Saturday, January 30, 2016

Magnet School : "the Art of Telling the Truth"

I would have been willing to bet these guys were from Cali instead of Texas, but the indie scene in the Lone Star State is gathering steam since they have once of the largest music events in the world now. The album opens with a song that has a similar kick that Minus the Bear once had before they became more invested in writing pop songs. These guys are dynamic, smoothing out into something with more of a Police influence that isn't too far removed from Mute Math's zip code , but with more attitude lyrically. They launch into a more driven rock with "British Monuments" that is more straight forward until they drift off into a more shoe gaze like middle section. They grow heavier on the instrumental "Swandive" that builds mood, but these guys work better with vocals as part of the mix. "Irresistible Lie" they float off into dream pop, with pop emphasized on the vocal melodies. They hit the best balance of drive and atmosphere without trying to hard to hook you in with the vocals on " Fur & Velvet". This takes you back to the 90's when post-hardcore was hitting it's stride with bands like Sugar. The bass line to this one is really strong. "Walk Down" however just comes off as more of an extension of the previous song.

 "So Long to the Heavens" has a strong chorus that adds glue to where the airy ramble of the verses let you drift. They become more laid back for "Red Giant" that finds the song riding the fence between spacey and pop, which gives this more of a Brit pop feel. One thing that is for sure about this album are the guitar tones are all really dialed and is where this band is most on top of their game. "Fare Thee Well" has some of the album's better drumming on it, but once again this is another instrumental where the band are better than decent song writers and they aren't really playing the kind of post rock. These guys have a ton of potential and if you miss the glory days of late 90s post-hardcore then this is a great take on it. I'll give it a 8.5.

the Howling Void : "the Triumph of Ruin"

The album cover doesn't lie. What is inside sounds just like that images appears on the 5th full length from this one man project out of Texas. The album opens with a weird mix of tremolo picked guitar running over a track that is otherwise doom paced to create a unique dynamic tension. The vocals are sung , but low in the mix and used more as a passing texture. At the onset there is more of a black metal feel to "Looming Darkness" though the melancholic doom undertones are still present  and eventually rise up and over take the black metal feel.  This album is well produced with a really big sound. The vocals stay in a similar place as they did on the opening though slightly more commitment. The guitars swell into a powerful chug comings out of the tremolo trill. The instrumental "the Nine Worlds Wept" finds the symphonic elements coming to the forefront and creating a balance of atmosphere against the big cinematic metal backdrop. The clean vocals come further to the forefront to create a Opeth or Agalloch like vibe on "Fenrir" . This album is much more mature that what I remember of the previous albums. Doom begins to take over as the tremolo guitar begins to appear less frequently.

"Where Once a River Flowed" doesn't find any more new concepts being introduced. Things are dropped down to a more atmospheric place as the tension builds. The string arrangements on this song really compliment it. Things build back up in the manner you expected they would. I did not expect for it to drop down into just ambient synths so there are some twists and turns that don't always lead to the most obvious places. Things close out with the moody atmosphere of "Silence After the Storm". It never builds into anything heavy, which is fair enough since that would follow too much of a formula. This is a beautiful album, it walks the line between black metal and doom, with the doom side winning out so if you are a fan of either genre then this is worth a listen. A word of warning to those who prefer the harsher side of either genre , this album really cares about it's lushness which might not have the edge you are looking for but I'll give it an 8.5 and see how it grows on me.

Eight Bells : "Landless"

Things have changed for this band since "Captain's Daughter". I felt they had potential on that one and here they have fully realized. The drumming shows vast improvement as they open with the doomy "Hating" . The title track finds the band taking on more of a trippy post- metal ambiance to a  riff that feels like it spirals down before ebbing down into a softer sung section.The vocal melodies are stronger on this album as well and more love and care went into the song writing. Any doubts as to the metallic nature of this band is put to rest by the blast beat section this song hangs on with the vocals taking on more of a harsher growl when it slows into more of a punk beat.The song does drone me out a little though I got sucked into the black hole of the inner webs reading about the whole Phil Anselmo thing just when they hit the section of minimalist ambiance.

"Hold My Breath" finds the band in a more upbeat post-punk place. They hit a place not unlike the almost shoegazing style of rock that Marriages last album went to. Though they dive deeper into the chaos then Emma Ruth Rundle and build up into a more black metal influenced blast that sets the aggression against the ambiance and then hops back onto the groove this song opened with in a very impressive display of dynamics. "the Mortal's Suite" is almost more of an interlude than a song as it hovers like smoke. They drip out of this dark cloud with the shadowy " Touch Me" . The vocals grow even more ghostly as the ethereal nature of the song feels like the Cocteau Twins jamming with Acid Bath. The melancholy feel of this song is heavier than the power the notes are played with going to show that you can be so dark that it makes the music heavy.They do make their way into playing something closer to conventional heavy metal and perhaps live it will get pushed over the edge.

If you need an indication of how much growth has gone into the making of this album, their last album got a 6 and this one is getting a 9.5,  so it's very tangible. They flirt with doom and black metal without being forced to commit to it and it works because the sense of where they want their sound to go is unshakable. The reason it didn't get a perfect ten is " the Mortal Suite" rides the line to close between an interlude and congealing into a solid song, but aside from that this could be one of the first contenders aside from Bowie and Savages for the album of the year list .

Friday, January 29, 2016

Magrudergrind : "ll"

If the next big thing in metal is going to be this new hybrid of grind core then this band from D.C is going soon become a household name among todays' up and coming head bangers. The blast into these short bursts of songs with more of a punk rock anger than say the lower tuned Nails. Power violence and hard core are two of the other driving elements to their sound. Keeping their songs in the two minute range , this is a brutal  wham bam thank you slam. By the fourth song it starts to bleed together to me. Some riffs hook you in better than others. "Sacrificial Hire" is the first song that has enough groove to draw me in. The vocals are lower and coarser on this one. At a minute and a half the are pretty economic song writers. They jerk your neck around , but also allow you to soak in the beating. "War For Resources" is too straight forward for me. The song is fortunately only a minute.

Their first real epic is the three and a half minute "Black Banner". They have an impressive guitar sound, that is very organic and helps sell a song like "Hara-kiri" , it's the temptation to rush into the blast beat that is the band's fatal flaw. This is evident in the rushed "Stale Affairs" .  "Regressive Agenda" is a good way to describe their sound. This band is already popular with punk rockers who have grown out beards and now disguise themselves as metal heads. Midway into the album many of the songs begin to sound like it just depends on what tricks they are pulling out if the song can gather its own personality. They have the potential to crush you , as displayed on the slower "Unit 731". "Icaro" could be one of the many songs that has already been blasted past me at this point in the record. The same could be said of "Huysani Handschar" which catches a more memorable section midway into the 74 seconds of this song.

