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

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Verge - Sex & Violence (2011)

Band: Verge
Country: Jyväskylä, Finland
Style: Depressive/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Descending Towards Damnation

Verge is quite a different band, they really are doing things differently than other bands, maybe not in the best ways, but they are different. Depressive and atmospheric black metal, of this brand, in my experience doesn't usually come from Finland. I first found these guys through their split last year with Blood Red Fog in which they really showcased a very different sound to almost anything else I'd heard in black metal.
Unlike a good chunk of the depressive/suicidal and even atmospheric black metal scenes, what set these guys apart was a sense of dissonance and chaos not found in other groups. The use of feedback, rough and harsh sounding production, scathing throaty snarls, and odd riffs that aren't that common from black metal really impressed me on that split, last year's "Because It's Wrong." The band also makes frequent use of samples, not that I have any idea as to what they're from, but they all convey a similar sense of distress and sorrow.
Now, what I find the weirdest thing about this record is that it appears like the band are trying to achieve what Shining, the Swedish one, had done on their landmark fifth album, "V - Halmstad." I'm not saying that's a bad goal, because I actually think it's a pretty decent view to take on a sound like this, songs are becoming a lot more focused, less dissonance and frantic outbursts, more melody is being introduced into the band, and those are not bad things at all. The riffing and melodies have gotten a lot more memorable, showcased in tracks like On The Verge and Sex & Violence III: Pride. This is a much more controlled album, less outbursts into more avant-garde-ish territory and reeled into a much better song. Much like Shining, most of these songs are mid-paced and just sort of moving along without going too crazy.
In the end I did find myself enjoying this album more than I had originally thought. While this is nothing spectacular, it has moments of originality and definitely has a much improved sense of songwriting. Check this out if you're into melodic based atmospheric or depressive black metal.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Death's Coitus, Pride and Vanity, Sex & Violence II: Hate

Isolation - Closing A Circle (2011)

Band: Isolation
Country: Lübeck, Germany
Style: Depressive Black Metal
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede

I remember first hearing about Isolation through a split the duo had done back in 2008 with Australian depressive black metalers Austere. Funnily enough, I really don't remember all that much about it. Yes, another depressive band, but I'm hoping that this is a good one as well.
This thing just takes off once the title-track, Closing A Circle, opens up, which is really something I didn't expect at all. Unlike the more acoustic material that was used on the split with Austere, this is electric, and it definitely stands apart from the depressive scene. The sound on here is not only a lot better produced than most bands that come from that scene, but the musicianship, the vocals, and the songwriting is a lot better as well. You'll find that this lies somewhere between the blackgaze sound and a more post-rock sound, it's very different from any other band I've heard coming from this scene. In a sense, what's on here could barely even be called metal at some points, having more of a rock, granted post-rock at best, sound instead, and I couldn't really summarize it any better than on the track Fan The Flames, which is probably the heaviest track on here but is still more of a rock song.
The bass work is something that really stands out on here, it's very clean and loud in the mix, which I'm sure might not appeal some people, but it certainly is very cool to hear some of the bass-lines throughout, One Day. The vocals also take a different tone on this record, for better sometimes and for worse at others, but I've already seen that this is a bit of a polarizing move for some fans. For some reason, some tracks just have fantastic vocals that brought to mind Aaron Turner trying to sing in Alice In Chains for me, which is really good, but other tracks just sound too flat and uninspired, Never Enough, with shouting that is just lackluster. I really do love how this record was put together though, the songs all kind of flow together on here, creating a very seamless listen, as well as the songs, several of these tracks have some really cool and dark sounding choruses.
This album is definitely very different and I can imagine people, especially those that tend to think of this band as "depressive," having some trouble with this. I actually think that it's quite an interesting record, it's by no means a fantastic record, but it's a lot better, and different, than what I had expected it to be. Definitely look into this if you like blackgaze, post-rock, or something more along those lines.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Closing A Circle, Nomad, The Wasteland

Lost Inside - Mourning Wept Beside Me (2011)

Band: Lost Inside
Country: San Diego, California
Style: Depressive Black Metal
Label: Dusktone

Last year's Means to An End record was one of the best depressive albums to come from last year, not to mention it was a debut. That record got me interested in the other projects of the duo that created it, and through instrumentalist Kold, I found Lost Inside. Apparently, this project also released their debut full-length album last year as well, though I never heard it, so here's me checking them out now.
Now, immediately after you begin this album, you can tell these guys want to distance themselves from the depressive tag that has fitted them so well on previous releases. On here, a five track affair, the duo seem to be embracing elements of more ambient black metal and at times blackgaze into their sound. In my opinion, the inclusion of new sounds not only improves the instrumental side, but the vocals are given a bit more room to really include some more rhythmic patterns instead of just wailing into the abyss. The vocals also sound better, with the exception of opener Bewildered, having a bit more of a raspy quality to them instead of the usual hoarse wining that's usually found in projects of this nature.
I really have to give it to Kold for his songwriting abilities, he far surpasses almost every other depressive/suicidal project out there in terms of his melodies, structures, and atmospheres. Instead of just repeating one phrase for an entire track, you'll find some variation into cleaner sections, more melodic guitar lines, and creative ambiances, something that almost every project I've listened to in the last few years hasn't had. The use of guitar harmonies in Feed On Tears and the great post-rock vibe on Four Walls and A Restless Shadow show that, if nothing else, these guys are at least willing to push their walls out a little bit. Now, I'll definitely say that bands that are more simplistic and repetitive do have the edge in terms of creating hypnotizing music, but in the end I feel like what's on here is a lot more well written, memorable, and unique than nine out of ten depressive projects/bands out there right now.
Like Means to An End last year, this is one of the best albums to come from this scene this year. I'm hopeful that more people look into this duo's work because this album is a great leap forward for them. Depressive fans and bands, take notice to how these two do it.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: A Ghost Among People, Feed On Tears

Saturday, July 30, 2011

The Book of Knots - Garden of Fainting Stars (2011)

The Book of Knots
Country: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Experimental Rock
Label: Ipecac

I can't believe it's been close to four years since "Traineater" was first released, it certainly doesn't feel that long. Granted, it's not like I've spent each day since it's release worshiping the album, but time has just flown by, in fact it was really only a decent record in my opinion. But I've always liked to listen to things that are a little weird and this quartet certainly do that.
I'll mention that this is not really rock or metal music in the traditional sense, you won't find big riffs or choruses that'll catch your attention, this is much more abstract than that. This makes use of a lot of weird arrangements and electronics that can be more disorienting than harmonious at times, though that's only one part of their sound. There's also a lot of sparse orchestrations and robotic percussion, it's pretty avant-garde to be quite frank with you. There are moments on here that do get a little cartoony, if you catch my drift, Moondust Must.
Every track on here is a completely different experience, and it can get pretty interesting at times. From the glitchy electronics of opener Microgravity to the warped piano ballad of Lissajous Orbit and then the dark ambient-meets-noise rock piece Nebula Rasa, each and every track is an experience into itself. Maybe it's just because I'm a Mr. Bungle fan that I enjoy the track with Mike Patton, the industrial ballad Planemo, and Trey Spruance, the industrial metal-esque Obituary For The Future, on them best. They don't really bring back any of the magic that that band capture, but just knowing that they're on the same record again gives me comfort in some way.
I feel similarly about this record as I did about the last one, it's good, not great. I can't see myself listening to this album all that often, but maybe once in a while, there are some cool songs on here. Check it out if you're into more experimental and avant-garde music.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Drosophila Melanogaster, Planemo, Obituary For The Future

