Sunday, June 29, 2014

Summary Judgments, Volume 13

This is where I decided I wasn't up to giving these records a full review.

Black TusK: Tend No Wounds (EP 2013)

A little while back, I lamented that I had just assumed Red Fang were another Mastodon clone in a field of Mastodon clones. Since I had put Black Tusk in that same category, I decided to give them another chance. It turns out my assumption was right about them. Not that I have anything against Mastodon clones (to be fair, the vocals are more the male side of Kylesa).

Tuesday, June 24, 2014


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Orcultus: Orcultus (EP 2014)

Not Enough

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Seven inch vinyls are kind of an odd concept. It is kind of strange to me that there are still bands releasing them, though typically they are released by groups who have not previously released anything and just have a couple of songs ready. There is such a limited amount of space available that releases rarely last more than ten minutes. Nevertheless, I have a number of them.

Anyway, this is all pretty irrelevant to the actual review. I am sure a lot of metalheads like vinyl, even these small things. But it does not really have much at all to do with the band here. Orcultus is a fairly new band, as was likely from the format of this recording. This is just their second release and their first one was a similarly short recording. Orcultus plays a style of black metal most similar to the Swedish style of the early 1990's. And being from Sweden themselves, that is not terribly shocking.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Oruga: Blackened Souls (2014)

As Our Age's Greatest Philosopher Said

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

Many philosophers and great thinkers have observed an earthly truth: without pain, pleasure is diminished; sadness makes happiness better; with loss, joy is enhanced. As Butthead once so succinctly put it: if things didn't suck nothing would be cool. The sludge and doom genres live or die in this dynamic. Most practitioners beat the living tar out of listeners. Too much of this tends to suck. The best also briefly lift the listeners back to great heights, only to beat the tar out of them again. Oruga are French practitioners of the genre and Blackened Souls is their debut long play.

Oruga get this yin and yang dynamic correct right off the bat. Blackened Souls is a great sludge doom title and a good way to describe the bottom while retaining the heights to which most in the genre aspire.* The bottom is HEAVY. It's mostly mid-paced to slow, enhancing the thunder. The vocals here are growled but not in a whiny way, and the singer is almost understandable. He has an Anselmo-like quality to his vocals. Moments of attempted melody with the vocals in that context are not great but constitute a minimal detraction. Sometimes they work ("Cursed"), sometimes they don't ("Discrip").

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dark Americana Briefs, Volume 15

Darker Than Metal

More dark Americana. I hope you enjoy.

Jeff Zentner: The Dying Days of Summer (2009)
3.5 out of 5 stars

Pure country music doesn't often pique my interest, but then again, Jeff Zentner doesn't play a typical country style. The Dying Days of Summer is soft, quiet, and gentle. Despite its lack of violence it's still extremely dark and deeply sad. And not in a stereotypical "My wife left me and my dog's dead" way. It's mostly acoustic guitar and male vocals, but other sounds do assist on the dynamic front (female vocals, mandolin, etc.). Unfortunately, the complete lack of percussion and the extensive length of the record (64 minutes) make it a lot more challenging than it needs to be, and I'm not quite sure the payoff is enough.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Vintersorg: Naturbål (2014)

The Swedish Say "Naturbål," We Say "Going Commando"

Review by Patrick, proprietor of Beards, Etc.

This June brings us the newest release from Swedish progressive Viking metallers Vintersorg. Originally a solo project for Andreas Hedlund (who some may know from Borknagar or Otyg) Vintersorg has existed for many years as a duo, with Hedlund joined by his Otyg bandmate Mattias Marklund. Naturbål is the 9th full-length release from the band.

Vintersorg's music has long occupied the lighter, more progressive end of the Viking metal spectrum, and this album continues that trend. The music is generally smooth and melodic, with plenty of synthesized folk instrumentation. As with most bands in this vein, the material has a black metal core, but in their case it's not very prominent.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Tare: Ritual Degradation (EP 2014)

My Better Judgment?

You may have noticed that I have little regard for the physical objects that the cavemen of days past had to use to store recorded music. Maybe that's because I came of age during the era of the CD, the format with the least soul, or maybe because I pride myself on practicality. But as kitschy as it is, I do in fact have some nostalgia for cassettes, which call to mind my childhood, mowing the lawn, recording mix tapes to play in the half-'84, half-'86 Ford Ranger.

