Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Ulcerate : "Shrines of Paralysis"

They are back to a denser sound more in line with their best album to date "Destroyers of All". But does this one measure up to the 2011 album? I know these guys can write song so the murky mush of riffs they sling at me on the second song is not as impressive. Things do not improve much on "There Are No Saviors" except for the atmospheric break down mid way into the song. The drumming on this section is more impressive than when they are just throwing you up against a wall of double bass. The title track is the first song that has melody and more depth in the feelings it conveys. If the band is capable of writing this then they are more capable in just dialing in the faster more typical death metal songs.

While "Chasm of Fire" is not as strong as the title track it's still an improvement over the first few songs, though a formula is firmly in place where they rang until midway into the song then go for a moody break down. If you are going to do some hammering into your brain death metal then "Extinguished Light" would be the way to do it. The album closes with "End the Hope". With it's more deliberate and dissonant pound it shows hope until blasting off into chaotic non-sense.

The bar is raised high for these guys because we have heard what they are capable of. If you are easily impressed by sheer heaviness and formulaic song writing then this album might wow you. I'll give it a 6.5 because it certainly has it's moments and these guys are skilled at their instruments I would like to hear more heart in the writing and not making the atmosphere an obligatory section that comes right when the clock hits the half way mark. This drops October 28th on Relapse, I am little under whelmed, but some of you sheeple with gobble this like turkeys.

the Used @ The Masquerade

Chances are you grew up on Slipknot and while I was old enough to know better their 2002 album was pretty damn good. These guys are more of my wife's thing than mine, but she goes to plenty of shows with me that she prolly could care less about, so I endured the suffocating heat of the soon to be closing Masquerade. Openers New Language we a typical band from L.A. lots of show constantly talking about the fact they are on tour , but no real substance when it comes to the songs with laughable lyrics.  As their set progressed every song was a little worse than the one before it until it became hard to bear. By the time the Used took the stage after making the crowd re-live the late 90s with a mix of pop music blaring over the p.a . the place was pretty packed. In some ways this does not surprise me since the city prefers to keep one foot in the past musically. Myspace would have been proud of this show back in 2003.

The Used are still good at what they did. This was the first of a two part series . This was the first night and they were playing their self titled 2002 album front to back. The album is one of the few that have stood the test of time and the songs were endearing. The band played their instruments well with their bass player being their surprise ace n the hole as he was the only one who went above and beyond on this instrument and seems to have perfected his crafted over the years where the guitar player and drummer, clocked in played the songs and did their job. The main problem was vocalist Bert McCracken. While possessing an odd child like charm on stage that makes you wonder what medical marijuana is really doing to people, he answered the question what happens when you take the screaming out of screamo? You have a pop punk band.  After having surgery to remove polyps on his vocal chord, he has made statements  varying from the surgery took out half of his range to his voice has never been stronger. The real answer is never figured out  how to scream from his diaphragm and is too stoned to want to teach the old dog new tricks. Which I Do not mind not screaming if you decided your are done with and and to focus more on actual singing. However if you go on tour to preform an album in it's entirety and you can't do it vocally then why bother?

His voice was hit or miss the bass player took over most of the screamed parts , though they were more yelled than actually screamed. Bert let the crowd sing most of the higher sections or screamed section and got by on his charisma alone. The crowd was too caught up in being blasted back 14 years to really mind or notice. The set had some strong moments with some of the more melodic gems  shining the brightest, though the song " A Box Full of Sharp Objects" also translated well even with out the screams. They seemed to be enjoying what they are doing and the crowd did too, I can check this off my list, but would not go seem them again.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Emma Ruth Rundle : "Marked For Death"

In some ways there is not much difference between Emma Ruth Rundle's  second solo album and the last Marriages album, which is a good thing. If you were expecting just her and an acoustic guitar then think again. Perhaps the punches are not as rock and the songs are less jarring in their dynamic shifts, there is a very stormy mood that brews in the first songs. There is a more uplifting shade of gray to "Medusa" which falls somewhere between a ballad and a pop song. Rundle's keen ear for melodies keeps getting sharper as shown on the powerful "Hand of God" that has more of a acoustic folk feel, but still remaining slathered in rock brooding. I can hear hint of country influence on the ballad "Heaven". This is the first song I'm not a hundred percent sold on in the first listen. I think some of the hesitance in the melody and the more minimal arrangement doesn't full fill the promise of the first handful of songs. Though it does improve when the dynamics shift and it builds.

