Saturday, 30 June 2012

Recent Legal Problems For Metal Musicians

Randy Blythe Detained In Prague For Manslaughter

41 year old Lamb Of God frontman Randy Blythe has recently been detained in Prague for a 2010 altercation that left a 19 year old fan dead. On his third attempt, the fan was successful at getting past security and getting on stage. This is where things get confusing - there are multiple conflicting accounts of what happened next. Some say Randy beat the fan to death, others say he hit him with the microphone. The band says that the fan rushed Randy and he pushed him off the stage in self defence. There have been videos uploaded at the show where the incident occurred, but none of them caught the altercation. He has been released on bail, which is the equivalent of around $200, 000 in Canadian currency. If convicted, he could face a maximum penalty of ten years in prison.

Wrest Gets Two Years Probation

Jef Whitehead (aka Wrest), sole member of black metal bands Leviathan and Lurker Of Chalice, as well as being involved in collaborative projects Twilight and Chrome Waves, has been in legal problems since 2010, when he was accused of beating up his girlfriend and then raping her with his tattoo equipment. Contrary to popular belief, he was accused of raping her not with the tattoo gun, but with ink caps. He was originally charged with 34 counts, which 28 were dropped before the trial. He ended up being convicted of one count of aggravated domestic battery. Many people in the black metal scene, including Nachtmystium frontman Blake Judd, have said the charges are bogus and the woman in question has a history of trying to get men arrested on false charges. Prior to the trial, Wrest's Leviathan released an album titled "True Traitor, True Whore."

Thursday, 28 June 2012

How Not To Do A Cover: Atreyu - Holiday In Cambodia

So, the Dead Kennedys are a band that seems to be covered a lot. In the metal scene, off the top of my head I know three bands who covered California Uber Alles: Six Feet Under, Mayhem and Brujeria. The first two are pretty bad (but we can give Mayhem a pass because its an early demo, as well as the fact that their fucking Mayhem.) Brujeria's version, which has a slight name change, is pretty decent. Napalm Death do an awesome cover of Nazi Punks Fuck off. Dead Kennedys have been covered by countless punk bands and even a lot of rock bands. 

The genius to the DKs is that their music is catchy, but not in a pop way and they experiment. They always keep a foot inside the orthodox punk box, but they are never afraid to look elsewhere to spice up their sound. Holiday In Cambodia is a classic. Its one of their most recognized tunes, hell its even playable on Rockband. The riffing in this, the atmosphere it gives off, the reverb drenched leads - this is a classic by any stretch of the imagination. 

So of course a trendy band like Atreyu will come along and butcher it. Look, for a metalcore/screamo sort of thing, Atreyu's first two albums actually had some decent songs. I remember hearing Bleeding Mascara when I was 12 or whatever and being immediately blown away. Their lyrics and song titles were always atrocious, but for a while they did at least have a somewhat original sound going for them. It was on their 2007 album where they started going really bad, still a few decent songs like Can't Happen Here, but overall the beginning of the end (not that they where ever a consistently good band.) They started cleaning up a lot, using harsh vocals less and less while largely watering down their sound.

The cover we have here is the epitome of lameness. The production is so clean and polished that all the life is drained out of the music. The Dead Kennedys had heart (well before Jello left, anyways) but this is just a bunch of soulless drivel. The worst part is the singer. Is it still the drummer guy? His vocals where always a tad emo, but never this horrible. You can just tell the singer thinks he is the coolest guy on earth. You can just feel it in his voice. Sorry dude, this is fucking lame. This is the most commercial, boring and vapid shit ever. Your average modern mainstream radio rock BS. Truly horrible.

The one thing I do have to give credit to Atreyu for is not changing the lyrics. One of the lyrics that is sometimes censored and often changed during covers is the line "Bragging how you know how the niggers feel cold." Many silly politically correct people will be quick to shout "thats racist, you can't say that." No PC self-appointed speech police, its not racist. If you think Jello Biafra is a racist, than I highly suspect you may have intelligence issues. Rather than racism, its social commentary. A lot of bands change it to "bragging how you know how the brothers feel cold." I actually think this is kind of racist (albeit unintentionally). First off, "brothers" is stereotyping black people and a tad patronizing. Second of all, its just damn silly to change it to that. At least Atreyu had the guts to do something that they know will inevitably be misunderstood. Doesn't make up for a shit cover, though.

Heres the bad cover:

And just as a little bonus, heres Atreyu butchering another classic punk song, this time by The Descendants:

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Because I don't Want This To Turn Into A Metal Review Blog...

