Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Echtra - Paragate (2011)

Band: Echtra
Country: Oregon
Style: Atmospheric/Drone Black Metal
Label: Temple of Torturous

I don't think it could have been more than a year or so when I first discovered Echtra among the many experimental black metal groups on the Metal Achieves. Sure, I can't say that I ever really explored their music more than once until I found out this album was being released, and I kind of decided to listen to it again. It's a project that is unlike any other group you'll hear.
Now I feel the need to mention this, but to anyone who doesn't really know what they're getting themselves in for, this is the type of band you can't just put on and expect to rock out to, cause you will fail if you attempt that. Not only is every song this band has released twenty-three minutes, occasionally a second or two over, but each release is constantly moving their sound into a more meditative and ritualistic sound, or progressive if you will. These lengthy pieces however could be seen as a single song with how similar ideas conjoin separate tracks together. However, with that being said, this project in no way is abandoning the harsher, more black metal aspects of it's sound, but expanding the entire genre by melding it with folk, dark ambient, drone, doom metal, post-rock, and to a certain degree, new age. I mention new age music only because of the calming nature of this album, I wouldn't say it overwhelms the listener as much as it draws them in and just entrances you.
I don't know if you would say that the effect of their entrancement has gotten strong on here compared to past releases, but this album is certainly more engaging. Like I said above, you could call this progressive because the music on these two tracks is constantly evolving from minimalistic acoustic guitars to harsh buzzing drones in the background to bleak soundscapes that just swirl around the music, things move in and out of a track. Unlike their first album, you no longer have long periods that contain tremolo picked guitars, there's progression, and it's something I love about music, in general, with each this and the "A War For Wonder" EP both expanding upon that more simplistic idea. Now, to return to the track lengths for a second, I know that songs like these can be a bit hard to swallow on first listen, it takes time not only to understand the songs themselves, but also the band. Each of these tracks just really expresses a similar sort of concept, but each is very different. The first half of Paragate, is a fairly bleak affair, making use of a lot more drones and dark atmospherics. The second half is much more beautiful and calming, despite being having the most black metal portion of the disc.
Definitely a very unique record and a record that is very captivating and haunting as well. This is one of the few records that, if it was played live, I could actually imagine it being done as a ritual, not like a lot of bands claiming a live performance is one, this is the real deal. Definitely check this out if you're into experimental black metal, doom metal, folk music, or even drone or post-rock.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Paragate II

Alda - :Tahoma: (2011)

Band: Alda
Country: Tacoma, Washington
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Eternal Warfare

I was pretty excited when I found this record, mainly because I wasn't sure what to expect. Though I do have a copy of the first full-length, the self-titled "Alda," I can't say that I've listened to it more than once. But what made me so excited for this was the different responses I've heard from friends about it, I've heard that it's bad to it's magical.
Coming into this, all I was pretty much going on was knowing that these guys have been lumped into the whole "cascadian" black metal scene. What I got from this album is similar to what I got from the latest Petrychor record, some great folk sections with some harsher black metal ones. The difference between those the two albums being in that I believe that the sound of this album is not only less messy, but also more simplistic. The playing on here is by no means fantastic or original, but it's much more captivating and memorable than that of Petrychor's latest work. The mixing is also a lot more graspable, allowing things to sound much more organized with a clearer sense of direction.
Frankly, I feel like this record is not really all that original, I do feel a much more of the ability to enjoy this just comes from the nature to which it flows. The very natural flow, both in terms of structure and sound, really give this album a very earthy vibe and often feels like it could have been recorded in the woods. I think something that has to be mentioned is the fact that despite making use of tracks that do top ten minutes, not one of these songs felt long at all, making good use of every second. The longer tracks like In The Wake of An Iron Wind and Wandering Spirit have much more fluid style of playing and structure, where folk driven parts and more black metal sections are nicely balanced. Though personally, I feel like Shadow of The Mountain is the clear highlight simply because it's the one track on here that just stuck in my mind so clearly.
I enjoyed this record, more so than I thought I would given the different reactions I had heard from it. Though this is nowhere near breaking any new ground for black metal or folk music, it's performed very well. Definitely worth checking out if you're into more atmospheric and folk inspired black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Shadow of The Mountain, Wandering Spirit

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Plankton Wat - In Magical Light (2011)

Band: Plankton Wat
Country: Portland, Oregon
Style: Psychedelic Folk
Label: Reverb Worship

This is a very interesting release, from the cover art, which is what caught my attention, to the little bit of information I found out about this project, it just stuck out. My recent interest in folk music made me want to find something to review while it was the cover that caught my attention. The idea that this music was recorded on a four-track in Dewey Mahood's basement intrigued me enough to want to look into this more.
I'm not really sure what I expected to find from this release, from the live video that I watched of Mahood performing, it was very different from what I think most people would consider to be "folk" music. This is very stripped down, not so much raw, but very minimal, yet very textured, you can tell the different guitar parts apart from each other easily enough, but there isn't so much going on that there's a wall of sound. I don't know if I'd call this psychedelic, at times it does approach that sort of vibe, Clear Lake Highway for example, but I wouldn't say it ever approaches any sort of traditional psychedelic sound. In case this wasn't made clear yet, I think I should mention that this is a guitar oriented album, there are some additional instruments used, some cymbals, vocals, and synthe, but for the most part it's solely guitar based. It's very simplistic in its construction, but can be very effective, as in the acoustic led Shasta Trinity.
Having said all that, I do have to mention that this is a bit messy sounding. The different guitar parts sometimes just sound sloppily placed on top of each other and clash, hear opener The Redwood Coast. The mix on this could have been better as well, with the highs on here being too hot at times and just clouds the full sound. I totally get the bedroom, lo-fi, DIY approach to creating music, but I honestly feel like a better mix could have done this album a world better. At times this also feels like little more than an exercise in wanking off, closer Klamath At Dusk, which is a shame really.
Overall, I'm sort of divided on this thing, half of it is pretty boring, guitar "soloing" while the other half is very well constructed and minimalistic folk/post-rock. The middle of this record is really where it shines, but is bookended by two boring tracks, to be completely honest. If you're into sort of trippy folk sounding stuff, check this out, but do yourself a favor at only get those two core songs.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Clear Lake Highway, Shasta Trinity

Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi - Rome (2011)

Band: Danger Mouse & Daniele Luppi
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Chamber Pop
Label: Capitol/EMI Records

I'm sure some people might be wondering why this is on this blog, well, it's because of what I've heard about this record. From the little bit I had read and heard about this record, it was supposed to be a sort of throwback to 50s and 60s western soundtracks, which is something I enjoy. Besides that, even I have to admit that Danger Mouse is a great producer.
Apparently a tribute of sorts to classic soundtracks scored by legend Ennio Morricone, this was recorded by vintage instruments over several years.The instrumentation definitely makes an attempt to recall that sound of the early spaghetti western scores with very soft and earthy sounds and textures throughout, but I'm not sure it amounts to much in my opinion. Within each composition, there's certainly the vintage sound, but it all just feels so lifeless and hollow to me. Even at it's best, tracks like The Gambling Priest or The Matador Has Fallen, I feel like this album still doesn't really get as great as it probably shot to be, or as big as others have made it out to be. Luckily, most of these tracks are very short and no track ever crosses the four minute mark.
Guest vocalists Jack White and Norah Jones each contribute vocals to three tracks on here, doing their typical style, but like the music, it just feels very empty. Though I can't say I've ever been a fan of either of their projects, Norah solo or any of Jack's bands, I certainly do think they do what they do quite well. In my opinion, the songs that make use of vocals are pretty decent pop songs, they're not bad, but they're by far not the most catchy song you'll hear this year, with tracks like The Rose With A Broken Neck or Black not really doing all that much at all despite making use of vocals. In all honesty, I feel this album could have probably fared a bit better by being an instrumental disc of compositions rather than trying to put some well known guests on top of a few songs. Granted, I feel like the best tracks on here do feature vocals, I think it has more to do with the orchestration being a bit more upbeat and vibrant than other tracks more than the vocals, hear a tracks like Two Against One or Problem Queen.
This album is alright, but nothing to really freak out about. It has some tracks that are decent, for pop songs, I'd listen to these over some of the stuff I hear on the radio or see on tv. If you're into orchestral pop music or film scores, this would be something I'd recommend, but it's not a must buy.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Season's Trees, Two Against One, Problem Queen

