Category Archives: Metal

Centinex

redeemingfilth1Redeeming Filth by Centinex (Agonia Records)

Centinex of Sweden: Born 1990 – Dead 2006 – Reborn 2014

Centinex has been launching sonic assaults upon the world at large since 1990, and 25 years later remain one of the most underrated death metal bands in the universe. From their diabolical beginnings with the late great Repulse Records to their breakthrough recordings with Candlelight, Centinex has unleashed solid recordings revered as underground classics.  Some of the members have been doing time in Demonical, and it’s been nearly a decade since we’ve heard any new music from the ranks of Centinex.  Redeeming Filth is the next chapter of malevolence from Centinex – as well as their first for Agonia Records – featuring 10 devastating cuts that will make you want to destroy everything in sight.

The ear splitting commences with the relentless When Bodies Are Deformed, instantly demonstrating a death metal entity at the very height of their creative madness. Moist Purple Skin then smashes into your face with a deadly precision. Death Glance fills your speakers with a slash and burn attitude, leaving no prisoners in its wake.

centinex2014_2Stone Of Choice will make you want to bang your head into the realms of oblivion of beyond. Unrestrained is heavy as hell, even while exploring dark and dirty mid-tempo terrains. Bloodraze then places the listener squarely into the depths of an utter hell, before exploding into a barrage of raging clamor. A thunderous circle pit shall ensue when this thrashing cut is performed live.

Without Motives seethes with a brutal conviction, followed by the churning refrains of Rotting Below. And then closing Redeeming The Filth out is the fiery one-two punch of Dead, Buried and Forgotten and Eyes Socket Empty, a massive pummeling that will leave all genre aficionados writhing for more!

Even at this stage of their career, Centinex find themselves releasing their most ferocious album to date with the unveiling of Redeeming Filth.  A triumphant comeback to be sure, Redeeming Filth is sure to enrapture their longtime fans as well as thrill newer converts looking to smash heads in worldwide mosh pits of destruction. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait another 9 years for the next vicious Centinex manifesto to be unleashed.

Centinex is Martin Schulman on bass, Kennet Englund on drums, Sverker Widgren on guitar, and Alexander Högbom on vocals.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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The Ever Evolving Sounds of Outrun The Sunlight

Photo Credit: Andrea Wright

Photo Credit: Andrea Wright

In November of 2014 I became aware of a band named Outrun The Sunlight.  Their debut album The Return of Intertia came out in 2011 and their new album Terrapin is out now, with a vinyl edition coming in the new year.  They check all the boxes when it comes to what I like in music: virtuoso talent, willingness to  take chances, a melding of heavy and light playing and varied tempos.  This is progressive instrumental rock by passionate people.  I listened to their debut daily until Terrapin arrived.  A departure from the downtuned “djent” style guitars, their second album shows a maturation  and again, the willingness to take chances, with a more organic flow to the songs and smoother production.  During the last two weeks of the year Outrun The Sunlight‘s Austin Peters and Cody McCarty were kind enough to talk about their amazing band.

If it’s just two of you creating the music, who plays bass, drums, keyboards? You’re both listed as guitars but that doesn’t really do justice to all your efforts. Are you a full band now?
Austin Peters: We recently met our bassist and drummer Connor Grant & Pedro Villegas after they asked us if we wanted to jam, summer 2013. We started learning songs from The Return of Inertia, and then Terrapin. Adrian [Perez], our keyboardist, joined after he helped us film the video for The Pace of Glaciers, and our musical tastes and personalities just clicked. So yes, we are a full band now.

outrun terrapinWho produced your two albums? What did he/she or you do to improve the recording of Terrapin from Return?
Austin produced both albums in his bedroom in Chicago. The Return of Inertia was produced after spending 4 years messing around in Garageband. I (Austin) honestly can’t even listen to that album anymore because of how compressed and edited it sounds. I tried to make Terrapin sound natural; I worked a lot on my own playing technique, and applied very little editing to the performances. I’ve learned a lot of mixing and tone techniques since TROI, and I think it shows in Terrapin, but I know I can learn a lot more. The main difference between the two was that Terrapin was actually mastered correctly by our good friend, Jordan Nelson.

Please explain your style so we can tell you two apart.
Cody lies on his bed without an amplifier and just plays sad post-rock stuff.  Austin sits at his desk with PodFarm and messes around with amp settings, never really getting anywhere with his writing.
That’s part of why this album took three years to make.

What part are you proud of playing on a particular song on Terrapin?
I think as a band, it’s The Pace of Glaciers because that song was so daunting when we first started learning it, but it’s come so far as a live performance. Austin recorded most of the guitar parts on Terrapin, but individually, Cody’s proud moment are the major-third runs that happen near the end of Permanence because they were a total bitch to play on his Agile. Austin’s proud moment is the very beginning pick-tap riff of And Every Glance Given Has Only One Meaning just because of how odd the rhythm and fingerings are.

What initially got you interested in music and at what point did you realize you couldn’t live without making music?
To start, we both have rock n’ roll dads. I think early on, without that, we may not have held the appreciation for music that we do today. Cody was an eighties hair metal kid, I was a classic-rock kid, and we met in the middle with modern metal. I think I realized Cody couldn’t live without music when he moved from Kalamazoo to Chicago just for this band. As for myself, I majored in film, but now work in the music industry, and have been geeking out about metal for the better part of my existence, so it almost seems like second nature.

