Voivod: Post Society

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It’s fitting that the always-futuristic Voivod is featured as my first 2016 review. This is the band’s umpteenth lineup, though, notably, they’ve got their original singer (“Snake”) back in the band, and they’ve always had the same drummer.

I kind of quit on Voivod, ironically, after my favorite album of theirs, Negatron, from 1995. I think what happened at that point was that they became my favorite band, which meant I had to go buy their entire discography. I started with their debut, War And Pain, found it not to my liking, and just walked away, thinking I’d come back at some point, though not 21 years later. Somehow I even missed the entire Jason Newsted era.

Anyway, unsurprisingly, this lineup sounds most similar to the Angel Rat and The Outer Limits entries in my collection. The prominent features are crazy, jazzy chords and harmonies, odd, shifting rhythms, and mid- to up-tempo songs. Actually, it might make more sense to instead contrast this to the parts of their catalog that this doesn’t mesh with as cleanly. It’s not the thrash of War And Pain and it’s not the bombastic uber-metal (I just made up that genre right now) of Negatron.

Two of the tracks here, “Post Society” and “We Are Connected,” were part of a recent split seven-inch. A third, “Silver Machine,” is a Hawkwind cover. In its original incarnation it was sung by Lemmy, and I can’t help but wonder if its inclusion here, two months after his death, is a tribute. Which leaves two new original songs to round out the album, and I think those, “Forever Mountain” and “Fall,” might be the two best, though I waver on that.

This is not guitarist Chewy’s first release with the band, but it’s worth noting that he carries on the legacy of original guitarist Piggy admirably. Voivod couldn’t possibly hire a slouch in that position, but his solos here are well within the vein of earlier releases, as I mentioned, but they also continue to be inventive.

This is a strong release. The chorus of “Fall” gets too whiny and repetitive, and the three other Voivod-penned tracks have exactly one section each that could be trimmed. But at least with a Voivod song if you don’t like one section there are several others to potentially enjoy. Revisiting these guys now makes me realize what a huge mistake it was to, in 1995, jettison them due to their 1984 release. I can’t wait to refamiliarize myself with the many albums of theirs I’ve missed.

Rating:
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Really Like: “Forever Mountain”
Like:
“Post Society,” “Fall,” “We Are Connected,” “Silver Machine”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

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The Screaming Jets: All For One

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The Screaming Jets are an Australian band that, whatever their current line up, was a quintet in 1991. Despite thoroughly enjoying this album, I haven’t followed the band closely since then, though it seems they’re still at least somewhat active. In 1991 the music industry knew something was going crazy with guitar-driven bands, so they threw everything at the wall. As a result it’s become kind of a golden age of everything that was even halfway good at the time.

This is much better than halfway good, but it also wasn’t what was about to be everything. It’s very straightforward, melodic hard rock. The closest approximation from that time that springs to mind is The Black Crowes, but this isn’t as bluesy. So even though they seem to have had a continued presence in Australia, it’s no surprise that their stateside representation lost interest pretty quickly after this didn’t blow up right away. I’ve heard that Australian bands are more insulated from the fickle whims and trends that devour entire genres overnight in the US and UK, so it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they’re still very much the same band.

The most notable deficiency of the album is that it ends with what are pretty much its two weakest songs. No matter, the rest of the album more than makes up for it. The best track, by far, is “Blue Sashes,” which, with its first-person tale of the Vietnam war (“lay Charlie clean/…/we’re gonna get those commies and mow ’em all down”) brings out all the ugly jingoism I never knew I had in an incredible burst of exuberance. It’s hard for me to believe that was the intended effect…maybe it’s like a “Born In The U.S.A.” thing where I’m completely misreading it. Regardless, the song rocks, as does pretty much all of this album.

Rating:
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Mix: “Blue Sashes”
Really Like:
“Better,” “No Point,” “Sister Tease”
Like: 
“C’mon,” “Needle,” “Shine On,” “Starting Out,” “Stop The World,” “The Only One”
Meh: “Got It”
Filed Between: Probably The Screaming Jets’ “F.R.C.” cassette single and Screaming Trees’ Invisible Lantern
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Batushka: Litourgiya

litourgiya

The first thing you hear on Batushka’s Litourgiya is a few bell chimes, very similar to those that launch Faith No More’s ferocious “Surprise! You’re Dead!” Here, though, I think the reference is the bells that Eastern European monks would ring. I have no idea if that’s right, but the clues are the album cover art and the fact that there is a significant amount of liturgical chant, often over double-kick and churning guitars, throughout the album. (The bells also lead off tracks three and five.)

