Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Vorgrow - Black Metal Is Elitism [Demo] (2007)

Venezualen instrumental black metal. Now that's not a phrase I was expecting to use any time soon. Vorgrow are another fairly sombre affair, clearly it helps to be a miserable bastard if you wish to venture into the realms of black metal these days. We've got four fairly lengthy, numerically titled tracks on offer here and each manages to bring something a little different. Opening with a fairly calming effort comprised of looping clean guitar over a sporadic buzz, it has a slight Les Légions Noires feel. Following this is a sprawling track that's equal parts Graveland (the artificial drumming is similiar to 'Sons Of Fire and Steel') and Alcest with a bit of Darkthrone riffage thrown in for good measure. This is a demo that wears its influences on its sleeve; there's sprinklings of Immortal, a pinch of Enslaved, a touch of Peste Noire, the list goes on.

There is a soothingly epic feel across all of the compositions. Varying in pace, melody and cleanliness throughout, you can really hear the influences of numerous prolific black metal acts. The inclusion of vocals would probably improve the songs, however a lack does not necessarily hamper them. Either way this is a promising demo and another band whose full length I shall be looking forward too.


Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh/Demetrius Grave - Split (2007)

Nearly 60 demos, numerous splits and a couple of full lengths. You certainly can't fault Frenchman Luc Mertz's commitment to his Satanic lovechild Zarach 'Baal' Tharagh. Although not unloved by kvlties, ZBT is probably an unfortunate example of quantity over quality. The five tracks on offer are cut from the second demo Pure Evil Black Metal (an entirely accurate moniker). Musically, its probably everything that black metal should be: harsh, uncomfortable, and slightly disturbing. Droning buzzsaw riff(s), shrill, hate-filled rasping vocals and monotonous, blasting drums. It's just not particularly interesting (quite the understatement when compared to some of ZBT's fellow countrymen). Unless you pop a boner for all that is raw and underground, there's not much to offer.

Demetrius Grave
however, are an altogether more intriguing outfit. Self professed maker of 'Snuff Movie Soundtracks', Beliaazar aka Mr. Grave is the sole proprietor of this particular project. The ambient track isn't anything to shout about, but the twelve minute opus that is 'The Call Of The Window' defies classification. In fact, attempting describing it at all would taint the entire auditory experience. Just listen.

2/5 (1 point for effort, 1 point for the aforementioned track)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Todtgelichter - Schemen (2007)

Todtgelichter are equally familiar and unique sounding. Their take on black metal is slightly depressive, a touch more melodic, and almost eternally blasting. The guitars and bass have a warm sound, at least for black metal, and their lamenting tone can be highly reminiscent of Primordial. The drumming is busy, even during the slower passages, and does its job well. The singer provides quality Germanic rasping, often breaking into hoarser, more emotional styles. At times he reminds me a little bit of Envy, and there is a slight skram feel to the album. Extra touches, such as a folksy acoustic skram breakdown, samples (the song "Blutstern" uses a whale's song at one point, which makes me think of the movie Legend and is totally awesome because there is no trver black metal than that which invokes Satan and Unicorns), keys, and a girl singer, show up infrequently but are nice touches that instill some variation into the pacing. The production is of relatively high quality, clean and slightly warm, while still keeping that classic black metal sound.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Fall of Empyrean - A Life Spent Dying Promo (2007)

Alright, I like Mournful Congregation. I understand that they're slow and relatively undynamic, but they still pull out a calm, mystical atmosphere that I find to be very enjoyable. However, when a band sounds like November's Doom (totally forced emotion, cliche and lacking music, horrible lyrics, etc etc) trying to sound like Mournful Congregation, well, I am not pleased. And that is exactly what the new Fall of Empyrean feels like - boring, hackneyed, shallow, and sometimes even laughable. The clean speaking that slips in every now and then is horrible, and the major source of said laughing. The guitars completely miss the point of doom, neither offering satisfying heaviness nor emotive atmosphere. Ineffectual piano tinkles and skitters behind the music, giving off some pretense of complexity. The death growls are fine, if uninspired. I probably would have fallen asleep if it weren't for teh chuckling.

It's sad, because their first full-length was a promising debut, and I expected some interesting work from these chaps. I actually think I might have liked some November's Doom better than this.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Xentrifuge - Light Extinguished (2007)

Xentrifuge are a US-based ebm band that sound essentially like a slightly-noisier and rawer version of Wumpscut. They rely heavily on distortion and four-on-the-floor 909 bass kicks, which generally lends the music a deliciously dirty feeling, but at times makes it drag on forever. When the supporting samples and synths are going there is a great sense of dynamic atmosphere, and the music flows through your body without a thought (side-note: due to the base beat, Xentrifuge has quite the dance feel to it). However, I did get weary of the drumming on some songs, most notably on "Cerebral Ruins." Vocals are presented in a filtered whisper form, much like the recent Grendel album, but distorted to the tenth sub-level of cybercide. Much like the drums, the vox are very gratifying when everything is meshing, but somewhat repetitive on their own.

Light Extinguished is a dense, gritty foray into the dark corners of ebm. There is an evil intensity that permeates the music, moreso than most electronic artists on the hard end of the scale. Fans of Wumpscut, Aesthetic Perfection, Grendel, and Diary of Dreams will get some movement out of this one, as would hardstyle and hard trance lovers.


