Friday, September 30, 2016

Alcest : "Kodama"

It seems the French purveyors of what was once hailed as black gaze have decided to at least try to be a rock band. The title track has more of a Pink Floyd like jangling drone to it. While this is far from black metal it is a more suitable extension of growth than their previous album which had little in the way of balls to it. They do flirt with blast beats on the second song, but it smoothes out into the more fey touched indie rock. In some ways this is closer to what they once did than the title track, however my initial impression is that the title track is better even though harshly screamed vocals re-surface.  I respect this since between Opeth and the Used, this seems to be something many singers are unwilling to re-visit, which I think is as much of a cop out as only relying on screaming.

There are some pretty awesome guitar tones on this album. While there is little by way of soloing, I think the tones are impeccable. They do have plenty of the older shoe gazey epic guitar lines soaring over the fairy forests for you. I don't need Alcest to re-make their first two albums. I just want to hear that they are still the band that I used to love and not abandon their metal roots altogether, along with writing good songs. This album tends to fall within those bounds. They do eventually revert back to almost full blown black metal, the only thing keeping them from it is the guitar sticks to dreamier sonic scope. "Untouched" finds them in a more introspective mode for the opening verse. Neige's voice sounds really good here. It builds into a more shimmering vision of post-rock. It does have a moodier ebb and flow that works for me. It's brooding in a surreal way and it goes to show there are many versions of this band I'll accept and they don't all have to be black metal.

"Oiseaux de proie" is not a bad song by any means, it even gets heavy around the mid way point, but it also fails to grab me and begins fading into the background. I would almost say the are trying too hard to get back to where they came from. "Onyx" is an interlude of My Bloody Valentine like ambient noise. The album closes with " Notre sang et pensees". It begins as a more fragile form of indie jangle that swells up rather gracefully.The tension lingers so much until you are wondering is this an actual song? I am still unsure if this one had enough meat on it's bones to justify it being an instrumental. I'll around this up to a 9. It finds the band trying really hard and makes you think about how they reconsidered the direction they took on "Shelter"

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Street Sects :" End Position"

Punk meets industrial is not as odd a pairing as kids might think today. If the guitar was dialed back on the Lard albums there might have been as similar sound as this gang of wacky kids conjures on this album in 2016.There is a more spastic side of "Copper in the the Slots". This almost comes across as more of an interlude and less of a song if you weight it against a song like "In Defense of Resentment" . It has more glitch ridden twists and turns than your average militant industrial song, and certainly owes more to Skinny Puppy than other industrial acts though pre-metal Ministry's influence can be felt as well.

 "Feather Weight Hate" proves that real singing can take place and it doesn't all have to be manic screams. There is ranting, abrasion and drone all wrapped into "Our Lesions". The vocals are more crazed, to the point of questioning if any of this makes any sense. There is almost a power-violence thing going on with "Victims of Nostalgia". It really rides the border between being music and just noise. "Black Din" sets an almost death rock mood against the crazed electronics. So far it might be my favorite song on the album. "Feigning Familiarity" is easier to turn into a blur of background noise on the first listen, on the second time around I can find the melody. By the last two songs I'm guessing I'll have to resign myself to the fact that this album is losing some of it's steam apart."Collared, Kept" is more of flailing chaos with plenty of aggro. The vocals just don't give me anything in the blur of glitch driven samples to really latch onto.This begins to remind me of old Butthole Surfers. There is a little more cohesive of a vocal on the last song.The odd break into an ambient drone kinds looses the momentum.

 Overall I like what these guys are trying to do. I am on board with any band trying to bring back the golden age of industrial, these guys don't do it with the same grace as Youth Code, but are doing their own thing in some respects though it is easy to hear where the influences are coming from. I'll round this up to an 8, at times some of the craziness sacrifices the more redeeming melodic elements. If you are hungry for new industrial then this is worth checking out.


Negura Bunget : "ZI"

The hungry Transylvanians are back. The first song is more chanting an native instrumentation than metal and when the distortion does crunch on it's just that and not black metal per se. Negru is the only original member with members of Din Brad and Grimegod picking up the slack. There is a weird lapse into rock n roll on "Gradina Steletor". Thanks to the members of Grimegod, there is more of a death metal feel at work than black metal when they do go into the heavier sections. While the rock n roll portions were unexpected I am a fan of the darker moodier beginning of "Brazda da foc" . A throaty Neurosis like sung vocal comes in before the murmur of blast beats builds beneath them. The explosion is however contained. I can appreciate this as it defies the run of the mill metal formula.

The plot thickens as they get heavier on "Baciu mosneag". There is a more frantic almost progressive touch to this one , with sung vocals providing a greater contrast before the death metal growls come in. The there is an almost more Iron Maiden like gallop that chimes in with the guitar solo. It breaks down into minimalist atmosphere with a simmering chant in the background. It builds back up in a manner more in line with the rule book of standard heavy metal dynamics. I really like the blend of sonics and folk instruments that set "Stanciu Gruiul" into motion. It ebbs and flows with all of these sounds in play and a gypsy folk. Far from the heaviest song on the album it does prove to be one of the more interesting. The last song "Marea Cea Mare" has a more abstract droning atmosphere. Female vocals eventually float in, while I did the sonic depth it just hovers in one place for the first  too long. There are some other re-mixes of the other songs, but for the purpose of this review I am just going by the songs written for this album.

I'll give this album a 9. I am unsure if I need this in my iPod or not though I might just give it a shot. I like the balance achieved here that is true to what this band does. If you are already a fan then it should live up to your expectations as to who this band is and what they should sound like while adding more depth to their sound.

Anagnorisis : "Peripeteia"

The narrative these songs are woven around provides a more personal touch then most black metal band's allow themselves to create. There are no arctic wastelands or occult gibberish to hide behind. In some ways if it was not for the sonic storm cloud raging as this album's heart beat you might mistake this for hardcore.  The vocals keep their scathing snarl as a static coat of white noise to a similar effect as Deafheaven. Their approach to black metal is less atmospheric and the ambiance if of a more emotional nature. The riffs on the second part of " Disgust & Remorse" touch on a more traditional and almost thrashy side of black metal. It has a bigger more metallic sound to it. I doubt the sample at the end of this song is from the same family tapes as some of the other narratives.

A cleaner guitar tone opens up "5306 Morning side". The samples are put to good use on this one. There seems to be more laughter than kinda of personal issues that this album seems to suggest are lying under the surface. They have more elaborate arrangements than a black metal band who wants to hypnotize you with the white noise drone of their blast beats. By the third song , I get to get ready for the vocals to shift from the mid range rasp that is beginning to become monotone. There is two minutes of ambiance leading into "Night Skies Over Nothingness". Around the four minute mark their is a great deal of authority in the chugged riff that hits you in face.

The vocals shift into an angry chorus of possessed pigs when they come in on the title track. The atmosphere in the layers of guitar is very effective on this song and makes it a more powerful transition when they lock back into bigger riff. They eventually jam this out after the lyrics howl something about knowing himself with a black mirror for all to see and then a keyboard solo takes place. So they make good use of all the songs 11 minutes.  Some of the loathing in the album's mood reminds me of Nachtmystium. There are some oddly bright post- rock like chords leading into the blast of "Metamorphosis". The comes a guitar solo that rips into the song like something from "Comfortably Numb".

