Monday, 30 September 2013

#306 Lifelover - Erotik

I hadn't ever thought of exploring Lifelover's music until well after the band had ended - indeed, I only first listened to their work a few weeks ago when someone recommended I do so immediately. Upon listening to this very album - Erotik, I realised that I'd stumbled upon something both profoundly sorrowful and depressive, but also something unbelievably beautiful. While I have yet to listen to the rest of the band's work, I can safely say I shall do my best to find some words to tell of what meets the listener when this album passes by.

On the whole, I'm not a huge fan of album covers which are simply photographs, unless they work extremely well. In the case of this album, however, the artwork depicts the albums feel perfectly - it shows the world, illuminated but blurred, as it might appear through a tear drop in your eye. It's dark, utterly urban, and most fitting of all, paints a picture of sorrow and darkness; perhaps not exclusively depression, as Lifelover were a much more diverse band than that lyrically, but nonetheless the artwork conducts the personal, introverted darkness which the bands music curls around - the record is not going to have happy songs to any extent, and it makes that deadly clear from the very beginning. Musically too, the record is quite a diverse one, both in the story that it's music tells, and the way in which it tells it. Stylistically, it smoothly blends a very rock orientated edge with the harsher beast of depressive, melancholic black-metal, and a dash of other things too, in varying quantity, most frequently punctuated by spoken word and melancholic keys. While I don't understand the spoken word or samples, as I'm one of those bastards who only speaks English, the feeling which they carry has reached out of the album completely intact, and weave a picture of sardonic, tragic and bitter darkness and at times deeply crushing sorrow. This sorrow is largely delivered in two mediums; the softer side of the record exudes helplessness and lethargic turmoil, while the more intense, black-metal influenced material spews forth self-destructive, scathing and hateful wrath and aggressive, tense, and at times decidedly fucked-up sorrow. It's always worth bearing in mind when listening to proper depressive music like this, that the people who made it aren't filled with angst, but often genuinely come from a very dark place, and in this record, that is very tangible.

The great juxtaposition of the record is how the act of listening to it occurs; at times it feels a very, very challenging record to listen to, and one which demands all of my attention and more, whilst at other times, it feels very smooth and sonically-edible - the music bends along it's course from malevolent to benevolent - without fail unpredictably, but always loaded with the nature of, fundamentally, being a very rewarding listen. The album certainly has the ability to pluck you from where you sit and transport you into... well, not a place exactly, but the music takes you away. The maze of rough, at times almost discordant guitar work seeps through you, and it's rough beauty mixes with its unpolished edges to create an atmosphere which genuinely feels a little bit oppressive, but at the same time almost serene; very very truly conveying the sort of feelings and atmosphere which the records creators were aiming for, I'm sure. The production values of the record, as I've established, compliment this atmosphere superbly, with the rough-edges very much adding to, as opposed to subtracting from, the sound - much like, for instance, the roughest work of bands like Burzum, Lifelover carry a fascinating tone which is seldom replicated - the nuanced, rough and at times precariously produced guitar work certainly gives the music it's static-laced tendrils, which drag the listener away into the soundscape, especially during the moments of thickly laid guitar, which feel akin to swimming in dark, mood-filled honey, before being plunged into an ambient section, gasping for air.

Ultimately, I found Erotik very hard to review - perhaps one of the hardest records in the last hundred or so, just for the sheer loss of words at how to describe what it is. I'd always recommend listening to the things I review yourselves, but I do so especially much in this instance. At the same time as being difficult, however, there are few records which have felt quite as rewarding and exciting to listen to; let this review mark the fact I've discovered something new, and something very, very beautiful, something which ended before its time. Rest in Peace B.

This is a 8/10.

Lifelover on Facebook
Lifelover on Metal Archives

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

#305 Deafheaven - Sunbather

The bright pink thing I see before me is Sunbather by Deafheaven, an album which I'm told has very much taken the underground, and beyond, by storm. At a few recommendations by people I know, and a rapturous hubbub around the metal community in general, I've decided it's about time I gave the record a listen and see what the fuss is about. Whilst I'd be truly shocked if it was a conventional black metal record, besides that, I really don't know what to expect, and that, dear friends, can make the listening all the more interesting.

