Thursday, May 23, 2013
Country: Montréal, Canada
Style: Psychedelic Folk/Drone
Back in 2011, Preterite released a rather well crafted debut full-length, Pillar of Winds, on one of this blog's favorite labels, Handmade Birds. Since then, there has been talk of another full-length being in the works as well before this two song EP just popped up on bandcamp. Back when it was released in February, I gave it a listen but have only just recently gotten back into the swing of reviewing so I wanted to give this one its due.
The work of duo Geneviève Beaulieu and James Hamilton is one that is quite special, which I guess is saying something since I've never been one for either of their projects separate from each other. The way they blend trippy psychedelia, droning atmospheres, and folk based instrumentation is a fusion of ideas that I don't think I would have assumed could work as well together as they would in this duos hands if you had told me in years past. I guess where my perspective differs on this small release to their full-length is whereas the full-length had it's fair share of crackling distortion and feedback chiming in the background from time to time, which at times I felt actually disrupted the more delicate sounds that came before it, the two songs on here are not quite so harsh. For my money it's a much less austere vision, with more captivating guitar and piano work than on the full-length. I feel as if it isn't so stuck in the world of drone on here that it needed to senselessly elongate the two tracks, but instead brings a far more interesting folk side to the forefront of the sound. Geneviève Beaulieu's voice is still a bit polarizing for me at times, but I think that her style on here is well suited to the music underneath her.
I really dug both the tracks on here and actually think that both are the best tracks the duo have released up to this point (not that that's saying much since they only have seven tracks out). I found myself returning to both tracks on here quite often actually, especially since it has been quite rainy recently, which really works well with that sort of weather. Once again, this sort of style isn't going to be for everyone, but if you want some nice ambient, folky music - I'd certainly give this one a shot.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Don't Ask For The Moon When We Have The Stars
Posted by maskofgojira at 3:47 PM
Country: London, UK
Label: Halo of Flies
Light Bearer has been a rather interesting independent group who has proven to be quite prolific in the years since their inception. The style in which they have chosen to perform in has bred groups who often tend to take much longer spaces of absence in between releases, which is not the case with this group. Since the talk around this record has sort of died down since it was released several months back, I figured it was about time to bring it up again.
On 2011's Lapsus, I really dug what the band was doing with their brand of post-metal and sludge metal. They took that rather tired and somewhat lazy sound that so many bands had done up til that point and really gave it a nice breath of fresh air. Granted, it wasn't a huge breath, but that record had life, it was diverse, and it felt passionate. It didn't feel like as much of an exercise to listen to a band write a song that was soft and then got heavy during a climax. I'm certainly not immune to that style of writing but it gets taxing after a while listening to a style where no one is doing anything original with it. Then the band released a single and a split with Earthless (which I still hold as being one of the best splits to come out that year) with an epic twenty-one minute long song. It was another nice take on their sound, pushing it to it's limit, at least at that time, by stretching the song out to that length and still making it engaging. I had high hopes for this release coming into it.
That last statement is probably making whoever is reading this think that I'm now going to trash this album, but that is actually not the case with this record, or at least not the entire case. Unlike their first couple of releases, this record suffers most simply from overreaching. The band really put too much filler on here. There are certainly some good tracks on here, the opening and closing pieces on here are great pieces of work actually, and some of the stuff in the middle is quite good too, but this album has six tracks and five of them are over ten minutes. Normally that isn't a problem for me, I like long songs, but some of these in the middle just felt like the band didn't really do anything in that time. There was no reason Aggressor & Usurper should have been almost seventeen minutes long, it easily could have been about half that length and accomplished about the same. I single this track out simply because during the handful of times I've sat through this entire album (from start to finish) this was the track where I found myself nodding off to the most. By that point in the album I feel as though I've already listened to the band's best track to date, the opener, Beautiful Is This Burden, and then some other stuff which is solid for the most part. But at that point in the album I just feel tired out and worn down by the album. I don't feel like an album should wear down a listener simply because of how long it is, maybe with how heavy it is, but not it's length. So I can't help but take against this album because of how long it is.
I don't know if I've mentioned this in any of my reviews for the band's other material but I really dig their production. It's nice and raw sounding, not really polished, but very bassy. The band's music doesn't really come across as "heavy" to me in the traditional sense, but more as "weighty". It feels like there's actual power being used to play some of these more distorted sections, which I'm all for. In a way it sort of reminds me of Neurosis because they've really lessened their more metallic side but have retained the weighty sound of the style without falling into it. To be fair though, Light Bearer is definitely still a metal band. It also compliments the more atmospheric tones that the strings bring when they come into the mix. It doesn't have a drastic shift in tone even if the band are playing a more upbeat and melodic part before transitioning into a more melancholic string section.
So, this album is filled with some of the band's best material yet, but paired along with some of it's most dull as well. It's simply a matter of overreaching, which I can't take against a band for, I can only hope the band can tone things down a little bit more for their next album. I think that if you're a fan of slower forms of metal, you'll dig this for sure, otherwise, give the opener and closer a listen before making a final decision to advance further.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Beautiful Is This Burden, Silver Tongue
Posted by maskofgojira at 12:28 PM
Country: Mariupol, Ukraine
Style: Progressive Doom Metal
Label: Hypnotic Dirge
I first found out about Odradek Room some time last year while scouring through different groups on Bandcamp. I never got around to actually listening to the band until now though. I was excited to hear what a band who was labeled as "progressive doom metal" would actually end up sounding like.
The sound of this record is, I think, a bit underdeveloped for me to really say that it's "progressive" but there is definitely some nice ideas on here. What you happen to have on here is a band who is definitely based in the slower spectrum of the metal genres, but aside from the obvious doomier sound, you have them toying around with sounds from post-rock, avant-garde music, death metal, and stuff along those lines. Frankly, at least to me, the majority of this record was spaced somewhere between death-doom and post-metal, and while I can't really call that progressive, I can certainly tell you that what's being done on here, for the most part, is pretty solid. I mean, this band is still pretty young, and their influences still come through pretty clearly in their songs. They have definitely pulled from the likes of My Dying Bride, Paradise Lost, Isis, and Officium Triste (among others). It's not a bad thing, I like all those bands, but there are times where chord progressions sound a bit too much like they were just ripped straight out of one of the above bands and put into place here. Tracks like Inflorescence of Silence or A Painting (Digging Into The Canvas With Oil) do show promise for which the band could further expand upon, it's just a matter of getting rid of those parts that are too much like their influences. Even the post-black metal conclusion to River is a nice shift for the band's sound and is, while hopefully not a huge point, something they can explore further in the future.
I think the biggest thing I could fault this record for would be the production, which is a bit too raw for the sound I think these guys are going for. It sounds very much like a bedroom sounding recording - which is fine in most cases, but this band doesn't sound like a bedroom band. It sounds more like a group who should have a bigger and more weighty sound to their album. The guitars, at least the distorted ones, sound too thin while the vocals sound a bit too loud in the mix. So, the major fault is simply in the recording which I think is the main thing holding the band back from really being something. It's probably just the fact that I'm studying recording that I actually find fault in this to be more impactful for my listening experience. The vocal production is perhaps the weirdest thing to me because the clean vocals, while sounding whispered for the most part, are sitting pretty comfortably in the mix. They don't overwhelm like the growled ones do.
So, overall, it's an impressive debut that definitely shows a band with potential, it's just weighted down by them being a young band - which is nothing time can't solve. Fans of doom metal and all related genres like it will definitely be pleased with this album if they can get past the production. Not bad, but we'll see what the band do next.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Inflorescence of Silence, Suffocation, Cold Light
Posted by maskofgojira at 11:35 AM
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
Country: Morris Plains, New Jersey
Style: Mathcore/Progressive Metal
Label: Party Smasher/Sumerian
I find it hard not to enjoy what The Dillinger Escape Plan do. Their style is so unique that even when bands attempt to even try a same sort of stylistic venture, they come off nowhere as convincing or even grabbing as these guys are. Plus, they're experimentalists in the truest sense of the word, leading to an even further amount of respect that I give them.