Zweizz & Joey Hopkins - Zweizz & Joey Hopkins (2011)

Band: Zweizz & Joey Hopkins
Country: Grønland, Norway/USA
Style: Avant-Garde/Industrial Black Metal
Label: Jester Records

Unfortunately, this was the first collaboration between avant-garde electronic/black metal musician Zweizz, of Fleurety and DHG, and underground industrial black metal experimenter, Joey Hopkins, I say unfortunately because this was also their last record. Despite never releasing a full-length album with any of his projects, his impression has certainly been left in the underground metal community. In regards to the spirit of Mr. Hopkins, I could not ask for a better honor to review this album.
This nine track affair was originally crafted as a collaboration between the two artists, but later turned into Zweizz finishing the ideas and sketches that Joey left before his untimely passing. Filled with influences that mix IDM, black metal, harsh noise, and pop music, this is far from any normal record. You'll hear sounds that are present in one being used on top of another as well as sounds that are completely foreign to any of them. The use of what appears to be a more classical, or symphonic if you will, composition of The Goat definitel lends itself to the darker and more dissonant side of the album. If there was one track that is perhaps more accessible than any of the others, it might just be Smash, Politics, Gag because it's short, melodic keyboard melody is very memorable, if not a little weird.
Pulsating drums that move into extreme double-bass, inhuman style, that they cease to sound like any sort of percussive instrument anymore and turn into more of a driving noise behind everything. Guitars that are distorted and harsh, but still melodic, though I have to say they're not the main focus on these songs, they certainly have their place in the sound. Keyboards tend to steal most of the focus on this album and they range from carnival-esque Mr. Bungle-ish, Black Strobes, to electronic and dancy-ish, How We Ate The Flesh, and even that of 8-bit and video game sounds, Bimor Bibmoj. Even the guests come from some of black metal's left-field, Garm of Ulver, Carl-Michael Eide of Virus, and Kim Sølve of Delirium Bound, are just a few that make an appearance on here. If any of these things are an indication that black metal has lost a great and experimental mind, I don't know what else to tell/convince you.
This is actually a really good record, but definitely, definitely a strange and difficult one to really get down. Some songs do click a lot easier than others, but most of these are tough little buggers that just refuse to go down. Definitely recommended to those of you that like the more avant-garde, disturbing, disorienting, and chaotic side of black metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: dWill 2 dPower/Tomorrow, Porcelain Dolls In The Bath, No Clue

Friday, July 29, 2011

Fidei Defensor - Cognoscenti (2011)

Band: Fidei Defensor
Country: Canada
Style: Black Metal
Label: Darker Than Black

There's been a little bit of controversy surrounding this release, probably to the extent that it kind of overshadowed the actual quality of the music in some cases. While this was supposed to be released on Supernal Music, apparently they were unimpressed with the number of people who pre-ordered this album so they decided not to release it. But finally this thing has been released, by a label that isn't in the business to make money.
Despite being a five song album, it just tops thirty minutes, this thing actually takes a lot of the sounds from modern black metal, think the last four or five years, and just mixes them together. It's a little odd at first, but think elements from Alcest, Enslaved, Hæresiarchs of Dis, and perhaps a little bit of Njiqahdda styled production, and it should give you a small idea as to what this sounds like. I can't really pin down exactly what it is about this album that makes it so different, you have the more post-rock/shoegaze melodies, you have hazy production, some more adventurous tracks that definitely bring more of a progressive edge to the table, but also this very prominent atmosphere that just hangs in the background. There's just something about this record that makes me scratch my head.
If you're wondering where the Hæresiarchs of Dis comparison comes from, it's not from the symphonic elements, but more from a sort of classical sophistication. The music on here really reflects the cover art of the album, it's dark and pretty raw, by production standards, but it has this sort of old-school orchestration that feels so above what most bands in the symphonic scene are doing right now. Songs like the title-track, Cognoscenti, really show exactly what this band is about, you have this beautiful and haunting atmosphere, raw riffing, and minimal vocals, but a very unique classiness to it. Even at it's most aggressive, Veritas, Satana, this thing still manages to really hold a certain ambiance that isn't used in any other band/project I've heard thus far.
I don't see why Supernal Music would drop this project, this one has some real potential to it, as well as a sound that I could hear a lot of different people enjoying. I didn't anticipate enjoying this thing as much as I did, and I thought it would definitely be good coming into it. Definitely a unique little gem of an album right here, check this out if you're into atmospheric black metal or even blackgaze.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Pallida Mors, Cognoscenti

The Konsortium - The Konsortium (2011)

Band: The Konsortium
Country: Stavanger, Norway
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Agonia Records

No, this is not a black metal version of Slipknot or bands that wear masks, it's a band that's actually good. I've been waiting for this album for about a year or so, since I first found the band. Besides being one of the weirder bands to come out in the last couple of years, Teloch, of 1349 and Umoral, to name a few, is one of the guitarists in the band.
Now, just to clear something up, that term post-black metal is still very wide, so don't come into this album thinking you'll hear anything like Alcest. Instead, this album retains a much more traditional sounding black metal sound, very aggressive and almost thrashy in some areas. Granted, to say this is straightforward sounding would discredit all of the weird progressive riffs that are used throughout the album. In my head, I hear elements of Dissection, Mayhem, and Emperor all mixed along with more avant-garde and progressive rock like King Crimson in how a lot of these riffs and chord progressions are used. I really have to compliment the vocals on here, there's a great amount of range used throughout, from chanting, Decomposers to be specific, to Ihsahn-esque screams to full-on grunting and even clean singing that brings to mind the likes of Carl-Michael Eide and ICS Vortex. Even when effects are used on the vocals, they never actually affect the actual singing, so no auto tune if you were wondering.
I'll say it right now that I enjoyed this album quite a bit, but I found it disappointing that there were only four tracks on here that I hadn't heard, that means half of the album in this case. Half of this album was released about two years ago on the band's pre-production EP, which admittedly was not as big sounding as this, but the songs aren't that dissimilar. Having said all that, I can't say that my view of the album, as a whole, is really damaged by that. The songwriting is still very good and having some good choruses never hurt anyone either, hear what I've always thought of as the band's anthem, Under The Black Flag for an example. I think it's important that a band should be able, even if the material is older, to write good songs, now that's all subjective, but to me, what's on here certainly constitutes half of the album being released beforehand.
There's a lot to hate on this band for, but there's even more to love about them, in my humble opinion anyway. While I would have liked to hear some more new material, what's on here is still very good and deserving of praise. Definitely check this out if you're into black metal that's a little on the abstract side without abandoning it's intensity.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Liv Ulven, Slangenes Barn, Onwards! Onwards!

