Monday, April 30, 2012

New Polls

For those of you on feed readers, mobile versions of the site, or whatever, you might not be aware that there are two new polls in the sidebar. They close in less than a week.

Locrian & Mamiffer: Bless Them That Curse You (2012)

and pray for them which despitefully use you

Mamiffer is a piano-based ambient/post-whatever project featuring Isis’s Aaron Turner and wife Faith Coloccia. Piano usually implies something that’s easy listening, for the most part, but their album Mare Decendrii is the reason I no longer listen to music while eating. Yeah, I listened to plenty of death metal at lunch before, but this piano-based stuff was too unsettling for that. Now I listen to people talking about autopsies.

Mamiffer teamed up with ambient/noise artist Locrian (whom I’ve never listened to before) on the creation of Bless Them That Curse You. I don’t often go in for ambient types of music, but I have been going through a bit of it lately. Given my lack of familiarity with the genre, how it’s created, and what’s expected of it, my ability to talk about it is limited. I’ll give it my best shot.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Metal Art: Birds

The above art comes from Serious Beak's Huxwhukw. I don't know whether that album is worth anything or not, since I haven't yet listened to it, but it strikes me that this is some of the best album art I've ever seen. So I started thinking about birds and their significance to the art of metal.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Barren Earth: The Devil's Resolve (2012)

It Removes Tough Stains . . . and It's Evil!

As far as normal people are concerned, a famous musician is only allowed to be in one band. If they hear that someone is going to be in a different one, they assume the old band broke up. This was something about metal that, for me at least, took some getting used to. Every band has a revolving door (or two), and nobody is a member of just one band.

Given this environment, it's pretty tough to say what's a supergroup, and what's just a "side project" or a second (or third, or eighth) band, or who's famous enough to make a true supergroup. But by any reasonable standard, Barren Earth qualifies, featuring as it does members or ex-members of Amorphis, Swallow the Sun, and Kreator. The Devil's Resolve is their second full-length album.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Folk Briefs, Part 2

Now with 33% More Metal Bands!

I continue to explore the world of dark folk/neofolk music, and although it's been somewhat hit-and-miss, the hits have been worth every single miss. Hopefully, I can help you look into it without suffering any of the misses.

Dornenreich: In Luft geritzt (2008)

The connection between folk and metal doesn't require any elaboration. It's there, plain as day to anyone who looks for it. That said, it's interesting to see how different Dornenreich's take on folk music is from the rest I've heard out of the genre. Whether it's because they're a metal band performing the music, or because they're simply drawing on a different folk tradition (Austrian over American), In Luft geritzt is simply more intense. Although the music is mostly acoustic guitar and violin, it's played with such speed and energy that it still almost sounds metal, and the whispered vocals are barely holding themselves in check. It's profoundly engaging. I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Bloodwritten: Thrashin' Fury (2010)

Poland Is Awesome

Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

I have always been shocked by just how good Poland's metal scene really is. Beyond the incredible Behemoth and pioneering Vader, Poland has also produced a wide variety of impressive metal bands. Bloodwritten is another name to add to the list.

Bloodwritten play fairly standard blackened thrash, but they play it with such emotion and rage that it is hard not to get swept up in it. Their sound is something of a combination of Sodom, Kreator, and Nifelheim. The music mostly consists of fast-paced, sinister-sounding thrash riffs and shrieking Mille Petrozza-esque vocals. The band catches the listener's attention early, with the album opening with the sound of a gun being cocked and fired. It immediately reverts to a state of chaos and whirlwind riffs from that point on through the end of the runtime.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Spirit Descent: Seven Chapters in A Minor (2012)

A Minor What?

A little over a decade ago, I worked in the electronics department of a big-name retail store. That exposed me to a promotional video which included a clip from then-up-and-coming R&B star Alicia Keys, who was getting a lot of attention for her debut Songs in A Minor. Grammar freak that I am, I could never get over that title, reading the "A" as an article and "Minor" as an adjective describing a non-existent noun. "In a minor what?" my brain instinctively screams. Obviously, it actually means they are in the key of A minor, but syntax is embedded deeply in the way my brain works.

