Monday, November 30, 2015

Top 10 Joy Division Songs

There is no question the influence Ian and the boys have on modern music. This countdown is my personal favorites for reasons we'll get to. I don't really care if they are their biggest hits or most popular songs though a few of those might crop up, these are just the songs that have the most of what I'm looking for when I listen to Joy Division.

 10- Interzone : this is just fun punk, a thinking man's rowdiness, while they were pulling from their idols like the Stooges , this song carries the sound many young band a currently imitating.This is the bridge to post-punk.

 9-"Insight": Another one from "Unknown Pleasures" . This has some of the drone , but always has melody amongst the brooding. If you haven't seen the movie "Control" and you consider yourself a Joy Division fan then shame on you it puts , the lyrics to songs like this in perspective. The electronic freak out laser fight interlude is random, gives the song personality and what other punk bands were doing that in 1979?


 8-"She's Lost Control" : I really like the 2007 remastered version of this song because some of the weird effects stand out more. Live they give this one a much different feeling and they transition of dynamics is smoother. The weird layers of noise that build around this in the studio must have been blowing punk kids minds when this came out.


 7-"Disorder" : This list is pretty "Unknown Pleasures" heavy at the moment, but it's hard to argue against that album. This songs encapsulates every thing I want from Joy Division. A really taunt bass line driving things as the guitar is allowed to ring out around Ian's narrative that is sometimes crooned. He's got the spirit...


 6-"Love Will Tear Us Apart": Of course as an old goth kid from way back this was my entry point to this band so it will always have a fond place in my heart , but much like "War Pigs" a little goes a long ways.

5-"Eternal" : This song does drone a bit , but it is beautifully dark and crosses them over into goth more than "Love Will Tear Us Apart' , but you are less likely to hear it on 80s night unless the d.j. is totally smacked out


 4-"Heart and Soul": Did you think I would not remember "Closer"? This song has the perfect balance of atmosphere and drive to it. I like Ian Curtis' more sing song croon on this one. There is some awesome guitar on this song that brings a slow burn.

 3-"Shadowplay": This is without a doubt one of their heavier song. It chugs without being metal and has more convincing angst than most metal bands. The guitar playing on this song is the bands most rock n roll and some of their best.


2-"Dead Souls": There is a reason Nine Inch Nails covered this rocks. The dynamics of this song are pretty fucking powerful.


 1- "24 Hours" : While "Dead Souls" has powerful dynamics this song edges it out from the top spot because it gets more sonically heavy while still embracing it's melodic darkness. One of the best songs not just in their catalog but ever.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

Abysmal Lord : "Disciples of the Inferno"

Well we had to cover these guys on name alone. They are very lo-fi and primitive form of black metal that makes Horna sound slick. The vocals are a dry gurgled rasp with lower growls bubbling up every now and then, which is one of the more interesting elements of their sound. When they slow things down there is more cohesion. While their own press kit refers to the vocals as "vomit vocals" , to me they sound like  drunken muppets with Animal eating his kit as he plays the blast beats. What feels like this album is missing is the ambiance black metal locks into when droning on a blast beat. These have a crusty punk abrasion to them.

The punches at the beginning of "Golgotha Crucifixion" sound more like a grind core flavored death metal. The drums are trying to keep up the blast , but it reminds me of Deicide's Amon demos. "Black Liturgy" just sounds like a shift in the previous song. It really feels more like death metal to me at this point as their is a grime ridden element, but it doesn't feel all that dark to me. The tormented squawks and ranting of the rabid vocals become on of this album's most entertaining elements. The title track really doesn't distinguish it's self much from the songs except for a rattling ride cymbal. The pace picks up on "Sermon of Fire", the vocals might as well not even be attempting to recite real lyrics. The solo is the most musical element to the entire album.

It sounds like these guys spent more time putting on their corpse paint  and polishing their spiked belts than they put into writing these songs. I am amazed this is a four piece band, that means one of two things , that there are two guitarists making this noise and I can not hear the layering or their vocalist's sole job is to spew this into the microphone, but of those options blow my mind in the wrong direction. I'll give this album a 2.5...oh, it will be on a top ten list this year, just not on one of the more flattering ones.

Report to the Dance Floor : Tomas Doncker's "The Mess We Made"

Many of our long time readers will recognize  Tomas' name as he spearheaded the Global Soul movement in New York and strived over the years to find the place where heart and art meet. So what happens when that heart gets heavy? Tomas writes songs about it. "The Mess We Made" was a reaction to the shooting on June 17th in Charleston, SC, where 9 people were killed. Doncker believes soul knows no color might be angry, but he places his vitriol in it's proper channel to look at the problem rather than the symptom. He picks up where Gil Scott Heron left off when he announced  the revolution will not be televised. In fact he calls bull shit on the revolution, as it is seeking corporate sponsorship. At one point he even rallies a George Clinton like chant of "take off your hoodie and pull your pants up". Blues is still the back bone to his sound, though experimental elements find these songs at the  cross roads of  where hip-hop emerged from funk in the grooves. In these socially charged times of tension, it should be the job of the urban poets to stand up and have something to say, yet hip-hop keeps getting dumber and glorifying the stereotypes. There is almost a break beat to "Church is Burning Down".  The impassioned vocals reach up into a falsetto for certain accents, as the chorus is chanted over the driving beat.

He ponders what Hendrix's musing on if six was nine and how social media only gives us a happy post card to a false escape. While the message is at the forefront this doesn't impede  his acclaimed guitar playing to make an appearance. Eventually the album comes to a turning point and returns to his more organic roots. On "Don't Let Go" he looks at some of the economic struggles of the lowered middle class who feels the divide broadening as they slide downward to join the legions of Americans only avoiding homelessness by living pay check to paycheck. He gives a very soulful take on U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking Forward" with the solo section reminds me more of Frank Zappa, and many of the vocals on this album remind me of Ike Willis.

Things get funkier for "Blood and Concrete' , while soulful funk is a currency his music normally trades in their is a more serious and biting tone thanks to the sardonic lyrics. The album closes with the more hopefully upbeat "Time Will Tell". I think it is fitting that this album ends on a more positive note, as music is the connecting thread of the universe is what Doncker's vision has been about. While this album is full of real talk,  the music also speaks . It says "at the end of the day losing yourself in the groove and melody are what is the saving grace when the world seems to be closing in on you and hope is not in sight. It's the vibrational frequency, tune in and drop out of the bull shit being pushed on you by the media, presidential candidates, and terrorists both at home and abroad. This is funk for the thinking man, and soul for the urban shaman. Another triumph for Doncker.

Black Fast : "Terms of Surrender"

Of all the retro thrash acts , here is one who manages to summon riffs as catchy like good thrash used to be. While the opener is all gnashing of teeth, they find  more melody on " the Coming swarm". The bass player of the band really kicks a ton of ass as he rolls very fluidly along side winding gallops.  While the band starts off melodically before they race off for the verse. By this song I get the fact that they can rip it at 100 mph, but now I begin to listen for what else they have in their arsenal.This doesn't exactly happen so "Tongues of Silver" seems to sound like a variation of what came before , but with a dash of old Mastodon to it. They really fly into a blur on
" I Conspire".  This is where the vocal delivery which is more of a dry mid range snarl, begins to get a bit stale.