I'm told a lot of this record is in a major-key, and perhaps my mind was too eager to conflate that with meaning that it was "cheerful". For the most part, however, Sunbather is not an album for happily running around in slow motion with a smile on your face, as, perhaps, I set myself up for. The atmosphere is still lovely, and at times very uplifting indeed, I must add, but not joyous for the most part, instead, it is perhaps best summarised as curious. At many moments through the course of the record, I'm not sure what to feel; there are flashed glimpses of both bitter-sweet joy and elating sorrow, but always snatched by my ears from the sonic abyss, as opposed to lain obvious on the table before me. That isn't to say that the album feels like it's meant to be one or the other of these two atmospheric poles, however - no - I think that perhaps the ambiguity adds further to the music's mystique. Where the rolling waves of scathing, blasting and beautiful black-metal crash into the serene moments in the eye of the storm, upon the shore, the record sounds right, not wrong. The atmosphere which is conjured sounds sublime, sensual and almost luxuriant, which is a quality I've always kept my eye on the USA's black-metal output for, as it appears to be something which that scene in particular crafts well - that is - black metal which makes your ears happy. Maybe it's me conflating the pinkness of the album artwork with some delightful iced-cake, or maybe it's the peculiar and exotic sweetness of the music, but the record certainly exudes an aura of peace, even during it's more intense sections, which I very much suspect the musicians in the band were aiming for. The record feels like a genuine treat - something you give to yourself after a hard day.

The atmosphere, as my previous paragraph may have suggested, is probably the most salient feature of the record, and certainly, it represents the rolling pink mist which absorbs the listener within seconds. Don't get the impression that the music itself isn't interesting though - in philosophy, there is a principle called supervenience; properties of a high level, in order to change, can only do so in light of there also being changes on a lower level to which they are tied. In the case of Sunbather, the superb atmosphere on one level supervenes on equally solid composition and musicianship on another, with raw but full production allowing the record to shimmer, while also guarding it from sterility - you could not have such atmosphere without very solid music to create it.  The musical engines powering what is, without a doubt, a predominantly atmosphere-based record, are formidable indeed;  intense sections are very well executed, and don't lose any of their glory for the at times impressive tempo and ferocity - the atmosphere which sustains throughout the album manages not to break up on re-entry one bit. Likewise, like the ebb and flow of tides, the slow sections give the listener a moment to sit back and take in the benign barrage which has been incoming - some are blissful, others unsettling; the eerie reverberations and preachings of "Windows" or the vicious feedback in "Please Remember" certainly serve a purpose, and perhaps the latter has a very appropriate name indeed; This is still a black metal record; please remember not to get too comfortable, no matter how nice the view. In a way, this is another enjoyable quality of the album; it doesn't wallow too helplessly in warmth, or fall victim to pretentiousness - it is, instead, a deeply unusual black metal record, but a truly black metal record nonetheless.

As yet another album is added to the "that was worth listening to" pile, it's definitely worth taking a second to think about how diverse black-metal has become over the years. I've never heard an album quite like this before, but at the same time, it feels hewn from the same material as so many black-metal albums - fresh, but reassuringly tangible; written in a language that anyone should be able to speak after a few black-metal records. The words of this language, on this occasion, write poetry.

This is an 8/10.

Deafheaven Official Site
Deafheaven on Bandcamp
Deafheaven on Facebook
Deafheaven on Metal Archives

Friday, 20 September 2013

#304 Ramming Speed - Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die

On a general level, party thrash seems to have outlived its welcome to some extent, at least as far as many are concerned. I, for one, continue to like it occasionally, but there is, by all accounts, something of a staleness to it now, with only the thrash bands which managed to create something interesting surviving in the critical eye. To survive, you need to adapt, and Ramming Speed, whatever anyone expected their second full length record to sound like, have certainly been dipped in the glowing green goop, and emerged as a truly mutated creature.

Ramming Speed might have been a party thrash band once, but judging by their new record; "Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die" they've either stopped going to parties, or the parties have become a lot more violent. The record appears to be the sonic equivalent of a party where everyone takes a hearty dose of PCP and spends the evening juggling sledgehammers. With the exception perhaps of Black Breath, I don't think I've ever heard a thrash or crossover album which leapt at me quite so viciously from the onset - the guitar tone is thick, and crushing. You don't tend to get many crushing thrash albums, so this certainly scores points from the very beginning, and is, in fact, reconciled really well with the conventional thrash elements. It's good to see a band dropping the traditional thrash production values and instead making something which is, tonally, insane. The thick rumble of the guitars is at times truly cavernous, and generally gives the riffs the punch of an anti-tank sabot. Stylistically, the record is also a step away from the thrash conventions of today; much more crossover oriented, and indeed, extreme; boasting a range of harsh vocals and plenty of sections reminiscent of grindcore and death metal, which creates a truly eclectic, but at the same time cohesive and coherent record. Likewise, however, the band haven't neglected to make the record fun, too. Many of the riffs are genuinely bouncy, memorable and, indeed, could probably be enjoyed alongside a beer. To call this music party thrash, though, would suggest that your parties are a little bit out there; I've seldom heard a thrash record which oozed with such extremity - while many thrash bands create music which demands a hazardous materials suit, Ramming Speed are the sort of nuclear waste to burn right through it.

Variety, along with extremity, is one of the crowning features of the record - simply put, there is a lot going on. In fitting with the crossover influences, of course, most of it is delivered in three-minute-or-less packages. Not that I'm complaining - the album throws thirteen tracks at you, and none of them feel like filler, with everything from more conventional thrash tracks with chugging, beer-swigging riffs, right through to guttural roaring, d-beats and blasting. The d-beats especially really push the right buttons, as, if you'll pardon my language, I fucking love d-beats; the greasy, deliceous-when-drunk kebab-meat of the drum and percussion world. The contrast between the soaring riffs and the down-and-dirty d-beat orgies certainly gives the album two faces, but at the same time, creates a contrast which is decidedly enjoyable to listen to. Another great feature of the record, while we're at it, is the use of melody and depth. Escaping from the unfortunate "look at all this open string chugging" paradigm which modern thrash has inadvertently trapped itself in,  Ramming Speed create riffs which feel full and healthy, with penty of melody, full sound, and even really well constructed solos, another thing which is often missing these days. From the crushing assaults to the galloping, rip-roaring sections, the riffs feel, for want of a more metal word, very hearty and substantial. In fact, substantial is probably the best descriptor to attatch to what Ramming Speed have done with this record; they've made no-nonsense crossover into something far more substantial than many of their thrash-revival peer group might have even dreamed possible. It sounds, in short, solid as a rock.

This, I can safely say, is one of the good records to be spawned by the last decades re-found love of thrash, and while many artists lose momentum, and fall pray to generic composition and disinterested listeners, this band, as their name suggests, are still roaring towards the opposition at Ramming Speed, and long may it last.

This is an 8/10.

Ramming Speed on Bandcamp
Ramming Speed on Facebook
Ramming Speed on Metal Archives

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

#303 Hamerex - IX

There are scarce opportunities to review an album before it comes out, and, in my experience, the best way to really make use of these opportunities is to actually review the album, and not procrastinate until the record is out. Without further ado then, it's time to take a listen to the second full length album by English traditional-metal stalwarts Hamerex, who, as far as I can tell, play a show every twenty-three seconds, and show no signs of slowing down.

