Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Charred Walls of the Damned : "Creatures Watching Over the Dead"

Knowing Ripper Owens is in this band certainly prepares me for power-metal. I like Ripper. Didn't like him in Priest, but he is my second choice for Iced Earth after Matt Barlow. This band also features former members of Control Denied and Death, so this meets at a place where melodic progressive death metal and power metal can find some common ground. I did expect Ripper to sing with a little more grit on heavier songs like "the Soulless". He does find that grit I was waiting for on "Afterlife". They are melodic in a manner more suited for Ripper's voice " As I Catch My Breath". When we get to "Lies" not only can you hear the influence singing in a Dio tribute band for the past few years has had on Ripper, but how the more melodic moments are coupled with the best song writing choices, where as the heavier moments sound like every other riff I hear every other day.

There is a balance of those polarities on "Reach Into the Light". The riff going into "Tearing Me Down" is pretty catchy and once again invokes Dio before accelerating into the bridge and back into a more hooky 80's metal influenced chorus. Midway into the song there is a flashy guitar break that doesn't do a lot for me. Rob from Death Angel comes in for the actual solo which is solid if you are into that sort of thing. By the time we get to "Living In the Shadow of Yesterday" they don't come across as really being all that heavy. I think if your band is called Charred Walls of the Damned then you need to be much heavier than this album gets.

We know they are all talented musicians in their own right, but this is really flaunted going into the last song. Normally I complain about songs being too long, but I think some of these songs might have made more sense if they were longer to make room for more of build up into the heavier sections or allow for a heavier to let the melodic parts bust out of . The guitar solo often takes up a good chunk when something more interesting might have developed. I don't really think Ripper was that inspired on the last song. The bass playing pretty much steals the show on that one. I'll give this one a 6.5. If you think Ripper Owens can do no wrong and also like ample amounts of cheese coating your metal then round this up to a 7.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Olddwrvms : " Ignobilis"

Can you believe everything you read on the internet? Can you believe anything ? Questions raised when going into this album after reading how this band made people feel like they were on drugs. As some one who has done more than their fair share of drugs, this is a pretty tall order since the bar has been raised pretty high. I own "Souls At Zero", so if that is what you are throwing at me, we are going to need to do better than that. The clean vocals that lead off the verse are an improvement to the dynamics of that formula. Fans of newer Tombs will certainly appreciate where this band is heading on the first song as long as you are not too tied to Tombs more black metal side. But even with the bit of atmosphere at the end, I don't feel like I'm on drugs.

For "Amongst the Pines" things stay dark and melodic almost down to a more Katatonia level. What sounds to be a sample of a witch's monologue breaks up the jammy wandering . It never develops into an actual song, but rides a groove for 11 minutes. They get back to more of a sonic sludge based style of heaviness on "Scorn" . The vocals feel like a more depressed version of Pink Floyd to me. This is not to say it vaults this band into being the trippiest thing ever. I like how this is very dark, but more melodic than most sludge bands. At times it can make me zone away from the song because it's so droning of a riff on "Hear them Sing While they Burn". The harsher vocals fall in line with what is expected of sludge. The clean sung vocals return and add to the atmosphere.

These guys are dark atmosphere sludge, which there is certainly nothing wrong with at all. I think these guys are good at what they do, the pulse of their playing ca take precedence over actually writing songs, but they capture some cool sounds that I would like to hear more molded into something a little more mature from a song writing perspective, because at the end of the day even Syd era Floyd was about the songs. I'll give this an 8.5.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Wretch : "s/t"

With roots in the band Gates of Slumber, Wretch takes a more traditional approach to doom. The vocals are melodic falling somewhere in-between St. Vitus and Pentagram. So no Candlemass like soaring just a slightly acid-crazed slant. The songs are about the ravages of drugs and the deaths they lead to. "Rest In Peace" feels a little less inspired than the opener.There is a more jammy stoner rock feel to "Blood Finger". The song really places a lot of emphasis on the guitar solo, which sounds like Toni Iommi fooling around to get warmed up. "Winter" makes better use o their talents by going into a more trippy atmosphere. This album was released last week on Bad Omen Records.

"Icebound" finds the band digging into a heavier groove. They shift the pace in a manner similar to Sabbath, which in this genre is not uncommon. I do have to give this band credit because aside from the guitar solo in "Blood Finger" this is the first moment that has really struck me as being Sabbath inspired. Sure they have taken plenty of notes from bands that worship at the altar of Sabbath, but these guys don't directly rip them off themselves. At minutes this is the longest song on the album, so they are not trying to rock you to sleep with numbing drones. "Gray Cast Mourning" totally fails to catch my attention and breezes by me. They redeem themselves with " Drown" which is perhaps the albums best song. The vocals work best when they are coated in the type of effects used on this song.

If you are looking for ground breaking doom that will sound like nothing else you have ever heard before, then you have come to the wrong place. These guys are good at what they do and this album has some strong moments,  but I own the St. Vitus albums so I would prefer to listen to those when I am in the mood for this sort of thing. That is the key for me you have to fill some sort of sonic void that is not already occupied by a band you did it better the first time around. But I am not a teenager just getting into metal so while I appreciate what these guys do and will give this album a 7.5, I am not going to be wow by it like I might if I was a pot smoking 16 year old.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

An Autumn For Crippled Children : "Eternal"

This band from the Netherlands keeps pumping out on a yearly basis. This time they are releasing it in lp format. the first song isn't bad and finds them doing what they do, but nothing jumps put at me, like it does on the second song which recaptures my attention. The third song brings in even more of a melodic element and shows they have been doing what Deafheaven does way before the fact. However it feels a little like Black Sabbath's "Cross Purposes" album where even though grunge would not exist without Iommi, the vocals were all in the minor third harmonies Alice In Chains used at the time. If that comparison is too much for you to get what is going on here, then you are a lost cause and should go back to sleep.

The bass and drums are totally on it from "On Fire " on. The guitar has a weird fuzzed out tone for most of the album up to this point it makes them sound almost like a synth. When the real synths come in then things get really weird and confuzzing. The vocals cry out in the same rasp they normally do. Though it's become less expansive in it's range of tortured cries and like older Deafheaven sticks to a mid range that is mixed back into the guitars.  "You Have Been in the Shadows" finds the vocals much angrier than the music around them. The post rock thing is not as obvious as it has been on other releases, yet there is no way any one in their right mind can think of these guys as a black metal band any more.

"Days of Sleep" floats on towards sightly darker clouds and a more melancholy mood. These are the best guitar melodies so far on this album. The drums sound more like they are programmed on this song, but it isn't a deal breaker. There is a lighter tone to the ambiance coating the drive of "Swallowed By Night's Despair"  The melody to "Cloud Mood" is more compelling even though it pushes them further into the more shoe gaze side. The album closes by finding the band in their more classic sonic space. I'll give this album a 7.5, it strikes me as playing it safe and almost bland. It would be nice if they got back to being a little darker like their early stuff, I could except them no longer being a black metal band if this was this case. I have accepted this for the past few albums, it's just finding them at a place where they need to rethink their direction before it leads them into stagnation. This album comes out October 17th.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Volur : "Disir"

This trio from Canada, replaces guitar with distorted violin.They are darker and somewhat leaning towards being a doom band even though the opening song is more mid-tempo. The vocals split the difference between the ales bassist and the female violinist. They do have a unique sound, though I did space out a little during the violin solo of the first song. Which when I tuned back in had to give credit to her a using the instrument to replicate a guitar tone to the point of me thinking for a second it was a guitar solo I was tuning out. I am unsure why they released this album back in June and I am just now starting to hear a tiny bit of buzz about it.