Shroud of Despondency - Fairytales From The Tunnel of Puke (2011)

Band: Shroud of Despondency
Country: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Independent

Shroud of Despondency have been on quite the hot-streak this year, since the release of what is probably their most acclaimed record to date, "Dark Meditations In Monastic Seclusion," they've released a slew of new material. Another full-length, live album, and demo later we have this album. It's kind of weird going back to this band a few months after listening to "Dark Meditations..." and finding out that you've kind of lost track of what's been going on with them.
If the opening of I'm Nothing Forever doesn't demonstrate that these guys are moving into a much more progressive, and at times abstract, sound, than nothing will. The opening clean guitars bring together quite a different sound than on "Dark Meditations..." and the inclusion of a saxophone is also a noticeable shift. The rest of the album never really reaches that same level of weirdness, but further experimentation with more country and folk, progressive metal, and doom metal can be heard all over the album, with Death's Paralyzing Sense of Reality being noticeable for featuring a little of all three. I really have to compliment the vocalist, because I can still remember that his vocals didn't really feel right for the band back on "Dark Meditations...," but on here he feels a lot more comfortable with the band and his style is a lot better, making use of a more traditional style of screaming.
While I'm not quite sure that one could really call this an improvement over the last album, subjective opinion, but I certainly would, musically speaking anyway. The production is quite shabby, which would certainly lend itself to the idea that this is more of a demo. The drum sound on here is quite tinny sounding and the vocals are recorded in a way that makes it sound like the vocalist is whispering instead of screaming. The keyboards also feel a bit too loud in the mix at times, kind of ruining a good atmosphere the band have going. Having said all of that, I feel like the production works well when the band pull out the acoustic guitars, Caving Grounds of Pseudo Enlightenment, because it has a very nice warmth to them that I feel isn't found in a lot of more produced recordings.
While I feel the production really hindered this recording, I really like where the band is going on here. There's a definite sign of improvement as well as a movement towards what could be a more original sound, despite all the experimentation on here. Check it out if you like experimental black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Hope Spawns Greed, Three Out of Four People, Death's Paralyzing Sense of Reality

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Devolved - Oblivion (2011)

Band: Devolved
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Unique Leader Records

Devolved are a unique case for me, I like them, I really do, but for some reason there's just been something preventing me from saying I'm a fan of the band. Both of their full-lengths prior to this one have most definitely been well written, recorded, and performed, but there was just this sort of wall between me and them. I'm still not quite sure what that's from but I'm hopeful that maybe this new record will provide me with something I can really get into.
In a similar way to what I found In-Quest were doing last year, fusing Meshuggah-esque riffing and grooves with a more death metal core, or to an extent even Decapitated most recent output, is what ended up coming out from this disc. Honestly, I can't say that I've listened to the band's older material in a while, but this is most certainly less rooted in the death metal of their previous works; but it also appears to have a lot more melody in here as well. The use of clean vocals in a few of these tracks really kind of caught me off guard, but then again one could see this band maybe including more of that djent sound into this album, so clean vocals wouldn't seem as odd if they're coming from that place. In terms of how they sound, I think that the band do a good job at making the clean vocals fit with the more djenty sound of this album, whether it's through effects and harmonies, a track like Wretched Eyes of God definitely showcases pretty much every vocal style you'll find on here, the best of them anyway.
Probably the thing I can't get past on this record, which actually isn't the problem I've had with their older work, is that a lot of these tracks wound up sounding too much a like each other. There's very little difference in dynamics and riffing styles, not patterns, but styles, and so a lot of this just sort of blurs together. I'm not gonna say that the whole album is just one long track, cause there are certainly stand outs on here, but several of these tracks are just faceless amongst each other, like Into Fire and Awakening. I would have liked to have seen some more diverse sounds used on here, or at least a break from time to time, because this album sometimes felt a little tiring, to me at least.
Nothing absolutely mind melting or groundbreaking about this, but it's alright. This didn't wind up doing for me what I kind of hoped it would, but there are some great songs on here. Definitely check this out if you're into djenty, groove metal, tech metal, technical death metal, etc.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: World In Denial, Transcendance, Divinity

Decapitated - Carnival Is Forever (2011)

Band: Decapitated
Country: Krosno, Poland
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast

I feel like I shouldn't have to divulge into Decapitated's past too much, everything that's been said about it has been said, so let's focus on the now. The band has released some of the best modern death metal albums of the last decade and are now going through a rebirth. I've heard mainly good things, a few bad too, but I was excited to hear this album when I heard about it.
Much like the 2006's "Organic Hallucinosis" album, this new album sees Decapitated treading into more modern groove oriented sounds, as oppose to the more brutal sounds of their first three releases. There's a definite Meshuggah quality to some of these riffs, especially with opener The Knife, which, while I'm kind of finding this sound to become overdone with the surge of djent bands doing this style, at least Decapitated are sensible enough to make only one trick of theirs. Vocalist Rafal Piotrowski definitely does have more of a harsh yelling style of vocal that isn't that dissimilar to that of Jens Kidman's own style. If you're thinking that the band have abandoned their death metal roots, you're probably not giving the band enough credit, cause there are most definitely songs that recall more of a sound that'd be more present on albums like "The Negation," like the title-track, Carnival Is Forever.
The secret weapon on here is the fact that even if this is a more groove oriented album, Vogg's riffs are still really freaking catchy. At it's weakest, you'll hear tracks that are a bit too rooted in a groove and really don't feel like they go anywhere, United, and at it's best you'll have songs that just go into new directions and are able to mix the band's old and new sounds together, Carnival Is Forever. Definitely the riffing sticks with you, even from a first listen some of these grooves and riffs just click, at least with me they did anyway. I also feel the need to compliment new drummer Krimh for his performance on here, as he's definitely a worthy replacement for Vitek, some of his fills are just great, I love the cymbal work on 404 where he's basically just dancing around all of them, just great, and hopefully something others will not overlook. Personally, I'm a bit fan of how the band are starting to integrate a more atmospheric element into their songs, hear Homo Sum, which really just prevents this from sounding as one dimensional as some of their older work could've been seen as. I also enjoyed how the band were willing to make use of softer passages, like the intro to the title-track or closer Silence where acoustic guitar is utilized, the closer in particular is quite touching to be honest and is a fitting tribute to Vitek.
Definitely a good comeback album, not as great as I think some might have hoped it to be, and it is different, but I still enjoyed it. I could definitely see a lot of these songs going over great live, and I should hope the band continue to pursue some of the newer sounds they used on here in future releases. Definitely check it out if you like progressive or technical death metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Carnival Is Forever, 404, A View From A Hole

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Obliti Devoravit - Obliti Devoravit (2011)

Band: Obliti Devoravit
Country: Grand Rapids, Michigan
Style: Black Metal
Label: Colloquial Sound Recordings

Yet another album I found quite randomly along with the album accompanying this one. Much like the album I'm reviewing with this one, there really isn't all that much info on this band. Apparently mixing American hardcore with black metal is where these guys lie sonically.
Right from the get-go, it's very apparent that this album is, despite being the same length, fifteen and a half minutes total, is a much more aggressive beast. the sounds on here are much more reminiscent of straight ahead black metal, but obviously with that hardcore and screamo influence as well. That sound is actually quite prominent in here, the very thrashy and driving pace at which the riffing and drumming are played on most of these tracks definitely recall those sounds a lot more than modern black metal, this is most obvious in a track like Already Forgotten. This is also pretty raw as well, production wise anyway, with a very confined sound much like the band were playing in a very large basement sort of sound.
I enjoyed this album, it was a nice, short, and pretty driving and entertaining while it was on. Though I wouldn't call this album anything all that special, there's definitely something here that's worth watching. Check this band out if you're into black metal with more of that screamo hardcore element mixed with it.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Teeth On Coticule, The Pack, Manifested

