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

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Antediluvian - Through the Cervix of Hawaah (2011)

Band: Antediluvian
Country: Ontario, Canada
Style: Black/Death Metal
Label: Profound Lore

I'll come out and say that death metal has had a much better year than I had thought. Early on this year, I had imagined it was going to go similarly to last year, which had very few death metal releases that stood out to me, but this year has been very good. This album is one that I've been anticipating since I first heard they had been signed to Profound Lore.
Never one to release a normal sounding band, Profound Lore have once again released an album for a band that sits somewhere comfortably, if not unstably, between the realms of death, black, and doom metal. Antediluvian is one of those bands that sounds like members of Incantation, Morbid Angel, and Immolation all decided to jam together while on an acid trip. It's one of those weird sounds that isn't boundary pushing but molding. It's as if the band knew what they wanted to accomplish sonically and just sort of wrote songs that weren't so specific to a single sound and they wound up with these eerie and brooding extreme metal tracks. In addition to that, the weird vocals kind of add a bit of a psychedelic vibe to a couple of these songs, and I don't mean the growling, there are some pretty trippy moans and throat chanting going on in a couple of songs, hear Luminous Harvest for one example. At times the band also pull out some more psychedelic riffs that only enhance the oddity that is this record. With all that being said, don't mistake this record for being progressive, because it is has a lot more in common with primal and bestial urges than technical and sophisticated precision.
It's the type of sound that wouldn't sound nearly as powerful if not for it's deep and cavernous atmosphere. To be completely honest, the first two listens through this thing were a bit rough because the production does get a little muddy at times and riffs can tend to bleed into one another. With every consecutive listen through though, riffs begin to stand out more and more, they become more distinguishable from the muddy production, tracks like Scions of Ha Nachash (Sceptre of The Burning Valley) stick out as being one of the ones that hit me after a couple of listens as being a really good song. I should say that while I'm describing the production as muddy, it's not terrible and it suits the sound of the band. Personally, I might have wished for the album to kind of break itself up a bit more, as I found that picking some tracks apart from each other was a bit of a difficult task at times, more so in the middle of the album than during it's bookends.
It's a very solid piece of work that definitely cements it as another stand out death metal album for 2011. I definitely could see this record appealing to both old-school death metal fans as well as people who are more interested in the more avant-garde take of bands like Portal. Do yourself a favor and look into this record if you're a fan of extreme metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Intuitus Mortuus, From Seraphic Embrace, Erect Relfecion (Abyss of Organic Matter)

Hellcrawler - Wastelands (2011)

Band: Hellcrawler
Country: Nova Gorica, Slovenia
Style: Death'n'roll/Crust Punk
Label: Hollow Earth

Let's talk about death'n'roll, a sub-genre that is pretty hit and miss for me as well as a lot of other people. I'm not sure what band comes to mind when someone mentions it to you, but for me, the one band that always pops into my head is Entombed. So when I got this album and it was labeled "death'n'roll," that's obviously what I go in expecting.
I'll come out and just say that I know bands don't like to be labeled and placed into genres, but as soon as this thing starts up, death'n'roll proves to be very appropriate. I mean, and I don't mean for this to be negative, but there really isn't too much to this record. It's death metal injected with a dose of thrash, crust punk, and hard rock and then put into a meat grinder and just pumped out. Now, like I said above, I always think of death'n'roll, I always think of Entombed, and unfortunately, though not unexpectedly, this does not rival them in the least. I mean, it's not a bad record, it just feels a bit average to me, there are solid riff, some decent growls, and some raging solos, but it all feels a bit samey to me. I've said this many times in the past, but I love my death metal to sound old-school, filthy, grimy, and disgusting, and this really doesn't give me any of that. I don't know, I guess this just didn't live up to my expectations for it.
I really don't want to make this sound like a bad record, because I am well aware that there will be people who will think this is an amazing record. All the songs on here are quick and punchy, really just going for the jugular and then moving onto the next track. They're all pretty straightforward, and actually pretty melodic on more than one occasion, hear the more melodic take on Firefly Powerplant or the acoustic break on Yet Again The Greed of Man for example. It's the type of deal where each song is actually pretty distinguishable from each other, which I do have to give the band points for because that's something that even older and more seasoned groups can't do. Sonically, as I said above, it has a lot different elements, and that's a point that I'm sure will draw a lot of people as well. I don't even think any of the songs on here are bad, most of them are perfectly fine with nothing wrong with them whatsoever, they're aggressive and pounding, but in most cases, that's about it. It has it's moments, but as a whole, I'm just not that big a fan of this.
Overall, it's a decent record that I'm sure will appeal to plenty of people who like death metal that's a bit more accessible, but it's just not for me. Don't let me discourage you from checking this out though, I do feel like this is a band that will appeal to a lot more people, I'm just not one of them. Check it out if you want to hear some rocking death metal anthems, I doubt you'll be disappointed.
Overall Score: 5
Highlights: Rattlesnake Tavern, Post Apocalyptic Revolt, Yet Again The Greed of Man

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Surachai - To No Available EP (2011)

Band: Surachai
Country: London, UK
Style: Industrial/Black Metal
Label: Handshake Inc.

It feels so weird to find an album that you think is a debut from a group and then finding out it's not. When I was first notified of this record, I was quite interested in it because it was sounded like something I enjoyed. Upon actually looking up the band to add it to my list for this year, of stuff I've reviewed in case you were wondering, I had a face-palm moment when I found out it was not the first release from the band.
After an introductory industrial noise bit, this EP just takes off in the way that made me extremely excited when I first heard it. When this thing goes full-on black metal it channels the best parts of groups like Krallice and Liturgy. It's that full-throttle, extended periods of tremolo picking pattens, and pulsating drums that make me enjoy those bands and what led me to enjoying this album. I don't even have a big problem with the more industrial and ambient bits that are included in these songs either, I guess my real problem with it is that it doesn't feel as fresh as when I thought it was a debut release, which is all a mental state that I have to get over because I did enjoy this. The occasional break into a more drone-ish part on the second track was also cool. I do have to admit however, that at times, some of the shifts, musically, were less than stellar, like the drone ambient section that suddenly just goes into a full-on black metal part did feel a bit abrupt for me.
Like I just said, it's a good record and I enjoyed it very much. Some of the ideas aren't too original, but their ideas that I like and find interesting no matter where I hear them. Check it out if you want to hear some experimental black metal, I think you'll enjoy this.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: •

Jute Gyte - Impermanence (2011)

Band: Jute Gyte
Country: Missouri
Style: Progressive/Experimental Black Metal
Label: Jeshimoth Entertainment

I know, I was just as surprised as you when I first saw that Jute Gyte released a second black metal album this year. In previous years, it's been pretty much one black metal release a year, with various other and more experimental albums filling out the rest of the year. Not that I'm complaining, but I thought it was pretty nice.
It has to be said that when I first discovered Jute Gyte last year with "Young Eagle," it was at a point when I was interested in underground black metal, not to say that I'm not now, but it was a different phase. When I heard his take on the Krallice-esque black metal sound on "Verstiegenheit" earlier this year, I was still very much a fan of his output. When I put this on, and really it should come as no surprise to anyone that's listened to his black metal output thus far, it is a very different experience. All of Jute Gyte's metal output has showcased a very raw and chaotic sound, which has often been quite noisy and atonal as well, but on here, I dare say it's the most weird and all of the above as ever. I'd also dare to say that this is his cleanest sounding release in metal yet, or what might be better to say is that it's his least distorted effort, because it is still quite raw sounding, the guitars are just a lot more discernible from underneath the hiss of distortion. I'd like to compare the sound of this record to noise rock because on more than on occasion it does go down similar paths of discordance and dissonance that one would often hear from groups in that genre.
To call this record his Adam Kalmbach's most melodic might be a stretch, but it is certainly his most focused in terms of songwriting. Melodies and patterns are a lot more apparent and are repeated in much more obviously than in the past. It might just be me, but this might also be Kalmbach's most accessible and catchy record from Jute Gyte yet as well, with something from nearly every song sticking with me, which hasn't really happened with any other Jute Gyte record yet. In my opinion however, my favorite parts of this album were the tracks where things were a bit slower and more melodic, Partial Wing for example, and wasn't so out of control. I know this is going to kind of contradict what I said above, but this might be my least favorite Jute Gyte record, because a lot of it just didn't leave me wanting more, unfortunately. Previous albums have left me on the edge of my seat really looking forward to what was going to happen in the next song, where this one was a bit iffy for me, some songs I really, really like while others were just kind of ok.
I still really like this album and it is certainly a unique listen, but be warned that it will not be for everyone. Personally, I like his last two releases, but this is certainly still very original and high quality stuff. If you want to hear something really weird that sounds something like noise rock mixed with black metal, check this out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Partial Wing, Hermit Haunter of The Lonely Glen, The Old Hills' Indifference

Monday, November 28, 2011

Abnormal Thought Patterns - Abnormal Thought Patterns EP (2011)

Band: Abnormal Thought Patterns
Country: Pleasanton, California
Style: Progressive Metal
Label: CynNormal Lab Recordings

When it comes to modern progressive metal bands, Zero Hour has been one of my favorites for a while. While most bands have been content to just rip-off Dream Theater and Symphony X, Zero Hour took a very technical approach while combining it with catchy songs. When I first got this EP, I never even knew that they were doing a side-project, but I expected it upon first listen to be just as great as their main band, if they're still around.
What you get with this EP is essentially what Zero Hour was doing on the last album, but without a vocalist. Very technical guitar play from Jasun Tipton, Troy Tipton's fluid bass playing, and excellent drum work by Mike Guy, all done with equal parts metal and jazz-fusion. The bass playing is, in all honesty, out of this world, at times trumping the guitar play with sweeping lines. The musicianship is top-notch and memorable. In my opinion, the trio are at their best when they're not just spiraling around with sweeps and arpeggios, which at times are just a bit trying and tiring to listen to in succession. Electric Sun, the album closer, is probably the best piece on here because it doesn't fall into the trap of sounding like the musicians are just showing off and instead crafts a nice melody with a solid groove behind it.
It's solid and I enjoyed it for what it is, an instrumental progressive/technical metal album. I seriously doubt that you'll like this EP if you're not into very technical and over-the-top playing because this could be seen as an exercise in patience at times. Check it out if you like that sort of stuff, but otherwise this isn't totally essential for your collection.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Velocity and Acceleration I, Velocity and Acceleration IV, Electric Sun

David Lynch - Crazy Clown Time (2011)

Band: David Lynch
Country: Los Angeles, California
Style: Experimental Rock/Trip-Hop
Label: Sunday Best

In the world of cinema, very few film makers have pushed the boundaries of movies into a world that becomes completely their own like David Lynch. With such famous films including Eraserhead, Blue Velvet, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, and Mulholland Drive, just to name a couple, he has become one of the most revered names in cinema. Despite being over sixty, this is his first full-length album as a solo artist.
For anyone who hasn't seen a David Lynch film, let me just say that you are definitely missing out on some of the weirdest and more amazing cinema to have ever been released, in my opinion. Despite being known mainly as a director, he has collaborated on the scores for all of his films, as far as I know, and thus, you can hear traces of what could have been from one of his films on here. It's a very stark, bleak, and minimal sound that relies on repetition and subtly over big movements. Quiet drones and haunting atmospheres combined with various styles and ideas that all come together in ways that are surely all Lynchian in their own regard. But, just like a majority of his films, this album is long, with fourteen tracks topping a hour in length, which is nothing compared to his three-plus hour long films like Inland Empire, but it's just jam packed with ideas and it doesn't sound like he's skimping on any of them. If you don't have a long attention span, I highly doubt you'll find a lot of enjoyment in this. If you're looking for an easy way in though, for myself, I found These Are My Friends to be the most straightforward and concise song on the entire album in terms of structure.
Probably the most controversial thing I've heard and read so far about this album has been the vocals. This entire album was written and performed, for the most part by David Lynch, including the vocals. With the exception of opener Pinky's Dream, which has Karen O from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs on lead vocals, Lynch is the center of attention on here. But the problem isn't in Lynch being center stage, it's been all the effects he's put on his vocals that's caused the stir among listeners. The use of everything from auto-tune to various choruses, echoes, phazers, and editing techniques that can get a bit annoying at times. It's not always modified, but I can tell you that it is always strange. In all honesty, probably the best and most defining piece on this entire album is the longest track on the album, Strange and Unproductive Thinking. It's in this track where you essentially get Lynch doing a spoken word, with a sort of android-esque sort of affect on his voice, over very simple trip-hop beats. It's simple, but it works. By comparison, the title-track, Crazy Clown Time, is musically more exploratory, but works with how disturbing the lyrics are, somehow turning what could be seen as a child's birthday party sort of situation into something very dark and managing to send a shiver up my spine.
In the end it is an enjoyable one, but it is too long and several songs don't really do anything for me. I wouldn't call this a failure in any way, as most songs do have at least one thing to keep them interesting, but it is can be a tough listen. Check it out if you want to hear some interesting experimental music by an interesting guy.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Noah's Ark, Strange and Unproductive Thinking, Stone's Gone Up, Movin' On

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Fatum Elisum - Homo Nihilis (2011)

Band: Fatum Elisum
Country: Rouen, France
Style: Death/Doom Metal
Label: Aesthetic Death

Somewhere along the line in the evolution of the death/doom genre, we lost something. Back when the Peaceville three first came out there was a romantic nature to the style, something that I haven't found in the style since. When I'm looking at new bands in that style it is something that I do retain hope for.
Right from the get-go this band makes a point to try and distance themselves from any of that romantic nature of their predecessors and instead bring something a little bit different to the doom genre. Not that it's unheard of to do, but the Gregorian chanting that opens the album, Pulvis Et Umbra, acts as a precursor to what occurs in the next four songs. The music is a bit more mid-tempo, for the most part of the album, than I expected but has a certain something that just made me feel like elements from the opening chants was carried on for the rest of the album. When I saw the band's influences while looking them up, it hit me that the atmospheric quality of this band is very similar to their brethren in groups like Evoken, Mourning Beloveth, and Ataraxie. The very gloomy and near depressive nature of the super slow moments works in contrast with the more mid-tempo material that's more groovy and rocking. In addition to that, I was really surprised by the ending of East of Eden, the album closer, by the fact that it really defies what the rest of the album was, stylistically, by morphing from a moody doom song into a blasting black metal one within it's closing minutes.
I was very impressed with how these guys crafted songs because it wasn't the same speed throughout an entire song, an entire song wasn't dedicated to just slow riffs and crushing distortion, there was always a pause for a moment of more somber clean passages, a moment of reflection. While the vocals certainly bring a sense of emotional depth to the band's sound, for myself, I found that the most emotional sections of this album were the cleaner interludes in songs. It's just one of those things that I found enhanced the album, even if it isn't an original idea, it works nonetheless. Just to touch on the vocals again for a second though, most of them are delivered in a great baritone clean voice that really resonated with me, think somewhere between Peter Steele and Aaron Stainthorpe, but there were utterances of growling and moaning, as well as the odd section where he went into an almost Silencer-esque wail which surprised me. I feel that it's important to recognize the bass playing on here because in my experience with doom metal, in general, I don't recall hearing a whole lot of bass players really coming out and playing something out of sync with the guitars and so it really stood out for me in the last two songs on here.
I wasn't sure coming into this how it would be but I did enjoy it. I can say with certainty now however that this is not an album to listen to in your car, at least in my experience with it. But if you're a fan of doom metal in some capacity, I think you'll find something you'll like on here.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Twilight Prophet, East of Eden

Solothus - Ritual of The Horned Skull Demo (2011)

Band: Solothus
Country: Turku, Finland
Style: Death/Doom Metal
Label: Independent

