Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Die Choking: Die Choking and II (2014)

Die Choking is a fucking great name for a band. It's short, brutal, and imperative. Not just Someone Should Maybe Die of Asphyxiation At Some Point, but Die Choking. That means you, and it means now.

A more fitting moniker there never was.

Die Choking and II are the band's first two EPs, both released last year and both clocking in around six minutes. They are manically fast, with song lengths only occasionally 90 seconds long. There are enough riffs in either EP to easily fill a twenty-minute record, but the jackhammer delivery is a much more exciting way to experience it.

The tunes combine grind, hardcore, crust, and death metal and even though they fly by at dizzying speed you can still groove to them--sometimes. When they're not beating the back of your skull with a commercial-grade cheese grater, anyway. And they do slow it down a little, in places, but it's not like they ever get genuinely slow. It's more like fast, faster, and balls-in-a-lawnmower.

The Verdict:
Die Choking: 4 out of 5 stars
II: 4.5 out of 5 stars

This bodes well for their upcoming full-length III, due October 22. You can already hear it now, though.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Skepticism: Ordeal (2015)

Updated 7/27 with music clip

Skepticism was one of the first funeral doom bands, and they’re still going strong. If you don’t have the patience for it, move on. But if you’re into it, you’ll definitely want to check out Ordeal.

I think most people instinctively believe it takes a lot of skill to play fast, but not to play slow. I think that’s dead wrong. If you’re playing fast, you don’t need to keep a consistent tempo to sound good. Just listen to early Venom. But playing slow—funeral doom slow—takes an enormous measure of restraint and patience, and a steady heartbeat. As if to punctuate just how skilled they are, Skepticism opted to record their fifth full-length album live in front of an audience. For 78 incredible minutes, they maintain the pace and the mood. Point taken: These Finns are amazing.

So, fifth album—about that: Twenty-four years active with a remarkably consistent lineup, and only five albums. That’s the result of brutally high standards. (Check the ratings on their Metal Archives page if you don’t believe me.) Those standards have not let up in the slightest here.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Steve Von Till: A Life Unto Itself (2015)

It’s been a while since I’ve talked about any dark Americana music. But a new Steve Von Till isn’t something I could just ignore, is it?

The record again finds our man in the pattern of playing a few acoustic guitar chords, singing a line, playing a chord, singing a line, and playing a few more chords. He doesn’t really play and sing at the same time, which is a perfectly acceptable way to approach this kind of music. However, sticking to that pattern the whole record, and playing everything at the same pace for a full 45 minutes, might bother some listeners.

Thankfully, other dynamic elements are here to save it from becoming too monotonous. Beautifully morose fiddle and percussion weave into “A Language of Blood,” while elsewhere you can hear synths, piano, and even a few heavy, distorted guitar riffs.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Perversor: Anticosmocrator (2015)

Perversor is a Chilean band who play bestial black metal. It’s brutal, ugly, and uncompromising. I must be a sucker for this kind of stuff, because it seems I never hear one that I don’t like—but then again, I mostly listen to the ones that come out on Hells Headbangers, and if any label knows their shit, it’s them.

I couldn’t tell you what sets them apart from similar acts, but I can tell you Anticosmocrator is good. The thing that stands out to me is their use of tempo shifts to prevent the music from becoming an undifferentiated mass. Sort of like the lurch-and-stumble of doom, but it’s more of a stutter-and-attack in this case.

It’s not for the faint of heart. So enjoy.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Goatsnake: Black Age Blues (2015)

Hey, Yeah

For the uninitiated, Goatsnake are minor legends of doom metal. If you need to know their philosophy, the liner notes to one of their records list all their gear (only the best) alongside Black Sabbath riffs. In other words, they are unapologetically old-school.

Well, it’s been eleven years since they’ve released any new material, and even though Metal Archives says they’ve been active for all the years since 2004, I think that’s an overstatement. Playing a show here and there isn’t “active” in the same sense that you and I would use the word. In a sense, this is a long-awaited reunion.

And how does it sound? This is not the depressing doom I usually gravitate toward. Instead, it's practically upbeat, and catchy, with a Southern flair (despite their geographic origin). The wonderful "Coffee & Whiskey" sums things up nicely, the chorus, "Coffee whiskey, 'til the cows are coming home" and the riffs practically drawling under energetic solos. Even the pounding "Graves," with that ill-boding title and "Steal the light from the sun" doesn't trip my dark mood; it puts a smile on my face and involuntarily bangs my head for me.

