1/17/2013

Review: Hexvessel - No Holier Temple (2012)

 Genre: psychedelic folk/rock
 Label: Svart Records
 Country: Finland 

My number 1 of 2012!

The band is the spiritual child of Mat “Kvohst” McNerney – who you may know of a few Dødheimsgard and code albums. On their first album (Dawnbearer) this band made psychic folk, which was a pretty mellow, very intimate, spiritual and strange effort. I really liked that one as well, but it’s a tough one to sell; McNerney’s voice is very speficic and people tend to love it or hate it, and the music itself is very specific as well.


Besides Mat, the band consists of members from Dark Buddha Rising among others. On this second album the process was much more a group effort, and also guided by their live gigs regarding intensity (i.e. rocking). Whereas the previous one was strongly metaphysical and about spirituality as derived from the self, this one is more grounded in nature, where the spirituality now emanates from (as there is no holier temple than nature). The music itself has shifted more towards psychic rock this time around and it is glorious!



It still is mostly quite mellow, but there is way more tension throughout, and sometimes the songs do erupt in epic rocking passages. Take for instance the monumental His Portal Tomb, which is threatening from beginning to end, sometimes lapsing to some peaceful fandango, sometimes lets go and has an immensely gripping and dissonant bridge towards the end.



Other songs are beautifully crafted pieces, with soaring melodies and really really fucking exquisite vocals (I want Kvohsts babies). Sacred Marriage is a good example of this, with its acoustic passages with some cool weird instrumentation, offset by electric passages with a really vintage fuzzy but still kinda thin quitar sound. Woods to Conjure knows the same threatening atmosphere of His Portal Tomb, but stays more on the laidback side like Sacred Marriage does. Here the trumpet work is absolutely phenomenal and the subtle crescendo in madness towards the end expertly executed.



Some stuff is just straight up weird, like Are You Coniferous? (yes, he is asking you if you are like a conifer). Fucking awesome song though, especially because this is the one time that Kvohst gives a pitch perfect Tom Waits-style performance.



This record captures the vibe of the 60's/70's psychedelic greats perfectly (the final song is a cover from that era) and manages to translate it to this time. In a way this reminds me of Imaad Wasif, who essentially does the same and also delives these strange psychedelic modern albums. So, despite the obvious influences it's a very original and unique work, maybe even approaching perfection.

Listen to this. Really really, listen to this. Go and put it on your portable music device and immerse yourself in the wild, or better yet, rent a cabin in the woods with a record player and all the stuff you need for a good trip...

1/07/2013

Album top 20 of the year 2012

After long deliberation (and little posts, sorry), I found these 20 albums to be the best of 2012:

01 Hexvessel - No Holier Temple (psychedelic rock/folk)


02 Cattle Decapitation - Monolith Of Inhumanity (deathgrind)


03 Wovenhand - The Laughing Stalk (folk rock)


04 DrDoom - Everyone is Guilty (grindcore with a twist)


05 Baby Woodrose - Third Eye Surgery (psychedelic rock)


06 Old Man Gloom - NO (sludge/post-metal/experimental)


07 Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind (hardcore/mathcore/metalcore)


08 Hidden Orchestra - Archipelago (downtempo/jazz)


09 Eagle Twin - The Feather Tipped The Serpent's Scale (sludge/doom)


10 Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral (blues/alternative rock)



11 Mgła - With Hearts Toward None (black metal, YouTube)
12 High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis (stoner/doom, YouTube)
13 Goat - World Music (psychedelic rock/world music/disco, YouTube)
14 Nihill - Verdonkermaan (black metal/noise, YouTube)
15 Om - Advaitic Songs ("Tibetan chant drone"/experimental/stoner, YouTube)
16 Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock (krautrock/black metal, YouTube)
17 Marduk - Serpent Sermon (black metal, YouTube)
18 Golden Void - Golden Void (psychedelic rock, YouTube)
19 Dodecahedron - Dodecahedron (unorthodox black metal, YouTube)
20 Narrows - Painted (harcore/mathcore, YouTube

Again a great year for music! Let's hope 2013 will be just as good or even better!

7/30/2012

Review: Doomtree - No Kings (2011)

 Genre: hip-hop
 Label: Doomtree
 Country: United States of America


One of my favourites from last year, the collective effort of 5 MC's and 2 DJ's (respectively 2 and 1 more than the Beastie Boys needed, but hey), Doomtree's No Kings is finally officially presented here! For me hip-hop isn't a genre I particularl enjoy, but I have a thing for the weird and original and sometimes the weird and original from an otherwise pretty much retarded genre can turn out to be pretty damn sweet...


Enter Doomtree, these guys and girl from Minneapolis are DJ's and MC's in their own right (with releases on the Doomtree label) but also collaborate frequently and sometimes even make a record with errrrybody. This is their second group effort, and from what I hear about the first one the first real group effort. That's the first thing that they really deserve credit for: the vocal styles of the 5 MC's are very distinct but they make it mesh seamlessly. The songs, mostly produced by 1 of the producers and 2 of the MC's, all play on the respective strengths of the vocalists and you never get the idea that one of the MC's is much better and the others are only on the record because it's a group thing. A true group effort then, something that seems unheard of in the standard guns and bling-bullshit world of hip-hop...

...what Doomtree really isn't a part of anyway! Lyrics are sharp as a wit, challenging, beautiful: it's all there! They are deeply critical of certain societal trends, and they let that be known. Also some more 'general' lyrics on the progress of mankind and a little 'true' hip-hop fronting about them being well... pretty good! But hey, these guys áre truly good so that's OK. Their vocal delivery is really awesome: like said before they are all very different and besides that their individual flow and sound are just great. From the respective MC's there is fast machine gun rapping with a psycho edge, laidback drawn out playing with rhythm, an amalgamation of singing and rapping from the female MC, warm narrating beat driven flow and attention demanding in your face spitting going all over the place.


So, the music, what is it? Well, it's not old school hip-hop and it's not current mainstream hip-hop. The latter is at least a plus! Apart from what it isn't, they bring all kinds of music to the table and that is... well, damn awesome once more! Electro, garage rock, indie, trip-hop, you name it they bring it. It has a decidedly experimental feel; the base is pretty much electronic but it has a strong presence of raw instrumentation as well. There's exciting drum/beat work, subtle details swirling in and out the music, driving punkish/rock guitars, ambience, and in general a very strong sense of what the song is and what it needs to do. The combination of the impressive vocals and the intricate music make this something like I've never heard before.

So, yeah, all in all: LISTEN TO THIS AND STAND IN AWE! Also, check out the work done by P.O.S; his great 2009 effort Never Better inspired me to check out their collective work. And don't forget, looking at theses guys you're scoring massive points in the hipster scene. Pip pip, cheerio!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

1/25/2012

Review: Blutvial - Curses Thorns Blood (2011)

 Genre: raw black metal
 Label: Haintic
 Country: United Kingdom

This release has slipped under my radar up until recently, which is a shame because it would have carved out a spot on my top 20 album list of 2011 with unrelenting force. I was aware of Blutvial's previous effort, I Speak of the Devil, and I thought it was a solid release. However, as it didn't stand out as a real masterpiece and the year was already coming to a close quickly when Curses Thorns Blood was released I didn't bother checking it until raving reviews started popping up here and there. A shame, really...


Spawned from the mind of Aort (of the indomitable <code> and the Haintic label), Ewchmylaen (Reign of Erebus) and drummer Zemogh (drummer/producer/technician of various great releases), Blutvial has no time to waste and unleashes a torrent of biting black metal upon the world in the form of album opener At The Stones We Gather. This song works well, is awash with blast beats and furious riffing. An entire album in this style would have been more than good. However, after commanding your attention so fiercely, Blutvial uses the opportunity to take the listener to a plethora of different places while the venom undeniably remains...


Whether they go for an uptempo scathing attack with a strangely hypnotic latter half like Blackthorn Winter, the punkish evil of The Immutable Hammer or a drawn out epic song with doom like passages and eerie melodies like A Light in the Forest, every song is a thrill. Each riff, bass line and drum beat works; they are all interesting while at the same time they never do any more work than necessary. The songs need no instruments showing off but only the biting vocals of Ewchmylaen to top it all off and drive the point home. Production is also solid, and lets the music breathe and hit you where it hurts.

In short, this record is raw and pure evil and seems to be really uncomplicated. But where a lot of black metal releases that adopt this style fail in truly being a masterpiece (lacking some sort of deeper quality), Curses Thorns Blood doesn't. Under the banner of Blutvial a team of seasoned musicians has gathered who understand their craft perfectly and they manage to condense all the darkness they can invoke into a gem of a record.

A must listen for all fans of raw black metal (Craft, Merrimack, Marduk), and fans of more experimental black metal should be able to whet their appetite with this as well. Support these guys and buy their stuff!

1/16/2012

Review: Wovenhand - The Threshingfloor (2010)

 Genre: folk, alt-country
 Label: Glitterhouse
 Country: United States

Really impressive stuff! Folk/country, but much darker and broader in musical scope than you would expect. I've seen the moniker gothic americana being applied, and that seems appropriate. The songs shift between punishing dark tribal stompers and more mellow drawn out songs. Also, they are masterfully crafted, produced very well and (at least for me) refreshingly original.


