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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vielikan - A Trapped Way For Wisdom (2010)

Band: Vielikan
Country: Tunis, Tunisia
Style: Progressive Death Metal
Label: Independent

I realize that this album came out a little further back than what I've been covering recently, and rest assured I don't plan on covering any other albums from 2010 this year, this was an album I needed to cover. If only to just break out of the rut of 2011 releases that back up my computer and desk, I needed to cover something that didn't come out last year and needed to get done before I cover anymore releases from this year. What better way to do that than to cover a band I had never heard of and had heard nothing about before they sent me a message.
About three or four years back, before I had really gotten into black and doom metal, I was huge into the whole prog-death scene and religiously looked up any band that had that tag attached to it. In recent years, my interest in that genre has dwindled away, since most bands have failed to leave any sort of last impression on me, besides the already known Opeth, and a couple of others, so I've kind of glazed over any release that has/had come out that had been described as "progressive death metal." Strangely enough, even when I was really into the genre, I don't recall ever coming across Vielikan before they sent me a message. It seems a bit odd to me that I don't think their name ever came up in my searches for proggy and experimental death metal bands, you'd think I would at least remember the name if they did come up. Even though I was hesitant, I checked it out, and it was exactly what I needed to hear from a band that's called progressive death metal.
It might be a bit presumptuous of me to say this since this is the band's first full-length record, but I do think these guys have the potential to match groups like Opeth in terms of songwriting abilities. Sonically, there's definitely a link from the sound Opeth have pioneered and where these guys are on here, but Vielikan seem to take plays from the likes of Atheist and Meshuggah as well. Though it is noticeable on the first two tracks, it becomes obvious on Zero Affection that these guys are more technical than perhaps a good portion of bands within this sub-genre of death metal, though they never go overboard into sounding like they're wanking off on their instruments. Granted, that's not to say the band don't have their moments of simplicity and being derivative, within the same track I just mentioned, there band close out the track with a rather bland sounding riff that sounds like it could have come out of any metalcore bands playbook. I know I've said this in the past, and it remains true, but I love it when I can hear the bass player in a band and on here the bass definitely has a place within the band that isn't just adding extra low-end. Tracks like Black Marsh and A Trapped Way For Wisdom definitely stick out for not only being great songs, but having interesting bass playing that is a bit jazzy at times and deserves to be heard. I should also mention that despite the technicality showcased on some of these songs, there is never a moment where that overtakes songwriting and melody, a song is never about showing how many notes you can play in five seconds or that kind of mindset, it's all about the song, and that's where these guys succeed more so than most other bands attempting this.
If you've been searching for a band that fills in the holes between Opeth, Meshuggah, and Atheist all dwell, this is what you should seek out. I'm very glad to see there are still bands that can still do interesting things even after most of my interest has faded from a genre and bring new love to the genre. This album gets a very high recommendation from me, if you're into forward thinking metal, this is a must for you.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: A Shelter of Flesh In The Void, Black Marsh, A Vertiginous Fall

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Scowl - Demo (2011)

Band: Scowl
Country: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Grindcore
Label: Independent

Despite not making it onto my list last year, I did think that grindcore had a pretty solid run last year, and when I was sent this EP I had no reason to question that. I knew as soon as I got this that it was going to be good (just a feeling) and I'll tell you right now I wasn't wrong. In my searches for demos, or where people have sent me demos, I can't recall ever getting or finding one from a grincore band before this one.
What more could you ask for from a grindcore record more than five songs that just tops seven minutes in total. These five songs deliver the punishing intensity of grindcore with the atmosphere of a sludge outfit. It's a cool idea that I haven't heard done all that often before and I think that it allows the band to kind of cross a divide between the sludge and grind genres and find a sort of middle ground where fans can meet. The blues riff that comes in at the end of Manipulation was a little surprising as the rest of the album dwells more or less within the realms of grinding crust or dirge-like sludge. My only real complaint with this release is that I found the snare drum to sound a bit too flat and it stuck out a little too much for me. I was a little worried that because this is a demo, the production would have made this sound sloppy and muddy sounding, luckily, this is not in that vein, it's not super polished, but every player can be heard clearly.
I expected this to be good before I ever pressed play on it and I was right in my assumption (for once) and it did not let me down. At times it might veer too much into sludge for my own personal taste, which is fine, a band's got to be as original as they can these days, but it's by no means a fault. If you like grindcore, hardcore, crust punk, or even sludge to an extent, I don't think you'll be disappointed with this demo.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Nine, Moribund

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Second Family Band - Twelfth Night Reunion (2011)

Band: Second Family Band
Country: Madison, Wisconson
Style: Psychedelic Folk/Freak Folk
Label: Brave Mysteries

I'm a fan of folk and psychedelic music, the former has probably been more present than the ladder, nevertheless, I was very interested in this album once I first found out, stylistically, what kind of record it was. Upon looking up the band I only realized that they had released about a dozen-plus releases throughout their existence, so this is my introduction to the band. This is another review that's been quite a while coming, as this has been a difficult one to really digest.
Ok, admittedly, despite my love of 60s and 70s psychedelic and progressive music, folk rock, jazz-fusion, and whatever else was more likely to be used as an accompaniment to a psychedelic drug back then, freak folk is a sub-genre that I have yet to explore deeply. Though I am certainly no stranger to improvisational music, I can't say that I've been the biggest fan of everything that I've come across (though when a lot of it has come from the avant-garde work of John Zorn, that probably isn't saying a whole lot). As far as how I feel towards this album though, as I have probably listened to this one at least twice as much, on and off of course, I'm still quite mixed towards it. Since I don't always have the time to sit down and listen to an hour-plus long album, I end up listening to sections and/or songs from it either when I have the time or in the car, which, incidentally, is not the best place to listen to this album by the way, so I've had various experiences from thinking it was simply amazing and trippy to finding it absolutely boring and very tiring. I can't deny that because most of these songs end up topping ten minutes, and since there is relatively little structure in them (to my ear), it can become tiring at times.
Now, what I've come to understand as freak folk, avant-folk, and similar genres of more-or-less free-form folk music is that it's performance varies from band to band. On this release the band bring a variety of ideas, as well as instruments, to the table and use them to varying degrees of success. Personally, I found the more psychedelic Feast of St. Nicholas I & VI to kind of be a standout in terms of how the band utilized their instruments because it was a very fluid track that was well paced from beginning to end and was very easy to get lost in. I also feel that it's probably the best embodiment of the sound of this entire release in that there are moments that are more in the vein of folk and country music but it also trails off into more trippy drones and ambient passages closer to its conclusion. In my opinion, the other four tracks on here may exhibit similar themes, but never really end up as well rounded as that one track does.
With over half a dozen listens right now I can still find it hard to try and get through this record at certain times, it's very mood oriented listen for me. I can't listen to it if I'm feeling too happy or sad or angry but very neutral. It's not an easy record to get into and trying to get into it can, at times, feel like you're just beating your head against a wall, but if you have an interest in this sort of music, you will be rewarded. No one said avant-garde music was meant to be easy, and this album is proof of that, at least to me anyway.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Feast of St. Nicholas I & VI, Twelfth Night Reunion

Grand Central - 01 EP (2011)

Band: Grand Central
Country: Paris, France
Style: Punk Rock/Hardcore
Label: Hellvice/Vicious

