Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 11/08/2018
No Nonsense November right here. Get weird with Gleb Kanasevich, Four Stroke Barron, Anomalie, Evoken, Stellar Circuits, The Ocean, Infester, Dirge, Aborted and KEN Mode.
Gleb Kanasevich – Asleep
Independent | January 15th, 2019
You may recognize Gleb as that goofball who wrote the clarinet accompaniment for Meshuggah‘s “New Millenium Cyanide Christ,” but on forthcoming solo album Asleep we find the ensemble performer embracing serious musicianship and crafting a sonic landscape of primal, eldritch horror. Asleep features three tracks of blown out clarinet music, blasted sans mouthpiece through multiple guitar amps into a wall of sputtering pulsing white noise. While the songs certainly feature more variety than most noise music, with Gleb scooping into low register rumbles and enough squeals to make your knees quiver, the overriding sense is one of unfiltered, inevitable weight. If that all sounds like an album in which to lose yourself in the dread ambiance of twilight, never to return again to the land of men as you await total annihilation, that’s entirely the point; Gleb’s tone is all doom, all the time. This cicada scream of textural horror is a surprisingly effective harbinger of the end. – W
Four Stroke Barron – Planet Silver Screen
Prosthetic | November 9th, 2018
I should preempt this by saying I am not even a little bit on board the retro-synth nostalgia train, probably because I’m not even close to old enough for it to be a nostalgic sound. It just triggers the lolbuttz in me, and probably always will. Surprisingly, “new-wave and heavy progressive rock” band Four Stroke Barron sneaks past that trigger and is just a refreshingly enjoyable new kind of music. Using pretty straightforward pop structures but replacing all the bullshit beep-boops with metal-adjacent riffs, they found a niche that I think will pay off for them. The vocals, by far the most new-wave thing about the album, are consistently good but I also can’t tell if I hate them occasionally. At the same time, this album wouldn’t be the same, and possibly forgettable, without that bit of weirdness. The three members create a huge sound with dynamic drumming, surprisingly jumpy strings, and damn fine production. Not every song is a winner, but there’s more good than bad, and the sax in the closer is a nice touch. – Joaquin
Anomalie – Integra
AOP Records | November 9th, 2018
Last time I wrote about Anomalie I basically said they were a slightly better version of Harakiri for the Sky who happen to be fronted by a live member of Harakiri for the Sky. I’ll stick with that simple description for this EP as well, meaning it’s very good melancholic atmo-bm with great melodic guitar and relentless drums. One of the reasons I say “better”, and especially for this EP, is track and album length. HftS almost never dips below 9 minutes and 70 minutes respectively, while Anomalie knows when it’s time to move on from an idea and instead of forcing a transition, just cuts to a new track. “Deliverance” has a particularly grandiose tone that goes through some really smooth progressions and really stands out in a genre that can get pretty monotonous. Integra is just a solid 30 minute block of music with few faults, can’t recommend it enough. – Joaquin
After a six year wait, the New Jersey funeral doom trudgers are back with a Toilet friendly, Rolderathis adorned album. But closer to 30 years of existence can it be good enough? The answer is yes, and the reason – besides the fact Evoken haven’t lost one bit of their charm or capability as composers of slow, suffocating drama mixed with massive rhythms – is twofold. Firstly, it doesn’t see Evoken treading too much old ground – on the other hand, the presence of death metal that has always been felt in their music, is being upped here and there, to new heights. But on the other, somber moments are abundant, with the guitars either completely dropping out or otherwise giving room to the interplay of piano and bass, as John Paradiso changes his deep growls to spoken word passages. Pushing further, the songs are often accompanied by a violin, which both, hasn’t made much of an appearance before, and casts the mind towards My Dying Bride. Although it may just be Zaros’ keyboards’ sound-palette as no violinist is credited, though the two often converse. While the album remains slow an heavy it does lack the glacial pace associated with funeral doom, and together with the plentiful spoken word passages this only fortifies the MDB association. What really makes this album, though, is drummer/lyricist Vince Verkay. His performance keeps the album heavily percussive even at it’s most vulnerable moments, and keeps the rhythmic character of the band intact. And it’s his concept – the psychological impact of World War I through the eyes of a bitter, dying soldier making a pact with a sadistic god as reflection of Verkay’s personal woes – that leaves for the deepest impact. Fitting, in a way, that it would see the band’s first line-up change since Pillard’s brief appearance over a decade ago – and become guitarist Chris Molinari’s last effort with the band. – Karhu
Stellar Circuits – Ways We Haunt
Independent | November 9th, 2018
Trigger Warning: Only continue reading if you aren’t completely revolted by the likes of TesseracT and Caligula’s Horse. Stellar Circuits deliver that sort of light but intricate prog metal that certainly gets all the chicks. A really strong vocal performance takes this album to the next level, which otherwise would have just been another mild validation that you can use djent in 2018 and still be good. It’s pretty formulaic if you’re familiar with the Karnivool-y scene, but for such a young band, they are really nailing that formula. There are enough memorable hooks over the 11 short tracks to give me cravings to come back when I’m in the mood for something a little on the sawft side. I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see a large fan-tide flow their way after this release. – Joaquin
I’ll cut to the chase – this is probably The Ocean’s worst album so far. It’s not bad, it’s just… fine. The production is predictably pristine but there is a massive dearth of the menacing and majestic riffs (ala The City in the Sea and Firmament) that, until now, put The Ocean firmly in the pantheon of post-metal godhood. Their best records take the listener on impossible journeys through far reaches of time and space, but Phanerozoic I is more like a midsummer sightseeing excursion in a pastoral countryside. It’s pleasant, but not terribly urgent and certainly not vital. Silurian is the strongest track, built around a grotesquely pulsating bass line and appropriately nautical sounding guitar and cello leads, but it feels like a mid-album slow burner without proper peaks on either side of it to give the relative calm of the track any meaning. The album’s single “Devonian:Nascent” was cowritten with Katatonia which may interest some of you who are into that sort of thing. Hopefully The Ocean saved all the good songs for Phanerozoic II, because a full double album of mediocre songs coming from one of my favorite bands after a 5 year wait between releases would be a massive disappointment. – HessianHunter
