Thursday, May 29, 2014

Powerman 5000: Builders of the Future (2014)

Nostalgiatrip 2000

I picked up Tonight the Stars Revolt from the $9.99 bargain rack when I was working at a Target in 1999, around the same time I bought Static-X's Wisconsin Death Trip and Staind's Dysfunction. I know, I know: I was cool. I remained a fan of Powerman 5000 for several years, picking up everything from their early nu metal/funk metal Mega!! Kung Fu Radio (1997) to their industrial/alt-metal/hard rock Transform (2003). (And, like everyone else, pirating Anyone for Doomsday?) But honestly I was only vaguely aware that they had released at least one album after that. I haven't followed them since, but I also haven't divested myself of my collection, as I have with so many others.

Imagine my shock to find a promo of their new album in my inbox. I'm still a little surprised to find out they never went away (although a glance at their Wikipedia page shows their glory days are long gone). So, for old time's sake, I thought I'd have a listen.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Agalloch: The Serpent & the Sphere (2014)

Plateau of the Ages

If you're not familiar with Agalloch, you could rightly be called metal-illiterate. They are one of a handful of bands in the course of metal's four decades and change who have, truly, altered the landscape. More than likely you are familiar with them, and you already have your opinions on them. If those opinions are negative, then disregard and move on, because The Serpent & the Sphere doesn't do anything radically different. Instead, it highlights what the band does well.

It is, as usual, an expertly crafted piece of cinematic neo-folk/black metal in the Cascadian style. Whatever black metal piques the curiosity of the mainstream and the Pitchfork crowd, Agalloch once again put to shame. It's tough to sunbathe when you're under a shadow as large as "Dark Matter Gods."

Fear of Domination: Distorted Delusions (2014)


Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Seriously? There are still bands like this out there? Not to mention newish ones? Immediately when this album began I felt like it was 2000 all over again. I would have loved this early in college. Jaded, lawyer me is not nearly as impressed. That is to say, I found this barely listenable. I was even more annoyed with the band photos which portray a group looking like a cross between Mushroomhead and Hollywood Undead.

Musically this band sounds like a cross between Spineshank and mainstream-leaning In Flames. There is some melodic death metal present in there but the industrial tinges overwhelm them frequently to the point where the keyboards are about the only thing that can be heard. The music sounds incredibly juvenile, the kind of thing that 16-18 year olds would play loudly on their car stereos to freak out the neighbors. I know this, because I was once one of those kids. But now that my tastes have matured I find myself avoiding schlock like this.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Dark Americana Briefs, Volume 15

Hell of a Week

This has been a hell of a week for me, thus the lax updating. I hope one of these will make up for it.

T.G. Olson: The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)
3.5 out of 5 stars

T.G. Olson is the frontman of Across Tundras, in my opinion one of the most interesting bands in metal today. As I've mentioned before, he also has a hell of a lot of solo material for pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp. If you had to explain Bad Lands to Cross to someone who grew up in the 60's, you might get pretty far by calling it acid country. It takes that classic sad cowboy style of country and adds in atmospheric electric guitar, a layer of fuzz over the vocals, and just the right amount of echo to make it psychedelic. It's good stuff, but not quite dynamic enough to go on for a full hour.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Serpent ov Old: Antiquity ov Old (Compilation 2014)

Compilation ov Underground Black Metal

My previous reluctance to review compilations is eroding in the face of some really interesting discographies released of truly underground bands. Antiquity ov Old is the second discography collection I've reviewed this year.

Philadelphia's Serpent ov Old is releasing the discography as a digital download in collaboration with Horror Pain Gore Death Productions. The centerpiece of the collection is 2012 full-length Withering Hope, a 37-minute slab of pure, old-school black metal aggression with elements that make it stand out. The first such element is synthesizer, used almost exclusively as a layer of atmosphere. But what really makes this record stand out is the guitar solos.

Friday, May 16, 2014

At War With Satan (2014) by Steff Metal

Bogus Journey

Whenever I read humorous novels, I always pick them up expecting a Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy approach full of wordplay and absurdity. I never get it. So it is with fellow metal blogger Steff Metal's At War With Satan. The tagline on the cover (a quote from Alestorm's Chris Bowes) calls it "part Dante's Inferno, part Wayne's World." Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey was already that in its way, but there's nothing wrong with that.

A demon forms a metal band and blows everyone away with his voice. (That is only superficially like Queen of the Damned.) The real purpose of this band is to get metalheads to fight church youth group kids in a planned mini-apocalypse. The end result is that the protagonists have to go to hell, visiting a few choice locations along the way.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Heavy Metal Briefs 2013

Long Overdue

Since I don't listen to all that much pure heavy metal these days, this post is long overdue.

darkWaters: Golden Age of Decadence
3.5 out of 5 stars

DarkWaters is a mix of Pantera and Guns 'N' Roses. It took me a while to warm up to it. They do not start the record on a positive note, and I have no soft spot for GNR. But after a while the genuine enthusiasm of this Portuguese band is contagious.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

On the Passing of H.R. Giger

Man is nothing

What is finite and transient has relevance only in relation to what is infinite and eternal. Man can make nothing of himself, if he draws only on his own forces . . . . Led astray by humanism and blinded by the belief that man is the centre of the universe, he fails to recognize his true place in the order of things. He forgets the basis of his existence, and therefore he must perish.
--Excerpt from "Panderma 4," Carl Laszlo, art collector/publisher

The artist in 1972, when he was the age I am today.

By now you may have heard the Swiss surrealist H.R. Giger has died. The mainstream reaction is, of course, "The guy who designed the monster from Alien died." I don't think a law school colleague of mine will mind if I quote his reaction, which I think is a fairly typical one:
His stand-alone art, without the context of a backstory (such as in Alien), was disturbing, but only to the extent that a Metallica t-shirt appealed to me as a high-school student. Weird and grotesque just for the sake of being weird and grotesque.
This attitude toward the works of Giger bothers me much more than it would seem is rational. He is, after all, just one artist. So what if people don't get it?

In case you can't already tell, this is going to end up being about a lot more than just Giger. This is about the purpose of art, or at least one purpose of it, and what that means to me.

Painter, sculptor, filmmaker, designer, and more, his work has spoken to me on a primal level since my youth. So I will agree with the popular sentiment that there is a juvenile appeal to his work. But art that is disturbing--even disturbing for the sake of being disturbing--is almost the only kind of art that I care about. It's why I care about metal, it's why I care about Lovecraft or Poe, and it's why I care about Giger.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Wovenhand: Refractory Obdurate (2014)

The Reverse Path

In the nearly three years since I found Wovenhand, I've found myself listening to it more than any other artist. If it's not my favorite band, it's at least my favorite active band. Consider the Birds is one of the five albums that changed my life, if you'll excuse the slight hyperbole. So, take this with a grain of salt if you must. But I've been recommending them repeatedly since then, and I've gotten nothing but positive feedback from anyone who's listened.

So, with that introduction out of the way, let's consider Refractory Obdurate, the band's seventh studio full-length. The Laughing Stalk (2012) found the band adding heaviness to their unmistakable blend of folk and country. I had always sensed an affinity to metal from David Eugene Edwards' music, but that is where it really came through. The incredible "Corsicana Clip" and "The Refractory" are excellent examples of a the Laughing Stalk sound continuing. But if anything, Refractory Obdurate represents an even larger shift for the band.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Season of Arrows: Season of Arrows (2014)

Witchy Doom Metal

How many times have I already written some version of this review? The setup: Doom metal band has female vocalist. They play doom and she sings. It kind of sounds like X or Y mixed with A or B. Yet I keep finding good reasons to write this review.

Season of Arrows is the latest in a long string of female-fronted doom bands. But while it would appear they've jumped on one of the less-noted bandwagons of the last few years, they've managed to cut a swathe through and around the cliches. You may find it worthwhile to read this.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Summary Judgments, Volume 12

My Cup Runneth Over

Here are five more releases that didn't get a full hearing from me. Doesn't mean they're bad, necessarily, and some are available at any price you want to pay.

Nightsatan: Nightsatan and the Loops of Doom (2014)

Nightsatan have a very specific and even more peculiar vision: They play instrumental, synth-oriented music inspired by 1980's post-apocalyptic science fiction films. I'm not sure how that pitch goes. The execution is perfect--more lush than a John Carpenter composition, but the spirit is there. It's probably closer to a lot of really terrible movies I've never seen. It's really a phenomenal achievement, but, why?

Svart Records

Apparently there is actually a short film that this goes with, but (a) I haven't researched how you can see it, and (b) the album is twice as long as the film.

This is the coolest thing I've seen all day, I have to admit.

The Weir: Yesterday's Graves (2013)

This record almost certainly deserves a thorough review, but sadly I can't get to all the albums I want. I can say it sounds quite a bit like Isis, but a little more on the sludge side.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

Cave of Swimmers: Cave of Swimmers (2013)


If The Sword actively pisses you off, maybe you should stop reading this review right now. (Unless you like to get pissed off about things like that. It's a marginally free country.) We'll wait until you've left the room.

. . .

OK, now that they're all gone, let me ask you this: How great is the 70's retro-rock thing? From time to time I get fed up with it, and try to dig for some gem that's actually from the 70's. But with only a few exceptions, the retro acts of today are at least as good as the obscure acts of yesterday. And Cave of Swimmers is another great addition to the growing legion of really entertaining classic rock bands who will be accused of being hipsters.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Dark Americana Briefs, Volume 14

Salt and Sky

I'm still chasing that dark Americana dragon.

Salter Cane: Salter Cane (2007)
4 out of 5 stars

I know nothing about Salter Cane, having discovered them by accident on Rdio and listened without looking them up. An extremely familiar drum beat (I've heard it from Munly and 16HP) kicks things off, and it's very straight-forward folk/country of the kind I'm used to. But also, it's fairly high-caliber, and for some reason I can't quite put my finger on, it reminds me of Nick Cave.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Vanhelgd: Relics of Sulphur Salvation (2014)

It's Only Death

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Is there any band out there kicking our ass with straight up death metal? Death metal. Just death metal. No frills death metal. Not technical. Not Brutal. Not OSDM. Not doom death. Not blackened death. Not Polish. Just plain death metal. On of my favorite albums from last year was Abyssal's Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius. It's a brilliant Great Wall of China death doom blackened death feast. But that album is so punishing, so relentless, it's not something I reach for unless I am in a special place inside my mind - in the ordinary course of things I don't much like being pummeled for pummeled's sake. The Abyssals and Portals of the world are undeniably talented and putting out material you should own. But what if I want something new but still something I can snap my neck to? What if I want something that's brutal but still dynamic, heavy as shit but not relentlessly depressive? Enter Vanhelgd, whatever the hell that means.

Friday, May 02, 2014

King Diamond / Lightning McQueen

This may be the greatest thing I've ever done.

Let us ride to the crossroads

Lord Mantis: Death Mask (2014)

Oh, That Cover

Metallattorney reviews the subject of a manufactured controversy.

Lord Mantis have never been exactly politically correct. That has been the point. They had a very vile cover on their last album and this one is possibly even worse. The album itself, and most certainly the cover, has been called "transmisogynistic", which is a word I think was just made up for this album cover. It certainly sounds like a thing, but probably not one which gets bandied about very often because it has an extremely limited scope. Essentially hatred of trans-women. Okay, sure. I am not sure Lord Mantis is really making a statement here other than just to piss people off or disgust them. I definitely do not believe there is anything really political here, but I could be wrong. Maybe I just listen to music just to listen to it. I do not go out of my way trying to find any messages in art really. I just enjoy it for what it is.