Monday, August 15, 2011

The Ruins of Beverast - Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (2009)

The Ruins of Beverast - Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite (2009, Ván Records)

The Ruins of Beverast are the best black metal project you've been totally neglecting to listen to. You probably downloaded it a while back and it got caught in the deluge of bands you already listen to, and all the other bands you promised a friend from the internet you would check out (but never had any intention to do so.)

I won't bore you by telling you that this record is different (even from TROB's other records) - chances are if you've scoured internet forums you've heard that all too many times about shit you just couldn't care less about. Instead, set aside some time, put on some headphones and jump in blind to Foulest Semen of a Sheltered Elite.

TROB is the one-man project of Alexander von Meilenwald, known for his drumming in German black metal band Nagelfar and some live drumming for German war metal outfit Truppensturm. Though unlike the two bands mnentioned above, you won't see this project live.

The songs are long, drawn-out, and ooze a sort of occult madness that's hard to describe outside of nightmares. Meilenwald blends his black metal with slow passages which immediately bring diSEMBOWELMENT to mind - creeping and pulsing along through vast cosmic oceans of blackened death. TROB layer chants over ritual drums and layers of creeping rhythm interrupted by epic refrains reminiscent (again) of diSEMBOWELMENT. The effect is not unlike that of a Cronenberg film - images of bodies and machines warped into terrible forms, grinding into shapes unseen. Opened graves, cryptic writings beyond the plane of life, begging themselves into our world in the oriental horrors of tombraiders.

Okay, that might have sounded pretentious, but if I can manage to amuse or confuse you enough, you'll be forced to listen to this record to flesh out these paragraphs for yourself.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Florida From the Other End

This week, a friend of mine came to visit our fine lower-intestine-shaped-state, and we showed him a pretty good time. This of course comes as a total surprise to the denzians of our little city affectionately known as a family fun spot - provided your family isn't Caylee Anthony's - or as we affectionately call it: Whorelando. A lot of people here complain - a lot - about how there is nothing to do. But there are things to do, and we did them all over the course of a week - all in service of one hell of a vacation.

We made a semi-annual trip to Gatorland, a forgotten redneck-gem in the middle Florida's tourist-trap wilderness. Watch out-of-staters squirm not at the sight of alligators, but at the possibility of kneeling down in the sand to sit on a hog-tied reptile for a souvenir photo. Sure there are more put-on Florida cracker personas than you can capture in camera phone memories, but who else do you really want to watch wrestle an alligator? Certainly not your grandmothers (even though they all probably live here.) You can pet some goats while you're at it - touch more goat heads than anywhere else short of a Morbosidad show. One even ate a map. And by A map I mean MY map. Joke's on him, I wasn't going to eat that map anyway.

We went to a few used book stores and picked through 40,000 copies of Dan Brown doorstops, pop-politics, romance novels for waspy Winter Park housewives, and what must amount to Oprah's entire book club - only to be wonderfully and occasionally interrupted by some genuinely good finds and conspiracy fiction.

Then to Orlando's record stores including:

* Vinyl Ritchie's Wiggly World of Records, the blink-and-you'll-miss-it local favorite and home of Florida's Dying (who just released Yussuf Jerusalem's newest effort - more on that soon...)
* Park Ave CDs: where I resisted a Clan of Xymox LP, desperately clinging to some hope I'll find another way to win street cred with goth girls without breaking my tiny bank account or buying a pvc wardrobe.
* Rock n' Roll Heaven: where admidst the petchouli haze I balked at the price of new wave singles, desperately scoured tape sections for bargains, and pined over a Witchfinder General picture disk so expensive it could buy me a month's worth of food and then some.

Final night: show time - Toxic Holocaust. A few familiar faces, but moreso a crowd so young and unfamiliar you wonder where these kids are at the other shows in Florida that play to nearly empty rooms. There may have been chaperones and I swear one kid must have been there from the make-a-wish foundation - a possibility I considered until I saw him stagediving. Joel Grind and Toxic Holocaust killed it as always and Holy Grail are still my favorite speed metal revival band band with a guitarist resembling John Redcorn. Oh and it was Joel Grind's birthday, how about that.