I've had my punk credentials mocked for being quite picky when it comes to groups that I find actually interesting, but there really isn't anything I can do about that, I like what I like. I don't claim to be some sort of expert on punk music, but I certainly know that a lot of what I hear does feel rather trite and inconsistent, both in songwriting and intensity, and I'd like to hear at least one of them in a punk act. So let's cover some punk.
When I see the tag "punk'n'roll" I'm inclined to roll my eyes more so than the average genre name only because the two are more similar than a lot of other genre fusions, plus it just sounds silly. So, when I saw that tag attached to this debut EP from Grand Central I did roll my eyes and prepared myself for the worst; what followed me pressing play surprised me. With My limited knowledge of punk music, I had yet to hear a punk band that took so much from blues, or at least stoner rock/metal as this group. The band certainly maintain a punk aggression, as well as some of the more trademark vocals and chants, but what really got me was the riffs. I never expected a punk band to embrace blues riffs as much as what is demonstrated on here. Though I find the chorus of You Fuck, We Don't... to be rather cringe worthy, the other three songs on here are solid and have some really solid riffs. Every song is also pretty damn heavy as well, which surprised me as well, I didn't expect the rush of adrenaline that hits when these songs get going.
I had rather low expectations coming in because of the whole "punk'n'roll" tag, which I still think sounds stupid, but I was very impressed by this. Despite being only four songs long, and under fifteen minutes total, I think it's a solid debut and one that should win over more than a few fans who've been awaiting a good fusion of punk and rock. If you like punk or stoner rock, definitely check this band out, I don't think you'll be disappointed with it.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Beautiful Loosers, Hollow (The Dead Man Song)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Beautiful View - Life Is Beautiful (2011)

Band: The Beautiful View
Country: Chula Vista, California
Style: Alternative Rock
Label: Requiemme

This was an album I felt like I had to cover, I don't know why, but I had to, maybe subconsciously. This is a style of music I'm not usually into or interested in but I just had to give this band a shot. I don't intend to cover a lot of these sort of bands again but if I do end up covering more of them, this'll most likely be the first.
I don't think it'll come to anyone's surprise that this album isn't exactly my sort of thing. The Beautiful View manages to essentially blend a mixture of various sounds from a bunch of different groups, the ones that stood out to me were Modest Mouse, The Strokes, and maybe a bit of Explosions In The Sky later on in the album. Granted, I can say that of those three bands I'm really only a fan of Explosions In The Sky, with the others being more of less bands that I was exposed to thanks to friends of mine in high school. Needless to say, the sounds on this album aren't exactly ones that I'm a fan of. The reason I even checked out the band was because I heard The Horseman and I thought that it was a pretty solid Modest Mouse kind of song, so maybe the rest of the album would wind up being somewhat similar to it. While there are certainly other songs that recall that sound, the rest of the album veers way too far into territory that just winds up sounding extremely bland and radio-friendly.
What I do have to say, in a positive light, about this album would have to be that the production is rather well done in my opinion. The band comes across sounding a bit more rough and distorted than a lot of other indie rock acts that I've heard due to the flourishes of feedback that are used in songs like Bells or Alphabet Judges that manage to color the backdrop of the song just enough to make them interesting. The guitars also have more of a bite than many other indie rock acts I've heard as well as bass lines that actually accentuate the song. They really aren't original ideas in any way, but they work well together and manage to make the songs at least worth listening to from start to finish, which is something I can't say I find all that often from groups that sound like this.
While this wasn't exactly my sort of album I didn't think that it was terrible, it had its moments and I'm sure people who like mainstream music will be more keen to enjoy this than I am. At it's very best it's decent, but otherwise it's just sort of there for me, nothing special or extraordinary in any way. Check it out if you find indie rock pleasing otherwise it's not exactly something that I'd recommend to regular readers of this blog.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: The Horseman, Mercy Is A Cold Shower, Here She Comes

So Wrong - So Wrong (2011)

Band: So Wrong
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Gothic Rock/Post-Punk
Label: Antifiesta/Burger

Let's talk about a record that I've had the opportunity to sit with for quite some time. Despite always knowing that I was going to cover this, it has taken me a lot longer to finally decide to talk about it than I preferably would have liked. But now that I've had this record for a while and have sat with it deciding how I feel about it and, obviously now that it's posted, I'm ready to talk about it.
Despite just being under twenty-five minutes in total, I've had to sit with this record for about a month now (obviously I have been listening to and have covered various things as well) but I honestly wasn't sure how I felt about this record. This has really been one of the few times that I've felt so conflicted with my feeling towards an album. It's not even that this record is so complex or dense that it took that long to pierce through it, but it was the songs themselves that put me into a rather awkward position. These eight songs, in my opinion, run the gambit from being really well and interesting to just plain annoying, and unfortunately, it starts off with the worst song on the album in my opinion. I'm certainly not opposed to having simplistic or immediate hooks in a song, but the title-track, So Wrong, just annoyed me to no end. In my mind there's a very fine line between being catchy in the sense that you can't stop thinking and tapping your foot, or humming, whatever you may do, and being catchy in the sense of just being grating and headache inducing, and that song lands more within the ladder than the former. I'm perfectly aware that others should have no problem finding this song catchy, but I just couldn't get past that irritating hook.
Beyond that opening song, I do feel like the album only gets better. In a sense, I would say that the album is divided down the middle, because it's on vinyl anyway, with the first four songs being more up-tempo poppy songs that are quite immediate and catchy and the last four songs being darker and more melancholic sounding, which I preferred. In my opinion, while the band certainly do pop decently, I had it in my head that the band were more of a goth rock band and this was before I even listened to the album, so that's kind of what I wanted. When the band go dark, they do post-punk pretty well and the songs are more engaging and less hook driven. It's also a lot more atmospheric and cold sounding, which even if they weren't being as atmospheric on the rest of the songs, I wish they had at least kept the chilling nature of a song like Under The Moonlight. I prefer the darker side to the band, what can I say, if you happen to like the band being more poppy, good for you.
I don't want to give the impression that this album is bad, far from it, I guess I just personally wish it was more or less what I kind of built it up to be in my head. Pretty much every song is catchy in some way and I do believe that the album has a pretty wide appeal to it, whether your into goth rock or post-punk or just regular pop rock or pop-punk even. I give these guys a lot of credit for trying to be really poppy on one end and really dark and atmospheric on the other, I just would have preferred more of the latter to the former.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Mufasa vs Scar, Take My Breath Away, Under The Moonlight

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Matt Maverick - Outsideness (2011)

Band: Matt Maverick
Country: Kalamazoo, Michigan
Style: Surf Rock
Label: Already Dead Tapes

Let me set the record straight that I'm about as clueless as anyone about modern surf rock. Give me my experimentalists Secret Chiefs 3 who dabble in the genre on their records or an old Beach Boys or a Dick Dale record and I could probably tell you what they sound like, but I make no claims that beyond that I'm in no way up to date on the genre whatsoever. When I was sent this release though I was a bit put off by the fact that it was a surf rock release, I was still very interested in it. I'm taking a chance on this because like I said, I'm not really a huge fan of this genre.
Depending on what your perception of surf rock happens to be will definitely impact what you think of this record. Unless you happen to be rather well versed in that genre this definitely fits in snuggly within the surf rock and rockabilly genres, I expect that if you are more well versed and invested in those genres you'll let me know. But what's on these thirteen tracks is, essentially, solid, rather upbeat sounding tunes, most of which are instrumental. In order to really describe the sound of this record I guess I could sum it up with another made up genre called "basement surf" because essentially these are short, little, lo-fi tunes that jam out their idea for two or three minutes and then move on. It's by no means complicated stuff on here but they're, for the most part, well written tunes that are immediate and catchy.
Because most of these songs are instrumental, the melodies do have to be good, and like I said above, most of them are really catchy. I think it's worth noting that, and this will be obvious for people who happen to listen to quite a bit of surf rock and rockabilly music, but all the instruments have their place in the sound and nothing is really lost on here because of the lo-fi production. It's great because the guitar, which for the greater majority of the record, carries these songs melodically, but the bass and organ lines are well utilized in certain songs as well. If I had to complain about this record though, it would be that the drums, on certain songs, can sound a bit like someone is just tapping a rhythm on a table. That, along with some of the more noise breaks that are placed on here as well, make up the only real faults on the record in my opinion. Matt's voice on the songs where he sings, Eric Burdon and Black World being two of the handful on here, isn't even all that bad, granted it's closer to him just speaking melodically, it fits with the songs in question and only bring a voice in to reinforce the songs memorability.
I mean, when I first decided to review this, I have to admit that I was a bit worried about it because being described as a surf rock/rockabilly record did kind of put me off it at first. It was nowhere near as bad as I had kind of imagined it being, despite not really being a style I listen to all that often, it's a solid piece of work. I don't see any reason why you wouldn't like this if you enjoy the surf rock/rockabilly genres or even more bedroom singer-songwriter albums.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Creature, Jungle Justice, Eric Burdon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pyrrhon - An Excellent Servant But A Terrible Master (2011)

