Friday, October 30, 2015

The Body & Krieg :" the Body & Krieg"

At first I was hesitant on this one because I thought it was a split rather than a collaborative effort  and the only split in my collection I've ever like is Converge's split with Agoraphobic Nosebleed . Even as a collaborative effort I'm more partial to Krieg than the Body, but then it's no secret I like black metal more than sludge. The opener "Bottom of the Bottle , Bottom of the River" lands somewhere between the two with an almost industrial pound that drones more like black metal over the feral vocal howls. The industrial elements do not end with the first song as an electronic beat winds up the darker turn this pairing takes on "Carved Out and Caved In". At around the four minute mark the song breaks down into screaming over white noise when plug gets pulled on the drum machine. It gets built back up into shambling sludge. 'Fracture" sounds like it was recorded through blown out speaker as it's a dirty throb of noise and screaming. More machine like in it's pacing it doesn't feel like industrial due to the chaos erupting at every angle. It ebbs out into cleaner guitar with vocals that sound like the death call of a rooster over it.

The blast into something closer to black metal on "Celebrate Your Shame".  This is similar to the first Corrections House album in that sense that yet again the song takes on a machine like stomp, but is not like Corrections House's second album as it doesn't commit enough to it to become actual industrial. There is a darker more narcotic throb to "Never Worth Your Name". I really like the synth melody in the background, so I try to block out the Eyehategod like vocals that seem to be screaming out of obligation rather than purpose.It begins to slowly build around the two minute mark. At the four minute mark the screaming takes over as the music descends into noise before coming back around. More chaos ensues before the doomy plod of "Gallows" kicks in. Here the noise is used more effectively than in places earlier in the album. Despite the change to the more 808 like beat and the sampled ranting " A Failure Worth Killing Yourself" sounds like an extension of the previous song, aside from the life support bleep in the back ground.

"The Final Nail" has more of a chugging drone to it that falls between their two worlds in a way that is the perfect song to close this sonic altar of madness with. The beat continues to fall on that robotic pound and the layered guitars have a ghost of melody that would not sound out of place on " the Downward Spiral". I am sure this is going to be on the best of the year lists of many a hipster douche pretending to like metal, this is not to take away from from the abrasive power it sometimes packs or the moments when it locks into a crazed darkness and everything falls into place. The vocals annoy me throughout this album, they rarely seem to be going with the flow of the music, so despite some of the nice twisted parts this gets a 7.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Hooded Menace : " Darkness Drips Forth"

2015 won't go down as the year that doom broke big. The doom releases have been sparse. These Finnish Doom merchants come on strong.  This very deathly brand of doom finds their riffs weeping in blood . Speaking of weep most bands would bore you to tears to with a twelve minute opener , but here they keep you in the moment . The tempo picks up from time to time, but doesn't lose the grasp of darkness by going into a stoner rock boogie. There is a really weird break down with the guitar tone changing at the eight minute mark, but the song maintains its momentum. "Elysium of Dripping Death" is a morbid ten minute dirge. The vocals are a low gurgle and the guitars maintain just enough chug to keep you confused as to if this is funereal doom or not. Double bass keeps the song from getting mired down in its own mire of misery. The guitar melodies also add more of  sense of motion while things slowly gather steam. Much like Pallbearer the riffs take on an angular edge. There is some dazzling guitar work that erupts from all the rumble around the seven minute mark here.

There is more technicality to the intro of "Ashen With Solemn Decay" than you might expect from a doom band.Five minutes it I am beginning to zone out to the drone out until the guitar solo comes back in a wakes me up. They end the album with a heavier roar on "Beyond Deserted Flesh". It carries more death metal in it's low tuned chug than the other songs on this album. The guitars are well layered and the song gives the album a much needed punch after zoning me out on the previous song. Five and half minutes in it really builds up after an odd angular break. This touches on almost classic metal as it digs into a timeless gallop. I think metal heads of every ilk would find something to bang their heads to on the last song.

Overall  this album is solid. The long winded songs generally do not drag and keep your attention. These guys have established themselves along side like likes of Evoken and Pallbearer with this one as they have gone above and beyond by putting a great deal of thought into these songs and are not just  satisfied with being heavy, they have accomplished that and a lot more I'll give this album a 9.     

Pinkish Black : "Bottom of the Morning"

Just when you think it's safe to start making your end of the year lists something that I had been waited for so long that it slipped my mind came out. The new one from the Fort Worth synth drone duo, who really defies most genres , but that won't stop me from trying to peg one onto  there dark brand of synth drive post-punk. On their debut for Relapse Records , the vocals are even more prominent coming out from behind the wall of murky effects and over driven synth swirl that dominated previous releases. Due to this the lyrics are more discernible than previous releases. Before you are too quick to compare them to Joy Division they are much more like a darker version of "Obscured by Clouds " era Pink Floyd. I read one review of this album where Mike Patton was brought up and I wonder what album they were listening to.If anything there is sometimes more of a Josh Homme feel to the melodies.  They take on a heavier drive with "Special Dark" that finds their singer dropping down into a more ghoulishly goth croon. It's pretty murky even with the hammering pulse of sounds like a bass, but knowing these guys is more likely over driven synths thickening the low end.

"I'm All Gone " is the most reminiscent of their previous albums with droning groove, the generally balance out retaining their trademark sound while reaching towards new heights, but this is achieved much better on "Burn My Body" that follows. This song is more hypnotic, yet still packs plenty of punch and leaves room for the singer's croon. It spins out into something more proggy around three minutes in taking me back to the previous Pink Floyd comparison. This is also the first song that really hooks me in on this first listen. They returning to the creep of a more driving bottom end sound with "Everything Must Go".  One thing that is different on this is the fact that I never think of this as being heavy as in metal.The vocals take more of a back seat here, not coming in until over a minute and a half into the song. The stay in the background like the ghost of Jim Morrison.

The title track continues the haunting of the Doors, due to the almost jazz like nature of the drumming.The vocals take a back seat in a hushed murmur. The hang on the same groove with the synth melodies bubbling around it. In the final three minutes of the song things get a little more intense as the dynamics build. The chant of "every things the same again" rises. While their Bandcamp lists the cover of "New Dawn Fades"  the did for Cvlt Nation's Joy Division tribute its not on the promo I got so for the purpose of this review the last song is the kraut rock like " the Master is Away". It has a a big industrial strength beat , but not the groove. It instead floats on an opium cloud over the dmt dreamt city of the future. This could be from the Labyrinth soundtrack or really any early 80s sci-fi flick. For an instrumental it's got a nice surreal drugged out drone, but not a song I need on my iPod , so for the songs that will get more of a shot I'll round this up to a 9 and see how it holds up. If you are a fan of their previous work, they have not sold out by a long shot.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Wailin Storms : "One Foot In the Flesh Grave"

Right from the opening croon of Justin Storms this album proves itself to be darker and more melodic than the "Shiver" ep we reviewed earlier this year. When Storms puts more balls into it he of course will draw comparisons to Danzig, who announced he is going to be retiring from touring , so somebody has got to do it. Just in time for Halloween it has enough evil creep in it to accompany the dead leaves and the howl of wind the autumn brings. There is more of a drone to the punk tinged "Ribcage Fireplace" . They push things in an even more punk place when picking up the pace for "Mystery Girl". There is a coat of noise around the songs edges putting them in the zip code of bands like Destruction Unit.

The re-verbed out guitar cries out against the sluggish strum of " Walk" and no, it's not a cover of the Pantera song. It's like a rawer version of what Dax Riggs did in his garage rock days with Dead Boy and the Elephantmen. Their is a very down trodden lyrical sense thrown against the songs explosive energy that is releases in deliberate pulses. They pack  more sonic propulsion to the kick their  brand of cow-punk on "Lost". His vocals break from a croon into more of a punk shout. It breaks down int drums  and feedback almost creating a "Bela Lugosi's Dead" vibe. They grow even more rambunctious on " Light as a Feather Stiff as a Board". On first listen this brawler of a song , brushed past my attention with it's punk intensity.  The vocals are spat back and forth from a croon to more of a punk shout.

