So, I'm not dead, I just haven't had much time to do anything with this since the beginning of the school year. Got some other reviews on the way, just need to find the time.
Albums I'm listening to at the moment:
Bethlehem - Sardonischer Untergang im Zeicher irreligiöser Darbietung
Opeth - Heritage
Bethlehem - Dictius te Necare
Dissection - Storm of the Light's Bane
ColdWorld - Melancholie²Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial LineageWolves in the Throne Room - Malevolent Grain EPAn Autumn for Crippled Children - Lostand a bunch more I can't remember...Stay Tuned!
Wednesday, 8 August 2012
02. The Voices
03. Vision: Sphere of the Elements - A Monument Part II
04. Hollow Inside
05. The Cromlech Gate
06. Enemy I
08. The Sleep: Floating Diversity - A Monument Part III
09. Outro: Self-Zero
(10. - BONUS) - Sigmundskvadet
Enslaved is a band that has never been afraid to push the envelope. They arose out of the 2nd wave of Norwegian black metal, along bands like Mayhem, Burzum, and Darkthrone. Enslaved at first played much the same kind of black metal - viking themed straight-ahead blast-beat filled black metal. Enslaved, however, unlike the rest of their ilk, was never content to keep playing the same kind of music for any length of time and began to experiment with other sounds and themes to their music, constantly growing and changing - something that has both gained and lost them many fans. Enslaved today cannot really even be called a black metal act, as they have been slowly evolving further and further away from the kind of sound that they started off with, moving further and further into the world of progressive metal while still retaining an air of their viking roots. The change has not been swift by any means, and they have released many albums between 1991 and the present with a heavy black metal vibe but some really interesting influences and experimentation. Between 2001-2003 they released 3 of the most compelling works in their library - Mardraum: Beyond the Within, Monumension, and Below the Lights. All 3 are brilliant works in their own right, but today I'll be reviewing Monumension, which I picked up at War on Music in Winnipeg.
Monumension is a wall of an album. There is so much going on here that it's hard to know where to start when comprising an opinion, let alone a critical review on such an album. Nothing quite like this has been made before or since in my knowledge, so there is not a lot to compare it to. Monumension is essentially what happens when Norwegian Vikings with a flair for the experimental listen to way too much Pink Floyd. Yeah...exactly...
Enslaved have brought something to life here that is truly special. It retains a lot of the viking black metal style that helped make Enslaved popular, but blends it so perfectly into a 70's prog type feel that it's hard to believe no one has done this before. Everything just flows smoothly, like a bunch of tie-dye wearing vikings smoking a hookah on an ice flow riding down a river of blood.
It would take more than the space I have to go into each track in depth, so I'll pick some moments I found particularly memorable. The second track, "The Voices", begins with a killer black metal riff that continues to surface throughout the song, tying together the metal "majority" of the song with the bluesy riffs and synthesizer melodies that emerge throughout. The song maintains the feeling of an ass-kicking viking metal track, but also begins to reveal some of what is to come later on in the album. "Hollow Inside" is the first real dose of the Floydian influences at play here. Vocalist Grutle Kjellson takes on a very ethereal, dreamy tone as his vocals float about proggy blues riffs and keyboard melodies. It reminds me of kind of a Steven Wilson channeling Roger Waters voice, that suits the music perfectly. Half way through the song it builds and suddenly explodes in a very heavy version of what was previously playing accompanied by heavy, intricate drumming, guitars, and Grutle's very doomy sounding vocals. The change in pace is sudden, but flows so perfectly it gives me the chills every time I hear it.
"The Cromlech Gate" is probably my favourite track on the album. This track is heavy in a doomy sort of way, with vocals more reminiscent of doom/stoner metal than black metal a slow, prodding series of riffs that truly give you a mental image of the aforementioned tie-dye vikings coming across a monumental stone gate, adorned with gargoyles, impaled corpses, and a foreboding message of doom to any who traverse it, while being a little too high to deal with the situation. This song is just brilliant and serves as the perfect central point to the album. "Enemy I" has some really interesting overlays of spoken word with growled vocals, as well as harmonizing of high and low harsh vocals, over a very straight ahead viking metal style riff.
"The Sleep: Floating Diversity" is the other true standout track on the album. This song has a lot of sounds and vocal sections that sound straight off of "The Wall" and truly encompasses the influences behind the album as a whole. Grutle sounds exactly like Roger Waters in some parts of this song, so much so I thought it was a different vocalist at first. This song perfectly plays out the album and trails off into "Outro: Self-Zero" (which didn't need to have its own track IMO).
(Oh, there's also that weird viking chanting track, "Sigmundskvadet", that totally doesn't fit the album, but it's a bonus track, so I'm not counting it)
In closing, this album is the embodiment of genius when it comes to blending two very separate genres of music. It's works like this one that go to show how far separated Enslaved is from their peers in the Norwegian music scene - a band that has evolved, while still remembering their roots, bringing progressive viking metal to life in new ways with each release. If you're new to Enslaved I would recommend this album or their 2003 "Below the Lights" as a starting point, as both albums really show off their instrumental and compositional chops. Whichever you would choose doesn't change the fact that Monumension is a landmark album and should be owned by any progressive metal enthusiast.
95% - Editor's Choice Recommendation
Friday, 27 July 2012
02. Realms of Dementia
03. Ancient Bloodoath
05. Dead Years
06. Broken Axis
Mutilation Rites is a band from NYC. They are kind of a cross-over band, blending Black Metal with Thrash, Crust Punk, and Doom. They have been together since 2009 and already gone through numerous lineup changes. Finally, this year, they released their debut LP, "Empyrean". I picked up their new album at Profusion Records in Montreal while on vacation and was intrigued, yet slightly disappointed. This band shows great potential, but there are several issues, which I will discuss.
There are a lot of interesting things going on here. The blending of Crust Punk and Black Metal always works well, IMO, and MR does a decent job of this. They are always throwing in other influences as well, such as some very DSBM* passages and some really doomy riffs occasionally. They even throw in some Stoner Metal sounding stuff from time to time, with a really Early Mastodon/High on Fire type feel.
The drummer here is obviously fairly technically skilled, switching between different speeds of blast beats, double bass, punk beats, fills, and slow doomy smashing. There was only one time on the album I really got the feeling that the drummer kind of lost his finesse, and was actually kind of amazed they left it on the album, but I guess it lends to the overall "raw" feeling of the production (albeit more Crusty "raw" than BM "raw").
There are some really great riffs on the album, and the guitars in general sound good. Songs such as "Fogwarning" are packed with awesome riffs and really get you paying attention. Even some songs that aren't really riffy are enjoyable due to the creation of atmosphere through the guitar, such as "Dead Years" and the depressive atmosphere it creates.
There are some serious issues with the album however, that really keep me from loving it. Starting with the vocals. Now the vocals aren't all bad, in some of the Crust sections they seem to work perfectly, but in the majority of the music the vocals feel hollow and flat. If I were to draw a comparison I would compare them to Varg Vikernes' vocals off of the self-titled Burzum album, but with the raw power and body scooped out of the center, leaving only the raspy, hollow shell. They aren't horrible but they're not very good either. I caught myself wishing the vocals weren't even there at some points, so I could better enjoy the guitar work, and THAT is a big issue in my opinion.
Another serious issue is the composition. I love variety, and I love blending of styles, but it has to be done consistently and smoothly. The way the styles are blended, especially in the "A Season of Grey Rain" and "Realms of Dementia", leaves the album feeling non-cohesive and clunky. It's like a jar of chunky peanut butter, but the chunks of peanuts have been replaced with chunks of raw onion, it's unexpected and it just doesn't work, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. You can tell that the band has great ideas, and great potential to do something very interesting, but just doesn't know how to put it all together yet. Even the best songs on the album suffer from these issues albeit a bit less. I feel like these sections weren't planned well but the band just got lucky in a few spots.
The other issue here is the length of the album - it's too short. If I'm paying $20 for an album and it only has 6 songs and slightly over 30 minutes of music I feel ripped off. It feels more like a long EP than a full length album.
In conclusion this is an album that shows potential for a new band. They have good ideas and obviously have a lot of influences and interesting concepts to bring to the table, they just have to figure out how to put them together in a more coherent way. Their technical skill is fairly good, but there are a few serious offenses that need to be corrected as well. In my opinion this band was not really ready to release a full length album, they needed to put more time into forming a solid concept of a sound before just hitting record and selling the results. Given time however, I believe Mutilation Rites can become a wonderful band with some really interesting music.
65% - Potential shown but needs improvement
Monday, 16 July 2012
02. Борозни Богів (Furrows of Gods)
03. Коли Пломінь Перетворюється на Попіл (When the Flame Turns to Ashes)
04. Самітність (Solitude)
05. Вічність (Eternity)
06. Українська Повстанська Армія (Ukrainian Insurgent Army)
Drudkh is a band from the Ukraine. Their main style is Black Metal, but they incorporate folk, rock, and post-rock influences as well, lending to their trademark sound. Their lyrics are usually Ukranian poetry written by famous poets such as Taras Shevchenko. The two albums that have gotten the most acclaim are 2004's Autumn Aurora and this, 2006's Blood in our Wells.
Blood in our Wells is an interesting beast to conquer. From my personal experience, the first time I heard it I felt it sounded very similar to Filosofem-era Burzum(not that I don't love Burzum), and wasn't incredibly impressed. Oh how my opinion has changed. I was determined that there had to be more to this album, as I had heard great things, and I forced myself to listen to it again and again. After about 4-5 listens I began to understand why this album has received such praise.
Once one can listen past the initially overwhelming droning sound of the production quality a whole new world of riffs and chord progressions begin to surface, creating what I now see as a brilliant sonicscape.
Drudkh's primary vessel is black metal, but they weave so many other styles into their sound on this album. The first song, "Nav'", is simply a folky intro with acoustic guitars and some Ukrainian folk instruments I can't identify. This track is short (only 2:30ish in an album of 10:00'ers) and leads into the breathtaking track "Furrows of Gods". This song has...so much going on. Of course it has the wonderful droney ambience of the rest of the album, but also incorporates wonderful acoustic guitar interludes and even acoustic guitar over blastbeats and chugging bass riffs, which surprisingly don't drown it out at all. This is very unique, seldom do you hear acoustic guitar in black metal, especially alongside blastbeats, and it works surprisingly well. There are also some incredibly melancholic electric guitar solos inserted at the perfect moments, bringing some climactic moments to this altogether epic track. The one riff, at around 7:10ish, has been stuck in my head for a good week now with no sign of leaving any time soon.
"When the Flame turns to Ashes" takes a bit of a different turn, starting off with a much more straight-line ambient black metal feel. It does still feature the occasional guitar solo and has a very interesting acoustic interlude in the middle of the track, but maintains a much more consistently ambient feel overall than the previous track. The vocals on this track are great, and remind me of some of Quorthon's vocals from "Blood Fire Death" or "Hammerheart".
"Solitude" starts with a deceptive little folky riff, which soon breaks into probably the fastest riff on the album (albeit not incredibly fast by black metal standards). This song slows down fairly quickly, however, and gets to the point of the track, which is evoking the feeling of it's title, "Solitude". There is still a lot going on here, however, with constant solos and some very doomy and melancholic feeling riffs. The vocals match perfectly here as well. Roman Saenko's gruff growls seem to act like a chameleon, blending perfectly into the mood and tone of every track on the album. Here the vocals remind me quite a bit of other "wilderness metal" acts, such as Agalloch.
"Eternity" is the second real standout track on the album. Starting with a really strange folky intro and dropping into a straight ahead rock riff, which then evolves into a fairly metal sound with double bass and a soaring guitar solo. This song is a ton of fun, with a kind of rock/post-rock atmosphere that at some moments reminds me of the Pixies, others of gy!be, and on and on. This track is an unexpected departure from the pace of the first 3(discluding Nav', which is an intro) songs and acts to reinvigorate the listener for the last part of the album. It definitely still has the "Drudkh" sound however, and isn't different enough to disrupt the cohesion of the tracks on the album. The ending of this track is something to point out on it's own as well, as the progressive nature of the riffs seem to build and build to a climactic finish.
"Ukranian Insurgent Army" is an instrumental outro, with by far the doomiest feel of all the tracks. In my opinion I would have named this track "Solitude", as it has an incredibly depressive and lonely feel to it. (Which I guess could be how it feels to be part of a Ukrainian Insurgent Army). This song slowly leads the album to a close, and leaves the listener wanting more, leading me to have this album on repeat for the greater part of 3 weeks.
In all, this album is a wonderful composition of ambient folky black metal and deserves it's acclaim. Drudkh flawlessly intertwines numerous genres and instead of disrupting the flow, as some other attempts by other bands have done, brings it all together into a brilliantly cohesive piece of art.
This album may be a tough nut to crack for some, but it's well worth cracking. It's like breaking open the hardest walnut only to find gold inside. I definitely recommend this album to any serious listener and advise you to give it 7-8 listens before you fully form an opinion on it.
I'm switching up the rating system I've been using as well, as I feel that a rating scale from 1-6 is a bit hard to apply to all releases and will be dropping it in favour of a % system. Also, I'll be putting tracks of note in red and the rating in yellow, for those skimming over my reviews.
In light of this I'd like to give this album a rating of
90% - Editor's Choice Recommendation
Monday, 25 June 2012
03. Infernal Blasphemous Attack From Black Wrath
04. Impalement of Jesus and Their Followers
05. Brutality and Orgy
06. March to the Apocalypse
07. Possessed by Fire
Ok, where to start. Disforterror is a Brazilian Death Metal act that's currently made up of one dude named Vagner Warrior Impaler, because in Brazil one invented "kvlt" name isn't enough apparently. They have yet to release a full length album and this is technically an EP, even though it has as many songs as many full length metal releases.
So the first 30 seconds of the album had me going "Fuck Yeah!",
DISCLAIMER:If you're a Disforterror enthusiast or don't like reading long reviews you may want to stop reading now,
My elation fell off faster than a limbless bullrider. At about 30 seconds in 2 things happen, things get real relentless real fast and the vocals start. Oh god the vocals, where to begin, imagine the tard-hulk that was in your high school (everyone had one), now imagine getting him hammered, now imagine that his entire vocabulary was comprised of Satanic lingo, now imagine getting him real pissed off and having him start screaming random Satanic words from his vocabulary over and over while sounding hammered and real pissed off...there you go! Seriously, I haven't heard vocals this bad since...ever! Not only does he sound like a constipated kid with downs syndrome, but this guy is to metal lyrics what Kurt Cobain was to lyrics if you cut out everything but the parts of songs where he yelled the same words over and over for like a minute.
You honestly hear such gems as:
and such others as:
over and fucking over in every goddamn song. The kicker, the parts that actually had me laughing out loud in my car was when the vocalist started doing little back-and-forths with himself which were obviously edited in. He'd start in a low voice and be interrupted by himself with a higher voice, which would then be interrupted by his low voice again, over and over, yelling the same words, like:
Seriously, what the actual christfuck? Ok, I know, they're from Brazil and maybe don't know much english. SO DON'T USE ENGLISH LYRICS! Other bands that I love from other countries use their native languages and I still love them, even if I don't understand, like Taake singing in Norwegian and Alcest singing in French or Drudkh in Ukrainian! Here's the funny part, I've read interviews with Mr. Impaler and he does know quite a bit of English, so there's really no excuse other than retardation for this trainwreck of vocal compositions.