The title of Seven Chapters in A Minor drives me just as insane. But other than my weird hangups/neuroses, it has only the key in common with the R&B album. The sophomore release of German doomsters Spirit Descent probably won't be featured on the promotional videos at the big-box retailers any time soon.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Bar Review: Tallgrass IPA

6.3% ABV, 60 IBU
In my first bar review, I mentioned that stout is my first love. I may go more into detail on that in some other post, but for now it suffices to say that I don't normally go for hoppy beers. In the past I've gotten the impression they upset my stomach, although I could be imagining that link. I'm willing to try something new. When I picked up that Buffalo Sweat last week, I saw Tallgrass also had an IPA for sale where I was shopping. I decided to take a risk on it, given that I knew the superb quality of Buffalo Sweat.

For those who don't know, IPA stands for India Pale Ale. It's a style of brew that was developed by the British during their rule of India. They found that more traditional beers don't make the journey very well, but if they added extreme levels of hops, it lasted longer. And had a much higher alcohol content. Extreme hops means it's more extreme, and I can get into that.

This is pretty damn good. It's got a bright, complex, fruity, somewhat citrus flavor to it. It also gives you just the right buzz, which is always a plus. Like other Tallgrass brews, it comes in a 4-pack of pint cans for about $8.

The Verdict: I give the Tallgrass IPA 4 out of 5 stars. I'll let you know later if it upset my stomach or if I just gave hops an unnecessarily bad rap.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Fanthrash: Duality of Things (2011)

Oldsters Return

Fanthrash's Duality of Things was released in July of 2011, the very tail end of the much-talked-about thrash revival. Or perhaps it was a year late for that particular revival. But it was still in time for the ongoing trend of old bands reuniting and giving it another shot.

They have a familiar story. Fanthrash was originally formed in Poland in 1986. They recorded a handful of demos before breaking up in 1992. In 2007, they returned, and still have three of the original members.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Corrosion of Conformity: Corrosion of Conformity (2012)


I've been a huge fan of Corrosion of Conformity for over a decade now. That statement, of course, needs some clarification. In the days when CD burners and Napster were first becoming commonplace, I was in my freshman year of college. I obtained burned copies of Deliverance and Wiseblood, the band's seminal recordings in Southern-style sludge metal, and I LOVED them. I bought America's Volume Dealer on CD, and I actually liked it (though popular opinion is against the record). I got several tracks from Blind and Animosity off Napster, and didn't know what to think. I certainly didn't like them, so they were promptly deleted. Since then, I also enjoyed In the Arms of God a good deal.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Metal Briefs: Doom EPs

The Long and Short of It

The slow tempos and long runtimes of doom records can be trying for some. While it's something I personally seek out, I understand the trouble. It makes the EP a perfect format for those only dabbling in the genre, or just looking for a quick fix of the slow crawl.

Fire in the Cave: Fire in the Cave (2012)

Fire in the Cave contacted me about reviewing their two-song self-titled EP. The band's name refers to a famous thought exercise by Plato, questioning the nature of our knowledge about reality. I've always thought Plato's philosophy was stupid, but this music isn't. It's raw, heavy sludge/doom out of Florida, with a blues flavor and extremly angry growls, plus some black metal influence on standout second track "Aeden Carr." That one is plenty dynamic in just about every way, so this EP is definitely worth checking out. I give it 4 out of 5 stars, and look forward to hearing more from this promising band. It's a name-your-price download, so get on it.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Tyrants Blood: Crushing Onward Into Oblivion (2010)

Against the Tyranny of Apostrophes

Tyrants Blood is a Canadian band who contacted me about their 2010 sophomore full-length, Crushing Onward Into Oblivion. One definition of war metal is that it "sounds like Blasphemy." Well, Tyrants Blood features a former member of Blasphemy, and is every bit as insanely aggressive as what you might expect from the genre.

