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

Friday, March 30, 2012

Deus Nuvem - Waving At Us, We've Provoked EP (2012)

Band: Deus Nuvem
Country: Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Style: Jazz Fusion/Progressive Rock
Label: Independent

Aside from possibly a few things here and there, that might have still been pretty metal, I haven't covered much fusion since 2010, and even then it wasn't a whole lot. I found this album while looking up prog-rock albums that were released this year, so I was coming into this expecting more of that. Along with that, I really haven't covered a whole lot of music from South America, so, yet another reason why I wanted to cover this.
Since I first found out about this album through its cover art, I found it on rateyourmusic.com, I wasn't really all that sure what kind of prog it was going to be. Saying something is "progressive rock" is kind of tricky because it really isn't the sort of label that will give you a good idea of what a band actually sounds like. The seven song that make up this album are really more like short cuts of a longer piece, and one track really doesn't sound like another, so listening to one track really won't give you a great impression on what the entire disc sounds like. Throw into the mix that this project takes a rather eclectic approach towards composition and you've really got a tricky album to try and describe. Death of The I comes off as a sort of avant-garde jazz sort of track that goes from pretty mellow cello and bass into more screeching string plucking before going into territory that wouldn't be all that far off from John Zorn's The Dreamers project, bringing in violin, drums, piano, and a xylophone, among others. You'll find that there's a pretty wide range of instruments used throughout the album as well. That jazz approach is really the only consistent part of this album, as each track's actual performance can go from soothing lounge-esque to crazy and off-the-wall jams. You really won't get into anything that's too close to progressive "rock" until Red Sun, part one and two, where the band bring in some guitars and organs to add a bit more of a fusion element to the album.
I don't know if this is "technically" an EP, but I'm grading it as such because it's under thirty minutes of music, but beyond that I think this is a pretty solid debut release. There's quite a bit of ground covered on here that is really interesting and diverse. If you're a fan of more instrumental, there are some vocals on a few tracks, based jazz-rock (kind of), I think this is something that you should definitely take the time to look into, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Triângulo, Red Sun I

Anathema - Weather Systems (2012)

Band: Anathema
Country: Liverpool, UK
Style: Atmospheric Rock/Post-Rock
Label: KScope

I'd really love to say that I'm a long time listener of Anathema, but unfortunately I remember getting into them around the time 2008's Hindsight was being released. Since then, I've become a huge fan of their more recent material and their last album, 2010's We're Here Because We're Here managed to make it into my top 15 of 2010. I really wasn't even aware that the band was in the process of writing a new album until they released a song from the album, and since then I've anxiously been awaiting this.
I'll just come out and say it that I found this album completely heartbreaking. I'm not one for saying such sentimental things when it comes to albums, but when an album connects with you on an emotional level, I do feel it's appropriate. From what I've read from others regarding this record, it seems to be fairly well liked, but I never expected this album to hit me as hard as it did. It's not even that this album is all that different from their last record, or that the songs, in and of themselves, are all that different, but the entirety of this release just made a connection in a way that not many records make with me. Probably the simplest way to describe how I feel about this is that it is this year's Ghost (the Devin Townsend album, my fav. album from last year) to me. The opening tracks Untouchable, parts one and two, were both incredibly powerful and moving tracks that, honestly, had me on the brink of tears during some moments.
But to talk more about the album, it is a bit less of a "rock" album than the band's last full-length, with a bit more focus on more moody atmospheres and bigger build-ups. There's a lot more focus on piano and acoustic guitars, perhaps more than on the last few releases, but it is certainly not an album that will get you headbanging or rocking out lake certain tracks on the band's last album. Throughout the album I heard a considerable amount of post-rock influence, with most of these songs emphasizing builds from more simplistic openings into huge sounding climaxes, something I am aware the band has been utilizing on their last few albums, but really comes out fully on here. I also think that there's a little bit of a krautrock vibe on The Storm Before The Calm, which I thought was really enjoyable. The mixture of these two sounds, along with the band's already established sound creates and album that at times almost recalls electronic music due to the repetition of some ideas and the constant increases in texture in a song. In that sense, I do think the band did a good job selecting the first track to release from the album, The Beginning and The End, because it is one of the most accessible tracks on the album and is pretty definitive of what you could expect from the rest of the album. I won't deny that there are a couple of moments on here that the band kind of reminded me of when the Deftones are more dreamy and atmospheric, but not in such a way that it takes away from the power of the given song.
The band and Christer-André Cederberg's production on the album really gives it a huge sound, once again, very comparable to their last release, but is a lot more balanced in my opinion. Where We're Here Because We're Here sounded very bright and reminded me of summer, this album is a bit more cooled down and is more like a spring sunset. It doesn't feel as "particular" as the last one did. From my point of view, this gives the songs a desperate and hopeful air, it's not as uplifting but is more powerful and hard-hitting, emotionally, instead. Though, having said that, there are still songs on here that are more upbeat than others, like I said, hopeful, and tracks like Lightning Song or Internal Landscapes really emphasize that side of the band with climaxes that are just inspiring. But you cannot underestimate the impact that the Cavanagh brothers and Lee Douglas' vocals have on the music. The dynamic between the three of them range from heartbreakingly mournful to simply exhilarating. Each track manages to provide something different whilst they all are connected in such a way that the album flows together so fluidly.
I don't expect others to feel the same way I do about this album, and somehow, despite how powerful I think this album is, I doubt that many others will find a similar connection. Before listening to it, I didn't even expect it to be as powerful as it proved to be, and I am glad that it is as incredible as it turned out to be. I still certainly urge you to check this album out, and it is without a doubt one of the best albums I have heard this year. It's a masterpiece that is not to be missed.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Nooumena - Argument With Eagerness (2011)

Band: Nooumena
Country: Caen, Basse-Normandie, France
Style: Experimental/Progressive Rock
Label: Antithetic

I don't get the opportunity to cover a whole lot of progressive rock on here, unfortunately. Despite my love for the genre, a lot of newer groups just sound boring or uninteresting to me and so I don't wind up writing about the genre as much as I would like to. So it was with great pleasure that I was sent this album, a progressive rock album that isn't either of the above.
Although my intention is to not come off as pretentious, no matter how I say this next sentence, it's going to come off that way; but as a person who listens to a lot of psychedelic and progressive rock from the 60s and 70s, it's important to note the evolution of the "progressive" genre. Obviously, even a novice should be able to point out that the genre has its roots within the realms of jazz, and whilst I'm in no way saying that every band under that tag should have that as influence, it's important to note how many newer artists don't even acknowledge that. Without jazz artists like Miles Davis and John Coltrane, to name a very few, we would never have the likes of Dream Theater or Opeth, and all the bands that have taken influence from them and ripped them off. Hell, there are plenty of modern prog-rock bands who don't even site jazz as an influence, and while that's perfectly fine, it's great to find and hear a band that is perfectly aware of the roots of the genre. So it was with great pleasure that I was able to get a hold of this album.
Make no mistake, this is a prog-rock album, not metal, and even saying rock is stretching the boundaries of the term a little bit. Let's just call it a modern jazz-fusion album and be done with it. The album doesn't really cross into heavier territory until the album's closing track, Taedium Vitae, which brings in some distorted guitars into the mix. Jazz players, as much as they're recognized for excelling in their instruments, also had a good grasp on dynamics, the good ones anyway, so that even when they were improvising, there was always an ebb and flow to what they were doing. Throughout this entire album, dynamics are used to near perfection. The band make full use of a wide range of ideas that bring to mind the dark-ambient jazz of Bohren & Der Club of Gore, the post-rock climaxes of a group like Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and the more technical, call it mathy, off-the-handle playing of a group like Ruins. It's an eclectic mixture of ideas, granted this is just what I heard, and there is much more inside that other listeners will surely find as well, but the band combine the elements in ways that make each song interesting and gripping from start to finish. There's also a healthy dose of more avant-garde tendencies in here that I really enjoyed, which recalled my love for groups like Mr. Bungle during some of it's more quirky moments, Le Plouc being the prime example. Luckily, the band never crossed over into John Zorn-esque freeform, which could have made this album a lot more irritating. I have to say that on first listen, I really didn't think too much of the vocals, but the more I listened, the more I took an interest in them. I know it's going to be an odd comparison but they actually reminded me a bit of Jason Mendonça's (of Akercocke) singing voice, and occasionally made me think of Kvohst (ex-Code, Hexvessel), and neither of those is a bad thing.
I thought the album was really solid and did a good job at putting an interesting spin on a genre that has become rather predictable within the last couple of decades. I look forward to hearing more from this band in the future because judging by this album, they can go into a lot of different areas, and it's quite exciting to wonder exactly where they'll wind up going. It's an album that more than certainly deserves your time if you consider yourself a fan of experimental music, as it has apparently appealed to people who aren't usually into prog-rock or jazz normally.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Decadence, Le Plouc, Taedium Vitae

