Saturday, August 29, 2015

The Top 100 albums of the 90s :10 to 1


So here we are at the end, ultimately these are the ten albums I get the most playtime out of with the top 6 still in my iPod and the others shuffling in and out of it, which considering how much new music I ingest on a daily basis says something about their staying power.

 10- Faith No More - "Angel Dust"

When I saw these guys live last month this fact became more than evident. They hit their peak with this one as the bar was raised way to high.

 


9-Janes Addiction- " Ritual De Lo Habitual"

 This was pretty close with "Angel Dust" , but the song "3 Days" gives it the edge. The radio songs just skim the surface and if they are all you have heard you are doing yourself a disservice.


 

8-Mr Bungle- S/T

If it was not for this album " Angel Dust" would have never come about.Mike Patton never sounded better.
 

7-Radiohead- "Ok Computer"

"Kid A" is a close second, but this one sounds good even if I was not on drugs at the time, though when this album came out those moments were few and far between. Yorke's voice is great , but at the end of the day its about the songs and they stand the test of time for sure.

 
6-Tool- "Aenima"

 When this album came out it was played at least once a day, any one who was getting stoned to me in the mid 90s will attest to this. This was more of Tool vs Tool , and this beat out "Undertow" because there are more dynamic layers.



5- Type O Negative -"October Rust"

 More goth than metal, then layers of this album are amazing, if you are going to get high, then sit between two speaker and listen to this loudly. One of the best produced and written albums ever. Peter Steele's voice also had more depth and passion.


 


4 - Swans- "Love of Life

 This beat Tool out, because the songs don't take you back to when the album came or feel hampered by how the perception of heavy changes over time, Tool was great, but doesn't seem all that heavy anymore, these guys invoke the same feeling of awe every time played.

 


3- Morrissey - "Vauxhall & I "

 This album came close to being almost as good as The Smiths. If you accept Moz on his own two feet then this is without a doubt some of his best singing and songwriting.


 

2- Cocteau Twins- " Heaven or Las Vegas"


 Heaven should be in this album's title because that is what it sounds like, really the almost 80s drum sound which you almost don't notice once Elizabeth starts singing, is the only thing that gave the number slot the edge as they are not confined to any passage in time.


1- Dead Can Dance- "Into the Labyrinth


 These guys are their only competition, so by process of elimination "A Passage in Time" is a compilation and this album is better than "Spirit Chaser". These songs defy time, they could have come out two hundred years ago , and some did or 200 years in the future and it doesn't matter they just happened to have been released in the 90s when this project was at it's peak.

 


Mgla : "Exercises In Futility"





Mgla or ...fog, is a side project from members of Kreigsmachine, in the studio it is birthed by a due who then add session players for live performances. The step closer towards a much more melodic direction than their previous album which put them on the map"Hearts Toward None". Just from the opener it seems this change has sacrificed a little of what made their sound so interesting on "Hearts Towards None" and they blend in with the rest of the black metal crowd.But that is just my first impression we shall see where the rest of the album goes from here.

The songs on this album are simply labelled as parts rather than given titles. The melodic layering of the guitar is cool, but the overall guitar tone seems to have changed, their is a more sonic layer of treble over it rather than being as dark and low as what they offered before. I tried pressing my ear buds deeper into my ears to see if this was the issue , but it seems to be more of a production choice. The third part has a darker pulse that churns with more sonic depth and is the first song that really grabs me.The fourth part the chords are allowed to ring out with even more melody almost to the point of sounding like "Hell's Bells " being played faster. More concise and compact at times it reminds me of Nachtmystium. The fifth part open with a cold lurking melody that finds the band slowing down to create a more deliberate mood. It churns with a darkness not yet found on this album, so it was a welcome return to form. I like my black metal writhing with evil and while I know nothing of this band's philosophies, the music conveys this well enough for me.

The sixth and final part of the album opens with clean guitar. Once it goes into the blasting section, I had to listen to the song twice to see if there was actually any elements to separate them from every other blasting black metal band. It goes into the triumphant half time charge that Watain inherited from Dissection. The moments that this album gets right are chilling and allow them to stand out from their peers in the genre, then there are blast beats which are handled just like any black metal band would and I think these guys have more in them than falling in with the herd, still I'll give this album a 8.5, it won't get the repeated listens from me that their previous album did , but they still excel at what they do.


4

Friday, August 28, 2015

Iron Maiden : " The Book of Souls"




Iron Maiden is right behind Black Sabbath when it comes being one of  the most revered classic metal bands  of all  time. This is for good reason as they have they have maintained tons of integrity over the years even if they did break down and use keyboards and made the poor choice of trying to replace Bruce with Blaze, line up changes and tweaks to nuances in there sound aside , in the bigger picture of their legacy, they have never really whored themselves out by appearing on American Idol sadly something Rob Halford can not say. So for me the bar is held really high when it comes to this band, and if you have any questions as to my devotion to the band all I need say is I have the " Number of the Beast" album cover tattooed on my left forearm ...what do you got ? So I have been upping the Irons since 1984.

Going into this album the trepidation I had in regards to how it would uphold their legacy was due to the Dickinson's much publicized battle with throat caner and how that effect his voice. Then there was the cowbell infected lead single off the album "Speed of Light" that might have quelled my fears of will Bruce still have it and replaced them with will this album be filled with cheesy rock n roll? Once I got past  the synths the band once claimed they would never use which open the new album and focused in on Bruce flexing his invincible Iron pipes, I was able to breath easy at the very Maiden gallop  of "If Eternity Should Fall".  The the first thing that came to mind is musically the song would not be out of place on "Somewhere in Time".  A common theme with this song and many other is the tendency to sprawl out and leave a labyrinth of  guitar harmonies , solos and progged out bridges. When it comes to Iron Maiden I am more than ok with that. You know how thrilled  I am about the rock n roll cowbell that leads off "Speed of Light" , which doesn't feature the band's best lyrics, but I would not go as far as to say they are just punching the clock.

After the single comes "the Great Unknown" where you might begin to notice the band is utilizing a broader scope of guitar sounds. Embracing a darker melodic sensibility recalling the moodier moments from "Fear of the Dark"before bring down a more satisfying chug. It also is worth mentioning that given their ages we might need to accept the fact  this could very well be the last studio album . By the time I got to the bass chords that lead into "the Red and the Black" showing  even Steve Harris was willing experiment tonally, I became willing to accept this album as a fitting swan song. I would rather this be the end than for them to put about two or three embarrasing album like Paul McCartney keeps insisting on. "The Red and the Black" finds the band  galloping into the kinds of riffs and melodies that power metal bands have been biting off of for years. It reminds me of "Alexander the Great". There are some choruses of woah woahs , before wandering off into another proggy solo section where the reaffirm that they put the epic in metal.

With the more rock feel to the riff  leading into "When the River Runs Deep".Bruce drops down into his huskier "The Evil That Men Do" mid-range. Aside from "Speed of Light" this is the only other song that doesn't reach as deep into their well of inspiration.  But even Maiden just dialing it in is better than the collective whole of  Swedish metal has been able to accomplish. The title track closes the first part of the album, for people who still buy albums this is being sold as a double album. The title track is one of the album's heavier songs with a creeping riff that is darker than much of their more recent material. This is also one of the album's heavier songs.  The tight riffing forms a pretty good groove thanks to Nicko's solid playing. Bruce proves he can still hit the notes in his chest register without sound too strained. They know how to pull off the ten minute song, because it wasn't until the seven minute mark that I checked to see how far into it I was. They do not achieve the rapid fire attack that a song like "Aces High" has but inject a fair amount of energy into " Death or Glory". Lyrically though it does give the battle field perspective that "Aces high" and " the Trooper " explore.

There is no way you can honestly deny the likeness the opening riff to "Shadows of the Valley" has with "Wasted Years". They make you forget this by jerking you back into the classic gallop."Tears of a Clown" is not a Smokey Robinson cover, but a mid paced  galloping ode to a clown that stays the same. Don't let the Juggaloos get wind of this. Around the four minute mark this is the most straight forward song in fact the more syncopated riff reminds me a little of White Snake. This is one of the rare albums where the guitar solos actually add to it. The theme of sadness continues with "The Man of Sorrows". This one has more of an arena rock power ballad quality until it speeds up at the two minute mark. Its also the first place I notice effects on Bruce's voice smoothing out a few notes. But the song is well written and holds up to their post-Fear of the Dark work which is all I expect from them and so far they have already given moments that have made me happily surprised.

The album closes with the longest song the band has written "Empire of the Clouds" which is ambitious for many reasons. Bruce handles the piano parts. He is no Rick Wakeman or even Tori Amos, but it works for what they are ding which is layering a string section over it. This is their "Bohemian Rhapsody" as starts as dramatic ballad with folk inflections. The guitar chord don't power in until the four minute mark. While it's very different for Iron Maiden it still bears many of  trademark Maiden intervals both vocally and from the guitar voicings. It has a narrative that is about another odyssey not unlike "Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner". The guitar line comes in at the eight minute mark is a little too happy for me. The pay off when they start rocking back into it at the 13 minute mark isn't a big as that on "Rhyme" . It's proggier and not bad by any means.

Have they done better ? Yes, is this on the level of the albums that came before "Fear of the Dark"? No the bar is incredibly high for these guys. But they never outright miss the mark, some moments are just more inspired than others and truth be told the least impressive song on the album is the single below. I'll give this one a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. I'm not going to tell you to round it up because unless you too have an Iron Maiden tattoo, then I question if you are as devoted to the band as I am.


 

The Top 100 albums of the 90s :20 to 11



Here we are in the top twenty , so let the butt hurt begin as you start to see what you thought to be the best album of your drunken high school days is not on the list, because there are better albums, sure these might not have out sold Pearl Jam, but they have stood the test of time much better.

  20- Sade - "Love Deluxe"

 Half of you might have been conceived to this album. There were many trip hop albums that could have made the list, but Sade does what they do better, yes that includes Tricky and Massive Attack, who put out some good songs, but we are talking entire albums front to back and even "Mezzanine" has a little filler on it.

 



  19- Cranberries- "Everybody Else Is Doing It So Why Can't We?" 

This album carried more longing and passion than every thing they released after. The Cocteau Twins influence was very strong, but the vocals were layered in a different manner that makes this album.

 

  18- Sunny Day Real Estate - "Diary

If you were to own only one so called "emo" album, this would be the one. The band was disrupted in their prime by this guy named Dave Grohl who stole them for his cock rock band. Jeremy always claimed they started off as a hardcore band who was trying to play slow songs and on this album you can hear that more than the others.

 


  17-Tori Amos- "Little Earthquakes"

 Three years ago I ruined Tori Amos for my fiance when I played her Kate Bush and we have never been able to listen to her in the car since. While this is her "Lion Heart" it carries much more anger than Kate Bush ever taps into with the exception of the last song on "the Dreaming". Front to back their are no filler songs anywhere to be found and Tori can tinkle the keys better than Kate.

 

  16- Nirvana - "In Utero"

if you don't understand why this beat out "Nevermind" I'm not sure why you are reading my blog, but the short blurb version is that "Nevermind" is restrained and slick, where this album is a drugged out rock star in full train wreck mode. I need my rock stars dead on drugs.

 

  15- Jeff Buckley - "Grace"

For the rest of this list I will answer the nagging question of "But how did that beat out Nirvana?" . Have you ever heard Jeff Buckley sing? He could improvise singing from the phone book and it would beat Nirvana.He killed himself with much more style as well.

 


14-Alice in Chains - "Dirt"

An ode to drugs and misery. This rocks, "Rooster" is the only song I do not like on this album but "Would" balances that out. Reason it beat Nirvana? Jerry's guitar playing and Layne is a better junkie, Cobain also smoked crack while Layne just shot hard and he died from an overdose , not his wife murdering him. Yes trolls I know I just implied Cobain killed himself in the blurb above, and he did by staying with Love.


 


13-Acid Bath - "Paegan Terrorism Tactics

Yes they made it on here twice. Dax Riggs' first alright trumps Nirvana's discography. He might be alive or is he for he claims " dying felt so god damn good today" They are from New Orleans so my theory is he did before this album was made then brought back to life with voo-doo by children playing in the catacombs. Drugs... I scream ,you scream, every body screams for morphine.' He even admits to being a zombie.

 

  12-Fugazi - " Steady Diet of Nothing"

Dave Grohl would tell you they could not hold a candle to Fugazi, in fact he did while making a tv show about his terrible album. Ian Mckaye means no drugs. But this album has groove and punk anger coiled together and ready to burst at any moment, glued together with chops worthy of the Police.


  11- Nine Inch Nails - " the Downwards Spiral" I am not sure how this album's dominance over Nirvana could be in question. They even did it and got massive radio air play. This album did for industrial what Van Halen's 1984 did for cock rock. Reznor made it out alive, but this album has tons of self loathing. 11- Sade

Fuck the Facts : "Desire Will Rot"



Truth be told this is the first time I have ever sat down and given this Canadian band who gets  labelled as grindcore a chance. Honestly the first thing that comes to mind  upon hearing them is for a band that is supposed to be grind core they are really beginning to sound like Converge. From what I heard about the band, is they have been evolving over the years This one has twists and turns. Very gnarly bass lines pummeling the drums, but they have some actual metal chops here and none of the raw abrasion that I was expecting from this typical rough around the edges sound.The really straight forward blasting hardcore, can get old quick if they don't switch gears with the quickness of power violence. There is actual groove to " the Path of Most Resistence"  They do what some of the djent like death metal bands such as Thy Art is Murder in layering more melodic guitar over the rougher passages to create ambiance.




It bears noting that Mel Mongeon has really blurred the genre lines. Her shout is just as  husky and rough as any male hardcore screamer's . Aside from being better to look at than some dude in a hoodie with neck tattoos, she makes her gender a mute point. "La Mort" comes in two parts but could very well be one song. The layered melodic guitar that is shredding around this is pretty similar in each part, the second part lets the chords it bangs out toward the end ring out. "Prey" doesn't bring much new to the table that we haven't already heard on this album. There is more of a death metal frenzy to the attack they hit "Storm of Silence " with. They latch onto another hooky chugged groove on "Solitude".  They have more of a punk attack on "False Hope". They make the most out of feed back in a few of the break. It even breaks down into a bass line which works its way into being a pretty powerful metal riff.The guitars harmonize and bring in a much more classic metal feel.


