Thursday, June 25, 2015

Aelter: IV: Love Eternal (2015)

Aelter is a side project of Wolvserpent guitarist/vocalist Blake Green, and on paper it seems like something I should really like. It's gothic, atmospheric rock made by someone who knows how to write really long songs that are enjoyable. And it's on Pesanta Urfolk, a label that's always fascinating even if not everything they release is great.

It's minimalistic, the vocals are good, and I can get behind the eerie guitar work. Unfortunately, IV: Love Eternal is a 40-minute plod that trudges along at the same sluggish pace, plodding toward Ploddington, the capital of Plodsylvania. You can barely tell where one song ends and another begins, and they all sound exactly the same.

The Verdict: 1 out of 5 stars

Pale Chalice: Negate the Infinite and Miraculous (2015)

It has been observed many times—including by me—that the term “black metal” has become increasingly vague over the years. Are we talking about atmospheric music? Something epic and woodsy? Artistic and weird? Blistering, cold, boneheaded?

Pale Chalice, though: They embody black metal as it is today. The combine the weird, epic artistry of bands like Agalloch with a blistering, concise approach to songwriting. Their riffs are fast, scary, and cold. But the leads are eerie and a little experimental. Not Negative Plane weird, but still thoroughly 2010’s in intent. And, indeed, many are memorable.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Jason W. Walton: Mara (2015)

After seeing Agalloch live last year, they instantly catapulted from being merely a band I like and respect to being one of my five favorite active bands. So of course I wanted to check out the bassist's solo project.

Jason W. Walton's Mara is purportedly about his experience with sleep paralysis, which by all accounts is a horrifying thing. Two short tracks go from one of a muted dread to an overwhelming horror. It captures my idea of sleep paralysis anyway.

It's still dark ambient, though, so it's not something I enjoyed in the same way I usually enjoy music. It was more of a cinematic/sensory experience, interesting as art but not something I'm going to revisit many times in the future.

The Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars

Listen here
Red Orchard Records

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Årabrot: You Bunch of Idiots (2015 EP)

I first heard Årabrot after they generated buzz for their 2011 album Solar Anus. I was flabbergasted—I’m sure that’s the only word for it. I kind of like to be flabbergasted. But unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed. Luckily, I gave them another go with their self-titled record two years later, and it snaked its way under my skin.

The You Bunch of Idiots EP is just what I hoped the Norwegian noise rock luminaries would do. Ballsy, heavy, irreverent punk rock that’s super weird and twice as catchy. Dynamically, it’s all over the map. Synths, heavy guitars, nasally vocals and growls, slow, fast, and wild. Female backing vocals in one spot. Just, great stuff.

Throw out the first track. It’s useless spoken word. But cherish the rest. It’s entertaining and powerful, bizarre and great.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Listen here

Monday, June 15, 2015

My Silent Wake: Damnatio Memoriae (2015)

I make a big deal about not caring what a band believes, professes, or puts into their lyrics. Nonetheless, I’m still pulling for Christian bands to make solid music, because sometimes I feel pretty lonely as a Christian in the metal world. To that end, I started watching My Silent Wake several years ago, but they fell off my radar for the past few releases.

Their latest effort, Damnatio Memoriae, begins as a refutation of the idea that Christians can’t make good metal. The record begins with a badass riff in the My Dying Bride mold, with simple synth backing and cool leads. The death growls take the forefront, making it echo early MDB. The following track, “Highwire,” shows some new tricks for the English band. An energetic bassline and a black metal riff reminiscent of Dornenreich, in both the rhythmic sense and the blending of open and muted chords. If you’ve ever heard Dornenreich, or you’ve read my opinions on the band, you know this is awesome. “Now It Destroys” follows that triumph with a more death metal-oriented track, reminding me of Hesper Payne, and using plenty of gnarly guitar squeals.

Friday, June 12, 2015

Coal Chamber: Rivals (2015)

Regression and Defense, Or: Nostalgia Is Big Business These Days

I've recently begun lifting weights with my neighbor on a regular basis. The stereotype these days is that dudes listen to Godsmack when they're lifting weights, and that's not far from the truth. You see, he likes a lot of the stuff I was listening to 12 or more years ago. We take turns in control of the music, but I'm conscious of what he wants to hear, so I only occasionally slip in some Amon Amarth or At the Gates. For the most part, it's like I'm listening to my music library as it existed in 2002. Would I rather be listening to Evoken while I lift? Yes, but revisiting Coal Chamber is fun, too.