Orlando's some fun even if I am a jaded asshole, and it takes an outsider to see that. Go out, have fun. You don't have to be in Florida forever, but you are most likely here for a while. Time to buck up, leave your nerdcaves and enjoy things.

Oh, and if there's a chance anyone reading this is in Chicago or Los Angeles, Florida's own Maruta are playing two Scion matinée shows with Gridlink and Phobia this weekend, which you would be an absolute dickhead to miss. Go out and support some good guys, listen to the new record, and buy some swag if you dig it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Loss - Despond (2011)

Loss - Despond (2011, Profound Lore Records)

America has never been a hotbed for funeral doom. Chalk it up as one of the things Europe just seems to do better. For those uninitiated, funeral doom fits somewhere between death/doom and depressive black metal, with lower vocals reminiscent of the former, and atmospheric flourishes of the latter. Not exactly groovy or headbangable, unless your idea of headbanging is the kind that follows a swandive from a four-story building.

But back to the matter at hand. American doom tyrants Loss, from the unlikely haunts of Nashville, Tennessee, have certainly carved themselves a nice little spot in the underground releasing splits with German occultists Necros Christos (including a pair of excellent Goatlord covers), and funeral doom legends Worship. Earlier this year Loss dropped their first full-length Despond on Profound Lore and it's not a stretch for me to call it one of my favorites of this year. I can say with more than a hint of irony that Despond gives you all the happiness a doom fan could ever want - from the low and slow vocals to the lumbering dual guitar harmonies, deep bass, and sepulchral drumming. With feel good hits like Cut Up, Depressed, and Alone, Loss weigh in with all the motivation you'll ever need to never feel motivation again. As far as the genre goes this is par for the course, but you knew that already. Despond plays with cleaner tones and cleaner vocals and while the experiment pays off, the band is still at their best when they're at their slowest. It all comes down to creating the best possible soundtrack to the last important decision most of you will ever make. Check them out here before you end it.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Self-Flagellation Pt.2

Urfaust - Der freiwillige Bettler

Urfaust are an incredibly unique Dutch two-piece black metal band. They play an atmospheric sort of black metal, with touches of folk (think early Absurd) and heavy orchestra work at times. The vocals howl and chant and suffer, the guitars swirl and the drums build. The band express a nihilism unseen in many quarters - complete refusal to explain themselves, describing themselves as hermit black metal, fueled by alcohol and pure ritual evil. There's a lot here about intoxication and possession, which describes their sound and their approach to making music perfectly. All this sounds like a fucking stereotype, but Urfaust really are unlike other black metal cults, and the sound of is dark,harsh, beautiful and haunting.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Maybe There's a Reason They Only Hire Female Keyboardists...

Deathcore/metalcore bands seem to have the same hiring practices that lecherous old men have for hiring secretaries.

NEW RULE: If you're the only person on stage in a dress, you're not a vocalist, and you're replacing another female musician who looks SURPRISINGLY LIKE YOU, you may have been hired by a band full of sexist pricks.

A certain band that shall rename nameless (although I will mention that there are diseases and blustery weather involved, let's call them "Breezes of Diseases" for fun...) has recently had a spate of problems with female keyboardists. Namely, naked pictures of them keep finding their way onto the internet. Once, maybe chalk it up to a bitter boyfriend or a single creeper. But twice is starting to form a pattern.

Maybe there's a reason why a band would ONLY TRY OUT FEMALE KEYBOARDISTS. These sexist and degrading little PR stunts seem to be a common occurrence, especially in a fanbase as predominantly misogynist as deathcore (not to deny the misogyny in other genres, but few seem to have the proclivity to hire so many female keyboardists.)

So if you're a woman who plays some keys, maybe look for a better gig, or maybe find a band without such a downright misogynist attitude. Or maybe this responsibility needs to go somewhere else...

I'm looking at the men out there. If you've ever complained about the lack of female fans of heavy music fans at shows and in general, maybe it's time to take a look at something like this and see what's going on here.

Don’t even get me started on women and their stereotypes in metal - especially female keyboardists as filling some sort of perceived normative gender role (more on that at some other point.)

Think about it. Gain some respect for women. Grow as a person.

Time to grow up boys.

Oh, here's the metalsucks article for those interested:

A Bit of Self-Flagellation

So, I need to rectify a wrong I made when compiling my year end list.

