Monday, April 16, 2012

Death Grips - The Money Store

The Money Store is Death Grips' (technically first) full-length slated to come out this month. Apparently Exmilitary was just a mixtape but I didn't recognize any borrowed beats or raps, so whatever.

On first listen, it's easy to see that The Money Store is not Exmilitary. The aggression of Burnett's voice has been mitigated by noisier beats and more mellowed out melodies. It's not all gone, but by and large the hooks on here are family-friendly in comparison to the sharp vitriol of Exmilitary. You still get it in spurts though. After the interesting introduction "Get Got," roiler "The Fever (Aye Aye)" features racy lyrics about cocaine and sugar, lyrically alluding to them like they're diamonds. The track relies extensively on the hook, as do other great tracks like "The Cage," noise-and-drum-driven "I've Seen Footage," and electro-dance closer "Hacker." I'm totally fine with this. It's not like Exmilitary wasn't hook-driven, but I feel like some of the extra substance is missing on The Money Store.

Less lo-fi but more bare bones, Zach Hill's producing on here is hit or miss. The beats are of higher quality and feature more melodies, as well as more unwavering dance rhythms. It makes The Money Store feel more groove-oriented and predictable than it's predecessor, which often meandered but never wavered from it's empowering, gut-driven expressions. Some of the more low-key tracks like "Double Helix" and "Punk Weight" are a bit boring and let the noise wash over the anger, dulling the sharp edge of the vocal tracks. There's also a touch of industrial on here, popping up occasionally to add texture to the myriad beats.

There are times where the new approach does work well on The Money Store. In particular "Hustle Bones" is a great track in this style that combines a groovy vocal track with a repetitive melody. The vocals are prominent and aggro-filled, making the track one of the more fun on the album. As I mentioned earlier though, the many repetitions on The Money Store make it feel a bit more predictable. The dominant drumming by Zach Hill on certain tracks adds to that. His drumwork on The Money Store is very consistent as opposed to sporadic, and he does do a great job playing in this style (as he tends to do with every style; listen to Hella). I think one of his more spontaneous moments is on "Double Helix," but sadly the diminished vocal presence makes it feel forgettable. I just preferred the previous album's (er mixtapes') style to this one, and maybe that's why I didn't enjoy it nearly as much.

5.75 out of 10


1. Get Got 
2. The Fever (Aye Aye)
3. Lost Boys
4. Blackjack 
6. I've Seen Footage 
7. Double Helix 
8. System Blower 
9. The Cage 
10. Punk Weight 
11. Fuck That 
12. Bitch Please 
13. Hacker 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Death Grips - Exmilitary

Exmilitary is the stunning debut by Death Grips, a noise-hop trio from Sacramento, California. Hella drummer Zach Hill founded the project along with vocalist Stefan Burnett, and since then they've garnered a pretty big reputation in the underground scene.

To someone educated in the ways of hip-hop, these guys may seem to have an unorthodox style. Fuck, to someone uneducated in the ways of hip-hop, these guys have an unorthodox style. The vocals are not really fine-tuned for flow, but are instead loud and abrasive. It's a shock and awe tactic that works wonders on Stefan Burnett's part. Featuring some very no-wave influenced beats, each with plenty of held notes and strong basslines, Exmilitary is an album that has to be heard to understand.

It's hard not to get behind Burnett's vocals on Exmilitary. They're mixed loud and fast, filled with gusto, and are absolutely empowering. You feel like beating in someone's face when you hear his gut wrench out those wretched shouts on "Guillotine" or the killer "Takyon." Lyrically speaking Exmilitary is just as dark as it is abrasive, and features some new takes on classic topics. Take for example, "Klink," which approaches police-state dominance from a more intelligent angle that questions the concept that police are "protecting" people by invading their privacy. The track ends with a shoutout: "For my real ones who understand, What it feels like to have your rights read to you by the ..." It's relatable and it's a more explorative way of looking at how worthless and hindering police presence can be for the average person doing no wrong. At least it's more explorative than moronically shouting "fuck the police" over and over...

...Well that's not to say Death Grips doesn't go the extreme route from time to time. On the same track, there's lyrics like:

"Six feet deep below the street
So they can't never say shit again
Fuck the man with a thick broomstick
And put a black flag on the end"

It's the way Burnett goes about delivering such great lines that make Exmilitary in my opinion a modern hip-hop classic. His delivery is pounding, anguished, and pissed off. It's like listening to a grindcore album in hip-hop form. Tracks like "Takyon" and "Lord Of The Game" are absolute monsters in this regard, featuring plenty of furious delivery. There's plenty of dark religious undertones too like the numerous "Satanic" references, which are all in good fun.