Clean, manly vocals over catchy doom metal riffs. That’s all you need. But nice added touches lie in the harmonica of “Elevated Man,” the Hendrix-esque “Hey, yeah” emphasis points on “Jimi’s Gone,” and gospel-inspired female backing vocals (appropriately by a group called Dem Preacher's Daughters).

Don't miss this one.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Bonus Feature! I drew a goatsnake:

Marginal: Chaos and Anarchy (2015)

More Violence, Please.

In which joanismylover demands a higher fee

I like surprises. Good surprises. I do not like to be surprised with a last minute filing or an unexpected witness at trial. But I do like to be surprised when I check the docket to find another related case that the plaintiff's attorney has not told me about. I like to be surprised that opposing counsel has the gumption - the balls - to lie to a judge with a straight face and claim then he deserves to be compensated at $838 in part based on that lie. That was surprising and gave me a great opening to shove it down his throat. In a nice way, of course.

Marginal surprised me here like the above-referenced wannabe high-rolling liar of an attorney. In a good way. This release is being physically released in Portugal and the metal folks there are in for a treat. Grind and punk crust meld here in a 23 minute death crust package that "stops the bullshit" and eradicates from the world bands like Powerwolf. (No, I won't let it go). Short and to the point is this record and all of the songs. Listen to the first three songs (about 5 minutes) and if you are not feeling the urge to throw yourself into the nearest person, move on. But if you are slamming and banging your lawyerly head to the "sign of the times" then consider yourself admitted to the bar. The bar of death crust.

All of the tracks are are awesome, bar none. But the highlights are definitely "Stop the Bullshit", "Eradicate the World" and "More Violence". Not much else to be said here, except that if I could command an hourly fee of $838 - and I could bill for every time I thought - "I should be writing more reviews - I'll do Marginal next" - and if I was good at math* - I'd estimate that FMA owes me about $765,436.00. Is anyone really surprised?

4 out of 5 stars.


*I'm not.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

King Diamond and Slayer at Stir Cove, July 7, 2015

I don't know why I debated with myself over going to this one, because, King Diamond. If you've read this page at all over the years, you know I'm a Kind Diamond fanboy and I have been for a very long time. OK, I do know: I didn't exactly want to support the Mayhem Festival, regardless of how great the headliners are.

The show was in Council Bluffs, Iowa (just across the river from Omaha), and, being a smaller venue for the tour, the Victory Records stage was absent from this stop. Not that I would have gone to that anyway, and its absence made the tickets considerably cheaper.

Anyway, giving The Devil Wears Prada a miss, I arrived just before HellYeah's set. There's still evidence online that I was once a Mudvayne fan, and I'm not going to deny that I still enjoy listening to a song or two off L.D. 50, but I was not expecting a lot from these guys. Despite some melodramatic "metal saved my life" hyperbole in his stage banter, they put on a good, high-energy show. Who knew? I mean, the music wasn't good, but they knew how to perform.

Then, over at the King Diamond merch table, I met this crazy motherfucker who's at least one tooth short and clearly has unimpeachable taste in music. I picked up a KD patch, and was found by the elusive Metallattorney there with his awesome wife. (She was there reading A Game of Thrones, and apparently threatening to drag him to see Foreigner soon.) After catching up with my law school cohort, I got in as close as I could to the stage to wait for the King.

Their set was awesome. Instrumentally, every one of them was at the top of his game, and the drums hammered hard and loud. Listening on record you can get caught up in the guitar riffs and vocal melodies, and you might miss how punishing the percussion actually is. Live, you can't miss that. King himself I had trouble hearing at first, but soon he was at the top of his game, too. In fact, his vocals were chilling, and only a few times toward the end did he start flagging in some of his lower-high-range. Very impressive, especially considering his age.

Some of the song choices were a little odd. I definitely would not consider "The Family Ghost" to be one of his better tunes, not even one of the best on that album, but they played it. and they didn't play "Abigail" or anything from The Puppet Master either. The highlight for me was the Mercyful Fate tunes, especially "Evil." I lost my shit for that one, singing along to every word, and I dare say a whole lot of other people there lost their shit, too.

The stage show was pretty fun. He brought up "Grandma" (in a rubber mask) and "Miriam" was there, too, "Abigail" showing as a preggo belly under her dress. King's grimace was there in full force, but I was a little surprised at the minimal stage banter. Given the average age of the band, I wouldn't call it surprising to see how slowly they moved around, but I still felt like they were capable of pouring more energy into the show than they did. Which isn't to say they didn't sound perfect, because they did. But, you know, it wasn't exactly like watching Converge.