Band: Pyrrhon
Country: New York, New York
Style: Technical Death Metal/Mathcore
Label: Selfmadegod

Whatever happened to the technical death metal subgenre? I'd like to know who said it was ok for every band to pretty much start sounding the same, I wanna know who to place the blame on. I don't mean to offend anyone here (cause there are quite a few bands that I like within that subgenre with several putting out albums later this year) but I don't think anyone can really say that ideas have not been rehashed over and over in the last decade, leaving a lot of the originality in the genre to fall away. Though I initially ignored this record from Pyrrhon, it's about time I cover it.
When I initially blew off this album it was because no matter what I had read about it, which incidentally was mostly good, I had it in my head that it would be "just another tech-death album" with nothing I hadn't heard before. After listening through it several times I can say that while my initial idea of the album may have been right to give me caution, it should not have made me stay away from this. To be quite frank, this is a tech-death album without question, and some of the ideas really aren't original, but in pretty much every other regard I was incorrect. Whilst moments of this do cross over into modern Necrophagist or Origin territory, the majority of this album stays in a much more dissonant and chaotic realm. There've been comparisons to the likes of Gorguts and Atheist, which I totally hear in here, but I'm more keen to listen to a group that sounds closer to those bands than the ones that basically shred for minutes at a time and call it a riff. The spastic tendencies that help to define this band's sound can often cause them to cross over into mathcore, which I'm more than happy to accept as a part of their sound as well.
I have to say something that might get some people's feathers ruffled here but I think it has to be said that in the mathcore genre, and I'd even say bands that were first starting to do the whole metalcore thing when it was first emerging did this to an extent as well, dissonance and frenetic tendencies were accentuated more within a band's sound. Melody is all well in good, but I think to call yourself a technical band, you should at least bring a little bit of that into your sound, or at least that's what I believe. So I give more credit to Pyrrhon because they make use of quite a bit of that in these songs, hear Idiot Circles for instance, and make it sound interesting and good. I await more bands that have the balls to go as far into the realm of chaos and disharmony as these guys have. Beyond that, there were a couple moments on here where things slowed down and even mellowed out, which appears to be an idea, again, a lot of band's within this subgenre don't appear to understand or be able to get their head around, because when this thing mellows out, it works for the song because there's a rising tension that allows the heavier sections that follow to be that much more powerful. Honestly, it's not that original or groundbreaking idea, but these guys know what they're doing and are obviously years ahead of what a lot of bands, especially newer bands for that matter, appear to be doing.
This is what I wish more bands would be willing to do with their sound if they want to call themselves original and not just another tech-death band. The willingness to just go each and every where they can really comes through in a positive way and gives this album extremely replay value. Gimme a band like this over another Necrophagist and Origin clone any day, these guys know how to make songs interesting and worth listening over and over. In the end, interesting and creative bands will always prevail over clones for me, thus, this band is a winner.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Idiot Circles, The Architect Confesses (Spittlestrand Hair), Flesh Isolation Chamber

Esgrotum - 2010 Demo (2011)

Band: Esgrotum
Country: Brazil
Style: Raw Black Metal
Label: Independent

After my review for the Earthling demo last week, the person who sent me that album sent me this demo of their band. When you look up this release, there really isn't a whole lot out there, if any if it's the release that I think I'm reviewing. It's the type of album that even if you look up, you'll get a bunch of stuff that, in all honesty, is pretty gross and disgusting.
This is one of those weird demos that didn't really tell me anything based on the cover of it. So, what can you expect? What you can expect from this is a wierd mix of raw, blown-out black metal mixed with traces of blackgaze/post-black metal clean sections and melodies. A lot of the album manages to pull off this sound passibly, but there are moments where the band try to incorporate too many elements into a single section and everything just turns into a mess of noise, My Enthusiastic Shivering of Freedom for instance. I have to say in complete honesty that I found about half of the vocals on here to be just terrible. Now don't get me wrong, the main style in which they're done is a pretty traditional scream, but they'll occasionally break into a weird, high-pitched moan that just became instantly grating and annoying. In addition to that, most of the vocals sound like they were recorded through a walky talky due to how distorted most of them end up sounding.
It's decent, but not great, and it definitely needs work. There are ideas that would work better if the production was a little less raw, but then again, there are ideas that would work better if the band just rid themselves of their more atmospheric leanings as well. Where ever the band decide to go in the future there are definite improvements needed, but I do still recommend trying to get a hold of this if it sounds interesting.
Overall Score: 4.5
Highlights: His Act of Despair, Because of The Satanist

Monday, January 23, 2012

Badblood - Badblood Demo (2011)

Band: Badblood
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Blackened Hardcore
Label: Independent

As soon as I saw this demo I knew it would be good, just based on the description I had read for it and the cover itself. Sometimes simplicity, in the case of an album cover, can be the most eye-catching thing and can take you away from tons of other crazy album covers. It was just one of those cases where it just had to be great and I had pretty expectations for it.
Wouldn't it be great if all bands that made had any inkling of an influence from hardcore sounded like they had any passion in their music? Personally, that's one of the few things that appeals to me about the genre, the passion that I can feel from the music, and as I've said before, I don't find it all too often anymore. Sure, an album can certainly still be fun and interesting, but I don't know if I'd want to listen to a hardcore album that doesn't have any passion in it. So what's one here then you're probably asking yourself right about now. Well, you're getting a pretty brooding blackened hardcore record with a lot of sludge in the mix as well. Well, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, despite their corpse-paint wearing appearance, the music in these four songs doesn't ever really tread into black metal all that often. It's a record that even at its soft, though I don't think that'd be the best word to really describe this record, you can just feel a rising tension that's just bursting at the seams to get loose, hear Crutch. It's moments like this that make me love the genre and make me want to put my fist through a wall in excitement and joy. It's just got that extra punch and grit to it as well that gives it a very rough and in-the-moment kind of vibe (not improvisational though) and I feel that each player just lets everything hang out and isn't holding anything back in these songs.
Not a huge fan of hardcore, still, but it's records like this one that make me interested in seeing where the genre will go because as long as there are still bands like this putting out quality material, I'll keep listening. I know it's not gonna be for everyone but I strongly urge you to check this demo out if this at all sounds enticing to you. Not really blackened, but still very good sludgy hardcore nonetheless.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Our Baptism, Crutch

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Uzala - Uzala (2012)

Band: Uzala
Country: Boise, Idaho
Style: Doom Metal
Label: At War With False Noise/Witch Sermon

