Pulsar Colony - Equilibrium Zone (2013 Band Request) - The third album from Arkansas' own Pulsar Colony is finally upon us, and this time it is the result of a joint effort between Charles Sabo, the original mastermind of the project as well as the mastermind of the one-man psychedelic black metal band Palantir. These two individuals who are strongly creative in their own right finally got together to create an album that shows promise, but also shows that stronger material will surely come with time. "Sky Pollution 3:02" opens the disc with an effect that recalls the chanting of monks as "Escaping The Tombs Of Stupidity 7:17" sounds very much in the classic vein of Pulsar Colony, except this time with a professional kit in the background courtesy of Palantir. He also helped with some of the keyboard effects and such that you'll hear on this record, giving it the same esoteric and somewhat trippy sense.
"Philosophy Of Death 5:49" starts next, assuring us that the clean we heard from the band's sophomore effort is nowhere to be found, fusing the trippy elements of Pulsar with Palantir's much blacker style. Palantir certainly handles the drums well enough, doing a hell of a lot more than the blast of most black metal acts and instead giving us several different percussion compositions as well as using the toms and some shakers for a slight tribal nature. One other thing that I will mention about this album is that it is a very slow-paced disc, with very little emphasis on thrash elements though some might occur in a few areas spread throughout the release. Title track "Equilibirum Zone 7:08" is one of these tracks that seems to kick up the pace just a little and it couldn't have come a moment too soon after the much slower tracks that opened the release. Again, it feels refreshing to hear an actual kit this time around and it really feels like a full band now. Experimentation and structure is what these guys inhibit with each track, like a sort of sporadity that I could only match to being thrown through several portals in the blackness of space. I do not think the bag-pipe effect worked well for the track, but the latter effects give it a sort of royal and majestic quality.
"Starlight 3:42" comes in next, reminding me of Bal Sagoth's "Hatheg-Kla" a bit - but then I hear a sort of sound that reminds me of the classic Genesis sound font in areas and makes me think I'm listening to the soundtrack of a classic Genesis science-fiction themed game. "Tearing Down The Frost Giants 11:56" is definitely one of the high water marks of the album. Most people who'll come to these guys for their black metal element will be happy with this punchier and yet still incredibly extraterrestrial track that only Pulsar Colony could accomplish. Later into the track, things seem to get even more spaced-out and make me think that the music these gentlemen have channeled might have literally been stolen from another planet. The atmospheres here are certainly wondrous, invoking the feeling of space travel - I can actually see the stars and structures of far off alien worlds flying by at light speed when I close my eyes for a few minutes and absorb the track. This one would do well in a live setting and still begs the question as to why these guys are not signed.
The next track "To Wear The Mask, To Face The Mockery 7:37" comes in and things still have not slowed down, making this one Pulsar's fiercer albums. While there are still hints of atmosphere, black metal still manages to pierce through making this a great combination of acts like Isis and Mayhem. Fans of Krallice and other such spatial black metal acts might also find something to like here, albeit it's not driven by melody in so much as atmosphere. The disc's final track "Perpetual Cynicism 8:17" adds Indian elements to the sound, as well as the whizzing of keyboards that seem to turn the entire experience into something of a trance. But this is what these two gentlemen do best and it's certainly worthy enough of a musical effort to be heard throughout the entire world. As I've listened to this album, I've noticed that the music doesn't seem to sit still, with each song giving off a metaphysical and otherworldly presence that very few bands can provide; especially in the element of black metal. Again, this isn't just music - it's a journey. As the only clean vocals on the disc are heard, it sounds as if Charles is communicating to us from Saturn instead of Earth. The disc ends with a light and trippy outro piece that leads the disc out just as oddly as it came in.
If you want your metal to sound like it didn't come from planet Earth, Pulsar Colony is going to be your best bet. Still one of the best black metal bands out there that no one's really heard about yet, it is still my opinion that as soon as these guys break out, they will have a powerful underground following in so much as several other unique black metal acts have done with experimentation and uniquity. Though the first two tracks on the disc were much slower paced and didn't offer the fury of the latter half of the album, everything that stems from the title track seems to be a sign of what future albums might bring. Or not. It truly depends on these musicians who have concocted the musical equivalent of a Lovecraftian being with this latest release. One of the more interesting albums of the year, but I am convinced that even greater things are still to come.
The release is available and fully streamed at the Pulsar Colony bandcamp page: http://pulsarcolony.bandcamp.com
Highlights: Equilibrium Zone, Starlight, Tearing Down The Frost Giants, To Wear The Mask To Face The Mockery, Perpetual Cynicism (8 Tracks, 54:00)
Ravenlands - The Frozen Tears Of Angels Pt.1 (2013 Band Request) - Ravenlands is a symphonic/gothic metal band that offers a formula quite similar to Theatre Of Tragedy, Nightwish, Sirenia or earlier Lacuna Coil among several others. The quality of the release isn't amazing, but as soon as the intro finishes and "Mother Gaia 5:51" starts you can definitely discern everything enough to be able to hear the frontwoman's vocals that certainly do remind me quite a bit of Tarja a little. She certainly has a recognizable voice and it's pleasing to the ear. The kit in the back actually does thunder in some sections and there are some heavy riffs in addition to the atmospheres that you'll hear spread about the disc. In a way, it makes me think that I'm listening to something along the lines of Angels Fall First, the debut Nightwish album.
Title track "The Frozen Tears Of Angels 5:41" shows definite promise, mixing the beauty of her vocals along with more passionate drum and guitar that certainly invoke the metal sense of the band. It's tough to hear, so I hope that maybe someone will pick them up and help to get this professionally produced. I can say the same with "Cloudy Nights Of Sorrow 4:26." You can tell what the influences in the band are and absorb the atmosphere of this disc immediately. Though I haven't been keeping up with the gothic-metal genre lately because there are too many bands in it starting to sound like carbon copies, (but this is true for most metal and several other non-musical things these days) these guys (and gal) do offer a sound worth checking out, even though this in many ways does sound very much like a demo of analog quality.
The disc ends out with a cover of The Eurhythmics' "Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This 4:35" which has me curious as to whether or not the Eurhythmics had anything else to offer in the 80s', since only everyone knows just that particular song. I think I'm going to try to hunt that material down and see for myself. As for the track, I would certainly say it's a strong cover - true to the original and the guitar sounds decent enough along with the symphonics which are perfect and the vocals that really seem to pop out of the rest of the mix. Again, I'd like to hear it in better production and am curious as to why the guitars and drums on this album sound so rough in the mix. It is a good icing on the cake, however and I'd expect to hear some great things from this band just so long as they don't get too famous and give us fodder.
Worth checking out for fans of gothic metal and the bands I previously named. Definite promise here, just want to hear these guys (and gal) with a bit more sheen and polish.
The disc is available on the band's bandcamp page: http://ravenlandsband.bandcamp.com
Highlights: Mother Gaia, The Frozen Tears Of Angels, Cloudy Nights Of Sorrow, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) (7 Tracks, 32:00)
Torii - Out Of Time (2013 Band Request) - Torii is an instrumental doom/sludge act with elements of black metal that sounds unfinished. I actually thought about putting some vocals on these tracks and sending them back to him to see what he thought. Sure, the atmosphere is there in very much the same way as Pulsar Colony but when you hear just the opener, "Shadow Of The Mountain 6:00" it's hard to take it without a vocal element. "Endless Glacier 4:15" pounds in the same fashion offering some wonderful melodies amidst it's sullen nature and a really interesting solo - still, I was thinking of a damn chorus when I was listening to it.
There's a bit more groove to "Inexorable 4:59" but I'll insert the same thing I've said with the last two tracks and addendum the fact that as I was listening to this one, I was actually throwing my own vocal lines on it. Torii's music is great, but I just don't think it works as an atmospheric piece - there's so much room for vocal influence throughout most of the disc. If he doesn't want me to put any vocals on it, he should at least find somebody that will work with him. It just seems like wordless emotions - the songs seem to carry such an emotional torrent of sadness and anger that should also be expressed through the vocal instrument.
"Out Of Time 4:16" however works with drone that seems more fitting to the sort of atmosphere he wanted to achieve. Very much in the vein of Pelican (a band who's music I've always used for vocal practice) it follows a jagged and haunting melody throughout the ashen sands of a devastated post-apocalypse. "The Great Hall At Dawn 2:47" follows this with a rain-filled acoustic that seems to be comprised of the very darkest of days.
More metallic elements come back into place with the death metal laden "Stone Of Sorrow 4:55" which could use some gravel along with it's punishing grooves. Slight acoustics also accompany the metal which comes back with a vengeance. The final track on the disc at first sounds rather melancholy compared to the others, but eventually reaches up into heavier territory while keeping the melodies intact.
Torii's Out Of Time is a great release for fans of melancholy instrumental bands like Pelican and several others that I can't name due to sinus pains and sheer forgetfulness on my part. But I think the release could definitely use that vocal element that would make it stand out in the first place. it's not the kind of music that works as instrumental to be honest, you can hear that something is missing. As far instrumental music is concerned, it should have a certain vibe and quality to it that would not allow for vocals. I have heard several instrumental projects and have noticed this quality in them. Not all of them, but some bands definitely elicit the "I wouldn't dare put any vocals on this" mentality. But this is nothing against Torii. He is an accomplished musician with only the best of ahead of him.
