CNN article about Blasphemy Day (today). How could I have missed this? Then again, every day is Blasphemy Day.
Our democracy is in ruins. Public policy debate in the United States has been poisoned by the so-called Religious Right so thoroughly that the country is no longer united, or even capable of carrying on a serious debate with rational arguments.
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Enforcer- Into The Night
(Heavy Artillery Records)
The nostalgic look at various genres of metal from the early to mid 1980s continues at Heavy Artillery Records. Enforcer, from Sweden, have previously appeared on the label’s “Speed Kills… Again” compilation, and now issue their debut full-length entitled “Into The Night”.
The songs that were included on the “Speed Kills…Again” comp weren’t all that impressive, as I recall, but “Into The Night” has very well written songs with stellar production and musicianship, and is a surprisingly good mix of three genres from the early ‘80s. Take one part NWOBHM, another part proto-thrash, and add just a hint of glam from the Sunset Strip, and that seems to be exactly what Enforcer are aiming for with their debut full-length. Essentially, I’m greatly reminded of “Killers”-era Iron Maiden, early proto-thrash bands such as Exciter, and hints of Mercyful Fate and Motley Crue at their most dangerous. Most of the songs have a mid-paced tempo falling between NWOBHM and proto-thrash, although there are a few fast tracks with a thrash metal gallop. The Sunset Strip sleaziness creeps in with songs about partying, girls, and going out on Saturday nights with the goal of engaging in some extracurricular activity of a quasi-illegal nature.
Most of the music is slickly done and sounds as if it came straight from the era. For example, the dual guitars from Adam Zaars (from old school death metal masters Tribulation) and Joseph Tholl perfectly nail the sound. In addition, the well-executed, high-pitched vocals from Olaf Wikstrand are obviously influenced by vocalists such as John Cyriis, Dan Beehler, and King Diamond with just a hint of sneer from Vince Neil. Somewhat unusual for the era, the bass is perfectly audible and well done. Hell, even the cheesy cover art, album layout, band photos, and choice of fonts perfectly fit the music.
I must admit that “Into The Night” pleasantly surprised me, as I wasn’t expecting all that much. However, Enforcer have nailed their homage to this period perfectly and with style. Highly recommended.
Enforcer Official MySpace
Heavy Artillery Records MySpace
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Here's a break from album reviews and whatnot, with another beer with a "metal" label. This particular brew is a Belgian Golden Ale from Bouwerij Van Steenberge called Witches' Brew. A light beer with a lemon/ wheat taste that's quite sweet, Witches' Brew also has a smooth finish. Not a particularly strong beer, but I found it quite tasty nonetheless. Naturally, I found this one at Whole Foods, as well, but I haven't investigated its availability any further. 750 ml bottles.
Again, I like the label.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Gathering of the Bestial Legion IV
Venue: The Iron Room, Los Angeles, California.
Date: September 26, 2009.
It’s been awhile since I’ve been to a show. I’ve seen so many bands over the last couple of years, so I’m trying to downsize a bit and pick and choose obscure bands to see when they come through town. To that effect, the fourth incarnation of the Gathering of the Bestial Legion show was anchored by a couple of obscure heavyweights that rarely, if ever, make their way to Los Angeles (Spearhead, Urgehal, and Destroyer 666). In addition, the esteemed Cosmo just moved into the area, so we had to hit up a show together as soon as possible.
The show was promoted (I think) by a fixture in L.A’s metal scene, a big guy with mutton chops whom I refer to as The Eternal Roadie (he can be spotted at the Knitting Factory, for example, helping set up each show). As the Knitting Factory is rumored to be closing down (I imagine that the bathrooms will simply be bulldozed), the choice of venue for this show was The Iron Room. Seemingly an old warehouse on the lot of a huge scrap metal yard in the middle of bombed out, industrial wasteland Los Angeles (part of a huge swath of the city where I simply do not go; think “Escape From New York” meets “Colors” with just a hint of “The Road Warrior” and you’re close), the Iron Room simply could not get any more “metal” (literally) as a perfect spot for this show. There was even a beer garden and a taco stand on the premises, along with industrial-strength port-o-potties, a hand rinsing station, and armed security (we only witnessed one altercation over the course of the evening as one drunken nitwit was hauled away in cuffs; he’s lucky that this wasn’t a school night). We arrived early to get one of the coveted parking spots on the lot.
The Iron Room setup consisted of two stages on opposite sides of the room. As one band would play, the next band would set up. As one band would end, the crowd would literally do an about face and rush to the other side of the room as the other band started up 30 seconds after the previous band ended (things would dramatically slow up, however, deep into the evening as they usually do at these sorts of events, more on that later).
At any rate, most of the openers were local area bands of greatly varying quality. First up right at 7pm were Daemonic, a trio lacking a bassist. Playing dark death metal sort of as an amalgamation of old Krisiun and Incantation, Daemonic were quite good over their half hour set. Not groundbreaking, but not bad, although they really need a bassist to give them some added heft. As soon as Daemonic ended, Ritual Torture started up on the second stage. These guys absolutely smoked with a blisteringly fast display of straight up death metal with a clear sound and a great deal of energy. A pit opened immediately and all of us were suitably impressed as Ritual Torture were regarded as one of the show’s highlights.
Also impressive were Unholy Lust with their display of old school, Slayer-esque death metal complete with bullet belts, leather studs, black spandex, a female bassist, you name it. Nicely done. Resuscitator were supposed to be next, but dropped off the bill for whatever reason. A half hour break ensued, instead.
Afterwards, the scheduling started to get a bit bogged down. The wholly boring Infinitum Obscure were up next, with an overly long intro, long songs lacking dynamics, and a long outro that noticeably pissed off The Eternal Roadie. After that, The Eternal Roadie became further agitated as Eyes of Noctum weren’t ready for their set. This outfit is noteworthy for the sole reason that front man Weston Cage’s father is a famous actor. Other than that, Eyes of Noctum are absolutely pedestrian and boring as Hell symphonic black metal (Sothis are infinitely more interesting, which says something). Most of the few hundred fans or so bailed out on them, and we went outside when they finally managed to get themselves in gear. Throughout the evening, we devolved in our referencing of the band. We started with Eyes of Noctum, Nicholas Cage’s son’s band, Eyes of Rectum, and, finally, just Nicholas Cage’s band. When they finally finished and we made our way back inside, I overheard someone mutter to his friend as he was walking out, “I can’t believe that we bothered to watch that.” Sums it up pretty well.
The main acts began with the U.K.’s Spearhead. Rip-roaring, straight ahead death metal with a grindcore edge was on display as Spearhead were firing on all cylinders. A great set with energy, although I suspect that most of the crowd was unfamiliar with Spearhead. The Chasm were next, and I must say that I find this band mediocre with their typical version of death/ thrash. They do have a strong following in Southern California, as was evident from the warm reception that greeted the band, but The Chasm are on the low side of second tier status in my opinion.
The monstrous Urgehal were next, and just had it all during the long set afforded to them. Corpsepaint, armor, all out blasts from Erik Renton (on loan from Sarkom), and a huge stage presence were all extremely effective as Urgehal easily brought down the house. The best performance of the night, by far.
Urgehal ended their set at 12:35am. The crowd was expecting a short changeover for Destroyer 666, but the crowd was getting noticeably antsy by 1:00am. Destroyer 666 take the stage as the crowd murmurs in anticipation, but bassist/ vocalist Warslut (correction: as pointed out, KK is guitarist/ vocalist) informed the crowd, rather nonchalantly, that they were merely doing line checks. This went on for fifteen minutes as the band would start a few notes periodically, and then stop with a waving of arms. They leave the stage at 1:15am, the house music starts again, and the house lights flicker on and off a few times. People are getting really pissed at this point with a number of people heading for the exits. We stuck around for five more minutes, and then decided to bail out. Whatever the reason for the huge delay, this was disappointing, to say the least. I had to drive to Santa Barbara for winery hopping the next morning, anyway.
So, there you have it. For the most part, the show was well done and Urgehal were more than worth it. Were we victims of poor planning, unavoidable technical issues, rock star attitudes, or what have you? Eh.
Pictures (the phone is back, sort of)
The Iron Room
After animated discussion, a few of us decided that this Giger-esque, rusted hulk of metal lying around the yard was a drill press...
The t-shirt haul...
Damn! I forgot the video!
I'm not sure what's next...
Sunday, September 27, 2009
The band name, album title, and cover artwork pretty much give this one away as a form of pagan/ folk metal before the first track is even played. Sure enough, that’s exactly what you get with “Loss”, the debut full-length from Wodensthrone on Bindrune Recordings, a label loaded with quality pagan/ folk acts and borderline black metal bands with ecological themes.
Hailing from northern England and using a dark, pagan heritage as a choice of muse, Wodensthrone are a five piece playing upon a muted black metal base, but add loads of traditional instruments, melodies, and themes. All of this is done without becoming saccharine or overbearing (there’s no “bounce” here, as is the case with Korpiklaani and similar acts), and the music comes across as a slightly darker version of Moonsorrow.
For a debut, “Loss” is a very mature work with stellar musicianship, an excellent amount of variety to the music, and a clean, yet muted, production (members of Negura Bunget are involved). Alternating between moments of brute force and softer melodies, “Loss” incorporates traditional instruments in the form of flute, a Jew’s harp, and some mild keyboard work. Add fantastic, moody songwriting with an epic feel, and rasped vocals that, to these ears, sound just like Blake Judd, and you have an album in “Loss” that is an excellent example of the pagan/ folk genre. I did find the album to be subtle, however, probably due to its muted quality, and I needed a few listens to really get involved. Once I was able to do so, though, “Loss” is a pagan/ folk masterpiece with dark tones.
“Loss” is an excellent release that deserves your full attention. Highly recommended.
Wodensthrone Official MySpace
Saturday, September 26, 2009
Merrimack- Grey Rigorism
The French black metal scene pretty much has it all. Bands such as Blut Aus Nord, DSO, and Antaeus are regarded as black metal elite in a country with a particularly strong and varied black metal scene. Occupying their niche, and one of no less importance, are Merrimack. To that end, the ever-reliable Moribund Cult Records issues Merrimack’s third full-length, entitled “Grey Rigorism”.
Merrimack reside on the more brutal side of the black metal spectrum with a delivery on “Grey Rigorism” quite similar to latter day Marduk. Employing plenty of tempo changes with plodding dirges mixed in with the all out blasts, Merrimack have a similar blasphemous brutality to their approach to black metal. Rather than going all out, though, Merrimack seem to be more intricate in their songwriting, and employ one or two moments of melody, as well.
For the most part, the formula works as Merrimack feature good musicianship, strong songwriting, and a powerful production on “Grey Rigorism”. The inclusion of a few spoken word passages in French are effective, as well. However, “Grey Rigorism” lacks a bit of the power that drips from Marduk, Horde Of Hel, and Funeral Mist, cousins all of Merrimack, and is a bit too clean for its own good.
Minor detractions aside, “Grey Rigorism” is a solid effort and the album, combined with Merrimack’s inclusion on the long awaited Marduk-headlined tour of the United States, should dramatically raise Merrimack’s visibility. Recommended.
Merrimack Official MySpace
Friday, September 25, 2009
Canis Dirus- A Somber Wind From A Distant Shore
Canis Dirus are a duo from Minnesota issuing their debut full-length, entitled “A Somber Wind From A Distant Shore”, on Moribund Cult Records. Named after the dire wolf, an extinct Pleistocene species from North America, Canis Dirus are treading the well worn ground of black metal descended from Burzum with influences ranging from Drudkh to Xasthur.
A thin production, high pitched rasps, and dreamy guitars with a mid-paced tempo are the bread and butter of Canis Dirus. Immediately, comparisons to early Drudkh and Xasthur, in particular, come to mind, as Canis Dirus have an identical sound and vibe to the middle period of Malefic’s output. However, rather than solely relying on nihilistic atmosphere, Canis Dirus inject a bit of melody into their delivery and TMP, who handles all instrumentation, is a noticeably better musician than Malefic (never really his strong point). RH, the other half of this duo, delivers the vocals.
Also separating Canis Dirus from Xasthur are ecological themes, rather than obsessively discerning your suicide through a mirror, and a dreamy quality to the guitars that periodically causes the music to cross over into slow, psychedelic-laced classic rock (I’ve no doubt that TMP is a fan of Joe Satriani; just listen to “Joyless and the Self Fulfilling Prophecy”). A few blasts and slow, dark ambient passages complete the mix of sounds to be heard on “A Somber Wind From A Distant Shore”.
The overall result is a promising debut from Canis Dirus, and fans of dreamy black metal with ecological themes will find much to like on “A Somber Wind From A Distant Shore”. Recommended.
Canis Dirus Official MySpace
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Australia’s semi-legendary Naxzul return after a long absence with “Iconoclast”, the band’s second full-length, and first since 1995. That’s not to say that Naxzul’s musicians have been idle during this long period, not at all, as members have drifted in and out of various Australian black metal acts over the years.
Kudos to Moribund Cult Records for signing Naxzul to their expanding roster as Naxzul are one of the first Australian black metal acts to burst upon the scene. In addition, the long promised “Iconoclast” was apparently recorded some time ago and is only now seeing the light of day (or night, as the case may be), so genre fans are going to be especially interested in this release.
Was it worth the wait? Yes, as Nazxul’s version of symphonic black metal contains all of the necessary elements for success. Well written, catchy songs with a deep production and stellar musicianship will cause critics such as myself to draw comparisons, favorably so, between “Iconoclast” and the gems of bands such as Emperor, mid-period Dimmu Borgir, and “Nemesis Divina”- era Satyricon in their heyday. The music on “Iconoclast” runs the gamut of black metal, with fast, brutal songs light on melody, a couple of short tracks with ambience and effects, and a few very melodic moments evocative of Dimmu Borgir, a natural comparison. For the most part, the music works at integrating these different genre elements together, but my personal preference is for the faster songs with their infectious riffing. The end result is a solid album of symphonic black metal that should reinvigorate interest in the band.
“Iconoclast” is a good album, but I can’t help but wonder if the album is five years, or more, out of date at this point, as interest in symphonic black metal has considerably waned. Who knows, though, maybe symphonic black metal will soon jump on the retro bandwagon as just about every other older, appreciated genre seems to have been doing these days. If so, Nazxul will probably be at the forefront of a nascent movement. Recommended.
Naxzul Official MySpace
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Hiems- Worship Or Die
Muscular one-man black metal from Italy with a bit of whimsy? Not exactly what you’d expect, but that’s exactly the case with Hiems, a one-man project from an individual named Algol. First, the basics: “Worship Or Die” is the second album from Hiems, released on Moribund Cult, and comes across as a beefy version of newer Satyricon (Satyr probably wishes he found some of these riffs himself) combined with some of the blistering antics of 1349 (well, before their recent downturn). Some gigantic riffs are interspersed with a tempo ranging from a mid-paced dirge to a full on blast. So well done, in fact, are the infectious riffs that some serious neck snapping is going to take place while spinning “Worship Or Die”. In short, this is not the work of some pasty faced, skinny misanthrope hiding from the Sun in his parents’ basement.
The whimsical aspects come in Algol’s decision to incorporate elements into his scheme of black metal that fly in the face of the conventional notions of black metal aesthetic. For example, late in the album, the track “Hiems” incorporates a wonderful organ solo that sounds inspired by giants such as Rick Wakeman and Jon Lord (if you don’t recognize these names, shame on you). The organ also carries over into “290979”, and into the album’s closer, a clean vocals version of “Race With The Devil”, an oft-covered classic rock song from Gun (just about everyone seems to have covered this song at one time or another). The result of playing with these classic elements reveal Algol to be a student of classic rock and serve as a reminder that metal, in all its forms, is still ultimately a form of rock music.
A highly infectious album paying proper respect to classic influences, “Worship Or Die” is highly recommended.
Hiems Official MySpace
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
Man Must Die- No Tolerance For Imperfection
Even though they hail from Scotland, Man Must Die can be very easily confused with any number of competent Swedish bands toeing the line between thrash and death metal. Swedish death/ thrash is an oversaturated genre just like any other these days, and most of the bands playing in the genre are interchangeable, Man Must Die included. The outfit’s first two albums are good examples of the genre with excellent musicianship, better than average songwriting and so on, but not much separates Man Must Die from their Swedish brethren.
Not much changes for Man Must Die on “No Tolerance For Imperfection”, released on Relapse Records, except for the periodic inclusion of elements of metalcore and bits of melody here and there. The metalcore influence rears its ugly head in the form of the odd breakdown or two, but, for the most part, “No Tolerance For Imperfection” is yet another entry in competent Swedish death/ thrash. As would be expected, Man Must Die continue the stellar musicianship, write fairly interesting songs with some variation for a genre that’s hard to stand out in, and back it all up with a crystal clear, beefy production.
No doubt, you’ll find yourself nodding along with “No Tolerance For Imperfection” as you listen, but you’ll probably end up forgetting all about it soon afterward. As is always the case, that is the hallmark of a second-tier band, and Man Must Die firmly reside within that status. Still, “No Tolerance For Imperfection” is a good album, but you’ve heard it before.
Man Must Die Official MySpace
Monday, September 21, 2009
¡M.G.R. y Destructo Swarmbots!- Amigos de la Guitarra
Guitar driven drone from a duo only very loosely connected to metal comes in the form of one 42-minute track on “Amigos de la Guitarra”. ¡M.G.R. y Destructo Swarmbots! (I’m not typing this project’s moniker anymore) consists of guitarists Mike Mare and Mike Gallagher of ISIS fame (there’s the metal connection, and only post-metal at that). To make a long story of collaboration short (the biography given on the promo information sheet is either true, or totally tongue-in-cheek; I wasn’t interested enough, frankly, to waste time finding out), the end result is a rather dreamy exercise in strummed guitar and harmonics consisting entirely of one track called “Amor en al Aire”.
This is nowhere near metal, although comparisons to Earth and Sunn O))), but not nearly as heavy, can certainly be drawn. The project’s music, however, is quite good as the 42 minutes is divided into three distinct movements, each one satisfactorily holding the interest of the listener. For the most part, the guitars are merely acoustic and the harmonics are subtle (think Pink Floyd’s early albums, or the soundtrack to a Michael Mann film). Throughout the release, the two elements are given roles of prominence and, alternatively, reduction.
In the end, “Amigos de la Guitarra” is not metal, but would be appreciated by those with a taste for drone. Myself, I found the album to be the perfect accompaniment for a late night roaming of L.A.’s freeways while doing 90 mph in the carpool lane.
Here’s an unusual experiment in drone from a quartet from Chicago called Chord. Only very loosely connected to metal (Pelican guitarist Trevor de Brauw is a member), Chord consists of four guitarists with each musician assigned a single chord to play during each track on “Flora”, the four song debut full-length on Neurot Recordings. It is then up to each guitarist to fully explore that chord and bring out of it as much dynamics as is possible. Then, integrate those sounds with those of the other musicians. Huh.
OK, before you roll your eyes and move on, the effect actually works as an interesting exercise in harmonic driven drone. Obviously, this sort of thing is going to mostly appeal to fans of Sunn O))) and the like, but “Flora” manages to hold your interest as each track builds from subtleties to a crescendo, and then fades. In addition, there’s a surprising amount of variation with a couple of lulling, soft tracks interspersed with crushing heaviness in the others. In order for the music to work as well as its does, a quartet of guitars is definitely needed to weave a kaleidoscopic tapestry of sounds.
Sure, most of “Flora” sounds very similar to Sunn O))), but is subtly different to avoid merely being some sort of copycat. I found Chord to be enjoyable enough, though, and I recommend “Flora” for the barbiturate driven drone crowd.
Harvestman- In A Dark Tongue
Steve Von Till is well known for his work as a guitarist in Neurosis. However, he is quite prolific as a musician/ songwriter and has appeared in numerous other projects, both within and on the fringes of metal. One of those projects is solely his own, namely Harvestman, and “In A Dark Tongue” from Neurot Recordings is the project’s second full-length.
“In A Dark Tongue’ is a mostly synthesizer and guitar driven exercise in ambience with hints of drone and classic rock. Using outdoorsman oriented ecological themes as a muse for the project, “In A Dark Tongue” meanders with synthesizer and a few vocal effects that play in the background of a kaleidoscope of strummed guitars, a couple of classic rock oriented riffs, and lots of layered harmonics. Percussion appears sporadically, and when it does, the combination of rock guitar and the drum patterns remind me of The Doors and other similar classic rock acts. Hints of ‘70s era psychedelics creep into the music throughout with the synthesizer effects.
For the most part, the album works as an absorbing exercise in mild drone and ambience combined with psychedelics, but I do tend to find my attention wandering a bit as I progress deep into the album. Clocking in at just under 70 minutes, “In A Dark Tongue” is about 15 minutes too long and would probably benefit from a trim.
You’d be hard pressed to label “In A Dark Tongue” as metal and the album really is too long, but adherents of drone, ambience, and even classic rock will probably find a lot to like here. Recommended.
Chord Official MySpace
Harvestman Official MySpace
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Special thanks to LS and Thor from Valdur for sending me a copy of their six song debut album. Released on the band’s label, Bloodymountain Records, in 2005, the six songs show Valdur in the beginning stages of their development where a combination of raw ferocity and an epic, almost majestic, feel to the band’s sound are already present.
Although I do not have any further information, I suspect that the album was recorded over several discrete sessions as the production is initially a bit rough before evening out in the latter half. The first couple of tracks are quite raw with a loud bass, almost too loud, as if the band hasn’t quite found their footing. Even so, the songs are ferocious and hint of the potential for greatness to come. By the time the third track, “Thor’s Hammer”, is played, the mixing evens out a bit and the underlying melody that permeates Valdur’s bass heavy approach begins to truly shine. Featuring a couple of tracks that have also appeared on the subsequent four-way split on Blackmetal.com Records with Massemord, The Frost, and Everwinter, the debut full-length from Valdur is well worth tracking down. I eagerly await a new full-length and a possible concert in Los Angeles later this winter. Also of note, the illustrious Dave Brenner over at Earsplit is now handling PR for the band, so I’m sure that a label signing is imminent (?)
