Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Moribond - The Wild Ride Demo (2011)

Band: Moribond
Country: Québec, Canada/Aurora, Illinois
Style: Doom Metal
Label: Depressive Illusions Records

Since my review of Heirdrain's last full-length, I've actually been in contact with him every once in a while. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with this little demo of one of his new projects, but why not give it a shot. I haven't listened to all that many doom metal demos, so I was open for it.
I wasn't really sure about how this album was going to come across, since Heirdrain only performs vocals on here, with Kevin Burke handling the instrumentation. Surprisingly, this is very solid stuff for a demo, and it really impressed me. Within the title-track, The Wild Ride, there lies a lot of interesting ideas, while most of the track lies in a psychedelic doom style, the bridge really opens up into this stoner rock part, something that continues throughout the album. In fact, Wheel of Life is actually a pretty driving song compared to the other two on here and definitely had it's fare share of great melodies. When it comes to Heirdrain's vocals on these songs, I can honestly say that his performance was understated. It's not bad, his vocals are done in a more black metal rasp sort of way, but they are much lower in the mix.
In all honesty, this really blew me away, I did not expect so much out of this and it definitely grabbed me for it's entirety. Now, it's not mind-blowing, but the songwriting and riffing is very well written and structured. Definitely look into this if you like more stoner influenced doom metal.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Love Piece

Battle Path - Storm & Stress (2011)

Band: Battle Path
Country: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
Style: Atmospheric Sludge/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

This is one of the hardest albums to find info about that I've come across in a while. I'm still not completely sure if this band is even called Battle Path, cause I've seen these guys titled as Black Majesty as well. But I've heard that this is pretty cool sounding so I figured I'd forgo the formalities and just give it a chance.
When someone comes into a doom metal album, just by the genre name alone, it should be fairly obvious what you're getting into. Granted, there's always exceptions and each band does have their own take, whether original or not, on the sound and thus there are sub-genres within doom. But when you get the label as just "doom metal," this is the type of record that comes to mind for me. It's heavy, slow, and slightly long-winded, not that that's ever something to really complain about with the genre. There's also that trademark post-metal element in here that's becoming quite the common place in doom these days.
I wasn't completely sure how "post" this album was going to be, because the atmospheric sludge tag really just another word for "post-metal" today, for the most part, but I was surprised for how much there actually was on here. In all honesty, had I not already been exposed to great debut records from the likes of Bloodiest or Light Bearer, this might have impressed me a lot more than it did. It's not that this is a bad record, but I feel like I've heard it before, done better by other bands, and that it really doesn't bring a whole lot to the table that I haven't seen before. I'm not saying that I disliked any of this, tracks like Damn The Skyline and Age of Delusion are great, groovy songs, but I've heard them done before. Even the whole interlude thing, where one interlude separates each "real" track on here, isn't really all that special.
At any rate, I'd never call this bad or a disappointment, just above average for me. I'm sure people will claim that I'm just full of it for not recognizing the "originality" or "uniqueness" of this band, but whatever, it didn't do much for me. I'd still say that if you like the whole post-metal, doom metal thing to go ahead and give this a shot.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Damn The Skyline, A Thousand Years

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Profundae Libidines - Evangelium Secundum Matthaeum (2011)

Band: Profundae Libidines
Country: Paris, France
Style: Black Metal
Label: Independent

Raw black metal from one of the countries releasing some of the best black metal in recent memory, for myself. I really haven't heard all that much about this album, it's pretty obscure from what I understand. Why not look into something obscure once in a while?
After a rather pointless and odd sounding intro, this thing just opened in a way that for some reason I never considered it to, for some reason. Being so raw, not noisy in the black noise genre sort of way, but more, early black metal way, I was surprised. Obvious nods towards Darkthrone, Immortal, Arckanum, and Mayhem can all be found throughout this album. It's a sound that has been done to death, but sounds very lively here, even with a rather poor drum machine sound, with tracks like Matthaeum 5 - (Le Vrai Bonheur) just bringing that early sound a breath of life. You won't find a whole lot of surprises on here, I personally found it a nice tribute to most early 90s black metal records, you have the raw production, some more atmospheric parts, symphonic keys pop in sometimes, and a rather straightforward songwriting style. It's not very original, but it's a fitting tribute.
Like I said above, there's relatively little info on this project out there, but I have seen that people have at least enjoyed the vocals. The range displayed is indeed very impressive, you have everything from Immoral-esque raspy vocals to the more depressive sounding howls and even some extremely weird baritone singing and guttural death metal growls, all of which comes off sounding really off the wall. Combine that with the more avant-garde take on the sounds above on a track like Matthaeum 27 - (Jésus Est Condamné A Mort), which definitely comes off sounding like Pensées Nocturnes, this thing can get a little bizarre. The latter half of the album also makes use of a lot more bass, which funnily enough, I found a lot more interesting to listen to than the guitar.
Definitely a lot more of an oddball than what I had expected it to be, and what it made itself out to be in it's first half. The raw production is a bit off putting if you like more modern albums, but if you can handle the old-school stuff, I don't see why you couldn't get into this. Check it out if you like weird sounding, raw black metal.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Matthaeum 5 - (La Mission Des Douze), Matthaeum 26 - (Pierre Renie Jésus), Matthaeum 27 - (La Mort De Jésus)

Stellar Master Elite - I (2011)

Band: Stellar Master Elite
Country: Trier, Germany
Style: Black Metal
Label: Independent

I'm sure people who just browse around this blog will see that I review a lot of black metal, if only because I am more preferable towards it than other genres. The reason I bring this up is simply due to the fact that while there's a lot of different stuff out there, black metal in almost any form has the potential to at least interest me. This debut from this German outfit caught my attention when it was sent to me.
A lot of modern traditionalist black metal doesn't really do much for me and the whole blackened death metal thing, or deathy black metal, never really appealed to me beyond a few bands. I've stated in the past I love a good thrash metal riff just as much as the next guy, but I'm not a thrash guy, though a solid helping of blackened thrash is always a treat for me. Why do I mention this in here? Well, you'll find bits of all of that in here, a big helping of blackened thrash interspersed with some more melodic death metal and industrial elements being tossed in as well. Now, in spite of all that I said above, which I'm sure would make you assume I'm not a fan of this, I actually really enjoyed this record.
This six song album just moves along at a great pace, with a nice amount of diversity demonstrated throughout. You have faster songs, The Circle, but also some more mid-paced tracks like Elyon, as well as the more doomy track Ain Soph. There's just a lot to really like about this, it isn't one dimensional. Like I said above, the genres that I'm not into, they're presence is definitely felt on here, more so in the faster tracks mind you, but I don't think it irritated or bored me, like a lot of other bands coming from those scene do, which is obviously a plus in my book. I'm actually a little shocked by how well put together this is, for a debut, it's really well constructed and performed. I think it's a little weird that Prelude II is the closer, when it to me it sounds like it would've gone over as an intro, but that's just me. Personally, if I had to gripe on it, I'd say the production sounds a little bit too clean for my personal taste, but that's only a minor criticism for this record.
It's records like this that keep independent bands exciting for me, every once in a while you'll stumble across something interesting. While it's not an original sound, yet, these guys are definitely onto something and I can't wait to see where they go in the future. Check this out if you like some varied sounding black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Vortex Void, Ain Soph