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Marc Broude - Psychological Warfare Single (2011)

Band: Marc Broude
Country: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Industrial Metal
Label: No Zen Records

When Marc emailed me about reviewing this release, I knew nothing about him, but I agreed, just cause I'm always interested in hearing new music. It wasn't till I actually looked him up and found out that this album was originally released in 2006, this is a remixed and remastered version of that EP. Being compared to the likes of Godflesh, Sepultura, and Ministry are quite hefty comparisons, let's see if he pulled it off.
The two songs that make up this single are both shorter pieces that definitely bring the heavy. The Godflesh vibe is definitely here in full affect, dark and disorienting atmospheres with processed vocals and brutal guitars. The title-track, Psychological Warfare, is just everything that I could ever ask for from an industrial metal song, it's just heavy and crushing with an absolutely killer groove. The second track, God Smacker, is a bit more on the atmospheric side in my opinion, definitely a lot more consistently heavy, but just a lot more ambient sounds in the background.
This is a pretty cool single, definitely a release more people should check out. I think the title-track is probably one of the best songs to come from the industrial scene I've heard this year. Definitely look into this single if you're into the bands mentioned above.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Psychological Warfare

Seven7 - Under Eye (2011)

Band: Seven7
Country: London, UK
Style: Progressive Metal/Rock
Label: MGP Records

I can't say I've ever listened to Seven7 before being mailed the album, honestly. Looking back I think I might have read a review about their debut, 2009's "Try Something Different," but I'm not exactly sure. Though the genre tag they've been given is pretty non-descriptive, simply due to the broad nature of that the genre lends itself to be, the fact that they have drummer Pete Riley on board, who's drummed with guitar master Guthrie Govan, got me on board.
This thing opened in a way that just ripped my face off, seriously, I did not expect it to open as heavy as it does, The Iceman sounds like something you'd hear from Russel Allen fronting a more straightforward Dream Theater. It has those sort of hard rock qualities melded with plenty of more modern prog metal characteristics, the love for odd tempo-changes and great solos, which probably lends this to being a bit more digestible than a band like Dream Theater. There's also plenty of a more, I guess you'd call it ethnic, influences that bring in some cool melodies, hear tracks like Run. There seems to be a bigger focus on low end on here than a lot of prog metal albums, that I've heard recently, and unfortunately I feel like this led to a bit of sloppiness to the sound of the guitar, tracks like Wannabe and Forgive just sound messy. The latter track features a melody taken straight from Edvard Grieg's Peer Gynt Suite No 1 op 46, which is something I just can't stand, a band knowingly taking a melody from someone else, not the piece itself. I would have liked to have heard the bass a little higher up in the mix as well, though that's just a personal preference as I like the sound of a fretless bass.
I'm really impressed with the vocalist on here, Dave Brown, he really has that Russel Allen sort of sound to his voice, maybe a bit more modern, but more of a that lower and gravely tone. I find that this sort of tone is something that's been lost in a lot of vocalists, in hard rock music of all places as well as metal, and his presence really just adds a very masculine vibe to this record, the likes of You Can Have It demonstrate it perfectly. I don't mean to write off the rest of the band though, as the other three members are more than capable players, but I feel like this more of a vocal heavy album. Unfortunately, I feel like as the album goes on, the vocals move from a great hard-rock style to more of a nu-metal sort of though-guy rapping thing, think Godsmack at it's most generic, which I didn't care for at all.
I'm a little conflicted about this album, because the first half of it is really solid, a lot of good riffing and melodies, but the second half just leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if this was released as an EP, but I feel like ending the album with three songs I just didn't like at all just hurt it too much. I'm sure fans of more modern prog metal could get into this, but the rapping stuff at the end just killed this for me.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Iceman, Run, Under Eye

Monday, June 27, 2011

Aderlating - Spear of Gold and Seraphim Bone - Part I (2011)

Band: Aderlating
Country: Drachten, Netherlands
Style: Dark Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Consouling Sounds

Mories is a man I respect a lot, I haven't met a project of his that I don't like. I'm sure at least some people are familiar with his most well-known project Gnaw Their Tongues, but might not be introduced to Aderlating. This is also the only project Mories plays live with, in which I'm surprised as many people still don't know about this project.
Aderlating is a fairly multi-faced beast when it comes to describing what it sounds like cause each release tends to differ while all remaining in a similar sonic realm. In the past, records have moved through more atmospheric black metal, noise, dark ambient, power electronics, and drone but always keeps the same disturbing ambiance. This album, takes elements from all of those genres mentioned above, and mixes them into probably the project's most ambitious release to date. The title-track, Spear of Gold and Seraphim Bone, is a track that I could see fans of black metal getting into, simply due to it making use of the same sort of brutal atmosphere you might hear from black metal, but without using guitars. The only real time this album bursts into what could be a real black metal section is on Engel Der Wrake, not that I would say the guitar really adds to the intensity of that part though.
I found the use of a drum-set, electronic or real I'm not sure, to really bring a lot more life to this album, where some other releases have to say got to be a bit much with only noise and sounds flying at you at once. The drums really keep things controlled a bit more, reigning in some of the more crazy tendencies of older releases. But I find that even on tracks without percussion, Descending The Naraka I for instance, the arrangement is not nearly as chaotic, which really increased my level on enjoyment. I think the reason why I actually enjoy this project more so than a lot of other dark ambient, mind you it's only one aspect of this project's sound but still, is that there is a lot of different sounds going on, there's always a new idea or sound being introduced into the fold so nothing stays around long enough to get stale. At it's most aggressive it'll remind you of Gnaw Their Tongues while it's most soft and ambient moments can only be compared to other Aderlating records.
I really enjoyed this record, it's probably my favorite release from this project as of right now. I figure a lot of people won't probably be into it simply because this is more "avant-garde," but this is some really killer stuff. I urge you to check this project out, really any of Mories' work, it's all high quality.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Spear of Gold and Seraphim Bone, Engel Der Wrake

Seirom - Seiromistkrieg EP (2011)

Band: Seirom
Country: Drachten, Netherlands
Style: Experimental/Post-Black Metal
Label: Independent