You can find the release on Torii's bandcamp page: http://torii.bandcamp.com/
(7 Tracks, 32:00)
A Thousand Shall Fall - In The Shadow Of The Mighty (2013 Band Request) - This band seems to mix elements of death, black and core metal to create something that I could only describe as modern metal. "Mourning Son 3:59" starts the album out with a little bit of melodic death and black as well as some core that is followed by a short solo and backed with a scowler that sometimes has his core moments. "Weaver 6:20" is the longest track on this disc, bashing around with the At The Gates meets metalcore approach that we've heard before from bands like Skeletonwitch but I do like the chorus here and it seems to go well with the guitar melody. There's a slight bit of instrument play and then the song changes tempo for a moment as it goes back into the chorus. This one seems like it would be fun to play. "Nights Of Gethsamane 4:28" comes next with a bit of atmosphere and scowl to open and then gets into a slightly slower-paced version of the band's style. One thing can certainly be said about the vocalist here and that thing is that he's certainly good at what he does. This is coming from a vocalist, so I know what I'm talking about. Despite the slight core influences he edged in the beginning, I'm not hearing that in the other songs and am thankful for it. The disc ends with "The Wretched 3:44" and it also follows the same formula, but again the scowls from the frontman certainly work well with the music and it bashes just right. Most of these riffs you've heard before, but I will say that these guys are a band I wouldn't mind checking out live.
The disc is only 4 tracks but if you're curious you can get it from the band's bandcamp page: http://athousandshallfall.bandcamp.com
(4 Tracks, 18:00)
The Odious - Joint Ventures (2012 Band Request) - The Odious is a progressive/technical/deathcore band that uses slight experimentation from also right here in the USA. Though you can immediately draw comparisons to prog-core bands like Between The Buried And Me and Periphery, I'm here to tell you that I like these guys a whole lot more than current era BTBAM and more than I'll ever care for Periphery. Musically, comparisons can be made to bands such as Animals As Leaders but there are fierce vocals here which I can describe as being on the same level as Skeletonwitch with the core sensibilities intact. The lyrics came with this album as upon reading them all, I'm kind of puzzled admittedly and would like to interview these gentlemen to find out just when in the hell some of these songs are about.
Without a doubt, the music is sporadic but it is also performed with a certain degree of skill and apt to oddities that in most instances help the variety of tracks displayed here. Older heads who might feel that this band is just rattling off a bunch of dumb shit that makes no sense might be surprised to find that the lyrical nature of this band is quite interning and I would consider them to be astute in a sense. The first track after the Alice In Chains meets prog intro "Nuchal Chord 1:58" that whizzed and whammed and blammed and everything in between was actually called "Ancestral Perplexities 7:46" an interesting observation of human and Martian similarities. Something I've always pondered on and part of a concept that I had planned to write a novel on, except far broader than Mars. The next track "The Gynecic Curse 3:42" which is much more in the vein of proggier deathcore (with the addition of a hardcore style vocal) is about a whore.
There's also a lighter (almost) instrumental piece called "Mer/ka/ba 5:09" which has to do with either Kabbalah or chakras (I can't remember which) that has a rock solo featured in it that sounds like a blast from the past, making the band's list of influences even larger. That is followed by "Fail Science! 1:49" which features slight electronic influence adding even more to the mix.
I don't want to spoil all of the album's grandeur though, but will tell you that it's composed of a variety of topics leaving me completely stonefaced with the disc's title track, unless it is a metaphor for something. At any rate, you can hear the influence of Mike Patton's legacy in this band as well, as I'm even apt to thinking that the clean vocal approach has his clear inspiration. You'll also hear bits of djent here and there - but don't call The Odious djent, because they have so much more to offer than "djent band x" which puts an ill taste in my mouth because just that term reminds me of Megaman X. Nevertheless, you'll going to get some memorable riffs and melodies here in addition to the prog and tech and djent and other such oddities that exist on this album.
The Odious does in many ways sound like the variety of progressive deathcore bands that you've heard before - but they have much more to offer than many bands that are easier to choke down and are more marketable. I was actually quite impressed with not only the musical factor of this disc, but with the lyrical content as well. I would certainly recommend those who are a bit bored with most djent, technical, and prog deathcore bands to check them out. Before, I was only under the belief that Rings of Saturn and The Faceless were the standouts of this genre, but The Odious certainly sets themselves apart from the clones here and hopefully they will continue to do that with future releases.
The disc is available on The Odious' bandcamp page. It's a "Name Your Own Price" so check it out: http://theodious.com/
(11 Tracks, 55:00)
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