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

Friday, May 31, 2013

Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A. (2013)

Band: Progenie Terrestre Pura
Country: Veneto, Italy
Style: Atmospheric/Progressive Black Metal
Label: Avantgarde Music

Back in 2011 I reviewed a little two song EP/demo from Progenie Terrestre Pura and actually really enjoyed it. Since then I've been rather unaware of what the duo was actually doing, though I had hoped that they would release more material, I was not sure. It wasn't until I got an email a couple of weeks back telling me about this album and asking me to review that I even remembered the band.
Based on the album artwork and from what I remembered from that initial demo/promo EP(...) I kind of had an imagined sound for what I thought this album would sound like. Upon first listen I was actually struck by the fact that my assumptions were pretty close to the mark, but that the entire album had a much different structural tone to it than I expected. Sonically, what I had imagined was a very atmospheric sounding black metal record that would have this sort of polished sound due to either tons of synth tones being used or simply through a more industrial vision from the band, and, more or less, that's the sound that is on here. It's very cold and synthetic sounding, with introductory vocals being delivered by whisper through a filter and some more moody guitar chords before bursting out into a more traditional sounding black metal riff. That's just the opening title-ish-track. The following track, Sovrarobotizzazione, which I would actually rank as one of the best songs I've heard all year, takes several influences and does some really wondrous stuff. In just referencing the guitar work in this track, there's your typicacl black metal tremolo picking, but you also have some very modern progressive stuff as well, including a surprising djent-ish groove section that really took me by surprise when it came up.
Now, what I meant when I said that this album had a different structural tone to it was that throughout the five tracks that make up this album, what you have are not simply five atmospherically based black metal tracks. There's a lot on here that has nothing to do with black metal. The influence of space ambient, 70s synth odysseys, space rock, and minimal electronica can be heard throughout this album. Whether it's through the articulate solos that occur, the straight-up ambient pieces, the more "futuristic" electronica elements that pop up in the background of certain tracks. It's a really interesting fusion of ideas and when I say structural tone, I meant that the entire album was not based around a black metal sound but actually more of an ambient one. So in that sense you're getting a record that is closer to the likes of Trist (the German one) or Paysage d'Hiver if you view it in more of a black metal sense. While I listened to it, I got vibes from Pantha Du Prince, Brian Eno, Tangerine Dream, and Nektar (among others) which are far from being metal in any way. It's actually really interesting because, despite the influx of progressive rock and krautrock influence into extreme metal recently, as well as the long lasting influence of ambient music, I have not heard a record quite like this one before.
I'm actually quite surprised by how consistent this album is based on how varied it is stylistically without every falling into the self-indulgence realm of most avant-garde and progressive music (which I love). There haven't been that many bands who I've heard who can begin a record with an aggressive metal track, expand upon it, and then apparently abandon it for what sounds like a complete reinvention of their sound. It's a very odd thing this band does on here because the non-metal tracks definitely have spots where it's clear the band are tipping their caps to 70s and 80s progressive and electronic music, but they manage to do it in a way that never sounds like they're directly ripping off anyone. In fact, most of it still manages to come across in a way that I would have never thought of. The album's centerpiece, La Terra Rossa Di Marte, is the clearest representation of such. It's an ambient odyssey of sorts with a guitar solo that is taken directly from the space rock playbook. But boy oh boy does it sound different, because the album's production has such an industrial and cold tone, it doesn't give off the same vibe that either a vintage band would or a band who just took on board space rock as an influence.
I think this is a really interesting record and I'm glad that it's receiving the warm reaction that it has. There aren't many other records out there that sound like this one and that has crossed over so well into other genres. If you're a fan of experimental metal, electronica, ambient, or rock (I'm being broad - I know, get over it) than give this record a shot, hopefully it'll work for you as it has worked for me and many others.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Sovarobotizzazione, Sinapsi Divelte

Aborym - Dirty (2013)

Band: Aborym
Country: Rome, Italy
Style: Industrial Black Metal
Label: Agonia

Even since I discovered that Attila Csihar actually did things outside of Mayhem for a long while (this was several years back) I've been a fan of Aborym. The sound of this band has always been one that I was actually surprised never crossed over to more people. Nevertheless, they've always appealed to me and I was certainly excited when I heard about this album.
I have to say, when it comes to album titles, this one may be the most fitting to an album that I've seen so far this year. In listening back to some of Aborym's previous releases, I have come to the conclusion that this is indeed their dirtiest record, and definitely ranks as one of their fiercest as well. The entire thing is covered in this sort of layer of industrial noise that was not present on the last couple of releases. Also, gone is the more progressive and expansive ideas that were present on 2010's Psychogrotesque. In place of those more experimental ideas is strong songwriting and this gritty edge that I haven't heard in the group's sound since their 2001 breakthrough record, Fire Walk With Us!. It's dark and strange and very aggressive, even in comparison to the band's early work. The guitars are distorted and sound very raw, while the drums definitely utilize some of their most industrial sounding beats to date - though the variety is certainly still there. But I think the most shocking thing about this record, beyond all that I just mentioned, is the perversion, or at least the sense of perversion, that I get while listening to this record.
The lyrics on this record fit the more noisy and harsh tone to this record. While I have always taken the band's more occult and satanic based lyrics as sort of just a face value level, I felt like their lyric writing definitely improved a lot on their last full-length, and this record takes things into a bit of a different and unexpected direction - or at least that's how I interpreted it. Tracks like Irreversible Crisis and Raped By Daddy just have those little hooks that dig themselves into your brain and refuse to leave - despite the subject matter that is described. I hate to say this because I know there will be plenty of people out there who will misinterpret this, but there were a couple of spots on here, where clean vocals were used, that I got sort of a nu metal or power metal vibe from. Though I mean that in a good way, not the very, very bad way that it probably will sound like when I bring that up in a review.
I also do not want to make it sound like this is just another industrial black metal record with on defining characteristics other than it's noisy and raw. Frankly, while the band come out on top in that department, making these songs very accessible while making sure they also retain that distorted edge, the most interesting thing is how they utilize atmosphere on a handful of tracks on here. The aforementioned Raped By Daddy features an extended atmospheric build during it's bridge and outro that made me do a double-take to make sure I was still listening to the same song I started out with. Other tracks like Across The Universe and I Don't Know are a bit more schizophrenic with how their atmospheric sections are used in conjunction with their more distorted ones, but are by no means bad. On more than a few occasions I did think that I was listening to a modern (and black metal rooted) interpretation of Godflesh's seminal Streetcleaner. Just like that album, there's a balance between more heaviness, aggression, and atmosphere, though, frankly, this is a more fun record to sit through than that one is (at least in my opinion) since that record is more oppressive and like a weight pushing down on you and this one is more like a fist in their air (IE. two different sort of listening experiences).
I really dug this album, though I'm sure that came through in the above paragraphs. Control Human Delete's recent record, The Prime Mover, was what I wanted in a forward thinking "industrial black metal" band, than this is the other side of the spectrum, instead of clean and polished experimental idea, it's dirty, noisy, and focused, and I can still love the hell out of it. This is just a dark and fun record to listen to where the band are clearly in their comfort zone and are just writing aggressive tracks that are a blast to listen to.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Irreversible Crisis, Bleedthrough, The Factory of Death