Horseback - On The Eclipse EP (2012)

Band: Horseback
Country: Chapel Hill, North Carolina
Style: Experimental/Psychedelic Black Metal
Label: Brutal Panda

I don't think it's any secret that I, and many others, regard Jenks Miller as a modern genius within the extreme music scene, that includes the likes of ambient and drone genres along with the metal. The work he released last year was more or less in conjunction with other artists and helped to not only spread the name of the band but expand the sonic boundaries that the band works within. This new EP furthers that expansion and acts as a nice palate wetter before the new full-length.
For anyone who has listened to the Horseback back catalog, you'll know that the band's sound is quite varied, but this short little release essentially picks up, essentially, where The Invisible Mountain album left off, sonically anyway. The title-track was described as a meeting between krautrock and acoustic pop, which both works and fails in really describing the sound of the track. While I'll admit that both those "genres" (I'm not sure acoustic pop is a real genre) but there's obviously moments that call back to the full-length mentioned above. Jenks' black metal snarl remains intact as well as the band's unique brand of hypnotic minimalism form of composition. The second track, Broken Orb, sort of takes the two "genres" mentioned above and instead of filtering them through the project's blackened form of desert rock, puts it through the more ambient side of the band. It's certainly a brighter and more droning piece that should get fans of Impale Golden Horn excited, but is a bit more alive, I guess you could say. It's not as minimal as some of the other ambient pieces that have been put under the Horseback name. These two pieces add up to the most accessible Horseback material yet, which might be an overstatement on my end, but is true nonetheless.
I think it's going to be hard to find a fan of the project that won't enjoy this release. Horseback is growing into a project that is going to have a lot of weight behind its name, both in terms of discography size and quality, that will hopefully bring the project even more into the light of the public. I am anxiously awaiting the new full-length thanks to this release, and I just know it's going to be fantastic.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: On The Eclipse

Monday, March 26, 2012

Ea - Ea (2012)

Band: Ea
Country: Russia
Style: Funeral Doom Metal
Label: Solitude Productions

I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that with the use of the internet, there's been a rise of some really, really bad bands emerging from the woodwork. Funeral doom is perhaps one of the worst genres to suffer from this because of countless one-man projects popping up performed by guys who think if they play super slow and use a little bit of feedback that they can be the next Mournful Congregation or Esoteric. Russia is, unfortunately, one of the areas in the world where this plague appears to be most prevalent (look it up).
In all honesty, after 2010's Au Ellai album, I had assumed that the project Ea was done. I had read that the project was brought together for three albums that were conceptually linked together, and I just figured that after those albums the band would be over, I'm happy to be proven wrong. Like I said above, funeral doom is a hard genre to find quality in, and Russia is a country that I've had quite a lot of bad experiences with musically, so the combination isn't one that would bring to mind a favorable group, but Ea is easily one of the most interesting funeral doom projects I've heard. Unlike a lot of their peers, the project has made use of elements that many other bands and projects seem to negligently forget. The use of melody, the use of variation, and the use of mood. Obviously, the genre of funeral doom isn't one that lends itself to happiness or uplifting moments, but it should, and the best bands do, be able to convey a sense of emotion through the music, and Ea does that in a way that many fail to do.
I'm not going to say that Ea is a project that is mind-blowing, there are a lot of elements in the band that fans of the genre will have heard before, but with this and their last album, the band has finally hit their stride and are nailing the funeral doom sound and bringing their own flavor to it. The first two Ea albums were fine, but they had their flaws, the debut wasn't really anything too special for the genre, and their follow-up was a bit too synthetic for my own taste; but like I said, they hit the mark on their last album, which had all the necessary elements for the band to start crafting an even more honed sound with future releases. On here, they manage to hit the bull's eye and craft an album that all funeral doom fans should definitely take note of. Despite being only one song, which just happens to top forty-seven minutes, the band bring together all the sounds they perfected on their last album and unify them.
The band has never been all that reliant on vocals, and on here they play but a minor role in the overall tone of the album, but they are able to bring a bit more life into some of the more dirging moments of the song. Aside from that, musically, you'll find that on here, the balance between the more melodic funeral doom the band makes use of and their interest in most post-rock and classical influenced ambiances is at their peak. The synthes are nowhere near as fake sounding as they used to be and they create a haunting and sorrowful backdrop to the slow, plodding guitars. It's also worth nothing that the synthes are not simply for the background as they make more than one appearance as a leading instrument, and it works fantastically. In my opinion, there's a good balance between the use of guitars and keyboards on here as well. The guitars aren't super heavy or crushing, which may be a letdown to some, but have more of an "epic" sense to them where they are used just as much as the synthes are in some cases to provide more background heaviness, while the lead guitar provides the melodies on top. Hell, there's even a solid guitar solo in here as well.
I think it's pretty clear that I really enjoyed this album, and despite a couple of small gripes, it's certainly the best funeral doom record I've heard this year, and I somehow doubt it'll be easy to top. I can only hope fans of doom metal, in general, take the chance to listen to this album and experience this piece of masterwork. I can only hope that the band can continue this ascent upwards in terms of quality with future releases, cause their future looks very bright if I judge it by this album.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Ea

Malasangre - Lux Deerit Soli (2012)

Band: Malasangre
Country: Voghera, Italy
Style: Funeral Doom/Drone Metal
Label: I, Voidhanger

The line between funeral doom and drone metal is very fine. Anyone who's listened to the two genres even to a minimal degree could tell you that the two sub-genres could be mistaken for each other and do have a tendency to cross over within certain projects. Finding bands and projects that blur the lines between the two sub-genres has become increasingly easy, but finding groups that make anything worthy of listening to is much harder.
Scouring the internet in search for new doom bands, or even new drone bands for that matter, has become a journey that is much harder than I think one would first anticipate. Sure, every genre has it's bad sides with bands and projects that are just terrible and cringe-worthy, but trying to find bands that are interesting within these two genres is probably the hardest of any genre I've searched through to find something quality. You'll more likely have to sift through ten projects that are boring and monotonous in order to find one that is at all decent, if that. I really wouldn't recommend going on that journey in order to find new bands. I consider myself lucky to have found some really talented bands and projects within both genres, bands that are constantly doing interesting things and providing interesting ideas. Though I was sent this album, I had never heard of Malasangre before receiving this album.
The two tracks that make up this album are long and winding. If you're not a fan of long albums, let alone long tracks, I somehow doubt that you'll enjoy this album, but I should say that if you are a fan of drone music, doom metal, dark ambient music, and to an extent, post-rock influenced metal, there will certainly be moments that you'll find enjoyment in on here. Each track tops thirty minutes and moves through stints of crushing doom metal into more melancholic and atmospheric realms that are soft and calming. What may surprise you to know is that despite how long these tracks are, I rarely felt bored. Sure, there are certainly a few moments here and there that drag on for a little too long and could have been cut, but I was pleasantly surprised by how engaging this was. The heavy parts are extended and rather bulky while the calmer ones are, as I said above, melancholic, but the whole album is surrounded by this ominous and rather miasmic atmosphere. The entire disc just exudes this haze that is pretty engulfing, and at times, quite palpable. All of this is present in track one, Sa Ta, but it's track two, Na Ma, where the band fully realize all of their ideas. The riffs, the atmosphere, the dynamics, and the timing on this song is everything that should comprise a drone-doom song. I will admit that the length of the first track was pretty apparent whilst listening to it, but this one moves along at a pace that makes it just fly by. Everything about the track is top-notch and the band displays some of the best interplay (I'm not actually sure how this was recorded) I've heard this year, with every player just working off each other's presence so well.
Overall, despite its length, both tracks on here are solid and the final result is a pretty good album that is probably one of the best examples of drone-doom I've heard in quite a while. It's pretty hard to get worked up over a drone-doom album, but I found myself really excited while I was listening to this, if that's any indication of how above par I think this is. I realize that drone-doom is a pretty niche genre so obviously there isn't going to be a huge audience for this one, but for anyone who enjoys that genre, I do strongly urge you to check this album out. Let all other drone acts take notice, this is how it should be done.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Na Ma

