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Monday, May 31, 2010

Synarchy - Scars of Gratitude



Thanks For The Memories.

Synarchy is a melodic death metal band from the Faroe Islands. For those that are unaware of the Faroe Islands, they are a group of islands in between Scotland and Iceland, the only other band that you might be familiar with that has come out from there is TYR. But on another note, since this is a debut record, influences are obviously heard throughout very clearly.
The sound on this record is very easily influenced by bands like Soilwork, Trivium, and a bit of Testament, or another similar sounding thrash band. The band remain firmly within a melodic death metal sound, most obviously in Confinement, but also have a thrash vibe to themselves as well as a very definite influence from symphonic and electronic music, but this is most notable within the keys and synthe parts. The band also have a bit of a technical edge, this is not as obvious, but they'll throw a few odd riffs and curve balls your way every once in a while.
Later tracks like Descending and the title-track, Scars of Gratitude, exhibit a bit more of a progressive side to the band. The song structures and overall musicianship on these tracks really go beyond what is shown on the album before them. These tracks also have a bit more of an atmosphere to them than others do, not that it effects the songs all that much, but the use of piano more in the background really gives the tracks a much wider sound.
Vocally, this guy has a scream similar in style to Alexi Laiho's early screams with COB. What might be more notable than this screaming similarity is the comparison that his singing has, at least with me, for those aware of the alt. rock group Three Days Grace, the singing on here sounds very similar to that. The two styles on vocals mentioned above might sound a bit odd put side by side, but it actually works in the band's favor to have a vocalist that is very clear sounding with his cleans, and very throaty screams.
The bass on this album is turned up louder than most probably would liken it to be on an album within this genre. It is by no means up in the front of the sounds, but it is clearly heard during most of the album, occasionally breaking out into it's own thing, hear The Perfect Enemy. At times this could even prove to be a bad thing, just due to the bass cutting through the guitars at some points, becoming slightly irritating, but luckily it doesn't really take away from the overall sound.
One thing that kind of brings the band down a bit is the use of some of the synthes. In most cases the keys and synthes are used to the group's benefit, hear tracks like Turning Memory and Collecting Sense, but there are a few tracks where the placement and/or choice of sound the synthe is using just hurts the song. The chorus on Keep Me Safe is almost ruined by the choice of synthe sound under the vocals. Just to mention, the keys also have their part in soloing as well as the guitars, for all the power/prog metal fans out there.
Overall, this is a decent debut record with several tracks that are hooky and have some good melodies. This surely won't top any one's lists at the end of the year, but fans of the genre will probably check this out on their own. Not the best thing, but worth at least a listen or two.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Turning Memory, Scars of Gratitude, Breaking A Dream, Place of Liberation

Fleshgod Apocalypse - Mafia EP



They're Commin' To Get You Boy.

Fleshgod Apocalypse is a technical death metal band from Italy. This is their follow-up effort to their acclaimed debut record, "Oracles," that came out in 2009. This new album really shows a progression from that album, evolution is certainly happening within this group.
The first track is Thru Our Scars, this was also the first track that the band released from this EP. Right from the get-go you get punched in the face by groovy riffs, powerful growls, and pounding double-bass. Probably what most people will fuss about, it they've haven't already, is the use of clean vocals within the track's chorus. The vocals suit the sound that the band is actually going for though, the whole classical mixed with death metal approach really wouldn't feel as complete without the band actually trying to do something fresh like the use of "operatic" clean vocals, and no they are not like female operatic.
The second track on here is titled Abyssal. This track picks up where the last one leaves off, for the most part, but sticks with more of a brutal approach. The solos on this track are much more melodic than usual, but are also, at points, reminiscent of neo-classical solos. The chorus on this track is probably the best on here as well.
The middle track on this album is called Conspiracy of Silence. This track leans more towards the first track on here, sound wise. Fast vocal delivery and technical/neo-classical riffs dominate the track along with mind-blowing drumming, similar, but not a copy, of the first track on here. Clean vocals also make a brief return in this track as well.
The fourth track on here is Blinded By Fear, an At The Gates cover. This track pretty much sticks to the original version. The drumming on here is a lot faster and might make the track feel a bit different, but that's about it; but besides that, it is actually a decent cover.
The final, and title-track, Mafia, is similar to the title-track of the band's debut album. This is really just a concluding song of piano, played well mind you. This won't blow people away with mad piano skills, it is done in a more classically performed way, and it ends the album on an up stroke.
Overall, this EP shows a major evolution in terms of song-writing for the band, utilizing more melody and structure within songs, but still keeping them technical and brutal. This EP hopefully shows what is to come in the next full-length. This is one of the most up-and-coming death metal acts right now, and it also features the vocalist of Hour of Penance on drums, definitely check this band out if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Thru Our Scars, Abyssal

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Nekrasov - Cognition of Splendid Oblivion



Black(Hole) Metal.

Nekrasov is an atmospheric/ambient black metal project from Australia. Having been formed back in 1997 by Bob Nekrasov, little more of this project and person is actually known. This is his third full-length record, his first was released back in 2007 and since then he has released a continually growing span of releases each year.
A comparison to this project has been, by those who are aware of them, Gnaw Their Tongues. Stylistic comparisons are inevitable as both artists make use of black metal, ambient music, and harsh industrial noise within their music. Outputs from both artists are both becoming vast and extensive, though GTT has a wider catalog of releases.
This is not a very easy album to listen to, period. The use of harsh noise and distortion over the entire album is enough to make a regular person just turn this off when this thing starts, but for those that can take the sonic bombardment, this album will give you in return some of the most raw and primal sounding black metal this year. The same effects found on here, for those who need a comparison, could also be seen in artists and groups like the aforementioned Gnaw Their Tongues, Anaal Nathrakh, Xasthur, and Wold; and these are all groups that create aggressive tension between the overall music and it's final sound by making the distortion loud and pressing in some one's ears.
The vocals on this album are harder to decipher and analyze, as they are distorted as well. It's hard to tell as to whether Bob is screaming, wining, speaking, or whatever because of all the distortion just makes his voice sound like he's screaming at you though a bunch of white noise coming through your radio, and that, surprisingly, is a fairly accurate description. One can question the motives towards the achievement of this type of pounding aggression that the vocals provide, if it is merely because Bob is angry or what type of emotion is being shown within a given track.
The vocals are not the most entertaining thing on this album, as sifting through all the noise can be a bit tasking, but ultimately rewarding. Within all this extreme noise actually lucks some melody and clear sense at making songs. While the album's opening track Heresy, Heresy, Heresy Oh, Where Have You Gone? is very much dominated by industrial noise and ambiance, it's follow up track, Psychic Epilepsy In The Butchery of Light, actually, if you listen, has some melodic flow behind the machine gun drum machine and in-your-face vocals. It may come as a surprise to those that have never listened to music that contains such a noisy and consistent sound of aggression, but melody and atmosphere can actually exist within it. The only real break from all this comes in about the first half of Calculated Deception; Possessed By Nothing! where you get a symphonic ambient section, obviously still distorted, before the track goes into the album's most clean moment. For the rest of this track, the drums are very clear, but the vocals and guitars still sound the same, and yet it all sounds so much clearer.
The third track, and album centerpiece, Sadomasochistic Liberty Through Splendid Isolation, is most likely the only track this year that will make you want to bash your head into a wall. Even though this might sound weird, but in this case, it's actually meant to be a good thing, this track, which by the way is just over 21 minutes long, contains some of the most aggressive noise ever put to disc, at least that I've heard. Possibly the best way to describe the sound of this track is like if you're in the center of a tornado, or some sort of massive, destructive wind tunnel, and you can only hear the sound of wind all around you, drowning out everything else. This is a tasking track to listen to, not only because of it's length but the noise is so harsh it makes it difficult to hear anything else at all.
This is one of the hardest records I've had the pleasure of listening to this year. Don't misconstrue this as a bad thing, it's one of the few records that has actually made me want to listen to it over and over again just to hear what's deeper and more below the surface on here. This won't win any award for being the catchiest record or the one you'll have your first kiss to, but it's definitely one I'd recommend hearing this year.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Sadomasochistic Liberty Through Splendid Isolation

Order of Ennead - An Examination of Being



The Concept Of Philosophy Is Such A Large One Indeed.

