Wednesday, 27 February 2013

#255 Darkspace - Darkspace III

As it nears the end of the month, I tend to look back at what I've reviewed over the weeks, and decide what genres I've been neglecting, above any of my usual biases. This month, there doesn't seem to have been as much black-metal present as I would have liked there to be. To rectify this, I've decided that this, probably the last review for February, is going to be a look at one of my more recent discoveries in the genre - Darkspace, makers of cosmic symphonic black metal. Namely, I'm listening to their third album, Dark space III. 

I'm a big fan of music which captures the spirit of the cosmos, the universe and of space in general - My review of Ixion, earlier this year probably put-across that impression fairly thoroughly. While Ixion played doom-metal, Darkspace play black-metal, and one only has to notice that Dark space III has a running time of over 79 minutes to come to the conclusion that it's ambitious black-metal on a vast, you might say cosmic scale. In a word, the album is immersive. Keyboards are used extensively throughout the songs, weaving a vast and eye-opening atmosphere - the scintillating hue of the cosmos, of nebulae and the glowing light of stars , with the blazing intensity which black-metal can often create, brought right to the listeners fingertips as they listen. It's not the kind of album which allows you to treat it as background music - even while writing this review, the music slowly rises through to the tip of my concious and demands to be listened to properly, which leads me on to an observation; the album has a lot going on in it, even for it's length. The songs manage to find an interesting mid-ground between being pleasantly hypnotic and dynamic, and one which is very enjoyable to listen to. On one hand, similar guitar work can be occurring for large-fractions of minutes at a time, but this is juxtaposed with the intricacy with which a lot of the music is composed - there is not a single hint of lazy composition through the record, and even when a superficially similar section has been hypnotising the listener for a while, the subtle changes lying just beneath the surface cause it to remain fresh, as the music slowly transforms.

Likewise, there is a noteworthy level of variation in the musical-leanings - suffice to say, the album is far more than a collection of synth-augmented tremolos - it's a varied and multi-influence-inspired journey, with everything from chunky, energetic riffs right through to doom-like sections which have a gorgeous slow-motion intensity, perhaps appropriately, like spinning in zero-gravity, in the vastness of space. There's an interesting meeting of the scathing tone, as raw as that of conventional black-metal, meeting with the superb richness of the bands atmosphere, both in the form of synth and the bright, reverb-laden lead-guitar tone. The overall tone of the album, in fact, does a great job of reconciling the rawness and richness of what the black-metal sound can accomplish when well-thought-out, which I can safely say that "well thought out" is something which the album seems to be. It's the sort of album which, despite the songs mainly being in excess of eleven-minutes, you don't often feel like you are impatiently waiting for the next song, but instead, speaking for myself, I was infinitely satisfied to watch the music as it occurred - there's a certain liminality to Dark space III, which I think takes it to the high-ranks of atmospheric metal in general - the album begins, the album ends - and what happens in between manages to be very profound, introspective and exciting. The album is beautiful, certainly, but it also enveloped me as a listener, leaving me in a place which feels a little apart from the place I go when I listen to your average album, in a good way - then again, this isn't an average album.

As I said, I love music which conjures up the cosmos, and indeed, I've enjoyed atmospheric black-metal for a long time - combine the two, and you can consider me hooked immediately, and that's what I am. Dark Space III is among the best black metal albums I've listened to this month, and as a band, I expect Darkspace will be among my favourite discoveries of 2013. Based on how much music I can't wait to get around to listening to, that's a hotly contested place. 

This is a 10/10 album - the first of the year.

Darkspace Official Site
Darkspace on Metal Archives

Sunday, 24 February 2013

#254 Owl - Self Titled

I use the phrase "rock n' roll" fairly frequently, describing everything from grimy crust-punk to swaggering, blaring death metal. This time, however, the band in question call up what is perhaps the most true instance of me describing something as "rock n' roll" in many many reviews. The album I'm looking at is the self titled full-length of San Fransisco Sabbath-enthusiasts Owl, released late last year, and filled to the brim with rocking goodness.