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Hexvessel - Iron Marsh EP (2013)

Band: Hexvessel
Country: Helsinki/Tampere, Finland
Style: Psychedelic Folk/Rock
Label: Svart

I've been a big supporter of Kvohst's work for the last couple of years, both of his work in Hexvessel and of his former black metal bands. Since Hexvessel first started, I have yet to be disappointed by the band's brand of occult based folk music. I have to say that I am rather surprised by the band's pretty consistent output thus far, I mean releasing a release once a year by that.
This little five song EP is a nice little stopgap between last year's amazing No Holier Temple and hopefully another full-length to be released. That album really showed the band filling out their sound and branching off a bit more. Not so much a 60's inflected occult folk project from Kvohst, but a full band working within and beyond that genre, the band took a step by becoming more adventurous with song structures and incorporating even more varied instrumentation. This album moves into a slightly more electric direction than even the last full-length did, but also continues with interesting song ideas. Opener Masks of The Universe is a very well constructed epic that definitely makes good use of each second of its time. It feels much more like a psyche-rock jam than anything else the band has done to this point. Later on, Woman of Salem is easily the band's most catchy song to date, with a big, infectious chorus that is easy to get stuck in your head. But really, those are just the two tracks I find myself returning to the most, the entire EP is a killer - like everything this band releases. This is the sort of release that is perfectly suited to being an EP, you have individual songs which sound like different ideas that band wanted to try, from the opening epic to the melancholy ballad of Superstitious Currents to the aforementioned single and the two more psychedelic rock tracks that build up and down better than most post-rock bands do. It's great, what more do you need to hear.
I don't think it's coming as any surprise that I really liked this album. Kvohst has yet to disappoint me with anything he's participated on and this has proven to be his most consistent project to date. I certainly dig retro bands, but this is one of the few who seem to actually do with not only conviction but also manage to make it more than just an homage to this time period. Support this band if you have yet to!
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Masks of The Universe, Woman of Salem

E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr - Kometenbahn (2013)

Band: E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr
Country: Turku, Finland
Style: Krautrock
Label: Svart

To those who have spoken with me about music, they will know that I am a big fan of 60s and 70s era progressive music. While plenty of people are satisfied enough to simply relegate the sounds of that era to the past, I am always up for retro groups. I was not familiar with E-Musikgruppe Lux Ohr before being sent this album but I was certainly interested.
To be quite honest, when I first started listening to this album, and based off of the genre tags that I had seen the band attached to, I was expecting a far more rocking album than this one. It was probably the "progressive rock" and "space rock" tags that threw me off, because this is pure krautrock through and through. It's that early synth dominated, odyssey-like sound that groups like Kraftwerk and Popol Vuh really helped to pioneer back in the 70s. There's very little use of additional instrumentation besides synth and keys, with the use of guitars coming up very rarely and a drum machine being used in a similarly minimalistic way for most of the time when it's being used. I was definitely thrown off by it because I think what I wanted was more of a rock album and this is much closer to ambient music most of the time than anything resembling rock music. At times it has that sort of early trance vibe that was apparent on early space rock and krautrock releases of that time, which I find to be somewhat of an endearing quality.
Despite my initial reaction towards this album, I have to say that I did actually really enjoy it. I mean, it's not really mind-blowing or anything, but it's very immersive and engaging for the type of album that it is. It's actually quite warm sounding as well, which makes me think that this might have been recorded on analog. Despite a cover that might give the indication of this being rather dark and moody, it's actually quite vibrant and fun to listen to - for how minimal it is actually. Yes, there is plenty of moody ambient work being done on here as well, mainly in the background, listen to the album epic Durch Den Kosmischen Dunst, but the majority of the synth work done on here is quite fun and even upbeat in several spots. I actually have to say that I was surprised by how dynamic several of these tracks proved to be. The aforementioned manages to be it's own little roller-coaster for it's eleven minute running time, with a climax that rivals most post-rock bands. I could seriously get lost in these songs. I found myself spacing out while listening to it (not in a bad way though) and just feeling like I was really being absorbed by the music.
I realize this sort of music isn't for everyone but this album certainly won me over despite knowing essentially nothing about it when I first came in. It's an album that you can sit down and really focus on or one that you can just put on in the background while you're doing other things - and it works great both way. So if you're a fan of synth based instrumental music, maybe give this one a shot. Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Nachtgeist, Durch Den Kosmischen Dunst

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Berserk! - Berserk! (2013)

Band: Berserk!
Country: Italy
Style: Industrial/Avant-Garde Jazz
Label: RareNoise

Every once in a while I get these jazz oriented albums to cover and some of them are better than others, but some of them just grab me more than I ever anticipate. This new project created by Lorenzo Esposito Fornasari and Lorenzo Feliciati has proven to be one of the weirdest records I've heard all year. Hopefully this intro is enough to keep you interested.
I guess the thing that grabbed me right away with this album was that even though it was definitely rooted in jazz music and fusion, and was coming from two guys who came from those worlds, it is much stranger and more abstract sounding than either of those genres tend to be. That's quite a bold statement, and it's not as if I'm saying this is the most bizarre and avant-garde piece of music I've ever heard, but it takes the sounds of those two (very similar) styles and transforms them into a completely different shape. The two (without listing off each and every collaborator on here) take their foundational styles and make electronic music that is far from boring. It's weird because I say electronic music, but it's not as though these guys have limited themselves to simply one brand of electronic soundscapes. Instead you have tracks that are more industrial-tinged, then there are those that feel slightly more hip-hop or trip-hop inspired, while others clearly have a more pop edge to them. It's a very interesting take on jazz-based music which I can't say I've heard done in this way before. With that being said, the way that these tracks are actually constructed, or at least the way it appears to me, is perhaps the most interesting thing of all. Because despite how unique this album is, it really is more about presentation. The material on here is still pretty rooted in the world of jazz and fusion, it's just how the wrote these songs, how they keep to a certain beat, the way the vocals are used, that anchor it and allow it to soar and seem all the more "out-there".
I really have to commend the vocalists on here as well, because they really come off as strange - and by that I mean they sound like Mike Patton (my favorite vocalist) did vocals on here. I'm sure To accompany the array of musical ideas on here, you have a variety of vocal styles on here as well, from somber whispers to layered chanting and everything in between. Fornasari's work I am not familiar with but I have to say that his work as a vocalist on here has definitely impressed me. Later on he manages to sound like another favorite of mine, David Sylvian - so, what's up with this guy? He just nails each track with a vocal performance that walks the line between being smooth and sultry and dark and maniacal, a line very few people do with as much ease as he appears to do.
Along with all that, the album is constructed in a fashion that allows it's dynamics to come out best when listened from start to finish. While the first couple of songs are definitely more on the "pop" side of things and are certainly more listener friendly, the entire middle portion consists of more jazz dominated pieces that take us back to those smokey jazz bars. A few instrumental pieces carry us onward through the short interlude Blow, the more upbeat Clairvoyance, and the more low-key noir-ish First (among others) are much less easy to just get into because they don't have that pop beat or vocals leading the way for you. The last third of the album takes us back into more vocal led songs, though the mood is unabashedly more low-key - coming across more like experimental amd avant-garde material than anything else on the album. From the slow singer-songwriter vibe that is Wait Until Dark to the Polkadot Cadaver/Dog Fashion Disco-esque Latent Prints, it really takes the record into a completely different direction.
While the entire thing isn't perfect, there are a couple spots that are just sort of there and aren't all that special, I did find myself enthralled and engaged in most of this album. It was a real surprise to me, even though I never expect a record to be bad, this one blew me away. Definitely worth checking out for all you experimental electronic and jazz fans out there!
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Fetal Claustrophobia, First, Wait Until Dark