Order of Ennead is a blackened death metal band from Florida. Having gained some notoriety in the underground by having death metal drummer extraordinaire, Steve Asheim (Deicide) on it, as well as members of tech-deathers Council of The Fallen as well. This new album demonstrates some more of what you heard on the debut album, but with a focus on writing more effective songs.
The music side of this album is like the description of the band is, blackened death metal. On here you'll find the brutality and technicality of death metal, but more tremolo picked riffs and black metal shrieked vocals. It really doesn't differ itself from that title too often in it's 45 minute coarse. The songs on here are fairly straightforward sounding with not too much diversion from a straight verse-chorus-verse-chorus format, but there are a few curve balls in here.
Among the curve balls the band throw in include ...In The Mirror, which sounds more like a technical thrash song until the vocals come in, and returns to that when the vocals stop. This track features a great solo the actually makes this track stand out the most among every other one on this album. Two other curve ball includes the title-track, An Examination of Being, which includes numerous time/tempo shifts throughout it's relatively short playing time, and A Betrayal of Self, which is similar in style to most of the other tracks, but manages to slow itself down into a mellow section during several points within the track.
Asheim's drumming, as usual, is ferocious throughout this record. Blast-beats, incredible double-bass work, and frantic fills, you would expect no less by this man. By no means is this a bad thing or a fault of his own as much as the production, where the drumming seems to focus more on his drumming rather than the actual guitars.
Another thing that has to be given to these guys is John Li's soloing on here is fantastic. His soloing actually makes a track like The Scriptures of Purification much better just from being there, very rarely will the solos on here break a song. Unlike the crazy shredding of the debut album, the solos on here are much more melodic and make use of more harmonies, recalling a melodic death metal vibe at times.
Overall, this is a decent record for what it is, technical, constantly blazing, and melodic soloing. If you're into this style of black/death metal, you'll probably already have this album and probably have listened to it over and over again already, but for those that haven't heard it yet, it's decent and isn't anything that will blow you away. You'll find that some tracks just sort of sound the same after a while, there are a few standouts, but the entirety of the record is pretty much all in the same vein as the last one.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Lies Upon The Lips of Judas, ...In The Mirror, A Betrayal of Self

Klone - Black Days



French Metal? Gojira! NO!

Klone are a progressive metal band from France. This, the band's third full-length release, experiments more with the sounds they started playing with on their last release, including use of instruments like harps, saxophones, and flutes. These guys are bringing in the new sound of progressive metal along with groups like Gojira, Hacride, Mistaken Element, and others from France, listen and enjoy.
Right from the get go, this album begins with a progressive edge. Rite of Passage begins with some folky sounding guitar, maybe even mandolins or instruments like that, before getting into a groove. You'll find that throughout this album, various different types of progressive tools are utilized.
What might surprise some is how catchy this album actually is, for a band using such abstract tools and instruments within a metal context. You'll find tracks like Spiral Down and Behold The Silence stuck in your head for some reason or another and question as to how some of these songs are so uniquely memorable. The inclusion of a very alt. metal/rock sound in here allow the music to be all too memorable while still retaining it's technical and experimental nature.
Musically, this album is full of textures due to the use of a member that uses not just keyboards, but samplers, wood wind instruments, and sound. Along with a sound that is uniquely becoming their own, the band are able to use the elements of pop, jazz, electronic, and rock all within a very progressive sounding metal foundation. While sometimes these things become a bit too much to handle, they are almost always used well and never seem to overpower one another within a single track.
Yann Ligner's vocals are a surprisingly unique blend of Gojira's Joe Duplantier and Tool's Maynard James Keenan. You have the aggression of a growl or scream but the odd melodic sense of singing all at once. The first time you hear it, it might seem a bit off-putting just due to it's quirkiness, but it soon becomes more than listenable and something that the band almost needs. For those that have never heard the band's first album, "Duplicate," that featured a different vocalist, Ligner's style is much more unique and suits the band a lot better, the other vocalist sounded like a Phil Anselmo rip-off.
This possibly the album's only downfall. In the regard that the vocalist and the music itself is very well performed and written, it's hard to tell which side of the road Klone really wants to walk down. On one hand you have tracks like The Spell Is Cast and Give Up The Rest that are heavy and groovy, but on the other you have songs like Hollow Way and Immaculate Desire which sound like Tool influence alt. metal. Not overall a bad thing that the band does combining the two together, but sometimes a bit confusing as to which they are going to eventually go down.
This is, overall, a very good record that fans of any of the bands mentioned above, as well as prog-metal fans in general, will probably enjoy. The only flaw with the album doesn't isn't really anything that hinders the album or makes it harder to listen to, but merely questions the route on which the band are treading on. This is a good album that hopefully people will hear, as these guys are in the same league with the other French bands within their genre. Check this out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Rite of Passage, Immaculate Desire, Rain Birds

Trap Them - Filth Rations EP



Don't Get Stuck In A Rut.

Trap Them are a grindcore/crust punk band from Washington. This new EP once again features their trademark sound that has garnered them so much success. Compared to the band's older material, this album, and it might be because it was released on Southern Lord Records, has a bit more of a sludge vibe to it.
The first track on here is titled Day Thirty Eight: Carnage Incarnate. Starting off with a technical riff over a highly distorted sound, you get just a very early death metal sort of vibe from the get-go. This song is a bit more structured sounding than the band's older work, with riffs that return multiple times throughout the track.
The next track is Day Thirty Nine: Degenerate Binds. This track has a bit more of a sludge vibe to it, with more mid-tempo riffs under pounding drums. This track also unleashes a lot of feedback at you during certain times where the guitars just give way to itself. The riffs on here, just to mention the sludge feeling again, actually sound a bit bluesy at times as well.
The third track is titled Day Forty: Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds. This song is extremely slow sounding for this band, very mid-tempo and old-school sludge sounding. It might just be that the track is slower that the riffs on here sound more angular than usual.
The final track on here is a redone version of the song Day Seven: Digital Dogs With Analog Collars. This track, like the album that it came from originally, is fast and very punk influenced. If you've heard the original version, it's pretty much the same.
This is, overall, a decent release from this band. It's not going to turn a lot of heads like their last 2 full-lengths did, but it's nice to see that this is the direction the band might go in in the future. Not their greatest release, but something collectors and fans will pick up either way.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Day Thirty Nine: Degenerate Binds, Day Forty: Dead Fathers Wading In The Bodygrounds

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Year of No Light - Ausserwelt



A Massive Slab of Melancholy.

