Reviews Coming Soon

Album Reviews Coming Soon: Queen Elephantine - Kala, Karg - Weltenasche

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Album Review: All Hail The Yeti – All Hail The Yeti

These Sasquatch-obsessed metalheads are based in sunny Los Angeles rather than the wilds of some wintry country and that is, indeed, rather baffling. Only a mug would believe these songs were written on the beach and their PR blurb leads me to think I’m probably right, labelling them as “the band that turned their backs on their Hollywood homes”. Naturally, there’s still a tendency to assume this monstering about is just all a gimmick to garner attention but the band stick to their subject with dedication and go about their frightful task with plenty of enthusiasm.

They switch between referring to the beast himself in both the third-person (to great effect) and the first-person, and manage to ramp up the tension by digging up and relaying the fables that follow the sightings. There are plaintive roars, chunky riffs and barked lyrics like “Nothing human could be that fast / Was it the monster that crossed the path?” (from the bludgeoning opener “Deep Creek”), “Don’t turn around!” and “He’s come back to take what’s his (your head)” (from the stoner riff worship of “Axe Murder Hollow”) or “Fee-fi-fo-fum / I smell the blood of everyone” (from the pounding thrasher “Suicide Woods”).

The switch up from shoulder-roll to chugfest, which (when you think about it) was always going to lead inexorably towards a wholesome, fist-pumping groove, is magnetic. By hook or by crook, the source of their mojo lies somewhere between the balls-out, whisky-swigging, rock-a-doodle doo antics of Hellyeah, the stoned Southern wallowing of Down, the malignant metalcore of Unearth and the monstrous sludge that Eyehategod sling about.

When they’re not swinging on the lighter, grungier choruses of “When The Sky Falls” and “I Am Wendigod” (presumably they are there as a tool to shuffle the pack), they are digging down into your most primal of fears by mixing in a few meaningful samples, including the spookiest of cinematic scenes across “The Weak And Wounded…” or slowing the pace for its soul-mate “After The Great Fire”. Those cleaner vocals do give the album added dimension, yet, as they stand, they detract from the overal impact. Listen to the opposing vocal forces within “Bloodguilt” (trying to marry Connor Garritty’s impressive, unhinged roars to anything else must be an impossible task), or even the subject matter of “Ruby Ridge…” though and suddenly you’ll realise they are more than just a one-dimensional, flash-in-the-pan act.

They still manage to grasp hold of that combination of morbid fascination and crushing fear, those emotions which walk hand-in-hand with the unknown, by beginning and ending fast and hard. However, for a while, they lose it mid-album, finding that fight-or-flight pressure point slipping through their fingers. This is a debut, remember, so I’d imagine that they still have plenty left in the tank; bigger fish to fry, as it were, than we’ve heard so far, and they have plenty of time left to iron out those creases (like that bizarre, interminable and frankly ludicrous 15-minute swamp and campfire loop at the end of “Jesus Cradle”). Do keep your eyes peeled for All Hail The Yeti – they have the talent to stick around like the tales of the mystical creature they so idolise.

Also online (with extras) @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/08/all-hail-the-yeti-all-hail-the-yeti-afm-records/

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Album Review: Scott Kelly And The Road Home – The Forgiven Ghost In Me

Whether you are digging down to the heart of one of his multitudinous, yet always nefarious, music projects, tuning in to discover what he’s currently promoting via his co-owned internet radio station, vicariously living through the bands he’s signed up to his co-owned record label, Neurot, or eating up every one of his blogged words of wisdom, you’ll quickly discover Scott Kelly is a man who isn’t afraid to expose and promote his true feelings. frontman Nate Hall never said it better when he spoke of Kelly earlier this year: “Only a true artist would be so willingly and completely exposed; so intensely focused on truth, redemption and healing; so in tune with the song he has always heard inside.” Ladies and gentlemen, here we have a bona fide living music legend.

Of Kelly’s third solo opus, The Forgiven Ghost In Me, Hall has said “With another collection of sparse, introspective songs, Kelly delves even further into a personal, private space that he occupies fully and solely. His path has been a narrow, dark and difficult one, but… Kelly shows that his strength and vision has endured it all.” That’s quite a build, then, for what is essentially something so, well, “sparse”.

Here, his music, created with the help of friends Noah Landis and Greg Dale plus guest spots from Jason Roeder and Josh Graham, is centred very much around his deep, time-worn vocal performance and semi-acoustic guitar, with only a smattering of atmospheric touches and odd incision of other instruments popping up every now and then. There is no drumbeat here, just Kelly’s internal sense of pacing, which unsurprisingly varies from a wary snake-like slither to a laid-back, metronome-munching, elephantine slog through the undergrowth.