I completely neglected several albums - some which I only recently heard and one, which for one reason or another totally slipped my mind. I think these records were enough of a big fucking deal to justify a post about them:

Ghost - Opus Eponymous

It occurred to me in the middle of my last post that I made a pretty big mistake. My omission of this great record is my first massive error, but I'm a dork (as is made pretty clear in the blog name - BUT I feel like there's some kind of 'reader beware' implied.) Ghost are a band that emerged from nowhere to become everybody's NEXT BIG THING IN METAL(tm). They've been blowing minds with elaborate stage shows, and jaw-dropping performances and now they're getting name-dropped by publications, blogs, and (most importantly) the Scandanavian metal scene. E from Watain listed Ghost as one of his top three of the year, and it was tops for Fenriz too. Ghost play a brand of music best described as a combination of classic rock, psychedelia, and NWOBHM with the lyrics, flair, and stage show of Mercyful Fate and King Diamond. The vocal theatrics aren't quite so high, but the mysterious frontman's makeup sure implies a certain *wink wink nudge nudge* to fans of the King. The lyrics are dark, allegedly dead serious, and the band does not even have pseudonyms. So at least for the moment, the identities of its members remain a well kept secret outside of the Swedish metal scene. Who knows, maybe we'll be surprised with an unveil and find it littered with black and death metal royalty. Or maybe they will be total unknowns. Or maybe we'll never know. In the meantime, do Ghost a favor and worship at the altar of Satan for old time's sake.

Post-script: this record was only officially released in North America on January 18th. That technically makes it a 2011 release for me on this island we call America. Rest assured, it's on my 2011 list.

Sargeist - Let the Devil In

Sargeist is a part of the Finnish black metal scene that is becoming increasingly recognized for both its quality and quantity. Usually speaking of Finland, one thinks of Satanic Warmaster, Horna, Behexen, and (although not pure black) Impaled Nazarene, not so much Sargeist, which is known primarily as a side project of Horna guitarist/founder Shatraug. With only two albums, an EP and a litany of splits, Sargeist's third release Let the Devil In comes as a traditional black shot out of left-field for most of us. This record is arguably one of my favorite Scandinavian black metal releases of last year in a year dominated by black metal from less-orthodox parts of Europe and America. Yes, to me this edges out Watain for that distinction (not that I don't love Watain, but Lawless Darkness felt like Sworn to the Dark Pt.2 rather than the genre-leveling of the previous two records.) The point is: Sargeist play a style of black metal that is traditional, melodic, unpretentious, and to the point. The record blasts from beginning to end without giving you time to grab a breath. This is good, because you won't need one and Sargeist doesn't want you to have one. I mean that in a good way - this is isn't Panzer Division Marduk, this is still black metal after all. The playing, as well as the production makes this record very listenable. Not too raw, not too polished, just focused on the action and evil.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Trends That I Actually Approve Of

You know, a lot has been said about trends, and a lot less of it has been positive. Metalheads by default are a group that have more apprehension towards experimentation than all demographics other than the elderly and fans of romantic comedies. If you change something, they will let you know. If you sound like a band they don't like, they will tell you. In fact, they will keep telling others long after you've stopped listening (this is, after all, what internet forums are for right?)

This post is about a few new trends which are bubbling to the surface for most metalheads and even picking up a bit of mainstream coverage

1. Atmospheric/dark/technical death metal.

(Ulcerate, Mitochondrian, Portal)

Imagine a mix of old school death metal via Morbid Angel and Incantation combined with a little bit of black metal (new Deathspell Omega) and add it a bit more avant-garde eccentricity and you get a pretty good idea. The atmosphere is darker, the lyrics darker, and the music both more complicated and less obvious. Remember the last time you were frightened by a death metal record? Surely it wasn't by Cannibal Corpse (unless you faint at the sight of movie blood.) A lot of this music is coming from down under (Portal, Stargazer, and Impetuous Ritual from Australia, Ulcerate from New Zealand) proving that both their toilets and their music flow counterclockwise.

Note: this genre also includes a lot of really solid blackened death metal (i.e. Necros Christos, Father Befouled, Innumerable Forms, Disma, Vasaeleth.)