So it is that I'm reviewing the first cassette sent to me by a label, Tare's Ritual Degradation. Contrary to San Francisco's reputation generally, it seems to have a pretty healthy black metal underground, and this is clearly where Tare are coming from. On first liste, it seemed to be just old-school, pure black metal, with no artsy pretensions. In other words, it probably wouldn't have grabbed my attention, but for the physical object. I've gotten plenty of CDs in the mail, which end up immediately ripped onto my computer to play on the trusty iPod, but I couldn't do that here.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Godhunter/Anakim: Vulture's Wake / The Whimper of Whipped Dogs (2013)

Short but Sludgy

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Godhunter was covered here fairly recently and I discussed how it was nice to hear some real sludge metal again. Here we have the same Godhunter paired with fellow Tucson, AZ sludge metal group Anakim. This is an incredibly short split, presented in physical form on a 7" vinyl. Each band has just one song on the split, so it is a very quick introduction to the bands.

I covered Godhunter recently and came away very impressed. This track by the group is a bit more of a stoner doom-styled track with heavier riffs and a generally much more rock-oriented sound. "Vulture's Wake" is a surprisingly catchy track though the vocals are still a little bit too one-note. On just one song though that can be overlooked.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Prog Briefs 2014

No Aimless Noodling

I don't consider myself a fan of progressive rock, but I've managed to bring together a few records that caught my eye so far this year.

Crippled Black Phoenix: White Light Generator (2014)
4 out of 5 stars

This is another predictably great release from the British progressive rock masters. As per usual, they do it Pink Floyd style with doses of all kinds of rock and some country/Americana/whatever else thrown in (mandolin, brass, yes indeed). This isn't my favorite from the band, but they've never released a bad record and they're not about to start.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cannabis Corpse/Ghoul: Splatterhash (2014)

(Insert Marijuana Pun Here, If You Think That's Funny)

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

Oh boy, this is quite the combination of bands to share a split. To be fair, I am actually not very familiar with Cannabis Corpse, but I am a big fan of Ghoul. Both bands are known for their outlandish lyrical content and their obsession with gore. The name of the split is a play on the album Splatterthrash by Ghoul. It of course references Cannabis Corpse's obsession with marijuana.

Cannabis Corpse kicks things off on the split. The band is a marijuana-based parody of Cannibal Corpse, which can probably be ascertained by the band's name. The band was created by Land Phil of crossover/thrash metal band Municipal Waste. He does do a fairly competent impression of Corpsegrinder Fisher. Many of the band's song names are direct knockoffs of Cannibal Corpse songs, such as "Inhalation Plague" from "Evisceration Plague". The references to Cannibal Corpse are pretty clear, though Cannabis Corpse does a pretty solid job of presenting their own style. The dual vocals are an impressive addition that is apparently new to the group these days. I have been previously reluctant to check out Cannabis Corpse. The fact that they were originally a parody band and their obsession with marijuana were turnoffs. However, the music is very strong death metal. I would be willing to give them another chance based on this.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Tombs: Savage Gold (2014)

Savage Expectations

It seems weird that Tombs was ever considered a genre-smashing band. Essentially they just got on the blackened sludge metal idea a little after Withered. But Wolvhammer, Lord Mantis, and Inter Arma have each had a high profile, so the novelty has worn off.

The genre-smashing hype aside, 2011's Path of Totality was vindication of the critics who predicted great things for Tombs. I wasn't one of those critics before, but I got on board then. Commenters on my blog were basically of the opinion that the band was unimpressive.*

As good as Path was compared to 2009's Winter Hours, and given the long gap between records, you'll forgive me if I expected a lot from Savage Gold. It is a great record, but unfortunately, it turns out to be mildly disappointing.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Godhunter: City of Dust (2014)

Old-School Sludge

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

It seems like I have been reviewing an awful lot of sludge lately. That is fine with me. When sludge is done right, it sounds incredible. The heavy riffs, gruff vocals, and angry lyrics are a combination that speaks to me, particularly after a long day at work dealing with clients. Unfortunately, over the years sludge has become bastardized into an almost radio-friendly style by the likes of Mastodon and Baroness. Don't get me wrong, I do enjoy Mastodon and Baroness at times, however their effect on the style has continued to be felt to this day and few bands play the style the way Crowbar, Acid Bath, and others played it. But we seem to be seeing a resurgence of sorts very recently with groups like Lord Dying and Godhunter.

