Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What I have come to realize about Minnesota's Obsequiae



Today I am feeling relieved.  My trouble began when I met Tanner Anderson in the winter of 2007 and soon after was the first time I'd heard Autumnal Winds.  Upon loving it immensely (see my review), there was always this distracting itch that I couldn't scratch.  I really wanted to be able to say the typical phrase "Oh, this is just like ______ crossed with ______."  There was such a tangible familiarity that I am usually able to quantify easily by communicating something by describing it as "A thrashier ______" or something to that effect.  This trouble is even further fueled by Tanner and I's mutual and unforgivingly rampant obsession with melodic black and death metal bands of the 1990's.  Knowing that Tanner and I's CD collections are largely interchangeable makes it all the more frustrating that I couldn't easily reverse engineer Tanner's music; be it Autumnal Winds or Obsequiae to a palatable formula that could be stated in a short sentence.

The satisfaction and relief that I have found to this conundrum can be reduced to this article by giving the music of Obsequiae the reverence it humbly commands.  With the recent release of Obsequiae's debut album on the vinyl format, I have been seeing an increasing amount of comparisons ranging from Agalloch to Hammers of Misfortune to Pentangle to Bathory.  Each time I see this I inadvertently stomp my foot down because these associations are lazy, and do all parties a disservice.  What I arrived upon instead of all these pushy accusations is that the familiarity I still feel when listening to Autumnal Winds or Obsequiae is that this has the potential to be every bit as good as Ophthalamia's "Via Dolorosa," Dawn's "Naer Solen Gar Niper for Evogher" or Varathron's "His Majesty at the Swamp."  I am very excited to be able to watch Tanner work to achieve this level of masterhood, though I humbly assure you that isn't his aim.  I think that it is much more satisfying and worthwhile to think of it this way: trying to say what goes into the creation of Obsequiae's music is an impossibility but alternately I think its safe to say that Tanner shares a similar end result as the album's described above.  

In my later years of appreciating metal, I have found a great deal of deserved snobbery in being fascinated by artists who have fully engendered the language by which they communicate their craft.  All too many artists use only known languages to communicate what is in their head.  Don't get me wrong, this is enjoyable and the majority of society ask only this of the art that they allow to enter their mind.  I however, am different than this.  I want to experience new forefronts, new demographics and new realities that will be remembered by myself for ages.  I find that the more unfamiliar the language of art, the more continued enjoyment I can get out of it, because I respect that which challenges me and also due to the mundanity of everything that doesn't do this for me.  Without hesitation I hold Tanner and his music in this esteem and "Suspended in the Brume of Eos" is a clear example of this (as is "Venerari Sacra Mysteria"!)  The demeanor in which this language is offered to the listener is tacit.  Unlike so much other art, music and metal you are not assumed to be an impish headbanging sloth.  I greatly respect this quality about his craft.

The only credibility I seek in speaking about my friendship with Tanner is that I want to offer you my potentially greater understanding of Obsequiae and what goes into and what led up to what you are hearing when you play "Suspended in the Brume of Eos" or the brilliant self-titled demo.  I personally possess the most comprehensive digital collection of Autumnal Winds, and pre-Autumnal Winds music.  I know a lot about the origins of Obsequiae.  The frustrations that Tanner has been through to see his music through to a tangible format are unbelievable.  I dare say that Tanner's resolve to continue making his unique music is equal to Ginger Baker's eagerness to be a total dick; its fucking unfathomable.  His drive isn't only to bring what is in his head to the world, but to inspire a great deal of influence upon us that this somewhat forgotten style is still valid and relevant.  It may have fallen by the wayside due to the technological advancements we have seen since the 90's and our reliance upon these devices to create music is at an all time high.  I was able gain a greater understanding of this recently when Tanner played me demos for the new Obsequiae album.

The new music is instantly recognizable as Obsequiae of course.  Without giving away too much I dare say the new material is armed with more fury, it is more challenging and even more evocative.  I absolutely can't wait to hear what comes next from my friend's mind.  In anticipation of the new album, I invite you to order the LP version of "Suspended..." from 20 Buck Spin for a mere $14 and check out my interview here:.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Otyg's "Alvefard" - An Unknown Classic

I am drawn to things and people that don't sell themselves or put on a show to attract your attention.  I don't need to sell this album to you and its time of relevance has come and gone.  It is kind of weird for me coming to terms with that realization because I have been listening to this album for 16 years, and it has always sounded new to me.  I remember I was working at a deli in Marion, Iowa back then and though I have since become more well versed in the language of fake Swedish, I was just learning at the time, and I would sing these infectious melodies and triumphant soaring choruses over and over as I went about my day.  Never before nor since has an album so infectiously pleased and attached itself to my heart with its catchy and richly melodic stylings.  This album has really found a renaissance with me in the last few months, and I feel like I am enjoying it more than I ever have.  My purpose here is to celebrate this album and give it a well deserved break down, to further understand the reverence it deserves.

In 1998 when this came out, the metal world was bursting forth into dozens of sub-genres and it seemed everyone was trying new ideas, and a lot of it was great.  I go back to this era quite often for new things that I may have missed.  Otyg had tremendous foresight and bravery to take this idea to the hilt, and they were very lucky to have hit the nail on the head with this album in particular.  (I will note briefly that though I liked it when it came out, Otyg's follow up "Sargovindars Boning" falls vastly short of what Alvefard was able to achieve, and hasn't aged well with me.  Maybe in another 16 years I will get around to liking it.)  Musically speaking this album is a metal record, arguably more prog than metal but lets not get caught up in semantics.  Most other forms of folk metal at this point in time had a backbone consisting of the standard ferocious and / or vicious blackened metal with various flutes and violins adorning and dressing it up to be folk or viking metal.  I have to make a clear distinction here, this type of metal I have a hard time considering "true" folk metal, whereas an album like "Älvefärd" I consider to be a more believable interpretation of original Swedish folk songs into this modern heathen foray (* nod to Falkenbach).  Bands like Finntroll or Moonsorrow can play squeezebox pizza metal all day long and I can count on one hand the number of albums I like in this niche, but I think "Älvefärd" champions all of that nonsense.  To further illustrate my perceived authenticity with this record, Swedish folk music is traditionally played on a violin or fiddle, and Cia Hedmark's violin playing and simply gorgeous accompanying vocals are given a great deal more play in Otyg than most other bands.  Additionally there is a fair amount of terrific flute playing throughout the album.

If you take away all the above elements, the core of "Älvefärd" is mostly some sort of 70's prog album with a modern leaning toward the heavy without veering too closely to anything sneering, evil or ferocious whatsoever.  The influence of bands like Saxon, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull, & Focus is probable.  The band's satchel of talent is flourishing with ideas that lay the groundwork for these varied songs.  Furthermore I think it is important to highlight this album in particular because Otyg had three demos prior to this debut, which never quite fell into place, but show that a far amount of carving trial and error went into making this such a perfect record.  Vintersorg's talent is unquestionable as a guitarist and a vocalist.  Knowing that he was a tender 20 years of age when he began the odyssey of Otyg is clear evidence of this.  Singing entirely with clean vocals and writing such stirring and memorable songs are what make this far and away my favorite output of Vintersorg.

Last year I attended a metal show in Chicago featuring several bands from all corners of the earth, and while I'm not too familiar with the themes these bands dwell upon, it was pretty clear that if you weren't into Satan, you weren't welcome at this show.  I was never really into Satan but I tolerated the idea because for most of my life, I would have argued that all metal should be about Satan and at least concern itself with an enjoyable amount of spiritual warfare to counteract the right wing religious upbringing all of its fans had endured.  It took this show to make it clear to me that I no longer had a place in this particular form of heathenry. I'm a much more humble man these days and no longer and I drawn to such reckless contagion of negativity.  The grandest things I enjoy now are in the ways I connect with nature, science, history and art.  As of late "Älvefärd" has been waiting for me at the edge of the forest inviting me into its humble and welcoming world.  In this way I fell a much more fulfilling and familiar connection with it than I ever have.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Norwegian Black Metal (yes, again)

Neseblod records of Oslo Norway recently moved from their original spot to the former locale of Euronymous' infamous Helvete shop.  Over the years Neseblod has become something of a museum of Norwegian black metal and finding a new home right where it all began is a very interesting turn of events if you ask me.  I've been perusing the online museum on their site as well on instagram, and it got me thinking about the notoriety that this scene continues to get 20 years after the fact due to books, movies, and news articles.  I realized that at times its embarrassing to me that the music I devote a major part of my life to, is known largely for the actions of some ridiculous teenagers back in 1993.  A great deal of this notoriety is due to the constant rehashing of the story of Euronymous and Varg Vikernes, Dead's suicide, and Varg's burning of 13 churches.  This behavior not only takes attention away from the amazing and timeless albums that this scene produced during those times, but it also disregards a great deal of what has happened in the international black metal scene since then.

There have been a dozen or so times where I've met someone who has this limited knowledge of what black metal is as "this is Ben, he's a huuuuuuge black metal fan" and I can just hear them saying in their head "oh, that's the angry music where everyone kills each other" as if black metal could be equated with a murderous rap scene in Miami or something.  Well, I would argue that in a lot of ways it could, so I really wouldn't blame anyone for thinking that way, and its because of the fact that media, and metal-heads alike have focused so much attention on these arguably historical (or even "legendary" as some people put it) actions in the early 90's.  I really wish that when a social situation like this arose, the person I am meeting would be thinking "Oh, black metal, that's the atmospheric music where they sing about forests and vikings and stuff."


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best Metal Releases of 2013

Every year it gets worse and worse. I compile my list of potential candidates for my top ten metal releases of the year, then I comb through countless other "year end" lists for albums that I may have missed. This is when I am reminded most that metal media, both online and in print have been ever-spiraling further and further down the shitter for far too many years now. The reasons I feel this way are a trident of misery. 1) The albums that get the top spots are usually unimaginative, safe, derivative, and mediocre. 2) Its pretty clear that these lists should probably be retitled "albums that we generated the most ad / pr revenue from this year." 3) The people that write these lists are surely nice folks, but they just dont seem to be capable of proper exposure to be an authoritarian on this subject! We are trusting these people to tell us about the best music, so that we dont have to listen to all the bullshit releases, and yet they haven't even scratched beneath the surface to find the true gold. I'm not going to sit here on a throne and tell you that I am the underground metal warlord and that I am the one true authority on this topic, you can make your own judgement. I just don't see ANY website, magazine or blogger that defies the miserable characteristics described above.


With that out of my system, here it is.

1) Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle
2) Seidr - Ginnungagap
3) the Ruins of Beverast - Blood Vaults
4) Gorguts - Colored Sands
5) Gris - À l'âme enflammée, l'äme constellée...
6) Horn - Konflikt
7) Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.
8) Portal - Vexovoid
9) Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse
10) Panopticon / Vestiges - Split


Each album at some point lifted the hair on the back of my neck, gave me tingles all over my body and made my ears gaze in wonderment. These albums gave me what keeps me happy as a rabid music maniac.


Honorable as fuck Mentions:
Abysmal Grief - Feretri
Abyssal - Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius
Altar of Plagues - Teethed Glory and Injury
Arckanum - Fenris Kindir
Arsaidh / Saor - Roots
Begrime Exemious - Wasteland of Damnation
Burzum - Sôl austan, Mâni vestan
Csejthe - Réminiscence
Coffins - Fleshland
Cultes Des Ghoules - Henbane
Ephel Duath - Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness
Falkenbach - Asa
Finnr's Cane - A Portrait Painted by the Sun
Galdr - Ancient Light of the Stars
the Howling Wind - Vortex
Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
Incursus - Adaestuo
Kawir - Isotheosis
Magic Circle - s/t
Njiqahdda - Serpents in the Sky
Nocturnal Graves - From the Bloodline of Cain
Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu
Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor
Peste Noire - s/t
Prosanctus Inferi - Noctambulous Jaws Within Sempiternal Night
Red Fang - Whales and Leeches
Sacriphyx - the Western Front
Skagos - Anarchic
Skogr - In Obscure Darkness
Summoning - Old Morning's Dawn
Thou Art Lord - the Regal Pulse of Lucifer
Ulcerate - Vermis
Vali - Skogslandskap
Voivod - Target Earth
Warlord - the Holy Empire
Wedrujacy Wiatr - Tam, gdzie miesiąc opłakuje świt
When Bitter Spring Sleeps - Coven of the Wolves
Witherscape - The Inheritance


Bummers:
Carcass - "Fart Blood" I cant forgive one of my favorite bands for releasing a mediocre, forced, uncohesive mess of an album to make $, and luckily I don't have to.  This sounds like a Carcass tribute band playing medleys of the worst parts of their past songs at the grand opening of a nail salon.
Germ - "Grief" This band had one redeeming quality to it that made me love the first two.  Its hard to put into words, but whatever it was, its absolutely gone from this hot mess of an album.  What a shame, I was really looking forward to this.
Horna - "Askel Lähempänä Saatanaa" Maybe I need to give this a third chance, or maybe I'm just burned out on this band, but this album seems like the exact same song over and over and over.
Satyricon - "Satyricon" Not a huge fan of this band but I usually find a minute reason or two to listen to their recent albums, but this is just totally out of left field and they forgot to write any cool parts.
Ihsahn - "Das Seelenbrechen" - This is what emptiness sounds like.  I'd rather listen to paint dry.
Morbosidad - "Muerte de Cristo en Golgota" - I was once a big fan of these guys, but this sounds like my entire Revenge collection being flushed down a toilet for 40 minutes.  BARF.
Deafheaven - "Sunbathsalts" - Not only is this band uninspired, unimaginative and a bunch of posers, but they are getting shitloads of accolades for completely ripping off Panopticon.  Fuck these nerds.
Ulver - "Messy Curtains XXX" - I find Tangerine Dream fascinating, but I seriously cannot stand more than 6 minutes of this without being bored to tears.  This is devoid of anything interesting, what the fuck is with all the hype?
Darkthrone - the Underground Resistance


If you've read this and you think I've forgotten or omitted anything...youre probably wrong. I've spent countless hours sampling the heaps of shit that came out this year and that is why I feel a duty to be the voice of reason here. See you next year!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Old Man Charlie "The Absent King of the Earth"

Almost as a metaphorical personification of his human voice, the music of Old Man Charlie teeters a ponderous edge between lovable frailty and a certain "hair stand up on the back of your neck" boldness. Something I haven't heard since Russian Red drove me to the brink of weeping the first time I heard her "I Like Your Glasses" album. His music's fragile mood also reminds me of some of the darker songs by Damien Jurado. Old Man Charlie's allure is delicate and poetic and once your ear is turned you are a captive audience for the vivid, imaginative and sometimes morbid themes swarming around in Arlen Lawson's head. To achieve this poignant of a musical personality with just his mouth and six strings speaks volumes about his ability and potential, yet there is a lot to be said for what a focused and well produced record could bring us from him. His efforts so far have been adorned by other musicians lending additional accompaniment and instrumentation which show that this idea is a good one, but not a necessary one at all times. I find that the most tasteful arrangement of additional instrumentation in this singer / songwriter scenario is when you don't even notice that there is more going on than a voice and a guitar. So while I certainly see the potential in breathing additional life into Old Man Charlie's songs with due tastefulness, the delicate frailty that charms me can easily be toppled by a repetitive awkward drum beat or overbearing synth.
Luckily, in his latest release "The Absent King of the Earth," I am very pleased to hear a less distracting accompaniment and a more focused and tasteful production lifting these great songs where they deserve to dwell. This isn't one of my preferred genres of music because I often get a bit dragged down by the "sad sack" attitude of some singer-songwriters. In contrast however this EP has a comfortable length and enough variety and personality to keep me pretty much glued whenever I put it on. I tend to be a sucker for catchy melodicism and hooky song craft, and I find that the core of Arlen's songs possess a mindfulness of his ability to take advantage of that skill. Though I like the EP quite a bit, the highlight for me is a spoken word track called "I Want a Life" where he speaks pointedly about what he wants out of life. Though not technically a song, I think that the accompanying music, the mixing and recording on this track -clicks- the way I think all of his songs should, and can.
"The Absent King of the Earth" is not only a joy, but also a heap of evidence that Old Man Charlie is clearly heading for brighter horizons. I like to think of this EP as his parting gift to Iowa City, as the talent pool here is severely lessened by his departure to Los Angeles.

http://oldmancharlie.bandcamp.com

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Hello again followers.  I am checking in again with a brief update and a playlist.  I have been very busy working a new job and travelling a bit here and there.  There are a TON of great albums coming out this year, as well as more on the way!  I recently had the chance to sing on two tracks for the forthcoming Panopticon album.  Very excited to hear the album in its entirety when its all finished!


Whats been keeping me afloat lately:


Suhnopfer - "Nos Sombres Chapelles" Devastating, unrelenting, pummeling french black metal. I havent heard anything this aggressive in a long time. Makes me feel old. This was a great find by my friend Kurt.


Gorguts - "Colored Sands" A maelstrom of whirling and intricate death metal from these legends. This is a monument of human capacity to say the least.


Warlord - "The Holy Empire" Here is an enthralling take on the classic Warlord sound. Its so rare to hear traditional metal done so tastefully well. Its a bit too cheesy at times but hey this is Warlord we are talking about here.


Michael Perkins "Mr. 666 - GA008" This could easily be the score to a eerie 80's horror movie. Akin to Goblin and that ilk but done remarkably well without being too overly kitschy.


Eclipse "the Act of Degradation" Sort of a more symphonic and more adventurous version of what Lord Kaos was trying to do. Very complex and well arranged.


Lonndom "Viddernas tolv kapitel" Fairly ragged and charismatic folk from Sweden by guy from Lik. Very accessible.


Allegiance "Blodornsoffer" & "Hymn till Hangagud" I always overlooked these albums because of my hatred for Peter Tagtgren's lifeless production, but they are actually very good. Kind of hard to categorize even though people often think of them as viking metal.


Alcest "Les Voyages De L'ame" I've had a problem listening to Alcest ever since Les Discrets sorta beat them at their own game. After giving this a second chance I'm really enjoying it. This is an album that I will spend years devouring.


Watain "the Wild Hunt" After the single they released I feared it was the downfall of one of my favorite bands, but if you omit that track "the Child Must Die," this album is impeccable. If you're not expecting another Casus Luciferi or Sworn to the Dark, this holds its own quite well. This is more leaning away from the Dissection / Nifelheim influence in favor of a good helping of Bathory influence. What I find enjoyable about it is that its a near perfect commercial black metal album. This should please a lot of people and with proper touring I think Watain will be tops in black metal for many years.


The Howling Wind "Vortex" This is a great snarling album of straight forward black metal with excellent riffing and memorable songs. I'm really excited about this band.


Arch Enemy "Black Earth" I bought this in a dollar bin expecting to hate it, thinking it would be worth some $ down the road. It really caught me off guard and takes me back to 1998, a time when Swedish death metal was modernizing and commercializing. A sad eventuality, but a few choice albums stood the transition.


The Knife "Shaking the Habitual" This band has never quite done anything for me but Karin Dreijer Andersson has made me a fan with her work with Fever Ray, Honey is Cool and Royksopp. With this album I feel like they finally locked it in place. This has a lot to offer.


Peste Noire "Peste Noire" These guys are really starting to get fun. Its great to hear them further and further abandoning the trappings of the black metal genre and carving their own identity. This album seems to be where they grow their wings and really take off. It has a prevalent Mr. Bungle influence to it that I find addictive.


Supplicium "Magna Atra Missa" Another killer French band that I'd describe as a more raggedy Annthennath. I love this french style of guitar harmony.


What have you been listening to?

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hello again friends.  I haven't had anything remarkable fall into my lap since Darvulia, and I haven't felt compelled to write about anything for a while.  I have been putting a lot of work into my site 319Dude.bandcamp.com which is a collection of local music from my area.  I thought I'd just drop in and post a playlist to sate you until the next time I write.

Albums I have been playing a lot lately:
Hypocrisy - End of Disclosure
Blaze Foley - Cold, Cold, World
Horn - Naturkraft
Progenie Terrestre Pura - U.M.A.
Seidr - Ginnungagap (this will blow your fucking mind)
Darkthrone - all the albums with commentary
Bethzaida - LXXVIII
Demigod - the Slumber of Sullen Eyes
Caladan Brood - Echoes of Battle
Virus - Oblivion Clock
Erasmus - Alpha demo 1998

Come to think of it, please check out the aforementioned Erasmus demo.  Its extremely rare and infinitely inventive.  Its YEARS ahead of its time.  You are welcome to download it for free here:  http://319dude.bandcamp.com/album/alpha-demo
Demonaz w/ Immortal 1994

Friday, January 25, 2013

To Download or Not to Download (MP3)

First of all, I wouldn't read this post if it were your on your stupid blog, so don't feel guilty for completely ignoring this post on mine.

Sometimes I feel like I can be pretty wishy-washy on this subject but I have a lot of experience and insight on the subject and therefore I have a lot of opinions on this "hot topic."  A friend of mine once said to me "I don't believe in MP3s, they hurt musicians."  I'm not ashamed to admit it: I download a SHITLOAD of mp3s illegally, and I have since the days of Napster in the late 90's.  I would estimate I download around 20 new (to me) releases a month, mostly metal.  A large portion of it is stuff that I will never in a million years find physical copies of.  Should that fact bar me from ever hearing it?  If I went by that logic, then I would have to pay $119 (currently on discogs) to hear Emperor's "As the Shadows Rise" seven inch.  While I think that is a decent price, not a single penny of that money will ever go to Emperor.

Last night I was really enjoying listening to a 7" by the Moon Lay Hidden Beneath a Cloud in my car (on my mp3 player of course).  This likely was limited to 267 copies and came out in 1996, years before the wonderful voice of Alzbeth ever graced thine stubborn ears in 1999.  This and other music is worth keeping available, and we have an inexpensive, simple and easy way to make sure that we, and other newcomers are able to enjoy this stuff for years to come.  Its name is "the internet".  The digital posterity of music is important to me because our generation is solely responsible for overseeing the inevitable progression of music technology from a tangible format to a virtual one.  This is arguably the hugest thing to happen in the history of music.  It affects every single musician on the face of the earth who wishes to compile a publicly available release.

Back before the internet, everything hung on an 8-14 word description in an obscure catalog or zine.  In 1998 I knew that Lunar Aurora were an up and coming band because I had seen their debut "Weltenganger" mentioned in a playlist in a magazine, and it was a brief description (whose verbiage eludes me now) but I imagine it was something like "Great atmospheric BM from Germany"  that was enough for me to spend $12 plus shipping on it back then.  We now have the luxury of hearing everything before we buy.  So I take full advantage of that opportunity, and consequently through the years, I have bought easily hundreds MORE CDs, LPs, shirts, etc from bands that I never would have known about were it not for the digital availability of so many releases.  Obviously I am somewhat of an exception to the norm here, but my point here is that just because you download MP3s doesn't mean you HAVE to be a douche bag and never support artists.  its certainly not one or the other.

I fully support bandcamp, soundcloud, and all these other services, they somewhat circumvent the need to illegally download albums.  Ultimately though the days of buying a CD or LP without having heard it first are long behind us and its time to rethink some ideals about MP3s and such.  Lastly I have said it before and it bears repeating.  Music is meant to be heard, enjoyed and shared with others.  The exploitation and objectification of music is what leads to even more terrible music, ALWAYS.  If illegally downloading MP3s means the collapse of businesses that operate to do this, then all hail the new dawn.

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Cold Beyond - Promo '99

So I bought this tape in 2003 or so on the suggestion of my good pal Wayne Sarantopoulos with the intent of ripping it to MP3.  Fast forward to December 2012, and I finally got it ripped!  This is a fun four track rager of deathened black metal of a band from Milwaukee Wisconsin.  I've searched for MP3s of it quite intensly so I'm sure this is its first foray onto the world wide web.  Turns out they have been dormant since 2003 but have a new EP out.

http://www.facebook.com/TheColdBeyond
http://www.facebook.com/NightWorldRecords



Thursday, December 20, 2012

Darvulia - Mysticisme Macabre

I am certain that there is no way I'm going to easily sell you on this album.  My goal here is to tell you why I love this band so much instead.  If you can find some intrigue in my attempt, then I wholly invite you to dive into this mind bending and sometimes hypnotic album.

First lets get a few things out of the way to make this easier for both of us.  This isn't epic, melodic, retro, goat-y, necro, and doesn't sound much like any other black metal band I've ever heard..  Musically, this is quite original and scratches an itch that only Lugubrum, and maaaaaaybe Vediog Svaor have even begun to scratch in the past.  Not to toot my own horn much either but the riffing is also reminiscent of my old band "Satan's Almighty Penis."  Of course there are some familiar tenets of black metal found here: varied but frequently blasting drums, fairly typical but notably well performed vocals and a typical overall production value that does the music justice by being somewhat dry and pallid with a bit of snarl to it.  You should be able to dive right into if you've listened to ten or more black metal albums before.

Ok so now that I have cleared all of that out of the way: THE RIFFS!  The guitar work of Darvulia's Kobal is out of this world.  The riffing is HIGHLY imaginative, often grinding, completely disharmonious and dissonant as all fuck.  If you are looking for riffs that make you think about mountains, trees, lakes, pirates, castles, vikings or pretzels, DON'T ENTRY!!  All I can say is that musically this stuff is very obnoxious and therefore insanely hellish and challenging.  Half of what makes "Mysticisme Macabre" so enjoyable and refreshing for me is that it is what it isn't.  The other half is that there is some highly challenging and obtuse music composition found here, and Darvulia have become highly productive within this style.  The composition is about as untraditional as you can get.  The varied ebb and flow of their 5-7 minute long songs keep me enthralled more than a lot of records of this ilk ever do.  Its disgustingly awkward enough to keep me interested and yet not so unrelenting that it gets boring.  I often find myself listening to it three or four times in row.

I haven't been able to peel myself away from this album for a long enough time to check out the rest of Darvulia's catalog, but I really look forward to seeing where else they can take this band.

Friday, December 14, 2012

My Favorite Metal Albums of 2012
1. Panopticon - Kentucky
2. Germ - Loss
3. Demoncy - Enthroned is the Night
4. the Kill - Make 'em Suffer
5. Nekromantheon - Rise Vulcan Spectre
6. MGLA - With Hearts Towards None
7. Blood of the Black Owl - Light the Fires!
8. Licht Erlischt - ...and Below, the Retrograde Disciples
9. Wodensthrone - Curse
10. Blut Aus Nord - Cosmophy

Honorable Mentions:
Alcest - Les Voyages de l'ame
Antediluvian / Adversarial - Split
Ash Borer - Cold of Ages
Asphyx - Deathhammer
Autolatry - Of the Land
Avenger - Bohemian Dark Metal
Bestial Holocaust - Into the Goat Vulva
Borknagar - Urd
Bound by Entrails - the Stars Bode you Farewell
Brulvahnatu - Descending Divine Worth
Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity
Christian Mistress - Possession
Coffins - March of Despair
Deathspell Omega - Drought
Desecresy- the Doom Skeptron
Drapsnatt - Skelepht
Ebonylake - In Swathes of Brooding Light
Elysian Blaze - Blood Geometry
Evoken - Atra Mors
False / Barghest - Heavy as a Church Tower
Genocide Shrines - Devanation Monumentemples
Hell - III
Katatonia - Dead End Kings
Love Sex Machine - s/t
Lunar Aurora - Hoagascht
Morbus Chron - A Saunter through the Shroud
Master's Hammer - Vracejte konve na místo
Moss of Moonlight - Seed
Muknal - Muknal
Mutilation Rites - Empyrean
My Dying Bride - A Map of All Our Failures
Napalm Death - Utilitarian
Nefarious - The Universal Wrath
Revenge - Scum.Collapse.Eradication
Sanguinary Misanthropia - Loathe Over Will
Sear Bliss - Eternal Recurrence
Weapon - Embers and Revelations
Worship - Terranean Wake
Yakuza - Beyul

Things I still need to listen to:
Aluk Todolo - Occult Rock - Didnt excite me, formulaic and uneventful
Angantyr - Forvist - Very good!
Anglagard - Viljans Oga
Árstíðir Lífsins
- Vápna lækjar eldr

Azaghal - Nemesis
- Pretty fun if you think all black metal sounds the same.

Black Magician - Nature is the Devil's Church - Not bad, kinda trendy and the vocals really get old
Chapel - Satan's Rock n Roll - Weak production and a very tired, worn out style. ZZZzzz
Coffin Texts - the Tomb of Infinite Ritual - Pretty fun, though not much to hold my interest.
Corsair - Corsair
Dammerfarben - Herbstpfad
Dire Omen - Severing Soul from Flesh - Pretty typical br00tle death metal.  pass
Dordeduh - Dar de Duh - More floaty new age post-Negura Bunget metal.  I'm not often in the right mood for this, but its tolerable.
Drawn & Quartered - Feeding Hell's Furnace - Sorta fun but nothing really special here.
Drudkh - Eternal Turn of the Wheel - Yeah more Drudkh, If its not Autumn Aurora or Forgotten Legends, forget about it.
Dysrhythmia - Test of Submission - This band is great, really interesting in a "look what we can do" sort of way which I'm never in the mood for, but I really admire these guys and they are probably the best prog band in the US.
Elffor -
Heriotz Sustraiak
Eternum - Veil of Ancient Darkness - I really like this, its somewhere between Fullmoon and Vargsang
Hellvetron - Death Scroll of Seven Hells and Its Infernal Majesties - REALLY eerie and twisted, this is great, though not up my alley
Ignivomous - Contragenesis - Another brick of evidence that the bar for brutal death metal was raised significantly this year.  This is great, but again, I just don't really care.
Into Oblivion / Cromlech / Shoor - "Under the banner of the Serpent Sun"
Ketzer - Eindzeit Metropolis - This is awesome.  A tad too ecclectic, but at times it reminds me of Aura Noir
Knelt Rote - Trespass - Super fun unrelenting grind madness.  Love these guys
Les Discrets - Ariettes Oubliées
Maveth - Coils of the Black Earth
Manticore - Behold the Ascension of the Execrated - God, this is weird as fuck and I dont like it at all
Naglfar - Teras - Exactly what I was expecting, there is nothing cool about this.
Necrovation - s/t - This was surprisingly fun.  Lots of variety and innovation here.  I might buy this.
Occultation - Three & Seven - RULES!  This is really intriguing stuff!
Profetus - ...to Open the passages in Dusk - This would be far better if it had anything that wasnt completely boring in it.
Rahu - The Quest for the Vajra of Shadows
Svartidaudi - Flesh Cathedral
Testament - Dark Roots of Earth - Killer line-up on this, but this is exactly what I expected.  Fucking party thrash.  Death to the entire bay area and its failure metal.
Urkaos - I
Vemod - Venter pa Stormene - This is really good.  I'll probably be listening to this some more in the future. reminds me of Darkspace / Paysage d'Hiver
Venus Star - ep / full length
Verge / Charnel Winds - Two Serpents
Vomitor - the Escalation
Winterfylleth - the Threnody of Triumph
Vaura - Selenelion - Listening to this album was like holding a great looking sandwich, never being able to figure out which side to take the first bite on, then giving up.

Anticipated in 2013 (somewhat speculative):
Swallowed debut full length
Hunter's Moon full length?!?!?
Nocturnal Graves
Horna (confirmed!)
Inquisition (confirmed !)
Incursus (confirmed !)
Sadomator (This band is currently on hold, but Seventh is working on a debut full length for his other band Odgru Jahad)
Paysage d'Hiver - Das Tor (AMAZING!)
Cultes des Ghoules (RULES!)
Darvulia
Empyrium
Pensees Nocturnes (confirmed!)
Watain
Grave Miasma
Front Beast
Manzer "Light of the Wreckers"
Hatespawn "Abyssic conquerors"
Dead Congregation
Gorguts (confirmed!)
Portal (rules!)
Darkthrone (sucks!)
Panopticon / Vestiges split (confirmed!)
Drowned - debut LP (confirmed !)

Big time let downs:
Burzum
Baptism
Swans
Ofermod
Enslaved
Aura Noir

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Panopticon - Kentucky

Whenever I have the pleasure of waking up in Kentucky, I stretch my arms out to greet the day. Invariably I hear the opening banjo licks of Panopticon's album of the same name. When I climbed the beautiful winding hills of Bernheim Forest beneath gigantic trees last summer with Austin Lunn, I heard the familiar penny whistle melodies and Chuck Schuldiner-esque guitar leads heard throughout "Bodies Under the Falls." When I spent time among the people of Louisville I heard the soaring melody of "Black Soot and Red Blood." When I hear my friends Austin, Adam, and Crow lament upon frustrations concerning how mining corporations have permanently destroyed miles upon miles of their beautiful home's mountain tops, I of course hear the plodding blast beats and somber middle section of "Killing the Giants as They Sleep." I even find myself singing the catchy riffs throughout the album in my head when I'm at work or driving. When I play the album I sing along to the riffs and air drum to the preposterously skilled percussion. This album has stuck with me more than any in the last few years for so many reasons. I find it jarringly apparent that the album's subject matter has given Austin the motivation to weave his most musically effective and memorable album yet.

Two years ago I hadn't been to Kentucky, and I hadn't heard Panopticon's album of the same name. Today, the state and the album represent each other boldly in my eyes, and they both have become some very dear things to me. Such has the friendship Austin and I have found this year. I wanted to finally offer my take on this album because I think I offer a unique and closer perspective on the album than most, and maybe what I have to say will help some folks understand it better if they care to listen to it and learn from it.

Panopticon is a very different band than a lot of people are used to. The ever-trodden path of black metal since 1982 has been to portray a guise that you are not. To use emotions and urges to give a theatrical and exaggerated voice to thoughts. To step outside of the human shell and personify metaphorically certain emotions and ideals that seem somehow larger than life. In stark contrast, Austin lets absolutely nothing stand between his music and who he is. When you listen to Panopticon, you are experiencing the pure unadulterated heart and soul that he is offering you. you can take it or leave it. Austin plays black metal and blue grass because that is who he is, and this is how he speaks to you. Austin and others argue that this fact invalidates the label of "black metal" from Panopticon, but I make this comparison sonically, and not politically. Some reviewers have had the gaul to say that the blue grass isn't to their liking and that it should be different or not present at all. Some have even gone as far as saying that the blue grass should sound more like European folk. Or that the metal sections aren't "folky enough", etc. As fucking outlandish as this is, I won't address it specifically. Asking that of any artist is preposterous. Lets be honest folks, we are all grown ups and you wouldn't know about this album if you didn't have the capacity to fully understand Panopticon's effective language of metal and blue grass.

I am proud of my friend Austin for so many reasons but here I should note that Kentucky is an album Austin should be proud of. It speaks vastly of a place he loves and does so in such a heartfelt way that it evades criticism by standing above it in a place where this type of dialogue contains no dishonesty, or insipid cruel humanity.

Kentucky the album successfully acts as a conduit between you and the topics that Austin holds dear enough to write about. Instead of acting as an end all authority upon the topic, it verily tells a story and then asks you confrontingly "Which Side are You On?"

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"HIPSTER"

The other day a coworker looked at my last.fm page and called me a hipster. I seriously dont mind, but a true definition of this term has always eluded me. It seems like people throw it around only for the effect that they know that comes with it, without the term having a meaning that anyone can specifically enumerate. My belief is that term would describe someone who only likes stuff because nobody else likes it. But the fact that people use it to describe people who look and act like other "hipsters" really defies the sentiment of the term. So either I'm wrong or everyone who uses it that way is wrong.

Without regard to the term's definition I had some poignant thoughts in reaction to its use to label me. If I seek out music that isnt popular, that would mean that I would have to know what is popular, to be able to avoid it. Therefore I would be paying the same attention to popular music as most people are, if not more. So in a way the term accuses me of doing what everyone else does only to portray that I am in fact only interested in everything but that which is popular.

Am I wrong here or what?

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Altarnihil - "Terminal"

While some band's demos can wind up being their best recording (Cromlech), the intent of a demo is to lay forth a simple framework upon which a band operates. I try to keep this in mind when receiving a demo from a band. Altarnihil's "Terminal" demonstrates that they have accomplished well what they set out to do and have a formidable amount of momentum to achieve greater things within the trappings of this guise.
As expected the Iowa two piece utilize a murky, indistinct overall tone and production quality to paint the veil between their performance and your imagination. As a black metal listener I appreciate when this is understood and I often require this quality of a band for me to be drawn into a recording (due to my fervent A.D.D. and tendency to listen to black metal bands that I already know are good.) Producing an unfavorable, "necro", or murky black metal sound hard is enough to even achieve, let alone harness and have it enhance everything about the craft of black metal song. This is Altarnihil's strongest element yet. While all too many bands today have taken a reliance upon this much too far, I still believe that teetering upon this balance is where much of the magic of black metal lies.
I do not feel that Altarnihil rely all too heavily on this quality, but I do see great potential for a more musical direction for the band, mostly in the guitars, but I think some synth would work nicely here as well. There is a staunch and unwavering style to the music, and I think some more evocative riffing is where I look for the band to head. The riffing is simplistic and unmelodic but nothing I could draw comparisons to.
Overall I give this a 7 out of 10. The band was gracious enough to give me a copy of the demo, and gracious enough to offer it to you on their bandcamp page http://altarnihil.bandcamp.com as a pay what you want download. Look for a tape release soon, and I will look forward to future output from one of Iowa's rare black metal bands.

Alternately I thought I'd mention that this entire demo reminds me fondly of the last song "Einsamkeit" from Zorn's 2002 demo "Terror Black Metal" which is just absolutely stunning. Tell you what, heres a download link for that entire demo: DOWNLOAD



Thursday, April 19, 2012

Sorry for the absence. Ive been making my own music again. If you care to listen to it, its all free for download here: www.fallutin.com There's also an interview for your perusal. I plan on posting a review of the new Mgla album here shortly. Toodles, Ben

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Darkthrone - Transylvanian Hunger


Darkthrone achieved so much in the early 90's with no motivation but to make purely satanic black metal. First they helped germinate the sound known merely by their circle of like-minded Norwegian teenagers with "Goatlord" and "A Blaze in the Northern Sky." "Under a Funeral Moon" was a raw exploration of the catharsis of this new sound and song craft. Having arrived upon "Transylvanian Hunger" and reaching what I believe to be their pinnacle in this journey in just three years is remarkable. This band was gravely inspired and flourishing with productivity, much to the satisfaction of nearly every black metal fan to ever lend the genre their attention since 1994.
The personality of the songs on these albums is so refined and honed that to try to find comparable musical influences has always proven difficult for me. Of course a heavy Bathory and Venom element is there in the forcibly driven pace of everything, but the riffing seems to call upon very noodly and cantankerous buzzing kraut rock. At age 22 Nocturno Culto's style of playing repetitive dissonant chords and harmonizing with lead guitars to achieve a memorable, vivid melody is remarkable in its own right.
The production value on this album mirrors the song writing in this sense. At first listen I'm always forced to take a step back to remember how to listen to this album. Its got an obscure, glossed over and murky hiss to it all. At the end of some of the songs you can hear the instruments all brought to silence, and all that is left is the extreme tape hiss that lends so much to the atmosphere. The lack of clarity beckons you to focus your ears upon the droning subtle melody. The more you tune your attention to its permanent barrage of darkness, the more you enter its despicable realm of utter satanic majesty. One of my favorite characteristics of black metal is the interplay of rhythm and lead guitar to achieve complex harmony and melody.
To think that frantic, buzzing, clashing, racket can be so evocative, enigmatic, ethereal and beautiful is a challenging notion. The fervor that these 19 year old Norwegians found use for over the course of three years will never be equaled again. The greatest black metal albums of all time have already been written, fortunately one of them is Transylvanian Hunger.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Illegal

So today I was doing some browsing and I happened upon an MP3 blog and I saw that it offered the new album from Amorphis. I've never really been a fan of this band but I keep reading great things about their albums, and I haven't heard anything current since "My Kantele." So I decided, "Meh, I'll give Amorphis another shot and give this a listen." When I went to download it, I got a message that it had been removed due to a reported violation. I've been seeing this more and more lately as I 'm aware labels are cracking down on blogs of this nature, and some sites follow through with removal requests. Without getting into a whole debate about the whole mp3 argument, I just felt a tad miffed. I wanted to hear Amorphis, and their label Nuclear Blast, was making it so that I couldn't listen to Amorphis. Isn't that a little backwards?

Friday, October 14, 2011

Bad Music

I was listening to Death Grips' "Exmilitary" album the other day. This is an album I'm still struggling to decide if I even like, but I keep coming back to it from time to time. If you haven't heard it, let me just say that its really weird and you're probably not gonna like it. Anyway it did manage to get me thinking about how I'm having a hard time describing reasons that I don't like it, and I think its mainly because of how original it is. Thats not to say that I've decided yet that I dislike it, but I can more easily say positive things about it than negative things. If you played me some top 40 country I'd most likely hate it and it would be easy to say how bad it is because I've heard what they're doing a thousand times before. I easily have a frame of reference and I know straight away that I hate it. So its much easier for me personally to say that something sucks because it sucks exactly like something else that sucks. I would guess most people would be the opposite and say "oh I like this, it reminds me of Lady Antebellum." Or at least they would say that its not bad because it sounds like something that they think is good or have heard before. They say people are always afraid of things they don't understand. I think over the years of being a huge music nerd I've grown accustomed to seeking out the absurd, the original, artists that defy boundaries. Artists that do that are the only real catalyst to progression within the art. So I defy you next time you say something is bad. I dare you to ask yourself why you think it is bad. If you had no frame of reference for what bad was, would it still be bad?

So here is Death Grips. I'm impressed by it and I applaud it for it's ingenuity, but I'm still on the fence about the album as a whole.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Playlist

Havent posted a playlist in a long time. Been really busy with a new job and new house and such. Been discovering lots of new great music.

Midlake - the Courage of Others [ Lush and extremely well written folk. Has a real 70's vibe to it, but far from boring and really really catchy ]

Lugubrum - De Ware Hond / Albino de Congo [ One of my favorite black metal bands, still as original, contorted and relevant as ever ]

Isengard - Høstmorke [ This is a huge classic, always worth singing along to]

Melechesh - Epigenesis [ Headbanging fun for all ]

Merkaba - Bones of the Sacred Forest [ Undeniably powerful and evocative modern black metal, i'll be listening to this for a long time ]

Horn - Naturkraft [ Traditional raw german black metal. Well written from start to finish ]

Yearning - Plaintive Scenes [ I've always liked this band, nothing too ground breaking but an album definitely worth owning ]

M83 - Hurry Up, Were Dreaming [ This give me a raging 80's hard-on. Wonderful album ]

Septic Flesh - Esoptron / Temple of the Lost Race [ I've always been kinda tepid with this band, but i found these releases to be a little more "gorey" than the other more greek romantic sounding stuff ]

Cry of Silence - Wandering Through pagan Times [ THIS is the new Xasthur. Xasthur who? ]

Friday, September 23, 2011

Cromlech (swe)



I discovered this band years ago when I was doing some research on the amazing Eucharist. Technically somewhat unrelated because the guitarist of Cromlech only played in Eucharist for a short bit after Mirrorworlds was released in 1997, but the two bands styles can be easily compared. They may not have made much of an impression having never released a single album, but Cromlech leaves behind a handful of absolutely blistering melodic death / black metal songs spread across 5 releases totalling 15 songs. I want you to download them below and listen to them all. If listened to properly they will cause blistering in your groinular region. The performance, creativity, and intensity are unmatched.

DOWNLOAD HERE PLEASE

Friday, September 9, 2011

Performance

The last time I was in Chicago, I was able to spend some time with my friend E from the band Njiqahdda. We got to talking about performing music live versus putting out albums. E has managed to release 46 albums in the last three years, and hasn't performed the music live once, so needless to say the man knows what he is talking about. For years I have personally enumerated reasons for not playing live, but the reason E offered was something I had never considered. His answer explained my sentiment better than I have ever been able to. He explained that performing music is not creating music, and he was only interested in creating music. Most people consider performance something that goes hand in hand with creating music and being a musician. The difference between creating it and performing it however, is night and day to me.

Performing music on stage for humans is an act. It is a portrayal, a visual and human interaction of the medium whose subject matter and demeanor can often be the exact opposite. It relies on many people and a lot of money to be able to fall into place. The relevance of the audience when creating music pales to that when speaking about performing music on stage.

Would you really want to see Deathspell Omega's "Paracletus" album performed on stage? I for one like the album so much that I would hate to subject the music to such potential scrutiny. Would you want to listen to early Mortiis or any of Arcana's discography on stage? If you can find a reason to say no, then so can any artist.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Insight

A really good friend of mine and I were talking about music the other day and he arrived upon a very compelling point that I had never considered until then. I thought I'd share it with you in the hopes that it intrigues you as well. This definitely wont apply to the average music listener so I hope this is able to resonate with you.

I was talking about how I wanted to achieve optimum audio quality with a music project I'm working on, and I presented my goals to him. I feel like my goals were somewhat rendered irrelevant by what he then said. The audial fidelity of any recording (actually EVERY recording) is entirely subject to representation that it is being given; ie listening to it on a burned CD on a small stereo, listening to it on vinyl with nice speakers, or streaming it online with a pair of ear buds. No matter what the recording sounded like when it was created, it will invariably sound very different with every other listener's listening configuration and setup. Therefore this lend a lot of validity to the idea of performing music live, and listening to it in person as the artist intended it to be heard.

So the idea that every person hears every album differently, and largely different from the artist has had me in a lot of ponderous moods this week.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Liturgy - Renihilation


After reading Chris Grigg's open letter to Liturgy's Hunter Hendrix, I was compelled to give Liturgy's album an honest listen. All politics aside, there is probably some music here and I'm compelled to listen to it and reflect upon it, mostly because I'm really bored.

Though I encourage an open minded approach to black metal, several upheld traditions make the genre a very reliable and enjoyable style to many of us. When a less thrash oriented, more atmospheric type of band attempts to build some sort of tangible emotive atmosphere, production value lends a lot of credibility to the overall communication of said atmosphere. Regardless of whatever intentions this band has with their style of music, the recording quality and overall fidelity is shit. It sounds like a bad mastering job pressed to vinyl then played through my mother's "vintage looking" wooden record player that she got at K-Mart. The guitars are annoyingly hard panned and tinny, buzzing and unpleasant. Zero cymbals are heard and all Im getting out of the drummer is constant blastbeats that make me want to go to sleep. If you pay close attention there is a monotonous bass tone that isn't really offering anything musical to the album. Oh and the vocals, well I almost forgot about the vocals. I guess they sound ok. Take all of that and unnecessarily compress the hell out of it all out of habit and you have what this album sounds like. Its probably what our parents all think black metal sounds like only this really sucks to listen to. Its seriously taxing on the ears. Maybe that's what they were going for, who knows?

I'm going to give Liturgy a hell of a lot of credit here and go with the assumption that they have engineered an entirely new mode of chaotic black metal in that all musical idealism has been shed. Liturgy have said "Fuck melody, fuck composition, fuck any goal of making memorable music having character, personality, structure or originality. Lets just take all the sonic qualities of black metal and do whatever we can get away with." Renihilation is the musical equivalent of clicking on an internet advertisement promising you a 55" HD television only to come up with a trojan horse that infects your computer with shitty fucking music. So in that respect...sure, the album is really chaotic and has all sorts of "not good" floating around just meandering, stumbling, tumbling and crashing into a picnic table like a drunk bum.

You know how sometimes bands will play a really powerful song (usually in the live setting at the end of a set) and then outro with that syncopated slowing down type of thing? I could be wrong but I believe its called "trash cans." You'd know what I mean if you heard it. Anyways this whole album feels like that, only I guess it sorta sounds like black metal. I honestly hope not a single human being lets this album at all represent the black metal genre to them.

I want my 40 minutes back :-(

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Red Fang - Murder the Mountains


Like showering at my moms house, stepping into a genre I don't normally pay attention to just feels really weird, but I really liked the new video from Red Fang. I liked it so much that I decided to check out the album. I didn't buy it, I downloaded it because Relapse owes my label a serious amount of money. Which is honestly too bad because if anyone in the underground deserves yours or my money, its this band. I put these hard working fellas up for the night a few years ago and we shot the shit and drank PBRs til 4 in the morning on my porch. I feel more inclined to send these champs a box of frozen hot pockets rather than giving money to a label that earns its way on the backs of smaller and less fortunate labels.

Hey, this is about how rad Red Fang is, so I'll do my laundry at my mom's instead of here. On "Murder the Mountains" these beards show a great stature of maturity and songs nailed to the fucking wall with 8 inch spikes. They sound like they're having a fucking blast playing these songs and it exhudes throughout the album. What I feel sets these guys apart from their counterparts of the genre is that they never quite let you get bored, which I easily do both with this genre (Indian, Electric Wizard, Reverend Bizarre) and even other genres. There are no token "tripped out" bong rip breakdowns, no silly witch intros, and not a bunch of generic Maiden riffs mucking about, basically this album contains zero bullshit. I'm really liking how playful and experimental they've gotten with some interesting and innovative second guitar work, use of piano, acoustic guitar and synth / atmospheric parts. Each member totally shines as an instrumentalist for the majority of the record. Their playing really drives these songs forth with a solid live sound and a familiar fervor.

Two strengths that Red Fang bring to the table: groove with more power than most metal bands are achieving today, and GOOD FUCKING RIFFS. If you don't believe me check out the song "Number Thirteen" at about 2:26. That riff is like an airplane full of coffee smooching your prostate right in the fucking brain stem. The riffs are not cheesy and rather memorable. I'm sure I'll be humming the riffs along with the record by my fourth listen. In fact what initially brought me the point of giving the whole album a listen was that after seeing the video for "Wires" only one time, I was singing the chorus to myself in the kitchen a few days later.

As always, a band jumping on with Relapse is a big step. With Murder the Mountains they have taken it in stride and shown that this was a wise move for all parties involved. I hope Relapse really pans out for Red Fang because I know they deserve everything they achieve.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Demonaz - March of the Norse



In 1999 I was literally pining for the new Immortal album "At the Heart of Winter" to come out on a daily basis. Demonaz was then and still remains my favorite guitarist based solely on what he did on the first four Immortal albums. I had spoken to Harald (Demonaz) on the telephone earlier that year after I had heard he had quit Immortal due to carpal tunnel. He assured me the he would be back playing guitar in no time and all would be fine for us die hard Immortal fans. What happened after hearing the album was nothing short of a breakdown. I hated it. I pretended that it didn't exist for 5 years or so. To this day it takes a bit of a memory jog to correct my notion that Immortal died in an ice storm in 1998. After Damned in Black and Sons of Northern Darkness came out...and I heard them, I was further proven that this band was unrecognizably disfigured. In recent times I have become a tad more forgiving, and I can listen to At the Heart of Winter once a year or so without puking. Though laughable I thought the "I" self-titled album was somewhat fun and the newest reformed Immortal album was the better of the "era 2" albums.

To me the new style that Immortal (and this album) dons is cruel and criminal due to the overwhelming amount of creativity, ingenuity and character that the earlier days had. March of the Norse sounds like something straight out of 1986 only with far worse and more flaccid, underwhelming production than bands were achieving those days. March of the Norse could pass as an embarrassing Bathory album on any day of the week. The arena rock solos and leads are just about enough to give me the runs. The only redeeming quality found on March of the Norse is decent song-craft. Two riffs per song played in two different alternating keys for dramatic effect, acoustic interludes, alternating between chugging electric guitar riffs and ring out type riffs, then choruses about mountains and trees repeated until the song fades out. If that sounds like a good time to you nine times over, then you're in for a party, man!