"Pharmacide" closes the album and it doesn't really offer much that we haven't already been hit with at this juncture. They crammed 15 songs onto this album, which should give you an idea of how fast these songs blur by you. I'll have to round this album down to a 5.5 , just off the basis that these songs go by in one speed induced blur. The vocals are a shouted/screamed, you can hear that black metal has had an influence on these guys, but they still play it pretty safe and this album has a dirty tone, but I would not say it's dark . If you are just starting to get into this kind of thing  and don't want to go as far back as Napalm Death, then this album would as good of an entry point as any of the new wave of grind core.

Tusmorke : " Fort Bak Lyset"

This Norse band plays a blend of psychedelic folk and European jam rock that is a few shades darker than what comes out of the States, and is dosed up with the spirit of the 60's. They are almost  a little too upbeat in the opener, but make up for this in the second song. The vocals keep a brisk cadence that dances around the instrumentation.  The chorus on this one rocks out a little more.The Hungarian funk can be felt on this one as the bass player gets down. The simmer down into the more ritualistic march of "When Traveling From Us" . There is still groove to it the mood just grows more somber. This is the first song I can really hear appealing to the more metal minded, as it's heavy from an emotive state. There is more of a 60s feel to the title track that finds the organ winding it's way around the jazz like gallop the song builds into .  This is the first moment that really strikes me as being proggy.

" Spurvehauken" finds flute and piano as the dominant instruments.  This gives a slight Jethro Tull vibe to the song, but not in the "Aqualung" manner that might come to mind with this reference, but in some of Ian Anderson's more brooding moments. "Nordmarka" finds their singer taking on more of a croon. This song has a more dynamic ebb and flow than  most of their songs that work off of grooving along to the boogie of the bass and key boards. Their singer stays in a lower mellowed out tenor, he accents the break down in more of a rhythmic fashion and the bass playing is really impressive in this turn the songs takes."Vinterblot" finds the funk taking over with the band veering off into a more disco direction. I don't mind this as I grew up a big fan of disco era Kiss. The groove is in the heart here and that carries the song even with all the weird synths that ride this one.

These guys have a weird and wonderful sound that skips and dances into places that I'm willing to bet most of the other artists in your iPod don't venture into, the closest I have in mine is Hexvessel. I'll give this one a 9 and see how it sits with me. Not the darkest folk I''ve heard , but then it again it's more than just neo-folk. Svart Records drops this in March.

Obscura : " Akroasis"

So tech death is normally not my thing as it often sacrifices the heaviness of death metal for flimsy tones and with digitized distortion that just doesn't hold up against the darker and more gritty sounds I prefer from the genre, but I though I might give this German band a shot and see what happens. There is more balance on the second song which comes across as being heavier even with the melodic cleaner guitar tones mixed in a the effected sung vocals. The opener just kind of blew by me with the only thing standing out the fact the vocals were more of a mid range rasp than what I expected. "the Monist" has clearly more thought put into it. There is a slight thrash edge to the title track which finds the bass walking all over it and the solo as the centerpiece. Aside from that it's pretty much color by numbers galloping with a side of sweep picking.The vocals seem to be more of an after thought on this one. I had to click over to realize "Ten Sepiroth" was another song, the robotic Cynic vocals re-surface, but for a progressive metal band these guys keep spinning in the same circles. When they dig down into their guts to churn up something with more Morbid Angel like balls to it on "Ode to the Sun" it makes all the other shred trapping more worthwhile as their is more of a pay off.

"Fractal Dimension" finds the lower growled vocals back, but not as effective without the band congealing around them to support the punch they are trying to pack. I can hear a little Cynic here, but Cynic are just better song writers. The riffage on this one is not very interesting. The guitars stumble over a few melodies here and there , but even the solo sound devoid of any feeling here. There is an almost djent like riff that at least adds some groove for a second to pull me in even though that is normally not my thing. "Perpetual Infinity" starts off more melodic, but eventually finds it self racing off . There is an under current of atmosphere that simmers under certain passages. "Weltseele"  finds the band regaining their balls. If you are playing a hundred notes and they do not have power behind them they are useless, so when theses guys dig in and put some intention behind their chugs they are in fine form.  At fifteen minutes it does make we wonder how long these guys can keep it up. I like when the sing actual notes using the rougher vocal tone. At the midway point they dip into a symphonic section that leads into a spoken words section that puts the breaks on the momentum the song had gained. There is a slight mosh element to the riff they come back with, but it's not as heavy of a pay as they need after the breather. There is a a groove that reminds me of Sigh following this winding section.

At the end of the day the melodic playing of the bass and the few more thoughtful song make this a better album than I expect from this genre, while the tone was much better than their more modern peers, these guys stumble into the same pitfall many bands with a fetish for shredding do and lose you in the manic ego fest instead of locking into something with the power to make you bang your head. I'll give this one a 7.5.

Master : "An Epiphany of Hate"

In need of some old school classic 90's sounding death metal, I jumped at the chance to give this album a shot , even though back in their hey day, I never really listened to these guys. The first thought that hit me is they sound like a faster version of Obituary. This is in part due to the gnarly but decipherable growl of bassist and sole founding member Paul Speckmann. Speckmann comes from a time when no matter how heavy you are trying to be at the end of the day it becomes all about songs . This is the case even when his growl takes on a more garbled sound that is an dynamic effect in and of itself on "Fiction Soon Becomes Reality" . It doesn't have a big chorus and the punk roots of this kind of music are evident in the drumming. The snare sound on this album could have been lifted from any of the early death metal albums that came out of Tampa in the late 80s. The echoes of thrash, death metals closest cousin can be found in "Face Your Fear". Though the song itself is not as engaging as the first two.

"Just Be Your Self" brings the bands Slayer influence to the surface. This is over course early Slayer they pull from, even pre- "Reign in Blood". "Just Take My Right Arm" dives back into more straight ahead classic sounding death metal. This album is not going head to head with "Altars of Madness" or even "Heartwork" as it begins to lose it's moment at the midway point. Slayer's influence on death metal as a whole is felt once again on the title track. Today's crop of death metal bands could learn from this band that your vocals do not always have to have the same cookie monster growl to them that every other death metal band has. "It's Clearly Eden" doesn't break any new ground for these guys , but isn't half bad either. The lyrics are pretty relevant. They get a little darker on " the People of the Damned" which are what they children of the damned become when they grow up. The pace picks up for this one and when they start adding up the bpms , it blurs together.

There is a catchier mosh groove to "Senses All Will Be Controlled". It maintains it brisk stampede,  but doesn't expand upon it.They scrape up a thicker grime covered groove on "Red Alert". This might not be the most dynamic death metal album of the year, but these guys certainly have engraved their own thing over the years despite sometimes having their influences on their sleeves , compared to the bulk of death metal coming out, the unique vocal delivery, socially conscious lyrics and the torch burning from the era that came from burns bright enough for me to round this up to an 8.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Wake : "Sowing the Seeds of a Worthless Tomorrow"

If asked what the next big trend in metal was going to be , I would say grindcore. While it has had a strong underground following every since Napalm Death reared it's ugly head, it is building steam to press into the mainstream metal consciousness. A more punks grow up and into metal the ground is fertile. Canadian bashers Wake might ride in on this wave as they have enough teeth and a dark dismal sense to them that works well in the current climate of today's metal. They hit you with blasts and let you breathe in the cracks their explosion creates. They are not to be listened to if you have a hang over or even a mild head ached. In fact in need at least a half cup of coffee in me to appreciate their spastic attack. If it was not for their darker dissonant side that allows this sliver of ambiance to creep in I don't think these guys would be my thing. While "Drones" has a more metallic riff they attack it with more of a crazed punk fury, before allowing it to groove. I think the transition from black metal to this brand of darker grind core is a natural one for those who prefer the more straightforward intense blast beat heavy brand of black metal. As song writers these songs are in and out in under three minutes.They to do not jerk you back and forth with roller coaster like transitions. "Better Living Through Apathy" relies on speed more often than not with a slight embellishment of the riff twisted around in brief accenting bridge sections. It should be no surprise if you are a regular reader of this blog that the more straight forward moments appeal to me less than the more depressive sections like the opening of "Low" which is onto something cool that gets blasted away and then redeemed slightly when they hit it with a Converge like aggression. Sometimes the lyrics make it through the chaos. A song like "Unrelenting Hate" doesn't do much to win me over. The drummer is rabid monster, and this album sounds great, but they make actual much when it's dialed back just a few degrees. When it becomes a blur then it's hard to hear where a song like "Vultures" begins when coming out of the previous one despite a cool stompy riff. However the rule here is cool riffs alone do no make a good song.

 They are strongest when at their most deliberate and you can make out things like actual bass lines. I'll round this one down to an 8, because at some points when they are locked in the thrall of the speed fest everything begins to sound the same. Playing the album on a loop, when it restarted I lost the separation between the fist song and the second, meaning they did not have anything dynamically to make them stand apart. These guys are angry beasts and have captured what they do really well on this album. Perhaps this band and many other grind core bands coming out these days will continue to press forward and explore new places to take the genre that will be even more interesting and make me more compelled to listen , but it succeeds most of the time in the angry explosion this music is meant to be.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Dream Theater : "the Astonishing"

I guess I latched onto some of  the heavier moments on "Awake"  and have always wanted these guys to be a metal band ever since. Perhaps they were a metal band at that time since metal has evolved since then. Sure they are great musicians. But after two false starts on this one I begin to wonder if they can still really write a song and not just a showcase for collective shredding. The first actual song is "the Gift of Music' . James Labrie continues to be the band's weak spot as he is unable to make them sound any heavier than Journey. They are quick to dip into piano balladry at a minute and a half into the second. With the main riff sounding more like rock radio from the 80s. In the last minute they lock into a heavier groove, and by heavier I mean more aggressive than where the song was heading. There is a little too much happy frolicking on this one. This is the first album without Portnoy that I have given a shot and without him it seems like he was the main advocate for the band being metal.

One the second real song they are on a soaring ballad. Sure James' voice sounds good on this one and you can already hear the big chorus coming before you get there. It sounds almost like christian rock. Of course concept albums are a real novel concept when it comes to progressive rock. The story is something along the lines of 2112. They get marginally heavier with a riff that reminds me of another story telling band ...Coheed and Cambria, and I think I would prefer their Geddy Lee shrieking to the cheese factor packed into the vocals here. Sure the solos are great, would you expect less, but are they enough to hold your attention for one album much less a double album? The chorus has more hook to it on this one, but it's like Marillion circa 1989.

They are offered a prime chance to get heavy even from a story telling perspective when they introduce the antagonist on "Lord Nafaryus" instead it results in a song that  prances around like Queen and makes "Hedwig and the Angry Inch " seem butch in comparison. When it does speed up for a few moments, Labries voice is just as grating. The guitar takes on a more Pink Floyd tone on " A Savior In the Square". Midway into the song it actual crosses the line into metal, though in it's most grandiose form. Their spirits are lifted again into the upbeat "When Your Time Has Come". If you like inspirational rock music then I guess this is for you, but to me in sounds like they are frozen in time. I guess if you are a fan of these guys its easy to wowed , by precision these guys play with and make it hard to stop and take an objective listen to ask " Are these songs any good?" If we are honest there are some better ballads on the last Taylor Swift album, if you strip away the guitar runs along the edges of 'Act of Faythe".

The incessant use of dramatic piano lines is what keeps dragging this album back down into being second rate Andrew Loyd Weber ". They get back into the rock on " Three Days" though it gets to big for it's spandex britches midway into things. But it pulls itself together in a manner similar to Sigh or Therion, though a much more light weight version of either . "Brother Can You Hear Me" starts off a march and builds into something more akin to the more theatric of  the Roger Water's song from the wall. But Roger Water's has way more personality to his voice , despite Labrie being a technically better singer. Technique has actually hindered Labrie for the bulk of his career. It's one thing to breathe right and sing from your gut, but he sounds like his vocal coach is constantly looking over his shoulder.

The beginning of "A Life Left Behind Me" sounds like the intro to Heart's "Crazy" , but evolves into one of the more interesting prog rock pieces  so far on this album, then it gets mucks up by the balladry even the vocals come in and the piano driven melodrama takes things back to a Celine Dion direction. Another ivory twinkling ballad crops on "Ravenskill" which at this point is beginning to make the album rather tedious. Sure it does build into something more hard rock...not metal , by the end , but at this point even power ballads are getting under my skin. And yet that is just what we get on "Chosen". At best you could fall the writing formulaic. The power chords come in at the chorus and the lighters go up in the air. A guitar solo breaks through the piano, and sure it shreds , but is the rest of the song just bookends for the solo?  Tinkling piano trades places with a heavier riff on "A Tempting Offer" that finds the band back in form. Here the piano knows it's place rather than consuming the song and gives them a chance to rock out a little, even the melodrama on the chorus doesn't bother me.

I should have counted the number of songs that start off with piano when a began listening to this album, as now I don't want to waste any more time going back to find out, it is well over half .  "the X -Aspect" is another power ballad. Bag pipes come in midway and really only spare us from the inspirational power chords. "A New Beginning " is more novel as it starts with guitar and has an upbeat riff that serves as the song's spine. Double bass and more metallic trappings battle it out against the more lavish keyboards, but find them back into the kind of dizzying acrobatics that put them on the map. It doesn't sound like the band is at their most inspired , but the playing glosses that fact over. Midway into it and we are back to another piano breakdown. One thing I can say about the fact that their are so many songs that aides the band is it has helped them keep their songs under the ten minute mark and get to the point. Sometimes the point is the grandiose layers of symphonic fluff that open "the Road to Revolution" marking this as an album whose song titles are heavier than what is inside.There is a little chug for the big ending , but not much in the way of balls , which is the theme of this album. But once past that song we are done with the first album and on with the second.

This might be one of the longest reviews I have written so to spare you a painful recounting of every time they launch into something fifty shades of gayer than Styx, I'll just report the moments where that is not the case. So if I'm not writing about it on the second lp, then it's flowery piano fluff. There is the epic overture, big not heavy.  "A Moment of Betrayal" finds some power chords and offer up a chug. This is where I begin to listen for the new drummer. The comes  the brief drama of "Heaven's Cove" that serves as more of the intro to "Begin Again" . "The Path That Divides" where Labrie manages not to annoy me when he gives a more effects coat and rapid fire delivery once the song begins to rock out. This song reaches a better balance of melodrama and finds the band playing to their strengths.  The come out of the gate with a more metallic flare to "the Walking Shadow". The inject some progressive moments into the balladry we are trying to avoid on "My Last Farewell".  But even the heavier riffs sound like something we have already heard from the band before.

The story might not stand out as much as at it does on "Them" or " Operation Mindcrime" , but sits back in the lyrics like some of Coheed And Cambria's stuff. Faythe who is being lost on "Losing Faythe" is the female love interest/ protagonist. There are some good guitar tones on this song. "Whispers in the Wind" like most of this album is well produced. Sonically they are going for big lush Broadway like sounds like do not lend themselves to heaviness. Violin accompanies the piano that leads into " Hymn of a Thousand Voices". This gives a somewhat more organic quality to another ballad. It is a hymn and I would not be surprised if they come out of the closet as being a christian band.   While  "New World" is a rock song, it seems more like regressive rock than progressive as it is middle of the road and sounds like it came out of the 80s.The title track sounds like it would in the closing credits to a romantic drama. It builds up as power ballads do, but never gets heavy. I'll have to round this down to a 6, because even though  much like 'Use Your Illusion" his could have been streamlined  down into one great album, what is presented here is a bunch of power ballads that are hard to stomach. There are some good moments squeezed into the 26 songs, but this makes me wonder if its a case of even a blind pig gets some corn. It scored so high despite this because when they do get the corn it's close enough to golden.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Conan : " Revengeance"

The  new album by this trio from Liverpool opens with  a wrathful rumble, moving at a faster than Motorhead speed. The dual vocals split the difference tonally with one gong for a coarse lower bellow and the other a crazed higher cry. It slows for what could be the chorus. "Thunderhoof" is like a slower version of the first song. The vocals use a similar pattern to yell out the lyrics buried in the fuzz of distortion. This feels more like sludge than doom or stoner metal. The guitar eventually finds a more mournful melody as the song progresses. The bass hits  flatulent subsonic brown tones over the pound of the drums. There is a more scraping drag to the tempo of "Wrath Gauntlet" . The vocals come closer to singing. They are sparser and bringing more focus to  the over driven effects heavy  churn of guitar. The lower growled vocals come in midway into the song. It's not really a chorus just another progression that drones out until the end.

There is a blast beat introduced into the intro of the title track , that seems a little out of character for the band, until the find driving groove. On this song you begin to realize how good their drummer is Aside from tempo the album remains one dimensional when it comes to melody and veers from one rumble to the next. This doesn't change , but only becomes more deliberate in the pound of " Every Man is an Enemy". Here cadance of the vocals becomes more syncopated and flirts with singing. Here the vocals still seem like an after though rather than a crucial part of the song. The bass begins to indulge in a weird phase like effect that might be a moog pedal plug in added in post production or the actual pedal since they do have a more organic sound.

The album grinds to a close with "Earthenguard" The slow creep here is the albums most doomy moment though the murk of distortion doesn't lend it self to being the albums most memorable as the lower vocal randomly roars out.  I paused this song midway to go work out came back to my desk and picked up where I left off to find that nothing changed it was just droning on for another six minutes. So while there are some heavy sounds here and solid musicianship, I could have used a little more to pull me into the songs , but will still give  this one a 7 for their honest effort.This slab of sludge is being released by Napalm Records.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Public Memory : "Wuthering Drum"

I've been in more of a metal mood with the cold weather, but always looking for something dark. I cam across this project that is helmed by Brooklyn based;Robert Toher. It opens with a shadowy take on trip hop. With ghostly chimes ringing through the opener the song has a solid pulse and unique vocals. The second song "Mirror" came closer to floating by me as it's so ethereal it's almost not there. The vocals are more of a layer to the atmosphere than a focal point. More grit is added as the beat are dirtied up a bit to put " Ring Leader" into more of a Massive Attack place sonically, though the vocals hang in an emotional purgatory that reminds me of Thom Yorke. More organic elements creep in creating more of a Cure like sound. The synths give a lower pulse as "Domino" takes on a more minimalist approach to its composition. It's so minimal and atmospheric until it becomes intangible. There is more marrow to the bones of  "Cul De Sac" .  It has a more up beat melody until the despondent vocals come in and haunt the song.

"As You Wish" is more fragile, until the beat comes in to seal everything together. There is more groove to this one which allows the vocals to occupy more of atmospheric space in the sonic picture being painted. This song offers the album a stronger sense  of dynamics.There is an even more solid and creeping beat to "Interfaith" that gives the song and an almost erotic slither. The vocal are not dominant like a pop song, but a somewhat more defined role. He ebbs back out into a spacier place on "Zig Zag" that finds the beats a little more muffled as the song takes on a more lo-fi sound. The vocals are more distant, like they are being sung from out in the hallway. The melody does use some interesting intervals. This same sonic space is inhibited on "Earwig" though the song is more straight forward in its approach. The album closes with "Lunar" which brings the album around full circle as it has a similar bell like jingle as "Heir". The vocals take on a more conventional role in guiding the verses. The lyrics are more distinguishable and some organic guitar tones bubble up from the chiming wall of sound circling the fey melody. Toher's reedy tenor is vulnerable and moody and gracefully hovers in the holes left by the oddly opaque instrumentation.I'll round this one up to a 9. It was an enjoyable listen, very low key and laid back think it will provide a better soundtrack when I'm working rather than running around on the iPod wedged in-between Anthrax and Skinny Puppy. The album drops on March 18th via felte records. Check out the single below.

the Top 10 Drummers of 2015

There is a ton of truth to the old saying "A band is only as good as their drummer" great vocals and guitar fall flat without a solid beat behind. This list we are looking at those who really laid down the bed rock and not just played in the pocket , but contributed to the song it self. While metal drummers are obviously the most over the top, we are also looking at other genres such as  noise rock , goth and straight up rock n roll.

10  Brian Chippendale of Lightning Bolt

 He might have grown up a punk drummer , but one listen to 'Fantasy Empire " and you can hear speed is only one part of his skills. He thrives in the rough and tumble chaos of their music, in fact I couldn't hear him playing in a straight up punk band as I think he would get bored.

9- Dylan  Fjuoka  of Chelsea Wolfe

Not to detract from his contributions in the studio as "Abyss" is given a more organic feeling when he is present, but it's live that Dylan's talent is really allowed to come alive. He brings the energy of metal to his playing , but has sharp finesse that is almost jazz like. On the doomy songs he shows restraint , and still plays around with it.

