July 30, 2015

Bleach 637 - Baby, Hold Your Hand

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers and sarcastic applause after the cut.

July 23, 2015

Bleach 636 - Sensitive Monster

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers and inflatable heads after the cut.

July 15, 2015

Bleach 635 - Hooded Enigma

Another Bleach chapter is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers and a shaky camera after the cut.

Rellik - Spiraling Infinite Chaos (2015)

First things first: listen to Spiraling Infinite Chaos at Bandcamp.

Musically, 2015 started slowly for me.  I was dealing with a lack of interest in the genre and while I suppose I have recovered my enthusiasm to a certain degree, I can't shake the feeling that years past are truly past and we won't see a reprise of their greatness.

Spiraling Infinite Chaos was one of the first new records I heard after starting to come out of my malaise.

To be kind, the record kicked me out of that mode and got me pretty excited.

I can't say that every other record (or most records, for that matter) will get this kind of reaction out of me in 2015.  But I do know that getting kicked in the pants is incredibly helpful and part of the reason I'm writing this review to begin with.

Rellik is nominally a thrash band, though the harsh vocals and technical drumming belie influences from other sub-genres.

On the whole, I would say that six of the eight tracks on here are awesome and would constitute mandatory listening for anyone who wants to hear the best metal of 2015.

Obviously, that means that two tracks aren't quite up to snuff.  In my opinion, those would be "Nothing but the Faith That Failed You" and closer "The Descent".  "Nothing..." fails the listener in that, instead of being a tight, to the point ass-kicker like...the rest of the album, it meanders and can't really decide how it wants to dissect the listener.  So while it's not terrible, per se, it's not on the same level as the other tracks.

"The Descent" is an instrumental outro.  Yawn.

Okay, okay, not every band is going to write an instrumental as awesome as "La Villa Strangiato".  Point taken.

Still, if you're going to close the record with an instrumental, it should probably be more interesting than "The Descent".  Either that, or change the sequence so that the excellent title track closes instead.

That leads me to a thought that I pondered recently on Twitter.  I was trying to think of what I would call a "perfect" record, and failing that, how many "mulligans" I would accept on a "great" record.

In the case of Spiraling Infinite Chaos, even with two mulligans (the aforementioned tracks that aren't up to par), it's still great.  It's undeniably great.

It's going right up to the line, though; if there was another song that wasn't up to snuff, I'd have to dock points and call it "good" rather than "great".

Thankfully, Spiraling Infinite Chaos has enough ass-kicking tracks and staying power that it should remain among my top records of 2015 when all is said and done.

July 13, 2015

Bosse-de-Nage - All Fours (2015)

First things first: listen to All Fours at Bandcamp.

Bosse-de-Nage is an enigmatic four piece from the Bay Area.  Their first two albums were by-the-book black metal with an emphasis on expressing the qualities embodied in the second-wave.

And then...something strange happened.

The band's sound opened up considerably on III, released on Profound Lore back in 2012.  Specifically, the drummer was given free reign to utterly destroy his kit on practically every track.

That sense of freedom is utterly palpable.  It improved the music tremendously.

After a break to rest and come up with new ideas (one would assume, at least), Bosse-de-Nage has returned with All Fours.  Unlike most other bands, they continue to evolve and improve.

All Fours continues the band's penchant of mixing black metal and hardcore, which usually presents itself as tremolo riffs underpinned by drumming that utilizes the entire kit and has a ton of energy to drive the songs forward. The presentation is often relentless and can be overwhelming.

But the band is not without subtlety.  "Washerwoman" is an example of how they can work in a slow build, only to release the tension in convulsive bursts.

It doesn't hurt that the lyrics written for the album are by turns funny and overtly sexual.  The aforementioned track describes a woman breaking and entering (via a window, no less) a building where a party or gathering of some sort is taking place; the woman will not rest until she's "washed every penis in this room".  Sounds like a joke?  No, that's the actual line.

They are intelligently written and have a certain flair if you can overlook a certain amount of crass honesty.

Overall, a very good record that I expect will be among the best of 2015.

July 9, 2015

Bleach 634 - Friend 4

Another chapter of Bleach is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers and fire after the cut.

July 8, 2015

High on Fire - Luminiferous (2015)

Dealing with change can be rough.

It's not just a problem that reveals itself in the music I listen to, either.

Another realization I had recently was that it's been 10 years since High on Fire's magnum opus, Blessed Black Wings.  A lot of things change in that amount of time and it's possible that the ability to produce a classic like that or its direct follow-up may no longer be accessible by the three musicians currently in the band.

Even if that's the case, I still believed that they could do better than previous album De Vermis Mysteriis...and it seems that I've been proven right.

Kurt Ballou (Converge) returns as producer.  So right off the bat, we know the record will sound good.

The change I referred to at the top has to do with vocals.  While I would never call Matt Pike one of my favorite vocalists (he lacks the natural range and charisma of Cornell, Keenan, Dio, etc.), I did appreciate his gruffness and utter lack of pretense.

With Luminiferous (a mouthful of a title even though it's a mere single word), Pike has taken on the task of making his vocals more melodic and thus more memorable.

I can say that without a doubt he has succeeded.  But this is a double-edged sword, for while the vocals are indeed memorable (on more than one occasion), the riffs aren't quite up to par.

Still, the album as a whole is more listenable than the previous and the guitar playing isn't deficient by any means.  Maybe it will take more listens to unlock the sweetness at the center of these new creations.

I just can't help but wonder if introducing melodic vocals (and undertaking a track like "The Cave", which I loathe unreservedly) is merely the first step in creating a "kinder, gentler" High on Fire.

I suppose the answer to the above will have to wait.  For now, we have a solid album to enjoy and contemplate.

July 6, 2015

Giant Squid - Minoans (2014)

First things first: listen to Minoans at Bandcamp.

Minoans presents an indirect challenge to me and listeners of my ilk.

The band's last release, the Cenotes EP, was short and to the point.  It contained five tracks that hewed closer to the traditional metal confines; though they were melodic, they were heavy and were built on a strong foundation of guitar riffs.

Much like previous LP The Ichthyologist, the sound of Minoans is fuller, more filled out than that of the EP.  There are more eclectic influences present that shape the construction of the songs.  There are directions taken that were ignored on Cenotes.

Also, producer Matt Bayles has been switched out for Tim Green (whose credits include a personal favorite, Christian Mistress' Possession).

There are new members to take note of, as well.  Andrew Southard (previously a guest on first LP Metridium Fields) plays keyboards and adds vocals, while the drumming chair continues to rotate; this time, Grayceon drummer Zack Farwell takes a turn.

The challenge I mentioned above lies in the vast gulf that separates Minoans from Cenotes.  Aside from "Mycenaeans", there are few riffs to be found.  More to the point, Aaron Gregory's guitar isn't what drives these songs.  Through the first half of the album, we are treated to a display of atmosphere.  "Sixty Foot Waves" and "Mycenaeans" throw the listener for a bit of a loop as they are among the heavier tracks and the ones that most rely on guitar.

"The Pearl and the Parthenon" is gentle; it's almost a pop song.  Closer "Phaistos Disc" brings back the aggression, but lacks a standout riff that would make it as successful as "Mycenaeans".

It's taken me a while to reconcile the challenge that the record lays down. Given the difference in producers (which does result in a noticeably more dense soundscape this time) and the change of direction in the songwriting, I had a great deal of trouble in parsing out whether or not this is a good record.

Based on the things I usually like to listen to and review, since Minoans bears little similiarity to them, it would not be a "great" album.  So what I've tried to do when listening to the album over the last week is to remove myself from the equation and try to engage the album on its own terms: to appreciate the eclecticism provided by Gregory et al in the songwriting and playing.

Minoans is a well-executed album.  I think most people would enjoy it.

If that is what makes a great album, then Giant Squid have another winner on their hands.

And for my own personal enjoyment, I hope for more riffs on the next one.

July 2, 2015

Bleach 633 - Friend 3

Another chapter of Bleach is out, so let's talk about it.

Spoilers and an early end to flashbacks after the cut.