When a band happens to send and/or tell me about a demo, I'm always a bit weary about it. Demos aren't the best introduction to bands, in my experience anyway, since they tend to present the band in their most unoriginal state. However, I'll say right now that I was very impressed when I was sent this.
I've said it a lot in the past that I love old-school death metal, the sound of it anyway, and I'm more likely to become a fan of a band that adhires to those sorts of standards. Raw and grimey production, heavy and grooving riffs, and interesting growls, whether they happen to be growled, screamed, or gurgled is irrelevant, but that's what I like. When Solothus sent me an email telling me about how they had just released this demo, I listened to a song from their Myspace page and was instantly a fan of what I heard. In my mind this is a great take on old-school death/doom ala Paradise Lost meets Amorphis or Sentenced with obvious nods to Candlemass. These three songs are very well crafted and provide plenty of the energy, that a young band should have by the way, to just make you want to headbang to opener Throne of Bones. The other two songs, focus more on the doomy side of the band with slow grooves and drawn-out melodies. As a complete package, it's a great slab of death/doom that is sure to win them over a lot of fans.
When it comes to death/doom, it's great that a new band can actually manage to top a lot of their elders in songwriting. These guys are very talented and I look forward to hearing more material from them in the future. Definitely check this band out, it's easily one of the best demos I've heard all year, if not the best.
Overall Score: 6
Highlights: Darkness Gathers Here At Night

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Man-Eating Tree - Harvest (2011)

Band: The Man-Eating Tree
Country: Oulu, Finland
Style: Atmospheric/Gothic Metal
Label: Century Media

It's probably easy to judge by what I review that I'm not really all that big into the whole gothic metal thing. Whether or not because the whole thing has been moved from real gothic atmospheres and sorrow to female fronted power metal is irrelevant, but I've lost most of any admiration I once held for the genre. That being said, The Man-Eating Tree is a band that I have actually taken to since their debut last year.
My initial introduction to the band, and really the only reason I took interest in them to begin with to be honest, was through vocalist Tuomas Tuominen. I'm a big fan of his voice and had thought it was a shame that I wouldn't hear his work anymore after his former band, Fall of The Leafe, broke up back in 2007. His voice always struck me as very original and unique, striking me with the right balance between an almost folk-esque style while having a very interesting vibrato that just really captured my attention. His voice is the center stage on here and it's great to see him really get to a more comfortable place in the band's sound with this album.
I'll admit that I thought their debut, 2010's "Vine," was alright, not great, but I thought it was a decent start. I was hopeful that the band would find their sound and focus their songwriting a bit more in the future, and luckily, that's exactly what happened on here. Unlike what's been classified as gothic metal in recent memory, this band actually manages to capture that dreary and moody atmosphere that I could actually call gothic at points. The keyboards actually create that melancholic kind of soundscape with very lush textures as well as plenty of organ and piano. It's a lot more fitting with the "gothic" title because it actually allows the band to work with different moods and the sounds themselves are a lot more fitting than the symphonic orchestral synthes that tend to dominate most groups with that title. I think it's important to say that the band has definitely brought in a lot better riffs to this album, it is a bit heavier than the last one, though the dynamic between using heavier riffs and just moving into a groove or melody is well used. I was actually surprised by how heavy Down to The Color of The Eye actually managed to be because it made use of a couple of growls, which I never expected to hear from the band. The fact that this band isn't just a one-trick pony that has the soft verses and heavy chorus and bridge does wonders for them because we all know bands like that, and for them to know that that's not the formula they have to abide by, while still maintaining the ambiance around a song, just makes them a lot more interesting as songwriters and musicians, in my opinion anyway. I used the term gothic throughout this entire review, but with the state of what "gothic metal" is now, I think it's better that the band are known as atmospheric metal, by their own admission, as it is a lot more fitting.
I think it's a nice step-up from their debut and shows a lot more attention to their craft. I look forward to seeing these guys develop even further and creating songs that are even more memorable. Check it out if you're into really atmospheric and kind-of gothic metal, one of the better bands to be labeled with that tag.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Armed, Like Mute Companions, Incendere

Death Wolf - Death Wolf (2011)

Band: Death Wolf
Country: Norrköping, Sweden
Style: Blackened Heavy Metal/Horror Punk
Label: Blooddawn Productions

For some reason I love the idea of any sort of extreme metal being mixed with rock'n'roll, despite the fact that I'm not a fan of traditional rock'n'roll music. The idea of a black metal and rock'n'roll being mixed together just really got me excited, and will most likely on future occasions as well. It was only after listening to this a few times that I looked into the band and found out that this band had actually been called Devils Whorehouse for about ten years before changing their name.
What can you say about this sort of band, they play cool, they play hard, and they play passionately. Each of these songs on here really brings that old-school punk vibe to the band's black'n'roll core, that, along with a nice helping of traditional heavy metal riffs, turns this into one hell of a fun album to listen to. I've said this on about a couple of other albums this year, but this really isn't the type of band you should really analyze too much, stuff like this is pretty much just fun music that makes you want to mosh and headbang. These songs also don't tend to linger around all that long, with about half the tracks on the album not even reaching three minutes. I don't recommend someone listening to this if you're just going to try and look into every little thing about it because this isn't the type of record you try to pick apart, it's the type of record you have fun listening to.
Musically, I have to say that for all the fun I mention above, this is not just a fast and aggressive album, there's quite a bit of style shifting throughout. I think it could be expected by looking at track lengths, but shorter songs like Weaving Death or Sword and Flame are much more in the vein of blackened thrash while longer tracks like Morning Czar Shineth bring a more traditional sort of doom and heavy metal style, think Saint Vitus or mid-period Candlemass. I really respect these guys for taking the risk of being just as doomy on here as they are blasting or grinding, I think that it proves to be, in my opinion, a little stronger than their faster side. In addition to a pretty welcome diversity in styles, the vocals have a nice variety as well. There's a nice balance between more traditional black metal snarls, classic metal singing, and punkish shouts. You'll definitely hear a Danzig vibe to the vocals on here, seeing as the band originally started out as a Misfits' cover band it's not all that surprising, but it's nice and I enjoyed it, I also hear a bit of Wino in there as well, but not nearly to the same degree as Danzig.
Very enjoyable, I commend these men for writing a very solid album. You can't really come into expecting a whole lot of it because it's just a ripping album that hopefully people enjoy. I hope people take the time to check this out because it is rather enjoyable and is worth looking into if you have an interest in old-school metal mixed with a newer kind of approach.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: The Other Hell, Wolfs Pallid Sister, Coming Forth By Night

Friday, November 25, 2011

Interview - Ebonylake's Mass

If you're looking for one of the most intriguing metal releases from this year, you have to take a look into the new Ebonylake album, "In Swathes of Brooding Light." After over ten years of not making music together, their new album is easily one of the most experimental and weird sounding metal albums I've heard all year.

Ian: When Ebonylake first formed back in the mid-90s, what were the original influences and ideas for what the band would sound like? Are those influences and ideas similar now to what they were back then? How have your perspectives changed on creating music since you first started?

Mass: Back at the birth of Ebonylake we were mostly fuelled by our experiences of living in an old house with violent poltergeist activity, these events propelled us along with great enthusiasm and we wanted to reflect the random and sporadic nature of these happenings, which inevitably filtered into the music.
Our quest to make music that is genuinely unsettling with different sounds clawing at your skin from out of the darkness has never ceased, and our outlook as only become more fearless. Some of the most profound influences came from (and still do) the worlds of literature, poetry, art, contemporary music, film and classical music. Names such as Bram Stoker, Lord Byron, Sergei Prokofiev as well as films like The Omen, The Devils etc all got our creative juices pouring and . As ever within Ebonylake we strive for inspiration from the adrenalin of real life experiences whether that be hiking, ouija boards or seances, swimming naked in freezing sea's or countless countryside jaunts. Some of these endeavours nearly ended in the loss of life back in 1998 too with one member nearly drowning after jumping into the waves drunk on absinthe, another almost being crushed to death and another on life support due to blood poisoning. These were the first cracks in the inevitable implosion of the band.

Ian: Why did you decide to split after only one album and, as far as I know, little to no touring or live shows? What did you do in those ten years between releases?

Mass: At that time we were more of a secret society than a band, and when we got heavily into the ouija board paranoia ran through us and we felt we needed to step back. Even though we only did one album, music was only one part of Ebonylake. We did a handful of live performances some of which were mindblowing and that's one sea we wish to sail on again.
In the decade or so after the split we found ourselves in an endless labyrinth of caves eating rats and scratching at walls so to speak. We dabbled in things from independent film scores to brutal death metal, but eventually in one cave our paths crossed and there we were starving, deranged, depressed and hungry to return. We stepped out of the cave and saw a breathtaking red sky panorama. Without the band though we found ourselves in a world we didn’t understand and didn’t belong in, so it was only a matter of time before we stepped back into the theatre.

Ian: "On The Eve of The Grimly Inventive" has become something of a sleeper album since its initial release with it being much more popular and respected by the underground avant-metal fans than I'd imagine when it was first released. How do you see the record today? Is it a record that you're still proud of making? How have the reactions towards your music changed since when that album was first released to now?
Mass: “On The Eve of The Grimly Inventive” is something we will cherish forever. Because we poured our entire being into its creation it sounds incredibly authentic to us. Absolute raw art. If it was released today, thirteen years later it would still be cutting edge and we make no apologies for being so proud of it. As you can imagine the reactions to “On The Eve….” at the time of its release were so polarised we found people adored it or hated it but many were just left confused, after all what could they compare it to? We however received some astounding reviews and the reviews from “In Swathes….” could be the reviews from “On The Eve….” they are almost identical.
Around 98% of the reviews have been very, very good to date, although we have had a couple that slated it completely, but that is to be expected with this kind of music. We make no excuses for this, either people totally get it or they dismiss it as a horrendous racket. Without a doubt though there is a much more tolerant attitude than there was back in 97/98 to anything of an avantgarde nature.

Ian: What made you guys decide to reform now? How did the new full-length come about?

Mass: Our paths crossed again because we were both sending out the same signals, things tend to manifest if you want them to.
We had no contact in almost 10 years, not through any kind of malice or hatred at all, we just drifted apart and lead complete separate lives.
When enough positive mental signals are transmitted from within the being, it radiates with like minded individuals and brings them together eventually.
Separately we both felt a yearning that this work was not complete, and had to be fleshed out more than the original concept allowed us to.
It was apparent straight away that we both wanted to continue in this vein of cacophony, and after a drunken banquet to celebrate the rekindling of our friendship the seances soon began again, and plans were afoot to begin trying to fathom out the messages in our heads.
We talked over many brandy's about the concept and imagery that makes Ebonylake what it is, and the music tended to write itself, somehow channeled through us from several ghostly beings that dined with us late that particular evening.

Ian: What inspired the title of the new record, "In Swathes of Brooding Light"?

Mass: Visual imagery has always inspired us and our music has a strong visual element, so when it came to the title we looked inwards and the pictures that came to mind showed us the rebirth of Ebonylake in swathes of brooding light. An unsettling, but enticing haze in the summer evening sky that seems to hypnotize and provoke several emotional and violent reactions.

Ian: Who are some groups and artists that you're interested in and think are doing some creative and interesting ideas? Were they influences on the new record in any way?

Mass: We have always tried to keep any outside influences away from what we are working on, sure there are artists we appreciate but we do try to clear our minds in the run up to the writing sessions to keep it as Ebonylake as possible. We have been impressed by acts such as Perry Blake and Esben And The Witch recently, which in someways are the opposite to us but garner a similar philosophy of loss and tragedy.

Ian: Listening to the album, I only recently discovered it actually, I found a lot of early industrial kind of sounds in the percussion from what sounds like someone hitting bells to more metallic crashes. Do you take any influence from early industrial and avant-garde bands like Nurse With Wound, Coil, or Throbbing Gristle?

Mass: The sounds you mention are indeed bells, chimes and anvils. Though we never took any influence from any of the bands you talk of nor the early industrial scene. We can imagine those sounds being used in that context as they could be seen as primitive percussive instruments.
One of the cold autumn days when the sparrows attacked the nearby village, many were left dead or dying, the scene was horrific as per usual when this time of year comes around. The Bell Ringer failed to rise that morning and never sounded the alarm, and after days of gathering up the dead and burning them in the furnace these sounds harked back to the days when the village did prosper, before the dark times.

Ian: How do you write songs? Is it a collaborative process or does one member bring in an entire idea/song on his own? Is it any different from how you wrote the first album?

Mass: The ideas for the material seems to be coming from elsewhere as described beforehand. Once an initial idea is created it just goes in the direction it pleases, it steers itself and we try to hold on and make sense of it.
We tend to write the material together after a prolonged bout of meditation and conjuring communication with the ghosts. Identical to the writing process we used many years ago which almost lead to insanity and total mental breakdown.
These are the boundaries we wish to cross and yearn for a deeper vision beyond the norm , controlling these actions has become more fruitful recently and someone or something is watching with us, guiding us on the path.

Ian: A lot of the songs are very paranoid and schizophrenic sounding, what is the inspiration for the dense and very solid sounding composition of a lot of these songs?

Mass: The way we compose the pieces is very much like orchestral music with multiple lines playing different parts to create one entity. Even though some of it may sound random, each line does have its place and co-operates with the rest. For example the flutes may be following the pattern of the bass drum, the french horns maybe bouncing of the bass guitar in a kind of question and answer fashion, pizzicato strings could be stabbing out certain notes from the guitar lines, all this creates a certain sculpture which would then be garnished with vocals with chants following the pattern of the snare then quickly switching to the rhythm of the piano part. It is easy to think that it is all random but it is music truly entwined within itself and every note of every instrument has a part to play. Besides we like to be challenged by art, and things that are easy to swallow are gone in a second.

Ian: What made you decide to include the "As Ghosts We Dance In Thrashing Seas" demo songs onto the album? For myself, the transition between the album songs and these songs felt very seamless and natural, was that intentional or do you believe it was only by coincidence?

Mass: It basically completes the current circle of the Ebonylake world. Most people who pick this latest album up will more than likely have the old album, and it shows that the blood that runs through Ebonylake is still very much apparent now as it was then. We never fully released the demo back in 1997, and we have been inundated with requests for the demo tracks to be released. So a case of killing two birds with one stone comes to mind, it shows the thread running through As Ghosts/Eve/Swathes as a natural progression we feel.

Ian: During one listen to the album, I imagined that this is what it would sound like if the orchestra from any one of Dimmu Borgir's albums got together with a band like Gorguts and started jamming out to songs from Mr. Bungle's "Disco Volante" record. How would you describe the sound of the new album to someone who hasn't heard it?

Mass: The easiest way to describe the sound is violent, abstract, surrealism.
Truly gothic with multiple paths to follow. There is a strong spiritual thread but on the other hand it is extremely savage and bleak.

Ian: When I listen to your music, despite how complex and intricate it all is, I still get a very romantic sort vibe from it. Is that intentional or accidental? What do you think of romanticism and more gothic sort of artwork, musical and otherwise?

Mass: Romanticism is key to how we try and live in a ever increasing concrete world of materialism and consumerism where the cord that connects the soul to the body is slowly being severed so that all that remains is an empty vessel. We endeavour to live rich and diverse lives ever searching for that perfect moment, pushing at boundaries so it was inevitable that this would manifest in the music.
Ian: The darkness and the night are common themes in metal music, notably in black metal, do you feel you receive any inspiration from the night or the dark? What's your view of the idea of light and darkness within music?

Mass: The night is inspiring but so is the day in equal measure to us. A fresh spring morning or a blustery autumn afternoon is just as important in the world of Ebonylake. Within the music itself light and dark and all shades help shape the compositions and hopefully elevate them. Dynamics are often overlooked within metal.

Ian: To what extent is sex an influence on your music?

Mass: At last! This is the first time we have been asked this and you have hit on an important point. Sex is a massive influence on the music, the longing, frustrating, anxious, anticipation that leads to something that can be somewhat otherworldly. Like sex the music can be dominating, ritualistic, selfish, selfless, dangerous and often serving no other purpose than animalistic pleasure.

Ian: How do you feel about being lumped into the "avant-garde metal" or "avant-garde black metal" and genres like that? What do you think about the genre? Are you fans of the avant-garde music?

Mass: We are not sure about the term ‘avant-garde metal’ it seems to be a bit of a contradiction, if avant-garde means to be at the very cutting edge, then every so called avant-garde band would be at the very cutting edge, which they clearly are not. We do not like all avant-garde music because this can incorporate any style, we do however have a love for avant-garde classical and orchestral music.

Ian: How does it feel to have a group named after one of your songs? An Autumn For Crippled Children has recently been gaining praise, have you heard any of their work?

Mass: We did hear about the band and they sent us their album having contacted us. Obviously its always nice to have an impact on others especially when they are a class act. Needless to say we enjoyed the album.

Ian: Well that's about it from me, thank you for the interview. The last words are yours.

Mass: Thank you for taking the time to ask interesting questions, keep your ear to the ground a new movement stirs.
Obviously Ebonylake is an interesting group, and if you haven't heard the album yet, you are surely missing out. Definitely look into them if you want to hear some of the weirdest metal out there.


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Sewer Goddess - Disciples of Shit: Live Waste (2011)

Band: Sewer Goddess
Country: Boston, Massachusetts
Style: Drone/Noise
Label: Black Plagve

I'm not sure if I've mentioned it before or not but I don't really care for live albums. I've never heard Sewer Goddess before as well as never heard a live noise album, so I decided to give this record a go. It's like a completely new experience for me, so I was excited to give it a shot, but don't expect it again.
This was quite the album because it really came across differently than what I had expected. This isn't the sort of intense, brutal feedback and noise that I expected having watched live videos of Prurient live, instead it's a lot more reserved and tense. It's interesting because you can definitely tell that it was recorded live, people can be heard talking, and you can hear in the atmosphere surrounding the music that it was recorded in a pretty open space. The reverberation that just echoes throughout these recordings is very audible and, in my opinion, actually enhances the music because it comes across as a different kind of entity than I think it would have if it was done in a studio. In my mind, I'd imagine the studio versions of these songs would be a lot more intense and brutal, but more "typical" of the noise sort of genre. The drones and noises come across as a lot darker than they might have been if it was in a studio, which to me is a lot better and more unique sounding. Like I said, I'm not a big live album fan, but having never heard any of the original material, I do feel that this is a very good look into Sewer Goddess' style while bringing something different to it, or at least that's what I'd hope. With all that being said, since each of the five tracks on here was recorded in a different places and each does personify a different kind of room ambiance, as such the last song, Slavepiece, is the most raw and stereotypical of the noise genre.
It's good and I enjoyed it for what it is. I mean, it's still rooted very much in noise and drone music so it's not the type of fist-pumping or headbanging record you'd put on to have a good time to, but it's good. Check it out if you're into more experimental noise and drone, even doom to an extent, I think you'll enjoy this.
Overall Score: 7.5
Highlights: Chained to The Cage of Existence/A Lifeless Dreaming

Hypsiphrone - And The Void Shall Pierce Their Eyes (2011)

Band: Hypsiphrone
Country: Greece
Style: Blackened Noise/Dark Ambient
Label: Black Plagve

The title of blackened noise is something that I'm sure sounds very unappealing is actually a style that has come to prominence with some very good bands. You'll find that a lot of bands from this style are actually quite interesting and doing something that is worth listening to. This debut was sent to me and I was quite interested in it from the second I turned it on.
It should be said that this is the type of album that will definitely not appeal to typical metal fans. To an extent, I can call this avant-garde because there are a lot of different elements being used within it. I'd still say that the labels of black noise are appropriate, but it's not quite as noisy or as metallic as the tag might suggest. On here, you get a totally out-there amalgamation of black and doom metal, dark ambient, harsh noise, drone, and industrial music, to name a few of the major ones, and it's totally insane. It's an album that demonstrates beautiful atmospheres within such disturbing and dark drones, An Epiphany Written In Blood being a good example of such. The fusing of these sounds, at times, is actually a bit jarring and makes for a pretty intense listen as both foreground and background music.
While I believe that the album does a very good job at fusing together genres and making them work in a very interesting way, the main fact that really grabbed me at the beginning of the album, I felt, did not continue throughout it. The first handful of songs on here, while they might not exactly be my favorite on the disc, all contained this very morbid, tense, and fragile sort of structure to them, as if it was just barely being held together as well as an extremely disturbing atmosphere. On latter tracks, while it was certainly still being used, it just didn't feel as effective. The more straight ahead dark ambient approach taken on Cornucopia Saluti or other tracks near the tail-end of the album just didn't feel as enthralling or intriguing as earlier tracks kind of made the album out to be. I think it's an album that has an lot of cool ideas and these guys definitely know what they're doing sonically, cause I like the sounds on here, but I think they need to work on making it a bit more interesting to listen to. I don't want to sell this thing short, because I do like it, but I think that what I was coming in expecting of it was different than what I got, and even the opening tracks were a bit misleading to me as well.
Overall, it's solid and I hope that people look into it cause it's quite different from anything that I've heard. Like I said above, this really isn't the type of release that is going to excite everyone, but it's certainly worth diving into and exploring. Check it out if you're into weird droning black metal, dark ambient, or noise music, you'll find something in here to like.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Bleak Old Shadows, Resurgence of Mors Sexualis, Worlds Are Wounds of Desolation

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Cosmonauts Day - Paths of The Restless (2011)

Band: Cosmonauts Day
Country: Moscow, Russia
Style: Post-Metal/Post-Rock
Label: Independent

I don't talk about a whole lot of instrumental groups, it's more accidental than on purpose, but here's one. This Russian group is quite new, as this is the debut full-length, so I wasn't sure what kind of expectations to put on it coming in. Describing your music as being inspired by "inner and outer space" is quite a pretentious thing to say, in my mind anyway, so I was quite hopeful that they could live up to this.
First off, I have to say that for a band coming from Russia, this is pretty good, seeing as my musical relationship with that country has been more than a little weak in the past several years. Having said that, this is still just an instrumental post-metal group, so there wasn't a whole lot on here that you haven't heard elsewhere before. The Isis influence is all over here, along with a bit of Torche, Mastodon, and others that people who've listened to a lot more bands from those genres will be able to find in here. Obviously the comparison to groups like Pelican will and can be made, but I'd actually say that these guys are more active than what I've heard from Pelican. There's a definite Tool vibe going on in the guitar tone on here, with a lot of semi-psychedelic passages accompanying more typical post-rock bits.
In all honesty, I found the band playing their most memorable and melodic during shorter songs like Rift or Satellite. While, by comparison, the longer songs are fine, they just don't have the staying power that the shorter ones do. It's a little disappointing actually, because the longer songs just feel like another post-metal song, you have your heavy parts and your softer parts, but nothing really sticks. The Captain, in my opinion, was a let down because it was over nine minutes and just didn't do anything for me, though I did feel that The Great Disease actually progressed, it still didn't stick with me as much as some of the other songs. To me, I would have rather heard these guys playing short and catchy numbers that stuck out to me as being very melodic and accessible post-rock songs rather than play these longer and more adventurous post-metal songs, just because I feel like those aren't as well crafted, but I definitely see the path the band want to kind of go down. I'm sure it sounds weird for me to be advocating more simplistic and poppy songwriting over experimentalism, but that's just where I felt the band's strength is, though I do hope that their longer songs will develop into more memorable songs in the future as well.
Overall, it's a decent little post-metal album from a new band. They definitely have talent and I'm sure their sound will become more refined and unique in the future, but this album is just turned out a little more mixed from my point of view. Check it out if you're into more post-rock and post-metal groups, I think you'll actually enjoy this quite a bit.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: The Art of Being Nothing, Rift, The Last Watchman

Battlefields - Agassiz EP (2011)

Band: Battlefields
Country: Fargo, North Dakota
Style: Post-Metal/Sludge Metal
Label: Init

I first heard of Battlefields with their last album, 2009's "Threshold of Imbalance," and interesting post-metal record. I thought the album was alright, nothing amazing, but it was good, so when I heard that the band was doing something different on this EP I became interested once again. The idea of a post-metal band exploring other avenues of sound did indeed peek my interest.
I can't recall the last time I listened to the band, but I can tell you that I like this a lot more than whenever I did listen to them last. The songs on here are shifting around a lot more with styles and soundscapes. The sludge metal and post-metal ideas are certainly still the primary color they choose to paint with, but you'll notice shades of black metal, crust punk, and post-hardcore starting to make themselves a lot more noticeable, An Entire Epoch. At times the band even ventures into extremely melodic territory, veering away from the groove-oriented style that the genres they've been inhabiting usually allow. I especially liked how the drums kept things very interesting throughout, ranging from faster double-bass work to more of that crust punk sort of d-beat kind of style at times in addition to the slower grooves that usually accompany the slower genres of metal.
It's a nice little release that has a lot of interesting moments in it that I most definitely enjoyed. Like I mentioned above, I did enjoy this more than I remember enjoying their debut and I hope that the next full-length includes more of these adventurous tendencies. Look into this if you're interested in hearing some post-metal experiments.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: An Entire Epoch, Laurentide

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Picastro & Nadja - Fool, Redeemer (2011)

Band: Picastro/Nadja
Country: Toronto, Canada
Style: Slowcore/Drone
Label: Broken Spine

I've never heard anything labeled as such but here's a semi-collaborative split album. Now, I don't know how familiar you are with either of these artists, but I can safely say that I am a Nadja fan but have never heard of Picastro. I've never been a huge fan of the collaborations Nadja has done in the past, there are some good ones, make no mistake about that, but I was still interested in this one.
In my opinion, the only collaborations that Nadja has done with other artists that have turned out well have been the ones with Atavist and Pyramids. When I listen to the work they've done with artists like Black Boned Angel or Ovo, or even the album they released with Galena earlier this year, it just doesn't live up to the potential that Nadja shows on their own. From the other groups, I think it can be a bit more interesting than their usual output, in my opinion, but for the majority of it, it's just dull and rather boring. I have to come out and say that this album certainly is not up to the level of the Pyramids or Atavist collaborations, but it is better than some of their other ones. Now, that's just from Nadja's perspective, I can't really comment on Picastro because I'm not all that into what I've heard of their slowcore sound.
When I listen to this album, there are a variety of different elements, sonically, that come into play among these five tracks. Among the first four tracks, which are essentially the "songs" of the album, you get an oddity of minimalistic drone mixed with psychedelic folk instrumentation. I'd like to tell you that it works, but it, more often than not, doesn't in my opinion. Though one could argue that with each track that passes, the songs get better, I have to say that it's still not top-notch work, even if I do believe A New Soul's Benediction is quite nice and melancholic. The long extended closer, Venom, obviously Nadja's main addition to the album, is no doubt the best song on here. The slow moving beast of a track that tops twenty minutes, just drones along with soft acoustic guitars hovering above the dark drones that the drone-duo have come to be known for. While I can't say all of the material Nadja has released, solo, has been fantastic, I do believe that this one track is one of their better collaborations as well as a standout track in their discography.
It's a decent piece of work but not without it's flaws. I don't know if you'd want to get the whole thing, but I can definitely say that the Nadja portion of the album is well worth it. Definitely check it out if you're already a fan of either group but if you're new, check out their individual works first.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: A New Soul's Benediction, Venom

Mollusk - Mollusk (2011)

Band: Mollusk
Country: Cincinnati, Ohio
Style: Drone/Sludge Metal
Label: Independent

Let's talk about some interesting sludge metal. I'm all for underground groups trying to do something original, but nowadays, it's getting harder and harder to get sludge metal sounding original. Post-metal is another sort of thing that's growing more and more dull the more I listen to it, I was hopeful that this would do something for me.
This is an odd little release and one that will most likely turn some heads, because it is a bit different than one might expect. Being just under twenty-five minutes total, these nine tracks show a band that's does want to experiment. The album is divided between rather impressive sludge tracks and shorter interludes that have more of a root in drone and ambient music. I have to say that they do pull off both ends rather well, the sludge metal bits are nice and heavy, giving the listener quite chunky riffs to really sink their teeth into, or at least that's how I felt. It isn't original, but it's pulled off well and they express the knowledge of how to construct short and concise songs that are memorable. Personally, I think this release might have been even better if the band had blended styles a bit more, because like I said above, I think they pull off the sludge and drone elements very well, and I think combining them would show a bit more confidence. In terms of songwriting, I think these guys definitely have a good sense of how to write very solid riffs, as Monuments shows will applaud. Despite most of these tracks being under three minutes, they're all very good and there isn't any filler on here, even within the short interlude-esque drone sequences.
It's a very solid debut release that shows a lot of potential for the future. I think the band have a nice grasp of different ideas and I think if they even decide to start blending them a bit more, they could really make a splash. I definitely recommend this to anyone into sludge metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Tides, Human Artifact, The Apathetic

Monday, November 21, 2011

Abbey ov Thelema - A Fragment ov The Great Work (2011)

Band: Abbey ov Thelema
Country: Zvolen, Slovakia
Style: Avant-Garde Black Metal
Label: Sonic Temple

Post-black metal really gets a bad rap, mainly due to the bands that are being labeled as such that are more in vein of the blackgaze sound similar to Alcest. Back when the term originally meant something, it was used for bands that pushed the limits of black metal into new and interesting areas. Bands like this one and more progressive and avant-garde groups that did something, or attempted something, interesting.
After a rather typical orchestral intro to the album, which is pretty standard fare, this album really hits the ground running. The One Who Walks The Left-Hand Path demonstrates a total acceptance of avant-garde composition, mixing elements of symphonic black metal with more progressive rock tendencies, including a great guitar-organ main riff. Within this one track, you get a nice view of the kind of picture that this band likes to work with different ideas and sounds, which is the type of band I like to hear. Throughout the album the band works with the elements mentioned above as well as including sounds of electronic music, folk and pagan metal, classical music (without metal), and a bit of industrial as well. I do think that even when the band are more going for a more straightforward type of song, the shorter ones mainly, they accomplish an interesting dynamic between having very progressive riffs with blasting drums going pretty much full-on for the entire length of the song, The Hidden Wisdom & Clandestine Legacy Ov The Black Arts. The blending of more avant-garde and forward thinking elements and more straightforward and traditional ones creates a sound that is rooted in black metal tradition but definitely will turn off old-school purist but will turn the heads of people looking for something new and exciting from the genre.
Now, I will say that this album is still a debut full-length and it does have some of the typical trappings that debuts usually exhibit. Some of the ideas on here don't work for me and seem a bit too typical or unoriginal when you put it next to other songs on the album. Personally, I found the main melody used in Black Absinth Drunk While Analyzing The Writings Ov Nietzsche to be a bit uninspired and out of place, recalling really cheesy power metal and pagan metal bands. I'm also not a fan of some of the drum programming on here, it's not awful, but there are some parts where it just sounds too processed for my taste. Having said that, I do believe that as a whole, the album is composed and arranged very well and shows signs that the band's potential in these areas are only just being touched on here. I could definitely see future releases from this project leaning towards the excellence of groups like Solefald and Arcturus and maybe achieving such cult status as those groups. I have to be honest and say that I do hear bits of both groups in the band's sound already, but having those bands as influences only heightens my appreciation for this group.
It's a very exciting debut that definitely shows a lot of potential in this group. I can only hope that future releases have the band developing even further and maybe even becoming more experimental and adventurous. Definitely check this out if you're a fan of experimental and avant-garde black metal.
Overall Score: 8.5
Highlights: Unearthly Theophagia Ov A Nonexistent Deity, The Hidden Wisdom & Clandestine Legacy Ov The Black Arts, 9th April 1904 - The Day Ov Hadit

Thy Catafalque - Rengeteg (2011)

Band: Thy Catafalque
Country: Makó, Hungary
Style: Progressive Black Metal
Label: Season of Mist

I first found Thy Catafalque a couple years ago with their last album "Róka Hasa Rádió," which wound up in my top albums of that year. It was just one of those albums that blew away any ideas of what I thought it might have been and it remains one of my favorite releases from that year. There's been large gaps of time between releases for the project so when I first saw that a new album was going to be released this year, I can say that I was anticipating it quite highly.
Since the last record, main man Tamás Kátai has stripped the project back down to a one-piece, after working as a two-piece for the last couple of releases. This has allowed Kátai to bring the project back to his roots, so to say, and make this album a more aggressive and straightforward album, in comparison to his last couple anyway. Songs are shorter, a more defined metal sound, once again, in comparison to his other work with the project, is used throughout, despite never being one to just be a regular band. Though the songs are more streamlined and compact it's still far from being an average sounding black metal album. Clean vocals, folky melodies, death metal riffs, and big, poppy keyboards are used throughout, so I don't imagine all the kvlt kids in their basements are gonna come out of hiding to buy this, but for the weirdos like me how love weirdness in their metal, most definitely. This album also feels a bit more atmospheric than their other material, with a lot more emphasis on very open sounding soundscapes surrounding the album, it at times recalls more of an atmospheric black metal kind of vibe, at times though.
In terms of songwriting, I can't say a bad thing about this project really, because their songwriting has been top-notch since day one. Their melodies are extremely catchy, to the extent that I'd call them poppy, and are really easy to get stuck in your head. Songs like Kel Keleti Szél and Trilobita are just so catchy that they're pure sugar to my ears, they're just so fantastically sweet and memorable it's not even funny. Az Eső, Az Eső, Az Eső is as close as you're gonna get to a pure pop song on a metal album this year, or at least a good pop song, in my opinion, as it makes use of almost not distorted guitar and is basically a dancy folk-pop song. I'm not gonna say the entire record is full of these super poppy numbers though, the two longest tracks, opener Fekete Mezők and Vashegyek are more progressive and adventurous than super melodic. Tracks like these are more or less closer to material the band has worked with in the past, lengthy pieces that explore multiple different avenues of texture and melody. In all honesty, I feel like the ladder song is actually a bit too long and just sort of trails off at the end, which is a bit disappointing cause I loved the long ten plus minute epics on the last album, but feel like this fourteen minute piece just didn't make full use out of it's time. On it's own however, I do feel that it works, but when I listen to the album as a whole, like I just said, it feels a bit too long.
Another strong album from Thy Catafalque, Hungary's premiere metal project as of right now. I definitely recommend you checking this album and the band's past material out as soon as you can, you will not find another band like them out there. Fans of avant-garde and progressive black metal, take notice if you haven't already.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Fekete Mezők, Kék Ingem Lobogó, Minden Test Fű

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Vildhjarta - Måsstaden (2011)

Band: Vildhjarta
Country: Hudiksvall, Sweden
Style: Math Metal/Progressive Death Metal
Label: Century Media

After years of waiting, for me and many others, Vildhjarta have finally released their debut full-length. This is the last of the big four djent groups to release their debut full-length, which include Periphery, TesseracT, and Uneven Structure. With the tracks that have been released before this album I know that some people were a little shocked by the band's direction.
I think the comment that said it best was that this is the djent band that will appeal more to "pure" metal heads. If you've had a problem with the sub-genre of djent in the past this may be the album that turns you into a fan, of at least one band to emerge from it. A lot of the stereotypes that the genre has been come to make use of are either turned up to the max on here or removed all together. I know of the problems some have had has been the whole "pretty boy" sort of look that bands like Periphery or TesseracT have kind of embraced, which is clearly not the look of this band at all. Then there's been the vocal style, which has included more of that post-hardcore, the newer brand of it from what I understand, and poppy sounding clean vocals and rather average to decent growling and screaming, as far as those styles go in comparison to the big wigs in death and black metal, which is once again, not a problem on here, what with clean vocals popping up in one song only, fan favorite Traces, and the rest of them being dominated by growling vocals. Then you have the fact that there are two vocalists, which has rarely worked well in my opinion, a lot of the time the vocalists are either indistinguishable from each other or just don't work anyway, these guys not only work well together but clearly have their own voices, at least to me. I could go on and on about how these guys manage to defy their own sub-genre tag and yet defined it as well.
Make no mistake, this is definitely a band that has worked in the djent style, the riffing style is based in groove and rhythmic syncopation. What you separates them from other bands however is their use of chaotic riffing and ultimately their unpredictability in their patterns. The breakdown at the end of Eternal Golden Monk is not your average chug-chug-chug-break-chug style breakdown and has a lot more dissonance. This is something that you'll find throughout several songs on the album, breakdowns that are not in the now conventional style. The clean sections also mark an interesting contrast for the band's low and heavy style, with bright and atmospheric cleaner moments that usually bring in more melody and ambiance into a song. More melodic songs are present without the cleaner sections but are not as frequent, with When No One Walks With You really being the stand out in that regard, combining their groove based sound and making it possibly the most melodic and accessible song on the album. Most songs don't come out as easy sounding as that one and are much more staccato and feature more unsettling atmospheres. It's worth pointing out that not one track on here actually sounds like another, with the exception of the band's own style, but what I'm trying to get across is that each of these songs can stand alone despite being linked on the album.
I think it's fantastic debut and one that I can only hope people at least give a chance. The only real problem is that I think there might be one interlude too many on here, but as a whole piece of work it fits together flawlessly. Definitely check this out if you want to hear an interesting new progressive metal group with a nice take on the genre.
Overall Score: 9.5
Highlights: Every Song Is A Highlight

Cloudkicker - Let Yourself Be Huge (2011)

Band: Cloudkicker
Country: Columbus, Ohio
Style: Progressive/Post-Rock
Label: Independent

When you talk about the rise of instrumental progressive metal within the last five years or so, around that, Cloudkicker will be one of those artists people will mention. Since "The Discovery" was released in 2008, along with the rise of djent, people have flocked to Ben Sharp's instrumental albums. Last year's "Beacons" proved to be one of the best albums, in my opinion, of that year and this new one was released just days ago.
Hours after this thing was released, there was a backlash from some fans, not all mind you, about this being much different from Sharp's past material with the project. Unlike the progressive djent sound he's come to be known for, this album contains four songs and four interludes/intros of post-rock. For anyone who's followed Sharp in the few interviews he gave last year for "Beacons", this shouldn't come as a huge surprise. That album made use of plenty of post-rock soundscapes and the songs clearly owed a debt to the genre, to which Sharp specifically said he was interested in the genre and was listening to more of it than a lot of metal at that time. It wasn't a stretch of the imagination to see him move the project into a softer and calmer post-rock sound at some point. Maybe people just didn't expect it to happen so soon. There's also what I'd think is more of an indie folk kind of vibe throughout the album as well, especially on It's Inside Me, and I'm Inside It, which is completely devoted to folk rock kind of sound.
There are very few instances of a distorted guitar being used on here, You and Yours really being the only instance, so this is an album that is dominated by clean and acoustic guitars. I still think when it comes to drum programming, Sharp has a good grasp for what a song needs, never over doing it and trying to make the drums sound all technical or interesting, it's a pretty simplistic approach to the drumming on this album actually. It's not a record that I expect to wow a whole lot of people because doesn't contain the trademark sounds that the project has come to be known for and works more in the realms of quietness, moody atmospheres, and very minimal guitar lines. It's a record that you don't have to listen to a bunch of times to find everything inside it, which might be a turn off to some people, but brings with it less baggage and a more honest kind of songwriting which has, at times, gotten lost among all the layers Sharp has used in other albums. This also happens to be the first Cloudkicker album to feature vocals on it, though the role isn't really all that big, Let Yourself Be Huge definitely has a much more emotional impact due to them actually being there than I think it would have had if it remained an instrumental track entirely. I read a comment from someone saying that this is good music to fall asleep to, and that's totally reasonable and the record is definitely suited to that kind of experience due to the calm nature that is expressed throughout it. At just over twenty-five minutes in total, it's just more than an appetizer for someone like me, and I kind wish there were more "real" tracks or that some of the shorter songs had been expanded upon, it works.
This record may come as a shock to some fans who might have never thought Cloudkicker to move into this sort of realm, but I'd say that it does work. I kind of wish the album was longer or that it had a couple more tracks on it, but for what it is, it work. Check it out if you're into post-rock, I doubt you'll be disappointed by it.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: It's Inside Me, and I'm Inside It, Let Yourself Be Huge