Year of No Light is a sludge/doom metal band from France. The group contains 6 members that all try and have their parts showcased in the immense songs that they create. This new album experiments more with drone and psychedelia elements than their debut record did, as such, longer songs are found.
As oppose to the groups last, and debut, record that came out in 2006, "Nord," this album only contains 4 tracks. All but 1 of these songs is over 10 minutes, containing some of the most trippy doom metal that has come out this year. Removed from the sludge/stoner vibe of their older work and moving towards the psychedelic edge of Pink Floyd, but heavier.
The first 2 tracks really are 1 song separated, entitled Perséphone I and Perséphone II. The first of these is really moody and atmospheric sounding. While guitars move through areas of both Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd, the band does have 3 guitar players so this is actually possible, with keyboards that just texture and open the track up so much more than if it would have been without them. The second track brings in a much more typical doom oriented track, with heavy use of distorted bass and tribal drumming. But even saying that, the track manages to weave in moments that are more similar in style to the first track into this one, really confirming that these 2 tracks are meant to be 1.
Hiérophante is the third track on this album. The way this track begins, one would think it would be the heaviest track on here, and like said, it only starts this way. After the first few minutes, the track moves into an almost post-metal vibe, imagine Neurosis if you will for this, gradually getting slower before moving into almost complete atmosphere. About half-way through the track, the music picks up again with the same sort of post-metal vibe as before, and then descends into ambience in it's final minutes.
The final track is called Abbesse. This track is probably the most typical and almost expected type of song after the first 3. The song is very based on textural keys and guitars for the most part, around the 2:30 mark you get the most aggressive drumming on the whole record, and for about a minute, crazy fills and blast-beats rattle around your head with only ambience in front. The track soon moves into something between a regular sludge sort of track, but with way too much of an ambient and shoegaze vibe to just take it for sludge.
Overall, this is a fantastic record for when you take it for what it is, experimental doom metal. Fans of the heavier side of the genre, most of the fans in that genre anyway, but those that enjoy the mid-period stuff that Neurosis put out, or stuff that bands like Nadja or Atavist are doing, will probably find this a welcome addition to their collection. By no means is this a record that you can get everything from within the first listen; on here you'll find songs too long and textural to give you everything up front, it takes multiple listens in. If you want this sort of a record, by all means check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Hiérophante

Watain - Lawless Darkness



Wolves By Night.

Watain are a group from Sweden that have been producing some of the best black metal in the last decade. Frontman Erik Danielsson played bass in the final line-up of Dissection and tries to convey the same spirit that that band did in their time. This group has once again produced a highly unique brand of black metal that only they have been able to do.
While no one could ever say that Watain are reinventing the black metal wheel, no can say that they haven't kicked over half the genre's asses for the last decade. Having released 3 albums that took elements from Mayhem, Dissection, and Darkthrone and re-amped them with better production with every album, along with creating a more and more progressive scope of sound and an increase in effective song-writing as well. Pushing boundaries while remaining firmly within the genre's own foundational roots.
Musically, this album is just as aggressive and in-your-face as ever, but the melodic side of the band is as, if not more prominent than before as well. The progressive nature that the band has slowly been moving into their sound from 2007's "Sworn to The Dark" record is also becoming more noticeable within tracks like the instrumental title-track, Lawless Darkness, as well as the record's concluding song, the 14 minute Waters of Ain. But don't let this fool you into thinking that the band has abandoned their traditional black metal sound, as stated multiple times above, you have tracks like Malfeitor and Reaping Death which bring the melody, but also some more Venom and Bathory influenced blackened thrash.
Danielsson's vocals are just as angry and raw sounding as ever as well. Remaining steadfast in his style of a sound between a death metal growl and a black metal rasp, he has his own unique flair that is undeniably his own. Poignant words spit from his mouth into your ears like venom (a bad metaphor really), but while you may not agree with the words themselves, his delivery is top notch as well as his performance.
Once again, the production really makes this album even greater. While this is by no means a clean record, compared to a band like Dimmu Borgir or Cradle of Filth anyway, it is not a dirty sounding record either, not like early Darkthrone or bands that take away from those records, but fits comfortably in between them. The production on here allows you to hear everything clearly, except maybe the bass, but also keeps the band fairly raw and primal sounding as well. There is plenty of reverb and atmosphere on here to satisfy any black metal fan.
Overall, this is a must for any person that considers themselves fans of black metal. Watain is a group that has shown that they can make albums that, no matter how great the last one was, they can surpass it without loosing any of the fire that they've always had. Great riffs, great vocals, great mood, this is an album that is one of the best of this year. Watain has topped themselves with a record that is going to be hard to top by them and other bands in the genre as well.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Sarea - Alive



Your Cousin's Favorite Heavy Band.

Sarea are a melodic death metal band from Sweden. These guys are also what some will classify as a metalcore band; and sharing some musical similarities between groups like Sonic Syndicate and newer In Flames, doesn't help their cred either. But these guys have moved into a realm of short, catchy songs that, even still, might appease the melo-death community as acceptable.
While this is by no means the next "The Jester Race" or "The Gallery" record, one couldn't even say this is the next "Alive Or Just Breathing" album, but it's still a decent record. For what it is, this record is somewhere between Children of Bodom melo-death/power metal, and As I Lay Dying melo-thrashcore sound wise. You won't find a lot out of the ordinary, simple song structures, melodic choruses, and catchy clean vocals.
This record really bridges the gap between metalcore and power metal if you think about it doing such. Short simple metalcore songs that don't have complicated structures, but the power metal element includes really dynamic clean vocals, guitar solos, and cheesy keyboards. One couldn't really say that this is a new concept, but this record actually manages to make the two go together quite seamlessly.
One thing that does actually stand out on this record are the clean vocals over the actual instrumentation, as well as the screams. Unlike most of the record, which is fairly straightforward melodic metalcore styled, the cleans contain an almost hard rock vibe to them. Tracks like Another Me and King of Lies really stand out among other tracks due to their clean choruses.
The track Blind might turn some heads due to death metal legend Tomas Lindberg performing guest vocals on the track. While the main vocalist sings throughout most of the track, Lindberg does the screams in his usual style. Unfortunately, Lindberg really doesn't seem to fit on the track, even though his voice is used throughout the entire track, it really doesn't have a different effect than the main vocalist's scream would have had.
Overall, this is an alright record with some good songs on it. This surely won't blow any one's might, but if you're new to melo-death or any sort of metal with screaming, this would actually be a release that might get you into the heavier side of it. Decent, but not great, if you insist upon checking this out, listen to the songs below first.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Another Me, King of Lies, Purity's Fall, Sh(e)vil

Mike Patton - Mondo Cane



He Went With The Dolorian For This Trip.

