Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Iron Reagan : " Crossover Ministry"

Cut from a similar mold as D.R.I Richmond's Iron Regan which features members of Municipal Waste and Darkest Hour is an explosive reminder to the 80's when trash metal and hard-core punk shared the same dna. Sometimes this is done in a more metallic manner than others, successfully hooking you into the mosh mania. "Grim Business" finds this formula firing off on all cylinders. There song writing is coiled tight on "Dead With My Friends" and holds more melodic layers than I expected from these guys. When it comes to the 14 second micro songs like "No Sell" I am not counting them for the purpose of this album. They do make up for this outburst with "Condition Evolution" . Then there are the moments that remind me more of something Tankard or M.O.D might have done on "Fuck the Neighbors". Lyrically it's pretty silly, but fun if you are a rowdy skate boarding teenager, and yes, I still remember those days.

While it is short and sweet, "Power of the Skull" is still pretty effective. The title track is pretty mosh inducing, though sometimes the speed almost makes the song feel like it is going to trip over it's self. There is a Slayer like feel to the riff that opens "More War" , this is fitting considering the lyrical content is very similar to the more war driven Slayer songs. It took three plays of "Blatant Violence ' before it just didn't race past my ears. The songs hold more weight when they slow things to a more deliberate pace and really hammer you with it. It sounds like Mike Muir drops to make an appearance on "Megachurch" , the song reminds me of How Will I Laugh Tomorrow" era Suicidal.  "Shame Spiral" might work better than "Dogsnotgods" , but both songs rely more on speed than anything.

I would have like to have heard more done with "Eat Or Be Eaten" as it had more varied sonic energies than most of the more fully formed songs. They lock into a pretty devastating riff on "Twist Your Fate". The world seems to be poised and ready for angry music like this.  This album takes me back to my adolescent years, but is nothing new, however it is a very powerful and refined metal machine and hits hard while having something to say so I'll give it an 8.5.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Draugsol :" Volaða Land "

Iceland high school must have thrash metal pumping in the boys locker room because it always seems to be a huge influence on the black metal that comes out of that region. The album is really well produced and the massive chugs carry a ton of weight to them and help this album pack more of a a punch. The drummer is an absolute monster so that doesn't hurt their case as a force to be reckoned with. It is the more melodic groove that the touch upon in the middle of the second song that makes me want to take these guys more seriously than just being another bunch of lug heads who throw mean riffs at you as fast and furiously as they can. The blast beats are a thing and they do play it straighter than most of the black metal bands I get more air time out of . When they really start ripping it out a lot faster they sound a little more death metal in places. The vocals also tend to stay in more of a growl than a scream, but calling them blackened death might be a little bit of an exaggeration. But it is also like the blind men and the elephant depending on what section of what song, your idea of what these guys are might shift. They don't keep a perfect balance of melody interjected into their music and the furious aggression is the prime emotion rather than darkness, so we do not see perfectly eye to eye when it comes to what makes for the best black metal. But something can be said for the feral intensity and the clarity of the guitar work. Things are not a blur of notes that come across more like a frequency than string being attacked in a way to make defined riffs. The cleaner guitar tones sound really good and make me wince a little when they blast out in a blur of speed to forsake them. The bass player becomes audible at certain junctures, but the drummer is clearly dictating the fate of these songs. The guitar at the beginning of the last song is moodier in tone and the drums groove a little before throwing restraint out of the window yet again. The mid paced moments hold more impact for me when the guitar is allowed to ring out. Anyone who considers themselves black metal can after all play a blast beat. The melodic elements are no more evenly balanced on the last song than they are at any other point in the album, but the guitar sound is more varied which accounts for a lot. Actual sung vocals come toward the final moments of this and they are low and gothy so you know that earns them points in my book. For what this is these guys are impressive enough to peak my interest and keep me listening with some level of intent. I think this is worth an 8 for now, though I am not sure how much play time I will get out of this. .6

Pain of Salvation : "In the Passing Light of Day"

I loved "Scarsick" the album that served as my introduction to the band and think "Road Salt One" is brilliant. I haven't really been wow'ed by anything since, but gave their last album a passing listen if that. Prog rock in it's most conventional form is no longer my bread and butter like it used to be, I think because their idea of heavy and mine never align and the cheese filled wanking seem to be the mission of the day. That is not really the case with these guys, and while a ten minute song opening the album feels over indulgent to me the song is not half bad despite the heavy drama on the spoken word section. I think their song writing is more focused on "Tongue of God". This project's secret weapon remains Daniel Gildenlow 's incredible pipes that continue to make him one of the most under rated singers to step up to a microphone and on a song like "Meaningless" prove that where the other metal divas get it wrong is not trying to be operatic rather than letting the soul bleed through in the vocal booth.

The ballad "Silent Gold" is well done, but just doesn't resonate with me personally. There is a more Faith No More like rock vibe to " Full Throttle Tribe". It works of a tense groove and intense yet quirky vocals hopping along the syncopation. While they do this better than any other band this kind of thing stopped being my thing in the late 90s, but I can appreciate the talent behind this song. "Reasons" combined soul with the more proggy math to find the magic formula that shows what they do best. The way this song hits it is clear they are not oblivious that bands like their fellow Swedes in Meshuggah exist. They set the solo to "Angels of Broken Things" on fire and add more dynamic depth to the song, so if you are wondering when and how to use guitar solos reference this song.

Thanks to their understanding of dynamics, a song that starts off more middle of the road like "the Taming of a Beast" can really roar to life in a way that doesn't sound contrived. "If This is the End" feels like a more updated version of something that could have been on "Road Salt One" with a more Mr. Bungle like build. There is a very warm and organic feeling to the song. I brace myself for the 15 minute title track that closes the album, as I have developed a distaste for songs of this length so they better sell me on the fact that each minute is being used wisely. I like the darker tone established at the beginning. They don't go in the direction I expected with this , but it is still pretty fluid even up to the ten minute mark. As they passed the 11 minute mark I began to wonder how much longer they could keep it up without going back to the chorus again.They bring it back way down in the final three minutes. This is not their best album, but it is better than what most of the so called prog rock bands are putting out these days so I will give it a 9 for now. br />
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Cold Body Radiation : " the Orphean Lyre"

For post-whatever the songs are written in a very condensed format and get to the point without boring you with the drone. They have more in common with Slow dive on this one than Alcest. What could be the album's strongest song follows the dreamy opener. It is almost black metal despite the melodic core. One second listen I could hear the bass player wandering under the guitar to create another layer. The vocals create a very depressing mood.This is contrasted by the more shimmering splendor of "All the Little Things you Forgot are Stored in Heaven". It is heavily accented like the golden years of Explosions in the Sky. The pace picks up for the more metallic rock of "At Sea". The title track which holds a similar metallic influence, doesn't stray far from the mood they establish on "At Sea". The vocals and guitar and both more interesting to me on "Spiral Clouds" which makes me think of what My Blood Valentine might have sounded like if they had been more committed to making atmospheric rock rather than the weirdness that they ending up spewing forth at such high volumes. It's not that I don't like My Bloody Valentine it's just that now that I don't do drugs, I need more of the skeleton of a song that is presented here. I am not sure if it is the version I download or not, but there is a muted hush to "You Were Missing" and it's not available to play on their Bandcamp page so I am just working off of what I am getting here. The vocals are breathy and linger in the haze. The sound issue is not something I found on the more synth driven, "the Forever Sun". There is a more narcotic lethargy on this song that finds it coasting on a snooze cruise control. This feels mood-wise more along the lines of kraut rock as it operates off of a trippy throb. Overall this album gives you everything you could want from shoe-glazed rock, the stronger songs alone earned it a spot on the iPod so I will round this one up to an 8.5.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Drowned God : " Moonbearer"

This takes me back to the early 2000's and the days of Myspace, this would have been considered hard core back then, but now the lines are kinda blurred. There is a darker current to their anger and in some ways the more metallic guitar tones remind me of the new Code Orange album. We can hear the kind of emoting from the guitar that we heard back in 1999, though the vocals are more along the lines of what we expect from scream these days. "I'll Catch the Back of Her Head" is punchier as the syncopation is where the intensity is built as the take a more melodic middle of the road path to vent their screaming. The bass player steps in to fill the gaps when things get more atmospheric for "Tomorrow Your chest Cavity Will be Alone". The vocals are actually sung, which helps bring a much needed change of pace.

 The old screamed hard core tricks do not really breathe any new life into the orbit of a song like " Darkness Comes Early Down Here". The song twists and turns , but lack something that really hooks you in.Some of the guitar trickery is impressive when you listen to it but there lies half the problem for me is wasting a tone of time listening for it, but I already invest so much of my time hunting down music that moves me that I don't have time for something that is redundant. The more motive sung vocals return for " Nighttime Lips" it almost feels more like an interlude than them committing to an entire song, but they do pull it together and deliver. "Sundowning " tries to marry more commercial hooks in with the sound of black metal influenced hard core.They do throw a moody break down into the middle of the song.

Aside from the more Minus the Bear like break in the last song "Moon" they don't do a helluva a lot to really keep your teeth latched onto this song. The drummer obviously has some chops and these guys never have their musicianship brought into question. I am unsure as to why this song is over 13 minutes long as I begin to wonder what else they can do this. The answer is to jam out what you have already heard from them. By the nine and a half minute mark it is beginning to become  test of endurance. While this song does get tedious , over all the alum is pretty well done, I will give it an 8, though I am not sure this is something that I will listen to enough to warrant it making the trip to my iPod. If you like screamo these guys are worth your time.

Code Orange : "Forever"

Welcome to 2017's equivalent of "You Will Never Be one of Us". Tough and tight, the guitar on this album is mean as fuck, but has an incredible tone. There is a machine like precision to the execution and the syncopation is ridiculous more often than not. After the opener you are ready for the heft that the second songs has but never comes across as jarring. The songs all clock in close to the three minute mark, "Real" goes south by incorporate an almost rapped verse to breakoff from the other wise slick metal core . Things slow greatly to allow some breathing room for the sung females vocals that "bleeding in the blur". There is a more noticeable industrial under current to the mega heavy groove of '\the Mud" . Layered vocals help provide a melodic touch.

The cool riff alone don't make good songs it's the smarts that put them together, they are almost like Meshuggah for hard core kids on "the New Reality". Though the odd time signatures alone don't find this one living up to the bar they have already raised for themselves.  "Spy" finds them falling into similar murky waters as they try to just rely on being heavy.  They redeem themselves with the more Helmet like "Ugly". "No One is Untouchable" is not bad it just doesn't hook me in as tightly as the songs on the first half of the album and beings to sound like the are trying to hard. The title track is darker but begins to feel like the formula is getting worn out though the song's more atmospheric touches are cool.

Of the last two songs "the Hurt goes On " is more of an interlude , while "Dream2" is more of an actual song and a very melodic one at that when you compare it to the rest of the album. While this album has it's share of faults when it gets it right it really delivers I guess I shall see how it grows on me. For now I will go ahead and give it a 9 as it sounds great and these guys have really matured.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

This Was 2016 ....My Year In Music

2016 was a hard year, it came to a crushing conclusion that is opening a frightening new chapter, and I have hinted and mentioned certain events in various posts and social media, those closest to me in real life know the details, others might just have clues, I have shared my life in writing and pictures with you on this blog so here is my 2016 month by month paired up with the most fitting song. Some of these fit more neatly than others. In OCD like fashion I debated with the committee of one in my head how to do this. At first this was going to be all songs from 2016, and while there are some I think the songs gathered here provide the most fitting soundtrack to describe what the past year of my life has been like. There are multiple layers and emotions connected to various events in certain places in time, so I am trying to depict the shifting perspective of the years events in a manner than not as cryptic as it could have been. I'll let the music do the talking from here.

January -the Talking Heads - " This Must Be the Place"

February- The Decemberists - "Of Angels and Angles"

March- The National - " I Should Live In Salt"

April- Black Foxxes - "Slow Jams Forever"

May - Peter Murphy "Keep Me From Harm"

June- Cold War Kids- " All of This Could be Yours"

July- Siouxsie and the Banshees - "Happy Home"

August - The Weeknd - "Attention"

September- Pallbearer- "the Sound and the Fury"

October - Sia- " Elastic Heart"

November Planes Mistaken For Stars - "Clean Up Mean"

December Taylor Swift-"Back To December"