Slobber Pup - Black Aces (2013)

Band: Slobber Pup
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Progressive Rock/Jazz Fusion
Label: Rarenoise

My first experience with this record was one in which I had no idea what it was, I just pressed play and read the press release for it later. As of lately, Rarenoise has been releasing some pretty stellar albums and I don't even remember replying for a copy of this one - it just showed up one day. So knowing only that Rarenoise was releasing it, I released the pressure of my finger on the play button and let myself be open to whatever I was about to hear.
Based off of my experience with what Rarenoise has released, I was sort of expecting a more straight-up jazz album, which this turned out not to be. Featuring the likes of keyboardist Jamie Saft, drummer Balazs Pandi, guitarist Joe Morris, and bassist Trevor Dunn (of whom I am a big fan) this album really just grabbed me by the balls and refused to let go. For a band made up of guys who primarily come from a jazz background this was surprisingly rocking, and at times even metallic. When I actually read the press release it didn't really come as a big surprise upon reading that some of these guys had played with John Zorn before, what with the rather chaotic nature this album manages to present. Opener Accuser is really something grand though. This twenty-seven minute long introduction to the album is really a kick in the balls, probably the biggest kick in the balls I've ever had from a "jazz" record to be honest. This thing blasts off and doesn't really ever relent in it's fury and intensity. The guitar work is frantic yet controlled within a blues sort of style. The bass lines are distorted a fuzzed out to the point of being hard to make out at certain times. The organ and keyboard work is droning and manages to create a sort of space for which the other instruments are confined within so as to not come across as random instrumental wankery. But the biggest grabbed was the drum work which just blew me away. Pandi's work on this track is just insane, he keeps things very controlled, even with the organ keeping things together, he reigns them in and then throws them back out. It's crazy! I swear, the first half of this opener is more intense than many death metal songs I've heard.
While the rest of the album never achieves the same level of sheer intensity as the opener does, it does bring a bit more of that jazz flair to the table. With the exception of the righteous blues jam that is Basalt, the rest of the album channels both the aggression and the frenetic nature of jazz's more outer reaches. The three tracks that then follow continue to challenge with the fusion of jazz, metal, and prog-rock. While the title-track is a spastic freakout of sorts that features some rather crazy keyboard lines taking the lead for the better part of the song, Suffrage is a much more contained sort of piece that really brings that 60s and 70s psychedelia to my mind. The bluesy guitar lines and smooth rhythm work by both Dunn and Pandi were what grabbed me most about this track in particular. With organ lines that definitely hammer home that retro sound. Closer Taint of Satan brings us back to a more contained sound, though one that is definitely heavier and focused more on achieving that metallic sound than the title-track. I mean, by the end of the track, everyone seems to just be going crazy on their instruments, organ lines flying past you, drum work that borders on death metal style intensity, and bass and guitar work that just turns into a wall of distortion. Personally, I really dug how the closer just descended into utter chaos, but I know it won't be for everyone.
So, Rarenoise release another killer album that just knocked me out. I certainly did not expect this in any way and despite not knowing a single thing about the project before listening to it for the first time, I was left sorely beaten and bruised by this. Definitely a must for all fans of experimental jazz, prog-rock, or even those metal and rock fans who are looking for something a bit different.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Accuser, Suffrage

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Surachai - Embraced (2013)

Band: Surachai
Country: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Industrial Black Metal
Label: Independent

I first covered Surachai's EP To No Avail a couple of years ago and was pretty impressed with it after reading a couple of good things about it. I haven't really been keeping tabs on the project since then though and was somewhat taken aback when I was told about this new full-length being released. I was going to cover it anyway but when I got a message from the man behind the band himself I put it at the top of my "listen to immediately" list.
Sonically, I can't really say that Surachai's sound has changed too much since the release of the aforementioned EP above, but that's not a bad thing in my opinion. The black metal portion of his sound definitely brings to mind groups like Krallice and, to a lesser extent, Liturgy with the use of the higher end of the guitar to construct dense walls of melodies. But perhaps the biggest shift has been in the department of the drumming, performed to perfection on here by Charlie Werber who gives the entire thing a very jazzy feeling. He certainly blasts with the best of them, but it's all his interesting fills, cymbal work, and breaks into oddly timed grooves that proves to be the highlight on here. With all the high intensity tremolo picked guitar lines going on for the majority of these tracks, it's his drumming that really keeps things on a down to earth level. It's an interesting dichotomy between the ways the guitar sort of wind together on both channels of the speaks (or the way each one is panned to a side) while the drums feel so clear and present in the middle. At times the drums appeared to come through clearer to me than the guitars to be honest. That's not to discredit the guitar work, because I certainly enjoyed it - Sentinel being a great piece - but the way it was present, it just felt like the drums overshadowed them a bit. Not bad, it's probably just the way my ear heard it. The other two tracks on here, opener Ancestral and closer Surrender are by no means weaker pieces though, with the former being a complete rush for the majority of it's running time and the ladder being the most tense piece on the entire album. The three perfectly compliment each other, with aggression leading into melody leading into chaos, hopefully that's not giving too much away.
Then there's the other side of Surachai's sound, which is the electronic stuff. The industrial effects, the ambient textures, the droning feedback, the melancholic field recordings - all that stuff which is, for the better part of this album, reserved for closing each track. I'm not quite sure how I feel about that. In one sense, I'm partial towards it that way because it doesn't break up the intensity that the "main" portion of a given track presents, but on the other, you're left these sections which feels tacked on. I'm certainly not opposed to the electronics being given more of a place in the music, I just feel sort of let down that it's like you have these two separate sides of the project and Surachai is trying to find a way to bring them together, but the only solution thus far is to just put two tracks together, a metal one and an electronic one, and the result just sounds like two tracks were stapled together and that just didn't satisfy me.
Overall, I dug this album, I had a slight problem with the way two sides of the project were presented, but neither was done badly. All I can hope is that the two sides either stay completely separate or are joined into more of a single being on a future release. Definitely worth looking into if you're interested in some pretty cool electronically tinged black metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Sentinel

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Indricothere - II (2013)

Band: Indricothere
Country: New York City, New York
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Independent/Gilead Media

I am a big fan of Colin Marston's work - both in his various bands and projects and of his production. In terms of modern progressive extreme music, he is easily one of the most interesting musicians working today. This solo project is (obviously) the second full-length from a project I had sort of written off as just being a one-off from him.
When looking at the various projects that Marston associates himself with, whether it be the technical barrage that is Behold... The Arctopus, the intricate black metal of Krallice, legendary tech-death band Gorguts, or the progressive jams of Dysrhythmia (and not taking into account the ambiance of Byla) it's obvious to see that he is not only a musician's musician but he has been a member of some of the most challenging metal groups in the last decade. This solo endeavor is no different. Though this project Colin really showcases a little bit of everything he does in the above bands, from black metal tremolo picking, harsh bass/warr guitar slaps, ferocious chugs, and the short bout of ambiance that is XI to break things up. The six songs that make up this release are intense and prove to not only be solid pieces of technical metal in and of themselves but are great samplers for what one might expect if they are new to any of his work. Personally, I wasn't all that familiar with the Indricothere debut, though I have heard it, but this feels like a much more consistent album. Though to some that might not be a good thing.
I guess what I love about this album so much is how it just can just shift from that signature Krallice-esque black metal into more mid-paced death metal chugs without missing a beat. Plus those low-end slaps just add a character to the music like nothing else I have heard. Frankly, there's just something in the way that Colin writes and performs these songs that just enthralls and excites me when I hear them. It's dark and aggressive like so many other bands, and there are plenty of other progressive metal acts who work with extreme metal genres (or sub-genres) and are instrumental as well, but Colin just makes these songs sound so original. I actually find it somewhat odd how Colin has managed to make music that is consistently intense quite go engaging and interesting while almost never relenting. Even when stacked up against his other bands, this still stands out as having it's own face despite all the similarities. It's unpredictable, it's progressive, and it's unique. What more could you ask for in a musician?
So, by now it should be obvious that I really dug this album. It's the sort of album that really shows the breath of Colin's musicality(...) and how he manages to influence the projects that he's involved in. As always, I will anxiously await whatever release he happens to be involved with next and hopefully you are in the same boat.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: VII, X

Eclectika - Lure of Ephemeral Beauty (2012)

Band: Eclectika
Country: Dijon, France
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Asylum Ruins

I gave Eclectika's 2010 album Dazzling Dawn a review on this blog way back when I was first starting to get a handle on what I was doing here. I wasn't quite as blown away by that album as I wanted to be so I was surprised when I actually received an email asking for me to review this album. Normally I wouldn't cover an album from last year so late into this one, but I was curious on how this new one sounded so I said sure.
I'll just get it out of the way so you can get on with your day, this album really did not live up to my expectations (those minimal expectations I hope an album will be good at the very least. There's certainly something to be said for a band having their own voice, but whereas on the band's previous full-length, I felt as though they were struggling to find that voice, on here, I will admit that that voice is very clear, it's the wrong voice for my tastes. Sonically this album tries to find a balance between black metal, ambient music, and symphonic music (or at least that's what I got). There are some additional flairs in here as well, but man oh man does this album sound fake. The instrumentals sound so flat and digital it's not even funny. The drums are obviously programmed, but this is some of the most lifeless programmed drumming I've ever heard. It's just your basic beats with the occasional burst into double-bass territory but with absolutely terrible drum tones. In addition to that, the bass and guitar tones really aren't anything to be proud of either. I could deal with the weak (or fragile to be honest) guitar tone if it was at least doing anything interesting; and the bass really has no business being as loud as it is in the mix for the wobbly tone that it's accompanied with. While the higher notes come through just fine, the low end, which, generally speaking, is what the bass is used for, is just bad. Not the way it's being played, but the sound. So yeah, we're not off to a great start here.
But beyond that, the biggest element I struggled with while listening to this album was most definitely Noémie Sirandre's vocals. I said in my review for the band's last album that she sounded a lot like Sarah Jezebel Deva on those early Cradle of Filth records - you know the ones. Her voice is very operatic and, frankly, the reason I don't listen to a lot of female fronted power/prog/symphonic metal groups is because they all have this same method of singing. It's not bad, and they are clearly talented, but that style of singing just really irritates me to no end. That is no exception on here. Her vocals are littered all over this record, she is pretty much the main voice of the band for this record, and I would be lying if I said there weren't times when I just wanted to turn this album off because it was just getting so annoying and I was just getting aggravated. The aggressive vocals on the other hand I have no problems with. They're not individualistic in any way, but they're just fine and do what they're intended to do.
In terms of ideas, this album isn't bad. Frankly it sounds like the trio were trying to fuse symphonic music with a more atmospheric black metal type of vibe in a unique way, and I think that the ideas are there. There are some nice industrial flairs here and there as well as some nice guitar and bass parts - but they're bogged down by the terrible production sounds. The instrumental synth tracks are ok, quite frankly I don't think they improve upon the album, but they don't take away from it either. The trio has always used them and I don't find the ones on here to be any better or worse than the ones on previous albums.
So, overall, I can say that I really did not care for this album. The production, tones, and female vocals just ruined it for me. Obviously this is all just my opinion, so if you are still interested in this, definitely check the band out, but man was I disappointed by this album.
Overall Score: 4
Highlights: Cyclic Anagnorisis, Room Nineteen, Handicapped Sex In A Mental Orgy

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Preterite - Remembrancer EP (2013)

Band: Preterite
Country: Montréal, Canada
Style: Psychedelic Folk/Drone
Label: Independent

Back in 2011, Preterite released a rather well crafted debut full-length, Pillar of Winds, on one of this blog's favorite labels, Handmade Birds. Since then, there has been talk of another full-length being in the works as well before this two song EP just popped up on bandcamp. Back when it was released in February, I gave it a listen but have only just recently gotten back into the swing of reviewing so I wanted to give this one its due.
The work of duo Geneviève Beaulieu and James Hamilton is one that is quite special, which I guess is saying something since I've never been one for either of their projects separate from each other. The way they blend trippy psychedelia, droning atmospheres, and folk based instrumentation is a fusion of ideas that I don't think I would have assumed could work as well together as they would in this duos hands if you had told me in years past. I guess where my perspective differs on this small release to their full-length is whereas the full-length had it's fair share of crackling distortion and feedback chiming in the background from time to time, which at times I felt actually disrupted the more delicate sounds that came before it, the two songs on here are not quite so harsh. For my money it's a much less austere vision, with more captivating guitar and piano work than on the full-length. I feel as if it isn't so stuck in the world of drone on here that it needed to senselessly elongate the two tracks, but instead brings a far more interesting folk side to the forefront of the sound. Geneviève Beaulieu's voice is still a bit polarizing for me at times, but I think that her style on here is well suited to the music underneath her.
I really dug both the tracks on here and actually think that both are the best tracks the duo have released up to this point (not that that's saying much since they only have seven tracks out). I found myself returning to both tracks on here quite often actually, especially since it has been quite rainy recently, which really works well with that sort of weather. Once again, this sort of style isn't going to be for everyone, but if you want some nice ambient, folky music - I'd certainly give this one a shot.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Don't Ask For The Moon When We Have The Stars

Light Bearer - Silver Tongue (2013)

Band: Light Bearer
Country: London, UK
Style: Post-Metal
Label: Halo of Flies

Light Bearer has been a rather interesting independent group who has proven to be quite prolific in the years since their inception. The style in which they have chosen to perform in has bred groups who often tend to take much longer spaces of absence in between releases, which is not the case with this group. Since the talk around this record has sort of died down since it was released several months back, I figured it was about time to bring it up again.
On 2011's Lapsus, I really dug what the band was doing with their brand of post-metal and sludge metal. They took that rather tired and somewhat lazy sound that so many bands had done up til that point and really gave it a nice breath of fresh air. Granted, it wasn't a huge breath, but that record had life, it was diverse, and it felt passionate. It didn't feel like as much of an exercise to listen to a band write a song that was soft and then got heavy during a climax. I'm certainly not immune to that style of writing but it gets taxing after a while listening to a style where no one is doing anything original with it. Then the band released a single and a split with Earthless (which I still hold as being one of the best splits to come out that year) with an epic twenty-one minute long song. It was another nice take on their sound, pushing it to it's limit, at least at that time, by stretching the song out to that length and still making it engaging. I had high hopes for this release coming into it.
That last statement is probably making whoever is reading this think that I'm now going to trash this album, but that is actually not the case with this record, or at least not the entire case. Unlike their first couple of releases, this record suffers most simply from overreaching. The band really put too much filler on here. There are certainly some good tracks on here, the opening and closing pieces on here are great pieces of work actually, and some of the stuff in the middle is quite good too, but this album has six tracks and five of them are over ten minutes. Normally that isn't a problem for me, I like long songs, but some of these in the middle just felt like the band didn't really do anything in that time. There was no reason Aggressor & Usurper should have been almost seventeen minutes long, it easily could have been about half that length and accomplished about the same. I single this track out simply because during the handful of times I've sat through this entire album (from start to finish) this was the track where I found myself nodding off to the most. By that point in the album I feel as though I've already listened to the band's best track to date, the opener, Beautiful Is This Burden, and then some other stuff which is solid for the most part. But at that point in the album I just feel tired out and worn down by the album. I don't feel like an album should wear down a listener simply because of how long it is, maybe with how heavy it is, but not it's length. So I can't help but take against this album because of how long it is.
I don't know if I've mentioned this in any of my reviews for the band's other material but I really dig their production. It's nice and raw sounding, not really polished, but very bassy. The band's music doesn't really come across as "heavy" to me in the traditional sense, but more as "weighty". It feels like there's actual power being used to play some of these more distorted sections, which I'm all for. In a way it sort of reminds me of Neurosis because they've really lessened their more metallic side but have retained the weighty sound of the style without falling into it. To be fair though, Light Bearer is definitely still a metal band. It also compliments the more atmospheric tones that the strings bring when they come into the mix. It doesn't have a drastic shift in tone even if the band are playing a more upbeat and melodic part before transitioning into a more melancholic string section.
So, this album is filled with some of the band's best material yet, but paired along with some of it's most dull as well. It's simply a matter of overreaching, which I can't take against a band for, I can only hope the band can tone things down a little bit more for their next album. I think that if you're a fan of slower forms of metal, you'll dig this for sure, otherwise, give the opener and closer a listen before making a final decision to advance further.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Beautiful Is This Burden, Silver Tongue

Odradek Room - Bardo. Relative Reality (2013)

Band: Odradek Room
Country: Mariupol, Ukraine
Style: Progressive Doom Metal
Label: Hypnotic Dirge

I first found out about Odradek Room some time last year while scouring through different groups on Bandcamp. I never got around to actually listening to the band until now though. I was excited to hear what a band who was labeled as "progressive doom metal" would actually end up sounding like.
The sound of this record is, I think, a bit underdeveloped for me to really say that it's "progressive" but there is definitely some nice ideas on here. What you happen to have on here is a band who is definitely based in the slower spectrum of the metal genres, but aside from the obvious doomier sound, you have them toying around with sounds from post-rock, avant-garde music, death metal, and stuff along those lines. Frankly, at least to me, the majority of this record was spaced somewhere between death-doom and post-metal, and while I can't really call that progressive, I can certainly tell you that what's being done on here, for the most part, is pretty solid. I mean, this band is still pretty young, and their influences still come through pretty clearly in their songs. They have definitely pulled from the likes of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Isis, and Officium Triste (among others). It's not a bad thing, I like all those bands, but there are times where chord progressions sound a bit too much like they were just ripped straight out of one of the above bands and put into place here. Tracks like Inflorescence of Silence or A Painting (Digging Into The Canvas With Oil) do show promise for which the band could further expand upon, it's just a matter of getting rid of those parts that are too much like their influences. Even the post-black metal conclusion to River is a nice shift for the band's sound and is, while hopefully not a huge point, something they can explore further in the future.
I think the biggest thing I could fault this record for would be the production, which is a bit too raw for the sound I think these guys are going for. It sounds very much like a bedroom sounding recording - which is fine in most cases, but this band doesn't sound like a bedroom band. It sounds more like a group who should have a bigger and more weighty sound to their album. The guitars, at least the distorted ones, sound too thin while the vocals sound a bit too loud in the mix. So, the major fault is simply in the recording which I think is the main thing holding the band back from really being something. It's probably just the fact that I'm studying recording that I actually find fault in this to be more impactful for my listening experience. The vocal production is perhaps the weirdest thing to me because the clean vocals, while sounding whispered for the most part, are sitting pretty comfortably in the mix. They don't overwhelm like the growled ones do.
So, overall, it's an impressive debut that definitely shows a band with potential, it's just weighted down by them being a young band - which is nothing time can't solve. Fans of doom metal and all related genres like it will definitely be pleased with this album if they can get past the production. Not bad, but we'll see what the band do next.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Inflorescence of Silence, Suffocation, Cold Light

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us Is The Killer (2013)

Band: The Dillinger Escape Plan
Country: Morris Plains, New Jersey
Style: Mathcore/Progressive Metal
Label: Party Smasher/Sumerian

