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

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ulver - Wars of The Roses (2011)

Band: Ulver
Country: Oslo, Norway
Style: Art Rock/Ambient
Label: Kscope

Here it is, one of my most anticipated releases for this year, Ulver's new album, "Wars of The Roses." Saying I was looking forward to this album would be an understatement, as the Norwegian group has not only been one of the most consistent groups in my catalog, they've released some of my all time favorite albums. Though this new album features a new member, Daniel O'Sullivan, I'm seriously hoping that they're input only makes this album even more unique.
Even before this album was released, the switch from Jester Records to Kscope kind of signaled something different for the band, moving to another label would perhaps put thoughts into some people's heads that this album might possibly be commercial or poppy sounding. Due to the band starting to play live shows in the last two years, this new album definitely has a more organic feel to it, but also maintains a very electronic-based sounds. In an interview, vocalist Kristoffer Rygg had stated that this new album was going back to the more chaotic nature of 2005's "Blood Inside" record, but to me it actually sounds like a mid-point between that record and 2007's "Shadows of The Sun." The music on here has a more rock feeling than the latter album, and is more layered as well, but it's a more stark feeling record, one that feels very melancholy, reminiscent of "Shadows." In addition, I could also say that this album, while it isn't exactly poppy, per se, it could easily be called the band's most accessible album to date.
What you'll find on here definitely has a sound that a lot more people would call "normal," but that's still a stretch, as the odd samples at the end of September IV or the spoken word conclusion of Stone Angels are far from being traditional. I would venture to say that about half of this album's sound makes use of a piano or organ, with tracks like Providence and Island being the two that stick out as the most beautiful sounding tracks on here to me. The composition on here is definitely something that sticks out on here to me as well, with it's minimal use of strings and the use of saxophones and clarinets creating some nice drones in the background or wild solos both only serve to create a mood.
I can safely say that this album did not let me down in any way, though it is a bit of a grower, it's another fantastic album. Filled with unique creativity that is unlike that of any other group or artist, this is hopefully the entrance for many new fans into the band. If you like "arty" music or more rock and pop that's based more around classical sort of composition, or avant-garde stuff, I'd recommend this highly to you.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Mamiffer - Mare Decendrii (2011)

Band: Mamiffer
Country: Seattle, Washington
Style: Ambient/Post-Rock
Label: Sige Records

Aaron Turner is a musician that I have grown to have a tremendous amount of respect for since discovering him through Isis. His work through both his label and various projects definitely shows that he's a man who's willing to both be an individual as well as try new things. Since starting Mamiffer with his wife Faith Coloccia, he has taken on more of a side-man role as oppose to a leading one.
If anyone comes into this thinking that it will sound anything like Turner's other projects, they might be disappointed. This has very little of the metal edge some of his other projects are known for and instead trades it in for a more ambient soundscape making use of a lot more textures. Being based off of Coloccia's piano playing, that is the central instrument in all these pieces, these tracks display a more beautiful side of Turner's musical catalog. Though, in my opinion this is what really makes piano oriented records for me, the despair and melancholy that is showcased in a track like the epic We Speak In The Dark is exactly the type of emotional pull I like to get when I listen to a record like this.
Being made up of five epic tracks, each diving into soundscapes that make use of everything from guitar and violin to subtle layers of keyboards. It's an album that really pulls you into it's grips and just pulls you down and puts you into an almost dream-like state and just slowly rocks you back and forth. This is a literal sonic plate with so much sound coming in and out and building on top of each other then falling apart, just hear album closer Iron Water. It's a record you could put on and fall asleep to, you could get high with your friends to this, or you could just put it on and let yourself become immersed in it, so it is a multi-palatable album.
Overall, there really wasn't a whole lot I didn't like about this album, it has everything I love about piano based albums and everything I love about post-rock melded together. The darkness really is just as essential on here as the beauty is, something that I absolutely love about it. If you like post-rock, classical music, ambient music, or softer kinds of music, this is really something you need to check out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: We Speak In The Dark, Eating Our Bodies

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Neige Morte - Neige Morte (2011)

Band: Neige Morte
Country: Lyon, France
Style: Ambient/Black Metal
Label: Aurora Borealis

From the moment I saw the cover of this album, this being probably back in the middle of January, I knew this would be something I had to hear. The bleakness of this cover just made me instantly try and find this thing. I'm sure I've said that French black metal is putting out some of the most original stuff in recent years.
Despite the initial shock of having to wait about four minutes for actual music to be heard, what came out was much different than what I thought it would be. Having a much more raw production value and a sound that really had a sort of frenetic sort of energy, not playing style, but kind of felt like it was about to suddenly go off the deep end at any second. Honestly, throughout this album, there's an almost overwhelming sense of atmosphere, and one that recalls the more psychotic realms of industrialized collapse that The Axis of Perdition do with their stuff. It's kind of quazi-industrial soundscapes that don't quite capture as much darkness as much as an overwhelming sense of uneasiness, or at least that's how I felt.
I honesly wouldn't say a person should come into this wanting to hear expert musicianship and brutal assaults on their instrument, a track like Tout Sonne Faux sounds like random bursts of industrial sounds playing with random screaming and weird guitar melodies. It's psychotic in one sense, and totally original in another; and I could actually people calling this a load of crap due to it's almost random compositional style. It's very avant-garde and progressive without exhibiting any of the normal traits one might associate with metal. I actually hear just as much, if not a bit more, Throbbing Gristle than Mayhem on here. Black metal songs, like real ones, don't even really come up til the last two songs on here Fausse Victime/Vrai Bourreau and Bourbier, though there's plenty of black metal sounding sections on previous tracks.
Overall, this was a release that totally surprised me, from the cover, and little information I had heard about it, it was almost completely different. It's got plenty of originality, but I think it's still got a little bit of work before they become a group that will be respected. If you like industrial, ambient, avant-garde black metal, definitely look up this album.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Réflexe Post-Mortem, Fausse Victime/Vrai Bourreau

Blut Aus Nord - 777 Sect(s) (2011)

Band: Blut Aus Nord
Country: Mondeville, France
Style: Progressive/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Candlelight Records

