Thursday, August 31, 2017

Unsane: " Sterilize"

Well it's about time these guys came back to claim their place in today's music after influencing tons of pretenders to the throne. There is more of a metal feel to the opener of this one. It's mature and well written, but doesn't have the punk energy that was an underlying motivator of their sound. But the saying goes that when punk learn how to play their instruments it turns into metal. "The Grind" is more frantic ranting that is not as clear in it's thought process as the opener. They balance out the snarl of what they do with song writing on the punchy "Aberration". Though thanks to the drive of the muscular bass playing which holds most of these songs together it's almost hit or miss in terms of songwriting , with every other other song connecting to me. I think aside from the spit fire energy of youth, they are fairly consistent to who they were back in the 90s.

Some of the stronger songs like "Lung' work when the angular groove still retains a bit of swing to it and grabs you in it's steamroller path. It also has the guitar providing more of a darker underbelly to their sound that I had not notice from their early work.  Sometimes the songs try to hold on top of what was established on the previous song and the vocals operating off more of a shout lose the personality the song might have had.  The vocals are run through a distorted filter to give them the feeling they are being shouted with more angst than they might have been in the booth. They hit their stride on "Distance" which both the momentum and the melody that I want from these guys. "A Slow Reaction" feels like they are meeting at a cross roads somewhere between Black Flag and Hotwatermusic. This is a decent enough place for them.

They bring the thicker sludge like rumble to "We're Fucked", which is the exact things their fans are going to want to hear from them.The bass driven brooding to the groove of "Avail" is not what I expected from them but it's really well done and hard to argue against. I will give this album an 8, I would say I would see how it sits with me, but I don't foresee myself getting a ton of mileage out of it as this genre of music is not really my thing. I think fans of these guys will be pleased by their return and I am glad they are back if nothing else to put some bands in perspective for what they are.


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Akercocke : "RENAISSANCE IN EXTREMIS "






I remember liking these guys at one point , but also don't remember the vocals being an amateur gurgle that sounds like it's over driven because it's too close on the mic and wonder why when everything else is pristine does it sound like no one gave a shit about that part. So we are off to a rough start until the clean vocals come in. They sound like Bryan Ferry covering Katatonia. These vocals are not as graceful on the second song and come across like they are struggling to stay in key. Another problem is the endless wanking that spreads it's spunk over these songs with no real purpose. The lyrics to "Unbound by Sin" sounds like something from a motivational speaker. The guitars sounds great so someone needs to rein the guitar player in and tell him it's not all about him, but the songs. They used a producer who worked with Thin Lizzy and Yes so he had to know what was going and I guess here just collected a paycheck.

It's sad because I was looking forward to checking this out when it popped up in my in-box. The drums sound better , but the throaty almost Foghorn Leghorn vocals don't do them a lot of favors. The bass seems to be the only one totally dialed in. The vocals might have benefited from better production for sure.The frantic black metal flavor of "First to Leave the Funereal " with all it's vocals flaws somehow matters to be interesting in a Sigh like fashion. They end up returning to the more thrash like pacing that has dominated the album thus far and makes the more melodic moment have more appeal. There is a decent progressive feel to "Familiar Ghosts" the melodic intro works well before it descends into the all too frequent guitar solos and sub-par vocal styling. The black metal vocal is the best of them all and that is not just because I am more partial to that approach, it's the best executed.

They return to that darker more moody place going into "A Final Glance Back Before Departing". This song is shows potential in the first minute before they hurry into the thrash section. Beyond the wanking the Slayer influence is very apparent. It is more of a "Show No Mercy" era Slayer I am hearing. Even the clean vocals are terrible on this one. The vocals do improve at the beginning of "One Chapter Closes". I also don't remember in the past hearing them use this many clean vocals. I think we are already past the half way point of this one without anything distasteful happening to that is a profound improvement. I think this is the best song on the album, so they might have wanted to take a look here and what worked and built off of that. I could tolerate this level of wanking no problem. Don't get me wrong I want to hear that you can pull that out of your back pocket and play your instrument when called upon to do so . Balance is the key.

The first 36 seconds of "Inner Sanctum" are good. Then the need for speed overtakes them. Based on the lyrics I begin to wonder if a member of this band got sober and that is what is throwing off their chemistry and creative spark. The melodic sway of the last song, has some Faith No More moments, it's not until the four minute mark that the chaos and metal break out, The phrase "you can not not see" sounds like "You can not nazi" . I'll give this album a 7. There are some strong moments in this shift of moods for the band, though I think the vocals needed more careful review in the mixing process.


Falaise : " My Endless Immensity"


Returning with a new album this band uses the  layers and dynamics of the composition to  sell "You Towards Me".  More of a post rock shimmer to them than any kind of raw emotive depressive black metal feel. "Crimson " almsot feels more like an interlude, but does a good job of making the most of the time invested in it and builds into a very sonic slice of heaven. The blasting buzz of "Dreariness" just by me in a dizzying blur and fades into becoming background noise. Granted the drone of even the best black metal such as early Darkthrone can enfold you in a white noise of sorts, but I feel it is being done here as it is not as focused on dynamics as some of the earlier songs on this album.

Granted if you are a band playing this kind of black metal Deafheaven is impossible to ignore. These guys are not pulling the most obvious page from the Deafheaven play book but there is something about the more indie rock like strum to the guitar on "Abyss" that does have more of the Deafheaven kind of feel to it. "Sweltering" might be one of the album's strongest songs as the guitar melody draws you in and the vocals have more of a convincing snarl to them. There is a darker majesty to "Pristine Un.." that draws me into it. The atmosphere has more of a true black metal feel to the synth sounds and is not trying to be post rock. The post-rock does return with more of a Explosions in the Sky feel to it's tenderness on the ten minute title track. These guys have been pretty good about not getting to carried away with long sprawling songs. I don't think the song should have ebbed all the way down. It makes it feel like two separate songs. When it dos kick back in it's par for the course when it comes to this type of black metal, so they are not redefining the process.

They did manage to capture some really interesting guitar tones on this album. So if you like post-rock , but are looking for something with more metallic teeth then this is worth your time. They take a more straight forward almost rock sound with their Amesoeurs cover of "Les Ruches" and build on it from there. Overall this album is solid and sounds great . I'll give it a 8.5 , though I am sure it might grow on me more if I were to give more spins. It comes out the 8th of Sept on a Sad Sadness Song.

Ufomammut : "8"


Bongs across the world must be aflame so the trend of super psyche filled doom continues this time coming from Italy. I just hit publish on the new Monolord album, when I started listening to this and these guys are even further out in the cosmos. Where Monolord hits you with fuzzed out density, these guys have the Sabbath core of doom obscured by clouds of tripping haze. The vocals feel more Pink Floyd like to me than carrying any kind of an Ozzy influence. With each song they take you further into the depths of their warped rabbit hole. By the second song it's clear the drummer is a fucking champ. They establish more tension on "Warsheep". These are not catchy songs that grab your ear with their infectious allure. Instead they are immensely interesting and captivating in a more cerebral fashion.  They do lock into some more conventional doom like riffs here and there, but the organic melting of ear movement into another has a life of its own.

"Zodiac" carries over the rumble from the previous song. They vocals are more shouted. Two minutes into this song they launch into a cool progressive groove. So this is not for doom purists , but I think even they can find plenty to love about this album. Normally I might be bitching about songs going over the 9 minute mark, but these guys know how to fill every minute. This album begins to work more in movements, much like how "Zodiac" progressed out of the song before it the same could be said of "Fatum". The heavilly effected vocals do kind follow a Ozzy like cadence in how they bounce of the thicker pounding laid under them. Heading into the three minute mark it's so heavy it is sick. Once again the groove of the preceding it given a twist into something new this time it's "Prismaze". There is more of a palm muted tension that reminds me a little of Tool, but on more drugs. "Core" is a more punishing explosion than anything they have offered up so far on this album.

The first solid Sabbath thumbprint is not until "Wombdemonium". This is one of the album's more straight forward moments. At only three minutes they still manage to do better than most of the sprawling merchants of 13 minute doom. I think the dark groove to "Psyrcle" is more compelling . There is a weird hint of a female vocal sampled in and the lead vocals have more of a chanted quality to them. I was not expecting the tempo shift midway into the song.I'll give this album a 9.5 it's an excellent blend of surreal and heavy and another step forward for this band who is clearly not afraid to be different and I commend them for it.


Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Monolord : " Rust"




The new one from the Swedish trio, is a more melodic endeavor. While they have always used melodic vocals over thick walls of fuzzy riffs, they are now giving the vocals more room to breathe. This doesn't mean it's any less heavy. The guitars are still packed with all the density you would want from these guys. Obviously as with most doom band's Sabbath is a huge influence, but I can also here some hints of the more burly psychedelic garage bands that we now think of as proto-metal like Atomic Rooster or Blue Cheer. The lyrics for better or for worse are more discernible. On "Dear Lucifer" the vocalist wails to say he doesn't believe any more and is sad to he has to go. So this is a break up song to Lucifer. I don't remember their lyrics on the previous releases being all that satanic so it's not a shocker. The song does have a hint of sorrow to it ,so it must not be Lucifer it must be them.

Organ opens up the title track to really give it that 60's psychedelic feeling I was talking about earlier. They must have some better weed coming through Sweden these days. The powerful chug to the riff going into the verses has more of a classic metal feeling. One thing I love about this album is the fact these guys prove you can make powerful doom without having every song drag on over the ten minute mark.Eventually they do cross that line, but it's later in the album and not the opener.  I did have to listen to "Wormland" twice to check back in with the realization that it was an instrumental. So as far as instrumentals go the guitar kept the melody enough to distract me from this fact as I normally don't like instrumentals. Eventually there is a violin where the vocals would sit. So add violins to the list of new sounds on this album.

The big over 12 minute epic is "Forgotten Lands". The vocals come in after about two minutes of lumbering.While it is certainly a respectable show of power, they are trudging the road more traveled when it comes to doom with this song.Midway into it and I am waiting for some dynamic shift to justify them dragging this out. I am obviously impatient as the shift does come a minute later.Its a weird solo break, where the guitar tone sounds like it is being put through the same warbling filter the vocals have had on them for the duration of the album. The bass backs off on some of the fuzz to give the song more breathing room. Heads will bang with the punches that threaten to lead into the meat of the song again. Spoiler alert. Then they go for the fifteen minute mark on "At Niceae". Despite the change of guitar tones at the beginning the vocals don't coast in until four minutes into the song. Granted these guys are playing at the speed you expect of doom, so this does contribute to them clocking in on the far side of the 9 minute mark. Considering that they wind up in a more Pink Floyd like place when it comes to the strum of the acoustic guitar, it is kind of anti-climatic considering the song was 15 minutes long. They did try out a few new guitar tones along the way. I will however go ahead and round this one up to a 9 as it's pretty solid, aside from the last couple songs that are a little long winded. I think this one will grow on me , but if you are already a fan it is sure to stick and stay.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Black Mare : "Death Magick Mother"




Despite the p/r around this project trying to give it a political slant, this is ethereal goth with an organic band behind it. This project is the work of Ides of Gemini member Sera Timms. It is less inclined towards metal than her other band.  Imagine Switchblade Symphony with a dark indie rock band behind them rather than synths and drum machines. I am not sure that drum machines are not involved as it sounds like they certainly could be. The first two songs have a very similar feel. While they get some good sounds out of what is going on it is fairly limited in terms of dynamic range from one song to the next. The guitar at the beginning of " Death By Desire" sounds like "Hells Bells". The reast of the song is more Cocteau Twins like to some extent but darker. I was fully prepared for this to be a Chelsea Wolfe knock off , but aside from being female singers with a ghostly approach to dark atmospheric music there is not much common ground.

This will be a good soundtrack heading into the Halloween season it has a very fall feel to me. It is easy to get lost in the hypnotic haze the album creates , the only downside of this being the songs become background music and all begin to sound the same. I was on the third song then the next thing I  knew I was on the six song meaning all three songs in between sounded like one big song. When you try to break it down then "Coral Fields" works of a tension that never goes anywhere. So are we to hope this gets resolution in the following song. So if you are wondering if darkness alone can win me over the answer is not really. The guitars do more interesting things on "Babylon's Fold". The atmosphere makes this song less than tangible. It gets marginally more dynamic though the song still wanders in the gloom a bit.

There is a somewhat more conventional approach in the songwriting of "Kala". The release is not of the magnitude that you expect from metal. The bass line slinks more like death rock though it lacks that dirty edge that death rock has. The last song is even more of a conventional feel, though it slinks with an almost apocalyptic creep in it's step. The vocals follow a straighter path. I can hear a slight Velvet Underground influence if we are thinking "Venus and Furs". The darkness is more of a journey , the climax is more sonic and not as intense as their her more metal projects. I will round this up to a 9 on sheer strength of it's darkness and find this album to be really easy to listen to.


Friday, August 25, 2017

Blut Aus Nord : " Deus Salutis Meae"







I love these guys because they are so fucking dark. The title of the French art metal band's new  album translates to "God of my Salvation" , but it's highly unlikely they are making this noise ridden murk for any conventional gods. The first real song is heavy as a steamroller, but full of sonic depth. "Impious" kicks in with vicious double bass and they prove you can make mean as fuck black metal without having to use tired old blast beats.This is funny because these guys don't self identity as black metal. What is interesting about what they are doing here is droning , but at a high velocity. It can be hard to tell where they guitars begin and end. The blast beats do show up for "Apostasis" . The wacky dissonant solos begin fly from the edges of the riffs that also begin have a little more of a death metal feel to them. The vocals here are a lower growl that contributes to this.

Things get creepy with "Absime", though in more of a doom like manner. The vocals are sung and form more of a chant against the thick plodding. The paces up dramatically for "Revelatio". The solos squeal out of the hammering drums that slows every thing to more of a death metal pace. It's not until the section of chanted vocals that they break away black metal conformity on "Ex tenebrae Lucis" . To their credit most of these songs are a reasonable length and they still cram a vast amount of depravity into them. The descending quality of many of these riffs feel like death metal. Some of the sonic sprawl that sit against the density of guitar reminds me of Ministry.

"Metanoia" is another step in the spiral down. It drones on one riff with a forest of weird noises enclosing it. The vocals sound like the pigs that got possessed in the Gospel of Matthew. So maybe this album is their "Animals". It's a concept album we did not catch onto from the perspective of the pigs after being possessed. The double bass would mimic their hooves racing toward the cliff. I'll give this album an 8.5. It gets props for being dense and dark, though the song writing works more off of the drone, if you are a fan of these guys it is unlikely you will find your self disappointed. This album is being released on October 27th.


Thursday, August 24, 2017

Cursed Moon : " Rite of Darkness"





When a project claims to combine Christian Death with King Diamond they are obviously going to have my attention. I would say Christian Death and Venom might be a better comparison. The vocals are only element that is metal thus far, otherwise it death rock. Falling somewhere between Sisters of Mercy and Christian Death. The second song follows the same formula, the lyrics are about the anti-Christ, giving it a little more metal slant. By the time we get to the third song I am getting a little discouraged by the vocals. I like the reverse goth vocals over heavier music. Now I am getting roared vocals over music that is not as heavy. This one man project, begins to show the problem with many one man band's which is two fold. First some instruments are better played than others. I think the guitar playing is the best hear and the bass playing is a little clunky. Secondly it's pulling from a limited spectrum of influence . All the songs are beginning to sound like they are just stealing a page of early Sisters of Mercy. The keyboards are also way to strong in the mix, if this was
a band one of the four other people might have said, hold one maybe it might sound better like this...

"Ritual Sacrifice" is a little like a goth version of "Countess Bathory". There is a little more punk punk to "Creatures of the Night".  The chorus has a gang vocal. By the time we get to "Demon" the novelty is wearing off and we are beginning to fall into drudgery. I am the target audience for this sort of thing so sif you are losing my attention then maybe, my preferred formula of goth vocals and heavy music might be a better option. I think what he is doing here could work as a dynamic , but not for an entire album. I don't hate it, all the songs just sound the same. I am guessing this guy just can't sing so that why he is going this route. Even a spoken Joy Division vocal would have worked. Not really asking you to be King Diamond. The vocal is more spoken on "Witches Danse" but it is still that more rugged metal tone. Then when he covers " A Rock and a Hard Place" we hear why he was wise not to sing. He makes an attempt and can't get his voice down there so it makes him awkwardly ptichy.

There is a more Mercyful Fate like riff to "Turn the Cross Upside down" but his guitar tone is too clean. This song would have benefited from more grit from the guitars. I can appreciate where he is trying to go here. The cover of Skinny Puppy's "Assimilate" is pretty rough as well and this one didn't take any vocal wizardry. I like where this project could go the execution can be iffy in spots so I'll give this a 7.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Zola Jesus : "Okovi"






After her last album I really needed her to get back to darker places. That is what happens after a weird atmospheric introduction. She combines sweeping strings with tracks that sound like they came from one of Bjork's nightmares. "Soak" is a pop song with a strong hook that proves pop does not have to be a bad word. My ex-wife used to complain that she sang in too nasal or throaty of a tone, but the clear vocal tones on " Ash to Bone" ends that argument. The atmosphere is pretty thick. So much so that in comparison to the first two actual songs, it almost feels more like an interlude. The lushly orchestrated "Witness" picks up where the previous song left off, but with a more melodic grace. The hints of soul in her voice are more fleshed out here. I prefer her more new wave side, though it's hard to make a case of the quality of singing here.

The chorus vs the verse of "Siphon" is a tug of war between her earlier work and this more mature turn to conventional pop. The song backs off from the groove til the chorus. The first beat that really makes you report to the dance floor is on "Veka" which starts of with a more introspective ambiance and builds into something more physically moving. I kept hearing that there were trap beats on this album, and I am not hearing it. The vocal refrain of "Wiseblood" carries the song. The beat is interesting and big with a tribal hint. There is an 80's sci-fi pulse to "Remains". Her voice really sounds great here. The song gets weird in the sense it feels like the 80's are colliding with 90's electronica as there is more of a break beat to this one. By the end the pace picks up and ebbs back down. The vocal production shines here, there is perfect blend of effects on her voice to compliment her natural tone with out taking away from it and creating a radio conformity.

It was a little disappointing that the last song was instrumental as well when it comes to Zola Jesus I want to hear her singing. So this is not the perfect album, but it is a welcome addition to her legacy and finds her voice continuing to live up to it's potential. I think it's a good compromise in terms of darker electronic music and pop. I don't see this propelling her into Katy Perry or even Sia status in terms of radio play, but that is not what she is going for or she would be there. I'll give this one a 9.5.





Monday, August 21, 2017

Bella Morte : "Year of the Ghost"






It's almost time for Dragon Con , so these con regulars who are also playing this year have released a new album. It starts off strong with a more classic goth sound. The lower vocals feel more comfortable than when he goes into his upper range. I think on some of the albums more ballad like moments his voice benefits from the more polished production and the added bells and whistles. Though "My Only One" is almost too influenced by Trent Reznor. He is a smoother crooner where Reznor has a more desperate whisper to his voice, but I can hear shades of "Hurt".  They find a more Sisters of Mercy like rock drive with "Black Orchids". But he is more of a baritone than a bass so his voice never drops as far down into the crypts of the vampire sound. I can however live with what they are doing here.

They bass follows the same tempo as the previous song, to create a similar vibe though maybe a little more post punk here considering the tension of the guitar. I think these guys who came in at the tail end of the Cleopatra years recognize the face of goth has changed. They return to the more flowery goth sound on the verses when the vocals come. I think when his voice goes up into the chorus it's a smoother transition than what I remember hearing previous from these guys. I like the darker pulse that "Burn" gets started with. The piano comes in and they tenderize the groove more than I might like making it more touchy feely. He does use some interesting intervals in the melodies. Some of the synth sounds are questionable and the bass should not sit as far back in the mix.

"Darker Waters" has more whispered vocals and the bass sound is struggling to be present. The chorus falls in with their normal formula. Think I preferred the chorus of the previous song. But the guitar line on the bridge is rather forward thinking. They go full on metal for " Prayers For the Damned" it has almost and old school Iron Maiden feel to it. Of course I am going to think it's one of the album's best songs. The they back off again for the moody " Dead of Night". The guitar here is more Cure like in the verses though it rocks out on the chorus. I do like the call and response on the chorus. Not sure about the keyboards , across the album they are hit or miss. They close the album with a cover of VNV Nation's "Further". It seems slightly redundant for them to do so. But Andy does a good job of singing it.

I think this album shows growth for them. Not sure about the synths in many places. Andy's singing has matured in all the right places and they are more self aware here. I will round this one up to an 8 and see how it sits on me.

 

Brand New : "Science Fiction" (Full Album Stream)



Until 2006 when My brother turned me onto the album "God and the Devil are Raging Inside of Me" I was under the impression they were some sort of Christian pop punk band. There debut kinda fell in with the whole Myspace emo thing. Their newest album starts off very dark with an amazing vocal when the song kicks in after a sampled narrative. The vocal is amazing because of the sound invoked.Jesse Lacey doesn't have the best pipes in the business, but he works well with what he has and knows where to put his voice. The instrumentation is sparse but allows the vocals room to do their thing. Right from the start of "Can't Get it Out" it reminds me of the Pixies with how the bass drives the song. There is a little more of the pop punk thing on the chorus. The guitar is strummed in the verses with a very Pixies like feel. The vocal harmonies on this album are very well layered and the vocals benefit from stellar production. The first song that doesn't do anything for me is "Could Never Be Heaven" . His voice sounds fine, it's just a tedious folk ballad that drones on with the chorus. They return to more of a strum of acoustics with vocal layers playing against it. The =Effected guitars of "Same Logic/ Teeth" provide atmosphere as the guitars build the dynamics. The slink of the bass is what makes this song a winner, though it has lots of ebb and flow. Some of the cooler parts they could hold onto longer. There is a yelled vocal that reminds me of Bright Eyes' more aggressive moments. The acoustic break toward the end of the song is unexpected and cool. The beginning of "137" feels like "Heart Shaped Box". The vocals find Lacey in his sweet spot. Some of the guitars sounds like Pink Floyd and the guitar solo section is almost metal. The mid-tempo "Out of Mana" is more conventional rock , but it still has their signature upon it, mainly in the lyrical content and care free brooding of the vocals. Way more guitar solos than you would expect from them.They have been listening to way more classic rock, the guitar of "In the Water" starts off with a hint of Yes, then the songs goes down a bluesy road not unlike Stone Temple Pilots in the way the vocals fall. While it's way better the slight tinge of Southern rock could find this sharing the stage with Shinedown. So not a sell out but more accessible. The clean guitar of "Desert" is well played though the lyrics are semi-religious, so that brings me back to pondering their message. Though I find him to be full of doubt so I can work with that as it's not preachy. "No Control" finds them back in a more grunge place this time closer to Weezer. "451" is one of the albums most straight forward rock songs which will transition well into a live setting , but this version aside from the lyrics falls a tad flat on me. The moody "Batter Up" closes the album. The layered vocals are effective and this is more in their wheelhouse than some of the more rock songs and is full of feeling. All of their albums are different to some extent, I guess this could be considered more mature, but I was not expecting some of the more classic rock radio moments. Still this is a great album that sounds amazing I'll give it a 9.5.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Sannhet : " So Numb"




The band from Brooklyn's 3rd album opens with thundering drums pounding into a ethereal drone. Driven yet dynamic as the melodic swathes of guitar color this in a much different manner than how thye have painted their songs before.  This is the second instrumental album I have reviewed this week. The first was Mogwai's new one and this album might share some of the post rock moments, it feels like a much different creature than what Mogwai does. It  would be more fitting to call this driving and aggressive music than heavy, and certainly not metal. They delve further into a more Cure like atmosphere on the second song. The drummer and the bass player are the conspirators when it comes to who is giving this album it's grit as the guitar floats over it like shimmering clouds made of glass. One thing I like about this album and their others is it stays true to who they are as a band, without retreading the same ground. Nothing about this album really feels all that black metal any more, but if it had it would have revisited similar ground. A fact I can be split on at times but here it seems to be working.

The first hint of their black metal past is in the drums to the title track that flirt with a blast beat and try to not actually commit to it. I don't think this fact and in of itself is what keeps it from being black metal, I think it has more to do with the feeling emitted from their music. Around the two minute mark the guitar does so really beautiful pondering. The drummer Christopher Todd continues to impress with his playing. "Fernbeds" has Thom Wasluck coming in to add a guitar solo. Opening with delay heavy bass, it falls somewhere between Pink Floyd and Joy Division. When it comes to solo's we are not talking about actual metallic shredding , but melodic sonic interplay. It is actually one of the album's best songs. "Salts" is dark and brooding, there is a an ominous tension and I like the electronic feel to the percussion, It feels more like 80's Cure.

"Way Out" continues with the post-punk vs post-rock feel. There are more more aggressive almost black metal accents in a few places that pound the point home in a similar fashion as a blast beat. The songs on this album are very concise and don't drone on yet the band manages to make much of this album carry a hypnotic sway. Vocals are my favorite part of most songs so to keep my attention with out them deserves applause. The guitars do a great job of carving out sonic slices and work well with the drums to touch on metal dynamics with out being mired into metal. 'Secondary Arrows" doesn't form it's own identity until I really hear a guitar melody emerge and guide the song on it's way. The tempo shifts and gets to some extent heavier on "Sleep Well" . The moods shifts a lot on this song but the most impressive part is when it locks in on the groove thanks to the bass player. "Wind Up" is pretty much just ambiance and feels more like an outro than a song so not counting it for the purpose of this review.

While this is not a metal album by any means , it is a collection of interesting songs that would still sit well against the band's other material in a live setting. Some of the best drumming and bass playing I have heard this year. I think they have come into their own and can claim a spot next to bands like Russian Circles in making sonically heavy music. While Russian Circles might possess the more overt metallic moments Sannhet now opts to use other colors in their expanded pallet. Not sure how much play I will get out of this due to the nature of this beast, but enjoyed what I heard and think fans will enjoy the ride so I'll round it up to a 9.The album comes out August 25th.

Tori Amos : "Native Invader"






My ex-wife would not let me play Tori Amos in the car after I played Kate Bush for her during our first week of dating and ruined Tori  Amos for her. Well when I was in high school I had already heard Kate Bush before hearing Tori, who is obviously influenced by  Kate , but always had a more emotionally fragmented rawness to her. Seeing her straddle her piano bench and play a harpsichord with one hand and a piano with her other made me forget those comparisons. It also made me not want to play the piano for a year. Tori and I have been estranged for 12 years as "the Bee Keeper" is the last album I bought of hers, and that was back when I still bought albums.  Her 15th album opens with a big dark piano sound. Her voice has mellowed over the years into a warm alto, that can still find it's way gracefully up into her head register. She works well over the groove of "Wings" which finds its shadowy introspection contrasting the more organic guitar oriented sway of "Broken Arrow". I am trying to be open minded about this guitar thing. In the past that is where Tori and I have part ways , as I want the piano to be the focus and for some reason I have not wanted her to have a six string in action on her songs, though I am ok with bass. So I am telling myself this time around to think of it more like I think of Elton John.

The strum of "Cloud Riders" is almost like the Decemberists. The way the melody rolls out there is a slight country twinge but it is still very Tori. I am not sure how to even file what she is doing on "Up the Creek" but I like it and the layered vocal harmonies sound great. "Break Away" has some beautiful piano in it, but it is really just a dialed in Tori ballad, she doesn't feel like she really has anything worth while to say here. "Wildwood" finds Tori indulging her more Joni Mitchell side with a filter of post-rock guitar. This is one of her best uses of guitar in a song to date. With 15 songs there was bound to be some filler and " the Chocolate Song" seems to fall under that. It's not bad just not as inspired as the first few songs. There is a darker undertone to this album and it continues to be felt on "Bang". It has a sultry smoke to it's western swing.  Two minutes it turns into something closer to chamber music which makes it very consistent in terms of who Tori is.

