Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Austra : " Future Politics"

This project came into my awareness when I was tunneling through the dark layers of the inner trying to find more "witch house" acts, this is around the same time period I discovered Chelsea Wolfe & Zola Jesus. Katie Stelmanis is voice and brains behind this. Not as dark as some of the other artists who crawled up from the witch house scene, her magick is woven with a breezy atmosphere. While electronic at it's core the songs are written with enough heart in them to still feel more organic than your average pro-tooling button pusher. The production is a mix of fine tuning and fuzzy lo-fi beats, but here voice is clearly what holds these songs together as the piano riffs are mixed further back.

There is more emphasis placed on the title track, which gathers into a pretty tasty groove that ebbs down into piano interludes. Her vocals have a quirkier tone as she gets all Millennial lyrically. I do not let this deter me from the song. While it is very smooth, "Utopia" seems like a song that would be filler for Imogen Heap. Not a bad song , just doesn't strike me as being as inspired. There is a a more ambient new wave feel to it. There is a more experimental atmosphere to "I Am a Monster" this is very conducive for her to go up into her head register.  If you are going to do dancey electro pop that is thoughtful and not choking on bubble gum "I Love You More than You Love Yourself" this the way to go.

They lyrics to "Angel In Your Eye" are pretty smart and the groove to this song is not far behind in gray matter. There is a more head nodding beat behind "Freepower" which is another one that takes what Imogen Heap does in a more surreal direction while still putting some dance in your step. Lyrically I like the more metaphysical message within "Gaia" , musically it's a shade more dialed in. "Beyond a Mortal" is more ambient and a little weird, but still makes the most of it's tempo and melodies. The album closes with "43" which is what happens when witch house grew up out of the hipster art show and became smart pop.  I'll give this album a nudge up to a 9.5 as I can hear it growing on me.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Ever Circling Wolves : "Of Woe, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Gloom"

If you saw my article on the mission statement for this blog in which I pondered what I was going to be listening for entering into going into 2017  that I called ....
"Metal : no middle of the Road"
( which you can read here...http://abysmalhymns.blogspot.com/2017/01/metal-no-middle-of-road.html) I talked about what I am looking for is not bands who take the easy way out and do what every one else is doing, so this band from Finland is certainly worth championing due to their originality. This doesn't mean they have forsaken key components for metal and twisted them into something no recognizable to the average metal head in a Morbid Angel t-shirt. After a three minute introductory instrumental that throw some melodic death metal at you that is mid to doom paced. The organic guitar tones allow the riffs to breathe and the notes to remain distinguishable. This ear for production that was put into the production of this album certainly lends it self to supporting their adventurous style of songwriting.

Their influences are worn to heavily on their sleeves , I can hear some touches of Enslaved and Opeth, but when things take a doomier turn they are more like Evoken if they were a shade lighter. They are quick to drive the point home with powerful chugs that are hard to not move your neck to.The layered interplay of guitar is one of the band's strengths . Three minutes in they speed things up and begin to remind me a little of Tribulation. Seven minutes in I am surprised by the inclusion of clean vocals . Now that is the way to use them.

There is a powerful back bone to the melodic classic rock running in the veins of " In the Trench" . This song does wind along a more jammy groove that finds the band in a much more melodic place than earlier in the album and some really tasty guitar work in play. "Challenger Deep" has an almost Tool like progressive rock feel to it. Four and a hald minutes the more jangling guitar tone finds this has transitioned into more of a post-rock feel. "Deeper" once again utilizes clean vocals and starts off at more of a ambling strum. This brings Agalloch to mind. The sung vocals here are not bad, but not as effective as when we first heard them used earlier in the album, I think a little goes a long ways here.

There is a darker menace lurking in "Lenore". The layered vocals open the song with more of a spoken narrative, before a more traditional metal heaviness takes over. Lyrically it does reflect Poe's themes. They relax into a more jammy progression of atmosphere with more jazz infused drumming. The clean vocals at the end of the song could stand to sit back further in the mix rather than being so up front. They close the album with the 15 minute "These are Ashes , These Are Roots". I like the darker doom vibe they use here. Five minutes in the back off back into their more melodic style of playing, but with a darker vibe to it. They jamming that they build this into is pretty tasteful, doubt it will see the light of day on my iPod , but it is well done. Overall this album is pretty incredible and really sets the bar high for death metal to come so I will give it a 9.5 and see how it grows on me.

This was just released on Cimmerian Shade Records

Friday, January 27, 2017

Mors Principium Est : "Embers of a Dying World"

This is death metal for people whose favorite band is Dream Theater. I am ok with death metal being melodic, but it still needs to be dark. When it sounds like you are wearing pirate shirts then it doesn't come across as aggressive to me. This is a similar problem that I have with Dark Tranquility. I know some people consider this band to be a big deal so I am going to keep listening. If you jerk off to dudes jerking off on guitars then you will also like this album. By the time I make it to "Into the Dark" it is all beginning to run to together for me. I can hear where the At the Gates influence sets in for this sort of thing. Since they are from Finland I would have thought they were going to be darker and not such a strong Swedish influence would be present. It's well executed and crafted , but doesn't strike me as having much in the way of balls as from the double bass and vocals.

Some of the guitar melodies almost layer a coat of cheese to the beginning of "Death is the Beginning" which has it's fate sealed in flowers by the female vocals that come in. This would be pretty heavy for Nightwish. They open up "the Ghost" with a very ballad like piano part before coming up with a late 80s power metal groove. There is more of a thrash feel to this song making it one of the better ones. Ville the led growler has a good lower growl when he chooses to go down there but uses more of a mid range At the Gates like growl most of the time. The lower one is heavier to me. I can deal with the flowery goth that opens "Agns Dei" even if it is an interlude to showcase a guitar solo that would work better as part of a larger song.

These guys might work better as a dramatic thrash band as that is what is happening on "the Colors of the Cosmos" which is a pretty damn good song. There is a more neo-classical power metal vibe underlying the last song "Apprentice of Death". This one has some groove and things lock in well together. Pretty solid and these guys need to put away the flower arrangements more often to get more power behind their punch. I'll round this one up to an 8, the album sounds good and they are good what they do , what they do isn't how I prefer my death metal and has too much wanking around.... but you might be a wanker and into that.

Rozamov " This Mortal Road"

If you told me these guys were from Atlanta instead of Boston I would believe you as this kind of thing was big in the ATLa few years back, lumbering yet hip doomed out sludge that has melodic chord progression that sounds like indie rock pumped up on steroids. The vocals are an afterthought and pretty sparse. These are probably Berklee kids as their compositions move more like movements than verses. "Wind Scorpion" crawls out of a feed back drenched hesitation and takes it's time to rise up into a song. The vocals shift into more of a sludge like bark. When kind of makes them fade into being just another one of many sludge bands I have already heard.

