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

Monday, January 31, 2011

Thomas Giles - Pulse (2011)

Band: Thomas Giles
Country: Raleigh, North Carolina
Style: Progressive/Electronic Rock
Label: Metal Blade Records

I'm sure at least half of Between The Buried and Me's audience enjoys their music for the aggressive and metal aspects instead of the proggy musicianship and lengthy compositions, so they probably won't get too much out of lead vocalist/keyboardist Tommy Rodgers newest solo outing. I'm guessing there were more than a few fans, me included, that found his first solo outing, 2005's electro-dance outing "Giles," more than a little disappointing, but this new album takes his sound in a completely new direction. This is no dance record, this record takes the experimental principles of his main band and applies them into shorter, concise songs.
While not abandoning the electronic sound that was on his debut, this new album takes a far greater influence from his love of artists like Radiohead, The Verve, and Smashing Pumpkins rather than dance music. This album contains a lot of variety, something that shouldn't be new to BTBAM fans, but not in the same way as that band, making use of much more texture and layers of keyboards, electronics, vocals, and guitars that really expand a track like opener Sleep Shake from an average pop-song into something much more adventurous and exciting. However, there are still tracks on here that fall into the Giles sound, Catch & Release recalling something of a Nine Inch Nails going techno sound, while Medic is a track BTBAM fans should be able to get into, probably the easiest on here, due to it's more aggressive and metal sound, yet vocally, it sounds like something Mike Patton would do.
But even with all the heavily textured tracks, there are still songs like Mr. Bird or Scared that are more stripped down in comparison. The former track makes use of mostly piano and vocals, with an acoustic guitar solo coming in only during the bridge of the track before falling into electronic bleeps and bloops in it's closing seconds. The latter track is probably one of the most accessible tracks on here, yet very simplistic, making use of only Tommy's voice and an acoustic guitar.
Overall, this is a really, really good record that will definitely intrigue quite a few people, I think. This will definitely appeal to those that like BTBAM when they're at their most experimental, but I'd even recommend it to people that like more experimental rock and pop music, like the band's mentioned above, it has a wide value of appeal. This comes highly recommended, check this out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Reverb Island, Scared, Hypoxia

Kudzumind - Travel Songs For The New and Improved Future (2011)

Band: Kudzumind
Country: Albuquerque, New Mexico
Style: Progressive Rock
Label: Independent

I'll begin this by saying, no, this is not a retro-prog band, they don't recall the whole 60s and 70s rock, this band recalls more Porcupine Tree than King Crimson. I won't say that the whole Pink Floyd influence isn't on here though, because it's way too obvious to not mention. The ambient and spacious vibe that's present in both PT and PF are used throughout this record, which is something that works in their favor. There's also a pretty solid grasp of jazz fusion on here as well, hear Memories of Ghosts In Transit.
Despite their progressive leanings, this band still has a bit of a metal influence, even if it is the 70's metal, IE. Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, and Blue Cheer, hear The Aftermath. Nothing ever really gets too heavy on here, it gets distorted, but thanks to the production, it makes things sound a bit foggy at times, which actually manages to bring a bit of a vintage feel to the disc. The distortion honestly doesn't bring all that big a presence to this record, unfortunately; and what I mean by that is that the heavy parts don't really bring a heavier or more aggressive feel, and there aren't even riffs as much as chords, so the feeling from distorted to spacey doesn't differ all that much.
I have to say the biggest problem with this album is the songwriting, it's just pretty weak. A lot of these songs just aren't all that memorable, despite the few that are, it's just not enough to justify it's sixty-plus length. There just isn't enough memorability on here to make me want to listen to the whole record over and over again, though there are a few songs which I would say are solid and I would be able to play over and over. Another problem I have with this album are the vocals, they're just plain bad, at times they're tuneful and fit, but most of the time they are actually cringe worthy, hear Pulling The Curtains On Silence.
Overall, this is an album I'm really on the fence with, it has it's moments of being really cool and unique, but then there are moments that just bore me to tears. I could definitely understand if there are those that find their take on the 70's prog scene different and refreshing, but remember this is just my opinion. Check this out if you're into groups like Porcupine Tree of Pink Floyd or stuff like that.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: I Was A Wreck, Let Bygones Be Gone, Karnival Kalderon: Movement I

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Abysmal Dawn - Leveling The Plane of Existence (2011)

Band: Abysmal Dawn
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Technical Death Metal
Label: Relapse Records

Everyone goes through phases throughout the course of their life when it comes to music, some listen to nothing but pop and rap when they're in high school and then delve into pure electronica while their in college before labeling it as trash and noise for lounge and elevator music in adulthood. I've gone through a phase which involved me listening to almost everything that was labeled "technical death metal" by the metal achieves, which introduced me to this band. While their debut didn't do too much for me, I found their 2008 album, "Programmed to Consume," to actually be well worth several listens, as it had more than a few catchy tracks on there. This album sees the band being reduced to a trio, with a new drummer on board.
On this album, I think I'd say that the sound is more melodic than in the past, but is not as trash influenced either, which actually presents the album as a weird paradox, this album doesn't have the more speed metal riffs that made their last album so catchy, but is probably easier to latch onto because it's more melodic. This album feels much more like a death metal album, technical melodic, and modern as it may be, but a true and blue death metal album, just hear tracks like Perpetual Dormancy or Manufactured Humanity.
I can say with all honesty that when listening to this album, I was a bit disappointed. The songwriting on here is not as strong as the stuff present on their last album, and results in an album that just isn't as strong, not to say there aren't any catchy tracks, hear In Service of Time. I can't say whether the change with including more of a modern death metal sound was one that will appeal to a wider audience or not, but for me, I think, while the production is certainly good, I found it to not feel as authentic or alive as I like my death metal sounding, it feels too soulless, but that's just my opinion. For me, I found a few points on this album to be very underwhelming and rather boring, which is a shame because I was expecting good things from this release.
Overall, this is a decent release, it's not terrible, but it's not exactly what I expected. There are moments on here that are well worth multiple listens and are catchy, but there are also just as many that I found to be boring. If you like modern death metal, check this out, but otherwise, you can find far more original and talented groups out there, or just listen to their last album.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Rapture Renowned, Leveling The Plane of Existence, My Own Savior

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Interview - Spirit of The Forest's Ekinox & Phobetor

Around Christmas I started to make contact with Spirit of The Forest, a group that I found little actual information on. I was able to get into contact with Ekinox and asked to interview him about the band's latest release "Kingdom of Despair" and he accepted and passed along a few questions to Phobetor as well.

Ian: "Kingdom of Despair" has only been out for a little while, how are you feeling now that it's out?

Ekinox: We are totally happy with the results, the production is strong, the layout is great. I'm really proud of this album.

Phobetor: I'm very satisfied of this album.

Ian: I'm very curious how the name Spirit of the Forest came about, how did you come up with it?

Phobetor: The forest is one of the most powerful forces on our planet. The forest theme inspired me to do some bizarre riffs and I wrote songs based on it. Later when Ekinox joined his ideas we were looking for a project name and we've found spirit of the forest suits perfectly what our music is about.

