Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 08/16/2018
It was the spring when we met our renewal, and all around us was Blight House, Michael Romeo, Redemption, Jøtnarr and Decomposer.
I can’t tell if this is the coolest, sickest, or dumbest death metal record I’ve heard this year. I can confidently go with “most unsettling” though, and that in itself has proven rather intriguing. The guitar sound is a disgusting mire that surges and grinds perpetually. The bass rumbles away at a subterranean frequency, producing a marked click every time a string is struck. The distorted (or so I hope) vocals sound decidedly inhuman, whether it’s the raspy snarling or the lower than low bubbling gutturals. So far, so inadequately described – you should really hear this for yourself. I dig the idea of not just having a unique style but a unique sound to go with it. It mostly works, but what irks me is the excessive use of samples (“Acephalophagia II” being the worst offender, but not by much). Kudos though for actually implementing them into the songs instead of purely using them as intros and outros. Anyway, bottom line: I keep coming back to this, and that worries me deeply. – Hans
24 years (wow) after The Dark Chapter, Michael Romeo returns with a solo album to tide us over until things get sorted out at the Symphony X camp. Lush orchestrations, ludicrous shredding and hard-hitting grooves (along with the occasional progressive-ish jam-out) are what War of the Worlds, Pt. 1 is all about. It sounds like what I think modern-day SX could be if Romeo stopped actively trying to write “a Symphony X record” and just wrote what he felt like. It’s much more varied, layered and, yeah, fun than the last few SX albums, and although not 100% up to par with the early albums, much closer to them than I ever expected. Now just ditch the dated dubstep gimmick (which would have been tacky even five years ago) and write more things like this, but all the time. – Mosh Hoff
Once again Redemption has endured formidable lineup changes. While Agent Steel mastermind Bernie Versailles still hasn’t been replaced, pending his possible recovery from an aneurysm, guitarist Nick Van Dyk has joined forces with Evergrey‘s Tom Englund to take the mantle from Ray Alder. And while I do greatly miss Alder, Englund’s mournful, heartfelt voice is more than a good fit fro Redemption’s brand of emotional, straightforward prog metal. At their best (Snowfall–TMC–Loss) Redemption was characterized by powerful, twisting riffs, abundant guitar theatrics and Alder’s unmistakable voice, and little has changed come LNJID. Sometimes the smallest changes prove the most significant though, as is the case here. Riffing here seems more restrained than before – ironic, since that’s about the only department it’s shown. New keyboardist Vikram Shankar doesn’t quite seem to grasp the concept, and seems to have inspired Van Dyk to a more constant and relentless use of the fretboard. Mind you, it’s all executed with taste and never overdone. And since the songs tend to be both long, and plain, the duo’s work serves to compliment. Thanks to a less riffy direction and Englund’s presence, A Long Night’s Journey into Day sounds very much like if Evergrey had decided to not write every song around it’s frontman’s voice, but the other way around, and glazed it all with plenty of technical wankery. In the most loving way possible. – Karhu
The debut from this UK trio is an often sad, yet nonetheless brightly shimmering affair that I would recommend to fans of hodgepodge bands in the vein of Cara Neir. It’s a similarly deft mix of post-hardcore, black metal, crust, and sludge. Impulsive and aggressive bits are kept in check by frequent slower and even acoustic parts which spread a decent level of melancholy. Jøtnarr use these calmer spaces effectively for some emotional exploration before getting right back to work, but even when they last a little longer (“NazgûlYouth”, “Sleeper”), they still make enough happen to never feel like they’re just plodding along listlessly and padding out the mostly very taut songs. The record is a brief, cathartic romp that you can put on when the inevitable time of day comes where you recognize the morning’s naïve hope for just what it is and give in to the futility of it all. – Hans
I was three needlessly complicated sentences into an oration about this great intersection where grind, thrash, crust, and straight-up rock and roll meet and where bands like Decomposer and a couple of others toil in woeful obscurity… and then I realised this seems to be pretty much a hardcore album, but I listen to so little hardcore that I didn’t notice it right away. Or is it? I’m confused, and I love it. These intersections become great when the genre mix is so cohesive that you’re unsure which one tag describes it best at any given moment. Traces of all of the above styles are certainly there. Decomposer play fast, for one thing. Pit-stomping mosh riffs are still in ample supply, but so are d-beats and bouts of all-out blasting, making for an average speed more akin to thrash. Regardless of what you’re into though, you should not scroll on without having heard some of these guitar leads and the singer with his passionate screams and surprisingly intense cleans (well, 75% clean, at least). Both are excellently displayed in second track “Bone Harvest”. – 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.