"Serpent Cult" stands out with both it's vocal melody and chord progression. The only thing aside from density and pacing it shares with the other songs is it's tempo. The barked vocals come in make it carry a more conforming sludge sound.By the time we get to the eleven and a half minute "Inhumation" that closes the album they are jumping on the Neurosis bandwagon, by Neurosis we are really turning the clock back to "Through Sliver and Blood". Go ahead and say that's not fair all sludge bands are influenced by them and I'll say well give me something more original then cause I own the Neurosis catalog. Seven minutes in and we ware still hanging on the same chords, they aren't bad chords just I have already heard this band do better on this album.

I'll round this down to a 7.5, I think the song writing gets a little lazy and it's easier to default into the safe roaring and rolling cascade of sludge pounding than carve out new sounds and paths to journey down, which is what Neurosis did, they could have easily just copied Swans and Killing Joke and while that influence is there , they took it and made it something else.If you are hungry for more thinking man's metal with a tough bearded outer shell then these guys might do more for you than they ended up doing for me. When you ingest as much metal as I do over the course of the week it makes your pickier.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Emptiness : " For Music"

Wow! these guys are so different from anything out there the newness is easy to get immersed in. To the point the first song just sounded awesome because it didn't sound like anything in recent memory so it won me over without me ever stopping to ask is this song good. There is more groove to "It Might Be". Twiggy Ramirez produced this and I am not sure why Marilyn Manson hasn't been letting him handled everything , as this album sounds fucking incredible. By the second song the vocals are the only thing I am skeptical of as there spoken growl is very evil sounding , but makes thing marginally one dimensional, though the rest of the music coming at you washes you away with it.The beautiful gloom continues to unfold on "Circle Girl" though there is a more disjointed chaos here. The guitars continue to sound great and simmer with the atmosphere.It floats off into something more sonic-ally and emotionally heavy, damn it is crazy. I find myself being very interested in where the next song is going to go. There is a more spoken quality to the vocals of of "Your Skin Won't Hide You". There are more melodic elements even with the vocals staying in a static place. They straddle a few genre lines with elements of doom, shoe-gaze and post-punk all being crossed at the same time. The first song that drones along with out grabbing me as urgently is "Digging the Sky". I almost laughed at the happier shift into electronics they took on "Ever" that takes them into almost Depeche Mode's zip code. There are some interesting sounds layered here and they prove you can experiment with out sacrificing the song. It is shocking that is coming from a band with to members of Enthroned. Aside from that there is no black metal elements. They close with their most metal moment, but I am not sure that it is any heavier than what they have already poured through your speakers. In fact I am less impressed by the more conventional metal guitar riffs. It does give the drummer to cut loose into the first thing I would think of as black metal. I like the more electronic groove at the 4:30 mark. I'll round this one up to a 9.5 and ponder how much I would listen to something like this in my iPod it is very dark and good for candlelight rainy nights on lots of drugs.

Cvlt Nation Sessions : Black Sabbath's s/t debut

My family over at Cvlt Nation is unleashing another tribute this time to Black Sabbath's self title debut. While Black Sabbath is one of my all time favorite bands that I grew up with, I have heard enough covers that I am not as protective of them as I am bands that might not have the same following, because after you have been listening to them for over 30 years you are going here their songs get butchered in every imaginable fashion. I was already sold on the opener before I hit play as it is Beastmaker tackling the eponymous title track. The singer's baritone gives the song a little more of a creepy feel. Sacramento's Chrch hit "the Wizard" with a well balanced blend of being both heavier and more surreal. Eva coats her voice in weird effects which is an especially wise choice, since Ozzy's vocals are so distinct.

Jupiterian coats "Behind the Wall of Sleep" in a grave dirt doom. The gurgled vocals sit well in the blown out wall of fuzz they drag you into. They do not drench their sound in a ton of effects , but a combination of the mix and their power creates a vortex of sound to summon a very pleasing atmosphere. They take all the blue boogie out of it and bury it with the charred fragments of their souls. When Mindkult's tour bus opens it doors the results must be similar to that of the Mystery Machine. Their singer who sound more like Steve Miller than Ozzy, was clearly stoned when he stepped into the booth for this. This is a much better description of what stoner rock should sound like than anything I could weave adjectives together for. After the first four songs I feel a little underwhelmed by Witchthroat Serpent's take on "Evil Woman" The bass player is on it with out a doubt and home boy can sing alright, but no wow factor.

 I am pretty impressed by Frown and want to check out their original material after hearing their take on "Sleeping Village" there is a dark Nick Cave like thing happening amid some of their doomy wonder. I am not as impressed by the version of " Warning" that Trapped Within Burning Machinery vomits out. It is very Eyehategod like, though the vocals have a hint of black metal nastiness to them. To their credit they do pull off the more jammed section toward the end. Space Bong takes on "Wicked World" to close things out. They play it pretty straight except for the growled vocals. Things begin to get a little weirder around the midway point . Granted the source material is awesome, but this is on of the better Cvlt Nation sessions if not not the best, I'll round it up to a 9.5. 

Aborym : "Shifting Negative"

The album title might refer to the direction the Italian band wanted the reviews for this album to go in. I love the post-industrial rock from the 90s. As cheesy as bands like God Lives Underwater got, I still liked it at the time, so when I hear something like this it re-kindles those memories. The problem here is you might remember these guys as being a black metal band. You might remember them being more on the experimental side. This album is not black metal...at all. So while I can appreciate the groove and textures in the opening song, if you are attached to what thee guys used to sound like then you are going to have a reaction not unlike the one had by many when the last Morbid Angel came out.

There is a Nine Inch Nails like sound to the piano sprinkled into "Precarious" , that might remind you of "Something I can Never Have" . The vocals are hushed almost in a whisper. This seems like it would have fir better later in the album as it is a little too atmospheric and kinda kills the chance to build momentum. "Decadence in a Nutshell" sounds like it should have been on Alice Cooper's "Brutal Planet " album. The first glimpse of harsher vocals crops up after this , but comes across more like Strapping Young Lad. It amounts to a pretty decent song , not one I would keep on constant replay, but I paid attention when I heard it.

