Record Swap: Masterlord vs. Lacertilian
Greetings and welcome back to Record Swap. In today’s match-up, I paired the Toilet’s grumpy uncle in residence Masterlord with the coldblooded malandro-slaying reptile from down under. Will the two find common ground in the hallowed halls of metal Valhalla, or will they both press detonate on their silo switches and mutually assure destruction? Find out below! The rules are simple. No research. No foreknowledge. No mercy. — W.
Lacertilian’s Assignment: Night Conquers Day – Rebellion Is the Art of Survival (1999)
In my book, Rebellion Is the Art of Survival is tied up with Black Funeral‘s Vampyr – Throne of the Beast for best U.S. black metal album, and it’s even more overlooked. The blasting second-wave furor, masterful riffs, stomping viking-era Bathory influence (complete with the occasional take on Quorthon’s beautifully strained vocal melodies), perfect application of haunting synth, and nods to extreme metal’s roots in thrash and traditional come together in all the right ways for me. It’s one of the few albums that I fully forgive for having such a ridiculously long runtime. Scouring the internet for similar enthusiasm has yielded me very few results, so I decided to see what our lizard pal Lacertilian (and by extension, all of you) think of one of my long-time favorites. — Masterlord
The speed at which Masterlord selected an album to task me with blindly reviewing seemed foreboding. Within an instant, he had chosen Night Conquers Day’s Rebellion Is The Art Of Survival, and the only way I could quell the slight apprehension was to open a beer and stab play.
The combination of the artwork and the somewhat theatrical build-up introduction that greeted me were unexpected, and if the following riff wasn’t the calm and composed loop that it is, the amalgam could easily seem comical. Just as I settled into its serene breeze things, turned squally and blew right through me. Coupled with the near-immediate introduction of the vocals I had to take stock. I looked down to see this album goes for over 72 minutes! Didn’t CDs only fit 74 minutes of music back then? I had to check if the fridge had more beers for this one.
Whilst soaking in the first few tracks I began to contemplate as to whether this was a European or US release; some staccato guitar stabs and a couple of brief chromatic bar-diving solos out of nowhere that would make Kerry King proud (7:00 & 7:20) all but answered that question for me. Speaking of the guitars, I found the guitar sound throughout this album to be hit and miss. The rhythm tone is great for the most part, but the leads do sound thin in comparison, with some solos reminiscent of the type of tone made by cheap Digitech multi-effects pedals in bedrooms (not that I’d know anything about that, I swear). In my mind, this blemish wouldn’t be as noticeable if the guitarists didn’t utilise the variety of effects that they do attempt. They clearly know what to do and when to do it, which is a commendable facet that few possess, but the actual result lets them down somewhat.
The tracks are prudently structured, and while most of them seem to clock in at over 10 minutes, the majority don’t feel like a drag to get through. It was not easy for me to differentiate between individual tracks, and I’m not sure if this is a function of the amount of time I have spent with the album (less than 2 weeks) or whether the album is just that kind of affair, with deliberately intertwined melodic themes echoing throughout. The great depth of this album leads me to lean towards the latter.
There are some ripping sections of double-bass and blasting in patches, particularly around the 21:50 mark. During the course of the album the guitars manage to create melodic layers that line up nicely with the overarching backing keyboard tracks. However, as well composed as the riffage is, it is let down somewhat by the culmination of several minor aspects of recording/production. For one, there are sharp jolts between the cleans and distorted riffs which when coupled with the hard panning they have gone for result in a jarring effect, which to me, doesn’t suit the style of the rest of the album. Another factor letting the overall result down are the fills; these riffs deserve better. Great riffs need solid turnarounds, and I found the bulk of these fills to be quite generic.
The lengthy nature of the album is somewhat alleviated by the middle section, which actually contains some of the stronger material found. This midsection is oftentimes the area where one feels the drag of duration setting in, but I feel this album picks up a bit here. I’m fairly sure I’ve heard the Masterlord himself decry several albums, even quality ones, for outstaying their welcome after some 40 minutes; over 70 minutes is surely an affront to this unwritten decree.
The vocalist offers up a few different styles which is always a good thing; about half of these work for me. There are moments of King Diamond-esque testicle constriction and another recurring voice which reminds me of Nelson Muntz from the Simpsons doing his best black metal impression. The lyrical matter appears to deal with his dislike of religion, and I found myself questioning whether this was written from the perspective of a life-loving day dweller or the Nightman himself.
