Monday, October 13, 2008

Forcefed Trauma - Enslaved In Hatred EP

It's like putting whip-cream topping on your hot chocolate, only the beverage has become cold and the whip cream has turned sour. Instead of enjoying a delicious, heart warming treat, you dump out the mug's contents into the sink and go find something more rewarding. Forcefed Trauma do the whole death metal with breakdowns gimmick competently but that's about as far as they get; they have the ingredients but they are too late, the genre has turned too cold to embrace them and their take on hardcore mixed with death metal is past its prime. Instead of taking the high road and incorporating some new ideas, some interesting bursts of experimentation or even a half-way decent guitar solo, they continuously rehash done to death groove beats and pull every cliche "listen to how many balls I wished I had" riff out of their collective asses.

While I can't knock the production on the album, it is extremely generic sounding. The guitars have a slight cardboard chug to them though for the most part they have a heaviness - roughly around 180 pounds, and the bass, when left alone lacks power but has grit, yet when mixed in the music, it lacks grit yet contains some semblance of presence. The drums sound natural though I can't stand the snare-sounding-like-a-high-pitched-tom tone. I dare say there is emotion in the drumming; drummer Jim sounds half asleep at a pot-party. I guess if you like shit like God Forbid you might find it heavy though its a kind of pseudo heaviness - the heaviness lies not in the music but in what could be considered, maybe, and only for a flutter of a heartbeat, decent production.

Michel Foucault said that "the use of concepts of discontinuity, rupture, threshold, limit, series and transformation present all historical analysis not only with questions of procedure, but with theoretical problems." While I am oblivious to what Foucault is talking about, it sounds more interesting that any of the lyrics presented on the album. The band seemingly try to maintain a sense of "seriousness" and, possibly even, "intelligence" to the lyrics, though they all come off sounding like hollow tough guy, heard it from an angry hippie in the park one night, dung. I find it ironic that the lyrical themes of "fighting trends" and "rising up" in the lyrics really fall flat due to the entirely trendy nature of the music presented.

On a second listen, I had begun to doze off during the second song "Blinded By Greed," and was woken up by what I thought was George W. Bush giving a speech. It was only the sample beginning track three and I fell asleep again after the song started.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Black Sabbath - The Black Sabbath Story: Vol I 1970-1978

Of all the Black Sabbath material I have seen, heard, or experienced in my lifetime of experiencing Black Sabbath videos, cds, clips, etc. this video has to be my favorite. I prefer the Dio years to the Ozzy years, but the reason why I love this video so much is due to the attention given to Bill Ward and Geezer Butler - Geezer in the interviews, and Bill Ward in the video clips and segments. You can really get a feel for both of their playing and for their immense musical prowess (as if that was ever an issue). In short, this video exemplifies the two members of the band that, in my opinion get the smallest amount of attention yet deserve the greatest amount of attention.

There is some truly golden footage here. The conceptual video for "Sabbath, Bloody Sabbath" is hilarious due to Ozzy's facial expressing during cutaway segments of the video. Also, Ozzy's dancing in War Pigs is also worth seeing for the laugh but as comedic as the videos are, it is important to remember that this video is as much of a sociological and historical account of the early Sabbath years and the culture at that time as it is a documentation of Sabbath's early material. I do laugh at times at the video, its hard not to sometimes with Ozzy's stage clothing seemingly borrowed from the nearest hippy-cowboy store - at times I wouldn't be surprised to see Geezer or Iommi or Ozzy riding a tie-die pony onto stage - though the magnitude of each song presented always makes me stifle my laughter and bow down to such masterful progenitors.

Amongst the classic footage of War Pigs and the unbelievably classic footage of Paranoid are videos of Bill Ward singing solo accompanied by Geezer Butler on bass (It's Alright) and a decisively rock and roll song way different from what we are normally used to hearing from the Birmingham godfathers (Rock N Roll Doctor). These two songs reveal a much more expansive and varied ability on the part of Black Sabbath. Though Iommi has always had a certain talent for the blues - most evident on the debut - Rock N Roll Doctor shows him in top form years later.

The quality of the videos is excellent. The sound quality on each song is strong. None of the videos are bootleg recordings or difficult to hear. "Children of the Grave" gets my vote for poorest quality though the footage is incredible. A sea of fans, elated to see the band shot from the back of the stage above the drums occupies a large portion of the video though my favorite shot is of Ozzy removing his tasseled shirt and throwing it into the audience - it makes me wonder if that shirt still exists somewhere, a fragment of musical history lost to the years.

Between each of the ten tracks are interviews with Iommi and Butler which provide context and anecdotes for the songs, moments in time, and Black Sabbath story. These interviews show both men in as professionals artists and, most importantly, simple good friends.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Andromeda - Chimera

Andromeda's third attempt at being a progressive band fails about as hard as Mickey Mouse in a knife fight with Jack The Ripper and Minnie Mouse in a rape scenario with the Boston Strangler. Instead of being a progressive band with a set of worthwhile songs ready to spread like the next sexually transmitted disease from your local college, Andromeda, content with leaving their only truly worthwhile release, Extension of the Wish, working double time without overtime pay, seemingly have felt safe releasing the next album to hailed by fans of musicians pretending to be the next breakout progressive metal band. The lack of balls in the album's tone, seemingly exchanged for a Fabergé egg production with a focus on NASA level precision and clinicality and slip-n-slide slickness, holds much of the album back - especially the good parts (there are no great parts) - This bland tone has inclined me to be more comfortable with categorizing Chimera as a prog-rock album instead of a progressive metal album. Yes, in Andromeda's search for the sky, NASA production has screwed them over.