"Circle " opens with clean male vocals sweeping in on a cavernous cloud of ambiance. Then things go a little wonky as the song takes a jarring turn in a noisy experimental direction. Feels more like an interlude than a actual song. They don't blast into the closing song and are heavier for it.  The male gang vocals and the Fugazi meets Neurosis hesitancy in the opening riff is one of the albums best moments. Overall they get the job done, not all of this is my thing, so I will give it a 7, but if you are a fan of the band you will consider it an 8. br />

Big Brave: "Au De La"




After being impressed by what  I  have previously heard from this Montreal based band, I went into this with high expectations. They are brings a more hypnotic and dense element to this album in the first song this is done with  an industrial clang set against her almost post-punk vocals, to create an energetic layer over what would other wise be droning. The song fakes you out stopping before they wind back into the sonic throb. The throw down a heavier hammering to drive the point on on the songs climax. "Look At How the World Has Made a Change" starts with a very spiritual atmosphere with a meditative quality enhanced by the chant of the vocals. This drone does however make me lose sit of where on song begins and the other ends. This does make the album an engaging listen and of those you can just leave on, however in the iPod generation where you are consuming your music more often than no on shuffle mode, how each song stands on its own becomes increasingly important. It takes them til the seven minute mark for the song really to start taking form as her vocals begin to take on a more indie rock exclamation.

"Do no harm do no wrong..." is birthed from ebbs of feedback and distortion that could have radiated off the previous song. Her vocals remain at the more powerful emotive place they ended on the previous which further makes this seem like  an extension of it. It climaxes in the final few seconds of the song, but for some reason this song doesn't feel like it is as fully formed as the other. It is like it's story was never told with a proper resolution. There is a teasing hesitance to " And the Waters Go" that makes it  more challenging list to those of not familiar with the more droning elements of bands like Swans. It is darker and more doomy which is a direction that works for me.



The pulse of "Re Collection 2" drags with a post-apocalyptic drone her vocals float over. At thirteen minutes they take their time bringing it to a boil and coloring it with tons of atmosphere along the way. The song breaks down into feed back and static buzz at the five minute mark until male vocals begin to call out from the distance. She joins in with them. Before it swells into noise and dies back down. One point of interest is that Jessica Moss from Thee Sliver Mt Zion Memorial Orchestra lends her violin to a few of the songs on this album, but not in the  conventional manner so doesn't expect to be able to pick out strings from the crazy din going on. Overall this album has much more drone than there previous work so that can be an acquired taste at point on the album I'll give it an 8.5.

This album will be released on Southern Lord September 15th.


BIG | BRAVE - AU DE LA ( LP Trailer / Southern Lord Records ) from MB on Vimeo.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

no:carrier : "Ghosts of the West'




This is our second look at this band. Last time around we were pretty pleased about the futuristic dark wave this duo was cranking out. Their newest offering which was released back in May is something very different. In most cases you would think that making a cover album would be taking the easy way out, but no: carrier isn’t easy on themselves, they not only pick songs that are not what you would expect from an electronic duo, but they approach three of the four songs using different singers. While there are still elements of the dark wave sheen that marks the sound, of their previous album, there is a more organic rock feel to most of the songs. Another creative choice the band has made is the albums thematic nature, which pays homage to the west coast.


 The first of the cover songs in the band being their take on "Don Henley's "Boys of Summer". It carries the hushed introspection of Henley's original, but you can imagine Billy Idol having a similar approach to the song if he covered it, as the song rides the line of new wave and rock like "Eyes Without a Face". Audio Terrorist singer Kalib Duarte certainly gets the job done and adds his own brand of passion to the performance rather than serving up too much tribute to the former Eagles drummer. The programmed drums on this song shift around the pocket that the straight radio rock beat would slavishly adhere to. With the help of Melissa Harding they take on Belinda Carlisle's "California". This song is executed with a steamy pulse in the same Hollywood zip code as the likes of Lana Del Rey. The backing vocals are well layered and used like another instrument rather than just to bolster her voice. They convey both the glamour as well as the darker cloud of unclenched dreams that haunts the city. This is followed by Laura Lee Brown's husky approach to Toney Carey from Rainbow's classic "Room With a View". They have darkened the song up to reflect the desperation in the lyrics, which tell the tale of the ever growing homeless population, that was mild when this song was written compared to the cities with in city that are cropping up under bridges through the urban landscape.


 The projects lead singer Cynthia Wechselberger finally appears on t traditional Irish folk song " She Move Through" is pretty haunting. She sings with the same reverence to the traditional versions of the song much like Dead Can Dance does when they approach timeless folk songs that span the ages. The electronics provide atmosphere in the background, but allow her voice to shine. They show surprising restraint and seem to be playing it pretty straight until the final forty-five seconds where they blast into full-blown electronica. This album might not fit neatly into your preferred genre, but it is a bold new step for the band and deserves as listen to fans of edm, goth or dark wave, as it is none of those things and yet all of those things. Bands use to be this adventures and unafraid to color outside of the lines so it's good to see that no:carrier was brave enough to give this a shot as it pays for them and pushes them forward to a limitless future.


 


Teloch Vovin : Further Down the Tunnel"



It's no secret most of the black metal coming out of New York tends to defy convention. Bands like Liturgy, Krallice, Sannhet, and Tombs come to mind. Teloch Vovin doesn't sound like any of those bands. They carry a raw death metal snarl and are not apologizing for being metal. They open up with an intro piece which would not be out of place on a King Diamond  album. While this album is not what I would call theatrical there is a fair amount of drama to ritual. "Thaumiel" find the crazed vocals going berserk like if Glen Benton was possessed by the poultrygeist. In one part it even sounds like he is screaming dead by dawn. They more of first wave  approach to  black metal that in someways is similar to Mortuary Drape, but even more straight forward. The blast beats feel more death metal to me than black metal. The drums on this album already sound like they were beaten to hell and back and then thrown down the stairs. After a few listens the crazy haphazard approach to both song writing and production begins to grow on me.


"Vena Cava" is more chaotic, with the vocals holding it together, the guitar sound could stand to be a little thicker as you have to jam the ear buds in your ears to get the full effect of their chug.The lock in together before the two and a half minute mark and then close the song.There is some weird experimentation with the instrumental " Breathe Deep..." that sounds like it could be from a 90s horror movie. They close out this ep with "Adoration/Vexation" . It starts off with a gang vocal chant before launching into what is like a more typical black metal battle gallop. The vocals do not follow the screamed patterns that most black metal bands adhere to giving them more of their own personality.Clean vocals come in with a chanted verse that haunts the song in the songs final minutes. I would love to see how they are pulling of these vocals live as there are so many over dubs.

I'll give this one an 8.5. It is innovative though not in the ways I expected going into this. The band accomplished what they set out to do and I'm interested to hear where they will go from here on a full length that might allow for more time to indulge in some of their experimental leanings that were placed on the altar of sacrifice here to appease the metal gods.If you like a good dose of 80s death metal to go with your black metal or wish Deicide was more black metal then this album is worth a listen. It is being released September 23rd.




"

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Galar : "De Gjenlevende"




 These Bergen boys are brought this strain of melodic black metal out from the cold back in March. The first song which translates to "the Surviving" has well layered guitar that make even the blasting seem like it's moody. The clean vocals come in towards the four minute mark  . They a lower tenor and very folk inflected. They throw themselves into a thrashing section that reminds me of old Istapp. Towards the end of the song it swell into something even more epic like mid-period Enslaved. The drummer has played with Vried, so you know he has chops.

