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

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.

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 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:
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.