So if you look back at my posts in the past little while, you'll see that the vast majority of them are metal reviews with a few songs of the week thrown in. When I started this blog I didn't want it to be a metal blog, I didn't even want it to be limited to music. Right now its pretty much looking like a metal review blog, which is pretty fucking pointless because all my metal reviews can be found at the Metal Archives anyway, under the username dystopia4. To remedy this I've decided to not post all my metal reviews on here. I will still post select ones - reviews where I feel my writing is at its best, reviews of albums I really love or really hate as well as recent releases. To start off changing what this blog is becoming here is something completely unrelated to metal or even music for that matter:

Retna - The Boneyard Project

Retna has to be one of the most talented artists coming out of the street art scene right now. His weird middle-eastern looking calligraphy is crazy, and his overall ability is nothing to scoff at. For the Boneyard Project, Retna uses something very unusual as his canvas - airplanes. The art would look amazing on its own, but on an airplane - fucking brilliant. 

Skream - Stagger

And now for a song completely unrelated to metal, I'd like to share some classic dubstep. No, none of that over the top "brostep" thats all the rage these days. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Skream:

Song Of The Week: Dead Kennedys - Kill The Poor

Dead Kennedys are one of the best (real) punk bands and also one of the best. Their music is catchy but never watered down. One problem I have with a lot of political punk bands is that their music often reads like essays. "This atrocity happened at this date and time, and this is why you should be outraged". Dead Kennedys don't play that shit. The messages their music gives is serious no doubt, but the way they get that message out is through satire. Their lyrics are funny. When bands try to shove their ideals down your throat, they often come off as preachy and standoffish. I mean some punk bands go as far as telling you your a terrible person if you eat meat. No, fuck you. I like my beef and broccoli, motherfucker.  

Anyway, this is what Dead Kennedys do best. Catchy Satire backed by awesome punk music. One of those songs that stick their way into your head and refuse to leave, and I wouldn't have it any other way. 

Review: Sigiriya - Return To Earth

Drinkin' Whiskey Again

In 2001 the Welsh psychedelic stoner outfit Acrimony called it quits. A decade later Sigiriya released their debut album. Sigiriya consists of all but one of the members of Acrimony. While it might seem odd that basically the same band is reforming under a different name, the change is justified - Sigiriya is no replication of Acrimony. The band themselves say it best: "I’d describe Acrimony as a massive stoned mammoth sitting on your chest while you’re flying backwards through a black hole. I think the main difference with Sigiriya is that the Mammoth is also quite likely to punch you in the face while he’s sitting there!"

While Acrimony most definitely had hard-hitting moments, those sections were balanced out by swirling psychedelia and sun-drenched acoustic passages. While Acrimony seems like something you'd listen to while stoned, your'e better off drinking while listening to Sigiriya. Sigiriya kicks ass and takes no prisoners. While the psychedelic influences are not completely eradicated, they are largely toned down. The main exception to this would be the ten minute behemoth "Deathtrip to Eryri", which is indeed quite a trip. This is definitely the closest they come to sounding like Acrimony. While most of the album is driven by testosterone, this is more spacey and drawn out. Don't get the wrong impression, it still is heavy and rocks quite a bit. It just has an overtly psychedelic vibe and not everything is in your face. The song, which ends the album, appropriately fades out with a passage of otherworldly ambiance. There are some small nods to psychedelia throughout the album, but it rarely becomes very obvious. The only other prominent exception would be some of the guitar on "Dark Fires." While not something to mellow out to, it is clearly psychedelic.

These songs are essentially pop songs, and I mean that in the best way possible. I'm in no way saying these are like bubblegum pop songs you'd hear on a 13 year old girl's playlist, merely stating that they are catchy, well written and nearly impossible to get out of your head. If they were played by a more accessible rock band, they could surely become radio hits. The production is not something often associated with overtly catchy music. It is raw, abrasive and sludgy. Think Kyuss with less mellow spaced-out passages at their catchiest, with production no more accessible than on "Blues for the Red Sun." The whole aura of this music brings images of a run down bar in the middle of the desert filled with wasted bikers. 

Dorian Walters, Sigiriya's vocalist, really knows how to wail. His vocals are filled up to the brim with power, and when he really gets going things get crazy. While he has no problem going into overdrive mode, he knows when to hold back. This is a trait that every good musician should know. Sometimes very talented people decide to show off too much and compromise the song in the process. Dorian knows exactly how to suit his vocals to the music. On the aptly titled "Whiskey Song", he croons "Tonight, I'm drinkin' whiskey again". I wouldn't be surprised if he had a few shots of J.D. before singing that line - he definitely has that kind of voice. Not too far off from John Garcia of Kyuss, actually. 

What would be the point of amazing vocals if the guitar didn't have the backbone to support them? Thankfully for Sigiriya this certainly is not the case. By the first song, "Mountain Goat", this is perfectly evident. While not very complicated, the riffing is consistently memorable. Equally as important as the riffing are the melodic leads. These are absolutely crucial to the band's sound. The drummer also is a noteworthy part of this album. He doesn't really do anything all that crazy, but his sound always perfectly fits in with everything else. He often uses double bass drumming, but not in the full-speed-ahead barrage that many metal drummers are known for. He uses it more like a rock musician would; not in an overpowering way and as a method of creating some pretty cool fills. Not wanting to leave anyone out, it should be mentioned that the repeating melodic bass line in "Deathtrip to Eryri" is absolutely killer.

