Thursday, December 29, 2016

Bestial Raids : "Master Satan's Witchery"

Blown out speakers and trash can drums fuel this savage metal assault . These guys feel more like a death metal band to me than black metal. They are at their beast when remembering songs need things to make them memorable and it is not all about the deafening roar. They have forgotten this dire warning by the get to the blur of overdrive and blast beats that is "All Sins Abode". on can be very muddy in many places , but this album does have a density that makes its pretty fucking heavy. Though the question can be begged after your ears have been beaten numb at certain points well what else can you do. The guttural vocals are well layered and agonized, though generally feel more like death metal growls rather than having the kind of passion behind them that I associate with black metal.

Despite this album's crude to the point of being almost primitive production, I will round this up to a 7 for being some savage as hell death metal. If you are a fan of the band they are giving you more of the same and placing the same value on their feral nature. It is hard to say if this is a maturation as their is something inherently adolescent about the kind of middle finger this album shoots conventional music, metal or otherwise and shows aside from the pentagrams there is more in common with punk than this bands fans might care to admit.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Top 10 Mainstream Metal Albums of 2016

This could almost be the top 10 Hard rock albums of 2016, as many of these bands ride the line between what is metal and what is not. These are the band's you are much more likely to hear on your Sirrus Radio or any air waves that venture into metal like KNAC. Some of these are veterans who are back in fighting shape and the very fact that they are mainstream means they have already paid their dues in the clubs at the very least. These are no the kind of bands sites like Cvlt Nation would cover, but are more likely to be found in the few print sources at their so if you have still not figured out how we are defining mainstream then go back to sniffing glue, here are your top ten mainstream metal albums of 2016.

10-Flotsam and Jetsam -s/t

It's been a good year so far for the legends of metal, both Anthrax and Metal Church returned with strong albums lets see if Arizona's thrash lords can do the same. Granted their first three albums were their best, they did not have as long of a prolific run as Anthrax. Shadows Fall drummer Jason Bittner is on the throne for this one, but three of the original members are still intact. Eric AK's voice has taken some wear and tear. It's still powerful, but gone are the yodels that once rivaled King Diamond's upper range. King Diamond still has it so I expect to hear him attempt one. They can still thrash with authority on the opener and don't slow down for better or for worse

9-Daniel Lioneye- "Vol. 3"

The solo band of H.I.M guitarist Linde Lindstorm, takes out the bulk of the cheese that was stinking up the later H.I.M albums. Said to have been more influenced by black metal than his work with H.i.M, I'll say it's heavier but not black metal. The vocals are baritone croon, not far from what Vile did in H.I.M, just less gasped and over accented. It's right at the border of metal and hard rock for me. H.I.M often referred to their sound as "love metal" which was another way for saying we make music for girls and sissy boys. This is not as sissy boy as Linda former band, but if you are a regular reader here then chances are this won't cut it as metal for you regardless of how many times they opened for Cradle of Filth. Judged on it's own merits as hard rock, its pretty decent.

8-Metal Church- "XI" 

The Metal gods of yesteryear are coming back strong this year.Things have changed since  Metal Church's electric steeple was held high. While well written I don't think "Killing Your Time" is actually metal and falls on more the the hard rock side of the coin. Chances are if this is your idea of metal you too have failed to change with the times. The strum of an acoustic guitar starts of the more aggressive attack of "No Tomorrow". When "Blessing in Disguise" came out the band as actually thrashing, but here they are only marginally heavier than W.A.S.P.
Mike Howe's voice sounds great. He has a good blend of grit and singing actual notes. His melody on the chorus of "No Tomorrow" couldn't be more solid. "Signal Path" has more of a classic metal vibe, that most of us think of us power-metal these days.

7- Moonsorrow-" Jumalten Aika" 

 It's been five years since the Finnish overlords of pagan metal left us with "Varjoina kuljemme kuolleiden maassa". The album opens with folk instruments creating a ritualistic aura.After a  minute and a half of this they storm into the kinda of  larger than life metal you have come to expect from them. The black metal side of what they do is toned down on this album.They have more in common the more epic side of folk metal. Holding true to their mission statement this does have a commanding viking feel, without inspiring you to go into a jig with your drinking horn. They wait is in some part due to the ambitious production value this album was crafted with.  The drums have enough thunder to make Thor jealous. Production wise this might be their biggest drum sound yet. This drummer might have always been a monster, but this albums really shines a spotlight on the fact.

6- Red Fang - "Only Ghosts"

 In the past when I heard them I thought they were a little derivative of Kyuss. While they are not re-inventing the wheel here, and are arguably taking more inspiration from the more hooky direction Torche went in back in 2008 on "Meanderthal", the songs are well written and by the time the vocals switch over into the hook, I am enjoying myself.  The riff to "Cut It Short " owes more to Devo's "Girl You Want" or Kiss' "Rocket Ride" than any Black Sabbath song. Ross Robinson did a good job here. I like the production on the vocals and there is a great bass tone this album. I am not sure this is what I would call metal as is rocks about as hard as the Foo- Fighters or Queens of the Stone-age.

5-Deftones- "Gore" 

 The Deftones are the last nu-metal band standing that changed in their house of flies enough to remain relevant as the years have passed them by. Sergio Vega from Quicksand continues to fill in on bass making this his 3rd album with the band. The album opens with the moody "Prayers / Triangles" that benefits from one of Chino's smoother melodies that fits like a velvet glove on the groove. A more trip hop layer of  atmosphere leads into "Acid Hologram". It swells into a Mogwai like drone. With very emo tinged vocals giving a fey croon that sounds like something more fitting of My Chemical Romance or Coheed & Cambria. The heavier "Doomed User" is the second single from the album. It is much more in your face metal, with a riff that reminds me of "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath". Chino's vocals are all over the place on it until finding a smoother hook. The intro "Geometric Headdress" fakes like they are taking a darker turn until the more chugged riff comes. Chino throws in some his old screams. It feels like Slipknot getting more melodic and if it wasn't for the way the riff resolves itself then I would think this is an April Fools joke and someone slipped some Mudvayne in on me. It's unapologetic nu-metal. They earn their place, bu still writing some good songs and being heavier than expected.