It's been quite a while since I last reviewed Hamerex. I took a look at their début full-length album something like a year or so ago now, and I'm definitely interested in returning to their material, both with them as a more mature band, and me as a more mature reviewer. While enjoyable, the previous album had some undeniable shortcomings, with haphazard production in many places, but to its credit, still managed to exude the feeling of being a labour of love. IX immediately proves itself to be a little bit more level and indeed more professional sounding, perhaps even a little more adventurous. The first track makes this quite clear, with prominent synth and steady riff-work with a much tighter sound than the at times slap-dash feel of the first record, and the impression that the band want to flirt with something a little more grandiose and ambitious. From a production related standpoint, the tone is still rather brick-walled in places, and it really wouldn't surprise me if it was largely recorded in a bedroom, but nonetheless, the sound remains consistent throughout this time around. Stylistically, this second record is more of the same - traditional heavy metal for traditional heavy metal fans. As an aside, the presence of extreme metal in the scene often creates a feedback loop - there are certain bands who, whilst traditional metal in style, really exude the spirit of the underground. Cauldron, for instance, play metal which is as traditional as it comes, but you can still feel the blood of the darker, more extreme underground in their work, if not in musical influence, then in attitude. Hamerex, on the other hand, have the aura of traditional metal made by people who haven't really explored the extreme side of things - in other words, fans of works like The Black Album. This is not, I must assert, a criticism, but merely an observation. Hamerex once again have created an album which is traditional metal made by, and for traditional metal people.

Fortunately, nothing of what I've said need by synonymous with boring; IX is, in fact, in fitting with my expectations, insofar as it goes down a very well trodden path, but certainly has a catchy tune or two, or dozen. The tracks certainly exude a catchy aura, and their mid-tempo trundling, at times groove-laden journey is certainly infectious enough to get stuck in my head as I listen. Indeed, whilst on a well trodden path, the music serves to remind the listener precisely why the path is well trodden in the first place; namely, because metal of this sort is fun, memorable, and easy to listen to - this is the sort of metal which a lot of people really enjoy, and, from time to time, that includes me. My head felt comfortable to nod throughout the listen, and while many of the riffs feel very lackadaisical with regards to tempo, never rising above a Sunday-drive drum beat, perhaps that's how they're meant to sound - certainly, the lack of tempo isn't offensive to my taste at all - in fact, it's fairly difficult to seriously dislike the record in any way, precisely due to this inoffensive sound - anyone who vaguely likes metal can find something to enjoy about it. There are, perhaps, grounds for citing "The AC/DC problem" with regards to the record, in that the album is inoffensive to the point of insipid, but I personally found the album to rise above that to an extent - certainly, the songs felt worth listening to, as opposed to boring. It's not going to go down in the annals of history, perhaps, but damn it this album is just a bit of fun, and a bit of fairly good fun at that. The band have once again crafted an album out of the music they clearly love.


As we can see, I had some trouble making the video centred. If it doesn't look like it's in the middle, the main reason for this is that it isn't. Regardless, the final consensus from me is that IX is a much more mature and solid release than Hamerex' last record. More of the same in many ways, perhaps, but, it's pleasing to see, a slightly better version of more of the same.

A 5/10 from me. I wasn't blown away, but the breeze was pleasant, and the music solid.

Hamerex Official Site
Hamerex on Facebook
Hamerex on Metal Archives

Saturday, 14 September 2013

#302 Carnivore - Self Titled

There's a good chance that - these days at least - most of the people who discover Carnivore do so as "the band Peter Steele was in before Type O Negative", and certainly, while I heard a few carnivore tracks very early into discovering metal at all, it wasn't until the band was framed in my mind as just that that I got around to listening to them properly recently, when, while browsing through a second hand record store, I happened upon the self-titled LP. Based on the good things I'd heard about the record, I decided to buy it blind, and I'm glad I did. Firstly, it turned out to be a first-pressing, which is always nice; It's cool to know that the record is older than I am. However, and more importantly, it turned out to be musically excellent. And without further ado, I'm going to review it.

