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.

2/16/2011

Review: Ulcerate – The Destroyers of All (2011)

 Genre: unorthodox death metal, technical death metal, brutal death metal
 Label: Willowtip
 Country: New Zealand
 Listen: MySpace

Though I am still working through my back-catalog of reviews of the past year and a half (still about 10 to go) I couldn’t deprive you all of the awesome new release of New Zealand’s Ulcerate! You can find the review to their previous, also awesome, release Everything is Fire here. I have lifted the following description from there because I am lazy: “A fitting though virtually meaningless descriptor is atmospheric unorthodox death metal, though elements of technical and brutal death metal are present as well. The music moves from atmospheric minimalistic melodies, through creepy dissonant tension towards a violent vortex of death metal. To me this band does what Deathspell Omega does for black metal; it takes traditional overused elements and molds it with technical prowess and excellent song writing to produce a highly original variant of their parent genre. Because of the extensive use of dissonance and slowly trudging along creepiness mixed with violent explosions it even sounds like Deathspell Omega from time to time.”


They have continued their foray into the land of exciting dissonant death metal, but this time another layer of listenability has been stripped. On The Destroyers of All the songs aren’t so much songs as they are interlocking parts of a album-wide narrative, making this a very coherent album but hard to grasp due to the long attention span required. But the pay-off is definitely there, I keep listening and listening and listening to it. The use of atmospheric post rock-like sounds and themes further strengthens the coherency and flow of the album. So, this music is a tough nut to crack due to its unlistenability and extensive use of dissonance, but precisely because of that it paints a picture of utter chaos and destruction; when we ever need a soundtrack for the apocalypse, this is it.
 
To top it all off, the album has great artwork as well, as you can see above. The image on the background is of the (classical) statue seen below (picture by Giulio Menna), which is a very beautiful work of art in itself. I don't know what it's called, who made it, what it's about et cetera. It likely is just a scene of a stag being attacked by a hound. At first I thought it might depict the myth of the hunter Actaeon, who angered Artemis and was turned into a stag to be devoured by his own hounds, but there are no real clues to support this. The statue resides in the Sagla degli Animali in the Museo Pio-Clementino in Rome, as a friend has researched for me. 
 

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/14/2011

Review: Proghma-C – Bar-do Travel (2010)

 Genre: progressive metal
 Label: Mystic Production
 Country: Poland
 Listen: MySpace


Proghma-C mixes up everything; ambient, new-age, rock, post-metal, the list goes on and on… In essence it’s still metal, but with extensive and very refined influences. Hard to describe music, I can’t really compare to another band (due to lack of knowledge on my part and lack of comparability on their part).  For fans of Indukti and Tool (the latter shines through the album on many occassions)!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/12/2011

Review: Sólstafir – Köld (2009)

 Genre: post-black metal
 Label: Spikefarm Records
 Country: Iceland
 Listen: MySpace

One of my absolute favourites of 2009 and slowly working itself to the ‘absolute masterpiece’-section of my brain, this work has a genredefying quality that cannot be denied. Sorrow and desolation flow from this record with every spin. Far from their black metal roots, Sólstafir now delivers a very intense very metal form of post rock (I could call this post metal, but that brings up bands like Mastodon and this is quite different). The epicness, tensions, build-up and walls of sound come from post-rock, the bite and reckless abandon come from (black) metal, the psychedelica from 70′s rock and the melancholy, sorrow and emotion from a deep dark place… Fans of everything from Motorpsycho to Enslaved should be able to relate to this easily. For the rest, it still is a great listen!


The video of Love is the Devil can be seen below.