The album ends on a more melodic note with the acoustic guitar leading into "Transparent". This one also actual sung vocals. Things build back up into their more typical brand of black metal at about the two minute mark. I'll give this album a 9.5 and see how it grows on me. It is without question one of the better black metal albums I have come across recently and these guys have really stepped up their game when it comes to song writing.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ulcerate : "Shrines of Paralysis"

They are back to a denser sound more in line with their best album to date "Destroyers of All". But does this one measure up to the 2011 album? I know these guys can write song so the murky mush of riffs they sling at me on the second song is not as impressive. Things do not improve much on "There Are No Saviors" except for the atmospheric break down mid way into the song. The drumming on this section is more impressive than when they are just throwing you up against a wall of double bass. The title track is the first song that has melody and more depth in the feelings it conveys. If the band is capable of writing this then they are more capable in just dialing in the faster more typical death metal songs.

While "Chasm of Fire" is not as strong as the title track it's still an improvement over the first few songs, though a formula is firmly in place where they rang until midway into the song then go for a moody break down. If you are going to do some hammering into your brain death metal then "Extinguished Light" would be the way to do it. The album closes with "End the Hope". With it's more deliberate and dissonant pound it shows hope until blasting off into chaotic non-sense.

The bar is raised high for these guys because we have heard what they are capable of. If you are easily impressed by sheer heaviness and formulaic song writing then this album might wow you. I'll give it a 6.5 because it certainly has it's moments and these guys are skilled at their instruments I would like to hear more heart in the writing and not making the atmosphere an obligatory section that comes right when the clock hits the half way mark. This drops October 28th on Relapse, I am little under whelmed, but some of you sheeple with gobble this like turkeys.

the Used @ The Masquerade

Chances are you grew up on Slipknot and while I was old enough to know better their 2002 album was pretty damn good. These guys are more of my wife's thing than mine, but she goes to plenty of shows with me that she prolly could care less about, so I endured the suffocating heat of the soon to be closing Masquerade. Openers New Language we a typical band from L.A. lots of show constantly talking about the fact they are on tour , but no real substance when it comes to the songs with laughable lyrics.  As their set progressed every song was a little worse than the one before it until it became hard to bear. By the time the Used took the stage after making the crowd re-live the late 90s with a mix of pop music blaring over the p.a . the place was pretty packed. In some ways this does not surprise me since the city prefers to keep one foot in the past musically. Myspace would have been proud of this show back in 2003.

The Used are still good at what they did. This was the first of a two part series . This was the first night and they were playing their self titled 2002 album front to back. The album is one of the few that have stood the test of time and the songs were endearing. The band played their instruments well with their bass player being their surprise ace n the hole as he was the only one who went above and beyond on this instrument and seems to have perfected his crafted over the years where the guitar player and drummer, clocked in played the songs and did their job. The main problem was vocalist Bert McCracken. While possessing an odd child like charm on stage that makes you wonder what medical marijuana is really doing to people, he answered the question what happens when you take the screaming out of screamo? You have a pop punk band.  After having surgery to remove polyps on his vocal chord, he has made statements  varying from the surgery took out half of his range to his voice has never been stronger. The real answer is never figured out  how to scream from his diaphragm and is too stoned to want to teach the old dog new tricks. Which I Do not mind not screaming if you decided your are done with and and to focus more on actual singing. However if you go on tour to preform an album in it's entirety and you can't do it vocally then why bother?

His voice was hit or miss the bass player took over most of the screamed parts , though they were more yelled than actually screamed. Bert let the crowd sing most of the higher sections or screamed section and got by on his charisma alone. The crowd was too caught up in being blasted back 14 years to really mind or notice. The set had some strong moments with some of the more melodic gems  shining the brightest, though the song " A Box Full of Sharp Objects" also translated well even with out the screams. They seemed to be enjoying what they are doing and the crowd did too, I can check this off my list, but would not go seem them again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Emma Ruth Rundle : "Marked For Death"

In some ways there is not much difference between Emma Ruth Rundle's  second solo album and the last Marriages album, which is a good thing. If you were expecting just her and an acoustic guitar then think again. Perhaps the punches are not as rock and the songs are less jarring in their dynamic shifts, there is a very stormy mood that brews in the first songs. There is a more uplifting shade of gray to "Medusa" which falls somewhere between a ballad and a pop song. Rundle's keen ear for melodies keeps getting sharper as shown on the powerful "Hand of God" that has more of a acoustic folk feel, but still remaining slathered in rock brooding. I can hear hint of country influence on the ballad "Heaven". This is the first song I'm not a hundred percent sold on in the first listen. I think some of the hesitance in the melody and the more minimal arrangement doesn't full fill the promise of the first handful of songs. Though it does improve when the dynamics shift and it builds.

The album returns to the dark grungy tension it excels in on "So Come" . This one benefits from some interesting productions as there is a low frequency that is a gurgling undercurrent. Things turn to a dark indie folk not unlike the kind of creepy corners Chelsea Wolfe hides in on the song "Furious Angel", though it flows very lyrically rather than drags with any kind of doom like under side. The song find it's wing as it progresses and the subtle melodies proves very effective. The lyrics are actually pretty metal in their imagery. "Real Big Sky" closes the album. The guitar has a much rawer production value and creates a juxtaposition to her clear vocal line. This sounds like it could have come off of an album from any of the 90's alt-rock Lilillth Fair divas . It's as hooky as anything Alanis Morrisette might have one at this tempo. While "Heaven" didn't really connect as strongly with me I think the other songs make up for it so I'll give this one a 10 as Rundle continues to shine.

Comes out September 30th on Sargent House.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bölzer : "Hero"

I am still trying to figure out what the hoopla about this band is after having listened to the first song on their debut album. The title track that follows the opener keeps things at a similar pace. This Swiss band sometimes comes across like a blackened thrash version of Motorhead. The cleanly sung vocals sound like they are tone deaf as they are bellowed out of key. They have garnered much of  the buzz of a few eps which even by their label's admission are more roughly recorded than this album. The metal elite might turn on them because this album sounds like they were more pain staking in the studio. Metal kids can be silly like that. "Phosphor" is more driven by blast beats though there is a down tuned Meshuggah like current running under it. The vocals come in after three minutes of this and don't really add a whole lot.

There is a more focused throb to "I am Ill" that allows for the guitar to do a little more in terms of melody. The more Venom like vocal works well enough here. The song that follows "Spiritual Athleticism" plays more of a off a deathly thrashing speed. The mumble clean vocals really don't add much this one either.  When it slows for the swift current of double bass tug with more power these guys come across as being heavier than when they are rushing a more blitzed barrage by you. Sometimes this is handled in a way that reminds me more of Kreator or the more recent Vader. I think they are more musical on "Chlorophyilla". The guitar carries a sharper hook. I am not sure that the vocal have more purpose, but they do jab at you with more solid footing. The sun vocals are a little lower he and this resonance keeps them in key. This album is well played and executed aside from the clean vocals. Production wise all of the guitar parts are where they need to be in the mix in order to bring out what they do best. I'll give this album a 7.5, it sounds good and has a solid head banging drive to it, these guys however seem to be a little more hyped than necessary. If you want some heavier than thrash, but ready for black metal then this album could be your thing.

Warpaint : "Heads Up"

This album is very different from their 2014 self titled effort. The vocals are presented in a less layered manner, giving this a more straight up pop like feel similar to Luscious Jackson . It took a few songs for me to really warm up to it. Though upon a second listen to the sultry " By Your Side". There is a darker mood to this one. The guitar tones writhe around the beat which is more straight forward and almost trip hop like. "New Song" which seems to be the album's first single is much upbeat and the vocal melody has more of Euro- smoothness. The chorus is big and dancey without pandering to the likes of Lady Gaga. The band's strength is clearly their vocal melodies . They compensate for  what can be the some what odd space in some of the arrangements.

