Mini Reviews from Around the Bowl: 06/29/17
Thursday is here, and with it come the small bits o’ words. Have some bite-sized tidbits from Machines of Man, American, Angel Sword, In the Wake, Dephosphorus, LLNN, Wovoka, Tehom, Mountaineer, Watchcries, Legionnaire, CHRMR, and Kaledon.
Prog for the Progmind: Machines of Man are here to cure your craving for modern progressive noodling with just a hint of core-ness. Featuring a wide variety of tempos and styles, ranging from beautiful arpeggios and melodic vocals to diminished, almost djenty dual guitar licks under harsh screams, Dreamstates hits all the “oh yeah” spots on my personal Prog-O-Meter. If I had to compare them to any one band, it would probably be my dear Between the Buried and Me, but Machines of Man manage to make the sound their own AND not have the record drag on with potentially infuriating 15-minute epics. That’s really the album’s strong point: it’s complex and varied, yet concise enough to not let your mind wander too far off. Fans of great Progressive Metal: don’t skip this, and stream the whole album here. – Moshito.
Thanks to a fellow Toileteer (I can’t keep track of Disqus handles) for posting this in the FB group shortly before it was out, alerting me to the fact that I had confused this band with another who plays blackened hardcore of the kind I don’t much like. Hardcore is among American‘s tags, and a few parts and riffs might not be amiss in that genre, but there’s a lot more going on. I was at first reminded of Black Monolith due to a bit of melody from the guitar and blackened vocals that are somewhat distorted (and less piercing than on the debut). But these guys are not as fond of d-beats in their black metal, and while Black Monolith relegates ambient/noise elements mostly to intros, here they permeate every song, adding a thick layer of grime to the sound and frequently taking center stage – the shorter songs on the album consist mostly of abrasive electronic sounds. They also create a bit of an industrial flair in several parts where the album beats you into submission with relentless repetition (“Amorous and Subdued”, “Paradise Again”). Finally, the latter part of the album highlights American’s sludgy side. If you can dig a more bonkers version of Fange‘s latest minus the HM-2 sound, “Defecting Ways“ and “I Am Thine Enemy“ are where you shall fall in love. – Hans.
In the Wake – Volumn 1: To Envision
Independent | June 17th, 2017
In the Wake are still starting to get their bearings as a band, but there’s an incredible amount of promise on this debut. It’s a very raw album, the production isn’t outstanding, and while a lot of you like that, it’s not really a quality I look for in progressive metal. The talent each band member demonstrates is really impressive, and you can tell that each member is being influenced by something completely different. It’s a weird sort of genre mash-up that is totally punishing death at times and very technical at others. If I were a talent scout, I’d be flagging this band for sure, but I also don’t think I’d throw them on my showcase just yet. Some of the songs are really excellent and focused, while others are still a little upper-tier local-band-ish. If you’re a frequent concert-goer in Ohio, keep an eye out! – Joaquin.
Astrogrind. Dephosphorus‘ dense genre mix, founded on a sturdy base of blast- and d-beats, is indeed deserving of its own moniker. While I fell for them head over heels around the time their debut full-length came out, I must confess that the sophomore didn’t entirely click with me, so I was a bit wary. Fears were quickly assuaged, since this one, as the press release rightfully boasts, returns to a more straightforward approach. However, the ingredients are still manifold, and while I think I could list them, I’m a little hard put to reverse-engineer the recipe. There’s grind – that’s a bit of a no-brainer. Crust goes well with grind, and it’s in there. Death and black metal, too, but how much of each, exactly? Then there’s the fact that they take the “astro-“ part quite seriously, both lyrically (showing that songs about space are not solely in the domain of atmospheric black metal these days) and by adding sparse but effective synth (?) elements to create a bit of an otherworldly atmosphere. And it all works incredibly well. Just listen to “Αστερόσκονη (Asteroskoni)“ and tell me that’s not tasty. The lyrics are worth checking out, too, which really rounds out the package – and you get a book recommendation in the bargain, as the lyrics to “The Light of Ancient Mistakes“ are inspired by Iain M. Banks‘ Look to Windward. Astrogrind! – Hans.
Now that’s what I call a split! LLNN is a Danish group that delivers a brand of post-metal that leaves out all that building material, or what most of you call “filler”. In 3-minute bursts, they get to the point quickly with remarkable intensity. LLNN is like Cult of Luna but for people who ain’t got time for that. I love the industrial electronic sounds and guitar tone here. Wovoka went way in the other direction and delivered a 17-minute beast more akin to Isis. There’s some repetition, but all the grooves are so damn good that waiting for the high points is an absolute pleasure. Then, right after a lull, some surprisingly fitting clean vocals kick in and totally take you by surprise. Shit. I ruined the surprise. This is a post-metal must-listen of 2017. – Joaquin.
If you don’t already know about Angel Sword from my gushing review of their debut, Rebels Beyond the Pale, Kallio Rock City isn’t a bad place to start at all. While this single is only a couple songs long, both nail down exactly what makes Angel Sword so great: simple, late 70’s style heavy metal / hard rock. Kallio Rock City is a passionate call to all the things that we love about TRUE heavy metal, and for those of us who worship the traditional niche Angel Sword pursues, it is a unifying and empowering roar. “Satan Wears Leather” focuses more on epic storytelling, combining the mythic story of Satan’s fall from heaven with the goofy and fun aesthetics of heavy metal. The song COULD have ended as a pretty standard song before the 5 minute mark, but instead nicely uses twin guitar melodies to build into the intro as a bookend. With both songs, the chorus is the title of the song, so with only a few listens, you’re singing along every time they come up. If you’re into the more lo-fi end of traditional metal, and you aren’t already a fan, check this out. FFO: Riot’s Rock City, Manilla Road, Lord Fist – Randall Thor.
I strongly believe that album artwork should tell the viewer everything they need to know about the music. Legionnaire apparently do too. As the band name, logo, and art all should hint at, this is true heavy metal with a tinge of speed. The vocals, riffs, and leads are raw and mighty. Much in the same vein as Angel Sword, the guitars hold the barest hint of distortion, as if emerging from a time capsule from the era of the NWOBHM, albeit with a slightly more modern approach to the guitar-work. At just over 30 minutes, by the time you’re finished blasting through Dawn of Genesis, the only choice is to start it right back up again. Keep an eye on this band, and keep an eye on Finland. FFO: Angel Sword, Chevalier, Elixir (UK). – Randall Thor.
Sludgegaze is a word that apparently exists/is legit enough to be featured on the outside of Mountaineers debut. While such a word meant little to me beforehand, it gained some imaginary shape due to the band’s shared lineage with the gone-too-soon Secrets of the Sky. Unfortunately, this association ended up being detrimental to my experience. The similarities lie in the mid to slow pacing, certain riff shapes, and a solid start to finish flow. But at its core, this feels mostly like a post rock affair. It captures the same spacey, trendy soundscape that bands like the contortionist exist in (lush but cold) without falling into the temptation to include bouncy riffs, erratic structures, or breakdowns. The vocals were the hardest sell for me. While there’s a good sense of melodic direction, the tone of voice is a bit too good-cop-in-a-screamo-band. It paints the whole album, at times, as a collection of all the song outros and interludes from every mid 2000’s post hardcore and metalcore band. – The Tetrachord of Archytas.
I was introduced to Kaledon way back in 2008, when someone from the original Paganfest tour handed me their fourth album. It was pretty fun Italian style power metal, but I lost track of them pretty quickly. Carnagus – Emperor of the Darkness is totally different from the more flowery, light-hearted styles of 2008. Downtuned, heavy, and at times just mean, Kaledon have successfully evolved into 2017 with style. If you’re not already into power metal, chances are you won’t find anything here for you, but for those of you into European styles of power metal, this album manages to be aggressive, fun, riffy, and melodic all in one package. Carnagus manages to throw in plenty of thrash, and even something close to death metal without ever losing its character. If anything, the intro to “Evil Beheaded” is the best thing I have heard all year (the song rules too.) FFO: Rhapsody, Cellador, DGM. – Randall Thor.
Goatwhore’s newest album lacked energy, ferocity, and passion… Tehom possesses all those elements in spades with their debut LP, The Merciless Light. (If the name Blood Harvest meant anything to you, this is probably in your Bandcamp wishlist already.) Songs bob and weave between breakneck-speed shredding and a Cannibal Corpse-like groove, often managing to be strangely catchy; vocals are barked with an evil black metal rasp. In a time when either veteran bands are churning out albums at a consistent pace or new bands are pushing the envelope in what is considered extreme, this here record manages blaze a trail in thrashy death metal. If I had a battle vest, there would be a gigantic TEHOM patch front and center. Do not miss this stellar release. – Jimmy McNulty.
Judging by the arrangement of the lettering on the album cover, you’d be certain that CHRMR would be a shoo-in for a blackgaze Deafheaven clone. Your assessment couldn’t be more wrong because their music don’t need no mutha fuckin’ Coppertone and can only be described as sludgy post noise rock doom. If you enjoy the doomier tracks off of Soundgarden’s Superunknown and desire more of that flavor with the previously mentioned genres in mind, you can start to get an idea of what CHRMR are all about. The vocals in particular sound like some hybrid of Chris Cornell and Josh Homme that delivers catchy melodies in abundance across each of the four tracks on this release. The songs are effective, well written and highly addictive. This is the sedative you never knew you needed. Given the impressiveness of this EP, CHRMR aren’t going to be self-releasing things for very long. – Ron Deuce.
EPs can be something of a double-edged sword in that it’s really good for a short period time, but you really wish there was more to follow after all is said and done. That being said, an EPs success relies on keeping the listener interested for the duration and inviting them to come back repeatedly for a great many helpings. The UK’s Watchcries latest three song EP falls in the category of keeping you coming back because you can’t get enough. Their brand of sludgy hardcore will most certainly curry favor with those who enjoy The Abominable Iron Sloth, Will Haven and Crowbar. The sludgy groves they conjure bear some resemblance to the NOLA bayou area stalwarts, but with a crusty, angry edge to them. Watchcries doesn’t hang around in the sludgy arena for the entire duration of the EP. They sprinkle in some blast beats and even a small dose of riffment that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-Reek Carcass record. If this EP is not enough to tide you over, fear not because the recording of a full length is currently in the works. – Ron Deuce.
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