinematic path heavy with sonics and ominous in it's intentions.there's brass blaring, there are string wailing, there's sounds ringing out with feedback all of it holding a plodding drone.The bring a chaotic clamor at time but it's too well orchestrated to think of it as noise when their are middle eastern melodies snaking their way into the song. You can also hear how bands like Explosionsinthesky owe a ton to these guys in terms of dynamic flow. As seminal an act as these guys are with any instrumental album is question after the first song is how much longer will they be able to hold my attention or will this just become background music.

The second song is more of a prolonged interlude of ambient, then the third song pulls the same trick , which at this point is beginning to seem like a waste, it's even more minimalistic in it's lingering clicks and other onomatopoeias . This doesn't even become back ground music because I hardly know it's even on. So it all hangs on the fate of the final 13 minute monster" Piss Crowns Are Trebled" to save the album. They do save face and begin to play actual music , which is a pretty breath taking combination of elements coming at you in one storm cloud. A gnarly bass tone that drags the tempo to a doom like march and then string paints everything else with despondent beauty. This could be the soundtrack to any massive apocalyptic movie. This all builds up into something that really puts the rock in post-rock.

While this almost feels like a waste of an album do to the noise and ambiance that loiters in the middle portion, but when they do play actual songs it's pretty amazing so I will go ahead and give this a 7.5 while I wonder i I need to own these two songs.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dorthia Cottrell : s/t

The lead singer from Windhand has released her first solo album. Truth be told I have never been blown away by Windhand.It starts off dark and blues, her voice is sultry and strong, then on "Gold" a country element begins to creep in. This is not pulled off in the same manner as say Marissa Nadler and sounds more like a Bonnie Raitt unplugged album. Her song writing is pretty bare bones and the instrumentation is sparse. She gets away with this at first. The songs are to the point so don't drag, there might be a little different flavor of haunting on "Oak Grove" but the guitar in the distance makes it sound too much like the previous song. If the instrumentation on songs like this was given a helping hand by drums or piano she might have sold me on this. Her voice is good , but not good enough to carry songs on an empty stage. She fares better on the country blues collision that reminds me of the Cowboy Junkies on "Orphan Bird" We are back to just the tentative strum of guitar and her vocals double tracked up front.

 Perhaps if her lyrics were more convincing this would be an easier sell, since her voice is right out in the open then you would think she had better have something to say. The more down home country flavor to " Maybe it's True" sound like K.D Lang with less dynamics.It's one of the longest songs on the album at seven minutes but doesn't go anywhere. She works better in more of that Cowboy Junkies place as demonstrated on "Moth". When she is harmonizing with herself she captures a unique quality, but laid bare bones just strumming a chord, it's a snooze fest.Eight songs into the album I find myself really struggling to get through the whole thing, but I force myself and press on. She doesn't touch on any new ground on "Kneeler" and is a far cry from Chelsea Wolfe when it comes to being able to pull this off with just a guitar in hand. "Rake" is barely a shade different from the previous song. It's more tedious guitar strumming, which if you are going to go that route you might as well put a little more into the playing and bang the hell out of it to create dynamics, which is why this album is flat as a table.

 The country comes out on "Perennial" which feels better than the bulk of the album up to this point , but it is too little too late. The country guitar in the background is really sticking to the color by numbers country intervals. The chorus doesn't jump out and grab you. The album closes with " Song For You", there is not much feeling coming from it or the album as a whole ,normally female singer are able to inject some sort of sex into their singing even if it's not intentional objectification even Chelsea Wolfe does it, Marisa Nadler does it and even Laura from Kylesa does it , its just a quality the female voice has , but little is done to inject that. Making the moments that should be more personal, come across as bland.  Said about al there is to say about this one I'll give it a 4.5, maybe she will take something away from this an apply it to Windhand to make them more interesting.

Nightwish: "Endless Forms of Beautiful"

I have liked Nightwish more in the past than you thought I might have. 2007/ 2008 was the peak of my interest in the band. Now after replacing their replacement singer the band have thrown their new singer t the wolves on the new album. It sounds like they want to carry more than her fair share and she need their help on this one. It doesn't sound like she finds her voice until "Elan". I have noticed this about the bands previous work , but on this album it's more apparent that they should be making soundtracks for melodramatic anime.