After King left the stage, I discussed the crowd with Metallattorney and his wife. We spotted a dude in a Hellhammer shirt, a few Obituary shirts, and the ones you'd expect (Slayer, Metallica, Slipknot) plus a few oddities (Nirvana and Red Hot Chili Peppers, oddly enough). The crowd included at least one 3-year-old with a mohawk (and a mom in a Sixx A.M. shirt) and a lot of 50+ dudes, along with every age in between.

I needed something to drink, so I passed up the $8 domestic swill and grabbed a free Rockstar energy drink. I was able to take about four swallows before throwing it out. Not that the taste is horrible, but when you're not 14 anymore you can't drink that sugar crap. Then it was time for Slayer.

Now, ostensibly King Diamond and Slayer were co-headliners, but that's just the way it is on paper. In reality, Slayer plays last and they have pyrotechnics and a much bigger light show.

Tom Araya looked awesome with a full beard, and Kerry King looked exactly like he always has. And they played perfectly, running through a bunch of late-catalog favorites to begin with. But once again, I was a little disappointed at how they didn't seem very animated. Kerry was banging his head just like you'd think, but for the most part, it seemed like someone bolted their feet to the floor. Tom could have gone to the casino and been replaced by a statue and a recording, for all I know. Almost zero stage banter, too. (Man, these guys need to go see an Opeth show. Or maybe they've just found over the years that they're not charming enough to pull it off?)

Still, it was an amazing spectacle, and it sounded fantastic. There was a sizable pit, but outside the pit I was disappointed in my fellow fans. When they finally played the classics, I found myself pretty much alone in shouting along to "South of Heaven" and the big finale ("Angel of Death," of course). Most of the time when I go to a show, I have plenty of opportunities to take a picture of hundreds of people raising the horns and going nuts, but as you can see, that didn't happen. Most of the people there were merely spectators, and I've got to say, as a metalhead, that's unacceptable.

All in all, I'm very happy I went. The very next day, King went on for a full show without his makeup for the first time in over 30 years of performing, due to an eye infection, but I got to see the real deal. And who knows, I might never get another chance within a reasonable driving distance.

Oh, and one last thing to you dumbasses who think it's a good idea to smoke pot at a show: I hope it was worth being escorted out. Keep that shit to yourself next time.

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

The 7th Day of July, 2015

I'm going on a King Diamond marathon today. You should, too, because it's the 7th day of Julyyyyyyy!

I'll also be seeing the King today, and Slayer. I'm going to try to show up late enough to miss almost everything else at the Mayhem fest.

Now, Grandma is calling, so I've gotta go.

Thursday, July 02, 2015

Graveyard Shifters: High Heels and Broken Bones (2015)

Remember that feeling of pure joy that you felt the first time you heard Kvelertak? Graveyard Shifters give me that same kind of feeling.

The songwriting is infectious, and their enthusiasm for the music comes through in the performance. It sounds great, and it's almost impossible not to love.

I mean, how can you not love an album with a song called "Beerserker"?

Like Kvelertak, they play high-energy, irreverent metalpunk. Gang vocals and guitar solos coexisting in the same space, and hooks, hooks, hooks. Finland's Graveyard Shifters are a little different: There's no kitchen sink philosophy going on here, so there's no black metal and Southern rock thrown in. At first, I thought that was a shame. But then I thought better of it, because that's almost impossible to do well. The other major difference is that these beerserkers sing mostly in English, so it's easier to join in and sing along if you want. You will want.

Don't miss this one.

The Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Demon Lung: A Dracula (2015)

When I read the title A Dracula I couldn't help but chuckle. Any time someone refers to vampires as draculas, yeah, that's an old joke by now, but sometimes the best jokes are properly aged. I don't suspect they meant it as a joke here, but it is a joke.

Yes, it's time again for my quarterly female-fronted doom metal review. I don't plan it that way, but that's pretty much the rate that I'm listening to them.

Demon Lung have a great sound. It's raw, fuzzy, heavy, and I'm pretty sure everything is analog. That's the way it should be. Vocalist Shanda Fredrick employs a witchy style that's not terribly unusual, but fits the music well.

A Dracula starts out fantastically. After a silly intro track, "Behold, the Daughter" comes in with a crushing riff that's actually fast, contrasting with the slow vocal melody. The tune eventually slows down, setting the slower pace that prevails through most of the record. The next few cuts are solid, too. "Gypsy Curse" has a catchy vocal hook and nice, driving bridge.

The second half of the album is more of the same, but nothing after that point jumps out at me. It's perfectly listenable and enjoyable, though, so it could well be worth your time.

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars