Friday, January 10, 2014

Top 25 Albums Of 2013

Better late than never, right?

I disappeared for the latter half of 2013. It was an awfully busy year and I couldn't find the time or the willpower to keep writing. Unfortunately I'm not sure when I'll be back to write more since I only seem to be getting busier, so treat this as an indefinite hiatus. Part of me wants to continue writing by keeping reviews short and to the point, so maybe I'll do that. We will see. I really have no motivation anymore.

This year was strong for music, and unlike my writing obligations I wasn't able to shirk my undying will to listen to new releases. Here are my top full-lengths from this past year with the usual post-list dubious honors. Enjoy!

25. Beyond - Fatal Power Of Death

I hadn't heard this one until just recently, but Beyond play one of my favorite styles of OSDM - fast, riffy, and frenzied akin to Tribulation's 2009 release The Horror (yet not quite on that level of goodness). Fatal Power Of Death has a more classic '80s sound to it with low-mixed bass and loads of thrash undercurrent. It's endearing, aggressive fun without being all heady like some of the other releases on this list.

24. All Will Gather To The Shores - Deity Of Ruin

My questionably written review for Deity Of Ruin is right below this post. That's how long it's been since I've written anything. This is Bandcamp drone/ambient/doom from Russia with a predictable emphasis on atmosphere. It's how they wield that atmosphere, and how it evokes scenic soundscapes that makes Deity Of Ruin so special. There's something sinister lying under the world they create and it's just hinted at throughout the album.

23. Njiqahdda - Serpents In The Sky

Urrrgh this is a polarizing release. On one side you have hyper-prolific Njiqahdda, who have successfully streamlined their sound from the chaotic black metal noodling of The Path Of Liberation From Birth And Death, and on the other you have...exactly the opposite. I like both styles but the common complaints that Njiqahdda always get are still there: weak, distorted vocalwork and DIY production plague Serpents In The Sky. I don't mind that though, and the more relaxed nature of this album lends it a completely different feel from what I'm used to. Then again I don't listen to each of their umpteen releases each year.

22. Run The Jewels - Self-Titled

Well this is a surprise. I didn't expect to like this at all coming from Killer Mike and El-P since I usually avoid anything with El-P's voice attached to it, but here I found him to be palatable. The best beats on Run The Jewels ("Banana Clipper", "DDFH", "Sea Legs") are the ones he solo-produced. Filled with chromatic melodies and intentionally noise-laden waveforms, there's something subtly aggressive about Run The Jewels too. Frenetic delivery from Killer Mike and fun hooks make it entertaining, yet I've always had a fondness for more topical, disdainful stuff like the lyrics on "DDFH." Definitely excited for the sequel coming later this year.

21. Mark Kozelek & Desertshore - Self-Titled

Singer-songwriter Mark Kozelek has a pretty traditional, very personal folk style on his solo recordings. I enjoy his ruminations, and his collaboration with indie rock band Desertshore was my introduction to his music as well as random west-coast slowcore acts. It's full of memorable little hooks, quotes, and has some varied instrumentation thanks to Desertshore. Riffs reminiscent of lighter math rock and different drum tones make this more than simple lyrical entertainment, although that is a good thing in and of itself.

20. A Million Dead Birds Laughing - Bloom

I could make a case for Bloom being the most disappointing release of 2013. With the departure of vocalist Adam Stewart I was pretty worried for these Australian technical deathgrinders. After all Xen was my album of the year for 2012. The fluid nature of their albums was defined largely in part by his absolutely insane range and catchy phrasing. He made the albums feel like one long track filled with multitudes of ideas. Their new vocalist Darren Leslie isn't bad at all but his vocals aren't as enunciated or as varied as Stewart's were, and I never catch myself singing along despite the rhythmic qualities still being present. Anyway enough talk about the vocalwork. Bloom is still an audial treat from every other perspective, and that's what matters most.