They capture some great Depeche Mode like guitar tones on "So Good" which is my favorite song on the album thus far. It works off a steamy groove and vocals that always fall right where they need to . "Don't Wanna" finds the vocals up close on the mic.  When the layers of vocals return it reminds me a little of their previous album, but overall there is a weird purgatory created of being more electronic yet more stripped down. The album's first slip up is the weird wavering "Don't Let Go" which never seems to get a grip in the first place. "Dre" is more like a dreamy laid back excursion Chrvches might go on rather than anything like the Dr. This song has more focus than the previous song, but is still surreal to the point of being murky.

The title track takes a brisk dynamic shift into an almost post-punk direction. "Above Control" finds the back doing what they are best at as both mesmerism and melody are in play. The album closes with the folkish ballad "Today Dear" which feels like the intro to a Brand New song. I guess the wanted a moment of vulnerability. Overall this is a great album with a few weird choices on it. I'll give it an 8.5 and see how it sits with me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bellicose Minds : "the Creature"

It's been three years since the Portland post-punk trio released "the Spine". Their newest opens with a more frantically upbeat number than I remember them having on their 2013 album. One their Bandcamp page the band says that they use big amps and electric drums to make music inspired by rain and cloud. This song seems a little too peppy for rain and clouds. The big amps are creating the great bass tone that opens "Exiled".  This song is tighter and the vocals fit more snugly into the grooves. The title track like the song before it is bass driven. This song glides more smoothly into the shadows. "The Mask" just fades into the background. One thing I have noticed is the vocals are not as aggressive as they once were so his voice isn't commanding you to listen.

There is more punk to the vocals of "Orwell's Troops". They punch out a little more despite being mixed back against the guitar. The mix might be what separates this album from "the Spine" . "Lost" feels more like their earlier work. The guitar coolly coasts around the bouncing bass line.  The chorus doesn't jump out at you but sits back into the moody pace of the song. "A Likely Outcome" is interesting for the first half of the song the vocals take more of a back seat. The vocals when they come in howl in like the wind from the distance.

The album closes with one of the more aggressive songs on the album "Villains" which is another song that will put a slight smile on the pale faces of even the most morose listener who went into this as a fan of "the Spine". There is almost a metal like pattern to the guitar riff. I'll around this up to a 9 it might take the kinder and gentler version of the band a little more time to warm up to me, but they get the job done. The other bands at the forefront of the post-punk revival have been pretty quiet this year so it's good to hear from these guys. This album came out under the radar last week with no hype around it. If you are a fan then it is worth your time to listen to it and hopefully with Halloween creeping up on us more of this will be coming out to play.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Die Antwoord : "Mt. Ninji and da nice time kid"

Ok here we go with the odd ball South African rap group's swan song. "We have Candy" is more theatrical than the kind of odd ball rap that they do best. "Daddy" is more dumbed down almost strip club rap until the chorus kicks and Yolandi takes over with a more interesting cadence. The production on this album is much better than their past releases. There is more an 80s techno to "Banana Brain" Yolandi starts off with singing the hook before the bass drops in to get the rave til dawn really going. Sen Dog from Cypress Hill shows up on "Shit Just Got Real". It works off the same principles and pulses that made Cypress Hill back in the day. Dita Von Teese offers her sultry whisper of "Gucci Coochie" which a Yolandi dominated track that re-visits similar ground they have already danced upon though it might be a little techno tinged this time around.

The guest spots continue with the prayer of Lil Tommy Terror on "Wings on My Penis" , which is more of an interlude. I'm totally sold on the cartoonish vocal Jack Black provides to " Rats Rule". He does his best Tom Waits impersonation. There is more attitude in the stomp of "Jonah Hill", but it turns into just another interlude."Stoopid Rich" finds Ninji rapping over a more trap like backing track. Yolandi's verses continue to be stronger than his. 'Fat Faded Fuck Face" is faded in the sense it feels like it is based off of some drug induced mumbling. Things are a little more cohesive on "Peanut Butter + Jelly". "Alien" is an odd childish lullaby sung by Yolandi. Dreamy and oddly creepy this song reminds me of 'Chim-Chimney"

"Street Light" continues off the darker mood of the previous ditty. This time Ninji is singing. This time around it's better than his previous attempts at singing. Yolandi handles the verses with Ninji falling in behind her though the overall mood of the song is more somber than the type of flow they normally excel at.Though this one grows on me. "Darkling" is another weird lullaby like ballad following in the footsteps of "Alien" but with a little more of a groove to it. They have a hard time staying out of the realm of nursery rhymes when they are not full on glow sticking it to ya. " I Don't Care" lulls on this childish sing song melody. It's more like a techno outro. I'll round this up to a 7.5 which is still a disappointment as they are capable of more. Guess it's better than they break up at this point.


Barghest / Teeth - split cassette

This split between Baton Rogue's Barghest  and the California death metal band Teeth is dense from start to finish. While the two band occupy different genres that have both captured animalistic sonic oppression is very convincing manners. First up is Barghest. These guys are  still a feral as ever, but there is more focus within the songs that make this a much more palatable listen than some of their earlier efforts that I really wanted to like, but sounded like someone taking power tools to a trash can full of rabid kittens. This time they going into their punishing take on black metal with a little more ambiance. On "Born of Tooth and Talon" , there is still the sense that these guys grew up listening to Discharge rather than Iron Maiden . The rumble of the manic barrage  seem to have more direction and shows their maturation as a band.

They confront the problem that faces many "raw black metal" bands trying to keep it real, are really trying to keep it in 1991. The only time I want to hear that is when I go back to listen to "Soulside Journey" There is a more of metal storm brewing over "Coil Strike". These guys are not a Darkthrone or Mayhem cover band in wolves clothing. They do capture a similar drone that recalls that classic era in the second wave of black metal, but this is done in a very organic fashion. What I hear is who they are rather than who they want to be. 'They do not relent with the tempestuous fury and speed that is their calling card. 'Sterile Initiates" reins them in with more of a hammering gallop rather than a flood of tremolo picked guitar and blast beats.  Midway into the song a guitar melody rises from the angry blur to catch my ear. The Nameless Tongue" is one of their strongest offerings here. It has a grisly heart beat that pulses with bile, but carries a dark underbelly of melody when their attack slows into a more deliberate undulation.

The second side of this cassette split is Teeth's very interesting take on death metal. I went into this more familiar with Barghest and it's not secret to regular readers that I prefer black metal to death metal and I was over songs tipping the eleven minute mark back in 2014, so this band really achieved something by winning me over. Their side of this split is one twenty three minute song. It takes you into the sewers of hell and chokes you with demon feces. The vocals are a low growl that are more muffled against the mic than gurgled. These guys are not doom, but in contrast to Barghest they provide a much more dynamic contrast and are not afraid to break things down into droney clean tone guitars. This provides introspection rather than the normally monochrome aggression that most death metal bands come at you with.  Thick with atmosphere, but never lost in minimalist shoe gazing the more serene sections that leave you floating out into the horizon, make the battering blasts more of a brutal contrast.

Those blasts come at nine and a half minutes into the song. They are torn between finding that sweet spot of sonic heaviness and lashing out in a more traditional death metal manner. Even though the song does ebb and flow, I think the overall result they achieve, will not find fans of death metal wishing that these guys were any heavier than what they bludgeon you with here. There are some trickier technical punches and the band shows the ability to lock into some very powerful grooves. Fans of more mainstream metal will be able to find more common ground here and fans of bands like Ulcerate will be right at home. This one ships on October 6th and is only limited to 150 copies so get your pre-order in now.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Giraffe Tongue Orchestra : "Broken Lines"

Right from the first song it's obvious this is going to be a rock record rather than a metal album. With Ben Weinman from Dillinger  Escape Plan  and brent Hinds from Mastodon splitting the guitar duties this is very much a guitarist's album. There are solos bursting out of every nook an cranny. "Crucifixion" was the first song I heard from this album, at the time I wasn't so impressed, but on the second listen it has grown on me. Duvall backing off on the verses with a smoother vocal line, but once they go into the more straight forward chorus it sounds like Queens of the Stoneage. The album continues to improve as it progresses. I really the tension of "No-one is Innocent" . This one reminds me of Mastodon, though that might be in part due to Brent's backing vocal on the chorus.

"Blood Moon" starts off with a more electronic feel and has a more 90's alternative groove to it once it kicks in proper. While this song is certainly an eclectic take on rock it doesn't hook me in on the first listen and the groove seems like it's trying to hard. The guys fueling the grooves on this album are the drummer from the Mars Volta and the bass-player from Zappa Plays Zappa / Dethklok. So this should be easy peas for them. "Fragments and Ashes" sounds like it wants to find common ground between the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Tomahawk. The more angular tension is the songs better moments. Duvall's vocals are not bad they are not always consistent. They do show that he is far more capable than his work with Alice In Chains might suggest.

"Back to the Light" has interesting section, but as a whole is forcing a sonic Rubix Cube or dazzling alt-rock riffs together for better or for worse. The last minute goes off into a funk jam. The female vocals are courtesy of Juliette Lewis. "All We Have is Now"  is more of a ballad. The song is ...nice, but doesn't really go any where. They return to the funk on "Everyone Gets Everything They Really Want". The bass line at one point reminds me of "Sweet Dreams".  There are also echoes of the Cult on this one. A little too happy for me . "Thieves and Whores" starts off with a jazzy guitar interlude before launching off into some 90s rock. At it's heart this song a proggy chaos beating through it. This project could be compared to Faith No More, but Faith No More is both more fluid and aggressive.

The title track is more proggy. The verses make a little more sense than the past few songs. The drumming really shines on this one and Duvall has a lot of soul in his voice here. The vocals are harmonized more like Alice In Chains, though it's unclear what is supposed to be the chorus. I did however enjoy this album much more than I thought I would so rounding it up to an 8.5, though doubt this will make it over to my iPod. If you miss the more progressive moments of 90's alternative then this is for you.

Asphyx : "Incoming Death"

This Dutch death metal band released their first full length in 1991 and have been storming the gates with their very manic take on the genre ever since. Their lead growler did some time in Pestilence, which gives them an edge over being just another death metal band from the 90s. There is more of dry snarling rasp to his weathered voice.  He is also the sole long standing member of the band. These guys are upholding a legacy of a band that hailed from  an era where writing songs came before just being heavy. For the first two song that certainly does the trick for me though I begin to wonder what else can they do?  They do a pretty good job of recreating the feeling of 90's death metal. By the time we get to the third song some of the charm is wearing off of this.

There is a great deal of energy thrusting the riffs of "the Feeder" in your face. They lyrics seem to be about some kind of sci-fi parasite. There is an almost Obituary like gurgle to Martin's tortured vocals chords. 'It Came From the Skies" describes the horror of cosmic rays with a very Slayer influence riff coming out of the verse. This song is compact and catchy , which is a winning combination for these guys. There is a more doom like deliberation to "the Grand Denial" which also makes it one of this album's most convincing songs. They even take this song out with a clean guitar section. Thy go back to raging  on the title track. There is a bigger gallop to "Forerunners of the Apocalypse" which you can check out below. They get darker on " Subterra Incognita". Unlike Auroch whose album I also reviewed today these guys have the needed restraint to not ruin a good thing with un-needed blast of speed and ride the shadow waves of this more brooding beast. They do build the song, but just don't bust into blasting haphazardly.

They do speed up into a more rabid thrashing, but one with a solid groove to it on "Wildland Fire" it reminds me of some of Obituary's more uptempo moments and allows their drummer to show off his double bass. Here the do cut loose more and let their acceleration carry them way in a few places. They same one of the best songs for last in closing with "Death the Only Immortal". It has one of the meanest bass tones I have heard in some time. I'll give this album an 8.5. It has some strong moments and shows great maturation as a band due to it's restraint. When it comes to death metal this might not not always be dark enough for me. If you like straight up no frills death metal from the 90s then this is your jam go ahead a round it up.

Century Media is releasing this album September 30th.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Auroch : "Mute Books"

On their 3rd album this band from Vancouver reaches deeper into the dissonant darkness and still manages to touch on moments of melodic beauty. This doesn't mean that they totally back off from some of the more straight forward death metal cliches, they just run into them when they decide to speed things up. To say this is occult death metal might be an exaggeration, as it doesn't have the cavernous Incantation like bellowing. The vocals do get very low and gurgled almost to the Cannibal Corpses level. The guitar is generally pretty tasteful and on the first song balances out these outbursts. "He Wreathes the Cross" finds them playing into the more heavy handed death metal conventions, which is a little bit of a let down after being shown what they are capable of on the first song.

They back to that darker and more atmospheric place on "Say Nothing". They create an enthralling pulse, but them given into the more savage urge to beat you with speed. The layered vocals make this chaos a little more interesting than if it had been straight up grunting.  But I feel these more brutal displays of speed for the sake of speed are passages to be endured rather than enjoyed. Sure there is some fucking mean as hell guitar work going on, but mean it's all teeth gnashing at once is it really anything we haven't heard before. The sections where the more spoken female voices come in is more intriguing than being blasted to hell and back.

'Tipharethagirion" sounds more like something Deicide would have done. It denser and hammers you with a more noise ridden barrage. Chaos really unfurls in a Slayer / Morbid Angel fashion when it is time to get to the guitar solos.On " the Keeping" They touch on some of the creepiness Slayer once invoked when they did serial killer love songs.This is discarded in favor of brutal bashing after the first minute and then they return for some morbid reflection which to my ears is more powerful than the obvious steam roller sections.The second half of the album finds the songs getting more compactly written. "Her Bidding" is like the song before it in the first minute carries a more interesting vibe that is sacrificed for the sake of beating you into submission. The song does winds it's way around to some more interesting touches which says a lot considering the song is only three minutes long.

They close with a more furious storm on "Cup of Hemlock". It's fast and feral with the low sewer drain vocals giving way to higher snarls where a chorus would be. I'll give this album an 8 as it is very well executed. My only problem with the album is when they go blasting off into some of these sections that throws all caution to the wind for the sake of speed I feel that they are taking the easy way out, but I think that is a genre wide problem and these guys are only doing what is expected and giving it their own spin. If you want brutal death metal with an occult twist this album is worth your time. Profound Lore is releasing it October 21st.

Heavydeath : "In Circles We Die"

There is a raw Celtic Frost like vibe to the brand of deathly doom this Swedish band has returned to  grind out. Very rough around the edges, there is still a well balanced sense of atmosphere even when they chug into the more sludge like "Slumbering Monolith" though I prefer what they were doing on the albums opener. The growls are low and gurgling though still deliver the lyrics in a way that can be understood in one listen. Their drummer also now sits behind the kit for Katatonia, and while he gets the job done here, I think his skills are conveyed better on the new Katatonia album. These guys are of course way heavier than Katatonia, though the guitars are not devoid of melody and care about the songs rather than just crushing you.