They close the album with more of a stomp with "German Fur Tails". The guitar cuts with a sharper metallic jangle. He croons more than shouts on this one leaving the guitar to provide all of the abrasion. While the opening song might make you think this is going to plow the pumpkin patch more than it does , Overall they attack these songs with all the power of punk with some dark and noisy atmosphere shaking the bats from the Bellfry. I'll give it an 8 and see if it is something I find myself returning to. If you have grown out of your Misfits albums and looking for something to move on to then this is worth your time.

If you are in the Athens area they are playing the Caledonia on Thursday.

Ur Draugr -" With Hunger Undying"

Suppose blackened death metal is the most fitting title to bestow upon this Australian band. They are dark and manage to weave atmosphere into the blasting double bass and echoed out screams. The first groove etched into the riff doesn't appear until the beginning of " Seeds Sown In Famine".  They don't hang on it too long before going into a more angular heavier passage, but show enough restraint to build it organically rather than forcing it into place with a blast beat. They wait to turn to speed on " Rise of the Thaumaturge". They lose me a little in the storm of chaos, which is heavy but doesn't make a much sense in terms of the journey this song is supposed to take you on.

They back way off from the heaviness of the previous song when they head into  the acoustic based interlude" Solace Within Torpor", before attacking some more straight ahead chugging metal. These guys do not write sprawling sixteen minutes , but manage to organize their intentions into a more standard song length. "Cult of the Greatwurm" just kind of falls out of the previous song, so they hit a place midway in where the album becomes rather dense. This broken up with some muted chugs here and there. "Lethe Drinker" is an interlude where  the bass lays down the melody and wanders over the dark atmosphere before they throw themselves into the title track that closes out the album.

The title track hangs on an angular chug as a trickle of double bass runs beneath it. The vocals take on a renewed anger to their snarl. For the almost progressive nature of what these guys do there is a surprising lack of clean vocals on this album, but  I think it actually plays to their favor. If they had thrown them in it would have killed the momentum some of these songs had built off the ore agonized roars that howl like the wind rushing through the album. Things like the chug they build  at the midway point of the title track might have stood out a little more but the compromise would ultimately not play to the band's favor. Coming from me  a big proponent of actual singing this says a lot about the sound these guys have made for themselves.  There is no urge to bring up the fact that they sound like another band because you could go digging for their influences, they have put all the piece together to create their own identity. Thats not to say this is the most original album of the year, but they have locked into something that works I'll give it an 8.


Tonight: Rasputina at the Earl in Atlanta

For our readers who live in the Atlanta area it's time to break out the clove cigarettes as Rasputina rolls into the Earl tonight. I can't think of another show this week that will capture the spirit of Halloween as well as Melora and company. You might have gotten a taste of the Transylvanian concubines at Dragoncon this year, but this is going to be  one of their most intimate performances to date. Expect to hear your favorites from their 96 debut “Thanks For the Ether” since Carpella Parvo one of the original cellist from that album is re-joining Mellora Creager. This tour is also going to be the first for the band that will feature piano and beat boxing courtesy of Luis Mojica, taking the place of drums.

They are touring in support of their new album “The Stranger” which came out April of this year. Some of the normally fanciful lyrics are now veiled metaphors for Mellora’s experience of being stalked on the internet, which serves as the cathartic inspiration for the album. While saying “Expect to see it on my top 10 best of list” could best sum up my review of the album, You can read my full review of “ The Stranger” here…
For those of you not as versed in the band and are wanting more of the glimpse perhaps you caught at Dragon-con or are just looking for something to do tonight don’t be fooled by the cellos as they have been known to step on the distortion pedals and crank out covers of Heart and Pink Floyd. Creager was also the cellist for Nirvana’s last tour of Europe. The band has shared the stage with everyone from goth royalty such as Ms. Siouxsie Sioux and Marilyn Manson to Les Claypool and Porno For Pyros. So the cellos will be much louder than you might imagine. Creager was dressing in victorian garb years a decade before steam punk became a thing and songs like Transylvainian Concubine will put you in the mood for the spookiness that follows this weekend. If you are an old goth like me then this is just business as usual like the other 364 days of the year, but if you are looking launch your Hallowed weekend into full ghastly gear then get to the Earl at 8:30 when doors open to get your drink on. Daniel Knox opens and it’s only twenty bucks at the door.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Vision of Disorder : "Razed to the Ground"

Their 96 self titled album was pretty ground breaking it came out a decade before the slew of Myspace bands that would try to play a melodic metal hybrid of post-hardcore. So when the fist song sounds like a B-side from "Far Beyond Driven" it's a little bit of a disappointment. The gain some traction on the second injecting a little more emotional depth to it, but then step back into becoming a Pantera tribute band on "Electric Sky" only redeeming themselves with the more melodic section half way into it. Singer Tim Williams is great at coming up with varied emotional tones to inject into his more sung vocals. They have shed the bulk of the nu-metal leanings they began to head towards on their third album. They mix sounds of Pantera with a some what Acid Bath like dynamic however they are not a dark as Acid Bath. "Craving" has more thought in the lyrics and it is conveyed in the overall performance. By the the time we get to "Cut My Teeth' the clean vocals are beginning to remind me of Failure in places. It pretty much finds them mired down into every metal cliche that has emerged post- grunge era.

"Red on the Walls" finds a darker 90's alternative colliding with the more straight forward hardcore metal. It doesn't really catch my interest until the two minute mark when the vocals take on more of a whine. The launch into a Pantera like groove metal on " Severed Wing"  its pretty much filler not making me feel one way or another. The vocals have more feeling to them on "Nightcrawler" and the guitar riff compliments it. They close out the album with "Amuridca A Culture of Violence" has a few melodic moments that make me take notice , but over all falls flat for me. Maybe you are less demanding when it comes to metal. If so then this album might work better for you. I'll round it down to a 5.5 because I know these guys are capable of doing more than just being a Pantera cover band. But maybe Pantera cover bands are your thing.Candle Light Records releases this November 13th.

Vehemence : "Forward Without Motion"

Looking for some shredding mixed in with your death metal this is a guitar players album for sure. The drummer is no slouch either but the focus in more on the sweep arpeggios. It is pretty melodic in the post- Spiritual Healing or Heartwork way. "Imagining the Loss" is catchier riff wise and while the opening tune is not bad it was what you expect from melodic death metal. Meeting all expectations , but only exceeding them when it came to the guitar solos and songs are not really the vehicles for guitar solos to anyone but the nerds analyzing them.They turn into more of a thrash band on the third song "Murdered By the Earth". There is even a bright power metal like melody to the guitar riff in some parts where it sounds like a death metal singer just happens to be growling over this. The double bass becomes almost obligatory much in the same way blast beats are for black metal bands, despite the cool strummed outro.

It's strange to think most of this band was in Abigail Williams until you get to "Jim the Prophet" which is the first song that baring the echoes of their former band. The vocals take on a more conventional lower death metal growl. The music speeds up rather haphazardly around the steady vocal line midway into the song before the redeeming chug comes in. The solo section gets a little long wind but it is bookended by two cool riffs. To be called "In the Shadows We Dwell" this song isn't very dark as it races along. The vocals pick an interesting pattern to bark along before gang vocals join in. The galloped riff further presses them toward thrash territory.  They get a little caught up in speed for the sake of speed in a few places.

The clean guitar at the beginning of " A Dark Figure in the Distance". The go into the song with a Cynic like progressive sense to the winding song. Even though it's not heavy as most death metal can be, the melodic sensibility of the song is what makes it for me. This song is an ambitious progressive composition as it winds around it self and the solos are tastefully place and quick.  However , I was hoping for something a little more from the build up section rather than just full speed ahead. At three and a half minutes " It's All My Fault" is the polar opposite from the previous song , just fast and too the point. This brings back more the thrash feeling. They do cram a lot the three and half minutes they do have of this song. Effective in its aggression, for a song to be so wonderfully titled as "She Fucks Like She's Alive" the deathly thrash doesn't seem to be as dark as a song with that subject matter needs to be.

