10 albums that changed my life, chronologically

Cosmo Lee put up a post on "12 albums that changed my life" over at Invisible Oranges. Evidently it is an idea making the rounds on Farcebook.
His list was fascinating, as were the numerous responses people posted in the comments. I couldn't help myself from taking up the thread here:

Guns N' Roses - Welcome To the Jungle/Metallica - ...And Justice For All
I grew up as a kid in Queens, NY on a steady diet of hip-hop and whatever radio-friendly hair metal was to be had. It was summer camp in 1989. One of my bunk mates brought a boom-box and played these two albums constantly. I knew, of course, the singles from Appetite from radio and TV. I didn't appreciate the filthy, beautiful smut of the album until that sweaty summer. I'd also never heard anything so dark and evil as Justice up until then. The repeated listenings sunk the first claws of metal into me.

Nirvana - Nevermind
It was the first CD I ever bought. I'd only acquired copied cassettes up until then. Nevermind introduced me to the concept of buying my own music and my parents to the fact that I'd be blasting music at ridiculous volumes from there on out.



Metallica - Metallica
It was the first Metal album I bought. It was the gateway drug, but also the first step in my life as a Hetfield apologist. The Black Album led me to pick up a guitar and start taking lessons. My parents paid for about 7 years of jazz guitar lessons, and all I have to show for it is the perfect knowledge of how to play Metallica songs.


Carcass - Heartwork/Entombed - Wolverine Blues
By 1993, I was reading metal magazines and starting to branch out. With promotion from a major record label, advertisements for Heartwork and Wolverine Blues were everywhere. I bought both albums on the same day, without having any idea what they would sound like. I vividly remember a car ride to a family gathering, listening to Heartwork on some old headphones, and being absolutely blown away. It took me a while to get used to the vocals, but these two albums sent me quickly down the dark path to death metal. I bought multiple copies of the same metal magazine (I can't remember which one) so I could plaster a Carcass "The Meat in the Hooks" ad on all my notebooks.

Suffocation - Pierced From Within
This album was the absolute apex of brutality when it came out. Discovering Suffocation did a couple of things for me. In 1995, Pierced From Within signaled a shift in my metal aesthetics towards "brutal death metal." After a couple of years of listening to metal from Brazil, Sweden, Britain, and all corners of the earth, I finally realized that there was a metal scene in New York City. I set off for college in the Bronx, determined to soak up as many shows as possible.

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son
For the next couple of years I plied the depths of the New York death metal scene, and attended more soulless shows than any human being should endure. The music was getting worse and worse. Suffocation had broken up, Cryptopsy had started to suck, and Chuck Shuldiner had thrown in the towel. I myself was tired of the whole thing. I started to reminisce about mythical summers with my cousin Art where we played Middle Earth Role Playing and listened to Iron Maiden. Maiden didn't do much for me at the time, but I began to think about the idea that there could be melody in heavy metal. In a fit one day, I walked into a music store and bought the Maiden album I remembered most. Seventh Son changed everything for me. I sucked up all the Maiden I could get, along with Bruce Dickinson's solo albums, and got deeply into Iced Earth. I ended up meeting my good friend Jeremiah on line outside an Iced Earth show at The Bank. It was also my gateway back into melodic death metal. I soon got into Opeth and In Flames.

Social Distortion - Sex, Love and Rock 'n' Roll
My wife and I agree on many things, but music was not one of them. She'd been a long time fan of Social Distortion, but neither of us had heard their newest album. On some car ride to a family gathering, my brother Frank busts out SL&R&R, and we listen to it together. It started my passion for all things having to do with Mike Ness, and helped my wife and I find some common ground on music. SL&R&R got me into classic punk, in reverse.

Immortal - Sons of Northern Darkness
I spent several years in complete denial of Black Metal. My metal friend Jeremiah tried repeatedly to get me into it, but I was immovable. Repeated attempts to get into Emperor were met with failure. We even saw Mayhem at the infamous 2000 Milwaukee Metal Fest, and the performance did nothing to help me along. I had to come to it myself. After some drooling reviews, and listening to some samples, I picked up Sons of Northern Darkness. I loved it. I got into Black Metal, again, in reverse.

The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main St.
Classic Rock was an integral part of my childhood. My dad listened to music all the time. Naturally, I rebelled against all things Rock & Roll on principle. My wife has a passion for the Stones. I started getting into the music, but it wasn't until we bought Exile on Main St. that I was able to get over myself and really enjoy this stuff. Exile allowed me to start enjoying a lot of the music I'd ignored for years, such as Led Zeppelin, The Who, early Genesis, and all of the worlds of my wife's excellent music collection. I started to check out early blues and other roots of rock stuff. None of this tarnished my eternal love for the metal, but it expanded my horizons exponentially.

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Lamb Of God - Wrath (Epic, 2009)

The sound on this album is huge and pummeling. Unfortunately, I'm pretty disappointed with Wrath. Drummer Chris Adler puts in another preposterously awesome performance. Randy Blythe's vocals have progressed in a satisfying direction. The problem is that the songwriting and especially the guitar riffs are lackluster. Guitarists Mark Morton and Willie Adler sound fairly uninspired. The riffing, when compared to Lamb Of God's previous work, just isn't up to par.
The most interesting parts of this album end up being the strange instrumental interludes and song intros. Extremely melodic sections with soaring guitar melodies make me think Mark Morton and Willie Adler would rather be off doing something other than churning out thrash riffs all day. Some cool sections expand on the ambient guitar vibe that first appeared on the song "Descending" on Sacrament. On "In Your Words," an extended melodic section reminds me of the boring part of an Opeth song. The guitar solos are surprisingly sparse and unmemorable.
It's not that this is a bad album, it just isn't that interesting to me. Wrath tries pretty hard to make up for its shortcomings in pure intensity, but it falls short. I'm sure these songs will hold up well in a live setting, but there's not much of a reason for me to come back to this in the future.
On a lighter note, I ordered the "deluxe" version of the album. I sat down on Wednesday to check out the bonus disc. I popped it into my DVD player, and was shocked to hear only the disembodied and isolated sounds of the instruments and vocals coming out of my speakers. Each track on the CD is a discrete part of the final mix. I didn't read the fine print. I thought this was going to be another antic-filled "making of" DVD. Not so.
What am I supposed to do with this? Should I mix Randy Blythe's vocals along with a polka jamboree? Could I take the drum tracks and try to come up with cooler riffs myself? I doubt it. Maybe my brother the audio engineer could do something funny with this stuff. For me, it certainly wasn't worth the extra couple of bucks. The saddest thing is that listening to the individual guitar tracks accentuates how uninspired they really are.

61/100

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Mournful Congregation - The June Frost (Enucleation, 2009)

This. Is. Slow. Doom. As I listen to The June Frost, my heartbeat slows down to match the cadence of the music. This isn't because I'm falling asleep, but because I've entered a meditative state of contemplation on the soul crushing nature of existence. Mission accomplished.
Mournful Congregation are from Loxton, South Australia, where there is actually frost in June. They claim to play "Macrocosmic Doom for Microcosmic Beings."
Dual guitars give off a My Dying Bride vibe, circa The Dreadful Hours. The guitar tones sometimes make me think of Type O Negative.
Did I mention this is slow? I have no idea how anyone could have the discipline to maintain such a molasses-like pace. Having said that, this is surprisingly engaging music, given its temporal confines. There is plenty of excellent riffing, with haunting lead guitar melodies that frequently surprise and occasionally make me think Dance of December Souls.
The vocals exclusively ply the dark depths of guttural growls. Occasionally, some softly spoken vocals appear. Numerous acoustic parts are sprinkled throughout, frequently highlighting some excellent lead guitar lines. Again, speed (or lack thereof) is the name of the game. I'd be itching to rip into some galloping thrash if I were in this band. Alas, they are infinitely disciplined in their pace, all the way to the end. If such depressive doom floats (or more aptly sinks) your boat, I'd recommend checking out The June Frost.