2012 - Metallic Hardcore

Here's something new I've been wanting to try for a little while. Instead of writing articles that will wind up being roughly the same in tone, I figured I might as well cover a couple of bands who are doing exciting things within the hardcore world all at once and give a brief summary of what I think about them. I know not giving each band their own article might seem lazy, but it's meant more to not make every post sound the exact same. I'd love to hear some feedback as to whether or not anyone thinks this sort of post works for the future. (Remember that the first two releases are EPs so their rated from 1-8, the last one is a demo so it's on a scale from 1-6)

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Everything Went Black - Cycles of Light (2012)

Band: Everything Went Black
Country: St. Louis, Missouri
Style: Blackened Hardcore
Label: Prosthetic

It's a little weird looking back at the back catalog of Prosthetic records because I remember first hearing about the label around the beginning of my Freshman year of high school. Up until a year or two ago, the label was more well known for putting out metalcore and deathcore albums, granted, they were responsible for releasing some of the biggest releases of those genres for a while, but now they're putting out more interesting, and in my opinion better releases. I assume a band like this was signed because of the success the label had with Trap Them, but is this really any good?
I'll say right off the bat that this is not as good as Trap Them (whether that's a positive or a negative is entirely subjective). What I love about Trap Them is the intensity and energy that I can feel when I listen to their music, even if it's on a record, it still comes through clearly. So, on that level, I would say that Everything Went Black does manage to achieve that at times, but musically, because it's more rooted within sludge and crust punk, it hardly ever reaches the same levels of grinding aggression that Trap Them manages to achieve. Now, obviously to expect the same results from every band within a particular niche is stupid, let alone bands that are only mildly similar, so I won't go on and on comparing the two bands since they are quite different stylistically. Personally, the band's take on sludge brings a more restrained kind of energy to the album, which has both its positives and negatives. It works when the band makes use of longer and more drawn out sections so they can build up tension before finally exploding. Where it fails them is when they have shorter songs that are just bursts of aggression and make the longer songs feel too drawn out for their own good, so they act contradictory to each other.
However, that's not to say that the longer songs are slow and drawn out, on the contrary, both Parades and Kingdoms are tracks that manage to put most of the other fast tracks to shame. The way these two songs are performed is kind of how I wish the entire album was done because they just drive forward full-throttle and the band pulls out some really cool riffs while allowing the song to progress. There are moments where the song slows down to a crawl, but it doesn't feel as forced or restrained, as well as moments where there's more melody being injected that sound more refreshing since the band aren't limiting their song lengths to keep these traits locked away. Hell, they even make use of a cleaner and more atmospheric passage on Kingdoms, and it works. Even when the band don't stretch themselves too much over a single song, it really seemed like the longer the song was, the more memorable, the more interesting, and the more passionate it felt.
It's a solid release, I wish it was a little more diverse, but since this is a debut full-length, I guess I can look forward to that in the future. There are definitely some really good and standout qualities the band exhibit on here, I just hope they choose to embrace them more so on future efforts. Check this out if you're into more sluggish metallic hardcore I think you'd enjoy this quite a bit.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Parades, Amongst Wolves, Kingdoms

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Double Review: Aura Noir & Fuck Off and Die!

I don't cover a whole lot of thrash metal, mainly because a lot of it just winds up sounding too much alike for my own tastes, but I do enjoy the genre. Recently, I've been listening to a lot more "blackened thrash" groups and so I thought I might as well cover two groups that are in that sub-genre. Hopefully, you can find some enjoyment from either/both albums.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Borknagar - Urd (2012)

Band: Borknagar
Country: Bergen, Norway
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Century Media

I have to admit that despite my love for the band Borknagar, their last several releases have been, while initially surprising, ultimately disappointing. I'm a big fan of Vintersorg's vocals, but even I have to admit that his work with the band hasn't produced some of their best work. To be perfectly frank, when I heard this album was coming out, I was more than a little skeptical of it. Now that ICS Vortex is back in the band, how is that going to affect their sound?
I should say right off the bat that I am a fan of Vintersorg, I like his solo material and several of his other projects, I think he's a very interesting artist and I've always enjoyed his clean singing voice. Even since he joined Borknagar, I have felt like the band has really been searching for somewhere new to go with him, you had the more folky black metal records with Garm, and then their progression into more progressive territory when ICS was fronting the band, but the four albums after that felt rather like the band weren't really sure where to go. Sure, they've been embracing their progressive influences to various degrees on three of those releases, with Origin being a completely folk album, which I actually enjoy quite a bit, but I can't really say that any of those albums is all that memorable for me. In 2010 when the band released Universal, initially, I was very much into it, I thought it was a great album, but with every listen following the first few, it just felt less and less interesting. Maybe I just wanted more clean vocals from Vintersorg, but there were really only a handful of songs from that record that I ever go back to regularly. One of those songs just so happened to feature ICS on lead vocals, which turned out to be one of the best tracks on that album. I guess the feedback that the band received was enough to make them ask if he would be a member of the band again.
Lucky for them, welcoming ICS back into the fold has resulted in one of the band's strongest albums yet, certainly their strongest with Vintersorg on vocals. Right from the get-go, Epochalypse just takes off and immediately caught my attention. Like I said above, I really like Vintersorg's clean vocals, and he uses them a lot in the song, as well as throughout the rest of the album. In addition to that, ICS and Lazare (who happens to be my personal favorite of the three vocalists in the band) also add in a couple of lines that help to diversify the song. I have to say, I wasn't sure how the band was going to pull off the three vocalists thing, I figured that Lazare might actually get lost in the fold and might stop doing vocals, which I for one would find a disappointment, but they pull it off with applaud. The first song the band released, Roots, I actually found to be a rather weak song, and I happen to think it's probably the weakest on the entire album, I felt was rather typical in terms of the vocal arrangement but that isn't how the rest of the album worked out to be. Each song has a nice array of vocals from all three, and there are songs on here, The Beauty of Dead Cities for instance, in which Vintersorg doesn't even perform vocals and ICS and Lazare take the lead, which is actually one of the strongest tracks on the album in my opinion. Having said that, when Vintersorg is in control of the vocals, I think that he's in top form and gives the performance of his career thus far, at least in my opinion.
But to focus solely on the vocals wouldn't be fair since the instrumental side of the band are on top form on here as well. Like I said above, the band has been trying to hit the right balance between their folky-black metal sound and their more progressive influences for a while now, but have finally hit the right mix. Øystein and Jens' guitars are heavy and, for the most part, aggressive, but never boring and provide plenty of variety throughout the album. The riffing early on is certainly still very much tremolo and black metal based, but as the album progresses forward, they rely on that element less and less, moving into slower and more mid-paced riffing that allows the more epic side of the band to really come out in full. It's also great to hear that Lazare is being given a bit more room for his synthe work as well, the organ solo on Mount Regency is just great and really hammers home that progressive element the band has been working towards for so long. But his work on the other tracks should be taken note as well, as he strikes a rather interesting blend of epic sounding atmospheric synthes with more 70's oriented organ sounds. ICS's bass work isn't really the star on the album, but certainly sticks out on a song like Frostrite to the point where it can really be taken note of and appreciated. But really, the entire band is in top form on here, in summation.
I was hoping for a step up with this album from the band, but I was given better than that, I actually believe this to be one of the strongest releases in the band's discography. I was more than pleasantly surprised with the album and think that it is without a doubt, one of the best releases I've heard this year. It's really going to be hard for the band to top this one, but I am certainly looking forward to whatever they put out next. Definitely check this one out if you haven't yet, it's really, really good.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Beauty of Dead Cities, The Earthling, The Winter Eclipse