Here we have another project from the ever prolific Mories. This is the debut for this project, making use of a much more black metal format, while still maintaining his trademark atmospheres. I'm hopeful that this is up to the standards he has set a project like De Magia Veterum up to be.
Coming into this album, I'm not really sure what I wanted to hear, I certainly expected it to be black metal, but that's not even being all that specific on my part. So this three song album really does something I've never heard in a project from Mories yet, it makes use of calming atmospheres, hear opener Istkrieg. In an almost atmospheric black metal fashion, combining almost uplifting post-rock-esque atmospheres with blasting drums just floored me. In some ways, this is probably the most melodic stuff I've ever heard from Mories as well, with, like I said, post-rock sort of guitar sounds and melodies just running through here Istnichtkrieg II. It should also be said that the noise and the more harsh productions of Mories' other work is still present on here, so it's not like you're getting something that's ultra clean and slick sounding.
I really enjoyed this little release and it brings something different to the table that I wasn't expecting. In terms of post-black metal, it's not all that original, but it's performed and recorded in a way that is much different than most, if not all, band doing it today. Definitely check this release out, as far as I know, it's still up for free.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Istnichtkrieg II

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Aenaon - Cendres Et Sang (2011)

Band: Aenaon
Country: Thessalia, Greece
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Code666

Finally I can cover this thing, I have to say that since I found out about this full-length album I've been looking forward to it. This debut full-length is something I thought should have come out a little sooner, but I can't really hate on when a band gets to release an album too much. I've been anticipating this since I first found out about their 2009 EP, so, it's been a little while.
From the opening notes of this album, you'll understand that this band has no intention of trying to copy or rip-off another group's style. When you open a black metal, overarching term here, album with a saxophone solo, you should know you're gonna get something a little off the wall. So besides that, you also have influences coming in from blues and jazz, as well as some more "industrial" at times, I'm using the term very loosely here simply because some parts on a track like Grand Narcotic Harvest remind me of a group like DHG. You can't call the eight minute Black Nerve not a highlight on here, it simply has everything that a good progressive tune should have, good riffs, nice transitions and a hook that should make it stand out from shorter tracks. Album closer, In Heaven, is a little weird as well, coming from the famous David Lynch film "Eraserhead," it's definitely a standout on the album simply for it coming from that. They really make this cover unique, not only making it really extreme, but keeping the dark atmosphere of the original, perhaps making it even more of an avant-garde piece.
Besides this group's interest in experimenting, they also have a nice talent for writing good songs. Being unique and weird is all fine and good, but it's always nice if you can write a good song, and tracks like Psychonautic Odyssey really stand out simply because of interesting arrangements and nice riffing. While I would have liked to have heard some better choruses, the track they contributed to the "A Parallel Zoetrope" split had a great chorus and I would have liked to have heard some more moments like that, but I think the riffing on here is much better than on that song, so I'd call it an even trade off, a track like Carnivora's Lair demonstrates the band in more of that vein if you were wondering what that track on the split sounded like. This album also has it's moments of more demented straightforwardness, Kraanerg manages to make quick work of other tracks on the album by being the most consistent in it's aggression and intensity.
I really enjoyed this album and it didn't let me down on any fronts, great debut full-length. I'm sure the diversity will definitely turn some people off, but if you're into the more experimental side of black metal, I definitely urge you to check this record out. This comes highly recommended.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Seasonal Code - Aortian Dialectus (2011)

Band: Seasonal Code
Country: Surrey, UK
Style: Experimental Black Metal
Label: Haint 002

I don't know if I would have gotten more excited about this compilation if I hadn't read that opening statement in the press release for it. That opening line, "Before there was Code, there was Seasonal Code," just got me excited. I'm a huge fan of Code, so hearing how that band started really fired me up.
Now, I usually don't care much for compilations or even live albums, which is why you won't usually see them on here, but just for the sake of this being who it is, and the fan that I am of Code, I felt I had to review this. A compilation of tracks from the three demos released under the Seasonal Code name make up the majority of this disc while two tracks, Tryptych and (A New) Sentiment, are B-sides from the "Resplendent Grotesque" sessions, which was one of my personal favorites of 2009. This nine track affair takes you through atmospheric black, death, and doom metal with hints at what would become the Code of today. In case you're wondering, by the way, the three members during the time these track were originally recorded, because from what I understand, these are re-recorded, Aort and Vicotnik as well as session vocalist Chtonian on three tracks.
While I don't think this has all the elements that made Code the giant, to me, in modern black metal, but shows some distinct pieces of the puzzle. Killer riffs, nice vocal lines, on the tracks that make use of them, cause most of this is instrumental by the way, and a nice slick production are some traits that you can expect upon listening to this release. There are traces of progressive and melodic tendencies that would eventually become much more developed on their full-lengths, but for the demos, I'm assuming that they kept the original structures of the songs here, they're masterfully crafted. The likes of Winter's Clarity show just how experimental and unique the band were even in their earliest days, in my opinion being more successful than most bands at their peak.
This is a great disc, though it might not be as catchy as their full-lengths with Kvohst on vocals are, these songs are down-right good. If you're new to Code I wouldn't suggest starting here, but if you're a diehard fan like I am, this might be a nice addition to your collection. Definitely a good album if you're interested in Code at all, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: An Evening By The Reflecting Pool, Lunate Firmament, (A New) Sentiment

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Peste Noire - L'Ordure à l'état Pur (2011)

Band: Peste Noire
Country: Avignon, France
Style: Avant-Garde/Black Metal
Label: La Mesnie Herlequin

With a story like Peste Noire's you've got to admire La Sale Famine de Valfunde for keeping the band DIY and very primal in his aesthetic. With each new full-length the band, or rather his songwriting, grows and evolves into more and more avant-garde realms. This new album seems to take things to a realm that many didn't think you'd ever find in black metal.
Despite being tagged as simply black metal, as wide as that overarching tag is, I think it often gives the impression of a much more singular and straightforward sound and ideal that never quite stuck with the band. Even the band at their most traditional, have never been the most usual or ordinary group. Experimenting with everything from post-punk and pop music, in terms of making songs catchy, to almost garage rock at times, there has never been anything ordinary or traditional about Peste Noire in my opinion. So what can you expect on here that the band has never done before, well at times there's plenty of the band's own brand of black metal going on, other times you'll have a more big-band sort of vibe with brass and accordions, and you'll even hear electronic dance beats you'd think would be more appropriate in a dance club. There's also plenty of more folk/acoustic led sections that wouldn't feel out of place on an Opeth album either. So yeah, if you think this band is traditional, I'd love to hear what you listen to.
I was looking at some reviews of this album and I saw it tagged as Oi!, and while I never really thought much about the band being that rowdy, if you will, but there's certainly a punk vibe on this album. As oppose to any pop-punk you might hear on the radio or hear on tv nowadays, this is real punk, going against the grain and just not giving a fuck about being trve or kvlt, those for all I know these guys could totally believe they're the above. Tracks like Casse, Peches, Fractures Et Traditions and J’avais Rêvé Du Nord II would make it hard to believe if the band said they weren't trying to be anything but traditional. The riffs are aggressive, but definitely leaning into more progressive areas, the song structures are adventurous, it's certainly breaking the conventional norms of black metal.
It's a band and a record that will break any preconceived notions of "traditional" black metal with it's punk spirit and fuck you! attitude. I don't know if I'd say this is the band's most adventurous record, but it's certainly up there with the last one, 2009's "Ballade Cuntre Lo Anemi Francor." Definitely check this record out if you're into experimental, or progressive black metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: J’avais Rêvé Du Nord I, J’avais Rêvé Du Nord II

Unexpect - Fables of The Sleepless Empire (2011)

Band: Unexpect
Country: Montreal, Canada
Style: Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal
Label: Ascendance Records

I would love to say here that I am a huge Unexpect fan and that I love everything I've heard from them, but sadly that isn't true. Their EP, 2003's "_wE, Invaders," was decent for what it was and 2006's "In A Flesh Aquarium" was even better, but some spots were just too self-indulgent for me. Since my first encounter with the band, probably a good three or four years ago, I've become a lot more interested in the whole "avant-garde metal" thing, and so I'm hoping that this might impact my liking of this new album.
While this album is still plenty weird and out-there, the biggest shift from their past work to this one is definitely in the songwriting. No longer are songs seemingly just flying off the handle into different realms of styles but more focused and melodic. Like I said though, I feel the need to reiterate here so deal with it, this is certainly far from a normal album, the band still make use of all sorts of genres from electronic to tech-death to classical on here, exhibited on opener Unsolved Ideas of A Distorted Guest with applause. The band also manage to, despite all their diversity within a single track, make each track on here extremely unique and different from each other.
Now, the biggest step up on here, and this really goes in with the better songwriting, is the use of huge sound choruses and vocal melodies. Unlike a lot of female vocalists, I actually find Leïlindel to not only sound original, but have a great talent for making a lot of these melodies come alive, just listen to tracks like Orange Vigilantes or The Quantum Symphony. The vocal in general seem to have really improved, really as much as the music, as well, bring just as much diversity as their last album, but being a lot less messy sounding. I also found that the band have matured their sound, removing a lot of those carnival-esque sounds that I always found bands of the avant-garde genre to just kind of rip from bands like IdiotFlesh and Mr. Bungle, you can see their evolution and progression into a more mature sound on Unfed Pendulum. The shorter tracks on here, the likes of In The Mind of The Last Whale or A Fading Stance, really bring a lot more flow and dynamic to the album, allowing the listener to catch their breath before you get hit in the face with another onslaught of progressive songs. On a side note, the nine-string bass work on here is just jaw-dropping good, so major props to the band there.
I really enjoyed this album, really a lot more than I even thought I would. There's a lot of really good songs on here and it's clear that the band have definitely stepped up their game and it'll be interesting to see how they top this one. Definitely check this out, a lot to like about this group, if you're into avant-garde or progressive sounding music, this is a must.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Words, Unfed Pendulum, Silence This Parasite

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Storm of Light - As The Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (2011)

Band: A Storm of Light
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Progressive Rock/Post-Metal
Label: Profound Lore/Burning World

I think A Storm of Light was probably one of the first "post" bands I remember getting into, along with Isis, back in 2008, when they released their debut, "And We Wept The Black Ocean Within." Since then I been a listener of all that they've released, in addition to checking out some of mainman Josh Graham's other projects. I've been putting this release on the back burner for a while, but it's something I really wanted to cover, so here it is.
The approach taken on this record, as oppose to the previous two full-lengths, was apparently to make it a more song oriented album, as opposed to the more drawn out jams usually involved in post-metal. Now, the whole build-up and then fall dynamic that the band made use of in the past is still very much intact on here, you can expect to find songs that are a lot more riff oriented and much more melodic. This record is also by no means a fast record, most songs still retain that doom oriented slowness, but I think it's better showcased on here than ever before simply due to the improvement in the riff department, hear the great riff on Black Wolves. To an extent, I'd say that while being more straightforward, and perhaps more metal in that regard, there's also plenty of hints of grunge in here as well, clearly heard on tracks like Silver. If what you crave is more of the sound that the band have used on their earlier releases, album closer Wasteland should give you that fix, as it's easily the most "progressive" of the tunes on here, keeping very close to the sound of the first two records but still having that more melodic side to it.
This album features numerous guests who, while they all have great places on here, never overwhelm the song. Making use of three different female vocalists throughout the album, Carla Kihlstedt, Jarboe, and Nerissa Campbell all add something different to the tracks they guest on, though they usually back up Graham's vocals, they certainly add something unique to this album. The guest that really stuck out to me, before even listening to the record, was Kim Thayil of Soundgarden, who contribute two guitar solos to the album. But like I said, these guests, along with a few others, don't really take over any one part of a song, they merely add to an already great track. Tracks like Leave No Wounds definitely show that guests aren't needed to make these songs great though, in case anyone had that thought.
This is great stuff, definitely one of the best "post" releases I've heard all year. This is a step up for the band, definitely a lot easier to grasp as well as being quite catchy, but still retaining a good core sound. Definitely check this out if you're into experimental metal and rock music, you won't regret it.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Black Wolves, Death's Head, Wasteland

Lento - Icon (2011)

Band: Lento
Country: Rome, Italy
Style: Post-Metal/Sludge Metal
Label: Denovali

I'm not really all that familiar with Lento, I've heard their name a few times on some blogs but that's about it. When I came across this album, I figured, why not check it out. Upon doing a little bit of research, the band citing Godspeed You! Black Emperor or Neurosis or Earth doesn't really surprise me seeing as what they're labeled.
I'm not sure what I really expected to get from this record, slow and crushing sludge, or more melodic and brooding post-metal, but certainly not what's on here. This album certainly takes elements from both sides, but is far more massive sounding than what I had thought it might have been. It might be the use of three guitar players, but to me, this was very bass heavy, with those metal parts just sounding huge and enormous compared to other bands, hear a track like Limb. The band have some talent in creating more atmospheric sounds, Throne, but I wouldn't say that this is their area of expertise.
The instrumental nature of this band really stops any sort of bias on people hating on the sound of a vocalist's vocals, but really doesn't lend much in the way of providing as much of a melodic hook. This is much more groove based, which is fine, but I felt like some of these parts just didn't go anywhere, you had switching dynamics between heavy and mellow parts, but it didn't bring anything interesting to the table cause it's all been done before. Now, I'm not going to deny that what's played on here is done well, tracks like Hymen and Dyad are just great, though they're more in line with sludge than post, but I feel like the band could have done a little bit better of a job constructing songs. A lot of these tracks a short, and really when an interesting bit comes in, you realize the song is almost over and it won't happen again, I'm sure some people like that idea, but I'd love to hear some of these riff played over.
This release is decent, I figure a lot of people are going to be way more into this than I'll ever be, but I'm just not digging on it all that much. More power to the band, they're trying to be unique, but I would have preferred them having some better songs as oppose to writing all these concise ideas. If you're into sludge and doom I still recommend you give this a listen to make up your own mind about this band.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Hymn, Hymen, Icon

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sol - Offer Thy Flesh to The Worms (2011)

Band: Sol
Country: Aarhus, Denmark
Style: Death/Doom Metal
Label: Ván Records

Sol is a project that I only recently started following, like within the last couple of months, after I had heard good things about the collaboration with Blóðtrú. I went back and actually enjoyed their previous two full-lengths quite a bit, so I decided to give this one a go as well. The style of death/doom played by this guy, Emil Sol Brahe, is unlike that of a lot of other guys playing the style.
Unlike his previous efforts, this new album is more of a compilation of older ideas and songs, though there are some newer ones as well, these are all songs that haven't been released yet. Instead of going for the usual death/doom sound on here, Emil forgoes the entire metal sound, for the most part, in favor of writing a more experimental acoustic drone record. It's not a heavy or even emotional, for me anyway, which might leave a lot to be desired if it wasn't so damn captivating and meditative. The only electric guitar you'll hear on here will be on IV, where you have it more in the background, providing more of an atmosphere than anything else. Even on V, which is probably the closest thing you'll get to a drone song on here, is far from being regular. Personally, I actually liked the added instrumentation on here, adding different horns throughout the record really makes it quite a unique one among the dozens of other death/doom bands that just release exactly what their genre makes them out to be.
The composition of these five tracks is more likely to have a place in a meditation hall than at any sort of rock event. The low chanting clean vocals are really, really amazing, in my opinion, and are really one of the things I love about this record, just how direct and unfeeling they sound. The music on here also doesn't allow much light to shine through, so, as you can imagine, it's a very dark and morose sounding record. Due to the fact that most of this is instrumental anyway, it only allows for more of a connection to be drawn to how somber this record is. This album also isn't very long, being just under forty minutes in total, you can really experience each track quite easily.
This is a really cool album, maybe not my favorite doom record, but I certainly enjoyed this album. There really isn't another album out there doing this sort of thing, that I've heard, so this really sticks out this year. I'm sure most fans looking for a "traditional" or "standard" sort of doom album won't like this, but if you're a person with an open mind, you might just dig this a lot.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: II, IV

Oikos - Ecotono (2011)

Band: Oikos
Country: Madrid, Spain
Style: Post-Rock/Drone
Label: Utech Records

The whole drone thing isn't something I usually find all that interesting, as I'm sure a lot of people will agree, but there's something to be said for the ones that make something different. Utech, one of the labels I've only recently stumbled across, is releasing some high quality music. They are one of the few labels that actually manage to release some great drone and ambient music, I'm hoping this is up to the other releases I've heard from them.
From the other drone records I've listened to, songs tend to be on the longer side, which work for and against a project. This album isn't like that, these are shorter tracks that actually move, probably the post-rock element, much to this project's favor. With the occasional drone album I can say that I've actually enjoyed, that has been a major factor, movement, I've heard albums that are basically one-note played out for an hour (look though some of the early albums I reviewed on here) that just did absolutely nothing, but this has plenty of life to it. There's a lot of different textures on here, which provides that sense of life and vibrancy to the recording, which is also very warm sounding by the way.
The elements of post-rock on here, as I just mentioned did effect how much I enjoyed this release. A track like Boreas would definitely appeal to a post-rock fan, as there's very little to really pull it into the drone genre at all. This album is actually quite diverse, it has the elements of post-rock that I enjoy, but the drones, the noise, and the ambient elements, they shape it into so much more. I'm surprised at how multifaceted this album is, you have post-rock songs, more ambient based moments, but then you also have more noisy drone-y stuff that is what I commonly associate with the genre. There are moments of more acoustic based drones, stuff you could imagine being done with plenty of reverb, delay, and looper pedals, while other drones are much more electronic, hear Threshold for a great example of such.
This is a cool record, while not every piece struck me as great, there were more than a few that I felt a good connection to. I'm sure a lot of people won't check this out just cause "it's drone music," but if you can get past that tag, you'll actually find some really good stuff here. Definitely look for this if you enjoy post-rock, drone, electronic, or ambient music.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Pulsar, Ecotono, Deriva

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Interview - Celephaïs

I was surprised when the mainman of Celephaïs contacted me to review his debut, as I was already reviewing his album when he contacted me, but I told him I'd be happy to interview him. So it's a win for both parties, I got to interview this new and upcoming artist and he hopefully gets more exposure (cause he really deserves it).

Ian: How are you doing now that "Becoming The Deceased" is out? What kind of responses have you gotten to it so far?

Celephaïs: Really good actually. Until now every response I received was absolutely positive, even from people who don't even really listen to Black Metal or Metal at all, so I'm very happy about it at the moment.

Ian: How did Celephaïs originally start?

Celephaïs: Well, I wanted to do a solo project for a long time now, so it was actually just a matter of time until I got the necessary recording gear to start over with. The first steps happened quite quickly then. The first song I did for Celephaïs was Our Hideout Among The Stars, and by that I could figure out pretty well which sound I wanted to achieve, so Celephaïs started to evolve pretty quickly.

Ian: I know this is kind of an obvious one but who are some of your influences, musical and otherwise?

Celephaïs: Obvious, but necessary. Well, musically a lot of American Black Metal bands like Weakling, Wolves In The Throne Room or Velvet Cacoon had a huge impact on me. Also Altar Of Plagues, Drudkh, the first three records of Ulver and Burzum should be mentioned here. But above that there is also a lot of music which I would consider to be important for me. Bands like Opeth, Neurosis, Tool, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Empyrium or Sunn O))) did really change the way I view music and by that of course influenced my approach of writing music. I guess in the end every music I listened to somehow did affect me, so I could go on for that for hours. I think it's important to keep open minded.
For the non-musical influences there are also a lot of things. Of course H.P. Lovecraft and a lot of literature like Hermann Hesse, Carlos Castaneda or James Redfield. Everything you experience somehow has an influence to you, so the list also can be endless here.

Ian: Would you say the German black metal scene has influenced you in any way?

Celephaïs: Well, the only important Black Metal Release from Germany I can think of at the moment is Darkestrah's "Epos". The depth and intensity of that album, or better of that song, did really impress me. But for me the USA and Norway had been more important in that case.

Ian: For a debut album, your sound is quite mature, about how long did it take you to write and record the album?

Celephaïs: I started writing the music in late Summer 2009 and finished it May 2011. The process of songwriting actually goes right with the process of recording, so all the songs were basically recorded on the spot, which took me about up to three days to finish a song. And after a song I use to take a little break to gather new ideas. I guess I could have been done earlier, but my PC got messed up, so I wasn't able to record anything for some months. Which I think wasn't so bad in the end due to the mixing process, so I could take some distance from the music again.

Ian: Are you comfortable with the "post-black metal" tag? Are you a fan of any of the bands that have been placed in that genre?

Celephaïs: Being tagged as "Post Black Metal" is not a problem at all for me. I indeed really like many of the bands from that genre, like Altar Of Plagues, A Forest Of Stars, Fen or Lantlôs. I don't think that a genre should always sound the same for 20 years. Innovation is very important to music, as it keeps music alive.

Ian: The album is, as far as I know, instrumental, what made you decide not to include vocals?

Celephaïs: I prefer musical journeys which let you dream and drift away, so I don't want to bind the listener to lyrics of any sort. Lyrics also probably would let the music sound overloaded, since there is already a lot of stuff going on. There are often several melodies playing together at the same time, so the room for lyrics would have been pretty sparse.

Ian: The sound of the clean guitar really stuck out to me, as it didn't really sound like another band in black metal, that I've heard anyway. What went into creating that tone?

Celephaïs: I wanted to have a warm, thick and atmospheric sound. I actually didn't mind sounding like Black Metal at all when creating and adjusting the sounds, I just wanted everything to sound good at it's own way.

Ian: The percussion on Our Hideout Among The Stars really stands out as some of the better programmed drumming I've heard, how did you create that opening part? How do you approach programming drums in general?

Celephaïs: Good to hear! In case of Our Hideout Among The Stars I wanted to have some ritualistic sounding, almost trance like percussion in the background, so I basically took use of the Floor-Tom, which helps to achieve that sound pretty well.
For the general approach I always try to go with the dynamic that the song evolves at it's own. Shall it be blast beats or slow, gloomy stuff like in Becoming The Deceased, the music just should to be allowed to flow naturally.

Ian: I read a comment comparing the album cover to that of Njiqahdda, are you familiar with that band and what does the cover actually represent to you?

Celephaïs: Yes, I am. I have the "Nji. Njiijn. Njiiijn", the album with the aforementioned cover and "Yrg Alms". I like both of them very much, as Njiqahdda is also a band of innovation and originality which I appreciate very much.
For the cover of "Becoming The Deceased" I wanted it to fit in with the mood of the music. I wanted to have something dreamy and mystical, but also something organic as well. I think it turned out pretty well, especially because I am quite a beginner with graphic manipulation.