8-  Ben Fox of Liturgy

Another entry whose contributions live are a better indication of his prowess than the "Ark Work" album his band released last year. Similar to the previous entry, his band was more experimental in the studio this time around which found Fox having to play around programmed sections of music. Fox not added a more organic component to their sound , but continues to prove himself as one of the best black metal drummers going , when it comes to knowing his way a blast beat , but not being limited by their conventional use.

7- Zach Richards of Irreversible

 Sadly another one of Atlanta's best bands is now defunct as Irreversible released it's self title swan song . Richards is the key to what made that album great. His grooves air tight, what could have been cumbersome sludge was giving precision and grace. They touched upon math rock with their odd meters, which owe a little to Isis and Tool , but are delivered with Richards with much less pretense.

6- Jean Paul Gaster - Clutch

Here is a drummer of a much different ilk than the others on the list as Gaster is much more of a straight up rock drummer in the vein of John Bonham. On "Pyschic Warfare" the rest of the band is going off in more of a blues rock direction and Gaster gives the attack more power than even ZZ-Top on steroids. Every things boogies and punches just like the best classic hard rock album that never came out in the 70s.


5- Daniel Tracy - Deafheaven

 He changed with the other members of the band to add teeth to their sound and put to rest any doubts as to if these guys are a metal band. His drumming carries more power and thunder this time around with some really impressive double bass work. He compliments all the riffs well and gives the band the kick they needed to push "New Bermuda" over the edge.

3-Frost -1349

Here is where the metal guys really begin duking it out. Frost earns his spot because of precision in his chaos. He gave "Massive Cauldron of Chaos" the rabid feel of 80s thrash at it's peak, but still gave a black metal performance. The guy filling in on 1349's tour could have made this list, but since Frost came up with the blue print he gets the spot.

2- Andrew D'Cagna Nechowhen/ Obsequiae

 He contributed to two great albums this year it was on Nechowhen's that he really killed it. The songs had a dynamic range that needed a player of his caliber and he nailed it as hard if not harder than as the drummers of bands like Opeth and Mastodon who get more accolades for their playing than this album that will probably be underrated in the annuls of metal.


1-Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden

 This time the guitars and drums stole the show from the bass and vocals. He is a veteran who know what to bring to his band. As far as metal drummers go there are plenty of players who get more props because they have a bigger double bass sound or are more bombastic, but Mcbrain played on some of the albums that laid that ground work and he never dials it in, in fact his playing on "Book of Souls" holds up to his playing on "Piece of Mind".

Black Sabbath : "The End" ep

The only good thing to come out of David Bowie's death is he is now perfectly preserved and there is zero chance of him diminishing his legend. Ozzy and the boys are still kicking the chance that they could taint my memories of Sabbath are very real. The chug that drives this song, works but does it living up to the monolith of music that is their first 11 albums and If we are counting the Dio albums and "Born Again" as the classics, so some people might dispute "Technical Ectasy" and "Never Say Die " as classics , truth be told, I have given the Dio albums more air time than those two. The four new songs were from the "13" sessions, so are the four song that didn't make the album. "13" is not a bad album. It got an 8 on here. So falls short of "Blizzard of Ozz" and "Diary of Madman", and more than likely even "No Rest For the Wicked". Middle of the road solo Ozzy.

The militant chug to "the Season of the Dead" marches in a manner that would be impressive if it wasn't from the band who wrote the book on metal, instead it feels like they are pulling from the cliff notes. "Cry All Night" sounds like it  was left off "No Rest For the Wicked" rather than a Sabbath. Though it's giving Ozzy props since that album came out in 1988. The middle section where the solo surfaces is the first place where it really feels like Sabbath.   This one grew on me the most after repeated listens. Half the drums on this album are handled by Tommy Clefetos a session guy who has played with Ted Nugent, Rob Zombie and Alice Cooper.

Geezer has some nice runs and proves he still has the chops on " Take Me Home" and the song has some mean punches to it that are heavier than most solo Ozzy, but does this measure up to Black Sabbath? The acoustic section in the middle reminds you Tony Iommi is much better than people give him credit for, but from a song writing perspective, Bill and Tony need to take the wheel from Ozzy, who is doing what he does, but this is what he does post "Bark At the Moon".  There is more fire in the attack of "Isolated Man".  I don't mind the lower voiced Ozzy melody on the verses, it's a cool effect and it would have worked well on "Ozzmosis" .  I'll give these songs a 9,  for a man his age Ozzy sang his ass off and sounds as good as he did in the late 80s. Even if Iommi is dialing it in he captures enough moments to remind you who he is.

Black Tusk : "Pillars of Ash"

If you like the lines blurred between punk and metal then this band from Savannah is for you. With Kylesa's Cory Barhost stepping in to fill the shoes of the late Johnathan Athon who died in a motorcycle accident. Without question Black Tusk is back with a fury. With barked vocal trade off, this is sludge amped up at warp speed. The album as a whole doesn't let up, but attacks with relentless rage. Right from the opening "God's on Vacation" which is more of a punk song than a metal song until the chugging bridge kicks in. There is more of a metal drive to "Desolation of Endless Times" , but with these guys it's commonly hard to see the line where one begins and the other ends. The riff have an almost hard core punch to them which makes sense as that's the normal cross roads where punk and metal meet if it's not thrash. The first riff that bears a hint of Motorhead is on "Bleed on Your Knees" the vocals take a more punk approach one they grind into the verses. The opening riff to "Born of Strife" reminds me a little of AC/DC , but from there is muscles ahead in a straight forward fashion cramming a ton of mean into three minutes. Born of Strife " really finds the point pounded home before being lashed against the rabid punk speeds the band accelerates to. 

Sometimes the punk side really wins out like on "Damned in the Ground" which I don't find as compelling as when the  band's more metallic edge is rooted in place even if it's for a brief snarl. This one like the bulk of the album takes a nod from grindcore  and punk by clocking in at three minutes. After a few listens even this song grows on me, they work quite a few riffs into this quick blast of ferocious bellowing with Barhost's higher shout adds to the dual vocal attack. " Beyond the Divide" gets off to a slower swampy intro , but soon shifts into a angrier slugfest.  The drums open up the ripping crust of  "Black Tide" A minute into the song and there is an almost more rock n roll riff getting trampled over by the drums. At just under four minutes this is one of the album's longer songs.  It is also one of the albums as melody creeps into some of the darker riffs. "Still not Well" has a syncopated chug that recalls Helmet's more aggressive moments. If you haven't already been convinced that their drummer is a beast he really shines playing around this groove.It's also one rare moments on the album where the metal is clearly a distinct element in and of it's self. "Walk Among the Sun" blasts off before finding a more hard core groove to slip into . As far as punk goes "Punk Out" reminds me of DRI, they write a song that holds it's own against classic punk rather than just pretending to be Agent Orange or Gang Green. They close the album with "Leveling" which is another punk hybrid, though it relies more on pounding the anger into you than expressing it lyrically like the previous song.These guys have forged a solid slab of metallic punk that is equally dirty and abrasive.I'll give it an 8.5.If you miss back when Kylesa would really go balls out then these guys are a must. They play tonight at the Earl with Royal Thunder and Bask. 10 dollar Cover doors are at 7:30.

1/25 Johnson City, TN @ The Hideaway
 1/26 Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone
 1/27 Little Rock, AR @ Vino's
 1/28 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey
 1/29 San Antonio, TX @ Korova
 1/30 Austin, TX @ Empire
 1/31Houston, TX @ Rudyard's
 2/01 New Orleans, LA @ Siberia
 2/02 Panama City, FL @ Mosey's
 2/03 Orlando, FL @ Will's Pub
 2/04 Tampa, FL @ New World
 2/05 Jacksonville, FL @ Burro Bar
 2/06 Savannah, GA @ Jinx 8


Friday, January 22, 2016

Arcana 13 : "Danza Macabra"

Comprised of members from Mnemic and Void of Sleep and like many Italian metal bands finds inspiration from the countries cult horror movie scene. There brand of doom draws influence from the throne of Sabbath and some of it's earliest worshippers such as Pentagram. So there is often a rock boogie feel to it. The opener is well done , but sticks pretty close to a color by numbers blue print. So going into this album what I am listening for is where they stray from that and show me who they are . The songs are typically bookended by pieces of horror movie atmosphere. The pace picks up going into the second song to give it a heavier Electric Wizard like intensity. I think "Land of Revenge" is a stronger song as the vocals have more purpose , where they seemed to be obligatory on the first two songs. Vocally things are song in a very plaintive tenor that recalls middle of the road 70's hard rock like Blue Oyster Cult.

They turn a darker and more melodic corner at the beginning of " Oblivion Mushroom" before it's business as usual for this sort of thing and they are chugging the same path paved by Iommi. The Suspiria theme song that is a cover of Goblin's version, not not the albums high point. The riff to "Blackmaster" has more groove to it , the vocals to do ride it as gracefully as they could. They don't wow me until we get to the song "Holy Cult of Suicide". Then everything clicks in place and I'm wondering , now why hasn't there been more of this ? "Hell Behind You" continues to find the band showing their true selves as the dive down deeper into more melodic territory. The vocals sound like the guy is using his real voice and not trying to front a Blue Oyster Cult, even when they hit the "Mississippi Queen" section of the song and boogie down. The album does hit these two glorious songs in the final act, but is also bogged down by typical retro metal, so I'll give it a 7.5, which shows these guys have promise and if this is your kind of party and you don't need much more then you might even round it up.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Top 10 Vocalists of 2015

Often left as the icing on the cake or as an after thought these days , particularly with metal, vocals are what I scrutinize the most and is most often the deal breaker for me. Here we are talking about singing, there are a couple on the list who incorporated screaming in various degrees into what they do , but this list are the singers that went that really poured their hearts and souls into each note.

10-Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden

 This is almost more of an honorable mention as there is more strain on his highs which are not as high as well even a "Matter of Life and Death" , but then again being the Trooper , Bruce came back from a bout of cancer that could have made matter's much worse so that combined with taking his age into consideration, Bruce still does better than most.

 9- Lariyah Hayes of Khaotika

Hayes dominates "the Flame Unleashed" with a range that dips down into a urgent alto before soaring up into her more power metal soaring register. She manages to pull off a classic metal vocal without getting mired down in cliches of 80s metal yodeling. Even at her most melodic she doesn't take away from the heaviness of her band and can rough it up with the boys who provide most of the backing growls. Expect big things from her in the future and check out their most recent album if you have yet to give it a spin.


8- Joy Von Spain of Eye of Nix Joy

Von Spain  can belt out an operatic soprano, but isn't afraid to tighten up her vocal cords and give an anguished scream either. Her vocals set "Moros" ahead of the pack when it comes to bands experimenting with sludge encrusted metal. The dark back drop her band sets behind her compliments her voice and gives her the breathing room to belt it out as needed. Projects like Myrkur which might have gotten more press tried their hand and similar, Von Spain just executed it with a broader emotional range and a more expansive set of pipes.

7-Kennedy Ashlyn of Them are Us too

 While Ashlyn's style might wear it's influences on her black sleeves. To pay such homage to Elizabeth Fraser is a feat in and of itself and she nails. You can hear who she is and she doesn't sing in her own made up language so this is not a total hero worship affair. She bends her melodies with fey grace and really made "Remain" an album I keep returning to.

6-Ryan Adams

 It was a bold move to cover an entire Taylor Swift album. Up until this point I had respect for Adams and had a curiosity in regards to his stuff ,but the passion he injected into "1989" sealed the deal. He takes pop melodies and puts is heart into them blending a style that mixes Bruce Springsteen with Tom Petty, but much more melodious than either and allowing me to really hear his voice as never before.

5- Chelsea Wolfe

 "Abyss" found Wolfe stepping out of the ghostly shadows and baring her voice in a more vulnerable manner than largely shed the effects dripping approach she did so well and showing a lot of growth. Live she was even more impressive, and her praises have already been sung on this site a hundred times over, you are probably shocked that she is ranked higher and while she had the best album of the year , she worked well within the context of the songs and got the job, where the next four singers really caught me by surprise where I saw Wolfe coming a mile away. This is not to say she wasn't awesome after all anyone who made this list really accomplished something considering all the albums I heard this past year.

4- George Lewis jr aka Twin Shadow

 Here is where it gets really competitive , "Eclipse" hung tough on my iPod thought out thanks to smooth melodies Lewis had such mastery of . He was often dark yet very soulful and encapsulated everything I could want from a male pop singer as far as dynamics go, despite the fact he largely stays out his head register and I'm a sucker for a good falsetto, but we'll get to that one soon enough. His voice always goes to the perfect places in the song making for something very infectious.

3-Emma Beth Rundle - Marriages

 She really came into her own on "Salome" and displayed a more emotive power and greater range. At times she sounds like Tori Amos, but this speaks more to her willingness to cut loose and pour her heart out into the songs, which earned other singers like Ryan Adams a place on this list as well. Emma just managed to make my jaw drop a few more times than most.

2- Miny Parsonz of Royal Thunder

Miny  brought it on "Crooked Doors" taking her voice up into places where classic rock gods used to go. She not only flexed her pipes to a greater extent on this album , but really created melodies that stuck in my head and had me listening to this album in binges. She went to some grittier places and also back off and offered some more reserved lines that were just as emotional due to her willingness to get real lyrically and immerse not only herself in the experience , but the listener as well.

1- Abęl Makkonen Tesfayeaka aka The Weeknd

 When he preforms at the Grammys this year the secret will be out of the bag. I told you I'm a sucker for falsetto, by Abel comes with a Michael Jackson like tenor, but with more of a gangster lean to it. His music is darker than any soul music has been since Marvin Gaye's "Here My Dear " album, with Abel singing out drug induced antics in a tongue and cheek manner than has a passion to it that makes you wonder where his legend begins and life ends. "Beauty Behind the Madness" is what pop should be.

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. The chant of "if you don't love me, don't love anybody" is the main melody that works for me on this one, some of the others are not as focused as what they brought to the party on "Silence Yourself" . "Evil" brings things back to a smoother form of post-punk with a dance inducing throb. The guitar is smooth and melodious with all of the other factors playing to the strengths of their sound, climaxing at the end. This album enjoys the benefits of better production than their debut. The bass is thicker and Jenny Beth's vocals are up front and unencumbered by the mix. "Sad Person" hits a sweet spot between groove and punchy rock. The guitar still flirts with surreal layers leaving the hammer of the bass to carry the weight, but at other times the guitar takes on a much more rock feel than they had before, making this album harder than their first.

There is a more introspective , but not quite ballad like tenderness to the title track. The guitar carries a pulse not unlike Depeche Modes more rock moments on the verses and  rising into a more refined punk on the choruses. There is a more middle of the road swagger to "Slowing Down the World". Her raw vocals lead into "I Need Something New". The guitar throws strips of feedback over the bass line that revs the engine before this songs gets to rip onto the asphalt. They use the tension of restraint to tease that that they are going to give into to the explosion as her narrative continues.When they do kick in its coated with more noise around the rough edges to build the sonics. The song writing is more refined with experimentation handled with in the confines of a the three minute pop song. This is best spotlighted on "When in Love" that find feedback sculpted around melodies in the same four bars.The distorted bass on " Surrender " is juxtaposed against Jenny Beth's more pleading delivery and a playful guitar accent, before the sparse chorus reins the song in briefly.

There is a burst of punk injected more heavily into the dna of their post-punk sound on "T.I.W.Y.G" , which stands for this is what you get. According to Jenny Beth, this is what you get when you mess with love. There is a cool melodic break down at the two minute mark that I was not expecting. There is a somber drifting ambiance to "Mechanics" which they close out the album with. They hover on this simmering noise with Jenny Beth's melody breezing over the surface, though is is more of an outro rather than converging into an actual song. I gave their debut a 9, so I'll give this one a 9.5 if I ignored the last thing I could round it up to a 10 as I don't see it making it over to the iPod. I am sure this album will grow on me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Entombed AD : " Dead Dawn"

Petrov is on the mic and the guitar tone is intact all the things that would make this band Entombed, but it appeared due to Alex Hellid they put and AD after it. This is their second album under the AD. The opening track carries and impressive rumble , but does not come close to capturing the grooves of Wolverine Blues, not is this the same kind of death metal that was Left Hand Path". Fans of pre-and post"Wolverine Blues" alike will still find plenty to like here. The first hint of melody surfaces in the darker "Down to Mars to Ride" which takes off at a big thrashing chug. They are at their most convincing here. There is more weight behind the chug of "As the World Fell" . Petrov comes as close to singing here as he does on the "Wolverine Blues " album. "Lefthand Path" seemed like more of a death metal album to me than any of their albums that followed and this album is not changing my on that , "Total Death" feels more like "Chaos AD" era Sepultura , just without any of the Neurosis" worship that colored that album. The guitars are thick as hell, but this one is more like Motorhead powered rock n roll.

Things get into a harder and darker thrash on " The Winner Has Lost" which reminds me of many of the things that attracted me to this band on their first two albums. Many so called heavy bands have taken inspiration from these guys , but many more could learn that their is nothing technical or flashy going on here , it's the intention they attack their instruments with that makes it this heavy, even though I do not think this is death metal, it's heavier than many death metal bands.They are back to the stiffer Sepultura like chug on "Silent Assassin". I know both bands are into hard core punk so I'm not sure if that is where this is derived from or not, as some early hard core had a militant stiffness to it. This is not their most interesting side. Clean guitar opens "Hubris Fall" which sets the stage for a more melodic current to sweep through the song. This brings the vocals to have more of a Neurosis feel to them. Petrov doesn't sing but comes closer to it. Even tough there is more of an old school thrash feel to it "Black Survival" feels like this is being done by way of Soulfly. The darker melodic creep ends the album with more of what I want from this band. They manage to avoid the rule of cool riffs alone do make a good song, by adding just enough around the edges while churning the most they can out of the riffs. Overall I'll accept this version of Entombed , wish the would shed some of the more Soulfly like moments , but I'll round this up to an 8.5, because the moments they nail they kill.

Megadeth : "Dystopia"

I normally do not support christian music in any form but Mustaine has toned it down enough for me to give this one a shot. The last time I gave a fuck about Megadeth was when "Youthanasia" came out ,  though there were some songs I heard on "Cryptic Writings " that I liked, we officially parted ways when I saw them in 1998 at Ozzfest and Mustaine had gone full christian mode, would not play there best songs from "Peace Sells"  and people where giving out fliers promoting Jesus and using his name to do so. Well how do you know he o.k'ed this? ... the defensive Megadeth fan asks.  I stopped one and asked them.   This is the first album since 2004  not feature drummer Shawn Drover who was replaced by Lamb of God drummer Chris Adler and the first since 2007 without guitarist Chris Broderik who was replaced by the guitarist from Angra. The first song is thrash with Mustaine's vocal much lower than the sneer you typically associate with their more classic sound, but this returns on the title track that follows. It is a catchier and more mainstream metal take on what they do. "Fatal Illusion" carries more heft when it slows things down into a more deliberate pound, before Dave Ellefson speeds things up into something that sounds like a b-side from "Countdown to Extinction" if that album had been produced in 2015. Not sure why the guitar feels the need to solo over what is supposed to be the chorus, the song has some cool sounds , but is haphazard in it's construction.

"Death From Within" takes two listens for me to get a grip on it , because the first listen didn't really grab me. It has what is a typical chug for the band, but sticks to a very middle of the road formula for them. The chorus is alright, but it's just alright it doesn't have much of a punch. Really at this point if it wasn't for the guitar tone, Megadeth would sound more like hard radio rock if you were to compare then to what is metal in 2016. The guitar solos run rampant here and are just what you would expect lots of speed and accuracy , but very sterile in the feeling department. Clean guitar tones open up "Bullet to the Brain". I like how the melody falls under the guitar one this one and the groove that the song might launch into makes sense despite the sing song chorus attached to it. The solo to this song has more rhyme and reason if you are in minority  into this band that needs for their solos to actually make sense in the context of the song. "Post American World" is more straight forward , but is also a more tightly written song. The drumming on this song is also more characteristic of Adler's playing.

There and more melodious qualities to "Poisonous Shadows" make it click more for me. This also the song credited with having an orchestral arrangement, which sounds more like synths to me. The chorus reminds me of post-"Trash" era Alice Cooper. The instrumental "Conqueror of Die" doesn't really have much merit except to serve as a backdrop for a shred fest, but no body is comparing these guys to King Crimson anytime soon. "Lying In State" takes a more aggressive approach, while it doesn't come close to the killer "So Far So Good So What" era is comes the closest to capturing that feel.Lyrically Dave is focused on political unrest and this is his state of the nation. Its no "Behold a Pale Horse" but not half bad in the that department."the Emperor" is typical of Megadeth's more accessible sound. The vocal lines fall tighter over the riff, but the annoying factor to this song is single note wailing over the singing. The guitar solo here is more tasteful and more rock n roll. They close the album out with a cover of Fear's "Foreign Policy" , well hey one punk cover already worked pretty well for them so why not try another. Though Megadeth is the antithesis of punk now as every thing is larger than life all the time. They don't have the same kind of anger to vent into the song that they had back on "So Far So Good". This cover doesn't really do a lot for me, they notes are all in the right place , but I think it sounds a little dialed in. This album does have some stronger moments than I expected and finds the band heading backwards in the right direction so I'll round it up to an 8.


It's safe to say at the point in time you never know what kind of album Ulver is going to put out. It's also a safe guess that they will never be a black metal band again. The album opens with a swell of atmosphere is is almost hard to call a song, if I passed out on my synth and became a restless sleeper I'm sure the results would be similar. They do pull it together and write "Glammer Hammer " that is very cinematic, it's instrumental world music mixed with electronic and with a few hits of heavy guitar. It is a powerful piece of music and good to here hints of a heavier dynamic incorporated. There is an almost King Crimson meets the Labyrinth soundtrack feel to "Moody Stix" , it morphs into more of a march, not as compelling as the previous song, but not bad for the soundtrack to a fantasy game perhaps. "Cromagnosis"  has a bass line merge from the buzz of electronic noise. A guitar part begins to form around it as it swirls into something with more of smoothed out Cure like post-punk groove before escalating into tribal drumming.

I like the fact that they are involving a darker current to the songs this time around.They do continue to litter the album with atmospheric interludes, that Brian Eno already did better. A whispered vocal finally surfaces on "Om Hanumate Namah" which carries an exotic Middle Eastern that spirals through it in places. The guitar tone is great and the song is dynamic for something meant to drone. Yeah , I'm not sure why there are sound effects of frogs opening the song "Desert/Dawn" since there are no frogs in the desert. This one falls closer into krautrock and is very electronic and drones in the same vein for most of the song only adding more layers of synth.  "Gold Beach" is a more stagnant and less dynamic take on krautrock. "Nowhere ( Sweet sixteen) redeems this one with actual singing that is very influenced by Depeche Mode. Distorted guitar comes in over a baritone chant of "nowhere...catastrophe" . The guitar tone is a echoing hollow body that is pretty chilling. There is a slight Faith No More feel to this song as well, but dipped in 80s pop like Tears For Fears.

There are spoken word vocals that sound like something from post-prison Burzum on "Ecclesiastes" . The song it self if a minimalist drone for the first four minutes until actual singing returns and its the soulful almost George Michael style of singing .It makes me think of what it might sound like if Tears For Fears covered "Planet Caravan" .  Of the 12 songs on this album only 8 of those are real songs the others are ambient interludes some of those I did not even care to acknowledge in this review. So when you trim the fat, this album gets an 8 when it comes down to the actual songs. More vocals would have been nice , but the cinematic quality is pretty captivating at times.

they've cracked down on everything from Youtube to Bandcamp on this ,will post audio when it surfaces.


Monday, January 18, 2016

Top Ten Bassists of 2015

Time for the bass players to either step out of the shadows and put there foot up on the monitor, though a couple might already be there. Often unrecognized unless by other bass players  they are the glue, so here are those who really kept their albums sticking together and went above and beyond in 2015.

10:John Hassell- Libertines

Keeping their bottom end both melodic and driving no matter if these guys are indulging in more Mod like Brit -pop or coming out drunkenly swinging with punk. It's clear both McCartney and Andy Rourke are his influences which as a baas player really does their music justice.

  9: Jeordie White aka Twiggy Ramirez

The bass playing is what keeps "the Pale Emperor" heavy. Manson has backed off from using a more metallic guitar sound for the better part of the decade now so it's a good thing White is back in the fold to balance things out.

8: Ben Chisholm- Chelsea Wolfe

 Where low tuned sludge like guitar would normally sit on her new album, Wolfe's long time collaborator Chisholm had to do all the heavy lifting when it came to bringing the heavier dynamic. The tone is unbelievable and while he might not be a chops monster like some of the other guys on this list, he serves the song and delivered just what the album needed.


7:Dmitry Melet - Domovoyd

 His progressive style of playing set really well in the dense mix of psychedelic doom his band erupted with this year. The guitar are often weaving together weird walls of feed back leaving him to keep things going. Works hand in hand with the drummer while being very tasteful and melodic.

 6-Gerald Hansen -Eye of Nix

He keeps the throb going through all the dynamic shifts their songs take. Very hypnotic groove when needed or shaking the walls with a massive rumble. Great sense of when to hang on a note and keep pounding it into your head and when allow you to breath and play around the riff.

 5-Paul Barker -Puscifer

In Ministry he was often buried under the guitar, on this album Barker really shines and lays down some powerful bass lines that combine angular dissonance with melodic grooves or backing way off as needed , he really showed his range as a player.

4: Dan Maines- Clutch

 As these guys have progressed into a Camaro rock boogie machine it would be easy for him to sit back and ride the kick. He adds melodic embellishments while adding to their Zeppelin like thump. When they go off on a ZZ Top tangent he still retains a heavier tone to keep them grounded as who they are.

 3-Youth- Killing Joke "Pylon"

 allows him to showcase the diverse range from slapping a punk funk bounce against the industrial grind to some more tripped out and melodic.It doesn't hurt that he is also one of the best producers in the industry, so he has the best bass mix and production of any one on this list, but he doesn't put himself on pedestal and puts the bands sound first.

 2-Steve Harris- Iron Maiden

 I know it's heresy to not have him in the number one spot , but let's face it he is playing with a pick these days. This is not the kind of playing that propelled "Number of the Beast" , but even Harris dialing it in is better than what most can muster on their best day. "Book of Souls" finds the spot light shifting to the guitar players and Nicko .Bruce and Steve get the job done , but this is the guitar players album.

1-Greg Burns - Marriages

 Most Steve Harris fans are like who the fuck is this guy? Well he played for Isis and Red Sparrowes , so has the post rock / prog metal chops that he has displayed on their previous album. Here it's about letting the singer shine so he retains a monster grit and slink to his tone while serving the song. Emma's guitar tone often floats around with surreal grace leaving Greg to cement the songs down.He wins for being the most creative player on this list. Tasteful and dexterous as needed. He is what makes "Salome" heavy.