"Owl" is the sort of album which can be appreciated equally by people who are deeply into metal, and by people who dabble in it. Diverse is certainly a word which comes to mind fairly promptly - no two songs feel as if they are mined from quite the same vein, and I'm fairly certain that, over the seven tracks, the same vocal-style wasn't utilised more than once, from occult and smooth to a gruff, almost sleazy rocking wail, but at the same time, the record manages to offers a pleasingly coherent, flowing musical journey, through a vortex in time to the glory days of rock n' roll, and back again in the time it takes for the needle to travel across two sides of an LP. United by a blues-laced, 1960's influenced aesthetic, the album voyages through doom-bringing regions, and more upbeat sections closer to old-school rock n' roll as opposed to overtly falling into any metal subcategory, and a dozen places in between, all gathered under the banner of reassuringly crunchy, organic production. The self-evidence of the fact aside, "Owl" seems to be the kind of album which you really listen to and go "yeah, a band made that", as opposed to sifting through plastic-production looking for the soul of the instruments involved. The warm productions of this album certainly bring out the best in the sound, and the lead guitar, particularly, has a lovely golden hue, and a crispness... or I would say that if I had synaesthesia. I hope you understand what I mean nonetheless - my entire hobby of reviewing depends on my ability to conflate sensory information in a manner that people feel inclined to read. I digress, as ever.

To carry on the theme of diversity, the album really is one which offers a bit of everything - long, eerie extended drum solos that are tastefully constructed, impromptu Iron Butterfly covers, and considerably more besides. Everything which a rock album should have is, I can happily say, present and correct. The album ranges from psychedelic to ballsy, which is considerably more varied than your average modern metal record, in which bands tend to do precisely one sound, and only one sound. Owl come across at the kind of band who realise that a full length is an opportunity to do lots of different things musically, and that's certainly what the album gives a sense of - seven tracks of very different music. Since I listened to the "Stone Loner" 7" the band have certainly come a long way, and there is much more going on in the full length than in the conventional Sabbath-worship of that single - There was certainly a spark of spice in the bands sound then, and I definitely enjoyed the music in that style, but it's nice to see an even much more dynamic and adventurous sound - content to explore more numerous influences and directions.  The end result is a solid debut album, with some great hooks and extremely wholesome feel.

Music like this may well be the next retro-trend, with slews of occult rock and sugary, Sabbath-infused doom flowing past my ears with great frequency. Owl could well ride this wave, but in my eyes, it won't be cynical wave-riding, and neither is their music sugary. "Owl" seems like a honest, sincere record, and that adds a further layer to it's appeal. Rock n' Roll.

This is a solid 7/10 album.

Owl Official Site
Owl on Bandcamp
Owl on Facebook

Thursday, 21 February 2013

#253 Ancient VVisdom - Deathlike

Without a doubt, Ancient VVisdom's music has an interesting recipe. I remember buying the début - A Godlike Inferno - blindly one day, and, after a few listens in which I acquired the taste, being thoroughly impressed by the minimalistic and unique blend of Americana with the occult and sensually dark music. As soon as I realised the band were releasing a follow-up album, which I believe was released earlier this month, I knew I'd be acquiring a copy. Now begins the adjustment period of deciding how I feel about it. the question on my mind, and probably on many minds, is whether this is a worthy follow-up.

I don't know how most people feel, but when a band has a thoroughly unusual and thus-far not-emulated sound, as Ancient VVisdom do, I can't help but have a greater notice than I might usually have with regards to the changes between albums. What, for instance, have the band decided to incorporate? Where do they seem to be taking the sound which they have themselves spawned? Deathlike seems to be the sort of sophomore album which, to review, one has to cater not only to the changes, but to also examine the rods of consistency which run through it and it's predecessor. To first examine the latter, it's safe to say that there are numerous elements which are being used to a similar effect on Deathlike - pleasingly, the album is still composed of primal, thudding percussion, acoustic guitar and dark, crooning vocals, deployed in much the same way as they were in A Godlike Inferno. In some places, the similarity is almost palpable, with some very similar lyrical and vocal structures with regards to rhyme and intonation, and the occasional guitar lick which you could be sure you'd heard somewhere before. A pessimist might call it re-hashed, an optimist might call it clever use of recurring motifs. For me, the jury is still out. Personally, my enjoyment of the record hasn't been compromised at all; The music seems more mature, and there's a degree more depth to it in places - perhaps the simplistic, plodding charm of A Godlike Inferno gets left behind occasionally, but Deathlike certainly comes at the listener from a greater number of angles, and for music which is largely acoustic in nature, the whole album carries a lot of intensity, pound for pound, and often more intensity than it's predecessor, too.