What was the first song or instrument part you learned to play? What is the most difficult song you’ve learned and what song do you think you’ll never do well?
We both started guitar separately at age 13. However, Austin’s first instrument was piano when he was 8. I (Austin) can still play most of Resistance by Veil of Maya, but honestly the tempo and my poor picking technique prevent me from playing it cleanly. Cody doesn’t learn songs, just riffs: for instance, the opening riff to In Dying Days by As Blood Runs Black. He always plays that fucking song.
And I don’t think either of us will ever learn how to sweep-pick properly, so any song that uses that technique is out of the question.

I so rarely see true progressive or even instrumental bands play live. Pelican is one of the few. When you play live do you simplify the parts played from the songs? How are the songs translated from disc to stage?
First off, unlike The Return of Inertia, we wrote Terrapin to be able to play it live. That decision has paid off so much, because so many songs on TROI require 3 guitars. On stage, we perform with a backtrack that has strings, ambient guitars, and other soundscape elements that we don’t need to reproduce ourselves. Nothing is being simplified.

What is a particularly great memory of playing live and touring?
I think our first show will forever be this incredible experience that only comes from being a “studio project” for four years and finally making it to the stage. We had envisioned this project to eventually reach a live audience, but we never knew when, and we didn’t think anyone would care. But we packed 150 people into Reggies Rock Club on a Tuesday night (which was also the coldest night of the polar vortex in Chicago that season) and it was surreal. The best part was we got to pick the line-up, and all our friends who had bands played with us, even if they weren’t metal in the slightest.

Have you toured extensively? Will you make it to Los Angeles?
No we haven’t, and hopefully someday we will. Everyone reading this, go tell Cloudkicker we want to tour with him.

What bands should we listen for if we are openminded and enjoy your band?
If it’s not obvious: Cloudkicker, Cloudkicker, and this dude named Ben Sharp who has this studio project called “Cloudkicker.” But we have a wide range of tastes, and we could probably list them for days. Honestly, we don’t want to compare ourselves, so we’ll name 3 bands that we think need more exposure: Mirorist, Eden Circus, and Uneven Structure.

I’ve only bought digital copies of your music. Is there an effort by you two and Rogue to make the physical copies worthy of purchase?
Cody McCarty: Austin spends so much god damn time perfecting the artwork on each release that sometimes it overlooks the production of the actual album. He fucking hand-drew the pictures on the inside cover, multiple times. Holy fuck.
So yes. Terrapin is out now on digipak CD with original artwork by Austin, and will be out on bone-colored vinyl in April. Our awesome Indiegogo-backers helped us make the vinyl a reality, which we are the most excited about.

Tell us about Rogue, the people that run it and the bands.
Rogue has been very helpful in the organization of our band’s Indiegogo campaign and good about keeping our music DIY. They essentially help us with distribution and give us insight to help us mature as a band. Dean Martinetti is good people.

Who has the most divisive musical tastes? Is there someone that listens to bands that the rest of you can’t stand? What are some the acts you all agree upon? And what are some of the most out there bands/acts that you take inspiration from but don’t sound anything like?
We all have diverse tastes, but in different ways. Adrian listens to Big Big Train, Cody listens to Wu Tang Clan, Connor listens to Flying Lotus, Austin listens to Wild Beasts, and Pedro listens to Yung Lean. I think the biggest gripe some of us have is with electronic music. But mostly we agree on what makes music good. Cody and Austin listen to quite a bit of obscure jazz; The Kilimanjaro Darkjazz Ensemble, Tigran Hamasyan, The Young Blood Brass Band, Dawn of Midi, and Pimp & Soil are just a few.

Austin, I read that you are getting a degree in Film. What will you do with that degree? How does film inspire your music? I tend to like music that sounds like it might fit with visuals or an overarching theme or story.
You’re the first person to ever ask me about my degree in an interview, so thank you for that. I studied film & video at Columbia College in Chicago, mainly focusing on film post-production (editing/motion graphics) and directing. I realized quickly that I was not a strong director, and spent my last year learning technical skills that I could apply to my own work, e.g. OTS. I’ve scored many of my own films, and a few of my friend’s. I’ve been told before that OTS music paints a picture or tells a story, but I have to admit I don’t have a visual in mind when I am writing. Eventually, I would like to mold my skill of filmmaking with my love for music, and score a film that I can tour with.

Terrapin is somewhat lighter than Return of Inertia, especially without the down-tuned guitars throughout. While that does take some of the visceral feel from the overall sound, on the new album we are now able to focus more on the details and flow. It’s not so immediate and takes more effort to really listen but is a fulfilling experience. Was there a specific reason to drop the djent guitars?
Mainly our tastes have changed, and we were drawn to different genres and sounds. I think the post-rock element is key to how we’ve grown, and like I’ve mentioned earlier, we were more concerned with the experience of this record rather than its edit, and how it would translate live.

outrun returnWhat is it about this balance of heavy/ugly and lighter/pretty that you try to create in each song? I think of it as if the more delicate and melodic aspects of Rush were mixed with the harder guitars and rhythms/drums of Meshuggah. But I like being challenged and find it a challenge to describe how Terrapin sounds.
It’s hard to display dynamics in metal, and this solution of melding harshness with softness helps us accentuate each part. If it were mostly a heavy record with a few soft bits, the heavy bits would have far less effect. But creating sparsity in the heavy moments, we feel we are able to engage dynamics. We also really love a good crescendo.

Will the next album be an even bigger departure than from the first to second album?
More than likely yes. More and more we move toward what people seem to be referring to as “post-metal.” We don’t know what that means, but we’re just going to keep writing music that we like to play and feel creates emotion.

