Here at Don't Count On It Reviews, you can read reviews from different artists from different styles.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Палочкаотморожен(н)ого - Outside

It's Getting A Little Bit Strange.

Палочкаотморожен(н)ого is a Russian jazz/grindcore band. This is their first "official" release, and is pretty hard to come across. Comparisons to avant-garde jazz enthusiast, John Zorn, are inevitable.
What you will find on this album is the definition of avant-garde music. Much like John Zorn's work within the jazz and hardcore realm in the days of Naked City, these guys too use that same sort of principle. Flourishes of extreme aggression mixed with subtle moments of jazz and odd melodies that range from jazz itself to rock and reggae.
The three members that comprise this group do an excellent job at providing a sound that really has no definite sound, a Zorn reference again. (A).Tom provides lyrics, vocals, noises, and piano, Phil plays the drums, and Danila also provides vocals and guitar. For only having three members, these guys provide quite a bit within each track. While grind tracks are standard for the style, the jazz parts, as previously mentioned, seem to use a lot of different styles in combination with the quieter moments, like in Сказал where a Mr. Bungle reference comes up in the track's melody.
Vocals on here seem to be as odd as the music itself. As the vocals usually tend to be done in one of two ways, the first way is used in the grind songs, where the vocals are kind of screeched or growled, bringing a bit of old Carcass to mind. The second vocal style is a bit grating on the nerves, and that is the spoken word; and it's not so much that the way they are said or the guy's voice that's annoying as much as how it's placed at seemingly random times within a song.
Along with almost random spoken word parts comes random things in general. Possibly, what could have been the highlight of the album, Лишь, which was more straightforward sounding and, relatively speaking, simple, they ruined by adding this water effect. What I mean by that is that they add the sound of running water over half the track, and that effect is actually on top of the music. Maybe it's just me, but things like that really test my nerves.
Compared to Zorn's work, in production value, this is much more raw and unpolished sounding. There are obviously mistakes in here, in what seems to be a live recording of these guys in the studio. Probably the first noticeable live recording probability comes in Нужно, where you actually hear the shift in Danila's guitar sound from a clean to a distorted tone. Several other instances of actually hearing a mistaken chord stuck are scattered throughout this record.
Overall, this is a record for people that want a lot of avant-garde in their music. While most songs are jazzy and/or grinding, there are only occasional ones that break that mold and become more straight sounding. So if you're looking for another band that should be on Zorn's label, but isn't, check this out. If you like music that isn't as "free-formed(?)," you better stay away from this.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Что, Композиции, Выход (на бис)

Nae'blis - Confusion and Apathy - In The Fog of A Surreal Daydream

Now That's A Curveball.

Nae'blis is a Swedish one-man atmospheric black metal project founded by Magnus Wohlfart. This project has always exhibited black metal that rivaled in caliber to the greats of the genre including Xasthur or Leviathan. This new album takes all that was on his previous two full-length and experiments further than many would probably ever dare to do.
This new album takes a left turn from where the last Nae'blis album, "Sketches of Reality," was. That album contains plenty of black metal parts mixed with some more, almost progressive, touches of piano and acoustic guitar moments. This album takes those two progressive ideas, and throws away the black metal part of the sound. What you have here is an album full of ambient, acoustic, and industrial ideas with a black metal aspect of playing them.
This album experiments a lot more than one would have anticipated after listening to Nae'blis' previous outputs. Opening track I, features a mix between industrial, trip-hop, and dark ambient music with Magnus narrating over it. This differs immensely from the experimental tinges that were on the previous record.
Most of this record features piano and electronic beats with the occasional guitar riff or acoustic guitar part. This brings a very different kind of atmosphere to the album, rather than a depressing and self-loathing kind of nature, this album contains an almost uneasy and masochistic vibe to itself. While one vibe is not completely foreign from the other, the way they are presented differs vastly.
The use of acoustic guitar on this album is actually quite good. Magnus' playing of the acoustic really brings an almost folk influence into the tracks. While the only track to really feature an electric guitar is the opener, tracks like V or VII feature some excellent guitar work.
Due to the short length of many of these tracks, some could see them as either just filler for space or interludes. While this may not be the most engaging album that Magnus has ever been a part of, it certainly is worthy of at least one listen. Even if most of these tracks are short instrumentals, they have quite a bit more substance than most instrumental interludes do.
Overall, this record is very different from anything to come out from Nae'blis so far. While this will probably disappoint long time fans of his, this is sure to introduce his work to new people, and perhaps some of the old will come to like this in due time. Since this record is also not as up front with it's emotional content, the listener might have to actually perform multiple listens to uncover some of the darker aspects to these songs.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: II, IV, VII, IX, X

Smouldering In Forgotten - I, Devourer

Goatwhore? I Think Not.

Smouldering In Forgotten is a blackened death metal band from Bahrain. For all those who don't know where Bahrain is, it's a small island country in the Persian Gulf, just in case you were wondering. This is their second album and is a bit less like their main influence than you may have guessed it to be.
This is, like the picture shows, a three piece band. Mardus performs the vocals, Voidhanger plays the guitar, bass, and performs back-up screams, and Busac plays guitar and programs the drums. While none of this matters all that much, they do manage to make this sound fairly good. The drum programming never goes into hyper-drive mode with blast-beats that can't even be counted, always at a steady and well placed paces.
As mentioned above, SIF are influenced by, you guessed it, Goatwhore, as well as other bands. Although their sound does have a similar style to that band, SIF are probably more death metal than black metal. The black metal riffs and atheistic are still here in full force, but if that's only a little bit of this record was black metal, the rest would be death metal.
Most of the riffs on here are aggressive and melodic sounding, Unspoken Names. The riffs on here are usually more black metal oriented tremolo picking with some death metal chugging, but that's not often. While this is pretty good in and of itself, nothing really diversifies one track from another enough to really create a different sound.
Mardus' vocals, for the most part, are death metal growls. The occasional scream will come up, but those are most likely done by Voidhanger. One thing that quite a few black metal bands do, and these guys are no exception, is putting kind of ambient parts into their music, and then talking over it. One curve ball the band throws into the album is on Spiritus Nes Sancti, in which some low clean vocals are utilized. Besides that one don't expect a lot of variety within the vocal department, it pretty much stays about the same throughout, but a good example of what they can do is Ash and Tallow.
The final track, An Elegy (For Tomorrow), expresses a bit more adventurous territory compared to other songs on this album. This track features a lot more use of keys, both for atmosphere as well as piano, and a female vocalist. The riffs on this track are also slower and sound heavier than those found on the rest of the album for some reason; they also bring in a guitar solo that is much more melodic. While none of the ideas on this track are really new, they do bring a new idea into the fold.
As mentioned before, the production is actually quite clear, not clean, but good enough to hear everything. The production allows everything on any given track to be heard, from the gruesome growls to the ripping guitars, to the thumping bass. The production might put off those expecting something similar to Burzum or Darkthrone, but even thought this is cleaner than that, don't think that this is pristine, it still has the grit and grime on it.
Overall, this is a decent melodic blackened death metal album. You won't find a lot on this album that you won't find on another, but if you're a fan of the style, you'll probably check it out anyway. The Goatwhore reference isn't as prevalent as you might think, but it is there in a few tracks.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Dead Messiah, Unspoken Names, Spiritus Nes Sancti, An Elegy (For Tomorrow)

Liquorworks - Nonsense

Another Progressive Album (With Only A Bit Of Wankery).