"Haunted Vigil" continues to bulldoze over you. The chug here is more straight forward than some of the more fierce sinew the guitar flexes earlier in the album. They retain the brazen power and rely on the energetic assault to keep the momentum going even when things become dynamically mono-chrome. Even with the acoustic intro to the more deliberate "the Fall" when they hit the gas things begin to run together. The riffs find an occasional hook and the guitar solo certainly rips, but what they first hit me with begins to wane. "Vacuous Idol" is another speed fest, and  in all fairness back in the day thrash was often referred to as speed metal. This is head banging material for sure, but little screams for you to mosh, which was the break down of the 80s. The end the album with the brisk three and a half minute "Until Dust" which doesn't really go anywhere.

These guys are fast and intense. They attack their instruments as much as they play them. However they are also pretty much a one trick pony. They just color this trick in different shades shades of fast and mean. Sure you can say "well thrash is supposed to be like that because of it's punk roots" but some of the greatest thrash bands,...Testament, Slayer, Megadeth, Anthrax, Nuclear Assualt, Flotsam & Jetsam... prove this is not the case. So I'll give this one a 7.5.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Annihilator : "Suicide Society"

"Alice in Hell" might be one of the greatest metal albums ever, but I can barely remember "Never, Never Land". So I'm not sure what is up with the opening song of their new album "Suicide Society". There is a Dream Theater like riff and almost a  Skid Row level of cock rock to the vocals. It's now thirteen albums since I last checked in on Jeff Waters, so some things had to change , but this is a little much. He brings back a more familiar sound on "My Revenge" which is almost an ode to Metallica , but with a more Mustaine tinge to the vocals. The song finds its way into a more melodic section in time for the solo and Waters proved to be not a half bad singer on this section.  Not sure about the vocals at the onset , but Jeff Waters is one of the few who challenge our "cool riffs alone to make a good song" rule. It sounds like he did not escape the Myspace metal years unscathed when it gets to the overly harmonized chorus. The verses sound like something Axl Rose left on the chopping block.

Even though I am not a fan of that snare pattern, "Creepin" sounds more like the band ...or in this case project I once knew. Waters is no doubt a great guitar player, the solo to this song however sounds like it just pulled out from his bag of tricks at random. The guitar playing that accents the following chorus is more impressive. "Narcotic Avenue" has an interesting groove to the intro riff ,so I am not sure why he didn't build of it. The riff preceding the "fight for survival" part is pretty mean, but it's not long before the cock rock catches up. The chorus to this song is an improvement as the clean singing doesn't try too hard. Waters does a great job with the clean guitar in the songs last minute.  With album I have learn not to hold my breath for things to darken up, though they appear to head that way on " the One You Serve" , but then some power metal like intonation color the riffing. The verse does bare its teeth to some extent.

"Break, Enter" finds the mood improving. Water's vocals are hit or miss, how much did Randy Rampage do on the first album? You would were led to believe he just showed up and sang the songs as written, but I begin to wonder after hearing some of these vocal arrangements. Some of the songs more Dream Theater moments are balanced out by it's grit. "Death Scent" has the promise of a "Burns Like a Buzz Saw Blade" . It is a little more melodic than the "Alice in Hell" classic, but one of the album's high lights as it seems the same attention to detail that Waters once gave all his songs is imparted onto this one. So when they go off into crazy thrashing and soloing it has enough songwriting to justify that indulgence.

I am a little surprised that album ends with a psuedo power-ballad. The guitar playing on it is great and the vocals are better than the bulk of what Waters does on this album, it sounds a little Judas Priest in some places. The chorus is more Bullet For My Valentine, which may or may not be a coincidence, depending on what kind of stab Waters is making for mainstream approval here. While this is not the band I remember, nor will it be without Randy Rampage, but for what it is this is decent as Waters is a great musician even if it feels he is sometimes taking short cuts when it comes to songwriting. I'll give it a 7.5


Morbid Slaughter : "A Filthy Orgy of Horror and Death"

So I talked to the editor about changing it up a little this year on my end of the year lists and doing one for each sub-genre of metal....doom, black, prog, death  and thrash. So I am playing catch up on thrash. It surprised the hell out of me upon listening to this to find this band mentioned on lists , because right from the start this Peruvian band isn't blowing me away, with a style of trash that's as straight forward as punk rock, the worst element is the vocals which are a whisper of rasp that sounds like Gullom with laryngitis. The guitar solo is decent for this kind of thing kind of a Kerry King organized chaos, the chord progression shifts in a similar manner to the song "Hell Awaits" , though that comparison might be giving the band too much credit.

They shift into a more upbeat style of punk with thrash accent on "Zombie Splatter Axe". This song has at least two chords so it is doing better than some of their songs. The most thrash thing on the album is the punches that open up "Chainsaw Blade". The vocals begin to muster a little more on "Fuck Off (we murder)" with gang vocals to bolster them as they continue owing more to punk than bands like Dark Angel or Forbidden. The drumming does improve here and the song finds a more dynamic arrangement. "Death's Cold Blood" finds the band slowing down into a more deliberate stomp. The riffs are very crude and while originality has never been the stock and trade of retro thrash it takes another step backward here.

Things speed back up, as the snare sounds like wet pancakes are being slapped about. "Torture Without Anesthesia" is truth in advertising here, because it is how I feel about listening to this song. There is not even a change from the chorus to the verse , these guys just hang on the same riff. There is a similar pacing to "Slay With SteeL" The vocals are rasped faster , but without any more power of variance in tone. If you think softly clearing your throat into a mic with re-verb is singing or evening screaming then you will be impressed.I'm not this album gets a 3 which I feel is being rather generous. This was released back in September on Boris Records, who should be ashamed of themselves for allowing this to see the light of day. Now off to hunt down the new Annihilator.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Horrendous : " Anareta"

I know it's Black Friday so I should be catching up on black metal , but I just keep finding death metal or from the opener to this band's new one, death thrash. There is more melody in the guitars than brutality and I can understand why it ranked so high on a few of the best of lists I discovered it on. They pay attention to detail, and are more technical than you might suspect. The vocals are a very dry rasp almost like a throaty blackened hardcore in how it is punched out. This is also contrasted by some whispered parts. They succeed in impressing me with the feral heaviness and manic energy they attack the song with thus leaving me to ask the question...what else can you do ? or are they a one trick pony. They slow things down at the onset of the second song, with the defining factor the wave the twin guitar attack weaves around each other. There is some melody in the riffing, so they do not rely on brutality like you might expect from most death metal bands. They are said to be apart of a new wave of old school death metal and I don't hear this unless you are referring to the thrash influence staining the riffs. If old school means actually writing songs and using interesting melody then why is that old school and not just how music is made? There is a brief exclamation from distant clean voices calling out ,before rather hooky classic metal riff comes in.

It needs to be said that the bass player is really killing it on this album and if you are metal bass player this album is a wet dream despite the bass being mixed back behind the drums. A thrash like vein of melodic guitar playing dominates "Siderea" . This reminds me of another song from the new Hate Eternal album I just reviewed where they instrumental portion is more interesting than what is done when they are using vocals. This album it is not as much of a point of contention as it proved to be with Hate Eternal. "Polaris' finds the vocals returning to scrape pain from the more progressive riff they scream out over. Death could be a frame of reference here. They do not place as great of an emphasis on shred, but are no slackers on their chops. Much rougher than say even earlier Opeth, the songs still wind around a more open path than Morbid Angel. "Acolytes" crawls from a darker place before gaining momentum into a more acrobatic thrashing chug.Maybe a more dexterous version of Possessed would be a better way to wrap your head around this excursion. This become more thrashing than death metal no matter the age of the school you might pull from. It eventually finds itself in a bridge that has more in common with "Tom Sawyer".