And finally, what do you think makes your band distinct through your evolution?
I don’t think we are that distinct, and I think a lot of amazing musicians are doing the same sort of things we are doing. The in-the-box technique is being utilized all over the world, and allows many artists to express themselves. It’s taken us a while to get to where we are, but that’s not unique either. I guess as long as people keep feeling our music, that may be the only distinction we’ll have, which is fine with us. We just want to engage our listeners more than anything.

Thank you Austin, Cody and all for your time. I look forward to hearing more from you and possibly seeing you live!
Hell yeah! Someday, we will surely meet in person.

Outrun The Sunlight also have released a vocal version of The Return of Inertia album, a live EP, their early demos and many singles.  Seek out their vinyl too. Help bring Terrapin to CD and vinyl HERE.

(Imterview by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Bandcamp
Facebook
Youtube
Rogue Records Bandcamp

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Bret’s top albums of 2014

Here are the bands I listened to endlessly throughout the year.  The music that stirred my soul, got my blood racing and made me drive fast on the freeway.

Cheatahs

Cheatahs

CHEATAHS BY CHEATAHS (WITCHITA RECORDINGS)

Cheatahs‘ S/T first album amazed me with their take on gloriously noisy shoegaze. I bought up their first EP’s and eagerly await their The Sunne EP in February. They’ve have already released lead track Controller on Soundcloud.  The feelings these Brits evoke are blissed out and energetic with a heady mix of melody and distortion.  Listening to  Cheatahs all these months later I’m still blown away by the immediacy of their performances.

[Cheatahs] hit all the notes that turn me on with heavily distorted guitars and quiet vocals as counterpoint to the noise.  With all the effects and volume you’ll also find a sense of pop melody throughout, with some exceptional instrumentation.

Further Deeper

Further/Deeper

FURTHER/DEEPER BY THE CHURCH (UNORTHODOX)

The Church return with Further/Deeper, their first without founding member Marty Wilson-Piper and their first with new guitarist Ian Haug.  Every song is lush, with a subdued beauty and menace. The mostly mid-tempo songs possess an energy that is undeniably captivating.  They’ll be on tour in the States in  February and the Highwire Daze boys will be at the El Rey Theater show singing along.

cynic_album__cover__kindly_bent_to_free_us

KINDLY BENT TO FREE US BY CYNIC (SEASON OF MIST)

I somehow missed the release of Cynic‘s Kindly Bent To Free Us after reviewing their three previous releases.  How these two guys combine metal, jazz, electronica and clean vocals with progressive arrangements is simply magical.  The new album is another example of emotional and rocking music performed by intelligent and talented musicians.  On Youtube you can watch their evolution from Florida death metallers through to the amazing genre-defying band they are today.

Engineers

Engineers

ALWAYS RETURNING BY ENGINEERS (KSCOPE)
Mark Peters and his Engineers band  come back after several years with Always Returning.  Peters recorded the songs in analog for a warm organic feel.  He’s also done two albums with electronic producer and Engineers member Ulrich Schnauss that are worth seeking out if you appreciate the meeting of these two talented and thoughtful musicians.

Always Returning is full of pretty songs that would float off in the clouds if it weren’t for the talents behind their making.  There’s a sense of sadness and longing permeating the album giving many songs a compelling emotional weight.”

exodus cover

BLOOD IN, BLOOD OUT BY EXODUS (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Exodus kicked my ass this year with Blood In, Blood Out, a return to focused form by the Bay Area thrashers.  With founding singer Steve “Zetro” Souza back in the fold, the band are at the top of their game.

Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid-fast beats and heavyosity that still remains accessible.

 

Fairweather

Fairweather

FAIRWEATHER BY FAIRWEATHER (EQUAL VISION)

DC’s post-hardcore darlings Fairweather dropped out of  sight for a decade only to rise like a phoenix fully formed, as if they’d never left.  Though the members may be older and wiser, the songs on their Self-Titled return still contain the fire and passion the band instilled in their sound from their beginnings.

[On the song No Flags Fly] “The band surprise with a soulfullness in their instrumental interplay as well as a bare-it-all vocal performance by [Jay] Littleton.

The Glitch Mob unmasked

The Glitch Mob unmasked

LOVE DEATH IMMORTALITY BY THE GLITCH MOB (GLASS AIR)

The evil beat scientists that are The Glitch Mob crafted Love Death Immortality in their dark basements, feeding off the Big Beat spirits of their ancestors to make one of the funkiest albums of 2014 with some excellent vocal contributions from Metal Mother, Aja Volkman, Yaarohs and Sister Crayon.

“…[T]he trio of ediT, Boreta and Ooah have punched up the more visceral elements of their past efforts, bringing to mind The Prodigy, Chemical Brothers and The Crystal Method.  If you hear the young punk vitality of Liam Howlett, then the trio are doing something right.”

Photo credit: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com

Information Society Photo by: Wil Foster / rockcandyphoto.com

_HELLO WORLD BY INFORMATION SOCIETY (HAKATAK International / MVD

_hello world is the fun(ky) return of Information Society, less interested in hairstyles and splashy music videos and more focused on moving booties.  Even if you didn’t care for their 80’s pop  hits, if you’re a fan of synth pop, Information Society show the youngsters how it’s done right. Not with auto-tune and computers cutting and pasting preset sounds but by actual drive, heart and talent.

There’s a techno dance party you might want to go to, and if Arnold Schwarzenegger tells you to ‘Get your ass to Mars’ you should listen.  The Prize is all pumping beats, buzzing synths and popping bass, with Kurt Harland singing ‘I’m coming up from the ground with my eyes on the prize’ like he’s trying to overcome some herculean challenge.  If the challenge is to get the listener to dance, then he’s succeeded.

J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller

J.D. and Jessica Wilkes of the Dirt Daubers Photo by Bret Miller

WILD MOON BY J.D. WILKES AND THE DIRT DAUBERS (PLOWBOY RECORDS)

J.D. Wilkes and the Dirt Daubers started out the year right with their jumping rhythm and blues album Wild Moon. Wilkes also heads Th’ Legendary Shack Shakers but this is his new baby.  Joined by wife and bassist / vocalist Jessica, drummer Preston Corn and guitarist Rod Hamdallah (also of the Shack Shakers) , Wilkes sings, plays guitar, bass and harmonica on a collection of riveting and rocking songs about good love gone bad, bad love gone worse and all the things that make life worth living with an understated aw shucks delivery that is inviting and enjoyable for even people that aren’t normally fans of the sound he’s keeping alive. And Jessica’s sass and sway is a wonder to hear, and pleasantly surprised at this new voice in roots rock.

Here’s what Wilkes had to say in an interview we did at the beginning of the year when asked who he was thinking about when writing and recording Wild Moon:  “I guess Little Walter, Ray Charles, a little Creedence, a 60′s rock and blues and R&B thing.  There’s something intangible, there’s something like a Ouija board: you never know what you’re going to get out of it.  All these personalities coming together in the middle.  There’s something odd and cool about this record when you listen to it.  Its a weird, dark feeling you get in the end, you can’t put your finger on it.  I get that over and over, even though I took a trip back after recording it because I was sick of hearing it.  Then I went back and listened to it and it gave me a weird, cool feeling, its kind of dark and strange and dreamlike.  I’m glad that still comes through, even after hearing it to death.

Days of the Fallen Stars

Days of the Fallen Stars

DAYS OF THE FALLEN STARS BY JUNIUS (PROSTHETIC)

On Days of the Fallen Stars, Junius inspired my to write a short story instead of a standard album review.  Their uplifting yet dark rock sound is epic in scope and in a live setting absolutely thrilling.  Play their music loudly and revel in the soaring vocals and muscular performances of Junius.

He breathed in deeply the smells of freshly cooked meals, of perfume and musk, felt a pleasant chill as the trees and plants exhaled their life-giving oxygen.  Then the trumpet announced the arrival of the night and the audience got to their activities with a crash of cymbals.

Lightfoils Photo by Shawn Brackbill

HIERARCHY BY LIGHTFOILS (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

On Hierarchy Lightfoils wrapped me in a warm blanket of lush melodies and female vocals.   Lightfoils excel at blissed out vocals and guitars set to punky and punchy bass and drums, the band manage to bring something new to the shoegaze genre.

Here’s what drummer John Rungger said in our interview:  “The basic tracks for the album were recorded with us all in the same room, playing the songs. Something that doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should nowadays. I think it gives it an organic base that translates through to the rest of the music.

Machine Fucking Head 2014

Machine Fucking Head 2014

BLOODSTONE AND DIAMONDS BY MACHINE HEAD (NUCLEAR BLAST)

Machine Head continue to amaze with Bloodstone and Diamonds, their first on Nuclear Blast and with new bassist  Jared MacEachern.  It’s also their highest charting album to date.  Epic doesn’t even begin to describe the songs on the album.  Progressive in the best sense, Robb Flynn and band leads the listener on a journey through hate and hope, with heavy yet fast instrumentation and intelligent lyrics and impassioned vocals.  Bloodstone and Diamonds reveals new facets every time you listen.  

Photo Credit: Shawn Brackbill

Nothing Photo by: Shawn Brackbill

GUILTY OF EVERYTHING BY NOTHING (RELAPSE RECORDS)

Coming out of the hardcore scene, Nothing‘s Dominic Palerno wanted something different for his new life after his time in prison.  Inspired by the shoegaze bands of the 90’s he began Nothing.  With the release of Guilty of Everything music fans the world over are sure Palerno is on the right musical track with his beautifully noisy new songs.  They’re touring constantly so be sure to be on the look out for this amazing new band.

B&E begins in a pleasant mid-tempo, their wall of sound getting knocked down to an anxiously mellow segment reminiscent of Pink Floyd’s Animals album before tearing into their instruments for a heart-wrenching finale that will leave you gasping for breath.

seasurfer band

Seasurfer

DIVE IN BY SEASURFER (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

Since learning of Saint Marie Records this year I’ve thoroughly enjoyed every album I’ve bought and reviewed (see Lightfoils, SPC ECO).  Their Static Waves compilations are a treasure-trove of excellence, now there’s three editions to delve into, the third physical release including a third disc of Slowdive covers.  German trio Seasurfer’s Dive In was my first purchase and I immediately fell in love with their drama and flair and dynamic arrangements. Singer Dorian E.  has range and control of her voice and her delivery is confident and sassy, the perfect foil for band leader Dirk Knight’s textured guitars and Mikel Wegener’s chunky bass.

Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO

Rose Berlin Garcia of SPC ECO

SIRENS & SATELLITES BY SPC ECO (SAINT MARIE RECORDS)

In a year of amazing music SPC ECO has been busy. They released Sirens & Satellites, The Art of Pop, The Art of  Pop Remixes+ and the Nocturnal EP and 2+2=5 free downloads plus many singles.  The duo of  Dean Garcia, formerly of Curve, and artist daughter Rose Berlin juxtapose ice and fire throughout the songs on Sirens.

Make Me Say is brutal and bloody guitar slashes and crunchy rhythm loops, Rose purring and cooing like a mantis before taking off your head.”

Terrestrials

Terrestrials

TERRESTRIALS BY ULVER AND SUNN 0))) (SOUTHERN LORD RECORDS)

Terrestrials is an EP credited to Ulver and Sunn 0))) featuring contributions from multi-instrumentalist Daniel O’Sullivan, who performed with Sunn 0)))’s Greg Anderson and Stephen O’Malley for the band’s 200th show in Oslo, Norway in 2008.  The band jammed at Ulver’s studio and Ulver’s Krystoffer Rygg pieced together the performances with bassist Anderson, O’Sullivan adding trumpet and keyboards and Rygg contributing vocals along the way.  O’Sullivan has since joined Ulver. The end result is an  atmospheric, ominous and involving journey through the psychedelic reaches of space.

Eternal Return puts some of Ulver’s atmospheric dark beauty into the alloy with O’Sullivan’s languid keys softening  O’Malley’s sharp guitar strums and drones.  As the music surges, violins and trumpet float in.  At about the halfway mark the arrangement segues to a looping and vibrant synthesizer and Rygg’s velvety voice.  The finale drifts in with sawed violins, percussive guitars and menacing atmospheres.  Quivering strings fade out at the end.”

Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller

Eddie Spaghetti Photo by Bret Miller

GET THE HELL BY SUPERSUCKERS (ACETATE RECORDS)

The Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band in the World, The Supersuckers, are back with their most rocking album in years, Get The Hell.  Their first without founding guitarist Rontrose Heathman, and first album with current drummer Christopher Von Streichan and new guitarist Marty Chandler.  Singer/bassist Eddie Sphaghetti and Dan “Thunder” Bolton lead the charge and wail on the future classics Something About You and Pushin’ Thru.

Supersuckers’ Get the Hell is focused on boot kicking, middle finger raising and sing-along anthems sure to please the most jaded of music fans.

Family photo by Cassandra-Bialek

Walking Bicycles family photo by Cassandra-Bialek

TO HIM THAT WILLS THE WAY BY WALKING BICYCLES (HIGHWHEEL RECORDS)

The Chicago quartet Walking Bicycles are back with their most focused, angry and cathartic album to date in To Him That Wills The Way.  Noisy, catchy, danceable music, Walking Bicycles sound like no one else.

Here’s what guitarist and founder Julius Moriarty said in our interview about Walking Bicycles’ balance of noise and pop: “We have always tried to walk the line between weird and catchy.  If both exist within a track then there can’t be too much of either.”

Loco and "Weird" Al Yankovic

“Weird” Al Yankovic

MANDATORY FUN BY “WEIRD” AL YANKOVIC (RCA RECORDS)

There are a few constants in pop culture: talentless “artists” appear daily with a flick of an auto-tune machine and synthesizer preset to sell clothes and fast food, and one “Weird” Al Yankovic will make fun of the pop songs that these supposed singers and bands churn out.  He’ll also write some funny “homage” songs played in the style of someone, on 14th studio album Mandatory Fun Al tips his hat to Southern Culture on the Skids and Foo Fighters, as well as hoary oldies Crosby, Stills and Nash and Cat Stevens.  My favorite though, is First World Problems done in the style of The Pixies.  When Al rants about how the barista forgot to make a design on his banana latte you just have to laugh.  One of the best lyrics Yankovic has ever written is to Blurred Lines, here called Word Crimes, a song that is both hilarious AND educational.  Sample lyric: “You should never/ Write words using numbers/ Unless you’re seven/ Or your name is Prince”.  “Weird” Al Yankovic makes pop music palatable for those with intelligence, humor and self-awareness.

Photo by Jeff Elstone

Zola Jesus photo by Jeff Elstone

TAIGA BY ZOLA JESUS (MUTE RECORDS)

One of the most stunning albums of the year came from 25 year old Nika Rosa Danilova, aka Zola Jesus.  Her most accomplished album to date, Taiga references the coniferous ancient forests that cover 1/5th of the world and over northern Russia and Siberia.  The album is filled with soulful and textured electronic and live instrumentation and Danilova’s bold and emotional vocals.

Dangerous Days is catchy and often light, yet has a delicious and dark under current of churning and scraping synths that bring solidity to the song.  Danilova sings sultry and soaring, drawing you in to her world.”

diothisisyour1_375x164

This Is Your Life expanded album cover

RONNIE JAMES DIO – THIS IS YOUR LIFE BY VARIOUS ARTISTS (RHINO RECORDS)

Anyone that calls themselves a metal head or fan of rock’n’roll should know the name Dio.  Ronnie James Dio passed on to the great stage in the sky but his legacy lives on in the lives and spirits of musicians the world over.  This Is Your Life is a tribute to the great man and a thrilling listening experience.  The album is also a great introduction to bands in the heavy metal arena as they all do a fantastic job of channeling the soul and positive energies of Dio.

I confess to knowing nothing of Adrenaline Mob but their take on Black Sabbath’s Mob Rules is killer.  I mean, this song wails, kicks ass, all those metal clichés.  The song was Sabbath’s attempt to remain relavent in the punk era is clear in the fast pace and raw power and the suitably named band distill all the fury of the original and spit out flames. Amazing guitars at the end too.”

(by Bret Miller)

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WALKING BICYCLES RELEASE TWO NEW VIDEOS FOR “SO” AND “BADADA” ON YOUTUBE

walking-biycles_xray_digitalWalking Bicycles have two new videos up at Youtube for So and Badada.  Both songs are from their latest album and the videos incorporate live footage filmed at their record release show this past summer at the Empty Bottle in their hometown of Chicago.  The visuals capture the controlled chaos and intensity of Walking Bicycles, and the energy singer Jocelyn Moriarty gives out both onstage and in the studio.

Walking Bicycles balance noise and pop elements with cathartic dynamics and these two songs and accompanying videos are just a small sample of what the band are about.

Walking Bicycles released their latest album To Him That Wills The Way via their label Highwheel Records in August, their first in four years.  The band was forced into hiatus when guitarist/songwriter Julius Moriarty was sentenced to three years in prison on marijuana charges.  Moriarty opened up about his experiences with Noisey back in August.  It’s an inspiring read and it shows Moriarty and wife Jocelyn coming out of the experiences stronger for having been through them.

Walking Bicycles are currently working on tracks for a new album and I, for one, am excited to hear where the revitalized band is going next!

LINKS:
So video
Badada video
Noisey Interview
Highwheel Records
Highwire Daze Interview

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In Flames

siren-charmsSiren Charms by In Flames (Epic Records)

There’s plenty of bands that started out metal and went on to something else: The Gathering turned their back on metal adding influences from Dead Can Dance and Cocteau Twins to their style, Anathema evolved into a more atmospheric rock band and Cynic turned into a progressive, ambient, jazz, rock amalgam that is a thrill to hear. On their two most recent albums Opeth channels pastoral and psychedelic bands of old without losing their own past heaviness. And there are plenty of bands that incorporate pop elements into their metal.  In Flames want to be catchy and accessible and metal all at the same time.  After two decades of causing neck damage they continue to experiment with textures, vocal approaches and rhythms searching for that one (or, hopefully, an album’s worth) great pop metal song.

in-flames-2014-640x400On Siren Charms  the band sounds eager to bring in new ears. In Plain View balances heavy & hard with a softer side in Anders Friden’s varied vocals, swinging from anguished clean singing to gut-punching screaming in the chorus, it’s all crisp and shiny and razor sharp.  Everything Is Gone combines several tempos, Daniel Svensson showing off his skills, speed punk one second, double bass kicks the next, then slamming into an all-out brutal metal part.  Paralyzed sounds like In Flames’  version of a post-apocalyptic love ballad with Orjan Ornkloo’s buzzing synths and Friden’s singing about being out on our own in a wasteland.

With Eyes Wide Open begins with harmonized guitars leading to a very catchy rock ballad, the keyboards way in the background, Friden singing clear and strong, Bjorn Gelotte and Niclas Engelin’s guitars shining through for maximum uplift.  When Worlds Collide remind you In Flames can do dangerous and they don’t disappoint. Swedish opera singer Emilia Feldt joins in with her sexy croon and angelic fills to add a sense of wonder.

Creeping up towards the end of Siren Charms, on Monsters In The Ballroom, In Flames tempers what’s mainly a soaring and heroic rock song with screamed vocals and chugging and harmonized guitar riffs. The crunchiness and double kick drum finale is especially satisfying for the headbanging.  To wrap up the album, Filtered Truth features Peter Iwers’ bass, carrying the melody along with Ornkloo’s keyboards, Friden screaming about the rage inside as the guitars and drums burn and crash.

In Flames will be on the Siren Communion Tour with Red Fang and Opeth this winter and will play the Hollywood Palladium on December 9th.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Inflames.com
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Slipknot

greychapter1.5: The Gray Chapter by Slipknot
(Roadrunner Records)

Slipknot

What can one say about them? Since their break into the music scene in 1999 with their genre changing Self Titled album, to the extremely sadistic Iowa, toning it down a few years later with Vol 3. The Subliminal Versus, to the there amazing comeback in 2009 with All Hope is Gone many people have asked what more they could do? With the death of beloved bassist and co-founder Paul Gray in 2010, and the departure of powerhouse drummer Joey Jordison in late 2013, many, including myself thought the band was finished and over with. I can’t even tell you how wrong we were.

A few months back after the drama had subsided, all of Slipknot’s social media had literally, gone black. There was nothing. Out of nowhere random words started to be posted. With this tease everyone began to regain hope that the Knot would return. On August 1st 2014, the nay Sayers sure had to bite their own tongue with the release of their first song in 5 years, The Negative One. Every Slipknot album to date has been extremely different from one another each having its own special factors. With the release of only one song, The Negative One takes every aspect of Slipknot that we all love and crams it into one song. The pure energy emitting from the lyrics sparks feelings of anger and sadness almost instantly. After a few more weeks, a music video was released for the first official single of the new album; along with a music video for the song The Devil In I which metaphorically punched everybody in the face. With heavy riffs to strong and meaningful lyrics the first single of the album is sure to make every new and old Slipknot fan happy. The music video also features two new members on bass and drums, the identities of which are still to this day unknown, and Slipknot plans to keep it that way. Although the bassist has been pretty much guaranteed, we will keep the name to ourselves out of respect to Slipknot.

A lot of times when reviewing an album it is hard to get through, not because the music is bad, but because ever so often the music sounds so repetitive and the same as the bands last album. With the release of Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter, it is sure to shock everyone. This record has given me no trouble in writing about it due to how solid it is from start to finish.

slipknot2014The first song  XIX is more of an intro into the album. With bagpipes and what sounds like solders marching in the background, Vocalist Corey Taylor sings with such grief and anger that it immediately puts you in the mood to listen to a Slipknot album. With lyrics such as “Nothing appeals to me, no one feels like me, I’m to busy being calm to disappear”, the song is a perfect intro in the record.  Continuing with the slow sounding intro but this time with a soft guitar riff the second song Sarcastrophe begins, after a few seconds a powerful distorted band comes in. With a particularly impressive drum fill (WHO IS IT?!), the band comes in with a fast paced classic Slipknot riff. The emotion that comes to mind with Sarcastrophe is panic. The intense screams of Corey Taylor and the riffs by guitarists James Root and Mick Thomson, this song will definitely hit you in a way you would never imagine.

In the middle of the album a song by the name of Skeptic plays. This song is most likely very special to the band because it is obviously about Paul Gray. With lyrics such as “There will never be another crazy mother fucker like you” and “You were the best of us,” a dedication to Paul Gray this song surely is.

A song that stood out to me that was particularly different was Killpop. Emitting emotions of grieving, sadness and depression, you really hear the pain that this band is feeling. Towards the end of the album you hear some truly classic heavy Slipknot with my two favorite songs, Custer and Nomadic. These two songs really bring the band together as a whole. These two songs really bring the remaining members into the picture. With percussionists Chris Fein and Shawn “Clown” Crahan, and DJ’s Sid Wilson and Craig Jones, these two songs scream aggression. Going all the way back two Iowa, which many say is Slipknot’s most aggressive and heavy album, these two songs are as hardcore Slipknot as it gets. Prepare to go crazy when you hear them. Sid Wilson and Craig Jones surely add a side of crazy to this album. Any band can be 2 guitars a drummer and a bassist, but with these two it brings a sense of insanity to the music that helps define what Slipknot truly is.

All in all, Slipknot’s fifth album .5: The Gray Chapter is absolutely perfect. Front to back this album puts you through every emotion that is possible to feel. I will say that a lot of people were worried that the new drummer, who ever he (or she?) is, would not be able live up to Joey Jordisons style. Let me assure you that although it is not Joey, whoever this guy is the perfect choice besides Joey. This record takes old and new Slipknot and puts it together in sweet, sweet harmony. With amazingly heavy songs, heartfelt lyrics this will take you through a wild ride. When listening to the album, don’t be bitter because its not him, because trust me, this guy is great. .5: The Gray Chapter hits stores on October 21st. Be prepared for a ride through hell and back. This album will not disappoint and makes me proud to be a Slipknot fan.

(Review by Edward Brandon)

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Exodus

exodus coverBlood In, Blood Out by Exodus (Nuclear Blast Records)

The tenth studio album by Exodus grabs you by the throat and throws you into the mosh pit from the opening minutes of their new album Blood In, Blood Out.  Guitarist and leader Gary Holt has paired down the Exodus sound and this is their best album in years, if not their whole career.  While Exodus hasn’t enjoyed the success of some of their peers they have sold over five million records in their 34 year career and they continue to create compelling and complex metal that is both visceral and violent and a whole lot of head-banging fun.  Original singer Steve “Zetro” Souza also returns to the fold bringing even more energy to the songs that Holt had written.  Souza’s vocals are a thrill to hear, as he wails, growls, chants and raps his way through the songs.  Sparks fly off the guitars of Holt and Lee Arbus, solos attack  you like the chest-bursting Alien, Jack Gibson’s bass sounds like he’s using bridge support wires and Tom Hunting excels at both a fast punk beat and the slower tempos, a powerhouse of a drummer.  Kirk Hammett offers a guitar solo for the anthemic Salt The Wound, Testament’s Chuck Billy roars over the end of BTK.

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

(Photo by Bruce Getty)

On Black 13, the title track, Salt the Wound, Body Harvest  and the rest of the album the band play like men half their age, seemingly revitalized and ready to prove to themselves, if not the rest of the world they’ve still got what it takes to blow minds and speakers.  This is driving music, metal to kick-start your heart, audio defribullators to remind you you’re alive.

Exodus get more complex  in their arrangements for the second half of the album, slowing down only a little, crafting a convoluted yet powerful middle section for Wrapped in the Arms of Rage, with also features many awesome guitar leads.  Food For The Worms is how you’ll feel after being battered and bruised by the last song on Blood In, Blood Out, a go-for-broke song that alternates between stupid fast beats and heaviosity that still remains accessible.

Blood In, Blood Out is a career high for Exodus, joining  fellow thrashers Testament and Anthrax who have both recently released their best albums to date.

(Review by Bret Miller)

LINKS:
Exodus’s website
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Nuclear Blast
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Heliosaga

towersinthedistanceTowers In The Distance by Heliosaga (Self-released)

One chance encounter with Heliosaga, and you would thoroughly believe this collective to be the next great European symphonic metal band in the grand tradition of Nightwish and After Forever.  Surprisingly, Heliosaga hail from the Midwestern town of Isanti, MN – clearly showing that Europe does not hold a monopoly on one of the most magical sub-genres in the metal arena.

Towers In The Distance by Heliosaga is a stunning collection of songs that will set the imagination in flight, complete with emotional operatic vocals and wondrously imaginative musicianship. You’d have to go as far back as the vastly underrated Aesma Daeva to find an American symphonic metal band so vibrant and inspiring.

heliosaga2014The glorious adventure begins with the epic A Tower So Tall, where one immediate notices the gorgeous lead vocals of Chelsea Knaack weaving gracefully through the fiery metal soundscapes. Scarlet Sphere is so vast and memorable, one could imagine the track all over radio airwaves – if stations ever played anything this sweeping and mystical. Lost then rages at the listener with a feral intensity that will tingle the senses.

Hideaway is a power ballad that has the operatic vocals spiraling into the stratosphere – such a wonderful showcase for all musicians on this evocative piece. To Heal All Wounds then sends Heliosaga into sonic overdrive with its bombastic melodies and hard rocking dynamics. Memorativa will haunt the senses with its tragic opulence permeating throughout.

Hunter’s Moon cleverly shows a mixture of classical music and driving metal that should capture the hearts of many a music aficionado. Edenscar is sure to have the genre fans waving the metal fists high in the air while Luminary is destined to enrapture all who encounter its darkly enchanted reprieves. The grand finale then commences with the staggering unleashing of All Souls, showing true artists at the very height of their creative genius.

Towers In The Distance by Heliosaga present an intriguing magnum opus that connects with its audience on a deeply personal level. Chelsea Knaack’s vocal performance is captivating, ranking right up there with the likes of Tarja Turunen and Vibeke Stene. The guitar artistry of Damien Villarreal is absolutely adventurous, leading the material into such majestic heights. Jordan Ames delivers a tremendously solid performance on drums. Bass guitar tracks were recorded by Chad Novell (Fibonacci Sequence) and a guest guitar solo was performed by Gilbert Pot (Elegy). Superb tech credits include Michael Hansen (Phonomik, Chainfist) handling the mix at Phon Studio and Jacob Hansen (Epica, Volbeat) supplying mastering duties at Hansen Studios. With a debut this magnificent, it will be exciting to see what the future has in store for the monumental Heliosaga.

(Review by Ken Morton)

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Meshuggah

meshuggah i coverI (Special Edition) by Meshuggah (Nuclear Blast Records)

Ten years ago this past summer Meshuggah released the 21 minute epic I to commemorate the beginning of their friend Jason Popson’s Fractured Transmitter label. While fans are hungrily awaiting the next Meshuggah full length, we’ve got this re-release of I to sate us. As disjointed as the various parts may have been prior to mixing, they all sound of a single ear-melting piece. The band didn’t have to appeal to their present label, given release for one song to support Popson, the band still had the pressure to continue to impress their fans.  Every member an imaginative musician, I feels like classic Meshuggah: downtuned guitars and insane solos, harsh vocals, the percussion of three men in one, multiple rhythms and tempos and movements within songs among other elements. Turn it up loud and revel in the ambient guitar string plucking, followed by double-bass kicks, guitars locked into tight circles leading to a chugging and angry section, then a slow yet menacing guitar segment building to a futuristic “protecting the world from extinction” vibe that would make Geddy Lee smile.

Also included in this special edition is a live version of Bleed, taken from their 2012-13 tour.  The band play with such precision I wonder if they’ve been bionically augmented to be able to keep up their style of playing. Dancers To A Discordant System follows, also from the same tour and released last year as a free promotional release for Scion. Dancers is a slower song yet no less thrilling for it, the band playing variations of the same riff, the groups coming to an agreement at the halfway point then getting down to a truly godlike headbanging session for the ending, mountains crumpling at the power.  Pitch Black ties up the EP. Recorded in 2003 and previously released on the Scion download with Dancers, Pitch Black reveals a more accessible yet still brutal side of Meshuggah.  beginning with a downtuned guitar chug accompanied by tribal drum tattoo, mysterious guitars pluck in the shadows, Jens Kidman’s vocals a smoky and subtle chanting, a guitar solo crashes down, at first sounding like a hard jazz saxaphone.  Later, the quiet segment features a guitar part that is bluesy and played with soul. Then to bring it all to a destructive conclusion, the band combines performances from all the previous parts for one serious pit-stomping party.

(by Bret Miller)

LINKS
www.meshuggah.net
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Twilightfall

energyofcover1The Energy of Soul by Twilightfall (Svarga Music)

Twilightfall is a melodic death metal collective based out of the Ukraine, featuring a former member of the notorious Nokturnal Mortum within their ranks. Guitarist / vocalist Wortherax played lead guitar on Nokturnal Mortum’s legendary Lunar Poetry and Twilightfall releases and has made appearances in noted Ukrainian bands such as Munruthel and Khors.  Fans of old school In Flames and Children Of Bodom will be thoroughly enraptured by the dynamic compositions Twlightfall has to bestow to the world. The Energy of Soul is the triumphant debut for Twilightfall – a stunning collection of songs that will envelope your senses with it’s heavy yet majestic reprieves.

The magnum opus rages into supersonic gear with the staggering title cut The Energy of Soul, demonstrating at once the supreme musicianship to found within the Twilightfall experience. Spirits of Ancestors is spiraling and mystical, weaving intrigue throughout the powerful European death metal soundscapes. A Mirror of Dreams and Reality continues the spellbinding odyssey followed by the epic sonic declarations to be discovered within Welcome To New Day.

twilightfallphoto1Your Chance will make the listener want to wave their fists in the air and jump into the nearest mosh pit. Go A Long Way To Each will haunt the senses with its gorgeous serenity merging into a sweeping wall of intensive sound. The grand finale then commences with the magnificent Storm leaving a lasting impression upon all heavy metal adventurers.

The musicians who present the Twilightfall manifesto include the aforementioned Wortherax on guitars and vocals, Aywar on guitars, Odalv on drums, and Freyr on bass. Svarga Music may also be counted upon to present the very best in extreme metal from the Ukraine, and with The Energy of Sound by Twilightfall, the label has issued a genre classic that many will wish to revisit throughout the grand and glorious metal ages ahead.

(Review by Ken Morton)

Twilightfall on Facebook

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