4- Alcest- "Kodama"

 It seems the French purveyors of what was once hailed as black gaze have decided to at least try to be a rock band. The title track has more of a Pink Floyd like jangling drone to it. While this is far from black metal it is a more suitable extension of growth than their previous album which had little in the way of balls to it. They do flirt with blast beats on the second song, but it smooths out into the more fey touched indie rock. In some ways this is closer to what they once did than the title track, however my initial impression is that the title track is better even though harshly screamed vocals re-surface.  I respect this since between Opeth and the Used, this seems to be something many singers are unwilling to re-visit, which I think is as much of a cop out as only relying on screaming.There are some pretty awesome guitar tones on this album. While there is little by way of soloing, I think the tones are impeccable. They do have plenty of the older shoe gazey epic guitar lines soaring over the fairy forests for you. I don't need Alcest to re-make their first two albums. I just want to hear that they are still the band that I used to love and not abandon their metal roots altogether, along with writing good songs. This album tends to fall within those bounds. They do eventually revert back to almost full blown black metal, the only thing keeping them from it is the guitar sticks to dreamier sonic scope. 


3-Rob Zombie- "Electric Warlock Acid Witch" 

 I love me some White Zombie, I was on for the ride the more Stooges like "Make them Die Slowly" so when "La Sexcisto" came out I was confused as to why they sounded like Metallica. The band hit their stride during the peak of my drug summer when "Astro-Creep" came out. I have caught Rob a few times live since the band broke up, but never caught on with his solo work cus I wanted White Zombie, the last of the Demons Defeated "Satanic Cyanide/ the Killer Rocks On" slows down and has more rock to it than the more electronic thump I associate with his solo work. Overall the songs can become rather infectous here if you are just on for some big dumb fun, much like his movies.

2- Katatonia- 'the Fall of Hearts" 

 The gloomy Swedes have pretty much become a prog band at this point. The Opeth like cadence that builds the opener when the distortion is stomped on makes sense considering the acrobatics the guitars have already engaged in leading up to that point. "In Absentina" ear Porcupine Tree might also come to mind. This is not to say there is not plenty of the band's own DNA all over this song. Jonas' vocals are unmistakable.The album is very crisp from a production stand point, which lightens the shade of gray cast over these songs. Jonas doesn't have the same melancholic desperation fueling his vocals, yet he doesn't stray from his style. He sounds more hopeful, though lyrically the same themes seem to be present. The guitar work on this album is stunning. I am not sure how much of that owes thanks to Roger Ojersson from Tiamat who is another new addition to the band. If you are going to do prog-rock, this is the way to go as songwriting and melody have more value than showcasing chops or trying to create some kind of obtuse sonic puzzle. Their new drummer Daniel Moilanen, does't make me go "Damn, Daniel", but he does play very tastefully around the more progressive part to create more jazz influenced passages. This is a surprise knowing he comes from Heavydeath and other more extreme Swedish acts.

1- Anthrax- "For All Kings"

 Anthrax used to be one of my favorite bands and to this day "Among the Living " is without a doubt one of the best metal albums ever with "Spreading the Disease" not too far behind. I hung tough with the band for the first six albums, even liking Jon Bush's first album. Then we grew apart.  "Worship Music"  saw the return of singer Joey Belladonna, but I never gave it a shot. I am giving them a chance here and while Belladonna might be 55, but I just reviewed the new David Bowie, and he is 69 so no body is slipping by due to age. Age might have helped Anthrax here , because with age Belladonna's voice is lower than even on "Persistence of Time" , but it gives him more aggression, which might have helped on albums like the almost too happy "State of Euphoria". There is younger blood injected in the band as Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall is now in the band. They a surprisingly melodic section into the middle of the opener before thrashing back into it. They do not let up on the heavy with "Monster at the End", though it has a smoother groove allowing Belladonna's vocals to coast into a hookier chorus. A little less thrash and closer to mainstream metal, it's still a solid headbanger .

Monday, December 26, 2016

Top 10 Sludge albums of 2016

So this list is somewhat deceptive in it's title, since we are throwing any thing in that is not dark enough to be doom, holds too true to it's punk roots or is more suited to smoking weed to than languishing in the graveyard. That doesn't mean there is not legit sludge all over this list, as sludge is the dirty crust punk cousin of doom. Some sludge bands have just grown up and gotten more rock n roll over time so what sludge is has changed some over the years and this year's crop is certainly evidence of that fact. Some of these bands might even think they are doom or have gotten their start as a doom band , but now have smoked too much pot to kept it that dark. So here are the top ten sludge albums of 2016.

10- Big Business -"Command Your Weather"

 One half Karp and on half Murder City Devils, there is more of the thundering noise rock that Karp made and less of the dark punk the Devils dealt out. Their newest album finds them leaning more in a hard rock direction. Like if you took all of the beer commercials out of the Foo-fighters. Their songs are compact like punk rock and rumble with burly fuzz. The vocals are a mid register tenor that remind a little of Blue Oyster Cult. they capture some powerful sounds and more melodic than I thought they were going to be going into this, but their songwriting skills are more along the line of hopeful jams which can be a gamble in regards to how they come together to form actual songs and not just ideas of what might sound cool if they were part of an actual song. But it had enough golden moments to earn it's place here.

9-Church of Misery - "And Then There Were None" 

 Here is the 6th full-length, that continues the band's tradition of penning songs about serial killers. The have a much more stoner metal sound on this one.The bassist Tatsu Mikami forges ahead with a lineup featuring Scott Carlson from Repulsion, contributing the vocals to this one. They are delivered with a Cathedral snarl. The guitars are handled by Dave Szulkin from Mark of the Devil / Blood Lust. The drums are pounded by Eric Little of Earthride. Production wise this album sounds good, it adheres to the retro sound required by this kind of thing.  The vocals are up front and add more punch to songs like "Make Them Die Slowly".  The vocals are narrated in more of a Tom Araya manner, never really committing to a full scale growl to keep the lyrics the focal point.If you are a fan of the band and reconciled with their more rock direction then you too will enjoy this. There's some pretty great guitar playing in places and whats not to love about serial killers?

