Friday, December 13, 2013

The End Time: Best Albums of 2013

Here's what really caught my ear this year. No honorable mentions, no bullshit. I've exhausted these albums and will continue to do so. I've picked 11 because someone once told me that's metal and I want to be as metal as possible.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Sweatin' The Small Stuff: Best EPs, Splits, and Comps of 2013

I'm such an utter failure. I've failed to keep this blog up to date and I suck because of that. But maybe there's some room for forgiveness. If anyone cares, I've some stuff to get to and it's stuff you need to listen to if you haven't already.

Without any more mopey bullshit, here are my favorite eps, splits, and comps of 2013.

10. Condition -Bombed Out

Californian d-beaters Condition get the list rolling with some intense and blownout hardcore. The vocals are all over the place, the cymbals sound like shit, the guitars are an irritating ring and man is it perfect. Promised to be a threat live, this ep serves as an adequate warning.

9. Sea of Shit -Sea of Shit

Ugly and grimy, Chicago's Sea of Shit's eponymous tape is full of hiss, thin streaks of feedback, garagey guitars and punky vocals that spit in your face. This tape capture's the band's live energy perfectly and roughly, but good ground to learn about what's cookin' in Chicago ('sides Kuma's).

8. Noothgrush/Coffins - Split

To be honest, The Fleshland felt a bit padded; some songs just went on a little too long and well. there were too many of them too. Thankfully, this split is some of the leanest, meanest, and sludgiest stuff Coffins have touted in recent memory. And well, then there's Noothgrush; a band that somehow has only been getting more upsetting and viral in their old age. A killer split showcasing two bands who know how to continue their sound without being stale or too different. Listen

7. Slave - Slave
Rough round the edges and burning bright in the center, Alabama's Slave are a metallic whirlwind with no notion on how to stop. This one's just frantic, abrasive and works on something in my core; toss in a Despise You cover and you've got an ideal EP.

6. V/A Monomaniac Vol 2/3

Showcasing a slew of great and under the radar bands, Monomaniac Vols 2&3 is an invaluable asset. I love the combo of black/death metal bands and grindcore/punk bands butting heads all on one comp. What's also great is that Dephsphorus vocalist and Blastbeat Mailmurder overlord Panos handpicked each band and asked for contributions. So, not only are these songs exclusive to this comp, but they also embody the spirit of the comp as the aforementioned black/death bands sound the grindiest they've ever sounded.

5. V/A - Svn Okklt
Speaking of comps, the Svn Okklt tape only comp is a grim mess of low key black metal acts from around the world. Drastically different style keeps this comp exciting and educational.

4. War Master - Blood Dawn
Well, sometimes Bolt Thrower needs a break, and thank goodness for War Master as they're happy to appease. Mid tempo death metal with riffs and riffs and riffs. Excellent production and great vocals from ex-Insect Warfare vocal box round out this excellent EP.

3. Harm's Way - Blinded
Whoa wee. This one got me scraping my knuckles as I struggled to pick up change. This is dismal, down-tuned hardcore that's perfect to get your stomp on to. They're kinda like the Juicy J of tough guy hardcore; you know what you're going to get and it's exactly what you wanted. I wonder if the name, Blinded, and the artwork, which focuses on a horse, refers to the foreboding and disparaging play/film Equis. If it does, kudos as the anxiety of the said work matches well with Harm's Way's misanthropy.

2. Wreck and Reference - Content
Content is the best thing this bizarre duo have ever done. It's murky, catchy, powerful and harsh. The organic drums and the vocals offset the bits of electronic/synthesized clutter and melody. Each track builds and falters in an overwhelming yet blissful fashion. "Absurdities and Echos" might even be my favorite song this year.

1. Column Of Heaven -Holy Things Are for the Holy

While the band's roots lay in grindcore/punk, I'm starting to think the band sounds best when they dive heard first into more experimental territory (not to say they've ever played anything typical). Holy Things... is an enthralling departure that shambles in drums and stabs in thick bass. Samples and deranged vocals protrude from this short 7" and create a dark atmosphere with strong rhythms and tangible qualities. No matter the genre, Column Of Heaven are apt to challenge the listener as well as themselves.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Bandcamp of the Week: Sea of Shit

After catching Sea of Shit with Sick/Tired, Callous, and Lucid Terror (some ripping Terrorizer-esque grind from LI) I've been digging this tape I picked up from them. Noisy and destructive power violence with charged vocals and a nice muddy tone to the guitars.

Those unfamiliar with this IL act would be wise to hunt down their split with Water Torture (a band that can do no wrong) and their recently put out discography tape.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Wreck and Reference - Content

No artist sounds like Wreck and Reference. Maybe my musical interests and knowledge are a bit narrow, but I doubt I'm wrong about my previous statement. Last year's Youth was not only one of my favorite records of the year, but one of the most intriguing and genuinely different things I came across. As the band's progressed, we are given Content, an EP that has many of Youth 's attributes, but brings them into a whole new world.

"Absurdities and Echos," the opener for the EP, is a water logged subterranean cloud of swirling textures - both haunting and otherworldly - organic drum work and the band's best vocals yet. The vocals are augmented in a way that they reverberate in a lower tone and sound like the singer is trapped far below ground and yelling to the surface through an old well. They ebb and flow over the rich drone of effects that come through as a dark hum, sparkling static, and stabs of some type of melodic synth.

B-side of Content  is "Abhorrence," a track which sounds more akin to last year's  Youth. Making use of higher and scratchier vocals, harsh textures that sit below some type of melodic keyed synth instrument, and ever building drums, "Abhorrence" is much more of a car crash than the slow slosh of "Absurdities and Echos."

What Wreck and Reference do so well is simple; they create moody music that's dense but easily appealing. There's a lot going on in each track, but the band does well to include a tangible melody, an accessible vocal line, or an alluring atmosphere. There's no easy way to pigeon hole the band, and we shouldn't look to, but the music finds itself in the company of only particular aspects of other bands: Swans's penchant to trudge and burn, the cathartic momentum of Neurosis's best works and maybe the moodiness of post-punk. The live drums do well to offset the mostly programmed sounds of everything else and the vocals are dynamic enough to easily convey the mood of the lyrics.

While it's only two songs, I've become enamored and absorbed in Content in a way that didn't come so quickly with Youth. While vastly different, the EP does remind me a bit of Urfaust's Drei Rituale Jenseits Des Kosmos, which is way more trance-inducing and repetitive, but a similarly engrossing drone that relies on ambiance and non guitar sounds.

Preorder directly from Flenser and stream for free at the Band's Bandcamp.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Ruined Families - Blank Language

Blank Language is that light at the end of the tunnel, the album that twists and turns the way you'd want and the distant dream you've been thinking about since you first had it some years ago. Well...maybe not you, but this is something that I've been itching for ever since I first delved into hardcore music. Ruined Families's style could be pigeon holed as post-hardcore, but what really matters is the fulfilling sensation of the album and all the different notes it hits. Whether those notes are emotional, melodic, or rhythmic, Blank Language is an impressive effort that melds a myriad of influences and sounds into a unique and pulsating album.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Fell Voices - Regnum Saturni

With their third album, Regnum Saturni, U.S. black metal act Fell Voices find themselves playing into abstracts and delving deeper into ritualistic chaos. The album was recorded live, a trait that means a lot to me, not only in the band's character, but also in the band's sheer sonic power.Unlike previous efforts, Fell Voices dedicate the first breath to a spoken sample by poet Mary Oliver, a poem which sets the thematic tone of the album and ties into the album's title and mythos. Gone are the repetitive and intricate melodies of the their last lp and instead the band uses tremolo riffing and black metal stylings to create a sort of drone that doesn't shamble, but rather blurs.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Blessings - Bittervatten

Band's like Sweden's Blessings instill a certain kind of emotion in me that I'm not sure I can accurately describe. The relatively young 3-piece blends so many different styles, all of which I like, that I find myself wondering why this hasn't been done as well before. The emotion that rises from the perfect mixing of sounds, textures, styles, and influences, could simply be elation; maybe someone's finally done it?