Thor and LS were also kind enough to send over a copy of the debut from Endless Blizzard, “Remember Your Death”, on Cult War/ Blackmetal.com Records (LS plays drums on the album; I wasn't aware of that at the time). I had actually reviewed this album quite awhile back, and here’s a re-publication of that review…
Endless Blizzard- Remember Your Death
Endless Blizzard, a one man black metal project from California, pretty much lives up to its name on “Remember Your Death”, the debut full-length from the project on Blackmetal.com Records. Not exactly groundbreaking, Endless Blizzard, the output of one named Roskva, is basically an amalgam of “Panzerfaust”-era Darkthrone, an old school vibe similar to “Morbid Tales”-era Celtic Frost, and perhaps the odd moment or two of early Satyricon for chilling effect. Hell, there are even a few Kerry King-esque guitar solos tossed into the mix. In short, Endless Blizzard borrows heavily from all of these influences and more.
Before you dismiss “Remember Your Death” as being merely an exercise in “been there, done that”, however, Endless Blizzard’s debut is actually quite good with catchy, well-written songs, a powerful production, and generally good musicianship. Endless Blizzard is at its best with some catchy, rather droning, tracks along with a few organ-based songs similar to “Sno Og Granskog” from “Panzerfaust”. In fact, as you progress further and further into “Remember Your Death”, it becomes readily apparent that “Panzerfaust” is the album’s template with droning atmosphere and production very similar to that album. However, “Remember Your Death” has a generally faster pace, as well as the other aforementioned influences present in the music.
As you’ve undoubtedly gathered, Endless Blizzard isn’t exactly original, but if you’re looking for some good, traditional black metal, you could certainly do a lot worse. “Remember Your Death” is recommended.
Valdur Official MySpace
Endless Blizzard Official MySpace
Saturday, September 19, 2009
(20 Buck Spin Records)
Not to be confused with the brutal death metal band from Chicago with the same name, Liturgy are a Brooklyn-based quartet playing a version of black metal without any of the usual genre aesthetics. “Renihilation” is Liturgy’s debut full-length, released on 20 Buck Spin Records, and sort of comes across as a blackened version of nihilistic grindcore as most of the album is a whirlwind of a blur. Fast, simple chord progressions with production emphasis placed upon the loud guitars, lightning fast blasts with occasional punctuated snare hits, and incoherent screaming typify the music on “Renihilation”. This sort of approach to black metal seems to work best as a means of lulling the listener into sort of a trance complete with navel contemplation. Adding to the mix are a few slower parts with some chunky riffing that periodically make appearances, but are not nearly as effective, or as interesting, as the blackened grind that repeatedly wears you down. An atmospheric track or two are tossed in for good measure, as well.
I’m somewhat reminded of Wolves In The Throne Room by Liturgy, with a grinding approach to the music as well as a lack of genre aesthetics. For example, Liturgy astride the stage for shows in basically summertime street clothes, sport haircuts that veer dangerously close to emo territory, and have no obvious connections to black metal whatsoever. However, unlike WITTR, Liturgy’s music is rather basic and, although quite promising, is not nearly as mature, or as layered. I did find Liturgy to be intriguing, though, and the band, along with acts like Krallice, may become an integral part of a New Wave Of USBM (did I just coin a new sub-genre?). Recommended.
Liturgy Official MySpace
20 Buck Spin Records
Friday, September 18, 2009
Nadja and Black Boned Angel- Self Titled Split
(20 Buck Spin Records)
Here is a two-track collaboration between drone outfits Nadja and Black Boned Angel. Nadja, for those of you not familiar, are a highly prolific duo from Canada specializing in dreamy, psychedelic ridden, soft spoken drone with plenty of droning bass lines and percussion. Black Boned Angel are a trio from New Zealand with which I’m not familiar, but a cursory look at the band’s MySpace page depicts Sunn O)))-like imagery, as well as a track or two obviously walking in Sunn O)))’s footsteps.
Given the two projects’ respective backgrounds, you pretty much know that you’re in for a fifty or so minute excursion into fuzzed out, droning doom with plenty of atmosphere. That’s exactly what you get with each track, evenly spaced out over the fifty minutes. Each track pretty much follows the same pattern of a slow build with plenty of deep bass lines and a glacially paced percussion, to a slow fade of drowning fuzz and atmospherics. Overlaying the bass and percussion are plenty of higher pitched harmonics with considerable distortion and low-fi fuzz. Fading in and out periodically are higher frequency, razor thin sounds that border on the subliminal. In essence, the overall effect is that of a higher pitched version of Sunn O))) prior to the obvious dynamics of “Monoliths and Dimensions”.
The collaboration’s result, overall, works pretty well, and is certainly going to appeal to fans of Sunn O))) and so on. If you’re not familiar with either Nadja or Black Boned Angel, this is probably as good a place to start as any, but this excursion is probably closer to the individual work of Black Boned Angel than that of Nadja. Recommended for the barbiturate fueled drone crowd.
20 Buck Spin
Black Boned Angel Official MySpace
Nadja Official MySpace
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Poland’s Behemoth are poised to become metal’s newest “breakout” band, whatever the Hell that means. A support slot on one of the summer’s major North American tours, a new album, plenty of media exposure, etc are all factors in the band’s surging popularity (Nile were once in this “poised” position, but seemed to take a step back). Not to mention the fact that Nergal and company are probably one of the most technically proficient, and hardest working, bands in metal, and you have a formula for whatever passes for crossover appeal in metal’s varied world (I’m sure that the hipsters out there are excited about this “new” band from Poland).
Behemoth have always left me somewhat high and dry, however. Yes, their stellar musicianship, energetic live shows, work ethic, media savvy, etc are all well documented and undeniable. As technically proficient and varied as their last few albums have been, I just can’t seem to get into them beyond the first few listens (and I’ve tried on numerous occasions). As good as the production has been on these albums, the cold precision with which Behemoth deliver their ferocity robs the music of soul.
That said, though, the recently released “Evangelion” from Nuclear Blast Records has it all. Unbelievable precision, varied songwriting, lightning fast blasts and rapid fire riffing resulting in an audio maelstrom, and a powerful vocal delivery from Nergal are all on display throughout. The production is noticeably deeper and gives the album greater weight than that of “Demigod” or “The Apostasy”. Certainly, if you like the direction that Behemoth have undertaken over their last few albums; that is, into straight ahead technical death metal territory, then you’re going to go apeshit for “Evangelion”. The question for me, though, is does the album have staying power beyond the first few listens? I have to say that I’m still not sure. I find myself gravitating back towards “Praise the Beast” by Azarath, though.
Behemoth (Official Website)
Behemoth Official MySpace
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
A Forest of Stars- The Corpse of Rebirth
A new sub-genre is born (or, at least, one with which I have no prior familiarity) with the debut full-length from England’s A Forest of Stars. “The Corpse of Rebirth” is an interesting, unique foray into blackened Romantic Goth metal, if you will. Beginning with a mid-paced black metal base with some muted rasped vocals, low-fi guitars and bass, and the odd blast or two, A Forest of Stars also lay on thick plenty of melancholy violin, flute, and keyboard effects. Add to the atmosphere an occult driven, opium fueled theme based upon Victorian England, complete with outfits with ruffles, and A Forest of Stars have found a unique niche, if nothing else.
This is not really my thing as I tend to stay away from melancholy doom in the vein of Katatonia and the like, but A Forest of Stars are much closer to black metal than bands of that ilk. In addition, A Forest of Stars are able to weave together well-written, interesting songs that tend to draw the listener in over time. The music is, at times, quite rough and, at others, psychedelic and heavily laden with Romantic atmosphere. The atmosphere comes from plenty of dreamy, droning riffs, muted female clean vocals, and violin and flute melodies that overlay the guitars and bass. Some quiet piano makes an appearance now and then, and some muted keyboard effects are heard throughout. As a an added plus, A Forest of Stars are also quite good at fostering a theme and image, as is evidenced by the band’s slick official website (see below).
In short, A Forest of Stars excel at their chosen sub-genre, and should appeal to a wide range of fans. “The Corpse of Rebirth” is highly recommended.
A Forest of Stars (Official Website)
A Forest of Stars MySpace
Monday, September 14, 2009
After much discussion, Steve Green has decided to close down Live 4 Metal as of October 31st. Perhaps, he'll relaunch the site after the new year in a slightly different format, but no concrete decision has yet been made. As for me, I'm still going strong, but somewhat without a home. Any 'zines that may be interested in taking me on as a writer, please let me know.