8- Fistula- "Shape of-doom-to-cumm"

 I guess the same could be said here as despite the title of this album, it's far too up tempo to be doom, and dirty in more of a trailer trash punk manner than dirty like raw black metal and nothing is blackened about this.They do get closer to doom on "Sabbath Wants to Do a Split with Me", but with that song title how could they not? The guitars sound big enough on this song to live up to the title. When this band's name is brought up in conversation I liken them to a more meth-ed out version of Acid Bath and that fits pretty well on this song, of course without the benefit of having the croon of Dax Riggs come in


7-Bossk- "Audio Noir"

 Here is an album that could very well fly under your radar if you aren't versed in these guys. It starts off as a dream. These guys have an incredible guitar tone. While it is very similar to that used by many post-rock bands, they really have it dialed in right on this album. This British band has been at it for a decade, so they have had plenty of time to get it right. The drummer is a solid pocket groover that serves the song and keeps it moving while the guitars take you down stream. They hold off until the final minute of the first song to drop the metal crunch in. They handle this is a very tasteful manner. They do not let up on the distortion as this carries over in the second song "Heliopause". This one rumbles with boots of lead. More stoned sludge than doom as it doesn't have a sorrowful current. Vocals come in that are scornfully screamed, the more hard core side of sludge. They are mixed back into the mountains of guitar and sometimes eclipsed. While I am glad this album is not just instrumental the vocals go along with the riff and really don't contribute a ton.

6- Crowbar- "Serpent Only Lies"

I remember back when I first heard "All I Had I Gave" I thought these are some big ugly dudes playing big ugly music that was heavy as fuck. Going to back to listen to that song, it's still a good song, but not as heavy as I remembered it. But then again  the verses to "I am the Storm" reflect back to a similar tempo as "All I Had I Gave" , the chorus might not resonate like the song from the 90's did , but is still well done and is very much true to who this band is. The album opened really strong so I think the first two songs are more powerful and flawlessly crafted. I prefer when the band relaxes back into a more sludged out take on doom with songs like "Surviving the Abyss". When the vocals deliver the more husky melody that are tapping into something more unique than when they hit the more barked passages.

5- Sourvein- "Aquatic Occult"

 My only history with this band is the split they did with Graves at Sea. I'm  much more impressed with this album. "Avian" is the first song that feels like they are taking the plunge into the album with "Tempest" feeling more like an intro. Though most of the songs just break the two minute mark. This is a relief and proves that in order to play doom effectively you don't have to open the flood gates to ponderous ten minute plus behemoths. The fact that two members of this band were also a part of Buzz-Oven can be felt on the oppressive stomp to "Ocypuss".  "Aquanaut"  provides are more traditional doom counter point to this beating previously rained down upon your ears. "Hymn to Poseidon" has the melody submerged beneath the tides of distortion. "Mermaids" swims in more stoner rock waters not unlike those that older Queens of the Stoneages once bathed in. They attack "Urchins" like sharks with the scent of blood. This song's doom tendencies keep the bongs bubbling with the same intensity of Electric Wizard.

4-Coke Goat- "Drugs and Animals"

;Everything now is a hybrid of something. These guys perhaps do not successfully create a doom metal album, but more importantly create some heavy and angry music that has a atmosphere to it when needed. It roars with an apocalyptic rage fitting of the current mood on my Facebook feed spurned on by the generation of sore losers, so it's good music to get tear gassed to on a protest, though if you are that kind of a hippy then you are going to be scared of the big chords anyway.

3-Graves At Sea- "the Curse That is"

 I wanted something more to sink my doom hungry jaws into. Doom begs to be questioned here right from the eleven minute title track that opens the album.  It's an odd evolution that includes the bigger production value this album has. It finds them thundering into your ears with something more akin to a stoner rock version of "Through Sliver and Blood" era Neurosis. Some evolution an be expected considering the line-up changes that have yo-yoed the band about. The vocals are still mean in their ample grit coated screams. The guitar has warmed up a bit. Perhaps it is the time they took in the studio to perfect their tone versus previous releases which have had a rawer, angrier sound. It's not a deal breaker. I can appreciate the expanded musical qualities they invested into the songs here, it is just going to take a little getting used to.

2-Neurosis- "Fire Within Fires"

One of the most important things I had to adjust in my expectations of this album was thinking that while they are certainly the pioneers of sludge metal, Neurosis is no longer really a metal band. They do eventually get heavy once the vocals kick in on "Bending Light" which opens the albums. They spend the first half of the song wandering around a dark and trippy landscape. These are sounds that please my ears, but it's not "Souls at Zero" or "Through Sliver and Blood". So if that is what you want then there is some acceptance that needs to take place as a listener. I think the direction they are headed on this album is truer to who they are as a band than the more Pink Floydian journey of "Honor Found in Decay".They album is heavy enough to earn it's place here.

1- Fistula "Longing For Infection"

 Here is an album that grew on me, originally ranked as an 8, I'll say it's a 10 now that it has earned so many listens and I can now appreciate how raw and rooted in punk, this Ohio band is more about nastiness and being loud more than adhering to the expectations of any genres. When their singer snarls about some one being stabbed in the face forty time, he proves to be a storyteller who needs little suspension of disbelief. The verse to grind down into a more metal groove, but this feels more real than most metal. The samples of news stories covering sexually assaulted corpses, gives this a similar shade of gruesome glory that Acid Bath once had. He gurgles lyrics like "mommy told me not to play with dead things" to create a wonderfully morbid web of white trash horror stories, this could be "the Hills Have Eyes" set to music.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

the Top 10 Pop / Electronic Albums of 2016

We have a column called "Report to the Dance Floor" so the more twerked out nature of this list should not come as a huge surprise. There are a couple albums that are somewhat more organic than  others, then at the other end of the spectrum we are throwing hip-hop in with this since it's certainly not organic music. So here's to the guilty pleasures of booty shakin that rocked the iPod in 2016.

10- Jane in Space - "s/t" On this projects debut the vocals are very moody, they remind me of a more low key version of Stabbing Westward. The vocals are the center piece with the beats wobbling and clicking around them, Sometimes they have more effects on them. Sometimes they are more up front than other times. By the second song Night Riots was coming to mind, though this project is much darker. This is much more ebm than industrial. It is a very hazy narcotic dance floor that these songs dance upon.

 8-  Night Riots- "Love Gloom"

Just speaking of these guys ...right from the first song "Nothing Personal" it's obvious we are going a more Gotye pop route with this. There might be a little more gain on the guitars, but don't fool yourself if you want to make this more rock than it is. I love pop music. This might come as a surprise, but after I have been sitting in front of a computer listening to death metal all day that is the last thing I want to hear on my walk to the gym. With that stand their is some excellent song writing at work here and vocal hooks galore.

7- Body of Light- "Let Me Go "

These two brothers from Arizona sound like they are Euro-trash. They look like a couple of kids from the straight edge scene rather than pumping out the up tempo new wave tinged dance found on this album. With the second list the song's groove began to sink in. While there are some of the quirky plastic coated staples from the earlier of new wave that spawned artists like Depeche Mode, these sounds move and flow in a very modern manner. If you listen close enough you can here the retro mood is deeply intertwined with a modern dance feel, leaving the croon of the vocals that steps out further in the mix by the time you get to the third song.

6- Gucci Mane - "Everybody Looking"

So never reviewed this album. This is big dumb fun that I listen to when riding the train into the hood.

5- Dalek-"Asphalt For Eden"

Here is the 7th album by this hip-hop duo, I would call them experimental, but they are doing it right and everyone else is lazy.They come on strong with a dark dense sound, that might be argued to offer a shoe gaze take on hip- hop, but Massive Attack already does that. They continue to get darker on "Guaranteed Struggle". The Mc has skills, but unlike mainstream hip hop where the backing track is often uninteresting the lyrics sit back in the music in a manner that has more in common with punk or metal production that pop music.

4- Bat For Lashes -"the Bride" Natasha Khan's voice is just as impressive as it was on "the Haunted Man". She sticks close to the shadows and continues to pick up where Sinead O'Connor left off in her hey day.
. I'm fine with her becoming more of an ethereal torch singer. I think she might have a edge of Lana Del Ray here because her pipes slightly outclass Ms. Del Ray. Not sure if lyrically she carries the same edge and that might be where Lana edges her out. I can say this album takes less chances than "the Haunted Man". I would say perhaps this is just a phase, but it feels more like a cause of her maturity taking her in a different direction that might not be where I prefer her to go. She has a great voice and this album is pretty damn good, for me it really depends on if I am in the mood for this sort of thing.

3- Aesop Rock - the Impossible Kid"

 This is one of my favorite new school MCs. Right from the first song the new album hits like hip hop should. There is a dark under current to the electronic whirl. His voice is front and center with his dizzying flow schooling the inferior MCs that the masses follow out of ignorance. I was a little worried because his verse on the new Atmosphere felt dialed in, but the first song on this album pretty much blew away Atmosphere's whole album. He slows down a little on "Rings". Then midway into the second song the wheel in my ahead begin to spin and I find myself asking "Is this as good as "None Shall Pass?".There are no awkward dips into r&b or anything with pop aspirations just bad ass verses that can't be stopped. Yes it holds up to his other work.

2- Future-"Evol"

 ... Aesop can rp better than Future there is no question and the duet with the Weeknd "Low Life" got me in the door no question, but it's a fun album with stupid but effective hooks that made me come back to it's trap attitude take on maoinstrean rap that erned so many listens from me.

1- the Weeknd- Star Boy

 The tone of this album is much different and embracing more of a dance vibe with strong ties to house music. With the amount of drugs is supposedly does this is no surprise. The Micheal Jackson influence can be still felt on songs like "Rockin" though musically it is much more like Euro dance

Friday, December 23, 2016

the Agnes Circle : "Some Vague Desire"

These guys are from London so they should know what's up when it comes to this kind of music. The albums opens with a lush cavernous dark of tense dark wave that never grows into an actual song, so we can write it off as an awkward intro. The programmed drums keep them from making to many sudden changes so it is up to the guitar line to lay down the out line of the song. At the core of their dna they are following a blue print already laid down by the Cure's "Pornography " album. The problem is when they do not connect at the chorus they can blame non one but themselves for keeping them from greatness. "Monument" is comes closer to being dancey, with the guitar melody holding more of a hook to the up tempo under current. "Martial Love" is more solidly written and there is more to it's cool detachment to draw you in. This album sounds great and they have tapped into all the right sounds, but by the time you get to "Underneath the Ivy" you feel like it's a matter of them knowing where these sounds should or should not go. The vocals a crooned in a pleasant enough baritone that holds touches of Depeche Mode and while everything works well enough, I am waiting for the moment when they really rock me.

 "Law of Angels" starts off like one of the Cocteau Twins more upbeat moments then loses steam when the vocals come in.  The verse melodies are a little muddy. I think this could thump like a Cure song, just doesn't have the bass high enough in the mix and really dialed in. The chorus coolly sails in, but is not something that really demands your attention. When things finally build up it becomes a traffic jam arrangement wise. Nothing seems to be working towards developing a groove to move you out on the dance or bang your head, so what is the point? The reverse delay that opens "Under Reason" gives it a feel similar to the song "Meat is Murder". They kind of get it together a little more here. An 8 seems generous enough, I like their sound and the ideas propelling them I think they have plenty of potential and while they make a good first impression with me here I think they are capable of more if they look at their songs more meticulously.


