Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Tombstoned: Tombstoned (2013)

Daze of Disintegration

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Sibling rivalry is both a positive and a negative force in the life of a child, with effects that last a lifetime. Tombstoned have nothing to do with such rivalries but I'm reminded of my own as I write this review. When I was a junior in high school my aunt inspected the lyrics and artwork of Appetite for Destruction and the next thing I know I was throwing it away and self-checking my library for anything similarly amoral and unfit for the joanismylover's parents' household. Stupidly, I actually threw out Megadeth's Peace Sells because of the lyrics to "The Conjuring." Yet my sister didn't have to throw out anything, and she listened to some pretty depressive, self-loathing stuff. The Cure.

Tombstoned play stoner rock/metal and stand out in the crowded genre because of two things: the singer is a dead ringer for Robert Smith and the songs have psychedelic stomp. Unlike many a release in the stoner category, whose vocalists tend to be either non-existent or merely mumbling, the vocals on this self-titled full length stick in your brain. That's probably going to be true even if you are not pushing 40 and had a little sister that moped around to "Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me"*. The mopy and almost whining croon of the lead singer floats over and in between the music, giving a different dimension to most of this kind of (killer) music.

So, You Want to Do Metal PR

I received a lovely e-mail not too long ago from a lady doing PR. It's simply, just, lovely. This is the whole spiel:
Hello, I came across your website and was very impressed with everything you are doing. It would be an honor if you would consider [this band] (formerly known as [whatever]) for an album review.

[Their] debut, self-titled CD was recorded, produced and mixed by the legendary [somebody] ([he worked with three household names in rock/metal, a famous rapper, and a famous R&B singer). [The band] combines classic hard-rock roots with the creativity and energy of today’s contemporary metal. Their music is heavy and exciting with an abundance of groove and a touch of melody.

[The band] Southern California based metal band that was established in 2012. [The band] consists of [a dude] (Lead Vocals), [another dude] (Guitar), [a dude who shares his name with a guy I went to college with] (Bass) and [another dude] (Drums/Percussion).

I would appreciate if you would give them a listen and let me know what you think.

[Drop Box Link]

Album release date is Jun 25, 2013 and is now available on iTunes, CD Baby, Sound Cloud

I thank you in advance. And if you should need anything else, please do not hesitate to let me know.

Looking forward to your reply.

Best regards,
I remember checking them out because the bass player has the same name as a guy I went to college with, who was into Slipknot at least, so I just wanted to see if it was remotely possible it was him. It wasn't. Anyway, the music was about as weak as you'd expect.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Castevet: Obsian (2013)

Left Turns

It was three years ago that Castevet briefly captured some attention as a part of a then-novel movement, to combine hardcore tendencies with black metal. Now it seems the only time anyone talks about that is never, or maybe whenever Decibel waxes poetic about Tombs.

So the old novelty/controversy is irrelevant. So is Mounds of Ash, it turns out. While the only lineup change is at bass, the band doesn’t really sound that much like the old band. They imported Nicholas McMaster* from Krallice, and now their riffs sound distinctly like Krallice. Whether you think that’s a good or bad thing largely depends on your opinion of Krallice. They’re a band I enjoy, but I don’t understand why some people shit their pants over them.

Skeletonwitch: Serpents Unleashed (2013)


Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

I was asked, on the basis of being "uniquely qualified," to do this guest review of the newest Skeletonwitch offering. I lived in the band's hometown for several years, saw them live frequently, and socialized with members of the band outside of music-related settings. Presumably this should give me some unique insight, but I don't know if that's actually true.

Every other year since 2007, when October rolls around, Skeletonwitch gives us another slab of blackened thrash to enjoy. In terms of both quality and release-timing, the band has established a very consistent track record since hitting the big time with their second full-length, Beyond the Permafrost. Well this time around the offering on the table is Skeletonwitch's fifth album, Serpents Unleashed.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Hyperion Cantos

Far-Future Science Fiction Landmark

For the past few years, I haven't been reading all that much. Recently, I began again. I collected quite a few notable science fiction titles several years back, among them the first three books of The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons. When I read about the Shrike in a post on Invisible Oranges, I made a mental note to put those books on the front burner.

