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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The End of The Line

After much thought and deliberation I have decided to end Don't Count On It Reviews. After doing this for close to five years at this point my energy, it seems, for it has just faded away. I'm sure everyone who runs a review site will tell you, there simply isn't enough time in a day to get to everything you want to, which certainly applies here. Last year I was left with somewhere around two hundred albums I didn't cover (regretfully) and it looks like it'll be upwards of around three hundred this year. I took some time earlier this year to try and recharge myself and when I finally did get to a point where I could review again I was supremely behind and haven't caught up yet and have wound up feeling even more drained because of it. I've run this blog by myself for all this time and while bringing on another writer or two has crossed my mind, I think I'm far too selfish to let go of this thing I started all those years back when absolutely no one read my reviews. My time has also become more and more precious as well, what with going to school (and changing majors) and trying to find a job while retaining time to actually listen to music in general, it's just become far too hard and tiring trying to keep up the pace I set early on with writing these things and it's come to a point where it feels more like work than simply having fun by talking about albums and bands I liked or felt interested in at the time.
I have to thank each and every one of the people who have come to this site and read and commented and enjoyed or gotten anything out of my reviews or interviews, but I simply can't maintain the pace I would like to in order to keep going with this blog (at least for now). I should also apologize to anyone who requested a review or that I promised a review to, as much as I would like to write something up for you, I feel it wouldn't only be disrespectful to write it at this time but a waste of anyone's time who read it. I would simply be writing a review for the sake of writing it, instead of for the music or myself and that would lead to the review being false and not worth even putting out in the first place. If I ever feel like I can continue doing this site again, I will, but as of right now I am letting this site go. If anyone will have me, I will write freelance for a while and do stuff for other sites, but as of right now I'm just going to take a bit of a break. Thank you to everyone that's supported me or this site over the years, you have truly touched me.

Maybe we'll meet again soon,

Waning - Feeding of Fragments EP (2013)

Band: Waning
Country: Gothenburg, Sweden
Style: Industrial/Progressive Black Metal
Label: Independent

Waning is a band I've grown to be quite fond of. After a strong debut full-length, Population Control back in 2008 they really showed their metal with last year's stellar album The Human Condition (which made it into my top 50 albums of the year). Because of the four year gap between the debut and sophomore albums I certainly didn't expect to see another release from this band so soon, but was definitely pleasantly surprised when it popped up while I was on bandcamp one day.

To me, Waning is one of those bands who uses industrial influences without actually coming across as overly industrial. It's more of a tonal thing than a stylistic one, at least that's the way I felt it was presented on the previous two full-lengths because on here those influences do come across a bit more obviously. Having firmly positioned themselves within the more progressive side of the black metal genre, that obviously allows them to experiment a bit more without being criticized, but on here they're definitely bringing down some of those more progressive ideas in favor of a bit more harshness and straightforward songwriting. The overall sound is more jagged and noisy than in the past, which really brings out some of the more dissonant sounding riffs used on here. But on the other side of that are the drums which, in terms of how they sound, have a much more cold and mechanical vibe to them. At times the band sort of reminded me of a slightly more polished version of Diabolicum, which I'm sure probably wasn't a reference point for them but there definitely were aspects that reminded me of that band. However, there were also a couple points, the opening minute of Faceless In Line, definitely had a Blut Aus Nord-esque kind of vibe to it that I very much enjoyed. That track in particular was quite different because it was easily the most melodic track of the four on here, it still had those occasional moments of mechanical dissonance pop up that really made it stand out among the entire band's discography and is, at least in my opinion, of the best songs they've written to date.

It's an interesting little release that definitely brings out a side of that band that, I feel, was only vaguely touched upon in their full-lengths. I'm not sure how future EPs in this series will see the band experiment but I can only hope whatever they do they keep at as high a standard as this one. This is very good, obviously, and if you happen to enjoy experimental black metal, than I don't see how you could pass this one by.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Not Among Them, Faceless In Line

Esoterica - Aseity (2013)

Band: Esoterica
Country: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Forever Plagued

I don't know Esoterica, not really anyway - I mean I'm familiar with some of the members and participants in it, but I'm pretty uninitiated with the band. I had seen a couple of releases find their way across the blogosphere last year and earlier this year but I didn't put two and two together until I finally looked up this record in particular. Knowing that an ex-member of Chaos Moon did have me slightly intrigued as to what this would actually wind up sounding like (since I wasn't the biggest fan of their records).