Ian: I know that Spirit of The Forest started out as Phobetor's solo project, how did Ekinox, Lucyber, and Auster come into the band?

Ekinox: Phobetor was a friend of my younger brother, and I (Ekinox) had been into black metal making for quite some time. Phobetor made me listen to a couple of songs he had done, I enjoyed his songs so I decided to record bass on them, I sent the songs back to him. I proposed to help him make an album that would become "A Brew of Lightning and Terror", so we worked together on the writing process
and recorded a "pre-production" that I sent to Auster, who I worked with in my other band Superior Enlightenment, and just asked him if he would play on the album as a session musician. Finally Lucyber, who is also a friend of my younger brother, sent me some songs that he had made, on which he did vocals, so being all friends and knowing each other, it was a perfect atmosphere to create music.

Ian: I, personally, found the promotional photo of Phobetor back for the first album to really capture the band's sound in a unique image. Are there any plans to do a video or photo for this album?

Ekinox: This picture represents a lot what spirit of the forest is about, the forest.
In the layout of Kingdom of Despair, there are no actual member photos. We just gathered some beautiful pictures of the laurentian nature (Quebec, Canada).
The idea of a video is very interesting to us, but to make a video worth watching we would need a whole lot of cash probably. We're still on the looks for people who could help us in logistics.

Phobetor: I like this picture because it represents the feeling I have when I write a SOTF songs.

Ian: About how long did it take to write and record the new album?

Ekinox: The album was written in a couple of months, first we made a pre-production that we sent it to Auster so he could write his drum parts.
Then he sent back the drums to me and I started mixing it. Lucyber came in and did his vocals. After that I worked 3 months on the mixing and mastering, I tried many different approach before being 100% satisfied.

Ian: When you're writing songs is it more of a collaborative effort or does a single individual bring in completed songs to the group?

Ekinox: For the first 2 albums Phobetor had written some songs, he sent em to me, then I listen, and add some stuff (bass, acoustics guitars, leads, sometimes also entire parts.)
I also made some songs individually, if you look in the booklet of both our albums, all the credits are inside. For the lyrical parts we all work on it together while Phobetor creates most of the lyrics, I motivate Lucyber in the studio to get the best out of his performance, as a producer would do.

Phobetor: Yes it's collaborative in writing process but Ekinox work a lot alone on recording and mastering and I thanks him for that.

Ian: Would you call Spirit of The Forest a pagan metal band? How would you describe the band's sound?

Ekinox: Yes that's what I think of SOTF as a musical style, the base of our music is mostly Black metal, but in our lyrical concepts we do not approach satanism, so we can't fit into the black metal genre for this reason, our lyrics are very Pagan/mythological/misanthrope oriented. Man destroys nature, nature destroys man, from chaos nature moves on.

Ian: Your previous record "A Brew of Lightning and Terror" was well praised from what I've read, how do you feel about the record?

Ekinox: We had a blast making it. I like how it was repetitive which made it a little bit more atmospheric like Burzum or Summoning. In production terms it is also more raw and we kept all the guitar scratches and feedback. I think that the production department is an important factor in making a good album, the overall sound, mix, and mastering and details are a great part of the personality of an album that is why from an album to another, Sotf sound is in constant change, so each album we make will have a "soul" of it's own.

Phobetor: I like this album very much because it's feeling is totally different than "Kingdom of Despair" and Ekinox helped a lot on this album too. The guitar leads he did on my songs are really amazing!

Ian: Your debut has what I guess is considered a more "traditional" black metal sound comparable with groups like Burzum and other groups like that, but this new one doesn't feel as raw as that one, was this a conscious production decision?

Ekinox: I think the production has a lot to do with this, and also "Kingdom of Despair" as a whole lot more details and layers than "A Brew of Lightning and Terror". When in the studio for "Kingdom of Despair" we used
different amp settings, and instruments, and I worked a lot more on the mix and mastering, "A Brew of Lightning and Terror" was mixed and mastered in 2 days. While it took 3 months for KOD.

Ian: This new album is much more melodic and psychedelic sounding compared to your debut. Is there anything that you set out to do with this record that you didn't do on the debut, or was this more of a natural progression?

Ekinox: It was a natural progression, maybe the fact that I contributed more to the song writing process. On our first album I had written only 2songs and contributed a couple of riffs on the others. On KOD I contributed on every song and Phobetor asked me anyway to put on some details. Our goal was to make an album that we all like and are satisfied with.

Ian: I have to say that there are a lot of really great, catchy riffs that are on this album, my favorite would be Solitude, would you consider riffs to be a strong part in your songwriting? What do you try to achieve when writing new songs?

Ekinox: Personally, I think Solitude is the greatest song I have ever written, the feeling from it is wide. Yes we work with riffs a lot, use the same riff in different ways, sometime you can have 5 different versions of the same riff in a song, if you overlap them it all fits together, and I think it's an interesting way to make a song evolve. When we write, we try to capture a certain feeling some songs can be evil, or folkish, sad or even beautiful. So we try to make each song interesting based on the riffs, the evolution of those riffs, the mood you get from the riffs and also the production details and effects and the song structure. Our songs never have the same structure like Immortal or Satyricon for example riff 1 / pre chorus / chorus/ pre chorus/ chorus it gets boring and all songs are the same. Each song has it's own approach when we arrange it.

Phobetor: We want to do different types of songs and I think variety is one of our forces. Personally when I write I take care of everything in a song. The progression is important, the feeling is important.

Ian: I found the folk elements on this album to really stand out compared to a lot of other folk influenced groups. The interludes especially caught me off guard as to how "natural" sounding they were. How strong would you consider folk music to play a part in Spirit of The Forest's sound?

Ekinox: I wrote all the interludes while we were waiting to get the lyrics done for some songs. We thought it would be a great thing to get that pagan/medieval feel that we like in old black metal. It gives more "color" to the album in an artistic way and adds a mystical vibe to it.

Ian: Is there any sort of concept to "Kingdom of Despair"?

Ekinox: Yes there is in a certain way, all our songs from the first album and second are linked (except Solitude, Battles of The Northern Seas). It's all about nature taking over humanity, the chaotic way of nature, which we can't control because we are just a part of it. When nature rises, humanity will hide like rats, til there is no air to breathe, no food, nor light.

Phobetor: Yes the concept is chronological and the third album will have some special things in this way...

Ian: How much inspiration do you take from nature? What sort of role does it in your life?

Ekinox: Everything we do as humans is based around nature, when you put gas in your car, it comes from the land, so the role of nature in our lives is everything, it's the nature of things. The forest is very inspiring, first it's beautiful, wild and free. But it is also old and full of wisdom.

Ian: How do you see modern life/city life compared to nature, how do you believe they coexist right now? What are your personal thoughts on the struggle of man vs. nature?

Ekinox: They do not coexist. Natures purpose is to serve our addictions to consume in our human way of thinking. But in a certain way, nature will always win over man. When nature is gone, humanity will end and nature will rise back, and evolution will bring something new or different. It's everlasting chaos and uncertainty. It's a force we try to deal with but can't control.

Ian: Since it's the end of the year, what have been some of your favorite releases to come out, metal or otherwise?

Ekinox: I got a couple of albums lately wich are awesome, Burzum-Belus, 1349-Demonoir, Enslaved-Axioma Ethica Odini, Marduk-Wormwood, Borgne-Monarque, Chasse-Gallerie. I'm listening to black metal a lot still, and here in Quebec there is a pretty active scene right now compared to when I started in 97. A lot of quality releases in many different styles of black metal.

Ian: That's all the questions that I have, thank you for your time. The last words are yours.

Ekinox: Thanks for the interview, hope you can understand everything, I'm actually french. We are now working on our third album which we already have 8 songs for. We will record it at the end of winter or spring.

Phobetor: Thanks for the interview and for your interest on our music.
I don't think I can say more than to just check this band out, "Kingdom of Despair made it into my top 50 albums of 2010 for a reason. I can only hope that this third album is able to at least match KoD. Listen to these guys for sure.


Friday, January 28, 2011

Amogh Symphony - The Quantum Hack Code (2010)

Band: Amogh Symphony
Country: Mumbai, India
Style: Technical/Progressive Metal
Label: Independent

Anyone that was familiar with Amogh Symphony's debut album, 2009's "Abolishing The Obsolete System," knows that there isn't anything simplistic about this project. The music takes from progressive metal, technical jazz and fusion, world music, electronic music, and death metal and just blurs the line between them all. This album carries on that off-the-wall combination from the debut, but takes it in a bit more melodic direction, allowing melodies and solos to be memorable rather than just technical.
Being a part of the up-and-coming instrumental prog scene, including genres like djent and tech metal, this album features more focus on riffs and emoting feelings through each song. Now, from what I've read from other people that have listened to this album, there are those that think this is a cool album, and then there are those who believe it could have been a cool album. The dividing line being the concept of the album and making use of spoken word intros and outros within each track on here.
I have to give it to project leader Vishaljit Singh not only for being a skilled guitarist, but also for his excellent bass playing, hear a track like The Quantum Barrier Code Interpretation By Mainframe or X - Karna: Activated for some jazzy bass-lines. The playing on this album is consistent all the way through, demonstrating, obviously, technical and progressive performances and structuring. Session drummer Jim Richman also displays stellar playing on here as well, being able to move fluidly throughout more jazzy, quiet moments and full-blasting double-bass work used with the heavier and more metallic side. Speaking for performances alone, I don't think you could really fault this album, in my opinion.
Overall, this is a cool album, if a bit over technical for it's own good. Despite the increased use of melody and catchy bass and guitar lines, this album, personally, I found to be still too technical. If you like jazzy, technical, progressive music, then this is an album you definitely want to get your hands on.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Dvorzhetskii's Prophecy, Polymorphic Infection: Releasing Proteus, Decoded: Karnosiris

Cleric - Regressions (2010)

Band: Cleric
Country: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Style: Avant-Garde/Progressive Death Metal
Label: Web of Mimicry

Cleric was a band that I knew about for quite a while last year, but only recently was able to check them out. Finding out about them through Label owner, Trey Spruance (Secret Chiefs 3), who liked their demo enough to sign them. This album definitely shows what I think he liked in them, it's takes a lot of balls to open an album with a nineteen minute long song and manage to keep a listener's interest. Actually, to bring up an interesting point, most of the "real" songs on this album top ten minutes, with short interludes breaking one track from another.
If you're looking for something unique within extreme metal then you've come to the right place, I've thought that this album is what would happen if you took Cephalic Carnage, Neurosis, Converge, and Between The Buried and Me and threw them into a blender. This album moves from rampaging spastic hardcore to quiet ambiance at the drop of a hat. Moments of total extreme chaos is well balanced with moments of more ambient and tranquil, as well as experimental, calmness. In addition to having plenty of metal and hardcore, as well as mathcore, influence dominating most of their music, elements of stuff like jazz and world music also make their way into these songs, only adding to the unique take on metal these guys have.
I have to say, that while this album is totally off-the-wall, unique, and really cool, it lacks memorability, not to say it's totally forgettable, but I'd like some catchy riffs or vocal lines thrown in here and there. The song lengths on here, despite being really cool and avant-garde to have songs being over ten minutes, is a bit taxing, if songs were shortened down a bit more, I really think this band could become an underground success. Tracks like A Rush of Blood or The Boon really have a cool sound, with thick distorted, but jazzy bass lines that cut through the rapid fire guitar riffs and stand out. Honestly, I have to say that with the more I listened to this album however, I realized that I was listening more to the musicianship, which is top notch by the way, rather than the vocals, and when the vocals were present I kind of just pushed them into the background of what I was hearing.
Overall, this is a really cool release that should interest a lot of people. While I hope that these guys hone their songwriting abilities a bit more to help make some more memorable songs, this is a really solid debut album. If you want something unique and extreme sounding, then this is an album you should definitely check out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Allotriophagy, Cumberbund, Poisonberry Pie

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Delirium Bound - Delirium, Dissonance, and Death (2010)

Band: Delirium Bound
Country: Norway
Style: Black Metal
Label: Adversum

I don't think I've heard an album title so bold and descriptive of the music inside as this one in a long time. There's no fooling around with this album, it's pretty self-explanatory, you should really know what you're in for by reading the title. There's no proggy instrumental breaks, no big and melodic choruses, and no breakdowns, only blackened thrash in it's purest form.
There's really no room for trying to break new ground, this album pretty much plays a standard sound, but makes up for it's rather uninspired brethren, within the black metal genre right now, and I'm referring to groups that stick to only the traditional, meaning no adventurous spirits, to clarify myself. The music feels primal and very natural sounding, as if it was being played on the spot, mind you, it's doesn't feel improvised. In a way, it's some of the most authentically personal feeling black metal I've ever heard, it doesn't feel like these guys simply started writing a song as much as they played whatever described their emotions, hear a song like Coronated In Accidents. Having said all that, there are still some really catchy guitar or vocal lines held within this album.
From what I've found on this project, it was meant to be a vessel for mainman Kim Sølve's more aggressive and violent musical explorations. I don't think anyone who listens to songs like Zippermouth or Death Kings will deny that there's some twisted stuff going on in here. Thrash metal is as much a part of this album as the black metal parts, though the latter is obviously more prominent, the tendencies to go into the more, I'd call it violent, sources of thrash, IE early Slayer, Metallica, and Kreator. This album also feels, the way it was produced, more like a thrash album than a black metal one, there isn't a large presence of atmosphere, remaining very barren and stripped down.
Overall, this is a very cool record, definitely not bad, but it has moments that are better than others. I'd like to hear this band inject maybe a bit more of an all out assault, actually, becoming even more aggressive or violent sounding if they do another album. If you like blackened thrash that's stripped down to the bare essentials, than this is for you.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: God-Faced Dogs, Delirium Bound, Knifepoint Departure

Yurei - Working Class Demon (2010)

Band: Yurei
Country: Norway
Style: Progressive Black Metal/Avant-Prog
Label: Adversum

Coming from another corner of the black metal world, comes this project, whose mainbrain is not the average joe fronting a black metal group. This record takes a far more left-field approach towards composition and playing, not focusing so much on making songs aggressive or fast or catchy, but weird and abstract. This is not an album for people wanting to hear black metal that is "standard" or "regular", this is unique, no matter what box you end up putting it in.
The abstraction that this album is will surely confuse any person listening to it, whether that was intentional or not, it happens. The riffs, if you want to call them that, and melodies are very jazzy and dissonant, or not linear to put it simply, hear Your Black Waters for a clear example. I doubt that a lot of people will be able to say, "Oh, that's really catchy," or be able to really hum along to a melody line on here simply due to the dissonant guitar work on here. In a similar way to the Idolater record that I reviewed last month, this album is also quite hard to get into and disorienting. The vocals are also quite odd, while most of them are done cleanly, in an odd sort of speaking way, there are also several times where a baritone vocal comes in, which in the track above actually sent shivers up my spine. Actually, I don't know if others will hear this, but the vocals on here remind me of Paul Kuhr (Novembers Doom) for some reason.
With all the dissonant chords and melodies on here you'd think that this album would be totally self-indulgent and proggy, which it really isn't. I don't think there's a song on here that even has a solo on it, even the instrumental Velvet Demon. There are also quite a few choruses and riffs that manage to worm their way into your skull after a few listens, once again, I don't think I'd dare to say this album is catchy, though it is memorable. I was surprised at the sheer cerebral take on which this album left me once it finished, it felt as though I had just thrust my head into a wall.
Overall, this is a tough listen, and I suggest it to anyone that want to really check out something original or weird. This is definitely not something you'll put on if you want to rock out or headband, it's more of something to put on if you're feeling up to some avant-metal. Definitely check this out if you like weird music in any form.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Steamhead, I Am Champagne, Vendetta

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ascension - Consolamentum (2010)

Band: Ascension
Country: Saxony, Germany
Style: Black Metal
Label: WTC Productions

Bursting forth from beneath the scenes of underground black metal comes Ascension. While very little is actually known about the members themselves, I've learned that they do share some affiliation with the mighty Katharsis. There's a similar interest in the darker realms of religion and mysticism in both bands, as well as a keen sense for songwriting, but besides that, you'll have to find out yourself.
Musically, this thing really just rips itself out from the haunting intro, Open Hearts, with Grey Light Sibling, and just thrusts itself inside your brain. This track in particular, not only with it's eerie and discordant sounding riffs, but also with the disturbing screams and howls in the background really worms itself inside of your head. I found that this record to have a really unique sounding atmosphere, it was unlike any other I've heard from black metal, it's not as dark or morose sounding, it's not so much bright or hopeful, as much as introspective, maybe even revelatory, if that makes sense. The entire record feels like a single "story" if you will, where you're being taken through a person's life from birth to death.
I have to say that (like with a lot of the other releases I'm reviewing this week) if I had heard this album earlier this year, it would have definitely made my end of the year list. This thing is so addicting and abstract sounding at the same time. The riffs are so catchy and melodic, but never cheesy or sounding overly melodic, as in, it doesn't sound as though the band is trying to make themselves accessible. The riffs on here, as said, are incredibly catchy, while remaining firmly black metal, there's hints of thrash and progressive metal elements in here as well, hear Grant Me Light for example. The album closer, and title-track, Consolamentum, is also one of the best album closers I can remember from last year, in my honest opinion, it's totally progressive without being "progressive," it's being forward thinking and original without showing off or becoming too self-indulgent.
Overall, a fantastic record, there isn't really anything bad I can say about it. There's something here that's definitely been honed and crafted, as this does not sound like just an ordinary debut album. Definitely one for any person that considers themselves a fan of black metal, a must for sure.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Clandestine Blaze - Falling Monuments (2010)

Band: Clandestine Blaze
Country: Lahti, Finland
Style: Black Metal
Label: Northern Heritage

I don't think this was a release anyone expected to hear late last year. Back when everyone was packing up for the end of the year, this album was released, with almost no one being aware of it. Four years after his last album, "Church of Atrocity," Mikko Aspa releases his long awaited follow-up record, not to say he hasn't been busy with another big group.
This album picks up, sonically, right where his last record ended, you have a very melodic black metal sound that's fast, but not blazing or blasting, for example Endurance of Supremacist Ritual. A lot of the tracks on here are fairly standard sounding black metal, with not a lot standing out to me, unfortunately. I found several of these tracks to kind of blend together for me, which I haven't found on some of the project's other releases; and not to say that this record doesn't have it's moments either. There are some tracks on here, like Call of The Warrior or Discordant Howls of The Tormented that have a more epic and grandiose sound to them, in both their melodies, and to the keyboards as well, that make them stand out.
I have to say that the production on here isn't really really my cup of tea, personally, I found it a bit too dry. I would have liked to hear this record a bit more open sounding and maybe more atmospheric than it is. I found that the guitars had a nice fuzzy tone to them that give this album a pretty raw and live sound, which may have been the intention from the more scarce production.
Overall, this is a pretty decent release that will most likely be better received by other than by me. Like I said, this just isn't as good as some of the earlier albums were for me, but it's still worth listening to in my opinion. If you like melodic black metal that isn't cheesy or uses a lot of keyboards, than this is an album for you.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Call of The Warrior, Bloodsoil, Discordant Howls of The Tormented

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Emancipator - Safe In The Steep Cliffs (2010)

Band: Emancipator
Country: Portland, Oregon
Style: Trip-Hop/Downtempo
Label: 1320 Records

I'll start this off by saying that if I had heard this album last year, it would have for sure, made it to my top 50 of the year. This project was founded by young producer Douglas Appling and has steadily been gaining recognition for his clean production and unique take on instrumental trip-hop. This album has something so entrancing, and interesting, about it and just really sucks me in. It has the right sounds that really make this album a really majestic and beautiful album.
The key word for this album is beautiful, in my opinion, as it's just so ambient and open sounding. The beats aren't overwhelming, but adding just enough of a rhythm to keep this from becoming background music. The use of more natural sounds on here also adds some inexplicable quality to the music on here that just makes it sound "natural" and huge. The atmospheres on here definitely capture the beauty of the wilderness, tracks like Black Lake or Vines sound like they're were being played at the top of a mountain looking down on the world. The entire disc just sucked me in from start to finish and made me sway back and forth to it's beats as well as become hypnotized by it's quiet melodies. Probably my only complaint comes from the length of this record, with the last handful of tracks kind of dragging on, but even that's pretty minor for me.
I don't want people thinking that this is just another run-of-the-mill instrumental trip-hop album though, it's so much more. The use of piano and saxophone on Kamakura or the guitar solo in Nevergreen just give it that extra push that really takes it home for me, adding in the elements of jazz/fusion into it's being. The extra hints of more classical/symphonic elements within the latter half of the album also really hit home with me, much more string, cello, violin, viola, sort of stuff being used for example, which I personally love. I don't know if other people will hear this, but I could almost hear this being a movie score/soundtrack at times, hear tracks like All Through The Night or Rattlesnake.
As you can tell, I obviously love this record, so I don't need to tell you how good it is. All I can say is that there's quite a bit of trip-hop I listen to, but while there are several groups/projects that I like, there aren't many that I love, this album is definitely of the latter. If you like experimental, ambient, instrumental trip-hop stuff, I can't recommend this more highly.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Monday, January 24, 2011

Ulcerate - The Destroyers of All (2011)

Band: Ulcerate
Country: Auckland, New Zealand
Style: Technical/Brutal Death Metal
Label: Willowtip Records

A few years ago, Ulcerate lost all but founding drummer Jamie Saint Merat, who picked up the pieces to continue the band. That record that followed the debut, 2009's "Everything Is Fire," was considered less than spectacular in comparison to the debut, but this new album takes it to another level. This new album expands upon the the last albums adventurous movements into slower and more melodic territory and really takes this album into unexpected directions.
This record no longer contains long, winding sections of blast-beats and brutal technicality, instead, more atmospheric and mid-paced sections are being placed throughout any given song, making the entire disc more dynamic. Opener, Burning Skies, doesn't ever really hit speeds that one usually associates with tech-death, staying fairly mid-paced, but having some great dissonant parts as well as some more crushing doomy ones as well. It becomes obvious by the second track that this album is not one that will blow your head off with technical wankery, instead, it chooses to slowly grind away at you. However, Merat never lets the band seem like they've gone sludge or doom, hear the end of Cold Becoming where he's bulldozing his way through the slower paced riffs at tremendous speeds.
I found that even though this record was slower, I'll admit that there were a few times that it did seem overly slow, even for me, there are some really solid riffs on here, the opening riff of Omens is really dissonant and discordant sounding. In fact, I found that the more dissonant sounding chords actually were the parts that I usually enjoyed the most. I'd say that the middle of the record is really the only dip in this record, as the beginning has a nice slow and melancholic vibe to it while the ending feels a lot more rampant and aggressive in comparison.
Overall, I really enjoyed this record even though it is much more of a grower, to me anyway, than their previous releases. This album definitely will have some older fans scratching their heads and saying that this is boring, I've already seen it, but I can't name another band that's gone through playing the usual tech-death riffs and later slowed everything down to a crawl so effortlessly. If you like doom metal with an emphasis on grinding parts or you like death metal that's a bit slower, definitely look into this album for sure.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Dead Oceans, The Hollow Idols, The Destroyers of All

Sunday, January 23, 2011

MyGrain - MyGrain (2011)

Band: MyGrain
Country: Helsinki, Findland
Style: Melodic Death Metal
Label: Spinefarm

For those not yet acquainted with the likes of MyGrain, this is their third full-length and continues their trend of combining melodic death metal, AKA mid-period In Flames, with the atmospheric textures of a group like Omnium Gatherum. I know the melodic death metal genre is really divided nowadays, with some bands leaning more towards modern metalcore, others leaning more towards a raw and aggressive old-school sound; looking at it that way, these guys lean more towards the metalcore end of the spectrum, but are certainly not a metalcore band. These guys are still very rooted within solos, both guitar and keyboard, and technical playing rather than breakdowns and 2-steps. The clean vocals on here also never go into the realm of "cheesiness" or dime-a-dozen metalcore vocalist kind of sound, hear the chorus of Dust Devils and Cosmic Storms.
This new album takes a step in the right direction, leaving behind the almost techno/trance keyboards that were present on their last album. The keyboards on here are used in a more atmospheric and textural ways, instead of providing melodies. For me, the use of keyboards in this style, much like the aforementioned Omnium Gatherum, really makes a band sound epic and, dare I say, even progressive at times, A Clockwork Apocalypse for example.
I have to say that with all the above being very true, I found that the greatest leap forward for this band was their songwriting, no longer simplistic, for the most part, melodic death songs, on here, they add more variety. The more atmospheric and progressive passages allow this album to feel more complete and more original than just another modern melo-death album. It's hard not to think these guys are at least trying different, even if it's just the strained high singing on Eye of The Void, you can tell that at least these guys have an aim to sound like no one else.
Overall, this is a very solid melodic death album, and this is coming from a guy that's become pretty disillusioned with the melo-death genre in recent years. This album definitely takes these guys to the next level, which hopefully they are able to maintain for their next releases. If you like melodic death metal with a more modern production and a bit experimental, than definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Dust Devils and Cosmic Storms, Trapped In An Hourglass, Cataclysm Child

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tre Watson - Death of A Monarch (2011)

Band: Tre Watson
Country: Baltimore, Maryland
Style: Tech Metal
Label: Independent

I reviewed Tre Watson's debut album, "Lexicon of The Human Subconscious," last year and it featured a problem that I think a lot of instrumental projects that come from the djent scene suffer from, an idea does not make a song. From opener ...And The Horse You Rode In On, onwards, it's clear that Tre has learned that songwriting is the key to a good album not just some ideas that sound cool. This album shows a great leap forwards in all senses of the word, clearly showing us a greater talent than just another guitar player that likes to play like Meshuggah and shred.
I'd say that, and this is becoming increasingly true with a lot of solo artists from this scene, melody and songwriting is clearly starting to take precedence over chugging chords and breakdowns, this album, as well as the new Keith Merrow and Dan Dankmeyer, melodies and catchy riffs are becoming more prominent. Technical playing is still very much a part in this album, hear His Name Is Clover J. Fields and He Hates Babies, but tracks like Downfall of The Stars or The Thunderside have great guitar hooks that are so much more appealing, to me anyway. The influence of metalcore, melodic death metal, or just plain traditional metal has seeped its way into the riffs on this album.
However, with the above being true, that doesn't mean this album is without it's flaws. No Longer A Planet explores elements of techno that just feels out of place on here. The mathcore sound of My Nan and The AmTran also feels like it could have been left out of the album, not that it's bad, it just doesn't seem to have the same feel as other tracks; but I can certainly see where he's coming from, fans of The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza will enjoy this track a lot. However, in comparison to the debut, there are more pros than cons on here.
Overall, I feel as though this is a good leap forward for Tre on this album. I think if Tre continues on the path he's on now, another release or two, and he might have a landmark album on his hands. If you liked his debut this one is at least ten times better, definitely check this out if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Pluto, Buzzwords and Bandwagons, Will You Be Ready?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wormfood - Posthume (2011)

Band: Wormfood
Country: Rouen, France
Style: Avant-Garde/Gothic Metal
Label: Mala Fortuna

Fans of Wormwood can finally celebrate, as this new album has finally been released. This album has been in the works for about six years, though it's only been completed as of recently, fans have expected this for the six years since the band's last album. For those that don't know what to expect from the band, there's will plenty of diversity and melody, but also a sense of weirdness.
This is a band that has it's own sound, but isn't quite progressive, like Dream Theater or Enslaved, or avant-garde, like Solefald or Mr. Bungle, instead taking pieces from metal's different sub-genres and blending them together in a more conjuctive way. Opener Les Noces Sans Retour essentially gives you a good picture as to what the rest of the album will sound like; it's pretty slow moving, think more depressive black metal, the good bands, with a doomy vibe, with the occasional thrash riff put in for good measure, then going into a very proggy part near it's conclusion. Other tracks don't ever tread that much ground, but still manage to cross a solid amount of territory. Other sounds that cross on here, include psyche rock and folk, sludge, and even a bit of classical as well, hear Troubles Alimentaires for a bit of each. I have to say however that there are several moments on here that sound like Type O Negative, Paul Bento actually plays guest tabla and sitar on here.
I could see the main point of frustration on this album being the vocals, which end of ranging from near psychotic yelling to aggressive growling to a low croon, a varied range but one that can be a bit tiring. All the album is sung in French as well, which might get a few people turned off right away, most of it is sung, so it is clear as to what he is saying. I wouldn't say that his vocals were a high point for me, but some tracks were better than others. Some tracks like Le Seul Amour, which actually aren't that experimental when it comes to the vocals I found more enjoyable than Vanité Des Amants, a track that seemed to include all the styles found above, vocally, and just wasn't as entertaining.
Overall, a very solid release that is definitely very different sounding from anything else out there. I could see a lot of people not liking this album, but give it a shot, it's actually pretty good once you get past the vocals. If you like experimental metal, this should be up your alley for sure.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Les Noces Sans Retour, Passage A Vide, Le Seul Amour

Bruce Lamont - Feral Songs For The Epic Decline (2011)

Band: Bruce Lamont
Country: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Avant-Garde/Drone
Label: At A Loss Records

Coming off of two releases last year, not including his many guest appearances as well, Bruce Lamont managed to finally put out his debut solo record. Expressing ideas that aren't so definable, if his main band, Yakuza, was definable, by his many projects. This is a journey of an album and is an experience that should be taken in from start to finish.
This album really takes a different approach towards the avant-garde jazz metal of Yakuza, the industrial metal/rock of Circle of Animals, the soundtrack metal of Bloodiest, or his Led Zeppelin tribute band; on here, you have a mix of singer/songwriter folky acoustic stuff, long drone passages, industrial soundscapes, and hints of his more metal side. Opener, One Who Stands On The Earth, can give you somewhat of a rough sketch as to what you'll get with the rest of the album, but once again, it's gonna be a rough sketch. There's enough going on in a single track to keep anyone entertained, but if you're coming into this expecting it to resemble his other bands, this might throw you for a bit of a loop. The journey that was mentioned above is certainly one that will test a listener's patience, as some tracks will remain very quiet and bleak, the darkly textured acoustic track Year Without Summer, is in stark contrast to the noisy industrial assault of Deconstructing Self-Destruction.
This isn't so much of a heavy record, in any sense, it's textured and it's layered, but it's never going to overwhelm you with how much sound is present at a single time. There's always just enough to keep the song interesting, but not make it sound like a wall of sound, which works in this album's advantage because I don't think a big production would have made this album feel as ritualistic as it does. I think the word ritualistic is actually the best term for this album, as it does feel like a ceremony at more than one time, with ups and downs, long passages that just entrance the listener and, despite not doing drugs to this album, still managed to fully capture my attention.
Overall, this is a very good record, personally, it's not as good as Yakuza's, but that's just my opinion. I could see a lot of stoners putting this record on and just tripping out to it, I could actually see Lamont being stoned while making some of these tracks actually. If you like experimental music in any capacity, this comes highly recommended.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: One Who Stands On The Earth, Disgruntled Employer, 2 Then The 3

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Falkenbach - Tiurida (2011)

Band: Falkenbach
Country: Düsseldorf, Germany
Style: Viking/Folk Metal
Label: Napalm Records

Back in the mid-90s and mid-2000s, Falkenbach released some of the best material to come from the viking metal scene. It's been six years since his, being main man Vratyas Vakyas, AKA Markus Tümmers, last release, 2005's "Heralding - The Fireblade." This new album continues the trend of increasing folk instrumentation over his metal sound. The production on this new album is also better, bringing a lot more sounds to the forefront of this album, especially acoustic guitars and flutes, the two things that really stood out to me.
This album really embraces the folk roots of Vakyas' musical backbone, making use of, what I consider to be, Celtic influenced melodies and various other folk instruments. Though Takyas has said in the past that he doesn't consider Falkenbach to be a 'metal' band, denying any influence from the genre at all on his music, tracks like Time Between Dog and Wolf might give you the impression he's lying. But with the overwhelming sense of melody and folk instrumentation on here, the metal elements within most of these songs isn't even all that prominent, used mainly as a foundation. The sound that Vakyas has developed throughout the years on his records has gradually become one that truly sounds epic and full, seeing from how much he says he only listens to classical music, it definitely comes through on here at least.
If you're expecting something heavy, like metal, you might be disappointed by this, and Falkenbach's newer material as well, as the distorted guitars are almost never the main focal point in a song. When they are, they're nice and loud, but they almost never do anything other than provide the backbone, I know I already said this. In a track like In Flames, an extremely catchy track by the way, the guitars play some rather simple chord progressions throughout the track, while more symphonic elements back it up and more melodic acoustic/clean guitars have the main melody; it's not the most technical sound, but it's one that definitely lends itself to Falkenbach's sound.
Overall, this is a very good album, a lot of folk metal groups are very generic, either turning into a Korpiklaani clone or trying to fuse it into black metal, which is a style that's been tried to death as well. This group/project is one of the few from the folk scene that can truly be called an original and having it's own sound. Definitely an album for fans of folk or melodic sounding metal, I'd even recommend this to someone that likes traditional folk music.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Where His Ravens Fly, In Flames

Oskoreien - Oskoreien (2011)

Band: Oskoreien
Country: Valencia, California
Style: Black Metal/Neo-folk
Label: Seventh Seal Records

Coming off of his more viking and folk metal background, of both the demos of this project and his involvement in supergroup Folkearth, this debut full-length album shows main-man Jay Valena taking a decidedly more black metal approach. Not to say that this record is completely devoid of his folk roots, as they are still very present on this album, but they are not the dominant force on it. There's a greater sense of natural sounding progression and melodicism, it's not overly cheesy or "happy," if you will, like some bands tend to be in that scene, walking a very fine line between the being original and sounding like a parody of what the intention was.
What I noticed throughout the album was the similarities to another band that come from a similar sort of sonic mix, Agalloch. As Valena, on his bandcamp page, sites folk, black metal, and post-rock among his influences, or as his tags, and those are all styles that Agalloch has taken from in their sound. The acoustic guitars bring the right amount of folk tinged moments, River of Eternity, to soften the blow from the more aggressive black metal tremolo picking, Illusions Parish, while the ambiances that build up within the tracks definitely show at least a bit of homage to post-rock. I also have to give it to Valena for his vocal performance on here, while his screams are nothing great, fairly typical, I found his clean vocals to remind me of one of my favorite singers, Garm (Ulver, ex-Arcturus, ex-Borknagar) and his style of clean vocals on the early records from those bands.
Coming from a production standpoint, I don't know if this was recorded in a professional studio or not, but the very fuzzy guitars, hear Entropic Collapse, really bring a unique quality to this band, not unlike the early Agalloch records, that makes it feel more alive, if you will. There's enough variation to keep thing from being overproduced, but definitely still raw enough to feel natural and authentic, where I like it to be. When comparing it to the new Agalloch record, and I realize this comparison is becoming both tiring and right here, is actually a bit unfair, however is not as clean or well-produced like that one was, for those that might get that idea.
Overall, this is a great record and it's really well performed and recorded. I could see a lot of black metal fans maybe skipping over this, just because of not knowing about it mainly, but also because of the cover or Valena's work in Folkearth, but that would be a mistake. Definitely look for this album, you won't regret it.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Illusions Parish, Transcendence

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

ЗАВОДЬ - Ритуал EP (2011)

Country: Kharkov, Ukraine
Style: Black Metal/Hardcore
Label: Independent

The first EP, though they had a split and demo before this, from this Ukrainian blackened hardcore band proves to fit that sound perfectly. I only just found this band scoring blogs for new music this year, and ended up finding this little gem in the ruff of some other mediocre stuff. Despite being only four songs long, there's a great amount of potential held within here, as many people have noticed as well, as these guys are being compared to the great Panopticon.
Sonically, these guys are more black metal than hardcore, though there are those moments where they delve into some more crusty sounds. These guys stick to the tremolo picked riffing for the most part with everything else kind of running just as fast, trying to keep up, hear II. Despite being labeled hardcore, there isn't really a lot on here, besides the crusty/noisy sounding production, a lot of this is actually pretty melodic and memorable, with a few brief forays into dissonance on III. I'll be honest, I liked this EP a lot, so it's hard to call this a complaint, but the thing I found that maybe dulled the experience of listening to this was the production on the drums. They aren't bad, but they sound a bit too tinny for my personal taste.
Overall, this is really solid and I enjoyed this quite a bit. I can't say that what's on here is original, but what's on here is crafted well and is done precisely. I'm looking forward to a full-length from these guys, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: I, III

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Nociceptor - Among Insects EP (2011)

Band: Nociceptor
Country: Dallas, Texas
Style: Tech Metal/Djent
Label: Independent

Nociceptor is a band that has slowly been gaining recognition within the djent/tech metal world recently thanks to their debut album, "Sum of All Scars," finally starting to get some attention. This new EP features two re-recorded songs from that debut and demonstrates a newer and more polished sound than their debut. While some do find this to be Travis Montgomery's (Threat Signal) side project, there are also just as many that find this to be more engaging than that one is.
While the band's debut album mixed Meshuggah grooves with Mudvayne vocals, this new album refines that sound by adding in a bit more of the djenty guitar sound and really brings them into the "genre" head-first. I'm not gonna lie, those traces of nu metal, as well as a bit of metalcore, are still heard in here, hear The Fell, but they've been reduced so they're not as annoying. While most of this release is dominated by grooves, going into a more melodic part usually for the clean vocals, which have actually become quite the highlight for this release. The band has also re-recorded Mollusk and Pornoholocaust on here, giving them a more polished sound that benefits them.
Overall, a solid release that shows a more matured sound, as well as a more polished one as well. This will definitely appeal to the people that like the whole djent/tech metal stuff for sure. If you like technical, Meshuggah styled metal, definitely listen to this band.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Botfly, Mollusk, Angus McCillicuddy

Monday, January 17, 2011

Codes In The Clouds - As The Spirit Wanes (2011)

Band: Codes In The Clouds
Country: Kent, UK
Style: Post-rock
Label: Erased Tapes Records

Coming off of a remix of their debut last year, this is CoTC's second full-length record. I was not really all that familiar with the group until I found out they were on the same label as Ólafur Arnalds, who's last record turned out to be one of my favorite records from last year, which made me want to check this out. Although, essentially, they are a post-rock group, most of the groups/artists that are on Erased Tapes have a more cinematic touch to their music, which I definitely found on here. I think it will make itself obvious to anyone who listens to this album, that besides the usual instrumental builds and falls, additional instruments have been included in here to set it apart from other groups.
I found instruments, mainly synthe based sounds, like organs, bells, horns, and strings. The regular instruments also manage to switch it up throughout the disc as well, incorporating traces of shoegaze, Look Back, Look Up, jazz, The Reason In Madness, In Love, and country-esque, Your Panopticon. These elements all come together in a way that really give this album, and band, that cinematic vibe to them that just makes it feel more diverse and original sounding than the average post-rock group.
Besides those parts however, this is a pretty regular post-rock album, it has all the ups and downs, mellow and heavy, so it should come as too much of a surprise. What makes this band different when you take out all the additional synthe work, is that when the mellow parts come are used, they are very sparse and slow and when the heavier parts come in, their sound becomes really full and big, hear Washington. Personally, I enjoyed some of the heavier tracks myself, tracks that got louder and a bit more distorted, as opposed to staying quiet and mellow, those moments, understandably, have more use to build towards a crescendo rather than staying dense and big all the time.
Overall, while I'll say that this was a pretty solid album, it had some really cool songs, but some that were just middle of the road for me. I could see people that liked the Ólafur Arnalds record really getting into this one, but there are some that might see it as just another post-rock group. If you like more subtle, somewhat orchestral rock music, than definitely give this record a shot.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: You and I Look Like Seasons, The Reason In Madness, In Love, The Tragedian

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Interview - Dan Dankmeyer

I recently been able to get in contact with Dan Dankmeyer, the guitarist of his own project. He is without a doubt one of the rising stars in the world of tech metal, with a better sense of melody and songwriting than most groups/projects have.

Ian: How long have you been playing/writing/recording music before releasing your first solo album?

Dan: I've been playing for about 10 years. Which makes me cringe because I am nowhere near as good as I feel I should be for playing that long. I've never taken one lesson in my life. I learned everything from guitar tablature and just playing. My first recordings were on Sound recorder on windows 95, haha . I would record it through the built in mic in my monitor! My amp was like 15 feet away. Then, a friend of mine gave me a 10 watt practice amp with a headphone jack. So what I did was, I taped a broken half of a headphone up to the mic in my monitor, and recorded. Then, I stumbled upon a program called Tabit. Which is basically a MIDI tablature program that allows you to tab drums,g uitar, bass and a ton of other instruments, and play it back. So I would sit with a guitar in my lap and write, then tab riffs, program drums, and turn them into songs. It was great because you had the ability to create something that a full band could, but by yourself. Then finally in December of 2007, I got my first recording interface to record real guitar. And the rest is history.

Ian: Were you in any other bands before you went solo? Do you prefer to work solo or with others?

Dan: I've actually never been in a band before. I played with some friends early in high school but I got kicked out after like the second practice. I've only really have jammed with 2 guitarists in my whole life, and it was just for a couple hours each time. So I'm used to doing things by myself, which is why I prefer to work alone. I like it because you are in 100% control of everything you do, and when you want to. There aren't any schedules to adjust to, or any members that don't feel like practicing/showing up. No drama. It's all on your own time and mood.

Ian: Who would you cite as some of your primary influences?

Dan: In no order: In Flames, Unearth, Darkest Hour, Thrice. These bands just amazed me when I heard them and I thought the guitar work as insane. And since I heard them at a somewhat young age, they really crafted how I play guitar. My newer influences aren't really bands, but just different elements from different genres of metal, not just one band.

Ian: How did originally decide to start releasing music for free (or on bandcamp anyway)?

Dan: When I first started recording in 2007, it was just for myself, and maybe to show some of my friends. I eventually started a myspace, put some songs up, and if anyone wanted the Cd's, they could message me and I'd send it to them. Then I found Bandcamp, and you could stream and distribute in one place, so it was ideal. My main goal is just to get the music out there because I feel alot of people will enjoy it. And it's more likely to be heard if it's for free. I offer everything at a "name your price" deal, so making a couple of extra bucks is cool.

Ian: You've been quite prolific, releasing four full-length albums last year ("Q4 2009", "Light", "Gears", and "X"), and this new one "Arcologies" about a week ago, about how long does it take you to write, record, and mix/master an album to the point where you're satisfied with it?

Dan: When I first started recording, I planned on making a CD every year like I was some known band or something. Then I later thought how dumb that would be and decided that if I'm going to get good at writing songs, I have to do just that-write a ton of songs. So I just record in my free time. And I just so happened to have a Cd's worth of songs every 3 months, so I stuck to that formula of releasing stuff every 3 months. As for the writing process, for my first 3 releases, I would just make a drum track in Tabit without any actual ideas going into the recording. Then I would just make stuff up as I went along. Then for the next couple, I would have an idea for the intro and maybe the next couple bars after, then I would make the rest up. For "Gears", "X", and "Arcologies", I would come up with the intro, and then i would jam on that idea for a while and actually write other things before I recorded, so basically when I went into the recording I would have material, like a rhythm, or a lead. Then I would just put those ideas together. I used to write, record, and mix everything in one sitting. I remember sitting at my computer for 8 hours straight on some songs. Now I break them up into 3 hour sessions. I will come home from work at 11:30 PM and dedicate 12-3 AM to recording, then hit the hay at 4 AM. So a song can take anywhere from about 3 days-to a week to write, record, and mix. I've written and recorded 5 minute songs in one day before. I'm not sure how I do it sometimes.
Ian: You stated that "X" was the first album where you used an 8-string guitar, would you say the 8-string has changed how you write songs?

Dan: Structurally, no. As an instrument, definitely. There is so much more you can do with it. You have a ton of tunings you can experiment with. There is so much tonal range. I remember hearing them on "Rareform" by After The Burial and I thought it sounded amazing. And I always wanted to incorporate my own style to them. But it wasn't for about another 2 years I finally pulled the trigger and bought one and I don't regret it at all. I haven't touched a 6 since I got my 8. 6 strings feel like a child's toy to me now, and I have tiny girl hands.

Ian: What, in your opinion, sets "Arcologies" apart from your past releases?

Dan: I think I tried my hardest to try new things on this CD. I also think it has a great variety of styles. There is a good balance of melodic songs like "Acrophobia" and "Name This Something Cool". And there is a good balance of more metal songs like "Domination Nation", "Kill Now, Shred Later" and "Cloud". I also had more time under my belt with the 8 string.

Ian: What kind of feedback have you received so far on the new album?

Dan: So far, so good. Most of the feedback has come through a couple forums, Last.Fm, and some blogs and other sites. Personally, this CD was the hardest to write for me. And I wasn't as stoked about it as I normally am for releases. I'm really bipolar when it comes to my own music. Sometimes I will think it's awesome, and other times I will think it sucks.
Ian: What do you think of the djent scene? Would you consider yourself to be a part of that scene?

Dan: Its definitely growing. I think it's misunderstood in someways. I'm still not even 100% clear as to what the real "definition" of it really is. And with that, I don't consider myself to be a part of it.
Ian: With each album, your status has grown and is being put among the greats of the "djent" sound like Animals As Leaders and Cloudkicker. How do you view your music compared to artists like these?

Dan: Animals As Leaders are light years ahead of me in every category. They are ridiculously talented. They are more of a "musicians" band. I just try to make songs with emotion and energy. As for Cloudkicker, I've only heard his latest album "Beacons" once. His stuff has a ton of more space than my stuff and is a lot more repetitive. But those guys are doing great things for instrumental bands. I just know I still have a lot of work to do to be on the same level as those guys as far as overall quality.
Ian: How do you view creativity?

Dan: It comes natural to me I think. I feel I've always been a creative person. As far as music goes, you just have to forget about any "rules" that come with music and do what you think sounds good to you. I grew out of the "playing other peoples stuff" phase pretty quickly and started developing my own style. Inspiration comes from different places for everyone.
Ian: Are you already working on new material? Do you have any other projects that we should keep an eye out for?

Dan: As of right now I have a decent amount of material for a new song and it seems like it will work, so I hope to have it finished within a week. Music takes up about 60% of my free time. It can be quite tiring always writing and recording. Even in the comfort of your own home and schedule. Sometimes it's just nice to sit back, eat some food and watch South Park and whatnot. I don't have any other projects. But I would love to take a stab at some electronic type stuff. Stuff similar to the song "Walls" on Arcologies. And I would also like to try some orchestrated stuff. But I simply do not have the time.

Ian: What are you currently listening to? Any bands/artists we should check out?

Dan: According to my Last.Fm, I've been listening to: Your Memorial, Norma Jean, Tesseract, After The Burial, and The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza alot. I would check out Your Memorial. I really hate using genres, but I would call them "progressive metalcore". That probably doesn't sound too good, but I love them. They are heavy ,melodic and original. I don't really venture too far out of the metal/hardcore genres. I would like to listen to other styles, but it's just hard for me.

Ian: Do you believe melody take precedence over groove? What's your take on melody vs. groove?

Dan: They are both powerful elements to songs. I have always loved melodic stuff. And I'm a very melodic player. Melody is one of my strengths as a guitarist I think. I'm not the best at groovy type things. I have just recently started exploring them and I would love to get better at them. But for me personally, melodies get stuck in my head more than grooves. It's different for everyone.
Ian: That's all of my questions, thanks for the interview. The last words are yours.

Dan: First, thanks for checking out my tunes, I really appreciate it! Also, thanks for my first interview ever, it was a blast and I hope I can do more in the future. Thanks to anyone who reads this or checks out my music. I hope to have many many more albums to come. You can download and listen to all my stuff for free at www.dandankmeyer.bandcamp.com. I also have a musician page on facebook, so check it out if you're bored. Thanks!
I'd like to thank Dan for being patient with me during this interview and for his kind words and honest responses. As he said above, and I support it, check him out, this guy is going to be big.