Friday, September 30, 2011

Wolves in the Throne Room: Celestial Lineage (2011)


Whenever the subject of US black metal comes up, the conversation almost always includes mention of Washington's Wolves in the Throne Room. Despite their notoriety, and the fact it's supposed to be the final album of a trilogy, Celestial Lineage is my first exposure to the band. So, I come to this without expectations.

The album is immediately recognizable as Pacific Northwestern living-in-the-forest black metal. It's as much about atmosphere as it is black metal aggression. The sylvan music is at once beautifully serene and alarmingly feral--just like nature.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Undergang: Indhentet af Døden (2010)


CD cover
Some people say the well of old-school death metal is dry. Don't listen to them: It's like an ever flowing stream. (I love puns.)

Denmark's Undergang released their debut Indhentet af Døden ("overtaken by death") last year to no fanfare. Perhaps that's because it was first released on a 100 cassette run, and then only on a vinyl run of 500. It has finally been brought out on CD, and it's sure to be noticed.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Svikt: I Elendighetens Selskap (2011)


A lot of extreme metal reviews will contain some kind of comment about how the album will piss off "genre purists" or the "genre nazis", especially when it comes to black metal. I generally tend to associate with more forward-thinking metalheads, so after a while I start to wonder whether these becorpsepainted people actually exist, painstakingly typing out diatribes against rule-breakers whilst mangling computer desks with gauntlet spikes.

Well, apparently they exist somewhere, or we wouldn't have bands like Svikt. Their debut I Elendighetens Selskap caught my attention because it was entirely in their native Norwegian. It sounds exactly like Norwegian black metal is supposed to sound: trebly and epic, with harsh rasped vocals, aggressive drums, and inaudible bass. They do break one rule, I suppose, but I think the preference for crappy production is fading even among these mysterious purists.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Opeth: Heritage (2011)


Here we have it--Opeth's Heritage is going to be the most divisive album of the year. As the details of the band's tenth full-length slowly came out, we were gradually given a picture of one of the most beloved bands in metal abandoning metal entirely. It didn't really surprise anyone. They had done progressive rock before, on 2003's Damnation, and since 2001's landmark Blackwater Parkthey had become progressively more experimental, and more willing to flirt with softer sounds, culminating in 2008's aptly titled Watershed. That album opened with the super-soft "Coil" and included the strange ballad "Burden" as its centerpiece.

So it's not surprising at all that they've abandoned growls, heavy guitars, and aggressive drumming. But the question is, can they pull off the 70's prog album they tried to pen? The answer is a qualified yes.

Monday, September 26, 2011

7 Reasons I Listen to Metal

Normal people don't understand why we like metal. Probably more than anything else in the world, you either get it or you don't. The truth is, we metalheads are just wired differently. We don't choose to like metal--it chooses us. So, trying to explain why I like it may be impossible. But I'll try anyway. Here are 7 reasons I listen to metal.

1. Everything to 11

Everything about metal is turned to 11. That's the most important feature. They don't settle for heavy--they gave us Electric Wizard. They don't settle for brutal--they gave us Suffocation. They don't settle for fast--they gave us Napalm Death. They don't settle for slow either--so they gave us Evoken. Nothing is ever half-assed. If you're not going to go to 11, then why go at all?

2. Intense, Raw Emotion

Metal has intensity unmatched by any other genre. Yes, I will agree that punk has intensity, but intense punk only deals with one kind of anger. Metal deals in so many shades of all the most intense emotions: rage, despair, hate, fear. From the terminal depression of My Dying Bride to the all-consuming rage of classic Slayer, it's out there.

3. It's Heavy

Nothing can top that physical sensation you get when you listen to some really heavy music.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Flight of Sleipnir: Essence of Nine (2011)


The Flight of Sleipnir came to my attention because their split with Apostle of Solitude and Rituals of the Oak was reviewed in Decibel. The combination of folk music and doom metal, though obvious, has rarely been done. So, I decided to check out their third full-length, Essence of Nine.

The opening riff sounds like The Gates of Slumber, but don't let that fool you. Very little of the rest of the album fits the trad-doom mold. Black metal rasps, clean singing, folk melodies and harmonies, and the overall mellow mood of the album set it apart. The end result has more in common with Agalloch than any of their brothers in doom.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stillborn: Los Asesinos del Sur (2011)


Poland is probably the most underrated country in all of metal. There's Behemoth, Vader, and Decapitated, but how many of the country's other 2,445 bands (per Metal Archives) can you name? And when a band comes out of the cold winters of a country that's been repeatedly trampled down in war simply because it's between superpowers, you can be pretty confident they're not going to fuck around with anything melodic or metalcore.

Stillborn fits perfectly with the no-bullshit metal traditions of that nation. Promotion company Godz ov War Productions sent me a review copy of the band's fourth full-length, Los Asesinos del Sur.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Bosse-de-Nage: ii (2011)


Flenser contacted me with a promo copy of the sophomore full-length of Bosse-de-Nage, simply titled ii.

