Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Maudlin : s/t

It takes Atlanta about six years to catch up with whatever is going in in New York and Los Angeles. To their credit they have enough Halloween in their bass sound to make songs like "A Nail Under the Grain" work. The production is also very true to the sound they are going for.  Their singer Jessica Knight is pretty convincing, walking the line between punk and 80's goth sound that obviously hails from Siouxsie. She is not just a Siouxise imitator which on this bandwagon is a rare exception, so she gets points for that. There is a more rock feel to "Twist of the Knife" that give the song some drive, but the murky sound that gives this band some of their character plays against them here, and keeps this from sounding as tense and urgent as it could. A little more form and function in the melodies could also help strengthen their sound. When it comes to bands like this now I am in an awkward spot of having already heard Arctic Flowers and Zola Jesus, so the excitement of this resurgence of music that I have already been listening to for over twenty years wanes a little. I can say I prefer the first three songs more than when they descend into a more punk sound for "Inside".  Her vocals take on a more spoken tone, which at least is a change. The drummer is on the good side of decent and the bass player is their glue. Normally I am more taken by the guitar tones of band's like this but that is actually this band's weak link. The rawer mix finds the guitar having a more metallic sound, that is somewhat tinny. There is a more pained squeal in the tone of say Daniel Ash and I am just not feeling it here. As a song I would say that "Crooked" is better than "Inside", I think some of this is the fact the vocals have more purpose. I'll round this one up to a 7 as it captures a cool vibe, there are plenty of things that can be ironed out, it pays tribute to a time period and culture very near and dear to my little black heart so that makes me a little generous in that regard, but at the same time I've been there done that and got the t-shirt so the bar is raised pretty high. They don't have much in terms of competition with this kind of thing as the other so called "goth" or "death rock" bands are hold overs from back in the day lucky enough for the cycle of hip to spin back around.

Negative Voice : "Cold Redrafted"

This Moscow band is not what I thought they were going to be going into this. Hypnotic doom is a black metal/ doom label, and while those genres might have an influence on the end result here, this is more progressive than I anticipated. I like prog metal. There is a weird blend of post-metal with more shredding solos that invoke a more traditional metal back bone, that is also brought out in some of the galloping chugs that crop up here and there. The clean vocals on the second song really push the Katatonia influence in your face. they eventually build into some heavier, but the intricate emotionally charged grooves are on of the album's signatures. The Katatonia thing still colors their sound on "NightMare Everlasting" but is dialed back some even with the clean vocals on what might be considered the chorus. The harsher vocals on "Instant" keep the song which eventually wanders into darker waters from becoming another progressive metal cross over.

"Impasse" finds me having to remind myself about the rule around here that cool riffs alone don't make a good song, as their are plenty of those just not sure what the glue that binds them together is. That is more clearly answered on "Karmic Pattern". When they do hit you with the 'cool riff" it has more dynamic effect here. This is easily the best song on the album. They get heavier and even touch on black metal for " lighthouse", but are quick to also get mired down in Katatonia, influence. The new Katatonia is awesome, so we are good with that album and don't need another. "Draft Life" feels like it is an extension of the previous song. There are some cool sections that crop up, and the harsher vocals help keep them from returning back into the Katatonia thing, but like "Impasse" it is a case of me wondering what is really holding this song together.

Overall this album is a good experience. I really enjoyed "Karmic Pattern". It is one of those things where I am unsure how much of this I will actually get to listen to since I do have the new Katatonia, so if I need that itch scratched it's the album I would more than likely turn to.  But if you are a fan of melo-death and want something new with a progressive slant you can't go wrong here. I'll  round this one up and give this album a 8.5

Monday, May 30, 2016

Discarnatus : "Awakened Through Pain"

We are playing catch up here to some extent as these guys came out back in Feb. This Michigan band proves that colder regions are more suited for black metal right from the instrumental opening. When it gets into the first dark and nasty piece of pounding. They don't don't have to use blast beats all the time though, the blasts do show up. It's a rawer production value than most of the post- Darkthrone bands I like, so the drum sound is not as big and thundering as it could be, but the song and the tangible passion poured into the playing allows me to listen to the potential. They range from a more classic almost Dissection like sound to something nastier and crusty. The vocals have more of a crust snarl so them, almost to the point of being somewhat Eyehategod like in their throat torturing tactics. Some chords are give more attention to detail in how they are picked out than others to create a more melodic dynamic.Things get even nastier on the blastier "World Hidden"

There is a little bit of punk to the rawer and more straight forward 'Eyes of White". It has come catchy punches. The snarls seem a little random and at time the whole songs seems like a little more though could have been in the fine tuning, but there energy is infectious and you can see how this would be really fun live. There is a more of a thrash attack to "Lurking Entity", with riffs that have the right chemistry to pull you in. The vocals have more purpose on "Flesh Merchant" which feels more like a death metal song to me than black metal. The chant of this blood runs cold packs the right punch to make me forgiving. You begin to suspect they might be more of a blackened death metal band on "Hatred Behind a Heart". The vocals gradually become more death metal. The first song that really strikes me a filler is "Internal War", but even then there is a riff that reminds me a little of Tool that I like that crops up midway into the song to make the spice flow. To be honest at this point in the album the death metal vocals are a little boring to me, the higher and nastier snarls work better.

The album goes out on a speedy storm of blasting. There are some riffs that give a little more dynamics than the actual onslaught that hits when the song kicks in as they fall some where in-between death metal and black metal. I'll give this album a 7.5, it's fun, but loses a little of the momentum for me when it begins to gradually grow more death metal as it progresses.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Psychic Ills :"Inner Journey Out"

The New York band's fifth album finds them not just flirt with the "Madchester" sound they masturbate to it with the object of their desire being the Stone Roses.Ian Brown was an attractive guy so I can understand the man-crush. When they begin to inject a little country on the second song, it helps change things up and you can hear they are also into Jesus and the Mary Chain, and obviously Mazzy Star because Hope Sandoval sings on the following song "I Don't Mind". I might be more impressed with this album if I still smoked pot as it makes me want to lake a long summer's nap. Well produced as everything sounds great, the songs are typically so slow that it doesn't take much to execute them. The dream country drift of "I Don't Mind" finds the album beginning to improve. The album shimmers as it glides on cruise control like  with guitar tones that sound like if "Born On a Bayou" was recorded on powerful pain killers. This is what it sounds like to get too high to catch a groove.

While in many ways this is Brit-pop the lazy sunshine baked sound of the 60s radiates from the simmer of the melodies. The vocals tend to stay in the same register, more than a whisper, but not powerful enough to call a croon. I didn't hear the psychedelics until the interlude"New Mantra" brought a trippy ripple to the party. Harmonica is introduced as they take on more of a folk strum with "Coca -Cola Blues". At this point in time the pace has pretty much been set. Vocally it seems we have already heard the extent of what going to happen. There is a slight gospel tone to some of the backing vocals, but "Baby" stays at lazy jangle . This album is painted in similar shades of the same stoned sun-shine. In fact if that baby from Tele-tubbies got high I am sure this would be his favorite album. Though the song "Music In My Head" is about how he doesn't want to get out bed when he wakes up, and this song would put me to sleep as well so I can understand the plight. There is a cool guitar sound at the onset of "No Worry", but I can't really imagine it going any where, since the bulk of the songs stock close to whatever the established vibe is. Some electric guitar comes in, but that doesn't mean we are actually going to rock out.