These songs begin to make you think that her voice doesn't have the balls to it their previous singers have had even when preoccupied with operatics, this is later corrected. The folk elements are still intact, but the band could stand to darken things up, this is way too happy, like the lyrics say they are dancing a jig at the funereal. They do gather a more powerful chug on "Your is an Empty Hope" which finds Floor Jansen bringing more metal to the mic.This would have been a better choice of an opening song."Our Decades in the Sun" finds Floor relishing the songs ballad like qualities. The  guitar here is pretty tasteful, and though this kind of fluff isn't my thing , they are doing a good job of it. It is not unlike some of the post-Roy Khan Kamelot.

The album doesn't find the groove Nightwish needs to be in until "My Walden" then they hit the perfect blend of power-metal and folk that makes them who they are. Floor finally figures out what she is supposed to do with this band. The chorus is pretty happy, but it works for Nightwish and is consistent in the type of post- "Once" metal they kept churning out after Tarja left. The title track ebb and flows with another good cross section of metal with pop folk. To me the big choruses are on the cheese laden 80s side, but I also prefer black metal over power-metal. The intro of "Edema Ruh" sounds like it's going to go into something from a Disney princess film, but breaks down into a more subdued pop. There is some impressive guitar work sprinkled over it all.

"Alpenglow" sticks to a formula that at this point in the album is beginning to feel worn out. Sometimes Floor's melodies carry a little more bite than others. While she is going out saying it's the leak of the first single that is ruining the albums sales it's more likely going to be word of mouth that her studio debut with the band is pretty lukewarm. "The Eyes of Sharbut Gula" really needs to bring it at this point, but it's just an interlude leading up to the twenty three minute epic" the Greatest Show on Earth". This is a dramatic symphonic build for the first six minutes until any sign of rocking out occurs after a brief narrative. It finally gets heavy. Floor voice is coated in effect making me wonder why this hasn't been happening for the rest of the album. The first hints that she might actually be the soprano her bios all say she is. If she is she must be a second soprano, she doesn't wander to much above an alto register.They are none the less ambitious here so I'll give this an 8, but I don't think it's an album that I need to own.

Liturgy : " The Ark Work"

Despite Hunter's best efforts I've remained a fan through all the hipster pre-tense Little Lord Hendrix has draped the project in. Even after the clean vocals and Bone Thugs being cited as an influence I have been waiting for this one. It opens with literal fan fare, not an actual song just an intro, that's horns. The first actual song splits the difference between the Sun Ra jazz and the black metal of old. If a real drummer is playing this and not a drum machine then it's impressive as hell. According to the credits it's Ben Fox who played on the last album. The second song sounds like and extension of the first with these glitches thrown in, which sound intentional, it could be the copy I downloaded is just pirate as hell. Tone wise the a guitar carries a similar ringing sound, maybe even less distorted . The rap elements come in on this song as well. But is sound more like chants since bass is thumping. Hunter isn't trying to really spit verses, it sounds like monotone ranting. This song grows more sonic and eventually wins me over.

"Follow II" is a much more twinkling piece of ambiance, almost bordering on the space riding tendencies of kraut rock . They explode into the song at the three minute mark. I can hear where the transcendental nature of the music lies as it is very soaring. This might have blast beats, but it's not black metal. I'm o.k with that, if you are not well they are like Rush in the fact they are not every ones bag. The vocals on this one sound like Indian chants and even when they used harshly screamed vocals it was just a layer of white noise with a more human touch.

