Thursday, April 30, 2015

Throat : "Short Circuit"

Reptilian Records is about to  release this album by the Finnish Noise rock  Throat. First  noise rock and a Finland is a is an odd combination, normally think the Finnish are better a making dark music and I might not be wrong. The first song reminds me of a looser more chaotic version of what the German band Dyse does. They find a better groove on 'Polio Stance". Much like the kind of jarring abrasion that the Amp Rep bands used to kick up back in the 90s. The bass drives the angered grumble of  vocals more shouted more often than  than sun though he does make an attempt at it upon occcassion and has a croon tucked away some where.The chorus is stronger on "Dog Wrestle" than it is on other the previous songs . the drummer is good at orchestrating these little burst's of speed they spasm into and some of the weird time changes that adheres to the angular nature of the bands they have taken inspiration from.

There is a heavier chug to "Houston Soup" the syncopation reminds me a little of something Clutch might do. "Roman In " took muscular math rock and riffed it out at maximum volume. This song is swift and rumbles past pretty quickly so it took an additional listen to digest it. They are tight in their rough hewn sloppiness that is part of their sound. The shouted vocals get on my nerves as they are so 90s. I can hear some old Corrosion of Conformity, you know the albums way before they started sounding like Metallica and there are also echoes of Helmet in the mix as well. They back off an allow a little melody to creep into "Unjoy". The vocal are over driven and the bass tone on this album has more than it's fair share of balls I appreciate the sonic sentiments to this song the most . I think it might be the first song on this album that I like. There is a very 90's metal pulse to the build of this song.

This style of music has to be done in a very specific manner like this band Snake Nation did way back in the early 90s and they even had members of CoC in the band, but other than that this is two meat and potatoes dynamically for me as rawness is the staple of this sort of thing, while not taking the heavy to the extreme we are now used to. There was once upon a time when this was though of as some next level heavy shit, not so much in 2015.With that said I will give them a 7 as they are good at what they do.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Peste Noire : " La- Chaise-dyable"

Keeping it weird they open us with a strange acoustic intro, but then this begins to turn into their most conventional album . They have changed the overall vibe they deliver with more constraints place on what use to be an addiction to experimentation.  The noted change was on previous albums their was almost a gangsta rap aggression to them. Not that they were rapping, but there was more of a street level violence to what they did that seems more credible than dressing up like vikings and singing about dragons. It took the pound of the what could be the chorus to win me over on this one as it is much more along the lines of traditional black metal without the blast beats.

It's the two songs in the middle of this album that I find myself having difficulty digesting. The first culprit is " Payes Sur le bete". This does have a mean riff in the middle , but could be one in a million raw black metal bands. There is nothing to suggest the creativity these guys are capable and find them creating way below their potential. Sure there is a thrashy turnaround , but any local band playing at the par thursday night could do that, the female vocals are the only  touch that bears their thumb print. The song that follows does manage to summon more of their eerie weirdness as there is a  disco feel to "Le Diable"

The whined/sung vocals have personality to them that makes up for what their pipes lack. This is the first song that really grabs me.  The title track fakes you out by making you think they are going to  take on a darker more dissonant tone despite the whistling over it. The guitar than chimes in reminds me of the Get up Kids. Normally I like harsh vocals over clean guitar, but the guitar's melody has too much of a pop punk happiness to it. Then it goes into more of an emo build up. I am split as I can not fault some one for wanting to try new things and I like old Get up Kids, but when they head into Amesoeurs territory I am beginning to think they are pushing this too far , it's almost like the change Shining went through when they became more black n roll than depressive black metal. This is blackened post- hardcore.

There is a damned if they do, damned if they don't element when it comes to  both their experimentations and lack of. I would say it boils down to they don't veer off in the directions that I think sounds the best for them, but I think it's even the direction that utilizes what makes them most effective at what they do. I'll give this one a 6, it's well played and better than most senseless bursts of blast beats some bands put out, but it's still a little bit of a disappointment.

Chelsea Wolfe's "Iron Moon" single

Knowing I am a freak for everything Chelsea Wolfe, you can imagine that the August 7th release date is almost torturous. She has described the album in the following statement "Abyss is meant to have the feeling of when you’re dreaming, and you briefly wake up, but then fall back asleep into the same dream, diving quickly into your own subconscious,” She continues to work with bassist/ keyboardist Ben Chisholm along with her touring drummer Dylan Fujioka. Ezra Buchla was brought on board to play viola and Mike Sullivan (Russian Circles) enlisted to contribute guitar. The Music speaks for itself, lives up to her claim that it was going to be heavier.

Interview : Mirai Kawashima of Sigh

I recently got to catch up and pick the brain of Sigh's main man Mirai Kawashima to discuss the new album "Graveward" and the ghosts of metal past present and future.

With "Scenes From Hell" you took a sharper turn into a more progressive sound, "Graveward"retains that but steps back into a more metal direction as well what inspired this?

MiraiThe biggest inspiration on this album is 70s / 80s Italian zombie flicks. At first I was planning to make it filled with old keyboards like Minimoog, Mellotron, Hammond, Fender Rhodes etc. as a dedication to those movies. The final result was pretty much different from the initial plan, but I think you still sense the atmosphere of zombie movies.

I'm not sure what you meant by "metal direction", but "Graveward" is filled with mid-paced to up-tempo songs, I mean they're slower than those on "Hangman's Hymn" or "Scenes from Hell". In that sense, "Graveward" is a very metal album. Other than that, the change of guitarist affected a lot on the sound. I'll talk about it later.

There are quite a few guest performers on "Graveward. Of all these guest musicians who has been in the back of your minds the longest as someone you've been waiting to work with?

 Mirai :  It would be great if we could work with Mika Patton or John Zorn.

In most genres aside from metal the guitar solo has almost become a lost art. The guitar playing on this has really stepped up to the next level, Was this influenced by having guys like Matt Heafy around?

Mirai :The reason is very simple. We hired the new guitarist who can play the guitar way better than the old one. Unfortunately we had to fire the guitarist during the recording of "Graveward" because it became obvious that he was losing his passion on music. He started chasing a preadolescent underground idol who has only 10 fans or so and now he spends all his money and time on that crap. It was a tough decision for us to fire somebody we had worked together for more than 20 years, but we had no other way. We were lucky enough to have been able to find the new guitarist, You Oshima. He released two albums as Kadenzza on Holy Records from France. He definitely brought us the higher level in the guitar playing.

I really love the darker direction "The Forlorn" goes in how does this song represent the exploration of beyond the grave horror the album seems to be taking ? There also seems to be less or the more polka or klezmer movements to this album was this done to create a more somber tone?

 Mirai : Well, I didn't think about polka or klezmer music when I wrote the songs for "Graveward". If you hear Klezmer in it, probably it comes from John Zorn. Dr. Mikannibal and I are a huge admirer of John Zorn works including Masada stuff, so there might be some subconscious influence from his Klezmer works.

There are some weird electronic elements to "the Molesters of My Soul" it almost has an industrial feel to it, are you fans of  industrial or darkwave? 

 Mirai :Yes, I mainly love old industrial / Darkwave stuff such as Laibach, Foetus, Big Black, Goethe's Erben, Das Ich, Dead Relatives, CCC CNC NCN, Coil, Nurse with Wound, Throbbing Gristle etc. But influences of the electronic elements on "The Molesters" rather come from more experimental stuff like Karheinz Stockhausen, Pansonic, Mouse on Mars etc.

Thrash metal is one of the more predominate colors you paint the album with. What thrash albums from the 80s and 90s have been most inspiring to you over the years?

 Mirai :The most inspiring album on Sigh's music must be "Into the Pandemonium" by Celtic Frost.
If I have to pick up the best thrash album, I'd say "Power and Pain" by Whiplash.
Are there any plans to tour in support of "Graveward"? 

