Polyrhythmics: Octagon


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.

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


Kampfar: Profan


The first track my shuffle picked on this was “Icons,” and, due to the way it starts, I think I blurted out, at work no less, “Fucking flutes?! Angry Metal Guy screwed me again!” That’s the only track they pull that crap on, though, and it doesn’t last long. This is no Nechochwen, Myrkur, or Our Oceans, though. Of the metal I’ve reviewed recently, it’s closest to (the now defunct, unfortunately) Trials. Thrashy like that, but more screamy than singy.

The sound is massive; it’s really well produced, although with a bit too much emphasis on the upper-mids it ends up being awfully fatiguing, which means those flutes and piano at the start of “Icons” end up being a welcome reprieve.

The back half of the album is significantly better than the front half, but even then it is, for the most part, less than or equal to the sum of its parts. I mean, all the elements are there…great drumming, guitars, and some decent hooks. But it all kinds of flows together, a fact that is not helped by the first two songs having he same vocal melody in the chorus.

Add in the fact that it’s just pretty good and, I mean, when it comes to thrash, or dark thrash or whatever we’re calling this now, that means it’s just mediocre. I feel like music this fast and heavy absolutely needs something extra to take it beyond. Let’s put it this way. When a great song has been written, in many cases it can be made better by being played louder, faster, heavier, etc. That’s where the best metal is. However, if you’re starting with the loud, fast, and heavy and inserting merely decent songs, then you end up with something that just makes you tired.

This was fun. But I don’t think I’ll be coming back. I may, however, check out some of the rest of their catalog, which seems to be extensive. I mean, heck, I’m always willing to give dark Norwegian metal plenty of chances.

Like: “Profanum,” “Daimon,” “Pole In The Ground,” “Tornekratt”
Meh: “Gloria Ablaze,” “Icons,” “Skavank”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Hardcore Crayons: Zozzled


Well this has got to be one of 2015’s most under-appreciated albums. Minneapolis trio Hardcore Crayons released it on January 1st, and it simultaneously seems like something that would go nowhere but is also super accessible.

The band describes themselves as “math/post rock infused intertwined w/ elements of jazz & dub,” but I basically just hear avant-garde jazz and plenty of rock. My guess is they put the other stuff in there to try to get more critics to listen to them. Which is fine…I mean, heck, I’m in favor of these guys just kidnapping people, handcuffing them to a chair, and forcing them to listen to this album.

The first thing you notice when you pop in the disc (I actually have the disc) is the delicious, warm sound. The recording and mixing is done perfectly, and the bass tone (some of it provided by keys, I’m pretty sure) is inviting, fuzzy in a puppy’s fur kind of way, and mesmerizing. With hardly any vocals (and none in the traditional sense…there are some distant shouts and murmurs here and there), the band warms you up well for their really wacky stuff with some odd meters but in a really accessible bouncy groove.

By the time you get to the noodly part of the second track (which then goes on to dominate the third, fourth, and fifth tracks), you’re already sold and willing to go with them on their journey. And the fact that you’re pre-registered ends up being a good thing because the freer, wackier stuff here is a little half-baked in my opinion. I kind of wish much of it had been cut or re-sequenced, but like I said, you’re here to just go along for the ride.

And if you do follow their lead, this ends up being incredibly listenable. It rewards close listening, but some of the noodly parts are almost better as background. You can get lost in this easily with delight, and by the time the band really brings it home with their strongest stuff for “More Sugar” and “Wgyw” it gives you a nice adrenaline push through to the end.

If they can sound as good live as they do on disc, and if they can keep their shows moving along enough that you don’t need to be stoned to enjoy it, then all y’all Minnesotans should make sure you check these guys out.

Mix: “Wgyw”
Really Like:
“Zozzled, “Completely Relevant: Part I,” “Daddy Issues,” “More Sugar”
Meh: “Kid Is Goat,” “Fuzzy Origins,” “Completely Relevant: Part II,” “Was That Cool?”
Filed Between: I don’t know my CD’s aren’t unpacked yet
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Deafheaven: New Bermuda


Very good. Great guitars. Incorporates many genres. Bloated. Don’t like the vocals.

There, that’s my review. I’m suffering some review constipation on this one and so I just had to push out that intro paragraph to get started. And now that I’ve written to this point, I can’t think of much more to say to expand on it.

I guess what makes it tough to review are that the tracks are so long (running from 8:23 to 10:17), each comprising a few distinct sections (thus making it hard to get handle on each track), and the vocals are just demonic banshee vocal cord shredding, which doesn’t carry any melody nor make lyrics comprehensible. So even though it’s awfully good, it’s hard to really get excited by it.

It requires close listening to really appreciate, but due to some significantly bloated portions, you have to be very patient with some stretches in order for the close listening to pay off.

In general, I’m very much in favor of this approach where they rhapsodize some diverse segments into a single song. But some of these should have been split up and/or cut.

And then there’s the vocals, which are at that weird scream/vocal cord shredding frequency and never veer from that. That’s hard to just enjoy passively. And he doesn’t sound like a George, yet that’s his name. The guitars can only carry so much. And the rhythm guitar doesn’t need to be so relentless.

But okay there we are. Over and out.

Really Like: “Baby Blue”
“Brought To The Water,” “Luna,” “Gifts For The Earth”
Meh: “Come Back”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Killing Joke: Pylon


I don’t know much about Killing Joke. My greatest exposure to their catalog is covers here and there, most notably Metallica’s version of “The Wait,” but also from a recent review of Prong’s Songs From The Black Hole. Still, I think I can safely say that the band has barely changed their approach in their over 35 years of existence. Everything is a new world dystopia, from the threat of nuclear war to corporations ruling everything. It’s almost as if they’re thrilled with the current state of geopolitical affairs so that they can inveigh against it. It feels like the band had to exert all of their effort just to refrain from mentioning Thatcher.