Liquorworks is a Finnish one-man instrumental progressive metal project started by Kosti Aho. Kosti has become quite popular on the Internet among Finnish fans, while newer fans keep coming into him. This is his second full-length release, demonstrating more progressive influences than his debut.
This record contains influences that can be traced to multiple different forms of music. While the progressive sound usually is eclectic anyways, this sound mixes the more poly-rhythmic style of Meshuggah, the metal side of Dream Theater, the complex riffs from Between The Buried and Me, and the more aggressive tendencies of death metal. These different influences blend in a way then Kosti's debut record, "Sinus."
The main sound of this record is metal, and features another djent styled guitar tone. The thicker sounding, Meshuggah tone is another sign of this being a more modern sounding metal band. Whether you like the newer breed of more technical metal or not, this is primarily what you could classify the sound on this record as, but maybe a little more diverse. As much as this record is progressive and technical, and djenty, it is still very melodic, nothing on here goes into hyper, mind-busting, crazy playing.
Even though there is enough metal on here to go around, the use of synthes is quite well used as well. Synthe is used both as atmospherics in the background, as well as more up front kind of melodies, Chemist utilizes both well. While the ambient pieces are pretty much left in the back, the more up front parts resemble a bit of more prog leanings, not so much the playing of them, but the vibe from them.
While this record is primarily a "metal" album, there is plenty of softer and more ambient sounding parts as well. These parts bring to mind a band like Periphery, but not as layered. While these quieter and more ambient sections play, the more metallic riffs are accompanying it. If you were not a fan of how Periphery did this style on their album, you might not like this either.
What probably makes this a bit different from your average instrumental metal group is that on here, even though the playing is great and technical, there are still songs. Songs like Deranged Organ of Intoxicated Organist or Conduct have parts that repeat for choruses, but still manage to explore different territories as well. This more structured approach to instrumental metal makes things a lot better to follow as well as easier to get into.
While this is an instrumental project, as well as album, the last track on here does feature vocals. Minions features vocals by Jouni Koskela, who has a bit of a cleaner hardcore shout style of singing. The occasional death growl is utilized in his vocals as well, but is not as prominent up front, mainly used as back-ups.
Overall, this is a good instrumental album full of good tracks. The songs on here are well arranged and performed. People who are looking for something melodic, yet technically well played, this would be something to look into hearing.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: 616, Deranged Organ of Intoxicated Organist, Chains

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Avantasia - Angel of Babylon

How Many Guests In One Record, Pt.II.

Avantasia is a symphonic/power metal band created by German power metal front-man, Tobias Sammet, of Edguy. This is the third release in the recent trilogy of albums he has created, starting with 2008's "The Scarecrow" and 2010's "The Wicked Symphony." This release, as with the previous two, have a lot of guests on it.
The first track on here is titled Stargazers. This opening track features multiple guests on it, including Jorn Lande, Symphony X's Russel Allen, and ex-Helloween vocalist Michael Kiske. This track is much more orchestral, as the rest of the album is, compared to the previous album. This track is a bit more progressive, moving from driving rock riffs into more harmonized mellow leads midway through the track. This track really carries the rest of the album, as this is a high caliber track.
The next track is the title-track, Angel of Babylon, once again featuring Jorn Lande. This track continues the 80s vibe from the last album, with a big chorus and strong riffs. The difference being, comparing this song, and really the rest of the album, is that even though these songs are shorter, they seem more progressive, mid-tempo, and symphonic than those found on "The Wicked Symphony."
The third track is called Your Love Is Evil. This is one of the few tracks on this album to feature only Tobias on vocals. This track is really carried by Tobias' vocals, as opposed to the previous two tracks which had strong orchestration and guitar riffs. This track, as many might have anticipated, is a power-ballad type of song; though it's a bit more up-tempo compared to previous songs of the same nature. The guitar solo on this track is a bit more rock based in nature when compared to the rest of the track which is fairly sorrowful and moody.
The next track is called Death Is Just A Feeling, featuring Jon Oliva. This track really reflects the Jon Oliva style, as it is very theatrical sounding. This is probably the most orchestral track on the album so far, with the basis of the guitars being a lot more simplistic than other tracks. This track also features very little from Tobias, in comparison to other tracks, in terms of vocals, with Oliva carrying the song mostly on his own.
The following track is titled Rat Race, and, again, features Jorn Lande. This track juxtaposes the last track, as this is much more up-tempo and features a driving drum beat. This track is also much more rock'n'roll styled and is probably a lot easier to get into then the last track was.
The sixth track is called Down In The Dark, with Jorn on vocals again. This carries on with more simplistic riffs and more straightforward song structure from the last track. The epic and retro-80s chorus also returns, although this track isn't nearly as fast as the last was.
The seventh track is another track with only Tobias on vocals, titled Blowing Out The Flame. This is the real ballad of the album, with the mellowest and most sorrowful vibe on both this, and the previous album. Don't let this fool you into thinking that this song isn't heavy, it's still a power-ballad, it just has all the right elements of a good one. The use of piano, strings, and acoustic guitars brings it all home for anyone who loves this sort of song.
The next track is Symphony of Life with Cloudy Yang. This is another sorrowful and melancholy track, with Yang's vocals carrying the weight of the song. Since this is the only track to actually feature "lead" female vocals, not ones in the choirs, it actually makes this track a bit more unique. Yang's voice is similar in style to Cristina Scabbia's of Lacuna Coil, where it is very melodic sounding, but is clearly able to sing heavier.
After the last two melancholy songs, this next one is much more up-beat and rockin'. This track is called Alone I Remember, with, you guessed it, Jorn Lande on it again. This track is another one to break out of the more metal style mold, being very much of a bluesy rock song. Jorn's vocals suit this song to a t, bring that Whitesnake vibe home.
The second to last track is called Promised Land, with Jorn Lande and Michael Kiske on it again. This song is really refreshing after the last track, this one is heavier and more power metal. Pretty much the usual thing found in power metal is found in this song, fast melodic riffs, a driving beat, and soaring vocals.
The final track is Journey to Arcadia with Jorn Lande and Bob Catley. This track carries with it a bit of a ballad vibe, but is much more symphonic and rock sounding. This track has a bit more valleys than the other ballads on here, as this song has both a rock and a slow ballad feeling and moves from moody and slower verses through heavy choruses and a moving guitar solo.
Overall, this album is much more diverse than the last one, "The Wicked Symphony," was and makes it more enjoyable. From the ballads to the heavier rock and power metal songs, Tobias has fired all of his loads, and succeeds at hitting his mark. The more symphonic and rock approach to this album suits his style much more.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Stargazers, Death Is Just A Feeling, Alone I Remember, Promised Land, Journey to Arcadia

Avantasia - The Wicked Symphony

How Many Guests In One Record, Pt.I.

Avantasia is a symphonic/power metal band by German power metal singer, Tobias Sammet, of Edguy. This record, and the one following it, are parts 2 and 3 of the story he started with 2008's "The Scarecrow." Like that record, this one, and the one coupled with it, have a lot of guest appearances on it.
The first song on this album is the title-track of this album, The Wicked Symphony. This song is just under 9:30 minutes long and features guest vocals from Jorn Lande, of Masterplan and his solo work, and Russel Allen, or Symphony X. This is a very typical sounding Avantasia type of song, epic symphonic arrangements behind simple, more rock based riffs. Throughout the track, a very 80's vibe hovers overhead, a bit cheesy, but still good.
The next song is Wastelands, featuring Michael Kiske, ex-Helloween, ex-Gamma Ray on vocals. This track is based on a very driving beat carring the song. This track is littered with guitar solos and a big sounding chorus, arena rock at it's finest.
Scales of Justice is the next track. This song features ex-Judas Priest, ex-Iced Earth vocalist Tim "Ripper' Owens on it. This is much more of a metal based song, still maintaining an almost 80s vibe. Near the last minutes of the song, the main riff goes into full 80s rock mode, with a riff that could have been in a Whitesnake song back then.
The next song, and also the first single, Dying For An Angel. This track features legendary vocalist, Klaus Meine of the Scorpions, providing a good amount of the vocals. This track fully embraces the 80s feeling that has permeated the sound of this album so far.
Blizzard On A Broken Mirror is the next track, and features ex-Angra vocalist André Matos. This is one of the heaver track on the album, with a driving metal riff and plenty of guitar solos. This track goes through a more mellow phase where the more symphonic elements of the band come out to the forefront.
The next song is another epic, Runaway Train, once again featuring Jorn Lande, Michael Kiske, and Bob Catley. This track has a bit more of a ballad feeling, a power-ballad mind you, but much more mellow and sorrowful than the other tracks. Like all good power-ballads, the chorus is huge and catchy. More string arrangements are present on this track than previous ones, as well as the presense of a piano. The whole song ends in multiple solos, including a key solo, a bit of a prog edge comes to the front by the end.
The next song is Crestfallen, another song with Jorn Lande. This is possibly the heaviest song on the album, the chorus being extremely dark sounding with low harmonies underneath Sammet's voice. The melodies present on this song add to the dark feeling in the chorus, proving to be the darkest song, overall, on this record.
The eigth song on this record is titled Forever Is A Long Time. This is Jorn Lande's last appearance on this album. This song is much more up-beat compared to the previous track and is more of a rock song. Along with being a big sounding rock track, the vibe is totally Whitesnake, and Jorn's voice only adds to that vibe.
The next track is called Black Wings, featuring Ralf Zdiarstek, most well known for his voice on earlier Avantasia albums. This is a slower track that has a lot more emphasis on keyboards in the background then previous tracks did. This track mellows out in the end and the symphonic style of the band enters, yet again.
The next track is States of Matter with Russel Allen. This track has a bit of a traditional power metal/hard rock vibe to it, more simplisticly written. The solo in this track and the short riff that leads up to it is fairly proggy, while remaining still very rockin'.
The final song, The Edge, is the only song without a guest vocalist on it. This is another power-ballad song with another big sounding chorus. Tobias completes this album with a big, rock song that fits perfectly as a completion song. For those who've listened to this track, waiting for Tobias to sing solo, this is for you.
Overall, this is a good 80s rock mixed with power metal album with a lot of good songs. Whether you're into heavy metal solos, big choruses, or 80s-esque hard rock, this is something to take notice of. Check this out if you haven't heard it yet.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Wicked Symphony, Dying For An Angel, Runaway Train, The Edge

Caribou - Swim

Just Another Animal You Couldn't Catch.

Caribou is the electronic project by Canadian artist Dan Snaith. This album is to bring elements of psychedelia and new wave elements together along with some dance beats and traces of disco. This new album also comes with some more heady elements than his previous releases.
Throughout this album, a dancey beat is always consistent and present, which probably appeals to people who listen to more mainstream dance music. The psychedelic and more ambient textures added into this album, though, are what make this more appealing to a first-time listener or Caribou, right here. This album also makes use of mainstream beats within it's frame, think hip-hop or disco, hear Sun.
Dan's vocals are present in this album's songs as well, it's not instrumental. His vocals are usually processed and/or whispered, probably for dream-like effects. Whether or not these vocals add to the very hazy psychedelic experience that this albums brings is all dependant on the listener. His vocals actually seem to sound a bit like Josh Homme's, of Queens of The Stone Age.
The final track on this album, Jamelia, features guest vocals by Luke Lalonde of the indie band Born Ruffians. The track itself is a bit more heady than the rest of the album really made itself out to be, yet, is still fairly catchy enough to be on the radio. This track really moves through more symphonic textures into more trance based and dance beats as the track progresses.
The occasional more acoustic based instrument, whether sampled or not, does appear, like in Found Out or Bowls. In fact, these sort of more simplistic instruments, once again, sampled or not, really fit the mood of some of these more sombre tracks. These instruments just add a little bit of something more to the music that it doesn't have on it's own without them.
Overall, this is a more mainstream type of album that I could see doing fairly well. The pop and accessibility just seems a little too processed for me. This could go either way, I'm not really digging it, but I'm not hating it.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Odessa, Kaili, Bowls, Leave House, Hannibal

Energoblock - I Saw The World In Ashes...

Dance Club Massacre.

Energoblock is a Russian trance/industrial project created by Alnair Lindalwe. The project combines heavy electronics with samples and themes of Soviet history. This leads to themes of nuclear power, science and industry, and war secrets emerging into the music.
In this album, you'll hear a plethora of different musical stylings. Obvious traces of industrial music is found within the heavier and guitar oriented parts of the music, while ambient, trance, and electronica also are quite obvious within here as well. The music is very much oriented to dance to as well as to headbang to, making it quite multifaceted, but these things are also mixed together very well.
As this is mainly instrumental, unless you usually listen to electronic music anyway, this might be a bit of a shift for you to listen to at first. The use of ever increasing textures and martial industrialism being mixed with dance based club beats and a more upbeat nature could prove a tough hill to climb up if this is not your typical music of choice. There is more than your fair share of darkness within the album, but the overall feel is something that a normal person could probably listen to more easily than a harsh industrial noise record.
The use of conflicting melodies could also prove difficult to a causal listener. While the trace based beats carry with them their own melody and flow, or rhythmic patterns, melodies are scattered and overlap throughout each song, like in Militant, where a melody proves to be be more subtle in the beginning, where at the end it is at the top of the sound. Guitars in here mainly play a smaller role of proving either heaviness or smaller rhythmic patterns, melodies more often played by synthes and keys.
Familiar, more often heard in electronic/trance music, melodies will appear throughout some of the tracks, like in Our New Home and Designation Dance. These melodies are also what could make this more appealing to mainstream listeners, but could also turn off those who are looking for something a bit more abstract sounding.
While it is fair to say that most of these tracks are pleasant sounding enough to where normal people could listen to them, there stands only one track on here that differs itself from that idea. Until The Rising Sun mixes more martial industrialism, harsh noise, and trace beats together into a very noisy track. This track also experiences the most amount of repetition on the album. Despite all of this, it seems to have the same sort of vibe as the one on Nine Inch Nails' "Broken EP," the darkness and somewhat aggressive sounding electronic elements are all present in this song, maybe more so than the others on the album.
Overall, this is an interesting listen for one not accustomed to industrial trance music. The mixtures is quite original sounding and yet doesn't sound brand new. This would be a good album to start with if you wanted to venture into more electronic based music.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: I Saw The World In Ashes, Forbidden Memories, Refuse, Our New Home, Until The Rising Sun

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Nvll - Nvllcept

Down to The Grit of The Machinery.