It's very hypnotic and evocative, and fiercely commands attention. This is not that surprising; Wovenhand's creative mastermind is deeply religious, and his grandfathers were a Church of the Nazarene preacher and Native American wanderer respectively. Both influences shine trough musically and lyrically. The pain of holding yourself up to the perfect light of God and being found wanting is sometimes present in his music, as is a kind of desert feel and an almost Zen-like serenity.


All in all a work that really deserves your time and, dare I say it, worship.

1/09/2012

Album top 20 of the year 2011

After long deliberation, I found these 20 albums to be the best of 2011:

01 Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All (unorthodox death metal)


02 Doomtree - No Kings (hiphop)


03 Peste Noire - L'Ordure à l'état Pur (black metal/experimental)


04 Fuck the Facts - Die Miserable (grindcore/death metal)


05 Virus - The Agent That Shapes The Desert (avant-garde/rock/metal)


06 Wolves Like Us - Late Love (post-hardcore, YouTube)
07 Tombs - Path Of Totality (sludge/post-metal, YouTube)
08 Septicflesh - The Great Mass (symphonic death metal, YouTube)
09 Hexvessel - Dawnbearer (psych/folk, YouTube)
10 All Pigs Must Die - God Is War (hardcore/grindcore/crust, YouTube)

11 Bloodiest - Descent (psych/doom/experimental, YouTube)
12 Ulver - War Of The Roses (experimental/avant-garde/rock, YouTube)
13 KEN mode - Venerable (noise/sludge/hardcore, YouTube)
14 White Hills - H-p1 (space/psych, YouTube)
15 Terra Tenebrosa - The Tunnels (post-metal/drone/experimental, YouTube)
16 Primordial - Redemption At The Puritan's Hand (pagan metal/folk metal, YouTube)
17 Rotten Sound - Cursed (grindcore, YouTube)
18 Trap Them - Darker Handcraft (hardcore/grindcore/crust, YouTube)
19 Cave In - White Silence (experimental/hardcore/metal, YouTube)
20 SubRosa - No Help For The Mighty Ones (doom/sludge, YouTube)

All in all I think 2011 was a great year for music! Let's hope 2012 will be just as good or even better!

7/16/2011

Review: Septicflesh - The Great Mass

 Genre: symphonic death metal
 Label: Seasons of Mist
 Country: Greece


Greek band Septicflesh (previously styled as Septic Flesh) have employed a bombastic and theatrical approach to their death metal before. But on this album they really go all out; and with the continuing help of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra they have crafted a masterpiece. The making of with the orchestra can be seen below.


Whereas their previous release, Communion, was also very bombastic it leaned much more on catchy theatrics than The Great Mass does. This record lets go of most of the (easy) catchiness of before, it just fucking crushes. The orchestra is brutal, they play loud, they play aggressive and do not shy away from dissonance and other discomfort; they really show how symphonic METAL should sound like. And the band does great work as well, vocals are brutal (and the much more sparingly used clean vocals are fine as well), riffs are great (and the guitarists are never showing off like in most symphonic metal) and drums are hyperaggressive. Production is phenomenal as well.


So, to sum it up: this really is symphonic death metal that actually deserves both descriptors in its genre name, and the orchestra and choirs work in perfect tandem with the band to deliver a brutal aggressive bombastic beast of a record.

6/10/2011

Review: Primordial – Redemption at the Puritan’s Hand (2011)

 Genre: pagan metal, black metal, folk metal
 Label: Metal Blade Records
 Country: Ireland
 Listen: SoundCloud

Redemption at the Puritans Hand is Primordial's follow-up to their (rightfully) popular To the Nameless Dead. These guys make black/pagan/folk metal and while that specific combination of genres normally would lead me to a fit of endless nausea-induced regurgitation, Primordial actually know what they're doing. Maybe it's because they're Irish and try to sound Irish, instead of being Scandinavian and trying to sound Viking (or being whichever non-Scandinavian nationality and trying to sound Viking...), which essentially seems to mean that bands turn into leather/sackcloth-clad pussies who'd rather play with their flutes than actually making music worthy of their ancestors.


Regardless of most bands in this style not getting it, Primordial's infusion of black metal with Celtic-themed lyrics and a certain melancholy that seems to fit the Irish so well is highly original and just works perfectly. A lot of hypnotic riffing, build-ups and powerful drumming carries you on a journey along the myths and history of the Celts of yore. Besides the more drawn out guitar work (e.g. Bloodied Yet Unbowed), melodic parts (e.g. The Mouth of Judas) and rhythmic pummelling (e.g. The Black Hundred) offer variation and depth to this album. No cliché bombastic bullshit, no needless technical masturbation, just pure atmosphere and power.

The singer, Nemtheanga, mainly employs a powerful and gripping (almost) narrating style of raspy vocals which soar into the heights when needed and sometimes (rarely, actually) devolve into straight-up black metal screams. This by itself is -very- refreshing to hear! On parts of the second track, Lain with the Wolf, he even sounds like avant-garde god Czral (Virus) and all in all he seems to have improved compared to their earlier efforts.

In short, the music and the vocals work in perfect unison to draw a clear picture of melancholy and lost history without ever falling into cliché and cornyness. This may even be better than their previous releases, which already were top-quality work!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

5/21/2011

Review: A Storm of Light – As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade (2011)

 Genre: post-metal, sludge, doom metal
 Label: Profound Lore
 Country: United States of America
 Listen: preview all tracks here!

Heavy as fuck post-metal/sludge/doom outfit A Storm of Light is back with a new record featuring a slew of guest musicians. It actually surprised me that they found Kim Thayil (Soundgarden; on Missing, Black Wolves) and Jarboe (Swans, Jarboe; on Collapse, Death's Head) willing to join them. Others guest are Nerissa Campbell (Amber Asylum; on Missing, Black Wolves, Wasteland), Kris Force (Amber Asylum; on Wasteland), Carla Kihlstedt (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum; on Destroyer) and Matthias Bossi (Sleepytime Gorilla Museum; on Wasteland).

The band is fronted by Josh Graham who does vocals, guitars and keyboards. He is of Neurosis (visual artist), Red Sparrowes (guitar) and Battle of Mice (guitars, keys, some vocals; I should review that one as well, their A Day of Nights record is soulcrushingly good!) fame. The line-up is completed by Joel Hamilton (guitars, drums; Battle of Mice) and Domenic Seita (bass, vocals; Tombs). Some Neurosis and Tombs (not surprisingly), Minsk, Kylesa and even some Tool shines through from time to time. To make clear how awesome their music is, they gave this album a ridiculously long name...


The album features drawn out droning/crushing guitar riffs as well as more melodic soaring pieces. This all is supported by tribal drumming, as well as more straightforward fills and the typical post-metal style with either just a few hits or a lot of crashes to give this soothing flow. In that regard, their band name is aptly chosen. This really is a storm blowing around you, slowly building in strength and intensity, pummeling you from all sides and the light... well the light, gives little comfort but does offer a small reprieve before it burns right through you. What is clear that in the end there is little hope left, this is the apocalypse of your soul.

The sound is awesome, the production really fits the music and makes sure there is no escape from the impact A Storm of Light wants to make. All in all I think this album is better than their previous work. It's more coherent (it also really needs to be played as a whole, this is not an album to just pick out some songs), they have clearly found their niche and know what they're doing. This is post-metal/doom at its finest!

PLAY IT LOUD.

5/03/2011

Hiatus

Apparently I have taken an unannounced break during a large part of April, sorry for that. Other things occupied me and my mind, but I will get back to writing soon. Especially since attending Roadburn 2011 in Tilburg has inspired me immensely; what an outstanding festival! From beginning to end I pretty much only saw top quality bands.


Above you can see a music video by Imaad Wasif. This little Indian surprised me immensely with his concert at Roadburn. While his record The Voidist is very cool, the show completely blew me away; they rocked so hard, awesome!

4/06/2011

Review: Portishead - Third (2008)

 Genre: trip-hop
 Label: Island Records
 Country: United Kingdom
 Listen: MySpace

After a decade of (recording) absence the trip-hop masters of Bristol return with something not quite like their previous efforts. While the characteristic very melancholic voice of Beth Gibbons, always seemingly on the verge of breaking, clearly marks this as a Portishead album a lot of warmth and subtlety of the previous work has disappeared.


From the start of the record, Silence an opening sample of a Portuguese man talking about the number three, it is clear that something is wrong. The violin once again features in the music, but it is more haunting than comforting. It floats over an abrasive and strangely structured support of piano, distorted guitar and drums, only to all suddenly drop when the vocals, subdued drumming and a more subtle guitar line come in... After building a little tension the first part more or less come back while the vocals keep displaying their utter despair. The coda kicks in, quite dissonant and disconcerting, and develops for a while until it just stops. This song has taken you on quite a ride without giving much to hold on to. The second track, Hunter is more relaxed and more in line with their previous work, while still offering the sudden shifts and weird sounds as found in the opening track. Then it's off to Nylon Smile, a bit psychedelic/folky track. It strongly depends on the drawn out vocal lines, which go on for a bit after the music ends, which only adds to their impact. The Rip ends the first third of the album. This song is near being danceable, after a nice guitar-drive intro a driving beat kicks in and the synth takes over the guitar line in an almost synth-pop fashion. It even seems there is some light at the end of the tunnel... The video for this song is shown below.