In terms of atmosphere, the album seems to be much more diverse. A Godlike Inferno was almost uncompromisingly dark, occult and velvet, even among the songs which were more catchy and warm. While Deathlike isn't merry by any stretch of the imagination, there are certainly songs which take on a more shimmering, whimsical mantle - not necessarily more catchy in and of themselves, but certainly less dark, earthy and brooding at times - songs like "Here is the Grave" are positively...positive sounding. The previous album had these too, but perhaps to a lesser extent. Once again, the optimist can see this as a natural change in style, the pessimist as a concession the growing mainstream forces behind occult-rock as a genre. Ultimately, however, what the optimists and pessimists say need not have bearing on your listening experience - the album is without a doubt one I've enjoyed listening to, whatever causal chains trail behind it's writing. Perhaps I miss the utter, bleak and sensual uplifting-darkness of A Godlike Inferno, but at the same time I'm perfectly happy to accept that Deathlike is a different animal, and while it's still dark, it's also different. The title-track and single which came before the albums release, named, of course "Deathlike", easily makes up for the general shortage of infernal invocation elsewhere, and is quite easily one of the bands most stirringly dark and dynamic pieces to date - My mistake, perhaps, was expecting an album made entirely from similarly vast epics.

In this review, to be quite frank, I've sounded more negative than I usually do - perhaps disproportionately so. I want to end by emphasising that I really did enjoy Deathlike, but at the same time, it wasn't what I was expecting. By releasing the title track, and indeed what I'd consider to be the strongest track as a single, I was mentally prepared to be blown away, but instead I am presented with a respectable, pretty-good album, and and will no doubt enjoy more when I eventually "get" the changes in the bands sound - perhaps enjoying every bit as much as A Godlike Inferno. As an album, Deathlike is, I feel, a lot more human.

This is a 7/10 record.

Ancient VVisdom Official Site
Ancient VVisdom on Facebook

Sunday, 17 February 2013

#252 Sadus - Chemical Exposure

A lot of people, whether they know it or not, will be familiar with the works of Steve DiGiorgio, who has lent himself as a bassist to a huge number of bands ranging from Control Denied to Vintersorg. Not quite as many people, however, have heard of, or listened to, the band in which his career started. In fact, Sadus remain one of old-school thrash's underrated powerhouses, a band which released solid albums well into the doldrums of the 90's. In this review, I'm going to take a look at the album which started it all - 1988's Chemical Exposure.

Sadus, I think it can safely be said, are not a thrash band suited to the thrash-fan who has only just worked out what order Metallica's albums are in. Sadus are far more suited to the discerning and well immersed fan of everything chaotic, caustic and abrasive. Chemical Exposure is a short album, but also one packed with agile and alarmingly explosive music, and, most of all, one which you need to concentrate on to fully enjoy. Unlike some of the more comfortable thrash, where you can sit for a fortnight and enjoy the fact that the current riff is going to be around for some time, with Sadus, you can't even be confident the same song is playing before and after blinking. I'm often weary of music of which "technical" is a primary trait, but when I first heard Sadus, I was content to consider them an exception which proved the rule. The guitar tone is murky, and the production values are noticibly budget, which doesn't always cast the music in it's best light, but below the surface, if you listen with a bit of care, and don't let the agile and uncompromisingly manic riff and lead guitar work induce a spasming, epilepsy-like sensory-overload, there is a vast smörgåsbord of impressively technically adept, but at the same time hypnotically hooky music, easily on a par with any of the offerings that technical-thrash has offered before or since - constant reeling, sporadic segues of sound link the more traditional but generally short-lived sections together, creating music which it's vital to keep tabs on, to avoid it becoming a blur.

The reward comes, of course, when you manage to avoid just that - the album becoming a blur. When you manage to listen to it properly, the album manifests itself as one of the fastest, most toxic and explosive thrash albums you're ever likely to hear. The production-values might muffle the guitar, and generally this can interfere with an albums ability to showcase it's technical prowess, but, to my ears at least, the murkiness suits the record - it makes it sound chemical, and toxic, as it's name would suggest, and transforms the sound into a clanking, quintessentially thrashy behemoth. I'll venture to say, however, that there's a hint of death-metal in the mixture too, and some of the somewhat crushing song-intros certainly have a bit of a death-metal scent to them, which is unsurprising, considering that the record was released in 1988, a time at which death metal was, to use that clichéd phrase, "starting to be a thing". It's difficult to attach genres to Chemical Exposure, as far as I'm concerned - the whole thing feels very chimerical. The album somehow feels both ahead of it's time, and at the same time, utterly with its time - it is as bedecked in hazardous-waste symbols, and as energetic and ballsy as any of the thrash bands which the 80's spewed out, but at the same time, whilst listening, you can really appreciate how new this must have seemed - nobody has made something quite like this, and that, on top of the music kicking a huge amount of ass in its own right, certainly sets the album up as a classic.

Chemical Exposure is certainly an album which anyone who wants the full thrash experience should have listened to - it would be a dire mistake indeed not to recognise it as a significant album of the genre, and one which influenced many acts to come after. Simply put, an album like this should not be ignored, especially in light of the twisting, turning and utterly entangling sonic punch it possesses.

This is an 8/10, at the very least.

Sadus on Metal Archives

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

#251 Tsar Bomb - Neowarfare

First off, a thank you to BadGod Music for sending me some promo-materials which included this album. It's always a nice change to have music offered-up to be reviewed for a change, instead of picking bands at random as I usually do. The first band I've decided to take a look at from the selection given to me is the Spanish blackened-death-metal outfit Tsar Bomb, and their début album "Neowarfare", which was released last year.

Tsar Bomb play what can best be described as "modern" blackened death metal. After the hugely tension-building electronic album intro, the music explodes into life, with strained, slightly murky guitar, and drums which are very obviously programmed. While the rhythms laid down by the programmed drums propel the music well, and are dexterous sounding, I can't help but immediately observe that they intrude rather into the rest of the instruments - The drum sound is rather angular, and very clicky, to the point of being a bit distracting. It's more a production issue than an issue with the music itself, and it's something which, after a while, I can come to overlook. I never like to start a review with a criticism, but it's certainly a prominent feature of the album - it will, perhaps, be something which appeals to people who love crisp, clean production, so there's conceivably an upside.  A few songs in, it becomes clear that Tsar Bomb are a band on a mission to be extremely intense - there aren't too many moments focussed on the atmosphere, but a great number which focus on fast, thunderous drumming and extremely agile, dynamic guitar work - many of the riffs could qualify as outright "technical", and the music as a whole is likely to appeal both to fans of blackened-death metal, and fans of music which manages to be noticeably technical and complex - there aren't too many riffs on the album which aren't in some way impressive in terms of musicianship.

The album isn't sterile when it comes to atmosphere either, however, even if wasn't at the forefront of the musicians minds. The album has an atmosphere full of blitzkrieg, carnage and twisted metal - the music sounds like warfare, and enjoyably so. It's always good to hear a band, and an album, which really mirrors its lyrical themes through it's tone and style, and that's certainly something which "Neowarfare" manages to do. The guitar tone is modern, but definitely manages to be dark, and the black-metal influence is very tangible. While he band are far more on the death-metal side of the equasion than the black-metal side, the occasional obviously black-metal influenced moment certainly brightens up the record, and makes it more varied. Manic, crawling melodies and tremolos in many sections certainly make the album darker and at times even sinister - claustraphobic and paranoid, like the imminent nuclear apocalypse it evokes. If the band can get a drummer on board, or produce their programmed drums slightly more organically, then they will be come formidable indeed, and, frankly, even with the drums nagging slightly at my ears, the album sounds very solid, and certainly got me nodding my head at the desk, which is very much what an album of any heavy-metal sub-genre should be doing.  

I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I started to stream the album, but I can safely say that I'm pleasantly surprised by the vicious, energetic strain of blackened-death-metal which it turned out to be. Tsar Bomb certainly aren't reinventing the wheel with their début album, but it's an enjoyable record nonetheless.

I'm giving this 7/10.

BadGod Music
Tsar Bomb on Facebook
Tsar Bomb on Metal Archives

Sunday, 10 February 2013

#250 Bulldozer - The Day of Wrath

I should almost certainly have listened to Bulldozer by now, but the truth of the matter is, I only really got around to doing so yesterday, although I had picked up a vague knowledge of what the bands context within the metal-scene of the day was, in light of which, perhaps, I should have been more motivated to listen to the band. Nevertheless, I've found the band now, and judging by what I'm hearing, I'm sure that by the end of a session of listening, I'll probably regret not having done so sooner.