Some of the later tracks like "Known For It" are a bit less exciting and energetic, but they have their own unique qualities. "I Want It I Need It" for example features some cool riffs, while "Thru The Walls" has some loud and driving rhythm courtesy of Zach Hill's drumming. His production job in general is really solid too, making Exmilitary one of my favorite experimental hip-hop releases.

8.75 out of 10


1. Beware
2. Guillotine
3. Spread Eagle Cross the Block
4. Lord of the game
5. Takyon
6. Cut Throat
7. Klink
8. 5D
9. Culture Shock
10. Thru the Walls
11. Known For It
12. I Want It I Need It (Death Heated)
13. Blood Creepin

Free on ThirdWorlds // Soundcloud

Monday, April 9, 2012

Anticipated Black Metal: Dødsengel's Imperator

Dødsengel is the best black metal I've heard from Norway in a long, long time. The duet's new album, titled Imperator, is dropping tomorrow. Colour me fucking pumped.

Check out the two new tracks!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Crowpath - Son Of Sulphur

I know it's not really pure technical death metal, but you can deal. I promise it'll be worth it.

Nothing in music makes me more sad than seeing a great, unique artist bite the dust when horribly generic bands are still going strong. This feeling wells up in my heart every time I think of Crowpath, a technical death metal/grindcore act from Sweden. They released their magnum opus, Son Of Sulphur, in 2005 and it's been one of my favorite albums since I first gave it a spin.

Schizophrenia is a frightening mental illness. It's unpredictable, can be weird or scary, and it runs in my family. Son Of Sulphur is what I imagine music set to a schizophrenic episode would be like: chaotic, frenzied, and amorphous. Each track on Son Of Sulphur plants a subtle idea, that any type or number of thoughts can spawn from. The album is a unique listen for that reason alone, and is extremely pissed off to boot.

Crowpath is more akin to something along the lines of Gigan than say a more traditional technical death metal band like Origin. They have all the aggression plus more, and Crowpath displays it copiously in a deafening array of furious riffing, scathing melodies, and rage-filled vocals. It's wonderfully dense music, and tracks like "Candies and Kerosene," the humorously-titled "Children Of Boredom" (isn't that accurate?), "Pigeonsmasher," and "Seed of Arson" do a great job of exemplifying that. One thing that this album has over it's comrades though? Variety.

Son Of Sulphur isn't limited to such slow tracks, and coming from a pseudo-grindcore band, it's interesting to hear how Crowpath approaches slower tracks like "The Lycanthrope" or closer "End In Water." They tackle this style successfully blending their more math-tinged tendencies with slow-paced, downtuned riffing. It's just as aggressive if a bit more riff-driven than vocally. It also provides Son Of Sulphur with a bizarre brooding atmosphere that seems to crawl its way into being as the album progresses, culminating with the eerie closer "End In Water." When the album finally reaches this point, water is indistinguishable from the blood flowing from your ears.

Musically the album transcends (no pretension meant; I hate this word - thanks Liturgy) normal grindcore instrumentation and decides to borrow heavily from mathcore and math rock with fast time-signature and tempo changes. It amounts to a flurry of ideas assaulting your head from all angles, ripping and tearing apart brain matter as you try to decipher the band's calculating malevolence. It's brilliant really. Okay, maybe now I'm getting a bit pretentious. I apologize, but for real Son Of Sulphur is fucking great.

The production on Son Of Sulphur is fantastic and compliments the mind-warping capability of the music perfectly. Guitars and vocals are dominant. With riffs like nails on a chalkboard, the album scars itself into your memory thanks to this brutal mixing. It's a shame that all this will eventually be forgotten since such a great band no longer exists, but Son Of Sulphur will always remain etched into my brain and carved into the very core of my being.

9.5 out of 10


1. Candles And Kerosene

2. The Will to Burn

3. Chases, Caught And Charged

4. Pigeonsmasher

5. Children Of Boredom

6. Self-Destructive Pessimist

7. Seed Of Arson

8. Picked Clean

9. The Lycanthrope

10.   Scab Coated Attraction

11.   Lights Out, Left For Dead

12.   End In Water

Friday, April 6, 2012

Hail Spirit Noir - Pneuma

Hail Spirit Noir is a progressive/psychedelic black metal act from Macedonia, and their first full-length Pneuma managed to find its way to my ears.