I have to say, the first time I listened to Prancer I was actually sort of surprised by the direction TDEP happened to be taking. Yes, it's certainly as aggressive and intense as anything they've done in the past, but it was perhaps the first time I had noticed how syncopated the band were. The guitar and drum work were really moving as a single unit. Then I heard/saw the video for When I Lost My Bet and was shocked yet again. That track really took me back to the band's Irony Is A Dead Scene EP (more specifically, the song When Good Dogs Do Bad Things) with how chaotic and yet controlled it sounded. With these two tracks providing my introduction to the album, I was interested to see if the band would release their most consistently intense record since 1999 Calculating Infinity, and the one review I read prior to hearing it didn't suggest that my thought was incorrect.
But, yet again, TDEP have managed to surprise me. While the first two tracks are as intense as anything the band have released, the third track, which is the title-track, is right up there with being one of the band's most straightforward and melodic. I've always thought that the band had as much a penchant for writing huge pop hooks as well as their schizophrenic bursts of chaos, but this is right up there with some of their other more pop based tracks. The chorus is just a huge hook. Though the band certainly aren't through tossing you around. Following tracks like Hero of The Soviet Union and Magic That I Held You Prisoner are just as frantic (though a little less spastic) than the opening pair of tracks are. Though it's really tracks like Nothing's Funny and Understanding Decay that shows the progression the band has made since their last full-length. In reigning in their trademark chaos and almost transitioning into a more groove based sound (for the band) you have a sound that is a bit more controlled and one that is perhaps a bit more direct. On Option Paralysis we saw the band fusing the chaos of their mathcore roots with the poppier and more melodic tones that they had been playing with since the release of their debut full-length back in 1999. That record had songs that blended the two styles together seamlessly, this record takes that one step further by making the fusion sound even more cohesive and natural.
As I have always thought, the band do shine when they are experimenting and working within longer song lengths (IE, the songs that are four or more minutes long). Tracks like Paranoia Shields and Crossburner are easily some of their best yet. The former being a nice blend of the melodic and crazy before diving off in it's last two minutes into a more atmospheric form. The latter is a slower paced track that is a nice barnburner (no pun intended) that really shows the band going almost sludge metal for a while. This track also has some nice electronics popping up throughout to really make it worth listening to even if you're not a huge fan of the band doing slower stuff. Though to be fair, neither track is completely devoid of the trademark TDEP frenetic tendencies.
Overall, I dig this record, the band have yet to disappoint me in any fashion. I really dig that the band has actually pushed their sound further by just becoming better songwriters, a change I did not foresee based on the first two tracks to drop from this album. If you're a fan of the band, you'll listen to this regardless of what I say, but if you're not get off your ass and give this one a listen.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: One of Us Is The Killer, Paranoia Shields, Crossburner
Posted by maskofgojira at 5:25 PM
Country: Stockholm, Sweden
Style: Progressive Metal
Means End has been a band who I've been periodically keeping tabs on since first hearing about them a few years ago. Since they happened to feature Robert Luciani, who used to sing in Vildhjarta, they were a group I wanted to know. It's been a couple of years since first hearing them, but they have finally released their debut full-length and boy was I going to get on top of it as soon as I could.
I don't expect people to know this but I'm a big fan of Vildhjarta. I think that what they are doing with djent is really something special and the two songs they released with Luciani on their Omnislash EP are among their most popular. Since his departure I would argue that the band has taken a much more abstract and dark path (though I have no way to back this theory up), but it's interesting to hear where the two sides have gone. If Vildhjarta is a dark and dissonant group, than the path that Luciani has made for himself with Means End is the opposite, featuring a much brighter, melodic, and at times theatrical tone to it. Having only the band's self-titled EP to go off of, I was actually somewhat shocked with the way this album sounded. It's not as densely layered, or at least not as obvious about it, and Luciani's vocal performance is far more diverse and operatic in tone. I don't think it's any stretch to say that his vocals are the highlight of the album. He just goes up and down on here from operatic and theatrical cleans to more straightforward melodic singing but still bringing in plenty of aggression from the death growls and his ear-piercing shrieks. He really is a force to be reckoned with behind the mic - though at times I did feel like he might have been stretching his voice, hear the chorus of Arbiter of Time for an example.
Musically, this album definitely took a turn that I didn't quite expect either. As I mentioned above, the tone is pretty light and melodic sounding for the most part. There isn't a massive amount of pounding low-end on here, with more of a mid-rangy guitar tone for the most part, which was the biggest surprise for me because for a band that did come, essentially, from the djent genre, it didn't have that crushing low-end that most groups have. But aside from some more groove based riffs, there isn't much djenting actually going on here. Even the grooves themselves aren't overpowering or all that close to what many groups in the genre are doing to be honest. One of the darkest and heaviest moments you'll hear are on a track like Aeronaut, which is actually one of the quieter tracks on the album - but there are others for those curious. There's a bigger embrace of chordal melodies and I guess what could be called traditional progressive riffs, which I thought was a nice route for the band to take. Then there's the entire background of the album which is just filled with synth textures filling up the empty space. Whether it's simply through piano keys or more ambient soundscapes, there's always something going on back there.
But I have to say that there was one track on here that did annoy me. The band's cover of Nox Aurumque, by a composer named Eric Whitacre, did come off as somewhat pretentious to me. I'm sorry if maybe I just don't get it or something but I just couldn't find myself enjoying the track in the same way that I did for the other eleven tracks on here. It's not a bad song, it's not performed badly or anything, but just the way it was presented by Luciani, who can no doubt perform it, where is just sounds so over the top that it just sounded like a band doing it just because they thought they could do. I know that sounds incredibly stupid, but for me it was the equivalent to someone wanting to have their cake and eat it too, they wanted to cover it but instead of making it sound unique, it just sounded pretentious and obnoxious. Just my opinion though.
Call me biased for enjoying this album, but I think that this probably has a much broader appeal than some people would make it out to be. I'm not going to lie, some of this could come off as a bit pretentious or not heavy enough or whatever, but I dug it. I can only hope that those of you who check this out find something to enjoy as well.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Crimson Interloper, Mourning Star, Sun Wukong
Posted by maskofgojira at 2:08 PM
Country: Milton Keynes, UK
Style: Progressive Metal/Djent
Label: Century Media
Back in 2011, TesseracT really grabbed me with their stellar debut One - which wound up being my fourth favorite record of that year. Since then, the band has gone through two more singers, Daniel Tompkins and Elliot Coleman, before finally landing on Ashe O'Hara. After hearing the band's newest single a few months back I was excited to hear what the rest of this album would sound like and if it would live up to their debut.
I have to say, after hearing the band's Perspective EP last year, I was quite excited to hear what the band would do with Coleman as a vocalist, but I guess we will never know what the band and him would have come up with. In the case of O'Hara, I was not familiar with his other band Voices From The Fuselage but when I heard the single version of Nocturne, I was definitely sure that he could live up to expectations. His voice was a lot closer to Tompkins' than Coleman's was, so it's easy to see why fans were a lot more accepting of him than his predecessor had it. Based off of that single, it sounded like the band was continuing with the sound they had established on their debut with the djenty grooves, a lot of ambiance, but with more of a focus on clean vocals - which I was just guessing at the time when I first heard that single, but has now been proven correct.
It has to be said, based off of the several listens I have given this record, I do not find it to be as song an album as their debut was. This new album certainly isn't bad, but I don't think the song(s) live up to what that initial single had going for it. When the band announced that this album would be essentially one long track being broken up into ten shorter pieces, I was excited because the six tracks that made up Concealing Fate definitely led me to think that the band had a talent for writing these more progressive epics where you had sections that would happen once and then happen again in another track later on or where similar melodies would be repeated, this album does not do that. I realize it doesn't have to in order for this to be a continuous track, but my main problem with this album is that it doesn't feel like a single track. I'll give it to the band that they definitely linked together to four sections, but those four never feel like they were joined together (at least to my ears); and those four sections, beyond being linked together, never felt like a continuous track in terms of anything beyond the lack of a fade or stop in the previous track. In addition to that, I can't recall any repetition of grooves or melodies throughout different sections. I also have to say that whereas on the last full-length, there was at least one thing in a track that had me coming back to it over and over - whether it was a groove or a chorus or whatever, it had memorability and definitive replay value. In the case of this new album, there are some songs like that, but definitely not all of them. From the multiple listens I gave this album I never felt the need to return to tracks like Resist or Exile.
My problems have nothing to do with the removal of more aggressive vocals from the equation or the band saying they wanted to pursue a more epic (their word, not mine) and melodic direction, it simply stems from them not making it feel like a single track (or a single section) and that some tracks are just not as well written as others. I'm sure there are plenty of other people out there who will disagree with me and probably vent their frustrations through comments in either this review or on another site, but I can't lie and say that I felt like this was either a cohesive piece of music or that more than a couple of songs stayed with me beyond the end of this album. I've not above saying that I think O'Hana is well suited to the band and does a good job or that the production and inclusion of a sax in a few of the tracks is well done either, but as a whole, this album did fall short for me.
Like I just mentioned above, I'm sure there will be plenty of people out there who disagree with me (I've seen the comments on other sites already before I've even posted it, so I know what people are thinking). There are certainly some good points on here, but it's not a masterpiece and it's not as well crafted as their debut. Worth a listen if you're interested in modern prog-metal and rock but I can't say this was a whole memorable experience.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Nocturne, Palingenesis, Singularity
Posted by maskofgojira at 10:30 AM
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
Country: Reykjavík, Iceland
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Demonhood Productions
I remember first starting to dive into the world of underground black metal (beyond the well known groups and the pompous symphonic stuff) and finding some nice blogs where such bands were posted about. Not that I knew it at the time, but Wormlust was one of the bands from that period of discovery that has actually stayed with me - even if it was just because of the name. Since the release of The Opium Sleep demo back in 2011, I had actually thought this project had disintegrated, but was gladly proven wrong.
Ok, I don't know how many other people thought this as well, but in my past experiences with the recordings of Wormlust, I have always viewed the project as a sort of "post-black metal" style. You know, the ones who pretty much took what a group like Alcest was doing and did that. It was a bit rawer, a bit more on the ambient side with not as big an influence coming in from post-rock, but regardless, I always considered the project to be in that genre. When I listen to this album, I don't get much of that at all. Is it still there? Yes. But it was almost everything else that hit me in the face when I first pressed play that got me. Unlike many of the other one-man bands that stemmed from this same genre, this one appears to have taken on a far more radical shape that I for one never anticipated, especially seeing as I thought the project was no more. What you have on here are four tracks that make use of that post-black metal sound, but pretty much to the same degree as a band like Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega use it. Opener Sex Augu, Tólf Stjörnur is a real barnburner. The track pretty much explodes with a BAN and DSO styled chaos. It's controlled but with all the dissonant chords and blasting drums it feels more in line with those groups than anything I've heard Neige put his name to.
I have to say that while the rest of the album doesn't maintain the same level of ruthless intensity as that opener, they are far from a let down. Djöflasýra brings a much more mid-paced ambiance to the table that is, on one hand more in line with the sound I expected from the project, but on the other is still very chaotic and caustic sounding at times. For as much as I love some good post-rock and shoegaze influenced black metal, the dissonance a lot of the riffs used not only in this song but on the entire album, do cast a new light on the genre. While I mention BAN and DSO, the resemblance strikes me more to the ladder's recent EP Drought. Granted this is far more atmospherically laden and nowhere near as raw or intense as that EP was, they carry the same sort of sonic palette, of sorts, in the sense that you have crazy guitar riffs being played in such a way that they actually create an atmosphere rather than just spinning off into the abyss or somewhere. However one does have to say that the use of synth and keyboards on here is far more prevalent than that of DSO. The second half of the album retreats even further into ambient led passages with closer Iður úti falling into ambiance for the majority of its running time. It acts less as an act of frantic aggression and more as a melancholic anchor that holds down the album; and I don't mean that in a bad way. It's the closest link to the project's older material while continuing to be quite different from it as well.
This was quite the little surprise for me, not only finding out that the project was still in tact but also that the album was very different from what I expected. With all the praise that groups like BAN and DSO have received, I expect that this will polarize plenty of people who will either say it's amazing and those who say it's just a rip-off of the aforementioned groups. Personally, I really dug it and I hope whoever reads this does as well.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Sex Augu, Tólf Stjörnur, Iður úti
Posted by maskofgojira at 8:15 PM