The clean vocals lead the way  into "Night and Silence a Forgotten Life" . The song twists in and out of blast beats , sometimes in a more thrashy manner than others. "The Book's Anthem" starts with a piano piece and piano has already popped up in sparse bursts around the blasting so its not a huge surprise. It sounds like a banjo is also tossed in the mix to add to the folk flavor. The harsher vocals are a dry mid-range rasp. The clean singing is scattered around the screams. To their credit they do not switch back and forth in the expected places.Most of the songs are around the nine minute mark which is much longer than the average song length, but they make the most out of the time. The piano interlude "Light" follows this one and serves as the intro to "Shepard's Heavy Footsteps" which is a thick blast beaten blur. The chorus of clean vocals comes in less than four minutes in, but the band doesn't slow to accommodate them into going into a rapid galloping section. They do hit a more syncopated groove that really adds to the song.

The last song is the first to dip over ten minutes and the clean vocal's are almost more dominate than the wretched vocals. It's melodic and they have a lot going on, but they begin to lose my attention at this point. The blast become a blur until they ease onto the ride cymbal and it becomes more folk metal. The bass becomes more audible in this song. The redeem themselves by building up into a swell of guitar melodies. This album is worth a listen if you like blackened folk metal and need something new ,as they have a pretty fresh take on it , without deviating out the often limited comfort zones of the more avid fans of traditional black metal. I'll give it an 8.

Gold : "No Image" album review & "Servant" video





This band from the Netherlands features one of the guitarists from the Devil's Blood,which peaked my interest as I am curious as to what became of the surviving members of that band. The first song the band comes across like a darker version of Mew.The vocals are so androgynous that is was not until the second song that I was sure the singer was a woman . Not metal they do rock pretty hard at times they even create a dark pounding that creates the kind of drone that can be found on earlier Swans albums to compliment when singer Milena Eva is chanting like a more crazed version of Jarboe. When they step on the gas it reminds me a little of the Devil's Blood."Old Habits" carried more of a rock stomp to it."O.D.I.R" takes a similar stomp and drones over it before launching into a more punk like attack. Her melody has more of a Debbie Harry touch to it, which is a welcome departure from the legions of Siouxsie clones.


 Things continue to get darker on "Shapeless"finds the guitar taking a darker pulse, but the band heading in a more hooky and straight forward direction, which in this case works. Her voice wraps itself around the song like the hypnotizing snake from the "Jungle Book"."Tar and Feather" finds her vocals maintains an alluring quality while the rest of the band hits a more straight forward punk rock sound with noisy edges and angular turns. The are almost like a harsher version of Garbage here. "the Controller" drones on a static guitar line which is picked in a similar fashion to some black metal. The song kicks into something with more form in a pretty explosive fashion. Things speed up on the punk fueled "the Waves" that find all of the elements coming together almost more like a metal band, so some of the guitarists past catches up with him here.

"And I Know" pretty much has every element I need from this type of music. It's sonic, dark and has a dream like quality to it. It has a swaying groove that her melody falls over perfectly. There is an Apocalypse rising in the tension of "Don't". Vocally she backs off a little and sits back into the boiling riff.They close out the album with an oddly straight forward proto-punk drone of "Taste Me". This albums sounds great some of the more punk leaning moments do not always sit best with me, but overall these guys have something unique going and I am curious as to where they will go from here. I'll give it an 8.5.


 






Kontinuum : " Kyrr"




I really dug this Icelandic bands first full length "Earth Blood Magic"  that took the prog direction Enslaved went in a more Tool like direction. On this album they have continued to evolve as the  guitar tone is more relaxed  and there is a slight post-punk element to the tense approach the vocals take. Not unlike say Beast Milk the vocals are clean sung in a more cautious baritone, it's evident this is another step away from black metal and into an almost hard rock direction. The vocals are also getting more like love in the production department when it comes to how they are layered on the  choral builds. The exotic scales of the clean guitar opens the second song with is dark but not metal. They return to singing in their native tongue. A powerful baritone bellow marks where they could erupt into the choruses. These are gradually built into rather than punched.

They continue more relaxed and melodically introspective in more of a Katatonia vein. Big chord ringing out with subtler guitar melodies laying beneath it. The bass line takes over the title track as the guitar floats around it. The vocals go up higher, almost tenor range. When they sing in their native tongue it helps keep them from sounding like an Icelandic A Perfect Circle, particularly when they play with drive but using clean tones which really brings out this influence. "Lone" is an introspective interlude that doesn't stray to far from the ground they have covered. Things pick up with "In Shallow Seas" . They hold the palm muted chug as the baritone vocals linger over it then soar up higher as it closes in on the chorus. It has a enough classic metal influence to give it power , but doesn't sound dated, despite a slight "Into the Mirror Black" inflection the vocals take on, though not going up as high as Warrell Dane.

They end with a big metal anthem. The vocals have a stronger cadence to them almost like something you might hear on a folk metal album. They are well executed and well produced over the duration of the album and are one of its strengths, which is a rare quality in metal today. The guitars go back and forth with the loud soft thing but not limited to sticking to any formula. This album is neither as heavy or experimental as I went into it expecting, but they succeeded in creating some solid middle of the road moody hard rock. If you need a gateway drug to get you from Tool into real metal then these guys are a good doorway. 'll round it up to an 8.



Monday, August 24, 2015

The Pleasure Leftists : " The Woods of Heaven"




Hailing from Canada The Pleasure Leftists have really come into their own. While the vocals have hints of Siouxsie , they go about this the right way that the rest of frantic music racing around the vocals take the attention away from that fact rather than forcing the vocals to carry the songs. This has a very punk energy to it , yet a surf rock tone to the guitar. The drums could have stood to have been given more love in the mix as the album doesn't have much bass in the mix. One under lying lying influence I can here than contributes to their attack is the Police and not the radio Police , but earlier on when they were more punk than poppy new wave prog with a reggae fetish. The toms that lead into " A New Name" seem to set the tone for a darker change of pace. This does accentuate the Siouxsie to the vocals, but it doesn't turn me off to this. The vocals are more thoughtful in creating hooks. The guitar seems almost secondary.

They speed back up on "Protection" and the vocals don't seem to find their purpose until the guitar riff breaks down into a more pal muted b section to the verse. Most of the songs are under three minutes , but don't feel rushed despite the brisk tempos most seem to be. "Private Persons" they maintain the albums energy, but it is not as finely tuned as the rest of the album and is the first song that comes across as filler to me. "Marathon' is even faster a song, but the vocals fall into all the right cracks on it just works.It sounds like they are going to take another darker turn on "Burning Down" which is different in the fact that they break away from the more punk paced thing they do into some more disjointed to the point of where it doesn't gel on purpose until the click of a drum machine shows up over half way end, making it an ill advised experimentation that sound more like an intro than a song. They close out the album with the more passionate punk infused "Reality Changes" where she sings that they don't know how real it feels. Overall this is a good take on something we have heard before and sets the band up to take the place of Arctic Flowers , who went too punk with their last one. it's high energy , but employs tones that keep them from just being a punk band . i'll give it an 8.5.

6.4

Elvis Depressededly : "New Alhambra"




This Boston based project has one of the best names ever. They dropped this album back in may. The samples give a surreal creepiness, the effects on the vocals sit somewhere between old Bright Eyes and Modest Mouse. The rainy day mood and introspective nature creates an excellent atmosphere and the lyrics are very clever. The title track becomes almost so spacey that it doesn't hold together enough to grab me until the " I turn every corner" lyric. "Bruises" is slightly more upbeat. The guitar is more effected here and the samples don't stop which is fine with me as they are well used.One of the albums best songs is "Rock N Roll" where his reptilian soul is being blessed and Jesus is saving his soul so he can quit his job. The religious imagery almost confused me earlier on into wondering his this was a Christian based ting, but it's more ironic than not.


