Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The Birthday Massacre : "Under Your Spell"

The first time I heard this project was via an ex-girlfriend when their first album came out many moons ago. I was turned off by the fact that it was way too happy from the image projected by how they marketed themselves and it reminded me of  something from an anime soundtrack. So giving them another shot years later I am happy to say that is toned way down in favor for a darker more melancholy tone. I guess when it comes to poppy darkwave bands like Chrvches have taken it way into the mainstream, so having taken note of where music has gone since their inception the needed changes were made. I am on the defensive expecting Asian girls with pom poms to come dancing out with cyber dreads at any time. But now we are avoiding major keys and they keep things with a shadow around the silver lining even going into the third song which hint at dub-step tones bubbling under the surface. The production value having of course evolved with the times to make this a smooth slick machine.

There is a lighter note to the more sugar laced melodies of "Without You" that benefits from smart pop song writing sensibilities. There is more drive to "Counterpane" that give the singer's voice the feeling that she is more of a rock singer than she actually is. So here is there secret. These guys are well versed in what their limitations are and know how to turn them into strengths. This seems to have come from experience. The thick electro beat of "Unkind" gives the song enough heft to counter balance the more anime sounding key board melodies. The chorus does lack the punch to compliment this beat and is not as hooky as the previous songs, even when the guitar comes in a the refrain. There is a more of an early 00's pulse to "Games" . If you are thinking Evanescence you are pretty close. The vocals are poppier , but devoid of any nu-metal so I'll take that.

"Hex" is one of the album's strongest songs. It finds the beat and the vocals working well together to find them playing to their strengths.  There is more guitar leading into what turns into a more tender "No Tomorrow". The song builds back into a more brooding chorus rather than going big as expected. They go into more of a dream pop feel with "the Lowest Low". Which is a ballad I suppose. "Endless" picks up into what would be a more typical dance floor filler. Not the album's most inspired song, but typical for what they do. I like this album, it's entertaining. I'll give it a 8.5 for now and see how it grows on me.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tired Minds : " Loom"

It would be an exaggeration to say hardcore isn't my thing. I used to really be into and then the days of Myspace came and ruined the bulk of it. This Australian brings a varied form of it that owes more to newer screamo bands like La Dispute. Their drummer helps bring a varied maze of tempos to the party and tends to steer clear of too many punk beats which I appreciate. I like how on "Worm of the Earth" the tempo can be so jarring. On the more moody and melodic "Roots" the vocal get mixed into the background. The vocals are this bands weak spot as the stay in an emotive yell but its pretty monotone. Even when they vary their phrasing to mimic singing. "Mona" is interesting as the run a sample of a lady talking and build it into a gang vocal chorus.

They lower the bar for themselves by going into more run of the mill hard core for "War on Film". There is a lower growled vocal under the yelled vocal on the title track which has more emotion behind it. There is also the darker current that I was reading this band had. Which the bar for dark is high for me. Some of these songs are so short it's easy to loose track of where you are .I went from "Midnight Man" to the last song without knowing what point in the album I was at. It has a cohesive feel, sometimes there is a more Fugazi sing song quality to the backing vocals. The main vocals are pretty redundant at this point. There is a mathy riff that comes in towards the end of the song.

They use similar melodic riffs to lead into things as Converge at times. This gives "Good By You" and edge over some of the other songs. They end the album with "Dead in the Living Room" This last song didn't really do a lot for me to engage my ears , but it's not bad. I will give this album an 8.5. With more varied vocals it might have scored higher. If you like more modern screamo I guesss that shouldn't bother you and you can round it up.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Hundredth : "Rare"

While I like these guys, I think before you are quick to throw the post-punk label on them and start comparing them to The Smiths or Joy Division, know that they have much more in common with Silversun Pickups. The cooed androgynous yawn of the vocals begin to start sounding the same come the second song. This also reminds me of many of the post Pumpkins bands that came out of Britain in the late 90s - early 00s. They some times pack a little more of a metallic punch. Word on the street is these guys used to be a hard core band. They stay in the middle of the road shoe-gaze inspired flavor of alternative rock . There is a little bit of a more Stone Roses like feel to "Hole". The vocals don't change, but tempo wise things are more driving. Lyrically it's also a little more interesting.

By the time we get to "Suffer" it's starting to feel like they are slightly a one trick pony.  They have more of a punk thing going with the attack of "Disarray" . The vocals keep on the same track they have for the entire album. They bring it back down for "Down". The guitars and vocals are equally smooth as they coast along with the mid tempo beat. Yelled background vocals coast in during the songs final moments. They album is well produced and they get some awesome guitar tones. It's also very monochrome when it comes to the emotional notes they hit. "Shy Vein" has some darker notes to it before building up into a guitar part that would not sound out of place on a Cult album. I am sure they want to be compared to the Cure, but for a former punk band they seem to have forgotten where they came from. Some weird effects creep in to change the colors in a few spots.