There streak of great song titles that are hard to live up to musically continues with "There are So Many Reasons to Give Up on Religion". This one finds the vocals locking in with the riff for some catchier moments. The shuffle through some razor sharp riff but never wield one long enough to get maximum damage done. Similar pacing propels " I Take You Life" which is conventional death metal. The chorus as some punch to it thanks to the vocals. The close out the album with the marginally more melodic " Reconditioning the Flock".  The guitars slow down on the chorus to give the song room to breath over the stream of double bass. As this one progresses it becomes impressively melodic and not in the cheesy Dark Tranquility way. I'll give this one an 8, it's hard to take a more conventional approach to death metal and make it interesting and these guys make it listenable more often than not, topped out with outstanding shred guitar.

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Black Heart Rebellion: "People, when you see the smoke, do not think it is the fields they’re burning"

Well that has to be the most obnoxious album title of the year, song titles aside  the bar is raised pretty for for these guys as " Har Nevo" was impressive as hell. The vocals are more refined and the intensity the hit the opening song with has a more muscle to it . The guitar back off and shimmer around everything. Similar in the sonic sphere they dominate to Wovenhand, the land of this is as heavy as you can get without becoming metal. Things drop back and get darker  on "Flower Bone Ornaments" as synths become more dominate and the drugs begin to kick with a 60s like psychedelia. The vocals have grown by leaps and bounds this time around. "Om Benza Satto Hung" starts with droning noise. Taking cues from Swans there is some vocal rambling but the entire thing is more of a noise ridden interlude rather than an actual song. At over seven minutes it's a little excessive.

The vocals that come in at the beginning of "Bow and Silk Arrow" made me think iTunes switched over to Christian Death. They do use rather exotic eastern chord progression not unlike some of the post- "Only Theater of Pain" stuff. These melodies dance like serpents around the tribal pound of drums to create a ritualistic space. The song "Near to Fire for Bricks" finds the band returning to  the chain gang stomp they visited on the last album. Female vocals grace this one giving the melody more dynamic depth and a touch of something bittersweet. The drift into beautiful darkness continues on "Dorsem". The vocals have more of a Nick Cave like urgency to their narrative, building into a desperate prayer but never finding release.

They tend to stay in a similar sonic place on this album. There is a greater intensity to "Rust" than many of the previous songs. It goes manage to get even dark here as the song finds itself in a vibrating of churning strings. "Violent Love" starts off from a similar place in the shadows as "Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun". The vocals are a more dominate element here than they were for Floyd's darker early days. The female vocals return and wail around the more dirge march the song carries. I'll round this one up to a 9.5, for now and see how it sits on me. It deserves a curve due to the improvements as far as the vocals go, but I am reluctant to proclaim its perfection as many of the songs sound the same, so it could drop to a 9.

Puscifer : " Money Shot"

Tool used to be one of my favorite bands. A Perfect Circle was up there as well. Puscifer seemed like Maynard's stab at doing his own Massive Attack , but heavy on the jokes. The first album he mainly used his lower range and further separated himself from being the voice of Tool.  First off the album sounds great but sounds best through head phones. More focused on songs and less focused on jokes , with more of an emphasis placed on songs. Closely harmonized with female voices it sounds like this could have been written for a Perfect Circle album that never happened. Former Ministry bassist Paul Barker lays down a groove to "Agostina" is slinky and dark setting the perfect ground work for Keenan to croon over. I don't think Keenan's pipes are going to be in question, he brings the vocals up into a mellower mid-range tenor. "Grand Canyon" is pretty transcendent , but it not as dark as the previous songs so it takes a little to get use to it.

 "Simultaneous" opens with a sampled narrative. Its a less organic composition relying on the synths. Its until four minutes in that vocals comes before the over driven bass line and it turns into a real song. Title track whose video is featured below has a more 90s rock like beat to it. It's not metal or anything like Tool, in fact it's closer to something Tomahawk might do. There is some electronic weirdness that collides with it before going into the second verse. There is more atmosphere to "the Arsonist" that comes close to being a ballad. Lyrically this might be one of the better songs, the line "Your social skills resemble arson". It does build at the chorus and the synths get hard with the bass in manner that Perfect Circle might have been more eager to stomp on the distortion for. The despite the driving drums there is a kraut rock feel to the intro of "the Remedy" before dropping down to an ode to unruly house guests. Things get a shade darker with "Smoke and Mirrors". But this is not the albums most interesting song. In a similar dynamic range somewhere between the Cure and darker electronic the vocal work on "the Life of Brian" works much better.

 Dynamically "Autumn" takes a few cues from the "13th Step" album. Things have found a better balance here. We will see how this one stands the test of time, Puscifer has generally not last long in my iPod as much like his other projects is in a middle ground that I don't normally dwell on. It's either heavy or ethereal and surreal. I think since this is not a rock album that makes "Money Shot" relevant in a way I am afraid the next Tool album won't be if it ever sees the light of day. I'll round it up to a 9.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Jess & the Ancient Ones :" Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes"

Wasn't really blown away by this band when they opened for King Diamond last year. It's too bad this one is not coming out until December as the opening song is good for this time of year as it's titled "Samhain" and it rocks a little harder than what I remember coming from this band live. The Grace Slick worship is not as over wrought here and she has more of her own thing going on. The chorus is strong and they are impressing me much more right out of the gate. The second song finds the band with a more garage rock production and the psychedelics pushed to the back ground. Not to say it doesn't take on  an almost Jethro Tull groove. The song gets as stomp to it , but I am not sure either song is metal up to this point and they are not as dark as the Devils Blood, nor do they rock as hard.

The momentum slows but not the tempo on " In Levitating Secret Dreams" . It is just not as tightly written.Its just more cluttered with the vocals wailing , but not as hooky.  There is more of a classic rock feel to the wah heavy blues slathered guitar on " the Equinox Death Trip" that finds the band more or less back on track. "the Wolves Inside My Head". opens up with a Charles Manson sample. They song is up beat freak out boogie. There are tinges of surf rock in the guitar.  The theme of this album seems to be drugs, which is always fun subject matter. They back off for a darker touch of psychedelics on " Crossroad Lightning". But while they capture some interesting sounds, the song doesn't feel like it is as focused as some of the others. At least until the midway point, then things begin to come together. They jam the last three minutes out.

For these guys to be a so called occult rock group the occult is toned down until the tarot references on " the Lovers" . Up tempo and unfocused. It races along but where to ? The song is only three minutes so the don't have to cover much ground. "Goetia of Love" is an odd title since goetic magick is primarily the invocation of demons, I suppose you could invoke angels, but they are pretty asexual. There is a Concrete Blonde vibe to this song mixed with a little Doors. They  close out the album with the ambitious 22 minute "Goodbye Virgin Grounds Forever". It simmers to life with a very slinky blues swagger. Then the flute breaks things down into a more proggy free form jazz thing and congeals back into a bluesy verse. It weaves from an almost Greatful Dead jazz-space jam to a Diamanda Galas like spoken word section to more of a Big Brother and the Holding Company like shuffle. If goes more transcendental with a chanted chorus that spins around the song's title. I'll round this up to an 8 it might grow on me further, if you are a fan of the band this is a step into a more ambitious place for them.

Panopticon : "Autumn Eternal"

This one man black metal band's new album opens with an acoustic Appalachian piece before the metal swells up in the form of "Into the North Woods" which is not color by numbers black metal, really thoughtful drumming moves the song in a way that blast beats couldn't showing showing what black metal can be if you are brave and talented enough to step away from conventions. Sure you might argue this is closer of the more post- rock influenced brand that bands like Deafheaven made popular and you would not be wrong but it works here.Its crazy to think Lunn is up in Kentucky doing this. He does bring in a violinist, cellist and Finntroll vocalist  to help out in a few places. The more conventional blast beats to come in the title track. Lunn's vocals have improved he goes into a lower gurgle on a few spots. The title track doesn't blow me away like the first metal on here does, but it's still better than most of the black metal that has come out this year. The bass work compliments the drums well on the break down section, giving the build up the added intensity as intended.