Enough about the vocals, they're not the only offender here (albeit the worst offender). The guitar is bland, generic, and uninspired. I've listened to this album no less than 20 times trying to decide how much I hate it and I counted all the "good" riffs I could. There are 5...FIVE on the WHOLE ALBUM. The first 30 seconds counts as one, and the others are short and easily missed. The guitar is at this really irritating pitch too, it stays in the same key and the same range the entire album and plays a total of like 6 different notes, it's like they were playing with a guitar where most of the frets were missing and just decided to wing it. And the solos (oh yes, there were solos) are so painful, it sounds like Mr. Impaler literally just hit random notes and wanked the whammy-bar as hard as he could through all of the solos on this album hoping it would sound like he knew what he was doing. Well if that was the plan it fucking failed like Boris Yeltsin's liver. You can also barely hear the guitar at times thanks to the awful mixing and the overly loud drums and bass.
The drums were decent at best, but so unbelievably monodimensional(like the whole album really). It literally interchanged between laboured sounding blast-beats(mostly these, more blast-beats than most black metal releases) and double-pedaling with a lot of unnecessary symbol work for the entire album.
"ITS SUPPOSED TO BE LIKE THAT, IT'S RAW!" you say. Ok, I get raw, I love raw, when it's backed up with decent material. Albums like Darkthrone's Transylvanian Hunger and Immortal's Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism were raw as hell, but were backed up with excellent riffs, vocals, and interesting musical concepts throughout. Simply being RAW doesn't justify being otherwise shitty as well. I'll give you a visual comparison:
Both of these are uses of raw fish, certainly raw is not the factor that's driving you to enjoy the one example over the other, it's how it's compiled and presented. If raw were good enough for fish you'd be getting an unscaled dead fish on your plate at the sushi restaurant and certainly no wasabi and ginger.
To sum it up this album sucks like a thousand-horsepower Hoover™ and will most likely never grace the inside of my stereo or my ears again. I'll give it 1.5 for having 5 good riffs and being short.
TL;DR - RATING 1.5/6 - FUCKING AWFUL
Wednesday, 20 June 2012
04. Lord of Swords
06. Mouth of Madness
07. Unholy Paragon
09. Morbid Lust
Ok, none of this "for the uninitiated" crap this time, because I'm just discovering this band myself. They're from Norway and seem to draw influences from just about every other BM band out there. Straight to the album...
This album is defined by Tsjuder's (pronounced Shoe-der) dogma of "no compromise" and there is definitely NO compromise. From the first second of "Malignant Coronation" to the last second of "Morbid Lust" this album kicks your fucking ass. This relentless black metal assault is nothing but 50 minutes of head-banging ass-kicking good times. Right off the bat I'm reminded of early Immortal, Darkthrone, and Mayhem, but with a much more modern production quality.
The guitars are clear and excellently played. There is no shortage of riffage in this album, that's for damn sure, and the guitars never get lost in a endless drone. There is precise tremolo picking, wonderful sweeps, and excellent technical work over all. There is definitely some punk and thrash influences in the guitars here, which also lend to the earlier Darkthrone comparison I made. Many of the songs have sections with high, fast, discordant riffs that are very reminiscent of early Mayhem and bring back wonderful feelings related to that era of black metal. Overall, nothing bad to say about the guitars at all, grade A black metal guitar work. (Bass is pretty much the same, and I'm happy that you can actually hear it [due to the decent production quality])
Vocals on this album aren't really anything extraordinary, though they are executed flawlessly. The voice of the singer is somewhere between Abbath(Immortal) and Hoest(Taake) and the vocals work perfectly with the riffs and passages.
