Random Morning

"Passing Bird" Katatonia Last Fair Deal Gone Down 2001
"Watershed" Gorod Process Of A New Decline 2009
"Country Boy" Muddy Waters The Anthology [Disc 1] 2001
"Orbital Elements" Obscura Cosmogenesis 2009
"Desasters In The Sun" Weakling Dead as Dreams 2000
"Haughtiness and Puerile Dreams" Autumnblaze Perdition Diaries 2009
"Secret Spell" Tori Amos American Doll Posse 2007
"The Lair Of The White Worm" God Dethroned The Lair Of The White Worm 2004
"Woke Up Lost" Daylight Dies Lost To The Living 2008
"Pints Of Guinness Make You Strong" Against Me! Reinventing Axl Rose 2002
"Blood Eagle Sacrifice" Cobalt Eater of Birds 2007
"Simian Cattle" Augury Fragmentary Evidence 2009
"A Stand Defiant" Deströyer 666 Defiance 2009
"Unhallowed" Dissection Storm of the Light's Bane 1995
"Ephemeral" Pelican Ephemeral 2009
"No Fear For The Setting Sun" Amon Amarth Twilight Of The Thunder God 2008


Black Anvil – Time Insults the Mind (Monumentum Records, 2008)

Black Anvil answer the essential question: what would Immortal have sounded like if Abbath had grown up in Brooklyn instead of grim and frostbitten kingdoms? What if Abbath grew up listening to hardcore instead of Motörhead? Time Insults the Mind is a giant plate of baby back riffs, informed by hardcore but drenched in blackened thrashy goodness.
Time Insults the Mind came out in November on Monumentum Records, but the band recently signed to Relapse. The album will be re-issued this fall on the new imprint. That's enough for me to decide to check it out.
Formed by members of the hardcore act Kill Your Idols, Black Anvil have been met with various accusations of not being TROO KVLT. Black metal is nothing if not pretentious at heart. Was anyone delivered from the womb in perfect corpse-paint? Did you grow up listening to nothing but Bathory? Black metal is something many metal fans come to later in life, and that's fine with me. Time Insults the Mind is a tight, accessible and extremely listenable metal album. It brings to mind the grim chills of Immortal and the determined arrogance of Satyricon. Throw in some Motörhead vibe just for fun. All this with doomy elegance and a surprising cohesion.
“Margin for Terror” starts off the album as a bold mission statement. Sweet thrashing riffage is seasoned with tremolized ambiance and blackened vocals. Goddamn, this rules. “On This Day Death” gallops with convincing fury. “And You Thought You Knew Pain!” crawls along with a simple but perfect riff that reminds me of the understated glory of Carcass' Swansong. “777” sports a melodic riff that will stick in your head like an axe. I was going to bitch about the last track, “Dethroned Emperor,” not sounding as good as the rest, and then I realized it was a Celtic Frost cover. Ha!
Paul Delaney's croaking is excellence. The bass is strong and high in the mix – something you'll rarely find in this style. Gary Bennet's guitars have a perfect tone and speak in tongues that Satyr would envy. This isn't any crazy technical shit – it's just riff after riff of awesome riffery. At least that's what I think. Raeph Glicken's drums swing between groovage and speed with ease, tying together the whole package nicely.
I don't know why, but this album is making me more excited for the new Immortal. The stripped down, thrashed out and riff laden feel of Time Insults the Mind would make Abbath proud. Abbath is a pretty nice guy. When he's not in corpse-paint, he fronts a local Motörhead cover band. Surely he'd appreciate some hardcore dudes who can churn out a thrashy, doomy black metal masterpiece. I can see a bright future for Black Anvil. Check it out.




Gorod - Process of a New Decline (Willowtip, 2009)

There seems to be a backlash right now against the ongoing revival of technical death metal. The criticism usually runs along the lines of "it's wankery," "it's pretentious," or "they don't know how to write songs," and so on and so forth. For the most part this is all true. The bands that have risen above the sea of wankery, at least for me, exhibit a few key attributes. First there has to be some kind of soul to the music. Second, there needs to be some ability to channel arpeggiated calisthenics into compelling melodies. Third, well, see the above criticisms. Oh, and I prefer the lyrics to ponder aliens, astrophysics, quantum physics or robots. That's not pretentious, right?
So here come Gorod (formerly Gorgasm), from Bordeaux France, sailing on the technical seas of cheese. They totally float my boat.
There is a whole lot of shredding here, and dueling arpeggiated calisthenics aplenty. Three things tie it together for me. First, the melodies have well planned destinations. The meanderings have a beginning, middle and end that I find pleasing. Some of the tunes and solos are downright haunting.
Second, there is a fantastic grooviness here. Some very nice rhythms are on display. The drumming has an appealing, organic feel that lays off The Faceless style triggers (not that that's a terrible thing.) The drummer Sam tends more towards a Mario Duplantier vibe. The bass is pretty spicy in the mix and keeps it sharp. There is some excellent riffage along the way that keeps the ship moving. The crazed hammer-on action really works well with the rhythm section.
Lastly, I totally dig the vocals. Singer Guillaume reminds me a lot of Alex Leblanc from Neuraxis (it's a French thing). Mid-to-low range death grunts suit me just fine and ground the music in a more traditional death metal vibe than some contemporaries in this genre. Occasionally there is an inhumanly low brown-note of a growl that blows the mind. The lyrics are appropriately esoteric.
I expect that this album will do quite well when it's released in the U.S. by Willowtip (on July 28th). I guess the question for Gorod is whether they can ride the tech death wave to success. Or has the wave already crested? I hope not. A spot on the Summer Slaughter tour would have nailed the target audience.