I would like to thank Steve for his dedication to Live 4 Metal, and I wish him all the best. If L4M does, in fact, relaunch, I will be a part of it. I also would like to thank all of the PR and label contacts who have indicated that they will still submit albums to me for review.
What this all means, at least in the near term, is that the frequency of posts to this blog will increase. I will, for now, simply self-publish all of my reviews. I have refrained from doing so in the past as a courtesy to Steve at Live 4 Metal, and its wider readership.
I've also taken a bit of a break from shows as I've seen so many bands over the last couple of years (I just let the Obituary/ Krisiun/ Goatwhore show go by, as I've seen each of those bands about a million times, and I just started back at work as my "alter ego"). I do plan, however, on attending the upcoming Gathering of the Bestial Legion IV Festival with headliners Destroyer 666, Urgehal, and Spearhead. Obviously, the opportunity to see these bands does not come often, if at all, so shows such as this will become a priority (as opposed to going see, for example, Vader et al yet again, as good as they are in a live setting). As an added hurdle, my stupid camera phone is on the fritz for those of you that enjoy my poor photography skills.
I thank you for your readership...
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Yes, that's right, black metal has invaded reality television. The incident occurred on a recent episode of Design Star, a contestant-based show on HGTV (the home of Real Estate Porn). On the show, interior designers are presented with various design challenges with the winner being granted his or her own show on the channel (yes, I watch this sort of thing. I'm in my forties and I own a house, what do you expect?).
At any rate, one of the remaining contestants, the heavily-tattooed Antonio, was designing an office space over a three day period for comedienne Kathy Griffin. On the second day, he was wearing...
I'm now waiting for someone on Top Chef (yes, I'm also somewhat of a "foodie") to appear on that show in a Darkthrone t-shirt...
At any rate, one of the remaining contestants, the heavily-tattooed Antonio, was designing an office space over a three day period for comedienne Kathy Griffin. On the second day, he was wearing...
I'm now waiting for someone on Top Chef (yes, I'm also somewhat of a "foodie") to appear on that show in a Darkthrone t-shirt...
Wednesday, September 09, 2009
Philadelphia's Goreaphobia return at just the right time. A semi-legendary OSDM act with deep connections to others in Pennsylvania's DM scene (multiple rotations of band members with Incantation have occurred over the years), Goreaphobia have been kicking around in one form or another since about 1990. However, "Mortal Repulsion", newly released on Ibex Moon Records, is the band's first proper full-length after a slew of on again/ off again demos, a few singles and splits, and what have you. For whatever reason, in the past, Goreaphobia simply weren't able to make a proper go of it.
At any rate, the band's fortunes appear to have taken a turn for the better. Besides finally getting a proper full-length released, the band recently completed a tour with labelmates Master and the up and coming Dreaming Dead. All the while, a huge resurgence in the popularity of OSDM has exploded of late.
I must say that I've only heard bits and pieces of Goreaphobia's prior output, but "Mortal Repulsion" is an impressive exhibition of dark death metal that is heavily influenced by the dark tones of Incantation (not surprising), and early Celtic Frost. The dark, slightly dirty style of riffing with a mix of tempos is certainly reminiscent of Incantation, although Goreaphobia tend be more focused upon thick, plodding dirges instead of straightaway blasts. Somewhat surprisingly, hints of melody periodically enter the picture, as well as a certain epic feel to some of the songs, particularly late in the album with "The Inevitable Punishment/ Faded Into Ends (Part 2)", the album's seeming centerpiece. The Celtic Frost influences can be heard in Chris Gamble's vocal delivery, which sounds similar to Tom G. Warrior circa "Into The Pandemonium".
In a divergence with other recent OSDM releases that feature deep, thick modern production values, "Mortal Repulsion" is somewhat muddy, almost certainly deliberately, with a sound reminiscent of Incantation's early albums. However, the production style perfectly fits the moodier aspects of Goreaphobia's crushing delivery.
The end result with “Mortal Repulsion” is a welcome return to the fold for Goreaphobia. Highly recommended.
Goreaphobia MySpace Official
Black Ash Eyes
Ibex Moon Records
Monday, September 07, 2009
Damnation Ale is a very good Golden Belgian Ale from the Russian River Brewing Company in Sonoma County, California. I've only seen it available in 750ml bottles, mostly at high end grocers such as Whole Foods. Liquor stores in California may have it, although I haven't looked.
I like the label. I bought a bottle (Batch 23, it turns out) a few days ago while wearing my Possessed t-shirt...