I find it hard not to enjoy what The Dillinger Escape Plan do. Their style is so unique that even when bands attempt to even try a same sort of stylistic venture, they come off nowhere as convincing or even grabbing as these guys are. Plus, they're experimentalists in the truest sense of the word, leading to an even further amount of respect that I give them.
I have to say, the first time I listened to Prancer I was actually sort of surprised by the direction TDEP happened to be taking. Yes, it's certainly as aggressive and intense as anything they've done in the past, but it was perhaps the first time I had noticed how syncopated the band were. The guitar and drum work were really moving as a single unit. Then I heard/saw the video for When I Lost My Bet and was shocked yet again. That track really took me back to the band's Irony Is A Dead Scene EP (more specifically, the song When Good Dogs Do Bad Things) with how chaotic and yet controlled it sounded. With these two tracks providing my introduction to the album, I was interested to see if the band would release their most consistently intense record since 1999 Calculating Infinity, and the one review I read prior to hearing it didn't suggest that my thought was incorrect.
But, yet again, TDEP have managed to surprise me. While the first two tracks are as intense as anything the band have released, the third track, which is the title-track, is right up there with being one of the band's most straightforward and melodic. I've always thought that the band had as much a penchant for writing huge pop hooks as well as their schizophrenic bursts of chaos, but this is right up there with some of their other more pop based tracks. The chorus is just a huge hook. Though the band certainly aren't through tossing you around. Following tracks like Hero of The Soviet Union and Magic That I Held You Prisoner are just as frantic (though a little less spastic) than the opening pair of tracks are. Though it's really tracks like Nothing's Funny and Understanding Decay that shows the progression the band has made since their last full-length. In reigning in their trademark chaos and almost transitioning into a more groove based sound (for the band) you have a sound that is a bit more controlled and one that is perhaps a bit more direct. On Option Paralysis we saw the band fusing the chaos of their mathcore roots with the poppier and more melodic tones that they had been playing with since the release of their debut full-length back in 1999. That record had songs that blended the two styles together seamlessly, this record takes that one step further by making the fusion sound even more cohesive and natural.
As I have always thought, the band do shine when they are experimenting and working within longer song lengths (IE, the songs that are four or more minutes long). Tracks like Paranoia Shields and Crossburner are easily some of their best yet. The former being a nice blend of the melodic and crazy before diving off in it's last two minutes into a more atmospheric form. The latter is a slower paced track that is a nice barnburner (no pun intended) that really shows the band going almost sludge metal for a while. This track also has some nice electronics popping up throughout to really make it worth listening to even if you're not a huge fan of the band doing slower stuff. Though to be fair, neither track is completely devoid of the trademark TDEP frenetic tendencies.
Overall, I dig this record, the band have yet to disappoint me in any fashion. I really dig that the band has actually pushed their sound further by just becoming better songwriters, a change I did not foresee based on the first two tracks to drop from this album. If you're a fan of the band, you'll listen to this regardless of what I say, but if you're not get off your ass and give this one a listen.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: One of Us Is The Killer, Paranoia Shields, Crossburner

Means End - The Didact (2013)

Band: Means End
Country: Stockholm, Sweden
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: Independent

Means End has been a band who I've been periodically keeping tabs on since first hearing about them a few years ago. Since they happened to feature Robert Luciani, who used to sing in Vildhjarta, they were a group I wanted to know. It's been a couple of years since first hearing them, but they have finally released their debut full-length and boy was I going to get on top of it as soon as I could.
I don't expect people to know this but I'm a big fan of Vildhjarta. I think that what they are doing with djent is really something special and the two songs they released with Luciani on their Omnislash EP are among their most popular. Since his departure I would argue that the band has taken a much more abstract and dark path (though I have no way to back this theory up), but it's interesting to hear where the two sides have gone. If Vildhjarta is a dark and dissonant group, than the path that Luciani has made for himself with Means End is the opposite, featuring a much brighter, melodic, and at times theatrical tone to it. Having only the band's self-titled EP to go off of, I was actually somewhat shocked with the way this album sounded. It's not as densely layered, or at least not as obvious about it, and Luciani's vocal performance is far more diverse and operatic in tone. I don't think it's any stretch to say that his vocals are the highlight of the album. He just goes up and down on here from operatic and theatrical cleans to more straightforward melodic singing but still bringing in plenty of aggression from the death growls and his ear-piercing shrieks. He really is a force to be reckoned with behind the mic - though at times I did feel like he might have been stretching his voice, hear the chorus of Arbiter of Time for an example.
Musically, this album definitely took a turn that I didn't quite expect either. As I mentioned above, the tone is pretty light and melodic sounding for the most part. There isn't a massive amount of pounding low-end on here, with more of a mid-rangy guitar tone for the most part, which was the biggest surprise for me because for a band that did come, essentially, from the djent genre, it didn't have that crushing low-end that most groups have. But aside from some more groove based riffs, there isn't much djenting actually going on here. Even the grooves themselves aren't overpowering or all that close to what many groups in the genre are doing to be honest. One of the darkest and heaviest moments you'll hear are on a track like Aeronaut, which is actually one of the quieter tracks on the album - but there are others for those curious. There's a bigger embrace of chordal melodies and I guess what could be called traditional progressive riffs, which I thought was a nice route for the band to take. Then there's the entire background of the album which is just filled with synth textures filling up the empty space. Whether it's simply through piano keys or more ambient soundscapes, there's always something going on back there.
But I have to say that there was one track on here that did annoy me. The band's cover of Nox Aurumque, by a composer named Eric Whitacre, did come off as somewhat pretentious to me. I'm sorry if maybe I just don't get it or something but I just couldn't find myself enjoying the track in the same way that I did for the other eleven tracks on here. It's not a bad song, it's not performed badly or anything, but just the way it was presented by Luciani, who can no doubt perform it, where is just sounds so over the top that it just sounded like a band doing it just because they thought they could do. I know that sounds incredibly stupid, but for me it was the equivalent to someone wanting to have their cake and eat it too, they wanted to cover it but instead of making it sound unique, it just sounded pretentious and obnoxious. Just my opinion though.
Call me biased for enjoying this album, but I think that this probably has a much broader appeal than some people would make it out to be. I'm not going to lie, some of this could come off as a bit pretentious or not heavy enough or whatever, but I dug it. I can only hope that those of you who check this out find something to enjoy as well.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Crimson Interloper, Mourning Star, Sun Wukong

TesseracT - Altered State (2013)

Band: TesseracT
Country: Milton Keynes, UK
Style: Progressive Metal/Djent
Label: Century Media

Back in 2011, TesseracT really grabbed me with their stellar debut One - which wound up being my fourth favorite record of that year. Since then, the band has gone through two more singers, Daniel Tompkins and Elliot Coleman, before finally landing on Ashe O'Hara. After hearing the band's newest single a few months back I was excited to hear what the rest of this album would sound like and if it would live up to their debut.
I have to say, after hearing the band's Perspective EP last year, I was quite excited to hear what the band would do with Coleman as a vocalist, but I guess we will never know what the band and him would have come up with. In the case of O'Hara, I was not familiar with his other band Voices From The Fuselage but when I heard the single version of Nocturne, I was definitely sure that he could live up to expectations. His voice was a lot closer to Tompkins' than Coleman's was, so it's easy to see why fans were a lot more accepting of him than his predecessor had it. Based off of that single, it sounded like the band was continuing with the sound they had established on their debut with the djenty grooves, a lot of ambiance, but with more of a focus on clean vocals - which I was just guessing at the time when I first heard that single, but has now been proven correct.
It has to be said, based off of the several listens I have given this record, I do not find it to be as song an album as their debut was. This new album certainly isn't bad, but I don't think the song(s) live up to what that initial single had going for it. When the band announced that this album would be essentially one long track being broken up into ten shorter pieces, I was excited because the six tracks that made up Concealing Fate definitely led me to think that the band had a talent for writing these more progressive epics where you had sections that would happen once and then happen again in another track later on or where similar melodies would be repeated, this album does not do that. I realize it doesn't have to in order for this to be a continuous track, but my main problem with this album is that it doesn't feel like a single track. I'll give it to the band that they definitely linked together to four sections, but those four never feel like they were joined together (at least to my ears); and those four sections, beyond being linked together, never felt like a continuous track in terms of anything beyond the lack of a fade or stop in the previous track. In addition to that, I can't recall any repetition of grooves or melodies throughout different sections. I also have to say that whereas on the last full-length, there was at least one thing in a track that had me coming back to it over and over - whether it was a groove or a chorus or whatever, it had memorability and definitive replay value. In the case of this new album, there are some songs like that, but definitely not all of them. From the multiple listens I gave this album I never felt the need to return to tracks like Resist or Exile.
My problems have nothing to do with the removal of more aggressive vocals from the equation or the band saying they wanted to pursue a more epic (their word, not mine) and melodic direction, it simply stems from them not making it feel like a single track (or a single section) and that some tracks are just not as well written as others. I'm sure there are plenty of other people out there who will disagree with me and probably vent their frustrations through comments in either this review or on another site, but I can't lie and say that I felt like this was either a cohesive piece of music or that more than a couple of songs stayed with me beyond the end of this album. I've not above saying that I think O'Hana is well suited to the band and does a good job or that the production and inclusion of a sax in a few of the tracks is well done either, but as a whole, this album did fall short for me.
Like I just mentioned above, I'm sure there will be plenty of people out there who disagree with me (I've seen the comments on other sites already before I've even posted it, so I know what people are thinking). There are certainly some good points on here, but it's not a masterpiece and it's not as well crafted as their debut. Worth a listen if you're interested in modern prog-metal and rock but I can't say this was a whole memorable experience.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Nocturne, Palingenesis, Singularity