The Top Ten Rock Albums of 2016

Some rock harder than others. Some girls mothers are bigger than other girls mothers. the definition of metal has changed over the years some might have qualified for being metal back in the seventies, so artists on this list rocked harder in the 70s and are now laying back for a more reflective view on their arts. In the end this list is pretty self explainitory and boils down to what I listened to the most as providing the inspiration to indluge multiple listens is the goal of every great album others are forgotten as time goes on. These are really ranked by what survived the  year the longest in my iPod. So enough talk lets get to the Top 10 Rock Albums of 2016.

10-Hammers of Misfortune- "Dead Revolution"

The first song off Hammers of Misfortunes new album is much more aggressive than what I remember hearing from them in the past. The more prog moments haven't gone any where. The production sounds more organic and helps to give the guitar a rougher edge and a little grit to the otherwise smooth vocals. Joe Hutton who also sang on their "17th Street " album is manning the mic again. He sounds pretty strong and on the title the band continues to keep the chug alive as it falls somewhere between Deep Purple and Motley Crue's "Looks That Kill.If you just like prog rock that is heavy on the retro then this is also worth your time. If you have likewise pined for these guys to be more of a metal band you have also gotten your wish, if your definition of metal includes bands from the 70s.

9-Skunk anansie - "Anarchytecture"

If you aren't familiar with this band you are more than likely American or born after 1990. In the states the brushes with mainstream came from Skin lending her voice to a Deftones song and Kevin Bacon singing along to them in the car in the movie "Hollow Man" .The openers is smooth electro rock with a cool vocal hook that made me forget the harder rock elements of "Post Orgasmic Chill" are not still intact and this is perhaps more along the lines of the Gathering's current state of the union. Electronica has always been an influence they have just made more of transition. The guitar than is present is hardly over-driven until the second verse of "Victim". It all is riding on Skin's voice, which is a good place to hedge your bets from. She isn't flexing her pipes in the quite as a dramatic manner as she once did , but she still has the goods

8-Kyng- Breathe In the Water

These guys are an interesting mix ball busting riffs set agains catchy melodic sections that are not unlike those of say Red Fang. Eddie Veliz's vocals are the high light as he takes a Chris Cornell approach, though no where as Robert Plantish in his upper range. In some way the are more like a pumped up harder version of Bad Company.  In terms of song writing these guys are strongest on a song like the title that takes more melodic nuances and sets them against the burlier riffs in a more Queens of the Stoneage manner.

8-Kidney Thieves -" the Mend"

It sounds like no time has passed and they are picking up where they left off. When you are ahead of your time then this is fine. Free Dominguez is obviously a vampire since her voice has not aged. "the Co-dependent Song" finds them letting up on some of the more industrial strength aggression very early on and putting them in a zip-code much close to Guano Apes.This new kinder, gentler version of Kidneythieves closes out the album with an even more atmospheric piece.Id you are a fan then this will make your day, because even a more pop minded version of this band is better than most of the other shit out today and a reminder that music was once better. They Kick Starter'ed this so there was no labels pressuring them to go one way or another.

7-Iggy Pop-" Post Pop Depression"

 He is the last man standing from a by gone era of Punk. For me losing Iggy would be a bigger blow than Lemmy. I got a ton of play out of both the Stooges and Motorhead in the 8th grade, but started listening to Iggy first and as this album shows, Pop still has it in him while the last Motorhead album, saw Lemmy already waning. Iggy sounds better than he has in sometime. I'm sure Homme's sense of production, doesn't hurt. The first song sounds like you would expect from Iggy Pop, playing with Queens of the Stoneage. While I disliked Queens of the Stoneage's last album, this coupling has injected new life into Pop. His croon is more careful and Josh's backing vocals work well with his voice. Iggy sounds almost as good as he did on "Blah Blah Blah".
6-Subrosa - For This We Fought the Battle of Ages"

 I am not the biggest fan these days of songs tipping the scales at over ten minutes, they make the most with the powerfully dynamic opener. The violins weep against the slabs of sludged out distortion. The vocals are generally pretty delicate. A thick bass line leads you into "Wound of the Warden". There is more motion in the ocean on this one . Not quite metal in the way it builds up in the first couple of minutes, while riding a similar groove.Often bordering metal by even using harsh vocals the over all feel is something more expansive

5-Hexvessel- "We Are Death"

 Way more rock n roll than I thought it would be, but this band is fronted by Mat McNerney who we also know as Kvohst the lead singer of Grave Pleasures / Beast Milk. This album finds this project now occupying a more similar sonic space as Grave Pleasures , just dipping into a another decade . So perhaps Kvohst is a time lord and he hops back and forth from the 80s to the 60s collecting melodie. The folk has been dialed way back on the opener. This eases back into a mellower psychedelic trip on the second song, but the rock element are still dominate over the folk, which is not a complaint, perhaps if you are really invested in these guys being a neo-folk then it might need more time to grow on you , but the songs really handle the slightly morose melodies well. This is not totally happy hippy music that is just the undercurrent. It is totally groovy, but a lava lamp is not a requirement.Then things really ease back for "Cosmic Truth" that has more of a Moody Blues feel. There is more of a straight up 60's rock feel to "When I'm Dead" .

 4-Wovenhand- "Star Treatment"

 Being a big fan of Eugene Edwards, expectations were high, but  I can say I ever doubted his ability to deliver as he has been very consistent over the years. It opens with a pounding rock gallop that pretty much picks up where "Refractory Obdurate" left off. Things take a turn for the weird on "Swaying Reed" that sounds like the acid kicked in at the same time the Holy Ghost descended upon them in the studio. This does capture the same abstract tone the Doors touched upon, but strikes me as more of an interlude than an actual song. "the Hired Hand" struts in with a ghostly western feel. Edwards' resonant baritone is commanding as it is emotive. What different this time around is more trippy space like sounds zoom out of the corners of the song. A more deliberate rock inspired stomp haunts "Crystal Palace" though the intervals of the melody in the back hearkens back to tribal music of the American Indians.  This album is certainly more atmospheric, though it's reined in to serve the songs

3- Dinosaur Jr - "Give a Glimpse of What You are Not" 

 They come back strong and rocking out of the gate. It sounds like a slacker version of the Foo-fighters holding no aspirations of gaining radio play and more power to them for this attitude. They surprised me on the first song, but will they be able to hold the momentum is what I wonder during the jangle of the second song. They let up on the attack in favor of a more garage like sound, that still holds hints of the more sonic barrage of alternative rock this band is known for.The production on this album is generally on point, lets face it these guys are old pros so they are not going to let that slip. The guitar tones is great and Mascis really cements his place as one of modern rock's best guitarists on "Mirror". The song carries enough a groove to create the illusion it's not as melancholy as it. The last song is pretty dynamic, while also being some what laid back in it's solid groove.

2-Black Foxxes- "I'm Not Well" 

 This band is interesting as it's hard to imagine that they did not come from the late the 90s. While middle of the road when it comes to how hard the they do or do not rock,  I can appreciate the role the vocals play in their sound. As the opener builds there is more of  an early Pearl Jam like angst to the grit added in the vocals. They lock into a more traditional rock role on "Husk". When they ease their foot off the gas it offers a more dynamic glimpse at the band , but flirts with a more emo side than I am not sure I was ready to see yet on "Whatever Let's You Cope" .  There is an androgynous quality to their sound that doesn't glam it out like Placebo, but is there. They narrowly edged out Dinosaur Jr , I think I listened to this one a little more.

1- David Bowie - "Black Star"

 It was the Thin White Duke's 25th album. He released it on his 69th birthday. Then he died and most of you made me sick the way you ran out to get this looking for clues if he was hinting that he knew the time was coming. So lets talk about the music's vulgar I know but some body has go to do it. The lead single and title track opens the album, finding Bowie in a darker and more surreal place than his last album. There is a very experimental ambiance to things that will delight fans of his Brian Eno years. His collections of musicians  ranges from LCD Soundsystem to avant garde jazz , with the jazz contingent weighing more heavily. Not his best album ever, or even post-"Lets Dance" I think "Outside" is way better and "the Next Day" might be as well, but it's Bowie so no one can really compete making this almost a no contest.

Dreariness : "Fragments"

Is there hope for depressive black metal? The upcoming AU Champ Des Morts certainly hints this genre could be seeing some life breathed into it. This album came out back in November, the 20th to be exact, so we are not to late to the part on. They open with a dream like elegance similar to classic Alcest and the more venomous elements of this band are not unfurls until half way into the song. Going into the second song the vocals are not as focused but thankfully the guitars dial things back in at the two and a half mark. When I put headphones I finally figured out the vocals were a girl singing. They ebb things back down into a more tender atmosphere that is closer to Deafheaven's zip code on "Essence" which is the first flawless song they deliver. T

he tone darkens into the first thing that really fits the bill as being depressive in my book on " In the Deep of Your Eyes". This feels a little more like an interlude than a fully realized song, though I appreciate the Skinny Puppy vibe haunting it. I'll let it squeak in as a song for the purpose of the review as it does go somewhere and build up. It also gets points for originality. Sadly things are not as inspired for the rather luke warm- yet fittingly morose "Somnium" , it would have worked better if they had found a way to work the interlude that follows this song into it and giving it something to make it stand out from what we have already heard. The album ends with the sixteen minute "Catharsis". From the first strains of fragile guitar I can envision this going into more of an Explosionsinthesky post-rock direction. The black metal doesn't come until we are five and a half minutes in ,but I like what they do when they do chose to kick it by layering the vocals so the clean vocals float over it. They from a stark blasting thrash to a bleeding sonic swell that is some how graceful.

I'll give this album a 9 as it's pretty rucking solid with only one song that doesn't feel like it nails it as hard as they others , but even then it is a positive shade of progress for this genre of metal. I don't really hear them as an Italian band but that is what is going down.

Wil Cifer's Top Ten X-mas Songs

I prefer the more pagan leanings of this holiday, but when you have a 6 year old they want to hear x-mas music even when they are in their own words " Quarters Jewish". We tried the Taylor Swift x-mas album, but that was recorded when she was in the more innocent xtian side of her country roots so we had to put a stop to that after the second time she said Jesus. So here are some X-mas songs I approve of.

10- The Xmas Song - London After Midnight

Not their strongest song, but better than listening to Taylor Swift's Jesus years.

9- " Christmas Vacation"- Descendants

Lyrically this one is pretty spot on for me this year. I need to give this band more of a shot as I like them when I hear them going to go listen to "Milo Goes to College" while I finish this list.

8-"Merry X-mas( I don't Wanna Fight Tonight)" Ramones

Originally from "Brain Drain" a criminally under rated album, makes me wanna do a top 20 punk albums of all time to show it the props it deserves.

7-" Mistress For X-mas"- AC/DC

Thought about checking out the Halestorm cover, but since I am more fluent in the original it is obviously the way to go even though the 80s production leaves a little to be desired.

6-" If I was Your Vampire"- Marilyn Manson

Six a.m X-mas morning...

5- "Frosty the Snow Man"- the Cocteau Twins

This band is the sound of sparkling lights, if you have never dropped acid while riding around looking at x-mas lights with "Heaven or Las Vegas" playing you have not lived.

4-Black X-mas- Venom

Cronos really sounds good on this one. When the snow turns black , I'll be back...

3- X-mas With the Devil- Spinal Tap

The elves are dressed in leather and the angels are in chains...

2- "Red Water"- Type O Negative

This one is a close call between it and the number one slot who makes more sense for me if you know me.


1- "No Presents For X-Mas"- King Diamond

I bought this single before "Fatal Portrait" so it holds more sentimental value for me.

Monday, December 19, 2016

the Top 10 Progressive Metal Albums of 2016

progressive means to progress, if you are putting out the same album of indulgent noodling I don't care if it is under the guys of a rock opera or not your sound is not evolving you are not progressive. So these are not albums serving as bookends to keyboard solos and are all more focused on the songs than trying to just make musicale bukkake. Many genres are touched on with in this some are more black metal than others some are death metal, some are hard rock, but they all break the mold and embody progressive metal even with out operatic vocals and frilly shirts. Here are the top 10 progressive metal albums of 2016. If you want to hear any of these bands just follow the review links.

10-Fallujah- "Dreamless" 

Here is the follow up to 2014's "The Flesh Prevails". While these guys are technical death metal, they pull it off in such a way that doesn't just come across as dazzling you with chops but create an atmosphere. The first song seems like a movement more than a song on it's own even though I like the fact the carries more ambiance than anything I remember from the first album. "Adrenaline" ebbs down into an almost jazzy landscape, but caters more to fans of death metal as it is about the propulsion. The vocals are forceful growls on the lower side of mid range. A more progressive color is added that creates a more Dream Theater like feel before they blast off into the more rapid fire attack. The drummer is really killing it coming off of fills into punching grooves. The bass player is not too far behind him in terms of prowess. The shredding solos of course reach out and grab, but it's the other textures like the female vocals of Tori Letzer, tossed into this one that make a difference


 9- Hawkwind- "The Machine Stops"

 Here's a rule... if you are going to throw around a band's name when it comes to influencing other artists you like , then you must review their albums when they are released or you are very simply a poseur. You don't have to like it. As not all band's can keep up the kind of streak that the likes of Bowie and Zappa had. Things have changed since their days Lemmy was in the band. The sci-fi element was not toned down, instead it was allowed to run wild. If you do drugs and are not doing them when you listen to this album, that needs to change. This concept album is based on the Em Forster book of the same name. So here is a case of where this album did not get as much air time from me since I no longer drop acid ...or do any drugs, but if I am going to relapse on the more mind expansive drugs then this would be on tap. I really like how they maintained their sense of identity while dabbling in newer sounds.

8- Thy Catafalque- "Meta"

Katai is back handling things on this own once again. There is more of a conventional metal groove to the opener and less black metal, though the end result is a good song so what genre he is delving into here doesn't really matter much to me.  Katai does get some help by the second song "Siraly" as female vocals coast over the slightly slower than mid-tempo waltz of distorted guitar. Things get a more experimental with bells ringing out before a thrashing attack. This album does take more chances than most metal releases and is not tied hard and fast into a genre it feels the need to play it safe and conform to.

7- Hail Spirit Noir- "Mayhem in Blue"

 I loved this band's last album, so I won't lie it's a surprise to hear them go from progressive black metal into groovy 60's tinged black n roll.Some blast beats do crop up, I am not sure I would say they give the end a more black metal feel, I do not that this is going to be a weird ride. The title track finds them bringing back more of the prog feel, and going all out into the wake of Poseidon with Opeth like melodic section before bring some smack down.The sung vocals are well executed and these guys are incredible musicians so it's hard to argue against any of their creative choices so far.

 6- Cult of Luna & Julie Christmas-"Mariner"

 On the 8th release by this band I think it was high time they did something to switch it up a bit so the same old sludge didn't get stale. The first song stays fairly close to home. Though they have opened up a more expansive sound with a greater range of melody.While some of the songs might go to excess in terms of length, they keep my attention . There is not a fast forward classic on this one, some points are just more powerful than others, but it all balances out.

5- the Von Deer Skulls"- The Rest is Silence"

 They cover a lot of ground in the eight minutes of the first song.If I am really going to nit pick the genre lines, I would say this falls closer to sludge than doom. The slow heaviness places more emphasis on oppression on than mourning. The spoken section going into "the fall of the Raven" makes it clear these guys are from France. The more oppressive mood is the driving force of this song as it lumbers a more droning course.

4-Pensees Nocturnes- A Boire et A Manger"

 How experimental do you like your metal is the first question you have to ask when going into this one. French metal bands have never played it safe. This takes that to a new extreme with something you might hear in the Big Easy they pulls from a style of jazz that later influenced the creole jazz of New Orleans influenced Jazz it flips into metal that is noisy and dissonant. This is dark enough to make me happy, but after hearing it called depressive black metal my expectations were something more like Lifelover or Totalselfhatred . Instead of anguish and emoting we get something more like death metal even though there are croon clean vocals that come like something from a Mike Patton project.This is totally original despite the comparisons to John Zorn that could be drawn. The guitar playing might sound disjointed at times, but I think this is all done very purposefully. The blast beats come in spasm like burst lingering when the New Orleans street jazz returns


 3- Ihsahn- 'Arktis"

 Ihsahn has brought back the metal is back in a big way on his 6th solo album.  You won't forget Ihsahn was in Emperor. I suppose he felt he took the experimentation as far as he could without losing sight of where he came from. This makes for an album that is in line with his earlier solo work. Captures more of an Opeth like feel...that is when Opeth actually played metal.The electronic elements are still there just set back behind the guitars. The guys from Leprous are still around with  Einar Solberg, helping out with vocals . Overall he is back here in fine form and proving himself to be one of the best creative minds in metal or any genre.

2- Voivod - "Post Society"

 Voivod has always been light years ahead of their time. Since "Target Earth" the band has locked into a sound that takes the classic tones from "Dimension Hatross " and pushes it forward in a modern production. This ep is the quality of both songwriting and production as "Target Earth" in fact the arrangements might be even more progressive,  like the surreal breakdown on the title track that kicks the ep off. They have always been able to shift in a very organic manner from one movement to the next . What amazes me more upon hearing this is how true they are to their legacy even though half of the original members are not on this recording. Chewy and Rocky did comprise the live band on their last pass through the states with Napalm Death and both really do justice to the Voivod legacy. This is only an ep, but it is Voivod and even there passing fancies are better than what your favorite band can muster


1- Purson- 'Desire's Magic Theater"

 While summoning a retro vibe is part of their sound there was more of a hard rock under current to their sound which this new full length turns away from in favor of something that is supposed to be a rock opera aiming for Sgt. Pepper and Ziggy Stardust. Right from the get go it feels like it has more in common with T-Rex before colliding into more of a folkish hippy haze of secon hand smoke. They throw a ton of colors at you so it can be overwhelming at first but at the end of the day I found this album stuck and stayed more than the others on this list. So that is why it earned the top spot.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Top Ten Post- Punk Albums of 2016

So this list was spawned out of the goth/ industrial list, but the divide is widening with artists both new and old as the punk becomes more predominant, I am also including shoe gaze in this list, though there are only artists who could claim influence by that genre rather than being a hundred percent committed to it. These album's are dark, but at the end of the day not dark enough to be "goth" or too steeped in punk. The top five are really rough , but at the end of the day it falls on the album I listen to the most to rise to the top of this post- apocalyptic heap. So here are the top 10 post punk albums of 2016. Try the links to the full reviews in order to give these albums a listen.