Psychedelic black metal is tough to describe because traditional black metal tends to shun the elements of most music labeled psychedelic. Melody, surrealist lyricism, and a weird atmosphere are all the rage in psychedelia, while in traditional black metal "only death is real." These Macedonian metallers eschew the traditional black metal persona in favor of a unique, somewhat fruity compositions.

I'm not a huge System Of A Down fan but I might've been if you asked me what I thought of them back in '00-'01. Serj Tankian certainly has some vocal talents that few can match, and Theo Liratzakis does a great job of mimicking his weird, somewhat operatic style. His cleans on "When All Is Black" and "Let Your Devil Come Inside" are eerily reminiscent of Tankian. The guitars are eerie as well, featuring typically French black metal chromaticisms on intro track "Mountain Of Horror" and "Into The Gates Of Time." It works well with the generally subtle synthesizers, which do reach their peak prominence on "Let Your Devil Come Inside."

The production on Pneuma is pretty fitting I have to say. Guitars have a whimsical feel to them not unlike Oranssi Pazuzu's, vocals are mostly dominant, and drums and rhythm feature a steady backdrop for the more melodious elements of the music. It works to create a strong atmosphere that Hail Spirit Noir exudes every step of the way. Some tracks are a bit more weak than others though, and I found the mellow "When All Is Black" to be skip-worthy and large chunks of "Into The Gates Of Time" could've been cut down as well. Pneuma is a solid debut with some flaws and it'll certainly be interesting to hear more from this band since their style is so limited and has yet to become a fad.

7.25 out of 10


1. Mountain of Horror

2. Let Your Devil Come Inside

3. Against the Curse, We Dream

4. When All Is Black

5. Into the Gates of Time

6. Haire Pneuma Skoteino

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Beyond Terror Beyond Grace - Nadir

I can see that being a really cheesily-titled DVD for Beyond Terror Beyond Grace, that is if they stick with their new style. For those of you who don't know, Beyond Terror Beyond Grace was a deathgrind outfit from Australia. They had a pretty straightforward style up until the new release, Nadir, which found them experimenting with a post/black metal sound not unlike Altar Of Plagues, but with a more militant approach to rhythm.

I saw the teaser trailer for Nadir awhile ago and was pretty stoked for this release just to see where Beyond Terror Beyond Grace would take their sound. They did a good job of taking it out back, chopping its head off, and letting it flail around wildly - that's where they got the drum tracking after all. For the most part the snare rolls and fills sound absolutely great and fit the droning, atmospheric style of the music quite well. In their dying gasp, the remains of Beyond Terror Beyond Grace's sound prove to be effective on the new release.

Now before I continue, let me clarify in an aside: I did like Beyond Terror Beyond Grace's old deathgrind material. It was predictable, aggro, and significantly more brutal than this. I'm not opposed to change and as bands grow and mature as musicians, it's only appropriate that the music they play grow to match their skill. You saw it with Napalm Death and numerous other grindcore-turned-death metal acts. Now you're seeing it from the perspective of a deathgrind turned post black metal band. So if you don't like black metal in general, you will not like this release.

Musically, Nadir follows typical conventions for post black metal. Strong, growing song structures, powerful sustained notes, and a dark aesthetic are all elements of the album. The vocals are mixed low and occasionally distorted, often serving as a backdrop for the sustained melodies and drums. Nadir is an album you really have to hear to understand. It works as a cohesive piece of music as opposed to having strong individual tracks, so if you're going into this album expecting great catchy tunes and singles, you're going into it for all the wrong reasons. The individual tracks are strong, don't get me wrong, but they're far removed from that mentality and are meant to be listened to in unison with one another.

Speaking of individual tracks, they mostly follow the building song structure formula that post (black) metal is known for. The first three tracks all adhere to this convention, with each of them having memorable culminations, my favorite of which is on "Throatless Sirens." The title track serves as more of a breather than anything, and the ferocious "Embracing Null" also epitomizes this motif. There's really no "bad" track on Nadir, as tracks play and build off each other to sustain the dark atmosphere.

I have some complaints primarily with the mixing. The drums are just too damn dominant, and there's a lot of very similar rolls sporadically used throughout Nadir. Their militant style fits and they add a sense of brooding rage to he music, but the mixing could deal with some improvement. Sometimes I wish the vocals were louder too, but I like how they serve as a rhythmic backdrop to the more powerful tracks, and even then they usually rise to appropriate levels when they need to. At times Beyond Terror Beyond Grace sounds a bit similar to their genre-mates, but all in all I'd call Nadir a successful change of style for a band who was clearly looking for something new in their sound.

7.5 out of 10


1. Dusk

2. Requiem for the Grey

3. Throatless Sirens

4. Nadir

5. Embracing Null

6. The Blood of Time

7. Pathea

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

James Pants - Seven Seals

Ugh. This week is fucking awful, busy, and stressful, so expect a lot of late reviews (like this one) that I start and never end up finishing on time.

James Pants is a DJ from Texas with an interesting style that apparently changes or at least fluctuates between a few ends of the vast electronic spectrum every album. On Seven Seals, we have James Pants attempting to create some infectious boogie grooves with no-wave dissonances, and just from the use of the word "dissonance," you should know I'm going to enjoy this.

The cult-inspired album art was a big draw for me. A friend mentioned this album as electro-pop and I was in the mood for something different, so I checked it out based on the album art alone. Baphomets and dark artwork with a Biblical-themed title isn't the first thing you expect when you hear "pop," but Seven Seals isn't exactly an archetypal release either.

As funky dance music to Pants' fictional cult, this album serves its purpose. The latter part of the album in particular has this merit: "I Promise I Lied," "Thin Moon," and "Now Let Me Brush You" have great funk-ridden basslines and beats. The first half of the album feels a bit more straightforward, often relying on normal indie pop/rock conventions. That doesn't mean these tracks are dull. "A Chip In The Hand" and "I Live Inside An Egg" are uplifting, upbeat, and a just a little bit weird. "Beyond Time" is the most aggressive track on the album with a highly distorted riff-beat, and the straight eighth notes on "Thin Moon" are melodic and driving. There's plenty of no-wave sound and dissonance in the beats and riffs, like on "Not Me," which features some cool tritones. "Wash To Sea" also features some great saxophone-sample harmonies to go with the dissonant melodies, and is one of the more low-key tracks on Seven Seals.

The biggest problem I have with Seven Seals is that these boogie-beats do not feel fresh or dirty in the slightest. Some of the effects are really lame-sounding and ugly (not in a good way), like they came straight out of the pro-tools box. Some of the tracks, like the opener and "I Saw You" are pretty forgettable and boring too. The album was apparently recorded by Pants over a weekend of reading cult-themed books in a cabin somewhere. Seven Seals certainly sounds that way. It has that cult atmosphere, and the DIY feel of using stock samples, albeit well.

7.0 out of 10


1. The Eyes Of The Lord
2. A Chip In The Hand
3. Beyond Time
4. I Live Inside An Egg
5. Wormhole
6. Sky Warning
7. Seven Seals Theme
8. Thin Moon
9. Not Me
10. I Saw You
11. Now, Let Me Brush You
12. I Promise I Lied
13. Wash To Sea
14. Aqua Sun
15. Oceans

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zammuto - Zammuto

Zammuto is a new indie synthpop group with electro-infused grooves formed by members of now-defunct The Books. I hear great things about The Books all the time, but after listening to Zammuto's self-titled, I can't really say I'm excited to check them out if they're similar in the slightest.

This IS indie synthpop. I knew that going in I would be subject to experimental beats and odd computerized sounds, hoping many of them didn't feel cheap. Luckily most of the sounds used on here have a bit of grit to them, making it accessibly dirty. The songwriting bounces around between funk-grooves (see: "Zebra Butt"), math rock guitar riffing on "Groan Man, Don't Cry," and more complacent, straightforward beats like on "Weird Ceiling." Like a jack-of-all-trades, Zammuto are a master of none of these styles, and the horrid vocal distortions and mixing make it painful to listen to.

There's only so much of a vocoder one can take. I mean if you think you can handle more, go for it, but I certainly can't. Zammuto abuses the effect until your own hatred for it will make you want to join the band in beating the computer (or pedal) into a bloody pulp. It's disgustingly overused on literally every track that its presence is felt, except perhaps "Idiom Wind" which is a nice, mellowed out break that comes too early in the album to serve as one.