Much like, and indeed, perhaps somewhere in between Venom and early Bathory in terms of style, The Day of Wrath is a chaotic and raucous album as much as it is an evil one, the rock 'n roll spirit is very prevalent indeed, and the album sneers, spits and swaggers as well as any Venom record did. With songs like "Whisky Time" ensuring that the alcohol consuming, hell-raising side of the business isn't neglected in favour of the black-mass. At the same time, however, this record does sound ominous and evil - the guitar tone is raw and extremely unforgiving, the riffs are scathing, and the notes use ooze the occult - more intricate than Venom or Bathory were using at the time. The drums, sometimes in time, sometimes not quite, but always enjoyable to listen to, pound menacingly, as if from the depths of hell, in that interesting not-quite-on-the-beat way that bands just don't do any more. While the music still isn't massively tight or polished, the band certainly use some technical ability and musical know-how to conjure things which may just have been beyond the reach of many of the somewhat primitive first-wave black-metal acts around at the same time. Songs like the album's closer "Endless Funeral" have winding passages reminiscent of later, more quintessential black metal pieces such as "Freezing Moon" by Mayhem, with dark, but at times practically psychedelic and even slightly bluesy guitar playing.

Many of the aspects of the album superbly illustrate the grimy, rabid music of the first-wave of black metal. The vocals, for instance, laden thickly with reverb, and roared, savagely and demoniacally really have a trademark first-wave black-metal sound, once again, sitting somewhere between the harshness of Venom, and the outright possessed sound of early Bathory, in fact, the band as a whole really cover what first-wave black-metal was about, and indeed really foreshadows the lively satanic speed-metal and black-thrash which arrived in their wake. It's a real shame that this album seems to be a bit more difficult to come-upon than those of the more widely recognised bands in the movement. Frankly, Bulldozer deserve easily as much credit, particularly considering their different and at times very interesting take on the genre - quite intricate, twisted atmospheres, as opposed to the instrument-mashing war-machine of Venom of the chord driven leanings of Hellhammer. Bulldozer holds the most in common with conventional speed-metal, in many ways, but also creates a highly original and grim sound with it, all without losing the sneer of good old fashioned rock n' roll, which is precisely what I like in first-wave black-metal as an overall sub-genre.  

As I had predicted before I started writing this review, after a few listens to the album, I can safely say that I should have gotten into Bulldozer's music long ago. I'll certainly be keeping an eye out for their albums in future, and I can safely say that this one has felt like the missing piece in the puzzle of first-wave black metal.

This is 8/10.

Bulldozer on Facebook
Bulldozer on Metal Archives

Thursday, 7 February 2013

#249 Black Magician - Nature is the Devils Church

For me, personally, the last few months have been packed with doom-metal, and I can safely say it's a genre I'm starting to explore to the fullest of my capabilities. Black Magician are a band that, while not recommended to me directly, tales of their music, filled with praise, have certainly crossed my path frequently. I've been hearing good things particularly since their début full-length album - memorably titled "Nature is the Devil's Church" was released last year, and for this reason, and because I'm seeing them live in a few days time, I thought I'd best give the album a few preparatory spins.

After a few minutes of listening, carefully sipping the sounds which the album has to offer, I came to two conclusions; Nature is the Devil's Church is crushing, with riffs which sound like the roaring, grinding movements of tectonic-plated deep under the earth, but at the same time, they are not claustrophobic in the way many similar doom bands can be. Coupled with the flavour which the album-artwork gives to the music, the riffs don't suffocate you with murky, sinister tentacles, but instead it leaves you in the fresh air, perhaps with trees and birdsong around you. The music feels aerated and bright, albeit still as heavy as anyone could want - An excellent reconciliation of heaviness with an earthy, shimmering feel. There are many things which the band seem to be doing in terms of sound which I've not heard doom bands do in quite the same way before, too - the riffs are reassuringly traditional and chunky, but the haunting, ethereal and at times deliberately discordant synth work which is woven into them sounds unlike anything I've heard before, making for a sound which is disconcertingly beutiful, fluid and extremely apt to be gazed into, staring into space as the guitars and synth trundle by like a benevolent lava-flow. The particularly low-fi synth sound the band have settled on is particularly interesting, and gives the whole album a deeply old-school, psychedelic rock n' roll feel.