 After the effects layered sample of a televangelist they go into the more poppy strum to "Big Break" but the distorted buzz in the back ground add a subtle yet abrasive under coating to make it not radio friendly. "Ease" has a more psychedelic rock ambiance, with the vocals still sounding like they are being sung underwater.Here it makes the lyrics more difficult to make out. "New Heaven, New Earth" the vocals have a more distinct melody and purpose to propel the song. It's equally upbeat and dreamy.It ends with the more folk flavored strum of " Wastes of Time". The lyrics don't have the same twist to them that many of the other songs do. It is more straight forward all the way around. These are simple but smart songs often too short , but this is a project that I will continue to keep my ear open for in the future I'll give them an 8.5.
 

Camera Shy : "S/T"





If you seem him onstage you might think Bassist Nick Basset is on drugs, but there is no way he can be if he keeps this busy, not only does he play in Whirr, Nothing and the goth side project Death of Lovers , but he now has this indie rock band Camera Shy. It's not shoe-gaze , but there is a dreamy element to it, but it's focus it poppy indie rock. This album came out back in January, so I am surprised it did not garner enough buzz to be brought to my attention earlier. Acoustic guitars are more common than not. The female vocals are sometimes more hushed and breathy like a shoe band might use on songs like "Colors Radiate". Nick has a pretty dope Morrissey tattoo, so it's not mistake that the guitar strum has some Smiths to it. You see how much this project relies on Basset as it feels like his influence takes a back eat on "Glowing", which is just acoustic guitar and none of his bass playing to give it any depth. The Smiths' like guitar returns on the more upbeat"New Something" that finds her vocal melody taking a gleefully poppy turn, but think 90s alt like the Cranberries rather than Taylor Swift."Under Water Day" is a slower more acoustic based song , but it works better than the previous tab at a similar sounds, it's not as happy so maybe thats why I like it and her vocals border on Cocteau Twins like intervals, she is not trying to be Elizabeth Fraiser an stays in a youthful mid range. There is a slight 50s slant to the guitar on "Take Your Time" another upbeat more pop inflected song, with sappy lyrics.

T

They close the album with the very delicate " Seemingly Ill". The song is so fragile it seems a wind might blow it away. Dream pop might be an apt genre to say many portions of the album lean toward. You could say that of all his projects this one is the most mainstream, but even then this is much more thoughtful than anything gracing the radio. It fits well on the landscape of indie rock and I think they were very successful in creating what this album seeks to accomplish, breezy pop songs heavy on the atmosphere.I'll round it up to an eight and see how it grows on me, it was happier than expected and given his past work I went into it expecting something more down trodden in some form or fashion, it's not shoe-gaze so don't go in expecting that, but if you like girl fronted indie rock that is introspective yet poppy this should be up your alley.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Motorhead : " Bad Magic'




I know Motorhead is the sacred cow of metal. People blindly accept Lemmy as god. He does get credit for being in Hawkwind. He is an easy guy to like, but does that make him really a metal icon musically? Is Motorhead even metal? And the million dollar question is has Motorhead put out anything worthwhile in the past 20 years? Why does that matter ? Well for someone to truly be a great artist everything they touch shows it. But Lemmy is old enough to be my grand dad you say, you have to cut him some slack...why when David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, Robert Fripp, David Gilmore and a host of others who are older or his peers still do so should Lemmy or he is more myth than legend Can they still make good music? Well the first song is pretty dialed in color by numbers punching the clock. The second song improves as His bass tone is dialed in on "Thunder & Lightning".


I am not expecting Lemmy to be able to sing , but I am expecting more than a second rate "Cat Scratch Fever" on "Fire Storm Hotel". Former King Diamond drummer Mikkey Dee, shows he still has it on the intro to "Shoot Out Your Lights" at this point he has been in the band almost as long as Philthy and truth be told Lemmy is the only original member though the guitarist joined in the mid eighties. The would be a really heavy Motley Crue song. The songs are like punk, three minutes in and out. "The Devil" sounds like bad solo Ozzy, but it's better than the previous song. It's funny that the same people who make fun of cock rock are the same ones who will champion Motorhead, but "Electricity" sounds not different from Faster Pussycat to me except for the fact its' Lemmy rather than Taime Downe on the mic.  I would really like this album to just be half as good as "Orgasmatron" is that too much to ask?

"Evil Eye" has more of his rumbling bass, which along with the drumming are the best parts of this album. It's actually a pretty decent song. This album flys by... some of this is because the songs are pretty brisk . By the time we are at "Teach Them How to Bleed" I notice that Lemmy is not trying in the lyrical department and this sounds like as song I have already heard them play and not just on this album. The do cheese the right way when they pull out the power ballad " Till the End" . Lemmy comes close to singing and guitar solos wail out of every corner, thats how you rock. Feeling a little self conscious after that one they come back doing what they do with "Tell Me Who To Kill" . His bass playing is great on this one and I'm always drawn to it, but the song itself is nothing special, just rehashed rock chords.

"Choking on Your Screams" gets a little closer to classic Motorhead. The hit you with more groove. The lyrics improve, they are a "Orgasmatron' like narrative. The more straight up rock of "When the Sky Comes Looking For You" is a mixed bag. At it's core it's nothing new. They close the album with a cover of "Sympathy for the Devil" . Not sure if this is needed as they play it pretty straight and don't metal it out like these supposed metal gods should . It's not terrible and the classic Motorhead moments balance out the more  color by numbers clock punching, but it's a close margin. I'll give it a 6.5 and doubt I'll need to listen to it again.


The Top 100 albums of the 90s :30 to 21



30 -Darkthrone- "Total Death"

 Sure "Transylvanian Hunger" is a classic album because every black metal black born out of weather under 50 degrees imitates it, but here there are actual songs that go somewhere and not just blast beats and tremolo picked guitar for the sake of blast beats and tremolo picked guitar to drone out to.

 

 29- Madonna -"Erotica"

 Her name is Dita she will be your mistress tonight. Before Fifty Shades of Grey was a sparkle in a vampire's eye, Madonna delved into kink with this album. She even touches on trip hop before it became a thing on this album.


 

 28-Ani Difranco- "Dilate"

 While the darling of lesbians broke hearts when she married a man years later, it doesn't diminish the impact of this album that show feminist folk can rock and still have something to say. "Super-Hero" might be more popular but "Napoleon" is the best song on this one.


 

 27- Pj Harvey- "Rid of Me"

 Here is another reminder that its not about record sales as Polly Jean has sole more records, but doesn't rock as hard on or put the same malicious passion into the song. Her voice is perfect on this album, while she disappointed me going into the 2000s , I am now able to get over that and go back to listen to this again.


 


 26-The Cure- "Wish"

 This is not the Cure's best album by far, but it's their best of the 90s thought "Blood Flowers" is pretty close. It wasn't until he started messing with Korn's producer that Robert Smith started missing the mark and even then it's not that bad.

 

25- Sonic Youth - "Goo"

 Noisy indie rock , before it was called indie rock it was called punk and there is enough punk on this album to justify it , but there is also a mix of sounds that have never been captured again even by Thurston Moore.

 

 24-Ministry- "Psalm 69"

Or How to Succeed and Suck eggs if we are counting straws. Then there is this album that happened to sell well to it's demographic and help break into real industrial music tough this is more of a metal album, I wore it out at the time due to that fact.

 

 23- Emperor-"Anthems to the Welkin At Dusk"

 Yes, these guys beat out Darkthrone, while it helps them that this alum drips with King Diamond influence, its one of the best black metal albums ever made of any decade or metal albums period.

