Monday, September 28, 2009

Misery's Omen - Misery's Omen

Though it hasn't been very well documented here yet, I have a REALLY soft spot for anything Damon Good is involved in. My favorites being Portal, Mournful Congregation, Stargazer and the subject of today's swollen appendage, Misery's Omen. The material on this fucker is almost a decade old and still is aeons ahead of our time. To think that stuff this great was coming out back then and I wasn't aware of it still boggles my mind. It took 5 years for it to make my lap melt in ecstasy and still today 5 years after that, its seldom mentioned.

Ive brainstormed for far too long just to think of a reference point to pin these guys down with and I come up empty. The closest thing I can really come to is Symbolic era Death with a much proggier and disharmonious leaning, and dwelling in a puddle of gelling and moldy blood, guts and precambrian juices for centuries. I like putting on this album when I want to feel like I'm steering a vehicle down a densely forested mountainside at 165mph with no brakes. Its chaotic, vicious, unnerving and has a constantly unconstant gallop. No instrument, element, style or behavior here is prevalent other than what I've already mentioned.

This collection of two demos takes confident strides among earth melting doom moments and without hesitation bursts into infernal moments of bombastic treachery. The strength of this band is the blatant confidence with which they unholster vivid yet dreary weaponry. Some moments bear strong similarities to a more melodic Swedish sort of band but usually they play more discordant and atonal riffs. The bass playing is remarkably unique and used so effectively to elevate these songs to a much more musical level, also furthering the putrid stench this ep will always leave lingering in your skull. The only problem I've ever had with this EP is that its a little too short. This is worth tracking down if you want to hear something completely original and accomplished as it is terribly underappreciated.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Death in June - Oh How We Laughed

Falling loosely within the same genre somewhat as the previous album I reviewed, only capitalizing on everything that it was lacking, I have held this album close to my heart for almost as long. I respect this band greatly and can appreciate their music, but this live album puts a black spotlight on them that I feel none of their albums can touch.

This live album was recorded in 1982 when a young DIJ was opening for Nick Cave's Birthday Party and is mostly songs from their debut "The Guilty Have no Pride" and "Burial." Though these songs portrayed correctly on their respective releases lend themselves to a trend at the time of removing the human elements of music to live up to and mimick the technological revolution at the time, I have always felt that these songs breath so much better with an air of haunting reality on the blackened stage they were performed upon. The perfect reverb on Douglas P's vocals, the black shimmer of the dead cymbals, the dry and rotten bass echoing throughout the crowd, the jarring and messy guitar work with a delay pedal cranked to eleven. I get such a vivid image of a young Death in June stumbling through these songs with a fresh conviction known at no other time during their career.

This recording didnt even get a proper release until 1987 and after being in limited print on CD and LP its been since bootlegged. Its a shame that this DIJ release is a little speck in their discography, which is why I've chosen to highlight it here today.

Laibach - Macbeth

Back when I was just getting into decent music a friend of mine gave me this tape in order to save it from a trash can. I am a sucker for free stuff so I took it. I wasn't really into this sort of thing back then but from the moment I put it in Macbeth took me by the collar and didn't let go. We have had a strange relationship over the years. This album doesn't want anyone to like it but it wants to be known and be heard as having its own identity. Its got a certain staunch and egotistical approach to the common martial and militaristic type of new wave whatever music they were going for here. It's clumsy and brash but all in all I am constantly charmed by its delivery and brash nature. Its fairly well composed and arranged, enough so that it has an accomplished and somewhat believable gait to it, but there is a distinct lack of something human, maybe even personal here. The limited aural spectrum and sequencing found here is what takes every bit of heart and soul out of this music. It doesn't seem like music by humans, but for humans made by some all knowing and strikingly convincing bearded auteur.

The 11 songs are comprised of various low budget synth representations of classical instruments such as "horns," "strings," and "brass." There is an aray of percussion used to establish rhythm and build ebb and flow of song throughout. Sampled and processed pigments are also scattered to paint in what I can only assume is the sounds of the age of MacBeth, which is I believe a Shakespeare play? Either way I am led correctly to think about empires, castles, steeds, fallen heroes and plague ridden villages weeping at an uncaring moon.

I can harp all day about the somewhat cheap nature of this release, and knowing nothing else of this bands discography turn my nose up at it for fear that I might end up with a lap full of their stuff if Im not careful. After all though this album rules, it always satisfies me. Its like a dirty woman I go back to every few years when I'm in the mood for mild drug use, alcohol abuse and the risk of an STD just to have sex with a woman that I dont have to call the next day.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Ghouls of the Forge

Well fall is embarking on us and the end of the year is drawing near. I'm starting to think of how my best of '09 list might look as well as reflect on an exciting new wave of genre-humping happening in BM. This year lots of genres crept their way into the bed of black metal and lots of sweet babies were made. Everyone is tossing the "shoe-gaze" term around like its going out of style all over again. Personally I try to shy away from giving albums such finite classifications as I cant imagine its ever an artist's intention to create music in such a way. Styles emerge from peoples brains and however we classify them is rather trivial in the end. However I am excited to see that there are several artists taking strides at blurring these classifications and creating some wonderful music with ingenuity at the forefront of their steed. This to me is the true nature of black metal. Hacking down barriers and thinking boldly in the name of defiance, and using these characteristics to make music in tribute to this quality in man.

The new Peste Noire shows a lot of promise:

Pensées Nocturnes is taking "depressive" to a new level:

The new Ruins of Beverast is even further off the deep end:

Njiqahdda from Illinois is as productive as it is enveloping:

Skagos is throwing emo in the pot and stirring it up:

Panopticon is all over the place but brilliant all the same:

Forging some really unique "indie" black metal here:

This should continue to be an exciting new year and who knows what 2010 will bring us. I see a greater chasm growing even wider between the underground and those bands that you see in all the magazines like Behemoth, 1349, Enslaved, etc. This makes that mediocre stuff seem all that much more trivial in the end.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Skagos - Ást

Do you ever listen to an album and after your first listen you feel like you know it really well? I find this happening to me when an album fills a void for me. Or completes a connection, and makes a next logical step in the progression of a certain marriage of styles or atmospheres. I feel familiar at these times because I feel familiar with what I want to happen, what I need a band to deliver. I always need it until I find it.

Whether you like them or not, Wolves in the Throne Room is making an influence. I'm not 100% confident saying that Skagos is hugely influenced by Wolves, but that Skagos takes many of the same elements and influences and has recorded the next logical step beyond that which Wolves in the Throne Room perfected.

Skagos has big riffs. Big, huge, churning, long, traveling kinda riffs, but they come in many different types. This album's charm though not uncommon, is the use of ebb and flow. Riffs drift and build and are harmonized upon and build rhythmically as the percussion also fantastically builds the repeating riffs until they soar and pick up tempo. All of the instrumentation is used magically to achieve this effect. Clean choral type vocals, bongos, acoustic guitar, killer bass playing, you name it, its all present and totally ruling. This band along with a growing number of cohorts (including Velnias) among the youthful genre employ a familiar style based on this technique: establishing a simple power chord or note that is often returned to and built off of for most of the song. For me this can be likened to the strong choral elements of the first Ulver album. This may not sound like anything all that original in black metal and I'm not saying it is extremely so, but I find its a strong tendency and a thing I like a lot about this album.

Overall "Ast" is an exciting mark of birth upon a genre that I hope I never get sick of. If the fact that Skagos' members just graduated high school in May is any indication, there is a bright future for these gents, though I'm afraid to report that after two forthcoming splits or so and a full length Skagos will cease to exist as reported on their page.