I know I've said in the past that I am not a big fan of female singing in metal, not anything wrong with it, I've just grown immensely annoyed with what I've heard. I was very hesitant to review this album because I knew that there were going to be female vocals on it, what tipped me over the edge was kind of just deciding to take a chance on it and hope for the best. It's not about having low expectations, but a very worrisome idea of what the music will sound like.
What first hit me when I put this record on for the first time was the production and atmosphere. Unlike a lot of doom metal record which tend to go for a very big and huge sound, both in terms of the atmosphere and production, this album was instead very foggy sounding, like the whole thing was covered in a sort of smoke. It really isn't the sort of record that tries to be huge and overwhelm you with how crushing the riffs are and how pull you down into a dark place in yourself, it's more of a traditional sound that is more akin to that of early doom bands like Black Sabbath or The Obsessed whilst channeling more of a blues element that isn't found in a lot of, let's say, modern doom groups. I guess to address the whole female vocal thing, I doubt I will ever say that I could listen to a female fronted band, that I haven't heard yet, and not be at least a little nervous due to past experience, blame it on the power and symphonic metal genres, I can say with certainty that the vocals on here were in no way bad. Darcy Nutt's singing is quite different, but good, in a way that I think if you stripped away everything but her vocals, it could almost be choral like, as opposed to Chad Remains, whose gruff screams add a more visceral tension to the record. Not to go too far off base, but I would take this record, and band over the more hyped Dark Castle, who seemed a more than a little lost on their latest release. Vocally and sonically, I do think Uzala is a better band.
Songs on here tend to run the gambit from more of the traditional blues influenced metal, The Reaping, to I guess is more of the commonplace now where it's more about groove and atmosphere, Ice Castle, not to say the two don't overlap on occasion. It's hard deny that there's a very strong retro hard rock and psyche rock influence on the band, in addition to the whole doom and sludge genres, where riffs do have, more or less, a tendency to kind of break away from being straightforward. I won't lie to you though and say that the album isn't without faults, I do think that some of these songs do go on for too long and can begin to drag, for me it was the likes of Cataract, which is only on the cassette version of the album by the way, and Plague. I also found that the highs of the record were really high, but when the record hit a bit of bump a little more than half-way through the album, it never really got back up to the same level as before.
Though I was hesitant at first of the record, I think it turned out to be solid piece of work. All in all, I did enjoy it, and I didn't find it to at all be a bad album, just a bit overlong in my opinion. Doom fans should definitely still check this out because it is the type of record that could appeal to fans of slow music.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ice Castle, Wardrums, Death Masque

Syven - Aikaintaite (2011)

Band: Syven
Country: Finland
Style: Neo-Folk/Funeral Doom
Label: Vendlus

Something I don't talk about, and have not discussed in the past, is my view of spirituality. Now, I do believe that maintaining a spiritual presence in music is something that can work if it's done well, though it's usually more likely to stir a debate rather than influence the music of a record in any way. But this record from Syven definitely appears to be channeling something unique and spiritual that other records haven't and is really causing a stir among people who have heard it.
This is probably the first time I've ever come across a record quite like this one and it's led me to a reaction that I can't remember having towards any other album, ever. I have a big interest in shamanism, stemming back from several years ago where I was even more nerdy and was a big fan of a television series called Shaman King, but that's neither here nor there, but while I have found records in the past that I would definitely call ritualistic in their sound and performance on a record, this is the first record that I can remember hearing to make me think of shamanism in any way. I wouldn't call shamanism an idea that wouldn't be out of place in certain metal records, and certainly within the folk and ambient genres I could picture more bands trying to channel that sort of connection, but this is a record that really, and for once, manages to connect the ritualistic sound with ideas that not only paint pictures in a listener's head, but also channel something otherworldly, mystical, and spiritual as well. There's an ambiance that is uniquely cold and desolate throughout the record that serves as a backdrop to the ritualistic instrumentation and, if I may say so, shamanistic vocalizations that bring to mind a cold night in the woods, far away from civilization where you can be completely consumed the forest around you. Every movement touches upon beauty, fragility, harshness, and calmness in a way I have not heard before.
Sonically, this is a record that essentially combines two fundamental ideas together, traditional Finnish folk music, near neo-folk almost, and funeral doom metal. It's not a record that relies very heavily on sudden shifts and changes, but rather heavy repetition and simplicity, to a fault some might say. Personally, I found the repetition to suit the record very, very well and only served to draw me into the music even further. It also happens to work more for me because most of the tracks are quite lengthy, with three of the five topping ten minutes, they are songs that pull you in slowly and just sort of put you into a center and engulf you in soundscapes that, like I said above, demonstrate everything from sheer beauty to absolute brutality. Now, I have to be fair and say that while I don't think there's a wrong foot on here, I do believe that this record could have maybe shaved off a good five or so minutes, at most, from some of the longer songs which reach towards twenty minutes. Being hypnotizing is fine, but I have to say that there were a couple of moments on here where I kind of felt like an idea was just going on for a little too long. But to touch on another positive for me, I thought that mixing the doom riffs with hand percussion was just fantastic and worked so much better than I would have thought they would have.
As a piece of music, I find it hard to find any real flaws with the album aside from its length in a couple of spots. It's an otherworldly meditation on humanity, nature, spirituality, and mysticism all projected through this piece of funeral folk in a way that is both unique and inspiring. Praise has been sung for this release for the last couple of months now, so this review won't come as anything new at this point, but if you haven't checked this record out already, I highly recommend you do, it's rare to find a piece of music that can both touch you spiritually as much as emotionally as this one does.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sutekh Hexen - Larvae (2012)

Band: Sutekh Hexen
Country: San Francisco, California
Style: Raw Black Metal/Noise
Label: Handmade Birds

Last year Sutekh Hexen really made an impression on me after hearing their Luciform album, turning me into a full-blown fan after being quite lukewarm towards them in the past. Being quite prolific, last year alone the duo released three 7' EPs (one might be a single depending on how you view it) and various reissues of them and their demos from 2010. This is their first release this year (I'm already aware of two other releases that are planned for this year alone) and the first with new member Lee Camfield behind the electronics. Being released on Handmade Birds, expectations are high as always.
Let's discuss something a little out of the ordinary to start this off, neo-folk music. Now, I said a couple of months ago, I think, that I was fairly new to the sub-genre of neo-folk music and I have since expanded my catalog of groups within that sub-genre, but I wouldn't say I'm nearly as big an enthusiast of it as I would like to be one day. When one usually thinks of neo-folk music, or at least in my experience with it, it's more common to think of the sound pioneered by groups like Sol Invictus, Death In June, Current 93, or Darkwood (to name a couple), it's more or less a somber and rather melancholic listen rather than some of the more upbeat nature of what's come from a lot of indie folk style, and then you have the lo-fi singer-songwriter stuff tends to keep a more balanced atmospherically in comparison. I'm sure at this point you're probably wondering what any of this has to do with Sutekh Hexen, a black metal band; and when it comes to this release, it has everything to do with it.
Unlike the duo's (now trio) previous releases, this release takes a very harsh left turn from everything else they've done so far. While there are still layers of distortion and noise, harsh screams, and guitars that blur the line between actually being a guitar and just noise, but those elements have been reduced in favor of a far more brooding and melancholic sound. Instead of an outright assault for ten to thirty minutes, of five minute tracks, what you have here are three extended tracks that not only reintroduce those former elements of the band but bring a new light to them as well. I can only speak for myself but this wound up being, by far, the band's most atmospheric album. Behind all harsh noise and distortion was this dark tension that was just lurking in the background. Listening back, one could say that ideas that were present within the Shadow single are on here, but are fully rounded and more complete sounding. Aside from that, and to return to the neo-folk idea for a moment, you actually get a acoustic guitars that somehow blend their brutal aesthetic with more subdued and somber instrumentation. Even at its most intense, the shortest and closest comparison to their older work, Lead Us In Warfare, actually winds up sounding more like a doom metal song, even if they're playing fast. As a whole listening experience, this is the band's most sonically "complete" album yet, with the entire album having its ups and downs rather than mainly smacking you around for thirty or so minutes.
I'm sure that there'll be more than a couple of people who'll be lost after listening to this, or reading this, and might take against the band doing it, but it's going to more than likely further the band in creating a far more unique sound. If you can take a shift like this one from your favorite raw black metal band, you will learn to love it as I did. I will admit that it took me a couple of listens to kind of wrap my head around the record and the ideas present on it, but I am glad that it is different from their other works and manages to stand as an individual in their material thus far.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Deformed Elephant Surgery - Cosmic Sphere of The Dying Minds (2011)

Band: Deformed Elephant Surgery
Country: Finland
Style: Cybergrind/Synthecore
Label: Independent

I guess I should preface anything I say in this review by saying that I am not a fan of a good percentage of electronic music out there, not that I'm against any of it, but I find very few artists that intrigue me. I am also not a huge fan of the brutal side of death metal, slam death, porno-grind, goregrind, all that sort of stuff for various reasons that I would go into here. One would imagine that the fusion of any of these ideas I would instantly find detestable, but yes, I did give this a chance. I'm still open to being wowed by a band even if it's in a style I don't usually like.
The ideas present on here range somewhere between being original and unique, and then being just plain weird and uninteresting. Coming from someone who doesn't find programmed drums playing blast beats at 360 beats per minute or extended use of incomprehensible toilet bowl vocals, which to be honest, I have a hard time telling if they're even in a song sometimes because of how processed they wind up sounding, to be all that interesting, the ideas present on this album aren't terrible. Now, they're by no means amazing or anything like that, but like I said, I'm not a fan of this sort of stuff, so this is passable and I didn't find myself annoyed by it while it was on. But what of the electronic ideas present on here; I said I wasn't a fan of a lot of electronic music, in which I may be exaggerating a bit, but the infusion of the more brutal styles listed above with elements that, as far as I can tell, come from everything ranging from chiptunes to dubstep to trance. On paper, it probably sounds a lot worse than it actually is. Now, even when those ideas are more dominant in a given song, Skullfucking A Fetus for example, they're not as headache-inducing as I've experienced in the past.
Now, I have to be honest and say that there are moments on here where things get out of control, for better or worse is subjective, but for me it did have a tendency to lean more on the latter. With so much sound coming at you at once, in some songs, there can be times where things just sort of become this wall where nothing really stands out. Personally, I was a bigger fan of the more melodic side of things on here, with a song like Necrophilic Mutilation of Angels actually repeating a melody throughout the course of its eight minutes and actually making the track that much more memorable in the process. It's unfortunate that most other songs don't reach that same level of melodicism and instead tend to focus more or less on the brutal aspect of the music, not to say that that portion of the project's sound doesn't have its benefits. There are moments on here, mainly the shorter tracks, where being brutal and somewhat straightforward does work and is well utilized.
I make no claims that this has turned me into a fan of any of the genres I said I didn't care for above, but it's interesting and that's why I chose to write about it. It's not so much the type of album that's I'd listen to every once in a while just to remind myself that it does exist and that it is an interesting fusion of styles. Even if you're tastes are close to mine and you don't usually care for these styles, I'd recommend at least checking out a track or two at least to just kind of say you heard what it had to offer.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Decapitated With A Rubber Duck, Necrophilic Mutilation of Angels, Fuck Their Brains Out

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Spire - Metamorph EP (2011)

Band: Spire
Country: Brisbane, Australia
Style: Ambient Black Metal
Label: Art of Propaganda

I don't know why, but when I first asked to review this EP I felt like I had already heard of the band. When I looked through my Ipod I didn't have their previous EP and I don't recall ever listening to them beforehand, but I just felt like I had seen their logo, which is pretty badass by the way. I have to say that I am rather glad that I was contacted to review this album because I most likely wouldn't have listened to this band until another year or so would've passed.
As far as the whole "ambient/atmospheric black metal" tag goes, one could seemingly apply it to a whole range of different bands. From the lo-fi depressive aesthetics that Malefic used throughout the entire lifespan of Xasthur to the bleak soundscapes that moved along with a group like Lunar Aurora to the all-encompassing wall of sound that Darkspace utilize, it's all been put under those tags, and yet somehow there is some sort of distinguishing factor between the two. If you asked me how this relates to the sound Spire uses on these four tracks, and an intro, I'd be able to tell from a single listen that they bear almost no resemblance to the lo-fi-ness of Xasthur or other groups that somehow bridge into the whole suicidal/depressive sub-genre. It's closer to being something of a middle ground between the other two groups I mentioned in that the atmospherics used on here are clearly a part of the songs on here but also are not overcoming them, there is a focus on not dragging these tracks out in order to represent some sort of other-worldly presence. Instead, while keeping that in mind, the band display an almost repressed sort of rage within these songs with each track seemingly getting more and more nihilistic as in progresses. By the end of a track like Larva, the song just sounds so massive it's actually a bit unsettling (but in a good way). I also have to compliment the drummer because the way he plays on these songs feels like how I would envision them being played in my head, and that leads me to actually attempting to air-drum to these songs, which has never happened in a record like this.
It's a very strong piece of work that definitely shows that this band is certainly very inspired, and I'd say is on their way to finding a sound that is uniquely their own and on the strength of this EP, I'd say the next release will have that unique sound. Though I came into it with expectations that I'd say were pretty high considering I hadn't listened to the band's previous work, these guys surpassed those expectations. Now I await to hear the next release from these guys with baited breath. I definitely recommend this to anyone looking for some great atmosphere-based black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Parturience, Mort

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The United Sons of Toil - When The Revolution Comes, Everything Will Be Beautiful (2011)

Band: The United Sons of Toil
Country: Madison, Wisconson
Style: Noise Rock/Post-Hardcore
Label: Sacred Plague

I said a couple of weeks ago that I am not a huge noise rock fan, or post-hardcore, but somehow I've gotten quite a few records recently, either through friends or people telling me I should check them out, that have been pretty good. I remember seeing this album, the cover of it, last year, thinking it looked pretty good, and didn't really think any more of it. It wasn't until I was told about the album, by a friend and the band, a couple of weeks ago that I finally got around to listening to it.
I have to be rather frank with something about my own personal taste in music here and say that I'm all for melody and harmony and big, soaring choruses, but I find that when a band can make use of dissonance in an interesting way, I can find it even more impactful on me. There's also something that can be said that, in my mind, a lot of harmony in music make me think as if it's been planned and rehearsed while dissonance to me has a more vibrant and youthful sense of exuberance to it that just makes me think that the music could just fly off the reins at any moment and isn't so tightly constrained. I don't want to say that this album isn't melodic, because the songs are structured in rather simplistic ways, but their performance in many of the songs gives them a more loose and live sort of feeling. The riffs, as I expect they should be within post-hardcore and to an extent noise rock, are weird and abstract while occasionally treading into more melodic chord progressions. One could say there's a hint of jazz-inspired dissonance within these songs as well, and that if you stripped away the almost punk approach at which most of these songs are performed, you'd get jazz songs. But it's that raw and punk kind of aesthetic that I like about this record, the bursts of feedback in The Shining Path or the near post-rock bridge in Sword of Damocles just keep the record moving and feeling like the band is playing in front of you.
Now, to just get it out of the way, I've said before that I'm not much of a lyrical guy, as long as I don't find myself offended in any way by the lyrics, chances are I will give a band a chance. Whatever message these guys want to spread is fine by me because I do believe that the music is strong enough to kind of stand on its own. That's where, ultimately, this band does succeed in my mind and where others have failed me, the songwriting is good. The songs on here stick with you after the album is finished. The opening and closing tracks, Alcoholism In The Former Soviet Republics and State-Sponsored Terrorism respectively, stuck with me, perhaps the most of all the songs on here, with their odd sense of vocal harmony and great dissonant riffing. I should speak briefly on the vocals though because there is a lot of diversity among these tracks within them, from throat shredding yells to guttural growls, tough-guy snarls and straight-forward melodic singing, and it's probably the most inconsistent thing on the record in my opinion if only because more often than anything else on here, the vocals can miss the mark.
It's the type of album that manages to stick with you in a way that many other albums I've heard have not done from other groups in similar genres. I didn't originally expect it to be as good as it is, but I'm certainly not going to complain. I'd say take a chance, no matter you political standing, and listen to this because it is good.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Alcoholism In The Former Soviet Republics, The Concept of The Urban Guerrilla, The Contrition of The Addict

Friday, January 13, 2012

Alcest - Les Voyages De L'Âme (2012)

Band: Alcest
Country: Paris, France
Style: Blackgaze/Post-Rock
Label: Prophecy Productions