If you like experimetal black metal, Blut Aus Nord is a band that either you're already acquainted with or you just can't get into them. Having started back in 1994 and released some of the most timeless and abstract sounding black metal albums ever released, this first part of a coming trilogy should only heighten their status among metal fans. After last years "What Once Was..." disc, the experimental side of the band is finally able to make a resurface.
Fans have already been claiming that this release shares similarities with Deathspell Omega's latest works, and I can understand how they've come to this conclusion. Opener Epitome 1 does begin with a bang and hits you square in the mouth with dissonant and chaotic riffing. It's a sound that does recall a bit of what DSO have recently been doing, but what's on here feels a lot less tense and paranoid, if you get what I'm going for, than DSO's stuff. This album also goes into realms that DSO wouldn't touch, like the almost electronic ending to the opener or the slower and more epic sections on tracks like Epitome 2 and Epitome 4.
In a sense, Blut Aus Nord is one of the most abstract and original sounding black metal groups of today, as they bring a very unorthodox approach to orthodox. Whether what they play is straight black metal, or more dissonant noise, it always comes out sounding like them, which is a plus, obviously, but on here, while you could hear plenty of other bands perform something similar to this, it still sounds like something only Blut Aus Nord could come up with. Blurring the lines, while always expected from these guys, it's not always known how they do it, keeping themselves both in and against the grain of black metal, is sheer amazing. There are clearly moments of beauty within all the chaos, which is something, whether intentional or not, I've found the band have done in their work, hear closer Epitome 6.
Overall, great release by a great band, and hoping for two more releases of a similar quality later this year. I never expect band things from this group, they always amaze me with their originality while remaining cold and dark. If you like experimental, progressive, industrial, atmospheric, dissonant black metal, you can do no wrong here, check it out.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Raspberry Bulbs - Nature Tries Again (2011)

Band: Raspberry Bulbs
Country: New England, New York
Style: Black Metal/Punk
Label: Hospital Productions

This one man project/band from New England has gotten quite a bit of praise from the underground noise rock/punk lo-fi black metal scene. I'm not too familliar with this guy's older material but I've been aware of his presence the last few months, so why not check this out. This guy also plays in blackened noise metal group Bone Awl as well.
If you come into this album having any sort of preconcieved notions about it, and you've never heard this project before, chances are you'll be surprised by what you hear. This is raw, simplistic, blackened rock that's pretty harsh sounding with pretty much everything at least sounding distorted. You don't really have screaming as much as you have melodic speaking, so in that regard it has a lot more to do with punk than metal; and the song lengths can be shown the same way, about half of these tracks barely cross two minutes. Tracks like Life On The Level or The Center of The Earth definitely have a more melodic approach that's memorable from the first listen, while tracks like What It Is Between Us or Face In The Cave are a bit more abstract. Probably the most metal moment on here would be the track Will I Ever Speak The Truth?, which definitely recalls some old-school 80's sounding blackened thrash in the vein of Venom or early Bathory.
Overall, this is a decent release, a bit too harsh for me personally, but I kind of expected that coming from Hospital Productions. I'm sure a lot of black metal fans who check this out would probably be able to get into this. If you like raw, lo-fi punk influenced, sort of black metal, rock than I'd suggest you look into this disc.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Life On The Level, Tissue In The Bloodstream, Will I Ever Speak The Truth?

The Phantom Carriage - New Thing (2011)

Band: The Phantom Carriage
Country: France
Style: Black Metal/Screamo
Label: Throatruiner Records

I'd say that over the last decade, more and more bands are coming out of the black metal scene that are mixing other forms of music with it. The Phantom Carriage is such a band that apparently has been doing this for some time already. Though this is my first encounter with them, I only expect to hear good things coming from Throatruiner records.
What can you expect from this release, well, you'll hear black metal, late 90's metalcore, or mathcore now, jazz, and a bit of screamo punk all thrown at a wall and kind of blurring together into a disgusting mess. Somehow you get an odd mixture of extremely aggressive and crazy sounding moments mixed with more melodic and straightforward ones that somehow sound natural. Now, I'll say that while I definitely prefer the more spastic moments, the melodic ones do work as a nice counterpart to them, hear a track like The Horses Feed Their Birds. The vocals, while quite regular sounding screams also go into the weird punk rock style of talking as well, which is something that I just didn't really care for at all, but that's just me, I'm sure others will probably get into that more than me.
If you thought the above wasn't an odd sounding mixture, Black Rain Falls In Drops will amaze you with it's mix of the above with smooth jazz interludes and spoken word passages. In some ways, it kind of reminds me of something Mike Patton might do, but maybe not quite as left-field sounding as that, this isn't as straight up avant-garde. The track Les Fantômes Se Cachent Pour Pleurer also goes into a weird place, being under two minutes long and mixing black metal drumming with sounds more akin to that of polka and jazz music.
Overall, this is a decent release, one that doesn't always deliver my personal tastes, but it certainly has personality. I definitely enjoy the whole punk aesthetic on here, where these guys just don't seem to give a shit about what anyone thinks they should be. Definitely check this out if you're into left-field punk or black metal.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Wreck of My Mental Ship, 16-04-10

Monday, March 28, 2011

Light Bearer - Lapsus (2011)

Band: Light Bearer
Country: London, UK
Style: Post-Metal/Atmospheric Sludge
Label: Alerta Antifascista/Halo of Flies/Tokyo Jupiter

Emerging from the depths of the UK underground comes Light Bearer, once named Aeshættr. Featuring the frontman from sludge/hardcore act Fall of Efrafa, grand concepts are abound with this album and apparently future releases as well. From what I've read and heard so far, I have high hopes for this release.
While opener Beyond The Infinite got the ball rolling, it truly was the second track, Primum Movens, that immediately drew me in. In an opening passage that recalls all things I love about the post sound with clean guitars and somber melodies, it immediately clicked with me. For me, anyway, this has all the right componants for post-metal, it's softer sections are beautiful and heartfelt while their heavy sections are groovy and melodic. I found the violin on here to add a certain melancholy tone to the record that isn't usually present in the whole post scene. There's also the nessissary textures on here, in both the heavy and mellow parts, something that only made me like this album more. This has also been one of the first albums to actually give me goosebumps while listening to it this year.
While I have to say all six tracks on here are good, it's really the three real epics that make up the best parts of the album. The aforementioned Primum Movens, Armoury Choir, and the title-track, Lapsus, are easily the three tracks that have everything and more in their ten-plus minutes. The shorter tracks actually manage to match a similar atmosphere, but don't quite have the same impact that the longer tracks due. On a sidenote, I found the guitar tone on here to, in a good way, sort of remind me of the Deftones during their "White Pony" album for some reason.
Overall, this album is simply great, that's really all there is to it. It's heavy, it's soft, it's melodic, progressive, groovy, it has growling and clean vocals, what more could you ask for if you like metal. Definitely check this out if you like anything I just mentioned, this is really, really good.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Northless - Clandestine Abuse (2011)

Band: Northless
Country: Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Style: Sludge/Doom Metal
Label: Gilead Media

Brutality can sometimes be a hammer over your head, or it can be consistently pounding, the latter is what I would describe this album to be. You'll find moments that will crush you and plunge you further and further down, but it's not like you're going to be just demolished into dust for the entire disc. Doom and sludge metal I don't think was ever meant to be a seismic blow to the head, it should still have good songs.
Something I found interesting on here was how good the songs actually were, not that I didn't think they'd be good, but each one was just always good at giving a solid riff while never sounding monotonous or repetitive. Tracks also have this very crusty vibe to them that I really enjoyed, it definitely made this record feel a lot more energetic. Along with that, I can also vouch for the different influences that also come through that definitely make this no ordinary doom/sludge record, with a post-rock breakdown in the title-track, Clandestine Abuse, or small mathcore and hardcore riffs popping up in almost every track on here at some point, it's on pretty much every track so just listen to Sundower. The different sounds add a different vibe to the record because there are variations in the speed and tempo of these songs that goes beyond slow and really slow.
I don't think it's a stretch to say that what's on here is pretty traditional in terms of sound, it's heavy like doom and sludge should be; and there are a few parts that do allow softer passages to come in as well. It's honestly a nice example of a slower band, and I'm referring to newer bands here, going out on a limb and trying out some new ideas instead of trying to be just doom, just sludge, just post-metal. Hence the repeated use of the word crushing, it's on tracks like Damnation that I found that word applied the most, what with it's heavy grooves and intense drumming.
Overall, I really enjoyed this album, for a doom record, it was one of the few this year that didn't wear on me. It really just goes above and beyond what most doom metal groups nowadays do for an album. If you like doom, sludge, crust, or even hardcore, this comes highly recommended from me.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Not Made For Existence, Empty Home, The Storm

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Destroy Judas - Wake (2011)

Band: Destroy Judas
Country: Long Beach, California
Style: Sludge/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

It was only recently that I stumbled across this group when looking through another blog that I it really struck me. As I hold this one blog in a particularly high regard, I decided to check this out, not really thinking much of it. Upon hearing a little bit from their bandcamp page, I was impressed.
This album is sludge/doom, no mistake about that, but the manner in which it's played has a very melodic and almost post-metal sort of vibe to it. Of course this never reaches the sort of textured ambient nature some post-metal groups, even though there's plenty of more atmospheric and melodies ideas that seem to flow in that recall a bit of that genre. In fact, I was actually surprised as to how catchy some of these melodies were, hear the opening title-track, Wake. There's also the epic builds and falls that reminisce of the whole "post" scene, but for some reason, this has more in common this has much more in common with mid period Neurosis than any other post sounding groups.
I actually the vocalist on here to sound very original, in comparison to the legions of other vocalists in doom/sludge/post groups that all sound the same, he has a nice low and gruff bellow and howl while his growl is clear and raspy. During the softer and more mellow sections on here, you even get a bit of singing, something that really sounded right to me. Even though this band does feature members from groups like Phobia, Dead America, and others, there's a real uniqueness to this album, and band, that I haven't heard from doom in a long time, even though there are some moments that really get me thinking of Neurosis, hear the closer Drown.
Overall, I was surprised by how diverse and impressive sounding this album was, it was really good. I'm also a bit taken aback now knowing that these guys are still very underground, and not really known about all that much. If you like heavy, atmospheric doom metal, definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Wake, Seek The End

Ixion - To The Void (2011)

Band: Ixion
Country: Brittany, France
Style: Atmospheric/Death Doom Metal
Label: Avantgarde Music

I remember first finding this group through them actually being signed, the announcement anyway, and I heard a sample of this album and it was pretty cool. I'm a fan of death/doom when it's done in a way that brings a unique atmosphere to the music that accompanies it. This duo managed to create that within the sample I heard, so when I found this album, I was more than willing to listen to it.
The atmosphere is what I usually like in doom metal, unless they write some really good riffs, but in most cases, it's the atmosphere. This band has a very gothic, yet astral, sort of vibe going on with the keyboards on here, they use a very majestic sort of style, where it kind of gives the sound an ethereal kind of quality, but it's darker. Like most gothic music, and I use it more in like a Dead Can Dance meets Paradise lost sort of vibe, not Lacuna Coil, the piano an d organs used on here are very effective at how they personify an almost classical sound, yet remain very solemn and mournful, hear a track like Funereal Dance.
Most of the songs on here aren't that long, for a doom metal band anyway, and manage to remain more memorable than a lot of other groups that end up doing songs twice as long. The vocals maintain a very low and guttural growl throughout most of the disc, which is fine, it didn't do much for me, but it fits the genre. While tracks like New Heaven and Rebellion make use of some whispered singing sort of vocals, they feel a bit more "right" to me than the growling, I felt good about the screaming as well.
Overall, this was a pretty cool album, though I'm partial more towards the atmosphere than the actual metal portion on here. It's a beautiful record at times and just sounds so majestic and grandiose. If you like doom metal, or any sort of gothic based music, I'm sure you'll really enjoy this album.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Leaving, Fear of The Hidden, Fade to Blue

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mamaleek - Kurdaitcha (2011)

Band: Mamaleek
Country: San Francisco, California
Style: Experimental/Black Metal

Mamaleek is a group that I've only recently come to know about, and that's a pretty big leap seeing as not a lot is known about them. But this duo, being two brothers by the way, have apparently been making music for some time, but only recently has it begun to gather some attention. This is their third full-length release and it has already gathered quite a bit of an underground notoriety from what I've seen so far.
If you're unfamiliar with Mamaleek, I don't see any reason why this album wouldn't confuse you as much as the previous two would have. The sound this duo create is the odd mixture of lo-fi black metal with electronica and industrial music, post-rock, and even blues and jazz. It's definitely a weird sound that you hear on here, as a lot of the "riffs" on here are quite angular and disorienting, especially with the lo-fi production on them. A track like Wake Up, Jacob is a good example of how odd this album gets, with it's weird riffs, odd electronic beats, bursts of feedback, and brutal screams, this is probably one of the most tolerable tracks on here.
If that sound's weird now, thing really get crazy on tracks like Sinner Won't Die No More, where you'll encounter a noise track, and then What A Trying Time is pure dark ambiance until it's final minute, where it devolves into some 80's sounding jazz, but both do have vocals. Yet, in between those two is You Can Bury Me In The East, which uses a very 70's style rock riff in it.
I would definitely call this one of the, if not the, weirdest album I've heard all year, take that any way you like. I find some moments are really cool and original, while others seem more lackluster than others. If you want to hear some experimental black metal, you can do no wrong looking at this one.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: My Body Rock Long Fever, You Can Bury Me In The East, Some Valliant Soldier

Toscrew - Antiego (2011)

Band: Toscrew
Country: Budapest, Hungry
Style: Symphonic Black Metal
Label: Independent

I'll say straight out that upon seeing this cover, I didn't expect to hear what I heard. This isn't the sort of sound I typically associate with the Hungarian metal scene, but it's certainly different. But I'll definitely say that it was the cover of this thing that made me want to listen to it.
Now, despite the rather outlandish cover art, the music on here definitely takes itself a lot more seriously, and it's a lot more interesting as well. Symphonic black metal is a fairly relative term to use for this band, or album, as elements of folk music, death metal, old-school thrash, and even a little bit of grindcore, it's quite eclectic. All the songs are short as well, most only being around three minutes long, but there's well constructed and have some tasty riffs on them. These songs are all pretty melodic and pretty easy to follow along with, not really deviating into avant-garde or progressive territory too often.
The production on here is a bit odd for my personal taste, as a track like Hagyd Nőni sounds a bit more raw than Időből, which just kind of makes me think these tracks were recorded at different times. Most of the time, the bass is pretty unclear, but some tracks seem to make it a principle to make sure that the bass has it's own section in the band's style, hear Elveszve Benned for a good example.
Overall, this is a decent album, not mind blowing, but it's a different listen. It's not that long, but there are some really cool riffs and melodies on here that caught my attention. Check these guys out if you don't know about them.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Mohó Száj, Elveszve Benned, Élénk Alakban Mocorog A Szerénység

Friday, March 25, 2011

Quintessence - Le Bourreau De Tiffauges (2011)

Band: Quintessence
Country: Poitiers, France
Style: Black Metal
Label: Armée de la Mort Records

In all honesty, I think that even if a band doesn't know a thing about alchemy, it makes a really cool front cover. Hence, the reason why I wanted to check this out, that, and they're from France, which has a blossoming black metal scene right now. Featuring members, and ex-members, who've played with Sael, Angmar, and Manzer, these guys at least know how to play the genre well.
I find it's hard for a band that is trying to be different to actually achieve a sound that is their own, while there are clearly some bands that have worked at it, others either don't have the desire to sound original or unique, that's not the case on here. What I found on here, through these seven tracks is, yes, black metal, but one that explores enough of a melancholic ground without sounding like another. It's melodic and a bit progressive in a sense, but it's also very dour and atmospheric as well, while retaining it's speed. It's able to be doomy and slow, but also fast and piercing, it's a bunch of overused and tiring ideas melded into a much more unique style of songwriting, hear opener 1404.
With all that said, I found that this record didn't paint an overly cheerful painting, with a lot of dark and twisted imagery kind of floating in and out of my head as I listen to it, not that I ever expect the former from a black metal album to begin with anyway. I think it's just the lack of beauty in here, maybe I've just grown accustom to groups adding in a little bit of clean guitar work to brighten the picture. While tracks like Le Brasier Des Braves kind of goes into a style that is more traditional, I found tracks like Carnation to be much more intriguing and engaging due to a more melodic and atmospheric performance.
Overall, this is a really cool album with more than a few good songs. While I feel that the production could have been a little bit louder, the performances themselves are well done. If you like black metal that's a little bit adventurous, but also very kvlt, definitely check this one out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: L'or À La Croix De Sang, Vos Obsecro, L'oriflamme Des Ténèbres

Totalselfhatred - Apocalypse In Your Heart (2011)

Band: Totalselfhatred
Country: Helsinki, Finland
Style: Atmospheric/Blackened Doom Metal
Label: Osmose Productions

Totalselfhatred is a Finnish blackened doom metal group that was actually one of the first releases I remember reviewing. After three years of waiting, the follow-up has finally been released. I've had this album for a little while and I've finally been able to digest it some so I can give a decent perspective on this.
The three years obviously gave these guys a chance to improve their craft, as most of the songs on here are shorter and feel like they would work well, IE. opener Apocalypse. But I'm not saying that these guys are abandoning their atmospheric black-meets-doom metal style, because this album still doesn't go as fast as a lot of other groups, even though it does use blastbeats. The progression on here is also a lot more obvious in the different varieties of playing styles they use on here, from traditional black metal, to more progressive elements, and even the more post-metal/rock parts used at times. There's a greater use of all three vocalists on here than on the debut, as having all three guitarists provide vocals does add something unique to the harmonies on here.
I found that when the band made use of slower or more mid-tempo sections, it worked to their advantage, hear tracks like Ascension. Though the whole record doesn't always maintain a regular tempo, it's very well crafted to stop it from becoming monotonous, there's are parts with blasting and there are parts that are more laid back. Tracks like Teardrop Into Eternity definitely has the most technical sort of feeling to it while I personally found tracks like Anything and Cold Room Starstained to be much more engaging, as they build a lot more and make use of a lot more of "progressive" sort of mentality. In most cases I would definitely say this is a more engaging listen than the debut, but I have read some comments where people have said the production on the debut fitted the band a bit more, and all I can really say about that is that, the record as a whole doesn't quite have as nice a guitar sound as the debut did, but whatever.
Overall, I really enjoyed this album, it really has a nice flow to it, which is something I always like in albums. While the production is decent, I could see these guys going a little bit cleaner, it doesn't hinder the impact of the songs themselves. If you like atmospheric, slightly progressive-tinged black metal, definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: At War With Myself, Anything, Cold Room Starstained

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Mussorgski - Chaos and Paranormal Divinity (2011)

Band: Mussorgski
Country: Perzów, Poland
Style: Industrial Black Metal/Dark Ambient
Label: Eastside Records

Honestly, I had no idea that this album was or is released, so it took me by surprise when I first learned about it. Upon finding it, I also didn't realize it was the same band that released one of the first albums that melded electronic and industrial music with black metal, 1995's "In Harmony With The Universe." This new album seems to take the elements that were present on that album and update them with a more modern impression.
Upon the first track, Industrial Technology of The Ancient Ones - Opening, beginning, it became apparent that this would have been a logical step from the first album. First off, the debut featured fifteen tracks on it ranging from pure black metal to ambient to more up-tempo industrial numbers, this album appears to combine them together. Second, the production isn't all that modern compared to a lot of groups from this genre, it feels like it actually could have come out in the late 90s. Finally, you have a more focused nature to this album, while still an experimental group, this album's songs are much more direct and while varied compared to one another, are all very straightforward in style.
There's a noticeable style on here that is unlike that of any other black metal group I've ever heard. The keyboards are noticeably higher in the mix than almost anything else, which in this case actually works to the album's benefit, as the gothic strings and piano really bring a unique atmosphere to the album. The guitars surprisingly have the Xasthur sort of sound to them, where they're very fuzzy sounding; and when they are used, hear To Wisdom Coming From The Cosmic Space - v.2010 for instance, are used in a less "dominant" way. You'll be able to hear that when guitars are used, it's not really the instrument that is meant to be solely focused on, as it seems to serve the purpose of more of an addition to the atmosphere. I'd go so far as to say that most of this album isn't even black metal, with tracks like God - The Unusual Story and Big Communal Machine - New World Order, standing out as probably the most aggressive songs on here. The bass is noticeably high in the mix as well, and while it's not really a big problem or distraction, it is noticeable. The vocals are something that could turn some off, as they tend to either be used in a distorted scream or a pitch-shifted spoken word style.
Overall, this is a very odd album, not bad, just very different. While I'm sure some will absolutely love this, I'm equally sure that others will hate it with a passion for how atmospheric it is. If you like atmospheric, electronic influenced black metal, you really can't go wrong with this album.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: 7th Son's Blues Kill - J.Ch.'s Station 13, God - The Unusual Story, Paranormal Divinity - Chaos Outside

The Esoteric Movement v:6.660 - A Dire Worthless Campaign EP (2011)

Band: The Esoteric Movement v:6.660
Country: Madeira Island, Portugal
Style: Industrial Black Metal/Melodic Black Metal
Label: Kenosis Records

I remember a few years ago I was looking through Metal Achieves trying to find some interesting bands, and I came across this one. Their debut EP had some really cool and interesting moments on it, but I can't say that I've gone back to that since originally finding it. Upon seeing this new release, which is the follow-up to their debut, 2008's "A Blasphemous Light In The Austere Centuries," I decided to give it a shot and see if I like this any better.
From the second song onwards, because the intro is just an ambient sort of track, there is definitely some melodic blackened death metal going on. It's a sound that definitely has a clean and almost militaristic vibe to it, hence the industrial elements, that try to make it sound all epic at times, but the real trick is in it's ability to use guitar melodies as the real hook. At times, the guitar melodies go into an almost heavy metal sort of style, something that makes me think of Iron Maiden, which really grabbed me, hear the semi-instrumental Summoning The End. However, there are also plenty of other elements in here, including thrash metal, touches of symphonic metal, and even the occasional progressive moment, hear the epic Vulgar Pleasantry of Flesh.
Overall, this really impressed me as to how good it actually was. I could see some not really liking the industrial picture this album portrays, in the sense that the music feels more industrial than it actually is. If you like some melodic extreme metal, definitely check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: A Neurotic Quintessence, Vulgar Pleasantry of Flesh

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Explosions In The Sky - Take Care, Take Care, Take Care (2011)

Band: Explosions In The Sky
Country: Austin, Texas
Style: Post-Rock
Label: Temporary Residence Limited

Through my exploration of post-rock, and a recommendation from a girl I know, I came across Explosions In The Sky. This instrumental group makes use of longer, intricately woven guitar parts and have gradually grown in popularity throughout their career. Though it was their last album, 2007's "All of A Sudden I Miss Everyone," that brought me into the band, I'm still curious what this new album will bring to the table.
The sound of this quartet always struck me as a very accessible version of post-rock, seeing as the girl who recommended it to me doesn't like other post-rock groups like God Is An Astronaut or Sigur Ros. The style has rather lengthy songs evolve throughout numerous clean guitar melodies entering and the departing over the course of a given track, which makes their sound very melodic. The occasional vocals on here don't do much for the overall picture, they don't really detract or distract me, and I couldn't see other people being either, from the rest of the song, since they are mostly hummed.
Now, while I have listened to some of the band's older material, I can't say I'm so familiar with it to begin making comparisons to the older work, but from the sound of this record, and from what I've heard from another reviewer, the sound on here is noticeably simplified. For me tracks like Human Qualities or Trembling Hands just scream pop influences, containing very simple sounding melodies. While I personally found tracks like Postcard From 1952 a bit more engaging and intricate, I do have to say that not one of the tracks on here is a difficult listen.
Overall, this is a decent record, nothing great, but it's still has moments that are worth revisiting. I definitely wouldn't call this a great record, it's a bit too poppy for my personal taste, but I'm sure others will like it more. If you're into more melodic and poppy post-rock, check this record out, you should have no trouble getting into it at all.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Human Qualities, Let Me Back In

Our Ceasing Voice - When The Headline Hit Home (2011)

Band: Our Ceasing Voice
Country: Tirol, Austria
Style: Post-Rock/Shoegaze
Label: Wise Owl Records

Our Ceasing Voice is a band that I'm only now becoming acquainted with from hearing a sample video of theirs. Hearing that this album was some sort of elaborate concept, and along with the great looking artwork, I just had to check it out. This is also apparently the band's debut full-length record as well.
Starting out as a soft post-rock song and growing into epic sounding shoegaze influenced finales is something I've always admired some groups doing. Having something grow from the most minimal idea at it's beginning and just grow into something so wide in scope is something I really respect. While some songs on here don't build into the wall of sound that is most associated, by me at least, with the genre, there's still more than enough going on to keep the listener entertained. Songs on here do take their time building up, but I actually enjoyed the journey to the conclusion of each track more than I thought I would simply due to how much sound was being used on here, there's always something going on.
There's quite a bit of variation on here as well, as despite guitar being a common instrument on here, it's not always the main focus in a song, hear Without Even Breathing, where a piano is utilized for most of the song. There's also an overarching sense of atmosphere on here that really drew me into it for some reason, sometimes even that takes the lead role in a song.Vocals don't even come into play until the third track, Highway Lights. But what really made this album for me was the different emotions that I felt each track was able to capture, from more up-beat to melancholy, compare a track like Passenger Killed In A Hit and Run to Summer's Orange Haze for example.
Overall, I actually really enjoyed this album and it surprised me as to how much I got into it. There's so much sound on here, constantly changing and moving, it almost feels alive at times, it just drew me in and didn't let go. If you're into post-rock, shoegaze, ambient, or more atmospheric types of music, definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Highway Lights, The Only Ones Dead (Are Those Who Are Forgotten), Polaroids and Chinese Whispers

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Deadman - Spirito di Pietra (2011)

Band: Deadman
Country: Turin, Italy
Style: Black Metal
Label: Dusktone

I honestly can't say that I'm all that familiar with the black metal scene in Italy, it's not really one I ever hear from a lot. This is the first release from this practically unknown group so it did intrigue me enough to want to hear it. Coming into it, I have no expectations other than it being black metal.
If you're gonna go by track titles, you're not really gonna have a lot to go on, seeing as every track is a roman numeral, but sonically, I think what's on here is pretty impressive. While the opener, I, is a rather laid back clean guitar intro, II shows the band's true colors by definitely bringing the black metal. Within this one track, you kind of get a bit of everything else on the album, as this turns out to not be just a regular black metal album. Hints of doom and more melancholic clean guitar passages show up on here now and again to change things up from the more common assaults. There's also a use of atmosphere on here that really stands out, on a more epic sounding level than some other groups, but not in a symphonic way.
However, this is still very much a black metal album, tracks like IV or V definitely showcase the bands more primal and aggressive streak. These tracks don't really peak my interest as much as those that experiment a bit more, but do prove to be useful in adding diversity the album. Even the more "experimental" tracks on here make use of the standard tremolo picking style, harsh vocals, and double-bass drumming, so it all makes use of the black metal formula in here at the very least, so all trve fans can relax, this album is still very kvlt.
Overall, I was decently surprised by this album, it's a very solid album with some good qualities about it. While I don't think anyone would call this an original album, it certainly is worth listening to a few times. If you like old-school black metal that takes a step into a more atmospheric direction every now and then, I don't see any reason why you wouldn't enjoy this album.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: II, III, VII

Destroying Divinity - Dark Future (2010)

Band: Destroying Divinity
Country: Ratiskovice, Czech Republic
Style: Brutal/Death Metal
Label: Brutal Bands

I normally probably wouldn't review something that came out last year, but since the band themselves asked me to, I figure no one would fret over one review. Apparently these guys, despite releasing this last year, got almost no press for it due to their label. While this isn't the first band to have label problems, at least they're trying to get out there.
The band had told me that they take influence from groups like Incantation, Morbid Angel, and Immolation, all of which are clearly heard on here, though some take more precedence than others do, obviously. It's a sound that doesn't rely solely on brute force as most death metal does, but takes atmosphere into account, often at the expense of a tighter, and more brutal sound. What's heard on here though is a solid mix of the two, there's plenty of atmosphere, but the band definitely have a more brutal death metal sort of sound, the drums are almost always pounding and blasting while the vocals are low and guttural.
Throughout the record, as most bands that site the above bands as influences should, there's a use of different tempos, ranging from more doomy to tropical grinding. While I have always found that death metal bands that make use of at least a bit of a doomy section or two to be far more interesting than bands that constantly grind, these guys do both solidly, but tend to stick to a more mid-paced sort of groove most of the time, hear a track like Putrid Stench of Past. Now, I would definitely say that this album favors groove over melody, Prophecy, and technicality, Undead In The Darkness, though flourishes of both can be found on here, they don't overwhelm the listener enough to really make them a technical death metal band or a melodic death metal band. I can safely say though, that at least I preferred the more mid-tempo groovy tracks as oppose to those that maybe showed off a bit more.
Overall, this is a solid release and one that definitely should have gotten more attention. There's plenty of variety on here, and it holds a better sense of talent than most groups, as atmosphere and groove in taken into account on here. If you like old-school death metal with a touch of the modern, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Birth of A Faceless Killer, Cult, Name Written With Blood

Monday, March 21, 2011

TesseracT - One (2011)

Band: TesseracT
Country: Milton Keynes, UK
Style: Progressive Metal/Djent
Label: Century Media Records