The main reason I have no idea what’s really going on here is because Batushka is a Polish ensemble singing in possibly either Russian or Old Slavian (though I’m not sure that’s even a language, current or former). I mean, it might as well be English since it’s sung in screamy death metal style, but since I can understand even fewer than the handful I can usually understand I’m going to go with the Internet reviewers and commenters on this one. (One hypothesis I have is that the singing is Russian and the chanting is Old Slavian.) Furthering the church theme, the title of the album seems to translate to “liturgy.”

The eight tracks are all named “Yekteniya” followed by a roman numeral concordant with its position on the album. I don’t know where I got it, but my notes tell me that translates to “litany.” As you might guess from a naming scheme like that, this sounds more like one solid work than a bunch of individual songs. It even kind of feels like a mass, where, yeah, there are some shifts here and there, but for the most part they’re kind of beating the same theme into you for 45 minutes or so. I

That monolithic aspect of is what holds this back from being a great album in the end. I’m pretty sure everything’s in the same key, and the band basically has just a few parameters they can switch. Vocalization can be sung, chanted, screamed, or off. Guitars can be fast or slow. And after that it’s mixing up harmonies and melodies a bit, but underneath a wall of super fast and compressed drums and guitars and behind vocals you can’t understand it ends up being pretty same-y.

I like this quite a bit. In small doses. But I couldn’t hum a second of it on command.

Rating:
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Mix: “Yekteniya IV”
Really Like:
“Yekteniya III”
Like:
“Yekteniya I,” “Yekteniya II,” “Yekteniya V,” “Yekteniya VII,” “Yekteniya VIII”
Meh: “Yekteniya VI”
Song Notes:
After the jump Continue reading

Ten Commandos: Ten Commandos

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Wouldn’t it be awesome if Alain Johannes got together with Ben Shepherd and Matt Cameron of Soundgarden? You don’t have to wonder, because it happened and, yes, it is awesome. Dmitri Coats is the second guitarist, and Mark Lanegan joins the group for the first track, because that’s what Mark Lanegan does.

This is basically an Alain Johannes album but with the best drummer he’s ever had. Even guest vocalist Nikki Costa on “Come” sounds an awful lot like Johannes’ late wife and bandmate from Eleven, Natasha Schneider. The songs are moody, in minor keys, and have great, occassionally soaring melodies over interesting harmonies and tricky rhythms.

Honestly, I’m not sure what more there is to say. This is Alain Johannes’ aesthetic through and through. He’s not breaking any new ground for him (save, notably, for the wacky guitar antics by Peter Frampton on “Sketch 9”), but he’s still waiting for the rest of the world to catch up to the new ground he was treading over 20 years ago. It’s heavy, it’s sweet, it’s beautiful. If you ever wished there was another Eleven album, you should definitely check this out.

Rating:
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Mix: “War On The Peace”
Really Like: “You Might Forget,” “Sporthalle,” “Four On The Floor”
Like: 
“Staring Down The Dust,” “Outermost Sky,” “Come,” “Sketch 9” “Aware,” “Invisibility”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Polyrhythmics: Octagon

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Libra Stripes this is not.This is why music is so hard for me now. Bands always letting me down. I mean, this is fine, but I doubt that if I’d heard any of this on the radio like I did the band’s previous album that I’d rush out and listen to it exclusively over a weekend.

Something’s different. The band is still laying down some decent funk, but the cutting, enticing, other-ness (I’d never think this was an African ensemble) of what they had on Libra Stripes is all but gone. They find it here and there, but too often (e.g., “Maruken,” “Octagon Pt. 2”) they kill a killer head by jamming for too long without any inspiring solos.

“Maruken” would be at least a Like if it were half as long, which would give the album four at least Likes before getting to the execrable “Octagon, Pt. 1,” which, given its name, you feel like maybe the band kind of knew should be cut. Two other likes, “Octagon, Pt. 2” and  “Fairweather Friends,” aren’t solid throughout and nearly beat themselves down to a Meh.

One of the biggest differences is the sound. Everything sounds far more reverb-y. Combined with the way the songs are more jammy and less composed, I’d say the band was going for more of a live feel. And I always hate when bands try to do that…just be awesome live when you’re live but when you’re doing a recording you want to sound good on record.

Someday I’ll truly love a band again. Until then, though, I feel like I’ve just got to survive on one album stands.

Rating:
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Like: “Liam Rides A Pony,” “Le Hustle,” “The Itis,” “Octagon, Pt. 2,” “Fairweather Friends”
Meh: 
“Maruken,” “El Fuego,” “The Mendo Mulcher,” “Shadow Lines”
Dislike: “Octagon, Pt. 1”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading