Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 02/28/2019
I hope everyone had a good Valentine’s Day and/or whatever assorted Saint Days or festivities you celebrate in your pagan neck of the woods. Close out the month with some Horndal, Dream Theater, MIDST, The Moth Gatherer, Cara Neir, Il Vuoto, Instant, The New Enemy, Correjta and Necrom.
Sweden’s Horndal have released a debut album that serves as a swift jab to the throat of anyone who listens. Remains is like the heaviest parts from Baroness and Mastodon smashed face-first in to Snapcase and Converge. The songs are frantic, but not without purpose, each one churning with a working-class ethos and a yearning for more. Rhythms intertwine with sludgy riffs and defiant vocals that serve as a warning to those that sleep through life. The horror is real and it wears a business suit. Remains is an album for metal and hardcore fans alike that refuse to accept the crushing weight of the machine. – 365
It’s that time of the tri-year period, baby. After the Disney videogame they released in 2016, Prog Metal pros Dream Theater are here with what is their strongest album since 2011’s A Dramatic Turn of Events. A low bar, sure, but a satisfying one to clear regardless. It’s essentially a better executed (and produced), more concise and riffier take on what the band were going for with their 2013 self-titled. My main gripe with the record is that, yet again, Mike Mangini is a MIDI interpreter in human form. This isn’t always a bad thing, but in a lot of spots the non-standard time signatures and grooves would benefit infinitely from subtle timing variations around the metronome beat, which at this point I’m positive is something Mangini is just not capable of doing. Jordan Rudess still cheeses all over everything and LaBrie is on key but lacking anything resembling energy, which are two constants you can count on at this stage in the band’s career. Petrucci oscillates between bringing the heavy groove riffs and liquid lava solos and a bit awkwardly and very transparently ripping off Rush more than ever before. The star of the show is the silent man himself, John Myung, with precise, chunky and stringy bass lines that are a pleasant distraction from the clanky, dead drum tones Mangini likes. I shit on DT a lot, but only because they’re very dear to my heart; Distance Over Time is an entertaining listen, if not a boundary-pushing or test-of-time enduring one. – Moshito
No sooner do I submit a MIDST track to the Toilet’s Riff ov the Week competition as a joke than MIDST abruptly releases a new mini-album, Man’s Usefulness Ends Not in Death. (Am I a wizard?) If you’ve passed on MIDST before and before because the project’s focus on noise over structure put you off, you might want to dip your toes back in now. The tables have turned, and the noise elements have taken the far back seat, letting some tasty atmospheric industrial metal drive for a while. Oh — and there are vocals now, both sweet cleans and shredding uncleans. The tracks veer between soaring synth-heavy deathscapes, mathy-crunchy freakzones, and, uh…one that sounds like a mashup of Duran Duran and Gorillaz. The variety at play here is quite invigorating. FFO: Locrian, Author & Punisher. – Richter
It’s only February, but The Moth Gatherer‘s Esoteric Oppression is already a Top 10 Album of 2019 contender for me. Their brand of atmospheric doom sludge conjurers up feelings of impending anxiety and unfathomable dread. Esoteric Oppression pounds and claws at the soul with the familiar heaviness found in bands like Cult of Luna, Isis, and Neurosis. Just when you can’t take it anymore, songs give way to hauntingly dreamy post-rock vibes, soothing the savage beast within. Though it contains only 5 songs, Esoteric Oppression clocks in at over 40 minutes. It’s a journey that’s well worth the trip. – 365
Cara and the Neirs return with another shot of adventurous screamo for your depleted adrenal gland. Parts III and IV, respectively, are every bit as pissy and crusty as recent predecessors, offering lean cuts of d-beat-driven rage, speckled with quiet little breathers. Sounds to me like the traditional screamo elements have been given greater focus — or else I have never heard much screamo in Cara Neir’s sound because I am uncomfortable with the label and I cannot come to terms with the fact that they do not play black metal. While I felt like something truly progressive (read: unclassifiable) was happening on 2016’s Guilt and His Reflection, that direction has been abandoned in favor of diversions into electronic soundscapes and chilled-out grooves. And despite these new diversions, I’m not convinced that Parts III and IV, respectively, add much of anything to what Cara Neir has already accomplished. Regardless, this is an enjoyable return, and should appeal to those who prefer to be dragged brutally between the highest of highs and the mid-est of mids. – Richter
