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

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Last Chance to Reason - Level 3 (2013)

Band: Last Chance to Reason
Country: Augusta, Maine
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Prosthetic

Believe it or not, I've actually been looking forward to this album. I've had sort of a soft spot for this band since I first found them a couple years ago through a random youtube video about vocal production. Since that time I've been a fan of theirs and it comes as a bit of a shock that they're shifting focus to other projects after the release of this album.
But focusing on this album, the main problem with it hit me almost immediately as I listened to the first couple of songs that were released from this album. The vocals were strangely mixed lower than the rest of the instruments, and it's not as though frontman Michael Lessard has a bad voice, in fact just the opposite, I think he's extremely talented and in my opinion is one of the best vocalists to come out from the modern prog-metal movement happening right now. Sure, there's all sorts of effects used on his vocals throughout the album, but that shouldn't be any cause to put them as low as they are in the mix. But it has to be said that when his vocals are mixed correctly, or better I guess would be better to say, like on the lead single The Escapist, he shines. While it's no shock that every member of this band is talented and highly skilled on their respective instruments, I think that his performance on the album is the clear highlight. The aforementioned track above I would claim is his best performance to date on a song. It's one of the most melodic songs on the entire record and his clean vocals just soar over the top of the still spastic instrumentals and provide a point that many people will be able to grab onto rather immediately, as I did.
On the instrumental front, the band have definitely reigned things in a bit more since their last album was released. Whether it was the loss of their keyboard player or just the want to bring things back a bit more the music is a lot less intense. In place of those more aggressive moments, of which there are still plenty of on here, you have more melodic and atmospheric features being utilized. Even without a keyboard player, there are synths and pads used all over this album, adding various textures and subtle effects in nearly every track. One of the more notable instances of it's use is for the symphonic hits on The Dictator - which is actually one of the most aggressive tracks on the album. For as much as I actually really enjoyed the bands last album, their more restrained performances on here definitely added to my overall enjoyment of the album. It isn't as constantly frenetic and aggressive, allowing for instrumental sections that are closer to fusion or for vocals to just soar. It's a style that, for as much crap these tech and prog metal groups get, does take some balls to actually pull off. It can't be too simple or you alienate those fans who like the more technical aspects while if you keep things to frenetic, those more open sections that would allow for vocals to take the lead in a song and this band manages to pull them both off.
For as much as I praised this album, it is not perfect and it probably still won't appeal to those who dislike tech metal or modern prog-metal. I think it's a nice step up for the band and I do hope they continue, even as a studio project. I seriously hope if you do have an interest in progressive and technical metal that you give this album a shot though, I don't think you'll regret it.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: A Glimpse of Omniscience, The Escapist, The Artist

Subscale - The Last Submission (2013)

Band: Subscale
Country: Zagreb, Croatia
Style: Industrial Metal/Metalcore
Label: Geenger

Like most things, I was unaware of Subscale until they sent me their album. I was a little trepidatious at first just because this was an album that was not in the style that I usually am sent. I had some free time recently and decided to give it a listen and wound up thinking it was actually worth covering so here it is.
When I finally looked this band up I was a little surprised that they were listed on several djent based sites and were listed as a djent group. I guess I can understand that, but to me, when I listened to this album it sounded more like a modern sounding industrial metal record than a whole lot of what I've heard from djent. Yes, it's very groove based, but the overall tone of the record feels a lot more sterilized and polished, in addition to all the electronic effects used on here, it doesn't feel like it relies on the low-end chugging as much as some groups and it doesn't try to go for the more progressive and/or technical end of the spectrum either. It reminded me more of Fear Factory than Meshuggah to be honest, whether that makes or breaks the album for you I'm not sure, but it was a bit different than what I had anticipated. It does have to be said that the band did at least make an attempt to make this an album listen (which I find quite impressive for a young group to do). The majority of the album flows like a continuous track without almost no gaps and it's quite impressive to hear that they put that much thought into the flow of the album.
What I will say is that since this is really the band's debut full-length (they put out an EP which somehow still managed to have remixes on it despite being their first release) there are some problems. I'm not sure in what order these songs were written, but it is obvious that some songs are trying to go for that djenty and -core sound, those songs really did not interest me. Maybe fans of that style will think they're awesome, but they did nothing for me, Antecedent or Outreach being prime examples. The band throw in some nice guitar parts in that track, but it doesn't save the track from an ultimately overly stylized attempt at deathcore. I also did not care for the lower growls on this track (among others) on the album either, simply because they recalled more of a deathcore sound rather than a death metal one. Thankfully the vocals on here are actually more varied than I think I would have given the band credit for on first listen, so it's not as if the entire album was dominated by one or two vocal styles. The other problem I have with this album is simply that some songs did not live up to others. Some tracks on here are quite impressive while others just fall into the category I mentioned above. I'd say the band is at their best when they are actually going for some more progressive ideas, the one-two-three punch of Method and Manner, Pull The Threads (Extraction), and Realization is definitely a combination of tracks that really got my attention when I first heard them. Whether it's simply a use of stronger dynamics or stronger songwriting I don't know, but those are two tracks that stood out to me even on my first listen through the album. The last of those three tracks in particular takes a much more melodic turn, for the better in my opinion, and utilizes some of the strongest atmospheric backdrops and vocals on the entire album fittingly.
So yeah, while the album does have it's lackluster moments, there are actually some spots that go well above what I expected them to do. It's definitely a modern metal record in every sense of the word and I know that will appeal to at least some people. So if you dig industrial metal, groove or djent based metal, and maybe even some more progressively tinged metal (without actually crossing over) than this is definitely worth your time.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Method and Manner, Pull The Threads (Extraction), Realization

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sadgiqacea - False Prism (2013)

Band: Sadgiqacea
Country: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Style: Black/Doom Metal
Label: Candlelight

Beyond the band's association with Woe, which I learned was only in a producer/band sort of relationship rather than sharing an actual member, I was not aware of Sadgiqacea as a band before hearing this album. But knowing that there were only two members did intrigue me. Obviously there aren't too many duos in metal so I was intrigued to hear what they could do within the black and or doom metal genres.
I remember reading that the duo tracked this live because they wanted to get the feel of them actually playing together because it created a sort of mood that wouldn't be replicated if they tracked separately, and I guess I can get that. I understand why they did it and the album certainly does have more of a live sound than a lot of other records I've heard recently. The drums are definitely more naturalistic and don't have the sound of so many other records which have had drum replacement done on them. It's a lot more tinny, but if you're gonna go live, you don't even try to go for the best sound, you just go for what you can get. The guitars are a lot more crisp and clear than I imagined when I first read how this was recorded. I imagined it being much harsher, but the tone is very well crafted. I was also impressed with the way the band utilized effects through the guitar playing. I was a little shocked when the effects opened up False Segments and thought I would have to call out the band on it, but later on in the track when I got what they were doing it all snapped into place pretty quickly and it's pretty cool.
Sonically, while the duo definitely prefer to dwell inside the doomier realm, they certainly are not rid of other influences. Ideas from black metal and post-metal come through quite clearly, but, and maybe it's just me, but I think I heard some new wave influences in here as well, especially in the choices of guitar effects, but like I said, it might just be me. One of the things I admire most about this band is their choice of dynamics, whether it is through the use of just slowing things down and reducing the use of the guitar playing to leave only the drums or through the use of the guitar effects, it's well done. The former is something I was quite grabbed by and was really taken with. I just happen to think that if a band is able to quiet itself down to a single instrument in a song and keep the momentum, it's a testament to their attention to dynamics. To return to the additional influences, or ideas anyway, that appear to be coming from black and post-metal, they are at their clearest during the album's title-track, in which the band exhibit both some of their most visceral and intense moments as well as some of their most somber and clean. On the other hand you have True Darkness which is easily the most riff-based track on the entire album.
In the end I was really impressed with what these guys were doing. Both the sound they went for on here, in terms of production, and in their sound in general is something that is really impressive and attention worthy. So if you are a fan of black or doom metal and like a band with a personality and dynamics, this is one album I suggest looking into.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: False Cross, True Darkness

Total Negation - Zur Späten Stunde | Zeiträume (2013)

Band: Total Negation
Country: North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Style: Experimental/Depressive Black Metal
Label: Temple of Torturous

When I was going through my depressive black metal phase several years ago, I stumbled across Total Negation's first album Zeitenwende. The only reason I even checked it out in the first place was because mainman Wiedergaenger's involvement in a project called Through The Pain. It's needless to say that I listen to either of those albums in a long while.
Off hand I can't exactly recall much about Total Negation's first record, but what I can say is that it in no way rivaled what Wiedergaenger is doing on this new full-length. From what I can recall, that album was pretty much a standard depressive/suicidal black metal record. Nothing wrong with that, but it didn't particularly stick out among the dozens of other releases that were being put out around that same time period. I didn't even remember who this band was when I got the promo for it a couple of months ago (which is one of the reasons why it took me so long to finally cover it) but once I did I was actually quite surprised that it was the same band. Sure, there are some similarities between the two records, it is the same guy writing most of the material, but he's really stepped up his game in regards to this. Maybe he's been listening to more Deathspell Omega and other progressive-tinged bands because the gap from suicidal to progressive is one that very few bands have pulled off, Sweden's Shining being one of them. But their leap wasn't quite as abrupt. Their shift occurred over several records with various lengths of time in between them, this project has had four years between their last full-length and this one and, based solely on my interest level for this album, had definitely gone up in quality.
In terms of actually being progressive, the first half doesn't go out of its way to stand out. The initial burst on here is more to do with straightforward aggression and sorrow and anger and all that sort of stuff, so the songs are more direct. The "progressive" tone isn't as apparent, or at least it wasn't to me at first. It has more to do with effects and atmospheres that make this first half stand out more than the riffing or the vocals. To be honest, I wasn't too involved with this album on my first listen through until it got to Geist. Once that track hit, my ears immediately perked up and took notice of what was happening. The organ, the additional percussion tones, and the orchestral parts just grabbed me because the first four tracks maintained a more black metal or blackened doom tone and this track really departed from that. I had read one review where someone said this was like black metal meets jazz and throughout the first four tracks I kept wondering why someone would write that, but once this track opened I knew way. Along with that, the riffs also became slightly more adventurous for some reason as well. I just think it's crazy the way this album just threw me for a loop once the second half hit. Make no mistake, I enjoyed the first half plenty, but when you compare it to the last four tracks, you'll know why I'm so much more enthralled by them over the first four.
So while I may find the first four tracks just above average, the second half of this album really does some great and original stuff. It's quirky in a way that I really like, but not enough for me to see it turning off fans of normal progressive bands. Definitely take the chance to listen to this if you get the opportunity.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Geist, Zeit, Traum

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Gris - À l'Âme Enflammée, l'Äme Constellée... (2013)

Band: Gris
Country: Quebec, Canada
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Sepulchral Productions

Obviously, I'm posting this review along with the one for the new Sombres Forêts album. Even though the records are obviously different from each other, them being released at the same time and the collaboration that both bands did with Miserere Luminis a few years back, they will be linked. Of the two though, I would say I've heard more about this one, in terms of lead-up press anyway.
Perhaps even more than Sombres Forêts, Gris was associated with the depressive black metal movement several years back. With the extremely distorted guitars, howled vocals, and general mood of overwhelming melancholy, it's not totally unreasonable to see why Gris was lumped in with all those (mediocre) groups like Happy Days and Life Is Pain and other groups of the sort. I honestly hadn't listened to the band in years and I went back a listened through a couple of tracks before reviewing this album and was actually surprised at how much Il Était Une Forêt... differed from what I remembered it quite substantially. The use of acoustic guitars and piano throughout the record really added to that more oppressive mood that they had on that album and were far better utilized than other depressive groups had chosen to use them. For this new album, the duo has definitely stepped up their game though, in pretty much all aspects of their sound, from production to the sound in general.
Production wise, it's definitely several notches above their last full-length. I can't accuse that previous record of being bad musically, but it suffered from guitars that were overdriven with distortion and it suffocated the life out of some parts of the album, which may have been intentional. On here, you have a much more leveled production and a mix that really allows small little tricks to work even better than one might think. There's an instance on Les Forges, the second track, where the song breaks down to acoustic guitar before building back up again. During that build up you have acoustic and electric guitars working in the same section as well as piano and violin (and what I think may have been a pan flute as well). In the hands of the wrong producer and mixer, this could have come out sounding terrible, but through the use of panning and leveling, it's probably one of my favorite sequences on this entire album. The presence of bass in the mix is also something I rather enjoyed as well, as those who come to this blog enough will know, I do tend to favor albums that utilize bass over those that don't.
Stylistically, this is also a step up from their last album in the sense of how "progressive" one could say it is. I mean to use it lightly in this case because it's still very much in line with what the band was doing on their last album, except everything has been increased and turned up or made better. In the traditional of "progressive" albums, this is a long record, it's just over 80s minutes in total, which is why it was split up on two albums (double album). It works, if I had a gripe with this album it's that it's a lot to take in in a single sitting. The layout of the album is something worthy of praise though, while not original, it does work better than I expected it to upon first listen. Both albums are laid out in pretty much the same way, the first and last tracks of both discs are acoustic pieces with a short acoustic interlude as the third track on both. The other four tracks are lengthy "progressive" black metal songs that are among some of the best songs I've heard all year.
As you can probably guess, this is a great album. Definitely an album that surpassed any expectations I might have put on it before pressing play. Even on my first listen I wasn't crazy about it, I liked it, but was not intending to give it the score I now rate it with. Hopefully if you dig good black metal you'll listen to this and save yourself the humiliation of saying you haven't heard it yet.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Les Forges, Igneus, Une Épitaphe De Suie

Sombres Forêts - La Mort Du Soleil (2013)

Band: Sombres Forêts
Country: Quebec, Canada
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Sepulchral Productions

