Sunday, November 3, 2019

Monthly Blast: October 2019

I let my music collection stay on shuffle while reading and relaxing in my office at night. This lends an aspect of spontaneity to my listening. I relinquish control of my predispositions and biases and hope that what comes on next is not something god-awful. More often than not, I'm pleasantly surprised, such as when a few nights ago I was served Paul Chain and Billy Joel in a row. Sometimes I'm not as lucky. In some ways, you recognize interesting things about records this way; things which don't appear as easily when you pick out and know what is coming on next.

I've been reading Patrick Rothmus' Name of the Wind on a recommendation. I was about thirty pages in last night when unexpectedly -


Never had I realized that Metallica's lowest moment so jarringly rolls into the soundsphere. It's like being punched in the back of the head while walking. Somehow I imagined James Hetfield transmogrifying out of thin air into a depressed physical manifestation of his own inner demons - which have been on full display recently - and flailing around the room like a disgruntled Nascar driver around a track. It ruined my night. I closed my book calmly, being careful not to get too close as to startle James as he jumped back and forth from the top of my floor speakers 'Hetfielding' in the corner. I turned off the music with a gentle click and went to bed, thankful that I made it out alive. 

So now, having readied myself over the past few hours, I decided to actually listen to Reload start to finish. Moments of torture I had forgotten about arose such as the goat noises in "The Memory Remains" and I did come to some new revelations which I am sure will never come up in conversations with other metal fans... such as how did the band not get called out for the "Enter Sandman" ripoff main riff in "Slither"? I guess it has something to do with the fact that no one has ever actively listened to Reload. But that moment of James blinking into existence around me without warning never occurred again - and the album was less for it. Without startling me, Reload is a monument to the band's crawl towards the gutter; when randomly encountered, it's a terrifying edifice existing within the darkness of my hard drive ready to pounce when I least expect it.

Arcane Malevolence - Wicked Turn Of The Vine (2010)

In 2007, Arcane Malevolence, from Connecticut, released a demo called Of Biblical Proportions. It was a mostly generic mix of black metal-this and deathcore-that which, while not unpleasant, did little to interest me. A Self Titled 2009 demo followed. Somehow I came into possession of the full length, Wicked Turn Of The Vine. I wish I could send it back to where it came from. Aside from offering only three new tracks - four of the seven could be found on their previous releases - the original versions were much better. Though the production is subpar and the songs are only mediocre, the biggest reason for this falls squarely on the shoulders of vocalist Chris Baldwin. Baldwin's vocal performance, though expressive, is irksome and thespian. If Garm's vocals on the seminal Arcturus albums were on a level comparable to Shakespeare, then Baldwin's vocals on Wicked Turn of the Vine would be the equivalent of a Troma bowel movement; as if they belonged to the lead singer of a System of a Down cover band who has Turret's Syndrome; so mismatched that if his vocals were left off the album to simmer in the depths of a harddrive, eventually the computer enclosure would suddenly be wearing Juggalo makeup. As mediocre and indifferent I am to the rest of the poorly produced music on this record, the vocal situation is a definitive deal breaker that drag this album so far into the mud that Les Claypool is concerned they're going to ruin the only mainstream hit anyone remembers Primus for other than the South Park theme song. The band did a decent job with the packaging but I'm glad this is off my desk now. I've vacuum sealed it into heavy duty As-Seen-On-Tv pouches and wrapped it in electrician's tape so it doesn't leak onto other music in my long-term storage bin.

At Night - At Night Demo (2009)

Dug this out of a box of random old tapes and CDrs. Not sure where / when I got it however it is somehow connected to Matt Gittings of Eerie up in New Hampshire. I believe it was recorded at his studio or something. At Night offer eight tracks of early 90's style grindcore which reminds me of a mix between Napalm Death and certain moments of Bolt Thrower. The Foursome's goal of violence and aggression is furthered by the inclusion of samples of gunshots, one of which cues the first track nicely, and the rest of which are jumbled into the last instrumental outro track which don't seem to coordinate with the underlying rhythm tracks. When the last track first played, I thought something came apart in my back passenger side brake compartment, banging around the drum and giving off all sorts of sudden noises. The main men here are Marble, on drums, and Mavrogeorge on guitar. Bass and vocals are both session musicians. The drumming and guitars are impressively performed. The tone of drums focuses on the metallic essence of the cymbals and adds a sharp attitude to the overall tracks. The songs, all unnumbered, have well placed melodic shifts, momentary breakdowns, catchy transitions, and occasionally even draw from an almost hidden black metal sentiment, while remaining entirely in the grind and even crust vibe. The vocals, provided by 'Ian' are scratchy and raw with a hint of cadence; they fit well though don't necessarily stand out or add a huge amount to the release. Persistent and driving, I could see this appealing to many fans on the extreme end of punk, grindcore, and crust. Having no additional information on the band, no lyrics, no idea of song titles, it's difficult to point to what actually might be contextually relevant beyond the quality of the music. Some additional effort into the package would have helped this otherwise acceptable DIY release.

Botonist - Ecosystem (2019)

This is my first foray into Botanist, being drawn into Otrebor's world, The Verdant Realm, through an interest in the overall concept first, and the music second. Musically, Ecosystem is difficult to describe overall and it doesn't seem to fit into any simple categorization. Botanist, here, is a collaborative group with Otrebor and a swarm of live musicians. Think of it as extreme metal drumming played over black metal instrumentals provided by bass, dulcimer, and a shadowy guitar (or something). Vocals are wailed screams in the vein of European depressive black metal bands like Eindig or Laster with heavy use of clean vocal harmonies as atmospheric effects. The songs are not done a disservice through this arrangement. Quite opposite in fact. The dulcimer is an aggressive tone which adds a lot of spit and snarl to even uplifting moments. The bass is also of significance, with all the other instruments taking up a certain space on the treble end of the spectrum, the sleek low end provided fills in and cues some of the album's most intense moments in songs like "Harvestman." The rich textures, exceptional playing, and dynamic compositions across the album offer a lot to return to across repeat listens. Regarding Ecosystem's concept described is similarly vivid and unique. As described by the band, the album deals with the the ecosystems of redwood forests and "with mankind's impact on those forests, particularly calling into question whether humanity has an operating 'ecosystem' of its own." This philosophical approach to understand humans in terms of the world we are creating around us as opposed to the world within us is intriguing. It recalls the earliest periods of philosophy and it's attempt to understand existence through observation of the physical world, explaining man as elements viewed in nature. The album single, "Red Crown," is not the strongest moment on the album for me. It's cheerful melody, almost impatient dulcimer usage, and the harmonious and beautiful vocals may be impressive, however I'm partial to the darker moments. I will be checking out some more of the Botanist material from this, especially the other collaborative material where Otrebor's live musicians were also involved. For me, the music here lives up to the concept for me.

Glaukom Synod - Macabre Remixes (2017)

Glaukom Synod, the French noise/grind/electronic project, just seems to have endless amounts of material floating around. This set of remixes is a compilation of a 2008 tape release and tracks from a Split with The Processus, similarly harsh and electronic, with some interesting background ambience which, if you have a neighbor like me, would be easy to imagine coming from their backyard as they do latin dances. So Glaukon Synod's material here is nothing different from their other releases which I've reviewed: Harsh Electronic Noise with hyperspeed industrial flourishes, like a murder factory on a speed it doesn't normally operate on. It's like listening to a lot of glitchy computer software running at the same time. I've always been enamored with the quirky rhythmic sensibilities which G.S. comes up with in these songs such as in "Transluminescence To The Cube II (Nail Hurt)" or "Le Traitement De Grace (Insane Crypt Inseminator Mix)". The Abba cover threw me off at first and is an interesting inclusion. I prefer the second version of "Gangrene Control" on this compilation, due to the subtle addition of spoken vocals and I like the opening track rendition of "Subterranean Nuttgrabber" better than the version further down the tracklisting which is overly complicated; compositional space is in short supply throughout here, and there is always something going on allowing minimalist elements and simpler passages to stand out. If you enjoyed the other Glaukom Synod material, you'll like this as well.

Käärmekristus - Spiritual War Alchemy (2018)

The first CD release and first release which is mostly communicated in English from Ophiuchus and his main artistic expression, Käärmekristus, Spiritual War Alchemy proves to be yet another strong release from this enigmatic force. Deeply personal and spiritual, the lyrical content here shows it's creator exploring the esoteric quandaries of elemental magic, cosmology, and individualism. But at the heart of Spiritual War Alchemy is a grouping of tracks which nearly rivals what is still my favorite of his releases, Venite Ad Me Satanas. Starting with a long ambient intro which is the album's weakest moment, we are ushered into "Growing Madness" which sets the tone for the album: repetitive yet endlessly evocative melodies and hypnotic drumming woven into excellently paced songs. Ophiuchus' vocals are a highlight for me. At times a grumbling mournful spit, other times spoken with a deep resonant masculinity, and of course you have the standard gnashing throaty screeches. The strongest tracks here start with the truly excellent "Ride To The Emerald Halls" and ends two tracks later with "Poisonous Black Iron". "Ride To The Emerald Halls" is a perfect black metal instrumental - grandiose, majestic, and image forming. Use of elements such as bells, chimes, and other percussion gives it a gallant weight. It would be fair to say this album is worth picking up for that track alone however the following "Magical Chant Of The Dark And Mystical Forest" is the perfect contrasting follow up track. The fastest and most intense track offered is dreary, unsettling, vampyric, and - momentarily - sweet and airy. Ophiuchus eschews his standard format and displays a mastery of painting with melody as he hovers over the uplifting climax with a slow guitar solo. The booklet and package is resolutely DIY but done well. Nuanced personality such as tertiary "Shifting Shapes of Reality" being called "Twisting Shapes of Reality" in the booklet show an artist in the process of forming and crafting his art. The raw yet powerful production makes Spiritual War Alchemy Käärmekristus' most accessible release, even though it's limited to only eighty-one copies. Ophiuchus is keeping a tight reign on this project, allowing it to be what he wants it to be and go where he wants it to go. I'm fine with it as long as it ends up in my lap because he is creating some incredible music.