A Pregnant Light - The Feast of Clipped Wings (2011)

Band: A Pregnant Light
Country: Grand Rapids, Michigen
Style: Black Metal
Label: Colloquial Sound Recordings

It's weird stumbling upon a new band, and it was really only coincidence that I found this. When I found this short little album, it really intrigued me. There's very little info on this album, and really any of the bands on this label, so pretty interesting stuff.
This album is six songs totalling up to fifteen and a half minutes, quite short to be labeled as a full-length but whatever. What you can expect from this is actually much different than one might think. I had anticipated some pretty straightforward raw black metal, instead, and while it's definitely not polished it's a lot cleaner than I thought, this album is much more original. Within the confines of what could be labeled as a more melodic black metal sounds are elements of psychedelia and almost hard rock, though I'm probably stretching the latter. The riffing is actually quite memorable, Temple Prostitute for example, and the atmospheres are where I get the psychedelic tag from, as they are pretty different from standard black metal, even if the music really isn't. Though, probably only half of this album contains "songs," I'd say even the interludes are pretty entertaining as well.
I enjoyed this album even though I came into it expecting it to be pretty mediocre. While I would have preferred some more songs, or some tracks to stretch beyond the two minute mark more often, what's on here is still very solid. Definitely check this out if you want to hear some raw and kind of trippy black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Under Consult of The Dragon, Impurity Flowing Upwards

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Dan Dankmeyer - Origin (2011)

Band: Dan Dankmeyer
Country: Frederick, Maryland
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Independent

The second full-length from mr. Dankmeyer this year, I'm sure some are saying "It's about time." It's taken me a little too long to finally get to this album, but I certainly haven't been ignoring it. After how much I enjoyed "Arcologies," this was going to have to be one hell of an album to beat that.
Have to say that "Arcologies" was an album that I didn't intend to enjoy as much as I did, despite enjoying Dan's previous efforts, I feel like that album really was a step up to another level. That album made use of soaring guitar melodies as well as some more djenty chugs, but that's ultimately not the same thing that's on here. You can expect those elements, but what's on "Origin" is a much darker sounding album that definitely brings more of a prog sort of vibe to the table. I'd even go so far to say that there's a definitive sense of an epic sounding atmosphere on here as well. Personally, it's the darker sound on here that made me think from the opening of Infectious that this album would be his best yet.
Don't mistake this album for drifting off into a sea of Periphery and Dream Theater-isms, cause while I think we could all find traces of those in even Dankmeyer's early material, and they do remain on here, it was never the focus of a song to show how technical he can play, it was about the song and the melody. For some, I could see you even making a comparison to more modern melodic death metal, and certainly that's a big influence in there, Monochrome for example, it's the two working together that's made me a fan of Dankmeyer's playing style. It becomes apparent within the first few tracks on here that unlike his previous albums where each song was kind of designated a certain role, a melodic track, a djenty groove track, a prog-ish track, etc., the influences has been melded together on here, for the better I might add. I personally rather like the more ambient guitar interludes placed in songs like Escape Yourself, they really add another dynamic to the songs beyond being just heavy and melodic. Now, probably the worst thing on here, for me anyway, was the sound of the cymbals, it was just a little to mechanical sounding for my personal taste, but that didn't ruin these songs.
Though I had hoped for a step from, this is another leap forward in terms of songwriting and arranging for Dankmeyer. It's hard to believe it, but I think this is a better album than "Arcologies." Definitely look out for this album if you're into instrumental melodic prog metal.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The One-Hundred Year Storm, Something to Fight For, Escape Yourself

Quaoar - The Soul and The River (2011)

Band: Quaoar
Country: Bilbao, Spain
Style: Experimental/Progressive Metal
Label: Independent

Despite already releasing a pretty cool debut back in 2007, "Man't," I'm surprised the guys in Quaoar aren't really that well known. These guys really grabbed me with that album, it was definitely a progressive metal album, but it didn't have any of the negative connotations that are usually present in the genre. It was a nice debut and I'm glad they're still doing new stuff.
Though I wouldn't call them a clone of copy of them, the most similar group to the guys in Quaoar are definitely Pain of Salvation. There's that ever present, or persistent to some, sense of weirdness or quirkiness on here that I know turns some people off from PoS' material. These guys will probably lose some fans who like prog-metal to sound exactly like the Symphony Xs or Dream Theaters of the world because there are songs that are shorter, most are around the seven minute mark on here, but have more of raw and hard rock quality to them instead of winding instrumental sections, a perfect example would definitely be Enslaved, a sort of power-ballad, but with balls. I think it's definitely nice that these guys are willing to use influences from blues, folk, and even classic rock, this is definitely not your standard prog-metal album, it's better. These guys channel a lot more Led Zeppelin, Pealjam, and at times Tool, than most other "prog" bands do, something I really enjoyed throughout these songs.
If you had to narrow down one point on here that separated Quaoar from every other band, it would definitely have to be Iñigo. His tone definitely recalls some elements of Daniel Gildenlöw, but his voice has a very nice vibrato quality to it that made him really stand out, at least to me. At times, he almost goes into a Jeff Buckley sort of vocal, which I think is really cool, that I'm sure should win him a few people, Absolutely. At his gruffest and most aggressive, he comes off like Mr. Gildenlöw and at his most melodic and emotional definitely coming off as more of a Buckley, but there's a lot of good middle range exhibited throughout this record. I love the balance created between emotion and pure rocking in the vocals, something I'd love to hear more of in bands in general.
This is definitely one of the best prog album I've heard all year, it really stands alone from other releases in both songwriting and the band's own voice. This is a step up from their debut, and the band have gotten better in pretty much every way, in my opinion of course. Do yourself a favor and check this out if you're into progressive music.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Love The Muse, Get Rid of Them, Hear The Void

USX - The Valley Path (2011)

Band: US Christmas
Country: Marion, North Carolina
Style: Psychedelic/Stoner Rock
Label: Neurot

I really wish I had taken the time last year to listen to US Christmas' album "Run Thick In The Night" simply because I would have felt more comfortable with this album. If only for the fact that they're on Neurot Recordings, it should have been enough, but this was my first encounter with the band. To say I was looking forward to hearing my first USX album would be an understatement.
Now, like I said, this is my first USX album and so I can't really compare it to the band's older work, but this is certainly an engaging listen. This thirty-eight minute long track just builds, falls, climaxes, stops, and is constantly shifting around in some way. Imagine a jam rock band applying all the teachings of post-rock, classical music, classic rock, and all sorts of psychedelia into their style and just playing into infinity. It's called space rock baby, and it's alive and kicking on here, taking you to a higher plane and turning your head upside down.
Once I got my copy of this album, it took a while to really grasp. Though this album is by no means a technical or super left-field venture, the length, and different moods and sounds used throughout, make it an album that certainly deserves multiple spins. Sprawling guitar solos, great organ sounds, groovy bass-lines and drums, and just an overarching sense of exploration, what more could you want from a modern prog-rock band. I love how around the twenty-two minute mark the band go into a pretty simplistic part and just get really trippy with it. Vocals aren't used all that often and it really leaves the music this room to just move around into many different realms and ideas, like the more classic rock sounding ending this thing has, totally great.
Overall, this is just a great slab of trippy psyche rock with a pinching for nice epic and exploratory music. Definitely one of the best psyche rock albums I've heard all year, really good stuff. Definitely check this out if you're at all into psyche, space, or progressive rock, you will not be disappointed.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: There's Only One Track

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interview - Servile Sect's Luke Knkr

Releasing one of the best albums this year, Servile Sect completely blew me away with "TRVTH" and I just had to get in contact with them. Luckally, Luke contacted me pretty much within ten minutes of me sending an email to him and accepted my request for an interview.

Ian: Looking back to when you two first started writing music together, about how long did it take to really develop into Servile Sect?

Luke: We began playing music together with different projects in the mid 1990's. Servile Sect was our first time making music like this. Everything we did before was more typically metal. We began in 2005 and have remained somewhat active since then.

Ian: Back when you first released "Stratospheric Passenger" did you ever think that you'd get to where you are today, both musically and commercially?

Luke: We've never had expectations or made a real attempt to be a "band", so having anyone outside of our circle hear what we're doing always feels a bit strange and surprising. It's been great though, people have been very positive and extremely supportive.

Ian: When you look back at that album, what kind of memories do you have of it? How do you see the album today in comparison to how you saw it when you first finished it?

Luke: Our lives were very hectic and stressful. Meeting up to work on the album was the best possible vacation from the daily routines we despised. We still dig the record and are in the same headspace musically.

Ian: I remember reading a review for "Stratospheric Passenger" that compared you to Nadja, what are your thoughts on that?

Luke: No comment.

Ian: "Eternal Mind" felt like it was more of an experiment where you explored more musical territories than your debut. Would you say that this release made you more comfortable with exploring less aggressive sounds in your music?

Luke: "Eternal Mind" is a collection of recordings stretching from mid 2009 back to when we first started. The selection of songs fits within a theme and overall feeling. The first side consists of two old collaborations - one with our pal from back in Phoenix, Nick Phit (Graves at Sea), and the other with Luedke from Chicago. Side two is three tracks from three different time periods recorded in various places on random gear.

Ian: What made you release "Eternal Mind" as a free release after the original Senseless Empire release?

Luke: The Senseless Empire release was an edition of 80 copies that sold out very quickly. Most of the copies went to Canada. When Radical Matters approached us to do a web edition it was a good opportunity to make it more available. Eternal Mind is still on the Radical Matters website as a free download...

Ian: Though I still feel like "Realms of The Queen" is my least favorite effort from you guys, I feel like I am only now starting to actually grasp the sounds on it. What went into making that record, was it any different from the two before it?

Luke: "Realms..." was our first real bi-coastal effort. We met up in California for a few days and sorted through ideas. After we were back at home we exchanged recordings over the internet for a while and built things into whatever it became. The process was different than anything we had done before. We were struggling with a lot of new thoughts and information at that point and the album reflects it accurately.

Ian: I know a lot of the songs from that album in particular hold quite a place a lot of your fan's hearts. What do you think you grew with that release?

Luke: "Realms..." was the first time really stepping back and allowing time for songs to settle. Because of the distance things moved at a slower pace which let things become more refined.

Ian: How did you hook up with Handmade Birds?

Luke: R. Loren wrote to us in late 2010 wondering what we were up to. We exchanged a few emails and felt that our ideas about music were very compatible. He's doing some of the coolest releases around right now so we're psyched to be involved.

Ian: What is the "TRVTH" exactly?

Luke: None of us will ever know, but the process of attempting to grasp reality is what it's all about.

Ian: About how long did it take to write and record "TRVTH?" What kinds of ideas and concepts did you want to express in the album when you first started?

Luke: We worked on the album from mid 2010 until early 2011. We sent each other demo recordings fairly regularly until we felt like things were ready. In February we did studio recordings with some contributions from our friends Joshua Convey and Robert Nelson. The concepts deal with the strangeness of reality.

Ian: Before the release, and the month or two leading up to its release, I didn't really see all that much press for your stuff, but it really seems to have exploded with this album. What are your thoughts on this, to me, sudden burst of press for "TRVTH?"

Luke: We truly appreciate all of the support and enthusiasm. As of this past weekend Handmade Birds officially sold out of "Trvth."

Ian: I know that you recorded your parts of "TRVTH" while in Nepal and mixed it while in Rishikesh, how did the first half of the album, in your opinion, come to be shaped by the environments in those cities?

Luke: Creating music outside of the typical framework or comfort of a rehearsal space, bedroom or studio has been motivating for us and something we've been doing since the early stages. It's paved the way for new approaches we wouldn't have tried otherwise and injected crazy vibes.

Ian: Beyond sideB of "TRVTH," to what extent have you ever felt the need to really exhibit and showcase a more direct black metal sound in Servile Sect?

Luke: No comment.

Ian: "TRVTH" is one of the few records I would dare to call mind blowing this year, it definitely sounds like no one else. It's also one of the select records that I've actually been able to have an "out-of-body" experience to, would you say this is more of an isolated occurrence or have other people told you similar things?

Luke: Wow, thanks. A few people here and there have made jokes about "tripping out". We always encourage people to get extremely stoned, that will of course help.

Ian: I know that you've said that you both still try and keep a metal set of values, but the sounds shown on all of your recordings reach into realms that are far more abstract and out of "metal" boundaries. Is it intentional to push boundaries into new realms of experimentation, at least for yourselves, but keep the outlook focused on the darker portions of life?

Luke: As far as "metal values" go, everything we're about is based in self-empowerment. We're anti-establishment, anti-culture. We never set out to push boundaries and we're fairly intentioned so it's not so much experimentation. We're drawn to metal and that will always be our reference. We try to not over-think it and just play what comes naturally.

Ian: Are the topics of space and the cosmos as a whole what make up the concepts of Servile Sect or more the sci-fi and aliens aspect?

Luke: Everything behind SS is tied into the desire to understand reality. Those topics are all at the forefront of this.

Ian: The mixtape that you provided for Stereogum was quite revealing of some of your influences, but I'm curious what are some influences that are perhaps outside of the realms of black metal that you think are quite important?

Luke: We listen to all sorts of stuff. A few random non-metal records with some gems that fit into the theme: A.R. and Machines - "Die grüne Reise", Moon Duo - "Escape", Belong - "October Language", Tim Hecker - "Harmony in Ultraviolet". Books: Carlos Casteneda, Terence Mckenna, Aldous Huxley.

Ian: A lot of modern American black metal bands are tagged as "hipster black metal," what are your thoughts on that?

Luke: If it sounds good, awesome.

Ian: What are the differences in how you write songs for Servile Sect compared to Ithi, Sadness Saturn, and Ash Borer?

Luke: No comment.

Ian: What's next for you two, I know that Sadness Saturn is planning a reissue of the split with Utarm? What lies ahead for Servile Sect?