Sigiriya are a worthy successor to Acromony's throne. While certainly different than their previous band, you can still tell its the same dudes. These are catchy and dirty songs. Simplifying their music and taking out the things that made Acrimony so special actually turned out to be a great idea. Who'd have thought? While the songwriting is very accessible, the same certainly can't be said about the production. Basically what we have is near anthemic catchiness and grit on the same album. 


Saturday, 23 June 2012

Review: Clair Cassis - Luxury Absolute 

Drugs, Fine Perfume And Graveyards

Clair Cassis's last release, an EP called Clair Cassis II, was a major let down. It came after a magnificent debut album, and seemed pale and lifeless in comparison. There were a few problems with the EP - the songs were ridiculously short (especially when genre is taken into consideration), the atmospheric passages had all but disappeared and the songwriting was dull. While this EP doesn't reach anywhere close to the highs of the debut, it is a vast improvement over the last EP.

The thing that saves this release from being as bad as the last one is the fact that they brought back the atmospheric sections. Without them, this would seem utterly lifeless and pointless. While the short song syndrome remains, the first song "Antique Sea Smoke" reaches a healthy 3 and a half minutes. Unfortunately this does not give the song the necessary time to grow as it consists of two movements. The first being black metal and the latter being driven by an acoustic guitar which is so subtle it could bass for ambient.

The guitar tone is a lot better - droney, hypnotizing and somewhat grainy, it beats the hell out of the dull guitar tone on Clair Cassis II. It should also be noted that the drumming is a lot more interesting here. Largely driven by hi-hats and cymbals, it provides a stable backbone for the music while never becoming boring. While
largely minimalistic, it is pleasing to the ears. Yet another problem that plagued the previous EP is the rareness of Josh's hazy rasps. Thankfully they appear a bit more in this one.

This EP feels closer to the aura surrounding Clair Cassis, thanks largely in part due to the atmospheric parts. The ambient and acoustic parts really bring back that fog over the ocean vibe. The song names, such as "Under Sleepy Grey Elms" and "Tiny Bourbon Cedar Stars", fit perfectly with Clair Cassis's image. The band is self described as "luxurious black metal inspired by drugs, fine perfume and graveyards." These song titles fall perfectly in line with Josh's idea of word painting. He feels it is pointless to try to express intellectual and serious ideas through the medium of black metal. Not being the type to write about cliché metal topics such as Satan, gore and evil, he prefers to use his lyrics and song titles to portray an atmosphere. He implements this technique successfully; it ends up contributing to the overall atmosphere of the music.

This is without a doubt a vast improvement over Clair Cassis II. However, it is not without its faults. The songs are still too short, they need more room to create atmosphere. While this is largely like the debut album, the songs here are not as catchy, which is a downside. Also, Angela's bass work is a large part of what made the debut so unique. Unfortunately it is not all that prominent here. If she added a few of her majestic overpowering bass lines to this EP, it could of gone from good to great. The atmospheric parts here are great, the subtlety ends up working to Claire Cassis's advantage. While this EP is not without its flaws, it is still good. Certainly not great, but worth a listen for anyone who liked the debut album.


And for no other reason than the fact that I like it, heres a picture of Angela the bass player:

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Review: Clair Cassis - Clair Cassis II

Needs Space To Let The Atmosphere Develop

Clair Cassis's self titled debut was fantastic. This band has the same members that Velvet Cacoon did, with the addition of a drummer. The album had a similar sound to Velvet Cacoon, with some crucial differences. The songs where shorter, more melodic and had more conventional song structures (by black metal standards, of course). This turned out to be a great idea, the atmosphere remained wonderful and the songs were memorable. With this one they still have most of their style down. However, the substance is just not there - it feels like they completely forgot about the songwriting part. Most of these songs are very short, which doesn't make any sense given their style. The songs don't have time to go anywhere or develop a sense of atmosphere. 

This is generally slow to mid paced, although some fast sections are thrown in. Its not a big secret that slower songs usually tend to be a bit longer, especially when its metal we're talking about. With Clair Cassis II, only one song breaks the three minute mark and half of the songs are under two minutes. Its not like the songs on the debut album had massive song lengths, but they where long enough to let the songs develop and build an atmosphere. Some of these songs seem like samples of songs. They don't really have a chance to have much of a personality at these short lengths. They end up becoming quite dull. "Bronzed Ash" is really the only decent song. It does have a nice atmosphere and some cool swelling bass lines. However, it doesn't reach its full potential because of its short length. 

As part of the shortening process, they have largely left out the atmospheric passages. Gone are the ambient intros, the slow ethereal bass lines that would sometimes come to the foreground as well as the frequent accompaniment by an acoustic guitar (the instrument in which the songs where originally written on). These atmospheric sections gave the album personality and provided the release with balance. With most of that gone, as well as a focus on songwriting, the songs become largely uninteresting. Although they mix the tempo up a bit, the monotony remains. It certainly doesn't help that the riffing is generally uninspired. Also, Josh's groggy rasps are all to sparse. If his vocals frequented this release a bit more, then maybe it would have been a bit more appealing. 

This is a pretty disappointing release. An amazing album has been followed up by a lacklustre EP. It is always irritating when bands don't try on EPs just because they are not major releases in their discography. Why bother releasing music if its not going to be good and your not going to put your heart into it? It almost feels like they just threw this together in an hour during a practice. While they definitely have a style perfected (one similar to the album but minus much of the atmosphere), the songs have a nasty tendency to not go anywhere. If you liked the debut, it wouldn't be advised checking this out wanting more. All you'll get is half-assed songs that don't even really feel like songs. 


Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Song Of The Week: NOFX - Blasphemy (The Victimless Crime)

I know I'm a bit late for this, I promised I'd post these on Sunday.But better late than never, right? NOFX have been going since the 80s and are still going strong. Although their albums all have different flavours, they always stay true to their roots. Coaster is one hell of a fun album, also one hell of a funny one. With lyrics pondering if Tegan and Sarah have threesomes and calling the sexuality of metalheads into question (metal is the genre I listen to most, but hey, I can take a joke), the album is chock full of punchlines. They also have some less comical songs such as "My Orphan Year." They have good music to back up whatever their lyrics may be about. 

Its no secret that NOFX has a strong distain for religion. Along with "Best God In Show", this song satires the fuck out of organized religion. With lines like "Jesus Christ, the blackest Jew", "Mother Mary, the virgin whore" and "But I'll never make a crack about Mohammed, because I don't want to get shot in the chest", NOFX have no qualms about making people uncomfortable. This song is catchy, memorable and hilarious. 

Review: Sahara Dust - Cry For The Moon

Better Production Needed 

Sahara Dust is the original incarnate of Epica. They recorded this two track demo before deciding to change their name. The band was started by Mark Jansen after he departed from After Forever. The band uses the typical beauty and the beast vocal arrangement. Mark handles the harsh vocals while mezzo-soprano vocalist Simone Simons handles the prettier female vocals. While she has achieved a fair amount of fame with Epica and her guest and live appearances with the popular power metal band Kamelot, this is where people first heard her vocals. 

Sahara Dust has a gothic feel with lots of symphonic influences. These symphonic elements are realized through the use of the keyboard. The keyboards are mostly effective enough, however the intro on the self titled track is somewhat monotonous. The songs have a very epic feeling, which brings out the major problem with this release - the production fails to carry the epic vibe. While I have heard metal bands with productions 100 times worse than this, good production is crucial for this type of metal to succeed. There is this epic guitar line in "Cry For The Moon" which doesn't live up to its full potential because of the production. It ends up not having the exiting effect it could have had. 

Even though Simone was only a teenager here, it is apparent she is a very talented vocalist. Her performance sounds operatic; even at her young age she was definitely no amateur. On "Illusive Consensus" she is the only vocalist on the track. Instrumentally the song is a bit dull, and her vocals are the only thing that makes the track interesting. I wish there where a bit more harsh vocals here, as they provide a wonderful contrast to the female vocals. The appearances they make on the title track is all too short. The guttural growls are awesome and the raspier vocals are done well. 

To be honest, I haven't heard that much from Epica. But the tracks I have heard I remember hating quite a bit. Now while I don't love this, I certainly don't hate it. The production is definitely the biggest detractor here. It doesn't completely ruin it, but it does stop it from being what it could have been. The songwriting is definitely competent, as well as the overall musicianship. The vocals are well done and there certainly is chemistry. If the production was improved, more harsh vocals were thrown in and perhaps a few more songs added, this could have been pretty good. While not bad, I don't really get the feeling I'll be coming back to this all that frequently. 


Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Seriously, Falloch Is A Horrible Band

Lets Take A Look At Some Good Bands They Are Ripping Off

Seriously, I had to take a few hours out of my life to get to know this album well enough to write a review for it. I have to cleanse my ears of these trendy mother fuckers. What better to do that with then the excellent bands Falloch rips off?



And the originators of the style they're watering down:


Review: Falloch - Where Distance Spirits Remain 

These Guys Are The Worst 

This always happens. Something original is going on in the underground and is starting to get some more widespread attention (Agalloch in this case), so a band wanting to cash in waters it down for the masses. Falloch make their influences pretty obvious, it is not hard to tell that they listen to a lot of Agalloch and Alcest. I also wouldn't be surprised if they listen to a bit of Fen. All they had to do was water down the so-called "post black metal" bands (seriously are we going to add "post" whenever someone experiments and adds atmospheric elements to a genre; it feels that in two years "post death metal" will be the new big thing) to be heralded as beautiful and wonderfully atmospheric. These atmospheres are watered down and recycled. When riffs do emerge they are utterly weak and powerless. Hell, these guys even manage to make blast beats sound tame. 

While Falloch do quite a bit of Alcest worship, especially in the shoegaze influenced sections, Agalloch are probably the band they are ripping off the most. Many people have pointed out that their name sounds similar but Falloch is named after the Falls of Falloch, which can be found in their native Scotland. Their logo, however, is suspiciously similar. The clean-toned arpeggios, the acoustic melodies, the general atmosphere - I feel like I'm listening to a watered down version of Agalloch with all the heart taken out of it. I feel that Falloch are what Agalloch are often falsely accused of being - "the musical equivalent of waiting in line", "castrated black metal" and "like background music, only more so" (all of those quotes are taken from negative Agalloch reviews on the metal archives). Yes, Agalloch are not the most aggressive and brutal metal band out there, but they never claimed to be. To be honest, I wouldn't even really consider The Mantle to be a metal album. But the difference was Agalloch has heart and they aren't just latching on to a trend (yes, their early work takes much influence off Ulver's first album, but they take those ideas in new directions and certainly aren't making worship music.) Falloch take everything Agalloch is and then take the passion out of it. Sure they have the whole nature image down, but their music just doesn't feel authentic.

This isn't really metal music at all. The vast majority of the music is post-rock. There is the occasional watered down metal section but absolutely no part of this album sounds heavy. And I'm completely alright with that. Agalloch's The Mantle (which a lot of Falloch's acoustic sections are derived from) wasn't all that heavy or metal, yet it remains one of my favourite albums of all time. However, I am a bit irritated that Falloch attempts to market itself as a metal band. It is like if a prog rock band had a few ambient sections sporadically placed in their albums and tried to claim they were an ambient band. While there is the occasional rasp, clean vocals dominate the album. This is what really makes this album horrible, without them the album would still be extremely lifeless and boring but still largely inoffensive. These vocals sound like the worst kind of alternative rock mixed with a bit of emo. Seriously, this guy sounds like he should be singing about how his heart bleeds the darkest black now that his girlfriend has dumped him. They are somewhat nasally and don't really fit in with this nature oriented atmosphere they are trying to achieve. 

Despite most of this album being quite an unpleasant experience, there are a few moments that are actually not all that bad. The most obvious example would be the instrumental "horizons". The atmosphere to this song I can actually buy. Its slow and haunting, almost hypnotizing. Sure this kind of thing has been done before but Falloch pull it off very well. The lingering arpeggios at the end are a really nice touch. The solo at the end of "The Carrying Light" is actually quite good, proving that the reason these guys are bad has nothing to do with lack of musical ability. The female vocal part at the end of the horribly named song "Where We Believe" is quite nice, although it would have been better if she was singing at a higher pitch. I won't deny that the sections with the cello are quite cool. "Solace", the piano outro could have been great. There have been great albums ended with a nice piano piece. However, it feels that they are trying too hard to end the album with the token beautiful piano outro. It ends up sounding kind of generic. Just a little tweaking and it could have been awesome, though. Any good aspects of this album are colossally outweighed by the bad and painfully boring. 

Falloch almost seem to be metal's answer to soft rock. I was originally recommended this because I mentioned I like bands like Agalloch, Fen and Altar of Plagues. It is embarrassing that this band is often held in the same esteem as those bands. Rather than atmospheric innovators, Falloch come off as parasites trying to get in on a trend by making it the most accessible as possible. I'm sure hipsters will love this. It almost seems like a way to say "I'm listening to metal" while really listening to something that is closer to post-rock. Again, I don't mind that these guys aren't really all that metal but come on, lets call a spade a spade. This band is all hype and no substance. 


The album's only good song:

Friday, 15 June 2012

Review: Giant Squid - Monster In The Creek 

Imaginative and Bizarre 

Fans only familiar with Giant Squid's full lengths may be surprised by this EP. While Giant Squid is a hard band to pigeonhole into a genre, much of their material has a strong doom metal influence. While there are some nods to the genre here, it would be absurd to try and put this under the label of doom metal. This isn't really metal at all. Sure there is the occasional metal riff and even the rare example of harsh vocals but this is mostly mellow keyboard-driven rock. 

The first vocalist we hear is Aurielle Zeitler on the title track. Her vocals are very pretty sounding, perfectly complimenting the mellow vibes. She makes appearances throughout the release, which provide a nice counterpoint to the distinct vocals of band leader Aaron Gregory. Anyone who has heard his vocals knows they are something else. He has great range and he certainly takes advantage of that, trying out a variety of styles. He has high nasally vocals, gruff deep vocals - he even shrieks in "Throwing a Donner Party". This EP also features the voice of Andy Southard, who left the band shortly after. His voice is pretty high and not always in the best way possible but he certainly knows how to carry a tune. Out of the the three vocalists, his are featured the least.