Ian: Are you already writing new material?

Celephaïs: I am already gathering new ideas and riffs for a future release and I'm also coming up more conceptual this time. There is nothing recorded yet, but I don't think it will take very long until the first takes are made.

Ian: Those are all the questions I have, thank you for the interview, it's been a privilege. The last words are yours.

Celephaïs: It's been a pleasure. Thank you very much for the support!
Furthermore I'd like to thank everyone who supported Celephaïs in any way, from posting it on the internet to showing it to their friends.

I shouldn't have to tell you that by now you should definitely check this album out. For a debut release, it's very high quality and definitely showing originality. Spread the word on this project!


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Orthodox - Baal (2011)

Band: Orthodox
Country: Seville, Spain
Style: Sludge/Doom Metal
Label: Alone

I've had this record for a while and have had plenty of time to sit with it and develop how I feel about it. Orthodox is not a regular doom/sludge band, the trio who've taken inspiration from everything from Earth to Black Sabbath to Ornette Coleman and even religious music, have really been a band that's been willing to stretch the boundaries of the genre. It's only after I first heard this record that I went back and listened to their older stuff, so this was my gateway into the band.
In recent years, maybe even decades, the subject of doom metal has been stretched into a variety of sub-genres, you have the traditional blues-based old-school sound of Sabbath, the droning passages perfected by the likes of Earth and Sunn 0))), and even the more tribal aesthetic of a project like Blood of The Black Owl taking the genre into different places. I would say that Orthodox is a moot-point between those three sounds, it really blends a sort old-school blues riffing with heavy bass drones and very tribal drumming. I don't want people to mistake this as a drone band, because despite its definite influence on this band, it's certainly still a lot more graspable to the average listener than bands within the drone genre.
It's a very earthy sound, not the band mind you, very grounding and definitely good at portraying landscapes and painting a picture when listening to it. I find that despite all its groove, hear a track like Hani Ba'al, it's all quite meditative, though maybe not so much on that track as much as on Ábrase La Tierra, and the low-end rumble really can create a trance-like affect. I find that when the band go into a more extended jam, that psychedelic-trace affect is much more natural, where as a lot of the tracks on here are shorter and more songs as opposed to some of the more extended stuff the band has done in the past. Granted, compared to their last two albums, this is definitely more straightforward sounding and less experimental. I think reverting back to the trio sound has really brought back a lot of the old-school doom vibe where previous albums have made use of more instrumentation to create a more varied atmosphere and sound.
I think this is an album that will take some people a little while to get into, as it did with me, but I still think this is one of the band's most accessible releases yet. The heavy blues guitar playing mixed with the more drawn out playing style is one that definitely got me interested in their older material. Definitely check these guys out if you're into any sort of doom metal, great stuff.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Taurus, Ábrase La Tierra

My Dying Bride - Evinta (2011)

Band: My Dying Bride
Country: Halifax, England
Style: Classical/Darkwave
Label: Peaceville Records

In celebration of their second decade of existence My Dying Bride released a three-disc, two-disc is the standard edition, of reinterpreted material from their back catalog. Now, the idea itself, of redoing old songs, is one that usually doesn't get me excited and is usually something I turn a blind eye to, but seeing as this was not only being done by one of my favorite doom metal bands, but also done in a more orchestral way, I was actually looking forward to this. From the EP released before this, of material that would appear on here, what I was expecting this to be, and what it actually sounds like, are two different things.
First off, and although I think it's implied by the opening statement above, I think I have to say that this is not a metal album. I only mention this because I've read comments where people are complaining that they assumed this would be another doom metal record, even though the band had announced a few months prior, at least, that this would not be like their previous work. No, no metal is found on here, instead you have the use of instruments like piano, organ, synthe, violins, cellos, flutes, horns, and an opera vocalist named Lucie Roche instead of pounding drums, guitars and bass. Sure, Aaron Stainthorpe still appears on here, providing some cool spoken word passages here and there, but the majority of this release is instrumental. I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks this, but I've always seen Stainthorpe as one of today's modern poets, being extremely beautiful and cold with his lyrics, which is honestly one of my favorite things about My Dying Bride, the lyrics.
As a fan of film scores as well as classical music, I enjoy the route the band has taken on here. Sure, it's a little over the top at times, as classical music can often get, the the operatic singing only enhances that quality, but it's very well orchestrated and recorded. There is, on more than a few occasions, a very darkwave-esque sound on a lot of these tracks, which appealed to me, being another style that I enjoy listening to from time to time, hear tracks like The Distance, Busy With Shadows or A Hand of Awful Rewards. The melancholy that the band are so well known for can definitely be found on here, though some tracks are a bit more "hopeful" sounding than others, I find that if you listen to all these albums, all three discs, together, it can run together into almost a single orchestrated piece with different climaxes and falls, brighter moments of hope and calm as well as the darker, more sad and morose moments as well. Personally, I enjoyed the pieces that made a more prominent use of piano over tracks that didn't, but that's just because of my personal biased, a track like The Burning Coast of Regnum Italicum grabbed me in ways that a track like And Then You Go couldn't. Now, I'll admit that not everything on here really grabbed me, I found some pieces to just sort of go through one ear and out the other without leaving much of an impression, despite the elegant instrumentation, hear the more ambient piece Of Sorry Eyes In March. This leads me to point out this release's biggest flaw, I feel like with three-discs, normally two, the length is overwhelming and can cause some of these tracks to drag on for a while.
I have to say that I enjoyed these albums, despite it's length, it there were definitely quite a few gems in here. I'm sure a lot of people still won't like this simply due to the fact that it isn't metal, but if you're an open minded person, I think you could find some really great material on here. Definitely check this out if you're a fan of darkwave, gothic, classical and orchestral music, or even more ambient forms of music.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Of Lilies Bent With Tears, Vanité Triomphante, The Music of Flesh, And All Their Joy Was Drowned

Monday, June 20, 2011

Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Beileid (2011)

Band: Bohren & Der Club of Gore
Country: Mülheim an der Ruhr, Germany
Style: Dark Ambient/Jazz
Label: Ipecac

I don't know if it's surprising or not, but I've been a fan of Bohren & Der Club of Gore for quite a few years now. Sure, I can't say that I know everything about them or that I put on their records all the time, but I am more familiar with them than even a lot of the metal bands I post on here. But I have to say that I really dropped the ball on this one, I actually had no idea till a few weeks ago that the quartet had even put out a new album, so my bad on that one.
Yes, in recent years the quartet has moved away from their doom-jazz sound into more dark ambient territory, and that that sound is definitely dominant on here. It's a very minimal and almost smokey quality that links all their efforts together, for me at least, where very sparse arrangements and haunting atmospheres dominate of excessive playing. After listening to metal and rock all my life, it's nice to just hear some ambient/jazz music that retains a similar sort of brooding and dark atmosphere, which is probably why I liked this band to begin with. Those droning sounds that just build up in the background are one of the things that I've always loved about this band, hence my love for the title-track on this thing, Beileid.
Maybe I'm biased, but I've always loved the saxophone lines that have been used in the quartet's discography. Maybe I'm also biased in the fact that I am a fan of Mike Patton and that his appearance on Catch My Heart really got me excited. I thought he did a great job crooning over the very sparse arrangement created by the band. I've read some iffy reviews and comments about this album, saying it's good, not great, and that it doesn't measure up to 2002's "Black Earth," which I would agree with, but it's certainly a very good album. I actually enjoy the darker style on this album than the last two, which I felt were getting to be a little less dark.
Overall, I'd still say this is a good addition to the quartet's discography. It's a much more moody album than some of their past releases, as well as a shorter album as well, just going under forty minutes, a far cry from 1995's double-disc "Midnight Radio." Definitely check this band out if you're a fan of experimental jazz and ambient music.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Beileid