My irritation when listening to the vocals is mostly due to the mixing. As primarily a pop album, Zammuto's self-titled has the vocals mixed very high, and thus they overpower the beats and harmonies that the album tries so hard to envelop the listener with. The only exceptions to this would be "Idiom Wind" and the closer, "Full Fading" which features a melancholic vocal line and chord progression. It sounds like Bon Iver, which isn't much of a good thing, but it works well here.

Zammuto's self-titled isn't entirely on the level of horrible I've made it seem. Some of the beats are pretty cool, and I like the riff-heavy sound of "Zebra Butt," the mellow progression on "Shape Of Things To Come," and the intro to "Groan Man, Don't Cry," but some of the tracks reach self-indulgent levels of annoyingness, and the shit mixing doesn't help either.

4.75 out of 10


1 Yay
2 Groan Man, Don't Cry
3 Idiom Wind
4 Crabbing
5 F U C-3PO
6 Too Late To Topologize
7 Zebra Butt
8 Weird Ceiling
9 Harlequin
10 The Shape Of Things To Come
11 Full Fading

Stream here.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Diskord - Doomscapes

Diskord is a Norwegian oddity whose music I really don't have a long relationship with. Like a trio of shapeshifters, these guys dredge themselves out of primordial ooze and utter some absolutely bizarre sounds, creating one of the most interesting and deeply organic sounding death metal records of the last few years with Doomscapes.

Like the cover portrays, on first listen it's a bit odd to visualize the sounds on Doomscapes. The song title "Absurreality" sums the album up perfectly, and like masters of madness, Diskord hammer away at that feel until you're as disoriented and mentally malformed as the album sounds. Obviously there is some influence from other bands, primarily death metal greats Autopsy on Mental Funeral, and there's a few tracks that exude a grindcore sense of aggression in their layered-vocals-plus-d-beat approach. Despite the influences, Diskord isn't afraid to add one-off elements and cool nuances, making Doomscapes sound fresh and interesting on all levels.

That warm, jazzy sound is something I really admire in technical death metal. Instead of the superficial mechanized boredom of a band like Necrophagist, you get an organic tone with deeply resonant bass frequencies and dissonant chord changes. From the moment "An Architectonic Manifestation Of Death" bounces out of your speakers, it becomes an obvious reality: this isn't ordinary technical death metal. Basslines dominate the mix with a stark low-end that brings out a texture seldom seen in the subgenre, and the odd rhythms and those goddamn dissonant chords add to the roiling insanity.

Each track on Doomscapes is a different aspect of madness. The Java programming-titled "Public Static Void" features odd paradoxical lyrical themes and some awesome bass arpeggiations. "Reptilian Ancestry" features some tribal beats, and "The Ubiquitous Transcience" is a droning, rhythmic mindfuck. The molasses-tempo'd "Inane Existence" has a part where the band cleanly shouts what I interpreted as "[excuse the pain]-a new cocaine!" It's a fun album to listen to because it is anything but predictable, and everything about it is so bizarre.

The production is stellar. Bass, guitar, drums, and vocals are all mixed appropriately, with the guitar still carrying the melody (especially during the solos, like the one found on the awesome "Absurreality") but the bass is the true highlight here. It has a memorably warm, organic, and fuzzy tone. Eyvind Wærsted Axelsen knows his instrument well and understands just how powerful a strong bassline can be. That's not to discount the work of the other members by any means. Channard's guitarwork on the album and in particular "Overstrain" is phenomenal, as is the drumwork by Hans Jørgen Ersvik, who also does vocals. Keeping up with all those time signature changes must be quite brutal on the hands and feet.

With Doomscapes you get what you look at. A glorious mess of ideas that flow so well together that in the end feels much more unified and coherent than a first glance may make one assume. The instrumentation is phenomenal, the production is organic, and the mixing is pretty perfect. My only complaint is that the album will periodically get a bit too weird for its own good, but in the end it all comes together excellently.

9.25 out of 10


1. An Architectonic Manifestation of Death

2. Public Static Void

3. Harbinger

4. Absurreality

5. Cosmic Collapse

6. The Ubiquitous Transience

7. Inane Existence

8. Pervasive Discreteness

9. Overstrain

10. Heritage

11. Reptilian Ancestry

12. Instauration