David Fremberg and Martin Hedin, I'm convinced, ruin everything they touch. David Fremberg's would feel comfortable in a airy white button down shirt that cost too much dancing gaily with Martin Hedin belting out slightly more technically proficient Backstreet Boy tunes. I loved Andromeda when I heard the pre-Fremberg (Fremberg?) version of Extension of The Wish - Mackrory was nowhere near as talented a vocalist as David however when he unleashes in The Words Unspoken, I am hooked for some reason.

Sadly, Johan Reinholdz has really held back on the recent releases. You can tell I am a die hard fan of Extension of the Wish. Chimera is the perfect example as to Reinholdz's recent impetus to "focus on the song." The main problem with this line of thought is that, I never cared about how convincing the 'song' in Andromeda was... I just wanted to hear Johan unleash guitar leads blistering enough to compel Petrucci to suck his thumbs and Herman Li to desperately search for his diapers and pacifier. On the whole album, Only near the halfway mark of "Blink of an Eye" do you really get a taste at what Johan can do with his instrument. While prog-heads would sit in amazement at the density of the lyrical prowess and well defined (yet to my ears fairly straightforward) compositional structure, I find myself wishing I was listening to the energetic and decisively metal attack of the debut and, I must admit, moments of II=I.

Going Under is a perfect example of why this album bothers me - Bombastic keyboard / guitar lead transforming into an anti-climatic, boring and nu-metal sounding (uckk) verse. The song picks up whenever Johan is playing but he constantly takes a backseat to the rest of the less interesting instruments. Granted, Fabian Gustavsson's bass playing is impeccable and excellently performed throughout the album and Thomas Lejon maintains an excellent presence behind his Sabians and Pearls but the song falls flat on it's face, like much of the rest of the album, in terms of excitability. Throughout the album, I feel less like I am listening to the band who released a seminal album in modern progressive metal and instead, more like I am listening to every Dream Theater fan's wet dream.

But it can't be all band right? I mean, aside from some of the horrendous vocals on "The Cage Of Me," I find the track momentarily charming in a cute girl walking past me "Yeah, thats nice," kind of way. Though, Before the song is halfway done I'm running full speed to a Wendy's, searching for the beef. Opener, "Periscope," also contains one of the album's highlights. While not as intense, or memorable (I swear I've heard it before), or even catchy as the worst riffs on "Extension," the main riff is worthy of mention as one of the high points on the album and the chorus in "Periscope," a song which, I must mention, also gets my vote as worst titled song since Disemboweled's awkwardly titled "Sperms Flowing From Nun's Vagina" and until Necropedophilia's 2006 track "Grandpa Gave Me A Japanese Vaginal Expander For X-mas," actually retains some replay value - one of the only parts of this album worth listening to maybe twice. Maybe.

Bottom line - you've heard it all before - the clean guitar interludes, the underlying keyboard, the intricate guitar lines, the competent rhythm section doing everything right but nothing wrong, the production, the song content and lyrical direction, melodies and even the vocals. Its all better found in other bands doing more interesting things better - Time Requiem for one. I wouldn't call the album stale - it's edible. Chimera is that lunch you ate every single day of the year when you were in seventh grade and your school only served one meal which had just enough taste to create the saliva to get it down, but still tasted about as vivid as the cardboard you were dared to eat by your friends.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Gridlink - Amber Gray

Imagine, if you will, yourself sitting in your room enjoying a book when the neighbor's dog begins barking. You try to drown out the dog's barking with the most abrasive grind you can get your hands on. Instead of overpowering the dog's barks however, the dog is killed by the blasts and speedy riffs, your book is thrown across the room in a fit of rage and instead of enjoying a pleasurable night sitting in your favorite chair diving into an abused piece of fiction, you throw on your stompin' boots and run down the neighborhood crushing small animals skulls while indulging in a Popsicle that, by some miracle, happened to be laying in the gutter. Its kind of like that - a midnight, fit of rage erupting out of nowhere.

Jon Chang's vocals are ear piercing and constant from the moment this eleven minute album - a full length according to the band but eleven minutes? Seriously? - begins. Amber Gray, the title track barely starts before second track 3 Miles Below Sea Level begins. Both sound relatively similar with the same basic idea coursing through both - speed, blasts, screaming scratchy death, etc. Matsubara is an exceptionally speedy guitarist - his right hand moving at pick melting speeds and his left, creating a tornadic blur on the neck. Though he can play, I find the short song lack a hook.

Something must be said of Brian Fajardo's drumming. I'm not entirely sure where he can possibly pull the energy to move and blast at speeds this fast. He does stir up some incredibly technical and impressive fills at near - blackout inducing speeds. Okada conjures up some excellent bass fills... hypothetically speaking. I can barely hear him at all though I will use my imagination and claim that he is not playing jazz fusion. The moments when he is audible - notably the beginning of "Stake Knife," also the most memorably song on the album for me - he impresses. Some extra low-end would do a lot to increase what I would deem a "thin" overall tone with emphasis on the highs and mids. A note on this song, as the central portion of the song - thirty / forty seconds in - shows some interesting composition work.

Not something I would find myself listening to over and over again, but there is a slight bit of charm in this blistering rocket ride into oblivion. The lack of any noticeable tempo variation and only minor song variety and vocal variation leave me feeling as though this is an incomplete piece of grind. Luckily, this doesn't fall into the same ditch as most modern grindcore. Heavy on the grind, no core. Lots of noise and harsh abrasive vocal destruction.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

News 10-03-08

Lethal Strike

All recording is finished for the Lethal Strike demo. The mixing phase has begun. Shouldn't be long now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Carnivorous Vagina - Istinto Omicida

If you like death metal thats technical, brutal and coherent then this album is probably not for you since it has none of these characteristics. In fact, this album is probably the exact opposite of any of those things. First let me say that I'm guessing this band is attempting to be some kind of Gore-Grind / Death Metal hybrid. If your wondering what brings me to that assumption let me explain. The "band"'s name is Carnivorous Vagina and they have songs with such titles as "Hatchet Punishment", "Infanticidio" and the aptly titled "Worms." Its quite possible that they somehow found a broken Mortician album that skipped or was broken directly in half and through some hellish bit of bad luck on the listener's part still worked when Dr. Morbus first started learning how to play what could possibly be considered a musical instrument. Now, don't take that as meaning that this band sounds like a horrible Mortician clone. In fact this band sounds nothing like Mortician. In fact the only reason I used that analogy was because every track sounds like a single three second chunk of music that they looped over and over and therefor sounds like a skipping CD. I'm guessing that the band was hoping that this music would eventually kill the listener due to its horrible-ness and then be spread across the world as being the first album to immediately kill those who listened to it. Not because it was so utterly brutal but because it sounded so utterly bad.

I'm going to first skip directly to the production. Though I've heard worse production, I've never heard a production sound that sounded as if the microphone was placed inside a man's ass and recorded from the inside of his stomach. The overall distortion sound is something between a yeti hypophenating and Micheal Moore having a orgy with the fattest human and non-human women possible. The bass is akin to Neanderthal love grunts and the vocals, when audible, are much of the same. The drums are quite strange. They are programmed first of all but what immediately sets them apart from any other recorded drums is that they must have been recorded in an airplane hanger; the drums positions in one corner and the drum mics in the other corner as far away as possible. The drums are so distant that you have to strain to hear them. Of all the instruments however the drums are possibly the best part of all of the horrible parts that were pulled together to comprise this disgraceful piece of music. I use the term 'music' lightly.

The Songs are quite short with each averaging maybe two and a half minutes. There is however one five minute song. In short there are no "epic" songs on this album. If there were, theres a good chance that particular song would actually suck time out of the universe and we would never gain it back. Let me give you a run through of the tracks. "Buried / Undead", "Abomination", League Of Evil", "Captured", "Hell Massacre", "Zombi Ritual" (Not to be confused with Death's Zombie Ritual which far surpasses anything that this band could ever excrete), "Tortured", "Bloodbath", "Slip In Bloodshroud", "Ravish", "Deathouse", "Circle Of The Damned" and "Primitive Ravage" could all be the same track for lack of anything remotely different about them besides the horrific spoken segments before each. The Intro track, "Worms", and "Infanticidio" are all what I would call noise tracks and comprised of nothing but random noises and slight bits of melody... possibly. The only two songs that actually stuck out in any way were Hatchet Punishment which employed some interesting snare rythyms (I think it was a snare drum but it may have been a human butcherer banging on steel pipes with a cleaver) which i actually did hear over all the Moore orgying and through the stomach of the unlucky mic-stand, and the title track which was another noise track but was not actually nearly as bad as anything else on this record.

Warning! This is the utmost worst sounding noise ever recorded. In all I sincerely hope that they did not make too many of these. To be perfectly honest with you, there is not enough room on earth for more than one copy of this album. I would have preferred to pay three dollars for a rock of the same size than this album. The PMRC should make a new rating to place on this album and label it H. H for the following words: Hellish, Horrible, Heinous, Horrendous, Hideous, Horrid, and also Hairy - hairy just for kicks though I guess you can also say that the album sounds hairy in some places. I may not be the greatest music critic however I have heard enough music to know that music is not supposed to sound like the inside of a garbage truck. This album is evil. Not because its meant to be or sound evil but because anything this horrible has to be evil. I once heard someone die. This album was the cause. Actually in the song "Bloodbath" you can hear the people in the recording studio dying. Its around one minute and fifteen seconds into the song. If your feeling the need to listen to music that is nothing but sheer crap or looking for a unique way to commit suicide this is your album.