Friday, April 29, 2011

Amon Amarth at the HOB Sunset Strip

Suffice to say, I was very highly impressed by Amon Amarth in concert. You can read my official writeup of the band's April 24th appearance at the HOB Sunset Strip here, but I would like to comment upon the band's impressive stage show, one only rivaled by, perhaps, Watain in a small to medium sized venue. Like Watain, Amon Amarth have theatrical motifs, and are able to maximize their impact very effectively on a small stage.

The t-shirt haul (front and back)...


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Mercenary Metamorphosis

Mercenary Metamorphosis

(Prosthetic Records)

By: Strawb

Mercenary are a Danish band with a history that stretches back to the last millennium, having formed in the distant 1991. Since that time, Mercenary have released five full studio albums prior to Metamorphosis. And I have missed all of them! This in itself is not such a blow as it otherwise would be due to the band undergoing major personnel changes in the last couple of years. Mercenary are now a four-piece ensemble with Rene Pedersen having added the vocal duties to his bass skills, and Martin Pedersen having taken over the keyboard duties (just in case lead guitar alone wasn’t taxing enough). Jakob Molbjerg remains on the rhythm guitar, and Morten Sorensen has joined the band as the skin beater extraordinaire. Glad that’s cleared up!

Winding up the amp and clearing the cobwebs from the corner of the room by use of my excellent Mission speaker system, the opening salvo of “Through The Eyes Of The Devil" has both mysel, and the missus moving our heads in an appreciative manner. When the vocals arrive, however, they prove to be just a tad too much on the side of vomit for her. By the time the vocals have smoothed to their more harmonic stage once more, alas, she is gone from the listening room.

At any rate, I am not leaving, though; either vocal incarnation suits me just fine, and, in the way that Scandinavian metal often does, Metamorphosis hits me where I live. Fast or slow, harsh or softer, harmonious or growl, keep it coming boys. Take a moment to exhibit your individual skills or thrash one off together, either suits me. My review copy contains the bonus track “Incorporate Your Demons” and it is well worth the having when you come to buy this gem. It is not the outstanding track - IMO that title falls to “Memoria” - but it does give you ten excellent tracks instead of just nine. No great variation of type, no slow one, no ballad, all tracks are of a constant high standard with clear and concise mixing, as well. There may be many bands out there with a similar sound, not many of them to my liking, but Mercenary may just have been the right band in the right place with this release.

Occasionally, one discovers a new pleasure in life. It can be upon a recommendation from a friend or via the wonder which is the world wide web, but I find the best nugget to be that which is stumbled upon, and Metamorphosis has proved to be one such for me.

How impressed was I? The download was straight onto my iPod and has been played many times since with no lessening of my listening pleasure. I can think of no reason for it not to remain there, either. Today, I went to the band’s website to check their touring schedule - unfortunately nothing in the UK, but, pre-translation, the Norway Rock Festival looks very tempting.....


Dave's Underground Laboratory

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Reference... XI

Dark matter. The name conjures up mysteries beyond the infinite. Not to mention numerous documentaries on the History Channel, various NOVA episodes on PBS, and so on. Not to mention that the name “dark matter” is just another example of the knack that astronomers seem to have for naming cosmic mysteries. There are also magnetars, quasars, DRAGNs, etc.

Speaking of cosmic mysteries, the nature of “dark matter” is one of the most vexing problems facing physics today. Frankly, whoever conclusively solves the mystery of dark matter may unlock an entire new realm of physics heretofore only imagined (not to mention win a Nobel Prize for the ages).

Given the scope of the mystery and a name that lends itself towards themes of cosmic infinity, I’m actually quite surprised by the relative dearth of dark matter references in metal, particularly black metal, a genre with an eye towards cosmic infinity by more forward looking bands. If ever a topic was thematically relevant for cosmically oriented black metal, dark matter is it. No, I’ve not perused every “one hit wonder,” so to speak, available on the download blog Space Black Metal, but big names in metal mentioning dark matter are scant (one could argue, of course, that the entire output from Darkspace is the personification of dark matter).

The title track of Dark Matter Dimensions, the 2009 album from melodic death metal “super group” Scar Symmetry is the most prominent mention of the topic that I’m aware of, but dark matter is also mentioned in “Dark Matter Dawn” from Hinsides, and in Cold Dark Matter from Red Harvest.

The problem of dark matter is not a new problem. In fact, the existence of dark matter was recognized as far back as 1930. After Edwin Hubble’s discovery of galaxies in the early 1920s, astronomers set about classifying the structure and morphology of galaxies, and began to gain a rudimentary understanding of their distribution in the Universe. The existence of clusters of galaxies was recognized around this time. One of the observational astronomers working out of Cal Tech at the time was named Fritz Zwicky. Zwicky was instrumental in the development of the Palomar Observatory, one of astronomy’s revered sites. As part of his extragalactic research, Zwicky measured the radial velocities of galaxies within the newly discovered Coma Cluster, a cluster of thousands of galaxies that lies about 320 million light years away in the direction of the constellation Coma Berenices.

Radial velocity refers to the velocity of an object along our line of sight, and is easy to measure using the Doppler Effect. For example, an object moving towards us emits light where the wavelength is compressed due to the motion. This results in the light being shifted towards the blue side of the spectrum. An object moving away from us emits light that is stretched towards the red side of the spectrum. The amount of blue or red shift can be used to calculate an object’s radial velocity. In the graphic below, the red or blue shift shows up as a shift in the spectral lines of an object’s light.

Zwicky observed that the radial velocities of galaxies within the Coma Cluster were far too large for the cluster to be able to hold together due to the gravitational pull of its members. In other words, the amount of observed mass in the galaxies was too small to account for the cluster being able to hold together with the large velocities of the galaxies being observed. This wasn’t just a chance observation of the galaxies in one cluster, but in all clusters. Zwicky calculated that in order to account for the galaxies’ velocities while the cluster is intact, over 90% of the mass necessary for this to occur was not being observed. The mass seemed to be “missing,” as Zwicky first described it.

Having made such a crucial discovery, why wasn’t Zwicky’s result trumpeted within the astrophysics community? Well, for one, the first half of the 20th century was extremely fruitful in opening entire new vistas within physics and astronomy. Simply put, the number of pressing problems far outweighed the number of scientists actually tackling them. Second, Zwicky himself didn’t help matters by having a, shall we say, abrasive personality. A man with a purportedly violent temper, Zwicky alienated his colleagues in vitriolic arguments over science and academic policy matters, and is said to have, rather famously, referred to them as “spherical bastards.” This is a bit of an inside joke that many a physics student will appreciate, as Zwicky said that his colleagues “looked like the same from all sides.” The whole episode represents a rather sordid affair in physics, a fascinating account of which can be found here.

In 1970, a matronly housewife turned astronomer named Vera Rubin was working on what was thought a minor problem in observational astronomy. Rubin was observing the rotational speeds of the spiral arms of spiral galaxies by using Doppler shift measurements. According to Newtonian Gravitation, the rotational speed of the spiral arms should drop off as the square root of the inverse of the distance from the galaxy’s central bulge. This is a basic feature of 300+ year old physics and has been recognized in our own Solar System, for example, since about 1620. In fact, this relationship, first discovered by Johannes Kepler, eventually led, in part, Isaac Newton to postulate the Law of Universal Gravitation.

At any rate, Rubin’s results were unexpected, to say the least. Rather than obeying Newtonian Gravitation, the rotation of the spiral arms depicts a nearly constant speed relative to the galaxy’s center, represented as the following graph, called a rotation curve.

Rubin calculated that, in order to account for the observed speed, more than 90% of the galaxy’s mass appeared to be “missing.” This apparent discrepancy between the observed mass and what must be present is observed in all galaxies. Note that the percentage of missing mass in the observations originally done by Zwicky and Rubin is the same.

In order to account for the rotation curves observed, galaxies must exist at the center of vast, extended, roughly spherical halos of “dark matter,” many times the size of the actual galaxy itself. This envelopment extends to entire clusters of galaxies, with galaxies embedded in vast, extended halos of dark matter that stretch over distances of millions of light years. The graphic below shows the extent of a halo of dark matter surrounding a single galaxy.

This graphic is an optical photograph of galaxy cluster Abell 1689 with the distribution of dark matter surrounding the cluster superimposed. The distribution of dark matter can be precisely mapped by using radial velocity data as well as more exotic effects such as the gravitational lensing of more distant galaxies behind the cluster.

This is an optical photograph of the same cluster. I've boxed an example of a more distant, gravitationally lensed galaxy. The amount of lensing is due to dark matter. Look for more arcs surrounding the cluster. Each arc is the same background galaxy.

In short, the existence of dark matter, this mysterious “something,” shows up as a gravitational influence that occurs on extremely large scales, but does not appear to interact with the rest of the Universe in any other significant way; hence, the matter is not visible, and is, therefore, dark. The observational evidence for this unknown “something” is irrefutable. What is very much in question is the exact nature of dark matter.

Initially, a plausible possibility was that dark matter is just ordinary matter in the form of untold amounts of brown dwarfs, planets, asteroids, and so on. Some of the planets and other debris would have been ejected from their parent star systems after formation through complicated gravitational “pinball” dynamics. Searches for these objects, dubbed MACHOs (Massive Compact Halo Objects), were extensively conducted in the mid to late ‘90s, but the number of objects actually found was miniscule, and is not nearly enough to account for the enormous amount of matter that must be present. Even if liberal amounts of ordinary (baryonic) matter were assumed to exist in normal planetary systems around stars, the total amount of baryonic matter is not even close to making up the difference.

So, then what? A number of exotic hypotheses have been put forth involving such diverse entities such as cosmic strings, gravitational influences from parallel universes, and so on, but two candidates have emerged as being the most likely explanation for dark matter.

The most commonly accepted explanation of dark matter is the existence of a massive, fundamental particle that pervades the entire universe, but only interacts with the Universe through gravity. Such a particle has been nicknamed a WIMP, which stands for Weakly Interacting Massive Particle. The existence of such WIMPs actually exists on firm theoretical ground. The Standard Model of Particle Physics, one of the most successful theories of Nature (a topic for another article), predicts the existence of a particle that fits the profile of dark matter.

If one assumes that such a particle exists and was formed in the initial cauldron of the Big Bang, then galaxies would have eventually formed in long filamentary structures (super clusters of galaxies) whilst surrounding huge voids as the Universe evolved. Computer simulations, with the assumption of the existence of “cold” dark matter, of the evolution of the structure of the Universe at the largest of scales make this prediction about galaxies’ distribution in the Universe. This distribution is exactly what is observed in the Universe today, in startling agreement with theory.

The large scale structure...

The following is from observations conducted during the 2df survey.

The so-called “bullet cluster” is also largely viewed as a specific smoking gun example of the distribution of dark matter in galaxy clusters.

The theoretical prediction of WIMPs is compelling, but actual empirical evidence for the existence of such a particle is nonexistent. How would one go about verifying the existence of such a particle, if its connection to the rest of the universe is tenuous at best? Perhaps, if such a particle does exist, the collisions at the highest energies possible within the Large Hadron Collider will “see” it. Recall that mass and energy are equivalent from Einstein’s famous equation. A massive particle would be borne out of the highest energy collisions that may be reachable once the LHC is conducting collisions at full strength. We’ll see.

Incidentally, exciting news of the possible detection of a new particle has recently been made at Fermilab outside of Chicago (beating the LHC to the punch). We’ll see if the data survives peer review, let alone fits the profile for dark matter. If confirmed, the new particle may be the biggest news in high energy experimental physics in decades (regardless of dark matter considerations). Incidentally, the Department of Energy is probably going to shut down Fermilab at the end of the summer due to budget cuts. My misanthropy intensifies.

More mundane dark matter detection experiments involve passively waiting for collisions between dark matter particles streaming through the Earth and the atomic nuclei of purified chemical compounds. These passive experiments have been conducted for the last 10 years or so deep within mines in the U.S., Canada, and, notably, Italy. These experiments involve literally sitting patiently and watching purified compounds very closely for the telltale signs of chance collisions between dark matter particles and atomic nuclei. The experiments are conducted at the bottom of deep mine shafts such that the Earth shields most of the incoming cosmic rays and solar wind. These particles would interfere with observing the collisions being sought. After some promising, tantalizing, initial results, these experiments have not been successful. And they should be. The failure of these experiments to detect dark matter is beginning to give many physicists pause that they may be barking up the wrong tree with the assumed dark matter particle.

The second candidate for dark matter given serious consideration is called MOND, which stands for MOdified Newtonian Dynamics. Postulated in the early ‘80s, MOND assumes that Newtonian gravitation mathematically changes at low values of acceleration; that is, the familiar inverse square law behavior of gravity changes over very large distances. The hypothesis mathematically explains away the galaxy rotation curve problem rather nicely without invoking a mysterious particle that pervades the Universe.

However, the MOND hypothesis is much less successful when applied to galaxy clusters, not to mention other details involving Big Bang Cosmology, the CMB, and the large scale evolution of the Universe that the assumption of dark matter is so successful in explaining. Although MOND is intriguing and has certainly not been ruled out, only a minority of physicists are working in this area.

The problem remains. What, exactly, is dark matter? Does the dark matter particle exist, or is invoking its existence just another example of epicycles? Perhaps one of the other, more exotic hypotheses will turn out to be correct. Regardless, the solution to the problem, when found, will represent a paradigm shift of, quite possibly, society altering proportions.

Here’s how you can get a look at the Coma cluster (well, that’s a stretch; maybe the brightest member or two appearing very dimly in a large aperture amateur telescope under very dark sky conditions). The Coma cluster resides in the northern constellation of Coma Berenices, which is highest in the sky in late Spring.

The map below shows the April sky at about 9pm from mid-northern latitudes. Facing south, begin by locating the star Denebola in Leo, which is boxed.

Coma Berenices, a small, nondescript constellation, is not marked on the map, but resides in the upper left corner of the box (to the northeast). The map below shows greater detail, including the location of the center of the Coma cluster...

Dave's Underground Laboratory

On the horizon...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Strawb and Chris head back to the glory days of the NWOBHM

Bands: Saxon, Wolfsbane, Fury UK

Date: Sunday, 10th April, 2011

Venue: Rock City, Nottingham, England

Photos and text by Strawb

One of the best days of the year so far had us catching a few rays while we sat in our gardens preparing for this one. No beers up front for me as I had the pleasure of driving to the fair city of Nottingham. Being a Sunday, parking was not a problem, and we soon found ourselves enjoying the Metal atmosphere in the Tap and Tumbler pub. Enjoying it to such an extent that by the time we made the short walk to the venue, the opening band, Fury UK, was already on stage and giving it their all to a mainly full venue.

Fury UK play competent, punchy retro-rock. I have reviewed their output for Live 4Metal since 2007, and caught them live previously at their appearance at the Bloodstock Festival in 2008. I like this band and was immediately impressed by them on this occasion. The crowd may have largely been there for the later bands, but that didn’t stop them enjoying this performance. I was particularly impressed by “Manslaughter” from the Salvation EP. Time constraints alone meant that it was too soon that they left the stage, but touring with such legends can only enhance their rising star.

After a short break, properly serviced by an ear-splitting PA output of AC/DC, Wolfsbane took to the stage. Both Chris and I have seen them before, he many years ago and me at the 2009 Rock and Blues and Custom Show. Both of us were so impressed that we saw their time as a possible beer break. And, we had seen the site updates from Blaze about his own band, and with such distractions, surely this would detract from his abilities.

How wrong can two reviewers be? Well, this wrong to be exact; our expectations were the exact opposite of what was provided. A gig is always better when the band on stage is obviously enjoying being there – that is one of the reasons we follow Saxon – and shit, were Wolfsbane enjoying it. Blaze was a dynamo, covering the front of the stage like a rampaging rhino, seemingly without a care in the world. My collection is devoid of any Wolfsbane, so the only song I can name was the very apt “In It For The Money” – performed with tongue in cheek. Chris’ opinion is that this was a good, solid showing, but still not convinced they are anything other than a solid pub band – they’ve just had more practice now. Standing five rows back in an area which involved the moshing, I was now wishing that I had kept my shorts on when I left the garden.

A slightly longer break ensued, along with a chat with a couple of old mates who we hadn’t seen for years before the main event, Saxon. I don’t really know where to start with them. Leading lights of the NWOBHM, and it was during that era when I first caught them live. And they were good back then, as well. In more recent years, the band have been contracted to many places we have been; Hammerfest, supporting Motörhead, and headlining their own tours. In fact, with this show, Saxon rose to the top of the “most seen” league.

It is not every band who can come out on stage to a packed venue of bouncing fans and open with three numbers from an as yet unreleased album, but Saxon did it with aplomb. They have stated that on this tour they will play some tracks from Denim And Leather and they kept their word. And, of course, there is always their ‘greatest hits’ section, the tracks without which no Saxon concert will be complete. This section was plumbed to its very depths. The light show was brilliant in both senses of the word and, if anything, the sound was too loud, resulting in some distortion in every song. The band themselves were relishing in touring again, and Nibbs has obviously been sniffing Tazmanian devil powder, with exorcist dust thrown in, because his hair was constantly circling. Biff looked tired, but performed to his usual high standard, and had the crowd joining in whenever he felt like it. Totally excellent. The next day brings tiredness, a sublime ringing in the ears and many sore and bruised areas from the pit- just as it should.

Checking their website reveals that Saxon wanted a full crowd at each venue, so in these tough economic times priced the tickets to suit. There are still many dates left on the tour, so look for one (or two) within travelling distance and go.

As a final aside, this tour provides a contrast of drummers. In my capacity of photographer I hate the buggers, sat behind a mountain of equipment, always in motion, stood in front of by the rest of the band – but as a listener I love them. Martin from Fury UK has one of the best beards in Metal. Steve from Wolfsbane was wearing a jacket made from a disco ball which added to the reflective properties of his dome. Nigel was affectionately described by Biff as [paraphrased] “always there, we can’t get rid of him.” We do see him at the end of every set - distributing sticks into the crowd – and just occasionally during the set as a rapidly moving bandana. It may be fair to say he isn’t the youngest out there, but bugger, can he play.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Black Grill: NWOCM

I'm in that forty something demographic of comfortable and career established. We like food, wine, beer, and cooking with our metal. Grilling is an all year adventure here in SoCal, but I kick into high gear come Spring. Recently prepared (and drank)...

The Phoenix (Four Vines)

Samuel Smith's Nut Brown Ale (thanks, Steve!)

Burzum Fallen

Dave's Underground Laboratory

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Weedeater Jason... The Dragon

Weedeater Jason... The Dragon

(Southern Lord)

By: Chris Davison

I have a confession to make. I have never inhaled the jazz woodbine. Indeed, I've never even held a joint, less smoke one. This isn't necessarily out of any pious substance avoidance program or religious doctrine (after all, I do enjoy the benefits of alcohol on a frequent basis), more that I don't like any smoking, and I'm not keen on deliberately doing things that are against the law. I know, I know, this doesn't mark me out as being one of those dangerously outlaw metal stereotypes, but then again who said I have to conform to them. Anyway, this boring preamble is by way of discussing whether or not one needs to ...’erm...have enjoyed a (and I use the term advisedly) “bong rip” to enjoy music that so obviously associates itself with marijuana. I think not, being quite a fan of superior “stoner metal”, including the Cathedral late-mid period, Orange Goblin, Electric Wizard and others.

This is my first experience with Weedeater. I confess, the name put me off a bit by seeming to be massively obvious and almost face-palmingly associated with the worst excesses of weed-obsessed slackers. Jason... The Dragon is an enjoyable enough slice of fuzzed up nasty sludge metal. In terms of sound, this has that perfect power-trio combination of powerful driving bass, simple but melodically inclined guitar riffs that tend towards the Southern-fried school of drugged-up blues ala Eyehategod, and the heroin-injected-into-the-eyeballs drum romp of Electric Wizard. Just to make that southern “Deliverance” vibe all the more apparent, “Palms of Opium,” a tongue-in-cheek banjo led acoustic number brings to mind toothless red necks rocking back and forth on the decking of their swamp shacks. Tracks like “Long Gone” ramp up the classic doom quota, with the downcast and downbeat atmosphere and tempo of more traditional doom tracks.

It's probably on the likes of “Mancoon,” however, that Weedeater really show their colours; a more upbeat, up-tempo excursion into the more deranged reaches of the human psyche. Even stone cold sober, this had plenty of scuzzy, unwashed dressed in wife-beater vest and underpants appeal. To further ramp up the sense of dynamics in the album, “March of the Bi-Polar Bear,” a drum instrumental, and “Homecoming,” another feel-good (!) almost-instrumental add to the sense that this is a sludge/stoner band that aren't afraid to push the boundaries of what can be achieved in their genre without falling prey to the same old, same old traps of their peers.

Problems? Less here than the triumphs, but the vocals of Dave “Dixie” Collins occasionally sound less like the out-of-his-head screaming sound he was aiming for, and more like a man struggling with persistent and resistant constipation. Other than that, the production is absolutely stellar, with its warm, ragged tones. I for one liked the occasional left field touches with the song writing: it's nice that a band that I was expecting so little of ended up being one of the more inventive listens of the last couple of months.

Now, where did I leave that beer?

Weedeater MySpace

Editor's post-scripts:

1) Weedeater's current romp through the Southwest has been forced to shut down due to an injury (yep, again)...

2) Speaking of beer (from my side of the pond)...

Pursuit Of Hoppiness

La Goudale

Drake's Jolly Rodger and Trois Pistoles

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Macabre Grim Scary Tales

Macabre Grim Scary Tales

(Decomposed Records/ Season Of Mist Records)

By: Chris Davison

Macabre like to sing songs about serial killers. This may not particularly shock our readership, given that:

a) Macabre always write songs about serial killers

and, even if they didn't know that,

b) one in every three death metal bands writes songs about serial killers.

Hell, some bands only write songs about serial killers – Screamin’ Daemon (UK – highly recommended, by the way) and Church Of Misery, for two that I can rattle off easily from my immediate memory. Who cares though, because Macabre did it first, and they do it best. Grim Scary Tales is the first album that they've produced in an absolute age, and I'm happy to report that all the deranged, moreish and downright sick ditties are intact. Yes, ladies and gents, Macabre are well and truly back.

In essence, Macabre’s recipe for success has continued. The formula works like this: select a serial killer or other ne'er do well from history, (and, indeed, all of the selected murderers here have come from the annals of time), and pick an appropriate method of delivery for their tale – as with Gilles De Rais, the notorious French knight and child murderer, who gets an almost childlike melody to convey the true horror of his crimes. The lyrics, with alternating words for the chorus, perfectly sum up the dichotomy of his character:

Chorus 1:

Gilles De Rais was the man
Aristocrat in his homeland
Gilles de Rais was the man
A hero in his homeland

Chorus 2:

Gilles De Rais was the man
Who cut up the French children
What Gilles De Rais would do then
Is masturbate on their organs

Elsewhere, “Who's Afraid Of The Big Bad Wolf” gets the death metal treatment, while “Countess Bathory” gets played, for all purposes, just like an old Venom song – complete with that old NWOBHM feel and shaky Cronos-like vocal delivery. “Burke and Hare” get an almost straight death metal track, until the almost Celtic melody and dream-like intermission half way through. “Mary Ann,” the haunting track dedicated to 19th Century murderess Mary Ann Cotton, is really a classic rock number, complete with melancholic, almost Scott Gorham guitar breaks. “The Bloody Benders” (a murderous American family that killed travellers in their hostel in the 1800's) get a bloody hoe-down, as the jaunty jigging melodies get contrasted with the horrific nature of their crimes. “Lizzy Borden,” the axe murderer who was previously immortalised by Flotsam And Jetsam on their Doomsday For The Deceiver album, is a short and not-so-sweet metal romp.

“The Ripper Tramp From France” is a straight ahead grinding extreme metal track, complete with insanely unpleasant guitar tone and rasping, hate-filled vocals. “Bella The Butcher” begins with an eerie spoken word poem about huge lethal Bella Guiness, and then morphs into alternating dizzying guitar passages that almost instil vertigo, before moving into 1950's style rock n' roll choruses. To top it all off, “Nero's Inferno” takes on the character of a typical Italian folk tune.

This may all be too diverse for the average death metal fan, but that would be their loss. Macabre aren't constrained by genre conventions, choosing instead to utilise any tools which come to hand and perfectly illustrate their song. In that sense, they are truly master song writers, combining a basis of extreme metal with a diverse number of influences that best provide atmosphere and tone to their tales of murder. Those seeking a darkly humorous, sinister and above all infectious slice of metal should look no further than Grim Scary Tales.

Macabre MySpace

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Apostate Trapped In A Sleep

Apostate Trapped In A Sleep

(Black Art Productions)

By: Strawb

You know how it is: your wife finds out about your girlfriend and kicks you out on the date that the same girlfriend buggers off with the most valuable of your possessions; and your dog, earning the accolade of ‘man’s best friend’ has curled down a brown Mr. Whippy right in the middle of your bed. The blues are just too joyous; it is time to emulate your mood by hitting the doom collection. Enter Apostate, a band from the Ukraine who have demonstrated almost glacial haste in releasing this first album, having originally formed in 1997. A number of line-up changes and a few periods of inactivity have occurred in this history.

And so it begins with the briefest of instrumental opening tracks, which resembles nothing more than the tune up at the recording session. However, from here on in, the subject matter which is reflected in the vocals is from the Doom 101 class. In “Earth Escape Plan,” with its imminent collision between the Earth and the Sun, there is time taken to tangentially divert at the human choice to end our exploration of space and become somewhat internally focused. As well as a track entitled “Worm,” the same legless invertebrates are mentioned in all of the songs with vocals. The worm of which Apostate sing is of the creepy variety hiding in a cosmic storm.

“Sisyphean Struggle” had me reaching for the dictionary to find that it is an act which is actually or seemingly endless and futile, again from the opening chapter of Doom 101 – a textbook. I liked this track, the introduction reminded me of “Because The Night” before sinking to deep stygian depths, and even the noodling at around six minutes was thankfully brief enough to prevent any spoiling. “Eternal Return” is the band’s epic instrumental, which plays the album out. As I listened to the non-vocal contribution of this album, it had an almost serotonin effect.

The general mood of the music is upbeat and at times almost jaunty, not what I was seeking at all. A credited keyboard player on a Doom platter, can this be right? However, add in the vocals and I was back on the track, stood in the tunnel with the light approaching at great speed, ready to head butt.

This album is best played with the bass setting in dominance so that it is felt on the diaphragm, especially the low, growling vocal contribution of Bohdan, which brings to mind someone who smokes 200 cigarettes a day and has a liquid diet of rough, cheap bourbon. Or moonshine. Or paraffin. This makes it all the more surprising when the contrasting vocals arrive, delivered by a much more mainstream voice, more akin to the occasional glass of Chablis. The later harmonies between the two of them take the bands vocal experimentation to its zenith.

In conclusion, the naming of the band is an oxymoron – far from abandoning any part of the doom equation, Apostate have fulfilled all of its requirements with this release. It will not achieve international stardom for the band, but is a great first release. Now, where are those razor blades?

Apostate Website

Friday, April 01, 2011

Rotting Christ, Melechesh, and Hate at the Key Club

A full review of the show can be found here. A good show where Melechesh ruled the night. I eschewed a t-shirt purchase, though.



Rotting Christ

Sorry about the pixellation. I was standing in just the right spot for direct exposure on the CCD for one spotlight...

Probably next...


Obscura Omnivium