Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 03/29/2019
Wow it’s almost April. I wish I had something funny, witty or poignant to say, but I’ve got nothing. I don’t owe you anything, you’re not my real dad. But Fractal Universe, Magic Circle, Battle Beast, Chronologist, Deafkids, Heretical Sect, Swallow the Sun and Veiled are, at least for this week.
The two–time TDT almuni, French prog death quartet, Fractal Universe are back with their sophomore full-length and first on Metal Blade. The base of their sound remains very much the same, the coiling, serpentine riffs accentuated with jazz chords bring to mind Gorod, and while the slower, progressive half of the sound remains quirky, moody and unsettling, not unlike Alkaloid, much of the jazz there was in the band’s sound, has moved from the death to the prog, comign through now in rhythm more than in chords. Rhizomes of Insanity is more direct, and catchier than Engram of Decline was, and while this doesn’t mean a more straightforward, or restrained record, it sounds less like a group of musician out to prove themselves. If something, Rhizomes…, the writing of which had commenced much before Engram… was even released, sounds like a futher development, or even re-imagination, of the same fundamental ideas that provided the foundation for it’s predecessor. – Karhu
If you’re in the market for a 45+ minute stoner doom/rock album replete with a total of 3 worthwhile riffs played with a generic modern “retro” tone, 2nd rate Ozzy vocals with negligible charisma, and songs that stay beyond their welcome, this one’s for you. Cool cover art though.
RIYL: Straight-edge Sabbath, boanless Brutus, Psychedelic Witchcraft sans psychedelics and/or witchcraft. – Lacertillian
You ever finish listening to an album and wonder what the hell the band was trying to do with it? This has been my experience with the new Battle Beast record, which has left me more confused than anything. It seems like they took the “play a bunch of semi-related genres” angle to try to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, and while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, they’re not particularly good at… well, any of it. That’s not to say it’s all bad; the title track, for its godawful name, is actually a solid approximation of what modern Nightwish would sound like if they didn’t forget how to be metal, and “The Golden Horde” is a legitimately good speed metal tune. The rest, however, ranges from bland to outright grating. The band stumbles their way through poorly executed 80’s-inspired arena rock and symphonic metal ballads without any real direction, and the track “Endless Summer” sounds like some unholy union of Damn Yankees and bro country. Battle Beast needs to stick to their strengths in the future; an entire album of “Golden Horde” type of tunes would have been pretty good, but as it stands, No More Hollywood Endings is just going to be anathema to anyone who hears it. – Spear
My favorite up-and-coming progressive instrumental band (and the list behind them is dwindling by the day) has to be Chronologist. So often this type of noodling is intricate and fun but rarely is it memorable. Their new EP Equinox I builds on that great quality in Cartographer. They pack a lot into four short tracks but there a so many “fuck yeah!” moments that get stuck in my head and somehow doesn’t feel like it meanders for a second. This neat EP project will see a release on every Equinox and Solstice day this year, so expect more in June, September, and December (hence the weird Wednesday release). With mixing help from BTBAM producer Jamie King, the production on these songs is a thing of beauty. The bass and drum pack an intense punch and of course, the melodic guitar work is stunning. I can’t recommend this enough to prog fans. This band should be THE instu-prog band. – Joaquin
The noisemongering dance-punks from Brazil are back, and wouldn’t you know it, shit’s gotten even weirder. The predecessor marked the band’s evolution from an already not-quite-right grind act to one that plays an even more unsettling mix incorporating trace elements of punk, copious amounts of noise and reverb, and krautrock-esque, repetitive tribal rhythms. While on that record, tracks stood by themselves (each one could well have been a locked groove on a record, making you spin and dance maniacally until you dropped), everything blends into a continuous stream of halucinatory insanity on Metaprogramação. Tracks either melt straight into one another or are connected by interludes. This new structure (or lack thereof) makes a lot of sense for the band’s sound, which now presents itself as one long trip instead of several short ones. This should definitely go on Jimmy’s list of things not to listen to when you’re high; you may just as easily achieve heights of transecendence as plummet into depths of madness. – Hans
A brisk three year after the colossal Songs From The North -trilogy, three years spent in a grieving process after the passing of Aleah Starbridge, Swallow the Sun, having visited the brink of dissolution themselves, are back. Of course, the grieving hasn’t passed and it still brands When A Shadow Is Forced Into the Light, which plays out more like Hallatar, though more abundantly melodic, and in songwriting restrained than it’s partially improvised sibling; rather than like any Swallow The Sun album before it. The two bands, of course, shared a melodic language and style, so it doesn’t mark a great departure. WaSiFItL is, however, the least heavy Swallow the Sun album, aside from it’s emotional heft, nor does it bring the riffs like the band used to. While at first, this seemed to mean it’s an album that doesn’t stick, further inspection revealed a few central songs – “Firelights“, built around a vocal hook like StS has never done before, “Upon the Water“, the albums heaviest song in a more tangible meaning of the word and “Stone Wings“, introducing a newfound frailty for the band. Though it’s not an album that benefits from any particular song being taken apart, despite the restraint and simplicity meaning a remarkable amount of chorus-centric songs, but one that can be best enjoyed without company, at once, and without distractions. It’s an album that doesn’t actually translate very well into any other situation, but at the opportune moment, it’s in the very least more immersive than the last few of Raivio’s works. – Karhu
Raw and deranged black metal from Germany. The peculiar, low-gain guitars remind me of Jute Gyte at times, but the music does not rely on meticulous number games in the songwriting. Rather, Veiled are perfectly content to patiently grind you into a fine powder with merciless repetition of riffs. Then they scoop you up with a teaspoon and stir you into a cup of black coffee laced with halucinogens. The resulting swirl feels not too distant from what Thantifaxath conjure up; even if the atmosphere is concocted from slightly simpler ingredients, it’s often no less dizzying and uncomfortable. Admittedly, the band faces some strong competition in the field this year, but they bring enough of an individual sound to the table to make them stand out – none of the already stellar black metal released so far sounds quite as unhinged as this. – Hans
Hey you. Yeah YOU. Want to contribute to mini-reviews? Find an album you’ve dug (or not) that preferably hasn’t been reviewed on the blog yet and has been released recently (within the last few months, or year if you’re so inclined), write around 100-120 coherent words about it and send it to toiletminis[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Please include the album’s release date, title, label, a link to the band’s facebook (if they have one), another one to their bandcamp (or any other place to listen to/buy the album if they don’t have one) and any other information/links that you think are relevant and want to include.
Don’t do it for me. Do it for the ghost of the MasterLord.