If you clicked on this review chances are you already clicked on the single for "Quetzalcoatl". The rap thing is more predominant here. Dramatic synths swell before what is a pretty decent sweep of black metal that flows into the song. "Father Vorizen" is more deliberately paced and carries a tad more stomp to it. There is a tremendous increase in atmosphere on this album, a few little interlude like songs that carry you from one piece to the next. Synths are also more present, mainly creating string sound. Synths are pretty common in black metal so you can't fault him for that. "Reign Array" blasts into a shimmering sunrise rather than taking you to the grim winter's dusk most black metal travels to. Hunter's best attempt to sing occurs on this song as well and Rob Halford has nothing to worry about. They use the ten minutes of this song to swell similar sonic themes explored earlier on the album into radiant tapestry.

They harmonize layers of vocals in a round on "Vitriol" before  bringing more of the pseudo rap back into the picture. His lyrics are more distinguishable than when he previously tried to cold kick it.The lyrics are like something from Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" filtered through Layzie Bone. The fuzzy electronic undercurrent  is allowed to drip in from the song's cracks creating the albums most un-metal. "Total War" is almost like a slower reprise of "Quetzalcoatl" , it does float into a dark cloud. The production on this song and a few others sounds almost muffled. I'm sure this is intentional, I know they are influenced by Lighting Bolt, but for what they are doing a crisper sound might have benefited this album. This does leave me a little torn in scoring the album so I'll go on an give it a 9.5 and see how it stands the test of time.

Pyramids: "A Northern Meadow"

This album has been getting some hype so I though I would give it a listen to see if it's worth downloading. First listen the mix seemed thin and the very Porcupine Tree like vocals did not help thicken things up . So I got up and grabbed the ear buds. This album must be played loudly. I know every album from the 80s used to say that in the liner notes, but that's how this is going down. At first it sounds like a more dreamy take on Enslaved if the keyboardist solely handled the vocals and I am normally a fan of clean vocals. Not to say the guy doesn't have a decent voice, the melodies just wander around the song rather than working with it. He floats off into his head voice like Jeff Buckley if  he was falling asleep rather than drowning. There are some growls they are mixed very low. The drummer is one of the stars for sure and the guitarists get an A for originality when it comes to using a unorthodox guitar tone to play metal with.

"The Earth Melts into..." finds a more tremolo picked guitar that veers from the opener where the swirling angular intangible nature of what Pyramids do can bring to mind Cynic, they do use sounds loosely connected with black metal, but I would not say they are a black metal band. Progressive metal sure. Some of the floating vocals begin to work with the music rather than against it, though
it's not until the third song that the band really begins to gather some heft.I am surprised that these guys are on Profound Lore, it seems that they are a step away from being like Dredg at times. When cool effects are applied to clean vocal in heavy music the result is always outstanding, ask Ozzy and Uncle Al. Even though the vocal locks in even more into an actual hook on the fourth song , the nature of the music makes my attention space out as they float into the background.

The first riff that seems like black metal to me and it's for the fleeting intro is "I Have Four Sons..." . The mumbled emotive vocals plead around the angular dissonance. It's not as dark as I normally prefer my metal, but there is a jarring feeling you get from not being able to distinguish dream from waking life that I get from listening to this that makes it worth my while. The fractal mathematics this drummer seems to be counting out the beats to these songs, gets weirder on "I am So Sorry, Goodbye". The only draw back is the song does not have much in the way of form aside from the intersecting math rock riffs until the vocals give a glimmer of melody.

"My Father, Tall as Goliath" just falls out of the droning outro of the preceding song in an abrupt manner. The singer wants the song to be more straight forward than the rest of the band. They come to an intersection where they find a compromise between the two different directions.The albums ends strong. They don't converge into one epic metal chug, but rather dance elusively around each other. in some ways it's like what Krallice does but more melodic and what Liturgy is aiming for on the new on just without the rap influence. I'm impressive with the sonics of what they have thrown together here, it's not the Canadian band's first rodeo, but it is a good jumping on point for first time listeners. I'll give it a 9.5 , we will see how this grow on me once I give it a spot in the iPod.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Calabrese : " Lust For Sacrilege"

Going into this I only know this band plays Dragon-con on a regular basis and also does the horror-con circuit which is why they are one of my friend's favorite bands. They have cool monster themed t-shirts.The opener is like a dark wave Tears For Fears which is better than some of the Volbeat hard-rock. The singer has a good voice, so much so that is carries the otherwise bland "Down in Misery". They use to be a horror punk with a touch of shock a billy, this however is well produced but straight rock.Many punk bands go this route once they gain a little more command of their instruments.  You can hear the Misfits influence still lingering on "Teenage Crime Wave". Making me ask how is what they are doing here different from what Beastmilk does. The answer is the rock is much more connected to 90s alt rock radio where Beastmilk is more post-punk, carrying more sonics to their punch.