19. The Ruins Of Beverast - Blood Vaults - The Blazing Gospel of Heinrich Kramer

I've always had immense respect for one man bands and Alexander Von Meilenwald seems to be at the pinnacle of his game right now with his incredibly atmospheric, black doom monster Blood Vaults. I kind of wish I had checked him out earlier. I find his use of subtle electronics really fascinating and I wish more artists in the subgenres would experiment with those sounds. I've heard the doom elements on this release are toned down a bit so I should probably get to hearing his previous work. This one has it's slow moments and unfortunately that (and the stupid intro track) is where Blood Vaults is at its worst.

18. Katechon - Man, God, Giant

When your promotional influences "include old death metal, black metal, modern classical music, avantgarde and the darker side of thrash metal," it tells me virtually nothing about the sound of the band. What the hell do they mean by modern classical? Are we talking contemporary, Stravinsky, or Schoenberg-esque? Whatever. Katechon's Man, God, Giant has plenty of ripping, creative riffs. They are more or less the sum of their (apparently enormous) amount of influences, and there's nothing on Man, God, Giant that turns metal on its head, but this album is about the nuances: little snare breaks here and there, bass slides, and the occasional layered black metal riff to compliment the thrashier moments in their overarching macrocosm of death metal. Basically it has a personality a lot of similar acts lack, even if that description probably still tells you nothing about them.

17. Ævangelist - Omen Ex Simulacra

Ævangelist have beaten Portal at their own abysmill (ahem) game. Unfortunately there are a few weak points on Omen Ex Simulacra, such as the long and dull album opener and some of the muddled production values, but there is an underlying brilliance to this release which makes looking forward to Ævangelist's next exciting.

16. Hookworms - Pearl Mystic

I really enjoyed Hookworms' debut Pearl Mystic. The sound is so textured and the whole thing is absolutely saccharine. If peyote came in lollipops and you had synesthesia, this is what those candies would sound like. I particularly like the droning, desert tunes on "Since We Have Changed" and "Form & Function," both reminiscent of tracks on Headdress' Lunes even if the bands have no connection whatsoever.

15. Wormed - Exodromos

The "brutal cyber space-slam" thing is still Wormed's gig alone. Initially I was disappointed with Exodromos but over time it grew on me. More flat production aside, Exodromos is still every bit as well-written as the classic Planisphaerium.  It was pointed out to me that the last track is an amalgamation of riffs from all over the album, which is a neat little fact. It's worth relistening to pick out where each one occurs.

14. Grouper - The Man Who Died In His Boat

Aesthetically dark and charmingly nostalgic, Liz Harris' newest effort is hypnotic and dreamy electro-folk that doesn't get bogged down with an overabundance of instrumentation. There's a lot of subtlety to The Man Who Died In His Boat, and the mood of the album really clicked with me halfway through this year. This is a release that is more "felt" than some of the others on my list -- it's definitely one you have to hear for yourself if you're into this kind of stuff, or if you're all about that branch of the Subpop scene.

13. Obliteration - Black Death Horizon

Obliteration are one of the coolest bands to come out of the old school death metal movement. Their bouncy style might be heavily influenced by Autopsy but I find them to be a different (and at this point in Autopsy's career, more interesting) beast. They have the doom elements and that organic, earthy tone that one associates with Mental Funeral, but there is something distinctly Norwegian about this. Maybe it's the cover art, but I'm reminded ever so slightly of Molested's Blod-Draum. That's probably just my mind playing tricks on me. Whatever. Black Death Horizon is sweet.

12. Antediluvian - Logos

Nuclear War Now! has had a damn fine year. Logos sounds like deranged cavemen hitting drums made of extinct animals' skin. There's also that same odd technicality to Antediluvian's music that isn't readily apparent on first listen. Murkier than their previous full-length, Logos is drenched in the same dark primal atmosphere yet still manages to avoid being one-dimensional Nuclear War Now! fodder like Morbosidad. Riffier tracks like closer "Death Meta" make it hard for me to pick a favorite between this one and Through The Cervix Of Hawaah which I featured back in 2011.