His weary West Coast drawl and desert-dry croak chew around “A Spirit Redeemed To The Sun” as rapidly we re-acclimatise ourselves to the way he feels around each note very deliberately. It’s one of the few brighter, more uplifting moments in what is essentially a pretty intense and downbeat album. The messages come pouring thick and fast from the guts of the man; here, he is a burst piƱata of emotions. “I washed the blood from my hands / I’ve forgiven myself in my soul” leads to “In a field of death, screaming at the wind / My desires reach and hold me” for the oppressively painful crawl of “The Forgiven Ghost In Me”. By the time Landis’ gurgling dirge melts into the dark tones of “Within It Blood”, Kelly is conjuring images of “ravens” drowning and “demons” being brought on to the stage.

We are soon eagerly cutting ourselves on “the blade of the Reaper” as he submerges us in the album highlight “We Let The Hell Come”; a track that stirs the blood as he stretches his vocal. It is all polished off eloquently with the simplest yet most powerful of riffs. Keep an ear out, too, for the colour-soaked and spine-tingling “The Fields That Surround Me”. Roeder’s subdued drums and buoyant cymbal sweeps kick-start a slow build through to brusque synth and guitar fills. “The watcher watching me”… creepy.

With The Forgiven Ghost In Me, Scott Kelly takes us on yet another dark, brittle, and emotional journey. Hearing him slowly running through his personal neuroses, one by one, past the all-seeing-eye of , is a strange, immersive experience. The strange tones and textures, those that initally seemed so impenetrative, then so lacklustre, can quickly become all too familiar and, in turns, magically accessible, so that by the album’s end (and this is for those with an open mind) he has absorbed you, purged his and your mind and, in the process, begun the cleansing process.

Also online (with album preview) @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/scott-kelly-and-the-road-home-the-forgiven-ghost-in-me

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Album Review: Zatokrev – The Bat, The Wheel And A Long Road To Nowhere

This quartet from Basel, Switzerland have been plugging away with their low-slung dramatics since 2003, and this constitutes their third long-player; this time with a new “fixed” line-up. The fact it’s getting a release on the revered Candlelight label proves just how well-received their early efforts have been. They describe their music as from the “sludge apocalypse” genre, which is an effective way of saying you touch most bases without actually nailing yourself to any one flagpole. Naturally, as an obsessive hack, I’ll try and guide you through their hellishly vast, genre-hopping sound as best I can.

Opening this can of worms, you’re first hit by the morphing, battering miasma of “Goddamn Lights”, which introduces you to their heady world of opposing tones. Here, disembodied screaming is blasted over rambling ambience which some might refer to as progressive hardcore, others as burbling doom meets screamo. Honestly, neither description seems wholly suitable, but it will set you in mind of the type of painful agony that bands like Amia Venera Landscape, The Elijah and Devil Sold His Soul peddle. Then, the necrophobic lyrics of “9″ and the pent-up rage of “The Bat” point you in the direction of something much nastier; the Ihsahn-esque vocal howl, ritual drum patter and crushing strings cosy up to more of a pounding, black metal sludge.

Moving on still further to the howling stoner crush of “Medium” and its slower-paced brother “The Wheel”. The former bookends itself with the fist-throwing chorus but, in the middle, wastes our time by dicking around with a full six minutes of disjointed, self-indulgent experimentation; swathes of nothing but endlessly morphing, crescendos of tuneless white noise. There’s even a plodding, cleanly chanted “Angels Of Cross”, replete with a set of incessant chord strikes that are allowed to echo until they disappear, as they attempt to present yet another side of themselves and a kind of textured, psychedelic doom.

There’s forever the sense that a little refinement here and there could bring the hour-long running time down to something a little more digestible. There’s also the question of accessibility – the album would appeal to a much wider fanbase if it wasn’t for all that left-field string-scraping and ear-folding feedback. That kind of material is only going to appeal to those with a more eclectic ear. Of course, when they do put on their weeding gloves, even if just to break up their tracks or dial into a simpler rhythmic structure they become something else entirely. For those highlights, head to “Rodeo With Snakes”; a heavy-lidded, mescaline and blues-infused screamer – fans of The Plight will love it – and the two-parter “Feel The Fire”. That one burns up just the right amount of hardcore pound and weaving, plucked lead from “Part 1″ before it’s dumped off as a sparser, less intense smouldering pile for “Part Two” to angrily sift through.

Zatokrev’s …Long Road To Nowhere is a hugely enjoyable, yet exhaustive and exhausting route to journey down – certainly prepare to experience both some sublime and ridiculous destinations en route.

Also online (with extras) @ Ave Noctum = http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/08/zatokrev-the-bat-candlelight/

Friday, August 10, 2012

Album Review: Ninth Moon Black – Chronophage

Finding a moment for ourselves in this fast-paced, hectic world of ours, amidst the madcap dash to stay ahead of the game, is often pretty hard work. The demand upon us to constantly multi-task means that, when we do get that hour to rest, we owe it to ourselves to embrace it. Holding on to this thought, when we grab for a piece of music, there is something to be said for listening to leisurely, immersive pieces; songs that start with a riff or hook, gently rotate around it, repeating the soul of the track until you fully appreciate it from every angle. One band who live to create such mood music is the instrumental Oregonian outfit .

Their sophomore effort, available as a name your price download via Bandcamp, is an organic, cohesive album – a gently-burning candle that deserves your full attention. The six songs within show an honest, clear train of thought with the tracks often merging into one another; a steady recycling of patterns to form a universal mood. Most consist of a thick, treacle-like sludge, a coming-together of the black arts and the gnarled hands of doom, and all seem to be centred around the two saw-toothed waveforms of the admittedly lengthy 14-minute “Animus Lumino”. They are slow burns that build whilst displaying both verve and emotion.

One thing that will put many off is the restrictive amount of added padding that submerges large chunks of the recording. To maintain a warm, cohesive sound, local producer Billy Barnett (Yob, Cherry Poppin’ Daddies) and mix-master Billy Anderson (, , ) have deliberately kept the more fiery edges well and truly suppressed as the band keep it low and slow – an unpredictable spitting, crackling bonfire this is not. Conversely this means the smaller flickers of brilliance, the intricate layering and changes between movements, are hard to pick out and you do actually have to listen quite closely. Lose focus and you lose half the album. Sadly, it’s like this from the off too; from those generic opening heartbeat footsteps and the eerie psychedelic touches of “Renascentia”, and on into the resultant, understated pulses of “Via Dolarosa”. The crunchy bass/drum dual kicker in “Bestia Devorat Tempus”, like your alarm call, is the point where you’ll suddenly realise just how much you’ve missed so far. With “Numeratio” resorting to type with another dulled, unambitious, slowly-repeating chord structure, it could merely be seen as an alert to your next opportunity to nod off.

So, essentially, with the music smothered, the band, unlike the more effusive, groove-laden or the crisp, bright brushstrokes that , and employ, has rather neglected to demand your attention. With, what amounts to a 6-minute intro and an album that feels almost like a jam that craves the full-stop marks that lyrics so often provide, this could well be an album that ends up being played in the background whilst you flit between jobs. Having devoted so many hours to this opus, determinedly hitting the replay button, I decided that it was actually quite apt that the album should be called Chronophage, literally meaning time-eater (a term I first came across when this beast appeared a few doors down). Whether you choose to see this closing remark as a backhanded compliment or a straight-up affront may just depend on whether you prefer staring at the candle or the bonfire.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/ninth-moon-black-chronophage

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Album Review: Cherry Bloom – Open & Die

The Fennec Fox – what an amazing creature. Did you know… with their huge 6-inch ears, which are half as long as their body to help regulate their body temperature, they may look a bit feline, but they are actually one of the smallest members of the dog family and the smallest of all the foxes. They can be found in deserts (when you can spot them – they are camouflaged by their colour) where their main threat comes, surprisingly (considering the arid zones they live in) and yet unsurprisingly, from indigenous humans who hunt them for what little fur they have or for sale to tourists. Being social animals, they mate for life and their cubs can weigh as little as 50g. You won’t, however, see one at a rock concert (with those ears?) so quite why they are on the front cover of the new album is beyond me, but it gave me a chance to let you know just how cool they are (literally).

So now you want to know about the aforementioned band? Well, despite having one of the worst band-names in rock, they’re from Paris, France and they formed in 2005. However, the funnest fact about them is they’re a duo. To make up for their lack of bassist friends they, unlike the instrument switcheroo that perform, simply do without. They merely lay the vocals on thick, the crazily-named Octave Zangs performs all kinds of dynamic trickery with his guitar, and Julien Jourdan thrashes the living crap out of his kit. Open & Die, currently streaming in full here, is their second long-player and, like the best rock albums, it’s divided into gritty ragers and crafty structures that lurch between attack and release.

“Blood Rights” is a pacy, pounding track run through with screaming, distorted guitars and an adversely laid-back vocal delivery, whilst the title-track merely swaggers, ripped with a soulfully infectious bite. “Breaking Down”, with its prominently feisty wah-wah effect and affected, harmonised vocal is, unquestionably, like listening to on happy pills. Similarly, there’s no doubting the burnt-out dynamics of (and possibly Reuben too) in the lo-fi, garage rock of “Weeping Lights”.

The sweet heart of the album takes us from the lurching yaw and pinged strings of the excellent “Fall Of A Dead Whale” to the undersold acoustics and light, vibrato lead of “Flying Over”, swamping us with grungy elements. The half-spoken wordplay and dirty meandering around moods are caught betwixt and between sounding a bit like and a little like ’ debut. When they bite into the distortion, they do so with a swift crack of the whip. Then, for the crushing smack of “Lovely Deer”, they even manage to eke out a sweet -esque stoner vibe.

Being a two-instrument band, they definitely benefit from striking superbly clean lines; that freedom from instrument confliction that comes naturally with such a set-up. However, unlike ’ Jack White who manages to hold back from overcompensating with power, they occasionally hit the same brick wall that occurs when a twitchy sole and a distortion pedal come into contact. You can’t expect to simply plug gaps by colouring them in with a deafening scrawl. That’s half my problem with the collapsing wall of sound that ’s Jason Landrian creates with his crass pedal abuse and linked triple-amp set-up. For the opening wedge of the album, I simply had to yank up the level on my big sub-woofer to get anything like an acceptable level of balance – you simply cannot listen to this with standard issue iPod earbuds and get away with it.

However, even when you take this ever-present failing on board, there is more to love than to hate here, and you simply cannot argue when tracks like “Sick Rabbit” are being bandied about. Those snappy string-strikes and pitching, barbaric riff grip you like a vice. To be honest, even without it, “Fall Of A Dead Whale” swallows me hook, line and sinker every time.

Like the Fennec Fox, are an odd-looking animal who, because of their innate differences, face more problems than most but, by evolving in just the right way, they have so far managed to overcome them. Time will tell whether they continue to survive in this barren and hostile environment.

Also online @ The NewReview = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/cherry-bloom-open-die

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Album Review: Hummune – Crafted In Darkness

Formed in 2009, Southampton’s Hummune, a conglomerate force made up of former members of the bands Older Than Dirt, Kill-Joy, Dissentient Revolt and Parade Of Enemies, have just released their debut long-player, Crafted In Darkness, and it sounds like it could be a bit of a beast.

They, personally, cite Unsane as an influence and that most definitely comes across in the grumbling backline and unhinged, roaring vocal, but considering the degree of vocal intensity in the combined howling of Stu Woodward and bassist Mike Barrow and just how deliberate the punches are, the band could also, just as easily, be citing influences such as the powerful, depth-plunging mania of High On Fire or the pounding assault that Kylesa dish out.

Being a debut album, understandably the recording cuts up a little rough around the edges. One thing that does stick out from the end result, and I’m sure this was intentional, is Rik Godfrey’s resonant snare strikes and cymbal hits which sound, at times, vague, distant and freakishly hollow. Whilst you wouldn’t think this ideal next to the ascerbic guitar thrum and scowling vocal, it does engender the package with a curiously tribal feel. This could be a little bit special, this.

“Moth” opens up with a brutish, jinking hook to latch onto as Hummune immediately sink their teeth in deep. Not overly complex, it’s a perfect set-up for the journey through the murkier waters of “Into Dust” and the scrabbling, experimentation that breaks “Claw” into mere spoken word and echoing string strikes. Naturally, the pace-change back into neck-busting chug that “Rise” and the heavy-lidded “Driven To Husk” bring, followed by the call-and-response fist-thrower “Bullets”, forms the triple-play spinal column around which this whole demon has been built.

From here, the album falls away a little with those tribal drums steaming to the fore to sweep all of the plaudits alone. Woodward’s Lemmy-esque growl comes to the fore for “Puzzle” and the power of “Crush My Heart” mires the music deep into sludge metal territory, the guitar grasping fistfuls of grunge to pull at the same oppressive edge that the dirtier end of Bleach-era Nirvana dished out. As the finale rolls around with the 8-minute “Era”, the dancing drums reach an Ozric Tentacles-esque intensity and the lysergic tribalism reaches its zenith.

Emerging from the grip of Crafted In Darkness with a slurp, you’ll half expect to have pulled some of it’s hideous slime along with you. This thing is smeared with evil; it leers at you; reaches out to grasp your leg as you pass; lose focus and it’ll drag you into its dank pit. It’s the hideous troll of your nightmares. Its vile imperfections merely make it stronger, uglier, more dangerous. And, best of all, you just know Hummune, its creator, have harder, sharper, deadlier creatures just dying to be released.

Also online @ Ave Noctum  =  http://www.avenoctum.com/2012/08/hummune-crafted-in-darkness/

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Album Stream: Hummune - Crafted In Darkness

If, like me, you've been lamenting the recent break-ups of the epic, progressive metal bands Isis, No Made Sense and Deftones, Hummune have just released their debut long-player with the potential to plug some of the gaps. Here's a full album stream for you to muse over, Crafted In Darkness. Have fun!



My bro, Aaron, has the review covered here: http://thenewreview.net/reviews/hummune-crafted-in-darkness