Monday, August 29, 2011

Aliases - Safer Than Reality EP (2011)

Band: Aliases
Country: Manchester, UK
Style: Tech Metal/Metalcore
Label: Basick Records

Though a relatively new act, Aliases has gained a lot of hype due to being the new band of former tech-metal masters Sikth, Graham ‘Pin’ Pinney. There's been a lot anticipation for this release since the first track was released. Surprisingly, the reactions have been a little more middle of the road than I anticipated, so I naturally became even more interested in this than I probably would have been otherwise.
Now, as soon as We Never Should Have Met was released to the internet about a year or so ago, there's been a huge clamor over this band, being the band to really carry on the legacy of Sikth. So does this little album live up to the hype, to all the excitement and anticipation? For the most part, if you're a Sikth fan, you shouldn't be disappointed with this, but I found it to be lacking in a few areas. This is pretty much Sikth-lite to me, it's much less quirky, both musically and vocally, though the latter was to be expected, which is kind of a let down; but don't get me wrong, when I say quirky, don't mistake me for meaning not technical, not performed at frantic paces, and not well played, because it's all that, but it just doesn't have the same air of oddity that his Pinney's previous band had. Tracks like What's Left For Us? and Sirens don't really do anything all that different from what Sikth was doing at their most straightforward, but it rarely moves into the same same sense of just mind-bending riffery that Sikth was able to. I have to commend the rhythm section on here for definitely standing out and bringing a lot of character to these songs though.
I am aware that the Sikth comparisons are numerous in this review and that this is a different band, but I feel like this is a pretty safe release, as nothing is really quite as out of the box as I would have liked it to be. Make no mistake, I liked this album, I just felt that it was a bit generic and a bit rushed. Check it out if you like technical metal or a more progressive take on metalcore.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Reality of Beliefs, All That Glitters Is Gold

No Made Sense - New Season/New Blues (2011)

Band: No Made Sense
Country: Reading, UK
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Independent

I, as I'm sure a lot of others, found No Made Sense through the blossoming, and yet withering, sub-genre of djent. Granted, this trio was certainly not as closely related to that genre as a lot of other groups, but they did make use of that Meshuggah influence. This new album sees the band taking a step back from a more complex concept, that was their debut, for more songwriting props.
I'll just say to clarify what I meant above, though these guys are lumped in with the whole "djent" scene, these guys have a lot more influences coming from bands like Isis, Neurosis, and Mastodon than from Meshuggah. The influences that come together on here bring the band into a more progressive-ish post-metal sort of sound, not to say you won't find a djenty riff here or there throughout this album though, Silence. But while I'm pretty impartial towards a lot of newer bands from that scene, djent I mean, I am more partial towards the first handful of artists that I found, some of whom haven't even released debuts yet, over newer projects/bands, but this band definitely showed me how much potential some of these bands have if given time to evolve. What I like about this though is how raw and unpolished this thing sounds, unlike most djenty bands who honestly have machine-quality, super polished albums, this is very minimal and unpolished, with it really sounding like the trio is just playing this stuff, for the most part anyway. The bass is also very audible in this mix, always being clear enough to be made out and providing more than just low-end rumble under the guitars, hear Lying On My Own for an example.
But I think the biggest improvement from their debut is the focus of more songs as oppose to an overlying concept. Shorter songs like Four or You Might As Well demonstrate a much more concise form of songwriting that really wasn't all that developed on their debut, but is much more impressive on here. I'll admit, shorter songs don't inspire very much in terms of progressive playing, as they are more straightforward and to the point, but they provide many more hooks. The vocals on here, maybe it's because I never listened all that closely to them on the debut, but on here, I was blown away by their diversity. Sure, you have the more crusty bellows that are typically associated with post-metal, but it was when the cleans that I had to double-take, a track like I've Not Been shows off some really high wails that definitely recall some almost post-hardcore vocalists, a little bit of Glassjaw's Daryl Palumbo came to mind.
I was really blown away with this album, I did not expect it to be as original and well written as it is. I'm sure a lot of people are going to disagree and hate what I'm going to say next but, in all honesty, watch out Mastodon, these guys might just surpass you if you don't keep an eye on them. Check this out if you like post-metal with a lot of diversity.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: No Gain From Seeking, Silence, Sleep

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Corpus Christii - Luciferian Frequencies (2011)

Band: Corpus Christii
Country: Lisboa, Portugal
Style: Black Metal
Label: Candlelight Records

Portugal is a country who's metal scene I'm not too familiar with, to be brutally honest. Sure, I think most metal fans at least know of Moonspell, which has to be one of most well known groups to come from Portugal, but they're far from being as underground as these guys. Having been around for surprisingly over a decade already, I'm a little shocked more people don't recognize them.
Though I've certainly listened to my fair share of their albums, I can't say that I've enjoyed one of their releases as much as this one. Where previous albums weren't so much bad as much as I personally felt they kind of dwelled on a single idea too often, with my last favorite being 2001's "The Fire God" album, this new album really moves around and explores different sounds and tempos a lot more often. I also, surprisingly enough, found a wide spectrum of vocals, from the usual raspy screams and howls to almost breathy, clean vocals, Crystal Glaze Foundation. Granted, this is still a black metal album, you will have blast-beats, tremolo picking, and a brooding atmosphere hiding behind it all, so it's not like these guys have gone off the deep end and done something too out-there.
What I think makes this release stand out for me, is the much improved sense of songwriting. No long do I feel like I'm seeing glimpses of good songs that just end or go nowhere; instead, what can be found on here is a blend of traditional black metal intensity mixed with a lot more melodic songwriting craft. A song like Paths of Human Puzzles definitely highlights the band's evolution from more straightforward, black metal into a much more identifiable groups by exhibiting plenty of variety within it's four minutes. Having said all that, this isn't really a diverse album, as most of the sounds heard on here have been heard before in black metal before, so there really aren't any surprises on here if you're looking for something original.
Definitely the band's strongest effort yet, in my opinion of course. I'm certain people will disagree, but I personally see this album as a major improvement from the previous couple. Definitely look into this band if you like more melodic sounding black metal.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Styx Reflection, Deliverer of Light, Be Dark Thy Light

Craft - Void (2011)

Band: Craft
Country: Dalecarlia, Sweden
Style: Black Metal
Label: Carnal Records/Southern Lord