This, tied along with Gris, were two bands who I just happened to find out about in a Youtube video about Canadian black metal. There are several videos of this sort on that site, but when I first saw it, there were fewer so finding out about these bands felt like discovering more of a cult thing than it is now. But this was the first new album from the project in several, thus making it the first new album I was able to hear from them.
I think that the first, and maybe the most obvious, change on this album compared to the two previous releases that were put out is simply the production. This album is undoubtedly cleaner sounding and less harsh in its choice of tones. Sure, the sound is definitely still very aggressive and abrasive, but you aren't going to find that lo-fi guitar tone on here, the drums come across as more well placed, mix wise, and the vocals, I found to be, more tolerable. On the previous two full-lengths I did feel somewhat of a connection to the whole depressive black metal scene that was sort of blowing up in the mid 2000s and that mainly came from the vocals. Musically, Sombres Forêts always reminded me more of those classic early records from atmospheric black metal groups like Lunar Aurora or Ulver, or, and maybe I'm stretching here, the first few records from Opeth. It was more the vocals that I felt lent them that depressive tag. But with this new record, I think they've created one of the most refreshing "post-black metal" records in a long-ass time.
Whether it was intentional or not, there's a certain tone and structure to this record that I would compare to the whole post-black metal one, there are peaks and valleys in nearly every song on here; and while there isn't a whole lot that I found referenced post-rock or shoegaze or the other styles that are so typically associated with that sub-genre, there certainly are similarities in the way some of the songs are put together. The former genre certainly has more of a presence on here than I ever expected it to, but that doesn't mean the project's sound has completely changed.
The intro track, Des Épaves, is the perfect example of a straight-up folk piece that for the most part is led by acoustic guitar. Then there's the album's centerpiece which sticks out like a sore thumb (whether good or bad, you decide), Au Flambeau, which is a piano led piece, but not in the same variety many would probably anticipate after hearing that. Yes, it blows up into more of an epic closing two minutes, but it's a very odd song that, I personally found quite interesting and introspective, but others might not click with. La Disparition experiments with a couple of more dissonant guitar lines that made me think of Blut Aus Nord for a little while, which is yet another group whose early work this band could be compared to. I figure that by now, some are thinking that with all of these different ideas coming from one project which had a pretty well established sound already on it's first two full-lengths sounds as though it would be a bit of a mess as an album. But as you also might expect, since I'm bringing it up, it's perfectly manageable and cohesive. I'm all for progressive and avant-garde music, but that's never been what this project has been about, so overloading a single song with various ideas isn't what you're getting. Each track has a few ideas but doesn't make each one overflow with them.
I was actually quite shocked at how much I enjoyed this album and how current it managed to make a rather tired sub-genre sound. While it certainly isn't as game changing as I think some were hoping, it's still a damn good album, and perhaps more accessible than the new Gris album is. But yeah, it's great and definitely an album not to miss.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Brumes, Au Flambeau, La Disparition

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Temple of Void - Demo MMXIII (2013)

Band: Temple of Void
Country: Detroit, Michigan
Style: Death/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

I don't cover a lot of demos, for whatever reason, and was quite surprised when I was suddenly sent an email asking me to cover one. I remember just looking at the cover for this demo and replying to the band asking them if it was actually a demo or an EP (different ratings for those not aware) and them replying by informing me that this was indeed a demo. Looked more like a professional EP to me, but just goes to show what I know based off of a cover and production.
One can hardly blame me for thinking this was an EP. Maybe it's just my preconception of what a demo should sound like. When I think of that term, I think, raw production, noisy production even, really dirty sounding, maybe even a mix that sounds shitty - if a mix was even done. Maybe I'm just stuck in the 90s, whatever. The sound on this is undoubtedly quite clean, though not polished, and it does suit what the band are doing. Death-doom can work in quite a lot of different types of production from the noisy lo-fi to the clean and polished sort, really, all it needs to be is heavy. That low-end has to come through, and if nothing else, this band accomplishes that on their demo. But that aside, I was actually surprised by how this band approached song writing. On opener Beyond The Ultimate, both guitarists have several sections where they're working with completely separate parts, not so much in harmony or disharmony, but I just thought that was sort of odd to hear. Usually, most doom oriented bands keep things slow going and don't like to surprise the listener with different parts, but hell, I certainly give the band a thumbs up for that nugget on here. I can't lie and say that I didn't find some of Exanimate Gaze to be overly repetitive, but I'd say that beyond that and the spoken word vocal used to close the first track, the band is off to a pretty good start.
There isn't too much to say beyond that. This band is clearly working with a formula that has been tested many times and yet these guys still have something there that grabs my ear when I listen. I don't think the band have hit that potential yet, but these three songs are definitely a nice starting point for them to leap off of and find that signature sound. So if you're a fan of doom and death metal, certainly look into this.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Beyond The Ultimate

Friday, July 26, 2013

Portent - Dismal Deities EP (2013)

Band: Portent
Country: London, UK
Style: Black/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

Portent is a little band who I had never heard of before I was emailed about this EP a month or so back. I wasn't particularly interested until I saw the logo which I thought was sort of interesting (not original, but interesting). Plus it was short, what did I have to lose.
Sonically I was sort of expecting more of a death/doom sound, it was categorized as the above genre "black/doom metal" which works as well I guess. I mean it's certainly doomy, but the black and death metal elements are both in there, so categories be damned. This is, more or less, in the same vein as many of those other "cavecore" bands who were doing the Incantation worship a year or two back. It's a sound I'm perfectly fine with, some bands do it better than others, and I have to say, Portent is actually rather well adept in the sound they showcase on here. Their sound definitely has that more reverb-drenched tone that the cavecore bands have, but this is obviously a lot more doomy, which gives it a bit more of an early 90s core of vibe. At times it sort of reminded me of early Katatonia. The riffs are interesting and the vocals have a nice primal quality to them (primal roaring if you will) which both appealed to me. Honestly, this isn't the sort of release that's going to start a new trend in death/black/doom metal but I don't think it's trying to. What this is is just a solid little release.
This was a pleasant little four track EP. It's very apparent that the band in question are very adept in the styles they're playing with on here because this is one of the better fusions of these styles I've heard this year. Definitely worthy of your attention if you're a fan of the extreme metal genre.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Woven, Paranoiac Invocation

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Angizia - Des Winters Finsterer Gesell (2013)

Band: Angizia
Country: Vienna, Austria
Style: Avant-Garde Metal/Dark Cabaret
Label: Medium Theater

I've been aware of Angizia for quite a while now and have been quite fascinated with their progression in sound over the years. The band's 2011 album Kokon. Ein Schaurig-Schönes Schachtelstück continued their trend of using less metal, or rock based, instrumentation on their albums. But simply because of the darker vibe of this cover, I got the impression that this would be a bit more "aggressive" than their last few.
Because the cover was a little bit darker you could forgive me for assuming that this might be a return to the band's more metallic side. As the last couple of releases have been a bit more focused on the theatrical end of the spectrum, possibly telling a story (I don't speak Austrian) with very little use of distorted instrumentation or even harsher vocals, but this record certainly sees the return I had hoped for. While that theatrical bend is certainly still alive and well on here, it's nice to have a bit more balance between more gothic set metal tracks and more cabaret inspired avant-garde compositions. When the two are combined, it makes for a strange dynamic that can really only be found in bands of this nature (avant-garde I mean) and I love it. A track like Anatol goes from very bizarre accordion led sections to heavier, and possibly more over-the-top, metal ones and it's just as weird as anything I've heard this year. I love the absurdity and how unorthodox it is because it makes me laugh whenever I listen to it. Laugh because it's great and fun to listen to mind you.
As always, this is less of an album of songs and more of a single piece of music that is split down into fifteen separate tracks. So as you might expect, telling when one track ends and another begins can be somewhat difficult when you're not paying attention to the numbers changing on your music player. It's not as if the band go out of their way to help you either, with interludes popping up like they would be played at the beginning and/or end of a track being their own tracks all together. In addition to that, the entire album flows in mood so it's not as if one track may be more upbeat and aggressive and then the next will be more morose and somber, the mood will change throughout a single track. This isn't a qualm I have with the album mind you, but it is something that needs to be addressed.
Now, there's a central problem I typically have with an album like this and that is the use of a female vocalist. I have no qualms with female singers or growlers, but merely how they are used. There are so many band in the symphonic, gothic, and/or power metal genres (the first two could apply to this band) that have female singers who use an operatic style which is all well and good, but 1) can grow old very fast and 2) I just find really obnoxious. I guess the saving grace for this album and band has been that while the female operatics are used throughout, they are counter balanced with more of a black metal wretch. Not a new idea by any means, but well executed none the less. Tracks like Flügelspiel and Zügellos only work so well because the two are paired together.
While this may not be an album for everyone, certainly not everyone is going to get into the whole cabaret thing, I thought it was perfectly good fun to listen to. The orchestrations are nice and diverse throughout so it never got boring, and even at it's most over-the-top, it never became annoying. Definitely check this out if you're a fan of more avant-garde metal bands.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Anatol, Flügelspiel, Zügellos, Das Leere Grab

Kinit Her - The Poet & The Blue Flower (2013)

Band: Kinit Her
Country: Wisconsin
Style: Neo-Folk
Label: Avant!

