Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Nomad Son - The Eternal Return

How many times have I listened to Nomad Son's The Eternal Return? It's an awesome record, that's for sure. Regardless how many times I've listened to it, every time has been a different listening experience. Everything about it is really atypical for a doom release. Obviously influenced by a lot of standard fare the result, though, is anything but. Perhaps it's inevitable, with the band being as far geographically from doom meccas as possible - they live on the island of Malta - that Nomad Son's style is going to be a creature with five limbs and blueish-orange hair that comes out at night to howl at trees and whimper when the stars are aligned in some specific way. It's easy to hear influences from Trouble, Vitus, Pentagram and Candlemass all over but where others find themselves presenting a mirror image, there's nothing copy-cat about The Eternal Return. Perhaps setting the tone for this abnormal take on the genre is Jordan Cutajar's impeccable vocal performance. Neither full-on singing, nor screaming his misshapen vocal style mimics that of an insane bishop proclaiming spiritual echts and demanding uncompromising agreement with his revelations. Jordan's vocals consistently tie differing sounding songs together on The Eternal Return, providing that level of consistency required for an album to be an album. But while the vocals offer consistency, another persistent achievement is The Eternal Return's silken flow and intelligent experimentation amidst different sounding tracks.

The Eternal Return has a nice mixture of tracks, some faster, such as openers "The Vigil" and "Sigma Draconis" and some severely slow such as "Comatose Souls" and "Winds of Golgotha." There's a nice amound of variety. Songs start slow and clean or with keyboards as well as simply running from the start and never letting up. The whole time narrated by Jordan's vocals. One short exception to Jordan's propagandizing vocal style used across most of The Eternal Return is at the beginning of the the album's title track, a crooned and delicate narration which then, expectedly, switches back to the gritty proselytizing he uses elsewhere. These subtle variances offer insight and shows, if not a band, a front-man that draws inspiration from a deep well of places. It also adds to the sense of complexity which, by this point into the album, has already been conveyed to the listener. Other experimentation appears elsewhere. Keyboardist Julian Grech finds himself playing a significant role in songs such as "Comatose Souls," where he slams out a sublimely left-field organ solo that rips as well as builds into brother Chris Grech's guitar lead. The off-beat keyboard accents in personal favorite "Winds of Golgotha" compliment the bent guitar riffs. It's a different usage of keys compared to a lot of other examples in the doom lexicon. It's also a different usage of the keys compared to their 2008 album, First Light.

On First Light, Nomad Son put themselves out there with a strong Doom record however it wasn't particularly unique. Keys were used to accent spots, and support the rhythm section mostly. On The Eternal Return Julian's keyboard finds itself in a much more prominent role. Parts are necessary for progression of the songs now, they aren't just an additional layer of instrumentation. The integration is integral for the album's workings. Even what may seem like a minor thing such as the preface to the previously mentioned solo section in "Comatose Souls" shows a nice step in maturation. Also noticeable compared to First Light are Jordan's vocals which have strengthened significantly. Musically, the whole album is much more serious, refined and important sounding. There is much more urgency and a greater sense of demeanor in the songs here compared to First Light. It is felt even at the lyrical level with songs like "Guilty as Sin" and "The Vigil" hinting at reflective and thoughtful deeper meanings across the album. There are a lot of references to and accusations levied against the institutions of religion on the album which should sit well regardless of personal opinions on the subject due to the honest and genuine approach to the lyrics

How many times have I listened to The Eternal Return? This week, I've listened to the album about twenty-eight times, give or take a couple songs. "Winds of Golgotha" clocks in at thirty-two times. The amount of time has been well served. It took about ten listens to really start to feel the album but once Nomad Son's doom found an opening the album was inside, and wouldn't leave my head. It's not just the awesome riffs and memorable vibe of the record. There are a lot of moments where Nomad Son have smartly used simple chorus techniques to create immediately memorable and catchy segments that don't feel out of place and don't detract from the complex structures of the songs. This week at the Grammy's the music industry gave awards out to a bunch of musicians and artists that they are friends with and that the selection committee has a financial stake in. In my opinion, it's bands like Nomad Son that are deserving of awards. While Metallica gets their umpteenth award for simply existing and being the only metal band that mainstream critics are aware of, Nomad Son and so many others put out albums that truly deserve mention. Unfortunately for the world, the longer excellent albums such as this simmer in the underground, the longer the validity of big-music continues to plummet.

The album also points out that Metal on Metal records knows what they are doing in the Doom Metal realm. Mortalicum and Nomad Son are, for me, two of the strongest bands on their roster. Coupled with a beautiful layout, excellent artwork, once again courtesy of Metal on Metal label owner Jowita Kaminska, this is an album that should be in your record collection.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Sordid Flesh - Torturer

Sordid Flesh is the kind of unusual death metal band that completely skirts most of the downsides of having that familiar morbid-yet-playfully-campy atmosphere. Have you ever noticed how b horror movies are frequently hampered by their own sense of self-awareness? Death metal often suffers from a similar problem, an obsession with form that seems to be more important than concerns about things like songwriting or quality. However, on “Torturer” we hear metal that maintains a sense of black humor while still retaining an impression that the band’s paramount concern is making good music. This kind of balance makes the morbid album lighthearted without coming off as frivolous. Sordid Flesh makes their emphasis on songwriting clear even with the very first notes of the first track “The Thelema Way” with a rich and wide intro that deftly combines a light melody over warm bass notes.

Clearly a band’s lyrics are the easiest place to get a feel for their sense of humor, and here the vocals singing those lyrics have a bit of extra theatricality to them. The rather narrow ranged vocals are also a bit mouthy sounding, in that the vocalist probably has the microphone someone around the area of his premolars, causing some vocal popping in the talk-growls. While in need of more variation, these vocals are more articulate than the usual death metal fare. The very dry and unprocessed style allows the listener to comprehend lyrics like “that’s why I stab you and make you into my whore. My rotting whore.” The band uses lyrics like these to create and emphasize themes and moods that some death metal bands treat as automatically arising whenever guttural vocals and distorted guitars are used. Again, think of fun campy b horror movies - these lyrics may be dumb, but the band pulls them off and incorporates them into songs that deserve to be taken seriously.

Sordid Flesh’s sense of humor runs deeper even than the obligatory irreverent necrophilia and infanticide references, it permeates all the way into the album’s riffs. The band naturally incorporates scattered guitar bends, wide vibrato, and slides in such a way that acts a reminder of the excesses of rock and metal solos without ever feeling like that is all they are doing. These elements primarily serve a songwriting purpose and the “a-ha” moments they invoke are always secondary to the overall pacing and mood. You can hear early Venom’s attitude in some of these crunchy and slightly messy touches, the band certainly channels that vibe even while Sordid Flesh maintains its death metal ethos.

Energy is in abundance here, and the band knows when to shift riffs along the fretboard, throw in a solo, or change the drumming in order to maintain that energy. Take for example how the band sustains energy and suspense in “Rites At The Cemetery” where the band takes what could be a throw away piano intro and gives it meaning by mirroring its melody and harmony in a heart-pounding opener to the track. Even fantastically wild solos serve a purpose as an outburst rather than self indulgence. The leads in general are more focused on power than melody, so they work well just by being fast and high pitched.

A weak point with this release is how the vocals could use more variation in their timbre and delivery to match the band’s overall intensity. Belting out eighth notes doesn’t quite cut it for a dynamic and fast tempo band like Sordid Flesh. Even the sustained howling in “Mark of the Fallen” and the brief moment of nasal Atilla-esque vocals in “Grave Bitch” are refreshing touches that if used more often would have made the album more interesting. On the macro scale, the band has a really killer tone and plenty of great riffs, but this doesn’t always carry over to the songs as a whole and that sometimes makes their parts interchangeable. As such, some songs are catchy and memorable while others are good but forgettable. Also, while note really a complaint, it is noticeable that the final two songs have a different, rawer, mix from the rest of the album. It’s not better or worse either, just something neutrally apparent. In the future, if the band can make all of their songs as good as ones like “The Thelema Way” and  “Rites At The Cemetery” then they easily ascend from good to great, an A-class movie with a b horror vibe. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Hedlok - Year of the Wolf