 

 22-Guns N Roses-"Use Your Illusion"

 I am counting this as a single album because did any fool buy one and not the other? There is some pretty awesome stuff on both of these that balances out the Meat Loaf like power ballads that got a little tiresome until Guns And Roses went away, then you found yourself missing even those moments. Hair metal went out on the best note possible with this one.



21-Skinny Puppy - "the Process"

Yes, I had to pick this over both "Last Rights " and "Too Dark Park" , because well the second side of "Last Rights" is just noise to do drugs to and the real songs...awesome as they are really are all in the first act. We can nit pick over "Too Dark Park" which is an amazing album as well is when it came out " the Process" sounded fresh and showed the band branch out and become actually musical.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Grime : "Circle of Molesters"





Straight outta Italy this sludge ridden grind-core band is nasty like Eyehategod smoking meth with Graves At Sea while being run over by a tank. Their screamer sounds like he is on the verge of losing both his mind and his voice. Once again these guys have the benefit of taking you by storm on the first song just out of sheer heaviness and then you are asking can you write songs or just make noise when it's time to hear the rest of the album. It slows down to an almost doom lumber and lower vocals roar in ,but the lack of melody makes me think these guys better pulls out some tricks before long or this is all going to sound the same. There is more of a death metal oppression in the onslaught of "Decay in Hades". It is full chug ahead that is hammered into you skull. The slow some of the punches creating a very effective shift in tempo. The guitar sound is easily as dense as Disma's.

There is a steam roller groove to "Sulphorous Dreams" it shifts momentum while maintaing the same level of venom to its temper tantrum.The accelerate back into a more death metal pace and then rein the chug back in.It's pretty impressive if you just need to keep beating your self in the temples with a hammer when you put you head phones on. "Acclerating Transition" lives up to my prediction and comes across like an extention of the previous song. Sure, the riff is mean , but the rule here is mean riffs alone does not make a good song. With "Salvation Come From Below" it is obvious we have moved onto another song. The fuzz out...I'm guessing bass here , but every thing is tuned so low it is hard to tell. The hit you with same intensity and the screamed vocals at this point all sound the same , kinda like rap where it is just hitting the beat at different times. The lyrics are brutal I am sure but you can not make out a single word even when you listen closely. The lower growls double up toward the end when the double bass picks it up into more of a death metal tempo.

The close out the album with "Orgiastic Rite" which is a new song but more of the same old they have been beating you with for the rest of the album. Granted it's the last song so they have to go out with a bang, but like you learned in the movie "This is Spinal Tap" when you are at ten where else is there to go. The answer is nowhere. So the heaviness that blew your mind on the first song, has numbed you out once we reach the close.They might be at a ten when it comes to heaviness, but I'll give this album a 6.5, you can round it up if all you need is something heavy as fuck.

4.2

Ahab : "The Boats of the Glen Carrig" & "Like Red Foam" Video





Just when I think my hunger for doom is going to be sated ,  a band goes and throws my expectations into the vast ocean of their creative aspirations. Not to say these changes aren't growth  its just different.  The album opens with something more like the kind of 70s prog rock that Opeth once gave ample nods to. The metal comes crashing in at the three minute mark. The production on this album  is very lush. The low growled vocals sound big like 90s Morbid Angel. The crush of  rumbling death metal tinged doom  provides an impressive display of power.The guitar relaxes leading back in to " the Thing that Made Search" and  lingers on with an almost jazz cadence. Slow and moody ,its very progressive   but I am not sure this is doom. It's very progressive. The laze about on this softened cloud until four minutes in when things get heavier. The growl becomes  is even more throat scraping and they continue to churn on the pulse of these mammoth riffs. "Like Red Foam" finds the band coming in to crush with big riffs that have more of a prog metal thing going as they are very angular ,at times the vocals roars is almost sung bringing older Mastodon to mind. A clean proggy croon coasts in over the wave of mathematical chugs.


 You would think a song called "the Weed-men" is something more likely to be found on a Six Feet Under album, but I am guessing it's Monster Manual like mythology at work lyrical. Not that you can understand the sub bass gravel of a growl.Three minutes in things change and is dissolves into clean guitar and the "Islands" era King Crimson croon. It returns to a heavy chug that is ominous rather than relying on dirge like riffage. The structure of this songs seems much looser than the others. The guitar playing still remains one of the band's biggest assets along with the wide range of vocals though here the tao mina one are the almost folkish prog voice and the lower growl. " To Mourn Job " brings us back into the crooning prog voice and delicate guitar. At the three minute mark it comes back into one of the album's heaviest chugs. It not doom, but effective.It sounds more like death metal , but there is such a fine line between slow death metal and doom. It doesn't sound very mournful so I'll go with death metal. They go back into something doomy when the clean vocals make their return. One thing I can say about their use of clean vocals is they do it well because they never follow the excepted formula of good cop/ bad cop. The song purposefully collapses into delicate clean guitar. They edge their way back into the heavy crunch and gurgled growl.


The bonus track is "the Light in the Weed" which feels like it belongs on the album. The almost jazz like phrasing they use is really given spot light in the songs first few minutes. It lingers on a dream like , but jammy passage before the clean vocal come in and are eventually followed by a the accents of a distorted guitar that drives it into a heavier place. They are obviously not where they were for the last album, they could stand to return to a doomier place , but even their second best is better than what most band's can muster and it might just be that this needs to grow on me, but for now I'll give these guys a 9.

 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Top 100 albums of the 90s :40 to 31



Ok here we go, you know the deal. We do not give a fuck about what album sold what or if it was on Mtv or not, we care about what has stood the taste of time. 


40-Only Living Witness -"Innocents"

The best post-hardcore band you never heard. Their singer can actually sing his ass off and their song have hooks and are in your face. Jonah would later lend his voice to a Converge song.Their drummer who also wrote most of their songs died in 2011 which was several years after the band had broken up.




39-  I Mother Earth - "Scenery and Fish"

 This Canadian band was often written off as Jane's Addiction wanna-bes, due to the trippy sonic nature of their music and the singer's high raspy and heavily effected vocals on their first album. Their second was huge step forward in terms of songwriting for the band. The band had a strong cult following, by those in the know.

 

38- Porno For Pyros "s/t"


 Perry Ferrel's post Janes band. Steven Perkins was also on board. The first album had more rock to it. People always think of the song "Pets" which garnered the most radio play, but it was "Cursed Female" that had the most sleaze ridden drug fueled passion to it and that is what we wanted from music out of this decade.



37- Sound Garden -Badmotorfinger

Why is Soundgarden so low you ask? Well this album is arguably better than "Superunkown" which despite a few darker moments was another steps towards a more commercial direction. When I first got this album I threw the tap out of the window because I thought the guitar playing sounded too much like Van Halen. It took it a minute to grow on me.

 


36-Danzig - "Lucifuge"

Yes the first album is better but it came out in the 80s. This one was coated in blues and had a more rock n roll feel to it, despite the fact that all the metal kids ate it up when it was released. Another album that grew on me over time.


  35-Acid Bath-"When the Kite String Pops" These New Orleans sludge legends are one of the few bands who is able to appear on this list twice, because their shit is so good it can not be denied.

34-Ben Folds Five -"Whatever and Ever Amen"


One of the best post -Elton John pianists who can also write a mean pop song. Moody and cynical, the ballads are honestyly emoitve. Ben Folds might not be Freddie Mercury , but he knows how to use his voice.