I reviewed an album by Kinit Her a couple of years back and really dug what the duo were doing. It was my first time hearing about the band and I wasn't sure what to expect, but I really enjoyed it. Since then the band has sort of experienced a bit of a surge of press from the release of one of their albums last year, Storm of Radiance, which I did not review.
After a very Kinit Her sort of introduction, this release really gets on it's way. For those who don't know, just because I didn't cover the band's last full-length as Kinit Her does not mean I dismissed the band entirely, their release project Wreathes put out a fantastic self-titled album last year that ranked in my top 50. But obviously, just because both projects come from the same sonic background doesn't mean they're the same. From what I understand, Wreathes was focused more on songwriting while Kinit Her is more about mood and experimentation through the whole neo-folk genre. Believe it or not, the duo of Nathaniel Ritter and Troy Schafer have crafted an album even more interesting than I remembered them being. The instrumentation is even more eclectic and, in a sense, off-putting than on Gratitudes (the last time I heard an entire album from the duo under this name). Even though I hear this is supposed to be more song-based than their last couple releases, as I just said, it's still pretty different. It's not the sort of Sol Invictus or Tenhi style of neofolk, that's for sure.
I don't fault Kinit Her for that obviously, their more quirky style (that's what I'll call it) reminded me alot more of Current 93 when they get bizarre. Though saying that will bring connotations I'm not sure the duo want, as they certainly are still pretty far from Current 93, there's a similar sense of weirdness and experimentation that both projects share. I would actually say that Kinit Her could potentially become the new Current 93 if they keep releasing albums at such a steady pace with as high a quality as I hear they are. But aside from all of that, this record is just fascinating to listen through, and not in the pretentious way where the song itself is second to all the instrumentation. I'll say that while none of the songs on here are anywhere as memorable as the songs on the Wreathes album, with the exception of A Dome Surrounds - which is one of the most uniquely freakish and catchy songs I've heard in quite some time, they still manage to draw you in and capture your attention. While the approach, vocally, is the same on that track as it is for the rest of the album, it's just one of those times where everything clicks together in all the right places and allows that song to work. I'd definitely say it's my favorite track from these eight songs, but, in all honesty, there isn't a bad one on here. The first half is certainly harder to get into and really latch onto in my opinion, while the second is a bit more accessible, I think if the duo intentionally made it that way, it only shows how crafty they are because I really admire that method of album structuring. If it was simply coincidence, than... it worked out in their favor.
This was one of those albums that I put on my Ipod as soon as I was sent the promo for it and I haven't stopped trying to examine and understand it since. It's just one of those records that's so interesting and engaging that you just want to put it on repeat. I've probably listened to this thing around a dozen times at this point and I still doubt I've heard everything yet. So if you're in the market for some interesting folk music, definitely check this one out, you won't regret it.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Feast of Death II, As Old As Day and Night Together, A Dome Surrounds

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Clandestine Blaze - Harmony of Struggle (2013)

Band: Clandestine Blaze
Country: Lahti, Finland
Style: Black Metal
Label: Northern Heritage

Mikko Aspa is a busy and prolific guy. Whether it's Deathspell Omega or Stabat Mater or Creamface, he works in many different styles and manages to produce good results in all of them. For the longest time, Clandestine Blaze has been his mainstay project, but after three years, or so, of silence, a new album has finally emerged.
I have to say, while I have never exactly been the biggest fan of Aspa's output with Clandestine Blaze, it is still a project I will acknowledge for having it's place in my collection. It's position, musically, has always seemed to dwell within more of a straightforward black metal style, rather than experiment outside of it like his work in Deathspell Omega has. Though production quality has gone up with each release, the quality of an entire record has always been more meh for myself. Anyone who reads this blog enough will know that I tend to like the more experimental and adventurous side of the genre, but being direct has its place as well. When listening through this album, aside from some production choices, it's hard to really say the focus of the project has shifted since its inception. So, while the overall tone of the record feels a bit more ambiguous, for a while it led me to think as though Aspa might be taking the project into a "post-black metal" style, and the drums are a bit more punchy, you're still getting more or less the same, aggressive approach you've gotten from a Clandestine Blaze record in the past. I'm not saying that's necessarily a bad thing, but it isn't exactly my favorite situation.
One has to admit that there is a certain charm in the punky edge of a song like Face of Granite or the serpentine nature of Wings of The Archangel, but they are ultimately just momentary pleasures. They provide enough enjoyment to perk up the listener's ears for a couple of listens, but they don't have long terms staying power, which, is this album's biggest problem. Maybe it's because I just never had the biggest affinity for this project to begin with that none of its songs really stuck with me for even the duration of an entire album, but once a songs ends I more or less have forgotten what just happened during it. I also have a problem with the kick drum mix on here. As I said above, the tone is definitely more punchy, but the kick is just way too loud and winds up overpowering the snare and some of the other tom and cymbal work when they're being played at the same time as the kicks. Now, that isn't to say that there aren't things that I find admirable about this. The final minute of Autumn of Blood and Steel features a nice atmospheric guitar line running along with the main distorted one that I found quite interesting and the atmosphere over the entire album is pretty solid and deserves mention as well.
So for it's duration it's perfectly fine, but it isn't exactly anything memorable or long lasting. Fans of black metal, done in more of a direct and traditional style, will probably dig this, but I doubt it's going to be well considered even in their eyes. So, check it out, find some good tracks, but I wouldn't expect the world from it.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Face of Granite, Wings of The Archangel, Autumn of Blood and Steel

Monday, July 22, 2013

C R O W N - Psychurgy (2013)

Band: C R O W N
Country: Colmar, France
Style: Post-Metal/Doom Metal
Label: Candlelight

Last year I was sent two releases from this band called C R O W N but never got around to covering them. It wasn't out of not wanting to but I had other albums that I was either more interested in writing about or life got in the way. Knowing that they had this full-length coming out on Candlelight did give me that extra incentive to want to write up about this one.
I'll get the biggest thing out of the way first, this is a two man band and it certainly sounds like it. While doom and sludge bands can often make their sound work if only containing a member or two, the biggest give away was the drum programming on here. It sounds fake. I've said it many times on this blog but I'll say it again that overly compressed and digital sounding drums are one of my biggest pet peeves in music. It's just a sound that I find incredibly annoying and irritating, and while I can't say that the drums are irritating on this record, they certainly did not put this record on my good side for it's duration. Many one man/woman projects can pull off drum machines in this style of music because they don't program incredibly technical or progressive leaning drum parts and stick to minimal patterns, which these guys do, but it just sounds really plastic, especially underneath the low-end of an 8-string guitar. And really, the entire mix is sort of off as well, because the guitars are on top and rely so much on low-end that really only the snare pops through on the kit. The cymbals are pretty low in the mix and the vocals are somewhere between the kick and snare in terms of loudness, and I only believe that's due to the distortion used on them. It just sounds like the band tried to get this really heavy sounding album, but it just wound up sounding plastic and fake.
I hate to be so down on this album but it's like as I'm writing this I'm just remembering more and more things that bothered me about it. That's not to say there aren't some good things about this album though, because I think that the sound that the duo are going for could have been pretty interesting if the mix wasn't all screwed up. It sounds like they're going for a sort of doom and post-metal sound mixed with some more electronic elements thrown in as well, and that could have been cool. A track like Telepath does a good job at fusing those two aesthetics and even makes the drums work in the context of a sort of electronic kind of song; and before people start saying that's only because of the vocoder used on the track, I will say that the vocals in general aren't bad. While the harsher yells/growls sound distorted to me, the clean vocals sound genuinely good. They kind of reminded me of Paul Kuhr (November's Doom) which is not a bad comparison in my book. But even the rest of the music isn't that bad, I would have mixed it differently, but stylistically I think these guys have a good idea of where they're going sonically.
So, even though I didn't really dig much of this album, I think these guys do have potential. There's something there that will have me keeping an eye on them for what they release in the future. So you dig post-metal or doom metal with a bit of an electronic edge give this a shot and keep your eye on them as well.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Telepath, We Will Crush The Open Sky, Psychurgy

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Anacondas - Sub Contra Blues (2013)

Band: Anacondas
Country: Brighton, UK
Style: Sludge Metal/Post-Hardcore
Label: Independent

I haven't been particularly interested in a lot of metalcore since I started high school and I have to say that even then I wasn't that into the band formerly known as Johnny Truant. Granted, I never had any problems with them, but they weren't a band I ever seemed to find the right amount of time to just sit down and listen to. So it actually came as a surprise when I got an email not only telling me that the band broke up but that some of it's members had actually formed a new band called Anacondas.
From what I know about Johnny Truant, they were a pretty chaotic metalcore group who were more Misery Signals than Killswitch Engage, but that's just my assumption based off of reading reviews. This album is definitely not metalcore. I actually found it a little surprising that a metalcore band's members would "evolve" by taking their sound into one that from my perspective is actually less accessible. I mean, it just seems like an odd path to me - but what do I know. From what I can tell about this album though is that the band is definitely talented, but their sound is not fully developed as of yet. This is evident from the first two track, You Set The Moon On Fire and River, in which the band are essentially playing a mid-paced rock song. The vocals are just terribly corny sounding and very winy, sounding like they belong in some half-rate pop-punk or "post-hardcore/pop" band. To be fair though, the clean vocals used for the majority of this record are not the greatest. While the ladder track does bring up some more interesting guitar work, it doesn't really save the track from sounding bland.
It wasn't until track three, Cold Blooded, Warm Hearted, where things began to take a turn for the better. The instrumentation begins to take a turn towards actual sludge metal and more aggressive vocals begin to be introduced into various songs. While it isn't anything you haven't heard before, this trio of guys know how to write some nice sludgy songs. It took me a while to get into some of these songs because of the vocals (sometimes they grew on me, other times they didn't) but I always thought that the instrumentals were pretty solidly crafted. It seems to me like when the band aren't writing songs that are more direct and accessible they actually write better songs. The second half of this album is a vast improvement over the first. The songs are a bit more mid to slow paced and the band actually does them really well. The riffs are better, the vocals are a bit less annoying, and the overall tone feels more energized. The band also succeed when they bring in more of an ambient tone into the picture on a couple of tracks, which wind up giving them sort of a post-metal vibe which I thought was pretty cool. The album closer, This Night Will Last Forever, in particular I thought was rather well done. It's the sort of track that takes a more post-metal/sludge metal core and makes a chorus that could easily appeal to plenty of hardcore and metalcore kids.
So, despite this album starting off very badly, it does pick up and deliver some solid sludge metal tracks. I think it'll be interesting to see the reactions of fans from the band's former gig react to this album, but all I can say is that I think it's pretty good for a debut. Maybe the next release will be a bit more consistent stylistically and songwriting wise, but aside from that I think these guys could really go places.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: High Horse, The Witches, This Night Will Last Forever

Wreck and Reference - No Content EP (2013)

Band: Wreck and Reference
Country: Davis, California
Style: Blackened Drone/Noise Rock
Label: Flenser

The duo that is Wreck and Reference have really blown up since releasing the small, self-released Black Cassette back in 2011. They've gotten rave reviews, been covered and interviewed in mainstream (or at the very least major indie) sites and magazines. Though this new EP isn't much to think about (only two tracks) at least it's new material; and in my book, that is always a good thing.
I'm not sure what I expected from only two tracks, but I can safely say that the duo definitely surprised me. Opener Absurdities & Echoes is a ritualistic slab of drone metal that definitely hammers on some interesting low-end bass (not in the typical way though). It's incredibly monastic in it's approach to distortion and sample sounds. The drumming is steady and well paced while the chosen sample sounds create a definite mood that was not present on any of the band's past recordings. Even the bellowed vocals work, and they're really the sort of delivery that I could grow impatient with if they were used too often; but on here they fit the slow and paced mood of the song. Abhorrence is a much shorter piece, clocking in at under three minutes, and channeling some of the band's most intense influences. I read a review that mentioned Altar of Plagues, and though I highly doubt the duo that is Wreck and Reference was able to hear Teethed Glory and Injury while they were writing this track, it does carry some weight. There is a definite post-black metal kind of a vibe going on in this track, but it also contains some of the dissonance that was heard on that aforementioned record. It's definitely one of the most intense and visceral tracks the band has ever written.
Even though this is incredibly short, I think it's a nice little stop-gap for the duo. After the stylistic variation and evolution the band went through on last year's No Youth, it's only natural that they would want to put out something that's just a bit more visceral and reactionary. Maybe it's not essential, but it's definitely worth hearing if you're a fan.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Abhorrence

Friday, July 19, 2013

Summoning - Old Mornings Dawn (2013)

Band: Summoning
Country: Vienna, Austria
Style: Epic/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Napalm

If the discussion of "atmospheric black metal" ever comes up, there are a couple of bands whose names are almost guaranteed to be mentioned. Summoning is one of those bands. Having not released any new material under this name in just over six/seven years now, of course this album was hotly anticipated.
As someone who was not the most well versed in the releases that Summoning had put out throughout their career, I'm not sure how much weight my view on this album can provide for you. I'm not sure what fans were really expecting from this album - if they wanted a return to form or a continuation on the path the duo were heading on their last few releases, but when I listen to this album it sounded exactly like how I expected it to. It really does bring to mind that whole Tolkien world with dragons and monsters and various, large scale wars (all for the sake of the ring!) that Peter Jackson showed us in his movies. It really doesn't carry with it the fierceness or darkness that band's earlier material did, instead, preferring to stay more in that realm that is somewhere between metal, ritualistic ambient, and neo-folk music. Pretty much the only things that remain from the band's black metal days are the wretched vocals and the distorted guitars, which play into the atmosphere more than provide any sort of leading instrumentation. Frankly, it sounds to me, more or less, like a continuation of what the duo did on both Let Mortal Heroes Sing Your Fame and Oath Bound. That's not so bad, really, but that isn't really my favorite sound.
To be honest, the biggest problem I have with this album is simply how cheesy it is. The sounds of falcons cawing/screaming, the bombastic synth horns, and the nature samples can prove to be just a little too much for my tastes. I don't really dig the whole symphonic metal thing because it's so cliched and cheesy, but I see it's merit in some projects. I understand the purpose of this album isn't really to be aggressive or super kvlt or anything like that but more to entrance you and bring you into this world the duo have created. Some tracks did this better than others. Personally, when the album works best (or when it worked best for me) was when it being really bombastic and over the top in it's presentation, like on the title-track, meanwhile a track that is perhaps a bit more low-key (and by that I mean it's not as bombastic), were just sort meh for me. It's weird because in the case of how over the top some of this actually is, in a lot of other bands that I've heard either in the symphonic metal world or other bands that try to achieve a more fantastical sound, I can't say that I've ever found myself particularly interested. I found tracks like The White Tower and, to a certain extent, Of Pale White Morns and Darkened Eves to just sort of reinstate ideas that more well crafted tracks did. They're not bad, just long and somewhat uninteresting. I guess where my admiration for this album lies is in the occasional influx of electronic music that comes through in several songs on here. At times this album can feel a bit too synthetic for its own good, which could have been a problem if this album didn't give the whole Tolkien atmosphere as good a go as they did.
So, in the end I guess I can only say that I did like this album, but it didn't blow me away. I pretty much got exactly what I expected to hear, some of it was better than I thought, some of it wasn't - that's just the way it goes. I guess how much you enjoy this really depends on how much you're willing to go with the fantastical vibe the duo are shooting for on here, so if you think you can, definitely give this one a shot.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Old Mornings Dawn, Caradhras, The Wandering Fire