Krucyator Productions’ label head Loic has spent much of 2018 quietly roaming the halls of death metal’s storied history, finding scuffed and battered artifacts of the genre’s sordid past and dreaming up new ways to restore them to their former glory. Infester’s nigh universally revered sole full-length, To the Depths, in Degradation is the latest gore-caked relic to resurface, this time with the band’s bitey little 1992 demo Darkness Unveiled in tow. Fans of the genre have likely heard everything here before; the thin production, bile-drenched snarls, and gore-obsessed lyrics are very much a window into the genre’s pre-2000’s slump heyday, when riffs rolled and collided with haphazard aggression and and drums wheeled with wild recklessness. But if you’ve never spent any time with this classic, you’ll soon find yourself head over heels with all the weird, utterly nasty ideas the deranged minds of the old guard vomited forth into being. Check out “A Viscid, Slippery Secretion,” for extra gooeyness. As my pal Lacertilian put it, there’s never been a better time than now to enjoy death metal. – W
2018 has seen a glut of death-doom releases, most of which fails to distinguish itself in any way, but I’d encourage you to make room for one more release, the heavy-as-all-hell Au Puch from India’s Dirge. Stuffed to the brink of intestinal rupture with massive, swamp-dragging riffs and glorious, soaring melodies fit to appease any feathered serpent deity, Au Puch is a worthy ode to the Mesoamerican struggle against the rapacious conquistadors, a topic handled with both passion and conviction. Every song on Au Puch is meticulously rendered to treat its subject with dignity and reverence. Take “Montezuma’s Revenge,” for example; midway through the track, those Quetzalcoatl harmonies drop out into a grave percussive dirge, only to emerge on the other side of the darkness even more resplendent in their contribution to the heart-stirring riffs and pained screams. If you dig that track, you’ll love this entire record, because it’s all delivered with care, compassion, and classic headbangability. – W
Aborted is best known as the Belgian gore metal train with an ever-revolving door. Lately some stability has entered their line-up and it’s helped Aborted develop a style apart from their peers. Although the stigma of a gore-drenched, Carcassian deathgrind band still seems to follow them, it’s been inaccurate since at least Strychnine.213. While chaotic, hyperspeed blasting is still an integral part of their sound, it’s far from the only thing they do. This much they already proved on Global Flatline, going from extreme blasting through melodic procrastination to death n’ roll frolicking. Since then the band’s struggled to reach those heights, even chancing indifference. But no more, TerrorVision sees the band flex their muscles like never before, driving their stylistic tails further apart and no longer reserving a song for each particular idea – instead opting to do it all, all the time. While this may sound like a mess the true wonder of the record is how well it all comes together. It’s never abundantly chaotic and the songs don’t blur together very much – the combination of technical wizardry, melodies and other implemented details as well as constant changes in tempo and mood see to this. Sven de Caluwe, Ken Bedene and Mendel bij de Leij have been playing together not only in aborted but since 2013 in Systems Divide/Oracles as well, and their cooperation is what gives the album it’s character. Take “Vespertine Decay” for example, moving from menacing introduction to the explosive whirl you’d expect, it doesn’t keep the pace for long, instead slowing down again before introducing a central melody, soon lost into a riff storm that barely ceases for a breakdown and an all too rare guitar solo. Each song is as meticulously crafted and while in the past I’ve blamed Aborted’s hasty pace, seemingly dropping a new record before they’ve even completed the touring cycle for the last, for their decreasing quality, but with TerrorVision they’ve turned it into a profit – whether it’s their best album or not remains to be seen, but it won’t be far from the top. –KARHU
After tising into prominence with their excellent, self-titled debut and dealing not only with vocalist Heather Graham’s unfortunate decision to focus on the lackluster Graveshadow, but the realization that her successor Kayla Dixon had been a mis-choice, Helion Prime is finally primed for their sophomore. ToTCSM is instantly reminiscent of whatmade their debut so good – everything from melodies to riffs and chord choices as well as the appropriately soaring choruses is reminiscent of the debut – proof that the band had found their own sound early on, and did not waver in their vision. Neither “Bury The Sun” nor “A King Is Born” really rise to the heights the band is used to, and even it’s finest hours fall short. One of the reasons might be debuting vocalist Sozos Michael who strain on the high notes, and sounds thin when left alone – especially prominent on the otherwise passable ballad “Spectrum”. The other spot on Helion Prime’s face is the 17-minute closing title-track. While “The Human Condition” does prove the band is capable of building longer arcs without trouble, “TsTSCM” appears stitched together from several more or less random ideas and lacks any and all drama, sections following each other without leading anywhere. Topped with Brittany Slayes’ limp and powerless performance, it’s an epic that will not stop, ever, until you are bored -KARHU
KEN Mode have been at this rock and roll game for close to two decades and have gone through a couple metamorphoses along the way. They’ve been both a straight-up noise rock band and a brutal Converge-style metalcore band, and luckily for us their newest record Loved is the best of both worlds wrapped into one triumphantly misanthropic package. “The Illusion of Dignity” is built around the goofiest, most ignorant two note guitar riff possible and it is crushing. From the infernal stomp of “Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should” to the sickly wail of “Fractures in Adults“, this entire album absolutely reeks of hatred and nausea. Highly recommended listening if you hate everything. – HessianHunter
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.
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