 Mirai : We will play at Graspop Metal Meeting in Belgium and then headline for Metal Magic Festival in Denmark with Candlemass and Girlschool. And we will play a few shows here in Japan but that's all planned right now. Now Dr. Mikannibal has a baby so we need to slow down our activity a little bit

"A Messenger From Tomorrow" is a song that really stands out to me. Aside from the slower pace there places where vocals have some really lush textured layers with the more growled providing a counter point. What others roles do you see the harsher vocals taking in you music? 

 Mirai :Harsh vocals and singing ones are two totally different things. Harsh vocals can express something which singing ones cannot and vice versa. For example, if you want to express fear and pain, obviously you have to scream. Also I believe the harsh vocals are strictly connected to English, which is a very rhythmic language. I think music such as thrash metal or hip hop which does not have the clear melody line is a spawn of English.

Some people might not know You guys were at the forefront of the second wave of black metal that came out in the 90s along side bands like Darkthrone. At what point did you feel black metal was too confining for your growth as a musician? What are your thoughts on the current state of black metal? 

 Mirai :To be honest, we never thought like we started as a black metal and soon grew out of it. It's either we're always a black metal band or we never are. It's just a matter of definition of what black metal is. The Second Wave of Black Metal was born more or less as a resurrection of 80s evil thrash metal like Venom, Bathory and Hellhammer which was considered to be completely out of date in the beginning of 90s. In that sense, we had exactly the same intention. Also the word "black metal" does not its musical style any more. All the bands like Emperor, Beherit, Alcest, and Deafheaven are often labeled as black metal but probably people who know nothing about black metal will not be able to find the reason why they all are pigeonholed under the same category. So if we still need to pigeonhole our music style, I'd say it's black metal.
I must admit that I am not a black metal expert. I know EVERYTHING about 80s thrash metal, though. Honestly I have never kept up with black metal even from the early 90s, I'm not the right one to say something about it.

Thanks for allowing me to pick your brain.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Irreversible: " S/t"

Even though these are guys are from my current city of residence I am not going any easier on them than I would any other band.The Atlanta sludge band has been around for  a decade now so they have time to hone their sound. Like most Atlanta metal bands they started off with more punk roots and later morphed into something more metallic until now they share a similar landscape to their sound as Isis. After a wash of atmospheric sounds the almost math rock of "Undertow" lurches into motion. This album is very well produced for an independent release. The first vocals to surface are some monotone Jesu like cleans. Even at over four minutes "Language of Paralysis' is more of a atmospheric meandering interlude than an actual song. "Absent Help" is the next song to stomp into the picture. It showcases the smart melodic nature of their guitar playing. The drummer is not a slouch either.Some of the more chuggy moments, barrow from the pillars of the genre all the bands like Isis that engaged in Neurosis worship in the early 2000s. Some times the tightness even creates a Tool like feel.

 There is ominous power to the industrial barbs that give a wink to Godflesh on "Mandatory Death". You can hear traces of their hard core past in the shouted vocals.The riff doesn't benefit from repetition in the same way Ministry is able to capitalize on. The bass player steps further up front on this song. I admire the sounds they achieve on these interludes like "Armistice" they serve more a bridges from song to song. The band's use of samples is more creative than the bulk of their peers. "Fade" comes out of this interlude with more power because of the dynamic shift, and these songs are more effective when taking in this album as one work, but how many times do we inject music this way over the course of an average day making it more important for songs to have legs of their own. The vocals on "Fade" are some of the album's best.This is one of the few local bands that makes me want to leave the couch with this album and go check them out, fans of sludge and post-rock should not miss this one, I am going to round it up to a 9 and see how it grows on me.



Them Are Us Too : "Remain"

Lets go ahead and talk about the elephant in the room first before we head into the album. I am a huge fan of the Cocteau Twins. Was ready to head out to Coachella the year they were rumored to be reuniting.  So I am going to be the most sympathetic to the idolatry going on here. It might be easy to write them off as a tribute to the Cocteau Twins, but when was the last time you heard some one able to pull off the sonic fairy wonderland the Scots did in the 80s? The whole post-punk revival of the past few years has almost been comprised entirely of bands directly lifting from either Siouxsie and the Banshees or Joy Division, and it doesn't take the jaded ears of an old goth like me to hear that. What works for the best of those bands and for Them Are Us Too is when they peel back the influences and expose the parts of themselves that are infused along side the hero worship. I know when I played my fiance Kate Bush it ruined Tori Amos for her, so if you have a similar allergy to heavy influence then this may or may not work for you, but this album is worth a listen regardless because of the sublime sounds this duo has managed to capture.

 Right from the first song Kennedy Ashlyn Wenning's voice makes you take notice, before "The Problem With Red Heads" allows her to shed some of the Elizabeth Fraser worship when the duo drifts into an alluringly dreamy rock. Sure this would not have been out of place on  4AD, in the 80s and the band encourages these comparisons. This also reminds of the Gatherings post- metal moments. Her choice of melodies shows she cares abut crafting something that is not just a tribute. I can almost hear more Cure than Cocteau Twins until Cash Askew's guitar comes to prove he has discovered the lost secrets to Robin Guthrie's sound.

The bat cave stomp dominates the dance floor at the onset of "Us Now" before she strings you back up into the narcotic cotton candy of her melodies. The drum machines don't get on my nerves, they are well handled and mixed, tapping into the key to acheiving that 80's sound by having every instrument has to be in agreement.  When the drum does fall back into a more lo-fi sound the guitar steps in to fill the gaps. We begin to hear the upper reaches of her soprano on "Marilyn" The male vocals bring almost a This Mortal Coil element into the album and keep them from standing solely in the shadow of the Cocteau Twins.

There is a more somber and introspective tone to the music that her fey-like vocals float like bubbles over. It's more "Blue Bell Knoll". So at least they are not just fixated on one element of their Scottish idols. The saving grace is the places where she deviates, which is what I listen find myself listening for more. One way to see it is, it's not like the Cocteau Twins are going to be getting back together and doing this in our present reality, so I am glad these kids are carrying the torch. The more rock quality Guthrie's tone never really ventured into transpires on "694 Mi". He is overall more experimental with the use of effect on this song. Her voice even takes on more heft, which is where it brings me back to that Gathering quality I spoke of earlier.

The album closes out with them taking a shoe gazey drift on "Fall". This is the most straight forward song on the album despite is angelic hover. It gives you a clearer view of her voice and her own identity as a singer.  One thing about this album is ll of the songs are strong, there are none that felt any less inspired than the others. It's easy for me to round this one up to a 10, even with the influences worn on their sleeves.


Secrets Of the Sky : "Pathway"

Littered with atmospheric interludes between the songs. It opens up more like rock n roll than doom until they kick into to the slightly slower than mid tempo pound three minutes into things. The harsh vocals are pretty impressive and he real singing is better than most who try to blend the two. The album sounds great and is well produced. I had to temper my expectations of what I want from doom with these guys as it's a loose term to describe what they do. There is a more Sabbath like tempo to "Angel in Vines" , but this is still more upbeat than say Pallbearer. They did put some thought into the vocal melodies which goes a long way with me. "Another Light" continues on almost a more Katatonia like path. The darkness is more tender as the vocals melody drift around the clean guitar.

The harsher vocals heavy things up, the tempo is deliberate but not what I would call doom. There is a black metal sneer to the vocal rasp. There is some very tasty guitar phrasing in the middle of "Garden of prayers". Some of the choice in intervals the vocals reach for reminds me of Sliversun Pickups."Fosforus" makes no stabs at doom at all instead something more along the lines of a blackened death metal. They are not bad at this style, it seems like they are rather obliging in this rather than where they natural flow of where they are heading.

The last real song on the album is " Eternal Wolves". The sung vocals at the onset are great. It digs into more gritty death metal. It is slower paced death metal, but it feels more like death metal to me than doom. I'll give this one an 8.5, because although the sounds captured on this album show an abundance of growth for the band it's not an album I personally find myself urgently needing to get it onto my iPod. If you are a fan of the band it may or may not seem like a move in a much more accessible direction for the band , because well ... it is and this may please you or not. The vocals are tremendously improved and worth a listen just on that merit alone.

Arcturus : "Arcturian"

ICS Vortex was one of my favorite things about the classic line up of my guilty pleasure... Dimmu Borgir. His long running side project, which is his long running main project now, aside from the iffy solo album he released, is what I would suggest if you asked me what steam punk metal should sound like. Similar to Borknagar but much more theatrical, they balance the power prog cheese with a darker and heavier element that doesn't not require twenty sided dice in pocket, though they wouldn't hurt. The first album in ten years There is a Nightwish folk metal feel to "Crashland", but the exotic scales and intervals his vocals employ give it a darker current. Of course when your band has three ex-members of Ulver you can expect some folk elements. His vocals don't sound quite as powerful in fact they have more of the strained tenor to them that Roger Waters voice carries , could just be a stylistic choice . He doesn't each for the skies with the same epic flare he did when soaring into Dimmu songs.

At the opening song they employed some electronic elements that  gave the sound a more modern touch. They return to that on "Warp". They also succeeded in doing this by embracing more black metal moments on "Angst"  though some of the blasting makes the song feel rushed. They back off into a more Pink Floydian elegance on "Game Over". Hellhammer's drumming is stellar as always I enjoy him playing something other than black metal to here how those chops are applied to other styles.  "Demon" has a dense and discordant sound and industrial undertones. I like it's dark, it just not the most layered song on the album.

Vortex's get back to a more epic place on "Pale".The  more trippy introspective side of the band returns on "the Journey" which is filled with cool sounds , but feels more like an intro or interlude than a song unto it's self. "Archer" has big Phantom of the Opera keyboards, but the other Andrew Lyod Weber staples step aside in favor of big-top prog.This song does take more dynamic dips than the others. "Bane" closes the album on a dark synth slathered note, they tend take you on a roller-coaster of double bass that spill you out into another carnival like frolic. Over all an enjoyable listen , but they played it a little safe, I'll give it an 8, but fans of cheese drenched prog metal, who probably take it too seriously to think of it that way should round it up. Worth a listen from fans of any of the bands the members of Arcturus have played with...yes, Emperor  fans too.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Seagrave: "Stabwound"

This was much better than expected. Sometimes if the art is blah, then I think well how creative can they really be if they didn't put more though into that and then named there album "Stabwound" which sounds like something a glue sniffing death metal band would do .  The sample in the first song must be from the movie 'the hours".there is just as much post-hardcore in this as there is the black metal that this wants to be. The production is a little rough around the edges, but it doesn't distract me too much from the final product. The vocals are hard core shouts , not raspy screams at all.

The pace picks up, but the hardcore vocals stay the same. There is more black metal to this song than the first, however that does not mean it is a better song, as it flattens the dynamics. I know a genre that lends it self to atmosphere would cause that , but when you are trying to hard to go in a direction that isn't you that is what happens. The third song takes a more post-rock approach from the get go, though the hardcore tendencies could be waiting around any corner. Things get kinda emo , but in a good Mineral kind of way, there is even a jerky indie rock kind of riff, but this album doesn't have any darkness to it. The clean vocals that start off "Manifest" are impressive and I can't figure out why there hasn't been more of that going on here. Though it almost brings a Brand New like cadence with it. While it boast more metallic power than some of the other songs on this album " Down with the Wolves" isn't the strongest song, though the way the vocals are placed shows a different take on the hard core yelling that goes on for the bulk of the album. Sure the blasting section is powerful at the end of the song it's the break down that is more convincing.

The album closes with "Bonjour Tristesse" that gets off to a slower post-rock feel, like older Alcest perhaps.They blast beats work a little better and this song seems to succeed where at other points in the album he was just trying to hard.  There is a pretty sweet chugged build up section. It does begin to make me drone out and zone out a little brushing the song in the back ground, but there are some good sounds captured here. I'll give this one an 8 as it has some cool moments and a great sense of dynamics, the only weakness is what I mentioned early this project is going for black metal when that is not what is at this album's heart, so go in not expecting blackened anything and you will be pleased. the Coming out this week on Art of Propaganda.


Saturday, April 25, 2015

Cloud Rat : "Qliphoth

Despite the politically correct out cry that women don't get enough opportunity or respect in metal, there is also the other side of the coin that if it was a man singing instead of a woman would a band like Cloud Rat get the same level of hype that they do? The first song off their new album finds them retreading similar ground. In fact the first two songs are a step backwards as they song like generic punk infused grind core.The guitar becomes a little more sonic on "The Upper World" its too bad the songwriting doesn't compliment it. The first song to stand out is "Racoon" they slow down. This does show Madison's inability to to much more than rant and rave as they let the chords ring out."Daisies" finds the band back to the more punk side until they give some more metal accents to the chords. It also finds me wondering how I am going to make it through this album when I have begun to feel like there is something more interesting I could be reviewing rather than having to endure this.So I decided to just try to write the things I like about  this album. I like the title "Bloated Goat and I like that there are only eleven more songs after this one and they tend to be rather short.

"Rusting Belt" brings me another song closer to the end of this album. The guitar that opens "Udder Dust" is cool and is actual music. There is a shoegaze like element to it.It's the most melodic song up until this point and the first song I like. "The Killing Horizon" is just a synth interlude, before they blast into "the Boars Snout". There is a cool metallic riff in this one. They tease another melodic chord progression on "Hermit Interstice" . It goes the direction most of the songs head in. "Live Wake" keeps the spastic blasting going. "Thin Vein" finds them drifting back towards shoe gaze. Madison might be actually singing here but it's so far back in the mix you can't tell. They wait til the final few songs of the album to dig into a darker melodic place. "Bolt Gun" only hangs on this for so long until it goes into a pretty powerfully chugged sludge. "Rogue Park" has a little more thought into its composition.

Pretty happy to have made it into the final two songs. "Friend of the Court" is a slower lumber, that races into what the bulk of this album seems to do. While they are not a one trick pony they come pretty damn close. In the final minute it gets more melodic , but it's too little too late.The last song finds her reciting some poetry over slower guitar, until they ruin it with another outburst. I'll round this down to a 3, it's one of the worst albums I have heard in some time.

John Zorn : "Simulacrum"

How do you review a John Zorn album? This is the question I find myself asking this slab of wonderful weirdness, that for him is more accessible than his classic "Naked City" album. He has put John Medeski together with the guitarist from Cleric, who I had no clue could shred like this. Yes thats right it's the dude from Medeski, Martin and Wood, playing with a dude from a metal band. I wonder what Medeski thinks about the chug that opens "Marmarath" which at just over five minutes proves to be economic for the type of jamming he is use to. While this is pretty cool, I don't really hear Zorn on this one. It's mainly Medeski soloing over the crunch. There is more Crimson and Zappa influence on this one than what you normally here from Zorn. Though your really stupid friends might try to compare this to Dream Theater.

"Snakes and Ladders" shows that yes before Mr. Bungle was imitating the jumbled kitchen sink of disjointed jazz Zappa played with, Zorn was doing it. Here though such lines are not as evident. It almost reminds me of the Black Sabbath album where all of Tony Martin's vocals were harmonized n a way to make him sound like Alice In Chains. This is redeemed by the more original groove to "Alterities" . This is jazz , but moving with snake like sinew in South America. Before the obnoxious "yyz" like accents bang in and things get noisy. "Paradigm Shift" brings in a thicker Tool  infused syncopation before blasting off into something more metal. At times it just needs Maynard chanting in the back ground" Letgotoletgoletgotoletgo" .