In several hundred years, Earth is gone, but humanity has moved on to, I believe, several dozen worlds. Artificial intelligences have ceased to be tools and are seen as having their own rights and independence. Portals built by the AIs allow instantaneous travel to developed worlds. A splinter group of humans known as the Ousters is a looming threat.

Hyperion has a structure similar to Chaucer's Canterbury Tales. A diverse group of characters take turns telling their stories. Each story is different, taking such forms as anthropological journal, action story, detective story, or (most compelling of all) a touching story of a family dealing with a uniquely horrible disease. This is set against the backdrop of their journey to the unknown, to face the Shrike, a creature which seems unbound by the laws of physics and reportedly communicates only through pain.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Beastmilk: Climax (2013)

The Kvohst with the Most

I’ve never even listened to his black metal releases with Code, but over the past few years I’ve become a fan of Kvohst. First his psych-folk band Hexvessel intrigued me. Then his deathrock band Beastmilk intrigued me. Then Hexvessel blew me away. And now it’s Beastmilk’s turn to see what it can do.

As I’ve mentioned before, I don’t know a lot about deathrock. My main touchstone for this style is a song or two off the soundtrack to The Crow--not the Stone Temple Pilots and Pantera that sold the record, but the moodier, gothy stuff that set the mood for the film. However, that’s only a superficially useful comparison.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Nekrofilth: Devil's Breath (2013)

Crossing Over

There was a time when I’d see an ad for a band with some ridiculously over-the-top, disgusting, and violent name and I’d ignore it. If that’s their angle, how good can they be, really? Somehow, Hells Headbangers finds the time to comb through what must be thousands of these bands, and they manage to find the best of the lot. Now Nekrofilth is a worm in my skull dragging me into the deep inside disease. I’m a degenerate, and all I want to do is smear the sleaze. I crave the grave. Thank you, HH.

Nekrofilth is just one of a handful of Hells Headbangers acts to really grab my attention this year. They play some filthy-ass crossover thrash of the type that praises abuse of the world’s most dangerous drug (“Crocodile”) and giant, disgusting pimples (“Volcanic Zit”). Part of me says, “What the hell is wrong with you?” while the rest of me says, “Fuck yes!”

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Weird Finnish Briefs

Finland Is Weird

I picked out three promos based entirely on their weird Finnish names, and it reinforced something I already knew: Finland is weird. And also awesome.

Paavoharju: Joko sinä tulet tänne alas tai minä nousen sinne (2013)
2 out of 5 stars

This is the greatest rap music I've ever listened to. It's got weird backing music that sounds a little like a collaboration between Trent Reznor and Glenn Danzig, and all the lyrics are Finnish. I can tell it's great, but it's still rap, and I can't stand listening to people rap. It was a struggle just making it through this once, but the backing music is just that interesting.

I'm going to come back to this one in a year or so to see if I change my mind.

Svart Records

Friday, October 18, 2013

Two Laments

I have two laments. One, for the state of the Republican party as it exists today. Two, for the evil that is the Hastert Rule, and how it can bring our country to this kind of stupid, completely preventable crisis.

We don't have a party that represents the middle class. I wish we did, or that we could abolish all parties. But that's not the state of affairs we're in.

The conventional wisdom is that when a third political party enters the scene, it acts only as a spoiler. You have party A and party B, but now suddenly there is party A1 and A2, they split their votes, and only part B wins. A2 is not really a viable party, and it ruins A1's chances of winning.

