Friday, April 29, 2011

Atlas of Metal: Algeria

Metal bands in Africa are few and far between. And in Muslim states, they're just as rare.

Algeria, a very large country in northern Africa, happens to have 21 bands listed in Metal Archives. That's quite a few for being outside the normal metal sphere. Possibly, this is because of their former French rule, large size, and being situated on the Mediterranean.

Arkan is an Oriental metal band created by Algerians in France. Whether they're expats or merely descended from immigrants I'm not sure, but their music is extremely good stuff. The closest analog I can think of is Orphaned Land, but I think I like this better, as their death metal influence is much stronger. They had a new album that came out just last week, so check them out.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mmmmmmetal: Breakfast Skeletonwitch

Eating the Fire

Metal-themed food is a pretty big fad these days. The problem is, most of it's really elaborate and time-consuming to make. But here's something you can thrash out during your morning routine and eat on the go, the perfect breakfast sandwich.

Breakfast Skeletonwitch

Breathing the FireHere's what you'll need:
- an everything bagel
- a container of plain spreadable cream cheese (8 oz)
- 2 strips bacon (pre-cooked is easiest)
- 1 teaspoon chipotle powder
- 1 teaspoon dried minced garlic (the kind you get in a shaker bottle by the other seasonings)

Be advised that I don't actually measure anything when I cook, as a rule. The measurements are just estimated.

You'll have to prepare the cream cheese the night before, to allow the flavors to permeate. To do it, take a large amount of the cream cheese out of the container using a spoon or butter knife. Add the chipotle and the garlic, and put the cream cheese back into the container. Mix thoroughly. (The reason you take some out is to ensure it's mixed well.) Refrigerate, at least overnight. The smokiness of the chipotle is the perfect complement to the garlic, and the dried garlic works best for this kind of application.

When you're ready, toast the bagel and heat the bacon. Spread the chipotle/garlic cream cheese on both halves of the bagel. Cut/rip the bacon strips in half to make four pieces, and put them in the middle of the bagel. Eat. Be metal.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sylosis: Edge of the Earth (2011)

If you have human ears and a functioning brain, you probably hated The Haunted's Unseen. And if you're anything like me, you were probably disappointed by that, because they were one of the best bands to fill that melodic death/thrash niche. Maybe that left you wanting something to fill the void. Well, Sylosis just might fit the bill.

Edge Of The EarthSylosis is a young band out of the UK. I've begun to notice that I don't usually care for music made by people who were born after me. I'm guessing that's what happens to everyone as they approach 30. But these guys really have something going. Their style is a lot like The Haunted's older Gothenburg-style thrash, as interpreted by members of the metalcore generation. It's mostly mid-paced, but with faster sections here and there, and, yes, the occasional breakdown. But they don't let the breakdown speak for itself--there's always something else (like a solo) going on to keep things interesting. The vocals are mostly growled semi-melodically, but there are also some clean vocals that sound like a non-irritating version of metalcore singing.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Watch the video and find out you stupid retard

How I Decide What To Listen To

The other day I commented on a post at crustcake about the stupidly named band Weekend Nachos. And I got a response from an anonymous poster.

"Watch the video and find out you stupid retard." My first instinct of course was to thank the commenter sarcastically and explain that I didn't have access to the video. There are places where video is not available, like my work, or platforms that don't support the most common video formats, like the iPad. Or to explain that I was in the middle of listening to an album, and wouldn't interrupt that to watch the video anyway. There was also a part of me that wanted to discuss grammar, or insensitivity to the mentally handicapped, and the fact that nearly every Internet asshole posts anonymously. But then I realized there is a deeper issue at work here.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Atlas of Metal: Albania

The Republic of Albania is a small European country just north of Greece. It's estimated they are about 2/3 Muslim, and were until 1990 a Communist state, so you might not expect to find a lot of metal bands there. And you'd be right.

The Metal Archives lists a total of six bands from the country. Only three of them are currently active, none of whom are signed.

Gverr is a progressive death metal band who sound like they're strongly influenced by Death in terms of both musical and vocal style, as well as some influence from more modern technical death metal bands with a more old-school feel like Psycroptic. What I've heard actually sounds like pretty strong (though not groundbreaking) material.

Crossbones is listed as a thrash metal band in the Archives, but they sound more like a 90's garage band who listened to too much groove and nu metal. Almost like they could have been Machine Head, only with a more generic and ineffectual sound. Judge for yourself:

Finally, we have something former Communist states tend to be good for: black metal. Nihil is just that, sounding like fairly typical Eastern European black metal. It's hard to tell whether they have anything new to offer from this video, but they sound good enough that I'd go see them if I ever made it to Albania:

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Gridlink: Orphan (2011)


It will take me longer to write this review than it would take you to listen to Gridlink's Orphan. Yes, this is grindcore, and it's very good.