 They keep the atmosphere thick going into the long and winding "the Deep Minded". The bass mainly drives this one. The violin solo on this one sounds more like a violin solo. I am however confused as to why people are saying they blend elements of classical music into their sound. So to set the record straight, just because you have violin it doesn't mean you are playing classical music.Even the more scenic interlude "White Phantom" is not classical music, post-rock or slo-core played with a violin. The fourteen minute closer is good background music. It feels like Dead Can Dance being merged with east European folk music. It's hard not to drone out to it. I'll give this album an 8.5, though if you are really into instrumentals you might round it up to a 9. I look forward to hearing more from them in the future, I would like to hear them in a heavier and more song focused mood, but I totally appreciate this for what it is. If I still did drugs I would get a lot more play time out of this.

Gatecreeper : "Sonoran Depravation"

They have an old school death metal feel without directly ripping off Morbid Angel or Cannibal Corpse. I can hear touches of Obituary in what they do, however they are more hammering. The members of this band are were once in either Languish or Hellhorse, so this is not their first rodeo from hell. This album is being released on Relapse , so this reflected in the production quality...and no it doesn't mean that it sounds like a Neurosis album. The production is very full with some time spent dialing in the best guitar tone possible. The album sounds so good that it is not until the second song that I begin to think about the question that I must ask all extreme metal bands....ok you are heavy, what else can you do?

The answer is a little unsure as they pick up the pace. The guitar sounds great, but it also sounds just like it did on the first two songs. The same goes for the vocals. The song takes a weird shift midway in and almost sounds like an entirely different song, though sonically the band is right where they have always been. "Rotting as One" starts off with a cool riff, but the rule around here is cool riffs alone do not make a good song. They don't let up on "Stronghold Either" , but the double bass is kicking everything into a riffy mush, that aside from the guitar harmonies is making me drone out on this as it all begins to take a rather monochrome shade.

The guitar at the beginning of "Patriarchal Grip" is doomier. The bass and drums help out by not blasting in behind and the band creates a more oppressive mood for the first minute before the double bass steams rolls them back into death metal.There is more groove in the catchier riff to "Lost Forever". The vocals are pretty much an incomprehensible growl at this point. "Flamethrower" finds it self in a similar place to the other a cool riff driving it, but nothing else to set it self apart.They finally commit to a doomy pace on the closing dirge 'Grotesque Operations". This marks the first really shift in dynamics the album sees. I'll give this album a 7, it sounds good, but doesn't expand much beyond the one trick they have mastered. If you like death metal with a single minded goal of pounding you into submission then this is for you.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ketch : "The Anthems of Dread'

I am not going to paint these guys as the most original band ever. They play dark and dirty metal. The vocals have the expected scowl to them. I would even go to say they are death metal that is rooted in 2016 and rough around the edges. They have the attack of a sludge band. When they hit you it has some weight to it. The vocals often snarl with a feral intensity. Many of these qualities are pretty much what you expect from a metal band these days. "En Nomine Eius" finds them getting deeper into the mire of death metal and capturing some powerful grooves along the way. They ride a more fluid riff on "Monsters of this World" that once again proves that they care about the song and are not just trying to bowl you over with the sheer weight of their sound.

There is more atmosphere to the interlude that leads into the last song. At nine minutes this is the longest song on the album, but considering what I have heard this week, it's almost pop format for a metal band these days.I forgot these guys were from Colorado until I glanced back at their Bandcamp page. I suppose I can see an influx of metal bands coming from there considering the current state of pot. These guys are expansive in their thinking when it comes to metal. Like I said at the beginning of this review, I am not going to convince you that they are the most original band, but they have created on of the smoothest death metal albums I have heard in a minute. By smooth I do not mean that it's over produced, it's actually pretty dense. Smooth here means that the songs roll through you like liquid. I'll give this album an 8.5. Not sure if it will make the old iPod, but it's a solid listen that I enjoyed. If you knew how many bands I get a few songs in and decide "I just can't do this any more " you may or may not be surprised.

Up From the Underground : Shiver's Addiction

This band from Italy is more of a hard rock band than a metal band. The album is called "Choose Your Prison"  The only really heavy thing about them is the fact they heavily pull from 80s hard rock. Vocally they remind me of Alice Cooper and sonically fall somewhere between Queensryche and Skid Row. When they pull out the acoustic guitars on "Death Has Nothing to Teach" it reminds me of that moment in the early 90's when the hair rockers knowing their days were number began to experiment with different textures. I am not sure it is done as smoothly here as it was on an album by say Saigon Kick. The drummer is pretty solid on this album. His performance would be followed by the guitarist.

I like the bass intro to "Eternal Damnation" but a few songs into this album and I can tell these are going to be to upbeat for me. The guitar tones are often bright. The singer might not making the best choice by singing in English. The chorus intends to be metal, and by metal I mean it in the most Iced Earth manner possible. Once upon a time the riffs that open up 'Freedom" might have been considered metal, but even the most hefty chug they muster, is still just like "Queen of the Reich" era Queensryche. They do want to be a metal band and even try to churn out a more Metallica like riff on "Money Makes the Difference". When I refer to Metallica I'm talking "Black Album" and after, not their metal years.

"Painted Arrow" is yet another song that hovers close to a more metallic sound without committing fully to getting heavy. There is some good guitar playing on this song and the singer actually proves he can sing here. There is another near metal moment on "King and the Guillotine" which serves as a pretty good vehicle to get you to the guitar solo. You might be willing to concede them as power metal if you are really into power metal and feeling generous. The singer has a little more grit on "We Live On a Lie".  When he tries to go up into a falsetto it feels a little strained. Much like the brand of music they are paying tribute to here this album is all about the guitar. I guess if you are going to go for more of a retro metal sound , going the way In Solitude did is probably for the best. These guys are skilled players trying to make all the pieces fit and if you are into 80s metal ...not Celtic Frost,  anything less heavy than Iron Maiden then this might appeal to you.

Wounded Kings : "Visions Of Bone"

Out of the misty mountains of bong smoke, Doomy Brits the Wounded Kings are back. The opener has a very Sabbath lumber to their more traditional and melodic take on doom. The first song is 14 minutes. If you have been keeping up with this blog lately then you know after reviewing new albums from bands like Lesbian and Sub Rosa, that I have been up to my ears in songs over ten minutes , which I had already begun to tire with last year. "Vultures" starts off with the tempo picking up into a more thundering brand of metal that reminds me of Electric Wizard.This song is slightly more compact, and I like when the singer dips into a lower croon.

"Kingdom" has a rougher tone and is more blues based. The song breaks down into a sample at the six minute mark, from this point there springs a very meaningful guitar solo."Bleeding Sky" is a little more plodding and doesn't distinguish itself from the other similarly paced songs, so the five minute run time of it is a blessing and a curse. There is a similar bluesy feel to the closing " Vanishing Sea" that makes me imagine what it would sound like if Iggy Pop sang for Black Sabbath.

I'll give this album a 7.5, it was well made and had some strong moments, but didn't blow me away. Though something can be said for the fact that it didn't blow either, or really sound like they were doing blow which tends to make everything sound like "Volume 4" era Black Sabbath.

Lesbian : "Hallucinogenesis"

Former members of the Accused formed this band back in 2007. Perhaps back then they might have been doom, but now they are proggy death metal. The vocals are varied and a good blend of sung vocals and growls. The opener has almost a black metal like throb to it. I like the fact that these guys are really dark. In some ways it makes me think of what might have happened if Acid Bath collided with Cynic. There are space like keyboard sounds zooming out of the corners of the song not inhabited by guitar solos.