There are many ways to describe Carnivore's début, but the one I find most suitable at this moment is to consider it something, somewhere between Kiss playing thrash, and Venom covering Kiss songs. The whole album is rip-roaring, primitive and primal, with no-nonsense songs in which the riffs and pounding rhythms don't give an inch more than the song requires. Carnivore's material doesn't know the meaning of the word "superfluous". The tracks have as much as they need, and not an ounce more, leaving the music quite lean, but also packing a lot of very straight-forward and memorable punch. The cruising riffs are lithe and tight, with the song-writing direction amalgamated eclectically from Peter Steele's diverse range of musical influences. The sheer variety of styles in play on the record certainly have the effect of  creating an album which thrashes, rocks, rolls and even occasionally segues through a few doom-riffs to make sure you're still paying attention, all under the tongue-in-cheek mantle of post-apocalyptic lunacy, and generally spawned-from-the-crotch heavy metal goodness. It's not quite thrash, but it's not quite anything else either; Speed metal's parents were warning it to stay away, and it's definitely not quite hardcore, either. In fact, the only way to really describe it well is simply to call it Carnivore.  Indeed, "carnivorous" is probably a good way to describe the album's sound, and the whole record sounds a little bit crazed, bloodthirsty, and over-the-top, in the best possible way. The vocals in particular, just aren't the sort of thing which most bands could get away with without it being a bit odd; thickly layered, viciously stuffed with reverb, and generally enhanced to the point of being demonic, on top of Steele already sounding ferocious, the snarling, raging vocals on the record manage to work extremely well for the sound which the band conjures, as opposed to sounding, well... unusual or out of place.

To tell the truth, I enjoyed Carnivore's work considerably more than I had expected to before experiencing the band - always a bonus when buying music blindly, or indeed listening to it for the first time in any way. The problem, however, is that I really can't remember what I was expecting before I took a listen with the purposes of explaining what took me so long. Carnivore is one of those albums which, by the end of the first track, you really can't remember anything specific about what you expected it to sound like - the brute facts of sound instead push your projections out of your head and make themselves felt. Certainly a reminder that there are no bands worth ignoring based on expectations of any kind, especially one such as this, which, to my ear, is fairly delicious. There are a few things I disproportionately love in thrash, and in metal of any likeness to thrash at all, and many of them are present in the record; memorable without being gratuitously technical is of course one, and I've already covered that; in fact, in more or less every review I do of material which isn't technical, I mention it. Secondly, the straight-forward riffs are extremely enjoyable - punk influenced, balls-to-the-wall neck-mangling riffs which rush along with a subtle, but not overbearing, sense of the haphazard; There's something wonderful about hearing a band who are really pushing it in terms of musical cohesion as their material rushes past; the drums suggest a little sweat on the brow - a little franticness - you can almost feel a tangible air of ever musician hoping not to drop their pick or sticks. There's something wonderfully organic about that, and perhaps that's the bottom line with this record in terms of summarising it; It's one of the most organic thrash records I've had the pleasure of hearing in quite a while.

I'm not sure how much it can be considered a "blind" purchase when I'm already a huge fan of Type O Negative, but whatever it is, it was a good purchasing decision, and one which I'm glad of; finally, a band I should have discovered a long time ago has actually entered my regular listening. But how many other bands like this are out there? For every band you discover, there'll always be seven that you'll later wish you'd discovered. In a way, that's one of the best things about metal.

This is an 8/10. Rest in peace, Lord Petrus Steele.

Carnivore Official Site
Carnivore on Metal Archives

Thursday, 12 September 2013

#301 Avenged Sevenfold - Hail to the King

If there's anything I want to embrace more in the upcoming reviews I do, it's this; to delve more deeply into albums I might not enjoy - to explore things which I probably won't listen to again, instead of simply reviewing the albums which I've procured for my own enjoyment. This review should certainly usher in this trend; I've been vaguely aware of Avenged Sevenfold having made an album which is actually more or less metal, and have heard very mixed things - Robb Flynn, of all people, has slated it as derivative, and while I'm sure we could indulge in proverbs about black items of kitchenware swearing at one another, I still feel the need to investigate the record, on account of this recent strife in the back-of-the-schoolbus genre.

As they say, when I were a lad, Avenged Sevenfold were one of the good metalcore bands; fun, catchy, and decidedly less noxiously contrived and manufactured than bands like Bullet for my Valentine or the their similarly teeny-bopping brethren. However, I'm nearly twenty now, and while their early work elicits a cheerful nostalgia, this new output might not be so lucky, especially when my inner metal elitist evolves spontaneously into a squirming, wrathful dragon at the band's soapbox of self proclaimed "metal" which they probably decided upon in a meeting. "We are honored that our fans have once again put heavy metal at its rightful spot of #1." Well gentlemen, as often as you post that status when your album reaches the top of the charts in many countries, the fact is that there something very condescending about it; Avenged Sevenfold suddenly not only consider themselves metal, but also think they're doing something to help it - the band scream "metal is back" from the rooftops when had they only known, it never left in the first place. Granted, Hail to the King is, as far as most need be concerned, a metal album of sorts, I can't help but feel that this boast invalidates and condescends the work over the years of the underground bands who really care - who kept the flame of heavy metal lit, and burning brightly, spending more than they earned, and losing more than they gained. Gentlemen, your album isn't saving metal - it's not a great revival or a revolution, and in fact, there's little to be proud of before; the album is at number one for one reason - the band who made it are Avenged Sevenfold. If that hadn't been the case... who knows, but the album certainly feeds off it's creators, as opposed to standing alone. But enough irrelavent spewing about the details - the real question is how the record shapes up musically, as opposed to how annoyed I can allow it to make me within it's fifty minute run-time.

The immediate answer to that question is... well... it could be worse. It could be a hell of a lot better too, but in all honesty, it's nothing offensive. As I said in my review of Megadeth's Super Collider, being inoffensive is, of itself, a flaw - the album doesn't have the energy and punch which equipped their earlier works, instead swapping it for ponderous and derivative groove. Derivative you say? Why yes indeed - almost every song sounds subtly, and sometimes not so subtly like other songs which other bands have done - a pile of its influences, immiscible and bare to see, as opposed to concocted into a sound. What separates this from the thrash-revival or traditional metal revival however, is that Avenged Sevenfold happen to have borrowed extensively from albums which I didn't like very much in the first place, which, above all things, is probably the real issue for me as a reviewer. Hail to the King is a mish-mash of mid-era Metallica, mid-era Megadeth, and generally the watered down metal of the mid nineties; in other words, decidedly unadventurous. The album seldom escapes the mid-tempo, and doesn't have many moments in which it "shines" especially - in the end, it sounds a bit worn out. Perhaps a worn out instance of what could be a nicely made object, but worn out nonetheless. It's not for me to ponder how deliberate the stylistic choices on the record were; were Avenged Sevenfold referencing the metal which they themselves greatly enjoyed, or are they creating a special formula blend, to be suckled upon by the fan-base. Either way, the result is similar; I don't really care for it particularly. The band were always among the best of their craft back in the day, and sure, that still shows through - the song-writing isn't overtly bad - in fact, a lot of it is catchy enough to sneak into my brain with relative ease, and remain there until I listen to something else, but I'm never one to consider that a selling-point in and of itself, and through the course of the record, Avenged Sevenfold did not sell it to me very much at all. Fortunately for them, they seem to have sold plenty of it already. 

So there we go - my usual disclaimer for records I didn't particularly enjoy, as ever, stands; if it is your kind of thing, then so be it, and who am I to judge. However, my view must be laid on the table, such is my position as a reviewer, and I for one don't particularly enjoy when I hear. Fortunately perhaps for me, however, I didn't really expect to - there's a reason that bands like Avenged Sevenfold lie on the peripheral of my attention, and it's probably just cruel of me to drag them to the centre of my focus for a time, however, variety, as they say, is the spice of life.

This is a 4/10. It might seem drastic, but I really need to start quantifying those lower numbers.

Avenged Sevenfold Official Site
Avenged Sevenfold  on Facebook

Sunday, 8 September 2013

#300 Metallica - Master of Puppets

For review #100, I reviewed what, to an extent, I still consider my favourite metal album; Nordland by Bathory. For review #200, I reviewed three Black Sabbath records. So, the question puzzling me all day has been... "What is review #300 going to be?". A personal favourite? An all time classic? Something else? The ultimate answer, after more deliberation than I'd really have liked, was that I had no idea what I wanted to review. This realisation, however, doesn't solve the problem of not having anything to write about, so instead, I'm going to do Master of Puppets - many would say the record which made Metallica the force they are today, and, as they say, an undisputed classic...

Reviewing utter classics is always interesting, especially when it's a classic the "classic-status" of which I agree with. The whole review can sink into a boring morass of words, easily summed up in a mumbled "yeah, it's really fucking good" instead of any real critical evaluation. Fortunately for the readers, then, every time I listen to Master of Puppets, it never seems to rise higher than... "yeah... it's... it's... really fucking... alright". I can't recall if I truly revered the album at any point, but within the last few years, I've rather neglected listening to it, and, quite frankly, been doing so because I don't find it very exciting. It's not, as might be suspected initially, that I dislike Metallica in general; I'm a big fan of Kill 'em All, Ride the Lightning, and, from time to time, when I feel like listening to something with no bass, And Justice for All. However, Master of Puppets never felt quite the same, for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, let me indulge in a metaphor about pasta: Pasta can be a wonderful thing, a source of nourishment, joy and satisfaction worldwide. However, pasta is nothing without a bit of seasoning; at the very least, some pepper, some butter, or something. The crippling flaw - or, at least, the one which makes it hobble and swear at it's co-workers - of Master of Puppets is it's production. Someone forgot to put the sauce on it. The dull guitar tone really strips the record of the unholy, raging reverb which gave Ride the Lightning it's power, and it's musical presence equivalent to a jumbo-jet taking-off. Master of Puppets, on the other hand, feels like listening to what could be an album recorded in a similar tone, but listened to from inside a foam mattress - the guitars lack bite and they lack reverb - in fact, the whole record is a bit muffled, and all of the instruments feel very much fused together - I can barely tell where the bass ends and the guitar begins, instead, the entire record is a mixture of drums with muddy, rumbling something placed over the top, with some lead guitar squeezed out onto the top of that... lead guitar with an at times disconcerting and unwelcome amount of wah-pedal abuse. 

The song-writing is another area which never quite hit me with the same love-at-first-sight punch that Ride the Lightning did - sure, there are a few absolute belters on the album; Disposable Heroes, which goes on for about a third too long, and the title track, which justifies its length a little better, but still doesn't quite need eight and a half minutes. The album itself feels like it has been elongated more than really needs to be done, and most of the tracks have a bit of extra fat which could be trimmed in a best possible world, leaving Master of Puppets, as an album, feels quite bloated and sluggish. I hastily add that the slower tracks like Leper Messiah and The Thing That Should Not Be aren't bad - I've always had a place in my heart for slower thrash tracks; For Whom the Bell Tolls is a veritable monster. However, not only are the approximations of it on this record less exciting, but the muddy production really robs them of the incredible presence which For Whom the Bell Tolls carries, instead leaving them dry and hard to chew, despite their great potential - especially with an eye to Master of Puppets relative lack of melody; many of the best tracks on Ride the Lightning had a real sense of melody, or were absolutely vicious rhythm-driven thrash tracks - instead, on Master of Puppets, many of the tracks are neither. Both of the aforementioned songs, for all their enjoyable, catchy edges, fail to be deep or crisp on account of this lack of melody, instead being constructed, for the most part, by memorable but uneventful rhythm parts - many of which fail to be exciting rhythm parts, which tracks like Ride the Lightning itself could do.

...and there we have it; Master of Puppets, retaining it's position as an alright Metallica Record. Granted, it may well be their fourth best, but it's also their second worst, at least, when one compresses everything from The Black Album onwards into a sad little cube labelled "the rest".  Granted, I've had some enjoyable times listening to Master of Puppets, and indeed, every track is enjoyable, but it's never sat on any sort of throne within the hall of my musical taste, and for that reason, I decided it would be more interesting to mark review #300 with that, instead of with an album I utterly adore.