 

33-Kyuss - "Welcome to Sky Valley"

The band most modern sludge and stoner rock bands owe big time. Pre- Queens of the Stoneage Josh Homme, his fuzzy desert guitar sound was in full effect for this album. The soulful vocals of John Garcia were one of a kind.

 

  32-Tool- "Undertow"

 Now we are well into the albums that you can get endless listens out of. Very tense with sinewy guitar slithering through the labyrinth the bass line weaves under Maynard's sensitive drill Sargent approach. The songs are all very tight and well written but get beaten out by another one of the band's albums."I have found some kind of temporary sanity from this shit , blood and cum on my hands."




31- Depeche Mode - "Violator

 This one hardly needs an explanation and perhaps it should even rank higher. This was my I have been up all night on drugs and now I am watching the sun rise album.

 

Cold Showers : "Matter of Choice"




Five years later and the California band Cold Shower continues to polish their dark dream like sound. Rather follow all the other Joy Division imitators they pull from a wider range of influences. You can hear elements of Jesus and the Mary Chain, the Cure and Echo and the Bunnymen lurking in the shadows. They use synths in a manner that while  they are a prime ingredient and often  prominent in the mix, it never comes across as being over indulgent . This is balanced out with the guitar and vocals in a way enabling them  even in their starkest passages to never push this to the point of becoming  melodramatic club oriented dark wave. There is a more aggressive electronic pulse to "Only Human".   Which carries a groove that propels the song into the slow build it throbs on.Lyrical they explore the frailties of human interaction rather than really moping about. The often dead pan vocal delivery narrates this  in a cold detached perspective.The only similarity I can hear to Joy Division is in the bleak tension that manage to drone on. As the guitar balances out the synths on "Plant Life " it  serves as a prime example of how they are able propel even some of their dance floor oriented moments with a more post-punk intensity, discarding all the flowery drama that Robert Smith would so lovingly bestow upon them. But they are not about the make up and carry  more of  a wearing sunglasses at the back of the smoky club vibe.



"Crowds" carries more of rock tautness that bands like Joy Division excelled at . The vocals give the song more movement that Curtis more narrated delivery. The guitar echoes with a western re-verb. The "heaven can wait" takes them into the 80s with a similar nostalgic flair that War on Drugs employs. There is a lush no wave pulse to "Whatever You Want" that recalls Gary Numan. It becomes unintentional pop with a wink to the 80s. On the song "Cease Fire" they take their stab at a club song , tackles it in a manner like the Cure, where it happens on their own terms. The bass line drives "Undone" as the singer declares that he is never coming down. They close out the album with a "redux" of "Crowds" . This is not just a remake , but an entirely different take on the song as sax simmers out of the dense shadows this one is haunted by. If David Lynch ever needs another song for a seedy bar scene this is the one he should go for.

I get drawn back in with more listens . This album has just the right cynical indifference in its cold attitude to give it a personality that sets them aside from their peers in the post- punk revival and even makes me hesitant to reference them along side of that, since these guys have enough of their own thing going on better fans of anyone from Interpol to Night Sins to War On Drugs can find something to latch onto here.

Tyranny : "Aeons In Tectonic Interment"




It must be the drinking, but the Finnish do not play around when it comes to the extremes and vile rawness of their metal. More renown for death metal and black metal this doom duo is pretty brutal , as they are crawling up from  the dirtier end of Funereal Doom with this guttural piece of filth. Members of Corpse Seed and Profetus  dig up these riffs that are almost more frequencies than notes. It crawls along with depressing hesitancy as doom is supposed to and if you had to unearth the bands influences  Evoken comes to mind , but they are much less focused on melody and dynamics, but have captured an ethereal creepiness.It's grim ridden with vocals that sound like the gurgle of a sewer in hell. This is not to say it's all fuzzed out low tuned grinding guitar thunking around as there are moments of chilling ambiance that drone into the dark as well. Like most albums that go to extremes with the heaviness. The first song blow you away then it up to the band to prove they can write songs as well, seeing that this is their second full-length you would hope they would.  The songs do run a little on the long side, but nothing to excessive. They do lurch back and hang on the crash of the guitar against the drums , before building "A Voice Given Unto Ruin" into anything. Before even the midway point it collapses into Gregorian chanting.  They come back even harder, with a sludged rumble.Sometimes it feels like you are listening more to vibrations than notes beings played.

Since the guitarist also plays in Profetus, there is little wonder as to the  density to their sound.Hellish screams echo out of "Preparation of a Vessel" that pours out of a well of an equally unsettling din of guitar more hellish than half the black metal bands who are trying to hard to be evil.It's a dark dank tomb of mutilation, but it is also so murky that it never feels like a song develops here.There is a more sorrowful cry to the guitars that open "Stygian Enclave". It takes about five and half minute for a distance melody to form and the song to find direction.They balance the grave yard crushing with some howling atmosphere. "Bells of the Black Ballisca" churns at the same pace as the other, not as well formed or musical as the song before it. But very oppressive and if that is all you need from your doom then you have it here in spades. I am always hungry for doom...funereal doom and they come closer to satisfying this need than many bands who claim to be doom and are sludge or death metal. This album goes to the extreme to grind you down with its weight. But some songs are just better than other and without more dynamics the songs bleed together.It is heavy as fuck and if you need your heavy as fuck slow as well then this might be for you. I'll give it a 7.5This album comes out mid september


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Goblin Hovel : "Loveless, Loreless, Lost"




Just stumbled over this odd mixture of folk metal and neo-folk, that often doesn't know where one begins and the other ends. At first the questionable production didn't click but after a while it became part of their charm. The vocals at times are cleanly sung, and very well sung at that. In other places they have more of a croak rasp to their growl with not much power behind them. Similar by a few degrees to Agalloch , but lower and not really death metal. The opening song is more of an instrumental and it's not until the dynamically diverse "The Road Home" kicks in that you can begin to appreciate what they are capable of. Sometimes they take it a little too far like on the blues infused "Straw Bones" which just doesn't gel with the rest of the album.It's not cross roads blues , but reckless gypsy blues. The band claims this album was written during a very dark time and is dedicated to those who are dead or wish they were, and this song seems a little to upbeat for that vibe. At one point the Sigh could  almost be a reference point for some of the stylistic shifts they take on this album.

They go into straight up neo-folk with no metallic aspirations on "With Your Shield". It flows down a very melancholy river in the wilderness. "Famine's Orchard" is dark neo-folk with the male vocals and female vocals switching off. The lyrics are about a ghost who haunts on old mansion. Pretty typical place for a ghost to haunt.The guitar leans more towards a rambling rock oriented strum before the growl comes in. "The Trespasser" which continues the ghost story started in the previous song. The whispered vocals at the beginning really accentuate the Agalloch influence, though its not a present when the song speeds up. They proceed to straight up rock out with acoustic guitars that is much more convincing that what Ancient Wisdom use to do. They keep going with the ghost story on "Garden Haunt" . A man the ghost once loved shows us and makes the ghost sad. This is acted out through the duet of male and female vocals. Guitar wise it's pretty typical folk and the vocals are the song strongest suit.

The fourth song of the ghost story saga "Beauty Still Lives Here" finds the  ghost tortured by having to watch their lover fade and die over and over again. They hit a cool sorrowful drone here using flutes to ease a haunting melody over the strum of guitar. They end the ghost story and the album with "the Fallen House".  It strums along similar ground as many of the previous songs, I would say it focuses more on the folk elements , but this album is more neo-folk than metal, metal is just a faint shading they use. I'll around this one up to an 8.5  it starts strong then once you get mired down into the ghost songs some of them have too similar a cadence, but it might grow on me. It is refreshing to have neo-folk that does not just want to be Death In June.



