Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Week 48 (Backtracking)

Well folks, let me make this clear. Since I'm starting part-time work, there's no telling when I'll be able to update or even get new releases. If I get the means, I'll definitely go online as soon as I can to post and get the latest albums. I'll let you know more, but this is by no means the end of the reviews. Hell, we haven't even gotten to Week 50 yet!


Meshuggah - Koloss (2012) - Meshuggah's new album was a great way to start out my first day back to work. Despite that it was hectic and I didn't even finish orientation, (Sears is going down fast) I was still able to listen to this album in it's entirety, while walking about the store and what's left of this ghost mall we've got here, in Pine Bluff.

The disc starts out with "I Am Colossus 4:43" which some might say is a weak way to start out the album. But on this song, one can actually decipher the vocals, as they aren't going at lightning speed. It's a rather ominous track, certainly not as heavy as what started out Obzen, but it shows that the band is attempting to do something different.

"The Demon's Name Is Surveillance 4:40" features the standard Meshuggah chug, but the riffs sound a little different, and things also just seem a bit sludgy. I will also say that this entire disc is better in earbuds of high quality, because it hit me much harder there, then it does in my computer. Regardless, this song is certainly a standout track, and one of my personal favorites from the band.

"Do Not Look Down 4:43" Has a groove to it that I fucking loved. This probably one the grooviest songs I've ever heard from the band, and I'd consider it another one of my personal favorite songs, right up there with the first Meshuggah song I ever heard, "Rational Gaze." It also contains a guitar solo portion that sounds robotic as you'd expect, but features still a little shredding.

"Behind The Sun 6:41" is one of the band's much longer and atmospheric numbers. There is a background melody in the song which sounds sort of spatial, in accompaniment to the ever crunchy bass. The drums flare up in the latter portion of the song, and then the dedication to bash your head in becomes readily apparent.

"The Hurt That Finds You First 5:33" Is a straight up thrasher, you can hear the percussion all of the way through. This is Haake's song right here, because you're going to hear more of him on it than most of the tracks. This is also one of the first tracks on the album that features light melody, and gets a little atmospheric. I'm glad this was done, because it works well for the song and gives the band some structure.

"Marrow 5:37" is a standard Meshuggah track with nothing really special, except for some guitar solos. The drumming is powerful as one might expect and the vocal performance is just as good as it's been through most of the album.

"Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave It Motion 6:57" starts out rather oddly, with some eerie light riffs. These seem to continue throughout the eventual start-up of the song. Once the vocals come into play, if you listen closely, you can still hear the eerie riffs that opened the song in places. At about the latter part of the song, a sort of light atmospheric comes into play. Again, I like it. This song has some good experimenting, it's good to see that it was put on this album.

"Swarm 5:27" is next, but in all honesty, this is the one I've got a slight problem with. It just doesn't seem as strong as the others, even "I Am Colossus." It's a much softer song, but still attempts to be heavy. But this one just seems off to me. Kudos if you like it, but I think it's half-ass, personally. I'm just calling them like I see them. There's also something here that doesn't even sound like it required much effort. It's supposed to be a solo, but doesn't sound like it required much skill. So yeah, fuck that song.

"Demiurge 6:16" is another heavy one, it's slow and thrashy. There's some interesting riffs in it, and some nice melodies in the background, giving it an ethereal feel. The song ends on that note, giving it a sort of spatial exit.

"The Last Vigil 4:32" is the band's odd acoustic closer that you'll probably skip. It's also very atmospheric, and I like it. But most people are going to be like, WTF? The band's had many WTF moments in their career, but I like this. It's a calming way to end such a bludgeoning album like this. Trust me, this song could repeated over and over as an aid for mediation and astral travel, since it contains simple melody and no drums. You won't tap your toes or anything like that, and that is what this song offers. Perhaps the band is encouraging you to leave your body and check out the astral realms for a bit.

All in all, I'm pleased with this Meshuggah album. A few people said it was boring, but I beg to differ. I rather liked this disc, it's unique and still features the things that have made Meshuggah such a great band all these years. While I hated "Swarm" with a passion, I thought every other song on this disc was simply perfect. The vocals are top notch, and certainly reminded me of my own vocal style, (compare the vocal style of my album and this one, you'll see what I mean. I've been listening to my stuff for days and thought it uncanny that there was a resemblance) the drums are experimenting and not just keeping up the pace of the album, there's some atmospheric influence, there's a song focused on groove, and several more surprises.

Definitely a welcome addition to the band's catalog, I definitely recommend this.

Highlights: Everything but "Swarm." (10 Tracks, 54:00)

5/5 (Would get 666, but I can't forgive "Swarm.)


Borknagar - Urd (2012) - I had to do this one last, because I didn't want to fuck it up and make sure that I do a review that does this album justice. First of all, I just want to inform you all that I wasn't expecting much from this album. I thought Universal was good but nothing exactly new or different. But this album certainly changes the band in some instances for the better.

There is also the odd decision for the band to use both it's current vocalist, Garm; and it's previous vocalist, ICS Vortex. This is awfully different from your "guest vocalist" affair, because some of these tracks are completely done by one of the vocalists, while others feature both vocalists.

The disc starts out very black metal as you'd expect, but there's some really great riffs and vocal harmonies coming from Garm on the wonderfully epic, "Epochalypse 6:07." Really, I'm blown away by some of the vocal melodies in this track. If it's not the great sense of structure that this monolith of an opener has, it's that fucking vocal harmony. That ladies and gentlemen, is how a Borknagar track sounds.

"Roots 5:55" continues on this greatness with a completely different tempo, but yet the same style the band has always been known for. Though the track is much slower, the effort is still just a great and layered as one would expect. It's also got a great solo and Vortex. So that helps. Vortex's portion kills, of course.

"The Beauty Of Dead Cities 4:15" is easily one of the best songs on this disc. Vortex takes it on by himself, and he kills it. This is the Vortex that we loved, not the crap he did last year. This song has a wonderful energy about it, I think it's a marvel that warrants a buy. There's also a really good solo on the track, it's just fucking perfect. That's all I've got to say. Damn, what a vocal performance. This is probably one of the best tracks I've ever heard Vortex's vocals on. EVER!

On "The Earthling 6:51" Garm tries for a darker croon at the beginning, and then he goes into the scowl. Now the vocals are back to normal, and after a grunt; some good riffs come in. But not for long, as the scowls come back into place amidst chanting. Finally, we get a really good solo, but it's awfully short. Despite certain bells and whistles, this still isn't that fantastic of a song. But it's more black metal than some of the others. However, the ending portion has a great vocal repetition that works well. There's also some effects on this track, if you'll listen closely.

"The Plains Of Memories 4:27" is an instrumental. Yes, it's five minutes of instruments. If you don't like it, skip it. But damn them for doing something different I guess. I think it's a good track with violin and piano and I wonder how long it will be until Cynthia "claims it" as one of hers.

"Mount Regency 6:08" might come off as a little odd to you, but this is as far as I can tell, a song about a mountain. Now I am quite sure that many songs have been written about mountains, and to the Nordic people mountains are very majestic things. Have you ever climbed a mountain before? As you would expect, this song is very black metal, as only a song about a mountain should be. I think I'll climb a mountain while listening to this song. The song is very majestic, just like the mountain, containing many powerful vocal harmonies. The point is, these guys are singing their asses off about this mountain.

"Frostrite 4:50" brings Vortex back to the fold, where he delivers yet another great vocal performance along with the melodic black metal styling's of this track. But then when the 1:00 portion of this one comes in, well that's killer. It's right before the really great riff that goes into the slightly darker riff, but it's still good. Then that riff goes into the fucking solo, which of course is good. It's tearfully good. This is one of the solos that's so good you'll cry. Fucking beautiful. Odin smiled at this one, I'm sure. By the way, you can hear some frosty wind in a section of this song. Alright, here's a new one. There's some synthesizers going off here now, in a very progressive sort of fashion. Wow, that's pretty fucking good. Yeah, you'd better go buy this.
"The Winter Eclipse 8:45" is the longest song on the album. It starts out with a black metal portion that goes into a clean chorus. Very common for Garm-laced Borknagar. Then Vortex comes in, and you realize that the both of them are dueting on this track. Then we hear some synths in the background behind Vortex's vocals. Damn, listen to that in the background. That is how you make vocal harmonies, people. This whole album is a singing lesson. Sing with this one, and you'll learn proper pitch and harmony. You might say this one is 70's prog in portions, but it fucking works well with the black metal sections, really showing what Borknagar can do in 2012. A solo comes in shortly, but doesn't stay for very long, but some nice riffs follow afterward. The song slows down a little and some light picking comes in. Then the vocals come back in, and they're alright, but not as good as earlier. Scratch that, they get better. Then you have your light picking again, and some effects that sound like a winter's chill being played amongst the light picking. Then the heavy comes back in, but it's just beautiful. How in the hell can this one be topped?

The album closes with "In A Deeper World 5:42" in which Vortex is on vocals. I think Garm's scowling in the background. Yeah, I know it's hard to believe. The melodies on this one are great, and the vocals are perfect from Vortex. I'm telling you, I wasn't crazy about his solo album, but this is one hell of a vocal show from him, let me tell you. There's a choir effect and some light acoustic in parts of this, but the riffs and main melody hear are really great. I also really like the lyrical content, it's about "a fiery union with nature, as one with every creature." Then there's a ballady solo that's played really well. The second part of this song is really great too, there's a harp and some horns amidst a great vocal melody and the whole thing is just epic and beautiful. This album is amazingly good and I don't think this can be topped. I just don't see it possible.

Well, I've listened to this remarkable masterpiece from beginning to end. But I ask myself, seeing that I've given all the tracks five stars; would I have given this album a 666 rating if it didn't have "The Earthling?"

My answer to that question is yes. Even though I only gave that particular track four stars, everything else is staggeringly good in probably the best Borknagar album I've ever heard. I even want to say that it tops Epic. I'm just blown away by every facet of this disc, and it's one of the best of 2012, if not all fucking time. Who'd have thought that Garm and Vortex would take on an album together and work in vocal harmony? Who'd have thought that the melodies on this album and solos would be as impeccable as they are? Everything I've always loved about Borknagar is at it's peak on this album.

Buy it. Go out there and get this album. You need to be listening to this album and they need to be compensated for it. I'm thinking about buying it myself. I absolutely love this thing and might really grab it along with Sigh. I have said this already, 2012 has been a phenomenal year for metal music. There are some fantastic discs out, and this is just one of them. Again, I implore you, buy this masterpiece. Do you want me to spell it out for you?

This is the very definition of the Borknagar sound. It's their namesake disc, and I highly recommend it.

Highlights: Every track, including "The Earthling" even though it's not my favorite. This is an amazing release. (9 Tracks, 53:00)

I'm having a tough time giving this one a score. It's done impeccably, but it's a sound and style I've heard before. It's been however, reinvented beautifully. I'm stuck between a 6 and a 7 honestly. This should be one of the year's best discs for sure.



Ministry - Relapse (2012) - I've been waiting for this disc to release for quite a while now, and now that it's finally out; I have to say that I'm less than impressed. The band still sounds like Ministry, but the whole thing sounds off. Al says that he thinks this album is the best he's ever done, but I don't seem to think so. Sure, great solos are let loose, and it's got the signature Ministry drumming, but other than that, everything just feels a little stale.

Al's vocals don't sound that good on this disc, and sometimes they even get sound corny. I can understand how songs like "Ghouldiggers 7:40" are about how the media uses bands, and they're worth more when they're dead, but it doesn't hit hard. "Double Tap 4:06" is heavy, but still off. "Freefall 4:35" has a shitty intro, and doesn't keep it's staying power. "Kleptocracy 3:54" is decent enough, but still doesn't hit as hard as previous efforts.

"United Forces 4:52" might be the closest thing to golden age Ministry on this disc. It has the thrash and power we'd expect from the band. "99 Percenters 3:54" is also heavy, but there's just not much going on in the song for me to care. Al's vocals really sounds like a grumpy old man. You can have a good solo in every song, but every song on your album can still suck. Also the song is a little outdated, since nobody is really occupying anything anymore, and the cops arrested 73 people who tried to get the occupy thing back together last weekend. Still, I don't care for this song. it just sucks.

"Relapse 5:49" follows and it's decent, but still pretty dull. God, I've never heard the band without fire before. This is a sign of the apocalypse, or perhaps they're just getting old. Sure there's the clips, but it's still not working for me. Another problem with this album is that his vocals are too loud. Way too loud in the mix. Their shit shouldn't ever be this clear, it kills the whole thing for me. This might be one of the worst discs of the year. People might make fun of the vocals on this thing. "Weekend Warrior 5:42" is next, and it actually starts off promising. What the fuck is with the vocals here? Surely, he's not serious. Reminds me of Dave Mustaine's vocal on "Sweating Bullets." But then he changes the vocals and things get a little more tolerable. Jaunty little solo plays, that whole deal. Alright, so it's not so jaunty or little. Al starts singing on this one for a bit too. It's alright, I guess. Should a forty something year old man be this pissed? Or is he fifty?

"Git Up, Get out, 'N Vote 3:56" brings back the speed, but what in the hell is that riff? It's getting on my nerves actually. It's a call to vote, but the fucking corporations rig the damn polls all the time. Besides, most of the guys we vote for are goddamned corporate puppets who play roles like actors on a stage. You got the rich man, the religious man, the black man, and the little guy. If you really think it's gonna matter, it won't. Now congress might change things, but I just don't believe this system is legit anymore. Actually, I'm probably an idiot to think and not know that this shit isn't legit anymore. The goddamned television will put on whatever you'll watch and whatever makes them money. So they're going to put any rich joe-bob executive fuckhole on there to tell you that he loves Jesus and wants to fix the economy. Then when we're in even deeper debt, it's because that fucker loves him some Satan, and wants all that money for himself. But that's how it goes. A man always thinks he could use another fucking yacht.

"Bloodlust 5:36" closes the disc, with a bluesy taste to it. It's a bad song really. Probably one of the only songs that ain't too bad on this thing. There's some really good melodies and melodic vocals in places here. Didn't expect that. This track doesn't even sound like it belongs on this album, really. It was a great way to end the disc.

Alright, so there is one more track. But it's a bonus "Defibrillator Mix" of "Relapse" and it's 7:06, instead of the original 5:49. Al had to have one of these used on him when he went clean. His heart almost exploded and he almost didn't make this album. Every time someone cleans up, the drugs wreak havoc on their body because the body needs the drug. Of course, the song tells me to "smoke more marijuana" and I don't consider that a drug. It's helped my friend's grandmother stay alive, after she's been diagnosed with cancer. This song ain't great, but the electronics are good, and the "smoke more marijuana" resonates with me. Now that my drug test is over, I'm fixing to start again, every once in a while though. Not hardcore. One thing I've discovered about weed is this. It's just like any other medicine. You don't just drink the fuck out of pepto bismol when you've got a stomach problem do you? Well, you're not really supposed to smoke the heck out of weed either. But people do it. To each their own though, I don't judge. Smoke all the weed you want. I did, years ago. Look how I turned out. Fucking sharp as a tack. You know who else smoked a ton of weed all of his life? Carl Sagan. Yes, folks. Carl Sagan was an "avid marijuana smoker." You're damn right he was. You don't get that knowledge about the planets from just anywhere. You get so high that you're floating with them.

Overall, this disc can be summed up by it's album cover. Al is lying there dead on a checkerboard floor(symbolistic of the illuminati.) It's ritual symbolism of death. This might be the last album we get from them. I doubt it's going to do real well, this is hardly their best material. There's a handful of good songs here, and I'd still rather pop in "Rio Grande Blood", "Dark Side Of The Spoon", "Psalm 69" or "The Land Of Milk and Honey." But if you're a hardcore fan, it's not terrible. I'm just not buying it. The message doesn't seem legit this time, Al's smarter than this stuff. Or at least I thought he was. What the fuck do you mean, get out and vote? Didn't you tell me for years that the system was corrupt? What the hell is my vote going to do to change that?

Something's off on this one. The an used to spout wisdom, now he spouts bullshit. Somebody got bought.

Highlights: Freefall, Kleptocracy, United Forces, Blood Lust, Relapse (Remix) 11 Tracks, 57:00)



Overkill - The Electric Age (2012) - Overkill's Ironbound really seemed to make a statement and really brought them back into the thrash metal fold as a band to care about, believe me; I still get the title track stuck in my head. So obviously, I was anticipating this one.

But surprisingly, it's not nowhere even as good, or even close to as good as Ironbound. There was just something about that album where the band seemed to have great chemistry, and here we begin to see that chemistry unraveling. Perhaps the band was just under pressure to come out with a disc that could top Ironbound, which I just don't think is going to be possible for them now. True, there are still some great parts on this album, and some great songs; but there's just as much filler on this disc as well.

The songs worth mentioning on this disc are "Electric Rattlesnake 6:19", Wish You Were Dead 4:19", "Black Daze 3:55", "Drop the Hammer Down 6:25", and "All Over But The Shouting 5:30." These songs are all great thrash tracks with everything that you should expect from great thrash metal, including killer solos. There's not much else to say about them, thrash is a very straightforward genre, and Overkill is a very straightforward band.

However, "21st Century Man 4:12" is an accident that shouldn't have been allowed to happen, and "Old Wounds, New Scars 4:11" just doesn't seem to be up to par. The opener, "Come And Get It 6:17" is decent enough, but not good enough to have been an opener. It should've been switched with "Electric Rattlesnake." Of course, the electric rattlesnake being phallic and we can all figure that. But that's thrash for you.

"Save Yourself 3:43" is another one that I just didn't particularly care for. It didn't work for me, and scarcely did the album's closer, "Good Night 5:36" which kills the mood with this mellow acoustic piece that stretched on too long before we get to the thrash section in which it does a good job of pummeling and lets us off with a great solo. But it's about a minute too long, and even Metallica knew back in the day, that all of your acoustic stuff needs to go at the beginning of the album (Battery) and not smack between two songs where it will kill the mood. Who cares if your guitarist can play light beautiful melodies! That's too fucking long to wait to bang my head again!

In closing, I can say that I didn't think it was awful, and it's not a bad disc. It's just got a handful of good tracks and doesn't hold a candle to the band's last album. The electric age might hold a few sparks, but just like a worn power outlet, it fizzes out far too early. But you can't win them all.

Better luck next time, guys!

Highlights: Electric Rattlesnake, Wish You Were Dead, Black Daze, Drop The Hammer Down, All Over But The Shouting (10 Tracks, 50:00)



Anathema - Weather Systems (2012) - First of all, this album isn't metal, but it's got some great rock sections in it. Second of all, it's not as great as "We're Here Because We're Here." but it does sort of take some influence from that album. It's certainly a much drearier, darker album from the band, but it still has moments of light and beauty. Yes, some of this might make you get a little teary eyed. But even more so than WHBWH.

I'm not going song by song on this one, because it's not necessary. There is a formula on this album that song becomes readily apparent about halfway in. The songs start out very light, but very dark, and then about the middle to latter sections, the guitars actually start coming in. Now there's no thrash or anything of that nature, but this would receive radio play on rock radio in a better world.

As for memorable tracks, I'll start out with "Untouchable Pt's 1 & 2 Approx. 12:00" which open the album, the first track being more Danny Cavanagh, and the second one being more this female vocalist, (who is not Anneke, she was working on her own album during these sessions) who I don't recognize. I don't even think it's the same girl from WHBWH, but it could be. Whatever the case, she has great pipes too.

"Lightning Song 5:22" didn't start out too hot, but the song has a latter portion that almost made me cry, it was so fucking beautiful, especially the lyrics and the duet. Now that's a goddamned alternative rock song, folks. "Sunlight 4:51" is also good, but it follows more or less the same structure.

The last really great song, and maybe this is just me - but it's the closer, "Internal Landscapes 8:47" which is about the peace of life after death. I have been currently discussing various topics with two astral travelers, one from Germany and another from a location I am not sure of, as they have much experience with leaving one's body and have developed a Q&A, where one can ask them anything about the astral plane and they could attempt to answer it with their knowledge. I am think about posting the Q/A on this forum (NWAMETAL only) because I feel there are some intelligent minds who might like to read and possibly compare notes on this information.

This song starts with a man's account of his NDE and then Danny sings and the bands starts up. Then after the song is over, we hear "I was love, I was peace" coming from the man's recollection of being in the eternal light which spawned us all. Well, unless you're a non-light being; but that is all discussed in the post I may place here for your interest.

As for the other songs on this disc, including the 9:18 "The Storm Before The Calm" they were either too basic, or failed experiments. I can tell that the band wanted the 9:18 epic to be better than what it was, but that opening portion killed it for me, and the latter portion sounded like another song altogether. "The Lost Child 6:59" and "The Beginning Of The End 4:50" just don't sound like they belong on the same album. "The Gathering Of The Clouds 3:26" is too fucking short and doesn't have much weight to it. While the former songs I've listed are good (about 4 stars) they're still not as good as the tracks I've mentioned.

This album is not a bad album, I actually really liked most of the material on it. While much darker than I expected, it still has a positive nature and some exquisite beauty that I just haven't heard from too many other bands. I guess I could say that it's right up there with Puscifer's "The Humbling River" in terms of sheer beauty, but "Lightning Song 5:22" becomes a wonderment for the ears towards the end.

Again, this isn't a heavy album, and it's not metal. But from a band who once was metal, they've proven that you don't have to sell out to make great alternative rock music that people might get inspired by. While you can definitely throw the Coldplay comparisons here and there, this band is still certainly darker and less shitty than Coldplay. But I will warn you that this album is packed with male/female duet, so if you don't like that - stay away from it.

Highlights: Untouchable, Lightning Song, Sunlight, Internal Landscapes (9 Tracks, 55:00)



Outcast - Awaken The Reason (2012 PR) - The first time I heard Outcast was certainly worth remembering. It was around 2008, when "Self Injected Reality" had come out. I used to ask my friend who lived a few minutes away from me if he'd burn me copies of music I had grabbed off the web, when I was long broke and without a job. Sadly, I haven't heard from the guy since Pete Steele died. It must've really hit him hard.

Regardless, when I was asking him to burn some various stuff, he told me that I just had to hear this Outcast cd. Of course, not knowing who Outcast was, I immediately thought of the experimental rapper, Outkast. But I found this was erroneous and was told that the music is similar to Gojira. He also told me that the band had other albums, but they weren't worth checking out.

According to PR, these guys are Parisian, which means that they're close to their French peers in Gojira. But not only are the close to Gojira physically, they're also quite close to them musically. If you've enjoyed any Gojira album, this band's 2008 and 2012 album are must's for you. Don't just buy the 2012 disc, go ahead and bag it up with the 2008 disc too. You'll thank me later.

Just like the band's 2008 release, this 2012 outing sees the band at their most technical, melodic, vibrant, and progressive. The band works as a well-oiled machine that seems to bring out every riff, melody, and drum tap with every minute of this hour journey.

It really is a journey too, folks. Many of the songs at first might make you think that this band is djent, but they aren't. Yet they feature djent sections. They also feature death metal, prog and massive sections of melody that you wouldn't all expect in the same package. This is a band that is truly all over the place, and if you don't like the screams, growls, or hollers from the vocalist; you should definitely appreciate just what these guys do musically.

There's little I can really say about songs with so much in them. Every song seems like a different experience, with such amazing packages and inhuman precision, not to mention simple awesome solos. This album really does sound like it took as much time as it did to create. If your mind isn't blown by this shit, then you're simply worn out.

There isn't just one song on this disc that's a standout, every single one of them does something unparalleled, whether it be the 2:15, "A Solace In The Shade" or the "9:05" Isolation. After hearing this and the last album, I'm under the impression that the current roster of this band can do no fucking wrong. If you thought that Gojira was great, you haven't heard Outcast.

I even like their instrumentals. "When Dawn Brings Clarity 3:40" might be as heavy or even guitar oriented as the majority of these tracks, but it's still a great piano/atmospheric piece. Not only does the band experiment, but they utilize every piece of this album with full efficiency. You know that new Meshuggah that I hyped up? Well, you might forget about it after listening to this one.

The only complaint I have is that the vocals aren't so great, but everything else is. Outcast could be just as phenomenal of a band without vocals, as they are with them. When you're looking for something fantastic, you want something that's going to leave a real mark on you. This is going to be that album. If you're looking for a holder until Gojira's new one, this might work. But I think that Gojira might have a tough time topping this one. This isn't bullshit, it's really that good.

Let me tell you something, when I'm not crazy about the vocals, but think that the album sounds so good that I completely forget there's a vocalist at all, then you know you've got something. This is a real treat for the brain, and I highly recommend it to fans of experimental technical progressive death metal. Oh, and there's the atmospheres. But let me shut up and let this do the talking.

Out 4/4/2012 on Listenable records. Please do yourself a favor and give one of 2012's best a shot. This is going to be on my top 2012 list for sure. I see little surpassing it.

Highlights: The Entire Disc. (11 Tracks, 60:00)



Shroud Of Despondency - Pine (PR 2012) - Upon getting the chance to listen to a just finished promo of 10 year plus band, Shroud Of Despondency's new one from PR, I definitely had to request this one. Their last album, as you may recall; scored very high marks in my book, as being an original and different look towards black metal. However, whereas the last album was more light-hearted, this album claims to be the "darkest batch of songs ever released" under the band's moniker. There is also a new singer here, apparently he is a much harsher vocalist. But the band is trying to "blot out any light" that existed on their last disc.

This for me already sounds like a bad idea, because what made them unique was their light sections. Without them, they'd be just an ordinary black metal band. After the intro "Wanderlust Pt.I 4:20" plays, I am greeted to raw production value and standard black metal style.

"Overshadow 7:25" sounds like a real raw mess, really. It's kvlt and everything, but this a band who I liked because they went away from standards. There's a prog melody that plays every once in a while, but other than that; I'm not hearing anything great. A growl portion however manages to come in, and then a piano section. Things get crunchy around this second half. I really would've liked this more if they had better production, but they're from Milwaukee and that's in the US, so I understand money problems. What the hell? Hardcore influence?

"New Trees 6:15" really doesn't hold a candle for me, either. There's a section in it where some great atmospheres come in, but honestly... I can barely hear any of it. Yes, it's a valid complaint. I've got some very good ear buds that usually make any album loud and clarifiable, but this album is on such a low budget of production value that I can barely hear it. The band's last disc didn't sound as raw, but this one sure does. Perhaps this is a sign that the economy has hit them hard, just like the rest of us. The song however contains some great soloing and an unexpected Arabian influence. The second part of this track a progressive sort of riff that re-iterates itself many times and the vocals seem to work well in line with that riff. Then the solo comes back in, despite that it's hard to make out when the drums begin to thunder. The song ends in a very black metal style that will be readily apparent to most of us.

"Wanderlust Pt. 2 3:15" comes right off the end of the last track and features a chaotic noise. Then I can hear a voice clip amidst some acoustic and atmospheric music. But I of course can't make out too many words from the voice clip, It should have been mastered better. However, the music still shows that the band is still able to perform their atmospheres just as well as they could on the last album. Except that this track has far better production value than when the guitars and drums are blazing and everything sounds like it was recorded in a garage. Drums come slowly in, as the atmospheric sound slowly grows dull and fades. Now I can hear something that sounds reminiscent of sludge.

"The Great Sadness Descends 5:26" comes in next, and it continues right off the heels of the last track. A good and slightly doomy melody plays to open the song, and the vocals come in overbearing and fierce. There are still some great light melodies in the background, despite the almost gravelly scowls from the vocalist which seem to overpower everything else. Don't tell me that the guy in the background can't be heard, because that's a great riff and you need to pay attention. This guy is literally melodic shredding throughout this whole thing really, it's like he's having a little guitar ballad session back there. When the vocalist finally shuts up and proves that his vocals didn't need to be on the track in the first place, I can hear this guy shred. But then it seems like he's done and I hear the mix of acoustic, which slowly overpowers the heavy portions and then all I can hear is the acoustics and an atmosphere. Again, that guy didn't need to growl over this one, and I'd tell them that in person. The guy in the background was killing with the solo, and then all of a sudden this guy just growls all over it and damn near ruins the thing.

"Half Open Gates 8:56" return us full force into black metal. If this for some reason doesn't sound like black metal to you, get your ears checked. It's a good black metal song certainly, not unlike anything else I've heard from the genre though. This is also the longest song on the album. About mid-point, we have a sort of progressive riff and the song changes tempo completely. The melodies really come into to play in the latter half of the song, and then the solo comes in. Of course it's a good solo. What did you think? This guy's been killing it on this album. Then we've got violins coming in and the band keeping up their same pace. There's a flute! Yep, we got flutes here too. What's that? Another solo? Why, of course. You don't even have to ask. Then the violins come back into play with the solo and it's all just killer. Guess I misjudged these guys.

"Wanderlust Pt.3 3:11" comes in off the heels of the last song and continues on with the voice clip and the violins. There's also a timpani and some atmospheres to back it up. Now I hear a very bold woodwind instrument, it's much fiercer than the violin (How would they get all this to work on the stage?) and what sounds like a harmonica, but I could be wrong. (On stage this is probably the music the band plays through PA speakers before they actually go on.)

"Light Worlds, Dark Graves 4:30" comes in next, and it sounds like black thrash. The vocalist that starts off the song sounds horrible, but the guy with darker vocals comes in and makes things sound a bit better. Then that other guy comes back. Who's idea was it to have him moan? Yeah, it sounds like he's bickering, not screaming. Or maybe he stepped on a nail and is hopping around on one foot making that noise. A solo-ish riff comes in on the second part of the song, but it goes in and out. Then the vocals come in after the riff each time it plays. Then a legitimate solo comes in. It's sounds pretty rock and roll actually, but works. The song ends with some major static. Do these guys need help on how to capture a voice sample from the television? It's not hard, but you have to move like a ninja and do it in a very quiet room with NO interference. (reference - my intro to the sample song "The Downfall Of Human Intelligence." Adobe captured it perfectly. The reason for the low quality sound in the background of that clip was due to it's source, not the recording. It was a very low-fi music track in the background FYI. I also did it with several clips from my 2010 album. Yes, they came out good because I am a perfectionist about that shit.)

Technically, they could get in trouble or sued because the band hasn't the rights to these voice clips and is selling the album. Perhaps the label paid, or does not care. But that is none of my business. Who's really going to sue them anyway?

"Nameless End 5:14" starts off like a very slow paced black metal song, except that it sounds more death metal to me. Then the scowls come in, but it still sounds sort of death metal. Then the song begins to speed up and the vocals come scowling in. Very old-school. Then it goes into a sort of thrashy groove. That groove begins to end on a blast, but then it calms down. A phrase is constantly shouted, but I can't decipher it. It could be "Eat more chicken!" for all I know. The song begins to slow and get bleaker right towards is denouement. The scowls continue and go deathy for a portion, but then they finally end along with the song.

"Wanderlust Pt.4 2:23" comes in now, a depressing atmospheric and some piano. I also hear some noise. Have no idea what it is. Sounds like someone hitting a metal shed with a bat. The atmospheric dulls and then it sounds like someone losing their mind and screaming amidst demons. The piece ends with a cough.

The closer, "The Unchaining Of An Animal 6:25" actually starts off acoustic with a singer that reminds me of REM's frontman. There's also a guy in the background with a very feminine voice, but it's definitely a dude. Now I hear some sound effects and a violin. Somebody in this band plays violin, I'm telling you. I'm going to have to look at the band's photo again and be sure that this is the same band. Oh yeah, that's the fat bald guy doing the singing. It's got to be. Now we've got some sort of voice filter effect going on here and they didn't need it at all, really. It's supposed to sound evil? Nah, you guys killed that about 5:00 ago when the song started. But near the end, it starts to sound a little interesting and repeats this phrase "___tonight is intellect?"

Then it ends. Alright, first to get some extra info out. When you purchase this disc, and I'm sure that you will; you'll get the chance to get a free downloadable bonus disc called "Cavalcade Of Crows." I cannot tell you anything about this disc, because I don't have it and probably do not have the ability to get it from the band, as I have only a promo and do not have the official disc. Go get it, if you want to hear whatever is on CoC, it's literally a mystery to me. Also, remember that the band lost the drummer on this disc, shortly after it was made, so if you liked the guy, too bad. The old singer from the last album was also replaced as you can tell.

Also, let's keep in mind that Shroud Of Despondency has a slew of material in the 10 years that they've been a band and proves that you can make more in Wisconsin than cheese. the band also released something I didn't even know about and will try to find and review shortly. It's called "Objective: Isolation" and features several previously unreleased tracks. So go get that one too.

While you're there, just go on ahead and buy everything they've done. Why the heck not, right? These guys could use the money to pay bills and help to make the next album to sound much better. Go see them live too. That also helps. Maybe they'll come this way. I wouldn't mind seeing them live, myself. Go over to their bandcamp page, and preview and buy whatever you like from these guys. They deserve it. It's good stuff, but not as good as the last one. But that's still no reason to pass on it.

Despite the production value and some slight issues with the disc, we must keep in mind that these guys aren't some extremely famous band with lots of money and have to hoof it just like many other struggling musicians out there who believe in making art, not just selling records. Anyone can sell out these days, it's quite easy. But making music that you enjoy and others will respect is a very trying effort, and one that will cost a lot of money. But it's also worth it in the long run.

Highlights: New Trees, Wanderlust Pt.2, The Great Sadness Descends, Half Open Gates, The Unchaining Of An Animal (57:00)



Barren Earth - The Devil's Resolve (2012) - Let me go ahead and describe this album in a fashion that most of you will understand. Dan Swano - Moontower. Yes, it certainly reminds me of that album, as it attempts a perfect meld of 70's prog rock and death metal.

Opeth? Perhaps, but it's the best disc from we've heard in years from them. But they didn't make it. It's a Finish outfit that really has some promise. I don't just mean really, I mean these guys have something that I just loved the fuck out of. This is definitely death metal, with very gravelly vocals, proggy riffs and clean vocals that can really hit some good notes in areas. Yes, there's Opeth influence, but this is the kind of music Opeth should be making.

Listen to the first track on the disc, "Passing Of The Crimson Shadows 7:17" and tell me that you're not into it. Just go on, and say it. I'll bet you can't. But it only gets better as you go on. But you know what else? They really add the Camel/Pink Floyd/Yes style theatrics, and I just don't mean guitars, I mean the synths sound like a 70's fucking prog fest. This is the way prog death metal should fucking sound folks, and it might be your album of the year. Hell, for all I know, you might hear this and be like, "Fuck Opeth! All I need is Barren Earth."

My personal favorite song is "As It Is Written 7:29" which has an all out 70's prog jamboree in it, and I just loved the living hell out of it. I'm telling you, this is what we prog/death fans have been waiting for. If you don't get this and you even worshipped at the altar of Dan Swano and mid-era Opeth, you're going to eat this up. You'll play it till you get sick of it. But then you won't get sick of it. There's a guy on this board, I don't even know if he's still on here. Went by the name of Kundalini. If you're still here, go grab this one. I'm recommending it to you.

Trust me folks, I'm one of the biggest 70's prog metal fusion guys out there and I'm eating this up. It is definitely one of the best, if not the best overall progressive metal album of the year. That's a bold statement, but I just don't see how anyone's going to top this one. Ihsahn might be releasing a new one, but it's got to be all over the goddamned place before I even think of it in the caliber of this.

Again, major ear candy. You've got to get your fucking hands on this one. I'm not even sure if this can be topped by the band themselves. A perfect mix of prog and death, it gets no better this year! This the death metal equivalent to what Sigh did this year. It has been a great year for metal, and it's just beginning.

There are two bonus tracks, but don't even think of them as bonus tracks. I don't even think this is the special edition version of the album, and I don't think there is one. The band just gives you bonus tracks. They could've thrown them on the disc, and no one would've been any the wiser.

Martyrs of Devotion (3:24) and World In Haze (7:32) are fucking musts, you've got to hear them both. Bonus tracks my ass. I hope there aren't any copies of this thing without these two tracks. It'd shame the fans.

Highlights: The Entire Disc. (10 Tracks, 58:00)



Waning - The Human Condition (2012) - Waning is a progressive black metal band in the vein of Enslaved, but not as proggy in the same sense that Enslaved is. The band seems to be a little darker, and a little bleaker than Enslaved and has more of the depressive nature that we expect from black metal.

There are still powerful melodies, acoustic tinkerings and moments of beauty amidst this depression, but it's quite recognizable that this isn't music made to praise the Viking gods. It's a little mechanical in nature, and feels like being in a land full of cold, unfeeling machines. They can still produce bleeps and blips, and even amaze us at times, but it's all still very cold.

Some of the songs are much faster, "End Assembly 5:40" and some of them are much more progressive in nature, like "Void 5:33" which has a Krallice melody that Krallice must've skipped over. The band makes well to utilize this though. Not all of the songs on this disc are great however, and not all of them will appeal to black metal, or prog fans.

However, at least six or seven of the eight songs should be well worth listening and rather enjoyable. The production mixes a raw black metal style with modern production value and does a very good job at it. Overall, I think that the band should be quite satisfied with this result, which mixes depressive melodic black metal and prog well enough together that you should find a happy medium, or a sad medium, in this case.

I rather enjoyed it, but didn't think it was breathtaking. You might feel different, however. No major problems, but some of the songs didn't gel with me as much as others.



Wykked Wytch - Despised Existence (2012) - What happens when you mix a Cradle Of Filth inspired black metal with the sound of deathcore? Wykked Wytch. This band was before kind of a novelty, something that people sort of made fun of. However, I won't deny that there are some good melodies and riffs in places on this album.

Believe it or not, it's listenable. I didn't even check out their earlier disc, because I thought from seeing their "Sweet Dreams" cover, it would be absolutely terrible. But this album is not exactly terrible, just very expectable. The female vocalist gets a little gravelly, but there's also a screamer and someone who does clean vocals, unless there's a layering of both of her vocal styles.

Much heavier than Otep, but I think that Shamaya and crew even have a better sound going for them. But as I said, I didn't expect to find any likeable riffs or melodies on this disc, and there's actually some good solos. The drums aren't too bad, and believe it or not, you'll actually find something to like on this one. You might even think of it as a deathier Cradle.

Sure, it might be tough to get into the vocal styles on this thing, but one can't deny that there are some halfway decent and at times great riffs on this thing at times. At least they try to pull off a solo every once in a while, compared to other deathcore bands.

Um... What the fuck is this? Yes, I noticed there was a track called "Fade To Black 5:22." I thought it was just an original, but I was wrong. They're taking on Metallica. It's got a female clean vocal, and trust me - her vocals aren't that good. But even though it has an odd bit of heaviness at the beginning which would've killed it, musically it's not bad, and straightens itself up. The thing is, the female vocalist is off key and doesn't seem to care. She's horribly off key. Maybe it's that, or she has no sense of vocal harmony. She can sing and has a tone, but there's no harmony to the vocals. The heavier section of the song is actually not that bad, you can certainly tell they're foreign though. The melody in the song is sort of weird though. Also, the damn thing just fades out.

To tell you the truth, there's only a few good songs on this disc. People with short attention spans might find that the heaviness of the disc is enough, but even with the melodies and some technical portions here and there; you know deep inside your metal heart that there are much better albums that you could be listening to. It's listenable, but it's not anything amazing. I've already posted several of those this week.

Highlights: Serpents Among Us, Abolish The Weak (10 Tracks, 46:00)



Les Discrets - Ariettes OubliƩes... (2 Disc Set 2012) - I wasn't sure exactly what to expect upon hearing this two disc release from the French post-metal/shoegaze band, Les Discrets. But oddly, it's in the same vein of bands like Alcest, in the fact that it's got the same sort of very calming, lucid atmosphere that one might expect from such an act. Surprisingly, there are some black metal tinges here and there, but I must stress that the band is not black metal. So if you're expecting black metal, you're to be soundly disappointed, I'd gather.

There is really not one song throughout the span of these two discs that isn't good, or worth listening to. The melodies on this disc are simply wonderful, and you've got to hear them if you are into this type of music. Again, think Alcest, but without the black metal.

There are some surprising moments of heaviness in these songs and it even features some blasting on the kit, "La Traversee 8:23." But then again, you've also got plenty of atmospheric portions. So there's certainly something on here for the black metal fan who never expected to like shoegaze or post metal.

The vocal approach of the album is usually done by one or more vocalists. One of them I believe is a female vocalist also, but the vocal harmonies are great here, not to mention the riffs. As I said, this is a beautiful album that features plenty of heavier riffs than you might expect.

This is quite literally a mix of post metal and Alcest, except with one or more vocalists. The vocals are a supreme part of this album, but the mesmerizing riffs and melodies displayed on this thing really make it shine, and will make you immediately start giving a shit about this awesome band. This is quite possibly one of the most unexpected sucker punches of the year, and I am quite thankful that I was given a chance to hear such beautiful, layered and intricate music. Despiet the fact that the entire album is in French, it truly shows us that music has no language borders, and I'm quite sure that you will enjoy it as much as I had.

But I have one problem, and this is as most concerns I have with great albums; a minute concern. The second disc of this album is quite a waste in my opinion. Why would I say that? Well, it only contains enough material to warrant 9:00. Discs can hold 80:00 of music, but for some reason the band felt that they just had to put 9 more minutes of music on another disc, when all together this music doesn't even encroach on an hour's worth. That's absolutely wasteful and ridiculous. The full amount of music offered between these two discs is 51:00, and I don't care what your artistic vision is, that's a waste of fucking plastic. If I'm going to burn a CD or DVD, I'm going to try to stuff as much as humanly possible on there, so I don't waste the disc. Even if someone wanted me to put one radio song or something on a disc, I'll fill it with other stuff, so that the space doesn't go to waste.

The company I work for literally has DVD's that are 11:00 in length describing their company slogans, exc. They could've saved money and put these short 11:00 movies on there with the rest of the movies on the other discs. A DVD can hold 4.5 GB of data. There's no reason to waste more plastic!

But that's my only qualm with this band. I would tell you to get the version of this disc with only one disc, as the three other tracks are decent, but more on the acoustic side of things and you might not like them as much as the main release. I just thought that the French would be less wasteful. Apparently, I am mistaken.

Regardless, if you like this sort of post-black metal/shoegaze, you should certainly enjoy this disc. Despite the fact that I can only vaguely translate song titles, I certainly found this mix of happiness and depression a good listen and I'm sure that you will too. Perhaps it's readily available at your favorite online shop. It's certainly not one to skip over.

Highlights: Every song is brilliant in it's own way. (2 Discs, 11 Tracks, 51:00)



Zavod - Industrial City (2012) - I honestly didn't expect this album from the Industrial band Zavod to be even near as good as it was. The band mixes a heavy industrial sound which definitely contains some good riffs from time to time, with a fierce almost black metal style scowl to the vocals. There are times when you'll hear some blasts on the kit, but for the most part everything tends to stay rather formulaic for industrial. Even though the music was erroneously labeled as alternative by the ripper, who I want to smack in the face with a sledgehammer; and the band clearly has a Rammstein-ish approach to their music; they do it much fiercer and blacker than they ever would have. Perhaps that's what made the guy label this band as alternative, but I'm sure on American radio, this music is too fierce to play along the likes of such mainstays on the radio. I couldn't see 100.3 The Edge playing it, for example.

Anyway, the band can not only come forth with a fire, but the heavily laden electronics mix seamlessly with the heavy guitars. Don't let the album cover fool you either. It features a black background with the three band members heads, but it is nothing like the pop music it might appear to be from looking at the cover art.

As I said, the vocalist scowls throughout this album. He scowls just like I do and I rather thought it gave that black/industrial feel that I've been killing to hear for quite a while now. Few bands get it right, and these guys have some great potential with the sound. Songs like "Inhale 3:50", "Friends With Death 2:48", "Into The Night 3:32", "We Rust 2:58", "Storm 3:03", and "Industrial City 6:59" prove that this band is a force to be reckoned with.

Sadly, all of the songs on the disc are far too short. Yes, they're enjoyable enough; but they're over far too soon. I think if the band added guitar solos, industrial portions or something to really strengthen and lengthen the songs, this material might've been much stronger. By the way, their foreign track "Da LLi Njet 2:40" just proves to me that their vocals are better in English.

But I would still recommend this to fans of industrial metal with a scowl on the vocals. It's got thump you would get from bands like Rammstein, the depressive nature of the Deathstars, and the scowl from bands like The Kovenant. Not to mention the fact that the electronics are utilized extremely well on this disc. You might enjoy this one more than you think you will. Give it a shot.

Highlights: Inhale, Friends With Death, Into The Night, We Rust, Storm, Industrial City (11 Tracks, 41:00)


Night Hag - Gilded Age (2012) - Night hag is what you get when you combine the rawest and fiercest of punk, and the rawest and fiercest of black metal. Being that black metal and punk have much in common, this black/crust metal band definitely seems to deliver with each and every song on this short but strong 30 minute disc.

To tell you that every song is different and unique would be a lie, because each and every one of them follows the same formula, which is erratic screaming, blast-beat drumming, dark riffing and an overall need to bludgeon you repeatedly. Even if a track starts out slow and brooding "Wood Teeth 4:04", it will later to bash your face in. This is what you listen to before you go into a battle, or while you're fighting one. The band certainly has black metal down, performing some good riffs, but this is more about just being in your face than anything else.

Quite simply, if you like rough punk music, and you like black metal; then you'll probably really like this one. It's certainly a good mix and can find no flaws in it. It really sounds like a history lesson in all honesty, reminding us of the evolution of punk into black metal.

The last track on this disc "Golden Age" is much different from the others though. First, it's actually 9:43. Most of the tracks on the disc are a little over 2:00 or 4:00 and something. There's definite melody on the track and it thunders with a vengeance, also featuring some slow doom-laden portions.

Though short, this disc will offers something for both punk and black metal fans. It might even find audience elsewhere. I enjoyed it and I think it's something I could play when I want to play something unrelenting and heavy. Because that's what it fucking is. Track by track of unrelenting heavy as hell brutality in the shape of black metal, rather than a death metal battering ram.

If you're pissed, play this one. If heavy music makes you angry, stay away from this one. You might accidentally kill someone.

Highlights: All 30:00 of this brutal bastard. (9 Tracks, 30:00)



Ketha - Second Sight (2012) - Despite the fact that these guys are different, I didn't much care for them. Just like the Morkobot album last year, I thought the whole overly technical robo-metal things was going a bit overboard for me. While there might some great riffs on this disc and the band is able to craft a strong atmosphere with a very strong gravel vocal, unlike the 2007 album; I still found the whole experience to be less than stellar.

But you on the other hand, might feel different. If you're the sort of person who worships at the altar of technicality and experimentation, you might find this material not only exhilarating, but groundbreaking. Even though most of the tracks on the album are 4:30 and the little interludes are up to, or a little more than a minute each; the band is able to deliver a barrage of the senses in this disc's short but interesting 31:00 playing time. As I am no tech guru, I can't really tell you which songs are technical masterpieces and which ones are just decent, but I can tell you that certainly need to check out this band as they offer something I just haven't heard yet.

But it's not whether I liked them or not. I certainly don't hate the band, because they've got strong tracks with a definite amount of replayability. But I would also rather listen to something else.

This is death metal, but it's just of a different nature and variety than you might be used to. I definitely recommend it to death heads looking for something different, yet can still be classified as death metal.

Highlights: Really not sure, but the songs all sounded quite interesting in their own way. Originality was definitely the name of the game. (10 Tracks, 31:00)

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