Thursday, August 29, 2013

Full Metal / Full Wooden

I thought I would introduce you to my new project. Last night I worked on it while listening to the upcoming Mamiffer/Circle and Oranssi Pazuzu albums.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 8

I See a Darkness

Elliott Brood: Ambassador (2005)
4 out of 5 stars

Elliott Brood is a Canadian band who, according to Wikipedia, have been characterized as "death country." That should be enough to catch the attention of anyone who regularly reads this feature, but let me proceed. They're the best alt-country band (not a side project of a metal or punk luminary) I've found since Wovenhand / 16 Horsepower. While compared to those two bands, it's a little more like mainstream country in the general compositional style and the way electric guitar is used, Ambassador is some of the darkest music I've heard using a banjo (etc.). The vocalist doesn't quite convey the pain of David Eugene Edwards, yet he is no slouch. The first half of the record is especially great. This is quite the lucky find.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Ulcerate: Vermis (2013)


The last time I actually saw any return on my Amazon Associates links, at the beginning of 2011, I bought Ulcerate’s The Destroyers of All and about three other albums. It ended up being the grower of the year for me. I initially gave it only a 4 out of 5, but noted my suspicion that it would be a grower. By the end of that year, I saw fit to place it at number 4 on my year-end list. So, you can imagine, I was excited to hear their new material.

Vermis continues in the Kiwi trio’s tradition of brutal death metal drumming with an apocalyptic combination of guitar techniques that features some death metal riffs and a whole lot of Deathspell Omega-like dissonance. Too much unbridled chaos can, surprisingly, be a detriment. As before, Ulcerate give you just enough structure to let you know which way is down, then make sure your feet are never pointing that direction.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A Storm of Light: Nations to Flames (2013)

Industrial Light and Magic

A Storm of Light’s 2011 As the Valley of Death Becomes Us, Our Silver Memories Fade could be one of the most underrated albums of 2011. It combined Neurosian post-metal with doom and a healthy dose of the personality of 1990’s Seattle’s finest: Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. ASOL was at the forefront of the burgeoning movement to make 90’s alternative rock acceptable in metal. Seriously, that could be a thing we’re all sick of in about three years.

Follow-up Nations to Flames mines the same era, but they’ve hit a new vein: 90’s industrial rock/metal. In 2013, as in 2011, that 90’s influence is not real concrete. It doesn’t sound like music that came out at the time, and it’s really more of a feel that it borrows. But the influence is there, nonetheless, and I’d challenge you not to hear Ministry in some of these tracks.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Lord: Digital Lies (2013)

A Bad First Impression, But Solid Album

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

First things first, the awful title. This is the kind of title you would have expected in the 1990's when that newfangled internet showed up, but now it just seems outdated. That, added to the cover that looks like something out of a cheap SyFy channel movie is not really the best way to make a first impression.

I will admit I was a little surprised by the sound. I probably shouldn't be anymore, but I was a little surprised by the upbeat power metal. I was expecting something darker. But this is not the "flower" metal style made popular by bands like Sonata Arctica, Rhapsody, or anyone like that. This is the more extreme form of power metal which found its roots in groups like Jag Panzer in the United States. Lord is the new band of Lord Tim (pretty sure that's a Monty Python reference), who previously headed Dungeon in Australia. I was never really familiar with Dungeon other than hearing the name occasionally, but they had a decent track record.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Zud: The Good, the Bad and the Damned (2013)

The Other Portland

If you don’t come from a state with a small population and no metal scene to speak of, you probably can’t understand how excited I was to listen to a band from Maine. (And no, small European nations probably can’t relate either.) Maine also has a somewhat Scandinavian geography and a climate that makes Scandinavian winters look like a joke.