If there's been an album this year, or at least for January, that's been hyped to death, it's probably been this one. Even more so than the 2009's Écailles de Lune, the hype behind this album seems to just make people crazy before they really even dive into it, I believe anyway. It might have been all the good reviews towards the album that kind of made me feel like it was bound to let me down but to say I was crazy about this album coming into it would be a total lie. My overall interest to the work of Alcest has dwindled, though I am still a fan, as others have apparently latched on it.
The influence of Alcest has obviously been felt throughout the entire black metal scene within the last couple of years, with numerous younger bands and projects popping up and attempting to fuse post-rock and shoegaze with black metal. There are obviously those who are ripping his "style" off better than others and there are groups out there doing something a little different with the whole blackgaze kind of sound but Alcest is definitely the most renowned group to emerge from that young scene. When Autre Temps was first released as a single last around a month ago I don't think it would be wrong to say that I was struck more by the visuals accompanying the song in the video than the song itself. It wasn't until a couple revisitations of the video that I kind of got a handle for the song itself. In comparison with the material that was present on earlier albums, I was a bit disappointed by the song because it didn't really spark anything in me like other releases had, it just left me a bit empty inside.
So, saving my judgment for the album, I waited until I could hear the whole thing to kind of see if it would be the entire album that would bring some sort of reaction to me. When I listen to all three albums, full-lengths I mean, I do believe this to be the weakest of them because I don't feel any darkness in these songs, and that may very well be the point of it because Neige has said this will be the last time he wants to use screaming vocals in Alcest. Though a good portion of this album is electric, the sound of the guitars, the melodies they're playing, and the overall atmosphere feels too bright and there's no contrast in it. Even when there's a section that's performed like black metal, the sound is too bright to really make me feel like it's a "real" black metal part and comes out sounding more like post-rock with blast-beats and double-bass, which, once again, may have been intentional. In terms of consistency in the sound of the album, this is the best because the entire album flows together and feels like an album, where as the last one was more or less made up of various pieces that were new songs, at that time, and older material.
Don't get me wrong though, just because I'm not as partial to this album as the others doesn't mean I think it's a bad album, far from it. I do believe that this album has some of the best material Neige has ever written on it. Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles is the clear highlight of the entire album in my opinion due to its flowing melodies and fantastic ending. It's also not entirely a bad thing when I say that the atmosphere is too bright, for myself, I would have preferred that there be a little more darkness on here, but I do believe Neige to be extremely skilled when it comes to crafting a sound like this. I think that his melodies are nice and while not as frequently as on previous albums, they do evoke a sense of calm within me. It's unfortunate that Havens was actually an interlude because I rather liked that melody to be perfectly honest and I would have liked to have seen it progress into something more.
I don't know if I'd call this a letdown because I didn't really have expectations that were all that high to begin with coming into it, but it isn't the best I've heard from Neige. Like I said above though, people have already thrown their support of this album out there with tons and tons of high scores littering the net and magazines already. Not that this review will ultimately change your opinion on the album if you've already listened to it but I think it would be best to approach it with an open mind and not setting your expectations too high for it. Not a bad album, but not great either.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Là Où Naissent Les Couleurs Nouvelles, Nous Sommes L'Emeraude, Summer's Glory

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Aethyr - Nihil Grail EP (2011)

Band: Aethyr
Country: Russia
Style: Drone/Doom Metal
Label: R.A.I.G.

I have been delaying this review for a couple days now (not for any particular reason mind you) and now I can finally post it. There's a lot to say about doom and drone metal that comes from Russia, very little of it good, but there are always a gem that does shine among all the dust and rocks. When I got this EP I was debating whether or not to actually cover it, this is before listening to it mind you, but just because a band comes from Russia is no reason to discount them.
I was quite surprised when I first listened to these two songs because they did provide a much different take on what I've come to accept as "Russian doom/drone." Both tracks give a different side of the band's sound, and I can honestly say that it isn't one that's boring, and in fact is one that stands head and shoulders above a lot of their piers from their area. While the opening title-track exhibits a well constructed take on blackened doom metal, Temple of Set is a more, I guess you could say, obvious take on drone. I don't mean for that to sound like a negative, but when you think of drone-doom, or at least when I think of what drone-doom sounds like, this is close to what it comes out sounding like to me. If to just set itself apart from the typical basement drone-doom approach that has been taken by many young artists wanting to express their love for Sunn 0))), this is not just a guitar ringing out into the void and occasionally bursting out into feedback. What you happen to have here are layers of noise and ambiance underscoring the rather simplistic ringing of guitar chords. Despite how short it is (it's a drone track that is actually under ten minutes) it is quite immersive and I did find myself getting lost in it.
It's a solid piece of drone-doom that I've said over the course of this review multiple times, is a lot better than many of their piers from their neck of the woods. I am definitely interested in hearing this group's older material now to see if it's just as interesting as these two tracks were. It's not gonna be for everyone but if you're a doom metal fan I'd recommend at least checking it out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Nihil Grail

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Absolutist - Ave (2012)

Band: Absolutist
Country: Ireland
Style: Crust/Hardcore Punk
Label: Suburban Mayhem

I don't think it's any secret that I'm not a huge hardcore or punk fan, I like my fair share of bands, but the great majority of what I've heard, I haven't thought much of. Unfortunately, a lot of the hardcore I've wound up covering on here, I haven't liked, and I'm hoping to change that. It might not have been the best decision to cover a hardcore album this early in the year but this one seemed interesting, and this time I haven't heard anything about the album, so I thought that this is something I at least have to give a chance.
What I love from the genre of hardcore, and grindcore, is the sheer amount of energy and intensity that you can feel from the band when it's done well. I'm most definitely a metal guy, but rarely do I find a metal record that really gets my blood pumping and make me want to mosh like grindcore and hardcore records do; but even saying that means that there are exceptions. A lot of the hardcore and crust punk bands I've wound up covering on here have sorely disappointed me and haven't given me any sort of intensity that just makes me want to get out of my chair and punch someone in the face. A good hardcore, since I'll stop referring to grind, will do that, hopefully to more than just me, and that's is where this record comes in. It's one of those special hardcore records that just punches you in the face, but it's isn't an asshole about it. It's self-conscious of itself, but is also self-aware enough to not be "just another hardcore band" and that's why this a strong record. In addition to that, the anti-religion standpoint is also something I personally enjoyed about the band, and it is one of the few cases where I felt like the samples used didn't actually distract from the actual songs.
I have to be honest here and say that before I listened to this record I did listen to a few tracks from the trio's debut EP Blasphemy and became a bit worried because it sounded less than moving. I have to say that that EP probably did contain more of a straightforward punk kind of edge, whereas this is most definitely rooted in heavier forms of music. Hardcore is definitely the main core of the band but besides that there are numerous nods to things like grindcore, sludge metal, and at times even black metal. I'll come out and say that it might be that more metallic sound that makes me enjoy this album, but I do think the band are skilled in writing songs that are stylistically varied enough to keep my attention whilst shifting around in each of these seven songs. It's not so diverse that it could be called spastic or schizophrenic, but there is a noticeable shift between the grinding pace of Black War and the slow building intensity on Tectonics, and that's something I like to hear from a band, no matter the genre. I will say that the use of melody increases throughout the record to the point where the last two songs are less like grinding and more inclined to be memorable. Besides that, this entire record is just under twenty-two minutes in total so it is very quick.
This is the type of record I like to hear from bands that are called hardcore and that I so rarely seem to find. I have found that I have grown quite fond of this record in a way that I would say I haven't for many, many, hardcore records recently. Don't not wait to check this out, it's a killer release that should not be overlooked.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Senseless, Storm of Words, Tectonics

Monday, January 9, 2012

Hectic Zeniths - Hectic Zeniths (2012)

Band: Hectic Zeniths
Country: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Trip-hop/Experimental Hip-Hop
Label: Independent/Kitchen Dip

