Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Monthly Blast: January '17

This month, Apteronotus joins the fray as we do our best to articulate thoughts on a myriad of genres and bands. Black Metal takes up quite the amount of space and time with bands from across the globe including Poland, Portugal, Iceland, and Croatia. Two bands, Infinite Earths and Teleport both draw comparisons from each of us to Australia's Stargazer, which is an odd and yet interesting development in what we determine to be an ever-increasing influence in style. Heavy Metal is given it's moment to shine as I give thoughts on Girlschool's '82 album, Sweden's Instigator, and Argentina's Steelballs. There are also a couple oddballs, as Apteronotus pokes around at the dissonant wizards of Lorn and I give some time to accommodate French rockers Wolve.

Duch Czerni - Reality Of Black Spirits (2016)
Polish Black Metal group Duch Czerni have been around for a few years now with a handful of demos and minor releases out. Reality of Black Spirits is a more recent effort. Most impressive here is the overall atmosphere given off by the release. Depressive Black Metal is a clear influence and bands like Silencer or Trist are a good point of reference. Duch Czerni steer clear of falling off into truly ambient territory making this a listen that would not be well received by those that have approached the style from that trajectory. Present are the common twangy dust-coated guitars, upfront drums, shrieking high pitched vocals, and noisy sub-melodies. Momentary bursts of shouted vocals add some variety. The release drifts in and out mostly, particularly second track "Grim Night of Eternity," leaving the listener with the sense that guitarist Azazoth and vocalist Wened Wilk Sławibor were mostly focused more on the atmosphere than the impact of the release. "Dismal Aura of Melancholy" is probably my preferred track here as the six-minute offering crawls through slow building layers of atmosphere into a final faster climax and culmination, but the general sameness of the tracks and their structures would be served by some variety. Though relatively enjoyable, probably skippable unless you approach depressive black metal from an aficionado position. (Orion)

Girlschool - Screaming Blue Murder (1982)
The longest running all female rock band's early catalog is ripe with killer tunes and their third album, Screaming Blue Murder, is no exception. The opening title track sets the tone straight off - upbeat and punkish NWOBHM infused Heavy Metal - and throughout the entirety of the album, a driving and powerful wallop of riffs is thrown at the listener. For me, top tracks are the memorable "Don't Call it Love", the almost Motorhead rip-off "Hellrazor", and slick "Don't Stop". The outlandishly sensual "Flesh and Blood" is the single most interesting track on the album, with sultry spoken verse and breathy almost whispered choruses but dumped at the end of the release relegates it to the b-side of a b-side band's album; a footnote for a footnote. While this is an enjoyable listen, it's nothing special to me other than the tracks mentioned. Shakin' Street is a comparable in sound but superior in song with Ross the Boss providing guitars. A fun throwback listen. (Orion)

Infinite Earths - Into The Void (2016)
Florida's Infinite Earths play a progressive style of Black Metal which, possibly due to high-notoriety releases from bands like Stargazer and to a lesser degree Blood Incantation, has becoming increasingly noticeable. For Infinite Earths the comparison to Stargazer is strongest; both bands utilize bass guitar as the central melodic instrument and guitars are often windswept yet add technically diverse segments throughout. This will appeal to a swath of the metal spectrum who find engagement in Gorguts, Cynic, and Vektor. Vocally, Josh Joel Mazorra presents his vocals like buckshot, all over the place, intense, and in myriad shapes and forms as Into The Void sees five tracks presented as individual acts to form a concept based on a comic book of his own creation. As the tracks swirl through structures and riffs, we're given numerous segments and ideas to ponder over. "Act 2: Amalgam of Madness" contains a particularly striking section where Mazorra does some nasally singing behind a guitar lead before reverting back to his raspy screams. "Act 3: Chaotic Good" opens with a breakdownesque riff and drums. Final track, "Act 5: Grave New World," ends on a high note with a melodic guitar line for a minute or so before noodling it's way towards the end of the track in a Dream Theater-esque fashion. A Strong EP, but it doesn't quite
capture my attention the way other bands are doing this style. (Orion)

Lorn - Arrayed Claws (2017)

Lorn is the kind of band that may come across as pure dissonance worship at first glance, but if a bunch of janky sounding chords won't scare you off their EP Arrayed Claws has a lot to offer. At the outset, it's important to revel in the band's song structures because they have a lot in common with traditional black metal's hypnotic tremolo picked repetition. While there are quick flourishes peppering the melodies, the changes are often incremental and obscured by an underlying sense of flow - making the music simultaneously smooth and harsh, it's whiskey. It makes Lorn a difficult band to pin down and that's a great thing, especially with how different all of the tracks are from another. After listening to metal obsessively for years upon years it takes a special band to stand out from the coma-inducing hordes of mediocrity and adequacy. Lorn though is a special band, have a listen to "Abstract Trap" and tell me that the harmonics that pop into the song at three minutes in don't absolutely slap you in the face. Really fascinating band, the relaxed outro reminds me of Vorde with the lush retro science fiction kind of sound. (Apteronotus)

Lux Ferre - Excaecatio Lux Veritatis (2015)
Another Portugese entity, Lux Ferre's Black Metal is not unique but is competent. The opening moments of Excaecatio Lux Veritatis should cause some minor salivation and a desire for a few additional sessions with their no-nonsense worshiping of Black Metal motifs. The ten minute long "A Luz Ofuscante da Verdade" opening, the length and relative lack of variety in the track, and the additional two minute long intro draws out and slows down the listener's ability to familiarize. The best tracks are shorter in nature, to emphasize Lux Ferre's intensity without a seemingly perpetual wall of sound. The overall best track here is "Miséria" with it's doomy intro, pendulistic melody, and even some variation in the vocal performance of Devasth in the form of a groaning yell in contrast to his more predictable screams. The track has a little bit of everything. Overall, I think that Lux Ferre's main conflict will be differentiating themselves from others, as the recording is quite generic. (Orion)

Pogavranjen - Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem (2016)
Weird Black Metal from the outset, Pogavranjen start the listener off running for their lives with a noisy cacophony of cymbal hits and guitar noise. The rest of Jedva Čekam Da Nikad Ne Umrem's six tracks and fourty-four minutes is a unique and airy mixture of Black Metal and Jazz. Deathspell Omega appears to be an influence throughout but at a snails pace. Into The Woods and Ved Buens Ende should be considered as well. There is little velocity in most of these tracks. Pogavranjen take, instead, an awkward pace through uncomfortable melodies, similar to Emanation but with a greater focus on clarity and less utilization of ritualistic ambient formations. The percussion is quite an interesting component throughout and is the jazziest component, evident in the usage of poly rhythms. Vocalist Ivan Eror is a mixture of clean shouted vocals and the sporadic harsher black metal screams. With nine different musicians contributing the record, it's difficult to offer praise to each, however as an ensemble praise is due. A good listen for fans looking for inventive and avant-garde black metal. (Orion)

Instigator - Bad Future (2015)
A strange Swedish Heavy Metal / Thrash mashup reminiscent of Master's Hammer without the classical music bombasticism, Vektor with stripped down instrumentalism, and Voivod's late 80's wackiness. Bad Future is four tracks peaking at fifteen minutes making this a quick listen and demonstration of the band's style. The inclusion of samples, numerous guitar tones and effects, and the kitchen sink all emphasize either a marked disinterest in being typical or an obsession with being different. "Black Magic" has a decisive Heavy Metal flair to it more than the thrashier "Anabolic" and  "Inseminoid." "Undetectable" closes the release with a running bass line that gives me déjà-vu. It's also a little long-winded for my taste. Instigator have a heavy personality and identity present here that's probably too wacky. Kind of like the class clown in elementary school, toned back a little bit, they might be in a sweet spot, though, and grow up to be famous comedians. (Orion)