Then comes the over fourteen minute" La Brea Borealis" that opens with a commanding vocal. In some ways this reminds me of when Mastodon was transitioning into a more progressive direction , just without any of the Thin Lizzy influence. It is more sludge than any other sub-genre as it stays at a steady throb. Six minutes in the more chanted vocal line helps establish a pretty cool groove. It eventually picks up into an almost industrial hammering.

"Kosmoceratops" has more of a thrashing charge to it with vomit filled vocals howling behind the snare. It's a sprawling battlefield of sludge encrusted thrash that comes at you like a drunken mammoth on trucker speed. The throaty bellows come closer to singing in some places than in others. Not sure why anyone would use the doom word around this band, or even stoner considering the type of pummelling they throw themselves into on a song like "Aquailibrium". The vocals have a nasty hint of black metal to them.They do slow down and cast more of a shadow on things two minutes into the last song. I like how varied the vocals on this album are, though not really crazy about the whole every minutes reaching ten minutes thing. Some old Slayer like falsettos crop up to further solidify the whole thrash theory, even though this is set against some more melodic and introspect movements that further enhance the dynamic range. Even with the long and winding songs, I'll give this album a 9 and see how it sits with me as I really like the weird myriad of genres that combine in the most twisted way possible. Sure it's proggy , but never awkward and puts being mean and heavy before showing off their chops.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Drug : "Infinite Stimulant"

Here is another album that came recommended by Dead Air at the Pulpit, whom I have gotten some pretty good stuff from, but it gets hit or miss when we get into albums that are not heavy. They throw the word post-punk around and get my hopes up more often than not as these post-punk bands typically are just punk bands who happen to be using effects on their guitars. Here is a case in point. This band from Tampa  opens  their new album with a pretty much straight up punk rock song and it isn't until "No Odyssey" that we begin to hear some darker colored garage rock that you can try to connect the dots to post-punk if you are desperate enough to. It's similar brand of reckless punk with a side of sludged out bass on "Burned Out Transport". There is a more surreal take on punk that finds the band coming closer to living up to their name on "Space Scape" which actually has a guitar solo and song room to breathe in the arrangements.

I know it is a part of punk, but the vocals on this album bug me. They are at their very best on "Hive-Mind" and sound like some of the more muttered moments from the first Gwar album. It' fine with me if a singer uses their voice like an instrument. I don't need to be able to make out the lyrics, but I need more than the free form chaos this guy engages in.  I'll give this album a 6, there are a few moments, but it generally doesn't do much for me. If want some punk rock that is a little more warped than your typical 1...2....3..go fare and have a thing for garage rock then you might be able to get a little more out of this than I did. Not bad...just not my thing.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Psychic TV : "Alienist"

I first tuned into Psychic TV one hazy drug summer in the early 90's after picking up a copy of  their 1988 compilation "Allegory and Self" then went back and began listening to the albums preceding that. Last year I checked out "Snakes" which was more rock- n -roll than I remembered them being. So here we are with "Alienist". It starts off with a cover of Harry Nilsson's "Jump in the Fire" and finds a good balance between the more surreal side of their earlier work and this renewed interest in rocking out in a Hawkwind like manner. Here there is a more jammy and wandering spaciousness. There is is more surreal "I'm Looking For You" which is a conversation between Genesis and Lucifer. I always knew we shared similar experiences while on acid. This song sprawl out into ten minute out into the cosmos, but is so hypnotic that you barely notice how long you have been away from the Earth.

After the chilling epic before it, when Genesis and the boys launch into their cover of the Creation's "How Does it Feel" it doesn't feels as inspired. The band sounds like Alice Cooper's band from the 70's and Genesis also sounds a little like the Coop with more of a gravely rock n roll rasp.There is more funk to the title track than they used to have in their more electronic efforts. The vocals are a mumbled chant that asks if you ever felt like an illegal alien. This one drones on the same groove and rides it into the ground. I'll give this album an 8 because the first two songs are awesome and the second half of the album isn't bad by any means,  I am not sure it lives up to their legacy in the same way. If you are already a fan you can appreciate this , if you are just getting into them I suggest their pre-90's work first.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SubRosa : "For this We Fought the Battle of Ages"

I have been looking forward to this album and while I am not the biggest fan these days of songs tipping the scales at over ten minutes, they make the most with the powerfully dynamic opener. The violins weep against the slabs of sludged out distortion. The vocals are generally pretty delicate. A thick bass line leads you into "Wound of the Warden". There is more motion in the ocean on this one . Not quite metal in the way it builds up in the first couple of minutes, while riding a similar groove. The growled vocals arrive before the five minute mark. This is followed by a much softer vocal harmony, so they are not running the same old good cop/ bad cop thing with predictable vocal trade offs. The sludge does get hammered down onto by the midway point, with the violins acting as the salve.

Though it gets off to a softer start "Black Majesty" carried a more weighty drone. This makes the melodic trade off at the four and a half minute mark that much more effective. It goes hand in hand with what I always say about being just being heavy all the time and how that numbs you out unless you are given something to contrast that with. It does seem like at 15 minutes this song could have had the fat trimmed here in there , but nothing that makes it too ponderous. There is a more depressive doom like pacing to "Killing Rapture". The vocals are mixed back against the guitars with the violins weaving their mournful melodies in the back ground. The drums churn up omimnous storm clouds.

The strength of the closing song "Trouble Cells"  is the darkness that surrounds it's otherwise surreal take on folk. Vocally it's not the best song on the album, but they do weave together a pretty good mood, setting it apart from the bulk of the album.  I'll give this one a 9.5 and see how it sits with me.

Apologies, I Have None : "Pharmacie"

If you are British it's ok to have a poppier take on punk. You accent and attitude will make it all work out in the end. This is the first lesson we are learning from the opening track of this band's new album. By pop punk think more Brand New than Blink 182. "Wraith" is more introspective and explodes in a manner than expresses aggression in a way that darkens back to Myspace other words bordering on emo. But it is darker so that makes up for it. There is more atmosphere to "The Clarity of Morning". Another song where they benefit from their accents. The lyrics are really great not only to this song, but the whole album so far. In some ways this band reminds me of Glasvegas, slightly less bleeding of their heart strings and more self loathing. "Anything Chemical " creeps out of the previous song. This is a concept album that doesn't try to tell as story as much as it explores mental health and the stigmas. Around the two minute mark the song hits the most conventional pop punk moment thus far.

They do not let themselves linger in more ballad like moment for long. "Goodbye, Piece of Mind" may not be a song for those of you who have to be rocked out at all moment of your day, but it has an interesting display of emotive dynamics."Crooked Teeth" breaks this trend and wallows in it's thoughtful quandary. More tension is built going into "Every One Wants to Talk About Mental Health". This is one of the album's most powerful lyrical moments. The song finds the band giving into their more explosive side. The punk stirred up here is parred with a more post-rock sonic quality on "It's Never the Words You Say".  This is pounded out in the normal post- hardcore manner. They back off again for "Killers". It swells into a more sonically robust place. They close the album with a more uptempo song that kinda rides the middle road.I'll round this up to a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. It slightly loses it's steam toward the end, but the album's strength are the lyrics and honesty of the music.


Frank Ocean : "Blonde"

So "Endless" was a false alarm as he continues to play games with the way albums are released. The Munchkin effects that shift the pitch of his vocals on "Nikes" ,  are a little weird , but compared to what he did on "Endless" this is an improvement. It's good to hear that Frank hasn't forgotten how to write a song on "Ivy", there is a more free floating style to the verses. His only accompaniment is a guitar on this creating a more organic feel. There is a more conventional r&b feel to " Pink + White". His melody wraps around this song in a much more comprehensive fashion that will please fans of his first album. There is less of a thump to the groove and retains the more organic direction he was headed on the previous song.

