Random Memorial Day Music

In addition to orchestrating a glorious BBQ feast, I also worked quite a bit this weekend. To allay my resentment at having to work through the gorgeous weather, I went random on my music collection again. Here's what happened:

Alice In Chains - MTV Unplugged - Brother
Black Sabbath - The Dio Years - Children Of The Sea [Live]
Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden - Phantom of the Opera
Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten - Effigy Of The Forgotten
Clash - The Story Of The Clash-Volume 1 (Disc 2) - Janie Jones
Emperor - Prometheus - The Prophet
Enslaved - Eld - For Lenge Siden
The Clash - London Calling - Spanish Bombs
In Flames - Lunar Strain - Subterranean-Everlost (Part II)
Social Distortion - Mommy's Little Monster - Another State of Mind
Napalm Death - Enemy Of The Music Business - Vermin
Slayer - South Of Heaven - Read Between The Lies
Mastodon - Remission - Trainwreck
The Rolling Stones - Exile On Main Street - Torn And Frayed
Soilwork - Stabbing The Drama - Distance
Slough Feg - Atavism - Eumaeus the Swineherd
Johnny Cash - At Folsom Prison - Dark As The Dungeon
Lock Up - Hate Breeds Suffering - Broken World
Gordian Knot - Emergent - Arsis
Montana Skies - Montana Skies - Gymnopedie #1
Pantera - Far Beyond Driven - Becoming
Against Me! - Americans abroad!!! Live in London!!! - Americans abroad
Immortal - Damned In Black - Against The Tide (In The Arctic World)
Slough Feg - Hardworlder - Tiger! Tiger!
Obscura - Cosmogenesis - Infinite Rotation
Bruce Dickinson - The Chemical Wedding - King In Crimson
Sepultura - Chaos A.D. - Clenched Fist
Immolation - Shadows In The Light - Shadows In The Light
Guns N' Roses - G N' R Lies - Used To Love Her
David Russell - Plays Baroque Music - Sonata in C Major, K.308
Arch Enemy - Burning Bridges - Angelclaw
Defeatist - Sixth Extinction - Petit Mort
The Faceless - Planetary Duality - Prison Born
Pantera - Cowboys From Hell - Clash With Reality
Mike Ness - Cheating At Solitaire - Dont Think Twice
Insect Warfare - World Extermination - Armored Virus
Swashbuckle - Back To The Noose - Splash-N-Thrash
Opeth - Orchid - Forest Of October
Immolation - Majesty And Decay - Divine Code
Squash Bowels - Grindvirus - Anodal Closing Odour
Nasum - Shift - No Paradise For The Damned
Genesis - Archive: 1967-75 [Disc 1] [Live] - The Chamber Of 32 Doors
Dissection - The Somberlain - A Land Forlorn
Iron Maiden - Iron Maiden - Running Free
Death - Live In L.A. (Death & Raw) - Symbolic
James Blackshaw - The Cloud of Unknowing - Mirror Speaks, The
Primus - Tales From The Punchbowl - Del Davis Tree Farm
The Amazing Royal Crowns - The Amazing Royal Crowns - King Of The Joint
My Dying Bride - Turn Loose the Swans - The Crown of Sympathy
Napalm Death - From Enslavement To Obliteration - Sometimes
Suffocation - Pierced From Within - Suspended In Tribulation
Dark Tranquillity - The Mind's I - Still Moving Sinews
Amon Amarth - The Crusher - Master Of War
Misery's Omen - Hope Dies - Celestial Trinity
Kreator - Hordes Of Chaos - Hordes Of Chaos (A Necrologue For The Elite)
Primus - Frizzle Fry - Spegetti Western
Entombed - Wolverine Blues - Eyemaster
Opeth - Still Life - The Moor
Death - Individual Thought Patterns - Trapped in a Corner
Link Wray - Rumble! The Best Of Link Wray - Climbing A High Wall
Lamb Of God - As The Palaces Burn - Vigil
Dimension Zero - Silent Night Fever - Not Even Dead
Burst - Origo - Where The Wave Broke
Napalm Death - Enemy Of The Music Business - Cure For The Common Complaint
Immolation - Close To A World Below - Lost Passion
Cobalt - Gin - Two-Thumbed Fist
Bob Dylan - The Essential Bob Dylan-Disc 1 - Don't Think Twice, It's All Right
Enslaved - Monumension - Hollow Inside
Primus - Pork Soda - Pork Chop's Little Ditty
Iron Maiden - Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son - The Prophecy
Discordance Axis - The Inalienable Dreamless - The End of Rebirth


Gorguts, Portal and Krallice – March 26th – The Knitting Factory, Brooklyn

The temperature reached 94 degrees on this balmy evening, but even the thought of being boiled alive in the Knitting Factory couldn't detract from my excitement for this show. Jeanne Fury and I rocked some serious Taco Chulo beforehand and rolled into the venue fat and happy. We saw Justina Villanueva outside, who has been out on the road documenting this tour on film. One bit of insider information she passed along was that "Blacky" Thériault of Voivod was running the soundboard. It was a good omen.

Bloody Panda started off the show on time, which made me quite happy. Their brand of avante garde doom certainly isn't my cup of tea, but they put on a bizarre if not entertaining show. Yoshiko Ohara howled, chanted and screamed (the blood curdling variety) along with a crushing dirge of doom. Her counterpart, Gerry Mak, accompanied her in a dry throated rasp. Guitar player Josh Rothenberger smashed slow motion chords that evoked a harrowing atmosphere. Of most interest to me is the fact that Bloody Panda share a rhythm section with Krallice. It was fun to see Nick McMaster and Lev Weinstein plying something a little bit different from the high speed sauce they spew in Krallice. I spoke to Lev later on and asked him how he had the patience to play tunes so much slower than his usual fare. He said it was actually quite fun, if not cathartic, to do the doom thing; the crawling rhythms give him the opportunity to pound the living hell out of his drums on each beat.

Krallice set up quickly, since half their gear was already on stage. They kicked off their set well ahead of schedule. There's not much I can say about these guys that I haven't already said. Krallice are simply badass on stage. The sound was much better than their last outing at the Knitting Factory. The set consisted almost entirely of new songs. The musical minds in this band move faster than the gears of the music industry – they already have a new album in the can and are constantly looking to the future. Each of the new songs has a distinct personality and recognizable melodic movements. I can only imagine the next Krallice album will be another step on the steep slope of their upward trajectory.

Having said that, I'm starting to notice a certain tension in the crowds at their shows. Krallice are quickly gathering new fans who worship their recorded material in a way that only music fanatics can. When the band come out and play a set of new material, it can be disappointing to some of these folks who only want to hear their favorite songs. You know them; the guys who scream out song titles at the band throughout the set? The excellent “Time Husk” would have to satisfy them on this night.

The changeover for Portal took quite a while, and during that time Jeanne and I were introduced to Seth of Baroque, Bleak, Brutal (and the band Gods of Fire) as well as Elise of Reign in Blonde. Very cool folks. It was great to meet more genial members of the metal blogger community. It was also interesting to get a completely different perspective on the bands playing this evening.

Portal's music has grown on me tremendously. My initial reaction upon hearing Swarth was probably par for the course; the album was outlandish, strange and off-putting. But in the end it won me over. The members of Portal came out on stage, as is their custom, in hoods and costumes that fully obscure their identities. I honestly don't care for the theatrics, but I can appreciate the value of a good stage show. The temperature in the Knitting Factory had risen incredibly over the course of the evening, to the point of distraction. Throughout Portal's set I kept wondering if these guys were going to pass out on stage from dehydration. The vocalist, The Curator, was draped in the most extensive set of robes, and he limited his movements to dramatic gesticulations. He drank water from a water bottle THROUGH his hood, which seemed impractical at best.

I'd formed a hypothesis that, in a live setting, the drumming would take a more commanding role in Portal's music. I was completely wrong, and therein lies one of Portal's greatest peculiarities. The band have no conventional sense of rhythm. The drums follow the guitars in their abstract, swarming dance and hide deep in the mix. For the most part, the guitars were well mixed and very audible. The ebb and flow of the wave-like melodies and unmelodies became semi-hypnotic. Ultimately, though, the performance wasn't as immersive and enthralling as I'd hoped, mostly due the uncomfortably hot conditions. Many people describe a Portal performance as scary or somehow disquieting. I didn't get that sense at all; we are, after all, fans of death metal. The atmosphere Portal create is interesting and impressive, but in no way actually frightening. In the end, it was an entertaining set, but I'd love to see Portal again on a cooler day.

As I found out on Friday night, Luc Lemay is a jolly and downright friendly guy. He recognized me at the merch table when I went to buy a t-shirt, and he shook my hand mightily. When Gorguts stepped on stage, you could tell the man was sincerely happy to be there. The band opened up with an instrumental number that I believe was new. This was followed by the self-titled track off From Wisdom To Hate. The band sound fantastic and have a great chemistry. Kevin Hufnagel complements Luc Lemay's obtuse guitar playing perfectly, and Colin Marston brings ridiculous skill and energy to the complex bass-lines of a Gorguts track. This incarnation of the band just exudes energy and the joy of shredding. Clearly, Luc Lemay loves the band of young go-getters he's shacked up with.

The crowd was ecstatic and burst into a pit several times. The setlist covered all four Gorguts studio albums. “Obscura” was mind blowing, and the perfect sound helped immensely. I think that two other new songs were played, and each had the distinct flavor of latter era Gorguts. If I'm not mistaken, the excellent track “Nostalgia” off Obscura also made an appearance. “Orphans of Sickness” brought the satisfying technical edge that originally got me into Gorguts. This was simply an amazing performance. Gorguts are going to annihilate the Maryland Death Fest this weekend.

Luc Lemay announced during the show that Gorguts would be recording a new album at the end of this year, to hopefully come out in 2011. The set closed out with “The Erosion of Sanity” and raucous cheering from the crowd. It was an immensely rewarding show that I'll remember for a long time. The band came out for one encore and played “With Their Flesh, He'll Create.” Exactly.


Flourishing and Ingrowing - May 21st - The Charleston, Brooklyn

This was the first show I'd ever attended where each and every band was of the grindcore persuasion. It was, quite literally, a blast. Ingrowing were certainly of interest, but it was really Flourishing that got me to come out on this night. I couldn't pass up a chance to check out the band whose debut EP blew my head off.

I was under the impression the show would start at 8:00, but bands were still loading in an hour after that. I wasn't concerned at the time; Jeanne Fury and I enjoyed the excellent beer at the Charleston while watching the Yankees embarrass the Mets on the television. Justina Villanueva joined us after a while. We eventually felt the sounds of metal reverberating from the basement and descended into the Charleston's austere subterranean music space.

The first band up was Buckshot Facelift from Long Island. These guys have evidently been around for a while, and my cursory listen to their music on Myspace had me quite interested. Buckshot Facelift certainly didn't disappoint. The sound system in the basement of The Charleston consisted of two lonely PA speakers. Despite this, every band sounded fantastic on this night. Napalm Death was the primary impression I got from the band, who displayed all around precision and skill. The imposing front-man, Will, prowled the floor while emanating absurdly guttural grunts and yells. He definitely brought to mind Barney but with the added ability to produce an unearthly, bubbling gurgle. The bass was high in the mix and gave everything a nice bounce. I was impressed enough to want to buy some of their music. Unfortunately for me, their newest album, Anchors of the Armless Gods, was only available in vinyl. That makes three shows so far this year where I wanted to buy a CD and the band only had vinyl. Ponder that.

The next band was Backslider from Philadelphia. The band consisted of two dudes who looked incredibly young. Their looks, however, belied their absurd skills. The guitar player took care of vocals while plying a grind/hardcore/powerviolence hybrid that mostly evoked Magrudergrind to my untrained ears. The drummer sat low on the floor and played with such extreme energy and speed that folks in the crowd pushed up just to see what he was doing. His facial expressions were a sight to behold. People stood there with looks of amazement on their faces as the band whipped out an array of songs that mostly clocked in at less than a minute. Very cool. This was the point where I really started to regret having forgotten my camera.

The basement space had filled in quite nicely, and I started to recognize faces in the crowd. Aaron Nichols of Defeatist enjoyed a beer while Andrew Hock of Castevet enjoyed many beers. Eventually, the guys from Krallice showed up with Kevin Hufnagel of Dysrhythmia and Luc Lemay of Gorguts in tow. You have to understand that I'd been drinking for quite a while at this point, and I somehow ended up having a conversation with Luc Lemay. It's hard to be starstruck when you're jammed into a dark basement, but it was even harder to understand what the man was saying; I find a French Canadian accent impenetrable at the best of times. The main thing I gathered from the conversation was that he was truly excited to get Gorguts back out on the road and even more excited to show off some of the new songs they'd written. He even rattled off a list of songs the band were practicing for the tour, but I could barely comprehend it. My impression was that it clearly spanned the entire Gorguts catalog. The guy was gracious to indulge in conversation with a complete drunken stranger, so I appreciated that. I'm very much looking forward to seeing them in Brooklyn on Wednesday.

The Communion set up next, and you could tell a good number of people had come out to support them. I believe this was the band's first show without their recently deceased guitarist, Lee Altomare. While I'm new to the band's music, I'd read about Lee's passing in various places. The vocalist, Nick, spoke briefly about Lee before breaking the somber mood and kicking into the music. The Communion draw from a mind numbing array of influences, but their unique grinding blackened crusty thrash was a beautiful thing to behold in person. Simultaneously tight and flailing madly in all directions, I can totally dig this music. After fulfilling their upcoming touring plans, which includes the Maryland Death Fest this weekend, the band plan to change their name and soldier on in Lee's absence as Kanalbrigade. I'd definitely check these guys out if you're heading to MDF.

I got a chance to speak to Eric Rizk, Flourishing's friendly bass player. He told me Flourishing were planning to play some new songs, and that the venue had a supposed 1:00 curfew. The band had swapped billing spots with Ingrowing, who were hoping to get out of the venue early to grab some extra sleep. A bit of jet lag is understandable when you're traveling from the Czech Republic, I suppose. This didn't bode well for me, as the evening was already moving past midnight, and my commuter rail carriage definitely turns into a pumpkin. Ingrowing set up quickly and drove deep into their unrelenting, jackhammer take on grindcore. They sound similar to Misery Index to my ears, and their recorded music wouldn't generally be my cup of tea. The band, however, sounded great and everyone in the room seemed to be rocking out hard to their performance. Vocalist and bassist Patrik "Vlakin" Stanek thanked us repeatedly for showing up in a very broken English, but his joy in simply being there was infectious. The rhythm section were tight as hell, and the sound was particularly good. Ingrowing certainly make music that comes across well in the live setting, despite a complete lack of groove. Jon Chang would approve. They're also playing again in NYC at Fontana's this Thursday and at MDF this weekend.

Flourishing set up incredibly fast. The band, playing on their home turf, definitely had the most complicated gear setup of the evening. At the very least, Brian Corcoran's drum kit was an order of magnitude bigger than anyone else's. A track from their mind-crushing debut EP led things off. The first thing that became apparent was that the rhythmic insanity of the recorded music is no studio magic. Brian Corcoran and Eric Rizk fucking tear it up while Garett Bussanick saws his guitar with blinding speed and howls unreservedly. As promised, I'm pretty sure the band played a couple of new songs, which sounded incredible. These guys are the real deal.

By the fourth song I realized I was in the red for time. It broke my heart to leave while Flourishing were destroying the joint, but Metro North is a harsh mistress. My business with this band is unfinished; I definitely need to see them again. They're playing at Castevet's record release show at the Lit Lounge on June 7th, but I'll be out of town. It'll happen eventually.

I spent the entire train ride home trying to wrap my alcohol-addled brain around my chat with Luc Lemay. What the hell did he say?

You can find pictures of this show here.


Darkthrone – Circle the Wagons (Peaceville, 2010)

Perhaps you may have seen a guy stomping down 42nd street recently, headbanging and singing in an awful Norwegian accent while leering menacingly at tourists? That would be me. Or maybe you've driven by my manse and seen me mowing the lawn with one fist in the air, dancing and howling operatically? You can thank Darkthrone for that.

Circle the Wagons is an album that purposefully evokes a metal era where simplicity and songwriting were king. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto have succeeded mightily in that endeavor, creating a pile of tunes that I find completely addictive. Circle the Wagons has been my fist pumping soundtrack to many-a mundane activity of late. These songs all but beckon you to sing along with their preposterous vocals and twisted lyrics.

Circle the Wagons is filled with elegant yet uncomplicated riffage that's rooted in a bygone era, but is ultimately timeless. The tracks feel like they rolled out of bed in 1983, threw on their denim jackets and delivered a case of beer directly to my ears. You'll find everything from traditional heavy metal chugging to punk inflected pre-thrashification to darker, proto-black metal. There's no real need to injure your brain trying to pick out the influences at work; Fenriz has annotated the album booklet with an explanation of just that. He name-drops bands like Motorhead, English Dogs, Agent Steel, Metallica, Deathside, Puke, Slayer, Omen and Savage Grace. 'Nuff said.

I've been evangelizing metal long enough to know what will happen if I try to sell this album as a nostalgia trip to my conservative and traditional heavy metal friends; they'll hate the vocals. Fenriz and Nocturno Culto split the writing and singing duties evenly, alternating tracks on the album. While recognizably different, both men predominantly ply gravelly proto-death vocals, with some rousing unclean singing and pseudo-operatic sauce mixed in. Nothing about the vocals is conventional, and I can easily see this as off-putting to the aforementioned crowd. Fuck them; it's their loss.

Lyrically, this thing is a hoot. Fenriz sings “I am the graves of the 80s, I am the risen dead. Destroy their modern metal and bang your fucking head!” Do I really need to say anything else? The songwriting and composition on Circle the Wagons is what puts it head and shoulders above Darkthrone's formidable recent output, at least in my eyes. The title track is just goddamned infectious. “I Am The Working Class” is completely anthemic, with memorable riffs and lyrics that never cease to make me smile. Track for track, this might also be the most consistent album Darkthrone have put out lately.

I don't think I need to tell you that the drumming is fantastic and the production is perfectly laissez-faire. Circle the Wagons certainly doesn't stack up to the classics of the eighties, but I don't think that's the point. It does, however, share the ethos. When I spin this album I usually follow it up with some Piece of Mind, Mob Rules, Melissa or even some Stained Class. It makes me want to rock out with those old albums as much as it makes me want to reach for a beer. That's simply metal.


Darkthrone Myspace
Circle the Wagons mini-site

P.S. An apocalyptic project at work has temporarily hijacked all of my free time, and you may have noticed a drop-off in reviews. Rest assured that I'm still buying CDs at a frightening pace and will soon be catching up on the backlog of metal that's worth your money.

Disclaimer: Peaceville provided me with a promotional download, but I went out and bought the album anyway.



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