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 ;)