This album will surely please some of the readers more than I, and while I did enjoy experiencing something a bit out of my comfort zone, I don’t know how much I’ll be revisiting in the future. I would, however, be greatly interested if there ever were to be a re-recording of this album with some of the aforementioned quirks and misgivings ironed-out. – Lacertilian
Masterlord’s Assignment: Psyopus – Our Puzzling Encounters Considered (2007)
After 20 minutes of going through albums which I thought Masterlord would enjoy, trying to find one he hadn’t heard, I gave up. He has heard everything! “Time to go for something weird,” I thought. Flashbacks to the mid- 2000s when I was expanding my mind at uni (in more ways than one!) brought the answer. Along with my steady diet of old classics were the fresh and strange sounds of bands such as The Red Chord, Meshuggah and Behold… The Arctopus. As bizarre and inconceivable as Colin Marston’s Behold… The Arctopus felt to me, the first time I heard Psyopus’ Our Puzzling Encounters Considered completely destroyed any notion I had of the boundaries of what could constitute music. Why would anyone who has mastered their instrument make something so unsettling and incongruous? Psyopus ask more questions than they answer and I liked the challenge of the puzzle. – Lacertilian
Look, “mathcore” is a combination of two words for which I harbor a deep, near-unlimited hatred. To me, the only conceivable mergers that might even approximate it in pure reprehensibility and horror would be spiders that swim around in the ocean, a tall bridge over water that is also a mean clown, and needles made of rejection. That said, this might be slightly biased. Since I’m reviewing blind, am not allowed to research, and possess nothing beyond a cursory knowledge of this style, I really have no way of telling how influential of an album I’m bad-mouthing here, but I’ll take my chances. Also I don’t care. It took me 20 seconds to be 99% sure I was going to hate this, then 13 more for the introduction of the vocals to bump it up to a curmudgeonly 100.
Let me get this out of the way first — this band is not unworthy of praise. It’s clear to me as a man with no talents that the members of this band are very, very skilled. I’m sure they’ve logged buttloads of hours practicing tirelessly to get to the point where they can play the shit that they play, and it is quite impressive. Now, how have they put these dandy skills of theirs to use in Our Puzzling Encounters Considered? Apparently by sitting in a circle together, strong-willed and single-minded in their pursuit of creating an album with the express purpose of irritating me specifically, on a deep and knowing personal level. I can’t shake the feeling that they did this just to hurt me. I have no other explanation. They know my name and probably have a dartboard in their practice space with my stupid face on it.
I should make something clear. Discord is not the issue here. Nor is jarring song structure or general freneticism. I enjoy all these things on occasion, but they — like pretty much anything — need to be used in ways that work. The haphazard shit-cramming of short wank-off passages all designed to yell LISTEN TO HOW WEIRD WE ARE. AREN’T WE JUST SO WEIRD? COOL, HUH? THANKS FOR NOTICING for over half an hour is not a way that works for me. You could cut this album into 30-second chunks and rearrange them in any order to identical effect; an effect which I find profoundly annoying.
I know what you’re maybe thinking: I’m an idiot because that’s sorta the point of mathcore. To this I respond with two points. 1) Maybe that’s why this genre is fucking ocean spiders in the first place. 2) Mathcore with more credible songwriting does seem to exist. I’m not a man who personally enjoys The Dillinger Escape Plan, but times like these call for some desperate-ass measures, and I would promptly recommend them over this to anyone who still possesses the astonishing desire to sit through mathcore after refusing my initial suggestion to kick a chair out from under themselves instead.
Lacertilian recently confessed that, while it may have been a staple for him years ago, he was unable to sit through Our Puzzling Encounters Considered‘s entirety after assigning it to me. Let that, and the following image of my forever-soiled Youtube recommendations, be a warning to you.
Take what I say with a grain of salt. My opinions regularly suck and me reviewing mathcore is akin to W. reviewing a batch of El Monterey microwave chimichangas with still-sorta-frozen centers. You might really like it, though. Give it a shot. Have ibuprofen at the ready. – Masterlord
There you have it. The Masterlord and the Lizard have struck each other down in glorious battle. May they both be carried away to join Odin’s legions. Want to get involved in Record Swap? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.