Not very representative of the album, but very representative of the quality Sólstafir delivers!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/11/2011

Review: Ulcerate – Everything is Fire (2009)

 Genre: unorthodox death metal, technical death metal, brutal death metal
 Label: Willowtip
 Country: New Zealand
 Listen: MySpace

Music from New Zealand; Ulcerate with their 2009 release Everything is Fire. A fitting though virtually meaningless descriptor is atmospheric unorthodox death metal, though elements of technical and brutal death metal are present as well. The music moves from atmospheric minimalistic melodies, through creepy dissonant tension towards a violent vortex of death metal. To me this band does what Deathspell Omega does for black metal; it takes traditional overused elements and molds it with technical prowess and excelent songwriting to produce a highly original variant of their parent genre. Because of the extensive use of dissonance and slowly trudging along creepyness mixed with violent explosions it even sounds like Deathspell Omega from time to time.


Fun fact; the one guitar player featured on this album -Michael Hoggard- is also a ballroom dancer and has participated in New Zealand’s Dancing With the Stars in 2005 (you know, when DWtS was still underground)! And get this, his celebrity partner was a transsexual Labour politician, who was a stripper and prostitute in Australia before the sex change. How death metal is that?

Highly recommended.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

Review: Mono – Hymn to the Immortal Wind (2009)

Genre: post-rock, instrumental, ambient
Label: Temporary Residence Limited
Country: Japan
Listen: MySpace


Instrumental post-rock from Japan. The band focusses largely on soundscaping and ambience which makes for a different listen compared to most post-rock acts. The music is very soothing and slowly pulls you along to a snowy mountain top from where you can gaze over the valley you will descend to after a while. Beautiful, relaxing and just enough tension to retain its appeal.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/10/2011

Review: The Ruins of Beverast – Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (2009)

Genre: black metal, doom metal
Label: Ván Records
Country: Germany
Listen: MySpace

Fascinating work with an intensely ugly album cover (see exhibit A below). The Ruins of Beverast presents a strange mixture of black metal and doom metal. Though the albums opens epically and has certain immediately likeable elements, I didn’t really like it after the first listen or two. Good atmosphere, appropiately lo-fi production (the sound is great for this kind of music), but the dooooooom influence made it seem a bit too slow and repetitive at first. A few listening attempts further the subtleness and tension in the music fully unfolded itself and I could no longer imagine how I could have thought that it was too slow or repetitive! This is just plain great!


In short; doomened black / blackened doom with clean vocals, choirs, grunts, screams, growels, blasting, funeral, massive fuzzy sound and a really awful album cover. Can’t get any better!

This review was previously released elsewhere.

2/09/2011

Review: Todtgelichter – Angst (2010)

Genre: black metal, post-rock, jazz, post-black metal
Label: Code666
Country: Germany
Listen: MySpace

My number 5 of my album top 20 of 2010; I only got to know it halfway through December, but it was immediately clear this deserved a spot. A truly unique work; it offers a seemless blend of black metal, post-rock/shoegaze, jazz and whatever more you hear in it. The music and vocals (screams, clean male and female) are very emotional, ranging from utter despair to an almost romantic melancholy. So, in a sense it is depressive/melancholic black metal, but then FUCKING GOOD and unbelievably well structured and integrated for such diverse influences.


A song like “Cafe Of Lost Dreams” blows my mind every time I hear it, especially because of the quiet parts near the end with the female vocals. This really draws up an image of sitting in the cafe of lost dreams with a jazz singer sitting alone behind the piano, soothing all the worn out guests with her melancholic words… More songs feature this kind of magnificently worked out parts. Phobos & Deimos gives a good overview of their style, nice post-rock like build-ups and massive raw and aggresive metal riffing interspersed along the song. Neon builds up from melodic and drawn out pieces, through accelerating riffs with heart wrenching screams to a nicely drawn out solos. Well, I can go through all the songs like this, but this should give you a good overview of the various elements you can encounter.

Massively recommended.

This review was previously released elsewhere.

Genesis

So, as of today I will be 'running' a blog. It will at least feature reviews of music albums I come across and absolutely enjoy. For another, private, blog I write these to inform some people which releases are very much worthwhile, so it's easy to copy them here as well! Besides that I will probably post uninteresting thoughts about whatever. You'll see ;)