There is an odd marriage of blast beats and the current level of Nine Inch Nails worship on "Slipping Through the Cracks", but some how avoids sounding like total nu-metal. "You Can't Handle the Truth" has a slower more powerful intro. It feels more like a Ministry song putting us back in the zip code of actual industrial. There was more thought put into the arrangement of "For a Better Past" , it seemed like a pretty decent balance of these sometimes contrasting elements. There is more of that pop like expand and contract dynamic that built it's bandwagon off of "the Downward Spiral" in the 90s on "Tragedies" which doesn't wow me , but doesn't suck either. I also like how things get darker on "Going Places", but chances are if you do not like solo  Rob Zombie you are not going to like this either. It closes with "Big H" which is a little more rock n roll. Some of the winks to Nine Inch Nails in the closing moments of this song are pretty obvious, but there are worse ways to go. I'll give this album an 8 as it is a fitting tribute to an era of music I love and if you are going to decide to transition out of black metal into something more mainstream this is the way to do it.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Xiu Xiu : " Forget'

I need this project to focus on Jamie Stewart's voice and really wallow in it's misery and the opener certainly gives me this even with the weird outburst of rap that blurt out for five seconds at a time. I need them to more song focused than experimental. I don't have to have guitar. Synths are fine with me. There is more of an abstract arrangement to "Queen of the Losers" , this contrasts the tighter groove oriented alt-pop of "Wondering". This finds the project at the peak of focus when it comes to their song writing smarts. "Get Up' takes things down to an almost "Sweet Jane" like tenderness, and eventually builds, is pleasant but not what I think of as the album's strongest song. The airy ballads continue on the song after this.

They are more in their sweet spot on a song like "Jenny Gogo" that finds Stewart's vocals in a hushed brooding and then jumping out into the darker distant dissonance. Not sure this would qualify under anyone's definition of goth could would appeal to a similar demographic, if they are open to more experimental forms of indie rock. When the shift back into the more lullaby like pulse the weight of the song then lies on Stewart, this is balanced out when they add a more rock sense of dynamics and stronger percussion on a song like "At Last, At Last". This finds them at the threshold of how subdued I want their dynamics to be. Here it's a pretty much perfect blend of all of their defining elements. The kraut rock like synth line to the title track really helps balance the song out and adds a cinematic intensity.

"Petite" lives up to it's name an is very minimal and intimate. I normally would get bored by how fragile this song is , but some how it works much better than expected. Things get bigger and darker for the very elegant "Faith, Torn Apart" , which I immediately like so it might have some goth elements or at least sound good when you are high. At almost eight minutes this is also the album's longest song.The queen'a narrative at the end of the song goes on a little long, but overall the album is pretty solid and much better than their previous one, so I am glad that was just a bump in the road and they are back in much better form. I'll give this one a 9 and see how it sits with me.r />

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Uniform : " Wake In Fright"

I would call what this duo from New York does lo-fi electro punk rather than industrial as it is even rougher than what we heard from their first album. Without question the vocals are punk. Sure Al Jourgensen would tell you Ministry was way more influenced by punk than metal. Killing Joke might even back up this claim. But I am going by what I think is industrial, a genre I have been listening to 27 years now. The tortured sense of his lyrical ranting on "Habit" are a few degrees more convincing that this is industrial, but it is going to take more from this album as a whole to sell me on that. "the Lost" has a drone to it, but doesn't have the apocalyptic scope that industrial should. The synth line in the muddled background reminds me a little of old Depeche Mode. The song throbs in a more meaningful way, but doesn't feel all that dark to me or really go any where. The guitar sounds like it was all improvised.

The vocals at this point remind me of Rowdy Roddy Piper having a temper tantrum. They thrash full speed ahead on the rapid yet, sloppy "the Light At the End". They keep up the jack hammering for the first minute then hang around the noisy aftermath. This turns into more of a spoken word ranting.There is more metal to the riff that kicks off "the Killing of America" . Here the balance between metal and punk is well established. The programmed drums might not have the depth or density there organic counter parts do , but the keep things tense til the guitar solo. They keep this machine like raging going on "Bootlicker". It is a little one dimensional.

"Night of Fear" is much darker than the songs that came before it, I am reluctant to champion it as the rebirth of industrial. The first song called "the Light at the End" is titled as the caused. The second song called the effect. There is a female vocals creating a chilling and despondent narrative over the song. The a sample begins to dominate the song. In the end I'll give this one a 7.5, not terrible as the bleak mood it creates is worthwhile and a few of the songs latch onto the intensity of industrial. I think the punk ideology often roughs up the songs more than attitude alone could convince you is worthwhile song writing.  At the end of the day this could detect who among your friends is really a punk rocker trying to be hip by listening to industrial.          



Horseneck : " Heavy Trip"

This band consists of former members of Wil Haven and Jess Gowrie who played drums for Chelsea Wolfe on the last time she came around on the "Abyss" tour. It kicks off with a crazy 70's style boogie that is couple with sometimes manic screaming, though there is also actual singing on this track as well. There is more of a Kvelertak like rock n roll strut to " Michael Caine" . It might be a little middle of the road and strike as a party anthem of sorts , but it is really well done even in it's most derivative moments. I don't think "P.a.g" really upholds the highest standards we are hearing from the first two songs, but it might be that I am used to their sound at that point. Though the smoother vocal really makes a difference on "Smoking Stacks".

Jess' drumming is better than what I heard her do with Chelsea Wolfe. There is a weird bluesy slacker groove to "Hangman". It plods along in the most surreal way possible. "Bobby Brown" is more straight forward and I don't find it as engaging. "No Gods " has a more powerful metal kick to it.There is a more sludge core energy bursting from "Lester Vitalis". They back off from the pounding and allow for a more Dinosaur Jr like melody on "Basket of Snakes". It ebbs back into their more savage side and offers a more snarling contrast two one another as the song ambles along. They end the album with the upbeat attack of "Plow the Road". This is another songs that has more of that Acid Bath swamp groove to it. I suppose you could say Kyuss is an influence on this guys , but there is more of a swamp feel than the kind of desert rock Kyuss kicked up and the Sabbath influence is far more dialed back. I would think these guys listen to more punk than metal. The guitar hints at the fact they own several 70's rock albums like say Thin Lizzy. I'll give this album a 9 for now and see how it grows on me, so it is a rather pleasant surprise.

Catching up with 2016 - Yith : "Dread"

ok here is a look at the last album we are going to back and give a listen to that slipped under the radar last year. The first song had me much more willing to label this project as black metal band , but once we get into "Resentment" I find myself rethinking that as they successfully bring a bleak despairing darkness to the table. When you realize this is another one of those one man project and this is all being conjured up from a basement somewhere in small town USA, then it is even more impressive. The tremolo picked guitar is still lurking around. The  interlude of clean toned guitar feels more obligatory and like it should have just been tagged onto the song "Dread" that follows with carries some decent atmosphere to it's dark lumbering churn. Some of this has the production to thanks as they wisely set the guitar melody in the back.  This qualifies without question as blackened doom.

The pace picks up past what I consider doom and moves more towards black metal if you are thinking of it in more of a Urfaust perspective. This one churns by me without pulling me into it as deeply. There is almost a similar reaction to "Upon Dark Shores" that follows until, they slow down and lock into a more hypnotic section that makes the more ponderous moments worthwhile. For Yith to be a one man band the drumming is pretty dialed in. Quality is no in question on this album.I think these guys are onto something, I would like to hear more from their doomy side than there black metal moments, because I think those have more geunine feeling captured in them. I'll give this album an 8.5.

Friday, January 20, 2017

the Great Old Ones : " EOD - A Tale of Dark Legacy"

of the biggest cliches in metal is for the band to say in interviews to promote their forth coming album is going to be heavier this time around if not their heaviest album to date. After all who wants to hear... " this is barely metal , we are really wussing out on this one" Well have no fear here, this French band is back harder with the black metal dialed back up to rival the fury of their older work. Though this doesn't mean it's their most dynamic album as in order to capture the heaviness some of the more Alcest like elements we have heard from them in the past are dialed way back if not forsaken entirely. "When the Stars Align" is pretty much just a sonic slap of blasting heaviness front to back.

When they slow down into the throbbing of "the Ritual" there is more substance and it allows the guitars to shine in the murk. Midway into this song the drums speed things back up into a blast. Then it ebbs back down around the seven minute mark into some really stunning guitar work that excels at not shredding, but a lush atmospheric tone. They do pull out some pretty tasteful solos on the next song, but it's the sounds that are more of the key selling point with these guys for me. There is a more aggressive mid tempo attack to "In Screams and Flames"  that is heavier than when they go into balls to the wall blasting. They hold off on the blasting until the final two minutes.

They close the album with an 11 plus minute epic. When you write songs about HP Lovecraft stories dark is really the only way it can go. It doesn't drag, but doesn't really pull me in and falls some where in the middle to become a pleasant pulse in the background. I'll give this one an 8, which means while it is a move in a heavier direction it might not be as inspired without the depth of melodies we have heard from these guys in the past.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Iron Reagan : " Crossover Ministry"

Cut from a similar mold as D.R.I Richmond's Iron Regan which features members of Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour is an explosive reminder to the 80's when trash metal and hard-core punk shared the same dna. Sometimes this is done in a more metallic manner than others, successfully hooking you into the mosh mania. "Grim Business" finds this formula firing off on all cylinders. There song writing is coiled tight on "Dead With My Friends" and holds more melodic layers than I expected from these guys. When it comes to the 14 second micro songs like "No Sell" I am not counting them for the purpose of this album. They do make up for this outburst with "Condition Evolution" . Then there are the moments that remind me more of something Tankard or M.O.D might have done on "Fuck the Neighbors". Lyrically it's pretty silly, but fun if you are a rowdy skate boarding teenager, and yes, I still remember those days.

While it is short and sweet, "Power of the Skull" is still pretty effective. The title track is pretty mosh inducing, though sometimes the speed almost makes the song feel like it is going to trip over it's self. There is a Slayer like feel to the riff that opens "More War" , this is fitting considering the lyrical content is very similar to the more war driven Slayer songs. It took three plays of "Blatant Violence ' before it just didn't race past my ears. The songs hold more weight when they slow things to a more deliberate pace and really hammer you with it. It sounds like Mike Muir drops to make an appearance on "Megachurch" , the song reminds me of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow" era Suicidal.  "Shame Spiral" might work better than "Dogsnotgods" , but both songs rely more on speed than anything.

I would have like to have heard more done with "Eat Or Be Eaten" as it had more varied sonic energies than most of the more fully formed songs. They lock into a pretty devastating riff on "Twist Your Fate". The world seems to be poised and ready for angry music like this.  This album takes me back to my adolescent years, but is nothing new, however it is a very powerful and refined metal machine and hits hard while having something to say so I'll give it an 8.5.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Draugsol :" Volaða Land "

Iceland high school must have thrash metal pumping in the boys locker room because it always seems to be a huge influence on the black metal that comes out of that region. The album is really well produced and the massive chugs carry a ton of weight to them and help this album pack more of a a punch. The drummer is an absolute monster so that doesn't hurt their case as a force to be reckoned with. It is the more melodic groove that the touch upon in the middle of the second song that makes me want to take these guys more seriously than just being another bunch of lug heads who throw mean riffs at you as fast and furiously as they can. The blast beats are a thing and they do play it straighter than most of the black metal bands I get more air time out of . When they really start ripping it out a lot faster they sound a little more death metal in places. The vocals also tend to stay in more of a growl than a scream, but calling them blackened death might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But it is also like the blind men and the elephant depending on what section of what song, your idea of what these guys are might shift. They don't keep a perfect balance of melody interjected into their music and the furious aggression is the prime emotion rather than darkness, so we do not see perfectly eye to eye when it comes to what makes for the best black metal. But something can be said for the feral intensity and the clarity of the guitar work. Things are not a blur of notes that come across more like a frequency than string being attacked in a way to make defined riffs. The cleaner guitar tones sound really good and make me wince a little when they blast out in a blur of speed to forsake them. The bass player becomes audible at certain junctures, but the drummer is clearly dictating the fate of these songs. The guitar at the beginning of the last song is moodier in tone and the drums groove a little before throwing restraint out of the window yet again. The mid paced moments hold more impact for me when the guitar is allowed to ring out. Anyone who considers themselves black metal can after all play a blast beat. The melodic elements are no more evenly balanced on the last song than they are at any other point in the album, but the guitar sound is more varied which accounts for a lot. Actual sung vocals come toward the final moments of this and they are low and gothy so you know that earns them points in my book. For what this is these guys are impressive enough to peak my interest and keep me listening with some level of intent. I think this is worth an 8 for now, though I am not sure how much play time I will get out of this. .6

Pain of Salvation : "In the Passing Light of Day"

I loved "Scarsick" the album that served as my introduction to the band and think "Road Salt One" is brilliant. I haven't really been wow'ed by anything since, but gave their last album a passing listen if that. Prog rock in it's most conventional form is no longer my bread and butter like it used to be, I think because their idea of heavy and mine never align and the cheese filled wanking seem to be the mission of the day. That is not really the case with these guys, and while a ten minute song opening the album feels over indulgent to me the song is not half bad despite the heavy drama on the spoken word section. I think their song writing is more focused on "Tongue of God". This project's secret weapon remains Daniel Gildenlow 's incredible pipes that continue to make him one of the most under rated singers to step up to a microphone and on a song like "Meaningless" prove that where the other metal divas get it wrong is not trying to be operatic rather than letting the soul bleed through in the vocal booth.