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Nocte Obducta - Verderbnis (Der Schnitter Kratzt An Jeder Tür) (2011)

Band: Nocte Obducta
Country: Mainz, Germany
Style: Avant-Garde Black Metal
Label: MDD

Let's just get this straight so I don't have people claiming otherwise, I'm a big fan of Nocte Obducta. They were one of the first black metal groups I found from Germany and remain to this day one of my favorites, if not my favorite. Very few bands come close to the sound they've developed through the years in my opinion.
The first thing to really say about this album is that is, once again, a shift from the band's previous material. In the albums prior to this one, the band moved more and more into progressive and experimental territory, accumulating onto 2008's "Sequenzen Einer Wanderung." The two songs that made up that album made use of elements ranging from pure blasting black metal to jazz fusion, folk rock, and ambient music, this new album is a couple steps back from that and returns, more or less, to the band's roots. Admittedly though, it is not as atmospheric as their first releases. This is also the first full-length album from the band that doesn't have a song that tops ten minutes, which might draw some people who aren't into longer songs. This is a much more direct and confrontational album than their last several, but it doesn't abandon it's more experimental and progressive tendencies. It contains a very punk kind of energy and youthful vibrancy that just gives all these songs that sort of pop that just makes them feel alive.
For myself, while it could still be called progressive, a lot of the tendencies on here might throw people off due to a couple of ideas that strike into the same vein of influences that are made use of in post-black metal/blackgaze bands. I hear influences coming from post-punk, industrial music, and post-rock being integrated into the band's sound, Niemals Gelebt being one example of it. I will say that their influence does not overpower any of the black metal and progressive sounds from the band, but they can certainly be found inside the album. Obsidian Zu Pechstein, which is the longest track on the album, is really the centerpiece of the entire disc, not surprisingly, and really is a nice mixing pool of all the different ideas present on the other songs. I was very impressed with the bass sound on the album, it was very warm and fuzzy sounding, and was very well placed in the mix as it can always be heard and delivers some great bass-lines throughout. I won't lie though and tell you that there weren't moments where you might think you were listening to a Rammstein album, most notably in the final track, Verderbnis, where the band really drops out and leaves the vocals alone for a very low sort of spoken word type of performance.
It's a good album from one of my favorite German groups that has yet to disappoint me. I've always liked this band and I hope more people check them out because they really deserve a lot more praise. Definitely look into it if you're a fan of experimental and progressive black metal.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: Tiefrote Rune, Obsidian Zu Pechstein, Wenn Ihr Die Sterne Seht

Agrypnie - Asche EP (2011)

Band: Agrypnie
Country: Groß-Gerau, Germany
Style: Industrial/Progressive Black Metal
Label: Supreme Chaos

Last year Agrypnie released a pretty well received third album, "16[485]," and we now have a well received EP. Those familiar with the German black metal scene will have no doubt heard of this band before, being one of the more popular ones, to my knowledge. I couldn't imagine this being bad based on their track record so far.
It's important to say that while this is classified as an EP, you're getting well over forty minutes worth of material on here, and none of it is rehashed. The six songs on here can really be called an extension of the sound from "16[485]" in terms of style while taking a bit more risks and being a bit more experimental with their sound than a full-length might have allowed. On here, you have the band really just throwing some of their most experimental and ambient material at you. Personally, the band is at their best, on here, when they dive headfirst into near post-rock kind of territory, hear Erwachen, and just mellow out and bring in the more moody sections that work in conjunction with the heavier ones. But like I said, this has some of the band's most experimental material on here, as tracks like 1.10#06+0.35 or Kosmos [Omega] will show you, this is not a release that was dedicated to metal. I'm honestly not all that surprised the band decided to experiment more with these sounds but admittedly, I don't think that on a full-length they would work all that well. The latter track is more of a dark ambient and drone sort piece while the former is a sort of industrial meets darkwave kind of track, both work very well as instrumental pieces and are enjoyable for what they are. Augenblick, the song that closes the album, is a demo, of a track on here, which can be heard in it's sound, it's clearly a lot more raw and unpolished than the other material on here, but is far from being a bad song and should definitely impress anyone who hears it. The fully polished version is better, but I don't think including it on here is just to fill up space and is worth hearing.
This is definitely a killer EP with some great material on it. While I wouldn't call this an accurate description of their sound, it certainly has some of their best work yet on it. A very solid piece of progressive/experimental black metal that if you're at all interested in the genres you should definitely check out.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Erwachen, Augenblick

Friday, November 18, 2011

Preterite - Pillar of Winds (2011)

Band: Preterite
Country: Montreal, Canada
Style: Experimental Drone/Folk
Label: Handmade Birds

I don't recall what my first reaction was when I first heard of this project, but I'll admit that it probably wasn't one that was all that ecstatic. Because I'm not a huge fan of Menace Ruine, I was pretty much only checking this out because Handmade Birds has released nothing but good material. A couple weeks and a little more than half a dozen listens later, here was my impression.
The five songs that make up this album shouldn't be viewed as separate entities, but instead as five pieces that make up a single track. This isn't a record that, honestly, I could see a lot of people putting on just to enjoy the fact of having it on. It's the type of record that isn't meant to really fall into the background, if you put it on, you will be sucked into it. For me, the entire thing acts as a sort of meditation on spirituality rather than a ritual of some sort, as I could see others disagreeing on. It's a very powerful record that really pulled me into a trance while listening to it. Much more somber and authentic than perhaps the what new age records would have you believe, this album expresses various emotional outlets whether it be a sobering sense of mournfulness or a more tense and chaotic sense of rage and frustration. A good portion of the vocals tend to follow an almost choral sense of melody and structure, which suits the music just as well as you might expect it to given what the music is. Call it liturgical if you wish, there are similarities between the structure of this album and more traditional liturgical music.
Sonically, this album explores what could be called a rather defined sort of sound, which is meant to be a compliment. Songs follow a sort of strict path that dictates how the album progresses, starting with the cautious opener Oath before building into a crescendo on Trial of Strength and then descending back to a crawl on Viriditas. The use of elements that can be traced back to genres like drone, like new age, like folk, like neo-classical music, as well as others, all brought together into a sound like this that does not really focus on one sound over another. I feel that I should make it clear that unlike a lot of other records where I'll reference build-ups and falls to the likes of post-rock, you really can't say that about this album. By removing most traces of what could be seen as "rock" or "metal" influences, you wind up with a sound that is left very open to interpretation as to what exactly it is. These are pieces that drag out for extended periods of time to really convey a sense of wholeness and calmness that I have yet to really hear in underground music, really music that isn't coming from more traditional composers.
It's much better than what I might have guessed it to be, and it's quite an interesting listen. I'm well aware that it isn't for everyone, but I'd at least advise you to listen to it at least one, completely through, before you make up your mind about it. If you're into experimental drone, folk, avant-garde composition, etc., you know what you have to do by now, check this out.
Overall Score: 9
Highlights: The Fourth Corner, Viriditas