Gorod Myspace


Cobalt - Gin (Profound Lore, 2009)

I've been sitting on this one for a while. I wrote an entire review and threw it away. This is an important album, but it's difficult to describe. Gin is American black metal that is transcendent of the genre. It's spirit is somehow more genuine than most anything labeled "black metal" in this day and age. At the same time, Gin actually embodies something American that is hard to quantify. Cobalt is made up of Phil McSorley and Erik Wunder. I encourage you to read this excellent interview with them to get some insight into their world.
Gin starts off with some innocuous clean guitars, and heads into some filthy riffage. The guitar tone is excellent. You won't find triggers, blast beats or walls of sound here. The drumming is savage and has a barbaric Keith Moon feel to it. McSorley's vocals are animalistic and satisfying. I feel a comparison could be made to Grutle of Enslaved, but McSorley emits more of a sense of madness and agony in his screams.
The second song, "Dry Body," takes us in a completely different direction. Clean guitars accompany Erik Wunder's amazingly deep, clean vocals. His voice makes me think of Phil Anselmo at his most lucid. The clean vocals continue in a semi-chant along with some fantastic distorted riffage. The guitar work is primitive, crusty and bluesy. There is some small corollary here to Satyricon's recent guitar sound, but Erik Wunder has infused that blackness with more soul than Satyr could ever manage.
Gin soldiers on with a marshal spirit, constantly displaying an eclectic but cohesive synthesis of influences. I really enjoy this album. The dynamics do well to maintain interest and the cacophonous crescendos frequently induce involuntary headbanging.
Gin is not without flaws. There are a few moments where a repeated riff will drone out and lose me. It's a small gripe compared with the amazing uniqueness of the whole package.
The nearly 10 minute long "Two-Thumbed Fist" is a stand-out track for me. There's something progressive here that eschews the usual Provolone associated with progress in metal. The spirit of black metal remains, but all it's trappings fall away to reveal something that truly rocks.
Amazingly, one of the most memorable songs on the album isn't even by the band. There is a hidden track that Erik Wunder claims is an early 1900's field recording of a Negro spiritual, sung by an African American chain gang. The track is haunting and absolutely astounding. To me, it's worth the price of the album on its own. It takes a gigantic pair to tack something like that on the end of a "metal" album. But that is the genius of Gin.
And yes, that's a young Ernest Hemingway on the album cover.


Cobalt Myspace


Pelican, Tombs - June 2nd - Irving Plaza, NYC

Every time I go see Pelican, Trevor de Brauw is hanging out at the merch table. He's an incredibly cool dude. this time, he helped me decide what size t-shirt I should buy. I claimed to be feeling like a fat-ass on this evening, but he convinced me that my breakfast (Kashi) qualified me for the smaller size. We'll see about that.
Tombs came out in cacophonous fashion and started out with a song I didn't recognize. It might have been new material, but it sounded more primitive than any of their recent work. A steady flow of songs from Winter Hours followed. This album has grown on me tremendously and is quickly becoming one of my favorite albums of the year. "Gossamer" sounded great live. Epic stuff. The crowd was almost completely unmoved by Tombs, which is a shame. I suppose they're more "extreme" than Pelican or the headliner Isis, but folks just kind of seemed befuddled. I was almost alone in the compulsion to bang my head.
Mike Smith very much reminds me of Mike Ness on stage - the way he slings his Les Paul and the way he stands. Because, you know, that's pretty fucking awesome. Drummer Andrew Hernandez went absolutely King Kong behind the kit. When I reviewed Winter Hours, I had a gripe with the rhythm section. I'm still not exactly sure what they're doing, but it sounded cool live. "Beneath The Toxic Jungle," "Seven Stars The Angel of Death" and "Filled With Secrets" were further highlights of an excellent set. Short but sweet.
Seeing Pelican is always a religious experience for me. When they started out with "Far From Fields" from City of Echoes, it was an epiphany. The sound was excellent, as far as Irving goes. The band was rocking and the packed crowd seemed to feel it. As always, Laurent is a fucking bobblehead. The man could be playing the daintiest riff and his head will be banging like mad. Pelican are out supporting their new EP, Ephemeral. I've been rocking out to it quite a bit. They managed to play both new songs - "Embedding the Moss" and "Ephemeral." Both sounded awesome live. They even played the Earth cover-song from the EP, "Geometry of Murder." The crowd seemed to respond well to that one. "The Woods" from their first (self titled) EP closed out the set in rocktastic fashion, and even incited a makeshift pit. Nice work.
Isis hasn't interested me much since Oceanic, and Wavering Radiant inspires me only to fall asleep. This show started weirdly late (9:00), so I decided not to stick around for Isis, even out of passing curiosity. Past my old man bed-time on a work night.
All told, it was a great show. And think - Irving Plaza security didn't even try to make me throw out my umbrella.


Opeth, Enslaved – May 26th – Grand Ballroom, NYC

I'd like to start out by saying that the Grand Ballroom can absolutely suck it. Terrible venue. After making us stand out in the rail well past the “doors” hour, we were told it was “house policy” that we couldn't bring in umbrellas. We were instructed to toss them in the trash. Each and every attendee was treated like a criminal. More personal items (lighters, etc.) were confiscated than on an airport TSA line. I used my keen wits to befuddle the security guards and held on to my umbrella. I don't like to throw away things I paid for.
After surviving our full body cavity search, Jeanne Fury and I waited in line for an elevator to take us to the 6th floor, where the “ballroom” was located. Some intrepid metallers braved the stairs.
I was originally interested in this tour to see Enslaved. This would be my 7th (!) time seeing Opeth, so the opener is what pushed me to buy the ticket. Enslaved had canceled a headlining tour of North America earlier in the year. As the show approached, however, I started seeing some of the recent Opeth setlists and getting psyched. Opeth are a band that very rarely varies their setlist. This time was different.
Enslaved came on just as we reached the 6th floor venue. The room was half full, and it became immediately clear that the sound was going to be terrible. The “ballroom” was in fact a spiced up, carpeted gymnasium with awful acoustics and a shit sound system. Enslaved seemed very flat to me. Their latest album, Vertebrae, has not grown on me at all. In fact, I think it's pretty boring in the end. You could barely hear the guitars in the mix, which didn't help. I did my best to get into the set, but it just wasn't happening. The setlist came exclusively from their last 4 albums. This was a stark contrast to their intense headlining show in 2007 where Enslaved treated us to black metal madness dating back to their first album. The crowd, to their credit, responded well to Enslaved.
Without further adieu, Opeth came out and launched into “Heir Apparent.” Only Mikael Åkerfeldt could triumph over such terrible sound with complete perfection. The setlist was just awesome. “Godhead's Lament” reminded me that Still Life is my favorite Opeth album. Hearing “Karma” off of My Arms Your Hearse was just fantastic. “Hessian Peel” slaughtered. Fredrik Åkesson has truly come into his own and become an integral part of the Opeth beast. This was, amazingly, probably the tightest the band has ever sounded. Mikael Åkerfeldt was pitch perfect and as hilarious as ever. The crowd never got tired of screaming his name and yelling out various offers of sex. Seriously, is any man in death metal the target of so much homo-erotic love as Mikael Åkerfeldt?
Throughout the entire set, one fine fan in the balcony was letting out amazingly gutteral and long winded growls. After a while it became the most hilarious thing. I couldn't stop laughing. The man sounded like a demon. Kudos to you sir.
“Closure” off of Damnation turned into an extended prog-jam that then mutated into an homage to the Hendrix song “Third Rock From The Sun.” It was one of the coolest things I've ever seen live. “The Night and the Silent Water” aptly represented Morningrise, and “Lotus Eater” brought the set to a close. “Demon of the Fall” was the inevitable and predictable encore. I have no idea why fans insist on this. There are plenty of other “heavy” Opeth songs that could be an encore. Personally I'd love to see “Serenity Painted Death” in that spot.
Either way, it was a tremendous performance in sub-par conditions. On the way out, I used my contraband umbrella to perpetrate evil deeds. Seriously, what was I going to do with the thing – bludgeon someone? In the end, my favorite kind of ballroom is still Ballroom Jeans.

Opeth 1 – Grand Ballroom 0


To the Coast
Fusion of Sense and Earth
As Fire Swept Clean the Earth
The Watcher

Heir Apparent
Ghost of Perdition
Godhead's Lament
Hessian Peel
The Night and the Silent Water
Lotus Eater
Demon of the Fall



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