Sinmara / Misþyrming - Ivory Stone / Hof (2017)

On this split Sinmara and Misþyrming prove that there's nothing quite like Icelandic black metal. While a lot of bands across the world have tried to jump onto the dissonant bandwagon many of them miss the mark and land firmly in wanky mathcore territory.  Not so for this two-song split. The riffs are distinct, abrasive, and most importantly carry forward melodies that have an energetic structure. Sinmara in particular really pushes the edges of clarity in mixing - the broad sound from layering dissonance and heavily distorted guitar lines somehow never feels messy. Misþyrming comes across a fair amount dirtier but it just hardens the band's edge rather than muddying up the sound. While I prefer Sinmara's razor sharp approach, there is a special charm to how Misþyrming's beefy percussion helps create order to a lot of the delightfully shrill chords and tamer sections throughout their song.  (Apteronotus)

Steelballs - Steelballs (2016)
Argentinian Heavy Metal in the vein of early Blind Guardian, Helloween, etc. Goofy name aside, this is relatively inoffensive to the taste of fans of this style of metal. It's a heartfelt rendition and manifestation of typical influences into original material. While "Steelballs" opens the EP, second track "Farewell" is better and more nuanced. More attitude is to be found in the more monotone melodies and sharper attack. Guitarists Juan Manuel Herrera and Lucas Galarza rip through well composed solos in all the tracks and Juan Pablo Churruarin's - who also provides accordion duties in Folkearth - vocal performance is hopeful. Final track "Inquisitor of Faith" is the most intricate of the album with a handful of dueling harmonized guitars. The Witches Brew version also has a competent cover of Helloween's "Starlight." Overall, probably an unnecessary listen unless your loins ache for this style of Power Metal. (Orion)

Teleport - Ascendance (2016)

If you like your thrash metal on the technical/progressive side then you absolutely have to at least check out the track "The Monolith" on this EP. Thrash always seems like an existential disappointment in metal, a genre whose best days are long since gone and plagued by heartless imitators and those who fail to take their music seriously (I believe the appropriate technical terms are re-thrash and pizza-thrash). This EP on the other hand has a lot killer riffs throughout its songs and the kind of pacing variety that, you know, actually thrashes about. This isn't cheap fast/slow music/ambient-bullshit variety either - check out how "Realm of solar darkness" transitions later in the song and the creepy intro to "Path to omniscience." A really good example of the band's smart ear for melody is how the solo in "Artificial divination" weaves into and plays off of the main melody rather than the lead guitar player just whipping out his fastest runs and swinging them around. Some of Teleport's sexier bass moments remind me a bit of a toned down kind of Stargazer. Not to imply the band is second rate, but their approach is more straightforward and traditional - at least in terms of progressive/technical thrash. (Apteronotus)

Wolve - Lazare (2016)

Lazare is Wolve's October 2016 released four song EP. It follows 2014's Sleepwalker album. This French rock band incorporates elements of soundscape and world music into their rock foundation. This is evidenced by the tabla playing in the title track and rhythmic approach which shows through in other tracks. Wolve are at their best when they incorporate these elements into their tracks. Wolve are likely to burst into big alternative rock choruses as well. Guitarist Julien Sournac's vocal performance is commendable. He mixes between soft and dreamy and laced with more emotion and aggression but is always within the pop-rock realm style. "Porcelain" is the most standard track on the release yet still incorporates an adventurous vibe through the a fuzzy bass and a playful panned percussion mix. The forty second long "Inferno" is a unique mash-up track with an edge compared to the other material. "Far" is an effective alternative rock song which toys with an experimental ambient interlude competently but the opening title track, "Lazare" is the most interesting on the record. Wolve's half-rock half-world/soundscape can be unique and rewarding. (Orion)

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