The sad thing about this album is that when you get bored with a song, which is bound to happen, you can fast forward it along and find that you haven't missed anything.The ambien-laced jam leading into "Hazel Green" feels more kraut rock like. The guitar playing is cool enough, but is it cool enough to justify an instrumental? They go into a more indifferent brand of indie rock on the slow shuffle of "Confusion". The guitar on this song is cool enough, but the vocals aren't doing anything to really compliment it. However this is one of the best songs on the album. Things begin to float off into more of a hypnotic drone on "Ra Wah Wah". By the three minute mark it's clear when are lost in a space jam. It sounds really cool for the first four minutes then it becomes clear that it needed to go somewhere. That somewhere never comes.Unless somewhere is a atmospheric abyss. If I didn't already own Pink Floyd's "Obscured By Clouds " the more jammy moments might seem like some next level shit.I'll give this a 6.5 it's got some cool sounds, not the most original thing to come out but better than most indie krautrock as it add flavors of country among other genres to the mix.

Bootblacks : "veins"

This is new wave more than it's dark wave as it's largely coated in a sheen of plastic. The vocals of this Brooklyn based project stay in a baritone croon that reminded me more of Billy Idol on the first song then get a little less rock and a little more melodramatic on the second. The diligence to the 80s is both a blessing and a curse on this album. It's dialed back and the kind of emotion that made the 80s great  when it came to this kind of thing occurs and it makes you feel like you are in one of those John Hughes films. Sonically things get more interesting on "Drift" . They get into the groove like they've got to prove their love you to and the vocals coast on auto-pilot like less inspired dark wave, especially without the benefit of a big chorus to pop off from. There is a more old school sci-fi pulse to the almost dance floor ready "Always" that mixes Gary Numan with Modern English. Once again the chorus is more subtle and doesn't really pop off in big 80s fashion. I think that is the one thing keeping these guys from being a band a DJ could sneak into an 80s play list.

There is a darker more gothy tone to "Erosion". The guitar steps out in the mix. It almost carries an old U2 jangle. These guys are good setting the tone, but seem to have trouble knocking the home run when the bases are loaded. I am not a fan of being formulaic, but the formula here seems to be to under state the chorus. It's up beat, but "Sub" fails to really go anywhere. They are back to a more preferred darker place, this time bringing more of a rock dynamic to it. The synth riff is pretty cool, but the rule is cool riffs alone do not make a good song. That is not exclusive to guitar based music.  "Abc" follows a similar pattern that 'Low Fantasy" eventually breaks by uses more dynamics. It is one of the album's most aggressive songs carrying an almost industrial punch.

The album ends with "Decoy" which really owes a lot to Gary Numan. Going into this I had heard Depeche Mode's name thrown around in regards to these guys and I don't hear that at all. I'll give this album a 9 and see how it sits with me. They have potential, but ride a middle line between being droning yet melodic indie rock with a new wave slant and really committing to worship their idols from that decade.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Intig : "Dystymi"

I get so hungry for depressive black metal that I could eat razor blades, it is not that there isn't a lot of it our there, there is just not a lot of it out there that is quality. So I started my hunt and found this gem from an internet band whose members are spread out from Sweden to Denmark to Salt Lake City.It starts off on a more post -rock foot. The guitar sounds great and the playing is very dynamic though it's not as dark as I might like my depressive black metal to be.The second song creeps along this path, it sounds like a rainy afternoon, but not a deep enough depression yet. Like An Autumn For Crippled Children, the vocals are sometimes the most black metal thing about this. There is enough agony in them to convince even a jaded old soul like me. Musically these guys are nowhere near as despondent as Shining or Totalselfhatred and it's clear where the foggy line between what was called black gaze and dsbm comes in, as this often sounds like slower post-black metal. No blast beats yet, and that is not a deal break as the accents to "Self-destruction" are heavy enough without them and is the first song on this album to really grab me.

What this album is heavy on is the instrumentals.It might be named after a period of prolonged depression, but it more hopefully medicated. Without the screamed vocals it's like a more emo version of Explosions in the Sky.If it wasn't for the catchy songwriting I might be a little pissed there's none of the black metal I hoped for.I suppose that is the problem with being too self aware of the genre you are aiming for, it never falls neatly into that crack. With the sample of the crying girl I get more hopeful that things can become more down trodden. She might be talking about being a cutter, but they don't fed into their self loathing. This might be the problem that occurs when people that are actually well adjusted try to make this kind of music, if you are actually depressed then even the blast beats that show up won't be able to fake the funk,

I think I need to start checking the references when it comes to depressive black metal and make sure some one in the band has just gotten out of re-hab or a mental health center. They jam things out, but these songs are not as long and sprawling as they could be. Another gray cloud floats in for "Longing For an End". The guitar sounds beautiful, but I need a little more ugliness. That ugliness is what made Shining's "the Eerie Cold" such a wonderfully dismal piece of beauty. They slowly building into a more melodic rock riff that drones on. They riff shifts rather gracefully, leaving no question this is well played and written, but am I just being teased about this depression is the question I find myself asking. The song builds into a more metallic form of post-rock, but I would not say it's blackened anything. The last song is really and outro with some muttering and nature sounds like birds and water trickling, much like horror movies, the rule this breaks for depressive black metal is no happy endings. Since this is not what I felt the band lead me to believe it was I'll round it down to a 8.5 and keep searching for some depressive black metal, if your expectations aren't set it stone it's a beautiful guitar album.

Death Angel : "the Evil Divide"

2016 is the year the kings of metal return triumphantly to prove themselves. Anthrax, Metal Church and Flotsam & Jetsam have all had strong showing challenging the less than mediocre stuff bands like Slayer have been releasing in recent years. Death Angel is throwing their name in for a crown with their new album. Rob and Mark might be the only original members, but They come on fast and furious with a quick burst of punk fueled thrash. Solos burn out from every crack of this mean machine. Always capable of this kind of aggression this band was one of the first to see the writing on the wall in the late 80s and cross over into a more alternative form of metal. This line up which finds Anglo blood in the mix has been intact for three albums now. It seems more dynamic than the few I have heard in-between this and the 14 year break they took after "Act 3".  When the band split with Mark to form the Organization in the 90's the certainly got more punchy than they were on "Act 3".

 There is a more melodic slant to "Lost" that proves Mark still has the pipes. They don't linger on that for long with spit fire vocals to "Father of Lies" snarling over the jagged thrash riffs. The thrash keeps coming with the frantic that is tightly executed, but not the album's most memorable moment. There new bassist might not be Gus Peppa, but they do manage to lock into a pretty convincing groove on "It Can't Be This" that finds a perfect balance of aggression meeting hooks.  The drumming courtesy of Will Carroll who has played with every one from Machine Head to Vicious Rumors to Hammers of Misfortune, is dialed in to perfection on this track and impressive through out. The color by numbers thrash metal of "Hatred United" is not as impressive, but remains high energy. There is the more hard core side of thrash on "Breakaway", which I find less interesting than the album's more groove oriented moments. His more melodic moments show up here and there, but he is in a higher pitched thrash bark for the bulk of the album.

There is a little nuance added to the song writing on "the Electric Cell", but heaviness seems to be a major priority here.The powerful of the big closer "Let the Pieces" is both fun and heavy. It gives Mark room to sing and plenty of space for solos to coming flying out at you. I'll round this one up to an 8. Death Angel were once more concerned with being original than the the fastest thrash going, and this album doesn't live up to their legacy in that regard and maybe have been the result of the original members balancing one another out. This album keeps up with the rest of the pack, so now we are just waiting to see if Testament can bring it.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Muscle & Marrow : "Love"

This Portland based duo caught my attention when I saw them open for Author and Punisher. Then when I went back to listen to their album that had been sitting around on my hard drive I was not as impressed.  The album's heart beat comes to life with an electronic pulse. Kira Clark's emotive vocals are layered in a dizzy spiral of melodies. Then the gears get shifted to the darker and more introspective "Black Hole". The drums are very liberate and create another throbbing drone coated in her impressive melodies which has matured since the last album. The time spent at Machines With Magnets in Rhode Island was well served. The abrasive layers have not all been scrubbed from the songs. Most of them are just more carefully produced. To say "Womb" is doom, would be an exaggeration. It is heavy and holds a similar oppressive punch. It is not as rock in the delivery of these moments as say the last Chelsea Wolfe album. There is a similar darkness handing over the mood, though it is haunted by much different ghosts.

Live Clark would unleash straight up metal scream and here she sticks to a much more accessible croon. This album is far from being as sell-out, it is however refined. They drift more on the intangible river into the dark places of the soul on the more brooding "The Drooling Mouth". She coos over various noise that all she wants is love. The more aggressive streak to her voice begins to cut through on "Sacs of Teeth" .  She lets out a few fully committed shrieks as this dirge sounds like a grim take on a Siouxsie Sioux singing a trip hop ballad. "Bereft Body" is much more fragile. It floats on this cloud until a wave of noise washes over it. There is also more subtle beginning to "Light" that doesn't bang into a heavier dynamic until a minute and a half into the song and this is a brief tease. So you can't accuse them of being formulaic in their approach to song writing. It took additional listens for that one to really grow on me. The same can be said of that album as a whole. The heavier mood is more restrained at times but still just as potent , and often even more so with the improvements in the vocal delivery on this album. The lighter shades which contrast starkly with the darkness are going to take some getting used to, but I'll round this one up to a 9.5 and see how it grows on me.

Altar De Fey : "Echoes From the Corridor"

While this is pure death-rock it's how I like my punk rock when the though the dye comes off to reveal  it's punk roots. The vocals have a tinge of Jello Biafra to them. It opens with a kick and then relaxes into the neon gloom of the Orange County night on "Death to My Enemies" which comes back with a punch on the chorus. They have the chilly guitar tone haunting the beefier bass line that is a classic staple of the genre. There is more attack to this one and less brooding. "Snitch" rides the bass line with the guitar coloring the background with atmosphere. It is not the album's most engaging vocal performances. The chorus doesn't carry the explosiveness of the earlier songs, while it good this album has a dynamic range and is not always in your face, that energy works better than a more plodding drone they go for on this slower burn. It does gain some traction in the final minute, but could be better paced.

There is a more classic post- punk tempo to "1975" . This is the first song I can really hear moving the dance floor on your typical goth night, it finds the band at more of a middle road in terms of emotional intensity.  The rowdier punk attitude rears its head on "Right to the Point". Even though they were peers when this style of punk arose from the gutters of Los Angeles, the vocal phrasing has ample amounts of Rozz Williams. This album is great and a better display of what actual death rock should sound like, the quality of the song writing is a notch under what makes "Only Theater of Pain" a classic. "My Bone" attacks with a similar punk mania. The more deliberate bass driven "Wraith" offers an example of what separates death rock from dark punk. I'll go ahead and round this up to a 9, if you are in mourning that newer band's like Cemetary lost some of their more goth edge then the return of this band will be just what you need.

Cough : "Still They Pray"

This self professed stoner sludge band, gives us the chance to explore where the lines between sludge and doom lie. The opener is dense and has a more impressive vocal performance than I expected. It is slow and powerful, but the raw fuzzed out distortion hits you more like a wall than wallows in the mournful atmosphere. About six minutes into the lumbering 8 minute jam it's sluggishness strikes me as slightly repetitive. So this may or may not be an ill omen of what's to come for the seven other songs to come. With members from Windhand and the Sword there is no doubt in regard to the caliber of these guys talent. There is more of a snarl to "Possession" that brings the band Indian to mind. The clean vocals remind me a little more of Mudhoney when they come in. This brings up an interesting point which is sludge tends to have more punk roots than doom, which is a more un-apologetically metal genre.

With "Dead Among the Roses" the lyrics take on a  a darker and more sorrow prose. the vocals are a tenor sneer with enough of an edge to it to not sound like an Ozzy wannabe. They drone on the same riff spicing it up with a guitar solo here and there. The slowly begin pressing down on the gas to accelerate. "Masters of Torture" finds the vocals get nastier as the music slows to a more oppressive pound. I like the chant of " live to hate , hate to live" There is more disgust than depression here. There is a stab at actual singing on "Let it Bleed". The instrumental jam "Shadow of the Torturer" is one of those songs I can hear going over well live, but little more than back ground music when playing it at home.

The more anguished drone of "The Wounding Hours" that really benefits from the pulse of the synth beneath it it more engaging than the previous song. Vocally the harsh screams are emoted from a place similar to Eyehategod here. The title track is an acoustic ballad , which is pretty straightforward almost folk. This is good for what it is, I can let it play, but nothing too ground breaking I'll give it a 7.5.

Deceptionist: " Initializing Irreversible Process"

I was more interested in this band's industrial side than I was the tech tendencies. In this case tech must mean riff robots devoid of putting feeling into their metal. They are tight, but a band should be. This is where death metal is fully monochrome and I'm not hearing anything from the futuristic side that is balancing this out for me. The second song has some samples in it and the solo is decent, but nothing mind blowing for me. I eventually find myself on "Final Innovation" and realized two songs have just breezed by me because they sound the same. Some industrial moments creep into "Irreversible Process" which is one of the album's next redeeming moments. It's mainly run of the mill tightly riffed death metal with drumming that fails to impress me like most death metal can. If you put a ton of stock into guitar solos then you might find those sections more appealing. It's well played wanking, but wanking none the less.

"Sunshine" chugged right past me. It seems a little rushed and as stiff as all the previous songs. There is a robotic effect placed on the vocal at one point, and that is what this album needs more of to stand on it's own two cyborg legs. There is more industrial to "Industrivolutionaction" though it's more of a droning interlude than a song that goes somewhere. There is a similar aggression to old Deicide on "Operator Nr 3". The Romans aren't known for death metal, so this is like the Indians launching into space travel, but much like that it's been done before so what is the point? I'll give this album a 5, the guitars are played and produced , but unless guitar solos make the album for you this doesn't have an original bone in it's cyborg body.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Misteyes : "Creeping Time"

The beauty and the beast dynamic is at work here. This is heavier than I thought it would be going into it. Death metal vocals clash with the operatic female vocals . The symphonic metal waltzes around with tight chugs. There is some interesting bass playing taking place in the murk of the song. Very progressive in the arrangements, the song is written in movements more than the traditional verse chorus model. They really milk a lot out of the six and a half minutes. With a title like "Brains in a Vat" we can't be too shocked that the second song is more death metal than the first. This Italian band is a little darker than most takes on symphonic metal. "Inside the Golden Cage" finds them conforming a little more closely to the balance of opera and metal that early Nightwish struck. These guys are just willing to take it a little further and dip harder into the metal. There are a few sections here and there that get as theatric as King Diamond or Cradle of Filth.

The melodrama thickens with the piano intro and the more balladic vocal that starts off "Lady Loneliness". She is a talented singer, but her choice of melodies often leans to what dances around the song rather than fits tightest in it like a rock singer would. It builds more gracefully than you might think and flows as well as any other band in their pirate boots. "The Prey" hammers in much harder with the tight double bass of modern death metal. The two styles are not blended as gracefully as they are on the previous song. Their singer hits some impressive notes in her soprano register, she is by and large a Sarah Brightman worshipper. It's not until the song breaks down in the middle that it really hits it's stride. The guitarists and the drummer are all very skilled at their trade and these guys nail the execution. I think some of the pretense could be slightly shed to appeal to my tastes, but for the typical crowd who is into this stuff in Europe it will go over well.

"Destroy Your Past" focuses more on a modern metal groove until the soprano vocals come in. The good cop/ bad cop trade off with the growled male vocals is not overly formulaic, when the growls reach above the guttural death metal style they sound a little like a less annoying Dani Filth.This song is pretty tightly written with only winding drum fills sometimes slowing it's momentum, until the really elegant acoustic passage comes in.It's pretty unexpected, so if you can surprise me you are doing something right."The Demon of Fear" is heavier and has some impressive piano soloing but doesn't draw me in like some of the earlier songs. The Phantom of the Opera homage "A Fragile " feels more like an interlude rather than a song that is cohesive with this album despite the fact this is a part of who they are as a band. It's a fast forward classic to my ears. Of course "Chaos(Awaken the Beast)" is going to be heavier. They play it pretty safe and leave the symphonic elements in the closet for this one. They blend heavy with their symphonic bag of tricks, which you don't realize how much you appreciate them until they set the cello section aside for a song. I think one of this band's strengths is the fact they can dazzle you without taking you on long sprawling prog epics that don't seem like metal songs. "Decapitated Rose" might not be the album's strongest song, but it does high light a good balance of dynamics. the clean vocals are kinda weird as it sounds like the backing vocals from a Frank Zappa song.

 They close with the eight minute "Winter's Judgement". For these guys an eight minute song is really letting themselves thicken the melodrama. When it does begin to build into metal, the vocals have the kinda of rasp that band's like Emperor and Cradle of Filth took away from "Them" era King Diamond. This darkens things up which in turn makes it a easier sale on me. At the strongest moments it sounds like more straightforward Dimmu, but the Night Wish like fringes at a lacey undercoating. Overall this album is surprising and fans of symphonic metal will find a fresh  and heavier approach to the genre. I'll give it an 8.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Flotsam & 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 on 'Life's A Mess". There are some strong melodies on "Taser" which much like Anthrax finds the best of both worlds when the hit the balance of modern sounds breathing new life into their brand of thrash from the 80s.

"Iron Maiden" might as well be called "Irony Maiden" since it ironically sounds like it's namesake. Then they have a more modern metal guitar attack on "Verge of Tragedy". This results in the song sounding more like Nevermore. Despite it's terrible lyrics "Creeper" pretty much kicks ass with Eric's voice getting up there with out going into falsetto. The brand of thrashing they launch into on "L.O.T.D" might not be the most original, but it does sound like what the band does best. The vocal going into the chorus has both punch and a infectous way of staying with you. After an interlude that felt like it should just have been "Monkey Wrenches" intro they lock onto the kind of catchy thrash that has been their trademark. They are convincing in the thrashing chug of " Time to Go", it is not the most inspired song writing of the album, yet not a fast forward classic either.

The tight riffing of "Smoking Gun" is heavy, but the vocals take a back seat to where the emphasis is being placed. Even when the riff shifts into what would be a more mosh inducing transition it doesn't incite you physically like this kind of metal should. The guitar playing in pretty impressive, but file that under cool riffs alone don't make a good song. They have not forgotten what made them great and are in hot pursuit of that flame on " Forbidden Territories" which finds the bass driving the song ahead like we are back to "No Place For Disgrace". If you are waiting for them to be able to touch "No Place For Disgrace" you might be waiting for sometime. Eric avoids going up high which is a shame, since he was one of the few singer's who could do that and retain the aggression in his approach. I'll give this a 8.5 for now, the have a lot to live up to, but even though there is a lack of yodels and the lyrics are pretty run of the mill metal, this is better than expected.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Thraenenkind "King Apathy"

This band features members of Heretoir, so for some reason they get pegged as being post-rock, post-punk, but it feels like crusty metal to me so I am a little confused. Sure there is some atmosphere to it. The bass player is on point. The title track is straight up metal with little need to try and dress it up with other sub-genres, though it's obvious these guys influences hail from the days of Myspace. Unlike Heretoir I would not call them gaze anything either. They do go from a mid-paced emo like riff into black metal, but that is really as close as they come to that whole thing. While this album is heavier and more metal than Heretoir, it doesn't pull me in as quickly.The throaty vocals feel like this is a more metal version of Hotwatermusic or Coalesce. So post- hardcore is a more fitting sub-genre than post-whatever else. Given the organic feel of this music I am not surprised that these guys are straight edge vegan anarchists . Once upon a time it was more surprising to find some one in the hardcore scene who wasn't.

The song "Urban Giants " hammers ahead more like hard-core and has some catchy punches to it, but it came across like an extension of the previous song to me. The well blended  melodic nature of what they do, never feels strained against the heavier dynamics . The fact the songs are screamed rather than sung, does give them a slight monochrome feel by the time you get mid-way into the album.  They pull out some blast beats for a few seconds on "the Blood On Our Hands". If the lyrics are really preachy then I am glad these songs are screamed, because I don't care about their goody two shoes post-modern hippy ways. They songs are concise and these guys jam a range of dynamics into the five minutes or less they spend wisely rocking you out. These guys put some genuine emotion into what they do so I have mad respect for that even though our world views might differ. They come closest to a more Deafheaven like version of shoe gaze on " Smokestacks and Concrete Walls". It's the first time this comparison really strikes me, and like ostriches metal heads can put their head in the sand when it comes to the self awareness of bands and the bandwagons they jump upon. However I would not pigeon hole these guys are a band that wishes they were Deafheaven.

They ease into "Vanishing Youth" and show a surprising amount of restraint as I am waiting for the blast beats to come in at any minute, this also has me re-thinking the shoe-gaze. The subtle under current of double bass gives a gradual build. When it hits the three minute mark I am surprised that they have not blown their wad yet. When they do it's more of a hard core like explosion, though they eventually find their way into the blasting. They gave in, but not in the most obvious or formulaic manner, so they get props for the arrangements. They close strong with "Homeruiner" which is pounded home with deliberate authority and resists taking the easy way out and running to the safety of being able to blast their way out of the song. I'll give this album a 9, I am not desperate to get it onto my iPod , but really enjoyed listening to it and giving serious consideration to downloading it.The vocals are the only weak spot and even then they work better than most bands who resort to that kind of thing.

Eagulls : "Ullages"

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. The bass does hold a pulse in songs like "Velvet", but the  guitar is not playing second fiddle or content just banging out a static guitar line. It does lay down a more prominent role in "Euphoria" to give the sort of grooving drive that typifies post-punk.The vocals are no longer just shouted and while they are delivered with the most careful croon, their placement was give much more thought to create a wider sense of melody reflected in the album as a whole. Lyrically there is less angst and more contemplation. Acknowledging themes like how we try to escape from ourselves.

Never really dancey the slow careful groove of "Psalms" really works to bring out the best of the vocals. Though the tasteful guitar tones are impressive, the band's strength is how they bring out the best in one another and really work these songs as cohesive unit with much greater focus. There is an upbeat pop sense to the skip in the step of "Blume". They return to a darker mood with"Skipping". The drums and the bass pound the gloomy drone home, before swinging into something for your head to move to. The pulsations keep a similar velocity on "Lemontrees". The album begins to develop a drive similar to a less aggressive version of "Fascination Street". The guitar tones darken things more than the punkish vocal, that to it's credit does more for the songs than if they were pulling another Ian Curtis tribute. The guitar arrangements  thoughtfully dominate the songs in a good way.

The shoe gaze term gets thrown around in regards to this band and it seems largely unfounded until you get to dreamy guitar on "Aisles". This song is off set by the marching drum and keeps you from really floating away with it. This more surreal side of the band is further delved into with "White Lie Lullabies", but this time they remain grounded with the thump of the bass line and  the verse's very refined vocal melody . 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. I'll more than likely round it up to a 10 , but as it grows on me will play it safe and say it's a 9.5 for now, but won't take much for me to round it up.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Feeding Fingers : "Attend"

Justin Curfman's project was too big for the small-minded punk thinking of Atlanta, so stretching himself creatively meant escaping the marketing machine of American hipsters to embrace a style of post-punk that might be rooted in the kind of dark indie rock once churned out by Interpol, but expanding in the kind of multi-cultural embrace that artists like Peter Murphy and David Byrne give to their often cinematic sonic tapestries. The album opens strong. The songs are adorned with melody in lush strokes of gilded gold and crimson rather than the stark drab arrangements most post- punk revivalists stick to. The bass line of "Perfume Truth" is the albums first cumbersome moment and where I was struck with the Interpol comparison. Things shift to a more David Lynchian jazz on "Barbed Wire Threads the Sun". The guitar's thick re-verb rings out  into the steamy night. Curfman's baritone croon finds new ways to slip between the grooves.

It's not unfounded in post-punk for the bass line to hold the riff where the guitar normally would in rock music. Here it works like a b-side by the Cure. Curfman doesn't hold the same level of emotive vulnerability in his croon that Robert Smith can summon, but does alright on his own. The title track finds a similar formula in place, but this time takes into a dark place. We hear Curfman's voice drop down into a lower key as a more ominous tone is taken. Here and many other places on the album he take a hard left turn into experimentation with world music. It is more of a jarring turn than what Dead Can Dance does , as they never hold any allusions to being rock music in the first place. Some of these transitions are smoothed over in weird little interludes and others are not. He often comes to weird cross roads meeting sounds similar to artists like Vast with a more quirky Dresdan Dolls escapades. There is almost a Nine Inch Nails like pulse to "All In Full Bloom Smeared". His upper range is more of a whine here. He does make a graceful turn to a more dark wave sound on "Through Marrow Always".

There is a surreal elegance to the dreamy sway of "Abrasive Remains Lubricate Me". He goes back to a more conventional form of post-punk with bass line to "Polaroid Papercuts". One of this projects strengths is the fact he sings, rather than just reverting to the typical Ian Curtis styled narrative. The two worlds of conventional post-punk and Justin's collection of oddities reaches a perfect balance on "At Play With Wasps" .  He attempts reach a more Morrissey like yodel, however are not one of his vocal strengths and when he attempts to put more of a Robert Smith like desperation into his voice works mush better for him. Another balance between rock and atmosphere is found on "The Smiling Dumb and Serious" . When he tries on cabaret for "Survive Bliss" it's a less inspired experiment. The quirky new wave bounce injected into "And Crayon Toxic Twins" works well against the jazz embellishments. I'm a little unsure about the folkish balladry of "In Liquid Summer Schools". The melody doesn't seem as focused as many of the other songs.

Unlike most of today's so called "goth" artists, Justin is not out to get you on the dance floor. The catchy grooves seem to be accidental with "Did My Absence Follow Me" coming across more like a lost gem from 'alternative radio" in the 90s. "the Last Bruise I Harvest Here" takes you on a woozy Doors like journey into the Middle East. With "Orphans Veiled in Feathers" He wanders into darker Nick Cave like landscapes. There is some added melodrama to his croon. He tests out his more fragile upper register in the whispered ballad 'the First Born Stands Sedated" that is more Bright Eyes than "Hurt".  Justin returns to his flirtations with Robert Smith, this time it's more "Disentigration" era and it pays off in a major way on "I am Erasing Doors".It took a few listens for me to ingest the more electro pulse of "Where All These Towns and Choices End". In some ways in reminds me of a more sedate She Wants Revenge. While the vocals can at some times be both this album's blessing and curse depending on which way they are going, over all this ambitious two hour project hits way more than it misses and it actually pretty fucking good so I'll round it up to a 9 and hope for all this compressed into ten songs next time.

Withered : "Grief Relic"

After  six years this Atlanta based band is back for their Seasons of Mist debut. Their return roars up from the depths with a cavernous blasting. Very dense and heavy, the intensity it hits you with from the onset begs a question we ask most bands that are this heavy after the opening song plows us over ...O.k what else can you do? Write Songs? "A Realm of Suffering" answers with a very similar roar. New addition Colin Marston's bass playing adds another sonic texture to this. Known for his technical death/black metal projects, he serves the songs more than one might expect. They add a layer of sonic dissonance midway into the song, to help give it an identity apart from the first song. This is very ugly and sonic death metal. There is more of a classic death metal sound on "Withdraw" which digs into the grime filled groove. The guitars are well layered thanks to Ethan from Primitive Man who has also joined their ranks, as the band now only holds tow of it's original members.

They flirt with some blackened elements on "Feeble Grasp", but return to the brand of death metal they are best at. The riffs morph back and forth on this one some of Beau's most impressive drumming. I had heard other drummers sing his praises, but never heard anything to really convince me until this song. There is one riff that takes you back to the early days of Mastodon where sludge met death metal. This is not surprising considering that Mike Thompson got his start with Troy Sanders in a band called Social Infestation. They take the song out on a dark and noisy note. I had already heard "Husk" going into this so it will be interesting to see how it feels in context of the album. I remember not being to taken by the initial listen though thought it sounded better than what I had previously heard from the band. They come out of a more chaotic beginning into a solid death metal groove. The vocals work best in the lower growls, the higher rasped screams seem a little forced when meshing with the overall vibe. They return to a more straight forward grinding death metal on "Downward". You can hear some punk under lying their sound at the onset, which is not surprising considering the bulk of Atlanta metal bands started out in the punk scene. The first guitar solo isn't a shred fest but more of a melody.

The ugliness continues on "Distort, Engulf" as the band proves they are  as nasty any death metal going today. This song is more straight forward than the previous songs in it's single minded attack. They close the album with a touch of atmosphere going into "To Glimpse Godliness". These guys don't need to drone into the ten minute mark to prove their point. They storm back into the heavy with authority. When the song drops down into the slower throb it reaches it's most powerful moment. This is a vast improvement for a band who previously  failed to win me over. Gone are any allusions to black metal as they have embraced their role as harbingers of some ugly death metal. I'll round this up to an 8.5.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Grand Magus : "Sword Songs"

These guys used to be in Spiritual Beggars who last album i had a hard time getting through as it sounded just like the David Coverdale era Deep Purple . These guys are not far removed from that, but much more metal so easier to digest. I love Deep Purple, but when I want to listen to them not only do I prefer the Ian Gillan years , but I'll just put them on when I am in the mood and don't need a tribute band.  I was expecting something more doom when I put this album on, but instead I'm getting something that is almost power metal. The guitar playing is pretty fucking ripping, so there is no question in regards to these guys ability. The verse riff almost reminds me of "Painkiller".  The singer has a classic metal sound, but a leathery rasp to his blues bathed baritone.

The guitar harmonies to "Varangian", will make you pull out your battle vest and check to see if you have a Grand Magus patch on it, if you are not just into the more extreme forms of metal. Granted the flip side off this the fact they are not breaking any new ground. Lyrically they take a page from Manowar's book. They toughen up after the melodic intro to "Forged in Iron". The chant of viking metal in this song is plan silly as they are not actually viking metal despite the fact they are from Sweden. Whitesnake on steroids would be a more awkward chant. He doesn't have the same Robert Plant quality to his voice that Coverdale does, but this helps the band sound heavier. Some times the retreading of conventional metal works better than others, the 80's kick to the chorus of  "Born For Battle" reminds me of "Smooth Up In Ya" by the Bullet Boys. It packs more of a punch, but I'm always cautious of inadvertent cock rock. They make this up to you on "Master of the Land" which is much heavier.  The singer's voice brings Candlemass to mind here.

The more modern Judas Priest sound returns on "Last One to Fall" which in some ways has a more Rainbow feel to it. Sure a lot of bands are being referenced here as influences, some of these are more direct than others, but if you already caught this kind of metal back in the day then it mght not be as impressive. There is a little more heft to "Frost and Fire" but aside from that no new real ground is broken sonically. Lyrically they really want to be a viking metal band with songs called "Everyday There is a Battle to Fight".  But they chug along to 80s mainstream metal. It is soulfully sung, but pretty middle of the road. They put more energy into this attack for songs like "In For the Kill" which is more hard rock than metal.  It's not surprising that they do a good job with the cover of "Stormbringer".  If you miss old school metal and want to hear it done without much embellishment, then these guys might do it for you. I'll give this a 7 as the guitar is well played.

Teen Suicide : " It's the Big Joyous Celebration, Let's Stir the Honey Pot"

It's sad this band did not their guns and keep their name, the changed it to Honey Pot because there are negative connotations to Teen Suicide. I certainly can't think of any, it sounds like a perfectly good form of population control and thins the herd. If you think this is insensitive then go stick a gun in your fucking mouth. Musically this is folk in some sense, but it's jammed out on a cruise ship where every one is high as a hippie. The title track is more like Bright Eyes being caught up in the holy ghost at a tent revival. There is a more straight up hipster folk thing going on after this. They sing about crack pipes and lyrics have some depressing themes, which is fun for me since I am so heavily medicated. You'll need to be medicated too before this review is over since this album has 26 god damn songs. Though some of these songs are under two minutes. This works better for some songs than others as "Violets" doesn't sound like it is allowed long enough to fully form.

Sometimes the drugs take hold and the going gets almost too weird for their own good. "Obvious Love" seems like the balance of weird to song, finds the ratio of song and substance lacking. Things get better on "It's Just a Pop Song" . The odd sonics meet the folk melodies with only mild pop sensibility. While they often adhere to less is more, this song is jammed out past the four minute. I'm not sure it is deserving of the length. They submerge into underwater garage pop for "V.I.P" . The weird auto-tuned drift of "Wild Thing Runs Free" does weird the right way. They marry lazy folk to noise on "Bright Blue Pick Up Truck" and reinforce the fact that when you put out an album with 26 songs on it unless you are Led Zeppelin there is bound to be some filler on it. It has a drugged jangle that makes me think they were passing out as they recorded it. "Big Mistake" is more of the Bright Eyes styled garage folk.

The cheap drum machine sound at least changes things up for " What You Want" . Though it sounds like the vocals were improvised and had little though put into them. This album often sounds like a bunch of hipsters playing around. I think they have potential that shines through , but I often don't get the irony. The clang into rock music on "God". They do this in a sloppy fashion, but you get the impression they generally don't care.  I reach the half way point with "Neighborhood Drug Dealer" and it's become more of a test of endurance rather than something I am trying to enjoy. The layered vocals on this song work better than the bulk of vocal preformences on this album. The piano ballad "Have a Conversation" is pretty much a waste of time. "Beauty" gets into some harsher noise. It's the hardest punk-industrial song on here. There is an upbeat jangle to "Pavement" and then a somewhat sincere delivery to 'America", so by the time you get to "Devotion" you are confused if you should take them seriously.

The next song that seems at all genuine is "Falling Out of Love With Me" when is strummed with enthusiasm, though the trippy 'I Don't Think It's Too Late" is much more interesting. It gets even more hit or miss there though the more experimental and electronic the better. The darker "My Little World" being the high point of these moments. Some songs suffer more from being recorded in their bathroom. "The Stomach of the Earth" is another song that I make more seriously and offers a glimpse into their potential. I think they are going in the wrong direction and the electronic flavored songs are really their strong point. I think it is no mistake that this album came out on April Fools day. I'll give it a 5.5

The Repos : "Poser"

O.k after than Hatebreed review I promised to review some real hard core, these guys are about as legit as it gets as they have been around for 14 years. They are too punk for my personal tastes, but clearly good at what they do. The first song that catches my ear is the title track. It has a little more rock n roll to it and guitar solos coming out of its ears. Most importantly it stands on it's own two Converse as a song. Many of the songs just play it too safe and could use a hint of metal to them. The drummer earns his seat on "You Should Act Good To Me". While these guys are good at what they do, what they do is one thing. This causes all the songs to sound the same.Most of the song around the minute mark so it's not like there is much of a chance to really establish much. I like when punk bands start off with the rumble of bass like these guys do on "Gift Wrapped Pistol".

I'm sure every city has a band that sounds like this. The songs like "Hotel Caledonia" which are under 30 seconds should be thought of as interludes rather than songs. the first riff that crops up not sounding like the six previous songs is more metallic punch added to "No Plans". These moments are the exception to the rule. The gallop of "Wild Bore" finds this band showing that they could write a real song  if they felt like it. If you combined three of these minute songs, you might have an idea of what this band would sound like if they tried.

I'll give this album a 5.5, which makes the fake hardcore Hatebreed was playing almost seem like a better idea. If you are a regular reader of this blog then you know we have actually covered hardcore that finds a better than what the Repos just did. If we were to look at the Hatebreed album and this album I think we would see a cautionary tale of what happens at each polarity. Be it trying to hang too tightly to your scene cred so you have been around for 14 years and not allowed yourself to progress beyond what your were doing in high  school versus being a total Head Bangers Ball styled sell out.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hatebreed: "the Concrete Confessional"

 Don't worry I'll review an actual hard core album after this, so you know what hard core is. These guys spent the bulk of their career as the opening act for Slayer and that could not be any more evident. I used to get them confused with Sick of it All, but Sick of it All is much more of a hard-core band than these guys. Jamey Jasta claims that the world is his trigger and he is here to fucking pull it. They have not shortage of gang vocals and breakdowns, though the verse riffs are what typically sounds the most Slayer. Today he wishes a mother fucker would try to see the world through his eyes. He sounds like a drill sergeant who trying to be a motivational speaker more than a metal singer.There is a nu-metal slant to "Seven Enemies". It reminds me that the first time I heard their first album I thought it was Sepultura. It's too bad the law around here is "cool riffs alone do not make a good song" because there is a good one that opens "In the Walls". It takes off into more of a punk thing with terrible lyrics.There is actual singing on the chorus of "From Grace We've Fallen". This is actually one of the album's better songs even with the very Slayer riffage.

"Us Against Us" feels like filler, but they redeem themselves with the more metal groove of "Something's Off". At this point Jasta's vocal are getting redundant. The over dubbed chant of...off, off, is a little silly. They fluctuate from nu-metal to punk and back on "Remember When". Many of these riffs sound like they are pulled from a heavy metal grab bag. The lyrics to "Slaughtered In Their Dreams" are like playing Slayer Mad Libs. Riff wise it's pretty mean, if not making them almost a Slayer tribute band. There are some punk...woahs that lead into "the Apex Within" which proves why we have the "cool riffs" rule here as it serves as a case in point here. There are some moments that remind me of M.O.D, in fact Jasta's performance reminds me of Billy Milano at a few points on this album. The lyrically depth hits the level of a paper plate on the thrashing "Walking the Knife".

They keep the thrash alive on " Dissonance". The trend of stupid lyrics also follows. They must hope their tough guys grooves will brush some of these past you and I imagine if you are a big fan of these guys you are not really into anything that thought provoking in the first place. They slow down into a thicker chug for the final song "Serve Your Masters". This is actually one of the album's better songs.They come close to singing at some junctures and do what they do best here. I'll give this album a 7. It's well done, the lyrics are more often than not stupid, which is easy for me to get hung up on, but this might be big dumb metal it just happens to be crafted by the pro's so if you are going to listen to something like this then you might as well listen to it by a band that has perfected it and clearly knows what they are doing, like it or not.

Combichrist : "This is Where Death Begins"

This is not the first time we have reviewed Combichrist here. They are back  with "This is Where Death Begins". It seems like the line-up has been shuffled around  this time with some new face backing Andy. The guitars that open this one are way more traditional metal leaving the synths on the edges of the song to really stand as the only industrial element. LaPlegua's vocals working much better when yelled than when he attempts more melodic moments that are more spoken than sung. There are some catchy riffs on the opener, but the rule around here is cool riffs alone don't make a good song. "My Life My Rules" finds the vocals improving, but it could be one of the 69 Eyes more cock punk moments without the faux goth vocals. The guitar solo further punches this point home. "Glitchteeth" is the first EDM like song. The vocals work better when layered in gang style over dubs, on the verses Andy's raspy rap is far from Trent Reznor. There is a little more soul in this one, but something about it doesn't click track for me.

We begin to dig into actual industrial on "Exit Eternity". The really biggest chorus works well and this is the first song that works for me on every level. The more questionable vocal approach returns on "Skullcrusher". If you are a fan of the band's more experimental glitch filled work then this will come across like a Marilyn Manson tribute to you. It does carry the same big glam arena strut that  post- Anti Christ Superstar Manson often offered. The first glimpse into that side of the band is not seen until midway into the album on "Tired of Hating You". Even here is almost of Stabbing Westward thing going on. They songs takes it's time going anywhere. Then when it does it's almost more of a punk explosion. They get a little darker with the bass leading into "Time Again".  I think if the band was honest with themselves it's a song like this that plays more to who they are than the more rock n roll moments. The vocals aren't screamed but emoted with conviction and everything creep along with room to breathe. The groove has a throbbing pulse that makes this one of the album's strongest songs. It's hard to tell if the drums here are programmed or Joe Letz, which speaks to Letz's ability to blend in with the electronic side of the band. Letz has played with every one from Mortiis to the Genitorturers so he knows his shit.

A sample of Ted Cruz kicks off "Destroy Everything". Here their heavier side is more fittingly embraced. The song's title is chanted like a nu-metal song, but it works here. The narrative is more challenged on "Don't Care How You Feel About", but the more traditional industrial groove helps. "Blackened Heart" has more of a Rammstein thing going on, but with out some of their militant stiffness and more of a metal groove. It's another one of the album's darker moments so that works for me. It's fairly simplistic in it's arrangement, but keep it simple stupid can be the most effective motto for this genre. "Slakt" is more bombastic. The drum sound is really big. It locks into more of a thrash attack. It feels more German than Norse, but the band is mostly comprised of Americans so that is not surprising here. There is a nice melodic synth break in the middle. The first part of "Black Tar Dove" is more of a noisy intro paves the brimstone path for the more apocalyptic march. The more spoken narrative lays atop the machine stomping. It is one of the album's harsher moments.If you miss the glitchy noise then here is the moment you have been waiting for. The album ends with "Homeward".It is the first moment on this album that I would call gothic-industrial. So it is one of the album's darkest songs.I'll give this album a 7.5. It has strong moments that I think other songs could have been built around. The more rock n roll moments detract what could otherwise be a strong dark album of industrial music. So in other words they can't really touch Youth Code, but aren't faking the funk.


Marisa Nadler : " Strangers"

 We have been joined by many new readers since Nadler released "July" a couple of years ago. So chances are you might have missed out on the interview I did with her, so it's linked right down there.


 She sang on the final Xasthur album and has continued to pave a dark and sometimes country path for her self with her second release on Sacred Bones. It is evident from the opening strains of "Divers of the Dust" that her sense of identity is firmly intact the country croon is equal parts haunting torch singer. "Katie,I Know" is equally ethereal though more firmly rooted in the more Western side of Country. All the the twang has been replaced by dream like floating. There is a more fragile atmosphere to "Skyscraper" that finds her utilizing her lower register in some of the layered harmonies. Production wise the vocals are masterfully layered and arranged. There are swathes of ambience that drip out of various corners of songs that sound very simplistic on a surface listen, making this one of those albums you have to hear through headphones. She finds her self at a very interesting cross roads that defies genres on "Hungry is the Ghost". It does lead me to conclude that this album is much more atmospheric and surreal than her previous. It almost borders on post-rock at time with sprawling expanses of sound that would not sound out of place on a Radiohead album.

 On her last album comparisons could be drawn to Chelsea Wolfe and with this album Nadler has stepped away from that. "All the Colors in the Dark" has the ghosts of classic country haunting the vocal melodies, but lyrically it is much more abstract. It took another listen for this one to grab me. The title track is more guitar oriented. The country elements on this song help paint the background. This is another song that took a second listen to really connect with. This need to take another listen continues on "Janie In Love" even though the melodies make more of an effort to reach out and connect. It's the lyrics that give this song more of an edge than the lazy sway of the song might suggest. While the Lana Del Ray comparisons could be drawn at a few different points in the album it's most apparent here. It took several listens for the glass like fragility of "Waking" to touch me. The 3rd song with a woman's name in the title "Shadow Show Diane". It is the kind of show Nadler said she could never tell her man, so their must a be a voyeuristic thing going on here. She strums an acoustic on this one, which is a much more streamlined arrangement than the bulk of the album.

Lyrically this album might be darker than "July" while the music is not as melancholy. It is more dream like. The synths that frequent this album give it the feel of something you might hear in a David Lynch, though it's feet are planted more firmly on the ground than say Julie Cruise. The album closes with "Dissolve". This song is stripped down to Nadler and her guitar, giving it a more folk feel. I'll around this one up to a 9.5 for now and see how it grows on me as it's evident many of these songs take a few listens before they stick to you, but it's a solid album of intangible songs and feelings.


Sunday, May 15, 2016

Long Night : "Sorrow Returns"

This band features former members of Tristina and Theater of Tragedy, but rather than making melodramatic opera metal they are hitting some straight up goth. Sisters of Mercy and the Cult are the first two bands that come to mind in this hybrid. The baritone croon sits comfortably over the middle of the road style rock playing. It's not overly geared towards the dance floor. Hookier than I suspected the first song is good , but then makes me wonder what range of dynamics are these guys capable of branching out into ?  The guitar riffs sound more Steve Stevens is their inspiration rather than Billy Duffy. They get a little darker going into the second song. The chorus repeats a little too often for me. "Ruins" is like a slowed version of "She Sell Sanctuary". The guitar wanders off into some interesting place, but the song is not very focused.

They pick up the pace on "Tale No Tale".  While there is a lot going right from them sonically and they hitting many of the marks I want from music, the songs are not compelling and the band is relying too much on the 80s sound. I think this is what keeps the choruses from punching as much as they could. There is more of a western tinge to "Winter". This helps them give the album a couple of more color. The vocals work really well with this shift. His croon reminds me a little of My Dying Bride.They end  the album with two alternate version of the first song which is also the single. I only counted the remix as the edit is too much like the first version. I'm not sure why they didn't write two more songs. For what this is it's cool enough. I'll round it up to a 7, but as far as the new wave of post-punk this owes more to Billy Idol and the Cult. Great artists to be influenced by, I am a little surprised that considering where these Norse men came from that there is not more of a bite to their sound, but they achieved what they were going for.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Psychic Teens : " Nerve"

The Philly post-punks are back with a throbbing boom on their new album. The trade off between the male and female vocals is very effective in their sing song chant that glides along the drone. There is not the same level of conviction coursing through"Hang". The groove to the opener is just too taunt for this one to live up to. The guitar tones on this album are brighter despite the mood being a little more ominous on this album. "Tarnish" has a great guitar sound with the vocals sitting atop them in a manner not unlike some of Iggy Pops more melodic work from the late seventies.The more punchy vision of punk doesn't come into play until midway into the song. The dual vocals wrap around each other.The bass snarls out of the mix bringing the grit of the gutter with it. The guitar carries a hollow surf rock sound.

They take a more upbeat turn in their moodiness that recalls Jesus and the Mary Chain on "Winter Grey". The song's main croon drags across the basement of the baritone register as he states he doesn't need anyone. There is conviction in his indifference. "Fear" uses the kind of melodic attack that the Pixies made famous, but with out the same fetish for mania Frank and the gang had. This is replaced with a more Nick Cave like brooding. The bass keeps the song rumbling along.The bass punches "Scene" along a more morose path that combines elements of Sugar with Fugazi if the two were married through a filter of depression. Lyrically things are pretty detached with an outlook that has little sliver linings to it. While it is not the first time shoe-gaze has been saddled up next to post -punk it is doe very effectively leading into the closing song. There is both the hypnotic atmosphere and the driving bleakness accompanying one of the album's best vocal performances . While this guy doesn't have the greatest set of pipes he certainly known how to work with what he has got. This album is an improvement from what they put together on "Come" and has some really fine moments on it that make me want to round this one up to a 9. I'm unsure how much actual play time this one will get from me, but fans of modern post-punk will want to check this one out for sure, as it threatens to knock A Place to Bury Strangers from their ruling perch.


Thursday, May 12, 2016

Weekend Nachos : "Apology"

I have always thought this band's name was silly so never listened to them. I know they have a fan base that  has been looking forward to this release so I'll give it a shot for you guys. Most grind-core and power-violence clocks in at under three minutes so this five and a half minute opener is a bit of an oddity.It doesn't take long for the dense rumbling which is very heavy to turn into into a blur of riffs. With music that is so heavy, the first song runs you over with sheer intensity then i generally ask myself ...o.k, now what else can they do? I realize not every one asks this much of the music they consume. When I was younger I didn't either. When I got into metal thrash was the heaviest thing going. It was not until "Scream Bloody Gore" came out and the rise of death metal that this changed. i have described in this blog my interest in this and band's like Morbid Angel, Deicide, Nocturnus, Obituary and Cancer. I liked the darker more Satanic flavors more than punk, though I was into Black Flag, Bad Brains and Suicidal Tendencies, but my interest in punk stopped with D.R.I and the Cro-mags. Though Storm Troopers of Death, who helped spawn this sort of thing, got tons of play time on my walk-man. When you get into "Judged" it's evident these guys ow more to Storm Troopers of Death, but there is no where near the song writing to get me invested into this like I was when "Speak English or Die" came out.

"Writhe" digs into gritty heaviness, but the momentum is punk like in the chaotic outburst sometimes coiling into more groove laden riffs that impress for a minute. The golden rule around here is "cool riffs alone do not make good songs" this comes down hard on band's like this who have no interest in melody or dynamics that do not involve shades of fast. They are plenty angry 'NARC" should convince you of this, this is a monochrome range of emotion. It mutes the aggression, like a crying baby you've tried to comfort eventually you tune it out. They grab my attention for "World Genocide", but the vocals on every song are the same angry bark. The guitar tone never changes. Every thing feels very flat to me. Some of their best attempts at song writing take place on the more mid-paced 'Night Plains". The first appearance of melody is found in the layered guitar of the title track that closes the album.  But this drones on the same sluggish bashing for ten minutes.

 This is their final album, if you have stuck around with them up to this point, then this is your thing and you can go back to breathing in the sweet fumes of your Elmers. I'll give this one a 4. These guys might continue to push grind-core into the metal mainstream, but it doesn't do much for me.

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. The first song that has a Tiamat like sound is "Decima". It has that acoustic 'Wildhoney" tone. The guitar at this point is stealing the show in such a way that it feels like Jonas is just the window dressing rather than focal point. Lyrically there is more in common with "Wish" era Cure than some of the emotional tight spots the lyrics on previous albums seemed to have been squeezed through.

Thankfully things do get darker and more morose for "Sanction". They also get heavier in a way that is more Katatonia. On your tenth album, there is the tug of war between not wanting to dial it in and replicate what you have already done, while still meeting the expectations of long time fans. The perfect balance is struck on "Sanction" which might be their best song since "Night is the New Day". Jonas seems to project his voice more on certain vocal runs like when he sings the word tomorrow. That song sets the bar a little high for "Residual".As a result I am a little underwhelmed by that one. It has more of a "No Quarter" thing going on. Once again the guitar is so tasty you could lick it off your fingers. Four and a half minutes in the pull back in with a pretty good groove. By "Serac" we are starting to get rocked out in a more conventional sense as they get more upbeat. The vocals ride a triumphant wave of hard rock, the actual metal moments on this album are just other dynamic colors being used to paint this picture rather than their mission statement. They ebb and flow into moodier breakdowns. Similar in tone but not as dynamic "the Last Song Before the Fade" doesn't benefit from the dynamic range of "Serac" with only the guitar solo and the bride after it offering a darker diversion.

"Shifts" floats past you on a delicate groove. The vocals on this song are especially well produced as Jonas steps into the spot light. "The Night Subscriber" starts off going through the motions until they stomp into the heavy two minutes in.The chorus is not their most compelling, but the punches they do hit work well and the song gets better as it goes."Pale Flag" is a ballad that doesn't really hold my attention. They take you out on a more rocking note with "Passer". The song opens with a guitar solo, so it rocks in the more traditional sense. Jonas sings a little lower, this makes his voice more resonate and I would like to hear more of this from him.I'll go ahead an round this up to an 9.5 as it feels better than "Dead End Kings" to me. I'll see how it grows on me. It's weird as it's not as dark as previous releases, but packs more of a punch.


Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Light of the Morning Star : "Cemetery Glow"

This has been sitting in my in-box, but this is the first chance I have gotten to check this album out. The vocals win me over right way. Is it very similar to new Tombs. Yes, but the goth thing is pushed even further to the forefront here. The guitars are playing too fast to be doom. It's droning but not black metal. The cold baritone croon of the vocals doesn't vary much, but it is so cool that I don't really give a shit. They go even further into the darkness as things get really creeped out for the final song"Wraith" it slows into a more deliberate pound that hangs onto to become more of a throb. The album has a nocturnal pulse. These three songs impressed the hell out of me even though this is not what I thought it would be. This owes as much to My Dying Bride as it does Tombs. The vocals never go into any kind of harshness. I can appreciate that fact.

The melodrama is not too overblown. I never feel the dude singing it, has his long curly locks of black hair blowing in the wind with a partially unbuttoned Victorian shirt on.Dynamically the opener starts off at more of a slow burn and gains momentum. Lyrically lines like 'we are the walking graves, we are the bleeding knife" makes no secret they are going for the after midnight crowd here. At first listen the songs all have a very similar vibe so going in for repeat listens I was looking for what makes them stand apart from one another. I think there is more drive to "Black Throne Ascension". Being impressed on my first listen is a good thing, but it makes me want to go back and listen to it more objectively. Production wise this album is well done. It has a big loud sound rather than suffering from being set back into the distance with re-verb in order to get an 80s sound.I will give this one a 9 since I have been impressed by it, but haven't gone the extra mile since discovering to get it into my iPod, if it was a 10 I would be more pressed to do so. Perhaps when a proper full length is released and I get to hear a wider range of what this project can do I will feel so inclined.