Drudkh - Eternal Turn of The Wheel (2012)

Band: Drudkh
Country: Kharkiv, Ukraine
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Season of Mist

Well, after much anticipation and hype, both positive and negative, we have the new Drudkh record. Possibly the most well known black metal band from the Ukraine (correct me if you think I'm wrong) has been progressing forward since their inception with nary a wrong step taken. 2010's Handful of Stars album got a couple fractions of their fanbase upset, though I personally liked that album, this album was rumored to return to their older style.
The band's sudden shift into post-black metal/blackgaze on their previous album was a turn that fans found unexpected, and was greeted by more than a few fans with unwelcome. The clean guitars, shoegaze and post-rock influences, and more mid-paced songs left many scratching their heads as to why the band had decided to release an album like it, and many will claim that it was to cash in on the blackgaze movement that was, and still is, quite popular. While I didn't think the album was that bad, both when it was initially released and even now, I do have to admit that it did sound like there was something missing from that album. The band then decided to continue forward with the shoegaze and post-rock sound and just get rid of pretty much all the black metal and just get Neige to come on board for their Old Silver Key project, which released their album last year. Many have claimed that that album is poor and lackluster and a total failure, while I always thought of it as about average. Despite how you may feel towards those releases, I personally think that after listening to this album, they were necessary outlets for the band. If you think of the path that Drudkh has traveled down, stylistically, each album hasn't really been a huge departure from the one before it, except for maybe 2006's Songs of Grief and Solitude, but those releases allowed the band to explore something different from what they had done in the past, and has led us here.
What we have on this album is, more or less, what the band had promised to do, return to their roots. Sonically, this album does bring back the more aggressive black metal edge that was lost on their last album as well as a bit of the folk sound they've become so well known for using. However, to say that the band has totally rid themselves of all of their post-black metal/blackgaze traits would be incorrect, as the atmosphere on this record recalls that of their last with dark and cold synthesizers filling up the background of these tracks. Now don't get me wrong, this album is certainly a more focused and well-rounded album than their last one, I'd go so far to say it's better than the last couple of releases actually, but there's something to be said for the outright hateful disposition that an album like Estrangement had, that you won't find on here, and to an extent, it's a little disappointing that it isn't as intense as that record. Having said that, I will say that the mixture of the dark and melancholic atmosphere with the more mid-paced black metal riffing, Farewell to Autumn's Sorrowful Birds, is a much better fit to the band's sound than their venture into post-rock and shoegaze.
From what I've read, the band has said that each of these four songs, five if you include the intro, represents a season, starting with spring and ending in winter, and I think that they do a good job at personifying each season. When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls is a blistering piece that is definitely the most intense track on the album, meant to be summer, while Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars is a much more mid-paced piece that at times could be called almost sludgy but manages to recall the brutality of the winter as well as its beauty. Each track does an amiable job at creating a sound that paints a picture in your head. I should also say that while I don't think the concept of writing an album inspired by the seasons of the year is original, the men in Drudkh do a much better job in both personifying the seasons and condensing them down to a single track better than any other band I've heard do with that concept.
In a sense, one could call this album the missing link between Microcosmos and Handful of Stars, though I doubt anyone actually will, but I enjoyed it more so than either. I think that this album, while some have already been turned off by it, is an album that will generally be regarded as a return to form (not that they ever left the pantheon of awesomeness). If you have not yet been introduced to the greatness that is Drudkh, now's a good a time as ever to do yourself a favor and discover one of the best bands in the Eastern European black metal scene, if not the whole world. Let the wheel forever turn!
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: When Gods Leave Their Emerald Halls, Night Woven of Snow, Winds and Grey-Haired Stars

Meshuggah - Koloss (2012)

Band: Meshuggah
Country: Umeå, Sweden
Style: Technical/Progressive Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast

I guess I'll throw my own two cents in about this album seeing as it is one of the biggest releases that's gonna come out this year. I'm obviously a fan of the great forefathers of the djent movement and one of the biggest underground groups in metal (perhaps), so this review was gonna happen. I'm not a long-time listener (I'll admit) and first got into the band around the time of 2005's Catch Thirty-Three album, but I have to say that without tooting my own horn, I think I've turned a couple people onto the band anyway.
I think it's pretty agreeable that this was probably one of the most anticipated albums for 2012 for a lot of people. Whether they happen to be Meshuggah fans or fans of djent or whatever, a new Meshuggah record is always a special occasion. Even before this thing was released, I had read a couple of reviews to kind of get a feel for what the band were doing, aside from the two tracks they had released before I heard it, and most of the reviews either told me that people were absolutely in love with it and felt that it was the band's best album yet, or there were people who felt the hype was undeserved. Whether or not those people felt the album was bad or boring on it's own or that they felt it didn't explore anything original after the debut releases from the big-four of djent. The impression those reviews left was that those people were disappointed that the album wasn't as progressive as something like Periphery, not as ambient or atmospheric as TesseracT or Uneven Structure, or as crazy as Vildhjarta, and after hearing those releases within the last two years, they felt that this album didn't do anything they hadn't heard before. So even before hearing the whole thing, I knew that it was dividing a lot of people, which I always think is a good thing.
I should say that my favorite Meshuggah record is Nothing, so I rather enjoy when the band are more mid-paced and just get into a solid groove as oppose to when they're embracing their thrash roots. This album kind of presents the band's most diverse offering yet, with songs that retread some past ground while also exploring some newer territory as well. After listening to this album, I kind of made the joke that if Nothing was Meshuggah doing sludge and groove metal, this album is Meshuggah exploring elements of doom metal. Opener I Am Colossus is very slow, heavy, and plodding, and will most likely turn off quite a few people because in actuality, it's pretty minimalistic, even for a Meshuggah song. On the other hand, you have tracks like The Demon's Name Is Surveillance or The Hurt That Finds You First, a track that might be hard to even tell it was Meshuggah if not for the vocals, that kind of harkens back to the band's earlier, thrash metal roots, with much faster riffing and, to an extent, less focus on groove. To that end, it works out that the production on here is a bit more raw, which stops the band from sounding quite so mechanical. I think it's pretty agreeable that the past couple of albums have sounded like the band were a bunch of machines performing songs, but on here, it really feels more like a band.
Like I said above though, I happen to prefer when the band go for a more mid-paced groove and just bring the hammer of heavy down. Tracks like the awesome Do Not Look Down or Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion are probably the best examples of the band doing what, in my opinion, they do best. I also think it's worth noting that some of these tracks are quite "atmospheric" for the band, making this one of the band's darkest records, overall anyway. Then you have the obvious shocker of a closer, The Last Vigil, which is a total change of pace for the band, focusing on their ambient side and just bringing the album to a moody and calming end. For those that have listened to TesseracT's debut, the comparison between the ambiance found on that album and this album's closer shouldn't come as a huge shocker, but for those who haven't heard it yet, they sound almost eerily similar.
Meshuggah fans rejoice, the band has not failed us yet and this album continues their streak of great albums. For how slow it actually is, the album is really well paced and put together, making for a very fluid listen that goes by pretty quickly. It's actually a little shocking that this album is as much of a grower as it is (hopefully that makes sense) and it continually seems to get more and more enjoyable as time goes on.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Do Not Look Down, Behind The Sun, Demiurge

Monday, March 19, 2012

Yama - Seaquake EP (2012)

Band: Yama
Country: Tilburg, Netherlands
Style: Stoner/Doom Metal
Label: Mind Flare Media

I don't claim to know a whole lot about stoner or southern metal, but I will say that I'm always shocked to find them out of the states. It just seems weird to me that a band from a place like the Netherlands would play in the vein of something that's called "southern." Nevertheless, I have to say that some of the best "southern" and stoner metal/rock I've heard in the last few years has come from outside of the US, so why should this one be any different.
The three songs that comprise this little EP were, much to my surprise, quite grabbing. While the standard traits are still there, blues-based guitar riffs, gruff vocals, and a driving rhythm section, there were a couple of things that stuck out to me, including, and not limited to, a harmonica solo. In addition to that, each track kind of blurs the line between southern/stoner rock and doom metal. Truth be known, the production of these songs is quite clean, which does hurt that natural grime that tends to be attatched to this style of metal, and while that might turn off a some listeners, there are quite a few little production tricks that might grab others. It's also very bass heavy, both guitars and bass I mean, and there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of high-end on here, which leads a lot of the leads to sound a bit flat in some cases, but doesn't really hurt the song in the long run, at least to me anyway.
In the end, I enjoyed this little release and the upcoming full-length, based on this EP, seems like it'll shape up to be a pretty strong release. It is quite a short release, it's just under twenty minutes, so even if you don't end up liking it, I still think it's worth looking into. I realize that stoner rock/metal isn't exactly everyone's cup of tea, but if you're at all a fan of slow and groovy metal, I don't see any reason why this wouldn't appeal to you.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Seaquake

Kylie Minoise - Die Yuppie Scum! Love Quest Ov Sick Shock Disco Destroyer! (2012)

Band: Kylie Minoise
Country: Lancaster, UK
Style: Harsh Noise/Industrial
Label: Mind Flare Media

Lea Cummings, the main brain behind this project, seems like a rather intense fellow. From the footage I've seen of him performing live and the little bit I've read about this project, the performances that make up his music are violent and intense. When I was first notified of this album, I was under the impression that it was going to be more of a noisy dance-pop album, and expecting that, I was in no way prepared for this album.
The noise-pop sound that I was perhaps anticipating from this release probably caused me to view this album as more of a disappointment because it was so different than what I had expected it to be. I guess that, based on the name, I was actually expecting a female sort of singer-songwriter album with a lot of noise, or something more akin to a shoegaze or dream pop record. Instead of that, this is closer to what I'd imagine would result from if Prurient's last album, Bermuda Drain, had worked more within the confines of hip-hop and house music instead of darkwave and synthe-pop. It's a beat heavy album that at times can recall hints of industrial music. Personally, while the beats are all well and good, it's the noise aspect to the album's sound that was able to keep my attention throughout. Most of the tracks on here were able to utilize the noise in various ways, whether it was used as background noise, Psychodelic Stunt Academy!, or if it gradually built up and got louder throughout a given track, Earlobes of Shame Buckets of Bile! for example. I thought that when the noise aspects took a larger role on a given track, it was more of an engaging listen that felt like it actually evolved while the track was playing, in comparison to others which were a little more static. I actually thought that a lot of these songs would be more intense based on what I had read about the shows the project usually produces.
Despite all good will I have towards noise music and Mind Flare Media, I just could not get into this album at all. Don't get me wrong, I don't think that this album is terrible, I actually find quite a few tracks on here to be rather interesting, but the whole album is brought down by some over-long mediocre tracks that just took forever to end. Now, it's not like the whole album is like that, in fact I actually thought the first half of the album was pretty solid with some interesting ideas that felt developed and well-rounded while not sticking around for too long. I actually thought that Xxxatik Xxxtasee Waves! was a decent track for the first three or so minute, but the entire track is almost ten minutes, with the roughly six and a half minutes remaining just droning on and on. In addition to that, the entire album is almost eighty minutes long, and I'm all for long albums, but there was no reason for this album to be that long, at least in my opinion. If you've looked into some of my other reviews, you should know that I have absolutely no problem with drone album, with noise albums, or with a mixture of the two, on the contrary, I actually have found several that are really enjoyable, but this album just didn't have enough ideas to keep the latter half of this album entertaining, at least for me anyway. I guess I just wanted something more along the lines of a payoff from at least one or two of these songs to make it feel like this album was going somewhere, but like I've said above, that climax just never came.
Now, I take no pleasure in saying that this album is just plain boring. It's not a trait I like to say about any album, good or bad, because I think that an album, no matter my opinion, or anyone elses opinion for that matter, should keep a listener's attention and make them feel something, but this just continually made my eyelids close a little bit more the longer it went on. If you're a fan of noise being filtered through other genres, definitely check this out, but if you're not already a fan of noise, there are places that are a lot easier to start.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Psychodelic Stunt Academy!, Earlobes of Shame Buckets of Bile!, Blinded By The Claws of The All Seeing Eye!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Slice The Cake - The Man With No Face (2012)

Band: Slice The Cake
Country: England/Sweden/Australia
Style: Progressive Death Metal/Deathcore
Label: Independent

I think it's fairly obvious that if you are just skimming through this blog that I am not a deathcore type of a guy. It's a genre that I am really not a fan of at all and find very lackluster. I will go out of my way to say that I have actively gone out of my way to try and avoid covering any deathcore albums because I have been burned a lot when the genre was first getting big. So why am I covering a band that has actually been called deathcore?
Forgive me, but I'm gonna use this review as my soapbox for a moment to describe why I don't usually cover deathcore and why I am not a fan of the genre. While I would say that I don't hate any style of music (except reggae, just can't describe how grating that is on my ears) I can't say that deathcore has had any impact on me to the extent where I would call myself a fan of many of its bands. Sure, I enjoy Job For A Cowboy every once in a while, but it's hard to even call them a deathcore band anymore, and The Contortionist came from the deathcore scene as well, and they're a pretty cool band as well. Hell, even Whitechapel is decent enough, though I wouldn't call myself a fan. Aside from those two examples there, I have found little in the genre that I would come back to repeatedly. Sure, when Suicide Silence first came out I was a fan, but I never even made it to their second record. I just can't wrap my head around why so many bands would actively choose to sound like Suicide Silence or Emmure when those bands already have a sound, and while I can't say I'm a fan, I understand the appeal and draw to those groups. It's become such a pain to find any sort of originality within the genre that I've pretty much given up on it.
"So why am I covering this album then," you're probably asking yourself at this point. Trust me when I say that while I checked the band out on Youtube first before actually deciding to cover it, I was actually very impressed by what I heard. I haven't heard the trio's first EP (I think they were still a duo at that point though), but I've heard that this is a major step up, and I can believe it. This thing absolutely threw me for a loop, and showed me things I didn't think I'd ever heard from a "deathcore" band. Let me first say that while this band is technically called a "progressive deathcore" group, it's actually surprising at how little these guys rely on the breakdown. Sure, there are a couple on here, but most of what's on here is dominated by heavy riffs, technical soloing, and impressive melodies. Another thing I usually dislike about deathcore are the vocals, but, once again, this band proved me wrong and showed me that there are bands who have vocalists who know what they're doing vocally. Most of this album is dominated by growls which reminded me a lot of Johnny Davy from Job For A Cowboy actually, and I've always thought that Davy had an interesting sound to this vocals, so I wound up enjoying these as well; and while there are screams and pig-squeals on here as well, they're used very sparingly, which proved far less irritating than many of their peers have proven to be. Then, you have the addition of clean vocals on a handful of tracks as well, and while they might not be great, I'd certainly call them above average; and there's no reliance on auto-tune either, another plus in my book. I would have actually liked to have heard more of them now that I think about it.
But probably the most powerful thing about this band, apart from everything else I've mentioned, is that they just know how to write interesting and engaging songs. Most of these songs are over five minutes, with the title-track topping twenty minutes, in which none of it really feels like filler and there are noddings toward the likes of Opeth and Between The Buried and Me. For me, any band that can write a song that eclipses ten minutes already has a plus from me (which may seem stupid to a lot of people, but I think that it takes skill) but a band that can not only keep me interested in a twenty minute long song is one that I give a lot of credit to. I think it also takes a lot of confidence for a band like this to put a song on an album that is half instrumental, and that half is actually done with clean guitar (for the most part); and there are plenty of other tracks that have extended instrumental sections as well. But, this album isn't perfect, and I did have a couple of gripes with it, though they really aren't huge in my book. The first would be some of the lower squeals and gutturals which are used on As Written In Pnakotus, an otherwise fantastically written song that is slow and atmospheric, it's not a major gripe, but I'm just not huge into those sort of vocals. The other one that I have is with the drum-programming on Equilibrium, which felt overly digital and mechanical in comparison to every other song on the album which felt more natural.
Trust me when I say that I wouldn't review a band that's called "deathcore" unless I really thought it was worth hearing. This is the first band in a long while that I can recall actually enjoying that has come from a deathcore beginning, and I anxiously await the next release from this group, though it will definitely be hard to top this album. I definitely recommend this to any fan of extreme metal, I don't think you'll be disappointed.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Of Gallows, Equilibrium, The Man With No Face

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Formloff - Spyhorelandet (2012)

Band: Formloff
Country: Nes, Norway
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Eisenwald Tonschmiede

Despite knowing about Formloff for about a year or so now, I never checked them out until I heard this album. I'm well aware of my preferences towards the experimental black metal genres so finding bands that are working within the frame of no-frame concept is one that obviously appealed to me once I began listening to this album. In retrospect, I really should have checked this duo out before, but live and learn (you can probably tell how this one is going to go).
The style in which this duo choose to embrace on this album is one that owes quite a large debt to the likes of Carl-Michael Eide. Bands like Ved Buens Ende and Virus can be heard all over this record, and I don't mean that as a negative thing or a criticism. Whether it's the thick and jazz bass lines that runs underneath all of these songs or the guitars which weave in and out of harmony, recalling black metal, noise rock, jazz-fusion, and post-rock all at once without really ever coming off as derivative. There are build-ups that climax into crazy and dissonant melodies as well as blasting black metal sections that fall into near sludgy calm downs before speeding up again. I should mention that if you are not a fan of music that moves around in various directions throughout the course of a single song, you will probably not like this, despite the fact that the duo keep the entire album pretty consistent in terms of how each part sounds in relation to others. Despite how various genres are blended, this album never really veers off into Mr. Bungle genre-hopping territory (even though I love Mr. Bungle) and instead blends elements from the genres listed above, and more, together into a more natural fusion of ideas.
Now, I'm not the sort of guy who likes to toot my own horn, but I think having listened to (probably) dozens of bands that have been called avant-garde and progressive black metal, despite whatever intentions and influences a group draws from musically, it's hard to really be creative. I'm not immune to bands of the genre treading similar ground, chances are if you're labeled as "avant-garde" or "progressive", I'll wind up liking it either way, but it's the fact that it's getting harder and harder for groups to truly stand out, even in those genres. While the ideas on here won't technically put these guys into the avant-garde league, despite the use of saxophone on Mig Og Drit and the closer Drokkne I Ei Flo Ta Åske. I certainly stand by the Ved Buens Ende and Virus comparisons as two of the more noticeable ones on here, but vocally, I found a striking similarity between the vocals on here and of Kvarforth of Shining (Swe), and it was enough to make me double-take and make sure he actually didn't guest on the album. He didn't by the way. While these elements might not seem all that unique in the long run, let me say that in the long line of bands who have cited the likes of Carl-Michael Eide as an influence, very few have managed to take his maniac style and actually incorporate it into their own. It's more than apparent from this album that this is a band who are more than capable at doing something interesting with the black metal sound.
Despite all of that, the album still has enough sense to be melodic when it needs to be. Songs like the title-track or Skævven feature far more accessible gateways into the album through choruses that are engaging as well as melodies that are interesting. It shows that no matter how weird you try to be, it always pays to have a semblance of melody in your work. While I highly doubt that the melodies are what will draw people to check out this band, in my opinion, it's the element that will draw you back for repeated listens. I should also say that most of the melody comes out closer to the middle and end of the album, with the first couple of tracks being far more abstract.
I thought it was a great piece of work that definitely stands out among the many bands who attempt to pull off dissonance with melody as one that actually does it right. While I imagine quite a solid amount of people digging this, I can foresee others who aren't too interested in the dissonant and abstract side of the band, as well as some that might not enjoy the more melodic side; or I foresee it being a polarizing album for some is what I mean to say. I am definitely looking forward to what these guys put out in the future.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Spyhorelandet, Skævven, Drokkne I Ei Flo Ta Åske

Nutrition - Dusk of The Hunter I EP (2012)

Band: Nutrition
Country: Lexington, Kentucky
Style: Industrial Black Metal
Label: Independent

I don't exactly recall off the top of my head how I first stumbled across Nutrition, but I certainly remember covering their 2010 EP, Eye of The Anunnaki, and liking it. To be honest, I hadn't really kept up with what the duo was during in the time in between that EP and this new one, but apparently they've been working even harder at writing material, since this is just the first part of two albums (from what I've read). Finding this little release certainly reignited my interest in them and made me go back and listen to their work all over again.
I have to say that Nutrition has quite a knack for writing interesting sounding industrial/ambient soundscapes that acts as interludes, openers, or closers. Each of their three releases, including this one, has made use of cold atmospheres with industrial beats and some really interesting samples, and that's basically what you get from opener Forbidden Moon. Dawn of The Hunter I, the longest track of the five on here, is easily the best track and makes use of everything that Nutrition does so well. For those that have yet to find out what the signature Nutrition style is (to briefly summarize), it's a sound that features driving black metal riffing, drums that morph from the standard drum-programming into more electronic beats, and high-pitched screeches. It's rather unfortunate that the last three songs don't end up measuring up to the first two tracks though. While these last three tracks are by no means bad, they don't keep up with the standard of the first two tracks and instead take a more heavy metal/thrash metal kind of approach to riffing and focus on pretty standard song structuring. The last two tracks, especially, are rather simplistic and the vocals actually proved to be quite annoying (at least to me). I'd imagine that there will be plenty of others that will find these tracks to be more memorable, but they just felt rather uninspired to me and were more black metal by numbers sort of songs that didn't really do anything all that different.
Overall, of the three EPs that I've heard from the duo, this is the weakest, in my opinion. It's not bad, but it certainly isn't as engaging or memorable as the previous two were, but I could certainly see this acting as a gateway into the band for many who are unfamiliar with their previous releases. If you like industrial black metal with some more traditional metal influenced riffing styles, I'd say check this out, but if you want to hear them at their best go for the first two EPs.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Forbidden Moon, Dawn of The Harvest I

Friday, March 16, 2012

Skin Area - Rothko Field (2012)

Band: Skin Area
Country: Norrköping, Sweden
Style: Industrial/Drone
Label: Malignant