If only because of the name of their 2005 album, "Fuck The Universe," it was only a matter of time that I would become a fan of Craft. The strict take on black metal that was crusty and aggressive, isn't usually my thing, but the attitude just drew me in. It's been only a few years for me, but the six years between this and "Fuck..." has probably been a much more tiring wait for long-time fans.
If there's one thing I've come to like about Craft, it's their consistency among records. Previous records, in comparison to this one, really aren't all that different from each other, they're all pretty thrashy and raw sounding but with enough melody to keep a song interesting and memorable. These guys are still just as crude and angst filled as ever, which is a plus in my eyes, hence a song called I Want to Commit Murder. This record really isn't all that different in that regard, since all those elements can be found on here as well, but you'll notice a clearer sound, not polished, but definitely a lot more clear than previous releases.
Songs on here are still pretty streamlined and straightforward, you won't find a lot of deviations from a traditional black metal sound, but if you are, why are you listening to Craft. If you're listening to this record, you should know what you're in for, this is not going to go into weird, moody sections, jazz-influenced interludes, and clean singing, this is Craft, the same band that made "Fuck The Universe" and "Total Soul Rape," they're not here to be different, they're here to blast you into the ground with their brand of hateful black metal. Songs like Serpent Soul and Succumb to Sin just bleed their unique brand of hate, and it's great. It's not until Bring On The Clouds and the title-track, Void, where the band start slowing things down and, surprisingly, bringing in a lot more atmosphere.
It's a Craft record, for better or for worse, I knew what to expect, and it actually surprised me. While it's certainly not an original record, I still love what these guys do, and this record might just be my favorite given more time. Definitely check out this band if you like riff-based black metal that's pretty raw and primal sounding.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Come Resonance of Doom, I Want to Commit Murder, Void

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Njiqahdda - ...And One By One Crept Silently to Rest EP (2011)

Band: Njiqahdda
Country: Illinois
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: EEE Recordings

This one's been coming for a little while, or at least since I found out about it. Though it's been a little while coming, from posting issues if I understood correctly, it should definitely be worth it. I have very little info coming into this besides a vague sound description by the band, but let's just say I was excited for this.
Instead of moving into the more melodic and symphonic further, the duo known as Njiqahdda decided to continue on the path explored on their most recent full-length, "The Path of Liberation From Life and Death." If you're unfamiliar with that, this record would prove as a good catch up for you, cause it treads similar lines that that record crossed, technical guitar work, abstract patterns, and constantly shifting atmospheres. Having said that, this little EP demonstrates the duo including something new into their sound as well. Both in the title-track, ...And One By One Crept Silently to Rest, and Agni, you have the band making use of more industrial elements as well as the occasional vocoder vocal effect as well. If you thought a technical album was a tough listen, this one may prove even harder, despite being much shorter.
This probably isn't my favorite release from the band, if only because it is just a snapshot compared to even previous EPs, I still see this as a step forward. Both tracks on here definitely show the duo expanding their sound even further and pushing themselves into newer realms that, at least I hope, they explore in the future. Definitely check this EP out, as well as their last full-length, to really appreciate this band's more progressive side.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: ...And One By One Crept Silently to Rest

Talanas - The Waspkeeper (2011)

Band: Talanas
Country: London, UK
Style: Progressive Death Metal
Label: Eulogy Media

Talanas was a band that definitely caught my attention last year when I heard their debut EP. That EP wound up in my top 10 EPs of last year, so I was definitely anticipating this album. I was excited to hear how the band had progressed in such a short amount of time.
To refresh any one's memory on what last year's "Reason & Abstract" EP sounded like, it was a very fresh take that melded elements of Meshuggah, Emperor and Ihsahn, Opeth, and Necrophagist elements all together in a rather fresh, but unrefined way. This full-length sees the band taking those elements into a much more original direction, one that has drawn one comparison, Akercocke, Penetralium stuck out the most to me in that regard. Honestly, I'm not the biggest Akercocke fan, so I don't know how exact the comparison is, but from the few songs I've heard from them, there is a definite similarity between the two. You'll find a similar atmosphere of almost classical nature throughout, but extremely dark as well. There's also a sense of moving around extreme metal without sticking to a singular style, you'll find death, black, doom, thrash, and progressive all intermingling with each other on here, making it hard to really categorize this.
You'll find each song on here is well crafted and put together, hear songs like Elsewhere, But For The Giving, showing a range of dynamics that these guys can work in. In all honesty, not all the tracks on here are great, some of them feel a little dull, opener, Ananta (The Portrait), did feel a bit like it was just running in a circle and didn't really go anywhere, but a track like The Ecstasy of Betrayal was totally a great song and really moved around while throwing all sorts of different sounds at you. Personally, I really love the clean vocals on here, they're really distinguishable from other bands, and they're in a lower register, which is nice to hear since most vocalists are more in the tenor range than bass. I'd love to hear some more guttural growling surprisingly, when it was used, it really accented the parts, but that's just a personal preference.
It's a nice album, if a bit inconsistent, but there are definitely more pluses than negatives on here. I'd love to see these guys hone in on their songwriting more now that they've really started to get an original sound. Definitely look into this if you like extreme metal with a lot of clean vocals.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Veil & Its Behest, The Ecstasy of Betrayal, The Unhealing I

Friday, August 26, 2011

Edguy - Age of The Joker (2011)

Band: Edguy
Country: Fulda, Germany
Style: Power Metal/Heavy Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast

I know some people are going to be surprised to see this album on here, but believe it or not, I grew up on this band. My dad is a huge power metal fan and so I grew up listening to records from Edguy. Sure, they're not my favorite band, but it's a band that certainly knows how to write a catchy song.
I'm not the biggest fan of power metal, I really haven't found anything worth covering, or really listening to within the last couple of years, whether it be newer bands or older ones. The occasional power metal album that I do listen to usually comes from a band that I grew up listening to, hence this one. Sure, I don't really expect power metal to enthrall me like it once did, but this album certainly has some of their most driving songs yet, Nobody's Hero is a song that just brings a more of their traditional elements into the forefront. I've never expected much uniqueness to come from power metal in general, but this band has been around long enough to kind of earn that right from me, they've already established their sound.
Surprisingly, for how unoriginal, and to an extent uninspired, their last couple of albums have been, I found that this album had a few gems of branching out and experimentation. Sure, like I said above, this album and band really are known more for writing big, up-tempo rocking anthems more than really anything else, but this is easily their most progressive album in a while. Progressive could be looked at as just the variety on here or a sense of experimentation, because both are true for this record. Like I said, up-tempo rock anthems like the aforementioned Nobody's Hero and Breathe aren't original in the slightest, but are sure-fire crowd pleasers, meanwhile songs like Pandora's Box and The Arcane Guild branch out making use of styles like bluegrass and 70's prog rock.
So while this is definitely Edguy's most expansive release in about a decade, it's main focus still appears to be on more anthemic rock songs. I'm sure if you don't like this band by now, this won't change your mind, and if you do happen to like them, this is just another one for your collection. Check it out if you like up-tempo rock songs, power metal anthems, and the occasional experimental track.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Rock of Cashel, Pandora's Box, Behind The Gates to Midnight World

Communic - The Bottom Deep (2011)