Skagos - Anarchic (2013)

Band: Skagos
Country: Vancouver Island, Canada
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal/Folk
Label: Eternal Warfare

It's been three long years since the band known as Skagos last released new material, and it's been four years since their full-length debut Ást came out. Since then a large buzz has surrounded the band's progression and the work on this album in particular. With various other releases apparently in the working during this period of silence, I wasn't even sure if this album was even going to see the light of day.
Skagos has always been a project that brought a good name to the whole "Cascadian black metal" trend that was going on a few years back, maybe it's still going on for all I know, but what they released was good stuff. Their sound was raw, it's was grandiose, atmospheric, and felt authentic in it's delivery. The way the group just paced their songs was as near to perfect as a band could get (keep in mind that I'm not saying the songs were perfect but their pacing). Even though most of their songs were long and breached the ten minute mark, they never felt like the band was stretching a song out just because it needed to be more hypnotic or longer to be cool or whatever bands think about when they're trying to write epic songs, it felt like a natural progression, and I respected them for that. This album takes that epic nature of previous albums and stretches it to a new high for them by crafting an album with only two tracks, though it's really just one epic, hour long song that's divided in half for vinyl's sake I'd imagine.
By that length alone it's no stretch to say that this is the band's most ambitious undertaking yet, but in the sounds as well, I heard ideas that reminded me of bands I never expected to hear in a recording by this band. There were moments on here that surprisingly enough reminded me of Deftones and Sigur Ros more than anything else. The atmosphere on those softer sections just hit me as being more like those groups than any other. Now, whether or not the band even takes influence from those groups is another story, but that's what I heard. In addition to that, even during the more traditional black metal bursts that are used throughout this album, there are vocal inflections that take a more ambient quality to them. They can be heard within the first ten minutes of the album and it's actually a bit of a shock to hear them pop out in the mix over the buzzing guitar riffs. The band really alternates between blasting black metal sections that are quite standard for them (if you've listened to the band before you know they can pull that stuff off with ease) and more interesting sections that either come from more of the folk territory they're known for or more riff-driven or ambient based sections. Because the entire album is meant to be a single track I do have to say that the whole shift that occurs on here (soft-heavy-soft-heavy...) can begin to feel a bit stale after a while. It has been done by so many bands, I do feel like if the band perhaps broke the album into sections instead of two extended pieces, it might have helped this problem that at least I had with it.
I remember a little while back the band posted up two clips of sections of this album for download on their Bandcamp page, as a sort of teaser of sorts for this release. I downloaded them and frankly, I wasn't too impressed. While the black metal section was perfectly fine, the other track was an extended piece that was definitely a bit too much for me to really grasp. That section turned out to be the conclusion of the first half of this album. That section contained droning synth tones and an overall more ambient sound but with some rather ill-fitting vocals sung atop. Now, although I say ill-fitting, I have gone back and forth as to whether I actually dislike the vocals or not. I certainly get the vibe that the band was going for with this part and the vocals, but there are times when they did prove to be a bit too irksome for my taste. I certainly don't fault the band for at least trying this extended section out because musically, it does show a shift from the more intense ideas that the rest of the track demonstrated.
As a whole I definitely enjoyed this record a lot, much more than I think I first thought I would. It's definitely not for everyone, those track lengths are enough to scare of the average fan with ease, but if you can get past the rather bold exterior, therein you will find great beauty and great anger. It's not perfect, but it's pretty damn good, that's for sure.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Anarchic V-VII

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Sigur Rós - Kveikur (2013)

Band: Sigur Rós
Country: Reykjavík, Iceland
Style: Post-Rock/Industrial
Label: XL

Sigur Rós, for all the popularity and coverage they have gotten, they are still one of those bands who is continually trying to push their sound. Whether one happens to agree with the shift on a given album or not, it is something that definitely deserves the respect of the listener. I wasn't expecting another album so soon after the release of last year's Valtari, let alone what the shift the band would implore.
I first found out about this album soon after it was announced with single Brennisteinn. I recall the site I read the news from at the time had described it as the band moving into a more "metal" direction, now, I don't mean to criticize that writer/journalist but not only was that track not metal, but it wasn't particularly heavy either (which is something that could be applied to the album as a whole). So that person obviously had no idea what they were talking about. But for myself, when I first heard that single, I was surprised by how much more distorted and dark the band's sound was. If I had described the band's sound on their previous six albums, I really wouldn't use either of those terms very often, if at all. Their sound tended to be more atmospheric, dreamy, tranquil, and other terms like that. Each album had its own feel for sure, but there was rarely a moment as dark as what is expressed on this album as a whole. But I heard it in another review for this record that while Valtari from last year was easily the band's most ambient album, a sentiment I agree with, this is the opposite of that, being the band's most intense and distorted, though intense is completely relative to how aggressively the band have played in the past, so be warned. In my opinion, while the band retain that dreamy quality of previous albums, it's mixed in with more of an industrial influence - hence the more distorted tone.
I mean, for all that distorted tone and darker atmosphere, I have to say that I was actually somewhat disappointed by how little the harsher(?) tones were utilized on here. Yes, the entire record is undeniably louder than several of the band's previous recordings, but in terms of what I would consider to be an industrial influence providing more than just the occasional influence, it doesn't even appear until track five, Stormur. I'm not complaining, the band still pump out a couple of really solid and catchy tunes before that edge really comes out, namely the insanely catchy and poppy Ísjaki. I think for me it was just that I had this idea that the band was going to try and actually going really harsh and noisy, in relation to their previous work obviously, but about the first half of this record is just what they've done before, but louder. To me, the darker atmosphere didn't draw me in as much as the lighter ones from past albums because the band was doing a louder sound, which wound up leaving me rather cold to several tracks on the first half. The second half goes into what I did expect from the group, the harsher beats, the almost disturbing vocal melodies, and the darker atmosphere feels far less forced. The title-track was rightly selected because it's easily my favorite track on here and is the epitome of the sound I expected this record to sound like.
So while I was somewhat disappointed by the rift between the amount of experimentation I wanted this album to have and what it actually contained, I did still enjoy this. Obviously it's been praised like crazy from what I've seen, and while this review might have come off a little harsh in spots, I did still dig the majority of the record. If you're a fan of the band or like heavier music and want to hear what all the fuss is about, this might be the best gateway for you.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ísjaki, Kveikur, Bláþráður

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leprous - Coal (2013)

Band: Leprous
Country: Notodden, Norway
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: InsideOut