"Bleak Future" is more straight forward than the first two song and rides a murky line between being doom and death metal. There is almost more of a black metal drone to the title track.It's not until the vocals going into an almost death rock like singing voice that there is a shift in the song's dynamics.The sung vocal are once again delivered in that manner during "The Few Remains". "Rope of Emptiness" starts off having more of a true doom feel and accelerates into death metal.There is a darker tension to the riff that keeps "Into Death's Black Void" creepy. Once again it finds the bands blurring the boundaries, it's has a dark throb like doom, but a sludgey black metal thing going on depending on where you are at in the song. Not that they every kick into blast beats, but the vocals have an evil scowl to them. There is a slower and more melodic pulse of the doomier closer "the Fallen One".

 Overall the production on this album is a notch above their previous full length. They incorporate a wide range of guitar tones and atmospheric sounds making for a more well rounded experience . I'll round this one up to a 9, though the jury is still split as to if I need this in rotation on a daily basis.  The songs are not too sprawling with the "the Fallen One" running just over eleven minutes. But the generally keep it reined in around the eight minute mark. This is being released on November 25th by Iron Bonehead.

The Masquerade Goes Underground

I don't delve to far into the local Atlanta music scene with this blog, but I have plenty of friends in touring band's from all parts of the world this will effect so I will weigh in as the Creative Loafing has only given one perspective to the news that the venue which has been rumored to close for years now is finally leaving the historic excelsior mill location on North Ave and moving to Underground atlanta. Under Ground Atlanta is a shopping and entertainment district that open in 1969. It was closed in 1980 after the MARTA transit system began running trains in 1979 and brought with it crime that was deemed uncontrollable in that area. The area was revitalized and converted into a shopping mall and re-opened in 1989. Then in 1992 with the Rodney King Verdict the area was damaged by looters who attacked tourists and after this incident and caused a 40 percent drop in sales. The area has struggled since even after the 2004 incentive passed by the city to allow bars there to serve until 4:00 am .

This incentive did spark the opening of two clubs Alley Kat and Future. Opened by a former employee of the classic Atlanta goth/fetish club the Chamber that was popular in the 90s, Future sought to serve as a home for displaced Chamber patrons and Alley Kat was more of a rock club that filled the void left by the last bastion of cock rock known as 9 Lives in the Little 5 points district. Atlanta has always been more of a punk town, because college age kids can play punk without it effecting their partying, you can get away with practicing minimally if you are only playing four chords in the first place. Even Mastodon has their punk roots. So real rock clubs come and go. If you are not the hipster flavor of the week playing at the Earl, the 529 or the Star Bar. Then Masquerade has been one of the only other options in-town. Atlanta is very divided this way most rock music is played outside the perimeter and then by radio listening suburbanites who think Slipknot is a new band.

The question not answered in what I have read about this move is...what is going to be different than when we tried this 12 years ago . If anything the area has gotten worse and Underground Atlanta is not much different than the other storefronts in the area where you can get gold in your teeth or minutes on your phone. In 2014 the area was up for sale to the developer WRS, who was going to turn it into yet another mixed use development. Which is what is replacing the Masquerade.  In fact these mixed use developments also close Thunder Box a rehearsal space that was located behind the Masquerade.  One of the first nails in the coffin of the city's hope to ever become  a rock town. The move has been called 'temporary" until they can find a better location. Think the kids are venturing into that part of downtown to see Cute is What We Piss On? Think again. To compare it to the Mammal Gallery a few blocks away is a mis-step as well. That is basically a bigger version of Under the Couch, where hipster- Georgia Tech students pretending to be punk rockers on their parents credit cards go. Here is the reality check, can I get more more reasonable thinking in the monitors?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trap Them : " Crown Feral"

I was surprised how much I liked the first song, the second song was more along the lines of what I expected from the guys a grittier Converge like metallic hardcore. There is a touch of Motorhead to the drumming on "Prodigala". This slows into a more mid paced riff with angular edges. "Luster Pendulums" finds are more savage speed and taste for chaos beginning to take over. "Malengines, Here Where Should they Be" is very similar to the previous song. While they have a good dense guitar sound that is very organic, it begins to give the songs a uniformity that starts to wear on me until they go up the octave on the break down. They continue to rely on brutality going into "Speak Nigh". The dry angry rasp of the vocals is a monotone layer of white noise at this point.

I was beginning to feel my intrigue shift into disappointment, so it's good that slowed things down into a darker pound for "Twitching In the Auras". "Revival Spines" got off to more of a punk start and while it maintains the level of venom this album lashes out with it blared past me and did not engage my ears beyond surface level noise. Bass starts off "Stray of the Tongue", but once it blasts off we are along for the same ride all over again. For regular readers of this sit it should come as no surprise that I prefer the darker more death metal like beginning to "Phantom Air" that the more monochrome shades of anger this album throws at you.

I'll round this album up to a 7. I would say this is not my thing, but that is not completely true because I love Converge and much of what these guys do is derivative of that sound. I think they are very capable at what they do. The vocals certainly could use more dynamics, but aside from that the performance is solid. I am guessing if you are  a fan of this band then you are not looking for them to really venture out side of the box they have made for themselves and they will not disappoint in that regard.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Opeth : "Sorceress"

Their last album was so bad it made me give up on them, but I'm such a sucker for "Blackwater Park" that I'll give this one a shot in hopes things have taken a heavier turn. The opening song only re-enforces the feeling that it's going to be flowers and prog all over again. The spiralling keyboards of the title track only build off of this fear of their over indulgent ways coming back to haunt. I can only hear wanna be hippies shimmying to this at some out door festival. A harder rock stomp develops, and the clean vocals don't bother me it's the fact there best attempts to be heavy are not convincing me that they know how to get back to their metal roots that I am bugged by. "the Wilde Flowers" finds me now hard pressed to tell the difference between Opeth and King's X. If you are a guitar player the solo section of this song might make you a believer, but if song are more than a bookend for guitar solos then you might be left wanting.

"Will O the Wisp" has a rambling Emerson Lake and Palmer feel to it. The first half is pretty unimpressive folk rock even when the drums come in. I could see this working much better on a Jethro Tull album. Once again the guitar solo really shines, but the song around it not so much. The first heavier riff shows up on "Chrysalis" . They really want to be Deep Purple here. The keyboards are allowed to run rampant.  This all works much better than the bulk of what I have heard on this album. There is no denying these guys are talented, but the bigger question is can they still write biting songs or is it going to be all jamming all the time?

The second take on the title track doesn't offer much hope in it's elf pleasing folk rock. There are cool sounds, but it has all the meat of cotton candy. I have heard more acoustic guitar than electric so far. This is fine if you are making "Led Zeppelin 3", but there has been no "Immigrant Song" to give this album any balls. I do like the fact "the Seventh Sojourn " has a darker exotic feel to it.  "Strange Brew" is not the Cream song. I also like the song " A Fleeting Glance" which serves as a good example of what they are capable of doing and ...should be doing if they are not playing metal as it harkens back to "Damnation". "Era" has more drive, but melody wise the vocals feel like they are all over the place and not locked in with the music beneath them.  This is a much better album than "Pale Communion" though still lacks balls, I'll give it a 6.

Various Artists : Helmet's "Meantime"(redux)

When the source material is this solid it's hard to wrong. Vocally most of these band's are going a harder route. It's not until Ken Mode bellies up to "Turned Out" that I recognize a band. Iron Weed goes with the more melodic vocal for "Give It" and makes them a band that I would like to take further note of. The first two bands I Become Death and Earthship, could basically be the same band they just happen to be covering really good songs. Sunflo'er takes on the song that would put them under the most scrutiny. They try to give more of their own touch, and fail big with the iconic chorus.This is a poor choice all the way around even in the face of their most creative efforts. I normally like these sort of things as it gives me a familiar forum to experience new bands, but in this case it also shows me bands to avoid.