"Climb" finds the album dipping into a more intimate piano piece that reminds me a little of Led Zeppelin's acoustic moments. I prefer her stripped down like this. After the number of artists who do this in such a compelling fashion is fairly limited. "Bats" is more in line with her "Under the Pink"  years. The bass and drums plays around the song like a upbeat version of "No Quarter". It has a very 70s rock feel, like the stuff that floated on a cloud of cocaine and pot smoke from California, Don Henley I am looking in your direction. "Benjamin"  doesn't really connect with me despite staying in that 70s space. "Mary's Eyes" finds her going back into Neil Gaiman's world. So once again she connects with themes from her earlier work.  "Upside Down" and "Russia" close the album on that stripped down piano vibe. Over all it's a pretty solid album, if some of the fat was trimmed it could have been in her top 5, but that's not the case , but it did inspire me to want to go back and here what I have been missing over the course of the past 12 years, so I'll give it a 9. The album drops September 8th.



Thursday, August 17, 2017

Satyricon : "Deep Calleth Upon Deep"




At this point I think only those in the deepest denial think of these guys as black metal. There are still black metal elements in play, but they are not much different than Behemoth in that regard. The opener throbs with a darkness . It has a disdain more than an anger to it. There is a groove and hints of melody. The drums are less produced than I expected.When I get into the winding riffs of This album does have a rawer element than their more recent stuff. The guitar gets adventurous in their use of melody.The drumming begins to really take off in this song. Some of the more angular mathmatic riffs clutter up the energy . The drums do work best in some of the more groove oriented sections of dissonance. At time the riffs even reminds me of morbid Angel.So that old school feel of death metal.

They sound more black metal when they slow down into a darker melodic pulse with " To Your Brethren in the Dark". Up until this point I was iffy on the vocals which are in more of a spoken croak. The croak however is placed in the drone of the song right where it needs to be. There is a more mainstream metal sound to the very deliberate groove of the title track.It almost sings like he is croaking out passages of Edgar Allen Poe rather than singing.  There are some weird almost operatic vocals in the back ground. It They do something similar on " the Ghost of Rome". It builds up and throws in some guitar harmonies, but is not a wild deviation from what they normally do."Dissonant" has an interesting groove to it's more jazz like stomp.

The first hint of black metal doesn't show up until "Black Wings and Withering Gloom". Then we get a few blast beats and thrash gallops. The lyrics are about the winter and the snow, which is better than some of the mumbo jumbo the other songs have been about. The album ends with "Burial Rite". This song is more aggressive than most of this album. It reminds me a little of Inquisition. I am not sure what this song is about aside from Leviathan making the sea rumble which has nothing to do with the rest of the song. Two and a half minutes into it the song feels like it is beginning to drag a little. Just as I am thinking that it transitions, but it seems a little arbitrary. I'll round this one up to a 9, as the rawer production makes this one of the first album's by these guys that I can take seriously and don't feel the need to write it off as mall metal. This album comes out September 22nd.


KMFDM : " Hell Yeah"



The legendary act who walks the line between electro and industrial returns like a drug against war, stronger than maybe not ever before, but certainly more powerful than most of the albums since Tohuvabohu. I am glad the guitar is receiving more focus on this album which makes songs like the opening track sound more like their classic work. The vocals work really well over the groove and the guitar accents the chorus. It's not until the more dancey Lucia track " Freak Flag" that we begin getting mixed messages from the band who was just telling us only the tough with survive. They begin wanting you to embrace individuality. This would not be a problem if their name didn't mean "no pity for the majority". This is the band that once instructed us to free our hate. A kinder gentler politically correct KMFDM is not what I want from them. I want them barking orders and espousing a more Darwinian ethics. Then lyrically things begin sounding even more like something from your Facebook feed on "Total State Machine" . Here they are preaching that the government hates you. And why have pity for the graves America dug for themselves if what I ponder. The chorus really pounds and had some dense guitar tones.

 Lucia is back with "Murder My Heart" which is more of a pop song with attitude. The groove gives it more of a strut.Her voice does sound good here and it's not a political song so I can deal with pop. "Rip The System" is another lament of the western world. They need to return to not pitying the majority. "Shock" has a better groove to it. Lucia coos her way into the song. "Fake News" claims that it going to make the sheep think for themselves which is more along the lines of what I want to hear from these guys. One of the album's best songs is the rowdy "RX 4 the Damned" where Lucia seems to have the biggest set of balls in the band. She screams out that the bridges she is going burn will light the way.The chorus to this song is the most explosive of the album.

Sascha gets his moment to shine on "Burning Brain" offering the album more redemption. The buzzsaw guitars sound very big and the production is totally dialed in for this album. "Only Lovers" sounds like Madonna having a darker more introspective moment. The album closes with one of the more hammering moments on "Glam , Glitz, Guts and Gore" . I'll give this album a 9.5 for me, really only because they stray from their mission statement lyrically which makes me a little iffy on a couple of songs, but when they are on they are are on and just as heavy as ever.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Mogwai : "Every Country's Sun"





I got on board with these guys back on "Come On Die Young". They have changed over the years. So have I. The opener of their new album is more familiar.  Post-rock before I remember hearing the term. They used to just sound good to get high to. I no longer get high, but I guess the drugs altered my perception enough that I listen like to listen to music that sounds good to get high, even without the drugs. The first song makes me envious of those who can do so. I am a little surpised y the vocals on the second song. It's not the first time they have used vocals , but it still takes me by surprised. They are light and breathy, would not sound out of place on a shoe gaze album so what you would expect The bass and drums hold "Brain Sweeties" together, not as strong as the first two songs, but still in range of their wheelhouse.

The atmosphere counter balanced the timid drug groove of "Crossing the Road Material" wich swells into the kind of beautiful post-rock these guys have become known for where they intensity it almost heavy in a transcendent manner. There is more of a kraut rock thing going on with the song that follows. While it sounds go the ambiance makes it feel more like an interlude than a song. "20 Size" is more organic and guitar focused. More soaring layers of guitar melody, this is want you want from these guys. The vocals come back in for "1000 foot face" it has more of a Pink Floyd sound. The atmosphere that opens up the very minimalist 'Don't Believe the Fife" make the song seems like a cloud slowly passing by. It does finally build up into more of a sweeping crescendo. There is more motion and substance to "Battered at a Scramble". The bass line is heft and the guitars kinda solo around in with a jammy yet fluid sense.