Zud hails from Thompson's Point (Portland), Maine, and they have the utmost good taste to work a symbol of their home into their logo in the form of moose antlers. It looks badass, and as I’ve mentioned before, black metal should give you a sense of place. That doesn’t carry over into the music on full-length The Good, the Bad and the Damned, but the first barrage of metal here is good enough to make you forget about that. It’s a rocking form of black metal reminiscent of early Venom and recent Darkthrone, with some badass heavy metal guitar solos and a few death metal parts thrown in for good measure. So far, so good.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sigur Rós: Kveikur (2013)

Maybe I’m Going Soft

Patrick, longtime reader and erstwhile reviewer for this blog, recently commented on his shock that I would praise something as hipster-sounding as True Widow so highly. This might be a step further. I’m not going to give Sigur Rós quite such a stellar review, but they may be the most hipster-ish thing I’ve ever liked.

I’ve been vaguely aware of the Icelandic post-rock band for a while now, and what I had read about them intrigued me. So I looked them up, and saw the video for “Brennisteinn.” That was pretty damn awesome. They use strings and cinematic songwriting like a lot of metal bands who, to be fair, were probably influenced by Sigur Rós. And whatever they’re doing to make that bass-y sound like a giant alien robot in some apocalyptic movie, I could do with more of that.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Metal Briefs: EPs of 2013

Quickly, There's No Time

Sometimes, it's good to be brief and to the point.

Arkhamin Kirjasto: Undead Priest of Holy Trinity of Death
4 out of 5 stars

Parts of the title track sound just like something Solefald did a few years back, or maybe like something Ghost would do. Other than that, this EP is full of that awesome sing-along heavy metal with Swe-death veneer that Arkhamin Kirjasto introduced us to last year. They're easily one of the most interesting and entertaining bands in Finland right now.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Vasaeleth: All Uproarious Darkness (2013)

Lean and Filthy

The sophomore LP from Vasaeleth was easily one of my most anticipated albums of the year. But when I got the promo, I was initially disappointed. Only 19 minutes long? This isn't grindcore--that's not supposed to be long enough to make a full-length. After repeated listens, I got it, and disappointment is no longer a concern.

Crypt Born & Tethered to Ruin was a bit of a sleeper hit back in 2010. The band's ultra-filthy Incantation-inspired death metal was rightly recognized as some of the best the old-school death metal revival has to offer. It didn't hurt that the album's centerpiece "Gateway to the Cemetery of Being" spreads like gangrene from your ears into every part of your central nervous system. All Uproarious Darkness--a more appropriate album title there never was--continues in that infected vein.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

True Widow: Circumambulation (2013)


True Widow isn’t really a metal band, strictly speaking. But Circumambulation was released on Relapse, so you can be sure that it’s worth checking out anyway. In particular, it should draw the attention of fans of Kylesa’s recent output.

“Syrupy” is an adjective I’ve seen used to describe the band’s sound, and I find it to be apt. This record is full of shoegaze-y, laid-back stoner rock submerged in tree blood. That’s quite the pleasant vibe to follow for the course of an album, but it gets even better than that.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Powerwolf: Preachers of the Night (2013)

Res Ipsa Loquitur

Review--or, rather, an argument--by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

The issue on this review is why anyone would listen to Powerwolf. The elements that constitute heavy metal music are at least one of the following: 1. swagger that snaps necks and/or dual guitar harmonies that invoke Wayne's World air guitar outbreaks; 2. "dangerous" or at least a little sinister, or, in the alternative, transcendent and uplifting amid thunder or sludge; or, 3. fucking loud.^^ The rule assumes the heavy metal music is purveyed by at least one guitar and actual drums, bass being helpful and keyboards being muted or hidden backstage, a la Dio in the early 80s.* This review will argue that Powerwolf - and by extension a great deal of European "power" "metal" - is not heavy metal at all, having no swagger, lacking danger, and not being very loud.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

The 7 Most Metal Bible Stories

I've asserted that the Bible is the most metal book ever written. Whether you agree or not, it's plain that it does have some really brutal stuff in it. I have gathered here seven of the most metal Bible passages. There's no preaching here (if you want that, you can stay after class). Even if you know all these stories, I might be able to add some new context.

7. Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah

The cities of Sodom and Gomorrah were full of sinners, so God decided to destroy them. After warning Abraham's nephew Lot to escape, he rained down burning sulfur. This would have smelled awful, but looked awesome: Burning sulfur turns to a blood red liquid, and the flames are blue. The gas released would have suffocated anyone who escaped the blaze.

6. The Plagues

This video is a great idea, but pretty poorly executed. I hardly need to say anything about the tenth plague, because you know the words of the song by heart. And my 8th grade music teacher at my parochial school indicated the lyrics are Biblically accurate. It's pretty badass that blood was what marked the Israelites to be saved. What might be less obvious is how metal some of the other plagues were. The Nile turned to blood, a plague of skin boils afflicted the Egyptians (Death's "Leprosy" comes to mind), and the sun was blotted out for three days.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Túrin Turambar: Rzeczpospolita Czartowska (2013)

I will slay thee swiftly.

Túrin Turambar is one of my favorite literary characters, and perhaps the most interesting figure in Tolkien’s work. He’s based on Kullervo of the Finnish epic Kalevala, but to anyone who’s not an expert in Finnish folklore he seems like a combination of Siegfried and Job. Túrin is a mighty hero who fights with a black sword forged out of a meteor, but whose life is cursed by the malevolent will of an evil deity. Seriously, you should read The Children of Húrin, at a minimum.

And, pro tip for any metal band looking for a name: Fingolfin might be the coolest J.R.R. character who doesn’t have a band named after him. Yet.

Poland’s Túrin Turambar obviously have good taste in Tolkien characters. Rzeczpospolita Czartowska is the second full-length from this band who are billed as an avant-garde black metal trio.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Ephemeros: All Hail Corrosion (2013)

Hail the Funeral

Have I mentioned that funeral doom is a ridiculously easy genre to play, and a monumentally difficult genre to play well? Have I previously emphasized that you can’t just listen to a few minutes on Youtube (or Soundcloud or Bandcamp or whatever) and make a reasonable assessment of a funeral doom band? Good. With that in mind, let’s talk about Ephemeros.

All Hail Corrosion is the debut record from this Oregonian band, and it will be released August 20. You should consider purchasing it. It’s got all the tension and pure “heavy” that you need.

Monday, August 05, 2013

De Arma: Lost, Alien & Forlorn (2013)

Irrational Gaze

When I listened to De Arma’s Lost, Alien & Forlorn the first time, I didn’t expect to like it. I’ve never liked Alcest, and this band’s soft, often pretty post-black metal bears a strong resemblance to Alcest. In spite of myself, I found myself listening to this record again and again.

Like Alcest, black metal is just a small part of what De Arma does. It has a lot more in common with some things I’m barely familiar with from my occasional Spotify listening: The gothic rock and mellower post-punk it plays when I click on Killing Joke, the shoegaze when I click on Slowdive. I don't really get into any of that (aside from Killing Joke themselves). I don’t typically like breathy clean singing when it’s the primary vocal delivery. But something about De Arma is just infectious.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Power Trip: Manifest Decimation (2013)

Full-On Nuclear Assault

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

If there is one style of metal that has kind of passed me by to my regret, it is crossover. I just do not have a lot of experience listening to the subgenre. But that is slowly starting to change. It all started a few months ago when I was listening to my Skullcrushers compilation, which has tracks from Exodus, Megadeth, Celtic Frost, Voivod and more, when all of a sudden this track came up that I had heard a million times before, but it just stuck with me. That song was from Nuclear Assault and it was called "Critical Mass". Corrosion of Conformity's "Loss for Words" and Prong's "Beg to Differ" also appeared in the compilation and grabbed my attention. All of a sudden, crossover clicked for me.

Obviously I would not be telling this long-ass, boring story if there were not some connection to this review. Some day I will tell a boring long story that has absolutely no relevance to the review just to keep readers on their toes.* But that will not be this day.