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.


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!


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.


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!