Silva Nigra - Epocha (2007)

Another album number four, nearly 50 minutes of snare-snare-snare- snare-snare-snare "Total Antichrist Propaganda" from Czech raw black metal bandits Silva Nigra. Featuring the drummer from Trist (not that one, the other one) it's a gloriously sombre yet curiously riff laden journey through the dark and icy wastes.

Soothing industrial ambiance carries you gently into a slow groove before an icy blast tears you from safety, by which time it's too late. A chilling album of blasting black metal, never far removed from a subtle melancholy that pierces the frozen dirge. The anguish of Ulvberth's throaty, blackened rasp is never far behind, tearing at your soul as you desperately try to escape the suffocating depression. As comfortable with the typical d-beat snare blast assault as pouring sombre leads over a bleak soundscape, Silva Nigra have perfected their art. Pausing only for a brief interlude, Epocha is a complete black metal album, covering many areas and compromising none. It might not have the mindfucking depth of your Blut Aus Nord's or Deathspell Omega's, but equal parts old school krieg riffage and Celestia/Mortifera misery it remains impressive. All hail the Dark Lord. Satan is pleased.


Blood Red Throne - Come Death (2007)

Norway's stalwarts Blood Red Throne have returned with their fourth album of no nonsense death metal riffage. The first album featuring Vald (vocalist to BRT side project Trioxin) once again showcases Tchort and Død's Norwegian take on Swedish death via Florida. The only notable difference vocally is Vald's slight detours into the higher ranges, the staple death rasp is near identical to that of predecessor Mr. Hustler. As for the rest? Well, if it ain't broke don't fix it.

The chunky Swedish tone with those all familiar muted triplet crunches are staple throughout the album. Apart from Caspersen's dextrous bass widdling BRT have always eschewed technical focus for grooving riffs, which are in no short supply on Come Death. Mixing elements from previous effort Altered Genesis with the more casual groove of debut Monument of Death, BRT have delivered perhaps their most rounded effort to date. Opener 'Slaying the Lamb' gives you no time to prepare, charging straight in before dropping a trademark Throne riff whilst switching between frenzied blast and grooving chug with ease. 'Rebirth in Blood' has time for some melodious prog-riffing a la Anata before marching to a close, whilst 'Taste Of God' brings a little thrash to the deathfest. There's even time for a well executed Gorguts cover before the end.

Once again BRT have delivered the goods. Tchort and Død present a veritable riff buffet of accomplished death metal with more than enough variance to hold your attention from start to finish. Another fine slab of 2007 death metal that might even make some '... of the year' lists.


Sunday, July 22, 2007

Avey Tare and Kria Brekkan - Pullhair Rubeye (2007)

After doing a little research for the Mum review and reading about Kria's new project, I figured I'd check it out. This album is the collaboration of Kria (Kristin Anna of Mum) and her husband, Avey (Dave Portner of Animal Collective).

First off, I have to say that the whole shebang is strange. The album, as it is meant to be heard (kind of), is the backwards recording of all the tracks. These count as the "standard" songs. But the album also includes "reversed" versions of every song, which I take as a nice acceptance of people's desires to hear them normally. In addition, three songs are also presented in slower forms. Thus, we technically have an album that is about one-third unique work, but is different throughout.

As for the music, well, it's not quite as eccentric as the setup. A very simple folksy acoustic chillout session, basically just both artists singing over the guitar, with some piano thrown in. Kria's voice is beautiful as ever, like the crooning of children, and Avey's singing is pleasant as well. I will say that Kria does not show up nearly enough, and I definitely prefer her over her husband, who wore on me. The guitar and piano are not complex, but they are nice and relaxed. Ostensibly, this is why the songs are meant to be heard backwards - the shifting slur of reverse listening instills a much more exotic feel to the music, with almost a touch of Mum sneaking back in.

With an equal amount of intriguing and boring sections, Pullhair Rubeye is a pleasant trip that might drag on a little too long. Hopefully these two lovers will expand their sound on the next album, perhaps to the point where the album is interesting without being backwards. I don't mean that in a mean way, and they probably made the album with the intent of having it backwards, but I can't shake the feeling this wasn't the result of uncertainty and apprehension.


Patrick Wolf - The Magic Position (2007)

I actually deleted and redownloaded this album multiple times before I finally was able to get into it. My love for Patrick Wolf is like a streaming mental wave of succulent babies, and suffice to say The Magic Position was an abortion-blender that came between us on first listen. It wasn't until about last week that a friend of mine got me to go back through it, and it finally stuck.

Patrick's trademark Brit voice no longer carries the wild energy of Lycanthropy or the introspection of Wind in the Wires, yet it's still him. Similarly, his other classic sounds, such as violin and programmed drums, come across as familiar yet slightly lacking. It doesn't help that the strings in the first song sounds just like Apocalyptica, or that his singing is vaguely standard. But this is an album that you have to give time to grow on. The spunk is still alive in songs like "Accident & Emergency," "Bluebells," "Get Lost," and the title track, while Patrick's thoughtful side is shown on "Augustine" and "Magpie" (the latter containing some excellent counter-vocals courtesy of Marianne Faithfull).

While I do enjoy this much more after trying it a few times, The Magic Position is by no means up to the standards made by Patrick Wolf's first two albums. But, like Githzerai said of Ministry's newest offering, at his laziest this man is still amazing. Recommended for die-hard fans or for those that want something a little more tame than previous releases.

8/10 (5/10 on first listen :P)

Múm - Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy (2007)

Ah, more beautiful music from Sigur Ros' dreamy peers. Múm bring us another album full of that magical essence that seems to pervade this Icelandic scene: blissed-out, glitchy experimentation wrapped up in crystal clear, ice-refracted tones glaciating beneath singing so pure and innocent it makes children seem evil.

As opposed to the crunchy, pseudo-moody sound of their previous album, Summer Make Good, Múm adopt a more poppy, hopeful sound on Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy. Main singer Kria's impossibly-soft mewling sometimes ventures into more typical realms, and is now accompanied by a bloke whose chill singing invokes thoughts of The Album Leaf. The electronic glitches likewise break their spastic form more often to assume traditional beats, serving to make the music more drum-driven and streamline the sound. A tad bit more radio-friendly, but no less interesting. As far as the overall style, Go Go Smear the Poison Ivy has a jazzy feel that involves piano, trumpet, and whatever else these chaps could get their hands on.

This is apparently the last album with Kria in it, so it will be interesting to see how it goes from here. Nonetheless, if you love Sigur Ros, World's End Girlfriend, or Piana, you are sure to be pleased by this album.

Go go smear my poison ivy, and let your crooked hands be holy...


Saturday, July 21, 2007

Ministry - The Last Sucker (2007)

After more than two decades, pioneering metallic industrialists Ministry have issued their final studio album, The Last Sucker. It completes the triumvirate of Bush blasting that began with Houses of the Molé and continued with last years blinding Rio Grande Blood with another politically charged industrial riff party.

Well, for starters, it sounds like Ministry. You know what to expect. Sadly however, there appears to be a certain degree of complacency throughout the album. Accusations of Rio Grande Blood 2.0 would be well founded, but it comes across as more of a 0.5. Pedestrian riffage permeates throughout the album, many of which wouldn't sound out of place on one of Fear Factory's less popular albums. Thats not to say you won't be banging your head, its still an album to get booked for speeding to. It's just that the filthy aggression prevalent in RGB seems to be missing. Of course the distorted as fuck vocals are unchanged, as is the dirty electro drumming. There's just an overall feeling of a band going through the motions one last time.

Its not all bad though. The title track gives off a strong 80s industrial vibe and the pounding southern rawk of 'Roadhouse Blues' kicks the aggression back up a notch. The album highlight and closing track 'End Of Days Part Two' is a sprawling epic, bearing some similarity to NINs 'Just Like You Imagined'. Complete with soaring guitar lines, child choir chorus and a Burton C. Bell sounding more like Pepper Keenan it definitely ends the album on a high.

It might sound like a band going through the motions, but Ministry at half pace is still more than most bands at full tilt. Not their worst and certainly not a career ending duff note, but not quite up to the standard they (re)set themselves with RGB.


Whisper-X - Warside (2007)

Home of Les Légions Noires and overall purveyors of quality black metal, France hasn't typically had the same associations in death metal circles. However, a recent surge of quality releases is giving us what seems to be Les Légions La Mort. Self-financed sophomore effort from the curiously named Whisper-X isn't quite there yet.

Possessing neither the hand cramping technical dexterity of Nile or the noodily prog wankery of recent Anata, what we have here ladies and gentleman is some fairly orthodox death metal. Reminiscent of Blood Red Throne both vocally and riffagely (sans Caspersen style bass antics), Warside won't be turning any heads opting instead to bludgeon them on the way past. Sprinkled with occasional breakdown and melodic respite it's all very much death by numbers. Indeed, there is more than one occasion of "hmm, that sounds awfully familiar". However, passages such as the groove tinged breakdown of 'No Remorse' and widdly melody of 'Ultim(h)ate' and 'The End Of...' are enough to raise a complacent eyebrow.

Another adequate album that'll get you to bang your head, even if you can't remember which bits had you banging when its over.


Deathspell Omega - Fas - Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum (2007)

" Fantasies of droll dreams confusedly danced about; hybrid creations, formless mixtures of men, beasts and utensils; monks with wheels for feet and cauldrons for bellies: warriors, in armours of dishes, brandishing wooden swords in birds' claws; statesmen moved by turnspit gears; kings plunged to the waist in salt-cellar turrets ..."


Monday, July 16, 2007

Valkyrja - The Invocation Of Demise (2007)

Debut album from Swedes Valkyrja (Old Norse for valkyrie) is another entry into the burgeoning "clean" black metal market exemplified by 1349 et al. Kicking off with the military marching snare and thundering double pedal of 'Origin Reversed' we're steadily pummeled into submission before the familiar buzzsaw onslaught of 'As Everything Rupture'. Familiarity here is the key for the most part; relentless double pedal action, blast beats in all the right places, crunching, soaring guitar with occasional acoustic intro, aggressive snarling and rumbling bass.

Just when it begins to verge on the formulaic in drops the melo-doom-esque closing solo of 'The Vigil', whilst the subtle acoustic undercurrent of 'On Stillborn Wings' draws comparison to Opeth's more aggressive tendancies. Indeed, the guitar tone and subtly progressive elements throughout are further reminiscent of their cardigan sporting Swedish compatriots.

The Invocation Of Demise doesn't exactly break any boundaries and won't be winning any originality awards. However, it's certainly another well executed and uncompromising debut designed to be played at neighbour aggravating volumes.


Otep - The Ascension (2007)

Fuck me in the arse with a Sequoia Branch of the Gorilla. Its 2007 and we still can't be rid of the commercially successful yet creatively detestable aural disease that is nu-metal. Otep have always been a favourite among the obese nu-goth crowd (you know the kind, 350 "modelling" photos on their MySpazz profile, each taken from an obscure angle to hide the fact they actually look like a whale in fancy dress) due to the female front-woman novelty factor. Frankly, if Otep Shamaya was Joan of Arc reincarnated it still wouldn't make a difference. This is complete and utter wank.

Pulling from every nu-angst cliche in the book Ascension is track after track of ear rapingly bad "metal". Semi-spoken word/rapped vocals, woefully generic lyrics of the "Boo hoo I'm so sad, look at my scars, but I'm angry and shit and I like cars
" kind, one finger riffs of downtuned tedium and that nu-metal bass sound. It sounds like shit, literally. As if the bassist has squatted, cheeks spread, over the fretboard and taken a dump. *Plop* *gurnng*, there we go bass recorded.

There are no redeeming qualities to this filth at all. There is absolutely nothing of merit, not even the half-assed Nirvana cover. Seriously, who covers Nirvana these days outside of badly put together Kerrang tribute albums? Contender for worst album of the year along with In This Moment.


Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Absence - Riders of the Plague (2007)

This is the first album I've heard from Florida's The Absence and it's certainly an impressive one. They deliver, song after song, thrashy Gothenburg style melodic death metal, without any of the obnoxious hardcore tendencies that so many American bands show. Actually, I didn't realize this band was American until I looked them up. Their Swede-worship is so convincing that I thought it was the real deal. Musically, it's very guitar-oriented, with all the catchy riffs and harmonized twiddly bits you'd expect from a melodeath album. The bass is practically inaudible and the drums kinda sit at the back just keeping time. The vocalist does his classic Dark Tranquillity/In Flames thing excellently, and is actually one of the better melodeath singers I've heard. The guitars are definitely in the spotlight of this album, and the shredding is pretty tastefully executed and very clean, with some whammy bar antics thrown in because it wouldn't be a modern metal album without them.

For being generic thrash/melodeath par excellence, I have to recommend this to any fans of classic Gothenburg metal, as well as newer bands like Arsis. Add another entry to 2007's growing melodeath must-haves.

(One whole point deducted because of that one time I heard a gang shout that I thought was really terrible. Yes, a whole point)

Caina - Mourner (2007)

Ah, Caina. Another band on the forefront of the post-rock/black metal scene, fueled by one British man's desire to meld the beauty of both genres. The first Caina album was an interesting affair - portions of soft, dream-effected guitars giving way to raging, buzzing black metal - yet it suffered from messiness and incoherent ideas. However, the promise was there - Curtis-Brignell's tremulous, vulnerable clean singing being a majour highlight for me. The only release since then has been I, Mountain, the limited pressing in God is Myth record's tribute to H.P. Lovecraft. While some enjoyed the peaceful instrumental journey presented, and others thrashed it to pieces for its lacking musical content, no hint as to Caina's progression was to be found. Thus, Mourner serves as the band's first real test - will it step up to the heights of other rock/bm peers, such as Amesouers and Lifelover, or will it wallow in confusion?

The first song, sadly, doesn't fit or work very well. "Constantine the Blind" consists mostly of talking, acoustic guitar, and some ethnic instruments. While you can tell where he was trying to go with it, and it does pull together in the latter half, the song is awkward. It actually sounds exactly like Legolas (LotR) trying to do a Mournful Congregation cover. Thankfully, no more talking of this sort is to be found on the album. The next track is "Hideous Gnosis," a song that has been online for some while, and the reason why I've been so excited for this album. The clean vocals are in the majority of this song, and I love it. The rest of the album follows suit, with spacious post-rock instrumental pieces and lilting, sighing vocals taking the forefront. The transitions to black metal are a little rough, but once they get going they deliver a sawmill of guitars and oft-times disturbed dsbm vocal arrangements. However, there are two more tracks that I have issues with. "Wave Engulf a Pier" is a mostly throw-away proto-industrial drone piece that serves as pointless filler. The other problem, which is smaller and mostly personal, is that "Wormwood Over Albion" has about five minutes of silence in the middle of it. That just irritates the fuck out of me, but it's better than having crappy songs, I guess.

All in all, Mourner delivers a refined, intriguing update to the Caina style. It's still messy in parts, especially the change-over from rock to bm, and I can't tell if this is due to lack of skill or is a deliberate attempt to keep things necrobasementesque. Either way, while I do enjoy his music, and there are certainly some nigh-perfect songs (Hideous Gnosis, Permaneo Carmen, The Sleep of Reason) I think Curtis-Brignell still needs a bit of time to let his bastard kriegrock child grow into what it's meant to be.


Misanthropic Path - A Bluntly Description Of The Present (2007)

The Germans are at it again. Another fine slab of "recorded in a tin shed onto an 80s answer machine" raw, depressive black metal. A full length recording of last years demo under the same name, A Bluntly Description Of The Present (no I don't think that makes sense either) brings a few surprises. After an initially forgettable, albeit vocally unnerving start we're dropped into the Peste Noire-esque clean intro for 'The Whelps Path'. Then we're presented with the most unusual feature of the album - clearly audible bass. Playing in the forefront of the mix for most of the album and though at times verging on obnoxious, it does seem to work. Carrying on down the road of the unexpected, 'Chapters' treats us to another clean intro that comes across like Vincent Price playing surf rock before driving into familiar Darkthrone territory of riff-blast-riff-blast. Penultimate track and album highlight 'Als Ich Euch Verließ' delves into the depressive realm of Peste Noire/Mortifera, resplendent with barbed wire gargling vocals, clean interludes and buzz soaked misery.

Not a mould shattering album by any stretch of the imagination, but it will definitely appeal to those depressive black fans who felt Folkfuck Folie was a bit too clean. There's definite potential here.


Gargara - Hellgoat [Demo] (2007)

Ignoring the stunningly original title, Hungarians Gargara have presented us with some choice cuts of black metal. You may be forgiven for assuming that opening track 'Monolith' is the worlds most unorthodox cover of Michael Jackson classic 'Beat It', but tasteful synth and a short industrial beat tease the track into a more blackened blast. The most immediately striking aspect of this particular demo is the production. It retains the grim credibility of your typical black metal release without delving into the muddy fuzz one usually expects from demos. Even the oft ignored bass is given room to breath for the mid-song melancholy of 'Pass Of Darkness'. The demo is driven forward by your normal tremolo antics while the leads bring a depressing undercurrent to the whole affair. 'Suffering Christian Bitch' and bonus track 'Hellgoat' aren't content to merely plod along however and force you to drop that razor blade and bang your head to some unexpected riffage.

All in all this is a wonderfully competent entry into a crowded market and I for one am looking forward to a full length. This only misses out on full marks due to a (dissappointing) lack of aesthetic originality and adherence to tired genre conventions. Musically it's top notch.


Friday, July 13, 2007

Reusmarkt - Echo (2006)

Echo: a very atmospheric symphonic black metal album from Ukraine's own Reusmarkt, a little-known four piece who cut a mean record. I'm not fucking around when I say Reusmarkt did with Echo EXACTLY what I want out of a black metal album. This is just beautiful, nearly perfect stuff. Actually, fuck it, this is perfect. Beautiful, sad, epic black metal (think Summoning or Shambless) interwoven with the sounds of nature, mostly birds chirping, hawks calling, thunder clapping, rainfall, just a plethora of different sounds all on top of some awesome symphonic BM. Vocals are superb, and I wish I could comment on the song titles or lyrics, but, either they're all untitled or they're in Russian and my media player doesn't get it.

My favorite track is #8, which fades in from the previous track into some beautiful, light acoustic work then proceeds to shred your face. There's even some death/doom type vocals at the end of the song, bringing on a unique feel. Track #9 is really cool as well, adding some soft ambient stuff, almost John Carpenter-like with the creepy synths over the sound of wind chimes and falling rain. God, so awesome. The vocals in the record seem to be pretty deep in the mix, which helps add to the dreaminess of it all. This really makes me want to go out into the woods while it's raining and worship thy Pagan gods! Hah. This album is pure goodness, and I can't possibly recommend it enough. Even if you're not into BM, check it out, it's a thing of beauty.


Mt. - Lethologica (2007)

Here's a post-rock album, Mt.'s debut, traditional in that there's nothing else but a regular guitar/bass/drum trio that makes up the band... no electronic elements, no metal, just a straightfoward outfit playing some post-rock. If you're into post-rock and you're looking for something different, just look elsewhere. Mt. travels down the well-worn path of the buildup and explode structure, but they don't rely on it so much it becomes annoying and repetitive. I'm looking at you, Explosions in the Sky. With all that said, they still do entertain. If you just want your post-rock plain with no frills, Mt. is pretty good at that.

Some songs feature a bit more menace, such as "Worms and Coffee," which kicks up the distortion for once in the album. "Too Many Escape Darwin's Attention" is a charming and sweet song, clocking in at 7:50 complete with clapping interludes and some neat drumwork. The lengthy closer "Sense of Wonder Still Intact" leaves a nice aftertase and closes out the album in typical sad-then-happy buildup fashion, starting out slow and peaking in a crescendo of guitarwork. Lethologica isn't bad, like a friend said, it's nice if you're queuing up a post-rock playlist, but nothing special to pick out on its own.


Forgotten Sunrise - Willand (2007)

Forgotten Sunrise are an Estonian band formed in 1992, originally an atmospheric doom band but now have moved on almost completely away from that to an industrial/electronic type feel, sort of like Grendel. They're not bad at what they do, intermixing industrial beats and some spazzy Aphex Twin-like synth work with more traditional metal elements. Vocals change up from generic clean male vocals not unlike VNV Nation (complete with backing female vocals) to a funeral doom-esque throaty growl, which is pretty cool.