After this momentary relative comfort another of the darker tracks kick in, Plastic. Again very much driven by the despairing vocals. The music switches between subtle guitar lines and harsh electronic sequences. After that We Carry On is up, and it indeed carries on. It has, once again, a clear driving beat and bass line that provide the basis for the vocals and (slightly detuned) guitars to alternately and simultaneously stab into your brain. It very effectively packs quite a punch. Then, suddenly, a twangy ukulele kicks in on the next song, Deep Water! This song even has some backing vocals reminiscent of music from the 20's/30's/40's (whatever). It's the shortest and most, well, normal song on the record and thereby serves as a certain breathing point on the record. The second third of the album is closed by Machine Gun, which starts with a... machine gun-like drum track. The frailty and flow of the vocals is very much contrasted by the harshness and disjointed beat under it. It goes into a more open drum beat, then a weirdly distorted 'melody' line before kicking into a pretty much 80's-approved synth ending. The video for this song can be seen below.


Small starts with a subtle guitar line and soft vocals, before shifting to a cello interlude and then a harsh pattern of stumbling drums and synth with a guitar lead. This dissolves into the cello part again, then drawn out vocal lines and finishes with (again) the harsh drums and synths, but now almost military. For a little time of easier breathing the more traditional Magic Doors gives us a hurdy-gurdy and piano for just over half of the song. After that we've clearly had enough, comfort so a sax pushed very much to it's limits breaks up the song for a while... A video for this song can be seen below.


The closing track of the record is Threads, again with a more traditional start of the song. The relaxed guitar line here could have easily featured on one of the first records, but the creepy violin in the back and the intertwined abrasive beats under the choruses make it clear that this is new Portishead. These choruses climb in intensity along the track, culminating in the vocals driving off into madness and loud large noises blaring for a while until the trip is finally done...

This record can be actually hard to listen to because of the traditional musical boundaries that are occasionally overstepped. Some vocal lines are not just dissonant but out of tune, structuring is often weird, the choice of instruments and the effects applied are not very common and can be offsetting and tracks sometimes just suddenly stop instead of having a proper outro. But this is clearly intentional, this was not meant to be record that is shaved until perfection. That would not fit the very dark themes handled; when you're at the depth of your despair, why would you care about a technically perfect and soothing performance? No, this is a record that directly channels the emotions it wants to evoke into sound. Polishing it further would only mean the message hides behind an unneeded and uncalled for layer.

To sum it all up: Portishead's Third, is easily one of the greatest comebacks ever, it offers a very different palette compared their previous work and it's just very good. No, actually, this is one of the greatest records ever, period. It shows an emotional depth and level of despair rarely reached in even the most extreme genres. It is intelligently constructed (read about it here), highly original and relevant.

3/28/2011

Review: Aborym – Psychogrotesque (2010)

 Genre: industrial black metal, avant-garde black metal, electronic
 Label: Seasons of Mist Records
 Country: Italy
 Listen: MySpace

The new Aborym! Have given it a few spins now and it is awesome. Aborym does what Abigor should have done on their newest (that was a dissappointment for me); make an unholy fusion of black metal, industrial and even more straight-up electronic music (dark ambient). Not as chaotic as Abigor, Aborym still retains a sense of control and tigthness in the sheer madness and tension their music evokes.


As compared to their previous outings, the non-black metal elemens have become more prominent/important; samples, keys, even a lone saxofone (well, twice or so) and a dance beat. The band’s mastermind now does the vocals himself, and he sounds fucking evil and/or demented; as do the instruments, actually. The title of this record, and the cover, are very appropiate to say the least. Enjoy!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/24/2011

Review: Dimensional Psychosis – Architecture of Realities (2009)

 Genre: industrial black metal
 Label: Daemon Worship
 Country: the Netherlands
 Listen: MySpace

Dimensional Psychosis hails from varying parts of the Netherlands and make high quality industrial black metal. They unfortunately split up before this album was even released, which is a big shame because that hampered the recognition this record so clearly deserves. For instance, they only managed to find a distribution label after a long time and because of their demise it isn’t a big one (though it is trustworthy, ordered the record there myself).


Their music is somewhat reminiscent of Abigor’s Fractal Possession, though less polished. In general expect swirling black metal with a large dose of industrial soundscapes and effects as well as use of more conventional synthesizer sounds. The music does clearly have a certain groove from time to time, which a lot of similar acts sorely lack. In that way it references the work of the great Emperor (vocals are also slightly Ihsahn-ish). Though chaos seems to prevail, it is well thought out and there are enough points of reference to cling to when listening. All in all the music is quite good (so it’s too bad their future was cut short), and with song titles like Astral Abortion you just can’t go wrong! Ah, also note the unnamed 8th track, 90′s gabber industrial breakcore black metal which works better than you might expect.

Band members were/are also active in bands like Sauron, Galgeras, Fluisterwoud, Caedere and Botulistum. Spectre, of Control Human Delete fame, made the cover and album art work in general.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/21/2011

Review: Terzij de Horde – A Rage of Rapture Against the Dying of the Light (2010)

 Genre: black metal, post-black metal, post-hardcore, doom
 Label: Self-released
 Country: the Netherlands
 Listen: MySpace

Already got this EP (28 minutes) before the gig of september 2010, but after they completely blew me away (literally, at one point) I had to write this review. It really was very impressive, just the right stage presence for music like this.


A discomforting fusion of (post-)black metal, post-rock, doom and (post)-hardcore is what these men from the Netherlands bring. Quite original and above all just very good, this will become a great name in tha sc3ne. Furious blasting, drones, dissonance and sometimes an almost hopeful reprieve which is shattered completely seconds later, all wrapped in a well thought out production (not too clean, not too raw).

The band draws heavily on the works of various poets, philosophers and other writers for its lyrics and concepts. Their band’s name is derived from a poem of Hendrik Marsman:
EINDE

Terzij de horde

nooit gleed een bloemsignaal
tegen de steilte van mijn schemernacht,
waar ik, gewelfd over den rand der ruimte,
den geur der eeuwen puur uit de bokaal der lucht

en zelfde drijf, een late, smalle bloem,
op den verloomden maatslag van den tijd.
This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/17/2011

Review: Anaal Nathrakh – Eschaton (2006)

 Genre: black metal, grindcore, industrial
 Label: Seasons of Mist
 Country: United Kingdom
 Listen: MySpace

For me the highlight of Anaal Nathrakh’s career; 2006′s most blistering release Eschaton. While still drenched in a relentlessly chaotic sound and furious vocals, Anaal Nathrakh’s music has never sounded so focused and well thought-out as on Eschaton. I in part ‘blame’ the work on bass (on some tracks) done by Shane Embury of Napalm Death fame; his distinctive sound and style give a solid anchor for the ensuing massacre. And on songs like “Between Shit And Piss We Are Born” you can hear how brilliant their music is set up; the subtle shift to the first clean vocals with the very cool melodic leads in the background is pure unadultered genius!


So, for anyone interested in the sheer fury and evil of black metal fused with the chaos and fuck-all attitude of grindcore and even some industrial overtones, this is your thing.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/14/2011

Review: Kylesa – Spiral Shadow (2010)

 Genre: sludge metal, psychedelic
 Label: Prosthetic Records
 Country: United States
 Listen: MySpace

Kylesa’s newest! Whereas Static Tensions was meant to destroy everything that crossed it’s path, this release is much more subtle in its darkness and well, tension. I would even say that this record is predominantly psychedelic, the sludge part has much less emphasis than their previous works. More clean vocals, more drawn out melodic pieces, more strangely hypnotizing riffs and drum work and less in-your-face agression.


For me it was quite hard to get used to, because I absolutely adore Static Tensions, but this seems to work as well. For people who didn't appreciate their earlier work this may mean that they may appreciate this record!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/10/2011

Review: Groove Armada - Black Light (2010)

 Genre: electronic
 Label: Cooking Vinyl
 Country: United Kingdom
 Listen: MySpace

This album is unbelievably cool! Hard-hitting electronic/big-beat, with a large dose of 80's mixed in (in the form of synthpop-like sounds and Davie Bowie-worship amongst other things). All in all a very hypnotizing record, with smooth synth sounds floating on pounding bass lines and drums.


Below you can see a video clip for one of the songs. This is one of the songs with a male (guest) singer on main vocals, and one of the female singers on backing. Vocal duties are split between about 5 different singers on the various songs, and they are all very good. Check it!


This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/07/2011

Review: Gojira – Terra Icognita (2001)

 Genre: death metal, progressive death metal, technical death metal
 Label: Gabriel Editions
 Country: France
 Listen: MySpace

The damn French manage to bring forth some of the greatest bands ever, and among them I count the mighty Gojira. Terra Incognita is their first album and probably their rawest; I will post other albums in the future – to show the amazing progress this band makes. This record features brutal death metal riffing, atmospheric meandering, strange structures and rhythm all perfectly carried out by very competent musicians. This is, at least for me, the future of death metal and maybe metal as a whole. It does not encompass real harsh extremity bands like Ulcerate have, but they do manage to bring forth some sort of overpoweringly perfect entity. It’s like being torn to pieces by a terrible unyielding Pallas Athena.


While I have categorized this as technical death metal, it is not technical in the bliblibli-sense but more like Meshuggah is technical; technical prowess, (sometimes) complex rhythms but never forgetting to write bloody good songs. Oh, and they are very much god-damn-hippies!