I haven't listened to a lot of war metal, but I'm hearing the same kind of black/death/thrash full-on assault of bands like Black Witchery. If you're even less familiar with the microgenre than I am, your closest point of reference might be Anaal Nathrakh, without the clean vocals that have been popping up more often in their recent work. In other words, Crushing is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Meshuggah: Koloss (2012)


I’ve mentioned Meshuggah many, many times on my blog. It’s really no secret they are one of my favorite bands, and have done more to shape my musical taste than nearly anyone else. In reading a review of a band as iconic as Meshuggah, you should always be aware of how the reviewer stands, and I must put it out there that this may not be entirely un-biased I pretty much think they can do no wrong.

Koloss is the Swedish experimentalists’ eighth full-length album. Many commenters have noted that they sound more organic this time around, and then struggle to explain exactly what they mean. This is clearly still a Meshuggah album, after all, so it still doesn’t feel natural to our human sensibilities. Think of it this way: Where prior Meshuggah albums are the audio representation of a complex industrial machine on the verge of flying into pieces, Koloss is more like footage of all the activity in a massive ant colony played at double-speed. Organic, yes, but alien.

Happy 30th Birthday

It's my 30th birthday today. It's also the birthday of the Pope (he's 85) and Wilbur Wright. The day is important to metal because that day in 1943 the hallucinogenic effects of LSD were discovered, thereby ushering in the psychedelic era, which led to psychedelic rock, of course a major influence on metal's creation. Sadly, no metal albums were released on the actual date of my birth.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Bar Review: Buffalo Sweat

Heavy and Dark

5% ABV / 20 IBU
I don't read or talk much about beer. So maybe I won't have much of value to say about this subject. But I obviously like to share my likes and dislikes, and I can do that well enough. So, welcome to the first installment of Bar Review, a sporadic feature here where I will discuss the subject of spirits. I just might not use a lot of fancy, in-the-know language.

Tallgrass Brewing Company is located in Manhattan, Kansas, home of Kansas State University. My wife hates the KSU athletic teams more than any other, but that doesn't reflect on the brewery. They offer a handful of different beers, but only one of them has been available at my local grocery store. Now, this is the kind of grocery store that has about 10 different choices for processed American cheese food slices, but does not have sliced cheese. It's a very old-school, small-town store, with the ordinary kind of awful taste that usually entails. But every now and again, the person who orders their alcohol will make an adventurous purchase. Buffalo Sweat is one of those adventures.

Buffalo sweat is a stout. Since Guinness is my first love as beer goes, you can bet I'm partial to a stout. Brewed without a lot of hops, plenty of barley, and cream sugar, it's smooth, rich, and sweet, with a distinct note of chocolate.

It costs about $8 for a pack of four pint cans.

The Verdict: From now on, if it comes out of a buffalo, I'm drinking it. I give Buffalo Sweat 5 out of 5 stars. Might I suggest pairing it with a nice, smooth, and heavy Jesu, like perhaps Silver.

Heavy Glow: Midnight Moan (2011)

Old School

Heavy Glow is a California stoner/garage/blues-rock band who contacted me about their first full-length album, Midnight Moan. I don't often listen to new rock music--I obviously tend toward metal and old rock--but given my enthusiasm for bands such as Graveyard, you can tell I like rock bands that succesfully capture an old-school vibe.

Heavy Glow does just that. In a lot of ways they sound like a proto-metal band, playing bluesy and psychedelic parts. They also have a very fuzzed-out sound on the guitar, and incorporate electric organ to great effect.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Occultation: Three & Seven (2012)

The Ghost’s Negative Blood Plane

"Occult" hard rock is a small but steadily-growing trend. Thus far, it has been almost entirely an exercise in nostalgia, its practitioners content to copy Blue Öyster Cult and Coven. Bands like Ghost and The Devil’s Blood have done a fantastic job of it, but they haven’t brought anything new to the table. New York’s Occultation is going to change that.

Like other bands in the movement, it might be a stretch to call what Occultation does metal. If it is, it’s avant-garde doom. If you took Ghost, replaced the vocalist with a woman, and traded the guitarist for the guy from Negative Plane, you would be well on your way to replicating this sound.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Metal Briefs: Bandcamp, Part 6

The Black Metal Edition

Given black metal's long history of "bedroom" bands, the DIY, easy-access Bandcamp should be a perfect fit--at least for those who don't go out of their way to be uber-kvlt and actively avoid broad exposure. It turns out, it is a damn good fit for black metal. There's plenty of it out there on the site.

Shroud of Despondency: Forced to Wander into Nothing (2002)

I'm starting to notice a problem with my methodology in this series. I went on a download spree a year ago, and some of these releases are no longer available on a free or pay-what-you-want basis. This is one of them. However, it's still worth mentioning. Shroud of Despondency is a Milwaukee band with a slew of releases on their Bandcamp page. Forced to Wander into Nothing is one of the oldest ones there. It's from the school of black metal which focuses on creating a soundscape rather than blistering your ear drums. The music is mid-paced and often instrumental, with nary a tremolo riff in sight, but some of the riffs are extremely interesting (see "A Ripple in Time"). Although their current lineup doesn't include a keyboardist, synths are a big part of the sound on this one, and there's also the occasional sound effect or sample. It's pretty good. I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Cataleptic: Strength Within (2011)

Groove vs. Redundancy

Guest review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards Etc., home of metal, beards, and more.

Cataleptic are a Finnish death-doom group who released their full-length debut Strength Within last December. They have released some previous demos, but prior to this record I had never heard the band.

There are only 5 tracks on the album, but 3 of them eclipse the 10 minute mark so the total length is respectable. As you would expect, the music here is heavy and slow-paced. The guitar chugs away on the early portions of the album, playing riffs which are often simplistic yet effective in a punk sort of way. Here they are just slowed way down and played with a much beefier tone. The later tracks move into more melodic territory, still not getting particularly complex or varied with the riffs, but managing a clear shift in tone that keeps the album from growing stale as it progresses. The bass makes its presence felt, adding some depth to the mix. This is particularly true on the monumental 15-minute closer "Secluded Path" where it departs distinctly from the guitar lines in several places. The drums, as is typical in slower metal, are used sparsely to pace and augment the music without ever rising to the foreground.

Monday, April 09, 2012

Sigh: In Somniphobia (2012)

Bring Me a Dream

My dreams are stupid. Where brilliant artists of all stripes often claim inspiration from dreams, I can't find any. The only time I ever had an interesting dream was when Admiral Ackbar was a minister. Other than that, it's mundane. And I've never in my life had a nightmare. I'm probably wired wrong.

So the theme of Sigh's In Somniphobia doesn't exactly speak to me. It appears to be a concept record about dreams, nightmares, and (if the title is appropriate) fear of sleep. But the music is something I can't get out of my head. Japan's premier avant-garde metallers (they can no longer lay claim to being a black metal band) have created a richly complex sonic vision that never ceases to amaze me.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Zwartplaag: Haatstorm (2010)

Acme Theatrical Haat Co.

Bugs' Bonnets is an excellent Looney Tunes short wherein a truck carrying costume hats loses all its contents in the wind. The hats land on Bugs Bunny or Elmer Fudd, dramatically altering the way they behave, changing them to gangster, cop, judge, mobster, soldier, Pilgrim, Indian, bride--whatever.

Haatstorm is a concept album based on that. You might think that's a pretty left-field idea for a black metal album, but if you think about it . . . OK, so this intro is a lie. I only wish it were true. I actually have no idea what it's about.

Zwartplaag's first full-length is the last of the four albums submitted to me by Heidens Hart. I liked the other three. This record simply has nothing to offer. They play plain-old black metal without any twist to the formula. The riffs are uninteresting and forgettable. The production is all wrong, with over-loud vocals and artificial-sounding drums. The Nargaroth-esque guitar tone doesn't have much impact here, either.

It is exactly the kind of album that gets good reviews from people who think black metal must adhere to a particular formula, and who are more concerned about being trve than being good. That's not me.

So, I thought, why bother to finish it? I issue summary judgment against Zwartplaag.

Heidens Hart Records

Friday, April 06, 2012

Schoenberg Is Metal

"My music is not lovely."

Photo by Florence Homolka
When a co-worker asked me about my favorite classical composer a couple years ago, I responded that it was Tchaikovsky. His symphonies can be exceedingly dark, so that attracted me. My co-worker responded that it was a good choice--he was afraid I was going to say something crazy, like Schoenberg. Naturally, that piqued my interest. I picked some up, after a bit of research, and soon informed my co-worker that I loved it.

