Random Snowicane Music

Due to the beautiful weather, I worked from home today. I'm a software developer, so I usually do two things at work; I write code, and I thrash. An ideal work day will feature those two things and nothing else. In a perfect world, I wouldn't have to speak to another human being (besides my wife). Today was like that.

I'm an album guy; I usually only listen to entire albums while I'm working. I decided to do something different today, so I threw my entire music collection on random. This is what happened:

Guns N' Roses - Appetite For Destruction - Rocket Queen
Napalm Death - Inside The Torn Apart - Birth In Regress
Carcass - Necroticism - Descanting The Insalubrious - Corporal Jigsore Quandary
My Dying Bride - The Dreadful Hours - Le Figlie della Tempesta
Suffocation - Despise The Sun - Despise The Sun
The Clash - The Story Of The Clash Volume 1 Disc 1 - Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Derek & The Dominos - Layla & Other Assorted Love Songs - Key To The Highway
Bloodbath - Nightmares Made Flesh - Eaten
Napalm Death - Noise For Music's Sake [Disc 1] - Siege Of Power
Suffocation - Pierced From Within - Thrones Of Blood
The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street - Tumbling Dice
Dissection - Storm Of The Light's Bane - Where Dead Angels Lie
Muddy Waters - The Anthology [Disc 2] - You Shook Me
The Who - Quadrophenia [Disc 1] - I've Had Enough
The Rolling Stones - Goats Head Soup - Silver Train
Nasum - Shift - The Deepest Hole
Napalm Death - Order of the Leech - The Icing on the Hate
My Dying Bride - The Light at the End of the World - Into The Lake Of Ghosts
Skeletonwitch - Beyond The Permafrost - Baptized In Flames
Afgrund - Vid Helvetets Grindar - The Great Cover-up Apocalypse
Radiohead - The Bends - My Iron Lung
David Bowie - The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars - Ziggy Stardust
Pelican - The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon the Thaw - Sirius
Metallica - Black Album - The Struggle Within
Opeth - Blackwater Park - Bleak
Wanda Jackson - Queen Of Rockabilly - Funnel Of Love
Bergraven - Dödsvisioner - Döende (En Avslutning)
Egberto Gismonti - Saudações - Palhaço
Alice in Chains - SAP - Got Me Wrong
Bob Dylan - The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan - Masters Of War
In Flames - A Sense Of Purpose - Condemned
Cynic - Focus - Sentiment
In Flames - Colony - Coerced Coexistence
Katatonia - Brave Yester Days Volume 1 - The Nothern Silence
Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster - Moral Threat
Porcupine Tree - Deadwing - Mellotron Scratch
Gojira - From Mars To Sirius - Where Dragons Dwell
Burst - Lazarus Bird - I Exterminate The I
Tombs - Winter Hours - The Great Silence
Cryptopsy - None So Vile - Phobophile
Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges - Pilgrim
Against Me! - Searching For A Former Clarity - Joy
Slough Feg - Atavism - Portcullis
Misery's Omen - Hope Dies - Desecrated Icon In Ruin


Defeatist – Sixth Extinction (Willowtip, 2010)

When I pried open the jewel case on this one, I was surprised to see that Sixth Extinction is produced by Colin Marston (of
Behold... The Arctopus/Krallice/Dysrhythmia fame); the dude is everywhere these days. I've grown quite enamored of the drum performance and production on the previous Defeatist album(compilation), Sharp Blades Sink Deep Into Dull Minds. Joel Stallings' drumming on that effort is absurdly prominent in the mix, occupying a huge swath of the stereo field. It feels like the snare is impacting your occipital lobe while toms administer open-handed slaps to both sides of your face.

It's no surprise that the production on Sixth Extinction is quite different. Colin Marston has taken a much more evenhanded approach. The drums, while no less magnificent, have taken a backseat to Aaron Nichols' guitars. All told, we have a fairly standard and even conservative sound for a grindcore album. My initial impression of Sixth Extinction was disappointment; I miss being assaulted by percussion. But after a few listens, that sentiment faded and I was able to appreciate the album.

With the guitars leaping to the fore, we get a general increase in the quality and diversity of riffage. “Heresy Delusion” sports a rampaging riff that triggers the “headbang” impulse in my brain. There's a lot of rhythmic diversity in the guitar work. “Petit Mort” has a Magrudergrind vibe with its thrashier riff, and it is probably one of the best songs on the album. The slimy, sliding guitar work on “Death Holds Her Brood” actually makes me think of Pantera's “A New Level.” I dig it. “Warning” features a nice bent-note steamroller that has a bit of a sludge aftertaste. At other times I also spy the dissonant spirit of very recent Napalm Death.