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Wormlust - The Feral Wisdom (2013)

Band: Wormlust
Country: Reykjavík, Iceland
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Demonhood Productions

I remember first starting to dive into the world of underground black metal (beyond the well known groups and the pompous symphonic stuff) and finding some nice blogs where such bands were posted about. Not that I knew it at the time, but Wormlust was one of the bands from that period of discovery that has actually stayed with me - even if it was just because of the name. Since the release of The Opium Sleep demo back in 2011, I had actually thought this project had disintegrated, but was gladly proven wrong.
Ok, I don't know how many other people thought this as well, but in my past experiences with the recordings of Wormlust, I have always viewed the project as a sort of "post-black metal" style. You know, the ones who pretty much took what a group like Alcest was doing and did that. It was a bit rawer, a bit more on the ambient side with not as big an influence coming in from post-rock, but regardless, I always considered the project to be in that genre. When I listen to this album, I don't get much of that at all. Is it still there? Yes. But it was almost everything else that hit me in the face when I first pressed play that got me. Unlike many of the other one-man bands that stemmed from this same genre, this one appears to have taken on a far more radical shape that I for one never anticipated, especially seeing as I thought the project was no more. What you have on here are four tracks that make use of that post-black metal sound, but pretty much to the same degree as a band like Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega use it. Opener Sex Augu, Tólf Stjörnur is a real barnburner. The track pretty much explodes with a BAN and DSO styled chaos. It's controlled but with all the dissonant chords and blasting drums it feels more in line with those groups than anything I've heard Neige put his name to.
I have to say that while the rest of the album doesn't maintain the same level of ruthless intensity as that opener, they are far from a let down. Djöflasýra brings a much more mid-paced ambiance to the table that is, on one hand more in line with the sound I expected from the project, but on the other is still very chaotic and caustic sounding at times. For as much as I love some good post-rock and shoegaze influenced black metal, the dissonance a lot of the riffs used not only in this song but on the entire album, do cast a new light on the genre. While I mention BAN and DSO, the resemblance strikes me more to the ladder's recent EP Drought. Granted this is far more atmospherically laden and nowhere near as raw or intense as that EP was, they carry the same sort of sonic palette, of sorts, in the sense that you have crazy guitar riffs being played in such a way that they actually create an atmosphere rather than just spinning off into the abyss or somewhere. However one does have to say that the use of synth and keyboards on here is far more prevalent than that of DSO. The second half of the album retreats even further into ambient led passages with closer Iður úti falling into ambiance for the majority of its running time. It acts less as an act of frantic aggression and more as a melancholic anchor that holds down the album; and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's the closest link to the project's older material while continuing to be quite different from it as well.
This was quite the little surprise for me, not only finding out that the project was still in tact but also that the album was very different from what I expected. With all the praise that groups like BAN and DSO have received, I expect that this will polarize plenty of people who will either say it's amazing and those who say it's just a rip-off of the aforementioned groups. Personally, I really dug it and I hope whoever reads this does as well.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Sex Augu, Tólf Stjörnur, Iður úti

Lychgate - Lychgate (2013)

Band: Lychgate
Country: Cambridge, UK
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Gilead Media/Mordgrimm

I don't think my adoration for this band needs to really be stated seeing who is involved. Featuring members of Esoteric (one of the best funeral doom acts out there), Lunar Aurora (one of my favorite black metal bands - period.), and Omega Centauri (a great up and coming group), as well as The One (which is pretty solid), I knew this would be good. So when I received this album it pretty much just jumped up to the top of my "must review as soon as possible" list.
I remember the press release for this album telling me it was going to be a black metal album, which I would have gathered right away after listening to this album, but it did tell me that it wasn't going to be in the Esoteric vein of things. But this certainly wasn't the sort of black metal that I think I was expecting to hear, though based on who's in the band I really should have anticipated this being a bit left of normality. There are definite traces of each of the four member's original groups in here. The songs aren't blasting for the most part, the riffing is slightly off-kilter sounding, and the atmosphere is just noxious throughout. I remember hearing Resentment for the first time and just feeling like I couldn't even navigate through the track because the atmosphere was just so powerful. The riffs certainly have their surges of tremolo picked, high velocity moments on here, but the majority of it is more mid-tempo stuff that just has that huge Esoteric-like weight and atmosphere to it. There's all this reverb on these guitars that literally made me take a step back when I realized it. In addition to that, despite the riffs being a bit more "different" (I don't feel like I could call them abstract in this case) the tone on this record is still pretty melodic, with melodies that are quite easy to recall long after the album has finished.
If you haven't already guessed it, I really dig this album. I think the only problem I really have with it is how short it is. This entire album is under forty minutes and after listening to a bunch of albums recently that are too long, it sucks to find a really good one that I think is too short. With the exception of the intro and interlude (of which I have no problems with) there are only seven real tracks on here and they're all pretty damn good. Even the short burst of fire that is In Self Ruin is a great piece of work because it doesn't wallow in how straightforward it is in it's aggression. It also comes in at a nice point in the album, it isn't too late in to show the band can just bust out an intense rager, but not early enough to come across like just another black metal band. I could go into detail about almost every track on here, because they're all something great, though I do find myself coming back to the likes of Sceptre to Control The World and Dust of A Gun Barrel more than any other track on here. There's just something about those two tracks that draws me back over and over. Frankly, they aren't the most memorable tracks on the album, but there's just this quality to them that remains with me more than any other track.
So, overall, I really dug this album and I think if you like black metal in some shape or form you'll like it as well. This isn't an album that really tries to be experimental or unique but still manages to cross a wide amount of territory in each of it's tracks. There's something in here for every fan of the genre and I can't say enough good things about it.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Against The Paradoxical Guild, Sceptre to Control The World, Dust of A Gun Barrel

Monday, May 20, 2013

Agrypnie - Aetas Cineris (2013)

Band: Agrypnie
Country: Hesse, Germany
Style: Industrial/Progressive Black Metal
Label: Supreme Chaos