Mike Patton, the frontman or multiple groups and notorious noise maker, has returned with his Italian pop record. If you don't know about this group, this record will, once again, have fans on the fence as to whether they love or hate this record. Containing songs from several generations ago, depending on your age, you might find some of these stored in your memory banks and have just forgotten about them in recent years.
For those that are not aware of what this record is supposed to be, you might be a little shocked. This is not another crazy avant-garde metal band, Fantomas, or a spastic alt. rock group, Tomahawk, or even frantic pop, Peeping Tom, this is something a bit more large. Taking songs from 50s and 60s Italian pop music and re-recording them in his own image, Mike Patton has gathered together an authentic orchestra for this project.
These tracks were originally composed and recorded by such respected composers as Ennio Morricone, Fred Bongusto, and Nico Fidenco. Patton not only recovers the spirits of the original sounds and vibes from the original tracks, but makes them into his own. Taking dramatic singing and vocalization to the next level is what Patton has done with the last decade of his music, this one doesn't push anything new, but as another review put it, it does re-emphasize that he can still sing a good tune.
While most of the stuff on this record is what you might expect from composers, you still get a bit of variation on here as well. While tracks like Che Notte! and Deep Down are in that vein of classical pop music with strings, piano, horns, and all the above in terms of the style, tracks like Scalinatella, which is a ballad with a sole acoustic guitar and voice, or Urlo Negro, which is a very bombastic track where Patton just yells most of the verse before going into a very melodic chorus, where more experimental nature comes through. Patton fans don't have to worry about this being "just" an orchestral record.
Overall, this is a nice and fun record with some great catchy songs. This most likely won't impress those who want another dose of weird from Patton, but for those that prefer his singing, this is a must. This is also something that won't win any awards for originality, but it's still a nice listen that actually has quite a bit of replay power. Check it out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Il Cielo In Una Stanza, Ore D'Amore, Quello Che Contra, Senza Fine

Friday, May 28, 2010

Island - Island



He's Calmed Down Quite A Bit.

Island is a progressive metal band from Germany. This could be considered the band's "debut" album, though they released a compilation of their older work back in 2008. This album really shows a major progression from that record and might piss some people off due to this.
For one to understand the progression from that compilation record to this one, that record must be described as well. That recording consisted of several demos and singles being put together into a single package. The sound of those recordings contained traces of Enslaved, Opeth, Dillinger Escape Plan, and some more folk aspects as well, most of these influences are now subtle and harder to read in this new album.
This new album gets rid of most of the hard and aggressive edge of those early recordings, leaving you with a similar sound to Opeth's "Damnation" record. But even this reference is fairly vague in describing the album as a whole, traces of post-rock, ambient, folk, and progressive rock are more prevalent than any sort of metal. The progression is enough to challenge any listener that has heard the band's compilation release.
Speaking of comparisons, it has to be said that members of this band come from bands that are quite well known in the underground for the tendencies to use these mellower parts in their music as well. Bands members come from groups such as Valborg and Klabautamann, who are both known for being more progressive metal oriented, granted prog-death and prog-black metal, but it is the prog that shines through on here. Parallels between the softer aspects of those bands the overall sound of this album are easily seen, even through a casual listener's ears.
This record is comprised of longer tracks, with only the centerpiece of the album, Mistral, being under 7 minutes. These longer lengths are justified within the tracks, where small details are brought in and out throughout it's course. For a fan of progressive music, it's hard not to find yourself invigorated by longer pieces, but even then some of these tracks will kind of stick together due to their elongated statures.
The synthes on this album compliment the music very well, depending on the track, you'll get very different results of what the synthes are doing. The track Waterside makes effective use of horns in it's later moments, while light use of a piano are used in Harbour. Both of these, as well as a lot more, are used very well on here, and at key points, never really taking away from the song itself, only enhancing it.
Overall, fans of the mellower side of prog will probably find this a must album for 2010. From Porcupine Tree to Katatonia to Opeth, fans of all of these bands will find common ground on this album. This won't win any awards, but it's still a solid release.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Jukai, Origin, Sol

Valborg - Crown of Sorrow



Some Get It Together, Others Don't.

Valborg is a progressive death metal band from Germany. This trio has released numerous records within the decade, not all from the band, but from multiple side projects. This, the groups third album, finds them using better production and crafting more effective songs as well.
The type of metal, while firmly rooted within the death metal sound, played is sometimes hard to tell. The obvious progressive influence makes this a bit obvious for the addition of more influences, but this group really like to make their sound eclectic. Ancient Horrors really includes elements of doom and post-rock into it's sound, while the song that follows it, Thunderbolt is much more of a mix between classic death/thrash and some more Opeth like tendencies into mellow territory.
Much like the music itself, the vocals do vary a lot, though, having 2 of the 3 members provide vocals can do that for a band. Even with this being available, it's still quite a range, from the melancholic singing of "Discouraged Ones"-era Katatonia, Dan Swano-esque growls, and even the emotional outpouring of Shining at one point, Crying Under The Fortress of God. Quite a lot of variation, if you don't like one style, the next track has a different one, so don't fret if you dislike one song for it's vocals.
The production, while still very raw and primal sounding, is still better than their last release. The recording was most likely done in a more traditional way of single tracking one thing at a time, as oppose to recording it all at once, like the last record. This is all a matter of opinion as to which sounds better, but it does provide a clearer sound.
This can be quite a hard pill to swallow due to all the different sounds and styles that go on in this record. Like Faith No More used to do when they released records, they shifted styles from track to track, this band uses the same principles. But some tracks can leave you scratching your head as to how these guys can pull off a death metal track to start the album, and finish you off with a songs where one sounds like Judas Priest playing with members of Testament and Cynic, and the other like members of Darkthrone and Entombed got together to jam and then beat each other up.
Overall, this is an oddball of a record. One listen really won't be able to provide you with an instant fix or reason to listen to this album again, you have to almost want to make yourself listen to this to try and find out why this can make sense as it does. Some may see this as inconsistent, others may find it to be a masterpiece, however you see it, you'll be in for a treat either way.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Thunderbolt, I Am Space

Exodus - Exhibit B: The Human Condition



Rebel With A Cause.

Exodus, as many are probably familiar with, is a legendary thrash metal band from California. After decades of line-up problems, the band has, in recent years, found a steady line-up and released some of their most consistent work. This new record continues that streak with another trashtastic punch in the face.
What many might see as an odd decision, the album starts with an acoustic section, but this only lasts for a little while, as the track, The Ballad of Leonard and Charles, soon goes into a great chugging riff. This opening track, excluding it's opening, really harks back to the band's earlier sound of heavy, fast, aggressive, and melodic songs, with, as I may, killer solos. While the title says "Ballad," it is certainly anything but, musically speaking, punching you in the balls from the get-go.
As always the guitars on the album really showcase a mix between aggressive speed metal and melodic heavy metal perfectly. Gary Holt and Lee Altus are on fire, seeming to top themselves with every release. Solos range from outlandish whammy-bar playing, melodic Iron Maiden-esque dual leads, to typical slick speed playing, as well as more; their riffs are catchy and is not overtaken by Rob Dukes vocals at all, never being content just being the background.
But Dukes is still a vocalist, and he pounds out those shouts/screams with full intensity. His words being the venom that speaks of what the cover of the album is, war, death, evil, and all the above. While there are some who doubt and dislike his vocal style, he is definitely a front man that can at least speak of some topics intelligently without sounding like a fool saying them.
While this album is still very much a thrash metal album, and the band will always remain that, you have some similar styles making their way into the song-writing as well. There are plenty of groovy and mid-paced tracks on here as well like March of The Sycophants and Nanking. You still have your more traditional sounding metal tracks, most notably in Hammer and Life, that hark back to the Iron Maiden of the mid 80s. In recent albums the band has even started experimenting with progressive metal a bit, and that is heard within the instrumental A Perpetual State of Indifference as well as in the song Democide. One thing that stuck out was the small influence of even melo-death in the opening of Downfall.
Even the drumming on the album is stellar, Tom Hunting playing his ass off. Whether it's in more simplistic grooves or rapid fire triplets, Class Dismissed (A Hate Primer), you know this guys can play. While this is no doubt a guitar player's record of choice, the drumming on here can keep up with even the best, listen to it.
Overall, this is a stellar record with plenty of replay power. Except for a few hiccups here and there, no one can really say this is a bad record, unless you hate certain members of the band or just don't like thrash. Great songs, great riffs, great choruses, what more could you want.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Beyond The Pale, Downfall, Nanking, Good Riddance