The album returns to the dark grungy tension it excels in on "So Come" . This one benefits from some interesting productions as there is a low frequency that is a gurgling undercurrent. Things turn to a dark indie folk not unlike the kind of creepy corners Chelsea Wolfe hides in on the song "Furious Angel", though it flows very lyrically rather than drags with any kind of doom like under side. The song find it's wing as it progresses and the subtle melodies proves very effective. The lyrics are actually pretty metal in their imagery. "Real Big Sky" closes the album. The guitar has a much rawer production value and creates a juxtaposition to her clear vocal line. This sounds like it could have come off of an album from any of the 90's alt-rock Lilillth Fair divas . It's as hooky as anything Alanis Morrisette might have one at this tempo. While "Heaven" didn't really connect as strongly with me I think the other songs make up for it so I'll give this one a 10 as Rundle continues to shine.

Comes out September 30th on Sargent House.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Bölzer : "Hero"

I am still trying to figure out what the hoopla about this band is after having listened to the first song on their debut album. The title track that follows the opener keeps things at a similar pace. This Swiss band sometimes comes across like a blackened thrash version of Motorhead. The cleanly sung vocals sound like they are tone deaf as they are bellowed out of key. They have garnered much of  the buzz of a few eps which even by their label's admission are more roughly recorded than this album. The metal elite might turn on them because this album sounds like they were more pain staking in the studio. Metal kids can be silly like that. "Phosphor" is more driven by blast beats though there is a down tuned Meshuggah like current running under it. The vocals come in after three minutes of this and don't really add a whole lot.

There is a more focused throb to "I am Ill" that allows for the guitar to do a little more in terms of melody. The more Venom like vocal works well enough here. The song that follows "Spiritual Athleticism" plays more of a off a deathly thrashing speed. The mumble clean vocals really don't add much this one either.  When it slows for the swift current of double bass tug with more power these guys come across as being heavier than when they are rushing a more blitzed barrage by you. Sometimes this is handled in a way that reminds me more of Kreator or the more recent Vader. I think they are more musical on "Chlorophyilla". The guitar carries a sharper hook. I am not sure that the vocal have more purpose, but they do jab at you with more solid footing. The sun vocals are a little lower he and this resonance keeps them in key. This album is well played and executed aside from the clean vocals. Production wise all of the guitar parts are where they need to be in the mix in order to bring out what they do best. I'll give this album a 7.5, it sounds good and has a solid head banging drive to it, these guys however seem to be a little more hyped than necessary. If you want some heavier than thrash, but ready for black metal then this album could be your thing.

Warpaint : "Heads Up"

This album is very different from their 2014 self titled effort. The vocals are presented in a less layered manner, giving this a more straight up pop like feel similar to Luscious Jackson . It took a few songs for me to really warm up to it. Though upon a second listen to the sultry " By Your Side". There is a darker mood to this one. The guitar tones writhe around the beat which is more straight forward and almost trip hop like. "New Song" which seems to be the album's first single is much upbeat and the vocal melody has more of Euro- smoothness. The chorus is big and dancey without pandering to the likes of Lady Gaga. The band's strength is clearly their vocal melodies . They compensate for  what can be the some what odd space in some of the arrangements.

They capture some great Depeche Mode like guitar tones on "So Good" which is my favorite song on the album thus far. It works off a steamy groove and vocals that always fall right where they need to . "Don't Wanna" finds the vocals up close on the mic.  When the layers of vocals return it reminds me a little of their previous album, but overall there is a weird purgatory created of being more electronic yet more stripped down. The album's first slip up is the weird wavering "Don't Let Go" which never seems to get a grip in the first place. "Dre" is more like a dreamy laid back excursion Chrvches might go on rather than anything like the Dr. This song has more focus than the previous song, but is still surreal to the point of being murky.