"Old Poisons" might be my favorite song as it starts off rocking harder than the others. It's that heaviness I often praise around here that is heavier sonically than it is metal. The drumming is outstanding on this one.  Midway into the song it has more of a Tool like break down that builds back up with the bass player riding it higher up on the neck, much less mathy or prog minded than Tool. They have a pretty stellar guitar tone on the title track that closes the album. The guitar melody is hypnotic yet melodic and coasting over the under current of wah wah noise. I'll give this album a 9 it's very solid and has moments of majesty that not only live up to the band's legacy , but build upon it. If you are a fan of this band you will fall in love with them all over again.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Dalek : " Endangered Philosophies"







Death Grips was a cool concept that believed it's own hype and lost track of it's mission statement. But long before that project existed Dalek was rapping out of the box and creating jarring hip-hop. It has what other's trying to make experimental and noisy hip hop often forget about...groove. It's a big dirty "Check Your Head" style beat, but more rough around the edges. I like how "Weapons" is dark and brooding with the track playing backwards to further weave a surreal web around you. The lyrics are thoughts on the world around them without getting to mired down in being political. When it comes to rap, I don't think they should trust either party. "Few Understand" inhabits a similar sonic space that DJ Shadow often occupies. It is more droning and atmospheric than the first songs.

" the Son of Immigrants" says a rise in imminent, but it's more of a call to wake up than to arms. Perhaps lyrical that is what is hinted at , but the music lulls you into a womb like environment. The hypnosis continues to bring the gnosis on "Beyond the Madness " The rap falls back further in the mix and feels more freestyled than the songs that preceded it. While it's very unconventional when compared to mainstream hip-hop, it does adhere to a formula in terms of song structure. The ambiance becomes more intangible, while the vocals step up in the mix for "Sacrifice", As with most rap, the chorus is the chanted hook. Here they break away from the formula and keep chanting the chorus so when it breaks down to what would be a verse it feels more like spoken word.

The beat to " Nothing Stays Permanent" has more of a 90s trip-hop feel to it. I like the dissonance in the verses. This is more like what I have come to known this project as over the years. Long time fans will find this one to be one of their favorite songs. Sometimes they let the ambiance linger more than others. With "A Collective Cancelled Thought" it's allowed to simmer for two minutes until they drop the beat in. It loses me in it's drone eventually. I think the execution is better on "Battlecries" where he name drops Ian Curtis. It's slower and come along the lines of what you might expect from Tricky. They do credibility for trying to compare Jackie Wilson to Elvis. The argument ends with you say Elvis everyone knows , Jackie Wilson only fans of early r&b over the age of 50.

"Straight Razors" is more compressed . It clocks in around four minutes. The rap is not focused on returning back to the hook and flows more freely. This is not to say that they deviate from the formula altogether they just don't adhere as closely. The closing song "Numb" is more sing song, so it's about as up beat as this album gets.

Friday, August 11, 2017

Big Hush : "Spirit / Wholes"






From the first song you can hear how they have captured the shoegaze spirit from the 90s and shove it into indie rock songs with more speculative guitar shimmer. They vocals have more form and function that vocals typically do in this genre. Their singer actually sings out rather than just breathing into the microphone. She has some attitude in her otherwise indifferent alto. There is more of a hazy punk rock clamor to the jangle of "Pay to Play". The guitar quivers with effects and the vocals sit back further into the guitar for this one. The bass comes up in the mix to give the song more balls. There is more of a Sonic Youth atmosphere to the woozy wall of drunken guitar clouding "Say Anything". There is a more drugged My Bloody Valentine sense of altered sonics on "Cold Shoulder" , but the riffs are still written with the angular quirk of math rock. There is a heavier undercurrent that opens "Cough" . This is contrasts by one of the album's most upbeat choruses. The vocals seem to be shared by the whole band, but if they were smart they would let the girl who sang on the first song , handle the bulk of the vocals.


 "Walk On" is more straight forward indie rock , with a decent sense of rock about it. "Wholes" is back to the song writing that made the first song work so well, even though it's more lo-fi and the vocals are not as forward in the the mix. The over all sound stays murky for "Honey" , but this is more of a stylistic choice for the given genre. There are some country influenced rock licks tossed into the surreal coast that can be noisy at times. The mood is similar and perhaps more country on "Wrong House", which lyrically sound like it could be sung from Goldilocks perspective. The best thing is the vocals most closely resemble what got my attention on the first song. I can hear hints of the Cowboy Junkies. The album closes with "Where I End". This is another song that highlights the girl with the more impressive voice of this band. Though here it's layered against other vocals that might not be of the same caliber. This song feels more like 60s pop than the country tinged indie rock thing they had going on in the previous song.


 I will give this album a 8.5. I think I have been pretty clear in regards to what I feel is the best path for this band to take in regards to what works best for them. There are some really good songs I wish all of them were consistent enough to measure up to the first song. It does improve when she takes back control of the mic later in the album. I will keep my ears open for what these guys do in the future, if you are a fan of shoe gaze or indie rock then they are worth your time .

Hades Archer : "Temple of the Impure"



I am not remembering correctly the older album I used to own by these guys , but it seems like this album is finding the band from Chile taking a few steps backward in order to embrace a rawer sound. The album opens with a very Mayhem like blitzkrieg.They way the blast beat is hammered goes to show you that it won't take you long to figure out that this drummer is a fucking badass. Th rolls off the fills coming off the kit are as good as anything Pete Sandoval used to do. Notice I am referencing a death metal band here rather than a black metal band. Well the drumming is more death metal than black metal. I know these guys have covered Mortuary Drape in the past so that is an influence. However I would say they are a black metal band and not a blackened death metal band. More Venom like qualities of "Sex Sex Sex Perversions" work for me better than the more punk tone that starts off "Great Moon Tide".

It's the groove to "Hecate Undressed" that is absolutely bad ass.So much so it makes me ignore the fact that the vocals are almost just spoken.  The solo works really well to add depth and show how solos should work with the song rather than jack off around them. They can fall into the trap many bands that play at this velocity fall into, as they come close to tripping over themselves and rush past the chances to write an actual song. They are often a few accents away from making it work like old Deicide used to. The title track works off of the throb that flows better for them than trying to rush through the songs as they keep up with the insane double bass.

They slow down again for "Apollyon's Brightness" . "World Inheritance" feels like it is just an extension of the previous song so it has little in the way of it's own personality.Not sure I would say this is the band's best effort though there are some solid songs on here some even elevated themselves to being impressive. I'll give this album a 7.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Queens of the Stoneage : "Villains"





I need these guys to quit fucking around and rock out. Is this possible ? The proliferation of kraut rock synths that open this album at first don't make this dream seem likely. But the do lock into 70s rock groove.It reminds me a little of Judas Priests disco moments...yes, Turbo lovers I am talking to you. That is not to say this is a bad thing, as I don't mind a touch of pop to what they do.  "The Way You Used To Do" is not as tightly written and sounds like they are jamming on a White Stripes b-side. With their first three albums , you still could see how this descended from Kyuss. On this album that connection is still blurred. "Domesticated Animals" almost sounds more Nine Inch Nails than Queens of the Stoneage.

Its good to hear that four songs in this continues to be better than expected. There is more of a mid pacing to "Fortress" The vocals sit well in the groove of the song. There's a more frantic punk like energy to the attack of "Head Like A Haunted House". Synths be damned they still managed to find the groove for "Un-Reborn Again". It's on the angular side. The bass line is pretty solid on this one. This is not only far from metal, but not even aggressive enough to be referred to a hard rock, When they back off even further on "Hideaway". This is my least favorite song on the album as it's the kind of ball-less meandering that weighed "Like Clock Work Down".

They pick up the pace for "the Evil Has Landed". There is a more Led Zeppelin like boogie to this . In interviews Homme has called what they do a rock version of electronic music and I can hear that here. On the closing title track of sorts, it's clear years in the vocal booth have improved Homme's singing . He has always had a pleasant voice, but showcases his croon to a fuller extent on this one. It's more of a ballad than I had  hoped for , but overall as a song grows on me. The first song got me enough to make me round this one up to a 9 and give it a shot on my iPod , it also made me miss their early work and want to hunt down those albums.



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Kuudes Silma : "Pelko"

Svart Records lives up to it's name , by delivering dark music and branching out from metal. This Finnish post-punk band, carries the revivalist torch in a manner not unlike Bellicose Minds. Male and female vocals share the mic to give a more layered delivery. This album sounds great and is cavernous to capture the 80s sound without being a slave to it. The opener has a lot of drive. They are not death rock purists or too punk for their own good and use synths to add a coating of atmosphere. The title track is more aggressive with the vocals becoming more forceful. The pace of the song stays just as brisk as the opener.They sing in their native tongue so to American listeners this might give the songs a more uniform feel.



 The songs breeze by you at such a rapid pace, I almost lost track of "Sina ja mina" . The vocals are more shouted. The bass takes the traditional role in holding the song together. The drums sound almost programmed on this one. On the song that follows I can tell the drums are real. The verses break down and are musically more melodic while the vocals shout over these passages.The guitars really sound good on this one and I like how the female vocals trade of with the more punk male vocals. Midway into the album things take on a more Cure like tone sonically. The male vocals shift into more of a whisper which is as close to singing rather than yelling they seem to get.There is a harder and darker current to "Huhtikuuta" . The synths come up in the mix and vocals take throaty bellow. This is as close to metal as they get. The Cure influence continues to be felt and at first glance the album cover even looks like "Pornography".

The album locks in a more uniform groove on the back half of the album. They only vary slightly from the formula. The songs blend together until you get to the last song and then there seems to be more melody as it takes on an even darker mood.Overall this is a solid album, it's the band's second and they are going further into the shadows here. I like the fact that this is more firmly on the goth side of post-punk, while I am not sure how much air time it will get, repeat listens did find it grew on me so I will give this one a 9.



Monday, August 7, 2017

Cloakroom : "Time Well"





While they have a burly guitar tone there is no denying that the opener of  Cloakroom's new album is shoe-gaze. The drumming is very tasteful and the guitar tone shifts with fluid grace. I guess it could be grunge tinged at times if we are calling early Smashing Pumpkins grunge. The vocals sound like they are very depressed stoned and falling asleep. But that works for the mood they have created. "Big World" has more of an indie rock jangle to it. The bass is beefed up when they kick it with the distortion. The vocals also have more feeling to them.They actually contribute with a melody that helps carry the latter half of the song.

There is more of a stomp to the jangle of "Concrete Gallery" that reminds me of when grunge and indie rock met in the 90s , with bands like Sebadoh and Pavement. The hazy melody is somewhat up beat even in it's lethargy.  The is more weight behind "Seedless Star". It has more heft than even say Dinosaur Jr, so bordering on metal. But still not quite there in terms of heaviness. The first song that doesn't connect with me as strongly as the others is "Sickle Moon Blues" . I know slow is there thing, but it kinda drags a little without justification of dynamics to sell me on it. They drift off into a gospel version of the kind of slow core that Low invented. There is almost a country feel to "the Sun Won't Let Us Go". The vocals are more tuneful, but not mustering much more energy, though they do reach for a higher note here and there.

If I still smoked pot I think a song like title track would work better for me. Perhaps it might just need to grow on me. The clean strum of guitar is a nice dynamic change so they get credit for that. I had to listen to "52 hz Whale" a couple of times to get it and even then it still needed to wake up a little, though it does have the same hypnotic pull as Jesu if they were not metal. It's another song that takes time to grow on me and when I really focused on what was going on enjoyed it. The album closes with "the Passenger". They do rock out in short bursts on the last song and it's more dynamic than many of the songs. They also delve into more beautiful guitar tones as if this album didn't have enough. I'll give this one a 9.5.

Rebel Wizard : "the Warning of One".






I am still not clear on what negative metal is . Apparently if you are going off of what this Australian band throws down , it  means you shift between genres but maintain some nasty higher pitched black metal like vocals. I guess if Deafheaven was more into Judas Priest the results might be similar. The first song is slower and more melodic than "One I Know" which is more of a trash tone. In both cases the guitar parts are strong. There is more of a classic metal harmony on the second song. The production is interesting and pretty solid . It has a classic metal tone ( Think "Ride the Lightning") but the vocals make it more aggressive. There sneer and scowls are so feral you can't really make out the lyrics.Sometimes the vocals even sound like Gollum throwing a temper tantrum. By the time they get to the thirds song it is clear that thrash is a larger influence than any other they might try to claim.

Power metal has been a genre thrown around with these guys , and I just don't hear. Are there some big epic riffs, sure but thrash had big epic riffs like this back in the early 80s . These guys just dig back far enough into the hallowed halls of metal to pull from more obscure roots than their peers might be pulling from these days. The drummer doesn't really wow me until the last song. The end result is they roll a double bass avalanche over you. I can hear how these guys are doing a better job of tackling what a band like Death of Kings wants to do and are doing it better. I think the difference is these guys are not influenced by death metal, they are just taking the thrash thing to it's heaviest extreme.

This album surprised me and these guys delivered the goods with much more authority than I might have expected going into this. While you might call this blackened thrash, it's good solid metal. Straight forward , but done with enough groove to keep you locked into it. I'll give this album an 8.5, though I doubt I will really crave multiple listens to this unless I go through a real angry phase where I need something that is this mean to kick me in the balls.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Incantation : "Profane Nexus"







So only one member of the current line-up played on "Onward to Galgotha". We are talking about at least having the guitarist who played on one of the greatest death metal albums of all time. So the bar is very fucking high and with "Dirges of Elysium" they proved they were capable of hitting the mark. They pour on the speed with the opener and then take a turn down a dark and angular path.Drummer Kyle Severen proves he can provide the sort of double bass needed to uphold the band's legacy on "Rites of the Locust". I think this album isn't hitting me as hard as "Dirges of Elysium" due to the fact the mix is not as dense. The guitars might be playing faster, but they are not as mean. Some of the solos have a more Slayer like slant to them. .