After dissolving Chaos Moon in 2011 and starting this new project, Alex Poole went and brought Chaos Moon back from the dead this year. Like I said above, I've never been a huge fan of that band, they just never hit me the way it hit other people. It always just sounded like another project taking ideas from bands I liked and doing absolutely nothing with them. Esoterica on the other hand takes what I would assume to be similar influences and manages to bring them together in not only an way that is well done but also engaging. After hearing Poole rip-off Lunar Aurora in his other project for numerous releases, this full-length is the first in which it sounds like he's actually done more (in terms of songwriting) than say he really likes bands like the aforementioned. And what I mean by that is that the end result, being the six songs on this album, sound like a cohesive project and less like someone throwing a bunch of ideas at the wall and seeing what sticks. One could also attribute the more focused sound of the project simply due to a trimming down of other influences. When I looked up Chaos Moon I often see the tags of "blackened funeral doom" which you could break into numerous genres and sub-genres if you like that overarch it, but I think that it has been the funeral doom aspect is one of the reasons which has caused that project of feel so lackluster to me. Narrowing his focus to simply black metal gives this album a razor's edge-like ferocity that I haven't heard from this sub-genre in quite some time.

The atmosphere in question heard on here, feels far more haunting and melancholic than anything I've heard from either Chaos Moon or, on a different note, from recent groups within the atmospheric/ambient black metal sub-genre. I'm not even going bring up the whole depressive scene beyond this sentence which has all but squandered any good will left for it in these last few years by releasing nothing worthy of mentioning and creating atmospheres that are dull and lifeless (which may be the point in some instances). The atmosphere doesn't feel like it's overcoming the guitar work though, as has been the case with several bands recently, but the opposite remains true as well with the guitar work not completely overpowering the background synths. It's a balance that I can assume isn't easy to get (based on personal experience I can confirm that). It didn't even strike me as having a post-rock influence until the last track on here, Aether Communion, began using the typical tremolo post-rock guitar style, so I consider that a triumph. If there was a big post-rock influence on here it wasn't obvious (and thank heaven for that). I should also mention that the album becomes increasingly more memorable as it goes on with guitar melodies worming their way into your skull.

But overall this is a very strong debut full-length and it definitely get me interested in the new Chaos Moon album that I hear is coming out soon. Seeing as how I didn't really have huge expectations for this album when I first decided to listen to it I think it's apparent that I was very impressed by the end. Fans of the more atmospheric side of black metal should definitely check this record out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: A Slave's Ablution, Lethe

Harrow - Fragments of A Fallen Star (2013)

Band: Harrow
Country: Victoria, Canada
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Independent

Being put into the whole "cascadian black metal" movement can be the sort of thing that has either brought bands great success or failure. While there are some who claim that this movement has provided black metal with some of it's most interesting groups since the 90s, other would say that it's a movement based off the success of a couple of good bands. So I found it somewhat interesting that bands are still being put into that movement since, as far as I knew, it had ended a while back.

There's what you could almost call an imbalance on this record in terms of how the record is laid out, with the opener being eighteen minutes long the the remaining three tracks totaling up to just over twenty. Not a problem, but it is interesting how the band decided to present themselves on here. It's a bold step opening an album with a lengthy piece like the title-track, and while bands from this particular movement have never really been ones to embrace the standard song formats, this is up there in terms of a bold opening statement. As far as what you can expect from this track, because of the movement with which I've seen this album associated with, and with good reason, you will be able to hear influences from other bands from that "scene" in this track (as well as the following three as well). I guess the main problem I have with that is just that it sounds more or less like what I've already heard from those bands, and obviously I don't have a problem with rehashing ideas if it's done well or interestingly enough, but it's just that it's introduction so much reminded me of the likes of Echtra and Skagos that it was almost off-putting. That's more or less the basis of the first half of this track. It moves from ambiance into an acoustic piece. The last half of the track is where I thought that the band really gained their own footing - when they went electric. I'm not going to pretend that once the band goes metal they suddenly become a revelation but to say that the track really picks up speed and momentum after that transition would be an understatement. Yes it's raw and gritty, but there's a real interesting use of atmospherics used throughout that was one of several things that kept me interested and engaged.