Musically not much has changed either, as far as I can tell. If you loved Killing Joke in the 80’s and want to hear them recording on more modern equipment, then you’re in luck. If you want 57 minutes of verse-chorus-verse and no other song development, hey, it’s really you’re lucky day. Continuing with the theme I introduced in my previous review, you could fit over three full Unpluggeds into these ten tracks. I don’t dislike any on this record (though “War On Freedom” comes close), and I had it pegged at three clowns for most of my listening (in part I think because the last three tracks are 60% of the album’s Likes, though even those are too long), but in the end it’s too repetitive and too much of an effort to get through. Even cutting 10-12 minutes and getting it down to an old school LP length would have been an improvement, though probably not enough to get it any more than three clowns. While most of this is enjoyable, there’s virtually nothing that transcends or compels you to listen to it again.

Like: “Dawn Of The Hive,” “Euphoria,” “Delete,” “I Am The Virus,” “Into The Unknown”
“Autonomous Zone,” “New Cold War,” “New Jerusalem,” “War On Freedon,” “Big Buzz”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading

Avatarium: The Girl With The Raven Mask


And here we are with the second disaster of Angry Metal Guy’s October 2015 picks. I don’t get this one at all. I mean, I actually get it too much; it feels standard 80’s butt rock throwaway with keyboards and a female lead singer (though butt rock wasn’t solely male driven; I’m thinking Lita Ford, Vixen, …). Speed is not a priority, but big, loud (I can’t believe how compressed this is), soaring blues-y vocal and guitar riffs are.

Performance-wise, this is a pretty talented crew. The band seems to revolve around centerpiece Leif Edling on guitar, though the drummer is no slouch, either, and vocalist Jennie-Ann Smith is, appropriately, featured heavily.

But the songs. Oy. The biggest problem is that just about all of the tracks are way too long, with many of them taking a minute or so in the middle to not even noodle or meander but just kind of sit statically where I can confirm there is sound but I honestly have a hard time believing anything is happening. There are eight tracks here (I eliminated the ninth, bonus, track for my sanity, and based on a final listen it’s the worst of the bunch so good move me) and it’s still 50 minutes long, meaning you could fit the 13 tracks on Unplugged in here 2.5 times and still have some time left over for the nothing portions of this disc.

The highlight is the title track, which is also the shortest song on the album by more than a minute, and I don’t think that’s a coincidence. Its conciseness summarizes what the band does best, and the lyrics are evocative, with the singer in the first verse wondering about a girl she saw “going to market” wearing the titular mask and then basically expanding on that thread for the rest of the song.

This could have easily been two clowns if it was edited properly. It might have even been three songs at that point. But it could have been one clown if it didn’t have the first track.

Like: “Girl With The Raven Mask”
Meh: “The January Sea,” “Pearls And Coffins”
Dislike: “Ghostlight,” “Run Killer Run,” “The Master Thief”
Hate: “Hypnotized,” “Iron Mule,” “In My Time Of Dying (Bonus Track)”
Song Notes:
After the jump Continue reading

Beaten To Death: Unplugged


As you’ll find out in this review and the following two, Angry Metal Guy really screwed me over with their picks for records of the month last October.

Beaten To Death is…well, they’re something. They’re Norwegian. They’re grindcore, but I also think they’re kind of mocking grindcore. Which I think is funny to like seven people…you’re not really punching up here. Their song titles are weird. For examples, see tracks one and six below. Then there’s “‘Death To False Grindcore’,” with its weird quotation marks around it, “Robert Sylvester Kelly,” which is the full name of R. Kelly, and “Knulleviser For Barn,” which, well…. I know that “for barn” means for kids, because when I was in Norway there was a big barnesex scandal going on. Bing Translator didn’t know what to do with Knulleviser, though maybe it just didn’t want to given Tay’s recent troubles. Google Translate, though, was willing to tell me it meant “fuck shows.” So they’re outrageous.

And they’re outrageous, not just titlistically, but also sonically and probably lyrically (I’m not even sure when they’re singing in English or in Norwegian). And I feel like this kind of extremism is just boring now. After Brujeria, it all seems played out.

In another flavor of extreme, every song is between 1:03 (“I Keep Stalling,” and is it a coincidence that that’s one of my favorites?) and 1:56 (“Promise Catharsis”). The entire album, at 13 songs, clocks in at one second shy of 19 minutes. So at least you’re not listening for too long, though of course since you’re suffering the whole time it feels a lot longer.

I said that Gloryhammer’s silliness didn’t work because the music wasn’t very good. In a very similar way, if you’re gonna be this extreme in so many ways, you’d better be really good. Otherwise it’s not justified, and I just feel like you’re covering up a lack of talent with extremity. Though the album isn’t entirely without merit (there’s the aforementioned “I Keep Stalling,” album closer “Troll,” I love the strumming parts of “Robert Sylvester Kelly,” and there are a few other dozen-second-long stretches of enjoyable riffage throughout), this is pretty much a solid waste of its listeners’ time.

Like: “I Keep Stalling,” “Robert Sylvester Kelly,” “Troll”
Meh: “Papyrus Containing The Spell To Summon The Breath Of Life Enshrined In The Collected Scrolls Of Sheryl Crow,” “Til Himmels (For Å Gjete Gud),” “Menstrubation,” “Don’t You Dare To Call Us Heavy Metal,” “Promise Catharsis,” “Greenway/Harris,” “End Of An Error,” “‘Death To False Grindcore'”
Dislike: “Home Of Phobia,” “Knulleviser For Barn”
Song Notes: After the jump Continue reading