76/100

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Katatonia Blues

You learn something new every day. I'm rocking out to Robert Johnson's King of the Delta Blues Singers (a birthday acquisition, and not metal), and I notice that the fifth track is entitled "Last Fair Deal Gone Down." Huh, I know that name.
A little bit of Wikipedia research reveals: "Last Fair Deal Gone Down is the fifth full-length album by Katatonia, released in 2001 by Peaceville Records. The album is named after a song by legendary delta blues singer Robert Johnson."
Seems that almost half the songs on this 1961 collection of songs recorded in 1937 are about the devil. It makes me happy to think that Black Sabbath didn't invent the idea of singing songs about satan. It also proves that Katatonia are awesome.

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Tombs - Winter Hours (Relapse, 2009)

I've been having trouble deciding what to say about this album. It's possible I'm trying too hard to like it. I feel like Tombs' Mike Hill very purposefully set out to take the hardcore he knows and drive it off in a blackened, ambient and dark direction. We got a taste of this idea on Tombs' self titled album, but the concept is now fully formed on Winter Hours. Clearly, this is a fantastic and ambitious piece of music. I'm just having a hard time deciding exactly how much I enjoy it in the end.
These are some truly crushing tunes. We have moments of dire blackness, with atonal arpeggios speeding along at ludicrous speeds. There are plenty of sludgy, slow parts that evoke Neurosis or early Mastodon. These sit alongside excellent hardcore jaunts that spice up the proceedings. Lastly, the clean, ambient breaks really stand out.
I think the thing that really ties this all together coherently is Mike Hill's voice. He slides ably from typical hardcore phrasings to deathly bellows to corpse painted shrieks. A sense of complete despair pervades. The lyrics seem to be a poetic exegesis of the apocalypse. I think it is quite purposeful that there are no sing-along choruses here.
One problem I see is that the rhythm section doesn't always feel at home. There are some points when this thing should really groove, but it just doesn't. Bass player Carson James and drummer Justin Ennis sometimes sound like they're playing along to a completely different tune.
The album is pretty engaging throughout, but the sludgy slow parts can get a little boring. There is such a jarring dissonance on Winter Hours that at times it's difficult (at least for me) to enjoy. But maybe that's the point. I guess you either get Mike Hill's vision, or you don't.

82/100

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Blut aus Nord - Memoria Vetusta II: Dialogue With The Stars (Candlelight, 2009)

This is my first taste of the Blut aus Nord, and it is scrumptious. Blut aus Nord hail from Mondeville France, and play melodic, semi-symphonic black metal. My first impression is an Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk vibe, but it doesn't ring true. Much more attention is paid here to the arpeggiated melodies, and there is not nearly as much speed as on an Emperor album. The excellent guitar work and strange chord structures also bring to mind Enslaved's Mardraum (my favorite Enslaved album). Synthesized symphonic sounds (mostly strings) can be found deep in the back of the mix. In addition, almost operatic male singing is hiding in the background. Any further forward, and these elements might bring a whiff of Dimmu cheese. Fortunately, it all comes together nicely.
There are plenty of clean/acoustic sections with competent neo-psychedelic guitar solos or keyboards. But like I said - fromage free. The rhythm section holds its own, but as black metal is wont, the beats rarely change.
The band are evidently secretive, and rarely publish their lyrics. Based on guitarist/vocalist Vindsval's public comments, however, the music is not of the satanic variety. He has stated (in decibel) that "if black metal is just this subversive feeling and not a basic music style, then Blut aus Nord is a black metal act." The song titles are appropriately esoteric, and even name drop several Buddhist (pali) words such as Ānāpānasati and Vipassanā. Sounds good to me.
While the album remains interesting throughout, Memoria Vetusta II is one of those albums I can use to block out background noise while I sleep on the train. Not that that's a bad thing, but it certainly doesn't make you move.

79/100

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Iron Maiden - Flight 666

Why are Iron Maiden so endlessly fascinating? Why do fans purchase album after album, documentary after documentary and live DVD after live DVD? I myself am not free from this addiction. Is it because Steve Harris is so mysterious? Is it because Bruce Dickinson is perhaps the coolest man alive? Or is it simply because Eddie told me to do it?
For no discernible reason, I'm totally psyched for this new film. Yes, I witnessed the tour and it was awesome. But I might just be content to watch the "specially customized Boeing 757" flying through the sky for an hour or two. I'll be there, as long as I don't have to be the tailgunner.

