Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Beherit - "Engram"

Best come back album in black metal ever. Given that statement, this album is only "pretty good." I'm not a fan of come all. I know the circumstances surrounding every one of them differ greatly, but really, if you bury a band, keep it there, here is why.

Its just not a viable thing now that umpteen bands have taken the path Beherit paved so much further than they ever did...and certainly not 16 years after the release of their last metal album "Drawing Down the Moon." SIXTEEN YEARS!!! That albums kid can legally drive now. Engram is great for what it is, its definitely Beherit, but the conundrum with this sort of thing is you cannot evolve when you come up with this sort of sound, and you also cannot expect it to always sound new, relevant and innovative. Innovation is always specifically dated; and in music, especially strange demonic devil music, when something has lost its potency, its as flaccid as Stephen Hawking's hoo-hoo. I cant think of any bands "come back" album that rules. Given this heap of an opinion, I respect someone who can put all this aside and judge the album on its own accord.

Every second of this album is most definitely undeniably Beherit. More along the lines of The Oath of Black Blood and further removed from the more atmospheric leanings of Drawing Down the Moon. Its got a lot of vicious ferocity which is played in the trademark nihilistic and vitriolic manner that only Beherit can manifest. Holocausto's unforgettable barking vocals, the riffs that know no melody and barbaric caveman drums are all here. At times the recording is a bit too showy and full sounding. Beherit definitely have their fair share of recordings that sound like the engineer was strangled to death with razor wire, and most of the time that worked to their advantage. Here the guitar is vast, meaty and very synthetic sounding. Its done well enough to make this a very devastating record but I still have my qualms about how "normal" everything sounds on this. Excluding vocals, sometimes I feel like moments of the record could be mistaken for a new era Candlemass or Reverend Bizarre part.

All in all I'm really surprised this album is good but again I just feel like its relevance is significantly diminished. The barbaric black metal convoy left Beherit back in the woods 16 years ago but hasn't forgotten how great this band truly once was.

Gentle Giant - the Power and the Glory

Gentle Giant is by far my favorite musical discovery of 2008. I still don't know much about this band and I've only perused the albums chronologically from 1970-1974, which were actually incredibly prolific years having released six albums in that time. I chose this one to review because it has so far been the most enjoyable in a plethora of ways, and it has most of the songs that they performed live on a Belgian TV appearance from 1975 which is what initially entranced me about this great progressive band.

Gentle Giant fall best within the fellow countrymen and prog chums of their day: Genesis, Yes, King Crimson, Emerson Lake and Palmer, and Van der Graaf Generator and maybe even Jethro Tull. What sets them apart though is going to be hard to put into words though its clear to me. They have such a fervor for variance and creativity. They are unrelenting in painting the songs on this album with every tasty characteristic and vivid personality trait that they have to offer. Nothing is held back.

The bedrock upon which Gentle Giant's space station is built upon is rhythmically playful melodic synth work accompanied by gleeful, whimsical, and sometimes dissonant vocals. Each sci-fi themed tune is an experimental journey laden with catchy and masterful percussion, which drives forth the varied tempos from groovy stuff to sometimes jarringly technical wankery. When a lot of modern technically proficient drummers can shred their kit to pieces, drummer John Weathers knows his way around a groove without sounding too showy. While the guitar players are also awesome, I don't want to get off on a tangent here. Its important to note that no single member or instrument on this album is doing more than crafting and performing the Gentle Giant armada as a whole.

I dont know much about the limitations and abilities of studios in 1974 but I want to point out also that the recording on this album is unbelievable. It really takes Gentle Giant's style to a new level with great recording, panning and mastering that doesnt sound like a dusty old 70s record. Everything has a nice warm mid range tone that isnt mushy or convoluted.

If you're looking for something to come back to again several times for years to come, this is a must have.