As the following three songs progress forward it becomes apparent that while I did come into this record slightly skeptical because of what these guys are attached to, they do have a sound that is a deviation from the standards. While there are hints of it used in the title-track, the blues influence in the band's playing really came out in the shorter tracks. While there's plenty of straightforward tremolo riffing and whatnot used throughout the album, it was those bluesy moments that I think really made this stand out to me. The idea of combining blues with black metal is one that, as I've said various times before, is one that seems to be getting more popular as time goes forward but the bands that pull it off well will continue to have favor (at least with me) because of how they do it. While the use of the banjo on the intro of closer If The Sky Falls, We Shall Catch Larks certainly does bring to mind the most recent work of Austin Lunn's project Panopticon, I wouldn't go so far as to call it a rip-off or a parody of that.

I think it's pretty obvious at this point that I do favor this record to many others that have been attached to this "scene" in recent years and hope that people check it out because of how well it's done. There's real talent on here in many places and though it certainly isn't perfect by any means it's for a debut full-length it's pretty damn good. Definitely give this one a shot if you're a fan of more forward thinking - but ultimately still very raw, black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Fragments of A Fallen Star, Keening

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nutrition - Terminus Occultus EP (2013)

Band: Nutrition
Country: Lexington, Kentucky
Style: Industrial Black Metal
Label: Independent

I'd like to think of myself as a long time supporter of the band known as Nutrition. I've reviewed two of their previous EPs before, both varying in terms of my enjoyment, but I have liked check up on the band every once in a while and I stumbled upon this EP. The band are poised to release a new full-length soon so I wanted to rush this one out as soon as I saw it.

Unlike the more traditional and straightforward approach taken on the band's last EP, Dusk of The Hunter I, the three songs (including an interlude) on here take a much more expansive and progressive style. Perhaps this is obvious in just looking at the extended lengths of these tracks, but keep in mind that having long songs doesn't make you a progressive band. These songs, however, do bring a more winding structure to the table while still retaining the use of a solid chorus that's grounded in the style established on previous releases. Meaning that the choruses do keep things a bit more simplistic, but are fast enough to not really feel out of place. There is, at least in my mind, a few more spots that do show a bit more of a Blut Aus Nord kind of vibe - which particularly stands out against the more melodic and straightforward riffs used. Also, bonus points for the Network sample used in I, cause that was pretty cool (there are several samples used throughout these songs but that one was my favorite). III actually managed to do the most out of the three songs on here, I think, because it managed to do all the heavy and aggressive stuff, but also had a moment where things cooled down, and the riff following that section is one of the best things I think I've heard this band put down. It's instrumental but flows from a more mid-paced and melodic section into a more dissonant one then slows down again. Obviously, there's more following that, but I'm not going to diagram the whole song here. It's just great and is something I think the band should be incredibly proud for having written.

All together I think this is actually a nice return to form for the project and if this is any indication of the direction taken on the full-length, I sure as hell can't wait to hear it. There's some really nice stuff on here that shows just how far the band have come from their beginnings. If you're a fan of more progressive and industrial leaning black and death metal I don't see any reason why you should ignore this band.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: III

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thoreau - IV EP (2013)

Band: Thoreau
Country: Würzburg, Germany
Style: Post-Metal
Label: Independent

Speaking for myself, after having listened to probably a couple dozen bands that are labeled as "post-metal" since first starting this blog, it's become rather hard to find standouts. There is certainly no shortage of bands with talent but bands that are doing something interesting and unique are harder to find. I more or less knew the style that Thoreau were playing when I first skimmed through their album, though the details were not revealed until I actually listened through.