Ken Mode doesn't really do anything special with "Turned Out". I would say the first three bands to a better job with their songs. Kings Destroy does a better with their take on "He Feels Bad". Meek is Murder's "Better" is easily tuned out and becomes background noise. The bare bones vocal of Iron Weed's "You Borrowed" is a bold move and instills more urgency to figure out what those guys are about.The Glorious Rebellion Plays it much safer on "FBLA II". Fuck the Fact doesn't really do much with "Role Model" .

Then come Helmet tributes from other albums. Fashion Week does a pretty good job with "I Know' to offer some redemption from the earlier mishaps. The best thing I have heard fro Rosetta might be their version of "Like I Care". Livver's version of "Sinatra" is ok, I don't feel much of a sense of who they are as a band. Heads are pretty true to "Blacktop" while altering the guitar tone it make it their own sluggish dirge. This version might even be more interesting than the original. Blackwolfgoat does a fine job with "Bad Mood". Brief Lives  uses a gruffer vocal tone for their shot at "Milquetoast" which I think after "Unsung" is going to be the song under the most scrutiny. Overall if you are a Helmet fan this is worth your time. Iron Weed seems to be the best band on here. I'll give this a 7.5.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Darkthrone : "Arctic Thunder"

Their 16th album opens with a song that debuted on the inner-webs "Tundra Leach" . This one churns at more of a Celtic Frost pace, even when it shifts into higher gear. Nocturno has more of a gurgling gruffness to his voice than we heard on "Underground Resistance". The pick up the pace up to an almost blackened punk charge on "Burial Bliss" . It doesn't really strike me as being as inspired as "Tundra Leach". The guitar tone shifts and things gets darker going into the more NWOBHM guitar melody of "Boreal Fiends" the double bass that swells up in this song is impressive. It also features the first place where cleanly sung vocal surface, though only for a second. The majority of the vocal are in a more Tom Warrior like rasp.

They touch on the more Motorhead side of classic metal with flourishes of almost tremolo picked tension in the verses of "Inbred Vermin". The doomy plunge this song takes is an effective shift in dynamics. There is more of a powerful proto-thrash feeling to the powerful riff that propels the title track. They slow down into and lurk around the more doom tinged riff on "Throw Me Through the Marshes". It eventually builds into a more black metal like passage. The darker cloud  that haunts this album hovers closely over "Deep Lake Tresspass" which is one of the album more classic black metal moments. They go back into more of a Celtic Frost like place to close the album with "the Wyoming Distance".

Overall I would say this is a heavier and darker album that takes us back to more of a "Circle the Wagons" like place. I will give this album a 9.5 for me as there are some songs that are going to need to grow on me as "Wyoming Distance" and "Burial Bliss" seem a little more dialed in after the first listen. I have to ask myself when I want to listen to Darkthrone that is not from their classic era of second wave black metal am I going to reach for this album or "the Cult is Alive" ? Only time will tell, however Fans of the band will find this sit well next to their other work.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Sumerlands : "s/t"

Here is an actual metal version of what Ghost first wanted to do, though there is more Judas Priest in the fire they attack the riffs with. Vocal Phil Swanson from Hour of 13 and Atlantean Codex doesn't overly cheese it up with the power metal vocals. The production gives everything a dense grittiness and leaves this album having a classic metal sound. "The Guardian " locks into a fist pumping arena rocking riff. The intensity conveyed is effective due to the song's razor sharp focus. There is some melodic ebb and flow in the dynamics, without losing any of the drive. Despite the first two songs being so perfectly written, they begin to lose steam going into "Timelash".

The riff seems to be plucked out of a hat of generic 80's metal riffs. The vocals follow a vocal line almost to much like the previous song and the chorus fails to punch out from the verse and grab you. Without the guitar killing it, your attention begins to turn to the lyrics which are a bunch of hybrid metal nothing. The gallop picks up on "Blind", but the song is otherwise straight forward.  Things finally change on "Haunted Forever" . The riff backs off , but the vocal follow a rather stiff pattern and the melody takes an approach that doesn't vary from the other songs and makes Swanson come across as a one trick pony."Spiral Infinite" comes hammering at you harder like a pumped up version of "Electric Eye". There are some weird effects in a break down, but nothing really else dynamically to add to the melodic depth.

Finally Swanson lends some different accents to song than the normally rigid patterns he has stuck to for the bulk of the album. The final song is more of a instrumental outro, that brings in some weird sounds that made me wonder if I was still listening to the same album. I'll round this down to a 7.5 , because I was disappointed

Ghost : "Popestar"

I have become more disgusted with this band over the years, and I actually liked their first album. But I am willing to give them the chance at redeeming themselves. The new song "Square Hammer" is a well written pop song, that is in no way metal. Shakira has song that are as rock as this one. The rest of this ep is covers. The first being Echo & the Bunnymen's " Nocturnal Me". Poppa Smurferitus, is incapable of inflecting the same kind of morose darkness into his voice that Ian McCulloch has. The guitar tone chugs in a more hard rock way than Echo & the Bunnymen's version, but you are leading people to believe you are metal band and you have to work to get more heft into your guitar tone than a new wave band from the 80s  then there is a problem. The fact the song is way over produced doesn't help.

They chose an obscure dance song from Simian Mobile Disco to cover next. This is more of a ballad. I could heard Justin Timberlake. I hope they get a house re-mix of this song so it can play in gay clubs everywhere because that is where these guys truly belong. Poppa Smurf's voice sounds better here, but I think I would preferred them to have covered a Pet Shop Boys song if we were going in this direction.  His voice is lacking on "Missionary Man" , Annie Lennox has way more balls to her voice than this guy. I am guessing he not used to being in the missionary position. They picked an obscure Swedish pop song to cover to close this ep and it sounds like a song that got cut from "Hedwig and the Angry Inch". I have no clue how even the most devote fans of the band could defend what sounds like a shitty 80's pop from Australia.

I'll give this album a 4, there are few moments and Poppa Smurfette's voice sounds better here, but over all it's pretty awful and Ghost fan's that stick with this band should be ashamed of themselves if they are not already dancing to the house re-mix of the Simian Mobile song at a club whose name could also double for the name of a steak house.

Hesitation Wounds :"Awake For Everything".

Just catching up with this band who put this album out back in May, but it's never too early to catch up on the rest of the year as end of the year lists will be on us before we know it. This band plays a very raw and emotive form of hard core that uses a sonic drone to their attack. The songs are short and sweet, under the three minute mark. The second song "Bleach" doesn't strike me as being as inspired as the opening track. "Hands Up" has more groove as well as sonic hammering, making their only weak point the vocals that scream in the same tone and cadence most of the time. Their solution for this is sit the vocals further back in the mix for the darker, moodier "New Abuse". The guitar touches on almost shoe gaze like melodies. There is more of a grind core explosion for the punk of "All We Know".  At under a minute there is not much they can do to develop into from being a temper tantrum into an actual song.

The verse guitar to "Ends (pt1) helps keeps it from just being another stampede. "Guthrie" starts off in a more one dimensional direction, but the guitars expand this and make it bigger. Finally the vocals shift into a low murmur rather than a scream and the guitar weave a dark web that reminds me of Converges more introspective moments. "Teeth" takes a dirty more metallic guitar tone and sets it over a punk rock pacing.This is one of the album's more thoughtfully written songs. Even at a minute and a half they cram enough into it to make it work. The vibe changes dramatically on the second part of "ends" . The vocals go from a more narrative tone into the angered screaming. The guitars shift with this. At three minutes and forty -two seconds this is one of the album's longer songs.