The title track takes a brisk dynamic shift into an almost post-punk direction. "Above Control" finds the back doing what they are best at as both mesmerism and melody are in play. The album closes with the folkish ballad "Today Dear" which feels like the intro to a Brand New song. I guess the wanted a moment of vulnerability. Overall this is a great album with a few weird choices on it. I'll give it an 8.5 and see how it sits with me.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bellicose Minds : "the Creature"

It's been three years since the Portland post-punk trio released "the Spine". Their newest opens with a more frantically upbeat number than I remember them having on their 2013 album. One their Bandcamp page the band says that they use big amps and electric drums to make music inspired by rain and cloud. This song seems a little too peppy for rain and clouds. The big amps are creating the great bass tone that opens "Exiled".  This song is tighter and the vocals fit more snugly into the grooves. The title track like the song before it is bass driven. This song glides more smoothly into the shadows. "The Mask" just fades into the background. One thing I have noticed is the vocals are not as aggressive as they once were so his voice isn't commanding you to listen.

There is more punk to the vocals of "Orwell's Troops". They punch out a little more despite being mixed back against the guitar. The mix might be what separates this album from "the Spine" . "Lost" feels more like their earlier work. The guitar coolly coasts around the bouncing bass line.  The chorus doesn't jump out at you but sits back into the moody pace of the song. "A Likely Outcome" is interesting for the first half of the song the vocals take more of a back seat. The vocals when they come in howl in like the wind from the distance.

The album closes with one of the more aggressive songs on the album "Villains" which is another song that will put a slight smile on the pale faces of even the most morose listener who went into this as a fan of "the Spine". There is almost a metal like pattern to the guitar riff. I'll around this up to a 9 it might take the kinder and gentler version of the band a little more time to warm up to me, but they get the job done. The other bands at the forefront of the post-punk revival have been pretty quiet this year so it's good to hear from these guys. This album came out under the radar last week with no hype around it. If you are a fan then it is worth your time to listen to it and hopefully with Halloween creeping up on us more of this will be coming out to play.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Die Antwoord : "Mt. Ninji and da nice time kid"

Ok here we go with the odd ball South African rap group's swan song. "We have Candy" is more theatrical than the kind of odd ball rap that they do best. "Daddy" is more dumbed down almost strip club rap until the chorus kicks and Yolandi takes over with a more interesting cadence. The production on this album is much better than their past releases. There is more an 80s techno to "Banana Brain" Yolandi starts off with singing the hook before the bass drops in to get the rave til dawn really going. Sen Dog from Cypress Hill shows up on "Shit Just Got Real". It works off the same principles and pulses that made Cypress Hill back in the day. Dita Von Teese offers her sultry whisper of "Gucci Coochie" which a Yolandi dominated track that re-visits similar ground they have already danced upon though it might be a little techno tinged this time around.

The guest spots continue with the prayer of Lil Tommy Terror on "Wings on My Penis" , which is more of an interlude. I'm totally sold on the cartoonish vocal Jack Black provides to " Rats Rule". He does his best Tom Waits impersonation. There is more attitude in the stomp of "Jonah Hill", but it turns into just another interlude."Stoopid Rich" finds Ninji rapping over a more trap like backing track. Yolandi's verses continue to be stronger than his. 'Fat Faded Fuck Face" is faded in the sense it feels like it is based off of some drug induced mumbling. Things are a little more cohesive on "Peanut Butter + Jelly". "Alien" is an odd childish lullaby sung by Yolandi. Dreamy and oddly creepy this song reminds me of 'Chim-Chimney"

"Street Light" continues off the darker mood of the previous ditty. This time Ninji is singing. This time around it's better than his previous attempts at singing. Yolandi handles the verses with Ninji falling in behind her though the overall mood of the song is more somber than the type of flow they normally excel at.Though this one grows on me. "Darkling" is another weird lullaby like ballad following in the footsteps of "Alien" but with a little more of a groove to it. They have a hard time staying out of the realm of nursery rhymes when they are not full on glow sticking it to ya. " I Don't Care" lulls on this childish sing song melody. It's more like a techno outro. I'll round this up to a 7.5 which is still a disappointment as they are capable of more. Guess it's better than they break up at this point.