11. Katalepsy - Autopsychosis

Very few bands combine plain ol' death metal and brutal death metal as well as Katalepsy have on this album. With one of the strongest production values on this list and surprisingly traditional vocalwork (mixed with sporadic lapses into rhythmic gurgling brutality), this is not just a catchy, entertaining listen but a well-crafted and rewarding one as well.

10. Cerekloth - In The Midst Of Life We Are Death

As I'm writing this, I'm incredibly disappointed to hear that Cerekloth have decided to go on hold. This is some absolutely killer death metal that filters mid-paced riffing, strong almost-doom grooves, and light progressive elements to create an unholy sonic beast (ex: "Halo Of Syringes"). The songs on In The Midst Of Life We Are Death are well-written and refined to the point that each second feels like it was necessary to convey what the album is all about. That's absolutely commendable in a genre oversaturated with bands and labels who churn out releases that are far, far more than 50% schlock.

9. Abyssal - Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius

More refined and "mature" than their debut. Novit is Abyssal shedding the riffage of Denouement in favor of a thick, black atmosphere. This release is far more dark and dynamic than the debut. One of my favorite things about Abyssal is their inclusion of chromatic semi-slam riffs. They always pop up at the best times, almost akin to the "build-up" formula of some of the better brutal death metal acts. Encase that in bleak atmosphere with whirring guitars and you have a winner.

8. Cultes Des Ghoules - Henbane

The best purely black metal release of the year, and no this isn't tweedly-needly Norwegian-style stuff. Bass and low-end are present on Henbane and the result is a full, captivating sound. The whole thing is just astonishingly well-written, and the inclusion of acoustic instruments adds far more to it than I thought they would. There's almost a tribal, shamanistic vibe to Henbane (see: "Idylls Of The Chosen Damned" and "Vintage Black Magic") which makes it a unique listen.

7. Sacriphyx - The Western Front

I was half-expecting generic "war metal" from NWN! when I heard The Western Front for the first time. Incredibly melodic, I was really surprised by the range of dynamics Sacriphyx bring to the traditional death metal sound. The Western Front almost has more in common with traditional heavy metal than it does extreme metal. This release is also oddly emotive, with plenty of tracks sounding solemn and distant, despite the overarching (and obviously violent) WWI thematic. I could totally picture Hemingway loving this.

6. Gigan - Multidimensional Fractal-Sorcery And Super Science

By far the stupidest looking album cover on this list, Gigan's psychedelic world-destroying onslaught continues. I definitely prefer Eston Browne to the vocalist on Quasi-Hallucinogenic Sonic Landscapes, and this album is much better constructed. While not as strong as the EP or their debut, Multidimensional Fractal-Sorcery is still a very potent dose of technical deathgrind and has some of Gigan's most catchy material. They're one of the most unique bands in the entire extreme metal genre so you owe it to yourself to hear them at least once if you're not one of those "everything after 1993 is bad" idiots.

5. Tribulation - The Formulas Of Death

While not quite as progressive as people like to make out, The Formulas Of Death is a very welcome change of sound for Tribulation. The Horror was nigh perfect for the style. It's unrelenting speed and razor-edged riffing made for one of 2009's best. Tribulation had big shoes to fill and opted to try on a new pair instead. The Formulas Of Death is a bit long-winded, but its chock-full of late '70s-early '80s atmosphere, memorable riffs, and great chord progressions. It's an album I keep wanting to revisit.

4. Gorguts - Colored Sands

Out of all the (literal) revival acts of this year, Gorguts are the one I cared about the most. Luc Lemay is a brilliant songwriter and musician. Each track on Colored Sands is memorable, almost like an album within itself. "The Battle Of Chamdo" is an interesting outing in that it is performed by an orchestra and leads into the second half of the album, spearheaded by the incredibly awesome "Enemies Of Compassion." It has one of the best solos I've heard in years as well as Luc Lemay's infamous rolling rhythms. The whole of Colored Sands conveys the Tibetan thematic (pre-and-post invasion) perfectly, but just as important is that this is a great return for one of (technical) death metal's best.

3. Primitive Man - Scorn

Humorless and noisy, Scorn is absolute disgust with a hopeless race in a meaningless universe. One listen to the title track is all it took for me to order the LP from the band prior to their signing to Relapse (which hopefully means good things in the future!). This is the most wonderfully hateful thing I've listened to in years: "From cardigans to leather vests, you're all shit. And I'm fucking buried in it." Like black arms reaching out from a bloodstained mire, Scorn drags the listener into a hellish, lightless world from which there is no escape.

2. Rorcal - Világvége

Világvége is unrelentingly vicious. Well-written, raw, and combining the best elements of sludge, doom, and black metal, Rorcal assault the listener with frenzied riffs and some of the best drumming (outside of #1 below) around. The album flows and takes the listener along with it, like a caustic stream of frozen acid. "IV-VII-VI" is one of my favorite subsequences in recent memory. I absolutely love how Világvége builds and releases into a dissonant catastrophe before rescinding like the tide.

1. Ulcerate - Vermis

I realize how predictable this is coming from me. I don't care.

Vermis was everything I was hoping for from Ulcerate. This is incredibly layered, dense, churning death metal filled with Ulcerate's signature technicality and angularity. A far cry from the ebb-and-flow of The Destroyers Of All, this is Ulcerate in a more abrasive state, although there are slower moments akin to their previous release. Vermis is most concerned with ripping you apart and scattering your pieces to the wind. At times even the frantic, riff-heavy insanity of Everything Is Fire and Of Fracture And Failure shines through the chaotic layering, yet Vermis remains a completely fresh listening experience despite giving nods to all of Ulcerate's previous work. I'm so glad they don't want to repeat themselves. Keep on making brilliant music guys.


Honorable Mentions:

Darkside - Psychic (quality electronic - questionable vocals)
Crypt Lurker - Baneful Magic, Death Worship and Necromancy Rites Archaic (heavy as all hell)
The Flight Of Sleipnir - Saga (more of the same but that's always welcome)
Àrsaidh - Roots (I usually don't like this kind of viking metal stuff but this one had more to it than just a flat theme)
True Widow - Circumambulation (might as well be called doom rock)
Zealotry - The Charnel Expanse (DEFINITELY a band to watch in the future - solid, slightly technical death metal from Massachusetts)
Ruined Families - Black Language (Greek hardcore with plenty of feel)
Stomach Earth - self-titled (brooding death/doom with good tone)

Best EPs/Splits:

3. Orbweaver - Strange Transmissions From The Neuralnomicon

You like Gigan? Good. This is for you (love, ex-Gigan vocalist Randy Piro from their debut). Sounds more akin to The Footsteps Of Gigan than anything.

2. Mitochondrion - Antinumerology

PLEASE MAKE A NEW ALBUM ALREADY. My biggest issue with this release was that it was too short. That's not even a legitimate complaint!

1. Bolzer - Aura

This one topped a lot of lists this year. Great underground death/black metal with memorable riffs. Bolzer show enormous promise. Also what's with all these bands and this sites color scheme?

Dubious Honors:

Guilty Pleasure: Reciprocal - New Order Of The Ages. I generally don't enjoy this stuff, but the silly conspiracy theory samples and solid-if-over-extended pacing make it entertaining.

Biggest Disappointment: I guess for most people it was the mediocrity of My Bloody Valentine's return. There were a lot of minor disappointments: Tormented was weak. New Revocation was alright but a step down. Convulse, Carcass, and Autopsy released forgettable albums. I'd probably have to go with Light Bearer's Silver Tongue. Unlike the first with its well-written yet typical crescendo stuff, this one was pretty heavy-handed. I didn't expect it to be amazing since I knew the context of the concept beforehand, but it came out worse than expected. I rarely listened to it and when I did I just wanted to listen to Lapsus instead. Altar Of Plagues' Teethed Glory And Injury might be my second place. It retreads itself far too often.

Most Disgusting Release: Deafheaven - Sunbather. The most polarizing release of 2013. They poorly hybridized a bunch of genres (screamo, hardcore, shoegaze, post-rock, black metal) into a sonically incohesive, boring slop and served it up on a silver platter to ignorant journalists and music fans unexposed to those genres. Personally I'd rather hear one genre done well than a hundred executed poorly.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

All Will Gather To The Shores - Deity Of Ruin

And now for the new release.

All Will Gather To The Shores have crafted something far more abrasive and far more interesting with Deity Of Ruin. Sounds and effects blare and fade, intermixed with distinct and heavily distorted harsh vocals on this release much like they did on the previous. Everything feels more refined, and from beginning to end, Deity Of Ruin feels like a grand escapade towards an abstract land or cosmic goal. Ironically the track titled "Journey" happens to be one of the best on here.

The rattling, jarring opener "Captivity" sets things in motion as Deity Of Ruin begins sculpting its sonic landscape from whale bones and the ashes of modernity. "Machine" is interesting in that it features subtle drumwork and even a few fills along with All Will Gather To The Shores' fuzzy, low guitars. The blaring high register notes are the sounds I would imagine the earth would make as humanity scars its landscape with mines and refineries. Some tracks, like these two, are less subtle than those on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. The distant roaring of "Journey," and the electric guitar-driven "Ashore" are both similar to the openers in this regard.

As the more subtle, dark ambient track "Mist" gives way to the comparatively lighthearted "Relief," the sonic landscape appears to be reaching completion. The general picture of Deity Of Ruin has already been established by the end of "Relief," whose guitar keeps building in decibels as it goes. "Journey" follows up and sets the action in motion aboard the decrepit world stage. Soft, clean guitarwork dotted with a very light post rock sound guides the listener over crevasses, empty valleys, vast oceans, and tortured cities. The vocals on this track are fantastic, subdued and distant in the mix, and a subtle reminder of all that is wrong with the planet Deity Of Ruin has built. They trail off, fade in, and eventually the distorted, gated guitar brings the world to its knees in a calamitous finale.

"Island" is far more quiet and introspective, guided almost entirely by acoustic guitars. It makes for a nice follow up to "Journey" before the catchy drone riffing of "Ashore." The vocals on "Ashore" are raspy and almost black metallish, contrasting from the primal, world-roar of "Journey." Granted they're all heavily distorted so it makes little difference, but just something I noticed. "Beyond" closes the album out with distant sounds of gulls and waves, returning the world to the water in which it was born.

There are numerous instances on Deity Of Ruin which grant it the added tag of doom along with ambient, drone, and psychedelic noise. The riffing is distorted, fuzzy, heavy, and some of it is constant enough to put it in the drone doom realm. The use of strings is honestly what makes this such an interesting release for me, and the atmosphere that All Will Gather To The Shores create on Deity Of Ruin is stark on multiple levels.

Deity Of Ruin makes me think again about Herakleitos, impermanence, and post modernity. Any album that makes me contemplate...things is good in my books.

8.5 out of 10

1. Captivity
2. Machine
3. Mist
4. Relief
5. Journey
6. lsland
7. Ashore
8. Beyond


All Will Gather To The Shores - Their Bodies Clutter The Sea

I'm going to cover both of Russian act All Will Gather To The Shores' releases. This is their first release, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea.

Drone and ambient work well with psychedelic. The visual aspect of psychedelic has always been the main draw, and as I'm finding out now, the main draw for drone, ambient, and noise. Unlike most purely electronic or synthetic ambient or drone, All Will Gather To The Shores utilize subtle and limited strings and extremely distorted, low-mixed vocals. The latter pop up infrequently, and on this release only on "Gale" and "Calm." "Gale" is appropriately the least soothing with its noisy, distorted looping and dissonant chord transitions. As a concept it serves quite nicely, although it isn't the most compelling track.

Follow up tracks "Hope" and "Despair" are two sides of the same coin with "Hope" being guided by relatively peaceful string sounds. It's nice coming from "Gale" but since the track is barely over a minute "Despair" slowly kicks in, which is surprisingly less melancholy than the name. It's a lackadaisical track, like basking on the sun-baked deck of a ship left adrift after a monstrous storm. "Calm," the longest and most acutely developed track on the album is much more solemn in its development. The soft strings kick in before the vocals do - as harsh and distorted as ever - until they fade to light guitars and a droning outro.

The guitar tone is of note on Their Bodies Clutter The Sea. It's doomy, heavy, and distorted, and the higher register notes sound like the audio interpretation of sun rays beating down onto sunburnt backs. In a way, Their Bodies Clutter The Sea almost evokes a desert image in that regard.

A solid, but slightly underdeveloped taster of the sound that would await on Deity Of Ruin.

6.5 out of 10

1. Gale
2. Hope
3. Despair
4. Calm


Host - Null Pointer

One from the inbox! Felt like doing a bunch of drone/ambient stuff today.

Host are a noisy, dark, ritual ambient group from Australia. Host is the product of Nathan Jenkins, ex-The Amenta, who I have tremendous respect for after he played bass on one of my favorite albums, Occasus. Host have also toured with a bunch of metal artists including The Amenta, Ruins, and others. I have to say I definitely like the name of the album and the whole computing connotations that go along with it. Nothing is more abrasive to the psyche than segfaults, null pointer exceptions, and other programming frustrations. In fact the whole field of computer science is more or less a droning, ritual effort in its incessant but necessary tedium.

Like all good noise and ambient, the tracks on Null Pointer don't just persist in monotony for their entirety. "Know That I Am" opens with a calamitous roar and a pervasive, metallic echo like air being funneled into a bunch of PVC piping. The dull roaring pops up intermittently before the track becomes much more subdued, but following that a repetitious ascending whir takes over in the void of melody. It all sounds like crawling through an air duct and coming upon a vast network of industrial size fans. Very claustrophobic and very picturesque.

The same can be said of the other tracks. "Four Crooked Arms" has a very oceanic vibe with a tidal sound and a droning whistle. The imagery this music evokes for me is astounding, like walking through a glass canyon leading to a frigid coastline. Some of the higher pitched noises sound like rockfalls scratching the glass of the canyon, etching their impermanence into its sides. While I would describe the first two tracks as noisy dark ambient, the title track on Null Pointer is certainly ritualistic with its subtle bass thrums and even - dare I say - a melody. It has a pretty distinct sound compared to the other two tracks before it fades out with a noise reminiscent from the beginning of "Know That I Am."

There's plenty of static and graininess to Null Pointer, so if that's your thing you'll definitely enjoy this. It isn't harsh noise by any means, and it's pretty relaxing and visually appealing to listen to. This is a genre that I'm not wholly experienced with, and writing about it is still new to me, but I've been getting more into it with time. Host definitely have something going here though, and quite frankly I wasn't thinking as highly before I sat down and listened to it while writing. Null Pointer is definitely filled with great concentration sounds and plenty of mental imagery. I'll definitely be keeping tabs on Jenkins' future work.

7.75 out of 10

1. Know That I Am
2. Four Crooked Arms
3. Null Pointer


Also I really recommend trying out Host's cool little experiment titled Evolution. It takes various metadata from local financial, social, and meteorological services, converts them to soundwaves, and plays them over Host's music. Use only in Chrome. When I checked it out I got a churning low-end with some wooden sounding clicks and clacks.

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Flight Of Sleipnir - Saga

The Flight Of Sleipnir are still out near the Rockies releasing sublime stoner folkdoom. Essence Of Nine and Lore were both great releases that merged catchy, dense riffing, folk beauty, and a Scandinavian aesthetic to create fun and immersive listens. Saga is a direct continuation of their now well-established sound.

One thing that I definitely respect about this duo is their use of keyboards. They're not explosive, over the top, or anything like that. They usually play a single chord buried in the mix before fading and repeating in drone fashion (see: "Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned"). It's subtle enough to keep them from being intrusive and it adds another layer of texture to The Flight Of Sleipnir's music. Like the keyboards though, the vocals are low in the mix as well and personally I think it works quite well. Clean vocals are quiet yet coherent enough to add poetic beauty, and the throaty blackened rasping echoes like calls to mother nature in a vast fjord.

Saga fits pretty well in The Flight Of Sleipnir's. Unlike some bands who try to repetitively release the same album however, these guys' add a bit of unique flavor. Lore felt a little unpolished with its denser mix, and Essence Of Nine took that sound and added more complex riffs and rhythms as well as more acoustic passages. Saga feels more subdued than both of them, at least in terms of their mainstay in the fuzzy guitar tone. David Csicsely's snare still sounds as great as ever. "Harrowing Desperation" is a good example of that and the mellowed guitar-plus-effects add a lot to the track. I always liked the long, drone-like outro lead of "Reverence" as well. Not that they haven't had these qualities on their previous releases, but it took me until now to really put my finger on them.

The Flight Of Sleipnir's albums are something you have to listen to in their entirety to appreciate despite having a few standout, hook-based tracks on each (looking at you, "Of Words and Ravens"). They're solid active listening experiences and great passive listening ones. If the interlacing of acoustic guitars with electrified doom and a light folk atmosphere appeals to you, then there's no doubt that you'll enjoy all of their releases. Saga is no different, and I guess that's why I'm having trouble writing about it since I've covered their other output already - but that's definitely not a bad thing.

7.75 out of 10

1. Prologue
2. Reaffirmation
3. Reverence
4. Harrowing Desperation
5. Heavy Rest The Chains Of The Damned
6. Judgment
7. Dmise Carries With It a Song
8. The Mountain
9. Hour Of Cessation
!0. Remission
11. Beneath Red Skies
12. Epilogue


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Paganizer - World Lobotomy

The world can't go for more than a few months between releases featuring everyone's favorite guitarist Rogga Johansson. Paganizer's newest release World Lobotomy only continues his reign as one of the most prolific names in death metal. Paganizer never leaves much to the imagination. They've always sounded like a less abrasive Putrevore mixed with a less catchy Revolting or Bone Gnawer. It's very standard death metal even if none of it is really bad.

World Lobotomy is no different. Like Into The Catacombs before it, there are groovy moments of catchiness hidden between the recycled riffs. The closing melody on "Mass Of Parasites," the main riff of "You Call It Deviance," closer "Hunt Eat Repeat," and the d-beat sections in the second half of the album tend to stick around a bit longer than the occasionally shoddy verse riffing. It's a shame since Paganizer has always been a second-rate project in Johansson's catalog at least for me, and this album doesn't really do much to change that. Some tracks just feel like they were throwaway ideas that end before going anywhere - "As The Maggots Gather," the pointless intro track, and "As Blood Grows Cold" all fit this description.

The production and mixing is fine and archetypal. There's a little bit separating this one and last year's Macabre Kingdom by Putrevore but it's nothing worth even discussing. In a year starred with great death metal releases, Paganizer have to try a little harder to impress me.