The album ends with the twelve plus minutes of the "Divine Comedy". It only takes a minute for the deliberate metal riff to come in, then the keys and guitar combines their dazzling powers to float you away and drop you back down into the jazz Odyssey. Yes, the puppets were supposed to be opening up. At the seven minute mark there is a nice melodic section and you begin to think perhaps this album wasn't just about Zorn watching these guys jack off. The actual elements of a song appear again making this one of the pieces that most closely resembles a song, even though this is Zorn's most accessible work, even when he drifts into the Twilight Zone. This might not be Zorn's most original work and it could use more of him actually playing, rather than just being the puppet master, but it is better than the bulk of the prog coming out today so I will give it as 9 as you have to respect every one on this album and Medeski's playing is pretty inspiring.

Friday, April 24, 2015

AHNA : " Perpetual Warfare"

If  this band from Vancouver  let you up enough to gather your thoughts, you might find yourself confused as to what brand of metal if this is metal at all your are listening to. This might just be sludge infested  punk. But if this was a punk band they would not have such a trippy  guitar solo leading you down into their abyss. They grind into "Pull the Trigger" and then jump from blasty punk to driving metal. They are not doom, but can throw in some slower accents to keep you confused. The guitar solos keep coming. When you think it's not blackened anything so why do they have those pentagrams on there Bandcamp page they hit you with a burning tremolo guitar. The drums give the post- apocalyptic war dance similar to that of Reign In Blood. The fuzzed out density of a guitar tone, some times makes you think it's pcp fueled Kyuss. Some times the riffs are even a little angular as they come at you like a drunken pit bull from hell. The lumbering weight taken on in "Cadaver" softens me up to the more straight forward pounding punk parts that I don't normally like, but they do not give them time to grate at me. They twist into an bong laden Sabbath like section.
There is a crusty grit to the overdrive guitar that they did a fantastic job of capturing in a way that leaves little to the imagination as to how they sound live. Drummer Anju Singh must be handling the more punk rock vocals from behind her kit and leaving the more deathly gurgles to the guitarist. She appears more on the front end of the album and the more growled vocals take over the latter half. She is not limited to just punk temper tantrums she can let out some impressive shrieks . The solos add more than you might expect and to some extent bring more of the black metal darkness in the ambiance.

They have an adventurous streak run through the more rock n roll vibe of the opening riff to the title track that closes this 12". This song takes on a more death metal. The rough edged punk recklessness is there, but in many ways it reminds me of Deicide's early demos, until it slows down for them to wade through the caustic bong water. I'll round this up to an 8, even though some of the punk moments aren't my most favorite things in the world, they are well bookended with an original take on genres we have heard smashed together before just not in this fashion. So I commend the originality, the intensity and the weight of the sound they committed to wax. This comes out June 9th, have a listen below. I am looking forward to their upcoming "Crimson Dawn" lp and hearing what they do with a full album's worth of songs.

Gorgoroth: "Instinctus Bestialis"

Many of the things I might harp on other bands for such as excessive blast beats, I allow Gorgoroth to get away with. The reason is well they are Gorgoroth. I don't say that meaning they are Gorgoroth so they can do whatever they damn well please, but in the sense they have perfected their sound which encompasses that. There are things I go into any Gorgoroth album with hesitance about. One being that Infernus is the only original member. But he has a vision for their sound.  I could really careless that Pest got kicked out of the band as I feel Ghaal's moment with the band can not be touched. They were the right people together at the right time.

The album opens with a song that has an almost classical under current hidden in the tremolo picked guitar. They let up on the speed soon after with the  more deliberate and seething "Dionysian Rites". By the third song  it's evident they are playing it slightly safer than say Marduk did on their last one. They know what is expected and operate under if it's not broke don't fix it. Though the guitar is more polished and the neo-classical influence that keep shining through the gritty veneer brings a more melodic tone to the guitar work. Lyrically there are no "Carving a Giants" on the album, they revert to  a lot of shout outs to Satan. Which done in such a blatant manner makes me suspect as to how heart felt it is.  This is the singer's first shot with the band . He hails from Triumfall and is under the shadow of Ghaal. I don't hear his personality as much as I hear this is what a singer on a Gorgoroth album should sound like.

There is a classic metal chug right from the 80s on "Come the Night". These songs teach all the black metal bands out there writing nine minute plus songs you can get your point across with better placed riffs in much less time. Is this black metal when the riffs sometimes sound more along the lines of something from"Painkiller"? The is questionable, but it is powerful. The guitar on this album can't be praised enough, it makes up for the weaker lyrics. Sonically every thing on this album sounds as good or better than any of their other albums. It could be argued that the songwriting is also sharper even though it is in many ways more straight forward.

The main thing that rages in "Rage" is the sweeping guitar. The drumming is on point as well but it's pushed further back in the mix with the vocals as the only thing that cuts through the massive wall of guitar. Some times this more classic metal feel does lean to heavily on what has already been done, but there are enough elements of their sound to blur this fact from the forefront of your mind.In some ways this might be the most mainstream Gorgoroth album yet, but thats not a diss, just a testament to how finely honed of a metal machine this is. This is not to say they have turned into Behemoth. There is enough blasphemous hatred to appease most of their older fans who are willing to move past the Ghaal days and Pest days for that matter.  The album closes with brief but hefty "Awakening" which seals the deal for me so I'll round it up to a 9 and see how it grows on me.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Outre : " Ghost Chants"

The album is aptly titled in some sense as all the clean vocals are chanted. These guys are really into Death Spell Omega, so much so I had to start listening for all the ways they did not sound like them than looking for the influence that is worn on their sleeve. The dissonance might be borrowed from Deathspell Omega and there is also the way they let their chords ring out can also reek o that influence as well.Deathspell are great musicians so if you can cop their sound you can play, but what else can you do is the most important thing we are going to be asking here. On "Shadow" which is really the first real song on the album after the lead in it's the vocals that set them apart. They are layered really well. Sometimes its the hints of post- rock in the guitar melody and the way the drums back off a tad to accent it that let us hear who the real Outre is. The vocals are really fantastic as there is a wide range of sounds from low growls  to croaks to the more sung vocals . So King Diamond might also be an influence.

Its when they go for the more straight up black metal sound that they bore me a little because I know they can do more than this and it feels like it's obligatory. I find myself checked out midway into the song. Normally i can write and do other things and the music will still make me aware of it and hold me in they start to lose me on "the Fall".  I find myself back listening to "Lament". The blasts have a better effect here as all the emphasis is not placed on them.But I am not hooked in for the entire song, once they numb you out with obnoxious blasting I start checking out even though it is so abrasive you can not be aware of it. "Equilibrium" is darker and more melodic so that wins me over as well as the clean vocal chants all of which combine have a chilling effect, this is similar to what they do on the first "song", but this feels more like a song where the other I consider just an intro.