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Obscura - Cosmogenesis (Relapse, 2009)

If I were 18 years old, this would be my favorite album of the year. Obscura are "progressive death metal," meaning they play painfully complex riffs at high speeds in odd time signatures while gargling marbles and soloing constantly. This could go one of two ways. The album could be a soulless wank-fest, or it could rule. Surprisingly, Cosmogenesis leans towards awesomeness.
I seem to have drifted away from this kind of music in my old age. I couldn't even get into the latest Cynic album. Somewhere out in the "Noospheres," though, Chuck Shuldiner is banging his head in approval.
The vocals seem to come in three varieties. Guttural growling is interspersed with a voice that channels ole' Chuck himself. Some sparse and tastefully placed clean vocals appear, highly synthesized (think Focus) but melodic nonetheless.
There is much fine riffage to be found here, and an Individual Thought Patterns vibe rules the day. Still, I think it would lack soul were it not for some more melodic Gothenburgness that takes the edge off. Jeroen Paul Thesseling (Ex-Pestilence) massages his fretless bass all over the mix, adding some special sauce and ensuring that sound dynamics actually exist. Speed, thankfully is not always the object. There is a nice swing at times, and some sweet grooves.
Lastly, the lyrics seem to be about, um, astrophysics. Or something. That's cool in my book.

Obscura will be on Tour with Cannibal Corpse, The Faceless and Neuraxis in April.

The video for the first track on the album, "Anticosmic Overload," should tell you all you need to know:
OBSCURA - Anticosmic Overload official clip


82/100


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Warbringer - "At The Crack of Doom" Video

Speaking of Warbringer, they came out with a new video last week for the song "At The Crack of Doom." Thrasharific. I'm pretty psyched we'll be seeing them again on tour with Kreator and Exodus in April.

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Soilwork & Warbringer - February 13th, 2009 - The Chance

The Chance is where eardrums go to die. A converted 1920's movie theater, the acoustics leave much to be desired. On this night it was a battlefield of auditory destruction.
My brother Rich and I showed up in the middle of Swallow the Sun's set. Their brand of doomy, atmospheric melodic death metal came across pretty well in the live setting. They actually had the best sonic mix of any of the bands this night.
Next up were Los Angeles thrashers, Warbringer. Rich and I are fans of their first album, War Without End. These guys looked like they'd been on tour for 23 straight months, and hadn't seen a shower in ages. Warbringer completely tore it up, and looked like they had a blast doing it. Singer John Kevill reminds me of a young Mike Patton on stage. They played some new songs from their upcoming Century Media release, and had no problem getting the crowd into it. A couple of songs into their set, Rich expressed admiration for the the lead singer's sneakers. Yes, my young apprentice - ancient white Reebok high tops with no shoe laces are your first step on the path to the dark side. Just add a mangled, sleeveless "Altars of Madness" shirt and you will be consumed by the metal.
After their set, the band hung out at their merchandise table to have some beers with fans and to sign autographs. Rich, already several beers in, asked equally intoxicated singer John Kevill -"will you sign my brother's boobs?" That got some good laughs while earning Rich drunken high fives and metal handshakes from the band. The bromance begins.
Darkane came on, and sounded pretty decent. I'm not a fan of their latest release. These guys walk that fine line of sounding damningly European. They take their music very seriously. The keyboards are a bit too serious. Throughout their set, the guys from Warbringer hung out in the crowd. They collected a copious number of "YOU GUYS FUCKING RULE!" and "WARBRINGER!" shout-outs.
Finally, Soilwork came on. Their intro music was the beginning of "Baba O'Riley." That's pretty awesome. Unfortunately, the sound was awful. I always wear earplugs to concerts, and almost always take them out for the headliner. I had to leave them in for most of Soilwork's set. The volume was well beyond anything the human ear can process. I've been to a lot of shows, and this was amongst the most aurally painful.
Soilwork ran a poll on their website so fans could vote for 10 of the songs they'd play on this tour. I could never get the voting website to work, but the resulting songs were fairly predictable. Most of the set came from Soilwork's last 3 albums, with a smattering of older songs thrown in.
The band, reunited with long time guitarist and songwriter Peter Wichers, sounded great.
I think that singer Björn "Speed" Strid is one of the best frontmen in metal right now. Despite the cacophonous mess of sound and problems with the stage monitors, the man was pitch perfect while singing the clean parts. His screaming voice was every bit as harsh as it sounds on the albums. With the exception of Mikael Åkerfeldt, the majority of clean/harsh metal singers out there can't do justice to their studio sound in a live setting (especially Anders Fridén).
Peter Wichers and second guitarist Sylvain Coudret ripped out wicked solos and generally looked like they were having a good time. Despite the sound, Rich and I also had a great time.
The fun didn't end when the house music came on and the lights came up, however. Outside the Chance, Warbringer vocalist John Kevill was waiting for a few more bellowed shout-outs and metal embraces. Bromance indeed.

The set list looked something like this:

Follow The Hollow
Like The Average Stalker
Exile
Needlefeast
Rejection Role
Black Star Deceiver
20 More Miles
Soilworker's Song Of The Damned
Shadowchild
The Chainheart Machine
Light The Torch
Sworn To A Great Divide
Distortion Sleep
Stabbing The Drama
-------------------
As We Speak
The Pittsburgh Syndrome
Nerve

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Lamb of God - "Set to Fail" Video

Here, we have a video filled with sweaty men of an entirely different sort. I'm glad Randy Blythe grew his hair back. The riffing in this song really isn't doing it for me, but I'm enjoying Randy Blythe's continued progress on vocals. Lamb of God's new album "Wrath" will be out on February 24th, and I'll be reviewing it shortly.

Set To Fail
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Kreator - "Hordes Of Chaos" Video

I like the new Kreator album a lot. "Hordes of Chaos" is a great song. This video, however, is a large slice of Jarlsberg:



MTV's Headbanger's blog has more info on this masterpiece here.

2 comments:

Burst - Lazarus Bird (Relapse, 2008)

Lazarus Bird rocks hard. I'd never listened to a Burst album before. After a short and tense profile in Decibel (by Cosmo Lee) and a lackluster review, I had no reason to check out this band. Then Chronicles of Chaos came along and gave it a perfect 10. I had to investigate. Trust no one.
On this album, Burst stomp all across the metal landscape. It brings to mind Mastodon, Isis, Opeth and even Katatonia, but none of those comparisons would do the album justice. Musically, Burst categorize themselves as "Metal/Progressive/Experimental" on their myspace page. Wikipedia confidently asserts that they are a "metalcore" band. I think the issue lies in even trying to categorize this. You just have to listen. Burst thrash, chill out, prog out, break it down, and even whip it out Maiden style on this album. I think it all comes together convincingly and never bores me for a moment.
Shawn Bosler's review in Decibel took issue with the singing. Linus Jägerskog's lead vocals range from standard hardcore yelling to Mastodonic bellowing. The "clean" vocals, performed by guitarist Robert Reinholdz, will surely raise an eyebrow at first. After a few listens, though, I came to find the Jello Biafra meets Jonas Renkse warbling convincing and endearing. It works for me, at least.
Did I mention Burst are from Gothenburg, Sweden? It's irrelevant. If you can dig the vocals, I highly recommend this album.

88/100

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Napalm Death - Time Waits For No Slave (Century Media, 2009)

"TALK IT THROUGH, GAIN INSIGHT"
When I get a new Napalm Death album, I like to crack open the lyrics and read along while I'm listening. While rocking out to Napalm, I always envision Barney delivering his lines in a live setting. The man is a living typewriter on stage, moving his head back and forth as if he's reading a giant, imaginary teleprompter.
For Napalm Death, the medium is the message. Here, Barney and company have moved on (just a little) from the scathing barrage on organized religion that was Smear Campaign. In a direct or artfully veiled manner, topics include the bankrupt institution of marriage, working too hard without stopping to smell the roses, global warming, free speech, governments' use of torture, and awesomeness.

"IT'S TIME NOW TO STEP BACK AND FIND AN INNER PEACE"
Time Waits For No Slave closely follows the rejuvenated style we've seen since Enemy of the Music Business. In other words, it rules. Slight edges of experimentation have slipped back in, mostly in the form of chanted, semi-melodic background vocals or odd bits of guitar melody. This all melds perfectly with the crushing grind. Mitch Harris and Shane Embury somehow continue to churn out memorable and unique riffs while Danny Herrera alternates between complicated rhythms and comforting blast beats.