The great thing about this release is its genre-defying diversity. While largely rooted in atmospheric rock, they shows influence of metal, prog, electronic music and even a hint of jazz. This largely has to do with the keyboard. While they sometimes exist solely for atmosphere, they often become the main attraction. They often remind me of classic rock but at times they turn into full blown electronica. The jazzy keyboard sections in "Age of Accountability" do a hell of a lot to add personality to the track. Although it does contain some metal riffing (which isn't really all that heavy sounding), "Lester Stillwell" is basically an electronic track. Upon my first listen to this release, the only album I had heard from them was "The Ichthyologist". I found it truly strange the same band had previously dabbled in electronic music. Thankfully, their experimentation turns out to be a success - it is both pleasant and engaging. 

"Throwing A Donner Party" is probably the weakest point of this EP. It is by no means bad, it just doesn't measure up to the rest of the songs. It is pretty interesting, but the harsh vocals aren't all that strong and it isn't nearly as good as its remake. I find it all but impossible to listen to this song objectively. I can't help constantly comparing it to the remade version found in "The Ichthyologist", which had a slight name change: "Throwing A Donner Party At Sea (Physeter Catadon)." This song was the one that really stood out to me upon first listen to the album. The harsh vocals are much more powerful on the remake and the clean vocals stand out more. There is a notable melody in the song which on the original version is played on the keyboard. On the later version, it is played on the cello, with extra notes being added which add swing to the the flow. One upside to the original is that the electronic parts work excellently. 

Inspired by the Jersey Shore shark attacks of 1916 (the song Lester Stillwell is named after a boy who was killed in these attacks), this is certainly an interesting and imaginative recording. While people who are into Giant Squid's metal side may not appreciate this one as much, this is certainly an important part of their discography. Diversity shines through on this one, every song is good and at no point does it feel like I'm listening to the same song over and over. While diverse, it never feels like they are being weird or adding extra influences just for the sake of it. Everything is methodically planed out and has its place in the bigger picture .This is very weird and definitely not for every one. However, this one may prove to be a true gem to people who do like something a bit different. 


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Review: Kyuss - Blues For The Red Sun

Pure Gold Coming From The American Desert 

Kyuss are the true champions of the desert/stoner rock and metal scenes. Along with Yawning Man they where one of the first bands to play in this style. They harnessed the desert sound better than any other band, truly capturing the landscape. The whole desert thing is certainly no gimmick, they would play gigs in the middle of the desert using generators. This album, as well as the two that came after, is widely influential to many bands that play in the stoner style (though I think desert rock is the best descriptor of Kyuss.) 

This album marks the beginning of what Kyuss truly was. Their debut album "Wretch" was pretty bad. "Son of a Bitch" and "Black Widow" were great songs, but as a whole the album pretty much blows. Plagued with horrible production and no shortage of filler, even the band doesn't like it. They go so far as refusing to refer to it as their debut. The production on "Blues for the Red Sun" is better, the songs all have purpose and are varied and filler is nowhere in sight. The production isn't as good as the two albums that follow, but the rawer production totally works here, bringing out the aggression in songs like "Green Machine."  "Wretch" couldn't really capture the atmosphere of the desert. In that album there weren't lighter sections used to build up atmosphere. On this album there are many of these and the album wouldn't be as special without them. They really draw you in, creating a hazy sun-soaked feeling which borders on psychedelia. "Capsized" is a perfect example. While many of these sections exist within songs, this one is a short instrumental grounded by an acoustic guitar. It is the audio equivalent of pleasantly drifting off under the desert sun, perhaps while experiencing an altered state of mind. 

"Blues for the Red Sun" shows a vast improvement in not only production but also lyrics and musical ability. Everyone involved seems to be better at what they do. This is where rock legend Josh Homme first made his mark. The riffs are killer and the subtler parts he plays are integral to the atmosphere. The leads are mostly laid back and always full of personality. This is the final album Nick Oliveri would play with Kyuss, choosing to leave the band to play with punk band The Dwarves. While I think Scott Reeder was better for Kyuss's sound, Nick was great. His bass intro after the samples die out in "Freedom Run" is classic, it really sets the tone for the song. The bass is an indispensable part of Kyuss's sound. While we are on the subject of bass, it should be noted that while in Kyuss, Josh plugged his guitar into bass amps to get the signature Kyuss guitar tone. 

Brant Bjork, who later went on to pursue a solo career, is a beast behind the kit. While his best work is on the next album (check out the drum intro to "Demon Cleaner"), this album shows him coming into his own. His playing always perfectly suits the music it is accompanying. He certainly knows when to be subtle and hold back (sometimes less really is more) and the snare heavy style he uses in more rocking sections works perfectly. Kyuss would not have the same personality without John Garcia's vocals. Powerful and distinctive, he sounds like he has downed a couple shots of whiskey before recording. Crooning "I've seemed to lost my cowboy boots" on "Writhe", he is truly at the top of his game. On this song his vocals are somewhat laid back but come off as more than a bit creepy. On heavy hitter "Green Machine", he really wails, giving a performance that I won't soon forget. 

"50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)" is without a doubt my favourite Kyuss song. This song showcases everything that made Kyuss such an important and innovative band. The drum intro, while not incredibly complex, is one of Bjork's finer moments. The riffing is great, as well as the sparse, atmospheric notes. John fucking kills it on vocals. A large factor that makes this song so successful is that it merges the two sides of Kyuss - the weeded-out mellow side and their aggressive side. It starts out raging, entering metal territory. Both the verse and chorus are something that I won't soon forget. The mellow half of the song is wonderful too, something that I could easily drift away to. It is really cool to see John use both aggressive and mellow vocal styles in the same song. This song is evidence of Kyuss's diversity, talent and originality. 

This album shows Kyuss becoming their own band and discovering their unique sound. A mix of aggression and mellowed out passages, this is one hell of a journey. An album that continues to inspire an entire genre, this is not one that will soon be forgotten. They never shy away from doing things differently, examples being the weird distorted vocals on "Mondo Generator" (a song that Nick Oliveri later named his band after, mondo meaning "world" in Italian) and their weird approach to the loud/soft dynamic on "Thong Song." This album is diverse but always cohesive. Softer passages completely work in an album that has spawned aggressive and certifiably bad ass songs like "Thumb" and "Green Machine." This is the beginning of the trilogy of Kyuss's good albums, which can only be described as pure gold.  


Sunday, 10 June 2012

Song of the Week: Black Keys - Psychotic Girl

Man, this is awesome. Bluesy, catchy and authentic sounding, this kicks a colossal amount of ass. Mainstream rock is in a really bad place right now. The 90s, with the grunge movement, felt like the last time when good rock was strong in the mainstream. For the 2000's I feel that the three bands were really keeping rock alive in the mainstream where Queens of the Stone Age, White Stripes (RIP) and The Black Keys. This song is The Black Keys at their best, its been stuck in my head for over a month.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Review: Kyuss/Wool Split

That Authentic Desert Sound

While I have been a Kyuss fan for quite some time, this is my first introduction to Wool. I have to say I'm impressed. Splits often fail because one band outshines the other or the style of the bands just don't mesh. Not the case here. While Kyuss's song is a bit better, Wool's is still great. Their styles go perfectly together and the release flows smoothly. Both tracks are (mostly) laid back bluesy songs with spacey atmospheres. 

It really is a shame that Kyuss didn't stick it out for a fifth album. With songs like "Shine!" and their incredible cover of Black Sabbath's "Into The Void" (which can be found on their split with Queens of the Stone Age), both released after their final album, it is apparent that their spark was still burning bright. Featuring a creepy keyboard melody, "Shine!" has quite the atmosphere. The keyboard and guitar have real chemistry, with the guitar playing along with the melody but frequently providing variations. While most of the song isn't too aggressive, things really take off with the chorus. A guitar riff supports a raspy scream, which repeats the title of the track. Thats right - harsh vocals in a Kyuss song! While the vocals aren't all that overpowering, they are well executed and give "Shine!" some real edge. 

Although occasionally breaking into raunchy dirty blues sections, Wool's "Short Term Memory Loss" is for the most part quite subtle. Wool are able to achieve a completely authentic sound, with their spacey blues rock sounding like it could have easily been recorded in the 70s. The bass plays an extremely important role, often providing the rhythm as the guitar plays sparse notes meant to create atmosphere. Successfully being able to fluctuate between loud and soft, Wool are masters of their domaine. With both more relaxed and more edgy vocals, Wool's song does not suffer from lack of diversity. They are able to combine many different elements to create a cohesive whole.

To create a truly successful split, not only do both bands have to play good songs, but the bands have to work together. Kyuss and Wool could not be a better fit. Both songs are mostly spacey but feature heavier sections. Both bands are obviously influenced by blues, psychedelia and rock'n'roll. Hell, both songs have an ambient outro. While sharing mutual qualities, these songs by no means sound that much like each other. They both share a similar vibe but they both have their own unique touch. If you want to hear songs that possess that authentic desert sound , this is the place to turn. 


Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Review: Naam - Ballad Of The Starchild

Authentic Psychedelia 

Ever since hearing Naam's fantastic self titled debut album, I've been hungry for more. Putting a psychedelic twist on two classic Nirvana songs was a nice thing to tide fans over, but I'm sure I'm not the only one who's been dying to hear more original material from the band. Three years after the debut full length, Naam are back in full force, this time adding John Weingarten to their roster, who handles organ and synth duties. Although the band throws some new twists at us, this is still undeniably Naam. 