Hedlok have been around for only three years, even though their name sounds like it should have been draped over the stage at a late 90's mallcore show featuring Disturbed and Linkin Park. Even the name of their label - Hip Kid Records - is just so bizarre that to hear their well done Year of the Wolf EP, and get black thrash instead of mall trash is delightfully surprising. Hedlok on this short release though do a good job to present their tracks, what they offer and leave with a positive taste, if not an original or unique helping of metal. On this release, the four piece unit fronted by dual guitarist / vocalists Matt Sokol and Mike Drysch and backed by drummer Mike Seman and Colin Brandon draw influence from late 80's Slayer. Second track "Return of the Wastelander" is a garage-band take on Dekapitator's dirty thrash and throws back to awesome songs like "Release the Dogs" or "Haunted By Evil."

Perhaps evident immediately was the two guitarists musicianship. A ripping Kerry King styled solo culminates opener "Toxic Shock" as well as "Speed of Death." It's a short release but the band offers tastes of some slower material as well as faster across the release. "Toxic Shock" opens unassumingly with a crawling intro before picking up speed through an amateur, though appropriate, bridge riff. The simple take on thirty-two-bar form here with the inclusion of a solo section is predictable though, and the four minute long playtime drags just a bit much. I think opening with a faster, quicker track - which are the better tracks here - such as "Return of the Wastelander" or "Speed of Death" may have offer better pacing. "Speed..." also happens to be my personal favorite on the brisk four song EP. The dynamic between the verse and chorus, with the chorus jumping up in pitch adding aggressiveness to the easily headbangable and moshable track. The breakdown is a nice cut. Simple, quick, forceful and effective.

"Year of the Wolf," rounds out the release and is a weaker track. It resorts to mid-paced chugging and sounds incomplete at the slower tempo. Hedlok have excelled in the lyrical department with some lyrics that demand to be gang chanted with a bunch of drunken thrashers in a basement somewhere. I go back to "Speed of Death" again for my favorite, which happens to be the first full verse here, "Fast like a shadow, dark as the night, ride with the wind, and curse the light, reject your savior, forsake the lord, but move too slow and speed of death will crush your soul." Combined with the very harsh screamed vocals, there is a manifest viciousness that is lacking on a lot of stuff in this realm. Year of the Wolf is done well, even if the band's name is a bit lame..

Looks like Steve also reviewed this completely independently from myself. Here is his review:

Hedlok - not to be confused with Hed P.E. - are a solid blackish thrash/speed band, even if their name sounds like a 90s mallcore band. Not to be confused with Speedwolf either, they've got some speed metal in here, and they've got the wolf, but it's a grimier but less gritty sort of thrash. The guitar work is extremely aggressive, heavily influenced by Slayer while mixing in brutal and teutonic thrash. That is contrasted by mid-paced drumming without double bass or blast beats - it's more like heavy/speed metal, which provides an interesting contrast and helps the guitar work stand out more by not just being another band hammering away with tight double bass and chugging guitars. The bass is nearly inaudible at most times in the distorted mix, but if it were louder it would give the music a nice punkish feel like a lot of the good early black/speed metal. Unfortunately the sound is pretty much all bite and crunch, with the vocals so distorted and reverberated that it almost sounds like they're going through a guitar amp.

The band sounds pretty good throughout the four tracks, a relatively consistent sound and performance, but the songwriting stumbles a few times. Vocals and guitars trade off the lead well at times, then crash into each other. There are some fragmented leads that are supposed to decorate the tail-ends of riffs that just go nowhere and don't wrap up the line like they need to. It's a twelve minute EP, but overall it doesn't have much structure and doesn't go anywhere, despite some really strong parts that pick the music up and send it flying, like the killer speed metal riff that starts off the second track, similar to the ultra-catchy speed-thrashing of Speedwolf, who these fellows seem to be the too-serious evil blackthrash cousin of.

Check it out if you like oldschool-worshipping blackened thrash/speed.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Mountains - Centralia


Mountains' follow up to 2011's Air Museum perfectly hones this duo's penchant for Ambient beauty into a seamless record from start to finish. Centralia, in many ways, is a perfect modern ambient release for fans of the genre's sweeping audioscapes as well as for those that are just beginning to ripple the surface of a beautifully still yet deep pond. Each strata of sound is situated atop a deep droning foundation to form thick blends of textures, arranged with the care, skill and expertise you would discover a life-long bonsai enthusiast providing for the most long-lived specimen in their collection. Koen Holtkamp and Brendon Anderegg's earlier albums in many ways have built up to the reverberations experienced in tracks as different as the sweet and short "Identical Ship" or the long and wistful "Propeller." Where Choral emphasized acoustic guitar playing and a delicate song-craft to feel like a more traditionally structured album, and Air Museum brought electronic ambiance to the forefront, Centralia has both a subtle structured approach as well as the pure drones of its predecessors. Here we find a far less processed sounding record than Air Museum but not as folky a release as some may consider Choral.

From start to finish, there are many ways to travel through this record, and many scenes to implant oneself. One joy of a great ambient work is that feeling of being lost somewhere. It is easy to do that here. The story of Centralia, the Pennsylvania mining town with a smoldering underground mine that inspired the Silent Hill video game series, described in Susan Hutchison Tassin's paperback, Pennsylvania Ghost Towns - an accumulation of forgotten places across Pennsylvania - as "a vision of hell, with crumbling infrastructure, silent streets... smoke and sulfurous fumes rising from numerous fissures in the ground throughout the area," is factual to reality but to find anything that would hint at this on Centralia is nigh impossible. There is a different image presented by Mountains. I find myself lost not in the smoky tomb of ember-filled coals mines but instead lazily wandering the untouched farmland and rolling hills through bosky groves and patchy meadows, mozying down old gravel roads past quaint homes now filled not with life but of memories, apparitions of joyous occasions etched in the fabric of a place that once would have been a stereotypical small-town-America main street. At times, dying embers fall from the sky like snow. As beautiful as the scenery can be, there are always the reminders of the past. The culminating moments of "Liana" are awash with a sense of tragedy and harshness. Arising from nowhere, perfectly honed noise and feedback creates the best moment of the album here, and offer a window from the surreal to existent.

With the strong electronic components here, we get a great arrangement plot. The natural guitars and strings and feedback are much the same as the hills, valleys, rich ore deposits and forests that run across the gasping earth. Where this bountiful nature drew men, their machines and their industry the land demanded that it be respected and revered. The unnatural sounds on Centralia rise in juxtaposition. While the electronics and synthesizers are front and center more than not on Centralia, they are effective only due to the strength of the drones underneath. Artificial and natural, hand in hand. Less metaphorically - though surely one could make comparisons between the burning mines of Centralia and the subterranean complex on Altair IV - the electronic components of Centralia remind of the influential, yet barely acknowledged Forbidden Planet soundtrack. Though Holtkamp and Anderegg didn't need to build their own instruments like Louis and Bebe Barron did in 1956, they did manage to patch themselves into the same train of thought.

And yet many lay-listeners would characterize Centralia as being a bunch of blips and bloops over monotonous expanses of synth. They wouldn't be entirely wrong, technically, however it would be a drastic oversimplification of the complexities of how Mountains has used different arrangements in each song to best create new, unique and entirely memorably individual passages. "Circular C" is one such track in which, what may sound at first like almost random punctuations of smooth and soft tones stumbles into a grand vista with bright acoustic guitar accents and a machine-like drone that shakily supports the now rotating melody introduced earlier. Holtkamp and Anderegg refuse to allow what would be a quality foundation lay unbuilt. Deeper elements enter and scuff up the smooth overtones with some grit. I'm reminded of the soundtrack to Sim City 4. "Propeller" is the harshest of the tracks up front but moves slower and patiently the deeper you look. Long, deep chord progressions are key and even though the pulsating essence that, in fact, resembles a propeller is a constant, once again we get a cyclical structure.