Live they truly are a powerhouse, massively tight and so intense! Observe! (This song is actually from the album after Terra Incognita, The Link.)


This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/03/2011

Review: The Dillinger Escape Plan – Option Paralysis (2010)

 Genre: mathcore, experimental, avant-garde metal
 Label: Party Smasher Inc.
 Country: United States
 Listen: MySpace

The Dillinger Escape Plan, (one of) the first mathcore band(s), returns to the front with their fourth and most refined record to date. The chaos and violence of their deeplying hardcore roots is as always nicely coupled with technical complexity, but for this record, more than ever, the sound is very coherent and the Mike Patton / Nine Inch Nails influences are fully integrated. So, while in actuality tDEP doesn’t really do anything they haven’t done before, the way they do it and how it sounds is unique. This record doesn’t scare you away with its complexity, but draws you in with seemingly easy music which slowly shows how deep and complex (and from time to time extremely raw and aggressive) it actually is. For the other records this was more or less the reverse process. But of course, this is still tDEP, so radio-friendliness is limited. The genre descriptor ‘mathcore’ is getting way too limited for this band. Maybe we should start calling them post-mathcore or something *cough* *cough* Anyway, this is a really great album, it headed the list of my top albums of 2010 and with VERY good reason.


Ah, for the record*, former David Bowie piano player (one record, Alladin Sane) and Nine Inch Nails accomplice (the Fragile) Mike Garson lent his avant garde piano playing and writing skills to tDEP for two of the songs. One of these songs, Widower, can be heard below coupled with an amazing fan-made video. Beautiful video accompanying a -very- beautiful song. Video was made by a fan, endorsed by the band's singer Greg Puciato on Twitter: 'Not an official DEP video, but I'm backin' it. This is fucking better than anything we could do anyway, really cool.'.


This is where chaos, technicality, emotion and songwriting come together to form the perfect record. This is… Option Paralysis!**

*this record, even
**did you guys see how cheesy that set-up was? Isn’t it great?!?

This review was previously released elsewhere.

3/01/2011

Review: Crime in Stereo – I Was Trying To Describe You To Someone (2010)

 Genre: hardcore, indie, punk
 Label: Bridge Nine Records
 Country: United States
 Listen: MySpace

These dudes make an fresh and interesting mix of indie rock / hardcore (punk) / post something. It has the loose atmosphere and the kathartic effect of punk, (sometimes) the aggression of hardcore, the tranquillity and melody of indie and the eclectic and drawn out nature of post whatever. Grosso modo the balance tips towards indie and post but other albums should lean more towards punk/hardcore.


Last.fm says it’s similar to Polar Bear Club, Title Fight, Shook Ones and Agent. I know none of them! I do hear Nirvana and Nada Surf sometimes, the former due to the kathartic vocals and the latter due to their style of indie on their later records (though CiS all in all isn’t similar to either). Crime in Stereo has broken up in the year of the release of this great album and celebrated that with a cool video; well, why not? Not one of their best songs off of that album, but still displays their interesting mix of punk/post-hardcore/indie/pop/whatever.


A really solid and well worked out record, impressive stuff, so check it!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/26/2011

Review: Woe – Quietly, Undramatically (2010)

 Genre: black metal
 Label: Candlelight Records
 Country: United States
 Listen: MySpace

With the album title Woe are just dead wrong, their is nothing quiet or undramatic about this album. It rages, it tears, it screams, it destroys all hope and leaves you as a withered husk; this is melancholic black metal as it should be, fucking aggressive! It seems as though Woe has chosen to reinvigorate the old punk spirit (black) metal used to have, not in the sense that it sounds shoddy (it very much doesn’t) or that this is black n’ roll (it is very much metal) but in the sense that it celebrates its emotions in reckless abandon and sometimes uses punk-like beats giving it a really aggressive edge in certain blast beats. The latter element is kinda reminiscent of old school death metal as well, the off-beat snare hits give it a distinct oem-ta feel.


So all in all, raging black metal interspersed with nice melodic guitar lines, aggressive vocals sometimes varied with clean vocals and sheer aggression that stems from the melancholy and despair underlying this great release! Probably the (kinda post-) black metal release of the year for me. Highly recommended.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/24/2011

Review: Electric Six - Fire (2003)

 Genre: rock, disco, funk, indie
 Label: XL Recordings
 Country: United States
 Listen: MySpace

And now for something truly great: Electric Six! Though this appears to be a joke band a la Günther, reality is different. True, the videos, lyrics and general image of the band and its music are rather ridiculous/hilarious. But where most joke bands don’t offer more than that and must be really funny to make a second listen worthwhile Electric Six actually offers a product that is musically very well thought out, has bizarre well-crafted lyrics (<– the lyricist must be a genius, actually) and sounds just great. I especially have great respect for the singer who has suitable technical prowess but more importantly great delivery and a slightly strange and immensely intriguing accent. All in all I absolutely adore this record, it’s just damn funny, clever, extremely relistenable and infectious!