When the vocals back off and allow the melody to dominate rather than the guitar it plays in their favor and the hooks win me over on "Flesh and Blood". The title track is heavier and bass driven with intersecting melodies, not the album's most original song. The more straight forward commercially flavored hard rock continues on "Wanted Man", some of the riffs might be creative for Shinedown, but I think these guys are capable of doing something darker. "Serpentflame" doesn't do much to change direction as they take on a tighter palm muted chug.

They do reclaim their punk roots on "Gimme War" that stays in true punk form under two minutes. I prefer the punchier "New York Ripper" over their rather cookie cutter punk sound. This song also has the albums best lyrics.They keep a meaner edge on "Lords of the Wasteland" with the singer putting a little more grit in his delievery.The band closes the album out on the power ballad "Drift into Dust" that uses a few more major chords than what feels right to me, but for what it is the song is decent enough.

My initial thoughts on the album is these guys are better than I thought they would be as it's not just one to three go and all of the rock-a billy elements if they were ever there are shed for a more rock approach. I will give this one an 8.5. In time it might prove to be too straightforward for me, but if you are already a fan of the band would imagine you might want to round this up unless you are just a fan of their punk side then round it down.

Aelter : "VI-Love Eternal"

This is a side project from one of the dudes in Wolvserpent, the first of these solo albums came out back in 2009. David Lynch was the first thought that came to mind in the abrasive jazz slowness that tumbled out of the first few chords. The vocals are low and gothy. The hesitate on each breathy note. The croon at times reminds me of Mike Patton more than Peter Murphy, as there is a western quality to both the singing and the warbling guitar. There are some cool sounds captured here. Things I would like if these pieces were all put together in an actual song.

From this point not only is the tone established but it stays pretty much transfixed on doing the same thing over and over again. Each song sounds the same and it sounds like a song that never went anywhere to begin with. So if you play in a metal band and decide you want a Nick Cave like side-project, then I applaud you I want that too I am your target audience. So if you mess this up by not really writing a song that goes anywhere, then I am not sure what to tell you. The guitar sound on "Life Eternal" wails a little more. But the vocals stay the same. The drum beat keeps the same lingering reluctance.

More synths come into the mix to add some ambiance to the slow-core thing that's going on here. A little more of this earlier on might have made this album a little more interesting. The vocals almost take on more of death-rock thing, but they are too hesitant to spit it out.I'll give this one a four as it is a little too single minded to the point of all th song sounding the same.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Malthusian : "Below the Hengiform"

This Irish band might not be straddling as many genre fences as they think, it's line between occult death metal and doom that is questioned here. The blastier moments go about this coming from more of a death metal place, despite the fact this band possesses the drummer from the late great Altar of Plagues The vocals are low gasped growls, that are layer against a more defined and higher scream.They come from more of an Incantation and Morbid Angel school of death metal. The shifting grimness of the riffs flows in a serpentine manner, jumping out for devouring moments of violence. It moves sluggishly and there is a cool angular twist to the riffs, it's admirable that they have taken common elements in today's metal and warped them to suit their own needs. In some ways it reminds me of last year's Nightfell album as the mixture of sounds is very organic and better left just being referred to as metal.

"Slouching Equinox" bleeds with more ambiance, despite being a denser and more deliberate in it's punishment.  The faster build carries an anguished scream that wants to perhaps be black metal. "Forms Become Vapor" at times grinds with almost more of an Inquisition feel, so this  is the only place I can hear the black metal coming into play, yet the pacing is buried closer to the crypts of  death metal . The death metal really feels like it's brutally unapologetic, as death metal should be.When this really pound at you the effect is powerful. It throbs with darkness. The dry rasp of the vocals carries more of a croak than a bellow, so these guys are versatile, not sure I would even call this blackened. Nor really is it doom. Is something doom just because it is slow ? It has more of a sludged out throb to it than really becoming introspective enough to have any morbid reflection.The album is never plodding, it's for those who thought the whole occult death metal thing was to atmospheric for them and needed some meat and potatoes metal chugs thrown in.I'll give this one an 8.5 , because it is very effective at what they set out to do and really doesn't have any fault except sounding like a slab of metal best used safely in the comfort of your own home lest you become swallowed in it's weight undertow.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Haust : " Bodies"

It's becoming my job at Cvlt Nation to make sense of the weird and wonderful sounds of bands at a dark cross-roads after varied genres  have collided. Which I would not have any other way as the one qualifying factor all music must have for me to like is is darkness. It doesn't matter if it's metal, punk or just some avant garde noise rock,  all of which seems to be colliding on this album. The band's primary sound is dissonance which in turn creates their darkness.  They have been labelled as hardcore, a term seriously brought into question by  the guitar's 60s garage rock warble  that  off sets to more malicious metal edge of the vocals , that are not too far off from being black metal. I would say they are more firmly planted in punk than what we think of as hard-core. The layered vocals at the chorus on "Days" are no more hard core than anything from Darkthrone's black n roll days.  The chaotically blurred genre lines aside they capture some mesmerizing sound and take the sound down some unexpected dark alleys. They have a rowdy metal attack that jumps out from behind the corner of songs. They abandon the sleeker song writing of the first two songs on "Body Melt" which carries a more rabid bite. This song also carries to most punk snarl the album has seen up til this point, though the guitar carries more of wild jangle.

They really hit a sonic high point on with the drone into "Peephole Maze"  metal is undeniable and the fact that Ulver guitarist Trond Mjoen really seals the deal even after  the "Richard Hung Himself" like swagger of "Give me Shame" . There sounds like a crooning vocal is buried deep beneath the guitar, but the predominant narrative voice of the song remains the rants of  the rasping maniac. When the song end you find out there was another vocal trying to get out from under there. There is even a slight dreamy coat of noise to the pounding chords of "No Body" that give it a shoe-gaze feel, in turn making it sound like something Deafheaven might do. The vocals also are more for a humanized coating of white noise, which serves a similar purpose to Deafheaven's use of vocals. But unlike like the bands that are now beginning to come out of the wood work who are trying to sound like Deafheaven, this doesn't sound intentionally.

The bass line drags "Out Like a Like" from its drugged crusty slumber. This is allowed to simmer against a odd back drop of synths , with the angry vocals launching into more of an Eyehategod like raving. The punk rock comes out of no where and jerks the song around. Even though the album is aligned with chaotic spastic nature, the band shows incredible restraint. Vocals aside, They steer clear of any chances to blacken things up, which would have been an easy path to go down from considering the pedigree of some of the members.

The chromatic drone of "Fall" has a more post-pink feel, which the band hints at earlier in the album, their use of synths points into a more Killing Joke direction. Even though  the title track just seems like an extension of the previous song being jammed out the album succeeds in being an album I can leave on  and just let play, since obtaining a new 30 gb iPod Classic, I can indulge myself in leaveing things like this on my iPod  and give myself more time to come to a conclusion, but for the sake of this review I will give the album a 9, and see where it grows from there.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Forgotten Tomb : "Hurt Yourself and the Ones You Love"

Some how their last album "And Don't Deliver Us From Evil" slipped by me so I missed the transition from "Under Saturn Retrograde" to this album, which is a much more slick and groove laden affair, than their more black metal earlier work. This guys are no doubt fine musicians and no too shabby in the song writing department so I'll give this one a shot. The very straight forward metal of "King Of Undesirables" reminds me too much of old Sentenced or any 90's melodic death metal. The more commercial metal sound which is thick on groove almost to a Slipknot level, somehow works on "Bad Dreams Come True". On the dark and melodic title track we are really getting somewhere, the lyrics are as scathing as the delivery it catches you feeling like a lonely junkie in a closet not unlike some of Nachtmystium's more introspective and downtrodden moments.They recall some of Dissections catchier "Reinkaos" era moments with the blackened head banger,"Mislead the Snakes".

 The slower melodic guitar passages that coast over the second half of the song add another layer of depth, and are a pretty clear indication of how this band has grown. The pounding chant of "Dread the Sundowns" chorus as a much more massive Behemoth scope to it compared to what you might have heard from the band before. They do get a little blasty, on that one , but there is not much of that elsewhere on the album. "Swallow the Void" starts off like Chelsea Wolfe's "Feral Love", but proves to be more of an outro than an actual song.This one might be a little to mall metal for me , but never the less, I'll round this one up to an 8 as it shows a lot of growth for the band.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Up From the Under Ground : The Great Game

Normally if you tell me to think of a jazz album that has hints of Mr. Bungle, I would picture John Zorn. This is not that sort of jazz. It doesn't defy you to keep listening. The singer sounds more like dude from Embodyment than Mike Patton. His vocal chords are nowhere near as elastic as he stays in a smoky baritone. There are other voices that join in as well, as varied brass instruments. The opener is the one of  the few songs that flirts with the Dream Theater side of prog, though "Bipolaroid" does get a litter meaner, but in almost a Living Colour sense. The crazy sax that runs wild in the middle of this song is the only John Zorn moment.

Estradasphere is a good reference point when it comes to some of the gypsy touches that crop up such as the ballad like "El Hechizo De Hoy". Sometimes the poetry of the album finds an odd way of going into motion, as mariachi collides with jerky math-rock, while caress by a Norah Jones like vocal. This is expanded upon on "Television" with the instrumentation carrying them off into a wild gypsy dance.There are other times the band reminds me more of Morphine like lounge, "the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma" being one of the most notable. There is an almost big radio rock  chorus like something Aaron Lewis of  Staind might do on "Pax Romana", but this is not the norm even this song mainly basks in a jazz smoothness.

Lyrically they delve a little deeper into the human condition, but do so with an often playful cadence with a song like "Relgionism" taking on a cheerful ska bounce. The horns are more adventurous than your average stab at ska, making me wonder i these guys are fans of the Urge. There is a similar dynamic, though they are much less rock, than the whole 311 scene that came out of the 90s. That's not to say there songs don't have some smoking grooves to them. The Great Game is not like Mr. Bungle or their clones as they don't just pulls any genre out of their hat just o catch you off guard, they have a sound very rooted in jazz, which is a cohesive exploration of the roots of this tree. This cohesive sound may get more zany in some songs than others.

The rock elements put their foot on the monitor during "And the Blind Man Lead the Way". I don't think this side of the band is always their strong point, some of the quirkier vocals lines are a little pitchy in places, which surprises me a band so precise about everything else would allow to slip through the cracks even if it was more of a character voice.But the musicianship generally distracts your from this. The metal growls would be lacking to regular readers of this blog. They take you back to more of a System of a Down type place, despite the lower narration that is supposedly more Mike Patton. They make better use of rock trappings on "Slave Majic". The vocals don't try to push, but relax and let it come more naturally. This is a lesson easily learned from jazz, which goes with the flow, but the testosterone of harder can obscure this.

The song that is their name sakes feels like it is playing it safest, despite the Adrian Belew like approach to the vocal pattern. They stroll along an up-beat jazz groove that dances along more of a middle path than some of their more exploratory work. Overall if you are looking for a jazz album that can get an attitude as it travels the globe, then here you go. If you normally like rock but want to broaden your horizons after growing out of Incubus, Rush and the rest of the radio fare this is also worth a click. They are offering free downloads on their website, so have a taste below.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Wand :"Golem"

I have been over the so called "occult rock" bandwagon for some time now,  which was also known as vest metal, the Devil's Blood influenced the sound of many of those bands, the formula was retro fuzzed guitar and a female singer. It was stoner rock of a different color and dressed up in pentagram etched bell-bottoms. So this California band, who might not fit neatly into that scene , though carries a similar sound, gets credit for grabbing my ear. Wand released  this album on an imprint of Ty Segall's Drag City label. The feature an ex-member of Pangea, if that matters to you. They get called garage rock and while there is that sort of sound to the drums, they are more entrenched in psychedelia with an almost metal thump to the bass lines.