Hip-hop and rap are two genres that I find it incredibly hard to get into, for myself, though to say I'm not at least familiar with a couple of names wouldn't be incorrect. Personally, I find myself drawn to more atmospheric forms of electronic music, for the most part, which I guess is why I would say I'm more of a trip-hop fan. I won't go into all my various reasons for disliking what I've heard from hip-hop but I will say that while I may not like the style, I can certainly appreciate the work that goes into it. When I got this a while ago it did take me a little while to try and decide if I wanted to cover it or not because of its connection to hip-hop, which is a style I don't really want to pretend I have any knowledge of at all.
What ultimately made me decide to cover this album was the fact that when I listened to the album, while there are elements of hip-hop in it, there are also strong traces of trip-hop, downtempo, and ambient music as well. In addition to that, a lot of the tracks on here are quite short, with several acting more or less like an idea rather than an actual song. Unlike a lot of other records that I've felt use this tactic to just put together a handful of songs and add a couple of ideas as interludes, more or less, I did feel like even when the songs were short on here, they weren't bad or uninteresting and actually worked to the album's advantage, in my opinion anyway. The vocals are, thankfully, are sung, when they are sampled, which does bring to mind more of a trip-hop feel to the record. The use of piano and more orchestral arrangements does wonders for setting a mood as well.
One of the things I really feel conflicted about with this record is the atmosphere that surrounds it. I don't know if others will find this to be true but I thought that the whole vibe of the record was a bit unstable. The sound of most hip-hop is fairly warm, not a lot of it cold and mechanical but I felt that the orchestrations, or melodies rather, provided on here kind of shifted the tone into one that was conflicted between the warmth and punch of hip-hop band the darkness and sensuality that is found in trip-hop. I also found that the first couple of the tracks on the album did feel like they were out of place to me, and the opening sample on One That Got Away (Intro) is just a bad way to start off an album in my opinion. In all honesty, if you said I was just being nitpicky about it, I probably wouldn't say you're wrong, but it was something that did hurt some of these songs in my opinion.
I feel that Adam Morgan Prince is very talented and managed to pull off a rather difficult fusion of trip-hop and hip-hop, obviously with other influences as well, pretty well. As someone who prefers more abstract forms of electronic music, this isn't exactly brain contorting stuff, but it's certainly an album that could appeal to fans of more poppy electronic stuff as well as nerdy IDM fans like myself. I have my own qualms with the atmosphere of the album, but musically, I think it's a solid piece of work.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: I Might Drown, Know My List, Zeitschtichen

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Spettro Family– Candelora (2011)

Band: Spettro Family
Country: Salerno, Italy
Style: Experimental
Label: Brave Mysteries

I can imagine that not being able to put a label on your music is probably the best thing for an artist to see when their work is released. As I was looking up information about this project, spearheaded by Stefano Iannone, I came across this album in particular which had a pretty wide assortment of genre tags attached to it. Without listening to it, you could in no way picture elements of dark ambient, industrial, power electronics, musique concrète, and field recording all coming together into a sound that is in any way pleasurable (or maybe that's just me). It's really not until you actually give an album like this a chance that you realize what good those sounds might do when mixed together.
As strange as it may sound, and keep in mind that I haven't listened to the two other releases that Spettro Family has released before this, this album contains very minimal traces of any of the styles I mentioned before. Whether or not Iannone abandoned that style for this or not, with this release, he has embraced analog synthe that brings to mind everything from the synthe-pop scores of 80's dance and sci-fi flicks to early synthe odysseys by artists like Vangelis. I will admit that I can hear comparisons to Riz Ortolani's Cannibal Holocaust soundtrack, I'm sure there are others, but that was just one that stuck out to me. This is, and this is quite a simplistic and general thing to say but, closer to the likes of early techno music than noise or power electronics. You'll find that this thing is able to morph from being interesting foreground music into more textural background music, in which I found my ears kind of drifting off into the background of what was playing and kind of finding some more buried synthe tones that I had previously not heard.
What I loved about this album though is how diverse it is, more so emotionally and textural rather than stylistic. While there are more, I guess you could call them regular, but that's really doing a disservice to how I believe these songs sound, I found that when things got quiet, Confessioni Di Un Depresso for example, they also got quite beautiful, melancholic, and dreamy. In that track alone, I felt like it made me think of those early Playstation fantasy games when I was a kid, I loved it, and to be honest, I got a bit teary eyed listening to it. But, on pretty much the opposite side of that, you have a track like La Signora Hammond, which makes me think of those scenes action movies where the main guy is in a club with people dancing and he's just looking for the guy who's going to give him the info so he can knock out the villain, think XXX (Triple X for those who don't get that by the way). I know it sounds really lame to kind of describe these things out, but each of these tracks really brought back found memories of when I was a kid and all the stuff I loved back then. Though I have certain tracks that I happen to favor over others, I think the only real flaw that sticks out to me is that it is quite a short release and I kind of wish there was more songs on it, but for what it is, fantastic stuff.
Even though I didn't know what to expect upon first listen I have to say that this turned out to be quite the good surprise. This is a great album and do not pass up the opportunity to get this album. Early sci-fi, action, fantasy, horror, and to an extent dance movie fans, who happen to love soundtracks, will love this as much as your average obsessive retro-gamer will. It's got your sexy tracks as well as your tender tracks, it's an album that I truly has something for everyone.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Confessioni Di Un Depresso, Operazione Condor, Candelora

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Pyometra - Inhumanities EP (2011)

Band: Pyometra
Country: Hesse, Germany
Style: Brutal Death Metal
Label: Independent

I'm pretty sure I've said in the past that I'm not a huge fan of the whole "brutal" side of death metal. A lot of the bands that are lumped into that sub-genre tend to focus more on low-end brutality and near-incomprehensible vocals that I just can't get into it, not to say there aren't bands I do enjoy in it though. When I was first contacted by this band and I saw they were placed under that sub-genre, I was a bit hesitant to give it a chance. But genre tags mean next to nothing when you find something good.
This seven song EP just hit the right balance between being brutal but also accessible. Now don't get upset so suddenly, chances are what you think accessible in this case means is probably nowhere near what this actually sounds like. Accessible in this case does not include the use of clean vocals, big sweeping melodies, or quieter interludes, this record is brutal, chunky, and a kick to the nuts of whoever is listening. It's the type of release where despite being labeled as "brutal" there more inclusion of melody and groove as opposed to slams and repetitive grinding. I'd also say that the sound of the entire thing isn't overly polished on compressed, there's still plenty of authenticity in the sound of the band here. The drum sound in particular I enjoyed because it isn't too clicky or tinny sounding, as can be the case in a lot of other bands going for this sort of sound. The vocals are also a lot clearer and more understandable, from my end I consider that to be a plus, but are still quite low and guttural, occasionally going into more of that weird sort of guttural moan that the I've heard from other groups, hear Leech. I think there's a nice blend between the rather typical riffing that comes from the "brutal" side of the genre and more traditional kinds of ideas that make the songs a lot more memorable, to me at the very least, and more interesting.
This is the sort of death metal I like to hear, it's not just one thing, there are clear indications towards being more interesting instead of being just another brutal slam band. I think the songwriting talents that are demonstrated on here are strong enough to win over more than a few new fans and hopefully these guys can keep writing good songs like these for future releases. I think it's a solid slab of death metal that I could see plenty of people liking, no matter your preference on the sub-genres of death metal.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Drowned and Devoured, Hammer Redeemer

Horrendous - The Chills (2012)

Band: Horrendous
Country: USA
Style: Death Metal
Label: Dark Descent

It's no secret that I love death metal that sounds old, like early-90s kind of old, so anything with that sort of sound is likely to appeal to me in some way. There just something more appealing to me about a band that sounds rawer and more gritty when they're doing death metal and it's a sound I constantly like tend to favor over more polished sound records. The first time I saw the cover for Horrendous' debut full-length I just knew it'd be something good.
Listening to a record like this is a rather enthralling experience. There's a lot of energy and life in these songs, even when the band enter into a more doomy passage, it's always got that little extra punch to it that just makes it pop out at you. These guys definitely have that sound that I crave from my death metal, it smacks you with that early sound that still owes a lot to thrash and punk, but is recent enough to embrace slower and more melodic breaks. I was quite surprised by the more "progressive" flair that was demonstrated on the album closer The Eye of Madness, that seemed like it went off into some territory that you might know from early Cynic and Atheist records. There's also an influence of black metal coming through as well, though to a lesser extent than the other styles, it did bring a nice flair to some of the riffing, hear opener The Womb. In my mind, it's one of those things that could have only happened today, where a band manages to combine various styles, even if they are all a part of a greater single genre (being death metal in this case), and pull it off with applaud. Each song on here has its own sort of flavor, but each has bite and spunk as well as variety, things that are sorely lacking in death metal that is polished, to be honest, even older bands don't really have those anymore either, but it's in here for sure. There's a noticeable difference in every song on here, whether it's a more straightforward death-thrash kick in the face or a more winding piece of melodic death metal with epic sounding melodies, and it's something that really cannot be overlooked when talking about this album.
There really isn't a whole lot to complain about with this record to be honest. Since my first listen, it's just been one of those albums that I can listen to over and over, and I haven't gotten bored with it yet after nearly half a dozen listens. Personally, one of my only gripes about this album has to do with the fact that I think the kick-drum is a little too loud in the mix and can be a bit overpowering at times. While it wasn't a problem for me, it struck me that some of the melodies on here feature a bigger amount of reverb on them to kind of make them stick out could potentially strike someone as out of place or just a bad decision. So far, I don't think it's been received as such, which is good, but I wouldn't be surprised if someone saw that as a flaw. Like I said though, beyond that there really isn't a whole lot to hate on this about.
With this being one of the first 2012 albums I've heard, I can safely say that it looks like death metal is gonna have an even better year than 2011. It's probably gonna sound weird saying this, but I do believe it'll be hard to find another death metal band that's gonna be able to top this album (and it's still in January!), that's how good I find this. I seriously hope you check this record out if you are in any way a fan of death metal, this is top tier stuff.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Somber (Desolate Winds), Fatal Dreams, The Eye of Madness

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

It Only Gets Worse - EP (2012)

Band: It Only Gets Worse
Country: Drachten, Netherlands/Millbrook, Alabama
Style: Witch House/Dark Ambient
Label: Independent

My good friend Matt Finney is a very talented individual with a very dark mind. It's fitting that he has found other individuals who are equally as disturbed as he is to create music with, the latest being Mories, of Gnaw Their Tongues most famously. The idea of the two working together, honesty, struck me as one that might not work out all that well when I first heard about it. Then when Finney told me about the style of music they were making, I was a little more in awe, and not in a good way. I was still very iffy as to my opinion, and keep in mind I hadn't heard anything from it at this point, on the project, so when he sent it to me, the anticipation was high.
To elaborate a bit more on what I expected when I had first heard that Mories and Matt were collaborating together, I don't think it would've been a stretch of the imagination to think that you'd have something along the lines of Aderlating's dark ambient miasma mixed with the cacophonous sludge of Gnaw Their Tongues with Finney doing spoken word over it. Keep in mind, that's what I imagined when I first heard about them working together. What has come out as a result of their collaboration is far, far different than that. As the above "style" says, what you'll find on here is more in line with the witch house movement and, to an extent, a bit of dubstep as well (a genre that I really have little appreciation for simply out of how annoying I find it), and it's surprisingly good. Musically, it's all in line with the darker spectrum of shoegazy soundscapes with pulsating house beats on top, luckily when it goes dubstep on Weightless Falling they don't go for the annoying, and over used in my opinion, wub-wub sound. If I didn't tell you that Mories was involved with this, I don't think you'd have guessed that it's him doing all the music. There are hints of his trademark noise in these songs, which does set it apart, more so, from other groups attempting the whole "witch house" thing. When it comes to Finney's lyrics though, which are delivered in his usual emotionless and monotone voice, are perhaps even more spiteful than what was exhibited on the last Heinali & Matt Finney album, Ain't No Night, last year. I didn't feel as haunted by his lyrics or as depressed as I did on that album, which might have more to do with the music not being as melancholic, but there are certainly still lines that do stick with me.
It's a great debut release that definitely shows that the duo are working with a decent amount of ideas, so further releases could go in various directions. I mean, frankly, it is a dark little album and somehow I doubt they'd just release an uplifting dance album in the near future, but there's a lot of room in the box they've created in this four song EP. As much as they'd like for you to believe things will only get worse, I promise you that the only place this project will go is up.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ascension, Weightless Falling

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sektor 304 - Subliminal Actions

Band: Sektor 304
Country: Porto, Portugal
Style: Industrial/Noise
Label: Malignant Records

Until last year I was very unaware of the underground industrial-noise scene. I can admit that finding groups/projects that I personally find interesting and exciting has been a bit of a struggle, if only because it is different from my comfort zone, musically. Maybe it was because it wasn't metal enough or that I just couldn't wrap my head around it at the time, but a lot of the stuff I looked up I found pretty annoying and hard to kind of listen to. A lot of it just turns extremely repetitive and ideas are repeated until they're no longer exciting or in any way worth while and any sense of being engaging. But just because that's what a lot of the groups I looked up did to me, doesn't mean they're all bad. Sektor 304 may have been one of those groups that did something worth while.
But onto the album itself, what is there to say about this group that you won't find from other bands doing this sort of style. All I can tell you is that this is an improvement from their debut, 2009's Soul Cleansing, which I liked by the way. I'll admit that compared to some of the other groups I've heard doing this sort of style, this isn't the most abstract, quite a few of the beats these guys are using are quite easy to latch onto and remember right away. It's the type of album that is surprisingly catchy and memorable despite the use of rather odd instruments (which I guess could be deemed common for this style) like power tools, scrap metal, and what has been labeled as junk by the band. I have to admit that coming into the album I was a bit nervous because the band had apparently expanded to a four-piece and I was unsure how those extra two members would impact the sound. Luckily, it all worked out for the best, this album even topping their last one. There are moments which, and like I said I'm no expert on this genre, recall almost powerviolence-esque types of grooves, in addition to most of the guitar work being done on a bass. I also have to say that when this thing does go for a more dark ambient and drone type of sound, they do pull it off quite well, as the longer tracks on here clearly showcase a well developed mood and atmosphere that doesn't feel like it was simply thrown together to just make a long droning piece.
Now, I don't want to give anyone the wrong impression of this album just because I said that it's quite memorable in spots, it's still a very dark album. I actually should say that the album starts dark, by the end of the album you're pretty much in the sewers. I imagine this album, and I have no idea if this is a concept album or not though I doubt it, as being a sort of story where you start off above ground in a sort of apocalyptic world and with each track you and the world move further and further into disarray and chaos. By the end of The Prismatic Sun you're totally surrounded by utter filth and the world is in a state of disrepair. There are moments that give off a sense of paranoia and are genuinely unsettling, Terminal Stage for instance, while other moments are more direct and abrasive, Full Circle. They both work hand in hand with each other even though the album gradually looses it's intensity as it goes on. Despite the fact that I would have liked to have heard some more aggressive material near the end of the record, I can certainly appreciate the progression from being intense in a "metal" or "industrial" sense and being intense in a more drone oriented one. I can also respect that this is an album listen, it flows from one idea to the next, though the inclusion of a near grindcore-like section near the end of A.A.D.S. is a bit questionable, and I think it's a good step forward for the group.
I'm clearly no expert on this sort of stuff, but I know what I like, and from browsing around and exploring, I can tell you that I do like this. I think it's a record that most likely will lose some people but is interesting and well-rounded enough to definitely turn me into a fan of the band and respect what they're doing. I'd definitely recommend this to you if you're a fan of industrial, noise, drone, or powerviolence; I think you'd find something in here to really latch onto.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: By The Throat, Friction, The Prismatic Sun