One of the impressions I really get whilst listening to the album is that variety is the spice of life, and the band themselves know it. Certainly, there are dozens of minutes of fresh but conventionally crushing and riff-driven doom, which is definitely not a cause for complaint, but there are also a dozen more minutes dedicated to experimentation and variety, which really helps to draw the listener in, and make the album worth listening to all the way through. Beautiful, shimmering, slightly folk-laced acoustic guitar sections, and lengthy lead-guitar emphasised atmospheric sections really grab the record and lift it above simply being another doom album - it's fairly apparent that this is an interesting one, and one which has no fear of being dynamic and varied throughout it's running time. I overtly paid no attention to which song in particular was playing, but decided to listen to the album as a whole, and I can safely say that it's very smooth flowing and organic - the songs work in the way they are arranged, and the whole is more than the sum of it's parts. It's an album which I really appreciated the level of originality in whilst listening - sure, the vocals I've thus far neglected to mention might sound rather like Lee Dorian, and I'm sure there are people who won't be too happy about that, but frankly, for me, it works rather well - it fits the music to a tee, and it feels natural, as opposed to in any way blatant or forced.

This is one of those albums which I made the concious decision to buy as I listened to it, and that's precisely what I plan to do. Doom seems to be going strong as a genre, and releases like this are doing a find job of affirming that suspicion. I'm already looking forward to what the band next have in store for us.

A splendid doom record - 9/10.

Shaman Recordings Bandcamp page.
Black Magician on Facebook
Black Magician on Metal Archives

Monday, 4 February 2013

That's not Metal! #003: Bullet For My Valentine - Temper Temper

I wasn't going to do this, you know. I could not have done, but after some encouragement, and factoring the fact that it's rare indeed for me to review something I probably won't like, I've decided to do just that. Where to begin? I wondered. Bullet For My Valentine are, sadly, what the people who judged me at high-school thought I listened to, while in actual fact Venom or Enslaved were most likely coming through my headphones. I'm a metal-elitist, and I'll happily confess so, and usually I'd avoid reviewing material like this, because, frankly, it's not my place to judge bands which aren't in the metal spectrum. I'm not here to tell the scene-kids what they should and shouldn't listen to. Or so I thought... but then some said "Go on, do it" once too many times. So I did.

At one time, I respected Bullet For My Valentine for sounding vaguely more metal than the rest of their metalcore brethren that I had to endure. They had some good songs - Waking the Demon, for example, was a real belter, and was certainly the kind of song I could bear to listen to without too much hassle. Frankly, when you're fourteen, their leads and catchy choruses really are something, but those days are gone now, and what's left is a dubious tangle of music indeed. I'm not fourteen any more, and I haven't been for quite some time. I'm certainly not in the commercial metalcore demographic, and I'd like to think I never was, especially in light of what I just spent in excess of forty-five minutes allowing to pour into my ears. It's truly mind-blowing how generic this album sounds, not just generic for the band, but for the genre. The first notes instantly evoke the image of multicoloured, over-pampered scene-kids hanging out in the shopping mall with delusions of edginess, although they'll probably have to wait for the post now to get a hold of the album, considering that HMV is gone. The lyrics are massively angst-filled and riddled with over-simple, sugar coated verses which will immediately appeal to the thirteen year old who thinks their life is over because their packet of fruit pastels wouldn't come out of the vending machine.

Of course, a little background on the album is important in terms of neutrality here, although in this review, neutrality is analogous to an innocent missionary about to be char-grilled by a clan of metal-elitist cannibals who use vinyl as currency. Anyway, to quote the website which is streaming the album in full, "Temper Temper was recorded in Thailand – with the band having prepared nothing in advance, in order to capture "a more spontaneous, energetic vibe"". I would promptly begin to worry if all but the most steadfast bands announced something of this nature, and when it's a band I'm fairly biased against, I can safely say it had the reek of catastrophe. A friend of mine once compiled a black-metal song without preparing anything, and frankly, it sounds vastly better than this. You can tell the band, by not preparing, have cut even thinner their chance of making well-thought-out material. Energetic the music is certainly not - very little of it arrives at the kind of tempo the band once delivered, and the plodding, über-generic riffs and annoying wanky leads dominate. The whole thing, to quote modern-art tycoon Lars Ulrich, sounds "stock". Temper Temper is one of the most overtly commercialised metalcore releases I've ever subjected myself to, and one which speaks to all of the ears which crave generic, processed emotion. 

I would put one of the songs from the album here, as I usually would, but I've put some Venom on instead - it's better for all of us.

Aaah... nothing cheers me up like a quick Venom break on a long day.

There is a reason that I don't usually review things which I dislike, and that is that I strongly believe that you shouldn't be persecuted for listening to what you want to listen to, and I strongly believe too, that nobody should prescribe what music is good and bad. However, how-very-ever, like many a business-man, I know when to forget my principles, and it's certainly a damn fun way to let-off-steam, to cool down after a busy day. You can enjoy Bullet For My Valentine if you want to - there's nothing wrong with doing so.

This is a 4/10 album.


Friday, 1 February 2013

#248 Scordatura - Torment of the Weak

When it comes to metal, as far as my experience tells me, Scotland is very much dominated by death metal, with the international community greatly aware of bands like Cerebral Bore and Man Must Die. The scene of less-well-known bands too, however, is currently absolutely thriving. Scordatura are a band I've seen go from strength to strength, and as their début full-length album is literally just out, I thought I'd give it a few listens.

There are two things which characterise Scottish death metal, and which the casual punter should bear in mind. Firstly, a lot of the bands know exactly how to take brutal music and make it not only brutal, but also catcy. Scordatura manage this well, and the whole album, unapologetically rapid-fire that it is, numbering only seven tracks,  is also memorable and extremely fun to listen to. "Fun" leads me onto the second point - a great many of the bands in the scene, once again Scordatura included, excel in weaving together over-the-top graphic lyrical content with morbid banter, particularly about events which were recent while the songs were being created. Torment of the Weak offers up "Back to Crack" as a shining example of this, predictably about the late Amy Winehouse, and taking the form of a scathing, but thoroughly tongue-in-cheek account of her chemical way. Songs like this join the age-old tradition which the scene has developed of getting songs written about current morbid and twisted events while they're still current, and "Back to Crack" certainly joins the ranks of Cerebral Bore's "24 Year Party Dungeon" and Cancerous Womb's "Austrian Basement", both pertaining, of course, to Joseph Fritzel. All  songs which bravely and at times refreshingly take the listener to a ferociously revolting place in the name of black-humour. The whole album, in fact, is filled with the sort of things which make for fantastic death-metal lyrics, but you'd be deeply afraid to type into Google.

Aside from the lyrics, you might be wondering what else goes into the recipe of Torment of the Weak? Clean (but not abrasive) modern productions aside, I'll venture to say that in many ways, the album is actually quite old-school, which may be one of the reasons it really appeals to me. Underneath the hugely energetic drumming, the riffs roar and churn, ranging from groovy, gut-wrenching tremolos to passages which, underneath the layer of high-speed percussion, take on a positively doom-laden tone. Of course, there are modern things going on too, with slam reminiscent parts, and the occasional well executed breakdown are interlaced throughout the record, and I find them to work rather well, their presence accentuated and emphasised, as opposed to diluted by their sparing use. It's this which makes the album catchy, with the songs giving you time to have a breather and really get into the riffs and vocals, which themselves are filled with catchy hooks. With vocals in mind, I'll observe that Scordatura really have death metal vocals which sound the way death metal vocals should - very guttural and powerful - the result of a vocalist who is undeniably good at what he does, and, having seen the band live half-a-dozen times, really carries a presence as a front-man. Ultimately, on that point, Scordatura has a very competent lineup, and as a consequence, Torment of the Weak is not only an album which is impressively solid, but one which is very representative of what the band can do.

It's always interesting to review a band I'm quite familiar with, particularly if it's a local band. My usual process is of picking bands I've not listened to before at random and going "yeah, I'll review this today". It's a good change though, and above that, it's very pleasing to see bands which are more-or-less local spewing out solid music, and I can safely say, Torment of the Weak is damn solid.

I think I'll give this an 8/10.

Scordatura on Bandcamp
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Scordatura on Metal Archives