"Of course you do."

Austrian-born composer Arnold Schoenberg is quoted as saying, "My music is not lovely." Instantly, metalheads should have an appreciation for him. You need another reason? He also said, ". . . if it is art, it is not for all, and if it is for all, it is not art."

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Centurion: Serve No One (2012)

Wal-Mart Employee Motto

With all the Polish death metal bands reviewed on this site lately, it's easy to lump another one into the "sounds just like Vader and Behemoth" pile. It's actually refreshing to lump one into a different pile of bands.

Centurion is a Polish death metal band out of Warsaw. They just released their second full-length this year, Serve No One, a decade after their debut. Instead of being Vader sound-alikes, they ape Suffocation's brutal-technical approach. And they play it well, with their modern production sounding akin to the New York band's more recent work. Since they copy Suffocation, and capably, they're awesome. No question of that.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Asphyx: Deathhammer (2012)

If All You Have Is a Hammer . . .

Dutch legends Asphyx aren't old-school death metal, but they're not modern death metal either. They're not quite slow enough to be death/doom, they're not quite Swedish-sounding enough to be Swe-death, and they're not tech-death either. Thus, the title of Deathhammer is particularly apt.

Sometimes, a hammer is exactly what you need. It's nothing fancy. It's not controversial. It doesn't have a particularly compelling story behind it. But when you need a hammer, you damn well need a hammer. There's no fancy new tool that can do the job any better, and no "good old days" when there used to be a better tool.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

KozybunX: Practice Room Demo.N (2011)


Guest review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

I have no idea what this name is supposed to represent. It looks more like someone's ill-conceived chatroom screen name than the name of a band. Furthermore, it certainly does not seem to be the kind of name a stoner doom metal band would choose. It seems much more likely to be chosen by a pop group or some other mainstream atrocity. But nevertheless, here we are, with KozybunX bringing some interesting Electric Wizard-esque psychedelic stoner doom.

KozybunX are a four-piece doom metal group who apparently recorded this demo in their practice room. Nonetheless, the production values are actually quite impressive. This sounds every bit as powerful and heavy as anything that the aforementioned Electric Wizard put out. The riffs are slow and muddy, just the way stoner doom should be. They have a very thick bottom end that gives the atmosphere a sense of gloom and desolation. The demo as a whole gives off a feeling of impending doom, which I guess is kind of the point of the whole genre.

Monday, April 02, 2012

Wrest, TTTW, and Sexual Assault Charges

True Evidence, True Law

There's been a lot of discussion about Leviathan's recent album, True Traitor, True Whore, and what that says about Wrest's current legal predicament. In case you're not aware, a former girlfriend has accused him of sexually assaulting her with a tattoo gun. (Wrest is the sole member of Leviathan, and a tattoo artist.) I don't intend to go into questions of guilt, innocence, truth or falsehood of the allegations, or what really happened. What I do want to talk about is what Wrest is facing, and how his latest album could bear on those charges. It's an unusual intersection of two areas of my interest: metal and law.

Given the charges he's facing, many are shocked at the album's quite frank comment. The title itself displays a possibly misogynistic attitude, and with song titles including "Harlot Rises", "True Whorror", and "Every Orifice Yawning Her Price", that doesn't appear to help matters much. Everyone knows that "what you say can and will be used against you in a court of law". But does this really get admitted into evidence?

Sabbat: Sabbatrinity (2011)


Sigh is ever strange.
Boris plays every style.
Sabbat will just rock.

(The Verdict: Four out of five stars.)

Buy Sabbatrinity

Sunday, April 01, 2012

My Take on the Ozzy and Sharon Split

You've probably already heard it somewhere else before coming here, but Ozzy has announced that, after nearly 30 years of marriage, he has filed for divorce from wife/manager/puppetmaster Sharon. I know plenty has already been said on the subject, but I wanted to add my two cents.

I can't help but speculate that maybe, just maybe, with the "digital bitch" gone, that the forthcoming album might actually be worth something. Here's hoping.