They really hit their stride on "Sum of All Failures" going from the acoustic intro into a well harmonized groove. "Stillborn Gods" find the vocals getting more aggressive and leaning the song more towards the death metal side, though there are still plenty of moments with a classic metal sound that bring this closer to thrash or maybe Death's more accessible moments. They close the album out with a slower death metal groove. Then eventually punch into something with a more deliberate groove. This might not be the album of the year, but it's way fucking better than I imagined it would be and hits some pretty awesome moments when it comes to its command to head bang. I'll give this a 9.


Hate Eternal : "Infernus"

Its the time of year when I dig back into some of the years earlier releases. My guidepost being the first wave of best of lists that are coming out the first being Decibel's. I know Erik from his time in Morbid Angel, the band has been around for almost seventeen years, so I am sure I have seen them open for some one at some point in time, but this is my first time really sitting down to give them a proper listen. These guys are not holding back and prove they are just as any of the post- Myspace death metal bands. The inclusion of young drummer Chason Westmoreland, certainly doesn't hurt. Erik Rutan has a mean gurgle that fits here better than Morbid Angel, though he is no doubt a better bass player than Vincent. Darker and dissonant its old Tampa death metal injected with new life. The verse riff also waltzes around under the solo before they return with a more feral attack. Big production , finds all the sounds crisply amplified, leaving nothing buried in the chaos.

"Pathogenic Apathy" is the first song that finds the aggression of death metal becoming slightly monochrome in its sonic dimensions. The beat is a little too straight forward for me and typifying  what I did not care for during his tenure in Morbid Angel. The song is a little rushed for the sake of speed. Some of the layered growls work well, but every thing is being thrown at you with little regard for what makes a song a song. The double bass is as punishing in execution as it needs to be, but not sure that saves the song. Putting their best blast forward they lunge into "La Tempestad". The vocals are spat out like bullets, but start to become rather uniform as they refuse to relent for melody. Even the riffs are are starting to become a blur. If you just want a storm of fast death metal then these guys are deftly dealing  that out , however here no matter what form of extreme metal you are playing we still want songs not just bull-dozering us.

Thankfully for the title track they slow things down into more of a groove and become much heavier in so doing. There are more Morbid Angel like effects dripped upon his more articulated growl."the  Chosen One" is shorter and more straight forward, sure it has a pretty blistering solo , but otherwise doesn't do much more me with the blinding blur it largely relies upon. "Zealot , Crusader of War" starts slightly slower, but doesn't wait to speed back up into a full speed blitz ahead. It does eventually finds a rather Morbid Angel like groove, but I would rather here where they are going than where they have been. "Order of Arcane Scripture" rumbled by me with little effort to regain my attention its not until the groove of "Chaos Theory " that they pull me back in.This might be the album most thoughtfully written song and on top of that its an instrumental , making me wonder what they have been relying on the vocal for in their writing. Not saying I think they should forgo vocals , but they should always make the songs sing and the growls the icing on the cake .

Some interesting sounds are summoned at the onset of "O' Majestic Being, Hear My Call" before they are blasted out of the way for another full frontal assault that does little to distinguish itself from the other such rampages.The guitar solo is the first place where any kind of melody emerges on this one, before the punches come in to take the album out with some double bass. I am a little split because this one , because the execution is dead on and air tight as a coffin, but the songs begin to sound the same at certain points and that is what really makes for a great album for me is it's dynamic range. So I'll round it down to a 7.5 for that reason.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Danzig: "Skeletons"

Going into this the cover which features a shirtless Danzig who looks more Jack Black cosplaying him than the man on the cover of "Lucifuge" , but it opens with a cover of Davie Allan and the Arrows' "Devil's Angels" which has a rough edged punk production quality making it sound like it could have come off of a Misfits album. So this raised the bar high for the more questionable theme song of movie  "Satan's Sadists" which finds the guitar further behind his sometimes strained voice. Granted this song is more of a crooner affair, but more love could have been given to the vocals like re tracking the flat note on the word child where he sounds like he could lose his voice at any minute. The guitar tone improves on "Let Yourself Go". Danzig covering Elvis is no surprise. It is a heavier take on the song than I expected. Something about it just feels lacking in the energy the Elvis version has.

Now it's no secret Ozzy and Glenn have much different ranges, but it almost sounds he is talking his way through "N.I.B". The stomp they have added to the song works, but I can hear Elvis punching his baritone into this if he had ever covered Sabbath in the Vegas days and what I hear in my head is what I expected from Glenn here. His approach works better on "Lord of the Thighs" which is no where close to hitting Steven Tyler's notes either it just works better here , though the guitar on the Sabbath cover was more dialed in then what is going on here.I suppose he was hoping his fan base would not be as familiar was these songs. "Action Woman" has more of the punch and power that I want from Danzig. It may not be as strong as his more classic work, but holds up to everything post-"Black Acid Devil" . His voice sounds strong and the guitar is thick and in your face.

"Rough Boy" is off of ZZ-Top's "After Burner" album and he brings more of a 50's crooner feel to it, but it works, taking all of the 80s out of it. Up top in a few places he is iffy, but his voice still sounds better than on most of the album. He returns to more of a Misfits like punk on "With A Girl a Girl You" though it isn't as effective as the opener. His voice does have a much needed grit added to it. Sure it doesn't sound like the Troggs , but I'm o.k with that. The guitar improves on the darker handling of "Find Somebody" by the Rascals. The more punk treatment of the chorus should have been handled in a more metal manner like the verses were approached as it sounds a little like a cop-out, but this song still isn't half bad.

The ballad "Crying in the Rain" finds the band pretty much dropping out, but Glenn sings the song well for what it is. I'll give this one a 7.5, if you have ignored the ravages of age he is letting plague him, because there are plenty singers such as King Diamond, Morrissey and Bowie in that age range who can still belt it out, you might be more forgiving . There are a few songs where Glenn proves he still can, he however dials it in sometimes not realizing he need to try and little harder than he used to. This also makes me more hesitant to try and catch him live now. The mix on this album is inconsistent which also plays against it, however if you are a Danzig fan there are a few songs worth having in your iPod.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Sextile : A Thousand Hands


We are delving deeper into the bat-cave as the exploration of some of the years darker music we are catching up on continues. The cavernous production and the desperate emoting of the vocals give further credence to the fact that Los Angeles breed s the best death rock. This album came out back in August on Felte Records.  Though this is not a simple nod to Christian Death, but a odd mixture of many different elements. The opener carries a creeping throb as the guitars are used to cut through the air in a very Bauhaus manner . The build is subtle yet intense. "Flesh" finds surf rock blending into their sound. The guitars are still slicing but have that more Link Wray tone to them as the drums provide a more tribal accent. There is more mania injected into the surf -punk shimmy of "Can't Take it " that carries and odd synth pulse to the verses. The frantic tension running a jagged course through the rant of "Smoke in the Eye" is rough around it's edges with the synths warbling in the distance. The chaotic chant of "this is love" becomes choked out as the songs breaks down into a sample that eventually emerges to swallow the song whole when it fades out.

The vocals go into more of a coarse scream on "Truth and Perception". The song is bathed in droning noise over a repetitive pound, it really feels more like a interlude to me than an actual song. This is followed by another two minute interlude before the more synth driven and female sung "Mind's Eye' emerges with more clarity and focus in it's sensuous march. The snths sound like something from an 80s horror movie and here that really works. As this could very well have been the band that played in the second Howling. They take another stab a brooding darkwave synth dominated sounds this time with the lead singer back on the mic. His delivery is more muttered in a manner that reminds me a little of Ice Age. "Into the Unknown" finds the increased synth presence married to their more organic punk tinged instrumentation giving this song more of a pound and jangle. The vocals build into an anguished howl.