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Altar of Plagues - Tides EP



We're Heading Out To Sea.

Altar of Plagues is a post/progressive black metal band from Ireland. This EP is the follow-up to their acclaimed debut album last year. This album kind of picks up where the last album left off, but seems to focus more on the darker side of the band.
While the debut full-length from these guys last year was by no means a light and easily listen, this record proves to be a lot more aggressive sounding, but not in the way one might expect. Yes, these guys still make long songs, both tracks on here are over 15 minutes long, and yes, they still have a very post-metal/rock way of building up tracks, but it's the overall sound of this record that has these guys sounding darker. The aggression I'm referring to comes in the rawness of the recording, the darker tones used, and the overall more dissonant sound found on here are the aggression being referred to here.
The gritty sound of this record really lends itself towards the more doom atheistic being played on this record. While you still have those black metal riffs, and I'm not inferring that this is the band's doom record, but the sound takes a more sludge/post-metal like approach instead of black metal. The band is really focusing on the aspects of their sound where the songs build and fall into and over each other, hence the title of the EP.
Overall, this is a strong release from a great new band. Fans of their older work will find this just as enticing and attention grabbing. For fans of the post-metal, progressive metal, or any form of black metal, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Weight of All

Senmuth - Knigi Vozneseniya I - EP, Knigi Vozneseniya II



Two For The Price of One.

Senmuth's releases in late March and April included these two albums that were linked together. The sound of these two records in considerably more metal sounding than his recent material this year. Taking elements from his past and modernizing them even further into a more progressive piece of music.
The first of these two records is an EP containing 2 songs. The first of these songs being just under 20 minutes in length, the second one being just over 7. This release recalls more of Senmuth's more metal side, and makes it even more progressive than before.
The first track, Teksty Piramid, is the track that most will want to hear from this release, being that it is one of his longest consecutive pieces of music, or in other words, one of his longest songs. This track moves through elements of ambient, electronic, and symphonic music within the first half of the song before it even turns metal. Once that metal part comes in though, it is heavy, think old-school death metal with modern production moving through phases of industrial. The bass in this song is very clear and has some great lines that carry the song from part to part within the metal parts of the song.
The second track is titled Teksty Sarkofagov, and the previous track just moves into it without stumbling a bit. This track is perhaps a bit more on the experimental side of Senmuth, playing more with electronics rather than metal. In comparison with the previous track though, this one builds a lot better, with multiple parts happening simultaneously and feeling like a full piece of music. This song also has a bit of a chorus melody that reappears in the track, making it a bit easier to wrap your head around.
Overall, this is actually a very good EP, and one of the best things Senmuth has released this year. Utilizing almost everything he's used in the past, and mixing them together has really made this release stand out. Definitely worth checking out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Teksty Piramid


This next one is the second part of the release, a full-length album. This album returns to Senmuth's usual style of ethno-ambient music. The only thing that could really be seen as a connection between these two albums is the titles really.
This album, as a lot of ambient music does, links all the tracks together into a seamless single piece of music. Due to this fact, it becomes hard to distinguish when one track ends and another begins, some will probably see this as a good thing, but it makes it harder for a single track to stick out among them all. I won't deny that this fact doesn't effect the album's nature for repeat power, it can make you wonder, if you listen to this thing straight from beginning to end, where one section is and you never bothered to look at a track listing.
The ability for the music to flow into each other is not entirely bad though either. When listening to this album, it actually does enhance the listening experience a bit, by not having any cut-offs or skips in between tracks. It also allows this album to go by a little bit quicker, this thing is over an hour long, and it doesn't seem to pass by as it might if you did have single tracks.
The tribal drumming on this album is really what makes this album interesting, the melodies provided by the flutes, synthes, and other instruments are lackluster. The drums are just heavy and keep things moving, managing to change up their pace from track to track. But in the end, this does not save the record from ultimately becoming boring.
The only comparison to the EP comes in near the end of the album in possibly the best track, Kniga Nebes. This track begins like almost every other track on this album, but about mid-way through, you just get kicked in the face by distorted guitars and blasting drums. The second time metal is used on this record is on the final track, Kniga Peresecheniya Vechnosti; this track contains a bit more of an industrial vibe to it, as opposed towards a more, almost death metal type of assault on the other track. These two track are really the only time on this album where metal even begins to enter the picture.
Overall, this record is lackluster at best, remaining just another Senmuth album. Collectors and fans of his will no doubt download this either way no matter what is said about it, but if you were expecting this to be your gateway into this drug, you better go a different way. Not unlistenable, but after one, there is sorely little to go back to and listen to again.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Kniga Am-Duat, Kniga Svyaschennoy Korovy, Kniga Nebes

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Division By Zero - Independent Harmony



Make 'Em Proud Boys.

Division By Zero is a progressive metal band from Poland. This is their second release and takes more of a traditional progressive route instead of their older more death metal influenced work. Featuring a sound akin to that of Dream Theater's, but is not a rip-off sound, this album is sure to impress fans of with this newer input style.
One could easily describe the style on this album as simply as Dream Theater mixed with Riverside, with the occasional Opeth moment or two here and there. Once again, this is to put it simply, but there are plenty of moments where the band manage to go into an original part or just seem to sync together in a groove that makes them a bit more distinguishable from every other prog-metal band out there. Aside from this, the band doesn't really do anything that will make you sit up and notice something that you've never heard before.
The songs on this album aren't too terribly long either, the longest ones are just over 7 minutes. From someone that's into long instrumental passages with show-off solos and wank sessions, this is probably where you won't get into this; but the people that are into more song based prog, keep on listening. Within each of these tracks there is enough to keep your attention for the duration of the track, so you don't have to worry about your attention drifting off from long passages.
As one might expect, this album does have it's more ballades and sombre moments along with it's metal side. The center-piece for the album is a short ballad entitled Not For Play, sitting comfortably between two heavy tracks. While the rest of the album does contain slower and more mellow parts, it never goes full-on ballad like this track did though.
The vocals on this album, for a progressive vocalist, in a genre where a lot of singers sound similar, if not the same, this guy manages to prove himself. From his low death grunts within the title-track, Independent Harmony, to his melodic, hard rock-esque singing on Wake Me Up, he has enough to where you won't get sick of his vocals so easily. Comparisons are probably easy for someone that has listened to a lot of progressive metal to say this guy sounds like so and so, but he still carries his voice very well.
Overall, this record is a decent progressive record that fans of the genre will most likely find enjoyable at the very least. You won't have your mind blown by this album, but you'll have a decent collection of songs that will no doubt have you going back to them at least a few more times before you get bored of them. Not the prog record of the year, but decent enough to check out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Wake Me Up, Don't Ask Me, Intruder

Celestiial - Where Life Springs Eternal



Out In The Woods Where Nature Surrounds.