They rock along a weird blurred line of their psychedelic garage doom until  acoustic guitar to "Melted Rope" begins to get a little to hippy for me, though there is a slight T-Rex quality to it. If I still smoked weed it would be a different story as it sounds like it would be great to fly around on your couch to. The crazy ending might scare you if you get too high. The almost John Lennon like vocal lines sit oddly atop the the heavier fuzzed out banging beneath it. The bass player is the metal head of the band  and is laying down some doomy stony riffs under the flower power. It really takes off in a more driving direction by the end of "Cave In" that will satisfy most 420 friendly metal heads.

The Blue Cheer rumble gets thick and tricky on "Flesh Tour" despite the vocals going against the grain until they tune in and drop out on the chorus. They throw down some pretty dense rock, with almost a punk pounding until they back off for a weird indie rock jangle at the bridge. At times it's like Electric Wizard jamming with the Flaming Lips. There is some proggy weirdness that erupts when the doses really kick in mid- song.

Things get real doomy on "Planet Golem". The androgynous vocals bounce of the girth of the riffage. Things wind up getting even more intense and noisy from there. The album wraps up with "the Drift". It pulses with an almost kraut rock throb into space. The real question you might want to ask yourself as how far down the rabbit hole do you want to go. I'll be generous and give it an 9.5, but you might round it down if you have never done drugs before, I recommend starting with pot and working work way up, but you don't have to plunge your self into a Fear and Loathing lifestyle to enjoy "Golem", but it would be a whole lot cooler if you did.

In Case You Missed : Burak Ozmucur 's "In Silence"

More often than not we do not see eye to eye with Metal Sucks here. But here is an exception to  our normal disdain for mall metal. There is a commercial element to this dark progressive hard rock project, but it has enough heart to somehow win me over. The harmony vocals are very Alice In Chains if they went Djent in some respects as this isn't trying to be Meshuggah, but the multi-layers of ambiance and shimmering staccato passage would appeal to fans of Periphery.  The prominent bass groove furthers the modern metal take on this post-nu metal grunge like affair.  He opens this three song ep with the ominous build of "the Departure"  and while the harmonies smack you upside the head reeking of Alice in Chains, they sound much more to me like post-Layne "Black Gives Way to Blue" era.

The songs sound very pristine every thing is perfectly placed,  I was thinking who ever mixed this is a genius , then checked the credits and saw Ozmucur himself is responsible. I think he might be an even more talented producer than he is a song writer. They way this project has taken form as more of a solo outing / studio project the two work hand in hand to the point of where it's hard to hear  where the production end and the song writing begins. His influences are easy to hear and these riffs are often pretty stock radio friendly metal/ hard rock, but the placement and layering of them is where the originality comes in. In other words He is painting these songs with primary colors, but it's where he puts them that makes the masterpiece.

I think "Far' is actually the strongest song on here. It is heavy emotionally and the bass line weaving around the guitar give the song an eerie ring. The big build has been done before, here it connects in a way that it normally doesn't speak to me, I think all the hidden layers within it's whirl wind contribute to this fact. The lyrics are so ambiguous it's a testament to his delivery  for them to come across as impassioned as they do. On "the Clouds" this is done with more of a Katatonia feel. The  tight harmonies give it a little more balls than Jonas normally injects into his passive aggressive introspection.Is this metal if we are comparing it to what we call metal here like....Darkthrone or Emperor, no, but if you like rock bands like A Perfect Circle and Katatonia that flirt with a more metal tone to their guitars and are heavy on the melancholy then this is worth a listen. I am curious to hear a full-length from this guy as he has raised the bar pretty high for him self.