After my praise of last years "Concealing Fate EP," I don't think it should be necessary to say that I was looking forward to this full-length. That EP managed to be one of the most played releases of last year, actually, which made the fact that those songs appearing on this album only the better. This album has been long awaited from fans for years, and only now is it finally getting to be heard from start to finish. If you've read the review of the EP, forgive me if I'm repeating myself.
Tesseract are a group that definitely have their own sound in today's modern metal world, taking influences equally from things like Meshuggah to Jeff Buckley and Pink Floyd. Their sound is one that definitely takes the heaviness of Meshuggah's djent riffs, but mixes them with soaring clean vocals, with some screaming, and a much more ambient soundscape, not unlike that of Porcupine Tree. As such it's a very groovy sound, but one with many layers of clean guitar parts and keyboards. Now, I'll say that while the Concealing Fate portion of the album is easily about half of this disc, but despite some comments I've read regarding the fact that only about half the album hasn't officially been released till now, that doesn't damage the impact of the overall album.
Despite their highly atmospheric and textured sound, it's still a very catchy album throughout, with memorable choruses and groovy riffs appearing in every track. There's also quite a bit of diversity on here, from the more proggy tracks like Acceptance or Eden, more melodic track like Lament and Deception, to heavier tracks like Nascent and Sunrise. I do have to compliment the production on here, it's extremely clean sounding, which in some bands causes them to sound too mechanical, but it works in this case, with all the ambiance within the music, it does add more dimension to it, breaking that one-dimensional stereotype. The vocals are also extremely tuneful, which stops them from having the same sort of Meshuggah effect, where they do sound like machines.
Overall, a really great album, and one that I've really been looking forward to for a while. I could see some people not really liking this because of lack of new material, mainly clean vocals, high production value, but I truly believe that there's something in here for everyone. If you like progressive, modern metal, check this out for sure.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Track Is A Highlight

Born of Osiris - The Discovery (2011)

Band: Born of Osiris
Country: Chicago, Illinois
Style: Progressive Death/Deathcore
Label: Sumerian Records

I remember a few years back when I first heard these guys, I was still in my death metal phase, but I thought these guys were going to be huge. Their sound at the time was basically progressive deathcore, then the second album kind of came and went for me, I had kind of lost interest by then. But, with this new release, and the samples that I'd heard, it sounds like it's definitely a leap forward to the more progressive side.
The sound on here definitely takes elements of the current djent movement, but combines them with equal elements of their deathcore and death metal sound. Another well inclusion into their sound is the more progressive riffing, which is well associated with djent, but you'll hear Dream Theater influenced guitar parts all throughout this record. There's also a bigger sense of melody on here, something I really liked, parts repeated themselves more often, usually for a chorus, and they wound up being quite catchy. All these elements add up to create a sound that definitely interests me more so than what I heard from their last album.
I have to say that tracks like Devastate or Shaping The Masterpiece definitely show how much the band have grown from their first album to now, as they still have very brutal and deathcore elements, but they show a better sense of songwriting and musicianship. Meanwhile tracks like Recreate struck me with just how melodic they sounded, seaming to favor a more progressive metal sound rather than any sort of death metal, except for the vocals. Though I will say a track like A Solution didn't really work for me, including a weak trip-hop sort of song with auto-tuned clean vocals on here really threw off the flow of the record for me and just sounded totally out of place. Other tracks like Behold should definitely appeal to their old fans, as they definitely come from a much more technical death metal spot than progressive, not that it's bad.
Overall, I'd call this a really solid release, this is the kind of work I come to expect from newer groups. Like I said, I wasn't too keen on their last album, but this one has some really great stuff on it. If you like progressive death metal, modern prog metal, djent, deathcore, definitely check these guys out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Ascension, Two Worlds of Design, Atomic Motion

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Haunted - Unseen (2011)

Band: The Haunted
Country: Gothenburg, Sweden
Style: Thrash/Groove Metal
Label: Century Media Records

I don't know why people like to knock The Haunted, so they feature two members from At The Gates and they aren't melodic death metal, so what. Even when they went through a more mid-paced and groove oriented phase, I still enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than their more thrash oriented stuff. Apparently, this is supposed to be the band's most accessible record yet.
With 2008's "Versus," many people praised it as a return to form after the previous album, "The Dead Eye," made use of more progressive structures and a more mid-tempo style, but this album pretty much disregards the last album and moves into a much more progressive, yet heavy sound. When a member of a band says that an album is their most accessible yet, it could either mean the band have given into pressures and decided to conform to current trends, or it could mean a greater development of songwriting, the latter proves to be true on here. Throughout the album traces of other bands come out and reveal themselves as influences, everything from the Tool melody on opener Never Better to the Clutch oriented blues vibes from No Ghost and All Ends Well.
Ever since his return to the band, vocalist Peter Dolving has been criticized by many for his vocal style, not quite living up the growls and yells that Marco Aro, but I have always enjoyed his style more so than Marco's. His singing and hardcore shouting really bring something different to the table and his lyrics have always been a high point for me, being one of the few lyricists I actually hold in high regard. But in regard to his vocals on this album, you'll find that there is a lot more clean singing on here than on a the last few records, hear tracks like Disappear or The Skull. But as for the rest of the band, guitarists Anders Björler and Patrik Jensen offer up some killer riffs, if not a bit simplistic, hear tracks like The City, but also some more psychedelic parts like in the title-track, Unseen. Bassist Jonas Björler doesn't step out too much, though his occasional bass interludes do come to mind as cool, hear Motionless. Drummer Per Jensen is a great drummer, no doubt, but some tracks definitely have a sense of more restraint, others do feature a more all-out approach, hear Catch 22.
I think by now, it's obvious that I'm already a fan of these guys, and that I like this album. This is definitely one of my favorite releases from them, the newer and more melodic take on their sound is definitely a welcome one, though I'm sure a lot of people will most likely hate it due to the lack of all-out thrash. If you like melodic thrash with a sense of experimentation, definitely check this album out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Never Better, Unseen, All Ends Well

Maruta - Forward Into Regression (2011)

Band: Maruta
Country: Miami, Florida
Style: Grindcore/Deathgrind
Label: Willowtip