Agrypnie is a band that I really dig. Their previous releases have all really grabbed me and it seems like they are a band who actually embrace trends but never conform or limit themselves because of them. I was even more excited to learn that this album was coming out this year in addition to the new Nocte Obducta album (which also features Torsten Hirsch on vocals).
Sonically, at least in the past, I had always considered Agrypnie to be an industrial tinged black metal band, mainly because that's what various sites had been telling me whenever I looked them up. But with the release of the Asche EP last year, I saw the band doing their own take on the whole post-rock influenced black metal thing. Was it anything groundbreaking? Not really, but it was damn good and the band certainly didn't do what every other band was doing. They fused the general aesthetic and some of the post-rock guitar tones from the genre into their own more riff based sound and boy oh boy if it didn't pay off. That was one of the best EPs of last year, at least in my opinion anyway, and while two songs from that EP have found their way onto this full-length (I'm sorry, but I prefer full-lengths to contain entirely new material) I'm certainly not upset over since the songs were so damn good; and essentially, the sound hear on that EP was the direction the band took on this entire full-length. So atmospheric, riff-heavy, and dynamic black metal is the name of the game here - you bet your ass I was excited.
To me it's appeared that while Hirsch gets out his more progressive and experimental side within Nocte Obducta (for however much he writes in the band I'm not sure) with Agrypnie he writes songs that are much more direct and "rocking." Yes, this is a dynamic record with songs that go up and down, but in nearly every track on here there was at least one riff that made me want to headbang - and like I've said before, black metal with riffs is something that isn't too common. In addition to that each song is around the nine minute mark, give or take a minute or so, which means that lack of dynamics could have killed this record stone dead - but as you should know by now, that was not the case. Even if an entire track, like opener Trümmer/Aetas Cineris, is delivered at a pretty constant state of aggression or that it never shifts out of metal mode, it manages to quiet any qualms I may have with that because the band knows when to slow down and when to speed back up again. But on the other hand you have a track like Zurück which is almost the definition of "post-black metal", so you know that dynamics from hard-to-soft actually occur. Cause if there's one thing all those Alcest copies can do right, it's that they can write a song that at last has a form of dynamics (whether intentional or otherwise). But rest assured that when this band does it, it doesn't come off as anywhere as contrived or forced as many of those bands tend to sound like.
I guess the one "problem" I have with this album is the interlude that is Kosmos [Alpha]. It certainly isn't a bad track, but it's an eight minute ambient track and it just feels to me like it probably could have been about half that length and still accomplished what it needed to do. Aside from that stopgap, the other seven songs on here are all winners in my book. You have more barnburners like the two tracks from the EP, Gnōsis and Erwachen, while other tracks like the two closing pieces, Sinnflut and Asche, are more moody progressive tracks. It's a real rager of an album in my book because you have the more aggressive tracks, you have your moody sections as well as more epic atmospheric ones. You have the great riffs that just make you (or me in this instance) want to headbang. There's variety and dynamics - to which I discussed at great length above as well as really strong songwriting. I understand that the vocals are a bit one-dimensional in some instances but even I can get by that because when they're used they come across as impassioned (as Hirsch's vocals always have to me) and not screamed for the sake of it.
I just really dug the hell out of this record and it's totally awesome. I can't really claim that it's everything I want in a black metal record (since it's more than that), it has a lot of qualities that I think make a great record. I'm glad to see this band continue their streak of killer releases and I hope more people get turned onto the band because of this album.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Nocte Obducta - Umbriel (Das Schweigen Zwischen Den Sternen) (2013)

Band: Nocte Obducta
Country: Mainz, Germany
Style: Progressive Black Metal/Atmospheric Rock
Label: MDD

As I stated in my review for 2011's Verderbnis - Der Schnitter Kratzt An Jeder Tür, Nocte Obducta is one of my favorite German bands - and one of my favorite black metal (based) bands. They're just one of those bands who are consistently interesting and always grab me whenever they put out a new album. I was looking forward to this album ever since I first heard about it last year (which is when I thought it was supposed to come out) and when I first found it, it was one of those albums I listened to immediately.
While I have yet to be disappointed by this band, I have to say that I was glad when I saw that this album happened to feature some longer tracks after the more direct approach of their last album. With that being said though, I in no way expected what this album would bring to the table sonically; but whether that was a good or bad thing I'm still not quite so sure. The first time I put this on, it was certainly a surprise. The Opeth-esque introduction of Kerkerwelten - Teil 1 really threw me for a bit of a loop, but I thought that the band actually did a good job at playing that sort of style (whether intention or not). It's a very moody introduction that has a short burst of post-metal as a centerpiece, but is otherwise a more reserved introduction. While I could live with that as an introduction, the rest of the album threw me curve-ball after curve-ball, and I never knew where I was being taken next. The rest of the album never really breaks out into aggression like previous releases have and is quite restrained in comparison, which leads to a much more progressive rock sort of sound. For those that heard the Dinner Auf Uranos record, 50 Sommer - 50 Winter, back in 2010, that record could be seen as a sort of precursor to this album. That might be a bit obvious seeing as two of the tracks on here are actually named after that project from a couple of the members from the band, but it was still surprising to hear the band strip away that black metal foundation for most of these tracks and deliver a more atmospheric and progressive rock based album. It has it's more metallic moments for sure, but like I just said, it's far less abrasive than on almost any of their past recordings.
With the much calmer style found on this record, you'd be correct in assuming that there will be a much strong instrumental sound on here. That progressive rock sound that band has taken on board for this record - which isn't a new style inclusion, but rather a different presentation of the influences is how I'm viewing it - leads to some rather interesting sections that bring to mind everything from krautrock to smoothe jazz. The extended synth piece that makes up a good portion of the aforementioned Dinner Auf Uranos track will probably throw off several listener expecting some more rock/metal based parts to make up a lengthier piece on here, but is actually quite an interesting move. Personally, these more extended atmospheric sections show a side of the band that I would have not expected to hear. While the band are no strangers to calmer and more atmospherically led passages, this section in particular struck with since it was based in soundscapes that sounded like they'd be from the 70s. The more trippy and post-rock-esque Leere will more than likely be an easier pill to swallow for some because even though it is pretty mellow for most of it's fourteen minute running time, it still keeps a foundation that is quite common in many post-rock bands.
With all that being said, there are still some more rocking tracks for fans who prefer the heavier side of the band. Tracks like Gottverreckte Finsternis and Mehr Hass are more direct pieces that definitely appeal to that more metallic sensibility from the band's last record and do recall a bit of the post-punk vibe going on from that album as well. Granted, these are two out of nine tracks, where two-thirds do not retain this same level of "heaviness." I will say that because of how restrained the rest of the album is, the tracks that are heavier do sound noticeably so if that makes any difference to people. Also, I know the clean vocals are sort of similar to that of Rammstein's, but I never found that to be a stumbling block so I can't see others doing so either - but it's there for people to criticize if they like.
Personally, while I can't say this is my favorite record from the band, as far as evolution goes for them, I think it is a step forward. It's not a record that will appeal to everyone, and I think older fans might even have a little trouble with this one, but it is a good record. An interesting shift but it will be even more so to see where the band go from here.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Dinner Auf Uranos, Ein Nachmittag Mit Edgar, Kerkerwelten - Teil 2