While other critics have noticed this looping pattern, none have been keen to describe it for what it is. Mountains on their longer tracks take the form of Javanese or Balinese gamelans, presenting an introductory phrasing and then through repetition and addition creating their electronic ambient. While a band such as Earth are the true kings of drone, there are no melodic patterns that run a course on Earth 2. Sunn O))) came closer at times on Black One but never quite totally epitomized the structure. Mountains, however is one of the purest examples of this decisively non-western musical style. Traditionally, gamelans symbolize the passing of time and are associated with the clock and the calendar. With Centralia we are offered something similar. Time has passed by the few people left in Centralia. There has been little return to the beauty of their land since before the 1962 mine fire. Mountains has given us a record to aid us in visualizing something that could have been or already was.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Anarchos - Descent Into The Maelstrom

Anarchos' Descent Into The Maelstrom is the kind of death metal release that takes you by surprise. It definitely is an unsuspected, unimposing release; five songs of death metal with little outward awesomeness appearing. Standard song titles such as "Morbid Ways to Decay" and "Anointing of the Sick" don't immediately grab the attention of seasoned listeners and the artwork, while pretty cool, isn't awe-inspiring initially. What will grab the listener's attention is the expertly crafted songs on what I would classify as an EP. With a strong rhythmic underbelly, Anarchos finds themselves in the sort of position which other bands often times do not. With a focus on excellent song structure and riffs, and less emphasis on leads and technicalities, the songs breathe like snow covered antebellum beasts waiting for a time when destruction and violence can be applauded and revered. The time has come: Anarchos has come. While some of the influences and sounds are expected, the band being from the Netherlands, the sound of the release does not seem to match it's release date. This sounds like 1992.

Across Descent Into The Maelstrom, we are awarded with a band that is part Grave and Dismember with a splash of Ashpyx and momentary waves of Slowly We Rot Obituary. The evidence is conclusive. With Anarchos, they've taken parts bands that are often copied and cloned and beat back the forces that be to create space and identity. While opening track, previously mentioned "Anointing the Sick" is standard fare, in retrospect, after a full listen through of the rest of the album, it is an excellent starting point. It presents the style of Anarchos without fully revealing all the band has to offer. It is "Morbid Ways to Decay" which, at least for me is the highlight and after a listen, I love the song's name. It is no longer a generic name. With the track, we get strong riffs that lead to crushing verses and a persistent headbanging bulk courtesy of the rumbling natural drum tone. But we are also awarded great Swedeath bridges, and blessed with a finale of slow crawling chords painted with haunting lead melodies. It's the kind of material which you rarely find on newer releases.

Perhaps it has something to do with the experience of Anarchos' members. Both Vincent Drenton and Ardy de Jong were members of Ulcerate Fester. Martin Brakert is a part of the disdainfully unorganized Burning Hatred which has experienced tons of member issues. Either way, their knowledge an appreciation for their death metal art is keen. Particularly important for the effectiveness of Descent Into The Maelstrom is the bitterness of the production. Clarity is high and yet, the whole thing is a mess of disgusting distortion. Thick and heavy like walls of granite covered in slime the density of mashed brain matter. The bass sounds like a rusty hammer being used to cut through flesh with disregard for pain. The guitars are quality death metal constructs. Evidence exists that proves all sorts of unbelievable things. The evidence here proves that amidst all the mediocrity, there are still some awesome death metal being pumped out of countries originally bastions of talent in the 90's. It's strange how things work out, now that I've listened to and really enjoyed this EP, the cover artwork is no longer boring and instead reminds me of a twist on old Swedish death metal demo covers. The song titles are now very cool and Anarchos has my ears.

Satanic Dystopia - Double Denim Shotgun Massacre

Rockin' Death Thrash is apparently a real thing, I guess. I remember getting promos of stuff a while back about bands being Death-n-Roll. I guess somewhere along the line it was only inevitable that somewhere would arise a band that firmly mixes the death metal with the thrash and presents it with rock-and-roll flair and accents. Perhaps the best example of Satanic Dystopia's overall style is "Black Stallion," which rides a few riffs that are structured with an emphasis on catchiness and hooks. The usage of basic full measures of strummed chord progressions with stoner-rock rhythmic propensities appears often on Double Denim Shotgun Massacre, another No Visible Scars tape in a DVD case which knows how to piss me off by popping open if I don't rubber band it shut. Overall though, perhaps that little misery plays into how the band comes across. Fumbling with a case because you're anal about your music is exactly what Satanic Dystopia aren't. They provide the soundtrack to tapes lost under the seats of your hand-me-down 1970's station wagon with no heat, that was the only way to get to scuzzy shows in seedy bars.