On "Oaks Ablaze" the drums are an even more impressive pummeling machine. The galloping groove doesn't find its hooves until a minute in. The vocals give weight to my theory that often harsh vocals in metal serve as s layer of white noise to give the music just a human touch. Midway into the song it breaks down into the somewhat folk metal cliche of the sound of crunching leaves being walked on. The drums begin a tribal around around this before it builds back up.The sound effects continue on with " Sleep to the Sound of the Waves Crashing" it opens as a blast fest, which for what  we know Lunn is capable of would be a cop out if it ended there. Three minutes in it begins to grow more melodic. If you read my review here on a regular basis you might notice I am always scrutinizing bands for melody and dynamic. I know this is a vulgar habit of mine, but since we are talking about music those to things are essential and what seperates it from being noise. The song goes into a Philip Glass like classical section that has a mourning quality to it. The song blasts back with a rapid fire yet melodic section.

The sweeping Deafheaven like feel returns to " Pale Ghosts". In fact the blast beats only further lean the sound into that direction. It is not the albums most original moment by any stretch of the imagination. I am surprised more of the Appalachian sounds haven't re surfaced. One of the album's longest songs is the slower but more driving "A Superior Lament" . The guitar work manages to keep up with the drumming and the vocals drop into the lower growl to create an overall more unique sound than the previous song mustered. The guitar harmonies are almost Iron Maiden like. Lunn is becoming more of a drummer than a guitar player , but the guitar parts aren't shabby. Its just clear where the albums strengths lie.

The album closes with " Wind's Farewell" which gets its start as more of a post-rock thing. The guitar tone on this one is great backing off from the standard metal crunch. Four minutes in the blast beats return but in a very organic manner. I typically don't like instrumentals , but the guitar here really sings to make up for it. This is one of Lunn's better offerings he keeps getting better. If you are a fan round it up a point from the 8.5 I think this album is worth.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Powermad : " Infinite"

One of my favorite thrash bands was not in the big 4 and aside from a slight appearance in "Wild at Heart" got little recognition in their hey day. I'm going into excepting the fact it's not going to be "Absolute Power". Coming out of the gate on this they prove they can still play fast, but playing fast was not their strength even back in the day it was their song writing . They wrote songs that show case Joel Dubay's voice well without being too power-metal. Its not until after the barked verses that he sounds like he did back in the day. He screams his highs a little more and the band seems focused on being heavier rather than better. He finally sings more on "Forest" which despite keeping a similar pace it slows down enough to connect melodically. They get even faster on "My Day of Demons" touch on a few cool chugs thrown in along the way if you don't miss them in the blur. He reaches for the heavens with a metal yodel at the end of the first verse and pretty much still has it. Which makes me wonder why is he not actually singing more? You guys can play blast beats now? Great so can hundreds of other bands.

He sings a little more on " Souls Descending", though some of the screams are a little more choke here. Another song that is a blur of speed until the chorus, and the the bass gets weird and proggy. At first I think "Wow, The drummer has really become more of a monster than he already ready was, but to the point of where I am not sure if it is really serving the songs." But then I realize it's Soilwork's drummer on board for this one. Its like of guys catch me if you can. "I Am Infinite" opens with a wall of double bass. The vocals are more upfront.  But at the point the speed of their speed metal is like their feet are going too fast for the body as they race down a hill. The falsetto screams are back, but it's his more mid range chest voice that I wanted to hear more of  and not just randomly shouting. The stumble over a groove here and there. But when you remember when every song was the best of both worlds trashing yet still melodic I am undecided if this is going to cut it, though more moments crop up as this song progresses.

Ok, I'm going to stop here and let you hear how high the bar is raised here When now you might understand why I might feel like "Hypocrite" feels rushed and the peircing notes are not placed in the song to create as dynamic of an effect. They slow down for "An Imperfect Day to Die" . This is a step in the right direction.It brings a better balance. I do think its interesting how putting out an album in a post- Pantera world has changed some of their tones to keep up with the times. They take on more of an Anthrax feel for " The World Is Turning Without You". The snare takes on the really straight ahead almost punk patter. The vocals are more stacatto than they are sung. They make up for this on the chorus. It is one of the album's better choruses. They hit more of a Meshuggah sound , but Dubay belts is out better than he has for most of the album. On one of the high notes around the three minute mark , he goes for it with knowing where the note will end up. So perhaps aside from the "Souls Descending " single four years ago he hasn't done much since 1989.Its a use it or lose scenario. But he pulls it off more often than not here. The songs have too similar for me just to accept the fact its heavier, but they are still a great band so I'm kinda split on this one I'll give it a 7.5.


Friday, October 16, 2015

God Module : "Prophecy"

Dark ebm with distorted vocal that typify the post-90s industrial. There is plenty of Skinny Puppy influence , but their moments most suited for the dance floor. Its aggressive without being heavy as metal. Production wise everything is on point. The vocals sit where they need to and the beats are dirtied up enough to not sound poppy. Dancing does seem to be their purgatory on 'Second Coming" that follows.  The vocals begin to come across more like a coarse whisper on this song. Much like death metal they are just a static layer adding rhythmic emphasis rather than melody. Despite the disco hi-hat the beat has a harder punch to it on "Secrets". It might just be the way they interact with the music but the vocals have a little more of a slither to them.  A dark anthem for goth clubs in the wee hours before last call.

"Endless" feels a few degrees darker . The vocals come more to the fore front and the effects change up a little to make the lyrics less garbled. Their is a little more glitch to the otherwise straight forward pulse of "Abduction" which finds the probing to be a rather up beat affair, with a lighter synth melody ringing out  to the children  singing we don't exist. There is a little more elegance and dramatics to the beginning of "We Are Legend" that reminds me a little of a slower version of  "Just Can't Get Enough" by Depeche Mode. The vocals don't come in til a minute and a half in. There is a slight hook to the synths.

The pace picks up with "Deceit" racing along with a less slinking groove. This feels much more like dark wave , just without the pretension. It is not the most original song on the album. What you see is what you get when it comes to their songwriting they ride the one beat out for the majority of the song adding and taking layers to build the chorus when it comes. Their is a more militant feeling to "Red Ribbons" which over all is one of the albums darker songs. Its the synth melody that changes to form the chorus as the beat drones on. The close out the album with "Transform".  This song gets off to a more pulsing start with some harsher layers of distortion coating some of the synths. They sound like guitars , but I am pretty sure that is just the effect they are going for. I'll give this album an 8 its pretty solid dark dance music with an aggressive undertone, but the wheel for this kind of thing has not been reinvented here.

Eye of Nix : "Moros"

Had a feeling there would be a few more albums to take into consideration before I started making my end of the year list. It opens like a more post-version of Dead Can Dance. Lead singer Joy Von Spain lets it all out when goes into a more operatic soprano as things get blasty beneath her. Male growls come in as they shift to a crustier pace. While Mykur gave us similar dynamics earlier this year, each end of the dynamic range here is pushed a little further. "We Perish" begins to answer the question of what do they have to offer once the initial shock of the first song begins to wear off and the only formula evident so far is the use of the loud to soft build which is done here in an almost Neurosis like manner. When Joy feels like it she proves she can let go of some of the pure tone and control and go into more of a punk place.If you hear the word noise thrown around in relation to these kids don't let it scare you as they throw some abrasive samples in from time to time, but otherwise focus on the music.

The guitar assumes more of an indie rock jangle on " Veil" while Joy croons around it in an angular fashion. There are some stompy moments that reminds me of early Kylesa when they were rougher around the edges. This is what you might have wanted Jarboe's collaboration with Neurosis to sound like. They hit a nice slow-core like drift in the middle of "Veil".  The Swans influence is really prominent on the bright but burgeoning beat to "Turn to Ash". Fine with me because if Gira wants to turn them into a jam band, I gotta have something to hold me over until he breaks down and gets back with Jarboe...and not just for fleeting background vocals. Eye of Nix is wildly dynamic. Knowing just when to ebb and flow and never bringing those crash landings in the places you expect them.  Their dynamic range extends into the emotional current of what they do as well. She is not afraid to shred her vocals chords a little with some screams on the more upbeat "Shroud". It is one of the first songs that plays by the more typical metal rules until going back into the more slow -core closing section. They drop down to minimal instrumentation and Von Spain chanting around the hush chords. There is more chaos the build to this one, not unlike some of Swans' freak out moments but it congeals into something with more metal in its command.