"Visceral Hexahedron" is more deliberate making it easier to set the  mood. This actually sounds more like Incantation. Where it doesn't sound like them is the production, which would sound better with the vocals not so forward in the mix. Even where the solo sits feels a little awkward. I think this could be a decent song , but I am not sure what their producer was thinking when they mixed this. When the song picks up the pace heading toward the four minute mark things sound better and there are glimmers of production magic here and there that tell me this could have gone differently. I think they probably over thought things. The bass playing is very melodic and borders on being tasteful, but I am not sure it's what some of the passages need. I think the bass needs to bring more guts.

Things sound more promising going into "Horns of the Gefrin". The density increases a few degrees. Even then in the first verse I find myself thinking this could be any death metal. The problem is this is not just any death metal band. It's one that shaped the genre, so why are they conforming to the death metal status quo. I think I would almost be better with them ripping off their previous work. Playing wise there is no denying their talents. Even the newest blood is a seasoned pro. Another positive to this album is they don't drag songs past the six minute mark. So much so that "Xipe Totec" is almost grind core at the minute mark.The dismal throb of "Incorporeal Despair" doesn't pass the four minute mark and that is at one of this album's most doom tinged moments.

"Lus Sepulcri" has a few cool riffs , but cool riffs alone do not make a good song. Though it has more of a classic feel to a lesser extent the same fate befalls "Messiah Nostrum". This song just happens to feel more like Incantation though the production is more Obituary. The song writing rises back to a level more worth of this band's legacy on "Omens to the Altar of Onyx". The closing anthem "Ancients Arise",  This song finds it's haunting stomp meeting at the cross roads of doom and death metal. This song takes you to the darker place that these guys belong at , which is one of the problems with the production, it's not dark enough. Overall even Incantation half assing it is better than most death metal bands so I'll give this an 8. But it's Incantation so it hurts my black heart that this is not a 10.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Kval : "s/t"









Sure most black metal bands from Finland have hateful vocals. Where these guys set them selves part is how the hate sits over the more thoughtful gloom of the chords, which is  not the first thing I think of when it comes to Finnish black metal, but that is thankfully what these guys are bringing to the table. Now if Horna puts out a new album I'll review it , but I don't need other bands to sound like them. These guys care about the quality of their guitars the only thing that is lo-fi are the vocals which are mixed into the background which is the only Burzum like quality this music has. Aside from the fact it's black metal. The tempo becomes even more languid and fluid as it flows gracefully over the col landscape they paint with renewed atmosphere. There are less vocals in this song and the guitars carry the melody , not the vocal were really helping in that area. "Polkuni..." has a solid mid paced drive to it and accents what is the other strong point of this album.

This album does not run off  of blast beats. In fact I have heard more double bass and don't recall hearing a single blast beat at this point unless they snuck them by me in the drone that enfolds you. While blast beats are a defining quality of black metal and in and of themselves there is nothing wrong with them, I think too many black metal bands have become to reliant on them. For a genre that vows to uphold the anthem of the outcast, they tend to go with the pack in this regard. This is why I get so excited when someone steps away from this conformity to do their own thing.


The last song before the album fades out in a bit of atmospheric tinkling, has a similar drone as Burzum. The guitar nuances are more melodic than Burzum . This is not the album's strongest song as the mood is rather monochrome. I will give this album an 8.5 , it's pretty solid and most of my praise for it would fall under what I mentioned previously , while it does obviously take influence from the past , it is not a slave to the rules of black metal, but achieves the emotions I want from black metal. I will make sure to keep these guys on my radar as I would like to hear where they go from here.




Friday, August 4, 2017

Nadine Shah : "Holiday Destination"





It's not until we get to the title track that we get to the kind of soulful yet dark grooves that propelled her last album. It opens with something that is quirky, but doesn't feel like it has the emotional depth I expect from her. So it is good to hear that she knows how to get back to that place. It feels more like indie rock than post punk this time around. Her voice sounds great on "2016". She is up on the mic and forward in the mix. I don't have to have the post-punk tension if she is singing like this in her sensuous alto. They song throws some punches and has coats of atmosphere splattered about. You could compare her to what a band like the Yeah Yeah Yeah's does or even PJ Harvey, when the album shuffles it's way into "Out of the Way" . A harder synth bass line casts a shadow over the song. Midway into this song and I am still impressed how good this album sounds. Every thing is crisp and sits right where it needs to even when they start to bring in weird instruments like saxophones.

She treads similar ground to the Cure with the drone of "Yes Men" which balances melody with the hypnotic web it weaves. Lyrically she is pissed about the tone of politics. Perhaps this is what keeps this album from having the same emotional tangibility as the previous album. The shuffle to "Evil" has an almost 60's pop shuffle. "Ordinary" falls somewhere between feeling like 80's post-punk and and indie rock with poppy aspirations. "Relief" has a more tense and angular riff to it that is soothed out by the vocals. The Cure like sound returns on "Mother Father". This song is immaculate arranged and written and leaves her plenty of room for her voice to move around.

The album closes with the more atmospheric pulse of "Jolly Sailer" A lo-fi beat and a low throbbing bass pulse help to drive the song. I'll give this album a 9. I would not say there are problems that need to be addressed, this just might be the direction she is going in hear. It is not as dark, though lyrically it has a more angst ridden undercurrent.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Suicide Commando : " Forest of the Impaled"




Dark and theatrical are the first thoughts that come to mind from the onset of this electronic acts new album. Nero Bellum from Pysclon Nine provides vocals for the opening track. There is a bouncier dark wave feel to "My new Christ" . This song is less industrial and more edm. The vocals are lower than what Nero does, more spoken through a thick filter of effects than screamed. There is more groove to "Too Far Gone". But the tones are not as dark so it begins to remind me of something from an anime soundtrack. The vocals get more of a hateful edge on "Dies Lies waiting" . The synth melodies are a little more interesting here, it has , more of a Skinny Puppy feel. I think the darker and meaner these guys can get the better.

The tempo accelerates for " the Pain that you like", I can see myself using this song for BDSM sessions, so it has me rethinking if this album could possibly make it over to my iPod. Lyrically it's a lot of chanting , but the song is almost industrial in it's level of aggression. There is more of a stomp to " Poison Tree". But there is something upbeat and slightly more light hearted to it that doesn't really resonate with me.Though with that said it is still not too much out of left field from the rest of the album. It would be sad if a song called "the Devil" did not have a cool evil groove. It's along the lines of the newer edm Skinny Puppy and not the darker industrial Skinny Puppy. There is less balls to "Chasm of Emptiness" .  "Crack Up" has a more robotic feel to it , which is a decent substitute for their more aggressive side as I understand the album needs a sense of dynamics.

The last two songs are alright , but don't strike me as going above and beyond the call of duty in terms of songwriting. When these guys are paying attention to the details and bringing an extra dose of darkness and aggression to the mix then they rise above the run of mill fare for this sort of thing. They even show that they are capable of writing great songs. So when things falls into the more middle of the road electronica then this could be anyone. I'll give this album an 8, it's strongest moments are really worth the time of industrial fans or fans of aggressive electronic music.


From their latest album release ”Forest of the Impaled”. Released: July 21st, 2017. from vanGuardia on Vimeo.