Satanic Dystopia has some cool stuff on here, mostly revolving around a strong transition game. The ability to switch from death thrash into juiced up Motorhead inspired hooks is one of the strong points. Different riffs never seem out of place, even when the band is leaping headlong into stripped down hardcore punk beats. Opening the release, a long intro about 'the power of darkness' sparks the furious riffage of the self titled track. It's a strong start. The album never lets up save for the introduction to final and eponymous track Satanic Dystopia which is prefaced by a wonderful piano piece similar to Chopin's Nocturne in E Minor with a settled layer of gritty crust over it. It's a stark contrast. The album elsewhere does not share the sadness and tragedy of the moment's melody. It is one of the few places where transition is ignored. The track simply proceeds ahead full speed. It works though. Because elsewhere everything flows so seamlessly, it is an obvious disregard here. It mimics, in a way the opening track moves from the intro to the meat of the album. Perhaps, this piano piece would have fit ever-so-slightly better as a finale to the track instead of a preamble. Vocally, the album is nothing worth telling friends about however the screamed vocals we've heard so many times aren't all that bad, even if they are the dictionary definition of predictable. They sound similar to a Van Drunen in rasp.

As is common on releases such as this, the central part of the album runs a bit together, even if the songs are individually very good. Little distinguishable character exists between them. At times doomier parts poke through but it doesn't make the songs more memorable. Satanic Dystopia in general have a nice foundation here but need to work on pacing their songs to stand out from each other more. As it stands, it's tough to think back and remember any particular moments. I think back to a review I did a while ago for Astrum's Tales of Witchlore and I think of how similar this and that are in style but where Astrum was boring and snailish in energy, Satanic Dystopia are passionate and excited. That little amount of extra gusto makes a big difference here. Today, at work, I was directed to throw extra Christmas product into the trash compactor to be destroyed. This album is similar in feeling to that: It was nice while it lasted, and I enjoyed the season but it's time to pack it in and move on. These tracks will probably sound stronger when they come up in a shuffle or on random, where they can stick out amongst other tracks.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Barishi - Barishi

Barishi’s self titled debut has moments of unmitigated beauty that make it a bit difficult to notice  the album’s overall shortfalls. Yes, countless progressive metal bands have given the sub-genre a bad name by strewing a stupid amount of self indulgent guitar solos over poorly written songs, but not Barishi. This album’s song structures are more like later day Enslaved than the usual sub-par Dream Theater or Symphony X clones one might expect. Think Rush-styled prog rather than guitar solo prog. Along with prog and metal, Barishi also has a bit of a mathcore feel due to the emphasis on harsh rhythmic staccatoed riffing, yet these influences are aptly distilled together for the most part. Aside from lingering on chugging riffs, Barishi’s self titled is a smooth and rich experience that manages to maintain a strong edge despite its fanciful mood.

The bittersweet source of much of Barishi’s smooth beauty is an archipelago of remarkable clean vocals. This blissful chain is tragically broken up with fairly high pitched raspy vocals that sound like they are coming from the hybrid/son of Grutle Kjellson and an unusually intelligible hardcore vocalist. While this isn’t something that would be particularly bothersome on its own, it is a disappointing step down from the relatively sparse clean vocals. The harsh vocals aren’t bad, they just leave you wanting more cleans instead. The band also has two instrumental songs, without counting the spacey swirling intro track, but they should really be considering having a cappella songs instead. Well, perhaps that would that be a swing too far in the other direction. The band’s strength is a tableau with the vocals as the central, but not sole figure. However, Barishi still needs to figure this out and include more of the clean vocals. Hearing Sascha Simms belting out lyrics about mountains will enrich your life.

Even the harsher vocals here take on a central structural role. Specifically, you can hear how important they are in “The Rider” where they drive the song forward even with the silken galloping bass lines and interesting riff transitions underneath. Consequently, the two instrumental tracks are boring energy drains for the album’s pacing. “Exhibiche’s” saccharine mood becomes nauseating due to the unwavering bass line’s ability to freeze melodic development in place. It’s like having a giant jawbreaker in your mouth (or even worse - amaretto) sitting there for five minutes. This song is a fairly common prog sin, everyone else lay on the ground and be boring so the guitar player can really let loose and do, well, prog stuff. The other instrumental track “A Place that Swallows all Rivers” is better, but still incomplete without any vocals to focus the song.

The other major issue that the band needs to grasp is why so many people hate mathcore, and it has nothing to do with latent fears of arithmetic or metal philistines. Rhythmic chugging is simply grueling to listen to and time signature changes don’t make for interesting music by themselves. Barishi really over indulges in this kind of stuff, the chugging mostly, so anyone with an embargo on mathematic chugging riffs will struggle through many parts of this release. The end of “The Rider” and major sections of the closing track are particularly exaggerated and bald versions of this problem. While the drummer certainly is talented and works towards keeping the chugs interesting and intense, you can’t fix the absence of melody with percussion. Contrast these weak parts of the album with the punchy/rhythmic yet melodically interesting “Holy Mountain” and it makes you want to take scissors to the tracks and cut out the chugs. In fact, if the bare chugs and instrumental songs were both edited out this would be a substantially more forceful release.

However, the album is not terribly bloated. Most of the songs are manageable length and while the longest, “Through Mountains, Through Plains” is just over eight minutes, it’s also one of the strongest tracks. The band has a couple problems to work on, but from the mountain songs we know that Barishi is capable of really good stuff. The issue though is that the rest of the songs are not up to that quality because they loose focus on having a strong satisfying melody. If the band can resolve these issue more consistently then they’d be nothing short of great, the ending “Holy Mountain” makes that abundantly clear.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Slumber Room - Slumber Room


After a short dirty raga, we're introduced to Slumber Room's debut EP - a bag of mystery, hovering somewhere between black metal, sludge and rock. It's not something that's easy to describe, particularly when there are so many different feels and looks across the release. It's more of something which the listener would take as it comes, whether it's the heavier, faster "Someone... Everyone... No One..." or the slower, tragic crumbling of "Under the Dying Moon," the key for Slumber Room, in all the tracks, even the two  non-songs which include the ragaesque intro and the moody piano track, "Our Shrine," is a repetition and redundancy which is appropriate with the band's moniker. These tracks will inspire sleepiness and a melancholy feeling of relaxation but most important is that Slumber Room seem to be more focused on maintaining the band's concept and style across a broad spectrum of different sounds, all consistent with each other somehow.

The production on this tape has a unique tone to it. The guitars are very thick and powerful, sounding with a bit of a twang on them. I'm not a guitar dude, but I'm pretty sure that the guitars are running through an HM2 pedal. Even with the thicker tone of the guitars, the other instruments are all very noticeable and clear. The bass is punchy and important, the drums are big and powerful with a massive stomach-punching kick drum and subdued cymbals. If there is an issue I have with the production on this, it's with the mixing of the vocals, which are lower in the mix. You don't get a good feel for them compared to the other instruments. This may be a good thing, however. The vocals are mundane, typical sludgy static screams that would be at home elsewhere. It's the one thing that I think holds Slumber Room back and something which could be used in the future to make Slumber Room something more than it is.

This is a strong first release, though, for this Seattle project and with only two members, M. Nihilist and M. Krutsinger - neither of which reveal what instruments they are responsible for - Slumber Room is mysterious enough to gain interest. The dual responsibilities shared are likely one of the reasons why there is so much consistency across the release, with only two points of input, you're getting a highly refined sound. I'm positive that fans of doom and black that find solace in the trance-inducing repetition of bands like this will latch on and turn off quickly. With the small niche Slumber Room would fine home with, it's possible for the band to spread rapidly by word of mouth. Packaged in a large plastic DVD case, with a nice layout and professionally imprinted tape shell, No Visible Scars has a nice release here. I just wish the case would stop popping open.