My awareness of the whole underground industrial scene has really broadened within the last couple of months thanks in part to the interesting releases by Malignant Records. Compared to the harsher albums I've heard from the label, I was informed that this album was a bit different from other albums the label has released as of recently and so I was quite intrigued. By the cover alone, I could tell that this was going to be an interesting album.
I have to say that as soon as this album began, I knew that I would have, at the very least, an interesting experience with this album. I'm not too sure if this is a concept album or not, but if it is, it sure is a messed up one. Opener Threshold is a short piece that definitely grabs the listener by the throat and pulls you extremely close by doing relatively very little. While that piece is the lure to draw you in further, the rest of the album manages to maintain a sound that, honestly, I actually didn't expect. No matter what my experiences with the records released by Malignant, they always had an unnerving atmosphere that stemmed from most of what I heard being rooted in very raw electronics, industrial, and noise sounds, this one, while it certainly has all of those things, feels much more sedated and brooding. It's not as intense a listen or nearly as disorienting and, thus actually made me listen to it probably a lot more. It felt less like a sonic bombardment and more cerebral and melancholic.
I read that the sound of this could be called drone rock, and I'd certainly agree with that because it is drone-y (obviously) but the use of percussion and low-end bass added this more "accessible side" to what otherwise could have simply been a minimalistic power electronics record. The use of electronics on here ranges from almost synthe-pop-esque (in the sound, not how it's used I should say) on Rothko Field, to more intense and "typical" power electronic-based noise, and that sort of variety does wonders for an album such as this. Having said that, like I said above, this is a pretty subdued record, so all of these electronics aren't overly aggressive and aren't really pushed into your face/ears like most projects tend to from this sub-genre. Going back to the concept idea that might be a part of this album, for those that don't already know, this album is sort of a mirror where the first four tracks are mirrored on the last four, with the track Void acting as the mirror between them, acting as a sort of gateway into the mirror (God, I used mirror a lot in that sentence). When it's written down here it probably looks/sounds like a rather pretentious idea, but it works out surprisingly well. The technique of mirroring the idea of a song allows that song to be turned on its head and expanded or contract that original idea into something hardly resembling the first idea.
Personally, if I had anything to complain about regarding this album it would boil down to the fact that I think it's a bit too long. There were a couple of sections that felt just a tad lengthy for my own taste. I really didn't think that Hypnagoga needed to go on for just over four minutes and I think could have easily been condense into around two, and then a solid minute or two, at most, could have maybe kept Dleif Okhtor a bit more engaging. In all honesty, saying that a couple of minutes could have been shaved off isn't that big a complaint, at least when it comes to this album, because the music and ideas are interesting and worth listening to repeatedly to hear the layers behind what you hear on first listen. It's a very minor gripe and I think the bulk of the album is more than enough to actually make up for it.
Personally, I really enjoyed this record as it took a very different approach to what the project has done in the past, and I think it really paid off. I haven't heard a whole lot off of the project's previous releases but I can say that I do prefer this more subdued sound that was taken on this album. Like the press release said, it's different, but I wound up liking probably because of that.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Rothko Field, Dleif Okhtor, Niks Eht Ni

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spawn of Possession - Incurso (2012)

Band: Spawn of Possession
Country: Kalmar, Sweden
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Relapse

If there's been any band in the whole tech-death genre that is revered and held as either at the top or near the top of the genre, I think Spawn of Possession would claim that spot. The groups rather infrequent pattern of releasing albums has lead their first two albums to be held as sacred amongst those who are die-hards in the scene (or at least that's what I've come to assume based on what I've heard and read). So here comes their third album (with yet another pretty new line-up) six years after their last, is it another jewel in their crown?
I know that a lot of people hold Noctambulant up as a modern masterpiece and a genre classic (for which it may rightfully be) I can't say that I was ever one of those guys who preached that gospel. Now don't get me wrong, I've admired Spawn of Possession for their interesting take on tech-death, always crafting songs that stood out among their many peers as perhaps a bit less rampant with needless noodling or forgettable riffs, but besides that I can't say that they were a band that I put on whenever I felt like listening to tech-death. I don't have a problem with the genre as a whole, but after listening to a handful of bands and albums, it can become apparent rather quickly that the well of ideas is running dry. Even for SoP, I can understand taking six years to release a follow-up album, at the time their last one was released, tech-death had pretty much started picking up more steam that I remember it having before hand, and more and more bands started popping up with their own variation on the style, which wound up being just as derivative as the next. In those six years, there really haven't been a whole lot of bands that have stood out, to me at least, as presenting ideas that are unique or original sounding.
So, now that we have this album, I think that there were a lot of questions that people had before even hearing it, with the main one probably being, "Has the band redefined their sound and written a better album?" While that is solely a personal issue, I can say that I enjoyed this album more than either of their previous ones and I did find that the incorporation of more "classical" ideas in both background atmospheres and backdrops, as well as guitar playing, refreshing and a bit more interesting than the hundreds of other bands showing off how fast they can sweep-pick and gravity blast (no thanks to Origin). There's also a very clear jazz influence coming through in each of the instrumentalist's performances as well, though that should come as no surprise, and you need look no further than the bass playing which is both fluid enough to paint the background with some colorful low-end rumble as well as some brighter flares of high-end slapping and sweeping. I also thought that the band branching out and writing some longer songs also added to them as a more unique entity. Obviously the long song idea isn't anything new for the genre, but, personally, I'd prefer it if more bands figured out that they could fit more ideas into a song that's over five minutes and make them even more engaging than if they just crammed them all into three minute long blasts. We know you can play fast, we get it, it's ok to add a slow part that isn't a breakdown into your songs. Tracks like The Evangelist and Apparition sound more cohesive as pieces, and are actually more memorable, than I remember any of the material from either of their previous albums being and are two of the strongest pieces from this album.
I certainly enjoyed this record and like I said above, it's the first SoP record that's stuck with me for longer than the end of an album. I wasn't really sure what to expect from the album, I had hoped it'd be good, but I wasn't expecting it to be as good as it turned out to be. I know I've said it in the past, but I wish more bands would attempt to sound more like this album, it would do the genre a world of good. If you're a tech-death fan you're probably already familiar with this band, but if you haven't yet become acquainted, definitely check them out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Bodiless Sleeper, The Evangelist, Apparition

Beneath The Massacre - Incongruous (2012)

Band: Beneath The Massacre
Country: Montreal, Canada
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Prosthetic

Back when I was bigger into death metal I remember finding Beneath The Massacre and just thinking that they were amazing. I don't think I can claim that I was a huge fan, but I have always enjoyed their take on tech-death, or deathcore as some have seen it. I've been following these guys since just after the release of their debut full-length album and have always found them to be an interesting band that seemed to break away from what I always thought of as "deathcore" right away.
As much as a lot of people may hate to admit it, Beneath The Massacre could actually be called a pre-djent group. While it is difficult to say that they ever contributed to that sub-genre, if you listen to their first EP, Evidence of Inequity, or their debut full-length, Mechanics of Dysfunction, there is a clear Meshuggah influence and all this happened before the big djent wave in the last couple of years. But for everyone who's listened to the releases that have followed those it's pretty obvious that the band have left most of their heavy Meshuggah influence behind them in order to focus solely on tech-death. The deathcore tag was also one that was put on them back when the band first started to come out and get popular as well and is another tag that has fallen away with their last EP, Marée Noire, or at least that was when I stopped hearing deathcore being used to describe these guys. So, with both tags that some might have attributed any success this band having coming from being part of a "trend" being removed in recent years, their evolution into a tech-death band has finally reached its logical point.
If you have a need for speed, I would definitely suggest at least looking into this album. There is no build-up whatsoever between pressing play and the opener Symptoms blasting into spiraling sweep-picking and blast-beats. There really isn't a whole lot of room made more melody or anything that might resemble the band bringing in a mid-tempo section, it's like the band is going full-throttle for pretty much the entire album. The only time when they slow down is when they do a breakdown, which is sort of a no-no usually, but it works on here because it's the only time that they let you breathe during a song. I can appreciate the use of a breakdown in songs like Hopes or Light because amidst the swirling technicality on here, they add a sense (even if it is small) of diversity to the album. The slowest track on here, the title-track, is also the shortest and an instrumental, which isn't a new idea for the band, but it's pretty much just a breakdown stretched out for about a minute and doesn't really go anywhere, but I wouldn't say it hurts the album since it is so short. Also, not a single song on here is over four minutes, most of them are under three minutes to be honest, so it's not a long album at all. It's kind of weird going back into the band's discography and seeing that their songs have become progressively shorter as they've progressed forward and this album features some of their shortest tracks to date.
Coming into this, I was actually unsure how I would like the album because of how short the songs are and how technical they are, I thought it would just go in one ear and out the other, but it's surprisingly memorable (to an extent). There were songs on here that I would actually say are among the band's best material yet, but it's not the type of release that will turn you into a fan of the band if you're not already. I would definitely say it's the band's most "catchy" material to date and is, in my opinion, their best, but it's still probably going to turn off a fair amount of people. Check it out if you're into intense tech-death, maybe even deathcore (to an extent) but that's not your thing, there are other bands out there.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Hopes, It, Damages

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Interview - Melted Cassettes

Last year Melted Cassettes released their debut full-length album The Real Sounds From Hell Recordings and brought new life to spastic electronic noise rock. From those who heard it, it was definitely a breath of fresh air into the realms of noise rock and cybergrind and seemed to make me take an interest in cybergrind for once. It was honestly one of the most bizarre releases I had heard last year.

Ian: Why don't you tell us how Melted Cassettes came to be. What were your intentions when you first started the band?

Melted Cassettes: We had no intentions initially except for coming together to make music. Eventually, syncronicity led us to an autonomous intention for the band.

Ian: I curious how you would describe your sound since it is quite different?

Melted Cassettes: Intergalactic struggle jams or alchemical noise.

Ian: Who were some of your influences? You've been described by some as cybergrind, do you feel that is an accurate description?

Melted Cassettes: Creative pursuits as observed in the confines of culture often retain arbitrary attributes to explain what is most often ineffible. I never really identified too much with the cybergrind tag but people can call things as they do. I identify with bands such as Arab On Radar and Big Black and many others as well. Raw shit that sparks an interest and makes you question the sound/source.

Ian: What equipment did you use on the album?

Melted Cassettes: Hardware: Realistic moog, various yamaha synths, stringed instruments. Software: ableton live, fm7, Reason, Logic pro, Pure Data.

Ian: I personally enjoyed how diverse you made the album, it wasn't just going berserk all the time. When you wrote the album, what kind of ideas and concepts did you go into it with?

Melted Cassettes: Much of the concepts for the album were paranormal jokes as heard through a thick muffling veil. On our next album, that veil is lifted.

Ian: Did you mean to make it as diverse as possible?

Melted Cassettes: Diversity seems to be merely a side effect of our source of musings.

Ian: How do you view the connection between electronic music and rock/metal?

Melted Cassettes: Either a paintbrush or a pencil can be used to bring an idea to life. Both are tools that require patience and skill to get the job done. Sometimes you can use both for one project.

Ian: Despite your sound being quite unique, you often utilize sounds that wouldn't be out of the ordinary in club oriented dance and electronic music, what is it about those sounds that made you more inclined to use them on the album?

Melted Cassettes: Coincidence, perhaps.

Ian: How do you approach your vocals, they're quite different and they really stick out as being one of the defining factors on the album in my opinion?

Melted Cassettes: After a series of mutations, the vocals have 'self-actualized' through trial and error, crystalizing them into an identifiable character in the Melted Cassettes continuum. There is very limited lyrical content on real sounds. Alot of what you hear is struggle forced out of the body through audible fits and vocal experimentation.
Ian: I'm curious how you came up with some of the song titles for the album as they are quite bizarre? How do titles like Altered Beatststs or Xzrzrz reflect those songs?

Melted Cassettes: Inside jokes at times. Sometimes it could be based of an original file name or derived from lyrical content. Older material could have many howler and artiznoiz references.

Ian: What is your take on the whole cassette format? Are you favorable towards it and could you see releasing future material in that format? How do you think they compare to vinyl and CDs?

Melted Cassettes: Media format, like genres are just shades in the larger spectrum of given potential. Each has its own appreciable qualities. We'd like to think extraterrestrials could be jamming to us via telekinetic broadcasting frequencies, but tapes are fine as well.

Ian: I've read that you're already working on a new album? What can fans expect from this new release?

Melted Cassettes: As we said, a veil is lifted to reveal somewhat of a rabbit-hole and/or puzzle. One of the songs Body is already streaming online. There has been a lot of strange occurences surrounding the recording of the new album that we will reveal at a later date, hopefully.

Ian: Well, I guess those are all the questions I have. Thank you for your time and music, the last words are yours.

Melted Cassettes: Thank you for the opportunity to speak our minds, and the new album will be out sometime this year.
If you haven't heard Melted Cassettes yet, definitely seek them out, they're hard at work writing a new album for this year.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Dodecahedron - Dodecahedron (2012)

Band: Dodecahedron
Country: Tilburg, Netherlands
Style: Progressive/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Season of Mist

I have been meaning/wanting to cover this album for months now and even though it's kind of old now, I'm still gonna do it. I remembering seeing the cover of this album back in, like, January, and just thinking that no matter what genre this album was (because there was no description of it at the time, just the artwork) I would listen to it and review it. Now that I finally have it, cover still rules (in my opinion), I was going to cover it (even if it had been in September, I still would have covered this album).
I had read a couple of things before listening to this album about how it was basically a band trying to do what Deathspell Omega had done with their most recent album, they do black metal but make it sound really chaotic and off-the-wall. Personally, I don't have a problem with that, people accused The Axis of Perdition and even Blut Aus Nord of doing the same thing last year as well, and I liked those records a lot. I honestly don't have a big problem with a band recalling elements of other bands if it's a sound that I like or enjoy hearing, so I don't have a huge problem with this the fact that this album and band is treading lightly in their French brethren's footsteps. In addition to that, there are more than a few sections on here where the band are doing something all their own with that sort of sound. The dissonance isn't an original concept, but I like how even when they mellowed out, they could retain that same sort of high tension and claustrophobic atmosphere. It's that sort of tension that adds a sort of electricity to these songs and keeps them moving forward. There's also a more prevalent sense of melody in here than I remember hearing in Deathspell Omega's most recent albums. I mean, it's still pretty dissonant and electric, but on a track like I, Chronocrator, there's something that's driving the track more than sheer brute force and chaotic riffs.
I would like to take the time to talk about the atmosphere on here more though. Because of the more claustrophobic nature of the ambiance that surrounds the album, it can kind of make this a bit of a difficult record to listen to in a single sitting. Though the band do a good job at mixing things up and keeping things interesting, there really isn't any point where all that pressure and tension is ever released and it feels like it's just being contained, and like each and every track is just about ready to explode from keeping it restrained. While I think that it may have been a bad choice to have a five minute long ambient-ish interlude as the centerpiece on here, it keeps things rather tense before returning to more of the black metal and I do understand that it does break up the monotony that some might accuse the album of having if it hadn't had been there. At that point a lot of the more hostile nature exhibited on the first three tracks gives way to more melody and more industrial sounds are integrated into the background.
Those last three tracks, all part of the overarching View From Hverfell title, are probably the best place to start if you're not sure what the band sounds like. It's on these three tracks that the band really show their hand and demonstrate skill in melody, atmosphere, and tension and are at their best. The riffs are, in my opinion, a lot more memorable and stick out more so than the ones exhibited on the first half of the album. The band makes more of an effort to bring more range to these songs as there are ambient interludes, moments of clean guitar, near industrial-esque guitar sections, which branch off from the extremities that one might perceive the band to embrace to a fault. I think that if more people took the time to listen to the songs on this half of the album, or at the very least make an effort to seek them out, they might actually see what I see in here, a band with a lot of talent who are experimenting with different ideas. Now they just need to find a way to make them work more cohesively.
Personally, despite how much I anxiously awaited hearing this record, it took me longer to actually get into it and grasp what the band was trying to do more than I had expected. Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the record and despite the criticism I've seen leveled at it, I enjoyed it. I think there are some really interesting ideas used throughout both halves and I am looking forward to the next release from these guys. Let the chaos and hostility reign supreme!
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Vanitas, View From Hverfell II: Inside Omnipotent Chaos