Luke: In late August/early September Land of Decay is releasing a C-30 cassette of Servile Sect demos from 2005/2006. We're doing a Golden Raven/Sadness Saturn split tape on Handmade Birds. He's also re-issuing the Utarm/Sadness Saturn tape in a very small edition. At some point soon we'll be releasing a companion to "Trvth". There are plenty of other things in the works. We'd like to start playing shows soon...

Ian: Well, I guess that it, thanks again for letting me interview you, it's been great. Thanks again for the fantastic album.


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Cholernik - A Hopeless Glimmer (2011)

Band: Cholernik
Country: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Independent

Last year I found Tyler Okrzesik's solo project Cholernik, and I was quite surprised by what I heard. Unlike many other one-man projects, "Nine Noble Virtues" exhibited a lot of progressive songwriting techniques and playing. Having released an album every year, this is the one for 2011.
What I found so interesting about Cholernik was that it had some of the more progressive leanings of a band like Krallice as well as hints of stuff like Liturgy. The riffing moved from spastic and dissonant to more melodic and harmonious, retaining elements from black metal, death metal, prog rock, etc. but done in a very different fashion to almost any other artist I had heard up to that point. The guitar playing on here is very good, there's a lot of different ranges, from the more death metal and black metal stuff to more jazzy sounds. This album holds the first appearance of vocals in Cholernik, though they're only on four songs. I actually think Okrzesik's vocals are a pretty strong point for this album, he has a nice and dry scream which suits the music.
What I find the hardest to get past with both this and "Nine Noble Virtues" is the sound of the drum programming. On the last album, the kicks were not only too loud in the mix, but they were way too mechanical, and on here, while the kicks are further back in the mix, the cymbals are far more annoying and ear piercing. They are way too glassy and robotic for me, and almost completely ruin tracks like Through The Clouds. While above I said that the guitar playing is very good, and I stand by that, it doesn't always fit with whatever else is going on in a song, the piano that opens The Blackened Bliss works until the guitars just start trying to mimic the pattern of the piano. I also have to say that over half of these ten tracks top the eight minute mark, which make this almost eighty minute album feel very long. After a while this just becomes too much like a chore to listen to, even the two shorter tracks Dawn of The Swine and Fog of The Truth, are pretty inconsequential interludes which do very little to actually break up the intensity of this disc.
You know, it's not even that I don't like this album, I just feel like it's way too long and uninteresting. To be honest, listening to this thing actually gave me a headache, and after a while I just wanted to turn this off. I'd still suggest you check this out, maybe you'll find it interesting if you like more abstract sounding black metal.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Odin's Final Pyre, The Triumph of Solitude, A Forlorn Flame

Jute Gyte - Verstiegenheit (2011)

Band: Jute Gyte
Country: Missouri
Style: Experimental Black Metal
Label: Jeshimoth

Jute Gyte's "Young Eagle" album that was released last year was definitely a surprising album to me. It was experimental and noisy, but also very unique and odd, setting it apart from the other black metal albums that came out. Despite that, it was only his second black metal release under the project's name, this is his third.
Compared to "Young Eagle," I think it's obvious that the sound has not only matured, but grown a lot more palatable. Gone are most of the harsher tones that covered previous black metal endeavors, and instead you have wretched screams and a much more melodic side. Though the abrasiveness of previous efforts is maintained, I feel like the more melodic approach kind of weakened my own enjoyment of some of what was on here. The vocals also didn't really do it for me, those high pitched wails that kind of remind me of the stuff from the whole depressive scene, it's not bad, it's just not my favorite style of vocals. I think something most fans can agree on with is that Adam Kalmbach should try and get some real drums, or a better sounding drum machine, to perform on here cause the sound is really too tinny and just bad, I seriously thought someone was knocking on my door when listening to Emblem of Fertile Blood and Death but it turned out to be the snare.
Despite me disliking the more melodic sound of this album, I did feel that retaining more sloppy and abstract melodies at times kept this from being too "regular." I might be the only one hearing this, but there are moments on here, The Light That Hangs Above The Fields for example, where some of the riffs sound like something Krallice might do, or another band of that vein. With that in mind, I enjoyed some of the more dissonant melodies and spiralling guitar work on several of these songs, which also retain the length of previous ventures into black metal as well as recall Krallice's tendency for lengthier tracks. I can't say that I follow much of Jute Gyte's other material, since the project has released several other albums that focus more on ambient, electronic, drone, and noise than black metal, so I don't know if do more of that made Kalmbach want to make this more of a focused effort or not, but that's just my speculation.
In the end, I'd say that I probably enjoyed only about half of the tracks on here, though the others weren't bad, they just weren't up to par with how I felt towards "Young Eagle" or other songs on here. Really I think the drums are the biggest thing holding this project back though. I'd still say that if you like some left-field black metal to definitely check this project out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Apparition In The Woodlands At Dusk, The Frailty of Everything Revealed

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Abysmal Darkening - No Light Behind... (2011)

Band: Abysmal Darkening
Country: Tilburg, Netherlands
Style: Blackened Doom Metal
Label: Totalrust

When I first heard of this album, the bands Celtic Frost, Bethlehem, Pentagram, and Urfaust were being tossed around with it. Now, I'm certainly no expert on any of those bands, but I can at least tell you that they're all great. If that wasn't a reason to check this out, nothing would have been.
Given the information above, because really all that told me was that this would be some pretty cool music, there's still only a very vague picture painted. When this started, I can tell you that there was certainly something very uniquely unoriginal going on here, if that makes any sense. While Behold The Gods opens the album, the sounds it evokes are very familiar to the bands mentioned above, but none of them sound specifically vibe like any of them. There are signs of Pentagram and Celtic Frost musically, but the atmosphere has a lot more in common with the depressive sounds of Bethlehem and the dank and haunting ambiance of Urfaust.
In terms of the actual songwriting abilities of this band, I can safely say that if you're a fan of doom metal in any way, chances are that you'll have a good time with this record. Tracks like Dead Eyes and Endless March of The Dead bring back a lot of old-school blues-tinged riffing with more black metal snarling. In a few cases, one could almost call these guys a bit of a stoner group due to the very bluesy vibe to some of the riffs. While these guys do stay in the world of doom for most of the album, there is certainly times when a more black metal style of riffing is utilized, De Zomer Is Dood being one of the few instances where the band made use of tremolo picking. Back to the songwriting though, the arrangements retain that doom/stoner approach towards not going overboard and blasting, in comparison to a lot of other doom groups, most of what's on here is actually quite mid-paced, but it's all about having good riffs and a really brutal atmosphere.
I really enjoyed this album, though it certainly wasn't perfect, I like whatever these guys are trying to accomplish. It's very dark and cold sounding but not without having plenty of catchy riffs. Definitely check this band out if you like doom metal or if you enjoy bands that can actually make a dark atmosphere.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Dead Eyes, Words of Doom, De Zomer Is Dood

Loss - Despond (2011)

Band: Loss
Country: Nashville, Tennessee
Style: Doom/Death Metal
Label: Profound Lore Records