Dez Fafara is the artist who grew up with me for a time, but he stopped growing a while ago. Now he's reunited with Coal Chamber (and put out the record on Napalm, no less), and it's like they haven't missed a step. You could mix the songs from Rivals together with the ones from Dark Days and you'd have a hard time figuring out which was which.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Psycroptic: Psycroptic (2015)

The last time I checked in with Kids These Days—and by that I mean, budding, young metalheads on the more well-traveled parts of the metal blogosphere—they were really into technical metal. That was a while ago, but it seemed like every other band MetalSucks was going on about was a technical death metal band. I went through a brief phase of this obsession myself in my late 20’s,* but then quickly got fed up with the seemingly endless throng of sound-alikes who could play their instruments like geniuses but weren’t fit to lick Cronos’s figurative songwriting boots. And the sterility of the prevailing sound was too much even for MRSA to thrive.

But there have been a few bright spots in the genre, the tetrad of Tasmanian technicians Psycroptic being one of them. Their sound is raw, genuine. And they write actual songs.** They’ve continued that proud tradition on their self-titled album.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

Black Witchery / Revenge: Holocaustic Death March to Humanity's Doom (2015)

Black Witchery is one of the finest bands in metal right now. What they play is furious, uncompromising black/death that can singe your ass hair all the way from their Floridian den, no matter how far away you manage to get. This is what some call bestial black metal, or war metal. As they say, war is not going to win any beauty pageants. and bestiality is something reserved for only a few enthusiasts.

In the thoroughly-titled Holocaustic Death March to Humanity's Doom, Black Witchery laid down three perfect examples of why they are so great. They haven't lost anything with the inclusion of a new guitarist. Their assault is a swift, relentless current of destruction.

The other half of this split is from Canada's Revenge.* I know Canada is the home turf of this style, but that doesn't mean America's evil pope hat is going to be home to the best. Revenge's take on the style is less a current than it is a repeated, graceless pummeling. Not an unfeeling, remorseless force of nature, but a consciously impolite motherfucker who just won't stop hitting you with a maple leaf-inlaid claw hammer. Which is fine, but it simply does not rise to the level of Black Witchery's excellence.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

*"Canada's Revenge" sounds like the diarrhea you get from drinking too much maple syrup.

Friday, June 05, 2015

Coffins: Perpetual Penance (Compilation 2015)

Regurgitated Guts, Japanese Style

Review by joanismylover, the third metal attorney.

My father is retired U.S. Air Force. From 1982 to 1985 our family served along side him in Tampa, Florida, at MacDill AFB. I spent the beginning of my "formative years" in the bloody sewage where death metal was just being [re]born. My buddy at Booker T. Washington 7th Grade school was - he claimed - good friends with Nasty Ronnie of Nasty Savage. I probably bumped into Chuck Schuldiner at the Brandon Mall, sneaking in to see Heavy Metal. I'm pretty sure my other buddy was the artist for Cannibal Corpse.* The colossal hole that is Tampa - Morrisound studios and all - is death metal, for all intents and purposes. But then the wretched path** of the USAF took us to Misawa AFB in Aomori Ken, Japan, where we served from 1985 to 1988.

Japan was not then or now known as a death metal hotbed. And yet - get drowned in [this] revelation - the Japanese have an uncanny ability to make inventions of the gaijin*** better. Cows are not native to Japan and yet, the steaks I had in Japan were some of the best I ever tasted. Automobiles were invented here in 'merica. What is the country of origin of your car? Here comes perdition - what is the best neck snapping death metal band for the last ten years? Japan's COFFINS, of course. Next week will see the release of Perpetual Penance, a compilation double CD that drops just about every split, single, flexi this prolific band has done from its inception til the dawn of doomsday. 16 songs, one hour and 37 minutes, 246.4 MB of Coffins. There are three - yes three - versions of "Grotesque Messiah" on this thing. A live version of "Under the Stench." All the axes of vengeance are present on this hellbringer. Do you really need all of this Coffins?

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

False: untitled (2015)

False is serious black metal. This Minneapolis band isn't playing riffs to make you bang your head and lose your shit. You couldn't possibly keep up, anyway. No, they're playing epic hymns to something untoward, something that experiences time and space more fully than we do.

On their 2015 untitled full-length, the pace is almost entirely fast. It's played and produced in such a way that it's difficult to parse the details. I would place them mostly in the same category as Ash Borer, with their long track lengths and uncompromising nature. False have a heavier sound, though. And they use synths provide a subtle backdrop and add plenty of drama--not that they're needed when these tunes are already building tension constantly.

They have a singular vision, and they achieve it at every moment on the record. Thus, there's not much more to say about it except that it's excellent.

The Verdict: 4.5 out of 5 stars