This is a 7/10.

Metallica Official Site
Metallica on Facebook
Metallica on Metal Archives

Thursday, 5 September 2013

#299 - Jute Gyte - Discontinuities

Judging by two things, firstly the fact that I meant to review this album soon after it come out, and secondly, the fact that Discontinuities came out in March, It would appear that I've failed in this. However, now, finally, I've gotten around to listening to the bizarre and at times unnerving mixture of black-metal and alarming music-theory which is manifest in every release that one-man black metal project Jute Gyte has to it's name. And now, onwards, reviewing what I thoroughly expect to be another winding, vertigo-inducing journey through music which feels gloriously close to the sonically impossible.

I don't know a great amount about the man behind the Jute Gyte moniker, Adam Kalmbach, but I can only assume he's probably a wizard. Jute Gyte records are not so much composed as invoked, summoned and crafted. As with most of the project's releases, Discontinuities gives the impression of having been created by someone who read ancient, eldritch tomes of musical lore, in languages and alphabets long forgotten, and created strange things which had not been dreamed of before. Each grinding, churning track seems so discordant and yet so successful at what it does that the mind boggles within seconds of pressing the play button. The music collides with the ears as if it were spawned by some haunted, perhaps slightly broken-down carousel, or bizarre clockwork puppet-show, with banging hammers and screeching cogs. The clattering, almost percussive guitar tone is like being squeezed not just by the undulating, labyrinthine sound-waves, but by the laws of reality themselves closing in around you like a disturbing audible cocoon, a Blut Aus Nord or Deathspell Omega which was given strong drugs to produce delirium, and then wrecked it's room in solipsistic rage. Perhaps the image I'm trying to spin of how Discontinuities sounds is leaving it undesirable to listen to, but that is the unexpected thing to the first-time listener; what on paper might be a very, very challenging listen indeed is in fact rather enjoyable when you get used to it, even when, without a doubt, there is quite a lot of getting used to it to do. When you do, however, you can appreciate the works of Jute Gyte for the fresh and unique properties they have, and, perhaps more superficially, but nonetheless a source of great enjoyment, the sheer ability it always has sonically maul you with oddity. 

Discontinuities, as the name might suggest, is actually a step away from the sound Jute Gyte had on the previous couple of records, although, for reasons I'm about to delve into, I can't fully describe these differences without simply telling you to listen to the music yourselves. As I reiterate every single time I review a Jute Gyte album, I know almost nothing about music-theory; however, even I can tell that Discontinuities is different, both in terms of it's overall essence, and in some more overt sections which previously lacked quite the same emphasis which they receive here. Namely, the record feels slightly more subtle, and the sound isn't quite so thick in places, with thin, high-pitched guitar meeting drums, with other elements at times seeming respectfully subdued, instead of the roaring and constant "in your face assault" of many of the previous works. That's not to say that the record is a tamed-creature, but it certainly, and effectively, flirts with more calm, but equally twisted, sections throughout. The track "Night is the Collaborator of Torturers" is a good example of this, combining an extremely high tempo side, with another, slower aspect - at times the tempo slows right down and saunters, something which creates an interesting lull in the storm, but at the same time doesn't quite heal any of the tears and lesions that the sound has made in your understanding of the laws of music. The soundscape doesn't become any more polite to the senses; even at a low tempo, the record is still without a doubt an aquired taste, however, on which, when aquired, tastes good indeed, and easily as good as the past records.

Once again, albeit slightly late to the party, I can give my verdict on the "new" Jute Gyte album. Discontinuities has every bit of the tangled, alarming energy and presence of the previous records, and definitely lives up to the reputation which Jute Gyte has slowly but surely amassed. Of course, like everything that came before it, it's not easy to listen to, but it's rewarding when you're willing to put in the time and effort, which I strongly recommend you do.

This is an 8/10.

Jute Gyte on Bandcamp
Jute Gyte on Metal Archives