Der Blutharsch and The Infinite Church of The Leading Hand + Aluk Todolo - A Collaboration (2011)

Band: Der Blutharsch/Aluk Todolo
Country: Austria/France
Style: Krautrock/Psychedelic Rock
Label: WKN

This was a weird one when I found it, a little trouble child. The idea of a semi-black metal krautrock band playing with a neofolk, post-industrial psyche rock band just seemed a bit odd, add in the whole church thing, and this just gets over the top. I'm sure to others this might have seemed like a match made in heaven, sonically, but I just couldn't wrap my head around it at first.
I think it's a pretty fair assumption to say that only people who enjoy experimental music are going to check this out. This is by far one of the most left-field albums I've heard this year and I'm sure a lot of people will not like it. This four track affair features a sound that is very expansive but repetitive, with each track going over ten minutes to demonstrate various variations on a single pattern. Opener I is a perfect example of what goes on in these tracks, a very minimal drum loop and bass-line are repeater throughout the course of a song that moves into different elements that range from noise to black metal, whether or not you find that entertaining, or even interesting will depend on how much you enjoy experimental music. I'd imagine a lot of listeners would be bored listening to a song that just repeats a beat for over ten minutes, if that's what you focus on, but I actually enjoyed the repetition on here. I feel the need to mention that a lot of the beats used on here sound like they came out of a hip-hop song, honestly.
While the foreground of most of these songs is the beat, I found that each track developed very naturally, growing from very soft and minimalistic intros and just building into bigger climaxes and then falling again. I find the background of these tracks to really be so experimental, so much sound coming in and out. The krautrock vibes are carried throughout the entire disc while the metal, noise, ambient, post-rock, industrial, and other sounds are just coming in left and right, it really is an entrancing album. I actually found very little of this to be boring, with II really being the only track that hasn't struck me yet. While I don't partake myself, I'd imagine those of us who use drugs could really trip out to this record, whether or not it's a good trip or not though, I have no idea, but it'd make for one hell of a ride.
I really enjoyed this collaboration, even though at first it seemed like a weird paring to me, it turned out to be quite fruitful. Like I said above, I'd imagine most people not really being able to get into this, as it is pretty weird at times, but it's really good. Definitely check it out if you're into experimental music, or left-field black and doom metal even, this is good stuff.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: I, III

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Chaos Moon - The Ouroboros Worm EP (2011)

Band: Chaos Moon
Country: Nashville, Tennessee
Style: Depressive/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Independent

I've known about Chaos Moon for a little while before finally deciding to check out this new release. The good things I had heard about the band from Matron Thorn had indicated to me that it was more of a blackened doom metal sound, while I've heard different things from other reviews. I don't really know what to expect from this EP, seeing as it's my first real listening to the band, so I'm interested in what it ends up sounding like.
After part one of the title-track, The Ouroboros Worm (Head), which is really just an intro, finishes, track two, Processions of Faces opens up with a fairly standard atmospheric black metal sound. I really have to be honest here, these are some of the most passionate, yet terrible sounding, vocals I have heard in the black metal genre, really. They sound like a regular depressive black metal vocalist on the aforementioned track, while they appear to be going for a more death metal thing on the next track, Elder Immortal Shrine, which doesn't work out all that well either to be honest with you, and don't get me started on the clean vocals. Musically, this is decent, each track really expresses a different sound, from more atmospheric to straightforward black metal to even what appears to be progressive at times. While the closer, The Ouroboros Worm (Tail), ends things in a similar ambient fashion as the opener, I can't say I was all that impressed by what I listened to on here.
This was all right, nothing great, it was about average for what's out right now. I thought that the diversity of different styles on here was pretty cool, and the attempt at different vocal styles was interesting, though it didn't always work. If you're into atmospheric based black metal, I don't any reason why this isn't at least worth checking out.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Elder Immortal Shrine, Source Balance

Celephaïs - Becoming The Deceased (2011)

Band: Celephaïs
Country: Wählen, Germany
Style: Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal
Label: Independent

I found this album looking through some blogs and from the written description, sounded pretty cool. There really isn't all that much info on this project, so giving an accurate description of them is a bit hard. All I really know is that this is apparently their first album.
This four song album really brings something a little bit different than what I guess I expected it to sound like. It kind of takes elements from both the post-black metal sound, the more melancholic and moody melodies, and from the atmospheric side, obviously the atmospheric, but I don't know if I'd go so far as to say it's dominated by either of those sounds. There are equal moments of more melancholic beauty, the title-track, Becoming The Deceased, as well as moments of more abrasive black metal, Shroud of Mirrors. The lack of vocals on these songs allowed, at least for myself, to focus solely on the instrumentation, which is strong and melodic. I find that vocals would actually distract from the instrumentation on here if they had been used.
Unlike a lot of new projects and bands coming out of the post-black metal scene, because I would still say that term does apply to what's being played on here, this album has a lot more of an epic, and maybe even progressive, nature to it. There's less of a focus to be post-rock or shoegaze mixed with black metal, and is more the opposite, black metal infused with post-rock, in this case, tendencies. Something I found to be, I guess, refreshing on here were the cleaner guitar tones used, they're weren't done in that usual dreamy and ethereal way a lot of bands try to present them, it's done in a much more Pink Floyd going post-rock way. The progressions from soft to heavy on here are also well done and do not feel abrupt or out of place, another strong point for this project.
This is a very strong debut that really demonstrates a stronger sense of self than a lot of other debuts that come out under this tag. While I'd say that there's still a little bit of work to be done here and there in terms of taking this sound to the next level, what's presented on here is really good. Definitely check this album out if you're interested in post-black metal, or atmospheric metal, experimental black metal and the like.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Becoming The Deceased, Our Hideout Among The Stars

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Origin - Entity (2011)

Band: Origin
Country: Topeka, Kansas
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

I can't say that I've ever been the biggest fan of Origin, though I certainly respect them. Despite never really listening to an entire album more than once, I always found certain tracks that did stick out to me that I would come back to if I was ever in the mood for the technical sound that they offer. With the band getting both a new vocalist and moving to Nuclear Blast Records, they were on Relapse, I wasn't sure how it was going to affect their sound.
That fear was soon blown away as I pressed play and Expulsion of Fury just blasted its way open with the band's trademark technical riffing. If there's something I always liked, or respected really, Origin for, it was definitely their musicianship, they always managed to craft decent song with at least one killer riff in there. The band have not slowed down on this album at all, with the technical riffing being just as crazy as ever. I have to say that there are quite a few songs on here that are under two minutes long, which, for it's length, the band manage to do a lot within.
Paul Ryan and Jeremy Turner are monsters on the fretboard, constantly shifting tempos, being as technical as possible, and yet still finding a way to make something stick. On this album, they're pulling off stuff that I never would have ever thought possible on a guitar, hear the weird industrial tremolo picking on Committed. Bassist Mike Flores, in my opinion, is lower in the mix on this album than previous albums for some reason, is amazing, but I feel that this new album doesn't showcase his playing as much as I would have liked it to, though some tracks do manage to show it off, Swarm. Then, how can you not mention the amazing blasts that drummer John Longstreth manages to pull off without so much as looking like he's putting in any effort at all, his double-bass work is top-notch, really just showing modern death metal drummers how things are done, listen to tracks like Fornever or Banishing Illusion. Finally, new vocalist Jason Keyser does an excellent job, in my opinion, really keeping the diversity of vocals present in each song, from low gutturals to higher pitched shrieks. Everything on here is fast, technical, at times grinding, but always brutal, whether or not it's the band's most accessible album yet or not, is all depending on the person, but I don't think so.
While I don't know if I enjoy this more than their last album, 2008's "Antithesis," which was probably the album I actually listened to on a more regular basis than any other album from the band, but it's still quite good. While I wouldn't say there is a whole lot of new stuff on here, I do like when they work with longer songs, personally. If you're into technical metal and you don't know Origin by now, you seriously need to listen to them.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Conceiving Death, Saliga, Consequence of Solution

Unbreakable Hatred - Total Chaos (2011)

Band: Unbreakable Hatred
Country: Quebec City, Canada
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Lacerated Enemy

I remember a time when there were boundary pushing death metal acts emerging from Cananda, granted, I wasn't listening to death metal back when they were doing that, but regardless, the point stands. Now all I hear from Canada's death metal scene is all the same rehashed stuff bands were doing in the 90s. The whole tech-death scene really flourished back then, while I don't listen to all that many newer groups within the death metal scene anymore, maybe this one will impress me.
The press release for this band had said that their sound was comparable to early Unique Leader Records bands, which got me thinking of groups like Gorgasm, Deeds of Flesh, and Pyrexia, none of which I could say I'm a fan of. There's a decent amount of variety going on within this band's sound however, they are certainly death metal, but various sub-genres could be applied to their sound, this isn't an all out brutal/technical assault. Unbreakable Hatred really showcases a little bit of everything on the album, from some black metal sounding parts to very technical guitar lines and even straightforward death metal parts, essentially the quintessential track on here. Other tracks are still very good, but simply don't express as many ideas as that track does, even the five-plus minute Years of Violence. The guitar playing on here is great, though not really all that original, his playing on tracks like Anger and Fury really caught my attention, you can tell there's a lot of influences coming in from outside of straight death metal, black and thrash metal riffs are used quite frequently throughout this album as well.
I have to say that the live videos that I saw of this band when they had a lead vocalist, do not match up to how the vocals on here sound. Their former vocalist had more of a metalcore sort style of vocals, no cleans though, while the vocals on here are somewhat more of an early death metal kind of vibe, they kind of remind me of early Vader albums. Having said that, I do find that the vocals are still the biggest drawback for this album, to me anyway, I'm not really the biggest fan of the performances on tracks like Condemned to Serve or Religious Intervention.
Overall, for a debut album, this was pretty good, definitely a lot of talent here. Like I said, the vocals were really the only thing holding this album back for me, but that's an issue others might not even have trouble with. If you're into technical death metal, or death metal in general, I'd suggest you look into this band.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Total Chaos, Unbreakable Hatred, We Can't Exist In This World of War

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Fierce & The Dead - If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving to Morecambe (2011)

Band: The Fierce & The Dead
Country: London, UK
Style: Progressive/Post-Rock
Label: Independent

I haven't listened to a whole lot of post-rock recently, and I'm a little sorry I haven't, sorry for me not for others. Sure, I've indulged now and again in the genre, but not enough to really say I've enjoyed a lot of what the genre has produced this year. But when one of the members of this band emailed me about this album, I was like, "It's about friggin' time I listened/reviewed a new post-rock record, god dammnit!"
Now, the term post-rock certainly applies to this band, much less than I had thought it would when I first started listening or from the little bit I had read about them, but it is a much looser term for what's going on in here. Post-rock, progressive rock, dream pop, noise rock, and little hints of other styles can all be found on here, making for a diverse, yet very concise sound. The clean guitars give it that dreamy and more melancholic vibe while the drums and bass are much more upbeat and, dare I say, danceable, hear songs like opener Flint or Part 2. I actually have to commend the bass work on here, as it does play a more melodic role in the band, really creating the main groove that keeps the song going while the guitar plays on top either lead melodies or more atmospheric stuff.
In sense of songwriting, I feel that this trio do a good job at writing short, melodic songs that are much more upbeat, than the usual post-rock songs, mind you I'm comparing them to the bands I listen to here. But really, this might be the trio's biggest fault, with all these more upbeat melodies, it really does constrict the band's style and ability for others to connect with it. Personally, I like it when there is a broad range of emotions within an album, or a band's style, so it adds a different dynamic, even when they get heavy, hear tracks like H.R. or Landcrab for those moments, they still feel too happy or upbeat, I would have liked to have heard a more melancholic song in here. I also feel like some of these shorter tracks, Hotel #6 and Woodchip are still pretty undeveloped, they just present an idea and as soon as I'm getting into it, the song ends, which is disappointing, but the longer tracks do feel more flushed out by comparison.
This album has it's highlights as well as it's flaws, but more of the former than the latter, so I did enjoy this. I have to say that while none of this album was bad, I did feel like it could have still used work. Fans of any of the genres mentioned above, I suggest you definitely look into this band.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: H.R., Daddies Little Helper, 10x10

Cinématique - Life In An Infinite Loop (2011)

Band: Cinématique
Country: Wien, Austria
Style: Art/Post-Rock
Label: Independent

As soon as I saw this cover, I knew I had to listen to whatever this was, luckily it was a style that I actually liked. The post-rock sound, while very defined, is one that I enjoy due to how different bands make it their own. I also find that if a band is creative, chances are they're sound will appeal to me, personally, more so.
As soon as Air opens, I get a wave of melancholic beauty hit my square in the face. The wind chimes ringing over a very somber atmosphere while building more and more instrumentation as the song progresses, this is the essence of what I love about post-rock, very beautiful sonicscapes that just build into these huge sounding finales. I find that the sounds I love in post-rock are not always found when I listen to an album from that genre, which is fine, all bands should be different, but on an album like this, where it's basically everything I love from the genre, I can't help but be excited when listening to it. For me, the clean, very atmospheric and delayed guitars with extremely huge sounding atmospheres is what really gets me into, and got me into, the genre and it's what a lot of this album makes use of. Even on a track like All I Do Is Watch Time Pass By, a piano/synthe led ballad of sorts, the same dreamy atmosphere remains in tact.
Unlike a lot of post-rock groups that I've listened to, this band actually manages to rock out on some of these tracks, break into a heavier, or more distorted, guitar tone and just go for it, Oceanic Has Drowned being a prime example. I'll say that most of this album rarely reaches into the driving rock moments that that track does, but I find that the inclusion of those parts only adds to the dynamics of the overall album. Personally, I still like the more spacey and ethereal clean guitar parts over the rare distorted ones, which is why tracks like Into The Sunlight stick out so much to me. The little bit of vocals on here also doesn't really do much for me either, they're not bad, but they're really not all that relevant to any of the songs, you can totally tell he's totally trying to come off in a similar style as Jonsi from Sigur Ros, and they could have easily done away with them and it wouldn't have made a huge difference on the album.
While I felt this album started strong, I felt that there were some spots on the album that just really brought it down for me. I definitely liked the atmospheres and the clean guitar tone on this album, definitely the essence of what I like to hear from the genre, as I previously stated. I'd say that if you're into post-rock at all, definitely look into this album, definitely do so.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Flight of Icarus 1 That Flew Through A Thunderstorm On Its Way Back to Earth, Into The Sunlight, All I Do Is Watch Time Pass By