Drumming is fast and precise and basically shares a lot of the same traits as the guitars in terms of influences.
Overall the album is a non-stop onslaught and if you like aggressive music period you should find something you can rock out to here. For me it's a spot-on black metal release with almost 0 room for criticism, I simply can't find anything to bitch about here. Definitely recommending this one, it'll be staying in my CD player for a while, that's for fucking sure!
Some things to note are the wonderful progression of "Mouth of Madness", the super thrash-punk feeling "Sacrifice", and the riffs throughout the middle of "Morbid Lust" which to me were very reminiscent of "De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas"-era Mayhem.
I said I probably wouldn't do it ever again, but here it is, the very next review :s
Rating: 6/6 - FUCKING AWESOME!
Wednesday, 13 June 2012
04. Du Ville Ville Vestland
07. Dei Vil Alltid Klaga Og Kyta
Ok, for the uninitiated again, Taake is a one-man Norwegian Black Metal project, the creative project of Ulvhedin Hoest. Hoest blends thrashy black metal with some punk influences and all sorts of other influences. This lends to creating the BEST current Black Metal band...there... I said it.
I've loved Taake since I first heard the Ummeneske single a couple years back, and everything I check out by this guy is solid fucking gold. Noregs Vaapen is no different.
From the epic intro riff to "Fra Vadested Til Vaandesmed" to the epic outro riff of "Dei Vil Alltid Klaga Og Kyta" there is no let down here. Every song has it's own genius and all are worth listening to.
Hoest's trademarked vocal sound is at it's best here; the high piercing vocals screaming like a banshee out of hell with a serious vendetta against someone. Never do you feel that he's straining to maintain the wonderfully evil sounding screech he has perfected and never fails to impress. Hoest's vocals aren't the only ones worth mentioning though, as this album has an all-star lineup of guest vocals. Fenriz from Darkthrone on "Fra Vadested", Attila Csihar from Mayhem on "Nordbundet", Demonaz from Immortal on "Du Ville Ville Vestland", can it really get any better than that? Fenriz' contribution is the most notable for sure and really works perfectly with the pace of "Fra Vadested", creating a kind of punk feeling that is reminiscent of current Darkthrone material.
The guitars on this album sound better than they ever have on a Taake album, and the level of production is almost "sacrilegious" in the world of Black Metal, but really allows the listener to hear all the layers of guitar and bass work that are going on here. The same can really be said for the drums, everything sounds great and the production quality is unmatched so far in Taake's catalog.
A few specific moments I want to point out. As I've mentioned, the beginning riff of the first song is epic and wonderfully grips the listener and drags them kicking and screaming straight into the onslaught that is this album. The tone of "Orkan" is much different, providing a brooding feeling that contrasts beautifully with the first songs upbeat nature. The crazy soaring solo that ends "Du Ville Ville Vestland" is beautiful as well and lends something that is very lacking in Black Metal (awesome solos). The next thing I'm going to mention is probably the most noted on this album and something that is reallllly fucking cool. The banjo solo at 3:20 of "Myr" is possibly the best thing I've ever heard done with Black Metal and made me burst out laughing and mess my pants at the same time. It's so fun and random, yet works flawlessly with the black metal atmosphere. It's something that makes you go "Fuck Yeah!" and just kicks the track from the realm of "Great" to "Orgasmic" in an instant. Seriously, go listen to it, now. The soaring shrieking guitar work of "Helvetesmakt" is great too and worth noting. Well...what isn't worth noting in this album?
TL;DR - this album is perfect...simply perfect...and even Taake is gonna have a hard time topping it (then again I thought that about Taake's 2008 self-titled). If you haven't heard Taake yet and you love Black Metal you need to stop whatever you are doing right now and go listen to this album.
I may never do this again, because it's hard for me to do for any album, but I'm doing it for this album.
Rating: 6/6 - BEST ALBUM OF 2011.