The biggest twist is apparent in the first song. "Sentry of Skies" is a mellow, largely acoustic tune. Psychedelic electric guitar circles in the background while an acoustic guitar is strummed and a surprisingly orthodox vocal performance is delivered. This song vaguely reminds me of "A Pillow of Winds" by Pink Floyd, who are undoubtedly an influence. The interludes are also notable, they carve out unique atmospheres and also provide space to breathe. "History's Son" is particularly interesting, being a mix of sitar and exotic percussion. The outro to this album, "Exit Theme", is very mellow; almost ambient. It provides the listener a chance to cool down. These mellower songs provide a nice balance to the overcast doom-influenced slabs of dark psychedelia. 

"Lands Unkown" and "The Starchild" are the meat of this EP. They are not a far cry from the songs of the debut album. They may not be quite as heavy, but they are by no means watered down. The biggest difference would probably be the riffs - they are a rare specimen on this one. While the self titled album was certainly not a release that centred around the riffs, there where still quite a lot of them. But on this one, Naam rely mostly on melody, with the riffs that do exist being placed subtly in the background. There are a few exceptions to this rule, but your average meat-and-potato riffs are in short supply. The keyboard is indispensable to these two songs, occasionally taking over the guitarists role. 

While the quality songwriting is integral to Naam's sound, so it the timbres they are able to achieve. The tones they produce are so organic; so authentic sounding. The natural tones achieved with the exotic percussion found on "History's Son" is a prime example of how the production makes the EP sound special. If the quality of tone was not present, the song would not feel as real or authentic; it just wouldn't be so convincing. It is obvious that Naam are very careful about selecting which timbres they will use; they only use ones that have organic authentic tones, which makes for a cohesive listen even when most of the songs don't sound the same.

I had no doubts that this criminally underrated psychedelic doom metal band would remain an innovative force.  With a perfect balance of atmosphere and high quality songwriting, it really is a shame that these guys aren't getting more attention. While this doesn't outdo the debut album, it still is a release that shouldn't be overlooked, as EPs often are. This is varied, interesting and never boring. Naam has quickly become one of my favourite underground bands, and this EP is a shining example of why that is. 


Sunday, 3 June 2012

Song Of The Week: Jess And The Ancient Ones - Devil (In G Minor)

While most of the album straddles the line between rock and metal, this song has little to do with either. Piano driven, Jess's voice shines through on this one. With a definite old time feel, this song certainly has personality. It may remind some of the better songs on Murder By Death's album "Who Will Survive, And What Will Be Left Of Them?" Their entire album is great, but this one stands out from the pack.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Review: Dystopia/Greif Split

Raw Sludge Done Well

What we have here is some extremely fucked up dirty sludge. Dystopia and Grief, two notable names in the sludge scene, produce some truly filthy sounds here. Slow burning, these songs seep their way into your head, filling your mind with dark thoughts. This is the first Dystopia release to be put out on Life Is Abuse records, which (if my memory doesn't escape me) is run by a member of the band. When this was first released it came with a razor blade, which apparently had Dystopia's name screened on it.

Greif begin this split, providing us with two songs: "Lifeless" and "Fucked Upstairs." These songs are extremely slow, featuring very repetitive riffing. The vocals meet halfway between a death growl and a black metal rasp. These tracks are truly misanthropic; they feel like the musical equivalent of being trapped in an insane asylum. While I'm on that subject, they include a sample of an obviously mentally ill man claim he is both Jesus and Mohammed, which adds to the messed up hopeless vibe.

Dystopia have two versions of "Sleep". This one appeared on the Human = Garbage compilation, which is generally considered Dystopia's first album. While the other version is the better one, this is still great. This version is much rawer, and a bit sludgier. The main drawback to this version is that the clean vocals aren't as convincing. Its not that they're bad - its just that their better in the other version. In the latter version they create an almost ritualistic mood.

While Dystopia is mostly known for being raw, abrasive and angry, this song shows their atmospheric side. There is a sizeable section with clean guitar tone where arpeggios are played. Over that includes a rare moment - clean singing in a Dystopia song. It actually works very well, the low subtle vocals add a very erie atmosphere to the song. This section perfectly balances out the raw sludgy crust punk. The riffing in this song also deserves mention. During the beginning we get a memorable epic riff. The riffing for most of the song is more than just a few power chords - they almost seem like the raw sludgy version of an exotic melody.

All in all, this is a very enjoyable release. Dystopia's side is definitely more involved, but it is undeniable that Grief do what they do well. This a perfect example of raw sludge done well. This is for people who like their metal slow. While Dystopia's is a bit less slow than Grief''s songs, they aren't exactly playing fast, especially for metal. This is not a happy affair - but I guess thats pretty obvious seeing as this comes with a razor blade.