Wednesday, August 19, 2015

He Whose Ox is Gored : "The Camel, The Lion, the Child"

This Seattle band has been called progressive doom gaze, and it starts off more prog than not. Its instrumental at least in the first song , sounds like there might be some screaming off in the distance , but I also only got four hours of sleep last night. Nope it was screaming because it sounded like the dry Isis-like bellow that occurs in the following song "Omega". I can hear the prog , but not shoe gaze and it's way too up tempo to be doom up to this point.The slow down to a post- hardcore like sludge on "Crusade" real singing comes in. Its the monotone chant that indie minded metal bands like Jesu use , but these are harmonized making them thicker. "Zelatype" does bring a groove out of ambiance but it would really be pushing it to call it shoe-gaze, it reminds me more of a darker version of Minus the Bear. They have a great guitar tone and the album is really well produced. The build up they go into on "Zelatype" works well despite the yelled vocals coming across as just very typical for sludge. The drummer really knows how to get the groove and play around it.

 More slinky atmospheric math-rock slithers out on "Alpha".This album has more metal tendencies than it is an actual metal album.The higher androgynous vocal that comes in is very Circa Survive and at times this band comes across as a more mature and thoughtful version of the prog-minded emo bands that came out in the last days of Myspace. It does get heavier and the gruff yelled vocals return while the effected guitar swirls around it , but it doesn't have a sonic drone to it."Magazina" starts with them yelling like a any one of the Neurosis influenced bands who grew out of the straight up roar. This song is not as finely constructed as the previous ones. It's very dynamic and if you are easilly dazzled by doses of math in your big riffs then this will drop your jaw. "Cairo" is very smooth almost jazz like until the hammer drops and they stomp into the distortion. The synths off set this and keep an air of atmosphere to things . There is a slight minor shift in the guitar that gives a hint of doom to the guitar , but in a manner more like something Mastodon would do rather than someone with an altar to Black Sabbath.

 They close out the album with a brooding piece of ambiance that is darker than the bulk of what this album has had to offer up until this point. The higher more emotive vocals come in for a passage that swells and then they crash out with a roar.Calling this atmospheric sludge prog , might be a better moniker for their genre, though it's more math rock than prog, less Rush tendencies . I will give this a 8.5, it's well done, though I don't see myself getting much mileage out of it.

The Unravelling : Tear a Hole In the Collective"

Drawn into the "Revolt" single they offered up last year, I was more than curious as to how the project would fare on a full length. A few things have changed here as this project continues to progress. Which benefits them as no one wants to hear the same album made twice.vocals in the verses remind me a little more of Killing Joke. The beats on this song have more of an electronic pulse than what we have heard previously from the band, who had a more slight commercial hard rock edge at the fringe that an Tool influence might provide. The vocal layers are well thought and smartly placed. They find a much more industrial pound on "Lucky Me" . They vocals are once again well placed around the swirl of guitar swarming over the programmed patter of the drums. The title carries a throb that is a few shades darker as the vocals form a more militant chant around it. They display the range of dynamics they are capable of by dropping back into a cyber-ballad, with Cure like guitar painting the atmosphere in the foreground.This does build up as even the more subtle moments are trying to repress their anger. "the Fearless Seed" opens with an almost darkwave synth pulsing. The song gradually builds from their. The vocals provide a harmonized plea to change how we treat nature and the world around us through veiled metaphor. The line " human being doing face your ghost" reminds me of a quote from the book "Conversation with God". The social commentary continues and you begin to find yourself becoming more keyed in on the lyrics as the album takes you down its rabbit hole.

"Enough is Enough" has a similar brooding to the previous song, though drums feel more organic feel and the lyrics read like the headlines of Cnn.com, the line "beautiful actress/ famous in hell" caught me. While there is a dense chug to the guitar of "Master Drone" a single released earlier this year, more metallic moments are the exception to the rule, but provide a more intense dynamic to set the other songs against. The song does build into a slinky groove that has a hook to it. In the past some of their work might have come closer to prog rock, here it is clearly more rooted in electronics, but not at the sake of leaving the guitar behind. The effect guitar shimmering behind the beat might bring to mind some of Nine Inch Nails more introspective moments. "Revolt" makes a return here and the new songs sit well against it.


 The album closes out with "We Have No Problems" which starts off as one of the album's heavier songs and then ebbs backs into ambiance with clean delayed out guitar shimmering over the heavier riff which sets back in the background to provide more of a looming vibration, before they build it back up again. This is the first song where the singer takes on a throatier roar, while by metal standards it's far from a death metal growl and might be relatively tame to younger ears, it gets the job done here, much in the same way Killing Joke employs huskier vocals to build things up on their post-80s work.Get a taste of the album below as it is highly recommended to those who like industrial trappings to their progressive hard rock, in the same zip code at times as Stabbing Westward just without the goth like elegance or arena rock chords on the choruses. There is nothing else like this coming out these days so if you were into ' Dredg and A Perfect Circle's darker side or mid-period Nine Inch Nails, where industrial was just one of the genres of rock dipped into rather than pulling of chaotic machinations like Skinny Puppy, then this is well worth your time. 


Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Up From the Underground Skittish : "Two Legs Bad"




Normally when you hear the term folk-rock you assume there is going to be more folk than rock. That is not the case with this band from Minnesota. "Regarding the Wolf"starts the album with a much darker swagger than I expected from this going into it. The female vocals are layered around the baritone vocals that have an almost glammy Marilyn Manson like sass to them. The song is packed with both groove and dynamics. They trade off the mic and their female singer Brianna Tagg takes hold of "Shot in the Dark" where she declares in her powerfully brazen alto that she is is trying not to fuck it all up. They team up on "House Cats" which is like a less manic version of Gogol Bordello. Its up tempo and has an almost klezmer frolic . 'Roots" finds the female lead's vocals taking an almost country twang before the band takes off behind her.



The strum to "Baggage" is the first song that really has any folk trappings, even then his vocals have an almost punk attitude to them.  The chorus is big and bold and brings back the sound of 70s glam. Not really Bowie more of a T-rex thing, not that his vocal has that subtle fey inflection of Marc Bolan it's just grandiose in a vaudevillian manner , but with plenty of soul. The picking becomes more intricate and they take a more introspective almost Radiohead like tone. Though this is much more organic than what Thom Yorke and friends do. The vocal melody has a dreamy laziness to it that hasn't been found on the other songs. Both singers have a wide stylistic range that they adapt to different songs which run the gambit from almost glam rock to more traditional strains of folk. They take a darker vibe almost like something Rasputina would do though it has a more western ramble as the bass line struts underneath it. The chorus to this song makes it one of the albums best songs as the singer puts her voice in all the right places.They go back into the almost psychedelic creep of "I Killed a Spider" . They hit the rock chord with the needed bombast to make the most of their dynamics.

They break things down to almost a Kate Bush ballad on "Meet Your Maker"  which closes out the album. Overall this album was a nice surprise. It has the balls of 70s rock coupled with a sense of adventure and progressive in much of the same way a band like the Decemberists is. Fans of bands ranging from the White Stripes to Rusted Root will find something to get down to on this album. Check out the first single "Shot in the Dark" and keep your eyes peeled to the inner webs for when the album drops.