"LOVE IS LIKE THE LAST DAY YOU'LL EVER LIVE"

Napalm Death have always been an acquired taste, even in the metal community. I personally am prone to Napalm binge listening. I sometimes need to pop on 7 or 8 Napalm Death albums in a row just to get through a work day. One of their albums is good for about 300 mg of caffeine.
People (music writers) always want to play the game of ranking a new Napalm Death album in relation to their vast back catalog. I like all of their albums, even those from the oft-maligned "experimental" era. I'd say all of their albums are their best album.

"EXACTLY WHAT ARE YOU ACHIEVING?"
In the end, Napalm death are a band I can get behind and support. Time Waits For No Slave crushes. I'm eagerly waiting for them to announce all the dates for their upcoming North American tour.

Napalm for Strength!

92/100

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Kreator - Hordes of Chaos (Steamhammer/SPV, 2009)

As a young patron of metal, I obtained a copy of Kreator's Coma Of Souls. At the time, I found little to like about it. I recall it sounding repetitive and uninspiring. I have no idea what ever happened to that CD. Flash forward to 2005, where Kreator's newest album Enemy of God comes highly recommended. The timing was unfortunate. Produced by Andy Sneap, the sound turned me off immediately. For a few years, every album the man touched sounded exactly the same - Nevermore, Arch Enemy, Testament, Machine Head, etc. It seemed that Andy Sneap had a computer program that could churn out soulless, over-compressed metal albums without a band even needing to participate. Vocals could be mailed in. Sure, they sounded heavy as heck, but all melody and nuance were crushed by the mix. Enemy of God was a low point of that era for me.
I'm blown away by the Kreator's new release, Hordes of Chaos. Something sounds totally different. This thing swings and thrashes with distinctive riffs and ripping melodies. It's no surprise to find out, then, that the band recorded all the basic tracks together live in the studio. The end result is an organic metal beast. If this doesn't make your head bang then you should hang it up and retire.
I've honestly never been a fan of "pure thrash." I probably never will be, but this is an album I can get behind. Frontman Mille Petrozza's vocals are par for the course. The subject material is rousing social commentary on war, corrupt politicians and government propaganda. Sure, I can do that.
Most of all, this album makes me want to see Kreator live. I'm hoping to do that in April on their North American tour with Exodus, Belphegor and Warbringer.

83/100

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Deafest & Cynd- Split (2009)

When I pick up my guitar these days, this is the kind of music that wants to come out. Deafest and Cynd, of course, are better musicians than I. Both are one man black metal bands from Colorado. What we have here is droning, ambient and melodic black metal accompanied by tortured, sorrowful screams. The mighty Wolves in the Throne Room are a clear influence.
The instrumentation is rudimentary - accompanied by a drum machine or simple drum lines. The production is appropriately bleak and simple. It feels constrained at first, but just like jumping into cold water, you quickly get used to it.
Thematically, both bands explore a reverence for nature with a healthy dose of misanthropy. Chase, the man behind Deafest, explained that "black metal expressed his reverence for our beautiful earth. Black metal also felt his sorrow at witnessing man's destruction of that beauty. Humans do not hear what the earth needs. We are the deafest species." Cynd's front man says that his band was "started by the desire to express one persons love for nature and earth, and hatred for humankind." Indeed.
This type of music lives and dies by the quality of the melodies put forth in the open handed riffing. For the most part these songs held my interest, with more than a few inspired moments. Deafest are veterans of several other splits, and showed more ability to create cohesive compositions. Acoustic passages spice up the monotony, and frequently evoke some appropriate Explosions In the Sky shoe-gazing.
I'm a fan of this new era of black metal. The occult and satanic trappings are replaced with a sorrowful environmental ethos. Calling this music "Tree-Gaze" wouldn't do it justice. Maybe "Green Metal?" I don't think so.
I look forward to hearing more grim tunes from both of these bands in the future.

77/100

The bands have posted this album for download here.

Deafest (Myspace)
Cynd

4 comments:

Misery's Omen - Hope Dies (Worship Him Records, 2008)

Metal has spread around the globe like a plague. There are so many releases on so many local indy labels that even completists like Chronicles of Chaos can't review them all. Sprouting out of Canberra, Australia, Misery's Omen prove that there are some gems floating amongst the turds in the rising tide of Metal. It's no surprise that this release is overlooked. Worship Him Records hails from Norway, and the distribution path for this album is tortured at best.

The album starts with some droning, melodic black metal. Bass rides high in the mix, adding a discordant voice that I mistook for singing at first. The vocalist scratches alongside the drone in a manner consistent with the genre. Sounds good to me.

Then, after a pause, we move into a doomy passage that evokes My Dying Bride, but with breathy Attila Csihar vocals. I approve.
Next, some triumphant melodies enter, giving a glimpse of the eclectic direction of the rest of the album. At times, I'm reminded of the genre hopping glory of early Dissection. Thankfully, the vocals never break into the realm of cleanliness. But what is this? Melodic acoustic passages that sound like Mikael Åkerfeldt at his best? Come on, this is great stuff. And that was only the first track.

Sometimes the distance from melody increases with funky rhythms and discordant riffs that would sound at home on the latest Mayhem album. At other times, the tunes sound jazzed up enough to compete with Athiest. The production gives satisfying space to all the instruments - a rarity in these times.

Once in a while, it feels like the guitar melodies might take a misstep. Since melodies drive this album as much as chromatic blackness, the occasional oddness doesn't mar the overall package as it would on, say, a Dark Tranquillity album.

Hope Dies engages throughout, and the diversity of influences emulsifies convincingly. At one point, a galloping riff with growling vocals and hand clapping lets the listener know that this all shouldn't be taken too seriously. The pseudonyms of the band members should also tip you off on that account.

I should mention that the drummer does a good job of handling the chaos, without offending. His diversity is best showcased in the acoustic passages. And the bass player? Where did they find this guy? Fantastic.

I don't hesitate to rank this album on par the latest releases of Opeth and Enslaved in vision and execution. How are Misery's Omen not signed to a real record label?

89/100

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1 comments:

Blast From the Past: Suffocation - Despise the Sun

It's interesting to look back at the high expectations I had for Suffocation in that bleak era of metal. They played an epic show at Coney Island High that April, and broke up shortly thereafter. I have fond recollections of that show. I recall being at the height of my headbanging abilities. One large and immoderate friend of mine was forced to wear a towel as a makeshift neck brace for a week thereafter.

Originally published in Fordham University's
the paper, February 1998:

Suffocation
Despise the Sun (Vulture Records, 1998)
This EP marks the triumphant return of the heaviest band in existence. Despise the Sun is remarkably different from Suffocation’s last release, Pierced From Within. Suffocation’s last album was recorded on the now popularized Roadrunner Records, and sported an extremely “produced” sound. Despise the Sun is still produced by the prolific Scott Burns, but the rougher production hails back to the days of Human Waste. Overall, the album is less concerned with spectacular and complex riffing, and invokes more of Suffocation’s Grindcore past. In the end I believe a much heavier and raw album is produced, to my utter pleasure. Suffocation’s sound is also rounded out by the drumming of new member Dave Culross, whose amazing kick drum performance makes the percussion that much heavier. The only problem I find on this EP is the fact that solos weren’t recorded on the first four tracks. Considering the melodic and stylistic talent of Terrance Hobbs, I can only assume that this EP was released before the solos were laid down. This problem becomes glaringly obvious, because of the absolutely amazing solo that Terrance plays on the fifth song, “Catatonia.” Aside from this flaw, Suffocation has released an amazing EP. Despise the Sun leaves us hoping that the forthcoming album will be a classic.

3.7 out of 5 ears

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Tombs "Gossamer" Video

Check out the new video for "Gossamer" from Tombs:



I totally dig it. I'm a fan of their self titled album, but their new songs seem much stronger. I'm looking forward to their Relapse debut - I'm liking the droning hardcore meets black metal sound of their new stuff.

Jeanne Fury wrote a cool feature on the band in the last issue of decibel.

The video is decent. From what I read on the front man's blog, it was a low budget affair.

The folks over at Metal Sucks aren't taking a liking to it.

I'm hoping to make it to their record release show in Brooklyn.

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