There are a few spots where it sounds like the bass could use more balls and if the tone growled a little more it might make this sonically heavier. The vocals finally take on a little more of a croon on "Chandelier" this makes it one of the album's more solid songs as I don't need lots of change just a little more shading in terms of dynamics. On 'Youth " the vocals have an almost Morrissey like croon and they stay in a lower register, though smooth higher end of baritone for the last song as well. That is what this album needed as those songs before this where becoming a blur. Their guitar tone can compensate for a lot otherwise. The invisible bass player never really surfaces like they need to , but the guitars are well layered. I'll give this album an 8.5 , they do a good job for what it is , you just need to adjust your expectations realistically when defining what that is.

Cavernlight : " As We Cup Our Hands and Drink From the Stream of Our Ache"

The fact I found these guys on Noisey could play for or against them depending on how much hipster they get in their metal. This is dark and dense. Not limited to doom tempos though the kind of depressing places doom goes is in this band from Wisconsin's zip code. Not venturing over the 8 minute mark  they are not trying to drone you into submission. The vocals sound like a mountain lion that is being tortured. There is a greater sense of melody in the guitar that opens up the second song.   like Eyehategod on different drugs than the guys in Eyehategod actually do. Where Eyehategod are hateful these guys are too depressed to get in touch with their hate on that animal level despite the vocals. The vocals actual sit back further in the ix on this one.

"Wander part 2' is more of an interlude than an actual song as it lingers in minimal post -rock like atmosphere. Then there is an almost shoe gaze like hypnosis that set in with "To Wallow in the Filth that Dwells Where Despair is Born".  I like this melody and it's shame the melodic possibilities are left to wander in the filth.The songs potential is abandoned around the four minute mark. Female vocals come in a lend a more Ragana like feel to the song though this is the touch of dynamics that the album needed. They go into a more black metal climax, so these guys only flirt with doom, but like many bands of this day and age they dip into a few genres.

I'll give this album an 8.5 . Any one who tries to claim it's their album of the year is just being a hipster, but this is pretty good when it embrace the more melodic side. I would like to hear more from these guys as their is potential. If you want dark dreamy post-rock tinged sludge then this is worth your time.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

White Suns : "Psychic Drift"

The sound of falling asleep on your synth so that it presses all the keys at once and sounds like a traffic jam is cool to hipsters. To me it's a red flag that these guys might be out to waste my time with some art school bull-shit. 7 minutes in and they have yet to cross over into something you could consider music.This could have condensed into 3 minutes of horrid noise rather than fourteen as it's not like they go anywhere with it any way. Some idiot who supported this one their Bandcamp page said the vocal performances are stellar as well. This is just spoken word how can that be a stellar vocal performance unless you fucking sing. Two minutes into the second buzz of noise they are trying to call a song and I being to wonder why did Flenser ever bother wasting their time with this.

On a "Year Without Summer" they practice plugging their instruments in to see if they can make static feedback sound. The so called stellar vocal performance does not turn into singing just yelling that you can hear from any drunk at a train station. So far this so called album has yet to produce any music. I think to be a band you have to make music. Which requires notes of some kind that hopefully form a melody, a song is a series of patterns that for melodies. So at the very basic core of what music is this is bull shit. Maybe performance, but go do it in an art gallery somewhere and don't bother with recording this shit. So this band and the term band is used rather loosely here, has the honor of scoring a 0 which is the first band to ever do that in the five or so years I have been doing this blog. If you like this I would for you to kill yourself as the world could used less idiots who think it's funny to have bad taste in music. Far beyond terrible, hopefully who ever made this gets AIDS and dies and that is the best thing I could wish for them, in fact AIDS is to noble a death extreme anal prolapse might be what best serves them.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Spare Spells : " the Narrows"

This band from Portland makes a slinky indie rock that is too cool for you. The vocals are breathy like Love & Rockets. They have surf rock guitar grooving behind them and the bass buried somewhere in the mix beneath the clunky drums. Female vocals float in from time to time. If this came out of LA it would probably be death rock so it's an interesting exercise in nature vs nurture as these guys are products of their environment. They jangle into the second with a lo-fi charm. Some of the guitar tones are better than others. This makes me wonder. So if you get it right on one track does that mean you just didn't give a shit about the other one? The vocals have more hipster indifference to them than melancholy. I am not sure at this point if I would even call these guys post-punk. Mainly because it's so relaxed and drugged out there is no tension which is a key ingredient. The second song is too drugged out to even keep it up.

Things improve on "Neither / Neither" as there is more darkness to it's slink. The chick in the background seems to have a better voice so I am not sure why the whispering guy gets to hog the mic all the time. "Black Tom" reminds me a little of pre-"Daydream Nation" Sonic Youth. The vocal trade off is very similar and I am going to go ahead and guess that is one of their major influences. This song ambles with noise coming from different places than Sonic Youth Normally goes but the feel is still similar. The guitar lines have a little more hook to them which helps as well. The album is littered with some quirky noise interludes. The females vocal get more time on the mic as the album progresses. The bass really needs to come up in the mix as it would give the groove some backbone. I think that is the main problem with this album. No bottom end equal no balls.

Sure the wheel is not being re-invented here but these guys are at least not just ripping off Joy Division, which at this point I appreciate. "Dead?" is more noise, it's not until "the Final Girl " that they lock into something more solid. The keyboards actually help form a slithering groove. The drums are just getting the job done by the skin of their teeth and one of this band's weaker spots. The more surreal swirl the drift into is more of their strong suit. "Hexorcism" drifts aimless in a cloud of pot smoke. I think if I was doing drugs I would like this in the same way I used to like Psychic Tv's more surreal moments , but Psychic Tv are just better songwriters. I'' be generous enough and score them on creativity and keep this at a 8 as I have enough of a beard to realize these guys are not going for chops.

Tombs - "the Grand Annihilation"

Any questions regarding Tombs legitimacy as black metal is cleared the fuck up right from the first few notes. The guitar tone peels your faces off and leaves you a bloody stain on the all behind you.  Mike Hill's growl has a Neurosis like rasp to it when they song slows down as the lyrics are articulated. The songs are all respectable lengths rarely venturing over the seven minute mark. There is more of a deliberate gallop to "Cold". Drummer Charlie Schmid, really pulls his weight when it come top the double bass on this song. The only thing I have noticed and this is two songs in is this feel more like a more metallic effort than "All Empires Fall". The chords sometimes dip into the shadows , but darkness is not as pervading. The only reason I think Fade Kainer might still be involved is the way the vocals are layered on "the tear away the veil" . If there are synths on this they are mixed way the hell down. By the time we get to "Old Wounds" I begin to miss the more goth touches of previous albums, this is solved by a more death rock vocal thrown in for two phrases .  They are certainly good at giving you straight up metal, but I need the more atmospheric touches to balance it out.

This shadow side of the band begins to make it self known again going into "November Wolves" I am not asking for a lot here, just he little touches like how a sung vocal doubles up the harsh declarations. The song has a bulldozing groove to it's chug. The vocal refrain in the last tow minutes is pretty awesome and well sung. I also like that this song reminds me a little of Dissection.The darkness becomes the main focus with the sung vocals that take the mic on "Underneath" which seems to be perfectly tailored to my personal music tastes. So thanks guys for that.When you think of goth metal it's normally so frilly and Vampire of the Masquerade that it takes all the balls from it. As much as I love them I will admit that this even took the edge from Type O Negative at times. But they prove you can have the best of both worlds.

They hit you with a more frontal assault on the scathing blast of "Way of the Storm". I think Hill's commentary on the world around him is veiled is post-apocalyptic imagery with stars falling from the sky.  When they slow into a more Celtic Frost like chug the results are stunning. They stay in a similar grinding tempo on "Shadows At the End of the World". The lyrical theme of the world being broken and burning with killing fields being reaped continues. I like this as I think it sucks that all the metal heads are on my Facebook crying about how Trump is the anti-Christ and wanting peace. What a bunch of posers, if you are are going be into black metal or death metal then this is the end you should have been wanting, destruction and chaos if you like to toy with them vicariously through songs, but are afraid if what it looks like in real life then the diapers are on aisle 9. Then again I am a depressed nihilist so I hope we all get nuked by North Korea, it will have me another suicide attempt.

Sorry for the rant but it is relevant here as it reflects the sort of world painted by the lyrics of this album."Temple of Mars" doesn't paint a happier picture either. The vocals somewhere between spoken and sung, with bass dragging them them down into the cosmic ocean. "Walk Me into Nightmares" is almost more rock in the throb the guitar goes into. The vocals are similar to those in the previous song. This might be my favorite song on the album, even though it's not the heaviest by far, but if you know my tastes by now you will understand this. There is still even greater rock styling to the perhaps more dreary "Saturnalian" . The black metal tremolo picking surfaces and the harsher vocal return. The bass and the drums are locked in like a machine. At the three minute mark things slow back down and get darker and more chaotic. I think it's obvious that this is the soundtrack the world needs right now it it without question gets a 10. The album is almost split into two parts on the front end If you thought the more post-punk elements were diluting the more metallic properties then make most mistake this part of the  album is up in you as metal as it gets. Then if your tastes fall more on the dark side as mine do than you have to hang on and your get that too.