On previous records, the Italian one-man funeral doom band Il Vuoto, has expressed taste in both ambient-like landscapes as well as a more melancholy-led wallowing. Second full-length, Vastness would seem to try and tie all loose-ends and previous stylings together. Mostly it’s regular funeral doom with scarce, mournful leads, few, if any, changes of pace and songwriting, while engaging, doesn’t quite carry the extensive song-lengths. While “Her Fragile Limbs” does spend much of it’s time jamming along to calm sad-boy tunes, on the whole the record misses the melodic sensibility of Matteo’s other band Chiral, that I had come to most enjoy on the Senseless Painful Lives In Tears -split, though it’s closing guitar solo being the crowning moment of the record, largely indicates that it’s on these moments Il Vuoto truly shines, and not on it’s doom metal side. There’s a few awkward moments on the album as well, like the 14-minute acoustic “Weakness” that makes me direly wish it was an instrumental – unfortunately the same spoken word attempt at dramatic bellowing makes return appearances on other songs, harder to enjoy on each succeeding event. Though it’s still a fairly enjoyable album, I wish Matteo will give more room for the less-heavy side of the project, and ditch those awful vocals. – Karhu
Are you into hardcore? Perchance, Finnish death metal too? Instant is a band that does those two things together. In all honesty, Wounded & Deserted isn’t terribly derivative of specifically Finnish kind of death metal, even though the sound pops out here and there. It’s brutally simplistic death metal, but plays out like a hardcore record would, for most of the time. At sixteen minutes the filthy and righteously sloppy record could stand to be a little longer, but in the longer run, the short length has proven just right. There’s enough variation between the riffs, and spirit in it’s hectic pace to keep it far from the yawn-fests a’la Jungle Rot that many would think of, at the sound of “boneheaded death metal” but that’s what Instant is all about, extremely fun, highly addictive, boneheaded death metal. Although largely one-paced, Wounded & Deserted indicates some primitive understanding of longer arcs, after a smattering of what they do best “Submerged” features an extended percussive intro that works almost as quiet interlude within context, before erupting into the most grinding blasts the record offers, finally fading into atmospheric riffing. And closer “Longing For Grief” briefly takes a full-on death metal approach with melodic riffs and more mood shifts than some other, similar bands’ entire discographies (that’s a whopping 2). The only real downside is, that the band is apparently Ostrobothnian and that’s very much a killing blow. So ignore, I guess, or if you’re feeling brave, exercise extreme caution. If it weren’t for the unfortunate truth, Wounded & Deserted‘ be a 4/5. – Karhu
Maniacal punk with metal flourishes in the same family as bands like Zeke and Supersuckers? Hook it up to my veins! No song is longer than four minutes. The New Enemy get to the point with on Illusion of Choice violent glee, spitting vitriol in your face as they take you down to the ground. Y’know what’s even better than good music? Good music that benefits a good cause. Purchase Illusion of Choice on Bandcamp where the revenues will be donated to YMCA Sprott House – the first LGBTQ2S transitional housing program for youth in Canada. Hell yeah. – 365
How about a little triumphant-sounding melodeath in your life? Corretja has got you covered. Catchy riffs, clear musicianship, solid writing bring Life Aggressively to, well, life. What really makes the album shine are the flourishes of memorable clean vocals. In all honesty, I would probably tone down the death growls and focus just on the cleans. They’re great and help elevate the band from the rest of the melodeath pack. The album also features covers of Skinny Puppy, Tori Amos, Sisters of Mercy and a ‘mash-up’ of Gravediggaz and At the Gates. Based on that alone, you should give them a listen. – 365
Old school buzzsaw death metal from the heart of Sweden would be pretty much the most exciting thing ever if it wasn’t just about the least exciting thing ever. Except that Necrom are from Khrakiv, Ukraine and is formed by a number of black metal veterans from bands such as Drudkh, Khors, Nokturnal Mortum and The Mutanter. You can hardly blame me for being initially only excited for the line-up, but I’ve been regularly coming back to The Light Has Never Been Here with such enthusiasm there’s go to be more to the music than just that. And what it is, is the melodic edge of their riffing. You see, it’s very much reminiscent of the recently un-deceased Dismember, further enhanced on the occasion with a careful use of keys. There’s little else to The Light Has Never Been Here, and not much else to say, but to give the band a warm recommendation. It is a bit of a shame though, that Roman Saenko has expressed a disinterest in live activities, forcing the band to seek a separate vocalist for such occasions, but I for one, am excited for the future. – Karhu
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