Friday, December 9, 2016

Suffer Yourself: "Ectoplasm"

This doom band from Sweden is pretty impressive. They have the right amount of atmosphere and on the first song show they can cover a wide range of dynamics while remaining true to the genre. The second song is six minutes longer than the ten minute opener and not as grandiose. The point seems to be the heaviness, though that is not to say they do not still value guitar melodies and textures. Production wise this album is pretty much perfect, this is a great blue print to use for mixing what doom should sound like. They pick up the pace into an almost oppressive death metal chug towards the latter end of the song.

"the Core" starts off in a more hushed atmospheric tone. This song shows despite the more droning and ponderous songs on the album that they can deliver in a more concise fashion, even though this song drone and throbs in a similar fashion to the longer pieces it proves they can trim the fat when called for.  This is followed by the 19 minute "Dead Visions" . I really have a hard time believing any song needs to be twenty minutes long. Even with the lingering ambiance of the opening the metal crunches into place at the two and a half miute mark. They are playing at a more funeral doom like part which takes them longer to get there, but even then is it justified? After a spoken word part it does wind it's way to a more interesting section that blends the darkness of their mood with a heavy chug and cool double bass work. There are sound effects looped in of a woman crying to take things to an even lower level of spookiness. I think the last three minutes of this song are pretty much unneeded.

The last song is what might happen if Watain took acid in the studio. It is more of an outro interlude than a song. I'll give this album an 8.5, it might have scored higher if some of the songs had the fat trimmed.These guys are onto something and like to hear what happens when the song writing matures.

Dark Blue : "Start of the World"

This is not our first rodeo with this band from Phillywho plays a dark version of indie rock that comes close enough to convince modern fans of post-punk that they are the real thing. The casual croon of the vocal is rather pleasing to my ears, it reminds me of a less rocking version of Billy Idol. "Be Gone Everyone" is more like the Crash Test Dummies playing sluggish punk rock. This is a little less compelling than the opening track but not half bad. Things move into a more Social Distortion direction tempo wise on " I Never Wanted to Hurt You" which has a more mainstream rock hook to it's chorus.

Then there is the piano ballad "Paralyzed By Fear" which proves that despite the pleasantry of  Sharkey's baritone he is pretty much a one trick pony. "You Know Who" rocks a little harder and the guitar expands it's sound into more sonic dimensions and gets props for pulling out an impressive solo. The thicker bass tone leading into "Bombs on the Beach" seeks to create more of a 50's sound and I think the best part of this is that it gives a slight wink to Morrissey. "Tired of the Poor" is another mid paced song, but the formula begins to get a little stale and it strikes me more as filler

There is a more slacker shuffle to the indie rock of "Western Front Academy". This is more in line with some of the alternative rock on the radio from the early 2000's when band's like the Killers and Interpol were having their hey day.I'll give this album an 8. It works more often than not and is an entertaining listen, not sure how many repeat listens I'll get personally, but fans of this more middle of the road approach will find the songs infectious I am sure. The vocals are improved though the overall feel is a little less urgent and they are more relaxed here.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Nidingr: " The High Heat Licks Against Heaven"

This band goes all the way back to the first wave of Norwegian Black Metal. They features guys who have played with Mayhem and Gorgoroth, so this is the real deal.  While they are free flowing with their blast beats, they are not so quick just to shit on the bass player and bury him in the blast beats. The second song finds them more recklessly pursuing feral speed alone. The vocal are kind of Marduk like in their raw dry mid range. When they slow down a little they create more of an older Bathory feel for the "Ballad of Hamther", there is a spoken word section that is a little folk metalish. The vocals begin to make all the sound the same by the time we get to "On the Dead Body Shore". They do take on a more hard core punk cadence in a few places. The guitar begins to hear what is happening and picks up the slack adding the melody.

Things take a more dramatic change on "Gleipnir"  and grow darker. It almost sounds like a different band all together. The vocal are heavily effected and mix back behind the throb of the guitar and when they come back in it feels more like Neurosis. The drummer steps up his game on "Sol Taker" and the go in a more conventional black metal direction though I can still hear touches on punk in the vocals. Things stay pretty fucking dense on that song and it wins me over. After this one they switch it up back backing off on the intro to the following song and letting whispered vocals offer a call and response to the guitar and it still summons more of a sludge like vibe.

A deafening blast opens "Heimdalargar" that will crush your speakers before they slow into some equally as powerful. They remember their dynamics and break it way down. If Enslaved made an album with Neurosis I suppose the results might be similar. This is the albums strongest song on many levels, it is one of the heaviest black metal songs you will hear this year. "Valkyries Assemble" storms in with a hefty crunch that still allows enough room to feel like folk metal is dribbled in over the testosterone. There is an equally dense throb to "Naglfar is Loosed". Female vocals chime in on this one and add a needed melodic layer that is echoed in the overall tone of the song. I'll round it up to an 8 as it grew on me. This comes out February 10th

Friday, December 2, 2016

Black Anvil : "As Was"

It starts off with a pretty polished and dynamic hammering that is equal part classic metal and black metal so in some ways not unlike post- "Lawless Darkness" Watain. The clean vocals are well placed here. Though the intensity eventually picks up "May Her Wrath Be Just" starts off in a way that might as well be Trivium. The clean vocals here give it more of a mainstream metal feel. There is a darker pulse to the song that I appreciate. There is a more Metallica feel to the title track before the scowled vocals come in. This is a much slower paced song that comes close to being a power ballad. "Nothing" finds the band at the peak of their powers when they are locking into a more classic thrash style. Overall the song doesn't blow me away but does have some timeless moments.

It's the droning atmosphere buried into the meat of "As An Elder Learned Anew" that gives it it's personality and finds the clean vocals working a better balance.The double bass is dialed up to 11 on "Two Keys Here's the Lock". Well executed by still a little more middle of the road. The blasting toward the end of the song feels a little obligatory. The flow back and forth into the melodic sections is not formulaic. I prefer the more understated slacker croon to the vocals on "Ultra". The double bass doesn't let up. They sweeten the cauldron with a pretty rock god guitar solo.  

I think this will gain the band new fans , but doesn't strike me as being a sell out. It might not be the heaviest album you are going to hear all year, but it is a very intentional and well thought out one. I will give it a 9, since it is another step of growth for them.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Ash Borer : "the Irrepassable Gate"

this album starts off with the line between black metal and atmospheric death metal are almost like counting straws on the title track that opens this album. For these guys this is much more committed to being metal than their previous releases. The breathing room they are know for giving their songs doesn't come until seven minutes in to this 11 minute monster. This is short lived as they return to a more familiar blasting. This blasting is give an even more feral focus after the space infused middle section of "Lacerated Spirit". Then comes the first lighter interlude titled "Lustration".

"the Gray Marrow" is the first song that really grabbed me. The riffs are very catchy and all play in step with the double bass in a very mature manner. The vocals might be more of an after thought on this one as it sound like they are being howled with no lyrics in mind. The longest song on the album follows as "Rotten Firmament" is over twelve minutes. At this point it is clear the production value of this album is greatly improved from their previous work as the drum sounds are crisper and really help at to the mood that they have always had, but it is given more clarity. If you are the cvltest fucker south of Norway I suppose you might consider the more polished metal guitar sound to be a little bit of a sellout but it is delivered with such venom it's hard to argue against. The howling vocals seem to get even angrier on this one. Like I often say these guys prove they are more powerful when slowing the blast down to a more deliberate pounding.

Unlike the first part of the "Lustration" titled songs, the second part is slow and heavy though never fully forms into being an actual song and just drones you out like a dark cloud.  I'll give this album an 8.5. Some of the songs are a little longer than I prefer, but this album is clearly more carefully constructed and created by matured musicians who just being fast and heavy is no longer good enough.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

the Weeknd : "Star Boy"

I have been waiting for this one ever since I heard the title track which I have been wearing out, though I have avoided other spoilers so "Party Monster " was a happy surprise. I had seen the video for "False Alarm" and was still as unsure about that song as I was the first time I heard it. In some ways it reminds me of Bloc Party. This is not the only hint of new wave as "Secrets" would not be out of place on a Pet Shop Boys album.   The tone of this album is much different and embracing more of a dance vibe with strong ties to house music. With the amount of drugs is supposedly does this is no surprise. The Micheal Jackson influence can be still felt on songs like "Rockin" though musically it is much more like Euro dance.

This is dramatically less of an r&b album, so when the ballads do come with songs like "True Colors' it has more of a pop feel.Lyrically there is also a little more hope and much less self deprecation as he beings to see how functional of a drug addict he may or may not be. I'm really sure about the interlude Lana Del Ray gets on this album, but it's pretty unoffensive and finds her in more of Siouxsie like place. I am not much of a Kendrick Lamar fan so I was braced when it came to " Sidewalks". It is not the album's strongest song , but the competition is pretty fierce. "Six Feet Under" which reminds me more of his "House of Balloons" period falls out of the previous song and is more than solid. It sound like like Future is on this song as well as "All I Know " which he is credited with. This songs feels more like something that Future would be on more so than the more foreign depths of " All I Know"

The lighter tones of this album are once again demonstrated on " Love to Lay", which could be a Phil Collins song. It's a lot happier than I think I am ready for considering where I am in life, but well written and I commend the use of colors that are very different than what we heard from the last album. "A Lonely Night" grooves in a much more light hearted funk infused way than the title might suggest. When it comes to break up, he is not taking them as hard here. "Attention" does sound like more familiar territory, though it is not ground that is being re-tread. Lyrically this song rings true for me in regard to relationships past and present. Production wise things are pristine and one of factors that prevents this album being as dark as some of his other work. "Ordinary Life' winks that " No Ordinary Love" in the way it kicks in. A little of the shadows creep in on "Nothing Without You". It's ballad but with enough electronic elements to keep it from wallowing in the emotions.  This is another song whose lyrics hit me as being  pretty timely." Die For You" is another powerful break up song that creates a weird blend of pop, electronic and soul.

When Daft Punk re-joins him it is for a very late 80's Michel Jackson styled piece "I Feel It Coming" which I do not hear fitting on the radio as well as "Starboy".  Well crafted and true to what Daft Punk would bring to the table I think there are much stronger song on this album. Overall lighter in tone , but still a well crafted and written album I'll round it up to a 10.



Catching up with 2016 - Lascar : " Absence"

This album came out at the first of the year and breezed by me. It is a one man project out of Chile is pretty impressive.  After two minutes of tentative post rock the more metal side casts it rain cloud over the shimmering parade of guitar.When the go into the blast beats every thing falls into a more Deafheaven like blue print. The first five and a half minutes of the second song is the coming storm raging in your ears until it simmers back down for a few passages and is built back up into a sonically heavier crescendo. There is a lighter melody in the raging center of the frantically paced "Regions of Light". When it shifts into a more deliberate double bass section it once again proves blast beats can only go so far. This song is well done , but doesn't find the needed dynamic shifts to make it one that I would seek out and return to again.When you are shifting through the volume of releases that I do in any given week at the end of the day it's the strength of what makes the song memorable and stand out from the herd that matters.

Only four songs it is still around thirty minutes which breaks the "Reign in Blood " 28 minute mark quota I have for albums". One of the things this album has going for it is the bass is audible. The vocals are a one trick pony very much like older Deafheaven and really only hang onto a scathing mid range scream. The band finds it's footing the most solid  when a few bpm's short of a full on blast beat. There is a more upbeat mood to "Last Sea" thanks to the guitar melody that floats over the bulk of the song. It hovers around this for the bulk of the song's eight and a half minutes , which can come across as droning, but for very post-rock friendly black metal at least mood wise it is pretty enjoyable.

This is nothing new, but a fun listen that is well played. It could have been a little darker for my personal tastes, but I sometimes forget bands are not solely trying to cater to my tastes an have their own vision. I appreciate what that vision is enough to give this album an 8.