Friday, March 29, 2013

The Mountain Goats

I'm going to try out something a little different on Fridays. That something is, well, anything other than reviews. This time, I'm going to talk about a band that troubles me.

I first heard about The Mountain Goats from Patrick of Beards, Etc. He gave such a glowing review of All Eternals Deck that I picked up the album. I couldn't make it through the first song. It was just way too indie rock for me, and I couldn't stand it.

But I've come to realize frontman John Darnielle is sort of a nexus between my musical interests and some of my comedic interests. I'll go into those some other time, but what's important here is the man has metal cred. He writes a regular column in Decibel. He declared Mercyful Fate "a top 5 band" for him, and I'll forgive him for not saying "a top 1 band" because of his tattoos. He said that when they do his autopsy, they'll find out how much he loved Mercyful Fate.

This guy has Mercyful Fate tattoos?

I had the opportunity to hear some live performances by him on a comedy podcast, and he played this absolutely incredible song, "Lovecraft in Brooklyn."

The live version was even better than the studio. He sounded more intense, more unhinged. It convinced me to pick up All Eternals Deck again and give it a proper chance. Long story short, I kind of like it, once I got past the vocal style. Just kind of. Some of it is just boring, but there are some songs that are great.

I don't know what I'm getting at here, if anything. It's just been on my mind a lot, and I picked up Heretic Pride as well. What do you think? Do you have any thoughts on the band, or other bands that you've struggled with like this? Have you ever listened to something several times out of morbid curiosity, and still couldn't make up your mind? Does this kind of indie rock make you want to stab yourself in the earhole?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Botanist: IV: Mandragora (2013)

Mandrake Legion

I’ve been following Botanist since its debut, and I have loved every minute of it. By now you’ve certainly heard about the project which creates metal-like music with drums and hammered dulcimer, but maybe you haven’t actually heard it yet. For those who’ve had their interest piqued, IV: Mandragora is the perfect place to start.

Botanist’s first release emulated black metal, with short bursts of song played at high speed. The second release went the opposite direction, with long, moody compositions emulating doom or perhaps the WITTR school of black metal. Naturally, IV: Mandragora synthesizes the two approaches, for the most dynamic Botanist album to date.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Cerekloth: In the Midst of Life We Are in Death (2013)

They Are in Death

I’m not quite sure if this title, In the Midst of Life We Are in Death, is intended as a commentary on the current state of death metal. The last year’s death metal output has been almost completely underwhelming. And if that’s what Cerekloth trying to say, they’re right about the In the Midst of Life part. But more importantly, they’ve also earned the right to claim they Are in Death.

The Danish five-piece have as honest and unaffected take on death metal as any band in recent memory. They’re clearly not modern death metal, but they’re not old-school either. You have to turn the volume up a few notches to hear it properly, but they’re not afraid of melody or outside influence either. They’ve freed themselves from the constraints of uber-specific genre, and the result is a fucking monster of an album.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Circle II Circle: Seasons Will Fall (2013)


Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

A couple of bands have formed over the last couple of decades from former members of Savatage. Of course there is the big one, Trans-Siberian Orchestra, featuring Jon Oliva, Al Pitrelli, and Chris Caffery, all of whom were major parts of the band. Then there is Circle II Circle and Jon Oliva's Pain. Circle II Circle was created when Zak Stevens, Savatage's singer that took over when Jon Oliva stepped away after the death of his brother, left the band. Stevens was the vocalist for most of the 1990's and was in the band when they started drifting toward the TSO sound.

Stevens was not really my favorite singer that Savatage has had. Part of that is perhaps due to the fact that I generally liked the music better on the albums with Jon Oliva as vocalist. Stevens is a decent vocalist, he just never really clicked with me on the later era Savatage material. On this album though he sounds great. He has a powerful voice with a lot of character in it. He is definitely the best part of this album.

Monday, March 25, 2013

The Black Heart Rebellion: Har Nevo (2013)

Bloody as Bloodiest

The Black Heart Rebellion is a Belgian band who combine a lot of different things I love—things I’ve heard many times before—into something I’ve definitely never heard before.

Har Nevo, the band’s second full-length, is one of those records that touches on many things metal while ultimately skirting the genre. There are elements of Tool, Isis, and Neurosis. There's also a strong presence of Wovenhand-style folk. The effect of this hybrid metallic post-rock/dark Americana is quite similar to Bloodiest. I could pick out the various discrete threads of those inferred influences, like the occasional Wovenhand banjo or the Primordial screams, but that would do it a disservice. It can’t be reduced to any simple equation based on those elements.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Summary Judgments, Volume 3

It's not you, it's me.

This is an occasionally-recurring feature wherein I mostly apologize for deficiencies in my own taste. Hey, at least I'm trying. The numbers in parentheses show how much of the record I listened to before calling it quits.

Aluk Todolo: Occult Rock (2012)
(6 out of 8 songs)

Aluk Todolo's Occult Rock has some really cool music on it. Progressive, psychedelic metal that explores elements of many different genres. Generally, just a tour de force or whatever. The problem is, it's a completely instrumental double album. Considering the instrumental part, it's amazing that it's good enough to get me through one disc and halfway through another, but I don't think I want to go any further. If you like instru-metal, though, it's rare to find anything better than this.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Ensiferum: Unsung Heroes (2012)

Come Back Jari

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Ensiferum were kind of at the forefront of the whole folk metal wave of the 21st century. They took a sound that had been experimented with and twisted it and perfected it. Prior to Ensiferum breaking through there were very few bands that could be considered folk metal bands. Not to say that they were the first, but they definitely helped bring about the wave of bands that emerged in the years to come.

Folk metal has never been one of my favorite genres. I certainly enjoy some bands, but I typically do not go out of my way to seek out new bands unless they are doing something that interests me. Despite this, I have found that I generally enjoyed Ensiferum in their early days, but I have not liked much of their material after Jari Mäenpää left the band. He seemed to be the major element that drew me to Ensiferum's work. This is the first album I have heard from Ensiferum in quite awhile. Unfortunately it may be a while before I check them out again.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Cough / Windhand: Reflection of the Negative (2013)

Richmond: Rich with Doom

I decided to check out Reflection of the Negative because half of the split is from Cough. A couple years ago, I nearly gave Cough’s Ritual Abuse a perfect score, stating that the record takes Black Sabbath to its logical extreme.

And Cough does a perfectly serviceable job on their half of the split. It’s not nearly as good as their last full-length, but if you love it slow, heavy, and sludgy, you could do a hell of a lot worse. The big surprise, though, is the contribution from fellow Richmondites Windhand. Their half of the split does what Cough could and should have. In other words, it takes Black Sabbath to its logical extreme.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Abyssal: Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius (2013)

Not on the Fence

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Profound Lore are on a hot streak. Bell Witch. Subrosa. My favorite album form last year - Dawnbringer. Everyone else's favorite from last year - Pallbearer. Full Metal Attorney's favorite from this year - Portal. Add Abyssal to the list. I really don't know what this is, but I like it.

The band gives us a short "Forebode" - ing intro before the wall hits. And the wall is the Great Wall of China. Huge, overpowering, and expansive, slithers the "The Tongue of the Demagogue." It sounds like sped up funeral doom. Mid-way through "Under the Wretched Sun of Hattin" I feel like I've been turned back by that huge wall to wander the Mongolian desert in doom trodden defeat only to be suddenly pummeled by a black metal rain storm. Then as the storm relents, I'm about to slay a fallen foe. I do and it's terrible. My head is pounding over and over. Marching to my doomed destiny. All in one song. Then the "Headless Serpent" almost - almost swaggers, but this ain't swaggering music. So we get a black metal "Sheath of Deceit" which writhes like a headless serpent. A hellish interlude. Then a four song pounding highlighted by "As Paupers Safeguard Magnates". The songs slow and pound and then rattled and then pound again, only to rattle when you don't expect it.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Devourment: Conceived in Sewage (2013)

Filthy and Disgusting

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Despite my seemingly intellectual exterior, I am a lawyer after all, I love slam death metal. I know it is mostly stupid and juvenile, an excuse for bands to get as brutal as they want with ridiculously filthy lyrics. And even though I admit that it is ridiculous and juvenile, I still can not get enough of it. It is a dichotomy that perplexes me. Some slam bands are surprisingly talented musically with some well-written lyrics, just look at Wormed and Defeated Sanity. But then there are groups like Devourment, who were instrumental in giving slam death metal a formula.

Despite the fact that Devourment had a large deal to do with the inception of slam death metal as a valid subgenre, they themselves have been distancing themselves from the genre in a lot of ways. Their sound is much more rooted in standard brutal death metal these days, and especially since their last album. That does not mean that the slam parts are entirely absent, they can still be heard in a number of places throughout this release, but they are not as important to the structure of each individual song, and there are even some songs that do not appear at all.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Inter Arma: Sky Burial (2013)


I’m not quite sure what to make of Virginia’s Inter Arma. The band’s sophomore full-length Sky Burial defies categorization while sounding completely familiar. They combine a lot of different elements, but primarily they take the sound of current-day U.S. black metal (e.g. Castevet) into the tempo and song structures of an arty kind of groove metal. It reminds me a great deal of France’s Eryn Non Dae, with some caveats.

Are they boldly combining influences in new ways, or do they lack identity? That’s largely a function of how good you think it is, and in all honesty it’s little of both, but I’m leaning more towards the lack of identity.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Pÿlon: The Harrowing of Hell (2012)

Skeptic, Convinced

Most metal fans are immediately skeptical of (or hostile to) Christian bands. Even I, as a Christian myself, harbor that skepticism. But if there’s one metal genre where the followers of Jesus have proven their worth, it’s doom.

The reason for this is simple. As atheist metal scribe Josh Haun once noted, “So many modern doom bands embrace the dark side, and it seems they missed the entire point of Black Sabbath (both the song and the band). Ozzy and Co. weren’t happy to see Satan standing before them, they were fucking terrified.” That’s the reason Trouble were accepted, and it’s the reason you should give Pÿlon, and their vinyl LP (or digital download) The Harrowing of Hell, a chance.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Convulse: Inner Evil (EP 2013)

Rising from the Crypt

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Convulse has been missing in action for years now. The band once released one of the most interesting death metal albums ever at a time when death metal was still fresh and new. As such, they were often thrown in the same conversation as groups like Demilich, groups that brought something strange and exciting to death metal. They released one more album after World Without God and were seemingly lost to time. They re-emerged this year.

Owing to the re-release of their stunning debut album and the revitalization of old school death metal, Convulse have come back from the dead. This is just a teaser unfortunately, a very brief two-song return to the fold. With any luck it does mean that we will be seeing a new full-length from the Finnish death metallers.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Darkthrone: The Underground Resistance (2013)

How It Works

Let me tell you a little something about how reviewing works in this world. I get a lot of promos. Most of them are pretty decent, overall, but the more you hear, of course, the more "pretty good" just sounds like shit. I begin culling the herd based on convenience rather than merit, just deleting anything that's at 128 kbps, or if the tags are in ALL FUCKING CAPS or if the music isn't tagged with anything at all.

And I don't always put something into my library the minute I download it. So I was about to delete this untagged album. I had no idea what it was. But I thought, well, I could listen to a little bit on the off chance I could identify it. In this rarest of instances, I listened to about 5 seconds and said, "Oh, that's the new Darkthrone." It was a one in a thousand chance, but there's no mistaking Darkthrone.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Denouncement Pyre: Almighty Arcanum (2013)

Australia Will Destroy You and Everyone You Love

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Those who have been following me for awhile probably know that I am a big fan of the Australian extreme metal scene. You know the one, the bestial thrash/black/death mix that come to be referred to as the "war metal" scene. That scene had started to lose its lustre over the last several years but there are signs that there may be a revitalization at work lately. Groups like Denouncement Pyre, Vomitor, Black Jesus, and Mongrel's Cross have all emerged in a major way over the last few years. Though Denouncement Pyre and Vomitor have been around for quite awhile, Denouncement Pyre since 2003 and Vomitor since 1999, they have really gotten notice recently. These are likely the bands that are leading the Australian extreme metal scene for years to come.

If anything, this sophomore full-length from the Aussie crushers is an improvement over their debut release. This is mostly due to the improvement in the production quality. Their last album was murky, and while it sounded good for the type of chaotic metal that was on that disc, it is nice to hear that they have cleaned things up a little bit without going too far and sounding sterile. This is just about right where it should be for a raw black/death/thrash metal album.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Defeated Sanity: Passages Into Deformity (2013)

Technical Slamming Insanity

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

This year is shaping up to be a decent one for brutal death/slam death metal. Devourment and Katalepsy both have new albums this year, but there are two that I am looking forward to above all others. Defeated Sanity and Wormed.

Defeated Sanity's last album was an incredibly interesting take on slam death metal by incorporating a lot of technical and progressive death metal elements. It ranks as one of my favorite slam death metal albums of all time. That has typically been the case with Defeated Sanity. They are difficult to pigeonhole into one genre because they frequently mix things up a little bit in their compositions. That all continues on this release. Defeated Sanity has once again proven that they are one of the better bands going in the vast brutal death metal genre.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Galvano: Two Titans (2012)

Moving (and Renaming) Mountains

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

The Grand Tetons are a pair of mountains in America named that by the French because they looked like boobs. Or so I was told. These lonely, horny French explorers must have really been bored - naming the mountains after big breasts. Galvano's "Two Titans" is not inspired by the Grand Tetons. At least I'm pretty sure it is not. But nonetheless that's what I thought of when I read the title of the album, proving in one fell swoop that I am probably a pervert and not a very bright one at that.

I am bright enough to hear the goodness in this "epic sludge" release. Galvano have a High on Fire influence but they lighten the sound and spread it out, and they forsake that band's unbridled ferocity in favor of prog tendencies. It's not bad - actually, it's really good, but at first I didn't dig it. The first two tracks did not help, to be honest. They were good but not great and progressive but not that interesting.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Helen Money: Arriving Angels (2013)

I Won't String You Along

Helen Money is the stage name of Alison Chesley, a cellist who has appeared on countless albums. Over a nearly two-decade career, she has provided accompaniment for a wide variety of artists across many genres, both for household names and relative unknowns. For the last six years she has also spent some time on her solo career. Her latest album, Arriving Angels, was released on the cello-friendly Profound Lore.

I will not string you along (pun intended). As much as I want to enjoy this, I can’t. I love Grayceon, and I really enjoy Apocalyptica’s mid-period work. I can even get into some Zoe Keating, and I tend to look for the more outside-the-box releases that are marketed toward metalheads. But Arriving Angels just does nothing for me.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Hour of Penance: Sedition (2012)

Kicks Your Ass for Half an Hour

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Hour of Penance is another band that really does technical death metal well. They combine brutality with technicality with some fantastic results, ending up sounding like a more technical version of Nile. The brutality never lets up on this album either. Hour of Penance kick things into high gear in the second track, after a melodic introduction, and never lose their energy. The result is a punishing and intense album that threatens to crush the skull for about a half an hour or so before it is finally over. The only reprieves are the few seconds in between tracks.

What Hour of Penance do well on this release though is to weave some incredibly melodic guitar leads throughout the otherwise colossally heavy riffing. And the lead guitar has a terrific tone to it as well, adding to the distinctiveness. It is almost beautiful in an otherwise ugly sound.

Monday, March 04, 2013


A stomach flu really knocked me on my ass this weekend. There will be an update tomorrow.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 5

I Listen to a Lot of This Stuff

It would seem I listen to as much of this kind of thing as I do metal. The work of David Eugene Edwards will do that to a man.

Mark Lanegan: Bubblegum (2004)
4 out of 5 stars

Mark Lanegan is apparently a musician of some note. A former member of Screaming Trees and Queens of the Stone Age, he's also worked with Kurt Cobain, among others. I've never followed any of that. Instead, I discovered his solo work through Spotify, which appropriately played it for me on Wovenhand radio. Bubblegum opens on a blues song and closes on one that epitomizes my idea of "dark Americana," but along the way it goes far afield. "Methamphetamine Blues" injects some Monster Magnet, as does "Can't Come Down," and Nine Inch Nails shines through in the industrial elements (see "Head"). A lot of it's mellow alt-rock or drug-addled fugue channeled through the voice of a young Tom Waits. It's highly recommended for fans of grunge, dark Americana, or Tom Waits.