Godhunter are a Tucson, AZ-based band that plays a style of sludge similar to that of Crowbar. The songs are frequently moderately-paced, with thundering riffs and angry, shouted vocals from singer David Rodgers. The songs do possess some progressive structures keeping things varied and interesting. Godhunter is not concerned with making things simplistic, but at the same time, the songs do not linger longer than they should. There is something to be said for that.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Babymetal: Babymetal (2014)

Only Chocolate Is Real

By now you've no doubt heard of Babymetal, the Japanese idol band that's somehow also a metal band fronted by adorable teenage girls in cutesy outfits. Isn't one of the driving ideas behind Metalocalypse the idea that extreme metal going mainstream would trigger the apocalypse? We might be there.

Anyway, like you, I first heard them and dismissed them. I didn't want to, because I'm a bit of an otaku-wannabe, but it's more polished than In Flames, and I can't stand my metal that polished. But over the last couple weeks I took in heavy doses of completely untrue music, like Powerman 5000, indie pop group LAKE, and a few other oddities. But it was the Babymetal tunes that I found myself humming throughout the day.

To appreciate it, you have to forget the idea that this is a metal band, even if the guys on the instruments came into it with some credibility. No, this is a meticulously crafted pop band, manufactured probably how Conan O'Brien did with Dudez-A-Plenti.* Elements are carefully selected and mashed together to make sure no one will ever get bored, and the hooks keep coming so no one will ever get the songs out of their heads.

"Megitsune" sets the stage with a pretty straight-forward example of the formula. There's tons of synths and there's a breakdown. "Gimme Chocolate!!" goes really J-pop before it throws in a guitar solo. "line!" sounds exactly like something out of Dance Dance Revolution, but with a hilarious rap break and a ridiculously heavy chug right after that, while "Uki Uki Midnight" does DDR with a dubstep part. This might lead a typical observer to note the many random genres thrown together, but a metalhead will identify even more. Most of it's a kind of generic modern metal, but there's old-school thrash ("Song 4"), some Static-X shenanigans ("Catch Me If You Can"), groove metal ("Onedari Daisakusen"), and djent mixed with Nightwish ("Rondo of Nightmare"). "Akatsuki" is basically indistinguishable from Rhapsody of Fire.

So, let's cut right to the quick. This is a novelty group, and even the metal parts that they appropriate aren't the kinds of metal that will get you underground cred.** But it's so addictive I think it's given me brain damage. That is, about five out of the thirteen songs are, and the rest is mostly filler. Those semi-sweet morsels keep me coming back just the same.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

* The boy band bonus feature on the Late Night with Conan O'Brien 10th Anniversary Special DVD might be the funniest thing I've ever seen. "No one should ever see your face."

** If you're still reading this page after finding out I like My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic, then I think I don't have to worry about that.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Ass to Mouth: Degenerate (2014)

This Band: Not the First Google Result

Review by Metallattorney. He is the law.

You just know what to expect with a name like "Ass to Mouth". Hint: it's not radio-friendly. It is not the kind of thing that is going to be heard on pop radio or MTV. It's going to be nasty, it's going to be extreme, and it's going to be very short.

It's grindcore of course, though not the overly noisy, chaotic type. There is a pretty obvious structure to the songs here and actual riffs. Ass to Mouth incorporate a lot more thrash metal elements into their particular brand of grind. Thrash riffs and shouted vocals are utilized frequently. What results is grindcore in which the vocals can actually be clearly understood and there is a coherent rhythm to the songs. That is pretty rare in this style.

Monday, June 02, 2014

The Witch: Black Flower Field (2014 EP)

Which Old Witch?

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

(Petite, French accent) "Whose motorcycle is this?"

"It's not a motorcycle, baby. It's a chopper." - Bruce Willis

In the law, things that may be similar are actually different and distinctions are important. The judges before whom we appear will strike down an argument with great vengeance if we are unable to distinguish our case from precedent. Opposing counsel will have furious anger against us for drawing such distinctions. But drawn they must be. Listening to the Witch's Black Flower Field EP evoked the above line from Pulp Fiction not least because the band open with another, different awesome quote from the movie. But also because I am tempted to say this sounds just like Mastodon. But distinctions I must draw . . .