But something insidious has happened here. Instead of creating a third party, a small, highly vocal, and incredibly extreme faction has remained within the larger party. The party has been hijacked from within, while nobody was watching. This was made possible by the establishment underestimating them, leading to unexpected wins. These wins were followed by unusual redistricting, which, instead of making them more competitive in districts they usually lose, completely locked down a few districts so that the other party is irrelevant in those places. They may never win a majority in the Senate again, or win the Presidency again, but they can never lose those districts.

That, coupled with party loyalty (the Hastert Rule), has created a tyranny of the super-minority. You should know about the Hastert Rule.

The Hastert Rule (an informal practice since the 90's) means that no Republican Speaker of the House will bring anything to a vote unless a majority of the Republican party says they'll vote in favor. Everyone says they want bipartisanship, but that's the most blatantly partisan practice in our government today. Something needs to be done about House rules, permanently, to make this impossible.

As long as Republicans hold 51% of the house, then 51% of Republicans (or a minimum of 26% of the House) can wreak havoc. That's what happened this month, in case you weren't paying attention. The Hastert Rule makes compromise impossible, especially when you have people whose seats are impervious to challenge coming to the bargaining table with nothing to offer except agreement to things that everyone wants, even them.

The worst part of this, to me, is seeing people's blindness. Their failure to see what's going on. Out of blind loyalty to the name Republican, many people just automatically pick that side. They don't realize their own party is no longer recognizable, because it has a cancer. They can't see how irresponsibly it's acting.

A news article I just read calls the Republican party "splintered." Let's hope it breaks completely. Then we can see compromise again. We can see progress again. We can see real, good-faith negotiation again.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sorcery: Unholy Creations (2011)

Case Study

I don’t normally review reissues. I don’t normally review compilations. I’ve never before reviewed a reissue of a compilation, but here we are.

From what I gather, Sorcery is one of those obscure bands that it’s cool and kvlt to name-drop, sort of like Pentagram used to be. Nobody’s ever actually heard them, but everyone in the know regards them as legends. Or so I surmise. They arose in Sweden in the late 80’s and split in the late 90’s, having released a handful of demos, an EP, and one full-length in that time. (They’ve since gotten back together and released more material, but that’s not relevant here.) Unholy Creations gathers their demos and unreleased material in one place, and was released on vinyl in 2011. Now, it’s been reissued on double CD by Hells Headbangers.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Monster Magnet: Last Patrol (2013)

Let’s Hope It’s Not the Last

If you’re not familiar with Monster Magnet, you don’t know what you’re missing. That’s true of all things, of course, but it’s even more true with Monster Magnet.*

In preparation for writing this review of the band’s latest album, I went back to read my review of Mastermind, and I have to say I smiled at my own prescience. After noting the band seems to alternate between good and so-so records in three-year cycles, I concluded, “If they continue this pattern, they'll release another great album in 2016, but you might skip the one that comes out in 2013.” So far, I nailed it.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 9

Three More

Big John Bates: Battered Bones (2012)
3 out of 5 stars

Frontman Records contacted me after noticing my interest in dark Americana, and I thank them for it because this Big John Bates record was an interesting listen. In the end, though, Battered Bones isn't really what I'm looking for. It's described as "rustic punk," but I'm pretty sure it's some permutation of rockabilly. It's upbeat, punky rock with sounds pulled from dark Americana, but it's not really Americana, and definitely not dark. It's fun.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Grave Miasma: Odori Sepulcrorum (2013)

Magma Varies

It seems compulsory to note that Grave Miasma’s Odori Sepulcrorum is the long-awaited full-length debut of a band whose history stretches back over a decade under original moniker Goat Molestör. And by long-awaited, I don’t mean just that the band took a long time to get their shit together. I mean that people were actually anticipating it. The fact it is seeing a dual release by Sepulchral Voice and none other than Profound Lore is testament to said anticipation.

A reviewer would be tempted to proclaim brilliance based on those facts alone. But such herd mentality must be resisted if reviewers are to serve as anything more than an extension of the PR machine.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Falkenbach: Åsa (2013)


Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

Next month, Germany-based Falkenbach release their 6th full-length album, Åsa. The Vratyas Vakyas solo project has become one of the best established names within the world of Viking metal. Some would argue that classification, as I've also heard them called pagan metal or folk metal or heathen metal, but that's not really important.

After a six year long absence, Falkenbach returned two years ago with a somewhat sub-par effort. This time around the pressure was on to prove that Vratyas still had it, and he came through with flying colors. A major complaint about the band, one which this blog's proprietor has lodged himself, is that they tend to be rather slow. The atmosphere is typically a strong suit of the band, but the tendency to get caught up in pure atmosphere can lead to some dreary listening. This time around, the slow sections are interspersed with faster, more aggressive passages. The hard/soft dynamic is extremely effective when it's handled right, and it's handled right on this album. Chants and mellow acoustics sweep you away to misty fjords and snowy peaks, then harsh vocals and sharp instrumentation keep the effort rooted in metal.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Fōr: Blakaz Askǭ Hertô (EP 2013)

Askǭ Hertô? I Barely Knew Hertô!

Note to promoters: I’m a sucker for foreign words with letters that have been pimped-out with extra squigglies and shit. I think most metalheads are, going back at least as far as Secret Treaties or so.

The Swedish band Fōr is one of those who give out no information about themselves. I don’t know whether that’s a gimmick or perhaps they just don’t want co-workers, family, and Social Services to know they’re making this kind of music. The band previously released a full-length, and EP Blakaz Askǭ Hertô is their second attempt to channel the Elder Gods.

The Vision Bleak: Witching Hour (2013)

Another Piece of Meat

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Germany is awesome. Let's get that out of the way up front. My parents met and were married there. My sister lives there. I played a high school soccer tournament there. They drive their BMWs really fast but really considerately. They follow the rules. And their soccer team is consistently one of the best in the world. Their metal is equally awesome.

Who among us was not weaned on the Scorpions, Accept, and Kreator? Out in front of it is where most of their metal was. Early Scorpions previewed Judas Priest. Accept started speed and thrash in 1982 with "Restless & Wild". Kreator out Slayered Slayer in 1985 as heavier, faster, and meaner. Sodom and Destruction ruled the late 80s and made comebacks in the last decade of this new century. But despite my affinity for the country and its extreme music output there isn't much from the country in my collection which was released after 1989.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Summary Judgments, Volume 6

My Ears Need Something Else

You may have noticed ratings creep on this site: Fewer 3's and 3.5's, more 4's and up. That's because I don't like to take the time on anything less, or anything that may be good but doesn't interest me. Here are a few of those. As always, the line under the title indicates how far I got into the album before turning it off.

DevilDriver: Winter Kills (2013)
4 out of 11 songs

I have a special relationship with the music of Dez Fafara. He is the artist I grew up with in a very real sense. I loved Coal Chamber as a teen, and DevilDriver became awesome and heavy at just the right time for me. The problem is, I'm still growing and evolving. DevilDriver ain't. "Winter Kills" is a slightly melancholic "Hold Back the Day" rewrite. There's nothing wrong with it, but I'm past that.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Shitfucker: Suck Cocks in Hell (2013)


Well, it finally happened. Congress fucking screwed up in a big way, leading to the first government shutdown in 17 years.

Are you tired of all the juvenile, petty assholes in Washington playing games with real people's lives? It's time for something a bit classier. It's time . . . for Shitfucker.

The Michigan-based band has been kicking around for the last 8 years, but the exquisitely titled Suck Cocks in Hell is their first full-length. It's not the kind of music that demands, you know, an extensive critical analysis. The intro and outro sound a little like Menace Ruine (and I'm pretty sure the latter is the former backmasked). The rest is some of the raunchiest speed metal I've heard in a hell of a long time, and it's infectious.