Band: Communic
Country: Kristiansand, Norway
Style: Progressive/Power Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast

Unlike other power metal, which as I've previously stated has done nothing new or interesting in nearly a decade for me, Communic has been a recent band that's actually been good. I found them through my dad who is a fan of theirs and showed me their last album, 2008's "Payment of Existence." I later found out that vocalist/guitarist Oddleif Stensland used to sing in a great prog-metal band called Scariot that I really enjoy.
What stood out to me about these guys was how heavy and dark they were in comparison to all the other prog-power metal bands out there. Sure, there were no growling or screaming vocals, but the riffing definitely recalled elements of heavier thrash and a bit of death metal integrated with the usual styles. Plus, for only being a trio, their sound was a lot heavier than a good seventy percent of power metal bands out there. The comparison to Nevermore has obviously already been made, but it still applies to this new album, if that helps paint a picture as to how they sound.
But here comes the bad news from me, this album just bored me to death. Up to this point, I had thought the band were one of the few prog-power bands that were not only good, but doing something a little different, but this album just feels so uninspired. When I was listening to this, tracks like Denial and Voyage of Discovery just felt so bland and familiar to what the band had done before. This whole thing feels like ground that's already been trodden on by the band, and I can't really say that any of these songs really caught my attention all that much beyond a riff or weird chorus. Destroyer of Bloodlines was probably one of the few songs that I thought was really good because it seemed to experiment and move around. I also have to say, and it might just be that my distaste for most of these songs contributed to this, but, this album is just way too long, these songs don't feel like they go anywhere, so all these six and seven minute long tracks just become dull and boring after a few minutes.
By the end of this thing I couldn't help but shake my head, I had expected so much more from this band. This thing just didn't do anything for me at all and just made me want to listen to their older material. Check out the songs below if you want to hear some of the better parts of this album, in my opinion of course, but otherwise go for their previous three.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: In Silence With My Scars, Destroyer of Bloodlines, Wayward Soul

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Rosaceae - Rosaceae Demo (2011)

Band: Rosaceae
Country: UK
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Independent

Rosaceae is a project that's been getting a little bit of press on the internet. For being such a small and relatively new project, I've been a little surprised as for how much press this project has gotten. Whether or not it was original or not, but I became interested.
As soon as the intro track of this five song album began I kind of scratched my head a little because it really seemed like something that needed at least a second take. I can understand small flubs like that, but once the vocals on The Solicitude of Autumn came in I nearly turned this whole thing off. This is post-black metal, I know there are both good and bad bands in that scene, but I've felt that maybe within the last year or two, for some reason, it's been aligning itself with the depressive black metal scene, and that's what I got from this. This is like depressive and post being melded together in a rather unpleasant way. The longest track on here, Her Ice Glazed Eyes feels so disjointed and badly constructed it was painful to listen to, and I'm not exaggerating.
Honestly I only blame myself for falling prey to the hype surrounding this thing. It's one of the worse albums I've heard come from the scene this year, there have been others that I just haven't covered though. Check it out if you're really into the post-black or depressive black metal scene, but I'd suggest avoiding it.
Overall Score: 3
Highlights: Hopeless, I Have Been Hiding Myself From The Reality

Yellow Eyes - Silence Threads The Evening’s Cloth (2011)

Band: Yellow Eyes
Country: Brooklyn, New York
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Independent

Yellow Eyes is a new band that I found through a relatively well-known blog where it was compared to the likes of groups like Krallice and Liturgy. Now, I'm a big fan of the former, and I do enjoy the latter, despite all the controversy surrounding them, so I was interested in how this would sound in comparison. I know that both are still pretty far removed from each other, but there's enough of a similarity to really get me excited.
While opener Guilt Lingers At Sunrise doesn't really provide much as for metal, the three minute drone does set up My Candle Is Gone But I Do Not Move rather well. The slow build-up to that track is used in a way where it isn't really long enough to be a nuisance, but isn't short enough to be inconsequential, it's just where it need to be before the latter track just bursts open with a Krallice-esque tremolo style. You'll also find that most of the "real" songs begin in the Krallice sort of way where you have a short amount of feedback open before they kick down the door with black metal riffing. The reason I used "real" back there is due to the fact that most of the black metal songs are interspersed with short folky instrumentals that are usually under a minute and a half long.
Granted, a lot of this album is based in the whole high-end tremolo picking style that bands like Krallice and Liturgy have made more "mainstream(?)," but on a song like the title-track, Silence Threads The Evening's Cloth, you hear the band branch out into some more low-end, mid-pacing. You'll also find a lot more atmosphere, or reverb, on this album than either of those bands though, which detracts a bit in terms of how much tension is built in a song, but that's just me. The use of vocals is about the same as with Krallice, very minimal, but you'll hear a lot more almost barked or shrieked vocals as oppose to the growling or screaming in that band, but again, all subjective.
I enjoyed this album, granted, it didn't hit me as hard as any of the Krallice albums have, and it didn't really build tension like Liturgy does, but this was still good. I'd definitely recommend it to people looking for some cool underground black metal with a lot of tremolo picking. Check it out if you're into black metal like those bands.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: No More Than A Soaked Plank, Silence Threads The Evening's Cloth, Cathedral

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Panopticon/Wheels Within Wheels - Split II (2011)

Band: Panopticon/Wheels Within Wheels
Country: Louisville, Kentucky
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Pagan Flames

Despite feeling like I know several people who like both of these bands, I still feel like they're pretty unknown, so I might as well do an introduction to both here. Both of these bands are one-man operated projects, obviously they're both from Louisville, but beyond that, you can find both of these guys playing in Seidr. This is the second split the two bands have done together, and this one expands upon the first one with even more sounds.
Wheels Within Wheels starts the split off, with sole member Crow providing his unique take on blackened noise. Don't let the idea of blackened noise turn you off of this, because despite all the really bad groups connected with that sub-genre, there are some great ones, WWW being one of them. The sound on here, and really every one of his releases, is really blown out and distorted sounding, but is surprisingly melodic and atmospheric. Behind all the raw noise and distortion is a lot of great guitar melodies and bright, captivating atmospheres. In the past, elements of post-rock/shoegaze could have been found, but on here, they really come out in full, with A Burial of The Mother of Orion closing up in a fantastic way. I'd actually go so far as to say that this might just be WWW's most accessible material yet, it's melodic, it's not as blown out as some of his previous material, and it's just good at blending unlikely soundscapes together in a very good way.
Other the other hand, you have Panopticon, who's sole member, Austin Lunn, has been providing listeners some great experimental black metal in the last few years. With early releases really being quite raw and visceral black metal with influences from crust and bluegrass music coming through, and more recently moving into incorporating more shoegaze and post-rock influences as well. The three tracks on here from Austin provide an even more atmospheric and shoegazy vibe than the material present on last year's "On The Subject of Mortality" compilation. Granted, the production on here is still quite raw, though not as much as earlier releases, I found the mix to be a lot more fitting. Earlier albums have had the drums very up-front in the mix, with Lunn being a drummer I'm not all that surprised, but on here, the mix is a lot more balanced. These three songs are also some of the melodic he's produced, which goes well with the two songs Crow put on here as well.
Easily one of the best splits, if not the best, I've heard all year. I can only hope that the future releases to come from both these guys lives up to this, or hopefully tops it. Definitely check this out, highly recommended.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: A Burial of The Mother of Orion, From Bergen to Jotunheim Forest

Aphrenous - Ravaged By The Incessant Scourge of Deception (2011)

Band: Aphrenous
Country: USA
Style: Experimental/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Independent

I've been looking forward to writing a review for this album for a while. Friends of mine have really hyped this thing up and it got me excited to hear it before I eventually did. I haven't even had this album for all that long, but I've been looking forward to writing this since the first listen.
I'm pretty much a fanboy for Blut Aus Nord, along with some other bands/artists too, so when I saw that these guys were getting compared to, and cited, Blut Aus Nord as an influence, I was all over this. I'm sure a lot of hardcore fans, who are more hardcore and kvlt than I certainly am, will claim that there's nothing between the two, but this three track album certainly demonstrates a love for the Frenchmen. Though certainly not as abstract as BAN's more recent output, this album certainly brings an atmosphere similar to that of BAN's earlier material.
Beyond my obvious love for, and now monotonous comparison to BAN, these guys do create a sound that is quite different. Songs on here are a lot more expansive in atmospheres than a lot of other bands, especially those categorized with atmospheric black metal. The use of haunting atmospheres both during the more aggressive black metal sections and during the more ambient based parts really makes a track like the twenty-three minute Weight of A Thousand Hands sound more expansive than most black metal bands. The blending of ambient and black metal is very fluid, it's not like there's black metal, and then there's ambiance behind it, or monotonous black metal riffs that act as ambient music; it's the melding of the two together, the atmosphere on here is always dark, but the scope, I found, to be wide enough to allow moments where there was pure black metal or moments of pure ambiance, as well as the two obviously at the same time. The pure dark ambient track, Echoes of Deception, really shows that there is talent in here to create pure atmosphere music as well as blistering black metal.
While this was definitely different than I expected it to be upon first listening to it, I am still very happy with the result. There's definitely a lot of good stuff on here and I can see why it took two years to complete this. Definitely check this out if you like atmospheric black metal of any variety.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Weight of A Thousand Hands

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Crooked Necks - Alright Is Exactly What It Isn't (2011)

Band: Crooked Necks
Country: Virginia, US
Style: Post-Black Metal/Dream Pop
Label: Handmade Birds

Believe it or not, this has actually been one of my most anticipate releases for this year. I can still remember finding this band when they were called Frail and I found their first demo. Since then the trio, now duo, has evolved into something far more unique and original than I think they might have even imagined.
Even though I found these guys when I was looking through bands labeled as post-black metal, one could always say that these guys were never really a black metal band to begin with. Even on their demo, "Brilliant Darkness," there really wasn't a whole lot besides the vocals that could have been traced back to black metal. When listening to this album, it's just as clear, if not more so, that this these guys aren't really all that black metal, the vocals are screamed sometimes, but musically, you won't find much in the realm of metal; instead you'll find sounds more akin to post-rock, post-punk, shoegaze, dream pop, and other styles akin to those. Beyond screaming vocals, which are about fifty percent of the vocals of the album, there really isn't a whole lot connecting this to black metal, or metal at all.
I said above that this was one of my most anticipated records of the year, and that's because everything I had heard up to the this album was very well written and constructed blackened post-punk stuff that really just topped most of the bands doing the post-black metal or blackgaze thing. The songwriting on the demos and split with Circle of Ouroborus was really good, but on here, it's just fantastic. Tracks like Forgetting to Remember to Forget and Hearts and Colors are just insanely catchy, though not uplifting or happy in the slightest and I found their melodies to just get lost in my head. Now, the first half of this record, because it is on vinyl, is pretty much the sound I've been describing throughout this review, but the second half of the album begins to incorporate more psychedelic sounds into itself. You'll find even more styles thrown into the mix on this half, with album closer Out In The Cold possibly being the favorite of the entire album.
By the end of this album, I was thoroughly hypnotized and I found it hard to not replay it over again. It seems weird that some of my favorite releases of this year are all coming from Handmade Birds Records, and that some of them aren't even all that metal. Definitely do yourself a favor and pre-order/buy this, do not wait.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

An Autumn For Crippled Children - Everything (2011)

Band: An Autumn For Crippled Children
Country: Friesland, Netherlands
Style: Experimental/Depressive Black Metal
Label: Aeternitas Tenebrarum Musicae Fundamentum

I can remember first finding the debut from AAFCC last year and I found it quite enjoyable and liked it. About a year or so later, we have their sophomore release and supposedly a more atmospheric endeavor than the debut. The cover also expresses a much less disturbing portrait of the music as well, so I had to come into this without much knowledge as to how it would sound.
Opener Fornever Never Falls, opens the album in a very unexpected way. Just to make a comparison, the debut was very dark, it was certainly in the realm of post-black metal, but it was still very dark and depressing, hence that tag, but the opener of this album presents this album as a much different beast. Instead of guitar-based melodies and dark soundscapes, this album bursts forth very a very melodic and upbeat sound filled with different synthes and keyboards. I kind of figured from looking at the track lengths that this album might be a bit simpler and maybe more straightforward than the debut, but this kind takes the band into what I've seen tagged as shoegaze, a genre I admittedly have very little exposure in despite liking bands influenced by it. In all honesty, if you take the time to listen to this, the first and last tracks are probably the worst on here, with the opener being extremely unmemorable and the closer, Rain, with drums that are way too loud and processed sounding to really fit in with how the rest of the album was presented, drum-wise.
Like I just said above, I have little experience with bands that could be considered to be real shoegaze. I know the big names, My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, The Verve, and enjoy a good listen to them every once in a while, so to sum it up in a nutshell, I have a very limited experience with bands in the genre (feel free to recommend me anything you think would be good). It's obvious that this is not a "dark" album in the sense of being metal, the sounds on here are just way too playful and bright sounding, Absence of Contrast and Nothing/Everything, and are just way too upbeat and almost danceable to get a headbanger excited. Even at it's darkest, and perhaps most metal, moment in Her Dress As A Poem, Her Death As The Night, you'll find sounds that, at best, are still more in common with post-black metal, though much better performed in my opinion, than any pure "kvlt" metal sound. I'm also quite sure that people that are much more acquainted with the genre will say that this sounds nothing like those bands, which is true, but it's certainly not as metal as most of the bands doing the whole "post-black metal" thing either. In all honesty, while the vocals are still screamed, they're essentially irrelevant and due to them being pushed back a bit, most of them are actually quite ignorable.
By the end, you'll realize that most of the metal elements these guys had made use of on their debut has been traded for sounds that are becoming the norm in black metal these days. Having said that, I'll take this album, and band, over more than half the bands who attempt to be doing this sound, because what's on here is solid at it's worst. Definitely check it out if you like melodic, shoegaze or post-punk influence black metal, or the other way around.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: We All Fall, Nothing/Everything, Cold Spring

Monday, August 22, 2011

Prison of Mirrors - Prison of Mirrors (2011)

Band: Prison of Mirrors
Country: Seattle, Washington
Style: Atmospheric/Post-Black Metal
Label: Independent

I'm not a fan of Xasthur, so the name of this project has a little bit going against it, just based on the fact that I think the name is taken from a song by Xasthur. Beyond that, I had no knowledge of what this project sounded like after receiving it. I have since read that it has been quite well received by quite a few people.
Once again, intros prove to be fairly useless, as the case happens with this album, but beyond that, you'll find an album that is quite the anomaly in post-black metal. Unlike the usual raw production style associated with a lot of newer bands and projects in this growing sub-genre, you'll find that this is a bit more polished and clean sounding. These songs also bring a bit more of a progressive element to their structures, they're longer, more twists are taken along the way, and songs definitely take more influences than from shoegaze and post-rock. There are definite traces that can be linked back to a group like Opeth found in here, as well as the obvious inklings towards Xasthur and Alcest. There are also clear nods to more melodic metal bands in the frequent use of guitar harmonies going on throughout a track like The Fallen Leaves Have Turned.
It's a little odd, I'll admit, to hear something this impressive coming out from, what I can only assume is, a new artist to the scene. I'm not sure how long it took to craft these songs, but they're well constructed and definitely a lot better than a lot of other bands who release their first albums in this sub-genre. Personally, I found the sound of the drum-machine to be a bit plastic and tinny sounding, hear Snow Stained Red, beyond that there really isn't that much I disliked about this. That track is actually the closest thing you'll get to a "kvlt" sounding black metal song and is arguably the most aggressive track on here.
This is definitely a very good debut, and I'm quite surprised that it is a debut since it is so good. I know some people won't like it because it isn't "post" enough, and some people won't like it because it is "progressive" enough, but it's a nice balance between the two. Definitely look into this if you like bands like Alcest, Opeth, or other stuff in that vein.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Fallen Leaves Have Turned, As Rivers Crest

Caïna - Hands That Pluck (2011)

Band: Caïna
Country: Hampshire/Sussex, England
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Profound Lore

It's been a little wierd watching Caïna grow up and evolve since I first found the band while looking through bands labeled as "post-black metal." What struck me was the whole look of Andrew Curtis-Brignell and how his music was presented. Since it's inception, Caïna has never been the "typical" or "standard" post band as the music has evolved into something far less genre-defined and border less throughout the years.
If anything demonstrates the broad range of styles that the project has developed into, it's the first three songs on here. Opener Profane Inheritors shows the raw, crusty black metal sound that is not all that dissimilar to mid-to-modern day Darkthrone, albeit more textured and layered. Murrain is an epic track with Lord Imperial, of Krieg, on vocals which morphs from straight ahead black metal into spacey psychedelics and post-rock soundscapes. Then the title-track, Hands That Pluck, which is a noisy piece of post-rock/shoegaze that just builds up to crescendo the opening of the next track. The variety among just these three tracks is enough for most bands entire album, if not career in some cases, yet on here, there are these sounds, and so much more lucking inside. Elements of crust, country, classic rock, shoegaze, pop-punk (surprisingly!), and noise rock are all in here as well, and I'm sure other people will pick up sounds that I missed as well. So there is a lot of stuff in here, both on it's own and mixed together.
Despite the rather rough sound on here, though all Caïna records have never been all that clean, there's so much atmosphere and ambiance in the background, Somnium Ignis being a prime example. It's also really melodic and full of memorable hooks, guitar or vocal, your pick, which add to the replay ability this record already had going for it. You'll find that each track is different from the next, but there's something inherently haunting, not so much catchy in the pop way, but more melodically memorable, it sticks with you. On the other hand, somehow I doubt that Curtis would want his releases to be "catchy" in the pop sense, and more memorable for the experience and atmospheres contained within, remembered for the entire record as opposed to a single chorus.
By the end of it, though I felt it might have been just a little long, it tops seventy minutes, there wasn't a song on here that I didn't like and enjoy listening to. If more albums had the sense of exploration and not caring how genres were presented as this one, the world might actually be a better place, or at least a more creative one. It's a shame that the project is being put to rest soon, I think there's only one or two more releases that are planned after this full-length, but I definitely recommend you check this project out because you won't find another group/project like it.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Murrain, The Sea of Grief Has No Shores, I Know Thee of Old

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Belonging - An Immortal Creation (2011)

Band: The Belonging
Country: Bradford, UK
Style: Melodic Black/Death Metal
Label: Independent

Every once in a while I'll find an album cover that just catches my eye, even if I don't think it all that great an album cover. When I saw this cover, just the bleak nature, and anti-religious, nature of the cover caught my eye. I'm not even that big on melodic death/black metal, but why not give this a shot.
I'm not sure how I feel about an album beginning with the cocking of a gun and then blasting forward. I'm sure I've mentioned in the past my distaste for bands like Dark Funeral, which means little on here because these guys are by no means as intense or brutal as that band is, but the reason I bring it up is in how the songs are presented. On here, songs are melodic, some a bit more technical than others, but they all wind up sounding the same, which is how I feel about Dark Funeral. Clearly, I found this band much more entertaining and more varied than that band, but there was just something about it, maybe the production, that made me feel a connection between both bands. Sonically, I actually hear more Rotting Christ in here than Dark Funeral, but whatever, this is just a problem I have.
In all honesty, though the above sounded negative, I do applaud this record in several departments, and I have to say that it isn't a bad record. The guitar playing on here is well done, I mean, for the most part it is based in typical black metal riffing with some more death and thrash elements coming in now and then, but it's well done. Excluding genre names, it's quite varied from song to song, with opener Archangel being a straightforward blasting song, but then there are songs like Slave which is much more progressive, going into an album Akercocke moment near it's ending, or Procreation of A Demigod which has a much more death metal vibe to it. Also, like I mentioned above, these guys aren't afraid to be a bit more technical at times, hear Militant, which is quite refreshing to hear in a black metal context since it's a lot more common in death metal than black metal.
So it's not a bad album, it's actually quite good, despite the genre itself not really being my thing, for what it's worth. I'm sure people who are into more melodic black metal will enjoy this a lot more than I did, because compared to a lot of other groups in the genre, that I've listened to mind you, these guys are actually pretty diverse. Check it out if you're into more melodic black metal with influences coming in from other extreme metal.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Militant, Slave, An Immortal Creation

Avichi - The Devil's Fractal (2011)

Band: Avichi
Country: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Black Metal
Label: Profound Lore

I've heard of Avichi for what I could only guess is about a year now, but, I've never really listened to it. Besides being the Profound Lore fanboy that I am, a good friend of mine reviewed this album and said some interesting things about it which got me pretty interested. Since getting this record, I have gone back and listened to their debut to see what I was missing out on.
Immediately, this two-man band makes it known that this is not a regular black metal album by making use of tremolo picking very minimally. The opening riff of Sermon On The Mount sounds more like something coming from thrash metal, to me anyway, before descending into more traditional realms of speed picking. Granted, a lot of this record never crosses into blast-beat, high speed territory, pretty much remaining more in the realm of fast-drumming under more mid-paced to occasional bursts of speed from the guitar for the majority of the album, though if you want that high intensity speed than go straight for Kaivalya of The Black Magician and you'll get your fix. You also won't find the typical black metal screams and howls on here either, with the main vocal style being what I could only describe as a throaty narration of sorts.
If there was anything that separated this band from other black metal bands, it would have to be the atmosphere that surrounds them. Even on the debut, "The Divine Tragedy," this atmosphere was there, it's sort of dissonant sounding and chaotic, but not overwhelming. For all I know, it might just be me. It's a bit disorienting and kind of made the whole experience feel a bit odd to me. By the time the last two songs, the title-track, The Devil's Fractal parts I and II, I honestly had a bit of a migraine from listening to this.
It's a good record, and I want to make that clear and not discourage anyone away from it because it just felt odd to me. I already know that there are people who've given this record some pretty lofty praise, so this one little critique shouldn't damage your opinion of it too much. I would definitely say that black metal fans should check this out if only for the abstract nature to which it's performed.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Under Satan's Sun, I Am The Adversary, The Devil's Fractal II

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Umor - Pralayaah (2011)

Band: Umor
Country: Zagreb, Croatia
Style: Doom Metal/Post-Rock
Label: Sonic Doom

I feel so bad for having this for months and not reviewing it. I just really haven't given it the time it deserves and at this point it's kind of like now or never for this thing. Doom metal with a twist, that's why I got this.
I have to admit that when I first heard this I was really shocked by how it sounded. This is not doom metal as it is usually done today, this is retro, but also modern sounding, weird to be honest. The sound of the production is clean and clear, but also very warm and open sounding, which really benefits the quieter and more post-rock elements of the album. Musically, this album, as above says, is basically doom metal with post-rock, but it's doom done in the 70s fashion. I hear sounds coming from bands like Black Sabbath, Black Widow, Candlemass, and other bands of that vein, it's very psychedelic. The vocalist brings a very old-school singing approach to this album, which really fit the smokey and psychedelic vibe I was feeling throughout this album.
I would not call this a progressive album, though psychedelic in nature, it certainly isn't near that realm. Sure, you can definitely tell these guys have listened to their fare share of Pink Floyd and maybe even Hawkwind albums in their day, but it's not progressive in the modern sense of overly long instrumental masturbation. I mention the likes of Floyd and Hawkwind because this band manages to capture something very few prog-rock/metal bands seem to do, these songs take the listener on a journey. While tracks like Silent Key - The Sign are obviously going to go places within eighteen minutes, but even shorter tracks like One does that.
From first listen onward this was a record that just took me to new realms of psychedelia that I haven't really gone with modern bands. Definitely an old-school vibe, but don't let that fool you into thinking that this is a retro band, cause it's not a rip-off. Definitely check this out if you like psychedelic rock, post-rock, sludge metal, or doom metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Mountains of The Wolf, Exposure

Primus - Green Naugahyde (2011)

Band: Primus
Country: El Sobrante, California
Style: Experimental/Funk Rock
Label: Prawn Song

I'm not sure whether people are aware of this or not, but I'm a big fan of Primus. Bands like Primus, Faith No More, and Mr. Bungle are all some of my favorite bands of all time, if only because no other band sounds like them. Over a decade of waiting, and here we finally have a new record, about time!
After another pointless intro, the first song, Hennepin Crawler, opens up in possibly one of the darkest Primus songs I've heard since "Pork Soda." Granted, in the grand scheme of things, the song itself is actually quite simple sounding for a Primus song, the bassline isn't all that weird, the vocals are done in Les Claypool's usual distorted spoken word fashion, and the guitar patterns are weird, but it honestly didn't impress me all that much. Then Last Salmon Man came on and I got what I wanted. This track was interesting, in a good way, it definitely brought up more of the psychedelic/progressive rock influences that can be heard in later Primus records as well as Claypool's solo material, but kept the song going with more interesting bass-lines and Larry "Ler" LaLonde's interesting guitar lines. Granted, the real funk rock doesn't really emerge until track five, Tragedy's A' Comin', it comes out strong in my opinion.
Maybe it's just cause I'm a huge fan of FNM and Mr. Bungle, as well as artists like Frank Zappa, that I've always loved how quirky Primus made their music. Even at it's darkest, it always sounded fun and interesting. I seriously can't help but love the spin these guys take on songs like Moron TV, where it's so blunt, but so weird at the same time, plus his vocals sound like something Mike Patton would come up with. Songs like Eyes of The Squirrel and Jilly's On Smack are seriously some of the darkest stuff I've ever heard from Primus, and the music only enhances the lyrics and vocals with their more minimal approach. I thought some of the more spacey moments on "Antipop" were cool, but it seems like they've really taken them on board for this album.
In all honesty, I was kind of let down by this album, maybe it just needs to grow on me a little bit more. After a couple listens, it has grown on me, so at least I know that it is a lot more of a grower than I anticipated. Definitely check out this great band if you haven't yet though.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Tragedy's A' Comin', Jilly's On Smack, Extinction Burst

Friday, August 19, 2011

Desiderium - An Image of Solitude (2011)

Band: Desiderium
Country: Cary, North Carolina
Style: Melodic Black Metal
Label: Nihilistic Winter

It's about time that I got around to this album, since I've had it for a good couple of months or so. With everything that's come out in recent months, I really haven't found anything to really put it together with, review-wise, until recently. I actually first listened to this way back around late June and have only recently come back to it.
While the intro doesn't particularly provide anything worthwhile, Forest of Forgotten Memories brings an interesting flavor to the table. This is certainly melodic, but I don't know if you would want to put this project in the same league as bands like Dissection or Rotting Christ, but there are hints of folk, and to an extent post-rock or post-black metal, in here as well which brought an interesting sound to this album. A track like Pale Cloak of Dawn feels a bit too upbeat and almost danceable compared to the usual and traditional sounds of black metal, no matter how melodic. With that being said, don't expect this album to really go into directions all that similar to Alcest, this is nowhere near as dreamy or atmospheric as that group. In fact, the vocals might surprise a lot of people as to how old-school sounding they sound, to me at least, though I can't really place it.
I found that this album, since I didn't really remember much from my initial listen back in June, just blew away what I had actually remembered. Granted, some of the sounds on here are a bit cheesy and actually got me to roll my eyes, but a lot of this is actually a lot better than I remembered. There's a pretty decent amount of variety, but it's all done well; but I do believe that there is a lack of focus due to that variety. There appears to be a stylistic shift within each track, one track is more melodic and straightforward, another recalls more of a viking metal and old-school atmospheric vibe, another is more of the post-black metal, which leads to a lack of cohesion among these tracks. It's not even that these different styles are performed badly, because at their worst, they're more cheesy than bad, but all of them are actually well performed and written.
When all is said and done, I do think that there's a lot of potential on here, and all of what's on here is well done. In all honesty if the styles on here were blended a bit more or at least a more defined sound was honed on, this would really be a project to watch out for. Definitely check this out if you like black metal that explores some various sub-genres but does all of them quite well.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Forest of Forgotten Memories, Pale Cloak of Dawn

Obsequiae - Suspended In The Brume of Eos (2011)

Band: Obsequiae
Country: Minneapolis, Minnesota
Style: Progressive/Black Metal
Label: Bindrune

Despite how I feel about Celestiial, probably the most well known project of Tanner Anderson, I had heard nothing but good things about this project. Supposedly the continuation of an earlier project called Autumnal Winds that was around since the late 90s till around 2005, a more black metal based band. With nothing but good things, and some odd comments about how this actually sounds, I became interested rather quickly.
I remember several comments and reviews of this album mentioning things like medieval sounding melodies, lots of bass, and harmonically complex, all of which are things that could potentially lead to a very cheesy sounding blackened folk metal record. Fortunately enough, all of these things immediately show up in opener Altars of Moss and prove any doubts I might have had about it wrong. Personally, I like folk music, I enjoy the melodies used in a lot of folk and acoustic music, and medieval music isn't something I listen to, really ever, but don't dislike, and I find that a lot of folk metal groups, or blackened folk metal groups, never hit the right balance between the two to sound authentic and aggressive. What I found on here is as dense and chaotic as black metal, but as melodic and memorable as folk music, adding up to something quite extraordinary.
I know that I use the term "progressive" a lot in my reviews in different contexts, and I'm sure saying it here will get more than a few people upset, but listening to a song like the title-track, Suspended In The Brume of Eos, it's hard not to hear the great take these guys do on the blackened folk thing, I haven't really heard any other band sound as rich and complex as these guys. To bring up the bass situation for a second, while I had heard there was a lot of it on here, it wasn't what I expected. What I came in expecting to hear was something along the lines of having the bass being loud in the mix, like albums from prog-metal groups like Spiral Architect or the first Cynic album, but instead, the bass is lower in the mix, but is still just as well played. But to reiterate here, this album is also really catchy, with tracks like Atonement that just caught my ear from take off. But even at it's most straightforward and aggressive moments, Arrows being a prime subject, there's still something worth looking back at and listening to again, because it isn't just fast and primal black metal with melody, during points like that, it's something much more subtle that lures you back.
I really can't say a bad thing about this record, it's a lot better than I even expected it to be. My only complaint is that I wish it was a little bit longer, had another couple of songs, because it's that damn good. If you like folk music, black metal, progressive rock, etc. check this out, I'm still in awe of it after several listens.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Suspended In The Brume of Eos, The Wounded Fox, The Starlit Shore

Thursday, August 18, 2011

A Death Cinematic - Your Fate Twisting, Epic In Its Crushing Moments EP (2011)

Band: A Death Cinematic
Country: Detroit, Michigan
Style: Ambient/Drone
Label: Independent

A Death Cinematic is a project that I've been meaning to check out for several months now, but haven't really gotten around to it. Luckily enough, I got an email with this new EP from the man himself which gave me the opportunity to finally check it out. Being composed of mainly guitar, I'm interested in what types of sounds are created through this, as well as various other works.
This three song EP brings something I didn't really expect to the table. What I expected to hear were sounds more akin to that of post-rock and ambient music, but what's on here is not only much darker, but much more droney. The title-track, Your Fate Twisting, Epic In Its Crushing Moments, is an epic twenty-two minute piece that kind of circles around a basic idea for it's entire length with some subtle changes occurring throughout. It's decent, I like the idea for it, but I found that it was a bit too long for my personal taste, and some of the notes came off as being a bit too harsh, or distorted, for my own personal taste and kind of just ruined the atmosphere for me. By comparison, I felt that In The Tumbling Dawn Light, Their Eyes Fall Frozen Through The Mist and Rain made much more effective use of it's time with more atmospheric elements proved to be a much better and enjoyable piece.
This three song EP proved to be a much different experience than I thought it would be, but it didn't really convince me of anything. I can safely say that I enjoyed only about half of this, with the interlude being pretty inconsequential for the most part. Check it out if you like drone music, but I'd say go for the full-lengths first.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: In The Tumbling Dawn Light, Their Eyes Fall Frozen Through The Mist and Rain

Laura Weixelbaum - Gebet Zu Der Schwarzen Sonne (2011)

Band: Laura Weixelbaum
Country: Vac, Hungry
Style: Experimental/Avant-Garde
Label: Mask of T he Slave/Valse Sinistre

Being compared to someone like Diamonda Galas is quite a compliment but puts immense pressure on an artist. Though I've never really been a fan of her work, I can certainly see how others would and I would put her in the same league as someone like Jarboe. Laura Weizelbaum's album had a lot to live up to with a comparison like that being tagged along with it.
The reason I mention artists like Diamonda Galas and Jarboe above has to do with the fact that both of them can definitely be heard in how Laura presents herself on here. The a capella nature of the album coupled with the almost tribal sounds and beats bring a familiar hint of both vocalists. Though I've never been a fan of Galas and I can't say I've listened to enough of Jarboe's solo work to really get a handle on everything she's done, I can say that this is more chaotic sounding than their work. As far as I can tell, most of this album is done a capella and it leads to a very strange and avant-garde sound, with Des Todes Ewigkeit Chanson, for example, opening the album with shrill screams, tribal-esque chanting, machine-gun fire used as percussion, the occasional warped and distorted electronic, and spoken word providing most of the sound. The fact that some tracks feature Laura almost breaking down and sobbing, I can only imagine how much emotion she put into this.
With sounds like that being the norm found on here, you might imagine it being quite the difficult listen, but if fact, it's quite meditative. Even during it's most intense moments, I didn't find that it became harsh or brutal in the least, outside of screaming vocals that is. Though it's probably obvious at this point, but this isn't an album to put on if you want to hear "songs," these are more like contained rituals, if you will, sounding like weird chants to foreign religious rituals from groups of monks, or whatever branch you want to attach this to. It's the type of album where if you can't handle a lot of emotion, you'll probably detest this with a passion, tracks like Zuruck Nach Walhalla and Bitte Geh Nicht Fort pretty much exemplify it; but if you like music that's more about a mood and creating atmospheres you might get a lot out of this.
This is an odd one because there wasn't really a moment on this album where I really enjoyed it, but there wasn't a moment that I disliked what I was hearing. It's like some really crazy world music, but with voices instead of additional instrumentation. Check this out if you want to hear some weird stuff, that's really all I could suggest.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Zuruck Nach Walhalla, Omnes Morimur, Der Kohlschwarze Engel