"Solo" is more minimalist when it comes to the backtracking, leaving the weight of the song to rest of on Ocean's voice. His verses begin to transform into more of a hip-hop flow. I think the melodies on this song would have benefited more from having more support from a beat. Things are almost more stripped down on "Skyline". It makes me think the remixes for this album will be better. I think the melodies are more interesting on the previous song . "Self Control" features help from Yung Lean. This is another balladic song, even with the experimentation that finds this perhaps overly reflective beginning to drag a little. The harmonies owe more to Brit-pop here than soul. "Nights"  is oddly over the beat. Andre 3000 takes over on the reprise of "Solo" it's not his best verse. Distortion and noise drowns the beginning of "Pretty Sweet" making the song a little obtuse.

There are many moments that are not the most original, though in hip-hop this is called sampling, so "Close to You" makes use of Stevie Wonder's cover of the Burt Bacharach song "Close to You", "White Ferrari" contains some of the Beatles' song "Here there and Everywhere" and an Elliot Smith song is sampled for Seigfried. "Close to You " is only a minute long, so there is not any time to develop from being much more than an idea for a song. With "White Ferrari" he doesn't sample it but put his lyrics over the Beatles vocal melodies. He only uses Elliot Smith's guitar when it comes to stealing from him. I guess the problem with this song and many other's is this is r&b, yet there is little rhythmic or bluesy to it, while the genre has become more urban pop, this album is very slim on the pop hooks.

There is a turn to a more gospel feel on "Godspeed" which finds Ocean on more sure footing."Futura Free", opens with a piano , where lyrically he takes a look at where he is as the music swells up behind him. There is more of a hip-hop feel to the evolving flow of the song which bears a similar arrangement to "Pyramids", but falls flat of capturing that song's mojo. I'll give this album a 6, because when you compare it to " Channel Orange" it proves his more minimalist experimental song writing syle is not as effective when it comes to making an enduring album. This offers a little redemption from "Endless" , but still was not worth the wait.


Monday, August 22, 2016

the Devin Townsend Project : "Transcendence"

Devin is far from his days in Strapping Young Lad and is now making metal for fragile flower like nerd men who think A Perfect Circle is a metal band. The album sounds pristine in many ways. Almost to clean to the point of having all the grit that makes metal produced out of it. Pro-tools is his friend. The layered vocals are great if Prog Power is your idea of metal. There are metal sounds on this album, but heading into the third song I can say it's not heavy.  From a song writing perspective "Failure" is alright. He sings great on it venturing up into his falsetto. There is a dark cloud coming in from the song's edges but the storm never really hits.  I guess this falls closer to prog metal than other sub-genres, though there is a strong under current of pop mixed into the highly orchestrated "Secret Sciences". The main problem with this song is it's lack of balls. The double bass toward the end doesn't change this.

So four or five songs in and I find myself expecting much less from his. "Higher" is like a post- "Empire" Queensryche ballad. It does build by the two minute mark into some that is more typical Townsend. The palm muted groove that comes out of this builds a little tension, but everything is still too clean and safe. The drumming is great and will wow Rush fans. I would have liked this as a teenager when Queensryche was one of my favorite bands. Now as an adult when I listen to heavy music I want it to actually be heavy. There is a djent like riff that brings a little weight but it's surrounded by tons of sterile fluff. My wife asked me if I was listening to Night Wish.

There is a better riff to "Stars" , but the over produced vocals continue to over power everything else and give it a more Dream Theater feel. The title track is just as over blown and would invoke Night Wish comparisons, even without the folk trappings and the fact female vocals are just one layer. This song is slightly less cumbersome and tolerable. There is a little more drive to "Offer Your Light" but it is repetitious and more straightforward than I would prefer. "From the Heart" reminds me of the melody to a Uriah Heap song. It much happier and lighter than I prefer my metal but a decent song. I had to check with the opening riff of "Transdermal Celebration" to make sure I hadn't clicked on "Momma I'm  Coming Home" by mistake. Overall the song is not as much of a ballad as Ozzy's big hit. It's not written in a way that would make it a radio song, but it is too melodic and light hearted to be metal. I'll give this album a 7. It's well made and performed it's just metal for pussies, so if you have one or are one you might love this.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Falaise : As Time Goes By"

A Sad Sadness Song is becoming one of my favorite labels as I know I can depend on them to bring me melancholy.  Their first album that released themselves is now being officially released. While this band hails from Italy their sweeping fusion of post-rock and Black metal will make you think they came from France. They songs flow together more like classical compositions with the vocals buried almost to obscurity behind the shimmering walls of soaring guitars that still manage to come across as being heavy rather than the kind of meandering in atmosphere that the bulk of bands stumble into when attempting this fusion.  The drumming to "Lost Moments" give the song a lighter indie rock feel until it collides into the blast beats. Their guitar melodies sprinkled over even the song's harshest moments and they return to to the them established at the beginning of the song.

When they lash into black metal of a purer darkness of "No Destination" , they might be plenty mean, but lose some of the songwriting smarts by dumbing it down to get heavy. This makes them sound more like every other black metal band with a little atmosphere to them. The title track finds a better balance, though it leans more towards the ambiance of their post-rock side. Here the guitar is more thoughtful and a delicate piano melody is allowed to unfold. This song drones on while other landscapes evolve around it. The song that follows feels like an extension of this song rather than a song on it's own two feet.'Pointless" holds it own as a song, though it might not be as powerful of an expression that we heard earlier in the album.

"The Lump In My Throat" gives a more energetic take on post-rock. It still ebbs and flows with a sense of dynamics, and is a pretty well written song over all, perhaps one of the album's best moments. There is a more droning rock in the post- rock throb of "Waiting Time". I like how this song shifts at the three minute mark. I'll round this album up to an 8.5, there are some solid songs and sounds on this and they find a place where metal can meet post-rock in a place that doesn't feel like Deafheaven's hand me downs.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Malevich :"Only the Flies"

Here is a band from Atlanta I've never heard of until today. This must mean they mainly play house shows and warehouse parties.  Right from the first song you can hear that this band's strength is not when they are at full blast ahead , but laying back to let the song breath even amid the screaming. The wrestle with chaos at risk of sacrificing the songs. The angular groove sometimes provide redemption. But like most grind-core the songs are so short there is not much time to develop them into anything. The roaring seems to be at random on "Always, Loss". "Le Tout Bas" finds them slowing into an more hellish out atmosphere with vocals that sound like they are being tossed into the lake of fire. The drummer have the right amount of hesitation for the first three and a half minutes before they begin building this into something almost like indie rock. This makes the metal chug to come much more effective.

I find myself drifting away from the album as it fades into disjointed noise, until I am pulled back in for "Moult". It seems this song has more purpose. At six minutes it's the album's second longest song. There is an explosion of mathy hard core on "Disassociated". There are some more spasms after this. The album closes with the longest song "Death Will Never Be Enough". It finds the band slowing into a more doom like pace.

I'll give this album a 6.5, they have potential but need to grow into the awareness of where there strengths are as a band, I think if they head into the direction of a darker sludge tinged hardcore, they could really become more comfortable with themselves. The angular side and the glimpse of atmospheric indie rock we got could even be explored more if they headed in this direction. For what it is if you are looking for new grind core this is still worth your time.

Torture Love :They Came Crawling"

This band from Chicago is much more aggressive than your average post-punk, they are solidly a punk band. "The Big Hand" finds them singing more than shouting, this gives them more of a Bellicose Minds sound. The Misfits would also be a reference point, though their singer is further from Glenn's croon and the vocals sit back further in the mix. The guitar is the next element to become more melodic on "A Drone With a Lifestyle. The guitar creeps with more tension and finds them becoming more dynamic on this song.Things get even darker on "Safe Skin".  "Deb Taylor" finds the band back into the punchier punk mode.

"I.V" find the band making their more punk a little more catchy. This progresses into "U.V" which sounds a little like older Cure. Lyrically it might not be there best moment with the chant of 'ultra-violet tragedy", but these guys song writing skills are generally much better than their revivalist peers. One of the more goth moments might be the almost death rock "Infinite Prison". The title track that closes the album is closer to indie rock. I'll round this up to a 9.It's one of the better post-punk releases so far this year, but considering how Halloween is getting closer, I'll be on the look out for spooky sound so the bar might get raised.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Frank Ocean : "Endless"

I need to pretend this first song didn't song happen. The guitarist for Radiohead is on the second song. Which is a cover of the Isley Brothers. He raps more on this one. There is plenty of false hetro swagger on this song. So we have waited four years for this? The album is littered with interludes there are 7 real songs. Very ballad heavy there is a strange stark feeling in the production. I was released as one track streaming on iTunes, so it is often hard to tell where the real songs begin and end. The question to ask when listening to this album is how does this stack up against "Channel Orange"? So far almost half way into this 44 minute disjointed work the answer is not at all.

"Slide On Me" is the first song that's good. I like the almost dance hall cadence to his vocals. But as a whole he already wasted half an album just fucking around. Ocean versus the Weeknd, finds Frank getting slaughtered when it comes to songwriting. He is not in a genre of music that allows for random bits of ambiance. It's fitting that Greenwood is on this album because it feels like the same way Radiohead gave their label the middle finger with "Kid A" , but there were actually good songs on that album, here it's pieces of ideas not fully fleshed out.  "Sideways" wants to be more of a rap song, but it's unfocused which is the plight of most of these songs. There is jabber that this is not the real album, but a preview of an album to come. If you commit 44 minutes of music then you made an album. It might be a hard pill to swallow that Ocean could be a flash in the pan.

If Death Grips tried to make a r&b album the results could be very similar. There are little blips of falsetto crooning that don't fall anywhere near a beat or melody. When the beat does come in on "Death Wish" it's pretty week. Before releasing this Ocean said he had been influenced by the Beatles and Beach Boys, by Beach Boys it's obvious he meant the more experimental "Pet Sounds".  "Rushes" really fails to deliver in it's initial moments. His vocals have plenty of re-verb on them to keep things more disconnected. Finally a beat shows up, by Ocean is obviously too high to do more than watch it pass him by. This is a horrid disappointment. I'll give it a 5. If this is really not an album and just a taste of what is come then I don't want it.


Null : " Sleepwalking Days"

The album opens with a stomping lumber as fuzz out guitar drones over equally apathetic vocals to create something in Sonic Youth's zip code. By the second song I think I have figured out that this is really depressive garage rock, until the verse breaks down into something closer to post-punk. The guitar builds up into something more burly. I think I like the cleaner guitar tone better.The bass could stand to be up further in the mix. On "Hip Crowd" we are back to a more plodding form of garage rock. The riff is pretty simple and locks into more of drone.

The more subtle phrasing on "Invert" works much better for me. While it sets a good mood, the song is not the most dynamic and pretty much coasts along. This time there is a grunge like throb to the marching drone of "Why Not Sing". I am pretty baffled at why these guys would be called death rock by anyone, yet that tag is what drew me to this album. The vocals back off on "Bow" and this finally creates a feel that draws me in. About four minutes what first seemed like tension and restraint begins to drag a little. It does build up and give you a pay off. This part is cool because it hits that more sonically heavy place.

I'll give this album a 7.5, because these guys did a good job of capturing this sound, but it is like a cat playing with a bug, they could have killed it but just swatted these songs back and forth. If you like droning indie rock with a solemn tone then this album is worth your time.

Black Tape For a Blue Girl : "These Fleeting Moments"

This is where we separate the hipsters from Brooklyn who latched onto a Sisters of Mercy album from the real goths. With fans ranging from David Lynch to Sasha Gray the neo-classical goth band returns on their 30th anniversary for their 11th album. The album opens with an almost 18 minute song called the vastness of life. Oscar who sang on the band's first seven albums in back in the fold. There is a lengthy atmospheric break in the opener. The string bring a thicker layer of sadness to the gloom. Oscar's daughter Dani lends here voice to the album and is pretty impressive. The fact that Sam Rosenthal runs Projeckt Records enables them to nab many guest musicians including Dresden Dolls drummer Brian Viglione makes his presence known on "Limitless" which might also be the album's strongest song.

His voice isn't as confident on "One Promised Love" . The strings on this song and the backing vocals keep the song afloat. The vocals show improvement on "Absolute Zero". The synths are more kraut rock like in there drone on "Affinity". "Please Don't Go" carries an atmosphere that is a shade darker. It is goth as fuck and doesn't need vocals. "Six Thirteen" sounds like something that Black Philip could have gotten down to in "the Witch" and even then it's not as exotic as the song that follows which might make you want to seek out the closest opium den. I really like the Pink Floyd like guitar solo on this song. There is a very ritualistic quality to "Mediation on the skeleton".

There is a more traditional choral tone to "Desert Rat Kangaroo". Lyrically it ponders who the universe favors. It sounds a little like a children's song to me. The folk ballad "She's Gone" might be fitting for the mix tape, "Songs For A Heart Broken Lesbian". Though she could be singing about her mom. The distorted guitar helps switch things up toward the end. More rolling atmosphere twinkles in the dusk on "She Ran So Far ..." . It wanders with a very post-rock feel . There might be more rock on this album than you would expect from this project. There is an angular plastic sound to the synths that open "Your'e Inside Me" to close the album. I am unsure of some of the vocal choices, they are not always in key. In some way I suppose it might be influence by David Byrne. I'll go ahead and round this up to an 8.5 as it touches on moments of vastly dark beauty.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Grimrig : " Night Be My Grave"

It's come down to me scouring the internet for funeral doom since too much time has passed for any to cross my path. So I found this project from Finland. I was not expecting the female vocals that came in at the two minute mark. This project has the atmosphere down I think the only thing that keeps this from being totally stellar is the production could be fuller. For this brand of doom, I need the guitars to hold more weight sonically. The drums are almost not there and I understand this is one dude handling everything, but the fall back is if you are committing this to album investing in a studio drummer would be worth it in the long run. The mournful quality however is dialed in. The female vocals remind me of the days when the Gathering was once upon a time a metal band.

The growled vocals are one of the best recorded aspects of this album. I find myself listening to how this was put together rather than the songs. This drones along the same pattern for the bulk of the songs' nine minutes. So this is far from Mournful Congregation, but the female vocals do make up for some of it. "From the Depths" might be the best song on the album due to the more sonically oppressive atmosphere. The females vocals however don't sound quite as sure of themselves with the melody chosen, the low croak of male vocals beneath them works well. This song doesn't strike me as crawling until the last minute, so the time is used fairly wisely.I' ll give this album an 8. Only three songs, not something that makes me crave more, but there are some unique enough elements that raise it above the level of your average funereal doom release.

Skeletonwitch : "The Apothic Gloom"

Gloom is just a figure of speech. Though I would expect the addition of Wolvhammer vocalist Adams Clemens to perhaps move their sound in a darker direction. This is marginal at best as it's business as usual with these thrashing riff merchants. Production wise there is the biggest shift has the wall of gain dialed to 11 at 80 mph is more subtle and creates a more organic picture of what they do. "Well of Despair" is a shade more aggressive. The dueling guitar try to out race one another and Clemens deliver doesn't strike me as having the same level of charisma as his predecessor. "Black Waters" is the first song where he makes his mark, this shows through hints of his more hard core flavored past gives his delivery more command. The guitar solos on this song exceed what has been displayed in the first two songs and pick up where the guitarists left off clawing their way towards the top of the metal guitar heap.

Blast beats are more noticeable on "Red Death, White Light" as well as more sonically enhanced guitar tone. The only draw back is all four songs are paced very much the same with blistering chugs creating neck snapping metronome to head bang to if that is what you primarily look for in a song. The vocals are well layered, but I don't hear a lot to set this band aside from the hordes of others doing similar.I'll give this album a 7, as it's well executed and for young bashers hungry for new metal this might be enough for them, but if you are going to play thrash be it blackened or not then you need to be dark enough to hold yourself to today's ever increasing demands for heaviness or do it in a way that stands out from the pack, which I hear the band at too blurry of a threshold to make this crucial listening for yours truly. So how refined is your palate?


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Ayahausca : "Yin"

When grunge was coming out in the 90s it was understood that Black Sabbath was an influence and some of that doom could be felt in some of it's more brooding moments. The opening track of this album high lights that fact. The harmonized vocals only further bring Alice In Chains comparisons. It's when I hear other things in the singers that the vocals work best for me. The shift of tempo on the second song doesn't play to the band's strengths. There is a more unique angular dissonance on the title track. The vocals continue to worship at Layne Staley's altar. They get a few degrees heavier and the more proggy groove of "Dark Matter God" that allows me to hear more of this Voivod influence their press release claimed they have. This is one of the stronger songs. I can hear some of the odd phrasing in the guitar that gives this band more of a proggy edge. "Dinosaurs" is not as focused, even with all the minor key harmony vocals. The is more of a Soundgarden feel colliding with the perpetual Alice in Chains saunter they maintain on "Mange". Like Muse sultry swagger adds a more lavish color to the mood. There is a more melodic touch to "Carbon". The switch to harsher vocals works well to set them apart from the grunge bandwagon. Feedback leads them into "Left Skull Prison". This song is darker and harder than the bulk of the album.

The minor key harmonies still keep these men in a box.It is odd to me that they are not more self aware in regards to their sound that they would think playing at the pace of "Collapse of a Life Long Lie" would work. The song is very different, but doesn't stray from the band's strengths so wildly. "Mountain of Snakes" find the pace picking up into unwieldy math rock. The vocals fight to find their place on this song. "White Ship ' also sits very oddly on this album even though I appreciate how it expands the sonic scope, though it feels like this is just a hat they are trying on rather than a multi-faceted band like Faith no More who could glide back and forth from varied genres yet still maintained the core of who they were. I'll give this album a 7.5. If you want prog infused grunge these are your guys.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Norma Jean : "Polar Similar"

I never got into Norma Jean, or really wanted anything to do with them once I was told they were a christian band. I have come across people over the years whose opinions in regards to music I half way respected that were into these guys . Going into  giving this album a shot, I did a little clicking around and found out that some of the members are christians, but they are not a christian band, so then it was o.k for me to go ahead with listening to this album. Lyrically it's a mixed bag in this regard , like most christians they have to clue what is in the bible as they scream about hoping that you burn and what you are feeling is the loneliness of god. I never guess that they would use clean vocals, what I have heard from this band before did not have clean vocals. There is a very Tool like pulse to "Everyone Talking Over Everyone Else". It kind descends into a perpetual break down. Sean Ingram from Coalesce appears on "Forever Hurtling Towards Andromeda". There is not a ton of difference between what is going on here and what these guys were doing back in the days of Myspace. It sounds like a more hardcore berserker version of the Deftones. This album is well produced and mixed. They have a really good heavy guitar tone. The riff to "1, OOO,OOO Watts" is catchy and I like the use of clean vocals here. It's the first song that connects with me.

They go into the more spastic side of metal core on " Death is A Living Partner". Here the screamed vocals are not as focused and the math of their riffs is not as catchy. For all it's chaotic math  "Synthetic Sun" is still better put together than the previous song. There is some screaming about the light not coming outside. Here is another song heavily influenced by the Deftones. It's got plenty of punch that is well placed aside the melodies. The drumming is very Tool inspired until they get to the most drivingly heavy section of the song. The first guitar riff to "the Close and Discontent" reminds me of Soundgarden, they accelerate into more of a hard core zip code. It's hard to tell what is the breakdown and what is just business as usual for these guys. This makes them rely more on the melodic sung sections. "An Ocean Of War" is explosive, but compact in it's out bursts so that it makes sense in a song , much like some of Botch's more metal moments.

"A Thousand Years A Minutes" has a very Deftones like throb to the bounce it carries when not breaking down into indie rock sections, when they ask if you got what you came for. I am not sure how to answer that question, as I thought they were going to be heavier, so I am not sure that I came here for this , but it is better than I expected. After some atmosphere they bust into the meat of "Nexus". The singer exclaims it takes one to know one. This song wanders around and winds up in many of the same places we have heard them go. They jam on this for sometime, which I am sure would convert well to a live setting. I check out a little bit during this section.  I'll give this album an 8.5 though I am unsure that I'll really get many more listens out of this , but if you are a fan of the band I am sure you will get what you came for.

Daniel Lioneye: "Vol. 3 "

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

The drumming is pretty solid here. I like the vocals to "Break it or Heal it" more than the opener. Lyrically there is something about reading a suicide note, which I'll take over a love song any day. His Finnish accent makes it more interesting than American radio rock. Some electronic elements lead into the harder double drive of "Licence to Defile". The vocals take a little of the riff's edge off. Sax comes in and the songs gets weird but maintains it's drive. There is a darker power ballad like feel to "Ravensong". Now they are left of metal and in alternative rock. This song is not bad, the fact the vocals are grunge flavor yet tasteful helps. I am halfway into this song wondering when the goth is going to come. Instead what we get are some proggy keyboards and a pretty solid guitar solo.

They take a heavier turn on "Alright" and come closer to their black metal aspirations. The clean vocals returns, but the melodic sections are not as compelling as the previous songs. "Aetherside" which you can check out below, demonstrates when these guys best balance out their moody rock with keen songwriting focus that gives the song more balls than your average power-ballad, but not forcing themselves to get more metal than they are really most comfortable doing. I like how the vocals come in and sit over the heavier riff of "Dancing With the Dead". There is more industrial groove metal like attack to the onset of "Oh, God In Your Great Mercy". This is another song where the juxtaposition of the more laid back vocal melody against the more pounding riff works well. It almost sounds like Dinosaur Jr jamming with Fear Factory.

"Mathematics of the Storms" kicks of with a riff that begs to have an insane guitar solo soaring out of it , but instead they go to the tried and true loud to soft dynamic and ebb down into verse. The vocals are not delivered in a metal or even hard rock fashion on this song and many other points in the album. The album closes with "Neolithic Way" which aside from the screamed sections would not be out of place on an Alice in Chains album. The chugged groove of the verse is pretty effective and I was not expecting the harsher vocals to come in there. The clean singing might dominate this album, but the harsher vocals are not always used in the most obvious places on this album, so over all they should be commended for showing a great deal of restraint in this and dialing the cheese way back from where it got to be with H.I.M, I'll give this album a 9.


Deathcult :"Beasts of Faith"

The debut from the Swiss band, comes with a strong sense of influence from early death metal in the raw pummeling they dish out. The vocals are manically croaked rather than just growled. This places a sometimes emotionally charged aspect to them.  It's dark and for death metal of this kind a reasonable sense of songwriting and dynamics. There is a more straight forward take on the genre when they rip into the second song. They managed to chug into harder hitting riffs that really take me back to the early 90s. By the third song I am starting to get that their formula seems to be hit you with the most direct attack then build the rest of the song from there. The bassist player has a more rubbery tone that coasts over the drums here. They stay more focused on the feral intensity than paying the same attention to detail displayed on the first two songs.

A more thrashing attack eventually develops on the equally animalistic "Death In July". The guitar tone of "Foul Glint"changes to give us another color to paint this albums anger with. While this darker turn is appreciated it turns out to be more of an instrumental interlude than an actual song. Some of this darker mood stays with them for "Discreate Homunkulus" . This song's main focus is the rabid  speed, though they rekindle their commitment to songwriting here and take you on more of a journey."the Sick Within" not only stumbles across a guitar solo, but stomps into a more mosh inducing section. They wander into a darker place by the end of the song that reminds me of older Tribulation.

Lyrically I am unsure what these guys are about due to the crazy manner the vocals are howled out. I am guessing "Evil Dead" would be about what the title suggests. It starts off with more of a thrashy old Slayer feel. The guitar solo is even vintage Kerry King. The album closes with more of a "Leprosy" era Death feel. Slowing things down is to their advantage for sure as it allows more of a mood to build. I'll give this album an 8.5 it's pretty solid as far as death metal goes , fans of the genre's more classic period who are hungry for more might even round this up to a 9. This album comes out September 26th.

Inquisition : "Bloodshed across the Empyrean Altar beyond the Celestial Zenith "

The way Dagon lets the chords ring out with such eerie dissonance you know who this is right from the throttling descent into "From Chaos They Came". Drummer Incubus brings some sinister grooves and really lays into his high hat. Vocally...well it is what it is. The croaked vocals sound a little more relaxed on the opener while every thing else is amped up. "Wings of Anu" feels like it carries a similar vibe to it's throb as the opener, though perhaps dialed back a few degrees. The riff for the bridge coming out of the chorus is pretty bad ass. Lyrically I catch something about a planet of reptiles.The beginning of the third song finds them getting much more melodic only to build a false sense of security to be run over by another bleak bull dozing attack.  The blast beats hit you in quick outbursts. They throw in the melodic intervals just as fast between the outbursts of frenzied snare.

The chug to "A Black Aeon Shall Cleanse" slows down to gain power. This brings them relatively closer to a more mainstream metal sound aside from the dead pan croak of Dagon's narrative. The slithering riff bring subtle time changes as the deliberate pacing of this song proves to be very effective.There is more of a black metal like tremolo to "The Flames of Infinite Blackness".  The guitar melody on this song is a sign of growth for the band. Five songs in an I already feel this is some of the band's best work to date. Though I can see how some of the band's cvlt following might be ready to lament over them selling out or evolving to far away from their earlier work.  It feels like this is a very natural progression. There is a more aggressive blasting to "Mystical Blood" though the guitar does come back with some melodic qualities.

I have heard Satan being muttered about throughout the album, but his infernal majesty is addressed directly on " Through the Divine Spirit of Satan". The vocals work more in conjunction with the guitars than we have heard previously on this album. The verse riff is almost catchy. A rare guitar solo also surfaces here. This is also followed by a clean guitar tone, so the dynamic range of what these guys do shows a lot of growth on this album. "Bloodshed Across the Empyrean Altar" shows they can grow without sacrificing the magnitude of their heaviness. There is a more deliberate classic metal drum beat to this song, that a certain portion of their fan base who is blast beats or bust might be resistant to but fuck em they are idiots any way.  Inquisition holds off until almost three minutes into the song to converge into something resembling a conventional song. Song pretty fucking crazy guitar tones are summoned on this song.

There is a big metal guitar crunch that kicks off "Power From the Center of the Cosmic". This song has a much more straight forward attack. Two and a half minutes in it really builds into a solid groove. They fire into a more standard black metal speed for " A Magnificent Crypt of Stars". At this point it is clear to see the guitar is the focal point of the album, even tough there is some solid drumming on it. I'll round this album up to a 10 as I was pretty impressed and it strikes me as some of their best work to date.

Pain : "Coming Home"

After collaborating with Rammstein vocalist Till Lindemann, Peter Tagtgren has elevated himself in experience not only as a musician, but as a producer and songwriter. There is a more more commercial leaning to the opening song that has less of the typical industrial metal sound and more rock n roll to it. That big industrial metal that even Dimmu dips into can be felt on the second song "Call Me". Lindemann makes an appearance here as well.  The lyrics to this song are a lot of fun. "A Wannabe" backs off and has almost a H.I.M if a dose of super-slickly produced radio metal was pumped into the emotional rock. Symphonic strings and strummed guitars fill the spaces , though it doesn't feel as inspired to me.

There is a more driving chug to "Pain in the Ass".  The chorus fills a little cluttered. On paper I am sure this song works more than it does  here.  There are similar problems on "Black Knight Satellite" where is just more upbeat and polished than I like my industrial. The melodic content of the title track takes the edge off. I guess over dramatic goth girls might like this as it's in the same realm of heaviness as Night Wish. By the time we get to the title track I am thinking how it's a shame that this album gave us glimpses of how pop inflected industrial strength metal can work, yet that fun is shattered by a larger display of what it doesn't work. There are just no balls to the title track, yet some of the melodies and grooves could work if they were not slathered in cheese filled synths.

"Absinthe Phoenix Rising" reminds me of Blur at first. It's too happy and upbeat. It does improve for a second when it slows into more of a groove. If you were in Hypocrisy then you are expected to be able to bring heavier than a "Beautiful People" rip-off like "Final Crusade". The intro to "Natural Born Idiot" gives me a little more hope. This hope is popped like a balloon when it breaks down into the verse.The chorus to this song is terrible fluff. The heavier riffs can't save it. Going into the last song "Starseed" I was pessimist after the turn the album had taken and it was really make or break for this band.The chorus is where they lost me rather than hooked and made me come to the conclusion that what this band does Mindless Self Indulgence does better. I'll give this album a 6 because it gets off to a strong start before choking you on this sonic cotton candy that is more fluff than not.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Defeated Sanity : "Disposal Of The Dead // Dharmata"

The lower than guttural growl, gives this German band more of a Cannibal Corpse feel to this album that is split into two parts. As with other expeditions into this more crudely brutal style of death metal, the snare sound under produced and over the guitar which sit more in the background, so like early Cannibal Corpse it's the sub-guttural gurgle of the vocals and the pop of the tinny snare that dominate the mix. The songs on this section of the album are compressed into three minutes bursts of your typical nineties death metal. This is death metal at it's most one dimensional here. I have a hard time with the blast beaten snare patterns on "Suttee" and reaffirms to me that blast beats work best in black metal. There is more groove and nuance to "the Bell" which touches on what I do like from this era of death metal, even though it reverts back into the blasting.

The second part of this bi-polar album finds the band in their manic stage indulging in a more grandiose proggy form of death metal with Max Phelps from Cynic lending his voice. The growls here are higher more like later period Death or Sepultura in some places. The only draw back is even with all it's technical twists and turns it seems like "At One With Wrath' is an extension of the previous song. There is a palm muted prog groove that I really like. "The Quest for Non- Existence" is pretty adventurous with the rubbery bass lines leading the way. By the time we get into the last minute of chaos that "Quest for Non-Existence" holds it's clear this band is not as skilled as Zappa's in putting this kind of thing together, but that is a bar held up only for the most elite, so they come close to fulfilling their ambitions.