I honestly can't figure out out if Aaron Nichols is following the lyric sheet printed in the booklet. His screams are completely unintelligible and make me think of Mick Barr's inhuman croaking in Krallice. There's no grunting to be found here, only vocal chords stretched and scoured into agonizing yells. There's really not a ton of diversity in the vocal delivery, but that's nothing egregious in the world of grind.

The drumming on Sixth Extinction is aces. From my point of view, Joel Stallings can stand amongst the very best grind drummers. More than a few times, his precision and skill evokes the magic of Rob Proctor. It sounds as if there is a general decrease in velocity on this album. I'm wondering whether or not this is an illusion perpetrated by the subdued rhythmic production. Perhaps there are less blastbeats per capita on this one, but that doesn't bother me.

Sixth Extinction is constituted in such a way that the songs bleed together, giving the impression of one 27 minute grind marathon. I personally think grind benefits from breaks and breathing room, but Sixth Extinction gives no quarter. Some of the slower passages, such as the excellent groovage on “Malice Engine,” give a semblance of space, but it doesn't stop the tunes from running together. One minor pause can be found in the feedback of “Man's Inhumanity to Man,” which is also the slowest track on the album. On a side note, Aaron Nichols' screams on this minute and a half long track can stand up to the most anguished and tortured black metal performances.

All told, Sixth Extinction is a worthwhile and entertaining album. There's no tea-time here, just unrelenting grind. I've been told that Defeatist are best experienced live, and I plan to get a taste for myself in the near future. The band are playing a few shows in the northeast before they head down to the Maryland Deathfest in May.


Defeatist Myspace


Magrudergrind – Magrudergrind (Willowtip, 2009)

I'm in the middle of reading Daniel Ekeroth's “Swedish Death Metal” and rocking out with the antediluvian end of my music collection. At the same time, I'm also completely addicted to the latest Magrudergrind album. Ironically, the grind band from D.C. seem to have completely mastered the “Sunlight sound.”

Magrudergrind is filled with short and sweet tracks that are sautéed with feedback. The album is seething with energy, and it moves like an everflowing stream of grind. I love the guitar sound; R.J. Ober sounds like he's about to rip through the time-space continuum. Traditional grindcore and punk riffs bleed into “old school death metal” guitar aesthetics. Slippery hammer-on riffs, as seen in “Bridge Burner,” directly evoke “Left Hand Path.” Sometimes I hear a riff and imagine the melodic flourish it would get on an Entombed album. I'm certainly not complaining.

Chris Moore shows off some very impressive drumming. The album has quite a bit of rhythmic diversity. Raging speed is interspersed with slower stomps that brings to mind latter day Nasum. “Bridge Burner” is itself a gargantuan swinging groove. If a particular song doesn't sport overly engaging riffage, either the rhythmic mayhem comes to the rescue or the song simply ends. Grindcore has that built-in defense against ADD; the short tracks help focus your attention.

The vocals sound like they are tearing through Avi Kulawy's throat. The lyrics are a clinic in societal outrage and an integral part of the Magrudergrind package. Sitting with the lyrics greatly enhances the listening experience. “Rejecting the Militant Promise” discusses the evils of military recruitment. “Assimilated Pollutants” condemns both gender violence and purveyors of grindcore who have abandoned their conscience. Religion gets skewered, gentrification gored, politicians pillaged and punk “scene” politics are pummeled. This is all enhanced by sometimes comedic samples that break up the proceedings.

There is probably a lot more punk spirit here than I usually imbibe. I dig it – I realized long ago that inside my heavy metal shell there's a punk heart. I even enjoy the elemental hip-hop beats and scratching in “Heavier Bombing.” Magrudergrind don't care about boundaries; “Heavier Bombing” is followed by “Martyrs of the Shoah,” a righteous song that laments the evils of the holocaust and ends with a Yiddish folk tune.

Yes, this was the first Magrudergrind album to grace my ears. I'm well aware of the issues some folks have with the band's direction. I suppose I'm fortunate to have no problem with their progression. I've since checked out both Rehashed and Sixty Two Trax of Thrash. While clearly different in sound, I think they both also rule. As far as I can tell, Magrudergrind have switched out some thrash flavor for Swedish death metal spice and slicker production. I think it all tastes great, but I can see why long-time fans might be upset.

I ordered Magrudergrind along with three other albums through Willowtip's web store. It's an excellent place to buy music – you get albums for $10 with no shipping fee. They send the albums priority mail, which means I get them within 2 days. That's a win. Why buy mp3 albums when you can get the real deal with lyrics for a few cents more?

If I'd picked up this album earlier, it certainly would have been on my 2009 year-end list. So it goes. It's going to take me a while to catch up on last year's metal.


Magrudergrind will be touring this month with Misery Index.


Flaming Tusk - Old, Blackened Century (High Water Media, 2010)

The Flaming Tusk Myspace page lists them as “Metal/Metal/Black Metal,” but that equation can't possibly be accurate. In fact, dissecting the influences here may be computationally intractable, and that is a wonderful thing. Flaming Tusk have a truly unique sound.

My first point of reference on Flaming Tusk has to be Enslaved. I get the same satisfying sense of weirdness that emerged the first time I listened to Mardraum. Those feelings of curiosity, groundlessness and amazement are rarely invoked for me by metal these days. Old, Blackened Century has violently appropriated my attention, much like Cobalt's Gin did last year.

I'm in the middle of reading Richard Dawkins' incredible “The God Delusion,” and I've got Darwin on the brain. Flaming Tusk's music is so interesting that I have to wonder at the evolution of their sound. Tracks like “Anathema” possess the riff aesthetic of early Mastodon, but with more focus on the NWOBHM melodics (a la “March of the Fire Ants.”) At other times, I get the demented vibe of recent Darkthrone. The hoarse guitar tone and strange rhythms evoke hardcore in ways I can't articulate. A more well-rounded listener might be able to delve into the hardcore lineage of these tunes.

Old, Blackened Century never moves faster than a mid-paced lumber, with no blasting in sight. The drumming is perfectly adapted to the odd rhythms and is curiously uninterested in speed. The lack of velocity intimates that there must be some doom influence at work, but I can't pin that down.

The two guitars rarely seem to agree, and it sounds fantastic. There are all sorts of memorable riffs in here, along with some nice pseudo-bluesy and bizarre solos. The guitars don't sport spectacular crunch, but the product is still satisfyingly heavy. These riffs will almost certainly burn themselves into synapses and make your head bang. The fully audible and driving bass is integral to the songs. The excellent bass sound shows how great the mix is; I love the production. It doesn't sound like there are any overdubs on the guitars, adding to the pleasantly undercooked atmosphere.

The charismatic vocals come from the Grutle/Abbath school of froggery, with some deeper gurgling to be found throughout. After listening to this a few times, my throat starts to hurt out of sympathy for the shredded vocal chords.

The songwriting is superlative and certainly one of Flaming Tusk's greatest assets. The lyrics are great; it's typical death metal imagery, but flavored with a poetic sauce and hints of hardcore disgust. When was the last time you heard someone scream “HO CHI MINH KISSINGER” in the middle of a black/death metal song? “No Smiles” is a fucked up and enthralling tune; its 8 minutes just seem to fly by. Most of the tracks are long, but diverse. Amazingly, nothing sounds out of place here, and the songs manage to hold my attention well.

My only small gripe with Old, Blackened Century is that the last track, “Icy River,” kind of degenerates into a free-form jam. While not a big deal, it sufferers the same lack of focus that pervades the most recent Enslaved albums. Thankfully, the cool hammered-on riff that develops part way through stops the song from completely losing me.

Flaming Tusk are distributing their album through Bandcamp, the same way From Exile did last year. For all the discussions going on about digital distribution of albums, I think Bandcamp is the only site doing it right. First off, you can listen to a stream of the entire album. Then, you can download the album and pay whatever you want, with no minimum. This completely eliminates the desire someone might have to seek out an illegal download of the album. Lastly, and most importantly, Bandcamp allows you as a consumer to choose any format for your download, including lossless (FLAC). This is the only way I'll spend money on a downloaded album – I can burn it to CD with no loss of quality and convert it to any compressed format I desire (I use the open source OGG format for portable music). So congratulations to Flaming Tusk, you chose your distribution channel wisely, and I paid $10 for your album.

Old, Blackened Century is sparse, raw and just what I need at the moment. Most new bands these days sound like poorly stitched Frankenstein monsters of metal methodology. Flaming Tusk are a fully evolved beast with a distinct and appealing sound. This shit just rocks. Old, Blackened Century is definitely worth checking out.

(The only appropriate score for a band from my homeland of Astoria, Queens).

Flaming Tusk Myspace

<a href="http://music.flamingtusk.com/album/old-blackened-century">Anathema by Flaming Tusk</a>



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