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Botanist - IV: Mandragora

IV: Mandragora, the fourth album by one man drum and dulcimer act Botanist, might be the entity's most fleshed out and realized effort. Elements of black metal shine through a bit more obvious as it sounds like the hammered dulcimer is distorted this time around and the tempo strays from the dirge that seemed to accompany most of III: Doom in Bloom, Botanist's most recent work before this.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Iron Lung - White Glove Test

"music" cover
Power violence's most forward thinking act are back with their ambitious new album entitled White Glove Test. Further pushing the band's ammonia soaked aesthetic and affinity for jangley Ginnesque guitars in a blender, Iron Lung, create a claustrophobic and energetic album. The album has three incarnations: a "music" version, which is guitars, vocals, drums; a "noise" version which runs the same length as the music version and sounds like a backdrop for a Lynch film; and then the "together" version in which both the "noise" and the "music" versions play simultaneously; creating, for me, the best version.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Vemod - Venter på stormene

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark--now glittering--now reflecting gloom--
Now lending splendour, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters--with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume,
In the wild woods, among the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.
"Mont Blanc" by Percy Shelley 

Is it too early to have an album of the year?* Maybe - but, I'm willing to put money down that come December of this year (and every year) I'll still be spinning Vemod's Venter på stormene and getting lost in it like it's the first time I've heard it. Loyal readers might recall me talking about this one somewhat recently and how excited I was with only the first track released. I can't recall the last time I obsessed so much over one song from an album that hadn't even been released yet and I can't recall a time when my expectations have been met and further smashed by the eventual album.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bandcamp of the Week - Gets Worse

Gets Worse are a three piece pv outfit hailing from Leeds, UK. Their most recent effort, Year of the Bastard is a 4 track onslaught of metallic power violence that relishes in breakdowns and thick sludgy guitars. The ep is well executed and nearly immaculate in terms of production. I know I'm a sucker for these kind of heavy, beat-downy power violence, but that doesn't mean you should sleep on this band.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Sloth Herder - Abandon Pop Sensibility

Toss cult hardcore icons Rorschach in a blender with misanthropic sludgesters Dystopia and whirl in a dose of modern discontent and you've got Sloth Herder.

Abandon Pop Sensibility, the band's latest EP,  does just that. Sloth Herder rarely rely on a refrain or hook, and never anything to sing along to in order to get the listener involved. Instead, the band juggles speeds and mixes in a thick and harsh sound that is at its best in speedy transitions. Much like the bands mentioned before, Sloth Herder's got this kind of thudding, hard to pin-down type of momentum that pulls you in with repeated listens and yet is always a bit unpredictable.

Few if any moments really stick out on this short EP. I don't know if that's really a bad thing or not, but partly due to the production, as well as the band's style, changes and developments are subtle as everything's always pushed to the max. The bass is prominent in a Jo Bench kind of way and the drums are a bit buried beneath the mid-cutting guitar and throaty vocals. Gross, graveyard dirges are used with individually plucked guitar notes sans heavy distortion which overlap with the backing band to create these lurching and dread filled sections.

Should appeal to those who liked oppressive, gloomy, and rough metal that's not afraid to change paces.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Cloud Rat - Moksha

Cloud Rat's second LP, Moksha, is a fierce surge of melodically intertwined grindcore with nods aplenty to various influences. To allocate one particular influence would be futile as Cloud Rat mix everything from His Hero is Gone guitarwork, a tone owing to Sunlight Studios, a breath of shoegaze and even Neil Young with a cover of his "The Needle and the Damage Done." This rich mixture creates a unique buzz of grindcore that's as emotionally charged in its hooks as it is in its deeply personal lyrics and equally vehement performance by their singer Madison.

Opener "Inkblot" lures listeners in with an ethereal intro that's distant and unassuming. This calmness comes again in "Infinity Chasm" which showcases clean group vocals and clips of what sound like school children admist a slow and clean guitar/bass melody that builds up to a shoegazing explosion that really had me taken by surprise in the best way possible. Immediately I wanted to call this "shoegazecore"....but I thought I couldn't be that stupid. But, this is just another strength for the relatively young Michigan three piece; their ability to seamlessly blend influences and styles into an even and well grounded sound that's definitely punk in its heart.

As mentioned earlier, the band chooses to cover Neil Young. This is a bold thing to do for a grindcore band, and I'm going to assume most listeners will like it (because they seem to mix both world well), but it just doesn't do it for me. What does work for me are the fluid mixtures of riffs and sections, brutal and rough, to catchy and hummable, and vocals that will let you join in for a phrase or three. The riffing style, as mentioned earlier, has that momentous charge to it that HHIG skillfully employed yet has a buzzing fervor to it that adds a large dose of aggression.

"Inkblot" is one of those textbook examples of how to open an album, especially with that great refrain that pops up towards the end. "Peer to Peer" follows the same thread and the last song to incorporate vocals, "Vigil," is a punishing and dynamic track with a spoken part and powerful build up that would be a gift to hear live.

An album that I couldn't have anticipated or assumed to sound any which way, Moksha, does in fact feel like a spiritual release; something that few bands in grindcore are even close to doing.

Check out "Inkblot" over here.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Bandcamp of the Week: My Fictions

My Fictions play a great brand of post-hardcore/screamo that's not afraid to get heavy and blast, or somber and crash. Hailing from good 'ol Lowell Massachusetts (ya might remeba it from da Fighta ya retad-go sox)* these guys do everything I could want. Super emotive, heavy, melodic, catchy, and energetic as hell, My Fictions sets the bar high for what'll me an inevitable dive into current screamo acts.

I've been digging I Want Nothing really hard, but just finding out about Always Trapped I'm in a pleasant pickle of picking which one to repeat. As I said, I'm a bit of a newbie in the world of post-harcore/screamo (whatever the hell you want to call it) but this shit kicks dick. Melody and momentous builds like Envy, yet some real stomach churning and heavy stuff borrowed from what I'm sure is a healthy hardcore upbringing in Massachusetts, the band is far from a one trick pony. The vocals are so varied and dynamic, as are the guitars as they pluck and whine, chug and thrive.

Worth a shot for fans of Pg. 99, Converge, American Nightmare, Touche Amore, Mouth of the Architect and Envy.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Skullthrone - Demo

London two piece Skullthrone are a burst of black metal that's had plenty of years to fester in punk's corpse. Their demo, recorded throughout 2010 and '11 is a nice mixture of aggressive and raw black metal which falls upon melodic and recognizable refrains yet attacks with a hardcore sense of energy.

The band's eight song demo covers a broad spectrum of approaches and does well to incorporate a slew of distinct tropes and ideas in order to create a filthy mix that strays just enough from the beaten path to keep you attentive. Opener "I" has an awesome mid song break that spins out to this hypnotic snakelike tremolo riff. It's sections like that and the midsection of "IV" that really get me going. The punky bursts in between, like the main section of "II" doesn't get me the same way, but I do like some of the curve ball sections like "III's" shamble and the d-beat urgency of "VI."

While the band's articulation and wealth of ideas does well to keep the demo varied, each track feels a bit too separate in terms of momentum. I can really dig on a track or two at a time, but with the demo playing  in full, the abrupt shifts from one track to another makes it feel a bit too unfocused. Where "I" relies heavily on blast beats and a dizzying tremolo refrain, "II" breaks into a mid-pace punk thud that doesn't connect so well. This flopping between attacks continues from one track to the next. It does show the band's prowess in terms of approach and ability to mix things up, but it feels like they're not picking the bone clean of a good idea when they find one.

But, enough complaining. I'm thankful the band doesn't suffer the opposite and run an idea into the ground. Skullthrone's demo is a promising piece of filthy black metal that should appeal to fans of Horna and similar Finnish acts, 2nd wave acts, and current raw black metal acts that offer a touch of filth and punk to their mix.

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