They continue to boldly race through the labyrynth of wild riffs and time signatures on the closing "Return to Samsara". If you like prog metal or tech death then this half of the album is without a doubt worth your time. The more Death like tendencies give this song it's own individual thought patterns often leaning into a more Zappa like jazz. The guitar really steps up to shine here and the solos on this song are impressive.I'll give this album an 8.5 because it succedes at capturing the varied faces of death metal that it sets out to pay tribute to and show themselves prefcient at both. Is this the most original effort , well yes and no. Yes in the sense that they choose to cover polar ends of the spectrum, and No in that this is done is a pretty safe and familar manner. If you are just getting into death metal this might not phase you and no matter what side of the coin you fall on here this album is worth taking note of.

Marsh Dweller : "the Weight of Sunlight"

Here's an Ohio based project that has been getting a fair amount of buzz in recent days. I suppose at it's core it's black metal in the same way Agalloch is black metal. This is another one man band, though John Kerr gets a little help from his friends as a couple take care of the guitar solos, bass and samples. The black metal is dialed back in a direction leaning more towards the kind of  epic mid paced  folk that bands like Moonsorrow have mastered. The production is no where as big as Moonsorrow. The project's strength is the love the songs are given. They are thoughtfully arranged and engaging. This is not the blackest or heaviest, but has a lot of heart and the guest guitar solos are very tasteful in the same manner Agalloch's hints into shredding were.

The songs are well written no sprawling pieces of drone. The drums have a very raw feel to them, they are a little on the dry side sonically. "Where the Sky Ends" is more black metal than the previous song. The rasped mid ranged vocals are plenty angry. Despite the acoustic break in the song it feels like it stays in the same relentless energy through out the song, making it less dynamic than "the Dull Earth". There is more of a thrashing gallop to "Monumental Collapse". I am not a big of the really stiff snare pop that has a more punk feel to me, but the guitar solo is great. "Empty Light of Heaven" is more of an interlude than a song. There is a more mainstream metal groove to the epic build of "Forks of the River".  There is a low sung chanted vocal that swells up from behind the guitars.

"Feathers on the Breath of God" takes what has worked before on this album and ties it up neatly in a well composed song. It's black metal and blasty without burning you out on all the conventional trappings of black metal heard from hundreds of other bands. The album ends with another instrumental, which tempers atmosphere with the more traditional metal attack. It feels more like an outro that something standing alone. I'll give this album an 8.5, didn't really compel me to load onto my iPod as a must have, but it did remind me what I miss about Agalloch. This is still a fine album, for someone who is looking to replace the void left by Agalloch or is too young to even know who the hell Agalloch is and just getting into metal.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cult Values : s/t

This review will more than likely be as quick as the pacing of these songs.Another band who spells the punk in post punk with a capital p. The opening track is as raw and rowdy as you could have from punk. By the second song this shows the band becoming even more reckless. For my money the guitar tone leaves something to be desired. The are the type of rapid shouting you expect from punk. These songs are quick jabs into your ears and you are at the fourth song before you know it. There is really little that is dark or all that post punk they are pretty much just a straight up punk band. It's not until the 6th song that something could be remotely considered post-punk, and even then it just sound more like punk used to sound when the bands cared about song writing in it's early days.

Maybe it's having songs title things like "Nothing Here But Ghosts" that made someone try to think of these guys as post-punk. The guitar tone really gets on my nerve by the time we get to "Jump Ship" the back vocals sound like dog barking from across the street. The songs begin to sound the same until they sing a little more on the chorus to "Stones". The last song just blasted by in a rapid jangle never catching my attention. I'll round this album up to a 5, even though it's generally not my kind of punk rock , these guys have their moments here and there. If you do not care about song writing and just want some obnoxious new punk then here you are ,go get drunk.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Vader : "Iron Times"

The new ep buy Vader this finds the band back at the place where death metal and thrash met, with the first song reminding more of Sodom. The throaty vocals are a gurgled growl . There is a serious thrashing gallop to " Pray to the God of War". The vocals are spit out here in a more rapid Slayer like manner. There is a more powerful mid-paced chug on "Piesc I Stal"  winks in the direction of classic metal. This might be the best of the three original songs on the ep. The solos seem to serve more of a purpose on this song and while it's a fairly simples and straight forward song the chug is very effective here. It takes me back to a time when things were simpler as the world was not over saturated with metal bands, a good album used to come out every month in 80s. The Polish band spits this one out in their native tongue.

The lyrics are more easily discerned in the manner they are spit out on this ep, which judging from the cover I assumed would be more of a tribute to Motorhead. They pick the proto-thrash of Motorhead's " Overkill" to tackle. Earlier in the album it sounded like the lead growler was making more of an attempt t sing in places. Here it is not as obvious. The do capture the rock n roll riffs well, their drummer is a relentless beast. I'll give this album an 8.5 as these guys are old pros who are clearly good at what they do. If you are not already a fan of this band, I would suggest going with one of their full lengths to get a better picture of what it is they do. It sounds like they are having fun here and it's not surprise like many band's these days it's more economic for these guys to record and ep rather than chase the dying art of the album. If you are are fan of classic metal like Sodom, Motorhead and to a lesser extent here Kreator, then this is worth your time.

Mizmor : "Yodh"

 This one man black metal project out of Oregon is dark and dense, but that is the minimum requirement for the genre. So we are going to see if this project is worth the hype beginning to simmer around it. Not always relying on blast beats the openers drops down into weighty doom laced sections. At thirteen minutes are is album going to be capable of creating songs or sprawling sections of heavily drone distorted mush? Six minutes in and I am beginning to have second thoughts as it seem this album might be trying to find life in just heaviness alone.The vocals varying from lowered death metal growls to a mid ranged rasp of torment. It's fine that this is black metal, but sonically the first song has only colored this song with similar shades. Another color is added on "Semblance Waning" with an acoustic intro. This song is eleven and a half minutes long so it can afford to kill time in the way. The guitar tone shifts as feed back hovers over it threatening to take us back to the murk.I like this song better as it meets at the hellish cross roads where you find your self asking where does doom begin and depressive black metal end? The arrangements still need some help as half way into the song it's let hand on atmosphere when it feels like this is where a more defined structure would benefit it.The answer is blast beats. This always the answer when taking the easy way out.

With the albums longest song " the Serpent Eats it's Tail" a more melodic intro is allowed for and the more doom leanings are indulged. Almost Four minutes in and we are still just getting started as the slow build lingers. I zone out on in, but nothing happened that would have jarred me from that state. By the time we get to the next song "Inertia, An Ill Compeller" I being to wonder if the beginning of the album was geared to lure you into this album thinking this a black metal album when it's a doom album, so the title blackened doom could be earned here. Two combine my two favorite sub-genres of metal you would think I would be more moved by this album since I am the target audience. Both "Inertia, An Ill Compeller" and the final song use similar clean guitar tones with it's time to stop and take a moment to think.

Ten minutes seem to be a better threshold for this project when it comes to song length as anything more it seems to be an over indulgence that doesn't benefit the song. It all ends in spastic chaos.While this album sounds good from an production stand point and it's impressive one guys pulled all of this off at the end of the day music is about songs, so I'll round this down to a 7.5. Coming from the hipster haven of Oregon, it might not be Portland, geographically it's almost like Brooklyn when sorting through the hype these days. Not the first album of the year to be hyped and not the last.