OrphanGridlink is from New Jersey, and the album is their second full-length. I still hesitate to call a 12 minute album a full-length, but I guess that passes in grindcore circles. Despite the short runtime, it has as much aggression and riffage as a 40 minute thrash album. All the fat is trimmed, and each song is as short as it could possibly be. They do fall into the cliche of recording a less than 10 second "song" (thanks a lot, Napalm Death), and it might as well not even exist, but the rest of the album is thoroughly engaging and bewildering.

Midnight Madness: "Gateways to the Cemetery of Being"

I didn't discover Vasaeleth until recently. If they had, their incredible brand of old school, atmospheric death metal would have put Crypt Born & Tethered to Ruin on my year-end list. And "Gateways to the Cemetery of Being" crushes everything.

I was listening to this in the daylight. Completely inappropriate. Like a good domesticated animal, I bought groceries and loaded up in the car. I blasted it out in the parking lot, wilting lettuce, souring milk, and making widows weep. It belongs in the dark.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Vintersorg: Jordpuls (2011)


Vintersorg is a progressive Viking metal band from Sweden who have released seven albums since their debut in 1998. They are the namesake of vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Andreas "Vintersorg" Hedlund, who has also done impressive work with Borknagar. Jordpuls is my first experience with this band, but I picked it up because Borkanagar's Universal impressed me on many fronts.

JordpulsThe musical approach is a strange beast. Yes, it sounds like Viking metal: strong influence from black metal and folk music, with anthemic songs. But what makes it odd is that the focus is clearly on the vocals. Metal tends to focus on guitars and, to a lesser extent, drums, but only a few (Slough Feg, Danzig) put this much emphasis on the singer. And he definitely has the voice and singing chops to pull it off. He has a capable black metal rasp, but the clean vocals are the real star. They're emotional, dramatic, beautiful, and distinctive. The closest to his style is probably ICS Vortex, the former Borknagar vocalist and Dimmu Borgir clean singer. The vocals are even better layered, either with two clean vocals to create harmony or with a clean and rasp to create contrast.

The focus on vocals is especially strange considering how much is really going on in the music. Besides the usual suspects, there are keyboards, Hammond organ, and digital effects, and every instrument seems to be doing something different all the time. The effect is not chaos, but high drama, a suitable backdrop for the vocals. All of it is cleanly produced, and considering everything that's happening that is a wise choice.

The songs are extremely well-written, full of hooks and varying tempos and rhythms, and tend to alternate between harder and softer sections. "Palissader" may be the highlight, but other standouts include "Klippor Och Skär" and "Skogen Sover". Seeing as this is basically a solo project, there are bound to be a couple duds, and "Stjärndyrkan" fits the bill, while closer "Eld Och Lågor" probably won't get much play unless you're listening to the whole album.

The Verdict: I am completely sold on Vintersorg's approach. This is catchy stuff, and it's got drama and progressiveness in spades. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hour of 13: The Ritualist (2010)


Hour of 13 is an old-school/retro heavy/doom metal band from North Carolina, and The Ritualist is their second full-length. If you haven't already, you may want to first read my review of Orchid's Capricorn, as my impressions of the two albums are linked.

RitualistLike Orchid, Hour of 13 sound a lot like Black Sabbath. Specifically, they sound kind of like a cross between Dio and Ozzy era Sabbath, as if they're from an alternate universe where the original lineup stuck together but still made a fantastic comeback. Like Orchid, all the tones and vocals are similar to Sabbath. But here's the difference: Hour of 13 don't sound like they're trying to be Sabbath, they just happen to sound like Sabbath--but distinct. Everything, including the vocals, has its own unique quality that's subtly different from Sabbath, and never comes off as blatant ripoff or unabashed mimicry, but instead like they could have arisen from the same Birmingham scene as the original metal band.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Famine: The Architects of Guilt (2011)

I picked up The Famine's The Architects of Guilt on a recommendation from Vince Neilstein at MetalSucks. He professed to be skeptical of Christian metal in general, and Solid State in particular, and referred to The Famine as death metal in the vein of Abysmal Dawn and Morbid Angel, but with a hint of Slayer. Though a Christian myself, I'm also generally skeptical (but optimistic) about Christian metal, and especially skeptical of Solid State, but that sounded like a pretty damn good recommendation.

Architects of GuiltYou'd think someone like Vince Neilstein--who makes money by writing about metal--would know deathcore when he hears it. This is straight-up, 100% deathcore, and the only time you might think it's truly death metal is in the intro to "The Crown and the Holy See". Even then, once the vocals come in they change back into deathcore. Despite being deathcore, it's not all bad. The music is very immediate and cleanly produced. The riffs are mostly metalcore, but some are played heavier in the deathcore style. The vocals are mostly higher-pitched, strained screams, but there are some passable death growls. The drums are nothing special, and you won't ever notice the bass as a distinct instrument.