Saturday, March 17, 2018
Well as far as Swedish death metal goes, this is not a total rip off of Entombed or At the Gates so that is a surprise. Of the two bands it is in more of the At the Gates vein. Three members of the band have been around since it's 1998 inception. So for twenty years they have been about the head banging. The frequently meet at the intersection of death metal and thrash. You can hear the Slayer influence on "Iron Crown" . At one point thrash was called speed metal and as metal heads would have there was debate in line at concerts (since the internet did not exist) as to the difference between the two. Speed metal was cleaner and thrash was rawer with more of a punk influence. This would be speed metal. It is very refined. Some of this is due to the fact these guys have been doing this for 20 years. The arrangements are very fine tuned. Live this guys would likely be tight as a damn bastard.
The solos have plenty of shredding for those of you into that kind of thing. There is more density in the driving riff to "We Avenge". It doesn't really grab me. The notes are all the right place, but I am not compelled to listen to this song more than once. The title track seems more of a show case for guitar wanking, with a few riffs that sound like warmed over System of a Down clustered around it. By "World War Machine" the album is beginning to get mired down into the kind of single minded aggression that hampers the bulk of death metal. "Necrohammer" is in more of an Entombed mindset, but it's an improvement. The chug is more powerful. More Slayer-isms can be heard hear as well.
There is a little more groove to "Rise in Blood" despite it's more hammering pace. The vocals drop into a lower death metal growl as opposed to the more mid ranged thrash rasp. "Where My Grave Shall Stand" is more melodic , but and instrumental meant to show case some guitar solos. It ends with more of the same that we have heard earlier in the album, just with a few more blue notes carrying over from the instrumental. Some of the bonus tracks might be better than the album tracks , but for the sake of this review I am just going to review the normal album tracks, which brings this album to a 6.5. Very meat and potatoes. If you want heavy, but no real sense of adventure and everything in your face all the time then this is for you.
I really loved 2016's "I'm Not Well" so expectations are somewhat high. I want them to give me more emotive blues edged grunge. Their front man Mark Holley went to Iceland to write this album. The opener finds them remembering who they are but with a lusher sound that in it's androgyny reminds me more of Placebo than the last album did. It is suitably dynamic with smart melodies. Though it doesn't have the same raw urgency. There is more of a radio alternative rock feel to smoother "Manic In Me". It's pretty content in this territory and upbeat considering what we have heard from these guys in the past. Things continue down this more upbeat direction on "Saela".
There is a more organic sound to "the Big Wild". It is no where as brooding as their previous album. The casual strum has a more Police feel to it. The guitar playing is nuanced and these guys are good at what they are doing, I guess I am having to think about how invested I am in their previous sound. There is no way to avoid saying this is more middle of the road. This album sounds more like it was conceived on the beaches of California than in the cold of Iceland. I continue to wait for this album's explosive moment. Things do get closer to this on "Oh, It Had to be You". Gone are the almost punk like moments of tension. I suppose it could be described as introspective. They do have more colors of sound on this album. It makes me miss the band who played on "I'm Not Well" when this never moves into the dark corners that I want it to. It does have more of a dynamic build , but they never cut loose.
The first real rock is "Joy". It is still run through a radio filter and ebbs back down into this more atmospheric side. The rock that they do cut into still feels like they are driving with the breaks on. There are some cool guitar tones on the restrained "Am I Losing It". The guitar passages are almost Cure like. "Flowers" comes closer to resurrecting their older sound. Though with less teeth. Their is more of a Jeff Buckley influence on this album which really comes to the forefront on "Take Me Home". So in this way they are similar to Ours. There is a slight post-rock flavor to the atmospheric build of this one. It does swell into Holley using more of his gritty rock voice as well as a falsetto. He continues with this Jeff Buckley tribute on "Float On" which has a little more drive to it. While I am glad he found his upper register, I wish his vocals were at least more aggressive to compensate for the more atmospheric instrumentation. This is not bad it's just different and is going to take some getting used to. I'll give it an 8.5 and see how it grows on me. "I'm Not Well" got a 10 to put this in perspective.
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Since Mournful Congregation is coming out of mourning to play a lot of guitar solos the quest must begin to replace them. The first candidate is this German band, who seems some what since in their occult approach to this. Right from the 12 minute opener they are heavier than the new Mournful Congregation. The vocals have a lower death growl to them. The patter of double bass follow the ringing riff to "Ps. XII Maledictvm". There is a subtle dissonance embedded in the riffs. Ominous and melodic , I'm am not sure that I would call these guys funereal doom, but they are a very richly textured mix of death metal and doom.
The title track just kinda floats out of the other songs as this album begins to fade into the back ground. It sounds good, but perhaps it's just this song that sounds like it is beginning to drone a little even though the drummer is still earning his cut of the royalties. The spoken exclamations accent the gradual build.They like their chugs and double bass, which proves their death metal leanings. This does take them out of the drone and assures they are not dynamically flat. They sample some evangelist ranting about hell going into "est in fatis". As far as instrumentals go this is certainly one of the better methods of approaching it as the samples occupy the place the vocals would normally sit. I think this would work better opening the album than in the middle of it.
The album closes with "Current 218" which is six minutes wasted on not a song but white noise. I'll give this album a 7.5. They summon some powerful sounds , but like the rule around here "cool riffs alone do not a good song make" the same could be applied to these sounds woven together. That is not to say this is a bad album, there are many good ideas in play I would just like to hear them applied to song that make me want to listen to them again. If you are into death doom, then wawit for this one to come out May 4th on Iron Bonehead.
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
These guys are a band I have appreciated for a long time, but never really got into. I saw them open for Converge when they were touring for "the Silent Circus", so my introduction to them was a hard core band with some technical acrobatics rather than the progressive metal band they have become. The first song on this album finds them returning to more of their metallic side. The clean vocals that follow the growls are almost like Korn. "House Organ" is more groove oriented. The verses narrated by growled vocals and the sung vocals come in on the dreamy passage that would serve as the chorus. I can hear the influence of touring mate Devin Townsend. They return to heavier more Opeth like chug on "Yellow Eyes". The song weaves around varied vocal styles leaning in a more grunge direction as it dances around death metal. At the midway point int breaks down into a mellower groove. Here you can hear traces of their other touring mate Cynic in the odd harmony choices of the vocals.
"Millions" kind of feels like it floats out of the previous song, particularly if you are leaving the album on and letting it play. This would not be the case if it was on shuffle mode. I like the off time groove of the song. The sung vocals alternate between Johnathan Davis and Layne Staley. The album closes with the ten minute prog Odyssey "Blot". In the first three minutes they have gone through more changes than most bands cover in an entire album. There is the vocal trade between the harsh and sung vocals as well as long instrumental passages. This album is really well produced. It is almost too clean. It has to be to some extent since their is so much going on, but I think this also dulls the edge and the guitars might sound heavier with a less fine tuned approach to lend some organic flavor to it. Some of the clean vocal melodies sound both too refined and flowery, when they could be sung with more grit.
Technically these guys are on point. They are heavier than Dream Theater and the current state of Opeth, but not heavy enough to make me take notice. Their songs even at the most melodic moments just don't have the hooks to make me want to give it another spin. If you are a fan then round it up past the 7.5 that I feel is being generous to a band that still manages to feign a sense of adventure in order to dial it in and have a reason to go on tour.
It's rare that I download an album from a band I never have heard before. I typically stream it. I sort through so much music and know such a small percentage will be music that I need to own that I listen to an album a few times, review it then move on. So it says a lot when a really heavy band like this grabs my attention. Hard core might be at the beating heart of this monster. I think what I like about this the most is the sonic intensity. They are brutally aggressive, but don't stop there possessing a wider scope of dynamics, after a minute of ambiance on "Parallels" they come back and hammer you before ebbing back down a few degrees to give you room to breathe.
"Armada" has a powerful chug set against the sonic sprawl that hangs over it like a storm cloud. The vocals are delivered in angry screams. I can hear them becoming the one element that might grate against me in time. I am surprised that a band so intent on this kind of raw heaviness keeps my attention . It's not that I do not like heavy music, as it's obvious I do or you wouldn't be reading this. It just that the bulk of band can see past the gain. There are some interludes of atmosphere. The first song where these two side are really combined is on "Appeaser". The thick bass line drives most of the song. They get more in your face on "Deplete". The more hardcore centered vibe really comes on strong here.
The title track that closes this album has the most metal riff, if we are talking about metal in the conventional sense, though is bass driven almost like Godflesh. The raw power of what they do begins to get a little dulled when they swell into their heavier side, because at this point I am now used to it. So it behooving of them to pull out these other tricks. Tricks like the sonic buzz that it builds into which holds an almost black metal feel. Not unlike bands such as Nails or Hexis, where many different sub-genres collide This band is powered by a dark metallic hard-core draped in cinematic ambiance. I'll round this one up to a 10.
Monday, March 12, 2018
This is the sludge band from Slovenia's second album. We know these guys are heavy so rather than convincing us that I am more interested in them convincing me they can write a song. The can add eerie ambiance to the background of what they do. They can play at tempos dismal enough to ride the line between sludge and doom. There are some sung chants in the background , but they are not remaking the wheel here. They use similar formula on the second song. There are some different accents though the riff is similar in it's dirge like drag. The vocals are in a dry rasp, a little more demonic than say Eyehategod, which has more of a punk influence.
The snarl of "Tar" picks up where the previous song left off. The only way I can tell the songs apart is where the chanted vocals drift in. There are a few variation in the riff, but we are getting pretty mush the same thing. There is a more whispered vocal that crops up here , but that is the only major change. Some odd bits of atmosphere haunt things here and there. At some points it sounds a little like Atriarch in places, but Atriarch is more dynamic and brings more musical colors to the table. I understand that the speed they play at dictates the length of the songs to some extent, but if you are going to have a ten minute song then you need to take me on more of a journey and less droning. I little drone can go a long way . Really pound it out for a good minute and you have made your point and can build from there.
The sung vocals leading into "Razor Nest" give the song more of a doom feel. I think this is because the melodies have more sorrow in them than anger or anguish. Samples are well placed here and used for atmosphere earlier in the album as well. The harsher vocals do return midway into the song. These guys are good at capturing a mood and creating the sounds to they succeeded at making the album they set out to make. I think what they made can be a little one dimensional for my tastes, so I will give it a 7. If you don't need much from you sludge and prefer it at more of a doom speed then this album is worth your time.
Sunday, March 11, 2018
The 4th album from Luis Vasquez finds him taking this project into a some what streamlined sound. It is not as dark and dense. The vocals continue to be just as brooding as they were on the previous album "Deeper". The first song sounds a little more organic like some of the sounds are looped guitar parts and an actual bass with strings might have been used. It sounds like early Nine Inch Nails though with less of a metallic aggression. Then it's decidedly less organic on the second song"Choke". The vocals float under more effects against the groove. The vocals come across as more chanted than sung. The sounds all work together , but it rides the beat rather than coming together as a song. While I can accept this early on in the album as it progresses I am not going to be content with grooves alone.
The vocals float into a higher falsetto on "Give Something" . The instrumentation under them is murky and distant. Like the first two songs it rides the pulse. There is a more driving dark wave like beat to "Like a Father". The vocals are more spoken behind a distorted filter. The song has a fuzzy coat of feed back around it. The chant of "Somethings got to give" keeps returning. "The Pain" sounds like more minimalist Stabbing Westward, until the more post-punk bass line falls into place. It is when Luis finds the balance of indie rock cool to make this seem vital, with the depth of 90s industrial that this really works best . Some of this rides heavily on the mix and how high certain synth lines are in this balance. He also needs to put a little more behind the vocals than the chants he uses on "It Kills".
"Ill" is a droning instrumental that is more of an interlude. The more throbbing dark wave direction of "Young" makes it one of the albums best songs. The momentum of this creative spark carries onto into "Born Into This" and it begins to make the first half of the album seem like filler. The album closes with the title track and it takes half of the song for it to really get wound into it. This album sounds great and expands on the over all scope, though song wise I do not think it's as good as "Deeper", so I am giving it a 8.5. Out on Sacred Bones.