Though the final two songs are listed as bonus tracks they are going to be counted as being on the album for the sake of this review. Since this album was originally released in the Spring , and now being re-leased with these songs added. There is a more sultry swagger to "Blood In the Fire" that has that dark alleys of New Orleans feel to it. It goes into a more nightmarish and agonized chaos as the song grows more  haunted . "Rome Burned" goes back into the blast beats.  The guitar lag behind them and samples accents the places where they let it breathe. The beat takes on more of a proto-metal swing and there is a rock feel before they blast off again. I have no problem rounding this one up to a 10 as they touch upon every thing I like in music.

Swallow the Sun : "Songs From the North I, II & IIi"

In today's iPod shuffling and add culture, a double album is ambitious, and even becoming obscure as more artists are reluctant to invest in more than an ep with today's diminishing record sales.Swallow the Sun is taking a step in an even bolder direction by putting out a triple album. It takes a couple minutes for the nine minute opener to take off. They blend clean and harsh vocals. The clean vocals as layered and harmonized. Followed by an even more elaborately composed "Ten Sliver Bullets". In the last minute they find a chug that gives me a little head nod, but this is really elaborate and takes a few listens to be fully consumed. They have the kinda chug that Katatonia used once they crossed over into more of a mainstream metal sound on the intro to "Rooms and Shadows" . They find a doomier yet Enslaved like balance between the vocal exchange. The vocals are almost to precise giving them an almost power metal or prog quality. I am also not sure these guys are funereal doom either. Things are a little too upbeat. The keys work their way around the guitar lines well it never feels like they are stepping on each others toes.

One "Heart Strings Shattered" weave together a pretty lush melody that flows really well, though is not much harder than Katatonia or My Dying Bride. A female voice comes in mid way into the song and is a good effect. When the vocals shift into more of a death metal growl they are much heavier than the music they roar over. "Silhouettes" has more drive to it and the growl is the dominant force. There is some interesting layers of guitar employed , but much like the bulk of this album there is a lot being thrown at you in this symphony of gloom. "Memory of Light" gives a broad swathes of atmosphere and melody to things, with the clean vocals taking center stage. "Lost and Catatonic" has a more sweeping symphonic feel at the onset, dropping down into a more looming stacatto before the smooth chorus. The death metal vocals return making the music a more haunting backdrop than what you would typically hear that paired up with. There is enough melancholy in the chord progression to "From Happiness to Dusk" to be convincing. The vocals are more subdued and Pink Floyd like with some beautiful guitar work coming in behind them.

The Second album opens with the dark piano chords of the intro piece called "Womb of Winter". "Heart of a White Cold Land" is a more subdued ballad that still carries the hints of Pink Floyd that remind me of Tiamat's 'Wild Honey" album with it's chilly glaze of psychedelia. Once the clean guitar tones of "Away" echo in that I resign myself to the fact that this album is going to be more of an Anathema like thing. The clean vocals are much more honest here not taking on the kinda of prog metal pageantry they hinted at on the album before. Sure you can draw comparisons to Opeth's "Damnation" album or Katatonia's acoustic re-imaginings of their own work, but there is a deeper sonic emoting going on. If you were to say this disc is just the band going acoustic it would be overly simplifying things as the first song that really has the more organic sound is "Pray For the Winds to Come". There is a similar acoustic feel to the title track which finds female vocals joining in a call and response. This gives it an almost Gathering like feel. While the instrumental that follows it well played it feels like an extension of the previous song that is just being jammed out in a more languid direction. Things darken for "Autumn Fire". It is more of a power ballad in the direction of someone like Katatonia or A Perfect Circle. Things spiral out into a more proggy place that Porcupine Tree would be proud to find themselves in on "Before the Summer Dies".

Put the bong away by the time you get to the third disc because things get heavier than even the first. Midway into this 13 minute monster they even hit a guttural Morbid Angel like style of death metal. While coming closer to funereal doom "7 Hours Late" drips out of the previous song and really doesn't distinguish itself until the more ambient middle section that it swells out of . There is more melo-death movement to "Empires of Loneliness" that features a grim spoken word narrative. Here things begin to get a little murky. Its another song that clocks in at over ten minutes after having already digested two albums of down trodden proggy metal. A more oppressive doom crunches down on "Abandoned By Light" to actually touch on funereal doom. The vocals take on a higher black metal rasp, which is not surprising as their singer has had a one -man black metal side project going for sometime.

It all comes to a close with " the Clouds Prepare For Battle" which plods along a similar deathly doom path until it drifts off into Gregorian chants at the mid way point.  They don't linger on this for too long before throwing themselves into a more blackened doom. These albums take commitment to make it through all three. If you are a fan then you will eat up every ounce of melancholy extravagance. I'll give it an 8 as some of the songs drew me in .  Perhaps a triple album with 12 minute songs is a little much and much like "Use Your Illusion" could have been condensed into one killer album.

Born of Osiris : "Soul Sphere"

I don't remember these guys being as djenty back when I heard them back in 2009. But they are pegged as death core , so genre labels really overlap here and might give you a head ache if you try to figure out where one begins and the other ends.  The production is bigger and symphonic overtones collide with their slamming fist full of technical chugs in your face.The vocals are not just as straight up death metal as they used to be either. "Throw Me In the Jungle" is more hook oriented. The chorus yell of of the songs title is more sung than not.  They find a more death metal place on "Free Fall" lending itself to their more showy guitar antics. The lyrics are much more touchy feely than you would think the growl would be conveying saying how they lost their self again lost in the free fall, in the heat of moment" which I could hear Taylor Swift singing. The lyrics to "Bad Blood" might be meaner. The further I go into this album the more evident it is that the production here  is immaculate . Every thing sits in a proper place allowing for all the colliding elements to come through.  The clean vocals come in a little more predictably on "Illuminate". This is one of their more accessible moments.

The djent bounce back with buoyant riff to " The Sleeping and the Dead".  Synths come twinkling in to provide more atmosphere to the almost new metal groove that forms. These guys are good guitar players, perhaps even outclassing the Faceless in this category. They shred where Meshuggah relies on shifting tempos.  At four minutes "Tidebinder" gets to the point quick. The string synths  heavily drape the first verse before they lock into their brand of groove. They cram a lot into these four minutes. They strings offset the often over macho stomp of the riffs. If you are into guitar solos then there is a pretty impressive one in the songs final minute. Another shred fest occurs on " Resilience". They lock in create both robotic stomp and melody. Here the more progged out side of djent rears its head. Things get a little scattered compositionally on "Goddess of Dawn" as the guitars go for more wanking than what works best for this band. Midway they lock back into a slamming riff before going into something that sounds like it could be on a Nightwish album. Some of this flashy guitar is impressive , but with anything its about balance.

"The Louder the Sound, the More We all Believe" starts off sounding like the theme song to an anime movie. They do a better job of blending their prog tendencies with an almost Slipknot like bounce on "Warlords" .  The clean vocals bring the hook with more of a fluid motion and the shredding , well it remains intact for better or for worse. By the time I get to "River of Time" I think I've had my fill of this album, not that they are not good at what they are going, it is just not working with the lingering remains of yesterdays head ache and all the songs are beginning to sound the same, like they are interchangeable parts of one formula. They close out with a song that blends their prog aspirations with the death djent they have been churning out in their heavier moments complete with breakdowns. So it boils down to melodic tech death that takes a dancey turn.  Overall they know what they are doing and I admire their adventurous spirit and can appreciate their ability to really burn up a fret board, but its not something that I would really listen to, so I'll give it a 7.5 , round it up if you are a fan of the band.

Naught : " s/t'

Here we are in the dog days of fall, the year is winding down and I find myself listening to anything I can to make sure there is nothing I have missed out on. So I am checking out the gloom metal of Naught a band from Phoenix who on first listen sounds like they should be from Finland, but the wall of Sunno))) amps generating the fuzzed out distortion is too warm not to have come from the desert. The vocals are very interesting a weird mix of whispered shrieks so far behind the guitar its hard to heard what is really going on, but this adds to the mystique.They drone on a little too long in this twelve minute song, but on first listen it works. They churn with more momentum on the second real song "Firmament Alight"  they finds the rumbling in a more sludge like manner and blood curdling rant of the vocals coming out from behind the veil of distortion to show they might not be all that unique when coming out of the shadows to be heard in the light of day.

This album ends with the thirteen minute "Oblation" that finds the guitar injecting a little more feeling into the guitar melody that rises up out of the murky crunch that comes down like a slow hammer thanks to the lethargic drums. They pick up the pace to shuffling lumber almost eight minutes in.They have a powerful sound, though I found the first song more compelling when the vocals were more of a mystery and gave more of an atmosphere rather than just sounding like a depressed version of Eyehategod. They are good at what they do and I have an appreciation for this thus I'll give this one a 7, but the two other songs fall more in line with sounds I have already heard and I think this band came out of the gate showing me they could be more than just another dark and dirty sludge band.   This album comes out today on "Battlefield Records" . The band will have a limited number of 100 cds and  50 cassettes available at their performance at the Southwest Terror Festival where they play with Graves At Sea and Bongripper. So run to their merch both as soon as the lights come on if this is your sort of thing.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

New Years Day : " Malevolence"

The opening riff is very nu-metal, but the the atmosphere makes this come across a little more like Lacuna Coil, though singer Ashley Costello, who has graced Revolver's Hottest Chicks in Metal issue has a more commercial and less metal feel to her voice. The guitar takes a more sonic tone in the bridge. Right from the first song it is clear they are good at what they do, it is going to take the rest of the album for me to decide if I like what they do. Granted this is more radio friendly than what I normally listen to. I know they have toured with industrial bands before so I thought they might be more gothy than this. They hit a less interesting middle of the road that would appeal more to people who like Sick Puppies than me.

The melody to "Alone" is smoother. Its somewhat typical hard-rock, but the vocal melody propels the song. There is almost more of a Myspace emo manner to how they attack the choruses on songs like "Left Inside" which does have some interesting darker bridges , but they are brief and the attempts at 2000's arena rock are more dominate. This is the first song where Costello takes on a more screamed vocal tone. She has more urgent hooks on " Relentless" but there is also more of a Trapt thing going on musically. They find more of a rock groove on "Save Myself From Me". It is not as explosive as some of the songs. They do much better when they back off at the beginning of "Suffer" to give a wider dynamic range to the song. This song also feels like it gives Costello more room to open up and sing.

Lyrically its the typical pre-packaged angst there are a few lines like "compare each other's scars and see who had it worse" that stand out. Of course they have to go for a bigger sound on "Anthem for the Unwanted". The very straight forward drumming feels like it is rushing the song a little. The chorus works for what they are doing. "Scream" has a poppier sound with a slight hint of electronics at the beginning , which is a sound I think they should delve deeper into. Then they get back to more post-Korn radio rock on "Your Voice". I will say they are darker than bands like Halestorm. It doesn't open any new doors for them. The electronica returns to the fringes of "Defame Me". Its  catchy radio friendly rock song with a strong hook at the chorus, so mission is accomplished. The title track which is featured below starts off as one of their heavier moments, then transitions into a groove that is more suitable for her voice. Their formula stays intact and it works here.

I am not these guys target audience aside from the fact I can appreciate goth chicks trying to rock out. These kids are a well oiled machine and have a tightly coiled formula intact, I just heard moments that suggested paths to a more unique sound which would take them off the path to being a big radio rock band into something darker and more interesting. For what this is I'll give it a 6.5.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Clouds Taste Satanic : "Your Doom Has Come"

The Brooklyn based instrumental doomsters released this album last month. I'll be the first to admit instrumental music is not really my thing, so you really have to impress me in order to pull it out. They start off with powerful if no run of the mill doom riffs which they layer with guitar melodies that sit where vocals might be. Into the second song the challenge for the band is to break our rule cool riffs alone do not make a good song, when that is their stock and trade. "Beast From the Sea" feels like it has more punch and they make use of some more exotic scales. Riff wise there more of a Celtic Frost grit to "Out of the Abyss" . It breaks into a chug that would be more impressive with vocals over it rather than doing the job of making me forget their should be vocals here , which is the duty of any instrumental band.  It instead comes across like really long intros.

When it comes to being a riff machine these guys do have some good ones. They are not limited to rumbling around either. When the bass emerges from out of the abyss, its tone is not really living up to where the guitar is at. They pound ahead with the bull dozing "Dark Army" . They close out the album with another pounding barrage of stoner heaviness.I think this album comes closer to being stoner metal than doom as it doesn't have the mournful introspection of doom and is balls to the wall after a few bong rips i'm sure. I will give this one a six. If you like instrumental stoner metal then go ahead and round it up to a 7, but it's nothing we haven't heard before , but it is by and large well done.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Coheed & Cambria : "The Color Before the Sun"

Coheed and Cambria used to be an emo-tinged metal band who gradually grew into something that when Satellite radio at the gym played some of their albums from the last decade I would often find myself confused trying to figure out if it was  them or Paramore. This is their first album that is not a concept album and the song it opens with is far from manning their battle stations. They get a little harder on "Eraser". While prog has been an element of what they do, despite the band telling the blatant lie that they never listened Rush, the title track finds them playing a much more pop drenched version of this with the Paramore comparisons bubbling under. Though I am not sure despite all their miss givings that Paramore would sound like such pussies on their chorus. It does goes into a darker groove in the songs third act.

The pace picks up more of a Police level on "Here to Mars", yeah the band hasn't given up on the sci-fi metaphors. Then the balladry begins with "Ghost". "Atlas" rocks back more than most of the album. It sounds more like them so that is an improvement. More up beat than a ballad , it might not be metal , but "Boring Cute Love" is very well written and shakes of the ghost of Myspace metal. Then comes "You Got Spirit Kid" which seems like a deflated version of what they use to do when it comes to pop punk tinged middle of the road rock. Then they redeem themselves with the proggy groove of "the Audience" which has some thought put into its composition. The albums comes to an end with the sweeping power ballad "Peace to the Mountain" that is more fluff than cotton candy.

Overall their more Iron Maiden like leanings and 2112 overtones are dialed back to the point of being non-existent, but the band has always had two side one that appeals to fans of Taking Back Sunday and then the other more metal one. The more emo side is even slicked down with a poppy sheen. The album has its share of moments and hard core fans of the band will more than likely adjust to the change better than I would got stuck on the first three. I'll give it a 6.5.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Otargos : " Xeno Kaos"

This band raised the bar so high for themselves with their "No God, No Satan' that proved to be one of the most vicious pieces of black metal ever so "Apex Terror " was a little bit of a disappointment. They are coming back harder with this one. Normally I prefer hearing people who can actually play , but I got a little scared by the dramatic Dark Tranquility like opening, but the come back with more brutality. By the second song I'm accepting this is not going to be as mean as "no God, No Satan" which would go in my top fifty black metal albums of all time list...which since it's October is totally do able, but it is for for what it is.One of the reasons this will not be "No God, No Satan" Dagoth the singer/ guitarist is the only memeber of the band who played on that album with the guitarist from nightcreepers making his debut here. The guitar solos are cool an angular and vocals plenty angry enough. "Chariots ov the Godz" find them beginning to get back into the more feral craze that infected the classic era. They slow down into a more melodic part killing the momentum, but it's dark so it works for me. As my rule for black metal is be possessed by chaos unless you can be possessed by darknes then be possessed by darkness.

 "Dark Mechanus" might not start off as black metal but its heavy and goes into a more Dimmu like double bass section, which is heavy as hell, but in a different way and a little closer to conventional metal. It stays in this syncopated groove, which might not be cvlt but sounds good. I think some of the sting was taken out by the fact their was an album in-between to help me readjust my expectations. Some times in hindsight you can be thankful for those albums that let you down. There a more Behemoth thing going on with " Phase Shifters" which is more like the stuff from "Apex Terror". The title gets a a few degrees heavier with some guitar dazzle to coat it. They are a machine and a very smooth on at that so I think the rough around the edges quality to " No God , No Satan" gave it the extra abrasion, might have been a production choice, but some of it is in the precision of their playing. There is more groove to the riff that punches "Realm of the Dead" forward. If you are going to do groove metal then this is the way to go about it.There is a weird break that sounds like the mumbles of a possessed robot that is so weird it works.

 The close they album with a crazed blast beaten rage. The riff turns towards thrash slightly but focuses on full blast ahead. So fast it is like punk in the sense it is short and to the point. Almost feels a little obligatory to prove they can play that fast. While it's not the best album they have done it is moving in the right direction and a vast improvement from the last album so I'll give this one an 8.

Entwine : "Chaotic Nation"

I seem to remember this Finnish band being more goth, Now they are more middle of the road radio metal, but still harder than say H.I.M. The singer's has a husky rasp to it , but he is singing for sure. He even takes on a higher more commercial tone by the third song where, synths take over like an Adam Lambert song. I like some of the sounds on "Fortune Falls" but overall it is too poppy and not even as brooding as 30 Seconds to Mars. It was that point that I had to find the resolve to tell myself I was going to press all the way through this album even though it is not my thing. They collide a more H.I.M sound with Nightwish on "Plastic World".  I suppose what doesn't work for it is how it should be dark but it is not. There are a few darker flourishes of keys here and there , but not enough to off set the brighter pop tones.

Then in a collision of influences they mix Placebo with Muse , which on paper sounds like it could work better than the end result. 'Lost But Still Alive" has a more Alice In Chains like riff in the  verse before going for a poppier more synth laden chorus . The melody he is singing during the verse is not so bad it reminds me a little of Skid Row. They return to the Placebo/ Muse hybrid on "Adrenalize" . They passed up the perfect chance to wink a Def Leppard on this one. Piano comes in and they go in a shamelessly up beat direction. I can see Avenged Sevenfold being a point of reference for the sounds they throw together. These guys would be doings themselves a great service if they stopped listening to modern rock radio.

"Revolt for Redemption" has a very dominate melodic riff leading into it and gets more anthemic from there. They go for a big melodic ending with "Scream' which doesn't latch onto their more recent influences , but isn't the most interesting song in the world. These guys are capable musicians I think they were better with more bats in the belfry ,as this uber slick radio sound doesn't seem like it is them. Well executed and the song writing is capable for what they are doing which they succeeded at, what they are doing just isn't my thing I'll give it a 4.5 and you can round it up if you like radio rock. I don't.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Heat Dust : " s/t"

It's October so I am more in the mood to give some of these post-punk revivalist bands a shot in hopes of finding some goth. Its like digging for gold. These guys are on the Flenser, who have  a good track record of creative artists on their roster so this sealed the deal . What I found with this band is while They have the dark Bauhaus meets Joy Division guitar tone, but everything else is pretty much just punk. The punk build even more momentum on the second song and we are tying up our Doc Martens at this point. Things finally get a little moody and make me wanna reach for my pumpkin spice latte on "Warming My Hands" . The chorus has a hook to it and they have convinced me they know how to write a song, so the bar is raised for these guys a little. Then we are back to punk. "I Think About It Every Day" finds the band in a middle ground between punk and something a little darker as they speed along , but in a tenser manner than most of their more punk songs.

They stay in this middle ground though lean more towards punk as the album progresses."Anybody" has a more pounding drive to it and the vocals fall more toward the back ground. The vocals are a little more melodic but sung in an Iceage like mumble. They take a more deliberate pace on "Something For Nothing" and while the vocals are more punk at least the song is not being rushed past me. They even make on a more rock n roll swagger. I expected a guitar solo to come that never shows so I guess they are just too cool for those. They get a little moodier for the instrumental " Do You Think About it ?"Then the close out the album by going back to their more aggressive take on post-punk with heavy emphasis on the punk. At time some of the places the guitars go remind me of Hotwatermusic.

They have their own thing going on, but I said this in a review of the band Vastum in regards to death metal and I think it applies here in regard to punk, this genre of music that they work well within has a fairly low ceiling when it comes to dynamics and room for melodic experimentation so right from the start they had that going against them, where actual post-punk, death-rock or goth has more room for dynamic layers and thus I find it a more compelling listen so I'll give these guys a 7, but if you like straight up punk with a darker edge and don't ask much more from it go ahead and around it up a point.

Vastum : "Hole Below"

The third album from this death metal band, who I appreciate for the darkness coursing through the first song. Like most extreme metal bands the first song kicks the door and impresses you because of sheer power, though here they also have more ambiance and groove. After the first song then it becomes another story, can you write songs? So that is what we are looking for here. They inject a slight dab of thrash in the accents to a a few of the riffs to "Amniosis". The vocals are what death metal should be low echoing roars. The drums at times sound like the could be higher in the mix as the guitar generally dominate. Spoken moaned vocals that haunt the back ground of the song at times.It is not until " In Sickness and In Death" that the songs begin to run together and sound the same.

They dive down into a old school Morbid Angel like grind before picking up the pace on "Intrusions". The lyrics sound like they are about rape from what I can make out . The title track might have some interesting lyrics about ritual abuse, but the song it self falls out of the previous one and things are beginning to sound the same, which is a common pit fall for death metal as a whole. "Empty Breast" has a determined chug, but the last three songs could be one long song. Lyrically the themes of this album become clearer. I'll give them credit for not just writing typical death metal lyrics.

I like the feel of this album, the only thing that keeps me from needing it in my iPod, is the same thing that keeps the bulk of death metal out of it. The sound lends it self to certain parameters that Vastum functions very well and even tries to add some atmosphere to, it adheres to a uniform sound with less of a dynamic range that black metal which gives it self more room to experiment. I'll give this album a seven, but if you mainly listen to just death metal and don't need anything else from the genre then round it up a point.

Vried : " Solverv"

Vried is a band we have been around the block a few times with here. They are former members of Windir, their seventh full length finds the band getting back to their black metal roots as it opens with blast thrashing. The vocals have more of a throating croak to them and the mix is a little rougher around the edges as if the last two albums didn't happen. The title track blasts with just as much venom as they album opened with laying to waste any thoughts these guys had given up on black metal. The guitar work does get more melodic at a little over the half way point, before they lock into a groove. "Geitaskadi" opens with the punches of classic metal but is more blackened thrash. This one finds a hooky riff that it hits you with , but is pretty straight forward for these guys until the atmospheric breakdown at the five minute mark. They follow this song up wit ha more mid -paced middle of the road metal number that is more in Enslaved's realm. By and large its meaner than newer Enslaved though clean vocals do finally come in. Midway through the come upon a very thoughtfully melodic riff that is darker than the rest of the song. Then come back for some more blasting.

 Synths open "Nar Byane Brenn' before it flies into a trashing blur of blasting nastiness that still retains a somewhat classic metal feel. Some harmonies are layered onto the speedy riff, before it goes into the triumphant gallop that makes its first appearance here. Much like the previous album the lines between trash and black metal are only drawn here by the blast beats. When they shift out of them into thrash riffs there is no doubt of their talent, but it doesn't strike me as the most original thing they do. They do find a few punchy grooves along the way, but the rule here is cool riffs alone do not make a good song, they don't have bad songs there are a few that are more inspired than others. They close out the album with "Fridom Med Daudens Klang" which stays on a similar path to where the album has generally tread, the guitar tone is icy and black metal with the general tone somewhat melodic in it's epic gallops that fly at breakneck speeds until the atmospheric breakdown mid-way into it.