2. Occult rock

(Ghost, Blood Ceremony, The Devil's Blood)

I don't know what else to call it. It's very influenced by traditional doom, but it doesn't quite fit... this is something new. Fuck the word retro, this music is good for its own sake. And, the best part is: it's dark as can be. Sure there are organs and clean vocals, but if you let that dissuade you, you're missing out on some of the most evil music made in recent memory. The masked-men in Ghost are probably the most well known at the moment, and Blood Ceremony are probably the most eclectic (sounding like the unholy spawn of Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull, flutes and all.) Not convinced? Try the fact that the attitudes here are straight black metal. Swedish Ghost are favorites of black metal royalty, earning the praise of E from Watain and Fenriz from Darkthrone. The Devil's Blood played Hole in the Sky with black metal elite, and Blood Ceremony finished up a tour with Dorsett doom legends Electric Wizard. The masters are taking note and lining up to sing their praises. Maybe they're on to something, or maybe they're just ALL in Ghost. Stranger things have happened...

More coming soon...

Monday, January 3, 2011

AOTY #1: Agalloch - Marrow of the Spirit

This record has gotten plenty of love this year, and I'm going to go ahead and heap more praise on it. In the metal community, Agalloch are like that kid in school who got all the awards and all of the attention. A lot of people resent it, bitch and moan about it, but deep down, most of us know there is a fair amount truth in the praise. Agalloch, in my mind, deserve the honor of metal album of the year. Not because NPR says so. Not because Decibel says so. It's because Marrow of the Spirit is a REALLY GOOD RECORD that may be Agalloch's finest hour. There's a lot of talk that they don't deserve the honor, or about how The Mantle is Agalloch's real masterpiece, and so on and so forth.

But that's not my style or my opinion.

Marrow of the Spirit is one of those records which you listen to and KNOW that the band is headed exactly where you'd hoped they would head. It embraces everything the band does well and manages to be both more black metal AND more accessible to new and old audiences alike. The band feels somehow new and familiar at the same time. Everything comes together perfectly, and it wouldn't be a stretch to say that Agalloch have managed to perfect a feel and atmosphere that makes them unique. The band has always been sombre and literary but Marrow of the Spirit perfects it all and binds it in a package that is dark and more aggressive than they've sounded in years. The result is a band that is fully in control of everything from their sound to their aesthetics.

AOTY #2: Thou - Summit

Thou are a band I didn't even know about at the beginning of the year. In fact, I first discovered them when I found out they were playing a garage show, at the Junkyard in Gainesville. They were headed south to Miami, and promised to stop off on their way down and play a bit. We made the trip to Gainesville, unsure of whether this would go down, when lo and behold, at 2 am, Thou loaded in and played for 20 minutes. This 20 minute set was enough. One of the most intense live music experiences of my life and filled with so much pure energy that it puts most to shame. Baton Rouge's Thou are a fiercely independent and prolific DIY sludge band, usually defying styles and expectations. Thou blend sludge with drone, doom, and even throw in a bit of black metal and post-metal for those of you keeping score. Lyrically, Thou are another anomaly. They are a band pierced to the core by anarchism, feminism, technoskepticism, radical ecology and esotericism. Roll your eyes if you want, but Thou blend it seamlessly into their music. In fact, they do it so well that the band's themes are inseparable from who they are.

Summit is Thou's third full length, and their most complex work so far. Thematically, the record reflects on themes of hope, as opposed to the pessimism of much of the band's work. Thou is both unrelenting and sombre on Summit, giving the whole venture a 'calm after the storm' feel which the band's music has always hinted at. From the opening blasts to the calm of Grissecon and Prometheus, Thou have made a real fine place for themselves in 2010. Oh and did I mention that Thou also released an excellent EP (Baton Rouge You Have Much to Answer For) and three splits this year? No one else could pull this one off. If I had to hand out a "Band of the Year" award, Thou would be the only real contender.

Post-script: for those unfamiliar with Thou, their website has a good deal of their back catalog available for free download. Jump on it.

AOTY #3: Man's Gin - Smiling Dogs

Most of you haven't heard this record - and that's a fucking crime. Some of you are familiar with Eric Wunder of Colorado black metal horde Cobalt, and the rest of you need to be playing catch up on this one. Man's Gin is Eric Wunder's Brooklyn based project, and its one of the best records of this year, metal or otherwise. Alcohol-soaked, raw, heartfelt, emotional are all words I'd throw around here. Think Jar of Flies era Alice in Chains, think Springsteen's Nebraska, think Dax Riggs and you've got an idea. Wunder blends acoustics, psychedelics, pianos for an album that really feels like drinking music. Wunder's lyrics are bitter, abstract narrations, soaked in gin, covered in dirt and wandering home after last call. Listen to the two part epic Nuclear Ambition Pt.1 & 2 and thank me later. Acoustic, folk, dark, country, American gothic, grunge. It's like seeing Layne Staley raise from the fucking dead. Hallelujah, all is right with the world. Hit the bottle and let Man's Gin soak in. Or do it sober. Just do it. Smiling Dogs is a record that you'll commit to memory after one listen, without a single piece of filler. This record not only deserves to be heard, it downright requires it.

AOTY #4: Cough - Ritual Abuse

Anyone who knows American doom has known about Cough for a while now. For the uninitiated, Cough are the eastern seaboard's response to England's Electric Wizard. The similarities are unmistakable and numerous - you'll either adore Cough, or cry foul at the Wizard worship. Count me in the former camp. Cough's debut, Sigillim Luciferi, was a strong record and MAN DID IT FUCKING RULE. Ritual Abuse marks the point when Cough start to come into their own and introduce new elements into their sound. All this just in time to be picked up by Relapse at midyear. This record is slow man, painfully slow and as a doom fan, that is high praise. Not only is it heavy, not only is it slow, it's more melodic than its predecessor - the lead work is more pronounced and resonates more. Listen to the outro of Crippled Wizard and tell me you don't want more where that came from. One might even call it catchy, but yanno, in a way that doesn't make your average metal fan cringe. Honestly, I can call this a record full of highlights and I don't get to say that much. Watch for these guys to be hittin the road a lot more, forcing this record on all of you. It really doesn't matter if you're willing or not. Let's just hope you're smart enough not to miss out on this.

AOTY #5: Electric Wizard - Black Masses

Of all the records on this list, this is one of two bands who I 100% expected to end up on my list. Electric Wizard are one of my favorite bands, and have been ever since someone recommended the English occultists on a forum back in high school. But having said that, let's get a few things straight: this isn't Dopethrone. NO record can match Dopethrone, and some might say that Jus Oborn and company are doomed (anyone who knows me will attest: pun VERY MUCH intended) to live in its shadow. I have a more positive way of looking at it - Electric Wizard has been remarkably consistant throughout their career, but they are a different band than the band that recorded Dopethrone. This is inevitable, and a good thing. After all, as much as you love a record, wouldn't you hate to see a band constantly duplicating their old records? (Though perhaps a metal audience is the wrong audience to put this question to... yeah that's right, I said it.) Either way, Black Masses is an excellent way to follow up the band's previous Witchcult Today, and it moves in much a similar direction. Songs are more concise and stoner-y and they have a much more pronounced rock influence than is present earlier in their career. The psychedelia doesn't suffer and the last track (The Crypt of Drugula) gives you a droning kickback to the band's longer compositions without ever overstaying its welcome. Haters be damned, this record hits the spot and the Wizard is as alive as ever.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

AOTY #6: Salome - Terminal

If I could use one overused word to describe Salome, it'd be crushing. I know that every fucking metal writer and their bearded audience loves to use this incredibly nondescript and stereotypically heavy word to label every sludge and doom recording falling out of the southeast's asshole nowadays, but stick with me on this one. Salome fucking deserve the label. Salome are a power trio who deserve to be compared less to power-trios and more to their drum-and-guitar-only, "fuck you we don't need any bass" compatriots in Dark Castle, Jucifer, and (if you're lucky enough to be Florida folk) Hollow Leg. Vocals, guitar, drums - and the heaviest thing around. A lot of you will recognize vocalist Katherine Katz from her work with Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but Salome features her at her best. Be prepared to be crushed by volume, pressed by feedback, and bludgeoned into their growing fanbase. This record has gotten a lot of hype, and it deserves it. Minimalist in approach and style, maximalist in volume and power. Get on it, this is Salome's finest moment yet.