The promo materials call this "minimalist" black metal, which is something I find interesting. It's interesting because this is clearly post-black metal, complete with the riding-on-waves feel of most bands in the genre and a heavy reliance on the loud/quiet/loud dynamic. Why not call it that? Perhaps "post-black" has taken on a bad reputation, with its hipster associations.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Random: Todo.s los Colores del (2011)


Argentina's Random asked me to review their free album, Todo.s los Colores del. Despite the least metal album cover ever (and that's counting album covers from all music, not just metal) it is intriguing.

They identify themselves as an extreme prog metal band. They're not extreme (more on that later), but they're definitely prog, and they're definitely metal. They start with a foundation of Devin Townsend, add in the pop sensibilities of recent Dillinger Escape Plan, some Claypool-esque bass work, a touch of Tool ("Qualm"), a sprinkling of later Mastodon ("Meeting at Jabol"), and run it through a filter of groove/alt metal from the late 90's.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Aosoth: III (2011)


Norwegian black metal is one of two things: stuck in the past, or abandoning its black metal roots entirely. For thriving black metal scenes in 2011, you need to look to the US and France.

Aosoth is a perfect example of why the French black metal scene is on top. They are clearly rooted in black metal's mood and raw, simple approach, but they've let it evolve. III is far heavier than Norwegian fare, and much scarier than anything to come out of the frozen North in several years.

Some nitpickers may say the approach favored by Aosoth (and countrymen Celeste) is too hardcore-influenced, with its dissonant, atmospheric qualities. As far as I'm concerned, they can keep their rehashed-from-1995 generic stuff, because this is the state of black metal in 2011.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Illness: A Monument to Our Gilded Age (2011)

Summary Judgment

The Illness is a hard rock band out of San Francisco. Their album cover is, obviously, very metal, as are some of their lyrics and song titles. They put some metal into their mix, including some Mastodon-like melodies and some heavy sections.

The thing is, I just don't think this is for me. I listened to the whole thing just fine, and there's plenty of hooks. But rock rarely grabs me, and this is no exception. Therefore, I issue summary judgment against A Monument to Our Gilded Age. You might like it, though, and it's available for pay-what-you-want.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Deposition: Botanist

 Last month I reviewed the weirdest metal album of the year, and I loved it. I'm talking about the dulcimer-based black metal band Botanist, of course. I recently had a chance to interview sole member, songwriter, and performer Otrebor about the project's origin and more.

Full Metal Attorney: I like to imagine that you found a creepy old music shop, and hidden in the corner of their basement there was a cobweb-covered dulcimer. The shop owner warned you that it was cursed--but you bought it anyway. After you left the shop and started playing it, strange things started happening. You tried to return and learn more about the curse, but the shop was empty, and looked as if it had been deserted for years. Is that an accurate description of how you came to play the dulcimer?

Otrebor/Botanist: Let’s make the story you painted above as the official one.

You see, Botanist’s dulcimer IS cursed. Even when a tuner says it’s in tune, it still sounds creepy and morbid. Maybe that’s why the manufacturer was trying to get rid of it at a used price. Other dulcimers will sound sweet, serene . . . even dainty. This one is ominous and foreboding. Fate has it that it’s the one I got.

Strange things indeed. Just listen to the albums.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Tree of Sores: Tree of Sores (2011)


I'm not sure who wrote the blurb for Tree of Sores and their self-titled EP, but rarely has it been more accurate. It says the band take "influences from the doomy atmospherics of Neurosis, an underbelly of crust care of Amebix, and an air of recklessness favoured by the likes of Eyehategod." Well, I'm not sure exactly what the recklessness is all about, but they have their feet planted in both sludge and crust, turning those sounds toward post-metal style ends. It's heavy, dissonant, raw, and ugly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Archon: The Ruins at Dusk (2010)


Archon is a sludge/stoner doom band out of New York, led by Andrew Jude (formerly of Agnosis). He contacted me with review copy of the band's debut full-length, The Ruins at Dusk.

You're already familiar with their sonic palette. It's heavy, slow, sludgy, trance-inducing riffs with steady drumming. Interest is added by way of mellow, psychedelic guitar leads. The vocals are sludge-style growls, both male and female, along with some clean female droning (not too far from Laura Pleasants). Think of Zoroaster, or the slower moments of High on Fire, and you'll get the picture.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Nervecell: Psychogenocide (2011)


PsychogenocideNervecell is a death metal band operating out of the United Arab Emirates, although their members are from Jordan, Lebanon, and India. That's reason enough to be interested in their sophomore release, Psychogenocide, even if I didn't already like their debut Preaching Venom.

Nervecell play what is decidedly modern death metal. It's somewhat (but not excessively) technical death metal that's brutal enough and is cleanly produced, with a great production that allows you to hear every instrument. The vocals are in a great death growling style, similar to Necrophagist.