This one's been a while coming, I've wanted to cover this for a while and looked forward to doing so but other things come up. Despite being a debut full-length, which still surprises me that these guys haven't released more full-lengths, these guys have worked with some of the big leagues in modern funeral doom and doom/death metal. From all the acclaim this record is getting, I have some high hopes for this thing.
Having worked with the likes of Mournful Congregation and Worship on previous splits, I think that the expectations set for this debut were set pretty high, by others just as much as by myself. It's very hard to craft any sort of identity in modern doom/death and funeral doom simply because there's a lack of new ideas or it's trying to be done in the most basic and primal way that it feels so faceless among the heavyweights of those genres. Loss, much like the Seidr record I reviewed earlier, manage to carve out a little place for themselves in the doom/death genre, though Loss are still much closer to funeral doom than Seidr.
The line between the two sub-genres is blurred throughout this hour-plus long record, keeping the more melodic similarities to the doom/death bands, the likes of early Katatonia and Anathema, but also have those drawn-out drony sections and the disgustingly low vocals that has more of a place in funeral doom. Though I wouldn't say that mixing traits, whether intentional or not, is an "original" idea, I think it's rare that any band within those genres is doing anything other than sticking to the formula set by their originator, which is why tracks like Cut Up, Depressed and Alone manage to actually be both memorable and crushingly heavy at the same time. What I find so captivating about this band is that they are able to craft such strong melodies, reminding me of the classic bands mentioned above, but obviously done with their own flair, despite being much slower than those bands. I also find that throughout the album, while a lot, and I mean A LOT, of bands in the extremer side of doom focus a lot on simply laying down the low-end for an entire song, these guys manage to evoke a much darker and more palatable sense of despair and mourning through softer sections that only enhance how crushing those heavy sections actually are, The Irreparable Act the album closer does an excellent job at this.
I don't know how many others have notice this, but I think it's been a really good year for doom metal, and this is just another great record demonstrating that. This is a record that's just as catchy as it is dark, which should please any fan of the doom genre. Definitely check this out, one of my personal favorite doom releases this year.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Open Veins to A Curtain Closed, An Ill Body Seats My Sinking Sight, Silent and Completely Overcome

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thisquietarmy - Vessels (2011)

Band: Thisquietarmy
Country: Montréal, Canada
Style: Drone/Post-Rock
Label: Aurora Borealis Records

Finally, a post-rock album that I've been looking forward to, besides Mogwai earlier this year, thank goodness. Thisquietarmy has been one of my favorite post-rock projects and was probably one of the first I ever found. As of yet, the project has not released an album I've been disappointed with, let's hope that streak continues on here.
Though originally starting off as a post-rock oriented project, with early albums and EPs, with 2010's "Aftermath," we saw Eric Quach, the main brain and sole member of this project, move into a much more ambient realm. From little descriptions I've read about this album, I kind of had the impression going in that this would follow that sound more closely than returning to the more post-rock sounds of his earlier material, but this really does have a much different tone to it than any of his other material. This is a much darker and industrial-tinged sounding record than any other record Quach has released with this project so far, not including the collaborations with Aidan Baker. Much like his work with the aforementioned man, this album also finds comfort in the realms of drone music, with lengthier pieces that make use of much sparser arrangements and minimal keyboard sequences. If you were a fan of Quach's earlier material, "Echotone" or "Unconquered," this will most likely turn you off.
This is easily one of, if not the, most minimal sounding record within the Thisquietarmy catalog yet, the compositions are based more on longer drones than any sort of melody. I don't want to give the impression that this is solely a drone album though, because having said all the above, there are certainly still sounds that you can find and associate with earlier material from this project. Sounds that are more reminiscent of shoegaze and ambient music are all over this record and are actually quite hard to miss. The Black Sea also brings a bit of the post-rock side of things back into the fold, though I wouldn't say that it really makes up any bulk of that track, granted, that track is still one of the most melodic on this album. I think that the second half of this album is a lot more graspable than the first half, if only because melodic parts are far more defined and less abstract and drawn out, hear A Spanish Galleon for example compared to The Pacific Theater.
Even though this was by far Quach's most minimal and droning release yet, I actually still enjoyed it, more than I thought I would actually. This is surprisingly solid and very enjoyable, both as foreground and background music. Definitely check this out if you're into drone, post-rock, ambient, industrial, or even symphonic music, chances are you might dig this.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Lost Crusades, A Spanish Galleon

Tom Vourtsis - Mothhunting (2011)

Band: Tom Vourtsis
Country: New York
Style: Ambient/Drone
Label: Music Ruins Lives

Time to chill out with something nice and easy. I know the whole ambient/drone thing is probably not for a lot of people, as I've previously stated before, but it's nice to bring yourself down every once in a while. After a long day, sometimes it's good to just put something quiet and droning on.
With an album like this, five songs of pretty minimalistic ambiances that ultimately do very little in their time spans, I can imagine some getting really bored after listening to opener Ghost Doze and just turning this off. But, looking beyond the very simplistic sounds on here that just bounce back and forth, there's a lot of personality. Echoes of subtle sounds just move through the background, while harsher, to an extent, tones drone on in the foreground; though it's minimal, it certainly isn't one-sided and boring. I also love the field recordings on here that just give the entire record a very blissful, calm after a storm, sort of vibe.
There's actually quite a bit of variety on here, more than one might expect, though that usually is the case with most ambient and drone music out there. Some tracks on here definitely maintain that very quiet and fairly somber atmosphere, expanding the sound of the background; but it's on a song like Overlookers that I find interesting due to it's inclusion and experimentation with noise right up in front. It's the noisier side of this album that I think makes it so fascinating to me, how it manages to explore different realms of sound while making use of very almost nothing out of the ordinary. The harshness of the noise mixing with the more tranquil ambient soundscapes that make up the base of the album.
Although I can't say I ever anticipated not liking this record, it impressed me a lot more so than I would have thought originally. Definitely something a little bit different, and I already know that a lot of people are already digging this album a lot. Definitely look into this if you like drone, noise, ambient, etc. you get the picture.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Overlookers, Crowhurst

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Circle of Ouroboros - Eleven Fingers (2011)

Band: Circle of Ouroburos
Country: Tampere, Finland
Style: Experimental Black Metal/Post-Punk
Label: Handmade Birds

MOTHERFUCKER! Circle of Ouroboros is just one of those bands that's remarkably original in no matter what they do. I'm not going to say every release the duo have put out is groundbreaking in a positive light, but you certainly can't fault them for always pushing themselves. Since I found out about them being signed to Handmade Birds records earlier this year, this has honestly been one of my most anticipated releases for 2011.
In all honesty, going over not only what CoO has done in their relatively short career is tough enough, but mentioning the well spoken of post-punk of Key and the mystical black metal of Rahu, among others, is near impossible to cover without devolving into sheer hum-drum. But this duo has pretty much done everything you can do within the post-punk, post-black metal, atmospheric black metal, doom rock, shoegaze, neo-folk, etc. genres you can imagine, so where do you go now, you take things even further. The little bit of information I had received from others about guitars sounding more like keyboards than guitars on here is one hundred percent true, you will not find another guitar sound like this out there. In addition to that, the melodies these guys have churned out on here is out of this world, the beats are incredibly danceable, and the vocals are probably more tuneful than ever before, in my opinion. I also like how the band have really kept things at a rather mid to slow tempo on here, never really retreading into black metal territory, save a few raspy vocals here and there.
Now, I can't say that CoO have released all good albums, there are some that are a bit more lackluster than others, but there are some fantastic ones as well, last year's "Unituli" full-length I thought was fantastic, even though I never reviewed it, along with their debut full-length, "Shores," and the "Auerauege Raa Verduistering" and "The Golden Blood" splits showcased some really above-par material from them. What has often been a deal breaker for some has been the vocals, and while I can't say that I've ever gotten used to them completely, it's undoubtedly an original style that sounds like no one else; but like I said above, they're a lot more tuneful on here than on any other release I've heard from them thus far. The muddy sounding production has often been what's kept me a little distant towards some records, and it does vary from release to release, while I think the drums are too high in the mix on the "Moonflares" split, I was not a fan of the sound on "Veneration" for a long time. Now, I won't say the production on here is any cleaner, but it's certainly a lot more fitting towards the music.
In all honesty, I expected good things, I haven't always gotten them with this band, but this delivered even more than what I had expected. Damn you R. Loren for releasing another amazing album, you're making other labels look like real lightweights here. Besides that, definitely go pick this up, you will not, I repeat, you WILL NOT find another album, or band really, that sounds like this.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Tombs - Path of Totality (2011)

Band: Tombs
Country: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Sludge/Post-Black Metal
Label: Relapse Records

Tombs is perhaps one of the bands that I've heard nothing but good praise for, since their first album, 2009's "Winter Hours" came out. Despite all that praise, even from friends, I remember not really getting into that debut and not really seeing what the big deal is. Now that this new album is out, I'm interested in seeing if I can connect with it this time.
What I've heard so much about is the unique style which this trio uses, the idea of combining black and sludge metal with crust punk and shoegaze music, to me, sounds like a great mix. I like all the different styles individually, so maybe I just didn't give these guys a chance when I first listened to them, cause right when I pressed play on this thing, there wasn't a moment that I disliked. I think the drumming on here is fantastic; it's really expressive and dynamic sounding, but also very energetic and powerful, Vermilion for example is just a track that I love the drumming patterns on. I think that it's also important to note that the bass on here is well performed as well, I like that it's distorted enough to really bring a extra sense of heaviness while not being drowned out by the guitars, it's really thick is what I'm trying to say.
One thing that I just loved on here was the downplayed energy that just ran through this thing, songs like Constellations or Black Heaven, just feel like they could bust at the seams at any moment, go into an almost punk sort of thing, but it's all very restrained and downplayed in a way. There's a lot of texture in the guitar sounds on here as well that I just thought were great, they were nice and chunky sounding, a very meaty tone, but it wasn't muddy or overly distorted to the point where the more shoegazy tones are overwhelmed. Even when this band slows down, Passageways, it doesn't dull the energy, and honestly, I could relate it to post-rock in the sense that in a track like that, it just feels like things keep on building up until they finally explode. The use of the dISEMBOWELMENT style of blasting drums and slow-going guitars, though definitely not to that degree, is something that I also really enjoyed with later songs on the album. I think it's also worth noting that none of these songs feel long at all, they all just blazed by me, in a good way though.
This is just a really solid album that I'm wondering why I couldn't get into this band sooner with how much I enjoyed this. This is an album with a lot of different sounds that could definitely please a lot of different people. Definitely check this album out if you like doom, sludge, black metal, post-rock, shoegaze, crust punk, the list could go on and on, just check these guys out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Path of Totality, Silent World, Cold Dark Eyes

Beastwars - Beastwars (2011)

Band: Beastwars
Country: Wellington, New Zealand
Style: Sludge/Stoner Metal
Label: Independent

If only for the name, I knew from the second I saw this album that I had to hear it. I don't know how many other people grew up like me watching the old TV show Beastwars, but that name alone was enough for me wanting to check this album out. I've read a little bit into the band itself, and people seem to have taken to it pretty well, hopefully it's good.
So what we have with this record is some bludgeoning stoner metal that'll definitely please fans of the style for sure. This is nice and mid-paced, contains all the right grooves, mostly clean vocals, and heavy bass is used throughout, it's got what I could only imagine to be a fan of this music's wet dream. Though it's probably obvious to fans of stoner rock, this record does make use of plenty of blues, Daggers for example, which is something that always catches my ear when I'm listening to this sort of stuff. I think Iron Wolf is probably the best "ballad" I've heard all year to be honest, if you even want to call it that, I just liked how the softer and more downplayed groove to that song came out. In fact, later tracks have a bit of a Neurosis kind of thing going on to them, not to the extent someone could call it "post" whatever, but you can definitely hear it within the last couple of tracks on here.
In all honesty, I think that the best part of this record is the singing, it's very gruff and smoky sounding, something you don't hear a lot these days, in a lot of music not just metal. His range is also quite good, you have tracks that are much more smokey lounge-club crooning, Mihi, but you also have the tracks that are much more aggressive and have vocals that equally measure up, Red God. At times I could hear a bit of Tom Waits in his voice at times, and on some tracks there even a Steve Von Till resemblance as well. I find that without this guy's vocals, this band would be just another cool stoner metal/rock band, to be honest.
This is actually a pretty solid album, not a bad track on here, all very good and memorable. Frankly, this isn't really my thing, but I really enjoyed this record. Definitely look into this if you're in the market for some cool stoner rock.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Damn The Sky, Call Up The Dead, Cthulhu

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Diapsiquir - A.N.T.I. (2011)

Band: Diapsiquir
Country: Dourdan, France
Style: Avant-Garde/Industrial Black Metal
Label: End All Life

Since the release of "Lubie Satanique Dépravée" back in 2003, Diapsiquir has been sort of a hot-button band. With each release the band have kind of shifted their style to become more adventurous and unique. It's been over five years since we heard any new material from this camp, but I've heard nothing but good talk from people who have heard this.
This thing wastes no time getting itself off the ground, from the first five seconds of Ωlow, you know this is not just "industrial black metal." Within this song alone, you get crazy and discordant black metal, pounding electronic beats, and a definitive hip-hop influence. Beyond that, this record shows the band at not only their weirdest, but possibly also at their most accessible as well. There are actual hooks and melodic vocal lines that are sure to get caught in at least one person's head. Experimentation is fine, but I'm a little turned off by the sound of hip-hop, just a personal preference, and I guess I just don't really get it. Further down the line there's also a definitive post-hardcore sound, reminiscent of a band like Glassjaw, to a certain extent of course.
This is still just as abstract as ever, in terms of the more metallic side of things. But to make a statement that actually might piss some people off, a lot, if not most, of the black metal sounds of the band's past have been removed from this record. A lot of songs on here still make use of very dark and dissonant sounding melodies and chords that remind me a little bit of noise rock, just listen to Ennui. The electronics on here also retain their harshness and morbid shifts, like the trumpet solo on Fais-le that just gets sped up until it becomes just another pulsating beat. Harsh noises and confusing atmospheres just dominate the record, making the sound incredibly off the wall and really presenting you, in essence, avant-garde music. Along with quite a bit of a jazz influence, A.M.A.C.C., you can simply imagine how odd some of these songs are actually composed. If these don't convince you that this is a crazy record, than nothing will.
This is a really odd record, it really throws out of any preconceived notion of "normality" and just makes anything relatively accessible as odd as possible. This is not a record that's easy to listen to, let alone get into, and it's really up there as one of the strangest records I've heard all year. Check it out if you want to hear something extremely weird and disorienting.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: A.N.T.I., Ennui, Kmkz