I really dig what Leprous are doing. These guys started off, for all intensive purposes, as an Opeth-esque band from what I've heard and read, but recently they've really shifted tone into something I can really dig. It seems as though working with Ihsahn has shifted the band's focus, or made them focus more or something, because their sound has really become one that I can call unique to only them.
I know that there are plenty of people out there who don't like bands that are "quirky", and that is more or less one way to earn my approval - as if that means anything at all. Bands that just make music that is interesting, unique, and fun are bands that always find a place in my heart. While I really didn't get much from 2009's Tall Poppy Syndrome, 2011's Bilateral definitely found it's place in my listening habits through it's more off-kilter sense of orchestration and vocals. This new album sees the band progressing in ways I feel like they did just to please me (as in... yeah right!). The music has actually decreased in it's heaviness, or at least metallic aggression for sure, but instead has become more dynamic and interesting. You won't find as much reliance on low-end heaviness or aggression on this record, though it is certainly still there, but more of mid-range emphasis and phrasing. I feel as though a lot of the music was written in order to emphasize the vocal talents of the band, more specifically lead vocalist/keyboarist Einar Solberg, whose voice is the perfect mix of emotional depth and over-the-top variation. Whether that's true or not, I don't know, but his vocals are definitely the spot light on here.
It's not hard to see why people have been coming out and praising this album. For how progressive and quirky these songs are, the band never veer too far out of their comfort zone and start going crazy or anything - and although I would love to hear that I have a feeling a lot of people out there wouldn't. This is a pretty modern sounding progressive metal album, but not in the djent or Dream Theater way. This is the way, I believe, progressive metal should sound. Bands taking styles and ideas and just making them work together in ways that just leave (me) scratching my head and wondering how they do what they're doing. I mean, the music and vocals on here is very theatrical, but it also has this darkness and serious tone to it at times as well which balance each other out. So, in a sense, it's very reminiscent of Devin Townsend's solo work - but obviously different.
While I would say the majority of this album is centered around the vocals, or at least that is how the first half of the album would lead one to believe, the second half does evolve into something much more "traditionally progressive". Album highlight The Valley is truly the star of the show on here, with it's soaring chorus, stop-start riffs, and buzzing synth lines, the entire thing almost sounds contradictory when I type it out, but flows together so perfectly it never ceases to amaze me. But when I actually consider what the band do on here, it's fair to say that all three of the longest tracks on here stand out. From the quirky (there's that word again) The Valley to the more steadily paced Echo and the crushing closer Contaminate Me, all three stand out on here as some of the band's best work to date. The closer in particular comes close to being the heaviest and most aggressive piece on the entire album.
So yeah, no secret that I really dug this album. Like I mentioned above, either the words "quirky" or "progressive" will turn you off, and if neither does, I hope you can find some enjoyment in this album and band because they are actually really good. I'm a weirdo who likes these things in music, and hopefully there are some weirdos out there like me so we can like this album together!
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Coal, The Valley, Contaminate Me

6:33 & Arno Strobl - The Stench From The Swelling (A True Story) (2013)

Band: 6:33 & Arno Strobl
Country: Paris, France
Style: Progressive/Avant-Garde Metal
Label: Wafflegate Prod.

Apparently 6:33 had put out an album back in 2011, called Orphan of Good Manners, and I had never heard of it. I didn't even know about them when I first listened to this album but it looked sort of interesting and was labeled as "avant-garde" and "progressive" so my attention was piqued. It was only while listening to this album that the name Arno Strobl popped out to me.
Truthfully, when I first got this album I was not aware of 6:33 and the name Arno Strobl didn't ring any bells for me. It wasn't until listening to this that the vocals began to ring a few bells for me, I recognized the voice but couldn't place it; and it wasn't until the last song, Giggles, Garlands & Gallows II (M.i.d.g.e.t.s.), that everything fell into place and I was reminded of Carnival In Coal. When I actually looked up Arno Strobl and it said he was the vocalist for that band, it suddenly made sense to me. I always thought he was a creative and interesting vocalist based on his work in that aforementioned band, but hearing him again really brought back memories of first hearing the madness that that band expressed musically. This album isn't quite as crazy as that band was, but still manages to be quite inventive with it's genre fusions; but the result isn't based in extreme metal but feels more like a mashup of progressive metal with a couple other genres (funk, jazz, polka, electronica) with a big rush of cock rock coming through. Now, I'm no fan of cock rock, but a nice helping of it on here does make some of the hooks stick out in a big way.
I understand that even the idea of cock rock infecting their weirdo metal might turn some off, but even though it's certainly in here, it was never overblown or cocky enough to make me feel like it did anything to make the song obnoxious. It's use in a track like Burn-In or album highlight I Like It really just makes the song. It allows the choruses to just sound huge while the rest of the song can go off in a hundred and one different directions. For myself, I found it to be bloated enough to work in the context of the songs. It was never cheesy for the being retro, it felt very self-aware of how over the top it was (as all good progressive and avant-garde groups should be). I mean, there's a sense of ridiculousness to this type of music, and when bands don't take themselves too seriously, in the sense that they know their music is over the top and quirky and even absurd at times, you can tell in the music. Why is it that the title-track goes from a pretty traditional cock rock/metal song goes into a fuck metal-esque breakdown and includes a synth dominated middle section? Who knows, but it's in there and it all works for me. It actually isn't until the final two tracks (the Giggles, Garlands & Gallows suite) that things turn to a more CIC kind of sound. Though, to be fair, this is a lot more melodic than most of CIC's work, perhaps because the cock rock influence or otherwise.
This is the sort of album I'm drawn towards so I knew that I was going to like it even before I listened to it simply from the genres it was listed under, and it did not disappoint. It's great to hear Strobl doing something more substantial since his tenure in CIC ended several years back. I definitely recommend this to all those avant-garde and odd rock/metal fans out there, it's a lot of fun.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: I Like It, Starlight, Giggles, Garlands & Gallows II (M.i.d.g.e.t.s.)

Friday, July 12, 2013

Head of The Demon - Head of The Demon (2013)

Band: Head of The Demon
Country: Stockholm, Sweden
Style: Black/Doom Metal
Label: The Ajna Offensive

I was not aware of Head of The Demon before receiving this album one day in my inbox. I knew that I wanted to listen to it simply because I thought the cover was pretty cool, but didn't know what the band actually sounded like. When I looked them up and actually saw the genres they were linked with, I have to say that I was quite surprised by how the album differed.
Like it's listed above, this band has been described to me as a blackened doom metal band, I'm not making that up, that's what I have been informed the band was. Yet, when I actually pressed play to listen to this album, I struggled to find too much of that black metal influence beyond the vocalist occasionally screaming at me. Also, does having an extremely raw production make you black metal nowadays? If so, I get why they were called black metal, because what's on here is some pretty off-center doom metal. Off-center because the riffs go between traditional Sabbath-esque oriented ones and more "experimental" ones. I use quotes because I'm not sure what the best way to term them would be, but the band definitely try and make themselves sound more interesting by using chords that call to mind Middle Eastern and Arabian music. It's really strange. Plus, it isn't as if the band choose to make things interesting by spicing things up with the weirder riffs, to me it feels more as if they have their style, typical doom metal, and they just happened to write these riffs that were a bit strange sounding and just stuck them into songs. I say that because some songs contain them while others don't, and in the end, that wound up making the biggest difference when it came to my enjoyment of the album.
I don't have anything against a band doing straight-up doom, but this just feels so phoned in for most of it's running time it's just depressing. Raw production, sure, that's fine, but from my point of view, doom is best heard heavy, and whether that means more of a vintage tone or one that's extremely focused on low-end with more clarity put on the production, the sound of this record just doesn't work with what the band are doing. In addition to that, some of the traditional doom riffs on here are just plain uninspired. How many times have we heard someone tri-tonal riff or a ascending progression? How many times have you heard someone do a fake evil laugh for that matter? Plus most of the vocals on here are done in this dramatic sort of way, but sound strained (which might be intentional) but don't come off any more convincing than any other band attempting to rip off Candlemass (among other bands). I'm all for hero worship and individuality but most of this just did not interest me in the slightest. Harsh I know, but that's just me.
So you've probably figured out that this wasn't really my sort of album by now. Maybe you'll dig it more, I just didn't see much in here beyond a couple of riffs here and there that made me even want to return to this after my first listen. Doom fans, give it a listen if you're interested, if you don't dig doom, this is not the album to buy to help you start an interest.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: By Titan Hand, The Man From Foreign Land

