Thursday, July 02, 2015

Graveyard Shifters: High Heels and Broken Bones (2015)

Remember that feeling of pure joy that you felt the first time you heard Kvelertak? Graveyard Shifters give me that same kind of feeling.

The songwriting is infectious, and their enthusiasm for the music comes through in the performance. It sounds great, and it's almost impossible not to love.

I mean, how can you not love an album with a song called "Beerserker"?

Like Kvelertak, they play high-energy, irreverent metalpunk. Gang vocals and guitar solos coexisting in the same space, and hooks, hooks, hooks. Finland's Graveyard Shifters are a little different: There's no kitchen sink philosophy going on here, so there's no black metal and Southern rock thrown in. At first, I thought that was a shame. But then I thought better of it, because that's almost impossible to do well. The other major difference is that these beerserkers sing mostly in English, so it's easier to join in and sing along if you want. You will want.

Don't miss this one.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Demon Lung: A Dracula (2015)

When I read the title A Dracula I couldn't help but chuckle. Any time someone refers to vampires as draculas, yeah, that's an old joke by now, but sometimes the best jokes are properly aged. I don't suspect they meant it as a joke here, but it is a joke.

Yes, it's time again for my quarterly female-fronted doom metal review. I don't plan it that way, but that's pretty much the rate that I'm listening to them.

Demon Lung have a great sound. It's raw, fuzzy, heavy, and I'm pretty sure everything is analog. That's the way it should be. Vocalist Shanda Fredrick employs a witchy style that's not terribly unusual, but fits the music well.

A Dracula starts out fantastically. After a silly intro track, "Behold, the Daughter" comes in with a crushing riff that's actually fast, contrasting with the slow vocal melody. The tune eventually slows down, setting the slower pace that prevails through most of the record. The next few cuts are solid, too. "Gypsy Curse" has a catchy vocal hook and nice, driving bridge.

The second half of the album is more of the same, but nothing after that point jumps out at me. It's perfectly listenable and enjoyable, though, so it could well be worth your time.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Aelter: IV: Love Eternal (2015)

Aelter is a side project of Wolvserpent guitarist/vocalist Blake Green, and on paper it seems like something I should really like. It's gothic, atmospheric rock made by someone who knows how to write really long songs that are enjoyable. And it's on Pesanta Urfolk, a label that's always fascinating even if not everything they release is great.

It's minimalistic, the vocals are good, and I can get behind the eerie guitar work. Unfortunately, IV: Love Eternal is a 40-minute plod that trudges along at the same sluggish pace, plodding toward Ploddington, the capital of Plodsylvania. You can barely tell where one song ends and another begins, and they all sound exactly the same.

The Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars

Pale Chalice: Negate the Infinite and Miraculous (2015)

It has been observed many times—including by me—that the term “black metal” has become increasingly vague over the years. Are we talking about atmospheric music? Something epic and woodsy? Artistic and weird? Blistering, cold, boneheaded?

Pale Chalice, though: They embody black metal as it is today. The combine the weird, epic artistry of bands like Agalloch with a blistering, concise approach to songwriting. Their riffs are fast, scary, and cold. But the leads are eerie and a little experimental. Not Negative Plane weird, but still thoroughly 2010’s in intent. And, indeed, many are memorable.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jason W. Walton: Mara (2015)

After seeing Agalloch live last year, they instantly catapulted from being merely a band I like and respect to being one of my five favorite active bands. So of course I wanted to check out the bassist's solo project.

Jason W. Walton's Mara is purportedly about his experience with sleep paralysis, which by all accounts is a horrifying thing. Two short tracks go from one of a muted dread to an overwhelming horror. It captures my idea of sleep paralysis anyway.

It's still dark ambient, though, so it's not something I enjoyed in the same way I usually enjoy music. It was more of a cinematic/sensory experience, interesting as art but not something I'm going to revisit many times in the future.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

Listen here
Red Orchard Records

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Årabrot: You Bunch of Idiots (2015 EP)

I first heard Årabrot after they generated buzz for their 2011 album Solar Anus. I was flabbergasted—I’m sure that’s the only word for it. I kind of like to be flabbergasted. But unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Luckily, I gave them another go with their self-titled record two years later, and it snaked its way under my skin.

The You Bunch of Idiots EP is just what I hoped the Norwegian noise rock luminaries would do. Ballsy, heavy, irreverent punk rock that’s super weird and twice as catchy. Dynamically, it’s all over the map. Synths, heavy guitars, nasally vocals and growls, slow, fast, and wild. Female backing vocals in one spot. Just, great stuff.

Throw out the first track. It’s useless spoken word. But cherish the rest. It’s entertaining and powerful, bizarre and great.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Listen here

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Silent Wake: Damnatio Memoriae (2015)

I make a big deal about not caring what a band believes, professes, or puts into their lyrics. Nonetheless, I’m still pulling for Christian bands to make solid music, because sometimes I feel pretty lonely as a Christian in the metal world. To that end, I started watching My Silent Wake several years ago, but they fell off my radar for the past few releases.

Their latest effort, Damnatio Memoriae, begins as a refutation of the idea that Christians can’t make good metal. The record begins with a badass riff in the My Dying Bride mold, with simple synth backing and cool leads. The death growls take the forefront, making it echo early MDB. The following track, “Highwire,” shows some new tricks for the English band. An energetic bassline and a black metal riff reminiscent of Dornenreich, in both the rhythmic sense and the blending of open and muted chords. If you’ve ever heard Dornenreich, or you’ve read my opinions on the band, you know this is awesome. “Now It Destroys” follows that triumph with a more death metal-oriented track, reminding me of Hesper Payne, and using plenty of gnarly guitar squeals.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Coal Chamber: Rivals (2015)

Regression and Defense, Or: Nostalgia Is Big Business These Days

I've recently begun lifting weights with my neighbor on a regular basis. The stereotype these days is that dudes listen to Godsmack when they're lifting weights, and that's not far from the truth. You see, he likes a lot of the stuff I was listening to 12 or more years ago. We take turns in control of the music, but I'm conscious of what he wants to hear, so I only occasionally slip in some Amon Amarth or At the Gates. For the most part, it's like I'm listening to my music library as it existed in 2002. Would I rather be listening to Evoken while I lift? Yes, but revisiting Coal Chamber is fun, too.

Dez Fafara is the artist who grew up with me for a time, but he stopped growing a while ago. Now he's reunited with Coal Chamber (and put out the record on Napalm, no less), and it's like they haven't missed a step. You could mix the songs from Rivals together with the ones from Dark Days and you'd have a hard time figuring out which was which.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Psycroptic: Psycroptic (2015)

The last time I checked in with Kids These Days—and by that I mean, budding, young metalheads on the more well-traveled parts of the metal blogosphere—they were really into technical metal. That was a while ago, but it seemed like every other band MetalSucks was going on about was a technical death metal band. I went through a brief phase of this obsession myself in my late 20’s,* but then quickly got fed up with the seemingly endless throng of sound-alikes who could play their instruments like geniuses but weren’t fit to lick Cronos’s figurative songwriting boots. And the sterility of the prevailing sound was too much even for MRSA to thrive.

But there have been a few bright spots in the genre, the tetrad of Tasmanian technicians Psycroptic being one of them. Their sound is raw, genuine. And they write actual songs.** They’ve continued that proud tradition on their self-titled album.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Black Witchery / Revenge: Holocaustic Death March to Humanity's Doom (2015)

Black Witchery is one of the finest bands in metal right now. What they play is furious, uncompromising black/death that can singe your ass hair all the way from their Floridian den, no matter how far away you manage to get. This is what some call bestial black metal, or war metal. As they say, war is not going to win any beauty pageants. and bestiality is something reserved for only a few enthusiasts.

In the thoroughly-titled Holocaustic Death March to Humanity's Doom, Black Witchery laid down three perfect examples of why they are so great. They haven't lost anything with the inclusion of a new guitarist. Their assault is a swift, relentless current of destruction.

The other half of this split is from Canada's Revenge.* I know Canada is the home turf of this style, but that doesn't mean America's evil pope hat is going to be home to the best. Revenge's take on the style is less a current than it is a repeated, graceless pummeling. Not an unfeeling, remorseless force of nature, but a consciously impolite motherfucker who just won't stop hitting you with a maple leaf-inlaid claw hammer. Which is fine, but it simply does not rise to the level of Black Witchery's excellence.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

*"Canada's Revenge" sounds like the diarrhea you get from drinking too much maple syrup.