Monday, May 14, 2018

GosT : "Possessor"

For some reason I have been on a more electronic kick. This came about due to a Blood Music Records kick I was also on. The retro synth trend that makes everything sound like it could be on the soundtrack to "Stranger Things" is pretty widespread as we even heard it seeping into the new Ihsahn album. This is this projects obvious stock and trade.  Here is an electronic album that is as dark as industrial and as heavy as industrial, but has more of a retro synth wave sound battling inside of them like angels and demons. "Prowler" has enough groove to support itself as an instrumental and the samples certainly help give the song a voice. He smoky vocals of "Sigil" work , but make the song a little more melodramatic and gothy in a 90s darkwave way.

There is a heavier blast on "Beliar" then it takes an angular glitch turn like something Igorr might do doom paced legion screamed vocals and odd retro synth melody. the pace picks up  for Shilohs Lament Malum has somewhat goth tinged vocals , some of the synth melodies are too happy . The album's theme is translated by the samples which are all exorcism. The lyrics to "Malum" don't really convey the same thing and appear to be about wasting time on someone.

"Commandment" gets more aggressive , but the synths keep it from being industrial along with the fact the programmed drums don't have as much of a kick to them. The over driven vocals would not be out pf place on an industrial album. It is at time like electro grind core in some of the explosive outbursts in-between church bells ringing and Art Bell samples. I'll round this down to an 8. Some of this gets redundant and then the vocals sometimes remind me too  much of cheesy darkwave rather than cool dark wave because of the melodramatic breathiness of the vocals.  Despite this the album is certainly worth a listen even though I am not going to gild the coffin for you . The other word of warning would be it's not as Satanic as some might lead you to believe, once again I review black metal half the time so the bar is high for the level of goat kissing and Christ fucking we want around here.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Horror Vacui : " New Wave of Fear"

This was released April 15 with little buzz. I guess the death rock revival is not getting much hipster press these days and going back underground where it belongs. Fine with me as the music is better for it if judging by the opening track of this band from Italy's new album. The guitar tone lightens into a shade of gray on the title track. The vocals are really showing the most improvement moving down into almost a Sister's of Mercy like croon. The guitar mix is a little murky like the effects could stand to be slightly compressed. "Forward" finds the guitar riffs beginning to get a little uniform, thankfully they switch it up when the vocals come in . "We Are The Ones" finds the guitar tone continuing to makes things bleed together. I think they needed to spend a little more time with giving things space in the mix when it comes to post- production. Things are beginning to get a little monochrome in their dynamic flatness.

There is a little bit of a darker groove to "On the Other Side". Tempo wise it pretty much falls in line with the rest of the album up to this point. :Behind" gets a little more aggressive , but aside from that doesn't really stand out from the other song and races long the same panic pace of the others. Its the increased growled grit of the vocals that makes this stand out more than the guitar. The bass coming up in the mix helps "Don't Dance With Me". If these songs gave themselves more room to expand and contract the melodic touches that are buried under the wall of redundant guitar might work better. The vocals remind me a little more of Iggy Pop on this song.

The effects on the vocals at the beginning of "Upside Down" work really well and display what this album could have been if more attention to detail had been given in the production end. They do have more atmosphere on this song, though drone a little more. I'll round this down to an 8, because it's a mixed bag. I think the songs work more often than not, but the sound is not really dialed in and it could use more clarity in the mix . Live I can see how if this is as good as it gets mix wise then it would be a loud punk blur.


Cruachan: "Nine Years of Blood"

I think my thoughts on the folk metal have made a few things clear to most readers. Most of them can be summed up by saying I want to like it , but most of the time it's not dark enough for me. Last week we were going to the Renaissance Festival and folk metal was obviously needed for the trip down. So I downloaded this album and the new one by Heidevolk. The Heidevolk album was too happy. This one made the cut. The folk elements are blended into this Irish band's sound in a very fluid manner. Like most folk metal album their are a few little instrumental interludes that you have to sort through. These guys use harsher vocals and sung vocals. There guitar tone has balls to it and there is aggression that is not just LARPing. They do fall into a little more of a jig on "Blood & Victory" than I might prefer , though make up for it on the melodic break to some extent.