The four songs that make up this full-length contain, rather expectedly, what you'd more than likely hear on any other record labeled as "post-metal." Considering that the band don't exactly go out of their way to really put the listener off balance in the leading segments of the album, it can be rather hard to say that there's a whole lot here you won't have already heard before. Isis and Neurosis pioneered, then groups like Cult of Luna, The Ocean, Pelican (to name a few) brought it to new heights in terms of popularity as well as sonic experimentation. To hear a band who really don't take many risks, if any at all, with the genre can be not only disappointing but also dull. Now, this certainly isn't a dull album but it's an album that will give you exactly what you want if and when you decide to put it on; though to say there isn't a certain amount of pleasure in listening to a band just perform a style that you enjoy would be a lie. Yes, there's nothing too original on here, but it's performed well enough and the songs are able to maintain interest for their durations so it's not as torturous of an experience as my words above may have given the impression of. In fact, both of the songs that make up the center of the album, Flut and the title-track, are, in my opinion, pretty damn solid tracks. They're mostly instrumental, which is the case for most of the album album as well, and they have a nice melodic streak to them that I found myself warm towards as the songs progressed forward. I can only hope that the band do try some more things in the future. Take note though because I would never call this record bad, it's simply lackluster. For a band who are in a genre that is all about dynamics, I just wish there was a bit more on here that I didn't expect because you can more or less tell where things are going on a given track on first listen.

I wish there was really more to say on this matter, but that's more or less it for what I've heard on here. It's a pretty typical and/or standard post-metal record without much personality or without a whole lot of risks taken. If you're a fan of the genre and/or a completest of it this would be right up your alley, but frankly it didn't really do a whole lot for myself.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Flut, Helix

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Koloss - Empower The Monster (2013)

Band: Koloss
Country: Vetlanda, Sweden
Style: Post-Metal/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

I covered Koloss' debut full-length back when it came out in 2011 and thought it was a solid, if somewhat generic record. After reviewing that record if you had asked me about the band I probably wouldn't have remembered them, and it wasn't until I saw the covered art for this record while looking through bandcamp that I thought I had covered the band before. As I have said many times in the past, a cool looking cover can definitely help as to whether or not someone decides to listen to it.

While the intro to opener From The Sea (The Birth of A Monster) may lead you to believe you're in for just another doom metal record, about two minutes in the song abruptly changes pace and your find yourself drifting not in a black sea of doom and gloom but an ocean of psychedelia. While the moment is fleeting it's probably the most telling moment about the band in this one minute long section. Anyone can do heavy, and being a post-metal band doesn't really hold the meaning it once did since so many bands have emerged and have essentially just done what all the biggest bands were/are doing. While Koloss' debut may have given glimpses of talent, it was by and large a more average album from the genre. But in that one minute long section, the revealed, to at least me, that they are capable of so much more. The use of open space and melodic guitar lines filling that minute of time in the song just grabbed me and I wish that the band had either repeated it in the song or on the album, or had just extended the sequence cause it was really that good. Though to be perfectly fair to the band, since the entire album plays out like one long song, the fact that they do at least reference it later on is at least something. There are plenty of mellow/softer moments on here with clean guitars which are well done to say the least, I just wish that one minute long section from the opener was used again. But now it probably just sounds like I'm bitching.

Beyond that the band do at least do a solid job at performing and writing the post-metal genre. If you've heard of any of the figurehead bands of the genre than you know what to expect going in, the only difference being that Koloss have obviously done the work and are trying to at least do the genre in their own way that isn't a complete rip-off of other bands. There's no faking here, nothing gives the impression of the band not liking what they're doing - and believe, I've heard several post-metal records where it sounds like people just going through the motions, so in that way I do give these guys more credit. There's also the fact that these guys do embrace the whole doom genre more than a majority of their peers. Those distorted sections have the weight that most bands in the post-metal style lack, and it actually carries through that the weight of the guitars does actually feel like a giant monster (Pacific Rim style) smashing out of the sea and smashing its way onto land. In a strange way I'd like to call this a more progressive album than the band's debut simply because they're tackling that whole "one long song as an album" concept, but musically they don't really dive that far into that sort of territory.

While this review may have come off a bit negative, I don't actually dislike this album - it's quite good in fact. There are certain aspects I wish the band had explored more of in the making of this album, but otherwise I think it's a solid attempt to make a rather stale genre their own. If you're a fan of the slower side of metal I do recommend giving this a listen and making your own decisions about it.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: From The Sea (The Birth of A Monster), Building Arks