Battle Dagorath - Cursed Storm of Ages (2013)

Band: Battle Dagorath
Country: California
Style: Dark Ambient/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: De Tenebrarum Principio

Several years back I was scrolling through a random metal magazine and one of those random adds that labels do to promote upcoming albums caught my eye. One of the reasons that ad caught my was because of the cover art of an album called Eternal Throne by a band called Battle Dagorath. I've been a fan ever since then.
When coming into an album like this one, for me, there is always some sort of an expectation that the album really has to have something that draws me in. Lunar Aurora, one of my favorite black metal groups of all time, for as much as I love them, even I have to admit that they gave birth to some rather average side-projects. While I certainly enjoyed the three albums from Trist (Ger) enough, I never was able to really get into the releases from Mortuus Infradaemoni, Funebris, or Nocternity. Though, funnily enough, Battle Dagorath definitely pursues the sound of Trist (Ger) more than any of the other bands, if I was only referencing those bands, I can't say that this band has found their sound yet. They definitely have a sound, but it isn't one that will stick out to you as being wholly unique to them. Their sound is very much indebted to the ideas that groups like Trist (Ger), Paysage d'Hiver, and Burzum, and while I certainly don't have any problem with that, I would have thought that by this band's third full-length, some progress would have been made towards reaching some sort of original sound. But for this album, the trio continue to go forth in the same sound that they've performed on their last two full-lengths and split.
Granted, I may love originality and uniqueness and quirky music, but I try not to be a snob. If a band does a style well enough, I can forgive originality and all the rest of the above stuff, and in the past I've certainly given this band the benefit of the doubt, and I probably would have loved to do so on here as well, but because this album just barely tops one hundred minutes in total, I have to be just a little more harsh on it. I love this sort of music as much as the next guy, but there is a time when it just gets to be too much. That mark was hit somewhere around the hour mark for me. Far be it from me to tell you how much ambient black metal is too much, but about an hour or so into this thing my attention just starts to waver and drift. For the first hour or so, I have to say that this is some well done and solidly crafted stuff. I do have to question the fact that every song that isn't straight-up ambient is over ten minutes though. If you've heard any of the band's I've mentioned positively in this review I don't think this will blow you away, but it is pretty good.
With all that being said, there are definitely moments on here that will grab you, or at least I hope they grab you like they grabbed me, because of how they stand out in the context of this album. In comparison with the rather tradition atmospheric black metal sounds that the majority of the album utilizes, Macrocosmic Haunting Vision takes an album post-black metal turn about half-way through that I found quite unexpected, meanwhile Awakened By The Spell of The Wind channels Summoning in several spots of rather "epic" inspired musical ques. I guess I just wish that the rest of the album really lived up to the standard of those tracks and delivered some more interesting and less bland material. I should say before finishing up though that the ambient tracks on here were actually quite well done. Unlike most bands who just tack on a shorter interlude, intro, or outro track within this sort of style, the several track that are done this way I think actually really fit in with the other songs quite well.
Like I said, for the majority of it's running time, I enjoyed this album quite a bit. I wish the band would focus a bit more on standing out from the crowd and perhaps craft an album that is a little bit shorter next time, but that's just me. If you dig dark ambient music or more ambient and atmospheric forms of black metal I think you'd be doing yourself a disservice by at least not listening to this thing once through at least some time during the year.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Cloud, Shadow, Earth & Flesh, Macrocosmic Haunting Vision, Interdimensional Passageway Between Worlds

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Architeuthis Rex - Eleusis (2013)

Band: Architeuthis Rex
Country: US
Style: Drone/Krautrock
Label: Zeitgeists

Back in 2011, I had my first experience with Architeuthis Rex and was really impressed with the album they put out, Urania. I haven't really kept tabs on the project too much since then until I was sent a copy of this release for coverage. While it wasn't at the top of my list, I was certainly going to cover this tape as soon as I could.
Since I don't get to listen to a whole lot of krautrock and synth based electronic music because this is a "metal" blog (whatever that means) when I finally took the opportunity to listen to this record in preparation for this review I tried to soak in every sound. The way Hades opens this thing up with watery synth lines and breathy vocals is just bizarre, but in a good way. It's unexpectedly engaging and hypnotic in it's subtle minimalism. It's quite a stark difference between the track that it leads into, the title-track, which is much more rhythmically driven and dense sounding. With it's main percussive beat being followed by a low-end bass line that contrasts against the vocals and addition synth used throughout the track, a constantly evolving track I should say. These are just the first two tracks and I was already hooked on where this tape was taking me. The tribal drums, the spacy and watery sounding synths, the whispered vocals, and the echo effects are just awesome. Yes, some of it is rather cheesy, I won't lie and say it isn't, it carries with it a touch of nostalgia from the late 70s and early 80s while infusing it with, in my opinion, a bit of an indie, home-recording, sort of a flair. That's not to say it's sounds retro or anything, but at least I got some sense of that older era of electronic music, where things were sampled and played/repeated in an almost robotic fashion in order to create a mood and hypnotize the listener. Granted, this tape does make use of distortion a lot more, maybe not a lot, but more than you'll hear on the typical minimal electronic/krautrock record.
Yes, I understand krautrock and synth based music isn't what people come here for, at least usually from what I can tell, it's certainly still worth covering. It's a fun record that I found quite lovely and easy to listen to and just keep on repeat. Fans of experimental music in general, no sub-genres for this, if you dig experimental music in general give this one a go.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Pomegranates, Triple Goddess

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Aun - Alpha Heaven (2013)

Band: Aun
Country: Montréal, Canada
Style: Ambient/Drone
Label: Denovali

For some reason, before even listening to this album, I had fooled myself into believing that I had covered a release by Aun before. I searched through my old reviews and posts on other sites but found no record of it to be found. Finally I just gave up and let this record wash over me.
Now, the first thing that caught my attention on this record was that, in the case of ambient and drone music, having ten tracks on an album is quite long. Most albums of this sort are lucky to have even half of that amount, so that obviously leads to the thought that these tracks are shorter - and they are. The average track length on here is about five minutes long, which isn't bad considering what these guys manage to do in that short span of time. Unlike many other drone and ambient groups out there who use time to their advantage to cycle through a melody or rhythm in a given track, these guys take that and, as you'd expect, cycle through that in a much faster fashion. Speeding up in this case results in many of the tracks on here shifting out of a drone and/or ambient-esque sound and into more of a breezy, post-rock inflected (at times) kind of electronica. It's very minimal, obviously, but in a sense I think that's what makes it interesting. You have all the characteristics of these rather inaccessible genres and they're sped up to create something, which in my mind is, very accessible.
Some tracks move almost completely out of the realms of the aforementioned genres above, and could almost be mistaken for a completely different band by those not paying attention. While War Is Near is clearly an homage to the likes of Sigur Rós, meanwhile Vulcan is a total tribute to the likes of 70s synth odysseys and modern space ambient music. It's strangely diverse for a record of this sort, even if you consider this an electronic record, it still has various facets of its sound from the straight-up ambient and drone based pieces to space ambient to post-rock to minimal electronica. Despite all of that, the overarching sense of darkness on each and every track on here might still be enough to scare some people away. Not everyone mind you, but some people don't like the electronic music dark, though frankly, I doubt many of those people come and read these reviews I write.
I was thoroughly entertained through each listen with this album and never found myself bored with it. Chances are if you dig electronic music and you read this blog, you'll dig this, or at least a couple of tracks from it. If not, move on, but I think that regardless of what your tastes are, this did prove to be a nice break from all the metal, so hopefully that entices some of you to give this a listen as well.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Returna, War Is Near, La Luna