They lock into a more Joy Division like tension  on "Visions of You" this  rides the taunt guitar line building toward the chorus as the synths swell up in a wave around it. The vocals go into a lower register and croon upward in a more punk fashion, think old New Model Army here perhaps. They close out the album with a dark ambient piece that feels more like an outro than a song. I'll round this one up to a 9.5 as they take the death rock attitude and are not afraid to add odd pieces from other places to it to make something that is true to the generation of bands it was birthed from but true to their own vision.



Sunday, November 22, 2015

the Hearse : " Fragments of Mourning"

In recent week we have not had the balance of darkness that I like this blog to have which would represent where my musical tastes lie with one foot in metal and the other in well for lack of a better word "goth". That is changing this week as their are a few releases we are going to catch up on some of the post-punk and other releases sprung from the bat cave. The first of these being the British band the Hearse. For a band that claims to be dark-wave they pack more of a punch and make use of more real instruments than most of the post- Cleopatra records era dark wave of the 2000's , which eventually took on a more edm pop sheen and forgot it's rock roots.  So by the time we get to  "Shadow of Love" holds onto to rock drive it begins to look like they might be influenced by dark wave but aren't dark wave.  From a song writing perspective doesn't feel as fresh or original as the opener. The guitar melody reminds me of a sped up version of "Sweet Dreams".

Their brand of rock takes on more of a stomp on "Melm Lelden" . The vocals are less sung and spit out in more of a monotone punk fashion, giving the song more of a post-punk edge than some of the rocked out melodrama of the songs preceding it. While "Black Out" has some of the post-punk drive of the previous song it also incorporates some of the darker elements introduced early in the album. Their varied influences are mixed together to make "the Rapture" one of the albums strongest songs. It opens with  Cult like guitar set  against  a beat with  a more Sisters of Mercy feel and then is coated with vocals on the verse than drip with the sardonic Ian Curtis baritone in how they punch into the groove. This album was released back in September and is available on their Bandcamp page. It might not be the most original thing to hit the scene , but is well done and touches on some dark corner not as explored by many of the more modern bands of this ilk. These are songs not used on other albums and compiled into album form . It comes across pretty cohesive, with two interludes there are only five real songs. Would like to hear how this band progresses, for now I'll give it an 8.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Shape of Despair : " Monotony Fields"

These guys have not come out of nowhere as they have played in bands like Finntroll, Impaled Nazerene and Clouds, this Finnish band has taken the past fifteen years to perfect their very melodic and atmospheric brand of doom . They are rather impressive and this is one of the funereal doom albums that I have been missing out on this year since it came out back in June. The vocals are a low gurgle, with what sounds to be sung female oohing  and aahing in the background. The title track that follows up the eerie opening stays on a similar depressing path. The synths are thick and almost overpowering the guitars , but it all somehow manages to mix. Their is a more melodic melancholy to "Descending Inner Light" . Not that the other stuff isn't melodic , they just step it up with real singing taking over mid way into the song. There is a slight turn into a more Cure like introspection with the intro to " the Distant Dream of Life". The growled vocals are really the heaviest thing on this song as the synths and clean guitar tone cancel out the chugged guitar. The sung vocals slide in smoothly. The vocals remind me a little of Jesu here.

"Withdrawn" carries forth the melodious mourning, almost to the point that if it was not for the hesitation in the drums and the tone of the growls they would fall into more of a dark or gothic metal category instead of funereal doom. They ride the line , but soar fading storm clouds in so doing. The Type o Negative influence is evident in the chorus of backing vocals, though I have yet to hear any low Sisters of Mercy vocals. "In Longing " is the first song to fall out of the previous song and sound more like an extension of it than opening with it's own identity.The swelling intro drones out into the bleak heavens. You can say that they are bi-polar, but like real depression the dynamics of a song like " The Blank Journey" emulate the mood swings that come with a mental illness, soft relaxed keys coast in the morning light before the growls come in and everything swell's into a more emotional high and then dips back down into it's depressed place. The Jesu comparison comes back in the picture as the song rides the gentle crest of the wave in an almost shoe gaze like drone.

The album closes with "Written in My Scars" which finds the growled vocals taking control of the song and a heavier under current overall even when the more melodic singing soars in from overhead. I feel this song fits a little more neatly into the casket of funereal doom. The oppressive feeling is more tangible. The guitar has more weight on this one as well though it might be a slight variation in the mix. The band is aware they have been notorious for putting long spans of time between releases, so everything is right where it should be with every nuance dialed in, so it was not time wasted. I'll round this up to a 10, it might not dig as deep and dark of a grave as other funeral bands , but the songs are masterfully varied and dynamic , it's an awesome album.

Cruciamentum : " Charnel Passages"

Found this off of Revolver's top  metal albums of the year list and from first listen it is a helluva lot better than some of the other stuff they had on there. This is a very visceral death metal, that works pretty well when it doesn't default to the really stiff and fast snare sound. When they take their time and grind it out slow and dark, the band finds their strength . They might be a doom band who can not resist the urge to play fast and thus they are playing death metal. The songs tend to come back to the slower gloom on the second song this is done in a way that works it into their brand of death well, thanks to the insanity of this drummer. He doesn't have to default into the annoying beat I don't like because it sounds like he thinking of drumming as a song writer rather than beating the hell out of them for the sake of beating the hell out of them. "Tongues of the NightShade" doesn't really do much to break from the typical death metal fare. They get into a better groove on "Rites to the Abduction of Essence". The chug works well with the drumming and I don't feel like I'm getting hit in the head with the same hammer over and over again.

"Piety Carved From Flesh" reverts back to  your typical death metal bred from the blood splatter of old Cannibal Corpse, Incantation and Morbid Angel. It's when their music doesn't touch on one of those three pillars of the genre that it excels the most. It is well played and their drummer has the skills that come with playing death metal, a genre where the band truly is only as good as their drummer.They add some ambiance here and there, but brutality is the main game being played here. It wasn't until midway through " Dissolution of Mortal Perception" that I realized it was a different song. I had begun to zone out on the album at that point, because well lets face it a lot of death metal all sounds the same, which is what separates the greats from their flock.

They close out the album with "Collapse" that grinds to life with a monolithic chug. It was make it or break it for the band on this one and they needed a strong opener to this one in order to hook me back into the album. Do they blast off into the great wild yonder after the crushing riff? Yes. It does get some what mired down in the density that death metal lends itself too, but in the last minute they redeem themselves with a powerful riff and some ambiance dripping into the cracks of the song.It is still true that cool riffs alone do not make a good song, and this rule trips up many a death metal band, but these guys pay attention to the details and it pays off in their favor. I'll give this a 6.5, but you can round it up if you just like mean death metal and don't ask much more from it than that. Would like to hear their more atmospheric side delved into more to add some color to the monochrome aggression.

Spectral Lore : " Gnosis"

This album begins with a more metal churn than some of their more recent stuff that has gone more Pink Floydy. This is not to say that it is without experimentation , because they are not shying away from that. Even though this excursion is 49 minutes long , they want to call it an ep,to point out how experimental this is according to their Bandcamp page, which comes off a little contrived. Perhaps they are referring to how much of this material makes up actual songs and not wandering jam. There is a similar pulse to the second song and title track of the album as there was to the first until they finds a more galloping riff. If there are whispers and screams around they are very low in the mix and accent the edges of the riff, which lumber up into something more like stoner rock than black metal. These guys are far from slouches and there is some excellent bass playing on this song.

The first of the two acoustic songs is "Averroes Search" . This one carries a similar exotic prog feel as the first two songs, but of course making no attempts to be heavy. It's excellent guitar work, not so sure about song writing as it simmers for almost five minutes before finding its groove. This is an album guitars will want to take note of , as it covers the ground once walked by the likes of Opeth, but in a darker context.They head back towards metal, though not the blacker kind, on "A God Made of Flesh and Consciousness". This is one of the album's more sonically intense and dynamic songs, though still more of a jam and less of a song even by the band's standards.They do speed up a little four minutes into the fourteen minute epic. At the midway point it breaks into a acoustic section with samples running faintly in the background. the guitar gets more aggressive than they have in some time, more at a mid paced thrash like attack. "For Aleppo" finds them breaking things back down for a mellower tone. This song seems to want to go some where , but doesn't it stays right where it started, some indulgent guitar playing over a static layer of synths. Aside from this these jams display another side of them musically, one that feels like a step closer to mainstream metal, but impressive in it's execution. I'll round this up to a 7 because it's not just a shred fest.


Thursday, November 19, 2015

Magic Circle : "Journey Blind"

This Week 20 Buck Spin is releasing the sophomore outing from Boston retro rock worshippers Magic Circle. There is something raw and honest about the production. I imagine this is very much what you get live. The singer's 70's rock warble fall some where between Deep Purple era Coverdale and Lou Gramm. Ghost pulls from a similar period in time, these guys might not be as dark , but do not have the pop pretense to their music. The song's end doesn't seem to have the same focused fire the intro does despite returns to the galloping chug. In some ways this also reminds me of St. Vitus, without the drugged desperation. But they sonically have a similar proto-metal "the Damned Man" comes closer to invoking a more metallic power. Midway into the second song they hit a doomier crunch before speeding back up into a more rock n roll section.

Things begin to edge toward a more Pentagram like doom on " A Ballad For the Vultures". He singer begins to get slightly Dio like on the 'fly away " phrase. There is a brief break into a cleaner guitar tone before the go for the big rock finish. The really over dubbed sounding moment comes in the guitar solo . There drummer plays with the kinda of power needed for this style of music and brings it on home. The clean guitar that opens "Lightning Cage" have a bluesy tone that kicks blasted out of the water by the hard rocking drive of band when they bust into the verse. There are even a few old Iron Maiden guitar harmonies thrown in. This is way too up tempo to be doom. They hit one of the album's heaviest moments on this song, the vocals help with some added grit in them. The boogie the songs builds into even work and I normally find boogies to be to happy.

"Ghosts of the Southern Front" doesn't really distinguish it self to me until it slows down at the mid-way point, there are some choices of intervals in the melody to this one that remind me a little of Pallbearer. Now the message boards go crazy and call me lazy for referring to Pallbearer, but my ears seldom lie to me. The Sabbath influence rears up big time on the riff leading into "Grand Deceiver's". The production on the vocals feels a little slicker on this one , and not just because of the over-dubbed harmonies. Regardless this is one of the album more nuance vocal performances making this one of the album's better tunes as well. The closing song builds up into more of a metal direction, but I don't think it's one of the album's better songs. These guys have already shown me they can fine tune their song writing so mediocre won't do.

There are some moments on this album that are so strong I had little question in regards to rounding this one up to an 8. Is it the most original thing I have heard this year. No...but amid the heaps of influences I hear the glimmer of who they are and think they might only get better from here. If you like classic metal then this is worth your time.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Awe : "Providentia"

Was curious to see what all the hype in regards to this band from Greece is all about, and was disappointed to see the album was comprised of only three songs the first being twenty minutes as that leads me to believe they can no actually write songs , but instead will wander around making interesting sounds that only lead to a blast beat or four. Four minutes into the first song and I am still unsure if this theory is unfounded. They have some great dark tones and show a great deal of restraint as they have resisted the urge to go into a blast beat. The song does drone, though this builds in a sonic swell. They hold out for two more minutes and then the blast beats come couple with low growled vocals that sound more death metal than black metal to my ears.They come out of the blast in a interesting off time groove that it's cut off prematurely in favor of more blast beats. Sure there is some Deathspell Omega influence, but is that really revolutionizing black metal? Heading toward the thirteen minute mark they make some melodic headway and the drummer makes good use of his double pedal.

When they launch into the second song this could be any of a hundred bands or more. Dissonance aside this comes off more like blackened death metal than black metal. The aggression consumes room for other emotion. They break down into wandering time signatures before going into a more straight forward passage that leans more toward black metal. By the minute mark they are succumbing to the blast beats again. The third and final song is a brutal blast fest, with impressive drumming, but nothing all that creative happens, until some of the echoing dissonance erupts before the more thrashy section that is short lived before the four minute mark. Two minutes later it finally slows down into something more melodic. This builds with a darker throb under the cleaner guitar tones.

There are plenty of black metal albums that cover more ground and do this sort of thing in a more original manner. This might appeal to fans of Valdur who wish the band would gallop less and jam out more. I'll give this a 7 as it is well played , but far from the mind blowing new movement of black metal that some people are trying to make it out to be. Sure there has been a lot of creative black metal coming out this year , but with quantity comes the numbers game that sacrifices quality, this falling somewhere in the middle.

Witchsorrow : " No Light, Only Fire"

This is the third full length from this trio out of England. Witchsorrow  has a wide range from the almost In Solitude like proto-thrash they open the album with to the more dismal doom like rumble that crashes down on 'the Martyr" these guys are not a one trick pony.It is a little odd for me that they sound awkward going into the more up tempo ending of this song after opening the album with more a thrash feel. The more mid-tempo thump of "Made of the Void" is to lively to really be doom. The vocals are not growled , but not as dramatic in the New Wave of British Heavy Metal sense as In Solitude there is some punk attitude about them. He calls out the song title in a chant, not really a melodic hook , but it works for their sound.  Once they make it to "Negative Utopia" it feels as if they are trying to establish their footing more solidly on doomy ground. The guitar becomes more melodic and carries the mournful quality the genre demands. Singer Necroskull gives a more solid attempt to sing on this one. His voice strains , but this gives it character and more of a punk feel.

"To the Gallows" finds the genres blended in a manner more like Primordial. They carry an almost power metal chug to their trashing."Disaster Reality" finds them relaxing into a darker place by letting the song breathe more as they go into a more doom ridden place. The vocals have more of a dark punk grit to them, than anything that really feels metal to me. At eleven minutes it might have the dynamic depth you might think is needed to keep it from dragging , but does seem to posses the most honest anger expressed on the album making it feel like on of the albums heaviest songs.They close the album with an fourteen minute monster. The guitar solo that comes in add some sonic dynamics to what other wise is a song that pounds its path in a grim yet straightforward manner.

These guys are doing their own thing, even if they are on the fence as to where their heart lies. I'll give this album an 8, the vocals come to a solid middle ground to make the songs interesting and the thrash parts do hit the right punches in some cases. They get a lot of credit for not hoping on  the nearest bandwagon even though they are within earshot of a few.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

With the Dead : ' s/t'

The rule of thumb seems to be that supergroups sound better on paper  than what the reality turns out to be. From the first song of With the Dead's self titled album this is not the case. Lee Dorian of Cathedral teams up with some of the guys from Electric Wizard to sludge out some oppressive fuzz dripped in darkness. The effects slathered on Dorian's voice are a good choice as it keeps this from sounding like Cathedral. Cathedral was one of the first bands that made doom hip. They dropped some of the melodrama that cloaked bands like Candlemass and Trouble and chunked it out in the 90s. Granted Lee Dorian's time in Napalm Death didn't diminish this. They are not just a doom band, not that being a doom band is a bad thing, but they hit "the Cross" with too pummeling attack to not be sludge. With this album the first song hit me pretty hard so the rest of the album has the bar set pretty high . The second song tries to over power you with the rumble you have already been hit with so you are braced for the blow. The creepy sample keep going to darken the shadows of their sound.

They take on a more Sabbath like boogie on "Nephthys"  and Dorian's voice settles into more of what you might expect from him.  The build it up into a commanding chant. These guys are all about the power, leaving a little room for the more subtle melody of the solos to warble over their pound. "Living With the Dead" has a weighty chug that offers a call and response to a creepier riff. The vocals chant the song title over and over, but it self works. In what might be the verses the vocals just add a tormented distant howl, before the song breaks down at the mid way point into something way more melodic than you expected after the dirty overdrive you have been battered with.

Dorian's more effected vocals helps to give " I am Your Virus" more form and function against the dense throb the song drags you into. This one has more of a doom cadence to it's gloom laden cloud of distortion. The album ends with the more formless drone of "Screams From My Own Grave". Not as tightly driven in it's thunder as the rest of the album, this one rings out into murky waters. For their first outing they have all the power to prove themselves, the last song kinda killed the momentum for me , but over all they are solid and look forward to hearing more from this project I'll round it up to an 8.5.

the Sword : " High Country"

Catching up on some album's I passed over  earlier in the year. The trend in the stoner rock movement must be after you have graduated from Black Sabbath, then it's time to start sounding like Thin Lizzy. This is the conclusion drawn after hearing the opening to the Sword's new album "High Country". The boogie continues with more of a Blue Oyster Cult thing going on for the title track. This is an improvement from the lack luster opener. The more melodic "Tears Like Diamonds" allows the vocal melody to find a better flow , making it one of the album's better songs. It's more original than the first two for sure. They relax into the rising smoke of their bongs on "Mist and Shadow". It's hard to think of these guys as a metal band any more as they are even more rock n roll than say Kyuss. They have dug deep into the early annuls of hard rock as you can hear traces of bands like Electric Rooster and Spirit creeping through the songs.

Their is a weird funk groove to the oddness that is " Seriously Mysterious". This is one of the more original songs on the album, not sure if all the bizarre elements are fused with the most grace , but it is interesting, almost like a collaboration between Lenny Kravitz and Uriah Heap. The instrumental " Suffer No Fools" might rocker than anything else up to this point on the album, but it seems like an extended intro for the song that follows."Early Snow" ambles along a middle ground and aside from brass accents is nothing special. They find a marginally harder groove that works well with the vocal line on "the Dreamthieves". Then the album really begins to find it's self mired down in the same old same old with "Buzzards" attempting to rock out from out of habit than organically.

The put a little more of a stoner stomp into  the chug of "Ghost Eye".  The intro to "Turned to Dust" reminds me a little of "Hells Bells". It shuffles off from this with the vocals laying back behind the restrained riff, giving this one more dynamic range. They retain this more reserved groove with "the Bees of Spring" that closes out the album. The only problem is this is too close to what they did on the song before, so dynamically the impact is diminished and a final minute of rocking is too little to late. The Sword must be more hype than not, while it's not a shabby album , well recorded and preformed, it's a step away from metal, so any end of the year metal lists with this album on it should be held highly suspect I'm rounding it down to a 6.5.

King Diamond's A Night of Abigail @the Tabernacle.

The third time King Diamond has come through in a just over a year's time. The catch this time was tonight he would play Abigail in it's entirety. Something many bands have been doing over the past few years. Abigail being my favorite King Diamond album made this have more appeal than if he chose " the Puppet Master" or even "the Eye". The concert was being held at the Tabernacle, an old church that was turned into a House of Blues venue. Metal shows were once held there with a little more frequencies right around 911. I've seen Slayer, Dimmu Borgir, Pantera, and Morbid Angel there. Tonight the show started pretty promptly with Exodus opening. Having been plagued with line up changes , this one which included "Pleasures of the Flesh " singer Steve Souza back in the band was solid enough, the only problems is aside from "Body Harvest" when they strayed from the first three albums the songs became stiff and one dimensional.

King Diamond did a variation of what I expected. Going into it you know he is going to play soe other stuff aside from "Abigail" , but the when of that equation, I let be a surprise and resisted hunting down the set list online. He opened up with "Welcome Home",  after first rolling Grandma onstage. They followed it up with "Sleepless Nights". Then he stopped and said despite it being a few days late  every day for him was Halloween and thus they kicked into to the song from "Fatal Portrait" might have been the first time I have heard him play that live. This is my seventh time seeing King, granted one of those was the mid 90s Mercyful Fate reunion so some of those blur together. He kept going churning out "Eye of the Witch" a good choice , and surprised he stayed clear of some of his hit or miss 90s stuff like" Abigail 2 " or " the Puppet Master" , where the lyrics to the latter remind me of a child molester half the time. Then the Mercyful Fate covers happened , " Evil" as expected and "Come to the Sabbath" was replaced by "Melissa" another one I don't recall hearing before, even on the Fate reunion.

Then the lights dimmed and the coffin was rolled out for "Abigail" . The opening played over the p/a before the cranked up into "Arrival'. King's voice was in fine form, the only moment it ever faltered over the course of the evening was the slight flatness to the bridge earlier on "Sleepless Nights", but it could be that he couldn't hear himself. We were on the floor and by the time "Mansion in the Darkness" was busted out the procession of drunk redneck trying to weave their way to the front so they could hold their drinks in the air to songs they didn't know began. The actress / dancer who plays Grandma under a mask did an excellent job of acting the story out. The best moment for me was "Possession" which is my favorite song from the album, though the classic riff to "Abigail" never fails. "Abigail" like a few of the others I heave heard before though it was not played to two times previous to this one, so was a welcomed return back into the set.

The pressure was really on drummer Mike Thompson , who had to keep up with was original drummer Mikkey Dee's pinnacle performance. Thompson pulled this off as well as "Welcome Home" which has to have now become part of his wheelhouse. Mike Wead was also impressive in his ability to hang with LaRoque. Their new bassist has been on the road with the band to have comfortably settled into his role as well. There was no surprises on the "Black Horsemen" which is now the third time they have closed with this . Overall only King Diamond could keep me as into a performance the 3rd time in the span of the year and shelling out the fifty bucks for it with no qualms. Long time fans will find this show a must when it rolls through your town and if you have yet to catch him now is the time, while King is showing little sign of slowing down and just announced a new album in the works for 2016, we can only hope it's as good as "Give Me Your Soul Please".


Niche : "Heading East"

The opening had almost too much of a Beatles vibe to it until the pounds into itself a little more firmly with the drums and the bass having to off set the vocals. It's pretty sunny, jangly and indie rock steeped in the bong water of the 60s.As far as guitar goes there are some very Allman Brothers moments in the harmonies. These guys are not slouches on their chops, they just aren't metal chops. It's not bad just different is the mantra to chant while getting acclimated to this album. There is a little more of a Fleetwood Mac thing going on with "When I'm Gone". The jam band like tendencies make it clear they are no strangers to the Grateful Dead. I can also hear some admiration for Paul Simon and Elliot Smith in the intervals the vocals choose. This is actually the band's third just the first being released by Retro Futurist , the metal connection do no end their as the band's  Keyboardist played with both Kylesa and Black Tusk.