The pace picks up without resorting to blast beating off on"Vengeance". This song has a commanding drive. They can not resist the need to blast which they hold off on for the first minute. So the remaining hope for this album was laying on "Arrival" to sway me in a more positive direction. The song proved to be more sonic and they got out of habit of just beating you over the head with blast beats. Though they slip some in. I am still on the fence. I'll give it a 7.5 and make it earn an 8 if it grows on me I'm not rushing to get it off my iPod so we shall see. If you read elsewhere that these guys are re-inventing black metal, don't believe another word you read on that blog.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Bell Witch : "Four Phantoms "

Was looking forward to this new Bell Witch. The first song out the gate is 22 minutes long and they plod and drone with heavy hands the same melody for the first ten minutes,its a slooooow build.It's at the thirteen minute mark that they begin to have some motion in the ocean. All the sounds captured here are great. The guitar solos ring out more. It eventually builds into the clean vocal moan not unlike what we heard on their last album the road getting to it is just much longer. Fortunately not every song is twenty minutes , some of the writing is more  economical for example "Garden of blooming". The vocals have a more animalistic  intensity to the way the growls are layered which creates a crazy dynamic against where they band takes you into a chanting drone. They return with another twenty two minute slow burner on "Somiloquy( the distance forever). This is a gentler more melodic hesitance much like what Pallbearer does. The vocals that come in are almost sung like this was a folk album. I applaud the fact that they did not decide to deliver all the clean vocals in the same manner as they did on the last album which shows incredible growth. The vocals are harmonized in a unique manner, that retains the folk elements , but doesn't come across with the kind of cheese typical folk metal might.At the fourteen minute mark it starts to hypnotize me and drift off into the background, but I can't really fault it as that is the nature of the genre. Though this droning almost shoe gaze drift into the ether is more of the emphasis than just being heavy this go around.

The album closes out with the oppressive "Felled" (in howling wind). The vocals at times sound like howling wind. The first four minutes they pound out the same plodding riff with varying guitar melodies weeping over the procession. This one lives up to the sub-genres name more than the rest of the album. Overall I think I will give this one a 9, though due to the length of the songs it won't make it on the ole iPod, however the growth and new ground broken is undeniable. This is a beautiful album , I wish some of the songwriting could have gotten to the point as I think the same thing could have been conveyed at times in ten minutes, as the passages that droned on the same theme for so long with no change might have been abbreviated , I think the doom genre can stand at a tricky spot that borders on stagnation if they allow drone to over compensate for lack of songwriting. While it is not the case for this album I wonder if the band felt obligated to draw out certain passages so they would not be seen as any less relevant.

Khors : "Night Falls Onto the Front of Ours"

The Ukrainian band is back and this time they are firmly rooted in what they do it's more polished and melodic, the guitar playing is much improved and the double bass work is just a sick as any of the best death metal drummers. They have always been skilled songwriters who care about dynamics but this is more finely tuned and catches your ear in the first song. Some times this brings them into a safer more conventional form of metal not unlike that we saw Kampfar delve into on their last album. It's hard to argue against this step into a more Enslaved like direction when it sounds so good. "Dead Bird Valley" has an eerie melody that rings out over a stream of mid paced double bass.

There is a dramatic shift in guitar tone as they take on an almost Cure like tone for the opening verse of "Following the Ways of Blood". This eventually picks up into a more classic metal pacing. Not thrash but with more punch than pre-Pain Killer Judas Priest. Even though the title track is more of an interlude , it shows how over the course of the album melodic elements are being introduced, it's a shame this interlude was not developed into a full song as the nuanced guitar work created the caress of  gentle darkness. I am going to guess that "1664" is not about when Maryland passed a low to ban interracial marriage. It does go into a very beautifully balance riff weighing the sonic dissonance with the melody. The song carries a Behemoth like stomp. The folk of black metal leanings that might have been heard in previous albums are gone and this is now just straight up metal.

"For the Last Time" takes the dark melodies and allow them more room to breath almost going as far into the melodic direction with the layers of flowing guitar as old Katatonia just without the clean singing, although  toward the end of the song there is some singing it's not as delicate as say Katatonia's vocals and still has enough edge to appease those who don't like real singing.  The vocals that do dominate the album normally stay in a mid range roar sometimes gurgling slightly higher or digging deeper which is the more common direction they go in.The first song that doesn't grab me all the way is "Slight Web Solitude".

The album closes with a more viking tinged "My Cossack Way" which digs into that more epic ground charted by the likes of Moonsorrow. There is well thought guitar work and very deliberate drumming. This is an incredibly well crafted album. I will however give it a 9 because it does play it rather safe in sticking to a more middle of the road approach, but if you are a fan of the band around it up to a 9.5 unless you are stuck in the days they leaned toward black metal which this album is devoid of an in that case around it down a half point.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Lest We Forget:Psalm Zero : "The Drain"

These guys are now touring with Liturgy. Features one of the dude from Castevet and another from Dirty Projectors.  This came out last year but is too cool not to cover.  The songs cover a ton of ground at times almost seeming like they are jumping around to suit the two vocal styles on this album. Sometimes the electronic elements work better than others. The album in general would have benefited from a darker mix. The second song winds it's way through many interesting passages, but I am not sure if it feels as effective as it did on the opener, though there is still plenty to like here. While what the band does is certainly a fresher take on certain sounds, they are not as baffling as many of the reviews I had read on them seem to suggest. But that's why I do this cause somebody has got to speak the truth. They share some common ground with Wreck& Reference on "Chaos Body" but it's a more straight up metal attack. Even after the militant shouting they manage to turn the band around an return to some dark goodness. The clean vocals could use some effect on them to make them sit better into the mix sometimes it sounds a little like karaoke. The singing creates more of a post- punk effect on "In the Dead" which is the first song that grabs me right off the bat.

In interviews I read with the band before listening to this, which is never a good idea unless you have nothing to better to do and  I am sure I  did, they said Katatonia was an influence. Which as hipster as they Brooklyn scene is surprises me. Though they did say Discouraged Ones era, so the newer more alternative stuff is too mall metal for them. The melodies are not depressing like Katatonia , nor is the singer close to Jonas. On the closing song "Meanwhile" it sounds more like an indie rock band's take on A Perfect Circle with a little more math in the equation.This was not the album of the year by a long shot and I'll give it an 8, but it might grow on me, worth checking out as some of the issues I had with the mi might not phase you.


Revenge of the Weekly Shuffle

This used to be a popular little thing around here I did once a week, then went in and out of the habit so rather than making promises and saying it's back for good, I'm doing it this week. The drill is I press shuffle on the ole iPod and review  the first ten songs that pop up.

"Christ Denied" by Deicide...I was on the fence with post-Once Upon the Christ Deicide, but they do seem to have their moments. It's well played, and the interplay between the bass and drums has always carried a more Motorhead like steamroller effect than that of other death metal bands and is one of the elements that has to be in place to really capture their sound. Some of the more slickly produced albums mixed this out. This song has it so it works for .

"Big Sky" by Kate Bush...Hounds of Love might be one of her most popular albums and for good reason it does have a big Peter Gabriel feel to it. This song is almost too happy, but the album is on here, some times I am in more of a mood to this song than others, right now I am impartial to it.

"Cantara" by Dead Can Dance...Sure this is great for what it is, t cool for rituals and ambiance, but they have other songs that are more like songs than this one. Not Lisa's best song but even then she pulls off more than most female singers aside from Kate Bush can do. Live she had one of the most powerful voices I have ever heard.

"Stairs-Uncertain Journey" by Christian Death...One of the great Rozz Williams moments, has every element that makes them great. Lyrically one of their strongest songs, I use to chant to myself in high school... "Satan be, satan be, satan be". What a hook.

"Wall of Death"by Prodigy... Here is one I haven't gotten around to reviewing. I have not given this album much time and it's the first time hearing this song. The synths are very thick and Nine Inch Nails like. They do have a fair amount of reptition in what they do. This song is like industrial cotton candy.

"Amnesia" by Swans... This one has a similar exotic feel as the Christian Death song. It is hard pressed to say that any off of "To Be Kind" or any of their current post-hippie fest live material holds up to this kind of song writing. There that had to be said.

"Black Oceans" by Crowhurst... Recently reviewed so you know most of my thoughts on this one. Not something I am hitting repeat on incessantly , but I am glad when it does pop up. The darkness drips of the angular slither of this one.