5.5 out of 10

1. Prelude To The Lobotomy
2. World Lobotomy
3. The Sky On Fire
4. Mass Of Parasites
5. As Blood Grows Cold
6. Ödeläggaren
7. You Call It Deviance
8. As The Maggots Gather
9. Trail Of Human Decay
10. The Drowners
11. The Last Chapter
12. Hunt Eat Repeat

Listen // Buy

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gorguts - Colored Sands

Twelve years is a long time.

After the release of From Wisdom To Hate, Gorguts went silent. We saw new bands rise up and push the boundaries of the extreme metal umbrella. Gigan with The Order Of The False Eye, Ulcerate with Everything Is Fire, Deathspell Omega with Fas, Flourishing, Crowpath, Mitochondrion, and more have all experimented and taken extreme metal beyond the archetype much like Obscura did back in 1998. The forward-thinking metal movement doesn't have an end goal in mind. To quote Ulcerate, "the axiom of being is infinite."

Gorguts have returned with one of the most exhaustive, powerful listens of 2013: Colored Sands, a thematically singular slab of death metal that oozes Himalayan beauty.

Merging melody and dissonance is hardly an easy task yet Luc Lemay and co. have done it seamlessly here. Riffs roar into life, meander, and rediscover their original purpose but with no detriments. Many of these riffs are vibrant, colorful in texture and with plenty of compositional decoration. Like an ode to the convoluted nature of life, Colored Sands is wonderfully complex. Time signatures blur together, effects trail off the end of tracks ("Forgotten Arrows"), and some of the most mindbending solo guitarwork I've heard in recent years ("Enemies Of Compassion") all culminate in this release being one of the best this year has to offer.

Everything on Colored Sands has a purpose; everything is intentionally composed in such a way to give meaning to the individual tracks. Like all great albums, it's the little things that make Colored Sands so special and separate it from the rest of Gorguts' discography. As preview track "Forgotten Arrows" begins blasting itself into oblivion, it pulls itself from the brink stronger and more massive than ever with a bunch of bass hits to the face. "The Battle Of Chamdo" is an exercise in Luc's classical training with a real orchestra and unlike most 'orchestral' sounds, it fits the theme and feel of the album. The soft orchestral moments blur over into the explosive intro of "Enemies Of Compassion," my favorite track on the album. The main riff bursts and bubbles like superheated magma, and the track explores the sonic scenery a little before returning for an incredibly chaotic solo. The sustained notes that pop up towards its end are magnificent and send chills down my spine every time.

I can't say I wasn't a tiny bit skeptical with Colored Sands, as I tend to be with most things. I liked the crew Luc assembled for this album, although each members' individual acts are a bit removed from the Gorguts sound. The preview track from 2011 was alright but left me wondering if the new members' influences would overshadow the Gorguts' feel and luckily I was wrong. Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel, and John Longstreth have all proven their versatility before but on Colored Sands you can hear them adapting perfectly to a different sound. Speaking of outside influence, the angular "Absconders" is an interesting track in that it distinctly sounds like something Deathspell Omega would write with Ulcerate-esque effects and linearity. Even the name sounds very Deathspell Omega-ish. I like it, and to me it's like Gorguts' giving the nod to all the bands which are similar in musical ideology.

Now comes that obligatory time in which I mention the production and mixing - it's borderline perfect perhaps minus the bass drums' sound which sounds a bit too tinny but at the higher speeds it keeps the mix from being muddy. I'm sure a select few will undoubtedly complain how Colored Sands is heavy and complex without the "darkness" they associate with death metal, as most of the composition is very odd or melodious.

They've missed the point completely.

9.25 out of 10

1. Le Toit du Monde
2. An Ocean Of Wisdom
3. Forgotten Arrows
4. Colored Sands
5. The Battle Of Chamdo
6. Enemies Of Compassion
7. Ember's Voice
8. Absconders
9. Reduced To Silence

Bandcamp (I assume it'll be available on release - it's currently streaming on Spotify)

Here's a cool interview about the concept of the album.