The flower power begins taking over on "On Down the Line" , but the first verse has a pretty good groove that is hard to argue it eventually goes into something that sounds like Govt Mule jamming Santanna songs with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The transitions are seamless, and dynamic for this kind of thing they never seem to re-find the power of the punch the drums gave in the first song. They invoke the mellower side of Thin Lizzy on "Sweet Dear Annie". the singer does his best Phil impersonation. They try to go for Thin Lizzy's more rocking side on "Tough and Mean" and it doesn't sound as genuine to me as their hippy stuff. "Days to Come' sounds like Pink Floyd covering "Thank You". The breathy vocals effectively glide over the song. The embellishments further cement their musician ship. They do build this song up into a more sonic place before taking off into a proto-metal boogie.

The album cover is a pretty fair visual depiction of what to expect, perhaps it could have stood to be a little more retro, but the surreal elements find their way to the corners of most songs. Some times more than other it sounds like these guys have their own thing going, at others their influences overwhelm them. The more pot you smoke the better this album will sound. I don't smoke pot anymore so I'll give it a 7.5.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Up From the Underground Dendera Bloodbath's "Xaoate Ep"

This was brought to my attention and I tend to let a lot of my Atliens music go unacknowledged around here because it is rarely dark or dynamic enough for me. This starts off certainly being dark enough. It reminds me of the time I ate a bunch of mushrooms and thought I was on the moon.Funny enough I was playing music in my friends basement when that occurred and this album was recorded in the Basement of Bad Decisions so this leads me to conclude that basements are the portal to the moon. There is a very lunar feel to this. The album is a self professed chaos majick spell, the first ritualistic sounds occur on the second song "Legacy" that throws samples behind the sonic experiments transpiring here. This is an instrumental release, so what I listen to on things like this or the Be the Hammer album I reviewed last week, is how the space is being filled. You can not talk about the music directly using terms like melody or dynamics since that is not really the point of something that has more in common with performance art, though there are times when the sound manipulation can be likened to a project like Negativeland.

The drone has well placed synths layered over one another with a pulse deep within the mix. "Soul Mate" pretty much just drips out of the previous song. The vibrations here are creepier and sound like a dirge that might be played at a funereal on Mars."Triumph" ebbs from the drone of "Soul Mate" . It is more minimal using blips of sampled noise to paint a sparse landscape of a barnyard set in a haunted hell. Give a hundred aliens a typewriter and they might have come up with the intro to "Riches". While this might be an invocation of chaos majick, I feel their are more sub -genius like forces at work, because it takes me back to when I would drop acid and listen to the Church of Sub-genius's hour of slack. There are some sparse synth melodies of sorts set back behind the ghostly murk of shadow filled sounds.

If you are looking for a soundtrack to warm yourself up for the second coming of the X-Files, then here is the soundtrack for you. I am not sure why I keep returning to alien imagery when I listen to this album but my synesthesia keeps bringing me back to neon green, a glowing neon green set against black when I hear this , which are also colors I associate with aliens.  This is very a-sexual music, similar to how I envision aliens without having genitals. Rock music is very genital fixated so this is a palate cleanser from that . I am not sure if these descriptions make sense , but this album is about making sensations and not making sense.

Saviours : "Palace of Vision"

One of the trends in metal these days is just to infuse thrash, sludge  and hardcore into your own hybrid take on it. Saviours add a more traditional take on metal into this mixture, but they can not supress their punk influence for long. Like many bands of this era they started off as punk rock band, became more profcient at their instruments and metal became more hip so the shift took place. Sure the more straight up rock n roll elements of classic metal are present with the blues based undertones. Sometimes this formula makes for pretty catchy riffing on a song like "Flesh of Fire". This reminds me of when Corrosion of Conformity made the cross over into metal back in the 90s. The vocals become more sung. The guitars are well played and well recorded.

Their punk leanings bog down" the Devil's Crown" , but they get back on track with the metal on " the title track. The vocals might reminds you of older Mastodon. He says something about dying and feeling the terror, but the lyrics are generally just typically generic heavy metal rubbish. This one just happens to have a good chug to it.They start thrashing into "Burning Shrine" and the Mastodon comparisons can continue to flourish here, though Saviours have more of a Motorhead fixation. I can see this band developing a following in Atlanta, due to their punk roots, which is a common denominator most Atlanta metal bands have is they grew up as punk kids. "Hell's Floor" stomps around like a dinosaur, but offers little in the way of dynamics.

The very straight forward "the Beast Remains" has some harmonized guitar runs, but races along the same bellowing path most of the album has, that begins to get a little stale for me at this point in the album. "Cursed Night' is really just an instrumental interlude that fakes you thinking they are going into something doomy, but is just a guitar solo to lead into "the Seeker" which is one of this whiskey soaked album's more melodic moments. It has plenty of riffs to challenge our "cool riffs alone do not make a good song " policy. Not all the hipster's best of lists are going to have Deafheaven on it, some will be too cool for them an include this album in it's place. They have their moments but there is nothing new hear so I'll give this album a 7 and that might be leaning towards my more generous side. If you don't ask much from metal except you like to feel cool while listening to it then this is for you, your impending haircut is on the way as you'll go back to listening to punk soon enough.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Author & Punisher @ the Earl

Didn’t catch local openers the Dead Register, but arrived just in time to catch Portland duo Muscle and Marrow. Their last studio album was “the Human Cry “ which was released in August of last year. While I have not disliked what I heard from Muscle and Marrow's studio output, I never became as immersed in the album, live the really changed the way I think of them. Their performance inspired me to go back and listen to their music with a new set of ears. It's rare when and artist can spin your view of them around with their performance. They were much heavier live and Kira Clark's voice goes from an almost black metal like scathing scream to a vulnerable soprano. She was at times lost in her emotions, this gave way to what might have been seen to some as theatric hand gestures but it seemed to me to be a very honest physical manner in which she channeled the music through her body. While there were samples and layers of vocals triggered from a laptop off stage in comparison to Author and Punisher they were very organic.

Funny enough I also attended Deafheaven a couple days after this show and that show required very little digestion to review. With Author and Punisher, it has taken a few days to process my thoughts on what transpired. I had been looking forward catching Author & Punisher live for some time. You know what Shore does, you might have even seen video of him preforming, but watching it in person unfold before you is a much different a lesser extent author & punisher also proved to be a much different beast. Having toured with metal bands in recent years the influence was undeniable their was a harsher and more abrasive attack to his live sound. At times this also carried a droning quality to match the static fuzz of the video screens behind him. Some of his more melodic work did not surface until the third act of his seat.

 The video screens were more often than not abstract, though there was the moment when you could not tell if it was rabbits or wolves appearing to stare at you from the woods. One of the more interesting reactions, came from One of my friends who met up with us at the show and went into it with little to no knowledge of who or what Author and Punisher is said to me that she felt like she was on drugs. I saw Neurosis on a bunch of drugs about fifteen years ago and I am sure it must have felt very similar. Author and Punisher was more driven that punishing as they layers of artistry involved engulfed the senses. You realized the fingers of his right hand are playing the cymbals of the drum machine triggered by the hydraulic pump that kept the pulse of the performance. It is show much like Swans that must be felt live to truly be appreciated.

Khaotika : " The Flame Unleashed"

If bands like In This Moment  and Huntress actually played metal and committed to their more power metal moments then the result might be something more along these lines. But this is also a lesson in just because you wear corpse paint doesn't make you black metal.  The first song was spent with me trying to figure out what the hell was going on. The second song reaffirms their affinity for shred and keyboards. Their singer drops down into her lower register before going back into a more Solitude Aeturnus like upper register. The growls chime in and it sounds like they are saying " Run Forest, Run". So they might be taking a cue from Lonely Island there. Then the vocals are layered with an Immortal like croak in the mix. I like the energy and passion they attack the songs with but none of the melodies have really blown my mind.

While they are currently based out of Atlanta their singer Lariyah  hails from Poland and the European influence thankfully wins out and they do not sound like another Atlanta band who wants to be either  Eyehategod, High On Fire, Exodus or Red Fang. The male grounds lead into "Hollow Grounds" which races off into a more thrashing take on power metal. Blackened Power metal might be sub-genre these guys could aim for. They have aggression, but none of the dissonance that gives black metal it's evil edge. There are some Dimmu Borgir like moments particularly when the effects drip from the spoken vocals midway into the song, but lets face it Dimmu hasn't been black metal in over a decade. While some of their influences can be seen above the surface they still have woven together their own sound. They give "Sulphur Road' a more deliberate chug before going off into their brand of gothic power-metal. This song is tighter in it's composition and feels the most focused from what I have heard thus far.

After an interlude, her naked vocal harmonies start off "In Khaos We Trust" , which comes closer to being black metal than any of the previous songs. Then Lariyah's vocal melodies smooth everything out taking some of the sting out of the venom from the more scathing vocals. When she comes back in Lariyah gives one of her more impassioned performances in what I suppose is the verse. "The Final War" makes it clear that their drummer has a grip on double bass. At this point we have settled into the middle of the album, so this song really just gives us everything we have already figured out this band is about. The creepy dissonance I felt was lacking from their black metal color the fringes of the riff that opens "Bleed For Me" , however this is short lived before  they fly into a more death metal tinged riff. Her vocals continue to soar over the heavier land scape of jagged guitars below her and the chorus of growls chanting the songs title. All of this and they still have three minutes left in the song.

There is a slow wind-up into "Black Moon Lilith", that has an almost "For Whom the Bell Tolls" feel to it. Three minutes in and they are still lugging around the intro , even faking you out by leading you to believe the pay off is coming. Aside from moans in the background this is pretty much an instrumental, the vocals are really just a touch of texture and the guitar solo which is one of the albums most tasteful waits until the final 30 seconds to join in. From what I have heard from the band up until this point it seems the other songs have had riffs that would have been more interesting to make instrumentals out of . They keep things darker for "Heretik Within", lingering on clean guitar tones in an almost King Diamond like manner, before the double bass thunders in. The verses have a melodic death metal feel to them aside from the power metal vocals over  them. At the four minute mark this gives way to a darkly melodic section that makes the best use of her voice. They gallop of into death ridden take on power metal. The shreddy guitar shows some restraint and serves the song. The final two minutes finds an Iron Maiden like riff dipped into doom being soloed over. The drummer speeds along with maniacal feet under it all. As an Atlanta band they should be careful with the chant of heretic since that is also the name of one of the oldest gay bars still standing in town.

The album closes out with one of it's strongest songs "In the Shade Ov Night". The growled vocals give a call and response with Hayes' more commanding shout back. This goes into a more melodic chorus that the drums refuse to relent beneath. Lariyah has a great voice, and truth be told this band was formed not quiet two years ago and have already gather steam even after being a part of the fatal wreck Wormreich was involved in, so I think the best has yet to come from this band. I'll give this a 8.5, which is the highest any band out of Atlanta , aside from Royal Thunder has earned recently so give them a listen especially if  you have outgrown Night Wish and things like Fly Leaf are too mainstream for you then these guys are worth your time.

Isengrim : " Rutjan Koski"

Black metal bands have been coming out of the wood work from every corner of the world. In some of these corners you pretty much know what brand of black metal you are going to get. The black metal coming out of northern Europe tends to have the edge in quality though many Finnish black metal bands are into the whole raw and bestial brand that is a little too lo-fi for me. So I was surprised when I checked out Finland's Isengrim because I did not expect such a strong melodic folk metal element going into this. From their they go into something more typical of mainstream  melodic black metal. With a clean vocal refrain coming later in the song and a mix of death metal aggression and groove trading off with the blast beats. They end up in Behemoth's back yard with a hooky riff bookended by growls.The punches are in all the right places and the album is very slick production wise.

"Autuas" finds the band in melodic mid pace stomp.At under three minutes it's pretty compact writing for black metal these days. Their use of clean vocals is more dramatic than Enslaved , but not as operatically bombastic as ICS Vortex. Also mid way in things start to become a little formulaic.But even when what they do feels like it's color by numbers, both the color and the numbers are more varied than if they had just hit you with blast beats from start to finish. Granted Some of the punches could almost be on a Kamelot album, so this starts becoming a lighter shade of black metal. They blast into a chaotic mix of folk inspired black metal that jars them from their more formulaic turn and gives the album a much needed dose of dissonance. They close the album out with a more majestic galloping song that brings elements of classic metal and power metal into the mix. This is well handled and is one of the albums stronger songs.

 If Behemoth is not black metal enough for you, then these guys should do the trick. Having a affinity for folk metal will certainly help, but is not required. I'll give this album an 8, as it is well polished and masterfully executed.These guys are ready for a larger audience and have made their brand of black metal digestible for the average mainstream metal head who is not already immersed in black metal , which in 2015 it's hard to imagine since it's influence has dripped into every genre , but I'm sure there are kids who still hang out in malls somewhere that have not.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Disemballerina : " Poison Gown"

A project that has gathered buzz in the metal community, despite not being metal.This string trio which focuses on a cello, harp and acoustic guitar is dark. I would not say they are heavy and if you are a regular reader hear then you know that some of the music we love to cover most is music that is heavy , but not metal. The opener "Impaled Matador" has an almost neo-folk feel to it. The melodies the strings make are romantic and lush, but by the time you get to "La Folls" it is beginning to just sound like chamber music. The cello does begin to play intervals that would not sound out of place on a metal album if chugged out by electric guitar. But if you are at ll fluent in classical music and maybe the are trying to appeal to an audience who is not, then there is nothing really new here. "That is the Head of One Who Toyed With My Honor" comes in using similar phrasing that has the aggressive current of metal eluded to in the cello's choice of notes. This ebbs into ambiance that is far more user friendly than say Phillip Glass. The cello goes for more of a chug in the final minutes of the song.

"Phantom Limb" starts off with some hesitant ambiance. They try to slide into the more syncopated notes with a little more intensity that is not there. This is good back ground music, but there is plenty of classical music that is both darker and heavier. Maybe Arvo Part should start writing his name in black metal font. One of the more interesting compositions is " Year of the Horse". It has a wider dynamic range than most of the other songs on this album. It is not heavy , but preformed with a lot of feeling. I do not hear any of the doom elements the band tags themselves with on their Bandcamp page. The first really metallic thing that occurs is in the final seconds of " Phantom limb" when they attack their instruments with a gallop for a brief second.

"Styx' must be in reference to the band from the 70s and not the river in Hell, because it is very tender and ballad like. There is a very minimalist feel to the first half of the song. The string are being very handled like pieces of fragile glass. It begins to slowly darken and at best might be though of as heading in a post- rock direction. Things slowly get a little more ominous in the final few minutes and are attacked with more tension. So kids remember that any tone or instrument if played the right way can invoke heavy, but to be metal well that requires distortion to give the metallic sound. I really want to like what they are doing here because I do like the idea in theory. I'll give this one a 7 as it sounds good and there are interesting choices being made but is far less original than you might be led to believe.