"Five Years" by David Bowie... Ziggy Stardust is a perfect album so there are no songs on it that can be argued against. "I never thought I'd meet so many people" is my favorite line for some way, perhaps it's how he backs off of it.

"Quiero, Quieras" by Forget Cassettes...This goes back to a time when indie rock actually rocked. Why can't there be more of this? This chick has more balls than a dozen of todays indie rock bands. Having the drummer from And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Our Dead doesn't hurt.

"Pagans" by Protomartyr ...I was supposed to go see these guys last night , but the though of havin to sit through the opening bands and leave the house was too much. But this is a great record.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Embrace of Thorns: "Darkness Impenetrable"

Any band with someone named Archfiend Devilpig is worth a listen in my book. The fact that they didn't come out the gate blasting won them a few more points that can be redeemed for valuable prizes once they reach the seventh level of hell.This was a big surprise and shows how you can never judge something by the initial impression you get from the press release, which was a black and white picture of these guys giving the claw, the horns and the kitchen sink. It's not really black metal at all, but good old school death metal that walked the evil line before any churches were burned in Norway.Bands like Acheron and Impaled Nazerene are both good frames of reference. They have all the elements in place to make some dark gritty and raw death metal, but after the initial smack of heaviness abates then I am wondering can these guys write songs. So here is another exploration to see if this is just smoke and blast beats or are these guys really musicians.

They do have a balance of crunch and speed. Their fast riffs have that savage old school Deicide quality to them. Not Atmospheric enough to be "Occult Death Metal" they do have some chants dribbled into some of the darker corners of their songs. The growls are also varied shades of a lower mid range. This is my second listen to this album. So the density of their sound isn't as impressive now that I know what to expect. The slower pace of the title track gives them a chance to infuse some melody and allow the guitarists to really shine their black light. Toward the end of this song things get a little murky before they slow it back down. Also when I here that a band is capable of more than mindlessly blasting forward, it sometimes feels like they are taking the easy way out when they return to it. "Erect Blood Stained Totems" fakes like it is going to be more deliberately paced and then they jack hammer you. Some of the thrashier riffs help give the songs more definition.

If you really need speed then songs like "At the Antipodes of Chastity" will provide the needed whiplash. The vocals here seems to be almost random barking. Once again when they slow it down to almost a doom pace the song congeals. "I Die Therefore I Exist" stomps in with an older classic metal feel, think Celtic Frost more than Diamond Head. This dies to the blast beats that once again exist. The final minute finds a good gallop. Then Charon takes a much faster ride across the river Styx than I have ever seen it depicted on "Charon's Ride Over Wasteland".  The lyrics are unintelligible.  I like the layered guitar when it slows down two minutes in. There are some triumphant moments for the pit that remind me a little of Altars of Madness era Morbid Angel.The album closes with one of the best songs that is also the shortest. I'll give this one a 7, but round it up if you like your death metal fast and to the point.

Lest We Forget : Take Over and Destroy: "Vacant Face"

This came out last august but is too awesome to not have on here, so for instances where we missed the boat and it's still in the harbor we have our "Lest We Forget" column. The first song throws in almost every element I like in music and metal, there is a darkly ambient intro that vomits up some metal with hardcore and death metal leanings, yet manages to bring Celtic Frost to mind.At the end this song even employs gothy clean singing that would make Atriarch proud. Haven't keened in on the lyrics there is something about a complacent stare. They have synths accenting the riffs to the goth soaked "Summer Isle". Some times his goth voice reminds more of Bella Morte or 69 Eyes rock n roll vein of death worship rather than the more hipster Ian Curtis take. It's not what you would expect to be haunting the deserts of Arizona.

Only two songs break the four minute mark, yet these guys managed to cram a lot into every song, with out sounding bi-polar like Mr. Bungle and they are less sprawling and bouncy than Sleepy Time. There is a Swedish metal feel to "Glance Away" with more owed to In Flames than At the Gates. There is an intangible element that keeps this from having that mall metal cheese to it. They adhere to more conventional parameters of metal in almost a Goatwhore like manner on "Split Screen"  That Swedish influence I heard earlier is not clearer to me as the Wolverine Blues era Entombed rears it's head. This hammered harder into place before the goth creeps out of the casket on "Terminal Burrowing". They also rip into some rowdy rock n roll in a spastic manner not too far removed from Kvelertak. And then some melodic guitar begins to please my ears as they put their vampire teeth back in. A pick slide kicks up the dust on "Deep End" the Entombed influence here marries Venom before the more melodic side is invoked by the synths and the spooky vocals aren't far behind.

There is some dark nasty goodness in "Dominance Shifts" but until the goth part comes up some of the metal becomes a blur of blasts and bellowing. There is some old school "NWOBHM" riffing that jumps up onto the monitors on "Battle  Moon". Which might be my favorite song that holds a powerful enough chug so the goth parts don't steal the show. One first listen it didn't hit me how much they went into the darker sound until I sat down with some head phones and began picking this apart. At the same time when the goth side of the band is the predominant sound on "Where Seasons Lay" it doesn't have the same impact, I think they are a metal band first and a goth band second or third. After a synth interlude the album closes on an even darker note with the ominous "Attrition". The guitar has tons of punch, the bass is largely buried and the drums have a raw room sound them. The lyrics to this song jump out as they roar about gouging out their eyes. The clean guitar solos that slide into place around the four and a half minute mark show these guys can really play. Some of the more roaring Entombed moments became a blur in places, but I think this album deserves a 9.5  and look forward to hearing more from them.

Obsequiae : " Aria of Vernal Tombs"

While vikings live in Minnesota it's not the first place I would think a project like this might come from. Here is an interesting bit of folk metal, that is trying to not be folk metal. I like the distant re verb drenched black metal vocals. 20-Buck Spin is pretty reliable so just because I said folk-metal doesn't mean this is any way like Trollfest, aside that it's metal. "Until Ages Fall" keeps things swinging along the same ground the first song did though it might have a more melodic edge to it's festivities. The guitars do a good job of play the same intervals a fiddle would. The acoustic passages are well played they break things up in a manner similar to what Agalloch used to do in some sense, just without the cleanly sung sections.The interludes almost outnumber the actual songs. They go for some blasting on "Pools of a Vernal Paradise". I like the tempo the vocals take to work with the epic  baroque march of the music.

This is how folk metal should go down, even though it gets a little happier as they dance around the forest on "Aniace and Heart". These more period inspired sections are off set by the heavier nature of the drums and vocals. There is much more attack to "In the Absence of Light". The guitar still has room to twiddle with their melodic single note melodies, even more so when it hits the blasty part which , kind feels like they are taking the easy way out after we have already heard them tackle songs with a more air tight artistry than just settling for what all the metal bands are doing. The album does begin to evolve into a heavier affair as it progress and the baroque melodies just happen to be layered around the metal rather than the other way around. The guitars continue to weave their majick around the assault until the blast beats come and give a more hurried feel to the song.

There is more of a classic metal feel combined with Summoning or Bathory on the closing song. The chorus even has a hook to it. The songs are very economic. They get credit for not becoming overly grandiose and turning these into fourteen minute sagas, while still retaining the expansive feel this music requires in the same way it helps to watch the Lord of the Rings movies on a large screen. This is first and foremost a guitar players album. If you play guitar and have any interest in folk metal then you would be doing yourself a disservice not to listen to this album. I'll give this one a 9. It's easy on the ears. Not sure how much actual play time this will get from me, but it's so well done

Thursday, April 16, 2015

White Hills : "Walks For Motorists"

This one slipped in under my radar. First really paid attention to this band after they appeared in "the Only Lovers Left Alive", perhaps it's having appeared in a vampire movie but this album has a darker feel to it. There is a Bauhaus vibe to the drive of the guitar and bass on the opener. "Lsd or Usb" comes across like an instrumental interlude as the vocals that do sparsely chant are buried under neath the futuristic guitar noise. Ego Sensation's  bass line to "Wanderlust" has enough meat and attitude dripping from it's fuzz to get my attention, but the swathes of noise painted portraits painted with copious amounts of fee back tend to fade into the back ground. Is "Lead the Way" trippy? Yes, in a similar manner to the Cult and Monster Magnet. It allows the guitar to carry the song away on the hypnotic throb the feed back induces. If you like the guitar heroics of the 60s, think Jimi Hendrix then you might appreciate how the guitar solo totally hi-jacks the song. At eight and a half minutes this can be a little grating if you are sober.

There are some ambient space noises, you might want to label as kraut rock, I am sure they would sound great stoned and these sounds are given the motion of the drums and droning instruments it is layered over. I got enough of that on the last Mogwai album , what I want from these guys is to hear them rock out. Even at four minutes this just seems like a disposable interlude. Then "We Are What You Are" comes on more like a real song. The next catchy groove to follow the more droning songs is "Automated City" that sounds like Inxs jamming with Goldfrapp. This album for all it's hazy drugged out ways does sound really good. His voice takes on a Lou Reed like laziness on the surreal swirl of "Life is Upon You". It's drone is more like a Joy Division song, with Sensation's bass line holding the song together.

There is an element of this band that reminds me of My Life With the Thrill Kill Cult, so much so I wonder if the band cites them as an influence. On the title track they just ride out on the instrumental which is pretty much a dance track with guitar solos cloaking it. This is an intentional song because of it's length so there is no denying and trying to reason this away as just being an interlude. I am going to round this down to an 8 as the band might have created some interesting sounds , I feel that they waste a lot of time with songs like the title track, that might have a high drug value, but songs should stand on their own two feet with out the help of any chemicals.

White Hills - No Will (Official Music Video) from Thrill Jockey Records on Vimeo.

Lest We Forget...Big/Brave : "Feral Verdure"

Here is a blast from the most recent past as this album came out last September on Southern Lord and really slipped through the cracks. This is a damn shame because there is some pretty good stuff here. At full length their is thirty three minutes of music is varied interpretations of the word. This counts as an album since it's longer than  the twenty eight minutes of Reign in Blood" There is more gloom than doom and noise than sludge like qualities, but feels more like if PJ Harvey got depressed and began jamming with Jucifer. Tempo wise there is an angular lingering not unlike that of True Widow. Things here much rougher around the edges and are not draped in that western re-verb.The vocals also have more enthusiasm , The singer flexes the dynamic muscles of her vocal chords on "A song for foxes" she drops down into more a Hope Sandoval register. The album's heaviness lies in it's emotional bleakness.

The tension of the guitars to " Let Us Rest Our Dead..."  unfolds into a noise slathered clamor which rocks out to much  the call them slow core. They become more aggressive on " Bigot" pounding the chords like a Swans song.  The instrumentation takes on a drugged hesitation and could work on the sound track of a David Lynch movie, despite the vocals being very straight forward not only on this song , but through out the album leaving her voice to at times anchor the songs to the only part that is retaining it's sanity. The apocalyptic blues title might apply to a song like "There are No Victories". "A Song For Marie" is just a wall of feedback and noise serving as ore of an interlude and providing a storm for the gentler vocals of " Feral Verdure" to come out of. The guitar and drums tumble into the song behind her vocals. Leaving her voice naked for the bulk of the song. She has some emotive moments , but the deliberate disjointed nature of the song after the wall of noise preceding feels like the album ends with more of a fizzle. This is still balance out by the fact that this really defies jumping on any of the current band wagons ,making this band very unique. I'll give this a 9 and look forward to hearing what the future brings from them.

Shining : "IX Everyone, Everything, Everywhere, Ends"

After being let down by Faith No More's new one, I am hoping they don't go back to cock rock, because to disappointments is more than I can take. I brace myself because right the opening  the guitars are pretty classic metal. Which scares me a little. This is off set by noise, and a piano part. It sounds good but this could be Nightwish. I have like Peter Huss' playing in the past so I am going to have faith. The second song is where it gets into something harder. It's black metal influenced metal, like Old Mans Child. The chords ring out with a dark dissonance that I need from black metal and Niklas is bringing the angry nastiness in his vocals. They are more commanding and lack the tortured sound of Depressive Black Metal, but right now I am not complaining. This album sounds great has a clear yet dense mix.

By the second actual song, we are at clean vocals and acoustic guitar. Two minutes into and the drums come in. They keep a darker tone so everything is still good in my book on this one. There is some great guitar playing on this album, so quality is not in question here. It does get angrier here. Black metal no, but it's decent enough dark metal with a kick to it. Some of this is because the drummer and bassist are not from the bands more depressive days and the drummer attacks his kits with a more straight ahead feel."Manniskotankens vagglosa rum" borders on blasty. It has a dynamic ebb and flow that is consistent with the band. Niklas' singing is a style he has embraced as his own by this point. The guitarists are not afraid to put their feet up on the monitor and let a solo rip.

Later in the album they make some interesting choices in guitar tones, that is different for the band. The harsher vocal rant over the strummed guitar, which is some thing I would like to hear more of as a general rule. The closing song has some cool moments  where they back off and let the song breath. not sure it's as compelling as some of the other songs on this album. I think a 9 is pretty fair on this one . The last song had me checking out a little bit, and while I am not rushing to listen to it again it could have been worse so that is encouraging.

Nadine Shah: "Fast Food"

So many of these new post-punk revival bands are jacking from Siouxsie, but they are only latching onto one element of what  she does.  Nadine might be jacking from Siouxsie, but at least it's a different aspect of Siouxsie that is a path less travelled. The album opens up in a more straight forward manner than I suspected. It still has air-tight song writing. The tension creeps more on "Fool". "Matador" finds her vocals reminding me more of Antony and the Johnsons. For the most part her knack for melodies is able to hold down the song , though when she strays from a certain hook I lose interest. "Divided" finds her having more of a singer song writer feel. The "I didn't ask you to need me" line is sung with an abundance of emotion, leaving you raw and tingly for the guitar to come in. This minimalist singer songwriter direction continues on "Nothing Else to Do". Her vocals sound great through out the album, she doesn't have a spotty moment on the entire record. At time her voice goes in a more Kd Lang direction than Siouxsie and it explores varied shades of gray some like "Nothing Else to Do" are reflective and lighter. So once you get over her voice then you take another listen and break down the actual song writing. There is more so some songs than others, though it's the emotional conveyance that is the albums most compelling quality. "Nothing Else to Do" finds some interesting sounds to weave around her melody, but it's not a song built as soundly as some of the others on this album.

Seems like I have heard "Stealing Cars" I think it was released as promo stream, or it might even be the first single, I would check , but really do singles count any more. Anyways I like the song as much as I liked it the first time. The steel drum sound show her knack for combining organic elements to paint her sonic pictures so beautifully and this song also high lights her ability to harmonize with herself. There is an almost Radiohead style of indie rock to the guitar to "Washed Up" that allows her pull the melody to throw against it out of a dark dream.  She continues to dish out more indie rock flavored fare on "the Gin One", which is one of the album more upbeat moments.

When it comes to songs with sparse accompaniment "Big Hands" holds it's ground the best with a sensuous melody drips over the effects that swell into actual instrumentation. "Living' which closes out the album has a more PJ Harvey strum to it and if a little more straight ahead than the other songs on this album. There is an interesting tone to album that juggles an androgynous longing in the lyrics and their delivery. I'll go ahead and round this album up to a 10 as there might be a few parts that did always grab me and keep, but they are out weighed by the moments that did wow me and I have no problem just keeping this album on and letting it play.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Faith No More : "Sol Invictus"

When you are the band that created "Angel Dust", the bar is going to be raised pretty high. I went into this apprehensive, due to the fact I was under whelmed by the singles released from this one. This first song does sound like Faith No More. But they throw you a curve ball by not coming out the gate rocking. I didn't hate it , but I wasn't blown away by it. Almost a duet between Patton and Bottoms tender piano. The guitar and more rock formulaic playing comes on "Superhero". The bass holds it don't for Patton to have vocal spasms until he gets to the chorus. The guitar is really low in the mix. Almost to the point that the band feels apologetic for having guitar on the album. Is Patton doing anything we have not previously heard from them? No. But it is an improvement over the opener, wouldn't say it rocks out , but it takes a better stab at .

He drops down into his sleazy "RV" for "Sunny Side Up" before going into the brassy tenor  that guys like Brandon Boyd began trying to mimic in the late 90s. The bands playing makes it obvious that despite Patton's singing you are going to mistake this for Tomahawk or Mr. Bungle. The song structures are much more conventional than those side projects. The first song that grabs me from the get go is "Separation Anxiety" . It has a sinewy Tool like riff that slithers under it. Though when they throw the chorus fake out at you, you'll be waiting for Patton to say "Here's How to Order..." . The first new vocal trick comes by way of the effects put on his vocals on the bridge. "Cone of Shame" find Patton going back into the lower gravelly character voice. This song eventually finds it's legs after an awkward start.

By the time I get to calypso tinged " Rise of the Fall" , I find myself thinking fondly back to the days when Faith No More wrote songs that I could not wait to listen to again. These are not those songs. At best there is some avant garde pop songs that are not wasting my afternoon, but are far from compelling. At 47 Patton show that he still has command of his pipes, despite the bulk of the album being sung in a more baritone register. I'm sure what to think of the strummed guitar in "Black Friday" which at first made me think of "Living the Vida Loca". There is punkish roughness to the heavier dynamic this song falls into at the chorus. It turns into a fun song. There greatest artistic achievement I have heard "Mother Fucker" before and was not really impressed so let's if it does anything more for me than remind me of the Butthole Surfers sell out album. The chorus grows on me, the verses bore me.

There feels like more thought is put into "Matador" which despite feeling like Barry Manilow taking acid and trying to write a Broadway Hit with Philip Glass.  So there were only two songs that I was sold on my first listen to this album. Theres a 60s feel to the strummed guitar of "From the Dead". The song is so simple it's almost baffling.It's been how long since these guys put out an album? I think if it had been mixed with a little more balls the heavier sections would have carried more power. I have heard Morrissey albums with more balls than this. And I don't listen to Morrissey for his balls. I am torn originally I was going to give this one an 8. Which is right at the threshold of what will make it onto the iPod or not which and 8 generally means these guys are pretty good and this is worth checking out. But knowing this should be a 10 this is a disappointment. So I'll round it down to a 7.5. The last Tomahawk album was better.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Haethen: "Shaped by Aeolian Winds"

Another one of Fallen Empire's trademark black metal bands. Rather than one guys in his parents candle lit basement it's three dudes from Philly blasting it out. The first song is some blast beaten atmosphere, but still steeped in angry darkness. Though I don't get an evil vibe from their music. On the second song the question is raised , what can they do to keep things varied. Well this is answered by way of some clean guitar layered in there. The blast beats are not handled in the same way they were on the previous song and though this is a very dense and dirty wall of rough edged sound, it is in some ways melodic. The only songs that break the ten minute mark are placed back to back on the first half of the album. On the first of these they slow into a more depressive tone. For a ten minute song it goes by quickly. The second long winding epic is more abrasive. The pace picks up but not quite to the black metal tempo the band indulges in on the first few songs, though give them a minute to simmer and they will find their way back to a blast beat. The weird underwater sounding clean section that the babbling brook runs over is oddly injected. It does make the blast beat this song winds up back into more effective.

Title track is an interesting instrumental that still strikes me as more of an interlude, than a full formed song despite the number of changes it flows through. It seems like the intro to "In Absence of the Eternal, one of the albums more in your face metal moments. The vocals on this album are a mid range rasp that it certainly hateful enough for what they are going for. The clean guitar sound on "Captured Within the Annulus" is right on time as they were beginning to need another element to stitch things up. It borders on taking a hypnotic post rock trip to the moon, as some of the passages hit a hypnotic cadence. "The Gate of the Firmament" slows things down to that place in-between depressive black metal and doom.One thing I like about this album is the sonic throbbing it carries. There are moments that the drone bleeds the songs together or sometimes spaces you out placing them into the background. This album is a fine addition to Fallen Empire's roster, so I'll give  it a 8.5

Arstidir Lifsins : "Aldafoor Ok Munka Drottinn"

This trio features members of Helrunar and Carpe Noctem, so you know they are going to get at least the  viking parts right. It starts off with a twelve minute epic the first three minutes build up to the metal being introduced. Largely there is a chorus of baritones bellowing out the vocals, but these give way to black metal snarls. The first and second song run into one another like this is a Wagnerian opera. Like opera the magnitude of the scenes they are creating here is impressive, but there is not a lot to really engage you into the songs. The album sounds great. Every thing is well played. the most

While at best this band might be referred to as blackened folk metal, the third song has some old school black metal nastiness to it. The bass playing is is impressive on it as it raises to an audible level most black metal bass players stay submerged beneath. Here the theatrics which take center stage rather than trying to recreate any pagan folk elements are dynamically right on time and work with the song rather than making it feel overblown. The fourth song is more of a dirge paced hymn. The drums build it up into a blasting nasty blast beat. It slows into a pretty powerful pound.

Epic gets over used, however it applies here as these songs are arranged with orchestral precision. At times you will think now this is how the soundtrack to the Hobbit should have sounded like." Not all of the low vocal chants work with equal success, in fact as the album progress it sometimes makes the song too atmospheric as there is noting to grasp onto until the drums come in in certain passages, though when the drums drop in the do so with quite a crunch. Though some of the spoken word sections make some of the atmospherics almost seem excessive it makes for a crazy dynamic shift when it goes into one of the most frenzied blast beat you will hear on any black metal album. Sometimes these more folk sections are handled in a more Negura Bunget manner, but they are more string based giving it a more symphonic metal feel. They come across more like interludes than being connected to the songs.  When the operatic baritones are thrown into the albums more metal moments it does give the album more personality than the two dozen black metal albums sitting in my in-box. There are times when the harsh vocals sound like they are being traded off between two different microphones, and this effects gives a fresh take on it. Which is what that style of vocalizing is beginning to need as they average harsh vocal performance is beginning to lose it's edge so we are becoming desensitized to it.

This album has a lot going on and the fact it all comes through really clearly is a testament to the skill it was mixed with. This album has a very honest and reverent feel to it, there is not the sense that these guys are just running around LARPing as vikings. These guys are capable musicians, the drummer stands out and can deliver some first class double bass on command. Metal is supposed to be big and over the top, so bands like Manowar and Bathory should be proud of what they helped bring about. The closing song sets a powerful chug against the chorus of chanting baritones. Midway into the song there is a cool break, that gives it the dynamic edge the songs needs after all bombast doesn't seem as bombastic with something to contrast it to. Just in time for the new season of Game of Thrones, you could smoke a bowl, mute the television and leave this playing and get a whole new perspective on the show. I'll give it an 8.5 as it drifts into the background and doesn't hook me in, but it is an impressive piece of work and if you are a fan of viking metal one of the best releases from that sub-genre to come out this year.