Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Germ: Grief (2013)


I’ve been following Germ for a while now, and the only thing I can say with certainty is that you need to check them out. They may not be the best band out there, but they are certainly one of the most interesting.

The band’s style has been essentially consistent, but completely unparalleled. You might call it blackpop (I’ll take credit for that term, thank you very much). Its primary DNA strains come from black metal and pop music, creating what’s either some of the most challenging pop music or some of the most accessible black metal ever recorded.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Summary Judgments, Volume 7

Are These Even Reviews?

Here's another round of summary judgments, where I make a snap judgment about something before I feel like I really understand it. As always, under the title I list how much of the record I listened to.

Katatonia: Dethroned & Uncrowned (2013)
the whole album, once

I caught about half of Katatonia's show when they played with Opeth, but beyond that, I've never listened to them. Having never heard their most recent album, I thought I would have a unique perspective on the acoustic version of it. But mostly, I just thought it was OK, and not that interesting.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Death Metal Briefs: 2013

Dead Again

I've already reviewed a lot of death metal this year, but really you can never have too many short and punchy death metal releases. To help satisfy your thanatos, I offer two demos and an EP.

Temple of Void: Demo MMXIII
4 out of 5 stars

Detroit's Temple of Void stray much further into melodic death metal territory than I usually prefer, but they do it in a good way. And they take some cues from doom, so they sound not unlike Swallow the Sun on steroids. Did I mention they actually have songwriting skills? After three memorable tunes, they take it out on a string of bluesy solos. Very nice.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Promiscuity: Basic Instinct (2013 EP)

Where Is Hells Headbangers?

Within the broader milieu of all things metal, there are those who have an ethos which rejects the dominant paradigms of our age. They think rape, misogyny, and decapitation are hilarious things. Also, they would sooner kick you in the balls and spit on you than use pompous words like “milieu,” “ethos,” or “paradigm.” In other words, they’re even more metal than Brian Posehn.

These people are embodied in the Hells Headbangers roster, and in the Israeli band Promiscuity. Promiscuity made a notable splash after a review on Invisible Oranges not too long ago, and their newest EP (which can be had for nothing) continues in the tradition of Venom and Hellhammer. Ugly, brutal, and with a whole lot of echo on the primal grunting vocals. Plus, Celtic Frost cover. Very nice.

In ten years, HHR will release a double-LP compilation of the band’s entire catalog. Bet on it.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Toxic Holocaust: Chemistry of Consciousness (2013)

So, I Guess I Like Thrash Again

Chemistry of Consciousness, the latest of black/thrash icon Toxic Holocaust, is the perfect soundtrack to mindless excitement. I played the whole thing while rough-housing with my kids. Does that make me the world’s lamest metalhead, or the world’s coolest dad? Or both? You can debate the point with my toddler son’s plush Cthulhu.

Toxic Holocaust is a long-time favorite of regular guest contributor Metallattorney. Ordinarily I would just pass this promo on to him, but since he’s been swamped with a house move and business concerns, I decided to review the band’s new record myself. Once again, I find myself blown away by my first real exposure to one of Metallattorney’s recommendations.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Black Metal Briefs: Clearing the Docket

Only Procrastination Is Real

I've had some black metal releases sitting on my iPod for too long without a review. Let's knock some of those out.

Lychgate: Lychgate (2013)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Some difficult to describe black metal is coming out of Lychgate. Although they're from the UK, they sound like something that would come out of the San Francisco underground--Flenser stuff like Palace of Worms, not Deafheaven. The tempos run the gamut, and they use plenty of dissonance, but they also use synths extensively without sounding even remotely like symphonic black metal. It's very cool.

Corrections House: Last City Zero (2013)

Flawed Premise

Corrections House is another one of those bands that you could label a supergroup. As far as the underground, anyway, it doesn’t get much more super than a band featuring Scott Kelly, Sanford Parker, Bruce Lamont, and Mike IX Williams.

But I’ll cut to the chase. The way they set out to be different is by taking on an industrial side. It’s very much a counter-intuitive combination. Sludge works best when completely organic and analog, while industrial (as the name suggests) is mechanical. The rhythms and percussion are mechanical (they are programmed), while the guitars are organic, and it makes for a weird juxtaposition. Godflesh was going the same thing over 20 years ago, but it’s still weird.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

In Solitude: Sister (2013)

The Promise. The Hype. The Reality.

Out of all albums released in 2011, I’ve probably listened to In Solitude’s The World. The Flesh. The Devil. most. I happened to have a physical copy of it, which is unusual for me, and said copy happened to end up in the minivan I occasionally drive. That’s right, when I’m with the kids in the minivan, we’re either rockin’ Rainbow’s Rising or In Solitude. The World . . . has its flaws, but in that kind of context it’s hard to beat.

So when I read Decibel’s enthusiastic, effusive praise of Sister, I got a little excited. Here is the band, it seems, to create the next evolution of Mercyful Fate. I can hear the hype machine grinding, but I was inclined to believe that it was just possible they were as good as Decibel says.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Dark Americana Briefs, Part 10

Double Digits

Vic Chesnutt: North Star Deserter (2007)
5 out of 5 stars

Vic Chesnutt became a paraplegic at a young age and eventually died of an overdose on muscle relaxants. If you think he might make some fucked-up and dark music, you'd be right. This is the closest thing to Wovenhand I've yet found (see "Splendid," "Debriefing"), with the psychedelic and post-rock touches added to folk/rock. North Star Deserter tends toward sparser arrangements, with a hint of the great Cash. Stop what you're doing right now and listen to "Everything I Say." Thank me later.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Pestilence: Obsideo (2013)

Your Body It Has Torn Through

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

I understand that Pestilence is a storied death metal franchise with Decibel Hall of Fame-worthy albums, which morphed thrash into death at a time when most were not doing it. Cue the promo material:

"Formed in 1986, PESTILENCE took influence from early American and German thrash metal to cultivate its now signature death metal sound."

I understand that but have not heard any of said albums. So it was merely fortuitous that a day after downloading this, while perusing the used bins at my local record store, I happened upon Roadrunner's "Two From the Vault"* series for Pestilence, which included the HoF Consuming Impulse and another reported classic, Pillars of the Ancient. Wishlist albums #487 and 488, you just got bought. I thought about studying up on those two before doing this review but quickly dismissed that idea. What better way to judge a release on its merits than without the baggage of predecessor comparisons?

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Metal Briefs: What I Missed in 2012

Let's Back Up a Minute

A few things from last year slipped my attention before, and I'd like to rectify the situation.

Vulgaari: Vulgaari
4.5 out of 5 stars

Do you remember how awesome Zakk Wylde used to be? Vulgaari do. They're a Minnesota band who use a love of the greatest American guitarists of the 90's (Wylde and Dimebag) in service of creating some crushing death/doom. Death/doom can get dull by jamming on the same riff for too long, and too much soloing (even when it's raunchy) can get old just as quickly. But when you marry the two, as Vulgaari have done, you create something special. "Match" is something like a Pantera ballad played by Evoken. "Lie" is just fucking awesome. You have to hear this.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Metal Briefs: More Short Briefs of 2013

Two by Two

Two-song releases comprise a lot of my listening lately. It only seems fitting they get two-sentence reviews.

Aktor: I Am the Psychic Wars
4 out of 5 stars

This sounds almost exactly like Dawnbringer's last two albums, but with prominent synths added to the mix. Pretty fucking rad.

Vastum: Patricidal Lust (2013)


Leigh Ledare is a New York-based photographer who has recently taken on an . . . unusual subject matter. Noting the public’s desensitization to everything shocking, he decided to take a bunch of pictures of men having sex. With Ledare’s own mom.

If he had then brutally murdered his mother, then he would have been able to top the title to Vastum’s proper full-length debut, Patricidal Lust. I wasn’t especially impressed by the band’s demo—well, for a demo, it served its purpose, but it was, after all, a demo. I am extremely impressed with the album. The band have fully lived up to the promise that anyone saw in them.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Cara Neir: Portals to a Better, Dead World (2013)


Cara Neir tend to give people a lot of trouble in describing their genre. A lot of comparisons get thrown around. Crust punk. Neurosis. Post-metal. Hardcore. Death metal. Deafheaven. Screamo. I don’t know what the fuck screamo is. I literally have no idea, and I can’t be bothered to find out at the moment.

I think the best you can do is to just call them San Francisco black metal (even though they’re from Dallas). They would best share a stage with the likes of Palace of Worms or any number of bands on Flenser. In other words, I’m putting them in the company of some of the most vital and dynamic artists of today’s black metal. Yes, that means Pitchfork may notice them (maybe they already have), but if you’re still hung up on that, you can always fall back on Norway.

Friday, November 01, 2013

Metal Briefs: Off-the-Wall 2012

Unexpected Delay

I wrote these brief reviews about a year ago. Except for the fact that the last review disappeared into the aether. Like most people, I hate to re-do my work, but I finally got around to it. I think you'll agree it was worth it to see these releases that are a little out of the ordinary.

Germ: Loss
3.5 out of 5 stars

You might recall my review of Germ's Wish. The follow-up, Loss, came quickly on its heels. It's 80's movie soundtrack with tortured screams, but that's a bit too reductivist. Loss also touches on 90's radio rock and some very catchy dance music (see the album's two-part centerpiece). This is unlike anything else. The record is not quite as strong as its predecessor (only 2 out of 6 songs are single-worthy) but I love this weird band even more.