Nvll is a tech metal band from Spain. Having been formed after the dissolution of the band Jihad, three of the members decided to form a new band with ex-Deafness singer. This new band was focused on the principal of creating extreme music with odd structures.
The band prides themselves by taking influence from bands like Meshuggah, Gojira, and Textures, all bands with odd structures and technical musicianship. The influence from these bands are actually not as prominent within the band's sound as one might think from a debut recording. There is still a definitive sound from each of these bands within this album, but they aren't so prominent that it overcomes the band's original sound.
The first track, Standard Cage, opens the album with a bang. This song has a very technical/progressive thrash vibe to it. The song itself is very groovy with some Dillenger Escape Plan-esque parts thrown in every once in a while. During the ending phases of the track, the band manage to throw in some odd sludge influenced sections, which is refreshing to hear in a newer band.
The second track is Humanity Lost. Right from the get-go, this track shows off some weird riffs, that are both groovy and odd. This song has a lot more of the stop-start riffs than the previous one did, but it also flows a lot better than the last one did. A section that lurked within the track containing more death metal-esque part and blast-beats really caught me off guard.
Isthmus of Insanity is the third track and is the most melodic up to this point. This track moves into some more subtle and quieter territory during some parts of the song. The more straight-forward riffing within this track is good to hear after the heavy duty grooves of the last two tracks. The mellower sections also bring some fresh air into this very big sounding band.
Dite, the fourth track on here, is the shortest song on the album; it is also the most atmospheric and textured of the tracks on here. Though feeling very open sounding, this track also feels very much like a punk song during some moments. Don't think that that stops the track from being any less groovy or technical, in fact, this track is down right progressive sounding, it just has a bit more simplistic riffing. The solo on here also reminisces of some older, more melodic influences.
The fifth track is titled Nameless. This track has some cool sounding tremolo picking on in, along with some fast double-bass work, giving it a bit of a black metal feel. The bass is played very well on this track, proving a groove the backs up the guitar when it's going mad.
The final track is called Army of The Poverty. This track is almost 9 minutes long, and justifies that length. The track starts off like a shotgun, just pounding, before moving into more melodic and proggy parts, that show a bit of an Opeth vibe, but just a bit. The bass work on this track really moves things along, from a more Gojira-esque part into a thrashy Nevermore style part. The only bad part about this song, is that it ends in 3 minutes of noise, not silence, but like guitar scratching.
The musicianship on this record is clearly good and each member knows how to play. Every instrument is heard, none being louder than they really should be; from the technical grooves from the guitars, the fascinating drum work, or the proggy bass play, these guys know what they're doing. Even the vocals, which have the same sort of bark as the band's these guys are influenced by, are quite dynamic within the band's sound.
Overall, this is a great sounding debut album. This is a band that people should take notice of, accomplishing quite a lot on only their first record, and having a sound that, while not completely original, is enough to sound fresh. Keep an eye on these guys to see what they do next, it should be good.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Humanity Lost, Dite, Army of The Poverty

Here's the download from the band's page:

Vortice - Zombie

Old Parts Still Sound The Same.

Vortice is a tech metal band from Barcelona. Taking influences from all the members previous bands as well as mixing in newer and more complex styles into the mix is the foundation that the band was founded on. This, their second full-length, expands upon the ideas the band set on their debut.
The band's sound takes elements from math metal, post-metal, and extreme metal and jumbles them all together. The obvious Meshuggah comparisons are undeniable within this band, it's hard not to notice them. But despite that, they band manage to put together a good collection of songs.
You can tell that these guys have, I know I've reference this before, and it's going to come up again, studied their Meshuggah records thoroughly. While a song like the opener, Filed Process harks to the sound of "Chaosphere", The Shame reeks of the oddness of "Obzen", and the title-track, Zombie, features those slower grooves of "Nothing". A lot about this record is kind of a tribute to that band, from the grooves to the vocals, to the leads played, they all seem like something from a Meshuggah cover band.
Most songs contain that math/tech metal vibe, oh so similar to Meshuggah, but the band manage to throw in some of those post-metal moments that change it up, even more than normally. You have your regular 4/4 time signatures thrown out the window on most tracks, and replaced with super weird grooves and technical patterns. The occasional melody does manage to seep into some songs, like in the title-track, Zombie. It's unfortunate that the only real experimentation with post-metal's mellow side comes out on the final track, The Uncertain Age, as an instrumental.
A stand out track on this album seems to be Blood Suckers. It might just be that the grooves seem a bit less Meshuggah than the others, or the fact the the drumming on this song kicks ass, but this song just stands out among the others. The vocalist uses variations upon his Kidman worshiping bark, and some post-metal melody comes out during the chorus.
Though not quite as original sounding as the above track, Redrum, has some kick-ass parts in it as well. The grooves in this song reminisce, but don't copy the aforementioned band, and are quite good sounding. The vocalist also makes use of more of a higher styled bark. The melody put in near the end of the song also does it justice.
Overall, this is not a bad record, but one that pays homage to a great band. As much as this is a decent album, it just seems too familiar to what you've already heard of the "other" band. The band would do better to experiment a bit more with crazy parts or mellower parts. But if you've been looking for a record to satisfy your Meshuggah fix until their new album, this should be what you want.
Overall Score: 5.5
Highlights: Zombie, Blood Suckers, The Dawn of The Dead, Redrum

Defeated Sanity - Chapters of Repugnance

Grinding Till There's Nothing Left.

Defeated Sanity is a brutal death metal band from Germany. Having been formed back in 1995, this is only their third full-length album. This is also the first album to feature new vocalist A.J. Magana, formerly of Disgorge.
If what you're expecting is something similar to a band like Death or Cannibal Corpse, or old-school death metal, you're gonna be disappointed. If what you're expecting is a band like Whitechapel or Job For A Cowboy, you're dead wrong. This band is brutal and technical death metal, in the vein of old Aborted, but think rawer production, audible bass, and deep guttural vocals.
Lets focus on the guitars on here, they're chunky and beefy sounding. Most of the riffs that Christian Kúhn plays are either beefy sounding breakdown sort of chugs or technical grind stuff that becomes fairly hard to distinguish one riff from another, though that's pretty much the genre of underground brutal death metal for you. But it must be said that the guitars are more clear than on Defeated Sanity's previous releases. Not a lot of high-end stuff is used on here, mainly chunky low-end work. The only real solo, I found, on here was in the last track, Lurid Assimilation, and that was pretty quick and played fast.
The bass on this record is played very well, that must be said. Not only is the bass very clearly audible in the mix, sometimes even more so than the guitars, but the bass is actually quite jazzy sometimes. Jacob Schmidt's bass fills are frequently utilized, listen to Carnal Deliverance, and are done well enough that they sound like they're part of the song, not just added in for him to do something more. Another thing, kind of contradicting the last sentence a bit, is that the bass actually keeps up with the guitar well enough to kind of make the guitar's low end beefier.
The drums are also played rather well. Lille Gruber throws in a lot of different fills and cymbal play throughout the record, listen to the little jazz part in Consumed By Repugnance. The drums are also high up in the mix, to a point where I think it's louder than the guitars, so that might turn some off to this, if you're expecting a lot of guitars at the front of the sound.
Vocalist A.J. Magana performs, if you've heard his older bands, his typical low guttural vocals style. Most of these vocals are probably inhales, you can tell I don't listen to a lot of this style. His style, overall, is mainly the inhales and some more goregrind-like toilet-bowl vocals.
Most of these songs, I would assume, are made to sound chaotic and wild sounding, brutal and technical in another sense, and they succeed. Most of these tracks feel like they lack structure, being just riff after riff. The musicianship of these players is good, but it might just be the mix that makes this sound so muddy.
Overall, this is a decent record, being not the biggest underground brutal death metal head, there, I admit it. But this has a lot of cool drumming and bass work that reminds me of some of Cannibal Corpse, the bass. If you're a fan of BDM (brutal death metal), chances are you already know about this band, so you don't need me telling you to check them out.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Carnal Deliverance, Salacious Affinity, Engulfed In Excruciation, Blissfully Exsanguinated, Lurid Assimilation

Tre Watson - Lexicon of The Human Subconscious

Play Em' Off You Swinin' Cat.

Tre Watson is a guitar player from Maryland. This is his debut record as a songwriter, re-mixer, and producer, as well as guitar player, and demonstrates influences from the newer and upcoming tech metal scene. On this album you'll find that tech metal style and influences from other genres.
Just to be clean on what this album is before you check this out, it is instrumental. Only 1 song on here has vocals, and that's a remix of a song by another artist. For some this might not be their thing, due to it being only music, and not having vocals, but this guy knows how to play some cool riffs. Influences from electronic and prog have definitely seeped into the style of this record, as well as the obvious Meshuggah style.
Dilate is the first track. This is just a short introductory track with a storm behind some clean guitar playing. While this is not overly spectacular, it's a nice intro for what it is.
The second, and real first track, UFAILien is where things begin to move. This track is filled with the Meshuggah styled chugging and Dream Theater virtuosic progressive nature. This track has some worthwhile riffing and a nice chorus melody. The weird section at the end of the track sounds odd but that flows into the next track.
That Which Is Past Predicts F is the next track. This track is a bit weirder sounding, less structured, comparisons to Dillinger Escape Plan are definitely in order here. More frantic sounding riffs and dissonance is prominent. The final section in this track slows things down and that really is the best part of the track.
Charmander Used Flamethrower! is the fourth track. This track has some cool low-end work done on it, along with the main riff. The breakdown on here is spectacular, for a breakdown, and moves into a black metal part, which is quite odd. The song ends in a melody from a children's song, weird.
MFT is the next track and is more like Converge meets Periphery sound. The overall vibe is quite straightforward and melodic, but has some crazy sounding riffs that reminisce of some of Converge's stuff. The solo on here is quite good as well.
Tears of The Almighty starts with some ballad piano work before the main riff is played on guitar. This is probably the most melodic track on here, but it moves from piano to guitar within it's cycle at odd times. The riffs are catchy and stick in your head more than other tracks do due to the track being under 2:30 minutes.
Image Construction Error is also quite melodic. This track has some quirky synthe done on it, to where it sounds like it came from a Mario and Luigi game. Dan Park's keyboards really make this an interesting track. The solo is performed really well until the keys cut it off at the end, but this is overall a highlight.
Hopefully Working is the next track. This track feels like earlier tracks but features some cool clean guitars in the background. This is one of the more straightforward sounding tracks on the record, not really going too crazy.
The next song is Breach of Consent. This is the shortest track on the album, being just over 2 minutes. It really sounds like long bridge section, moving from a heavy and technical breakdown into a solo then into dissonant riff before going all melodic, then it repeats. Short, but good.
The tenth track is Conflicting Intentions, and this is a thrash song. Moving very quickly and having some old Metallica meets Slayer vibe to it. As if this track wasn't the highlight on the record, the solo is the best on here as well. This is the longest track on the album, and the material on this track really justifies it. From the softer and clean guitar parts in the middle of the track to the heavy and melodic soloing, this is the highlight of the album.
The final track is the only track with vocals on here. Lady Gaga - Telephone, is exactly that, Lady Gaga's Telephone, but remixed into metal. While it might not be the best performed track, the riffs that Tre plays on it are actually very melodic and make that track a LOT better than it's original form.
Overall, this is a good debut. Full of djent/tech metal progressiveness and melodicism, fans of this new movement will enjoy this as much as the genre's forefathers. Check this stuff out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Charmander Used Flamethrower!, MFT, Tears of The Almighty, Breach of Consent, Conflicting Intentions, Lady Gaga - Telephone

Eisbrecher - Eiszeit

I Know Who You're Thinking Of.

Eisbrecher is an industrial rock/metal band from Germany. Taking the sound made famous by the world renowned Rammstein, and making it more melodic, you can guess what they sound like. You'll get the same amount of heavy, even more catchy.
This band contains only two real members, with several others filling in on live performances. Vocals are performed by Alexx Wesselsky and guitars and programming duties belong to Noel Pix. The two got together after Alexx left his old band, Megaherz, and the two decided to collaborate together.
This band pretty much sounds exactly like Rammstein, from the heavy groovy riffs to the heavy German singing. Industrial and electronic elements hang on the edge of every song, bordering the band onto full on industrialism. The grooves make the songs heavy enough so that even a non-metalhead can get into them.
Lyrics are fully in German, another Rammstein comparison, and keep things fairly difficult for people who don't want lyrics that aren't in English to listen to. If you can take the foreign lyrics, the vocals are deep and heavy, but also melodic, probably more then Rammstein's are. There are also some female vocals that have been included in some of these songs, like in the bridge of Bombe, the vocals are synthesized repeating the chorus.
Whether you like it or not, you'll find several of these tracks either getting your head to bob or get these choruses stuck in your head. The heavy dance tracks like Amok with get your foot tapping the floor with rave beats, while the rocking tracks like Die Engel or Böse Mädchen will get themselves stuck in your head. Different things will be for different people, but that's what made this band a success in America.
The collaboration track, Gothkiller (Eisbrecher vs. Roberto Vitacca), is fully sung in English and is probably the most accessible track on here. This track is more of a dance track than an industrial rock song; with club beats and sampled female vocals. The solo in this song in feels very 80s, which this entire track gives off, somewhat of a throwback track in retrospective.
Overall, this is a good record if you're looking for a bunch of catchy songs. The 80s throwback element on this album really gives it a different vibe to some of the other industrial rock/metal bands nowadays. Whether you want a good time listen or some heavy anthem rock songs, check this out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Böse Mädchen, Eiszeit, Die Engel, Amok, Dein Weg, Kein Wunder

Hooded Menace - Never Cross The Dead

I Guess Naming The Band "Evil Dead" Would Have Gotten A Little Heated.

Hooded Menace are a death/doom band from Finland. The three piece aren't just another come around band trying to play death metal, but slower, these guys know how to keep things old-school. Lyrical inspiration is probably pretty obvious to anyone looking at the cover, horror movies.
It's pretty obvious from the opening riff of this album's title-track, Never Cross The Dead, that these guys are gonna keep it slow, groovy, and heavy. Taking influences from bands such as Entombed, old-Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride, and Autopsy, the death-doom of this album is old-school sounding, and great. Having said in interviews for this album, slower tempos create a better vibe to suit the lyrics, and that they do.
As anyone reading this by now, and if you haven't already figured out that I told you, this band's lyrical inspiration comes from horror movies, namely, the Evil Dead series. Not only do the lyrics reference both evil and, you guessed it, the dead, but they do it in a way that some will take die hard serious, and others will laugh due to some of the cheesiness from which this album's lyrics are in some cases. The occasional sample from the series also makes itself present in the band's sound once in a while, listen to the screams near the end of Terror Castle. Also check the last song on the album, Theme From The Return of The Dead, duh.
The guitar playing on here is some of the best I've heard from within this genre in recent years. It's slow and groovy, but still very melodic and soulful sounding. When things get slow, they get to Sabbath and Candlemass slow, and when things get groovy, they get your head moving, cause those riffs are so damn awesome and catchy. The melodic part keeps things in check, making sure even the casual listener can tell the chorus from the rest of the song.
The soloing fits in with the rest of the playing on the album; it's slow, but soulful. At times the solos can be morbid and dark sounding, while another one will be soulful and bluesy, check Night of The Deathcult for both. But every time a solo comes up, it straight up rocks and blows away all these newer bands trying to solo.
Overall, this album is great, enough said. The slow tempos and the riffs themselves hark back to the glory days of old-school death metal, where bands like Autopsy and Entombed wrote those amazing album, and where Paradise Lost still had their death metal balls. It may just be the fact that this is from Profound Lore Records, but this album, once again, chock that notch in the wall for them, kicks ass. Check this out old-school fans, and new school fans who want to be taught a lesson in real death/doom.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Never Cross The Dead, Night of The Deathcult, Rituals of Mortal Creation, From Their Coffined Slumber

Friday, April 23, 2010

Pantha Du Prince - Black Noise

Spread Across The World Like Butter On Bread.

Pantha Du Prince is the pseudonym for German electronic composer Hendrick Weber. Although the official title of his musical genre is minimalistic techno, he combines some other genres along with that. This release can test the patience of some due to it's subtle and smaller details.
If what you were expecting from this album is some big club/rave beats that you can dance to, you have picked the wrong album. This album has it's fair share of bouncy beats, but the overall sound picture features too many small ideas and details that doesn't really make you want to dance. With so much going on in any single given track, this is more relatable to IDM as opposed to more mainstream dance and rave oriented techno music.
Unlike a lot of other music within the techno genre, these subtle little things that occur within this album create a dark sound. Drones and metallic sounds in the background give the entire album a dark and foreboding type of feeling; but the samples used are very playful. Little bells and whistles, children's instruments and other sorts of samples are the main sort samples utilized on here, besides the beats, but that kind of lightens thing up. So the overall vibe of this record can feel, depending on the listener, either playful and light, or dark and mysterious; but you could find both as well.
While this record is full of subtlety, there is still it's fair share of very catchy beats. The beats on tracks like The Splendour or A Nomads Retreat are good enough to get you moving and bobbing your head. There are also plenty of beats that will get stuck in your head, like a good pop chorus, but without the words, and maybe a bit darker.
The nature of the music itself is quite hypnotic at certain point within the songs. In a song like Bohemian Forest or Satellite Snyper, the music can draw in all of your attention and just entrance you. For some this could pose as a problem, as regular dance techno could just play in the background and give it all up to you as just that, background music, while this album requires more attention to detail. You have to listen to the smaller parts of the album as oppose to the bigger and more obvious ones.
The occasional sampled vocals do appear now and then, reminiscing of Pantha Du's more mainstream counterpart. Tracks like Behind The Stars, feature some prominent sampled vocals to provide an almost narrative for the song. While these vocals do weigh the song down a bit, they are not so prominent in any given song to ruin them or detract from the nature of the music itself.
Guest vocals on Stick to My Side are provided by Animal Collective's own Panda Bear. His vocals are sort of just layed across the track, not really bringing a whole lot to the track besides actual vocals, but that's all just opinion. The chorus to this song is actually quite catchy and, at least, makes this a track worth listening to once.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Lay In A Shimmer, The Splendour, A Nomads Retreat, Satellite Snyper, Bohemian Forest, Es Schneit

Invisius - The Spawn of Condemnation

The How To Sound Good Rulebook, Vol.I.

Invisius is a melodic death metal band from Denmark. This is their debut record, taking elements of more modern sounding bands and actually making them sound decent. This band will not blow your mind if you're looking for something original and new, but is a good new band to come out within the genre.
The overall sound of the band could be a mix of Meshuggah, mid-period Soilwork, Machinehead, and old In Flames. The band are very melodic, yet use some different and groovy riffs, remaining very thrash sounding. Vocally, the band is more scream and growl oriented, keeping it old-school melo-death, and if you're worried about keys, they are used in the, as just said above, mid-Soilwork style, where it's mostly atmospheric and in the background.
Songs on here feature more traditional lead work, as opposed to breakdowns. The leads also reflect an overall kind of thrash vibe as well, without the band sounding like all these modern thrash bands coming out now, listen to As I Watched You Fall.
Solos are in almost every song on this album, which is a good thing, as these guys know how to play them. From more melodic and soulful soloing on Trample The Burning Past, to quicker and fast playing on Unleashed, these guys know how to play good solos. While these guys don't have the chops to craft and classic album, yet, they know how to write killer thrashy songs.
This band has quite a good sound for themselves, you probably know what's coming, as the bass is heard well throughout the album. While the bass' tone is not overpowering in the mix, it is clearly heard in tracks like Edge of Hostility and . Plus the bassist also provides clean vocals for the latter track, bringing yet another kind of Soilwork/In Flames vibe.
While the band stay good and true to a sound that is un-core-ish, there are still several parts that you could see scene kids going nuts for in the pit. The few sludge parts where the band move into a groove, could be seen as a breakdown to some, and in some cases is; but the band keep things in the more traditional, yet modern sounding melo-death. If you were expecting metal/deathcore, look elsewhere.
Overall, this is a decent modern sounding melo-death band and record. Fans who have been disappointed by recent bands butchering the legacy of the genre, this band really doesn't fail on that level.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: As I Watched You Fall, Edge of Hostility, The Submission Encountered, What Quits It All, Trample The Burning Past

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hour of Penance - Paradogma

Just Another Burning Cross? I Think Not.

Hour of Penance is a technical/brutal death metal band from Italy. "Paradogma" is their fourth full-length album and marks another leap forward for the band's sound. HoP is a band that has gained a considerable amount of recognition from extreme metal press for their take on brutal death metal.
Hour of Penance's sound is considerably more tolerable than some other bands in the genre. One thing that makes this fact so is vocalist Francesco Paoli, whose style brings to mind elements of more classic death metal vocalists like George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher from Cannibal Corpse, Karl Sanders of Nile, and even a bit of Barney from Napalm Death. Unlike a lot of death metal, and death metal sub-genres, vocalists nowadays, he can pull a Corpsegrinder and spit words in a death growl that you can understand and a said fast.
Musically, this album expands upon the more technical approach taken on the band's last album, "The Vile Conception," giving the music a bit more structure, and even melody; but not in a melo-death/metalcore way. The way melody and structured songs should be looked at on here is in the same way a band like Cannibal Corpse started writing more focused songs on "The Bleeding" or on Dismember's "Massive Killing Capacity." Songs are, in the words of ex-Cannibal Corpse member, Jack Owen, "Songs are more arranged, deranged."
While songs like The Woeful Eucharisty and Malevolence of The Righteous are still brutal, more melodic guitar leads and good, hooky choruses are added into the mix. A song like Caged Into Falsehood or Incestuous Dynasty of Worms are more in the band's technical and brutal style, retaining a very blast-beat and technical guitar ridden tracks. These two sides are balanced in a way that will surely win the band over a lot of new fans, but still appease the older ones as well.
As one could probably guess from the album art, this album's lyrical content is directed against religion. Don't interpret this as a Glen Benton kind of thing, think more in vein of a band like Immolation, whose influence can be found on a track like Spiritual Ravishment in the bit of atmospheric parts during the song. The lyrics are not so much against just Christianity, as much as against religion in general.
Overall, this is a very good death metal record full of lots of hooks. I would consider this album to be the band's "The Bleeding" due to all the catchy songs contained within. Any person who considers themselves a death metal fan should definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Paradogma, The Woeful Eucharisty, Malevolence of The Righteous, Incontrovertible Doctrines, Spiritual Ravishment

Kayo Dot - Coyote

Goodbye, Long Lost Friend.

Kayo Dot is an avant-garde/jazz rock band from Boston. This record is their fourth, coming after the recent reformation of main members, Toby Driver and Mia Matsumiya, former band Maudlin of The Well. The style from that record seems to carry over a bit into this new recording.
The sound of this album was described by Driver as goth fusion. He sites influences that include The Cure, Bauhaus, Faith and The Muse, Herbie Hancock, and Scott Walker to have had a place in how he wrote this album. In his words, this album was written to also be a single narrative piece that flows together without breaks.
The concept of this album was originally written by Driver and a film maker named Yuko Sueta and was originally performed as a film with musical performances along with it. Sueta was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after the performance and Driver decided to adapt the composition for Kayo Dot. Sueta died during the latter stages of the album and the album is such dedicated to her.
The first track, Calonyction Girl, is very bleak and dark sounding. Percussion is very sparse sounding, while most of the melody is provided by the brass horns. Driver's vocals are very reminiscent of Scott Walker's crooning style, although Driver is a bit less of a crooner and more of a spoken singer, if that makes any sense. The track moves through a lot of different vibes, but retains it's darkness throughout.
The second track is Whisper Ineffable. This track continues from where the last one left off; beginning like a jazz song, but much more ambient and dark. This track has an overall much more gothic feel to it, with keys becoming very prominent in the overall sound, along with the violins. Drummer David Bodie is furious on the kit in this song; his playing is very frantic and uncontrolled sounding. Unlike the last track, this track ends in a very slow and ambient sounding way; and although some may not hear it this way, it sounds almost morbid in the way it's being played.
Abyss Hinge I: Sleeping Birds Sighing In Roscolux, is the third track on here. This is a short instrumental track that is also probably the heaviest moment on this album. You'll find a lot of psychedelic feeling within this track that leads into the next one as well, but odd guitar melodies are what really makes up the sound on here, along with ambient keys and some cool drumming. The ambiance really progresses as the track goes on and on, gradually becoming louder, then quieter, before moving into a jazz part, really odd.
Abyss Hinge II: The Shrinking Armature is the next part of the album, and the continuation of the last track. Bringing back the odd jazz horn section from the end of the previous song, and mixing it with some weird psychedelic elements in the guitar and violin playing as well. This track perfectly melds together the influences that Driver mentioned, both the composition and Driver's vocals really sound like Scott Walker's "The Drift" record. The elements of psychedelia from Herbie Hancock are also ever present throughout the track along with the dark, kind of vibe from Faith and The Muse and The Cure. This track is really the perfect melding of every influence he mentioned.
The final track is Cartogram Out of Phase. This track is probably the most odd on the record, the ugly duckling, just due to it's very odd elements. From Driver's singing to the mellotron(?) in the background and the horns in front, this song is just very hard to make anything out of really. It doesn't quite live up to the 2 tracks that just preceded it, but it doesn't really make the earlier tracks feel awful as well. Each listener will have their own perception of how this track sounds.
This album really mesmerizes the listener into a sort of trance, ever drawing them into the sound and pushing them back out. While by no means is this some sort of ambient piece of music that is quiet, it is also not at all metal, and like what was stated above, it kind of takes away from the Maudlin of The Well album that was released last year, "Part The Second," in the way that it is very built upon building upon itself, sonically ever growing. For a listener to fully appreciate this album, they must kind of shut themselves off from everything else around them. This album is very complex and dark sounding, background music is not what this was meant for, it will take the listener on a journey.
Overall, this is a very unique sounding album that is unique, even for Kayo Dot standards. As the band has seemed to grow less and less heavy, they have managed to grow more and more beautiful and dark. Even if you're not necessarily into avant-garde or jazz music, it is still worth checking out and listening to a track or two.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Abyss Hinge I: Sleeping Birds Sighing In Roscolux, Abyss Hinge II: The Shrinking Armature, Cartogram Out of Phase

Jónsi - Go

A Soft Spoken Singer.

Jónsi is the Icelandic singer/guitarist of post-rock group Sigur Rós. This is his first official solo release, excluding the collaboration album he did with his boyfriend back in July of 2009, "Riceboy Sleeps." Fans of Sigur Rós will no doubt enjoy this release, as it has some of the same elements found within the band found within here as well.
For those unfamiliar with Jónsi's unique sounding voice, this might be a bit of a surprise. His voice is very high and delicate sounding, which perfectly fit his main band's sound of soft and textured songs over loud guitars and huge sounding vocals. His vocals are also very emotional sounding, which in itself brings another dimension into his music, in general.
The sound on here could best be described as a mix between baroque pop, minimalistic compositions, and post-rock. This sound does differ from the collaboration album he put out last year, in that that release was more based within the ambient music stylings. People have been saying that this record kind of mixes some of the more ambient soundscapes of Sigur Rós' earlier work with their last record's more poppy sound. While this is certainly an extension of those sounds, it also features a bit more actual pop sounds, but mainly in the way Jónsi's vocals were placed at the top of the mixes.
This album, as stated takes some of the pop elements from "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust," Sigur Rós' last release and expands upon that idea of simpler and catchier songs. More upbeat songs like Animal Arithmetic feature very, very poppy soundscapes and ideas that create a more up-tempo, more up-beat feeling within some tracks. This sound juxtaposes some of the more atmospheric and sombre tracks like Tornado and Kolniður, which carry with them the stamp of minimalism and post-rock.
Classical composer Nico Muhly contributed to the creation and composition of the tracks on this album. Being a minimalism enthusiast, his contribution is easily noticeable upon even a first listen. The impact of cinimatic music is also very noticable, and is something Jónsi has stated that he will try and do live with this project. His arrangements in both acoustic and strings add so much to this album, even in comparison to some of his other work, this album is definitely some of his best compositional work, listen to tracks like Go Do or Sicking Friendship.
Overall, this record is very good, for a more "mainstream" artist. Being a solo release, it's sound is still very much in tune with his main band's sound and won't disappoint people who want to hear some new music from Sigur Rós. Although a bit more poppy than their sound, it still very much retains the overall same sort of vibe to it. Check this out if you maybe want to expand your horizons.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Go Do, Boy Lilikoi, Sinking Friendship, Around Us, Hengilás

Haunted Shores/Cyclamen - Split

Fast and Furious.

Haunted Shores is a tech metal band from New York City and Washington DC. Having released 2 EPs previous to this recording with different singers; new addition Chris Barretto, formerly of Periphery, was recently added to the group. Making the line-up Chris and Mark Holcomb, the other member who performs everything else.
The music on this EP from this groups side is different from their previous releases in the level of the performers being raised considerably. On Holcomb's end, the music is very thrashy and aggressive sounding, yet also very technical and melodic, remaining very interesting and catchy. Barretto's vocals are also quite well performed, with his screams sounding like Randy Blythe of Lamb of God, and his cleans being very melodic and high.
The first track, When In Oslo, is very much a technical thrash song, remaining constantly fast and aggressive. Chris' vocals are screamed for most of the song's duration, with cleans only emerging on the chorus. This track is overall very interesting and catchy without crossing the line into melodic death, still seeming to remain in the tech style.
The second track, Sentient Glow, is the better of the two tracks from this band's side. This track is very much, again within the same vain as the first, but features a bit more atmosphere and texturing. Chris' vocals also feature more cleans, the chorus being incredibly catchy and melodic and his screams more rhythmic sounding. This track has something that just makes it impossible to get out of your head, and is easily one of the best song on this split.

Cyclamen is another math/tech metal band from the UK. Having been formed originally as a one-man band, by guitarist/vocalist Hayato Imanishi, he has since expanded the project into a full band. This record follows in the style they have created for themselves in the past.
Cyclamen's style is very much in the vain of their main influence, SikTh. The music you'll find with this band is very chaotic and technical sounding, but often is also quite melodic at the same time. This is the more crazy of the two artists on this split.
The first track from this band, It's There, is very crazy to begin with, but soon after becomes very melodic. Very thrashy guitar solos are mixed with math-metal and almost In Flames-esque guitar harmonies. Imanishi's vocals reflect the influence of SikTh, remaining very throaty screams, while his cleans are quite soft sounding and bring a different atmosphere to the melodic parts.
The second track, Let Go, is a bit more straight-forward sounding, compared to the previous track's extreme verse section and it's melodic chorus, this track remains more mid-paced and groovy. The technical aspect is still here, but seems a bit more focused on a standard sounding groove rather than all out chaos. The elements of more post-metal influences, having Envy as another influence, being quite brooding and slower towards the end of the track.
Overall, this is a decent split EP with both bands releasing well crafted and technical songs. Fans of Periphery, Meshuggah, and SikTh will probably already know about these bands, but even if you haven't heard of them yet, you should still check them out. These two bands are both still up-and-coming, so check em' out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Sentient Glow, Let Go

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Senmuth - Deathknowledge & Lifeperception

In A Long Line of Kings.

This is the third Senmuth album released this year. Like the previous two, and all the others he has released over the past years, ethnic and Egyptian music is mixed into a different style. This one has a different sound than the others released this year.
As just stated above, this album's sound differs from "Chambers" and "Sekenenra." This album is more electronically based; and not in his usual industrial style. What you will find on here is ethnic melodies played with tribal percussion and synthesized and layered production, giving the vibe of symphonic music being mixed with electronic. Not a new idea, but once again well played on his part.
The overall flaw with this album is that compared to some of Senmuth's past work, this lacks the necessary components to draw a listener in, often falling into the background. Numerous listens reveal hidden textures and layers, but that is only to those who find the time to listen to this album with dedication. Tracks like Universe Principles or Pillars of Creation contain those types of textures as well as some cool orchestration, and when listened to solely are quite interesting.
Probably the highlight of this record is, obviously, Inaccessible Movement. This track holds elements that are found throughout this record, but are assembled together into a form that is music more attention grabbing. Taking from industrial, electronica, symphonic, trip-hop, and obviously ethnic folk and mixing them all into one, while other tracks seem to focus mainly on only one or two of these styles without them really blending together.
Like most tracks that are divided, they are actually one larger track; this occurs on this album's final two tracks, Approach Distance I and Approach Distance II. While the first part contains symphonic ambient music, the second is more "metal," to use the term. This track uses symphonic elements mixed with tribal trip-hop beats and a cool guitar melody.
Overall, this is a decent recording, but lacks any real repeat power unless you really want to hear everything inside these tracks. For fans, this is probably another record you're going to get either way, but if you are new to Senmuth, check out some of his older material. Electronic music with some cool sections but no real staying power.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Revival of The Reason, Inaccessible Movement, Avatarati, Approach Distance II

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Volumes - Volumes EP

Just Gotta Turn It Up!

Volumes is a California based tech/djent metal band. This is their debut release, as the band was formed only in the early stages of 2009. Their bio states a diverse collection of influences, and while they all might not be present within their sound, their sound is rather diverse.
The band site influences from metal and hardcore to hip-hop and funk. Like most artists within the new surge of tech metal/djent wave, the influence of Meshuggah is undeniable. Another similarity that these guys might get is from SikTh, but these guys aren't as technical or spastic as they were. These guys also have a lot of a groove, similar to a deathcore without the terrible lyrics, look, and vocals.
Breakdowns are used often in this band, not to the extent that they become the only thing within a song though. A prime example of the band utilizing all their influences would best be found in Wormholes, where the breakdowns are decent and the solo is quick and clean sounding. The use of these breakdowns are, unfortunately used in similar ways to deathcore and metalcore bands.
Another thing that is also up and coming within newer metal bands is the use of two vocalists; and not one doing one style and the other doing another. Like a lot of bands coming out now, dual vocalists who both scream or shout, Volumes has, not to say that this is bad. Volumes has enough differentiation between the two singers to recognize one from the other. While one has more of a hardcore shout style, the other has a more guttural yell.
Volumes is smart enough to include some Periphery into their sound, by utilizing lead guitar parts that are melodic and clean. Juxtaposing all the heaviness that one guitar brings, the other brings a lot of melodic and atmospheric parts into the songs. The chorus of Starstruck is a good example, where an almost proggy part leads the song before the heavier, rhythm guitar comes in.
In the final 2 tracks of the EP, Intake and Gateways, the band finally exhibits a proggy and melodic influence, to a much higher degree of. While Intake is an actually song that is probably the most melodic on the record the latter is an interlude with soft guitars, mellow drum work, and a peaceful piano melody. These ideas aren't new concepts at all, but a better influence into the band's sound.
Overall, this is a decent example of a fusion of modern deathcore with modern tech metal. While not overly mind-blowing, it is a better example of what a lot of bands are probably going to be doing in the future. This band definitely has potential and skill and is worth checking out if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Wormholes, Starstruck, Intake

House vs. Hurricane - Perspectives

The Sir Mix-A-Lot of Metalcore.

House vs. Hurricane is a progressive metalcore band from Melbourne. Siting influences from Poison The Well to Bjork to Circa Survive to Herbie Hancock, makes this band more diverse than the average metalcore band. But having diverse influences doesn't stop them from being a metalcore band.
The diverse collection of sounds and influences do make this album more entertaining than the average breakdown-chug-chug band, see all metalcore bands circa 2003. This band, as stated, is still very much a metalcore band, there are breakdowns found in almost every song. You will also find the super melodic guitar parts that make up a chorus section for a track as well.
But since this band is list as "progressive," they do have parts that make them stand out. The keyboards are in the vain of most metalcore bands now, that are adding elements of electronica and techno into the sound, but those are just a brief statement before getting to the prog part. The guitars are the section of the band that tend to make this band more technical or progressive than say Attack Attack. Guitar patterns have a bit of that newer and modern tech metal wankery that you'd find in bands like Periphery, but not quite as frequently used.
Song structures, from what I've heard, are not standard verse-chorus-verse-chorus with breakdowns thrown in randomly. Once again, breakdowns are periodically found within every song, but they don't make up the entire structure. In a song like So They Say, a structure is actually very well put together, with an actual progressive sound, when compared to other songs like Leaps & Bounds. Luckily, if you don't like some tracks, they're short enough that they're usually under 4 minutes.
Vocalists, main screamer Chris Dicker, sounds like you're typical metalcore screamer, using mainly a mid-range monotone scream. Guitarist/vocalist Ryan McLerie and bassist/vocalist Adam Meyers provide the average clean vocals for the band in a fairly usual tone. Screams dominate the album's vocal style, with cleans coming in during certain parts of the song.
While most of these songs are fairly typically metalcore heavy, the band does throw in a mellow melodic part within some of the later tracks, hear Complexing The Simple. You won't find a jazz section or experiment part though, so tough luck if you were expecting more Herbie or Bjork influence, it's mostly the keyboards and song structures that make up the experimental portion of the band's sound. The final 3 tracks seem to make up one longer track, with each track leading into the next; somewhat of a progressive idea, but the second track, II: Softlight, is actually pretty proggy compared to the rest of the album.
Overall, not that impressive, but this band has their moments, check the later half of the album. If you're a person whose really into metalcore, this is probably going to be the band that will get you into some more progressive music, and will probably be the band you think is the most progressive band in the world. Decent for what it is, some good parts, metalcore with experimentation; at least they're trying to be different.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Lessons Learnt, Experiences, So They Say, Orphan, Positively Shifted, III: Nevermore

Culted - Of Death and Ritual EP

A Step Into A Dark Closet.

Culted is a blackened doom metal band from mainly Canada. Following in the footsteps of fellow blackened doom styles of Brown Jenkins, mixing slow and bludgeoning riffs with raw and ambient sounds. The occasional odd time signatures help as well.
While, as stated above, this band is located mainly from within Canada, or at least the main portion of the band is, vocalist Daniel Jansson comes from Sweden. Having long distances separate the main band from their vocalist, these compositions are all created mainly through email and file sharing. While this may not be the most ideal situation from creating music, this band create some of the best blackened doom to come out since the now defunct Brown Jenkins.
The opening track, Spirituosa, is a short introduction of sorts. This is a song, but it really retains a different stylistic approach towards it's vibe than the other, longer tracks; feeling more crammed and almost punk-like as opposed to claustrophobic slow riffs. The track is not overly impressive when compared to the other tracks on this EP or on the band's previously released debut record, but fits as a good introduction to the following track.
Black Cough, Black Coffin is the second track and is really the track that the band's sound is primly location within. This track is slow and morbid, twisting atmospheres around each other into a bleak sounding song. Every instrument is clearly heard within this track, which actually increases it's dark and oppressing feeling emanating from the track. Vocals on here are actually just as twisted sounding as the rest of the track is. While this track is just over 10 minutes, it never becomes boring or disenchanting, luring the listener in closer with every riff.
Dissent is the third track on this EP. Unlike the previous tracks, this one has a more traditional doom sound to it, bringing to mind old Black Sabbath or Candlemass, but much darker. In the later portions of the track though, it morphs into a very brooding and ambient part where Daniel's vocals just sound agonizingly painful and sorrowful.
The final track, Whore, is a Swans cover. This is easily the most straightforward and clear sounding song on this EP, not to say that this song is cleaner, but is much easier to understand. The track is very repetitive and simplistically structured, but features an almost industrialized Sabbath sound to the guitars.
Overall, a very impressive EP and one of the better bands to be performing this style today. Even if you're not a fan of bands like Brown Jenkins, who I know I've repeated multiple times in this review, or Velnias, I would still suggest you check this record out. If you dig this, don't forget to look up their debut.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Black Cough, Black Coffin, Dissent