Celestiial is a funeral doom "trio" from Minnesota. The word "trio" is used loosely due to the fact that this is really a project formed and conceptualized by Tanner Reed Anderson. This group really explores natural and more ethereal methods towards the funeral doom style that are only now starting to become more recognized within the metal world.
Something that I found to be intriguing about the sound of this album was the use of water or rain throughout its entirety. From first to last, the sound of rain can be heard, sometimes up in front, sometimes more in the background, but it's still there. This can prove a bit tiring to hear, with this sometimes being the only sound at certain points in the album, and, at times, even drowning out the other instruments.
Though this is funeral doom, it is by no means a record that you could hold up to bands like Esoteric or Mournful Congregation. While those bands utilize heavy, distorted guitars that move at a sluggish pace, their structures and compositions are all very arranged and put together into a set format, this record is more free and open within the boundaries of improvisation. This moves the music into a very ambient sound at some points, with slow, dirge-like riffs playing more to an overall vibe, as oppose toward a song.
Like most funeral doom, or doom metal in general, albums, this album is long, but compared to some other bands in the same genre, this is relatively short, only clocking in at around 56 minutes. The five tracks that are on here could really be seen as a lot of filler, as 3 of the 5 are short, clocking in at under 5 minutes. The other 2, being over 15 minutes both; with Great Storms Carry My Sadness being just over 30 minutes.
The two long tracks on this album really are the main attractions. These tracks move through droning guitar chords to ambient moments of rain and even wildlife calls, animals, if you were wondering. Not the most appealing or mystifying style ever performed, but alludes towards the freeness of nature itself, moving slowly and is unpredictable, in some cases, but I'm referencing more towards the improvisation element here.
Tanner's vocals really differ from the low grunts that other doom bands use in their sound. One could compare his screams to that of the suicidal black metal bands, but not quite as cheesy or cliche sounding as that. The screams that he belts out are primal and emotional sounding, so they don't really feel all that contrived; seeing as there are also very few of them in the entire record adds to this as well.
Overall, this record is decent for what it is, the style itself does not lend itself towards making catchy hooks and melodic riffs. The opening tracks are decent enough, but this record trails off near it's end and can become rather monotonous, boring even. If you're into the genre you might want to at least hear this record, but otherwise, it's nothing special that you should concern yourself with.
Overall Score: 4.5
Highlights: From Elm Blossoms A Rose, Songbirds Depart Through The Passing Near The Garden

Sunday, May 23, 2010

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Lost



They Screamed, But No One Came.

AAFCC is an experimental black metal band from the Netherlands. This is the trio's debut album, coming from no other bands, or at least any that are known about, these three weave in and out of genres to make this a unique sounding debut. Combining depressive and melancholic atmospheres with more blackened doom structures makes this band a difficult, but rewarding album to listen to.
The sound that this band has been described as having is a mix between black metal, doom metal, and post-rock. All of these are on this record, no problems, but the way they are played in conjunction with each other is different, considering that many have labeled this group as being more in the depressive black metal sound. One could certainly trace certain elements of the band's sound back to that style, but if you're familiar with these groups, you could see them having more in common with groups like Katatonia, Anaal Nathrakh, or Lifelover.
The overall vibe includes a rather clear sound, where everything is heard without much trouble, but still has a very black metal sound as well. Noise litters this record, hence the Anaal Nathrakh comparison, but a lot of it comes from the guitars. Lifelover comes into play with the very shoegaze/post-punk melodies that are fluent in these songs, hear Tragedy Bleed All Over The Place. The Katatonia reference should be perfectly clear with the very ambient wall of sound that comes into play when the band decide to mellow themselves out.
Despite being labeled by some as a depressive black metal band, despite the influence that it does have on here, this band is much more "progressive/experimental" than most of those bands ever showcase in any of their music. The band-track, An Autumn For Crippled Children, on here has some of the most beautifully melancholic piano work on a record this year. The band also frequently make use of acoustic guitars and more simplistic melodies in their quieter moments that most bands in the above genre rarely ever use. Another thing that separates this trio from that style is the lack of monotony in their music; most bands from the DBM scene can repeat one part for minutes or entire songs before changing, these guys manage to change parts repeatedly, but not in the math metal way, just in case anyone might have thought that.
Despite what anyone, including myself, thinks of the name that this band has chosen, it actually is fitting for their music. Certain moments evoke or conjure up images of these paralyzed children in pain, as disturbing as this might be, in your head, listen to I Beg Thee Not to Spare Me. Just the idea of this will probably turn a lot of people off, but those who do take the opportunity to listen will find that the music is actually good.
Overall, this is a very good album with a lot of twists and turns that many wouldn't expect from a band with this name. If you've been looking for a band that is progressive and experimental, yet still underground, this is something you should consider checking out. Based on the name, this group probably won't get that big, but their talent for crafting a unique and creative sound is something that should be praised. Check these guys out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: A Dire Faith, In Moonlight Blood Is Black, Never Shall Be Again

Ramesses - Take The Curse



Brethren, Rise For The End Is Upon Us.

Ramesses is a sludge/doom metal band from the UK. The trio is known for their guitarist and drummer being ex-members of the doom legends, Electric Wizard. This is the trio's second full-length record following up their multiple splits and EPs after their debut.
The style of Ramesses is what one might expect from the genre, slow and heavy. The sound on here is very dirty and crusty, but does not feel as old as you might imagine it being. These guys play their doom with a hint of black and punk influence as well as the obvious Sabbath, Vitus, and Pentagram. But one couldn't really put them into the sludge as much as the doom.
You really can't put your finger on how one song seems like one band and the next one sounds like another band. The heaviness and gruffness in Black Hash Mass reminds of the last Celtic Frost record while the title-track, Take The Curse, kind of sounds like Neurosis' "Through Silver In Blood" record. Not one track really sounds like another, which is good when in comparison to other doom bands that usually have similar sounding tracks.
Despite being so based in doom and how slow this is, it really carries with it the air of psychedelia. Tracks like The Weakening and Khali Mist really exemplify this by being almost hazy and noxious sounding. This could definitely be traced to the former Electric Wizard sound that is still very much in here.
The guitar playing of Tim Bagshaw on this record really captures doom in it's truest and most traditional form, but also manages to put his own influences into it as well. Summoning the sounds of Tonny Iomi and Wino into his guitar and morphing them into even more demented and mournful tones that are wretchedly slow, hear Baptism of The Walking Dead. This is the sound doom really should strive for in their guitar players, heavy and crushing, but with an emotion that can be felt.
Vocally, Adam Richardson is quite diverse for a doom vocalist. His voice goes up into your old-school singing, into low funeral doom growls, black metal screams, and even a bit of stoner rough talking. Whether one appeals to a listener's ear more than the others is all subjective, but this guy can at least give doom vocalists a run for their money in terms of diversity, but maybe not consistency.
One thing that is a bit of a turn-off is the amount of samples used within this album. In almost every track, a sample from a movie is used; granted, these aren't your cheesy modern day samples from movies like "300" or "Goodfellas," these sound like they're from old horror movies. Just the sheer amount of samples used is a bit annoying, but they aren't so bad that they ruin the song or bog it down.
Overall, this is a very different type of doom metal record, mainly due to it's diversity. There aren't a lot of doom metal bands that experiment within different styles and make it work for them, granted, this record is a bit schizophrenic at times, but it works. Chances are that if you aren't into doom you probably won't like this, but if you are, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Terrasaw, Baptism of The Walking Dead, Another Skeleton, Khali Mist

White Hills - White Hills



The Mothership Has Arrived!

White Hills is a neo-psychedelic/space rock band from New York. Formed out of the need to bring space rock into the modern era, the groups founder Dave W. originally started this as a solo project. As more members began to join in, the music has become more and more praised and highly regarded as a unique take on the style.
The sound of this album, and the band in general, is very groovy and trippy. Like most good space rock, the music is used to entrance the listener and it is constantly building. Waves of lush noise wash over the band as they play, giving this album a very retro feel to it. Besides your average first thought of Hawkwind being a main influence, you have plenty of Pink Floyd in here as well, like the solo in We Will Rise, as well as a bit of Mogwai within the way Three Quarters is played in an almost post-rock way.
The first track, Dead, really starts off the album on a rock based note. This track is more of a noisy rock track with elements of space rock and psychedelia sewn throughout it. It is not till the second track, Counting Sevens, starts that this entrancement really grabs you. Each track from here on flows together into a sequence of tracks that either pulls you in or pushes you out of this state.
For anyone that expects this to be a clean sounding record, production wise anyway, they'll only be about half right. This record could be a bit more dusty sounding for my taste, but they keep the retro vibe in their playing enough to still captivate the spirit of 70's space rock. Most of the guitar sounds are quiet and ambient, this could also be said of the synthesizers as well, allowing the vocals, bass, and drumming really capture the sound. Don't let this make you think that there is no distorted guitar parts, there are plenty, hear the end of Let The Right One In.
The two longer tracks on the album, Let The Right One In and Polvere Di Stelle, really capture the spirit of 70's space and psychedelic rock in perfection. These tracks build and crescendo like the shorter tracks do not, allowing them to be all the more captivating. The vocals on these tracks are much more like chants rather than singing.
Overall, this is a very cool record filled with entrancing moods and textures. Fans of the genre will most likely already at least know of this group, but if you haven't yet heard of them, check them out. This will probably not blow your mind, but it's a good listen that doesn't feel as long as it really is.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Three Quarters, Let The Right One In, Polvere Di Stelle

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Eclectika - Dazzling Dawn



In Space, No One Can Hear You Scream.

Eclectika is a post-black metal group from France. This is their second "official" full-length record coming 3 years after 2007's "The Last Blue Bird." This album really broadens the horizons that that album concluded with and includes some stuff your traditional, kvlt fan, will most likely hate.
The trio that comprise this album include three vocalists in all. Essentially, you have Alexandra Lemoine and Aurélien Pers performing only vocals, while Sébastien Regnier does vocals and everything else. You really do get a weird assortment of vocals on here, from traditional black metal rasps to operatic male and female vocals. Just to mention, the female vocals on this album actually seem to hark back to early Cradle of Filth styled vocals, think "Dusk... And Her Embrace"-era.
Compared to the last album, this album is much more avant-garde sounding. The last album could be considered as black metal with traces of prog rock and neo-classical elements within it; and that cannot be said from this album. Sure, those elements are still in here, but more prevalent influences of industrial, or electronic music, are present within the first "real" song on here.
The overall composition of these songs feels very classical. Whether it's the more symphonic traces found behind the guitars, or just the way the guitars are played, makes this feel very classically composed. One riff to another sounds how you would imagine one orchestra moving from section to section, hear the title-track, Dazzling Dawn.
Compared to even your typical black metal album, the production on here is very odd sounding. The production, as a whole, is quite clean for a black metal band, not as clean as some of the more well known acts, but for an underground act, but the music really can be gauged from this, all opinion based, but it just sounded a bit different. Another thing is that, and this one is really subjective, is how loud the keys sound, some are louder than others, they are quite high up in Les Démons Obsédants Du Regret, but are put in a regular spot on Sophist Revenge.
The guitar solos on here though, like mentioned above, recall a very neo-classical kind of vibe. Another thing is that they are louder than the other electric guitars as well, but seem to be placed in a normal spot in the mix. Solos in There Is No Daylight In The Darkest Paradise really stand out on here.
An odd thing on here is the number of instrumentals and/or interludes as some might see them. You essentially have 4 instrumentals on this album, and they're not your average type of interlude based tracks. All of the tracks are keyboard dominated, but 3 of the 4 are performed in symphonic and orchestral based parts that are actually quite well done, don't really think of them as just bridging one track to another, because there are actually two side-by-side each other, but as actual songs/tracks on the album; you'll get through this a lot easier thinking about it this way.
Overall, this is a very odd album, if you're going to listen to it, do it with an open mind. While this is neither the most progressive or avant-garde black metal record, it is also not the most kvlt or trve one either, so it will probably let down people from both sides, it is still unique sounding. There are very few bands out there, that I know of at least, that sound like this does. Check it out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Les Démons Obsédants Du Regret, There Is No Daylight In The Darkest Paradise, The Next Blue Exoplanet

Sayyadina - The Great Northern Revisited


Recap The Swedish Grind.

Sayyadina was a grindcore trio from Sweden. The band split when bassist Jon Lindqvist joined Nasum. This is essentially a compilation of songs from splits, EPs, demos, and other odds and ends material put together and released on Relapse Records.
The drumming on this record is absolutely frantic and insane sounding. The use of both death metal blast-beats to hardcore punk spazz-outs on the kit, this guy was having a spazz attack on the kit. Each track introduces something different from his playing, hear the blasting in The Awakening or the slower, groovier playing in the beginning of All This Fear.
For good reason Lindqvist was recruited to Nasum, his playing is great. His tone on here is very fuzzy and distorted, but groovy and fast. His bass is heard prominently throughout every song, and sometimes will come out and do a few bass lines to pound your head along with, hear Min Onva Vän for a prominent example.
The guitars feature great fret-work on here, not that one could call this thing technical metal, but the riffs range from groovy and more mid-paced to bang your head into a wall fast, and both prove to be super catchy. Tracks like From Ashes and Med Livet Som Insats feature some of the catchiest grind riffing out there right now, or back then.
Vocals actually prove to be quite ranged. On these tracks you'll hear everything from Sikth type of yells, Napalm Death growls, and Tomas Lindberg screams, sometimes all in one track. If you don't like one style, you can probably skip to the next track and you'll have another style on that, so don't fret if one style isn't your cup of tea.
Like all good grind, the songs on here are short and concise, the longest track on here is about 2:30. This allows this album to feature 30 songs in just over 30 minutes of time. You're basically getting what you pay for, a lot of grind for whatever you happen to spend on it.
Overall, what you get on here is 35 minutes of absolute grind. If you like fast, short, and catchy songs with a very punk-like aesthetic, this is an album you should very much consider checking out. While this is only a compilation album, it is still worth your time.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: The Revenge, Someday I Will Kill, From Ashes, Retaliation, Compulsion, Stagnation

Anathema - We're Here Because We're Here



Walk Into New Horizons.