They get back to their roots here and you can't fault them for that at times it feels like they threw the baby out with the bath water and forgot what they learned on the way to this place as they are capable of delving into the more melodic sections in a more dynamic fashion, though perhaps stripping away all of that was the point . It sounds more like their first album than where they would go from the last one. I'll give it a 7.5 as it still carries the majesty to Windir with it.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

NYX : "Home"

The Myrkr album got lots of recognition for being female led black metal, so it would be a damn shame if this darker heavier female duo from Germany didn't get at least a fraction of that praise, because they might possibly be better. They start off with a blast and evolve into a convincing chug. With vocals that sound more agonized that angry, in a depressive black metal vein. With spoken word parts that remind me of one of my favorite bands the late great Fear of God. There is clean singing , it is not as folky or operatic as Myrkur. More along the lines of Rasputina. The second song just kind of falls out of the first and is less black metal going into more melodic places. They touch back upon black metal midway into the song. Drummer Blitz takes a somewhat different approach having more in her arsenal than just blast beats. Her only weakness is she does hit as hard and the double bass is more of a patter than thunder. This could be a production issue. The production is not too raw or too polished with Enthroned's bassist Phorgath at the helm. The third song is "Chaos Part 38" so there are eighteen parts of chaos in-between this and the second song which was the twentieth part of chaos, but i suppose you can't count on chaos to follow a logical progression. They get heavier on this part a punk infused black n roll no unlike Carpathian Forest.

There is a bigger and slow chug to the epic "Save Our Souls". The double bass sounds better here so it might have been a production issue earlier. This drops down into a chant before slamming back into the metal. "Deep" is birthed out of this song with no clear break. It is more atypical black metal with a few cool accents and in the last two minutes they redeem themselves and add a sung section with creepier atmosphere. The chug to "Going On" feels like they are delving deeper into the darkness until the blast off into the blast beats and return to this meaner gallop. Their are sublime moments of dissonance around the edges of some of their riffs.The title track is a more straightforward snarl fest that fluctuates between the blast and the drilling tremolo until it slows down a minute and a half into things. For a chick she has a pretty convincing snarl that blows away the girl from False, I suppose since black metal growls are higher than death metal growls they are a little easier for women to pull off. The vocals are effective as an accent for the guitar melodies to come in and work their way around.

 They cool thing about a female duo making a metal album is they bring a much different energy and perspective than their male counterpart as I could not hear their male counterparts making the type of folk that they do on "Swallowed Screaming" which in contrast to the rest of the album is rather...well poppy despite the lyrics and the random screams they throw in the back ground . Overall this album is more metal than "M" which I liked but suspect I'll get more milage out of this one so for that reason I am going to round this up to a 10.

Up From the Underground: Alnilam 's "Indigo Sky"

It is strange to think this comes from L.A. a city of concrete and traffic jams as it is is blissfully organic with Elena Pinto's vocals sounding at peace with the world around her rather than stressed rat race which takes place in the City of Angels. There is more of an indie rock feel to "Alnilam" as song named after the band which is named after a star in the middle of Orion's belt which translates to "String of pearls" . So much like the bands song their name reflects how their is a meaning with in a meaning. They layer the music much like this as well with thick synth strings creating a peaceful sky above them. There is a more upbeat vibe to the jangle of "Rise".  Pinto's voice works melodies around the more straightforward compositions to add as much of a sense of movement as the drums.

I like these guys despite their lack of a dark side, a song like "New Year" is a more serious look at lost relationships that she has a more accepting outlook of rather than any despondence or drama. It's not ignorant bliss , but Pinto is lyrically self aware even in her reflection. The first hint of melancholy creeps in as "A Song For the Wind" opens. Her voice stay as center stage with the strings and guitar. There is a little more of a folk strum to "Virgil's Request" as Pinto sings of how her soul is ravished and  brain is inspired. The strings hold the dominant melody on this one. There is something more vulnerable to her delivery here that I like. There is a little effected post-rock like guitar on the build up here.

There is a more delicate quality to "Green Mansions". The guitar comes into to add a subtle doubling of her melodies with Pinto reaching up into her upper register for certain accents. There is a more hopeful dreaminess to " Wish" . The strings caress the song like the waves of the oceans pinto claims to have sung to. "Smaller Dreams" is where dream pop meets folk for fairly results despite Pinto's unconventional way at weaving her melodies around the beat, which is also one of her strong suits as a singer.  At times this give a Decemberists like quality to the flow of the songs. They end the album on a more melancholy note with "When it Comes to You" . The bittersweet longing conveyed  here proves to be powerfully especially when the guitar joins in to create the closing swell.
This album will prove to be a fitting listen as the fall settles in .Where they lack the quirk and Victorian gothiness, fans of Raspuntina will be able to appreciate what these guys are doing as they combine song writing smarts with atmospheric elegance. But fans of any sublime beauty from the Cocteau Twins to Azure Ray will find something to latch onto.Check out the video for "Lilac" below.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Killing Joke : "Pylon"

Expectations are always high when it comes to what I want from my favorite bands. Killing Joke is one of the most influential bands ever, so you expect them to deliver. They do. They deliver an album that aligns itself with their length career which has touched upon everything from new wave to metal. Some things are pretty constant here like Jaz Coleman's voice which is smooth over the frantic rock driven by Youth's bass line feels more organic than most of their out put since "Pandemonium" .  There are still flourishes of futuristic effects passing over the mix. It would put them more pack to their punk roots , but  the riff  carries more of a drone. They get heavier for "Dawn of the Hive" . It has the tribal post-apocalyptic chug that would not have been out of place on the soundtrack for the last Mad Max movie.  The chorus backs off and gives a breather before they return to the hypnotic hammering that hold more finesse that how a metal band would approach this, though they  more than capable lock into a more militant industrial which they display later in the song.

"New Cold War"  is more melodic than either of the first two songs , though it also finds Jaz going into more of a roar in places. The disco hi-hat in Jimmy Copely's drumming has become a staple in post-punk, here it is used in context none of the newest crop of  post-punk  bands are forward thinking enough to imitate. The song is layered with so many darkly reflective sounds that this almost dancey element gives it the sense of movement it needs. The upbeat "Euphoria" continues to set this album apart from their more recent output. The chorus to this song is not over blown and the melody is allowed to coast with the atmosphere that has even more of a dancey propulsion than the previous song.

There is weird yet taunt groove to "New Jerusalem" where Coleman's vocals take on a an almost rap-like cadence in their placement, the build the song  busts into is more intricate than just stomping on the distortion. There is a lot going on in there. Kevin Walker's guitar tone at times is more metallic, but the use of effects works perfectly in the over all mix of the songs. "War on Freedom" oddly has a more upbeat vibe to it to the commentary of Big Brother using things like facial recognition software to slowly impose upon us. Its midway into the album that I come to terms with the fact this won't be as heavy as "MMXII" , which isn't bad it's just different. Killing Joke has never made the same album twice and they are not bucking that trend. "Big Buzz" continues this trend with another upbeat almost punk like tempo. Coleman's lyrics give a wink to his mystic interests as he quotes Crowley's Book of the Law exclaiming " every man and woman is a star".

They get more metal with "Delete". The vocal line coasts over the more aggressive guitar work. They are one of the few bands that can approach this kind of cerebrally heavy sound and bring it to you such dynamic variance.  This is something that even bands they have influenced like Ministry  have not been consistent with and Killing Joke has been doing this since 1978. "I Am the Virus" finds Coleman adding a harshness to his voice on the chorus. "Into the Unknown" closes out the album, this song is heavy in some sense , but not metal. There is some interesting interplay between the synths and guitar. It is going to take a few listens for me to really absorb this but on my initial listen I have no problem rounding this one up to a 10 as the band maintains their sound, but refuses to become a retro act and rehash what they have already done.  If you eve wonder why I can be so harsh on even supposedly iconic bands, when you have a band like Killing Joke who is still putting out music that finds them continuing to expand themselves musically then why should I accept less?