There is a more expressive and melodic sense to the more screamo "Streamlined" that closes the album. The guitar melodies are cool and the vocals even seem to be letting his voice crack in a little different manner though it's far from a dramatic change in what he does. Vocals aside this album is pretty strong I'll give it an 8.


Friday, September 16, 2016

The Pine Box Boys : "the Feast of Three Arms"

If you like Voltaire and Tenacious D, then you might have a higher tolerance for some of these shenanigans than I. Production wise this album is raw , but not in a punk way. I would expect a little more reverb, as singing about your mom killing her self needs a darker back drop. There is still to much of a skip in the step of "Comfy In My Coffin". Some of the glee that should be toned down here is in the bright voice of their lead singer. Some of the guitar tones work well, but if this was sung in a more ghostly baritone then it much be a much different story. It's not until "That Boy is Trouble" that we get the shadows coming in to create a more sinister atmosphere. "Parmalene" is like many of the other songs in that it is way too happy to sell the lyrical content.

Some of the spoken word interludes seem like they would just take up space on the ole iPod. Sure they are telling a story, but I think the music should do the talking here. So for the sake of this review I am just going to ignore these sections. The blue grass swing of "I Killed the Band", might not make them horror billy , but it is well played. There is more hell-fire breathed into the up tempo "Mighty Mighty Preacher". This narrative is not as bleakly told as Murder By Death's "Who Will Survive and What Will Be Left of Them?"  The murder ballad "the Judge" better than most of the songs. "Rise" finds them returning to a lighter tone that reminds me of the Greatful Dead. I can see neo-hippies smoking pot to this one. There is more of a folk feel to "Dog Named Death". It's a song that is good for what it is, I think how they have branded themselves is deceptive as they would go over much better with the folky flannel shirt crowd that latched onto Mumford and Sons, as well as fans of the jam scene. Aside from the lyrics rarely is anything dark about the music. At this point in the album I think there are certain Dave Matthews albums that have a darker tone than these guys.

After a little spoken word section "Meet My Wife" kicks in. It finds them trying to harmonize up in their falsettos for better or worse. "Blameless" is more of a country ballad.
Maybe their first four albums are a lot darker, some how I doubt it. "Rushee -Roo -Let" has a more rock feel to it. I can hear this going over well with the Widespread Panic crowd.There is some almost proggy drumming to this song. They are more straight up blue grass on the quick paced square dance of "the River" .

Spiritus Mortis : " the Year is One"

The first thing that hits me about this band from Finland is ex Reverend Bizarre singer Albert Witchfinder has a better voice than I expected. This phrasing reminds me of an older Geddy Lee, though his voice hover's around a mid range with a touch of grit to it. While I prefer clean vocals in metal or any music, there is a very delicate balance that must be achieved or it's easy to fall into the mire of cheese and come across sounding like one of the many power-metal band's that can't shake the ghost of the 80s. Albert is clearly a tenor, but uses a great deal of restraint rather than yodeling all over the place. "I am the Name On Your Funeral Wreath" is a more morning form of doom, but doesn't have the same power of the more up tempo first song.

There is more focus and almost a more Candlemass thing going on for the driving "Babylon Working". Lyrically there seems to be some interest in the occult, though the lyrics seems to be more of a dabbling notion. Harsher vocals begin to creep in a little.  The chug of "Jesus Christ, Son of Satan" is pretty powerful. "Holiday in the Cemetery"begins to cast a little light as to why this band is not at their strongest when slowing down to get more morbid. While the singer's voice is a selling point, when he drops into lower keys it often sounds like he doesn't know what to do with himself. Finding his real inner evil and not just the lyrical content is where Albert needs to find his way to. This wandering vocal makes the nine minute "Holiday in the Cemetery" feel every second of nine minutes. The organ sound on this song helps the atmosphere, and as it progresses finds them capturing the needed mood to move in a direction that convinces me they are into necrophilia.

They are more convincing in their intentions to be a doom band on "She Died A Virgin". The lyrics to this one are a little more of a mystery. Not as dynamic as some of the other songs, they are effective at dragging you with them. "Black Magic , White Powder", deals with the subject matter more seriously than say "Snow Blind". I am back to hearing the older Geddy Lee in the phrasing. "World of No Light" doesn't really seem sure of it's self , like Albert came in an over dubbed the vocals without ever playing it live in the same room with the rest of the band, and judging by the fact they are playing  only one show for the rest of the year, It is more than likely a fair assessment. Overall if you are looking for doom in the realms of classic metal then these guys are for you I'll give the album an 8.5.

Candiria : "While They Were Sleeping"

When you hear this album you will become aware of how ahead of their time this band was since they were doing thing before even Dillinger Escape Plan. Not that they were the first to combine jazz and hip-hop with metal as Mr. Bungle , Mordred, Scatterbrain and 24-7 Spyz had already been there and done that. They have reined in what I remember them doing and smoothed over some of the hard core out. This can really be heard in the T melodic sense to "Mereya" that recalls the Deftones in the hook. This comes across as even being watered down to create a sonic conformity to where this kind of music went by the time we get to "Wandering Light". I like the melodic break in this song, it makes more a forgiving of sounding like so many of the Myspace bands that came after them.

They get a little more experimental on "the Cause" has a distorted filter on the vocal and rides a more tense groove. There is a more mainstream metal feel to 'Forgotten" that finds them playing into the more emo-metal, but it is well done and well written so hard to argue against. Granted some of the changes I hear in their sound when listening to songs like "One of You Will Betray Me" is the slicker production. So they might have sounded like this back in the day if the technology had been there. I will say they changes are often not as jarring as they used to be and the jazz influence is dialed back. Hearing a ballad like "Opaque" is pretty weird as I really only caught there first album so I missed them going into the flood of emo bands.

They come back harder on "The Whole World Will Burn". It feels like they are trying a little too hard to achieve the hard core break down feeling. I believe them more on the chorus. There is a more middle road approach to metal core on "Behind these Walls".  "With Broken Bones" is harder, is also reminds me a little of Papa Roach. That's not a deal breaker. "Ten Thousands Tears" finds them playing it safe with the hard core metal hybrid, sure it's a little angular in places, but the revert to being second rate Deftones a little too often. "Servitude"is dark and cool. This is generally well done though this more relaxed, keeping it simple version of the band reminds me of Embodyment. I'll give this album a 7, Embodyment is more my thing if I am going for urban white light rock.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Okkultokrati : "Raspberry Dawn"

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

They flirt with industrial a little on "Future War" , but it sounds more like Venom jamming to old Ministry. They are so raw that you barely notice the synths in the background as they coming charging out.  I like the sung vocals that come in at the two and a half minute mark. At minutes they really pound at you with this one ,while adding varied layers that shows maturity on their part. "Ocular Violence" touches a little on new wave, if set in a crusty cave. The lead vocals still sound like Cronos, there is a ghostly whispered vocal in the mix. The song finds them touching on goth as   it moves at more of dance pacing.  They drag you back to the gutter with the more battering punk of "Magic People". They are partying at the cross roads of where metal and punk once met.

I'll go ahead and round this one up to a 9 for now, I am not sure how it will grow on me as production wise it''s so rough around the edges. The Venom thing it has going sometimes makes me want to just go ahead and go listen to Venom if we are going to go there. Overall if you like punk and metal then this album is worth your time as long as you don't mind getting your ears a little dirty when it comes to lo -fi rumbling. Southern Lord is releasing this Sept 23rd.

