Monday, May 26, 2014
Of course it has also inspired musicians (Devin, I’m looking at you) and digging through The Room Colored Charlatan’s new concept album Primitives you’d believe you were listening to the same story of ape-like creatures set on some far off planet. In fact, initially, the intuitive polyrhythms, riffing, prog-addled soundscapes and lyrics that tell of “an earthly biosphere created for a species of consumption” will have you picturing The Contortionist’s Exoplanet. Seriously, if ever that world was to be populated, you could imagine that Primitives might just be describing their failing symbiotic relationship.
Of course, the revelation will hit you at some point, as it does in Boulle’s great novel, and like the ruined Statue of Liberty rising from the sands, you’ll realise this damning tale with such imaginative wordplay is about your own home planet. Of course, Primitives refers to the past and the present more than it does the future. It is describing the inexorable rise of mankind and its position as the dominant, planet-destroying beast we are today.
No matter where you look here, these Indiana-based purveyors of attack-and-release tech metal consistently warrant comparison with bands like Veil of Maya, Between The Buried And Me, The Faceless and the afore-mentioned Contortionist. Throughout they suck you in with vast, sprawling passages of ambience before gobbing you out headfirst into scrambling walls of antagonistic death vocal and hammering strings.
From the opening hit of “Instinct”, far more than just an obligatory introductory piece, the album grips you. The track yawns into life before building into a steadily thumping, abrasive monster. Layered to the gills, you’ll pick up a warbling effected by fast string-tapping, some eerily cosmic keys, a strong Steve Vai-esque axe tone evoking the emphatic styling of 80′s prog rock, bruising drum patterns and the brutal death growls of Jared Bush. It all feeds, through the curiously detached instrumental punch of “Native Habitat” into the scrambling, scattergun shape-shifting of “Apex Predator”.
The title-track struggles to find a natural cadence but heading into the second half of the album, they really get stuck into the songs. Here the songwriting is much improved with far-less opaque structuring and some sweet vocal hooks. “Questions of Origin” settles things down immediately, inciting a deep bouncing rhythm into which they tip scrambling tech, some nifty electro touches and a backing vocal that repeats something very reminiscent of Suicide Silence legend Mitch Lucker’s scathing “Wake Up” line.
“Survivalist Notion” could really be a monster of a track for them with a butch groove, an inspirational section of Gojira-esque grumbling and some curveball boy-girl harmonics. It all comes welded to a keen industrial edge. Moving on there’s plenty of added crunch and some stomach-dropping bass drops popping up throughout “The Atlas Effect” to balance out the dream-like backdrops (themselves a nod to Uneven Structure’s Februus) and leaping out of bonus track “Nexus Point” the second vocal channels the achingly-beautiful vocal of Dan “Skyharbor” Tompkins. This, here, is music for fantasists.
All told, there is something of an overdose of rhythmic dropouts and they don’t consistently nail the balance between rough and smooth. The detrimental knock-on effect is to the natural flow of the album. However, this is mere nitpicking when you consider the bustling enthusiasm of it all, the strong production levels and the players’ immense skill. Primitives is a marriage of originality and inspiration and TRCC have gifted us an album loaded with passion. As a consequence, the end result is bursting with colours, strong and rich enough to sell this incriminating account of woe to your mind’s eye. I believe an anguished cry of “Maniacs! You finally blew it all up. God damn you all to hell!” is in order.
Monday, May 19, 2014
With a strong root system reaching back, past the Scandinavian neo-progressive rock scene of the 1990s which birthed them, to invoke the 1970s sounds of Jethro Tull and Focus, this acid rock group also manage to suck in a darker quality that encroaches upon the listener. It’s a foreboding, broader sound that can be allied to more contemporary sources such as Hexvessel and Circle. The key points to their attack are to be found in the majesty of the harmonics, the use of minor keys and the flourishes of Krizla’s flute and Årabrot’s Hammond organ.
With songs that are sung in English wedged in between two sung in their native language, this 5-track album isn’t afraid to twist tongues to match-make. Opener “Offerpresten” (in English, “Sacrificial Priest”) is a beauty. Majestical and rhythmically strong, the music could have come direct from the imaginings of Ian Anderson himself. The flute threads a riff through the piece that had me grinning from ear to ear, mocking the great man’s flamingo legs and hopping from foot to foot. Can you air flute? The softer, folk-riddled hush of “Gamle Aker Kirke” will transport you back to mediaeval times and the imposing shadow of an old church. There’s strong harmonies here and a passage of spoken word that pops up amidst all this curtseying and courtliness.
There is a subtle dip in impact tracks that takes place as you venture deeper into the album. The dream of flying with the “Black Swift” is scuppered by it being a somewhat repetitive and all too regimented journey. By the end of its 8:40 running time it is really struggling. You’d think the 14-minute “Riset Bak Speilet” (translated as “The Birch Behind The Looking Glass”) might suffer from the same problem at 13:20, but exercise a little patience and you should find plenty of excellent King Crimson-esque jazzy affectations, an engaging shape-shifting structure, an addictive re-emergent chorus lick and a sweet thread of magickal organ and flute.
So engaging are the lyrics, I have made it my prerogative to learn Norwegian before their next release. My personal favourite here lurks in “All Is Lost” – “Wasted effort, Time ill spent, Now I can’t even pay the rent, All is lost”. For those who dig a decent lyric there’s definitely also a mention of “Toilet pain” in here somewhere. Do make sure you pick up the CD version of this because then you’ll get 3 bonus tracks to wade through. It’s an excellent find this. Don’t let the connections with other bands put you off. It is a real glimmer of stylistic originality within a vast sea of over-familiar, unimaginative dross and well worth a listen.
Friday, May 9, 2014
Most certainly it is Joe Noval’s bold electric bass that provides the solid framework allowing Michael Rafalwich’s wacky use of sustain and distortion to colour the picture with oodles of fuzz and echo. Fleshing it all out, the laid-back vocal harmonies are a case of steady-as-she-goes. Lyrically, there’s plenty of reassuring repetition allowing it all to stick in the mind. Hooked throughout, the wordplay and riffs will have you humming and singing in the bath long after the last note has faded.
The wildly theatrical psychedelic intro of “Please Man” quickly kicks into a head-bobbing verse. There’s a sweet, shuffling middle-eight, a dropout into chilled-out half-time and a switch into yet another echoing backdrop of cosmic wash. On the flipside, “Stuck On A Mountain” is more straight-up. It has fistfuls of smooth harmonics and an enigmatic pinged, top-end bassline that gets you deep in the gut. The rhythm jinks and jives always adding flavour. “One More Time” and “Sugar N’ Spice” both have lashings of soft-bellied guitar buzz and a harder, bluesier edge that both evoke plenty of Lynyrd Skynyrd. The groove and blatant funk kick on the latter makes it well worth the extended running time.
The album’s balance rocks a little with the over-indulgent “Wheels”. At 13 minutes, it does account for almost half the album, so its choppy nature is somewhat concerning. Opening and closing as a fine piece of music to stick in your car when you’re breezing down country roads, the groove suddenly goes missing in the middle. Whether the plethora of warp effect guitar solos and disconnected drum showboating can really warrant repeated listens is debatable. At one point the track implodes, becoming little more than a series of disturbing whale sounds. Surely, this isn’t just an attempt to stretch an EP into an LP, is it? What does stand out is the walking bass and passionate jamming.
The Golden Grass’ crowning glory, of course, is that seemingly effortless, lush groove that they generate. Be it a field of flowers or the warm sands of a tropical beach that you imagine running through your fingers as you listen, the very fact that they take you drifting along with them proves that they are pushing all the right buttons. So hop on board… you really won’t regret it.
Thursday, May 8, 2014
Not to be confused with Anti-Mortem, like this reviewer might or might not have done, Anti Ritual‘s four experienced members all have deep roots in the Copenhagen hardcore scene. As Marco Malcorps, lead singer and lyricist pointed out in a recent interview, the quartet are so-named because “the acts of playing music and screaming out lyrics serve at times almost as a cathartic ritual – to get it all out, you know.” In fact, he’s quite clear here about the reasons for forming the band. “I worry about what kind of world we are leaving for our kids, and if we will leave any world at all.” Naturally, this mindset moulds their focus with Malcorps explaining their lyrics are “a harsh critique of mainstream society and the feeling of being in opposition to it.” Their aim, then, is to empower and arm the populace to give them “a way to cope with these feelings so as to not sink into total fucking apathy.”
What is clear is that no matter the topic (war, politics, social malaise or environmentalism), this latest slice of barbaric D-beat angst is an awesome exercise in the art of battery. Recorded and produced by the band themselves, mixed by Jakob Reichert Nielsen (Rising, Lack) and mastered by Brad Boatright (Nails, Sleep, From Ashes Rise), the six tracks on this self-titled EP hit with the force of a battering ram. With a mere 16-minute running time it really is a case of get in, make your point and get the fuck out. The combination of a primal throat-ripping vocal, splattering riffage and a thunderous stampede of skins certainly form a powerful alliance.
From the off the band’s blackened lungs hack-up waves of sludge and thunder as they deliver, short sharp blows to your ears. Opener “Ideals To The Fire” grumbles and growls like a pissed-off, chained-up rottweiler faced with a tormenting postman. “Slave Dogmatics” ups the ante, escaping the obliterating one-dimensional dirge to marry Black Breath‘s incisive menace to High On Fire‘s wild stringwork. Through speeding, dissonant chugs and howling chord sweeps Jacob Krogholt carves us out a new level of fury. The true mindbender here is “No Second Earth”. The message here is clear – without change humanity’s self-destruction awaits. “And here we are… in total disregard“, wails Malcorps. K.B. Larsen’s snarling bass frequently pitches its way to the surface and the intensive crush of Nikolaj Borg’s panicking kick-drum releases into half-time to create space within the track. The effect is mesmerising.
Blistering on through the swarthy, bludgeoning efforts of ‘The Highest Privilege’ and ‘Blame The Victim’, the former replete with a cyclical, echoing passage of cantankerous doom-mongering, we reach a vital, impressive kink in this EP’s evolution. Through a squall of feedback comes the elephantine pacing and vitriolic refrains of a ‘A New Discourse On Enlightenment.’ Through the breaks and chugging patterns, Malcorps simmers like a pre-menstrual Jamey Jasta on morphine. With bulging veins he delivers one final crawling message riddled with malevolent spite that caterwauls its way to an inevitable oblivion.
Aimed at those with dark souls, those malevolent extremists seeking a new level of violence, Anti Ritual certainly crams in a lifetime of pain into an infuriatingly short running time. You may emerge bloodied and bruised by the experience, but you will believe that this Danish foursome’s point is undeniably valid.