Lyrically these guys are pulling from the history books, makes the songs rather bardic. Lots of Irish pride going on here. When the fiddles are busting out more of a minor key melody, it works better for me though sometimes this is undone when they go into something that sounds more like a drinking song. "the Battle Of the Yellow Ford" has more scathing vocals on the verses , but doesn't strike me as inspired as the first few songs. While it has a commanding thrash gallop the folk melodies laid over  "Cath Na Brioscai" fall a little flat on me. "The Harp, the Lion, the Dragon and the Sword" has enough of thrashing energy to keeps it's momentum despite the happier touches of folk. Some songs grab me harder than others as it heads into the album's third act. The bands harder moments leaning closer to thrash than black metal. It is some of the more melodic touches that have the most impact.

"Back Home in Derry" closes the album. An odd choice considering how compact the song. It does show the two sides of the band and show the extremes of these two dynamics working together. It actually pretty catchy. This album runs into some of the genre's pitfalls , but is generally aggressive enough to thrash past them. I'll give this album an 8.

Friday, May 11, 2018

the Sword : "Used Future"

Never really been all that into these guys. Reasonably familiar with their work, prefer their older more metallic moments. They have grown into more of a 70s styled prog band that is still more song oriented like the more radio friendly albums from that era, so not King Crimson. "Deadly Nightshade" is the kind of retro rock I expect from them. After a few listens the song din't blow me , but is easy to listen. I like the groove to "Twilight Sunrise", but the vocals are not as catchy as those on the previous song. The guitar is busier. "The Wild Sky" has more punch when it comes down from space at hits you with the chug. It a cool drugged out jam with interesting sound, and for an instrumental manages to keep my attention. There is more of a 70s feel to "Sea of Green" that almost feels more like ZZ Top. So far this is the strongest song on the album as all the varied elements work in conjunction to create a groove. The plaintive vocals sit in the right space. The songs winds it way around to a more 60s haze. The guitar solo is well placed and performed. I can see these guys doing well with jam band kids.

"Nocturne" is less of an instrumental that stands on it's own and more of an interlude. It is very Pink Floyd with hints of kraut rock. There is a very stoned glaze to " Don't Get too Comfortable". It works as a song, but doesn't stand out against the others. The title track sounds like it could be a Lynyrd Skynyrd b-side. For what it is it's entertaining. "Come and Gone" reminds me of early 60's psyche rock like Coven or Atomic Rooster, more floating and surreal than mystic. They get back to a more ballsy rock approach on "Book of Thoth". It establishes a pretty decent groove. Not as fantasy oriented as Uriah Heap, it does come from a similar era of sound.

"Brown Mountain" is a return to more of a southern rock sound. Progressive rock atmospherics sit behind it to create an odd landscape. I would be leery of anyone claiming this is the album of the year,but it's better than their acoustic stuff and they are good at what they do .I'll give this one an 8.5, while i enjoyed the listens I gave this one , when I want to hear this sort of thing chances are I'll go to the source. If you are a fan then it will live up to your expectations.

the Evil : " Evil"

This band from Brazil is darker and heavier than most of the female fronted stoner/doom bands that pass through my in-box. Granted she has a masculine voice in some sense, if we are talking about a man with a feminine voice...think Rob Halford styled power metal here. So while this does give them a late 80s doom sound the fact the guitar is so dense brings if up into this decade. The bass tone is pretty 80s though. "Screams" finds their groove getting murkier and the sludge heavy guitar tone not pulling the weight by itself. Doesn't suck but doesn't grab my attention like the first song. "Sacrifice to the Evil" has more of a cheesy Halloween sound to it with some "Omen" style chanting. I guess it makes about as much sense as some of Acid Witch's stuff, but Acid Witch gels better thematically.

They trudge on with "Satan 2 " I guess this a sequel. Not sure where they lyric "from Russia with love/ comes in " ?   With doom or really any genre the challenge is to be your self, but bring something new to the table .With black metal the problem is blast beats begin to sound the same. With doom it's recycling the Sabbath chug. Think of it like warming up a piece of day old pizza in the microwave. The first time you nuke it, the pizza will still be worth eating. The second time , it's going to be either soggy or like rubber. This is what happens on "Sliver Razor". I can only taste the rubbery aftermath and not what worked on the first song.

They give "Ancients" a little more breathing room, it follows a similar formula as the song "Black Sabbath" by the band of the same name, you may or may not have heard of them. This brings us to doom rule number 1 " a little Black Sabbath worship goes a long way". Now these kids are not breaking this rule as bad as many bands. The fact the vocals are not going all Ozzy certainly helps. I would just like to hear them pull from more colors of influence. I am beginning to hear people already calling albums the album of the year and it's not June yet. This is not bad but I am giving it a 7.5 so it's safe to say it's not going to make my 10 doom albums of the year list. If you like things that are as dark as Acid Witch , but more doom than death metal then it might be worth your time.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Iceage :"Beyondless"

I was worried the boys from Denmark would stray to far from punk after their last album and the funky Rolling Stones like side project of their singer . The first song holds roots in the early days of punk, but is just good fucking music. While the drums continue to have a reckless edge the horns smooth out the sonic landscape for hipster pop singer Sky Ferreria to lend her voice to "Pain Killer".  They languish in the country jangle of " Under the Sun". Unlike most country there is a rather an elegant dynamic build in the song. Swagger is the best word to describe the attitude that flows through the track marked veins of this album. There is a lot going on with "the Day the Music Dies", but the stomp of this attitude can be felt during this journey. Its more 60s garage rock, but the lines of where that intersected with the rise of punk back in the day was just as murky then as it on this song.

The swagger moves into more of a strut on "Plead the Fifth". Elias mutters and mumbles , but his lyrics still cut through with tales of desperation in the shadows of sleaze. These shadows darken "Catch It". It's the first song that feels like it could be called post-punk. The rest of the album thus far hasn't not joyous, but this is where the mood takes a more down trodden shift. I can hear the influence of the Velvet Underground on this one. Which sums up the progression, they have never been a Joy Division rip off, but if their early work was influenced by Joy Division or Wire then they have dug deeper into the roots of the music to end up at the Velvet Underground. At time the chaos of the horns also reminds me a little of the Violent Femmes.

They return to the dirt country back roads on "Thieves Like Us". When I say it's dancey I mean the kind of dancing that drunken white people might do at a honky tonk near a truck stop. The album rapid cycles back into a low swing on " Take it all ". While I prefer the more depressive moments to the honky tonk hoedowns, even those are done so well it's hard to complain about them. "Showtime" starts off dark and steamy then builds into a boozy dance. The title track that closes the album also has a darker cloud over it, so I am glad the gray clouds close in over the second half of the album, though none of it is sunshine and puppies. I'll give this adventure a 10 as it preserves the growing legacy of this band.

Urfaust : " The Constellatory Practice"

Is it me or do you never find out something is part of a trilogy until after the fact? This album is the final part of a trilogy this band's two previous album were also a part of . Maybe they don't come out and say something is a trilogy because then it really sets the stakes high for the 3rd album to be the climax. What we get on the first song is 13 minutes of hypnotic drone. It's at a more doom pace. The vocals are sung rather operatically but without the same baritone stiffness of previous albums. "Behind the Veil of the Trance Sleep" continues with this ritualistic hypnosis. It creates a sonic shimmer that reminds me a little of Swans. More punishing in it's pounding than the opener, I would not call this black metal, but Urfaust has been defying the bounds of black metal since their last album.

The ambiance continues to grow thicker. More abstract in the synth swell of  " A Course in Cosmic Mediation". This feels like a more atmospheric movement extending out of the previous song rather than a song unto itself. "False Sensorial Impressions" took a second listen in order for me to fully digest it. It is darker and there is some harsh screaming, so closer to black metal than the first three songs. Though even with Urfaust's earlier work I thought they tested the bounds of black metal and did it their own way. This album might be a step beyond that as droning seems to be the prime motivator. The atmosphere is more unsettling on this song, but dynamically it is flat by virtue of working of the surreal drone. They evolve into something that is more of a song on "Trail of the Conscience of the Dead". Over driven bass keeps this song moving. Thanks to the drums this comes closer to being doom. I like when the cello comes in to add another melodic layer. At 12 minutes it's a little long and could have benefited trimming the fat on the front end of the song.

With a name like "Eradication Through Hypnotic Suggestion" the eradication part of that equation would make this the album's heaviest song. But no it's an even more atmospheric drone to the song of being more of an outro than a song. I'll give this an 8, because musically there are pleasing sounds and when they do decide to make a song it works, I would prefer to have the drone dialed back and hear more song shine through this murky darkness o hypnosis. This is what they wanted and it's what you get . They are still one of the more original acts to come from black metal though this might be ritualistic it's not black metal.