Anathema is a progressive/atmospheric rock band from the UK. Having started in 1990 as a doom/death metal band, they have gradually expanded their sound into what has been considered as a new sort of Pink Floyd. This new album features some guests on it and some of the most adventurous song-writing yet from the band.
Compared to most of the band's previous releases, this album is very upbeat. Opening tracks Thin Air and Summer Night Horizon are very melodic and catchy, and to an extent, even dancy at some moments, but they never lose that atmosphere. For some, the opening few tracks could prove a bit difficult to get past, simply due to the fact that the production is very "sunny" feeling.
The production on here is very open, allowing everything to be heard, but is maybe a bit too light sounding. If that doesn't make much sense, I'll try to elaborate; this album has the sound of a summer album. While this is no good-time, summer pop record, it has the sort of big production that those album do. Imagine sitting on a beach staring out onto the horizon over the ocean, and this would be the music you would probably hear behind you.
David Vincent's vocals on this album are actually almost perfect for how the music sounds behind him. He provides an almost poppy performance on a lot of the tracks, but later songs feature more depth and almost melancholy into his voice. The additional use of female vocals also brings a sort of depth into the vocals, whether it's the very melodic line accompanying Vincent on Everything or the bluesy solo lines on Presence, they work either way.
The guests mentioned above include guest vocals on the track Angels Walk Among Us by HIM's Ville Valo. The second guest handles the mix on the album, Porcupine Tree's Steven Wilson. Neither of these guests terribly effect the overall sound, but they do add a certain vibe to things. Valo's vocals aren't as up front or as dark as one might assume from him, as it is sometimes even hard to tell whether he or Vincent is singing.
The Steven Wilson elements certainly are in here, listen to the trip-hop elements in Universal or the more shoegaze aspects of Get Off, Get Out. His influence is certainly present within both the music and the very highly produced sound of the record. While Wilson doesn't personally appear on the record, his presence is felt throughout.
The real sort of Anathema sound comes out on A Simple Mistake. This track combines their usual kind of ambient rock sound with elements of post-rock/metal to make it build and crescendo much more than the earlier parts of the album. This track starts off very low-key and mellow, but like what was just said, it builds into a very heavy and melodic rock part.
Overall, this is a good album; and while it doesn't really have the darker and more melancholic moments that I personally enjoy, it is still very good. If you're into progressive or ambient music, this is probably something you should listen to if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Dreaming Light, Angels Walk Among Us, A Simple Mistake, Hindsight

Friday, May 21, 2010

Toro Y Moi - Causers of This



Pop, With A Different World View.

Toro Y Moi is a chillwave/synthpop artist from South Carolina. This is his debut full-length and it is most definitely not what a metal head would listen to at all. For anyone who doesn't want to listen to something a little bit different, stop reading this now.
For those unfamiliar with the chillwave genre of music, I'll do a brief explanation. Chillwave is basically a mix of shoegaze, ambient, electronic, and world music, at it's core anyway. It is also categorized by a heavy use of sampling.
But onto the music, this whole album feels pretty psychedelic. While musically, this is, at it's core, synthpop, it has way too much depth to be considered just another synthpop record. The influence and use of texture and layering through ambient music on here just makes some of these tracks very open and wide sounding, hear You Hid.
Still, this is a pop record, so a lot of tracks are very straightforward in nature and very formatted. You won't find a lot of detouring from a very carved in stone path on here, mostly verse-chorus-verse style. This does cause a bit of a problem for those who are looking for something a bit different or more "progressive" in nature. All of these tracks are under 4 minutes, so just to reiterate the comment above again, this is most definitely not a "progressive" album at all.
But within here, besides the whole psychedelic idea floating around in the production, you have a very 80's-esque disco vibe as well. Most tracks recall a very prominent Talking Heads influence, but two of the most obvious of those in this department would have to be Thanks Love and the title-track, Causers of This. I wouldn't say it's the most prominent influence on here, but most certainly one of the most audible.
The vocals on here are definitely not the strong point on here at all. The vocals are tolerable at best when they are very monotone kind of sung, but are horrendous when they go falsetto. Tracks like Imprint After is almost unlistenable due to how the vocals sound on it. There are also some weird vocal effects on Fax Shadow where the vocals seem to move in and out, moving with the music mind you, of the each other.
Saying that, this record is not completely terrible. A handful of tracks manage to stand above the rest, Low Shoulder features a very catchy and danceable 80s synthe melody with some decent vocals over it. Opener Blessa is most definitely one of the best songs on here, it's short and concise, but features a decent chorus and beat.
Overall, this record isn't really all that great. It has it's moments, but for the most part it remains fairly boring and almost yawn worthy at times. Save yourself the displeasure of this album and, unless you're trying to catch some z's, don't waste half an hour on this.
Overall Score: 4
Highlights: Blessa, Minors, Fax Shadow, Low Shoulder

Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma



Where Hip-Hop Has Not Dared to Tread.

Flying Lotus is the pseudonym for California based beat-maker, Steven Ellison. This album is the follow-up to 2008's highly acclaimed album, "Los Angeles." This album takes experimental beats into realms that more mainstream hip-hop and beat-makers have not touched and embraced yet.
A large amount of jazz influence on this record is almost unique, in terms of the type of album it is. The samples used both take from and reference jazz and fusion throughout the album, so most in fact that it is almost a theme for the album. Prevalent showcases of this influence are demonstrated in the bass solo on Pickled!, the almost orchestral based MmmHmm, or the scat singing on Do The Astral Plane. Ellison's cousin, Ravi Coltrane, plays saxophone on a few tracks on this album as well, hear Arkestry.
Another thing that is used quite frequently on this album is the use of a harp. Tracks like Intro/A Cosmic Drama aren't dominated by the use of the instrument, but merely utilize it in a more abstract fashion. Creating melodies and almost atmosphere at the same time, depending on how it's used in the track, gives the tracks with the instrument in them a bit of a different color.
But for those that might think that this album has become a jazz remix type of record, do not fret, the trademark samples and beats are still present. More as a mixture of both the electronic and the jazz sides of his music showcased in one record is how one could see these tracks. The elements of hip-hop, electronic, and break-beat are all in full swing in tracks like Computer Face/Pure Being.
Guests vocals on this album are provided by Radiohead's Thom Yorke and Laura Darlington. Yorke provides vocals are the retro-video game sounding ...And The World Laughs With You, providing some subtle lines over the top of this short track. Darlington provides vocals for Table Tennis, giving the track a very soulful like vibe that the other tracks don't really seem to explore.
Overall, this is a fairly decent experimental electronic album with some cool exploitative tendencies. The influence of jazz really makes this album a lot more enjoyable sounding than it might have been without it, but that's really just an assumption at best. If you're into music that can be mainstream, but still capture the imagination, check this record out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Zodiac Shit, MmmHmm, Recoiled, Dance of The Psudo Nymph