One thing I appreciate about the album is their willingness to do pretty much whatever they want, going from chill Boards of Canada sort of stuff (Prophylactic Euthanasia) with clean vocals to more heavy, industrial/trance type stuff with harsh vocals at the drop of a hat. They do it all quite nicely, but the album still feels like it's missing a little something somewhere, and I can't put my finger on it. A lot of the synth work is very cheesy (and not the good kind, either) and not really original. Still though, check it out if you're into the industrial/electronic scene. Oh yeah, and the album cover is pretty damn awesome.


Depressed Mode - Ghosts of Devotion (2007)

The Finns are at it again. By it, I, of course, mean crushing DOOO000oooOOOOOm. Depressed Mode certainly ascribe to the beautiful style of their countrymen. But whereas Shape of Despair focus their synths on ambience, Depressed Mode adopt a symphonic/classical edge to their music with piano and string-work, a la Remembrance. However, I'd have to say this is a much more polished and epic release than Frail Visions. Taking some cues from melodoom, Depressed Mode keep a slightly faster pace than typical funeral doom bands, serving to keep the music compelling. Vocals are very reminiscent of Evoken's dry, world-weary roars, which is not a bad thing. Not a bad thing at all.

The album proceeds much as you'd expect, with crushing waves and idyllic interludes. The track "Fallen Angel" does throw in some poppy electronic drums in the beginning, and there is a passable cover of Burzum's classic "Dunkelheit," although they oddly decided to change the keys to a far less interesting sound (amusingly, this funeral doom cover is shorter than the original). The classical elements blend smoothly, never becoming cheesy or pretentious, and are a welcome addition to the funeral formula. It is of note that Natalie Koskinen, of Shape of Despair fame, lends her lovely voice to this funereal debut.

Doom heils to the Finns once again - Firedoom adds another winner with Depressed Mode.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Pelican - City of Echoes (2007)

Chicago's Pelican return this year with their best output yet. They've stepped up their game a bit and produced a much denser, more compact album, clocking in at one track more yet 15 minutes shorter than their 2005 record The Fire in Our Throats will Beckon the Thaw. City of Echoes needs no human voice or lyrical guidance to take us on their sonic voyage, the intertwining guitars lead us where they will while flanked by the refreshingly-prominent bass and (to a lesser extent) the drums. The drumming isn't terrible, but is pretty basic and often doesn't quite seem to fit with the flowing melodies around it. At times the drummer can almost ruin moments set up by the strings with some not-quite-appropriate beats, though to be fair he does a solid job in the album's faster and more intense sections.

Our boys in Pelican begin us on our journey to the City of Echoes with the slow-fast-slow flow of Bliss in Concrete which sounds as if it's almost an emotional recollection of a trip into the City itself, beginning with a slow and heavy yet relaxing section worthy of a night-time drive over an empty highway. The song builds as we come into town and finally explodes at the headbanging 3:25 mark into what I can only imagine as the sudden shock of urban chaos after a long drive before bringing us to park in the City of Echoes, a song with a particular bouncy catchiness I don't hear often in this kind of music.

Most of the eight songs on this record are memorable, such as the aforementioned two tracks and the great Spaceship Broken - Parts Needed as well as the exquisitely tranquil late-game Far From Fields and the beautiful, soothing closer A Delicate Sense of Balance. Pelican's knack for evocative song titles certainly doesn't hurt.

Some Pelican fans may not like the more compact nature of the album, but I consider it an improvement. City of Echoes is a leaner record that yet manages to give you more to chew than their prior efforts. There are a couple of boring bits and the drummer can be kind of irritating at times, but the album's strong points easily outnumber the weak. All fans of atmospheric, melodic rock and metal should at least hear this, if not own it.


Wedard - Eiskrieg EP (2007)

Tinny, cold, midpaced guitars and anguished shrieks are the soundtracks of those whose lives are lacking in prozac. You know the drill, folks - good ol dsbm. Wedard does very little to change the formula, yet this is by no means a bad thing in the case of this one-man German band. The production is extremely tinny, but very clean. The drumming is plain, possibly a drum machine but it doesn't quite sound like it. Vocals are light and high-pitched, lending the music a familiar dsbm feel while simultaneously giving it a unique edge. Piano and keys add a reminiscent atmosphere to the songs, either as backing sounds or in peaceful intermissions. It's all quite simple and concise, yet the songs show a good amount of variation.

My first thoughts as to describing this album were along the lines of a suicide in an indoor swimming pool. However, as I listened, the image came to me of children in Auschwitz being dragged away from their parents, crying for help, until only their screams echoing from the gas chambers can be heard. While it doesn't necessarily break any new barriers, this demo is damn solid and clocks in at over 25 minutes, and is a fairly sure bet for any lover of the depressive and suicidal.


Weedeater - God Luck and Goodspeed (2007)

Just like Leaf Hound, Weedeater brings the smoke-filled riffs in plenty, to go along with killer vocals that sound as if they're coming straight from a bong-ravaged throat. Driving the album are super distorted sludgy guitars a la Dopesmoker era Sleep, Bongzilla, or Electric Wizard. It isn't all heavy, though, with the folk/country-esque piece "Alone," and the chill piano outro "Willow." Lyrics are mostly lighthearted here, as you'd expect, Weedeater are probably one of the least pretentious bands around. God Luck and Goodspeed is sickly stoner sludge done just right.

Weedeater sounds exactly how I thought they would, and this of course isn't a bad thing. If you enjoy this type of music, this is a must-have, and to its credit it does bring some new things to the table in a bit of an oversaturated genre. Trust me, you don't need to be on the sticky icky to enjoy Weedeater, as I've never smoked a bowl in my whole life and I still adore this genre of music as a whole. Simple, smooth and destructive at the same time, beautiful!


Art Brut - It's a Bit Complicated (2007)

Art Brut's latest is a charming bit of British pop-rock, full of reminiscent lyrics and an everyman appeal, highlighted by the blue-collar vocals by frontman Eddie Argos. If you're looking for something even a little deep, look elsewhere, because Art Brut is all about having a good time and bringing back some good ol' rock and roll to the mainstream. Their debut album Bang Bang Rock 'N Roll had the same simplistic, just-for-fun type vocals and simplistic guitar work, and It's a Bit Complicated follows in its steps, with a few minor deviations i.e. some slightly more complicated guitar leads and backing vox.

"We're gunna be the band that writes the song that makes Israel and Palestine get along," well hey, you have to love a band with this kind of confidence, right? "Direct Hit" is the standout single on It's a Bit Complicated, bringing party lyrics and singing so simplistic it's almost as if it's spoken instead of sung. Eddie Argos's vocals sound pretty much like you grabbed a random drunk out of a London pub and asked him to sing, with his signature really, really thick English accent. It doesn't detract from the songs, because honestly if a guy with a regular accentless verbiage I'd probably be bored out of my skull with this one.


Leaf Hound - Growers of Mushroom (1971)

YES! Now we're talking. Growers of Mushroom is true stoner rock from 1971, Leaf Hound hails from London England and brings the smoke-filled riffs in plenty. The moment I stuck this album in the player, I was reminded of old Vietnam movies; tanks rolling along a dirt road, dust kicking up behind them, and some catchy, groovy rock blaring as the tanks drove on. Awesome. The first song "Freelance Fiend" is probably the best on the record in my opinion, with Led Zeppelin type vocals.

Actually, in general the band is quite a lot like Led Zeppelin if they had taken their psychadelic tendencies one step farther. Another band they remind me of is the much newer Wolfmother, except obviously Leaf Hound was doing this almost 40 years earlier, and is much better at their craft. If you like catchy rock with a psychedelic edge and awesome song titles like "Sad Road to the Sea," get this immediately. Comes highly recommended from me.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

God is an Astronaut - Far from Refuge (2007)

Again, not a metal album, but post-rock. God is an Astronaut do theirs like Come On Die Young-era Mogwai, or Explosions in the Sky, and they do it well enough. It's just that the album never really clicks with me until the very end, and even then it's not enough of a saving grace for me to fully recommend it. The album gets by with the post-rock staple bittersweet, sad-then-happy ohmygosh! type melodies, but with it being 90% guitar driven (lightly distorted), I lose interest quickly without any vocals. The last two songs "Lateral Noise," and "Beyond the Dying Light" bring on some creepy noise/ambience, really the best part of the whole album.

GiaA are a contributor to the growing popularity of the post-rock scene, but they're really nothing special in the end, just a semi-boring, one-trick pony a la the aforementioned Explosions in the Sky. I'm excited about this band's potential, and they're really not bad, worth a shot if you're a post-rock completist or Mogwai/EitS fanboy.


Battles - Mirrored (2007)

Just for fair warning, this isn't a metal album. Battles are an experimental rock band, pretty much the only rock-type on legendary IDM label Warp Records, and I think they live up to the expectations of Warp well enough. Consider that they're driven by their drums and guitar like a regular rock outfit, but that isn't to say that there's no electronic elements involved. Their songs float through giddily with upbeat synth effects intertwining with the guitar riffs and excellent Marc Bolan-esque drums. There isn't much vocal work to be found, but what there is reminds me of something like My Bloody Valentine on helium and sped up, I honestly can't tell if it's a male or female singer without looking it up. Some songs like "Ddiamondd" recall a Lightning Bolt like noise and nonsensical, fast vox to go with whistling and random effects like change jingling on the ground.

My personal favorite on the record is "Leyendecker," with it's slow, pounding stomp-beat courtesy drummer John Stainer and the two tracks of whimsical, processed humming for vocals. It wouldn't be too surprising to hear this one end up a hit in clubs, not that I know anything about them. In the end, Battles crank out some groovy, swinging robot rock, almost as if somebody took a run-of-the-mill stoner jam band, made them into cyborgs, dropped them some LSD, and locked them in a recording studio.


Annunaki - Throne of the Annunaki (2007)

Graaaaaaaaa! Ignore the badly drawn album cover this is total blackened-death-thrash dismemberment! New Jersey's Annunaki are a whirlwind riff machine, blasting their way through a simply stunning debut album. Released back in February I'm assuming this has earned them a coveted support slot for Immortal's upcoming east coast appearance. Featuring the drummer from 80s thrash metallers Blood Feast this album is non-stop wall to wall balls out metal. Kicking off with the kick to the face that is the tremolo fueled 'Through Chaos', it charges into a deathly riff breakdown before storming forward, kicking down your door and raping you in the eyesocket. As if that wasn't enough a banshee wailing, 80s style solo tears off your limbs and beats you to death with them. And then 'Eucharist' kicks in. And does it again. And again. And again. 'March Of The Militia Of The Dead', 'Blunt Scalpel Extraction', by the end of the album I felt as if I'd been face fucked by Cthulhu and given a chainsaw hand job. Equal parts Dark Funeral, Coroner and even a little Melechesh this is easily one of this years classics. I'm in danger of overstating this album so I'll stop. Get it. Get it now.


Engineer - The Dregs (2007)

Sludge has become a difficult genre to pin down these days, mainly due to the influx of Neurosis worshipping bands pedaling their own interpretations. The problem here is that despite the "sludge" tag these new "atmospheric sludge" bands appear to have little in common with your EyeHateGods and Iron Monkeys. Engineer sit firmly in the former camp, with a particularly prevalent hardcore sound (and overall striking similarity to a lazy Cult Of Luna.)

And thats about all that really needs to be said for the album. It's a prime of example of "heard it all before". Fast paced, dissonant riffs with the a few odd time signatures and completely genericore vocals. While bands like Minsk and Baroness are pushing the envelope and Isis and Cult Of Luna are moving in subtly different directions, Engineer are positively stagnant. Infact, given the length of the songs I wouldn't query it if told this was an early Cult Of Luna demo. It's a punishing, unrelenting album no doubt, but utterly mediocre and unoriginal in every way. Unless you get a serious nob-on for anything remotely Neurosis, don't bother.


Dusk - Pray For Death (2007)

This is the fifth full length from these grim and frostbitten Hungarians. After a typically haunting intro (reminiscent of Sunn O))) al la Black One) it launches into the icy dirge of 'Örök Álmok'. An epic composition verging on the 20 minute mark it weaves a simple web of depressing melody built around the repetitive guitar lines and pounding drums. The buzzing repetition pulls you across the frozen wastes, as if the Frost Giant's Daughter herself were enticing you to follow. The misanthropic, snarling vocals of Shadow seeth with hatred, offsetting the hypnotic beauty of the driving guitar. The song closes amid screams of anguish atop the ever flowing melodies. This is truly desolate beauty.

Somewhat unfortunately, the rest of the album doesn't follow the template set by the opening track. An unrelenting black metal assault follows, stripping your skin like a blizzard of ice shards. It is only the soothing, slow burning closer that allows you to regain your breath, perhaps seeking the comfort of a wood fire in an isolated log cabin. The only issue here is the slight lack of variation. The depressing beauty of the opener is followed by a nigh on half hour onslaught, which left me slightly disappointed. 'Átérezni A Halált' has its moments, but a change of pace and/or slightly shorter tracks would have held my interest for the entirety of the album, rather than just the first half.

For fans of all things necro this is still well worth a listen. If you like your black metal cold and unrelenting, this is a good album. However, with slightly more variation from the other tracks it would be an excellent album.


Monday, July 9, 2007

Drowning the Light - A World Long Dead (2007)

Piano, clean and precise, lulls you into this dead world of drowning light. The first track is warm and peaceful - a trap for sentimental fools. Upon its finish, the complacent listener is immediately drawn into a buzzing dirge; a gloom swell whose ebbing current sucks light and joy back into the frigid depths where they shall suffer beyond eternity. There is no happiness, no vigour of hatred, no glory or pride to be found within these waters. There is only the beauty of melancholy, of loneliness and despair.
Really, a black metal dirge is the most accurate description I can think of for Drowning the Light. The sound is depressive, but not in a way that I'm used to. Azgorh is the sole member of this Aussie band, and he proves his ability on all aspects of the album. His singing sticks mainly to an anguished metallic shriek, but chanting and whispering show up in a couple songs. The guitars are the highlight of this album for me, and the reason why I label it a dirge. At times, notably on the second track "The Haunted Ruins of a Vampyric Soul," they even make me think of some abdead pagan choir singing along, as they exude an emotive sorrow. It makes for a haunting atmosphere.
A World Long Dead has really grown on me as I've relistened to it. Some of the tracks don't stand out as much, but on the whole I absolutely enjoyed this album.


[metareview: album hasn't stuck with me, interest is running out, these rough seas go on for too long, the winds howl through vocoders that sound like tin cans...the trip was fun, but now the ship is sinking and it is a relief.


Hello World!

Artist - Title (Text size = large)
OH GOD DAMN THIS ALBUM IS SO SO SO SO SO SO BAD LIKE HOLY SHIT HOW CAN SOMETHING BE SO SO SO BAD? Review body text size = small. I think the album cover should be right aligned, but left alignment could work too. I'll work on this a bit more. Also, the labels should be the genre and artist name, I think. The little pencil at the bottom will let you edit this post! Also, comments are enabled.

- The Cheese

edit: also, the bar on the right should index the posts by the order they're made. I think one post per album would actually be better than a whole bunch of albums in a single post, to make it easier to browse. I'll start a real review when I finish tinkering with the layout.

EDIT AGAIN: Multiple accounts work good. Yay. I'm going to delete this post in a few days.