The ballad "Silent Gold" is well done, but just doesn't resonate with me personally. There is a more Faith No More like rock vibe to " Full Throttle Tribe". It works of a tense groove and intense yet quirky vocals hopping along the syncopation. While they do this better than any other band this kind of thing stopped being my thing in the late 90s, but I can appreciate the talent behind this song. "Reasons" combined soul with the more proggy math to find the magic formula that shows what they do best. The way this song hits it is clear they are not oblivious that bands like their fellow Swedes in Meshuggah exist. They set the solo to "Angels of Broken Things" on fire and add more dynamic depth to the song, so if you are wondering when and how to use guitar solos reference this song.

Thanks to their understanding of dynamics, a song that starts off more middle of the road like "the Taming of a Beast" can really roar to life in a way that doesn't sound contrived. "If This is the End" feels like a more updated version of something that could have been on "Road Salt One" with a more Mr. Bungle like build. There is a very warm and organic feeling to the song. I brace myself for the 15 minute title track that closes the album, as I have developed a distaste for songs of this length so they better sell me on the fact that each minute is being used wisely. I like the darker tone established at the beginning. They don't go in the direction I expected with this , but it is still pretty fluid even up to the ten minute mark. As they passed the 11 minute mark I began to wonder how much longer they could keep it up without going back to the chorus again.They bring it back way down in the final three minutes. This is not their best album, but it is better than what most of the so called prog rock bands are putting out these days so I will give it a 9 for now. br />
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Cold Body Radiation : " the Orphean Lyre"

For post-whatever the songs are written in a very condensed format and get to the point without boring you with the drone. They have more in common with Slow dive on this one than Alcest. What could be the album's strongest song follows the dreamy opener. It is almost black metal despite the melodic core. One second listen I could hear the bass player wandering under the guitar to create another layer. The vocals create a very depressing mood.This is contrasted by the more shimmering splendor of "All the Little Things you Forgot are Stored in Heaven". It is heavily accented like the golden years of Explosions in the Sky. The pace picks up for the more metallic rock of "At Sea". The title track which holds a similar metallic influence, doesn't stray far from the mood they establish on "At Sea". The vocals and guitar and both more interesting to me on "Spiral Clouds" which makes me think of what My Blood Valentine might have sounded like if they had been more committed to making atmospheric rock rather than the weirdness that they ending up spewing forth at such high volumes. It's not that I don't like My Bloody Valentine it's just that now that I don't do drugs, I need more of the skeleton of a song that is presented here. I am not sure if it is the version I download or not, but there is a muted hush to "You Were Missing" and it's not available to play on their Bandcamp page so I am just working off of what I am getting here. The vocals are breathy and linger in the haze. The sound issue is not something I found on the more synth driven, "the Forever Sun". There is a more narcotic lethargy on this song that finds it coasting on a snooze cruise control. This feels mood-wise more along the lines of kraut rock as it operates off of a trippy throb. Overall this album gives you everything you could want from shoe-glazed rock, the stronger songs alone earned it a spot on the iPod so I will round this one up to an 8.5.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Drowned God : " Moonbearer"

This takes me back to the early 2000's and the days of Myspace, this would have been considered hard core back then, but now the lines are kinda blurred. There is a darker current to their anger and in some ways the more metallic guitar tones remind me of the new Code Orange album. We can hear the kind of emoting from the guitar that we heard back in 1999, though the vocals are more along the lines of what we expect from scream these days. "I'll Catch the Back of Her Head" is punchier as the syncopation is where the intensity is built as the take a more melodic middle of the road path to vent their screaming. The bass player steps in to fill the gaps when things get more atmospheric for "Tomorrow Your chest Cavity Will be Alone". The vocals are actually sung, which helps bring a much needed change of pace.

 The old screamed hard core tricks do not really breathe any new life into the orbit of a song like " Darkness Comes Early Down Here". The song twists and turns , but lack something that really hooks you in.Some of the guitar trickery is impressive when you listen to it but there lies half the problem for me is wasting a tone of time listening for it, but I already invest so much of my time hunting down music that moves me that I don't have time for something that is redundant. The more motive sung vocals return for " Nighttime Lips" it almost feels more like an interlude than them committing to an entire song, but they do pull it together and deliver. "Sundowning " tries to marry more commercial hooks in with the sound of black metal influenced hard core.They do throw a moody break down into the middle of the song.

Aside from the more Minus the Bear like break in the last song "Moon" they don't do a helluva a lot to really keep your teeth latched onto this song. The drummer obviously has some chops and these guys never have their musicianship brought into question. I am unsure as to why this song is over 13 minutes long as I begin to wonder what else they can do this. The answer is to jam out what you have already heard from them. By the nine and a half minute mark it is beginning to become  test of endurance. While this song does get tedious , over all the alum is pretty well done, I will give it an 8, though I am not sure this is something that I will listen to enough to warrant it making the trip to my iPod. If you like screamo these guys are worth your time.

Code Orange : "Forever"

Welcome to 2017's equivalent of "You Will Never Be one of Us". Tough and tight, the guitar on this album is mean as fuck, but has an incredible tone.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

This Was 2016 ....My Year In Music

2016 was a hard year, it came to a crushing conclusion that is opening a frightening new chapter, and I have hinted and mentioned certain events in various posts and social media, those closest to me in real life know the details, others might just have clues, I have shared my life in writing and pictures with you on this blog so here is my 2016 month by month paired up with the most fitting song. Some of these fit more neatly than others. In OCD like fashion I debated with the committee of one in my head how to do this. At first this was going to be all songs from 2016, and while there are some I think the songs gathered here provide the most fitting soundtrack to describe what the past year of my life has been like. There are multiple layers and emotions connected to various events in certain places in time, so I am trying to depict the shifting perspective of the years events in a manner than not as cryptic as it could have been. I'll let the music do the talking from here.

January -the Talking Heads - " This Must Be the Place"

February- The Decemberists - "Of Angels and Angles"

March- The National - " I Should Live In Salt"

April- Black Foxxes - "Slow Jams Forever"

May - Peter Murphy "Keep Me From Harm"

June- Cold War Kids- " All of This Could be Yours"

July- Siouxsie and the Banshees - "Happy Home"

August - The Weeknd - "Attention"

September- Pallbearer- "the Sound and the Fury"

October - Sia- " Elastic Heart"

November Planes Mistaken For Stars - "Clean Up Mean"

December Taylor Swift-"Back To December"

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Metal : No Middle of the Road

Going into 2017 I needed to look at what I am doing when it comes to the time I expend covering bands. How many bands do I find myself  writing the same old shit about because they are playing the same old shit. I was talking to an A&R rep from a fairly well known label about an Atlanta band I am friends with and why the label never took an interest in them. The reason was they already have more than enough of what said band was selling. Sure they play a ton of shows and even tour, but all the hard work is to sell something that people already have. So this year I am going to try to cut out the middle of the road. By middle of the road here I do not mean, you are not heavy enough. In fact you can be less heavy , but if you bring to the table sounds that are your own and not recycled bands already have then I am good with you and will give your album a listen, but if I am hearing just a blur of distorted guitar and growling with nothing else to call your own, I'll press stop and delete the email, I might even start to send a pre generated letter of disinterest to the label or p/r company so they can know what not to send me.

Black metal and death metal might be the worse offenders here, but there are many metal band, my friends band I was talking about earlier included, who ride the line between a few genres they might be thrash, but have a denser death metal guitar tone and then add a little bit of a black metal rasp to the vocals, well we have already heard that. Punk and hard-core bands are not much better about this and with all of the sub-genres of various music I review here the band wagon is rolling.  What this means if you are in a band contacting me to review your music ? If you are a black metal band who feels like they are a little out of place when playing with other black metal bands then you are a band I want to hear , because the other bands that fit neatly into the black metal box are not for me since I already won Burzum, Darkthrone and Inquisition albums.

Metal is supposed to be a genre rooted in giving your middle finger to the rest of the world, so why conform? Why follow the blue print that Sabbath made then everyone has been marching behind. Sure it worked for Trouble and Candlemass, but even those bands brought something else to the table. So if you are a fan of cookie cutter bands or carbon copies, then you might need to start looking else where for your music since that is not what I want to do here. Does that mean I am going to stop reviewing death metal since they tend to sound the same ? No, I am going to review death metal bands that bring something new to the table.  If that is not what you want then find the kids table.

Dread Sovereign : " For Doom the Bell Tolls"

Ever wondered what Primordial might sound like if they were into doom rather than black metal ? Well Dread Sovereign answers that on their new album. It is a huge improvement from their 2014 album which was pretty decent. They waste no time praising Satan in a a hair raising fashion on the opener which also employs a wider range of chops from the guitarist and the bass player. "This World is Doomed" gathers more steam and launches off with a bristling thrash tinged energy that reminds me more of Metal Church, especially when the higher layer of backing vocals come in.

Speaking of vocals they are one of the main focal points that sets this band part from their peers. While the guitars on this album are what is most improved , the vocals are certainly smoother this time around. They have a similar dramatic flair to them that conjures.Things then get weird when "the Spines of Saturn" rides in on a wave of psychedelia. The drums are more relaxed and very non-metal. They close the album with a cover of Venom's "Live Like an Angel, Die Like A Devil". I am not sure why this is one here as I would have rather heard another original from these guys than them trying to get cool points with this.

Aside from the Venom cover , which doesn't suck, the rest of  the album is much better than decent. I'll give it an 8. I would like to hear more of a full length than this which boils down to being an ep. But that is a success if they made me want more from them and they scored higher than their last album .

Wilcifer's Top 10 David Bowie Songs

The year anniversary of Bowie's death this seems fitting and since I have been listening to him for 31 years, then this is not a band wagon I am jumping. If you know me in real life then you will concur I am the most qualified to do this so sit back you are in the hands of a pro

 10- Magic Dance

 Thanks to the drugs I can never remember if I owned the Labyrinth soundtrack before I got Lets Dance, but this song still holds up and has gone on to become one of my daughter's favorites.


 9-"Hallo Space Boy"

 This one hits so fucking hard for a David Bowie song it's almost metal.

 8-Andy Warhol

 From his days as an art house hippie in a dress, the song is incrediballs. The guitar riff alone earns it a space here


 7- "Under the God"

 From his Tin Machine days this one rocks pretty hard and Reeves Gabrels really proved himself to me on this one. This is not Bowie's most impressive vocal, but it does prove he can sing with a much grit as needed.


 6- "Scary Monsters (Super Creeps)" 

 Trent Reznor already knows he owes his career to Bowie, this song is a reminder Bowie is the goth-father

5-"Neighborhood Threat"

 While I want Bowie crooning to me, I also want him to rock and this song he does both as only he could. "Tonight" is an under rated album and a good way to find out who is a posthumous poser.


 4-"I Know It's Going Happen Someday"

 Did you think I was going to let Bowie covering a Morrissey song slip by ? He can still circles around Moz and brings a gospel feel to it.

  3- "Rock N Roll Suicide" Lyrically this is kind of his wink to Lou Reed, but the way this song builds is incredible

 2-"China Girl" 

 This song could have been number one. It is typically my karaoke go to as I can slay it
. One of the best songs ever written, at this point his voice had matured into a captivating baritone. Let's Dance would also have to battle it out in my head against Young Americans as his best album.


 1- "Fascination"

 I have rewound this song and replayed more than any other. It drips sex and his voice sounds amazing. One of the best vocal performances ever recorded.


Drab Majesty : "the Demonstration"

Right from the first song you can tell this new album from the morose goth project is more fine tuned. The guitar sounds great and has more of an 80's pop sound to it.The vocals are slightly muffled and sit back in the layers of guitar and synth. This is one of the subtle touches that keeps this from being more of a pop album.  At the four minute mark the song feels like it is being dragged out a little but the song is more impressive than anything I have heard from this act so far. The drum programming takes on more of a Cocteau Twins cadence on "By Design" this is further highlighter by the lush guitar. Far more introspective and dark than the opener. At the minute and a half mark there is some motion in the ocean as it edges toward the dance floor.

Things get more introspective and shoe-gazing on "Not Just a Name". This sets a tone that makes me think Deb Demure is taking the music just as seriously as his make up slathered persona. There is a more light-hearted new wave feel on " Too Soon to Tell" that doesn't engage me as much as some of the more somber dreamy songs like " Cold Souls" which follows it.  This song naturally progress into something with more of a goth groove to it. The pace really expedites things to the dance floor for the more dark wave " Kissing the Ground". While it's more surreal nature doesn't make "Forget Tomorrow" the album's most well crafted song there is something to it's murky gray mood that works for me.

The dark wave pulse of  "Behind the Wall" closes the album out. It is some where between depressive and dancey so not that different than the general tone already established on the album. The chorus gets marginally more hopeful. I think over all this album shows a great deal of maturity and growth for Demure and I can now take him seriously as an artist. I'll round this up to an 8.5 and contemplate loading this on my iPod, it might grow on me even more with time. Dais Records releases this January 20th.

Haxxan : " Loch Ness Rising"

The vocals of former Necrophagia singer Killjoy DeSade help to set this album apart as they are pretty nasty . what I love about this is the fact these guys are evil sounding yet in the first song I have not heard a blast beat. Truth be told they hover around a more Celtic Frost like sound and the vicious vocals keep it from really copping too much from Tom Warrior and friends. This is not to say they are a color by numbers replication. Instead the add layers of dark melody by way the guitars. The pace picks up into a bigger death metal sound on "93". At this point it bears stating that this album is paying homage to Crowley and references  varied aspects of his thelemic works. The more straight forward second song is not as nuanced and to me doesn't come across as dark as the first song despite the moodier break past the mid way point.

The third song where they continue to chant the motto of "Love is the Law / Love Under Will" a fine statement to espouse, yet one of the more mainstream tenements that hardly requires much depth in the belief system to be aware of. This song however finds them closer to the kind of powerful writing that hooked me with their first song. "Babalon" breaks the five minute mark with it's mid tempo stomp, but like most of these songs is not an aimless wander hoping to break you down with it's drone. This song has the undulating pulse similar to Inquisition that makes it feel more black metal. They pick up things to a much more driving pace on "Disciples of the Silent" lyrically it is not as heavy handed in it's theme, to the point of straying from the more conceptual elements. Well played and punchy the bass tone is great , but it doesn't do as much to set them aside.

There is more of a groove to the onset of "Chemical Perversions" that gives my to something a little less inspired and at more of a death metal/ thrash pace. This song also has the first guitar solo that really makes it self known. The vocal become even more bestial on "Blackest Chasm" which has an oppressive lumber. It doesn't feel like this one is as tightly constructed as previous songs and the album begins to lose a little momentum. They come back stronger for "Beyond the Grace of God" this might be the album's strongest song after the opening and finds the band back in a more dense Inquisition like sound. Overall despite losing some of it's momentum in the latter portion of the album it's pretty strong so I'll give it an 8.5.

Hells Headbangers is releasing this beast February 17th.  

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Diablerie : " The Catalyst vol. 1: Control"

This album starts off pretty interesting almost like a black metal version of Strapping Young Lad and then a couple of songs in the Slayer influence flairs up and speed seems to get the best of them. They eventually decide to check back into the more industrial side of what they do which is a wise move as this helps "Wear My Crown" rise above the over played metal muck. It could be argued that this is derivative of what Fear Factory has already done and that would not be untrue however there is enough of the blend of extreme metal these guys are about to make it relevant in 2017. There is more heading banging here than throwing down on the dance floor and I think that is there intention at times it reminds me a little of my old homeboys Daath I used to play with in how the electronic elements are well blended with the more metallic assault. The thrashing speed comes back with a blind fury after they have already shown a more creative side so I am not as impressed with this temper tantrum like outburst. The electronics come in to save the day a couple minutes in.

They do have a straight up ebm styled interlude midway into the album. "Gray" might dip back into the more mainstream metal sounds of the 90s again, but it is solidly written with a refreshing sense of melody that works and finds the band at the height of their prowess proving brutality is not always the most virtuous trait. This is proved again with "Osiris" which is ten times the song of the more driving death metal that precedes it which when compared to this song comes up a little flat. The vocals on this one are more sung though heavily processed it's still pretty effective. They end this album with some electronic atmosphere which is well done and has some musical merits, but feels like more of an indulgent outro until they crash back into it in more of  a Strapping Young Lad fashion.

This album is really well done even with some of the more Slayer like songs that kind of numbed me out the songs where industrial meets extreme metal in a manner that makes sense and does justic to the other genre are where this band is the strongest. I'll give this album an 8 though I am unsure if I will really get that many more listens out of it , I have enjoyed the time already spent with it.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Naddred : "Sluagh"

What I am asking of black metal bands in 2017 is to show me more than just blast beats. I want the tremolo picking to only be one color of blackness used. What is the point of just falling in line with the rest of the corpse painted sheep ? Naddred does a pretty decent job of not just becoming another face in the shadows , but giving the dark side it's due. Hailing from Ireland the production can be uneven in places and the vocals fall in line with your typical scowling rasp. The drum sound is the roughest factor, but guitar sounds great if not a tad like Inquisition. For what this is the opener is pretty solid writhing it's way around you rather than numbing you with a droned blitz. The title track finds the guitar keeping a decent balance of ugliness and atmosphere ringing out and this could be because they know they do not have to rely on speed alone.

At times you can hear a more death metal undertone to the guitar on "the Beast Who Walks the Earth" . Aside from being more mid paced and having a more deliberate throb, nothing really sets this apart from what I already got from the last Inquisition album, which has a bigger sound to it. The main difference is the vocals are not in a monotone croak.The last song rather than bring things to a climax that might pull me in just kinda breezed by. These guys are good at what they do, what they do I get in better doses from Inquisition. This is not to say they are ripping them off, but it is a sound that I already have in my iPod. This album is decent , I'll give it a 7.5, perhaps it might grow on me if I were to give it time, but I hear so much black metal that is just alright or gets the job done that what I want from the genre I consider to be one of my favorites is something with more passion and urgency that I have not heard before or at least a take on what is familiar with more of their own thumb print.

This album is being released February 13th by Invictus Productions


All Them Witches : "Sleeping Through the War"

This is my first time giving these guys a shot. They are pretty impressive right out of the gate as they start off with a very smooth and stoned breeze that reminds me of the Verve until they stomp on the fuzz. This gets thing heavier, but not what we would consider metal however "Bulls" is a great song. The songs begin very compactly written with " Don't Bring Me Coffee" falling some where between garage rock and boogie. They cruise along into a more straight ahead form of 70s rock on "Bruce Lee" . Lyrically I like the calm creepy glaze this song has. They remind me of a less rowdy Queens of the Stoneage here. You can also here the bass player take off here.

The album is well produced and the vocals seems to have a knack of sitting right where they need to be. There is a fair amount of Sabbath influence on "3-5-7". The drugs seem to be settling in here as it takes on more of a jammy quality.The creep into a more surreal groove that has an almost progressive quality to it on "Am I Going Up" which makes this one of the album's strongest songs.  Lyrically interesting the jam factor goes up on "Alabaster" . "Cowboy Kirk" continues to find the band cruising the scenic with a little more twang coming from the vocals. The groove is more angular and the song opens wide to make way for the guitar solo in places for some reason it brings Kings of Leon to mind.

The album ends with the snarky lyrics of the ten minute "Guess I'll Go Live On the Internet" . This has more of blues back bone to it's smooth groove as the vocals are more spoken than sung. The jamming really goes into high gear on this song. Six minutes into this indulgence and cold stone sober I begin to wonder where else can they take this for the next four minutes. The answer is to just shine on like crazy diamonds and jam it out to the bitter end. I don't mind jamming as long as the pay off is big enough to justify it and that doesn't happen here. I'll round this one up to a 9 as they jamming misdirection is the only time the album flubs the dub for me .

Ryan Adams :"Prisoner"

While I have liked his work it's his covers that have been a little more compelling, until this point for some reason the opener of his new album connects right away. It is a like more rock and balances out some punches with melody in a manner not unlike some of Tom Petty's more rockin moments from the late 70's -early 80's. There is classic rock styled guitar solo in the last minute. The opening guitar riff to the title track would not be out of place on a Smiths album, but when his vocals come in the twang I associate with his work comes in. The songs seem to all clock in around the three minute mark. The harmonica on "Doomsday" brings out the more country side though it still holds more of a roots rock sense. His vocal hooks are tasteful on his choruses and it feels like his song writing has now stepped up to rub shoulders with the artists like Bruce Springsteen and Mellancamp whose influence can still be felt. Lyrically these are songs of love and loss, grounded speculation painting intimate pictures what you see in these songs as dating in middle America. It might have to grow on me , but while he sings it with more urgency "Shiver and Shake" doesn't click as perfectly as the other songs before it. I think this is because the drums sit out. The pace picks up into more of a lazy stroll in the country for "To Be Without You". "Breakdown" becomes more compelling as it progresses an might be one of the album's best. "Outbound Train" has a similar simple strum to the other songs on the album. There is a hopeful sound to the chord progressions tat work well with the honest vocal lines. He is not winning any awards for his vocal range, but he knows how to work with what he has got and makes the most of it. The guitar to "Broken Anyway" is even more basic in front of a minimal arrangement and slowly builds to compliment his vocals. Lyrically this might be one of the most heart felt of all the songs, as he stays out of anger when singing about relationships that fall apart and instead offers some more introspective reflection. You can hear how working on the Taylor Swift cover album. "Tightrope" find his bi-polar lyrical tone swing back to his more romantic side. His voice has more rasp to it on this one when reaches up for higher notes. The sax solo brings out his more Springsteen side. The swing comes back the other side lyrically though the song is a little more upbeat on "We Disappear" . This is another very strong moment for the album. I'll round this one up to a 9.5 as I can hear how this album is going to be one of those that grows on me.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Top 10 Albums of 2016

So here they are complied in relative order in one master list of metal and other genres to see what were the actual best albums of the year. These are largely based on which ones I got the most play out of . When I said relative earlier on one day I might be moved to listen to one album more than another that might be ranked higher so this can shift,, but a fairly accurate representation of what endured 2016. If you want to check these albums out then go to the review urls I posted with each one. Who cares if your favorite album did not make the list, the Kleenex is on aisle three of  CVS, these are my favorite albums of 2016 and thus when it comes to this blog the Top 10 Albums of 2016.

10-Anagnorisis -"Perpetia"

 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. 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.


9- Khemmis - "Hunted"

At times more NWOBHM than doom and "3 Gates" starts off to uptempo to be doom at all, but in the end it got the most play time and had enough melancholy to qualify as doom, after all Black Sabbath albums didn't always crawl all the way to the finish line so something can be said for the dynamics.This one earned it space at the top not because it was the most dismal, but because I listened to it the most, which at the end of the day is what matters.


8- Anthrax- "For All Kings"

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


7- Youth Code- "Commitment to Complications"

Production wise things have stepped up another level along with the song writing. After a melodic and perhaps dramatic synth intro the kick into the first proper song which kicks more like a rock song energetically than your typical industrial. Unlike your typical industrial there is not an obligatory layer of 90s thrash metal guitar over it. The synths are capable of summoning their own heft. This is in no way saying that there is not metal influence in place or this album isn't heavy. Ben from Goatwhore lends his snarl to the title track. It's interesting as he is not doing anything different from his normal delivery, but it's over a bunch of hammering synths.These kids are the real deal and not just hipsters playing dress up.


6-Black Foxxes- "I'm Not Well" 

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


5- Merchandise- "a Corpse Wired For Sound"

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


4- 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.


3- the Weeknd- Star Boy

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


2-Planes Mistaken for Stars- " Prey"

 These guys were always ahead of their time and finds music of today coming a little closer to meeting them in the middle. There has always been an unhinged side to the band and this is what the new album opens with. "Til it Clicks" is less explosive, but more of what I want from this band. The darker melody hangs around on "Riot Season" even after the pace picks up. The yowls of self loathing still haunt Jared's gravelly vocals riding the line between screaming and singing. The guitar to "Fucking Tenderness" carries some melody before tightening the tension. The vocals fill the spaces in the song perfectly and the band touching perfectly on all their trademarks without feeling like this song is any less urgent than it is.They are back in fine form and not standing stagnant in the legend of yesterday.


1- David Bowie - "Black Star"

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


A.F.I - "S/T"

These guys were at their peak with "Sing the Sorrow" and then found the more 80's new wave influences creeping into "Decemberunderground" that current still pervades the even slicker radio geared sound that is on their new album. Sometimes it works like a fucking charm with the opener being one of those moments. They come closer to a more Panic! At the Disco like sound on "Still A Stranger" with the vocals bringing a little more grit, though the guitar sound is more refined and could more gain in place to give this more punch. The lack of grit is something that takes getting used to on this album. Sometimes they nail it even without their old punk snarl "Aurelia" being the first to stand out.  "Hidden Knieves' shows that they really shine these days more as song writers as the song has all the pop punk hooks married to a more Placebo like.

They veer off into a more jangling post-punks sound that makes me think of R.E.M on "Get Hurt" . The chorus is big and slick here with some impressive guitar that sometimes takes the back seat in the mix. They brighten their darkness into shades that recall the Cure's radio pop in a very obvious manner on "Above the Bridge". There is a little more of their old punk self on "So Beneath You", but it doesn't have the thoughtful sense of melody that a song like "Snow Cats" does. They come back with more kick to their  sense of remembering who they once were on "Dumb Kids" but Danny never goes up into his more piercing metallic screams. It is not until "Pink Eyes' that we hear more aggression blended with this slicker pop punk sound.While the bass line to "Feed From the Floor" is much more Cure inspired the rest of the band joins oin to create this more goth tone.The most powerful return to their former anthems is on "White Offerings" which kicks a tone of ass. br /> They continue to excel at the marriage of pop slick sounds with their darker goth shadows on "She Speaks the Language" . They have slinky Depeche Mode like bass line on the closing anthem "the Wind that Carries Me Away" , think if they stepped back on their distortion pedals they would have given this song more balls and taken it to the next level, but as it is the song is still pretty decent. I'll give this album a 9.5 and see how it grows on me without the more hard core ghosts of their past haunting it.