Survive : "RR7349"

These guys are now on your radar because two of their members scored "Stranger Things". The question is what can they do as an entire unit? It's very similar to what you heard with 'Stranger Things" vintage 80's synths that take you back to the time when horror movies where innocent fun. It's highly atmospheric with more groove than drone though sonically sometimes comes closer to krautrock than say dark-wave. The second song "Other" is slower and more ghostly than the opener. It sounds like the kind of music that robots would do drugs to. "Dirt' weaves a similar web though it doesn't feel quite as compelling, I am beginning to feel like a need a laser show to go with this album. The 808 drum sound to "High Rise" and the arpeggiated synth sound gives this one better sense of movement, but the chord progressions are beginning to sound the same.

"Wardenclyffe" has more of a stomp to it's groove though never comes close to the kind of kick most industrial has. The synth melodies in this song get a little more interesting and almost have me bobbing my head despite their best efforts to drone me out with some of the narcotic sonics. "Sorcerer" is darker, but more abstract and ambient as it hangs on the lush synth pad sounds. It never really takes as much form as the other songs and has a more minimal arrangement. "Low Fog" even pushes the envelope of ambiance further and lives up to the title.

"Copter" is one of this album's strongest songs thanks to it's powerful pulse.It fades out in a wave of ambient muck, but keeps it's momentum for the bulk of the song. "Cutthroat" closes the album. It is more foreboding, but also sounds like old school arcade game music. I'll give this album a 8.5. It's not something I need to listen to on a daily basis and wouldn't make it over to my iPod, but for what it is does a great job of using analoge synths to paint these bleak landscapes.


Ancient : " Return to the Land of the Dead"

Zel is the only original member, but Nicholas Barker of Dimmu / Cradle of Filth fame is laying down the drums. Dark and driven with the cold atmosphere that should run through black metal's veins a song that drops into a more mid paced march like "the Sempiternal Haze" still feels black enough to it's core even when the acoustic guitar and whispered female vocals come in to silence unbelievers. Far less theatrics and pageantry than some of the other projects Barker has drummed for who went sideways into a more symphonic metal direction. The drumming is really what hammers the heart of this album.  To the point of where there thunder almost dominate the mix and finds the guitar stepping behind it. These guys are old pros and it shows in their song writing chops that never forget these songs can not live on blast beats and double bass alone.

They might not possess the feral blitzkrieg of energy some bands use today, but the gradual build into the blast beats of "The Ancient Disarray" works so much better. The gallop this song finds is pretty powerful and works in a way like classic Immortal. They do get back to blasting on "Occlude the Gates" . Two and a half minutes in this shifts towards a more melodic respite before charging back onto the battlefield. This song is much more straight forward than the previous songs that followed the title track. The guitar solo adds a little texture and is generally something you don't hear much of on black metal albums. They return to a more frenzied pace with "Defiance and Rage". These songs are no long winding drones, but very concise and focused. The vocals in more of a snarling croak than Abbath's delivery. Overall I would say they are angrier sounding than Immortal. The two and a half minute mark seems to be the way they have timed what works best for them when it comes to when they should switch things up as it begins to become a constant.

The vocals become more whispered when accompanied by the acoustic tones that open "the Prodigal Years". It's some really tasteful guitar work, but more of an interlude than a song. They lock into another raging storm on "the Awakening".  There are enough blast beats to make most fans of black metal happy here. "Death Will Die" finds a dark groove that is tempered with a similar anger that most black metal is these days , but it is fine tunes through a filter of their veteran song writing skills. They hit a more raging speed that shows cases a little more flash from the guitars on the dizzying "the Spiral". Them racing around at this speed in this way doesn't do a lot for me. Their is more melodic nuance to "Petrified By Their End" it finds the band coming from a more powerful place with this more mid-tempo pacing that builds into a gallop.

The close the album with a cover of Bathory's "13 Candles" from the album "Under the Sign of the Black Mark". It's well done, though not the most challenging song to begin with. Over all this album is what you want from this band. It tends to take less chances and become more uniform as it progresses, but is pretty solid I'll around it up to an 8.

Kidneythieves : " The Mend"

It sounds like no time has passed and they are picking up where they left off. When you are ahead of your time then this is fine. Free Dominguez is obviously a vampire since her voice has not aged. "the Co-dependent Song" finds them letting up on some of the more industrial strength aggression very early on and putting them in a zip-code much close to Guano Apes. The electronics of "Who You Are" is more modern, but more pop than industrial. There is more of a Nine Inch Nails like tension to that what you would typically hear from radio oriented pop. They take a darker turn on "In Love With a Machine". This song has a really cool synth bass line that holds it together. Not as dark is the sultry simmer of "Kush Cloud" that sounds like it's about a drug dealer.  Wouldn't go as far as to call it filler, but it's the first chink in the armor.

The beat to "Migration" reminds me of Katy Perry's "E.T.", which is not a deal breaker for me. This however not as driving of a song as Perry's with a more relaxed vocal that works, but could have used more aggression to really lock me in. There is more punch thanks to the first guitar riff that really stands out on "Let Freedom Ring". There are darker overtones to "the Solution is In the Trees". The overall vibe I get from the song is that it reminds me of when the Gathering first started dabbling in electronics. There is a more trip-hop like beat to "Living Like You Did". The groove and the vocals work together and find them back in classic form. There is a looser ambiance to "World For Us' that is almost a ballad that could be found on a No Doubt album as long as they are in their more new wave phase.

This new kinder, gentler version of Kidneythieves closes out the album with an even more atmospheric piece. I'll around this up to a 9 and ponder if this is what I need in my iPod in 2016 or do I want to upload their first album since it's more industrial sounding. If you are a fan then this will make your day, because even a more pop minded version of this band is better than most of the other shit out today and a reminder that music was once better. They Kick Starter'ed this so there was no labels pressuring them to go one way or another.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wrekmeister Harmonies : "Light Falls"

In a similar sonic space as Swans if we are talking about of the more atmospheric moments. The expanded line-up now features members of Godspeedyoublackemperor!, which also clues you in as to what you are getting yourself into. It's a shame I don't do drugs anymore, because these guys would be the perfect music to drop some acid to if you were feeling more meditative than going with Skinny Puppy. Drums come in to help ground "the Light Burns Us All" which is what the female vocals were chanting earlier in the album. The builds into a heavier pulse. There is more sonic intensity, but it's not heavy as in metal. However this would work better on a list of of non-metal artists that would appeal to metal heads than some of the choices place upon the list that Invisible Oranges released. Not sure how emo or the Arctic Monkeys works for anything, but tepid click bait.

Thematically the album is based around the concept of the gradual change from light to darkness and I can hear how dusk might be conveyed in the atmosphere of "Light Sick". The violin cuts through the minimalist ambiance. The drums once again elevate the intensity by kicking the song into an almost "No Quarter " like groove. There is a very similar dynamic to the formula this album seems to have established on the other songs , starting more sedate then swelling into a sonic storm cloud. The spoken word vocals return on "Where Have You Been My Lovely Son?". This really feels more like an interlude that "Some Were Saved, Some Drowned" pours out of. The vocals rise out of their more narrative to build into more of a yell. The reprise of "Where Have You Been My Lovely Son?" is more of an outro as it doesn't really expand much more on what they have already done, except expand the lyrical perspective.

There are some pretty pleasing sounds on this album that certainly massaged my ear drums the right way, but I am not sure this is an album that I would derive a great deal of listening out of due to the fact it's mainly instrumental and it works of the same vibe for the bulk of the album. I will give this album an 8 as this project successfully recorded what they set out to do and are talented musicians. If you are fan of post-rock this might go a little further for you.