10-Torture Love- They Came Crawling"

 This band from Chicago is much more aggressive than your average post-punk, they are solidly a punk band. "The Big Hand" finds them singing more than shouting, this gives them more of a Bellicose Minds sound. The Misfits would also be a reference point, though their singer is further from Glenn's croon and the vocals sit back further in the mix. One of the better post- punk releases of the year.

 9- Bellicose Minds- "the Creature"

It's been three years since the Portland post-punk trio released "the Spine". Their newest opens with a more frantically upbeat number than I remember them having on their 2013 album. One their Bandcamp page the band says that they use big amps and electric drums to make music inspired by rain and cloud. This song seems a little too peppy for rain and clouds. It might take the kinder and gentler version of the band a little more time to warm up to me, but they get the job done. The other bands at the forefront of the post-punk revival have been pretty quiet this year so it's good to hear from these guys. This album came out under the radar last week with no hype around it. If you are a fan then it is worth your time to listen to it and hopefully with Halloween creeping up on us more of this will be coming out to play.

8-Hollow Sunshine- "Bible Sea"

The drugs must have really kicked in on this one, as the band they once were has given way for a more dreamy electronic sound. I quit doing drugs years ago so I didn't not get much from some of the moods created here and it didn't get a ton of play from me , but I can not deny how well done this was . Fans of forward thinking shoe gaze will like the new direction this duo has taken


7- Okkultokrati- "Raspberry Dawn" 

 The ragged lo-fi punk this band from Norway dives into is somewhat darker, with the more growled vocals of the first song it sounds like something from Darkthrone's black n roll period, which is a comment I also made about a song on the new King Dude, so maybe old black metal is seeing a spike in it's influence on the darker corners of garage punk. The title track makes more sense out of the jagged chaos and packages into a neater punk presentation. This keyboardist that they added to the line-up can't be heard until you get to "We Love You" and then it's not like they have suddenly turned into a dark wave band, it's still raw punk just with more textures to the wall of noise they slam themselves up against.


 6- Alter- "Embers" 

 Where does the shoe gaze begin and the punk rock end is one question that could stand to be asked of this album. But I am not sure you really want to ask too many questions here as they seem to have a good thing going. The vocals to "Deja Vu" are rather pained and fragile to what other wise moves like a brisk cloud passing you over head as you stared in a stoned haze out of the passenger side window.It does recall some almost emo moments if you think back to bands like Elliot. Fans of moody music be it emo or shoe gaze will find something to like here.

 5-Swans- "the Glowing Man"

 Yea, it is weird to think of Swans at number five rather than number one, but the competition was pretty strong. This is the last album by this incarnation of the re-vamped Swans. It opens with a darker elegance and a get deal of sonic texture. Gira's croon is a little more refined and less like the rants of "To Be Kind". This comes a little closer to what I want from the band though I enjoyed the albums of this phase of the band, the only thing I haven't liked it the hipster hippie crowd that began to show up post- Bonnaroo thinking they were a jam band and Gira's perhaps unintentional indulgence of this. They ride the wave rather than riding the groove here, building into some punches at the end. They go into the sound of an orchestra tuning up on "Cloud of Unknowing". Twenty four minutes is asking a lot of a song.My only real complaint being the length of  the songs that touch the twenty minute mark, the song writing could have been more efficient  and still gotten the point across, allowing them to jam it out more live if they so choose.


 The Sophomore effort by the British Post-punk band finds them maturing into a more melodic sound. Their debut had more of a punk energy to it and "Ullages" embraces lush textures of guitar and sharpened sense of song writing that brings a greater emotional depth to the table. The punk in the post-punk equation is taking a back seat much like it would as fellow Brits the Cure would. Overall it doesn't pack the punk punch of their first album, but the songs are well written and they have matured into something with what sounds to be more staying power to my ears.

 3-Alaric- End of Mirrors"

 I've been a fan of this band since the whole death rock revival came into my consciousness. Now five years later, my fears that they might have broken up are put to rest making this a very welcome return. All the things that have made them work in the past are in place here. Like a doomed out version of Killing Joke the band plows into the post- apocalyptic wasteland their music conjures. There are varied levels of gloom ridden melody thanks to their bassist. It took a few listens before this slow working drug is fully in my system, but it lives up to the legacy they began.

2- Savages - 'Adore Life" 

 Their new album opens with "the Answer"one of the lead singles that been on the web for a minute  and it rocks harder than when these gals were around last time. The guitar tone is thicker almost to the sludge point of fuzz , but rumbles with more of a "Manic Depression" meets punk drone. This album grew on me and stayed in rotation earning it's spot above the likes of the new Swans.

1- Merchandise- "a Corpse Wired For Sound"

 I guess the fact the band is on classic goth label 4AD , has finally settled in on them, so  it should not come as a surprise that the trappings of shoe gaze are more prominent in the guitar department on this album. It took a couple listens for me to fully appreciate the opening track.Perspective is a funny thing.  If I went Overall this album is great and Carson once again throws you a sonic curve ball and refuses to replicate past work and forge ahead creatively into the album not knowing it was Carson Cox and co, I would have latched onto the darker tones driving the songs.