Willowtip is a label that has it's hit and misses for me, some bands are really good and others just don't do anything for me at all. Maruta is a band that, while I was aware peripherally of their first album, it wasn't something that listened to. It was only after realizing that all the grindcore acts I've heard this year have been of a high quality, so I might as well give this one a shot.
Brutal, aggressive, technical, fast, it's pretty much all in here. The vocals give you either guttural lows or high pitched screaming, the riffing is constantly moving, going between something of a technical death metal spazz and crust punk aggression, and then the drumming is pounding and fast-paced as well. It's all there, everything you could ever want from a grindcore record, they even throw in more sludgy parts as well. This whole record is just under thirty minutes, so you're getting just another grinding record in terms of length as well.
In essence it's nothing new for the genre, except that it's played really well. Tempo shifts on a track like Stagnation Routine are what make me like this record, starting slow, moving into a grindcore part, then going into a weird mathcore-meets-punk type of riff. You also have the touch of the 8-string guitar that add that super low bass heavy chug to this record. I do have to say that longer tracks, or tracks that manage to make it over a minute, tend to contain some nice riffing, as oppose to the chaotic frenzy of notes that go on in those shorter tracks, compare Body Weapon to Conform to Deform. Though, even when these guys play actual riffs, there's always something a little off about it, hear Salient.
Overall, while this isn't as impressive as some other grindcore records this year, it's still good. There's plenty of energy in here, plenty of technical guitar work, crazy vocals, and frenetic drumming, so it checks all the boxes for grindcore in my book. Definitely check this album out if you're into grindcore at all.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Strain, Swine Swallower, Hand of The Overseer

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Alarido - Alarido Demo (2011)

Band: Alarido
Country: Las Vegas, Nevada
Style: Blackened Crust
Label: Ecophagy Records

Being a largely unknown group that has recently popped up on my radar recently, Alarido caught my attention with the ambition of a single track demo. This one track consists of a nineteen minute epic that definitely shows a lot of variety and potential. In exchange for reviewing this, the band stated that they want this link to be posted as to where you can buy the album: http://ecophagyrecords.blogspot.com/.
Being only a demo, the production quality is pretty lo-fi, with drums and vocals coming out as the dominant forces on here. While it's obvious that the guitar playing recalls elements of traditional black metal as well as hints of early thrash ,crust punk, and even a bit of folk in the acoustic moments. The vocals are a bit strained at times, but otherwise work, moving from throaty howls to regular screams with ease. The guitar playing is understated on this recording, especially during it's beginning phases, only near the middle does it begin to get clearer, where you can clearly hear the different riffs.
Overall, like I already said, this is a promising debut, but still quite muddy sounding. While this isn't the most original sound out there, I could clearly hear some really cool stuff going on throughout which could lead to a more original sound later on. This is definitely a group to look out for in the future, check them out if you don't already know about them.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: There's Only One Track

Brocken Moon - Hoffnungslos (2011)

Band: Brocken Moon
Country: Karlsruhe, Germany
Style: Depressive/Atmospheric Black Metal
Label: Northern Silence

I'm gonna say that this album was done by a full-band, which is what I've gathered from my information, even though it appears that it was all, both the project and music, created by one Humanhater. While I'm not a hundred percent sure this is the correct information, this is what I've come to the conclusion of from what I've read. This is the third full-length for this project and takes their sound into even darker realms of realism.
Having only heard Brocken Moon's last album, 2008's "Das Märchen Vom Schnee," a few times in passing having read some good things about it, I can safely say that after hearing it, I didn't really go back to the band all that often. Having heard this, it did make me go back and listen to that album and comparing the two, this album's production is a lot better. The overall sound is not as fuzzy or hazy as the last one, but it retains a similar sounding atmosphere to it. The vocals also sound similarly depraved as before, which doesn't really do much for me, but might get others really into it.
Personally, I like it when a band that's been tagged as "depressive" makes use of tempos that have more in common with traditional black metal and have faster and more aggressive moments along with softer more melancholic parts. This album has tracks that take two routes, or at least this is how I heard it, tracks like the title-track, Hoffnungslos, have a more guitar oriented sound with some nice variation between clean and distorted parts, but tracks like Kälte appear to be more atmosphere driven with the keyboards leading the way. About half way through the record though, the band, I guess, decided they had enough with trying to be a black metal band, with tracks like T12 Ritual going for a sort of world music sort of vibe, and Einsamkeit going for a more piano and synthe driven sound, both making use of very little, if any, guitars.
Overall, this is an alright album, nothing great, but it's certainly not terrible. I wasn't the biggest fan of their last album, and my opinion really hasn't changed from listening to this. If you like atmospheric, slightly depressive, black metal, check this out, though I wouldn't call it an essential album for your collection.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Regen, Die Leere

Friday, March 18, 2011

Sylosis - Edge of The Earth (2011)

Band: Sylosis
Country: Reading, UK
Style: Thrash/Melodic Death Metal
Label: Nuclear Blast Records

2008 saw the release of Sylosis' debut full-length "Conclusion of An Age," an album that was critically acclaimed and won the band over a lot of new fans. Since then lead vocalist Jamie Graham has left the band and guitarist Josh Middleton has taken over vocal duties. This new album sees the band as ambitious as ever, saying that they have taken to a more progressive and technical approach on this album.
I'll give it to these guys, putting out another album that tops an hour in length and is filled with actual songs, including several interludes of real playing . Their sound retains their thrash metal roots and the melodic death metal influences are still there, but there is certainly another dimension added on here, the traces of groove metal, progressive metal, and tech metal definitely come through. There's plenty of guitar playing on here to make all those guitar nerds freak out, hear tracks like Empyreal or Awakening. But, while the musicianship has definitely improved, the vocals have sadly decreased, most of them feel so one-dimensional compared to the last album's varied style, and from some comments from others, that seems to be a big beef others have with this album as well, though I personally don't find the vocals to even be that bad.
I have to say however, that with all the material used on here, some tracks do kind of begin to blend together, which can often happen in albums like this. The middle of the album really has this problem, with tracks like Kingdom of Solitude or Dystopia just sort of going by without leaving much of an impression on me. Though this might just be me, I can assure that every track however, is excellently played and has great guitar playing no matter if I found the track memorable or not.
Overall, this is a decent album, it's certainly not mind blowing, but instrumentally it's top notch. This is an album that just makes you want to play guitar to it, which is a good thing in my opinion. If you like progressive thrash oriented metal, check this album out.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Procession, A Serpents Tongue, Apparitions, Beyond The Resurrection