One of their most awesome videos, Dance Commander, can be seen below.


Be honest, don't you want to be the dance commander?

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/22/2011

Review: Virus - The Agent that Shapes the Desert (2011)

 Genre: avant-garde, avant-garde metal, jazz, rock
 Label: Duplicate Records, Virulent Music
 Country: Norway
 Listen: MySpace

Virus, the vessel that carries the spirit and former members of Ved Buens Ende. In this incarnation they - the drummer (Esso) and one of the singers/guitarists (Czral, also of DHG, Aura Noir, Cadaver, the list goes on...) of VBE - have shed their black metal sensibilities. At first the band also counted the former bass player of VBE among its members, but he has stepped out last year to be replaced by a fresh face. But, even with all that VBE hanging around Virus, they have managed right from the start to create a very distinct style and sound from that entity.


In fact, this band sounds very distinct from pretty much everything else. There is a certain jazz-like tension in it all, it fiercely commands your attention. It grooves and worms its way into your brain, to swing there for a while and later deliver it's dissonant riffs and crooning vocals. For this record, their third one to date, they manage to invoke the feeling of being a traveller in the arid desert of a sun-blasted land (without being desert rock). The music rages and tears like a desert storm around you, it's dirty, it's vibrant, it stifles your breath and leaves you thirsty for so much more.

This truly is a work of art. Czral is a gifted vocalist, he manages to hit the right tones and moods for every piece. He is like a madman preaching with booming voice in the desert, no longer bordering on the absurd and bizarre but crossing over and revelling in it. The bass and drums are very much the core of the music, they get the desert ship in motion and drag us along to be flayed by the sun's unforgiving heat. Both employ solid groove, nicely rolling rhythms, and also manage to be a strong counterpart to the guitar work and vocals when needed. Ah, yes, the guitars... Ranging from more-or-less straight up riffs, to disharmonic wailing and madness - reminiscent of post-rock and noise-rock but then from the depths of the abyss. Mind you, the guitar sound is very clean, but what it plays... It all works so perfectly well together, no instrument does more or less than needed... While they don't actually need it, Garm (Ulver) lends his exceptional voice to the closing track of the album. First in a demented croon to accompany Czral's rambling, later in a full lead.

You can find almost everything on this album from time to time, besides the rough outline described before. Surfrock influence on Red Desert Sand and Where the Flame Resides, the latter also serving as a subdued Tom Waits-analogy, the almost empty soundscapes in Dead Cities of Syria, psychedelic, jazz, complex rhythms, the list goes on and on...

This music isn't easy, it's not meant to be easily enjoyed by anyone and it's clearly not meant to be comforting. It's not for the background, it's not for just any time; it's meant to be focussed on completely, to find the truths hidden in the sheer strangeness unfolding before your ears. If you can deal with the nastiness that this branch of avant-garde music offers, this record will not let you go.

2/20/2011

Exodus

 After a few weeks doing this my first 8 reviews are up. Today I have prepared 11 more that are scheduled to appear in the coming weeks. These were all released elsewhere before, but after this set of 11 I have no more 'back-catalog' left. So, from then on my posts will be actually new, though possible still released simultaneously in other locations. And maybe I will post some new reviews before these 11 are released as well, after all, I have many opinions to give! Better yet, today I have already prepared some groundwork for 8 new reviews...

Anyway, enjoy!

Review: Stam1na – Viimeinen Atlantis (2010)

 Genre: progressive metal, thrash metal
 Label: Sakara Records
 Country: Finland
 Listen: MySpace

These Finnish guys make progressive metal, with a large dash of thrash and smaller dashes of punk/rock/alternative et cetera. But progressive not in the instrumentmasturbation-sense but in the actual progressive sense. Songwriting is tight, the materal is fresh and doesn’t get up it’s own ass and the listen as a whole is highly original and just great! The music is generally quite upbeat (for metal), sometimes a bit dramatic sometimes a bit aggresive. Last.fm compares it to Mokoma, Kotiteollisuus, Diablo, FM2000, Turmion Kätilöt and many other Finnish bands I’ve never heard of. It has a bit of a Devin Townsend-edge to it as well. Not just in sound, but also in the fuck-all-attitude (just making mindblowing truly original music without giving a fuck whether or not it is mindblowing or truly original ;)).


And they make crazy videos… 



This review was previously released elsewhere.