the underground music magazine    

issue #75 January, 2014

 


Dear Maelstrom readers,

This is my first issue as an editor. I hope you find it worthy.

I wish to thank Roberto, Maelstrom's previous editor and founder, and on behalf of the entire Maelstrom staff I wish him good luck with his original music. I hope we won't let you down!

Also thanks to all staff members, for their ongoing support and contributions.

Rock on,

Avi Shaked 

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8.25/10 Avi
 

MARBIN - Last Chapter Of Dreaming - CD - MoonJune Records - 2013

We weren't quite ready for the taunting guitar fueled jazz rock found on the opening track ("Blue Fingers"). It reminded us of  Mörglbl, though in a form somewhat less eccentric and perhaps more varied (we dare not say "tasteful" since we love  Mörglbl).

While the reference to the whacky, French jazz-rock trio does pop up from time to time (if the aforementioned track does not convince you, listen to the twisted guitar on "Redline"), this third album by the instrumental, US based band Marbin (named after its two leaders - saxophonist Danny Markovitch and guitarist Dani Rabin) is more eclectic: "Inner Monologue" has guitar sounds that seem to be lifted from King Crimson's Three Of A Perfect Pair setting the scene for jazzy Klezmer music; "Breaking The Cycle" unfolds a dramatic, world music inspired, cinematic epos to a rocking backbeat; the pleasant "Purple Fiddle" borders on being easy listening while featuring exquisite sax playing, and the closing title track, with its delicate guitar, sounds as if it was a Marty Friedman composition off one of his '90s new age releases (Scenes or Introduction that is).

Some notable jazz-rock/world music musicians guest here - drummer Paul Wertico, bassist Steve Rodby and percussionists Zohar Fresco and Jamey Haddad - and they all blend in integrally, enriching the organic rhythm section of Justyn Lawrence and Jae Gentile which offers rock solid foundations to drive the music as well as attentively expanding it. This can be sampled on "The Ballad Of Daniel White" which opens with an engaging drum pattern that continues to echo (almost) throughout the track. Even more guests on vocals, keyboards and trumpet make the melodically attractive and thoughtfully arranged music, all the more colorful. (8.25/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
8.7/10 Avi
 

YAGULL - Films - CD - MoonJune Records - 2012

The PR sheet which accompanies this release promises a post-rock deconstruction of Black Sabbath's "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" and Cream's "White Room," and so - holding no prior knowledge on Yagull - we were expecting a sort of psychotic, perhaps noisy dissection (even though there's also a word about melodic reconstruction thrown in). Instead Yagull's reserved take on the aforementioned classics struck us with ingenious, spellbinding, acoustic sceneries and dedicated melodies.

While the two aforementioned tracks are the only non-original tunes here, the other instrumental tracks that compose the album sound not only equally fascinating but also a bit familiar. This is not due to lack of originality but due to their suggestive and immediate quality. Take the opening and closing "Dark" (this is not a mistake - the piece is served in two versions) for example: its hypnotic, rhythmic fingerpicking and gentle rock lyricism (expressed via cello playing and some acoustic guitar picking) sound a lot like late '90s/early 2000s Porcupine Tree, and yet it's totally something else, relying on chamber rock aesthetics not only in sound but also in composition.

The songlike, chamber rock notion is maintained throughout the album. Additionally, a few of the tracks (like "Pulse" with its flute feature) sound like '70s folk rock (or gentle prog rock such as Camel) spiked with a touch of British blues (Clapton's influence goes beyond the aforementioned Cream cover!). We are highly impressed by Sasha Markovic - who composed, played most of the music (guitars, bass, percussion and keys) and produced it: Markovic musical vision is clear and expressed in true colors, and even when the highly intimate melodies risk in sounding a bit kitschy - as "East" with its airy sax does (think George Michael's "Careless Whisper") - Markovic cleverly finds a way out, as his playing is exciting in its feel and authenticity (on "East," for example, it's his guitar strings bending that does the job).

True to the title, the pieces on Films sound like soundtracks to delicate scenes, specifically to those of small, possibly independent movies that offer calm yet definitive glimpses of life, as the reflective "Summerdreamer" - with its somewhat Mediterranean styled guitar - suggests. (8.7/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
6/10 Mladen
 

BLACK OATH - Ov Qliphoth and Darkness - CD - I Hate Records - 2013

Whereas Black Oath's debut, The Third Aeon (reviewed in issue #73), was something that would suck you in, transfer you somewhere else and make you wonder what is going on, and where it came from, the second album is just... professional? Something you listen to along the way, perhaps acknowledging the fine twin guitar work, nice arrangements or the correct sound, and that's it. But, if you have expectation for another dose of the old, dangerous and mysterious Black Oath - well, that's gone, at least when it comes to the mood.

There is still emotion to be found, if you look harder, but nothing that would really keep you thrilled. The sound is too crisp, the vocals a bit monotonous and not so memorable. The two guitarists try too much to prove they can play different things, and in the end - unlike the band's debut - there's nothing medieval about Ov Qliphoth and Darkness. It's just another doom album featuring very good music which you are not likely to remember once it's over.

(6/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Mladen
 

GARDARIKA - Chthonica - CD - gardarika.com - 2012

Does any of you remember the reactions when CDs started appearing? One of them, addressing the high fidelity, was "You can hear the singer as if he was in your room." On Gardarika's second album this is exactly the case: you can hear the singer as if the guy was right there in your room. However, the rest of the band is still in your speakers. And this separation between vocals and music makes Chthonica almost unbearable. The guy might have the voice resembling Kamelot's front man but with one third of his vocal range. And he makes up for it by singing all over the place like the guy from Sonata Arctica (give us a break about names - isn't it obvious from the beginning of the review that we're old?). The vocal lines aren't that great either, and there's too many of them.

Still, the music is pretty awesome. Punchy, catchy, contagious thrash with a few out there moments of curious, excellent musicianship, outrageous solos, fierce drums - everything you can hope for. But then, the guy in your room is trying to sing along and ruining the music. Guys, if you still have the session files, please re-do this album with any other singer (we promise to give you a 9/10!). As it is, it's hard to rank it any higher than 6.5.

(6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

HAIDUK - Spellbook - CD - www.haiduk.ca - 2012

Hey, this one has a song called "Maelstrom" on it - how can it be bad? So, then, it isn't bad. Not by a long shot. It's damn good. It had to be. Or, maybe it is utter crap but we just don't have the time to think about it as the murderous tempo never ceases.

This Canadian guy called Luka Milojica (OK, we'll spare the Balkan explanations) obviously knows what he likes and knows how to do it well: Riffs, riffs, riffs; Speed, licks, tricks, thrash and bash, surgical precision, playful innovation and ubiquitous aggression. There's not much below the surface, but damned if we care given that there's a lot of the aforementioned. There are some vocals too, few grunts far and between.

With constant thrashing and galloping of the real, honest kind, we don't even care about the drums being programmed. They kick ass, and so does the midrange bass guitar, which mumbles some vicious lines just when you think you got used to the chaos the two guitars make. Haiduk's formula is simple (imagine early The Haunted energy, Old Man's Child attitude, Behemoth dexterity and some nervous melodic black metal lunacy), and it works. He's happy, we're happy, there were some dead bodies and dark magic along the way, and half an hour later, we want to hear Spellbook again. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Mladen
 

JEX THOTH - Blood Moon Rise - CD - I Hate Records - 2013

Blood Moon Rise is not going to make you feel better, but that's a good thing. If superficially Jex Thoth sounds like a band assembled only to accompany Jessica Bowen (a.k.a. Jex's vocalist), there is actually quite enough chemistry at work to accept Jex Thoth as a complete band, and not just an entity playing to help a lady who wants to sing about mystical stuff.

A few parts could have been left out, to make for a better impact. Specifically, some vocal lines aren't too exciting, and at time, the band does nothing in terms of musicality. However, after a few spins, it works, with the good, the bad and the ugly creating a bigger picture. Slow, groovy or pensive, strong or mild, Jex Thoth go through something and things start working for them, and while you are unlikely to be astounded the occurrences will keep you wondering about what is going to happen next in a strange, seductive way. You will be rewarded by moments of false serenity, moments of wonder, moments of panic and moments of sheer inspiration. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

FORLORN CHAMBERS - Unborn and Hollow - CD - forlornchambers@gmail.com - 2013

A while ago, this writer had a discussion with a semi-famous musician about blackened death metal (give us a break, when you're living in a cave, for you, everyone is equally underground, famous, semi-famous or unknown, so, for all we know he might be a superstar somewhere). Anyway, there was no final conclusion and the two of us actually had a hard time remembering more than three such bands altogether - perhaps because there is not much to remember in such a kind of music?

Mostly, it boils down to someone playing black metal riffs with a guitar tone that has less treble than usual, some thrashing here and there, and death metal grunts. Case in point: Forlorn Chambers. Just three songs on this demo, fairly well written and executed, with an occasional melancholic touch and above-average dexterity in actually using two guitars in different ways. If Unborn and Hollow had more treble, it would have been almost great. But, even then, the vocals wouldn't quite fit: screamed, one-dimensional percussive nursery rhymes over a melancholic barrage of riffs just don't make sense.

So, in essence, riffs not fitting the sound and vocals not fitting the music make Unborn and Hollow quite easy to forget. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

WYQM - DeathSpectre - CD - Razed Soul Production - 2012

Viva emptiness... Or it would be if the title wasn't already taken by another, lesser band. Emptiness is what you get here, at least in substance, if not exactly in sound. Wyqm knows about emptiness, and feels it, but it doesn't stop him from wondering around it and exploring all the corners of it.

As opposed to whatever depressive, suicidal, slow black metal band pretending to be the next Xasthur and doing exactly like its idol, Wyqm has his own empty space and doesn't want anyone to trespass, point a finger at it, or draw conclusions. If it needs to be fast, it will be, and if he wants to take his time and think about what just could have happened, Wyqm will. 

Back to the surface, DeathSpectre is raw, but don't let that fool you. Just give it some time until it develops and you will be rewarded. Though not sensational, DeathSpectre still has enough to keep you hooked, and at times it is can be rewarding, or even punishing, without ever letting things go the easy way. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

THE GUNS OF BARISAL - Westinghoused - CD - gunsofbarisal.com - 2012

The thing about instrumentals is that they are supposed to work as instrumentals, and not keep you waiting for vocals. Any kind of vocals. This Seattle outfit you will keep you waiting for the vocals until the last track, on which you will realize that it is not so good at writing memorable vocal lines anyway.

And there are six tracks before it, featuring the kind of music that other bands use as interludes or outros. On Westinghoused they are here for their own sake. Another band could take parts of Westinghoused, leaving out the superfluous bits, and turn them into proper songs; but for The Guns of Barisal this kind of proggy thrash serves its own musicians' fun agenda. Not so much for the people who aren't playing it. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
5/10 Mladen
 

PAGANLAND - Wind of Freedom - CD - Svarga Music - 2013

Paganland's Facebook page states that Wind of Freedom is a "must have for fans of Falkenbach, Borknagar and Drudkh." Couldn't they find any other three bands but those wimps, adored by girls and pseudo-intellectuals who think "inoffensive" translates into "atmospheric," "well written," "smart," or whatever the excuses are?

If you're looking for the aforementioned you will definitely find it: it is epic, if you base this on the length of the songs; it is folksy, if a few melodies of that sort justify the call; it's atmospheric too - as keyboards are obviously present; and it is proud - as the clean vocals suggest.

If you turn the volume up, you will even realize it also sounds good. But a fan of Bathory, Nokturnal Mortum, Graveland, Nomans Land or old Moonsorrow won't even notice anything happening until the fifth track, which sort of borrowed the idea from Nokturnal Mortum's "Perun's Celestial Silver." 

Basically, there's a lot going on on Wind of Freedom - some of it sounds contrived and uninspired, some is quite good. Still, you are most likely to have heard most of it before, and it's hard to find something that is going to make you want to listen to Paganland again. (5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

SACRILEGIOUS IMPALEMENT - III - Lux Infera - CD - Woodcut Records - 2013

If black metal is supposed to be doing "your own thing" these Finns maybe, just maybe, aren't really black metal. It's nobody's thing, really. Sounds great, of course. Glassy, treble guitars will shatter your speakers. Slow and fast, blast beats and melodies - all of these are here, but not much to hold on to. A few parts are good while they last, but if you are waiting for an emotional connection you are likely to be disappointed.

Lux Infera is a bit like old Watain (the new Watain is pretty good, actually - finally!): it's black metal by the numbers, for the people who only care how righteous it sounds. Some songs don't even seem finished, and we know that as long as they sound right a lot of people won't care; but to the others, most of it will sound like the same thing playing over and over again. (4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
4.5/10 Mladen
 

BLODHEMN - Brenn Alle Bruer - CD - blodhemn.no - 2010

This is an easy come easy go, one-dimensional "Violent Norwegian Black Metal" effort which won't exactly offend anyone or make a staying impact. Proper sounding yet nursery rhyme styled screams (for those late to the party, that's when the singer is screaming verses in a monotonous way, as if reading them from a piece of paper), just five short songs and a Norwegian flag impersonating an upside-down cross on the back. That's about it.

A few riffs are good while they last, and very often they are turned into a palm-muted thrashy outburst. But if you are looking for something more than that, you'll be left looking at the forementioned flag and thinking "Wait, this was it...?"
(4.5/10)

 

 

 

 
6.66/10 Mladen
 

DEMOGORGON - Where is He...? - CD - G.U.C. - 2013

There are 17 Demogorgons in the Metal Archives, so if you are looking for this exact one, it's one of the two Polish ones playing death metal. The one with lyrics like:

"anti anti christian
anti anti don't believe their lies
anti anti christian
anti anti don't believe them"

Got the point? No? Then, how about...

"burn the cross - set on fire
book of lies - set on fire
mother whore - set on fire
jesus christ - set on fire"

If not exactly eloquent, at least their intentions are right. As for the music, if Deicide could be somehow dumber but faster, you'd get Demogorgon. Simplistic, accurately played and pretty much uninspired, Demogorgon are at least listenable for the blastbeats, vocals and the punchy sound. This is one of these acts that if you happen to catch playing live you would notice that the lack of any original riff, but strangely, for some reason, you'll stay and watch the show while having a few cigarettes before the next band goes up.

In their own mediocre universe, Demogorgon are alright. Not awesome, not terrible, mostly totally generic, but we can imagine a situation or two where their music would fit just right in.
(6.66/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Mladen
 

LORDS OF BUKKAKE - Desagravio - CD - Total Rust - 2013

Bukkake aside (look it up, or read our review of the previous album) Desagravio is a fine example of controlled sludge. Parts of it are about downtuned riffs, where it's actually not too hard to make out what is happening. You do have to try a little, but it's still obvious and all the more efficient.

The other parts are wailing twin guitar leads - or would it be "bleeds" - so painful that you have no choice but to pay attention. Slow even when playing fast, rough even when trying to be gentle, Lords of Bukkake create their own, unpleasant and smelly place. And on Desagravio they walk around it seemingly nauseous and staggering, but with determination and purpose. So the question is whether Lords of Bukkake are reflecting on the mess they live in, trying to escape, or actually it was them who made it. The answer depends on how lucky you feel, punk. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Mladen
 

KOLLE, SIMON - Res Dej Inte! - Original Soundtrack - CD - Neuropa Records - 2009

Never mind that we're reviewing a 54-minute soundtrack to a 39-minute movie. Things like that happen, especially when there is too much material. And Simon Kölle obviously had enough ideas.

The movie in question - with a title translating into something like "Stay Down!" - is about urban violence. Since we haven't seen it, nor do we know Swedish, we can only judge by a few YouTube trailers and report that it is probably a socially conscious drama about skinheads and immigrants. Not exactly what a metal fan would care about, eh? But you might care about the music!

We don't remember how many times someone tried to make a gloomy ambient album which we described as "watching a movie without a picture." In this case, we don't even need a picture. Res Dej Inte! works on its own, which is quite an accomplishment. Semi industrial sounds, static noise, feeling of danger and desolation, ease and surprises follow, one after the other. In places they might become boring, and the few action parts, narrated parts or actual songs that seem to be lifted off the movie are just redundant and best skipped for a purer experience. But still, it works.

You might have heard modern soundtracks like these before, but probably haven't bothered getting a full CD of them. We can see a valid purpose for getting this one: If you are planning to say goodbye to urban crap and move to a forest, take the Res Dej Inte! soundtrack with you. If you ever start feeling like returning to the big city, just start listening to it and the desire will go away. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
6.66/10 Mladen
 

GODLESS - Ingredere in Templum Satanae - CD - Exalted Woe - 2013

By all accounts you shouldn't listen to Godless. Nor should your friends, family, acquaintances or pets. Nobody should. For most black metal fans Ingredere in Templum Satanae would simply be stupid because it doesn't sound like any of the favorite black metal bands anyone has ever had.

For a musician... where do we even start? The pieces are barely allowed to be called compositions. If you catch Godless playing inaccurately, don't worry, so did we. The riffs are alright, mostly mid tempo with clickety-clack kick drums following them, but their purpose is far from being clear. Maybe Godless repeat them for just as long as the singer needs to do his... well... stuff? Stuff indeed!: Screams, vibrato screams, hysteria, delirium, Attila Csihar meets Big Boss (of Root) operatics -  everything that could possibly annoy anyone.

The sound is unashamedly clear and you can hear everything, although the instruments themselves aren't of the clear type. In this respect, Godless have no shame. They are what they are and they want you to hear it and remember it.

So, what's left? If you're a Satanist, you'll probably be thinking of Ingredere in Templum Satanae as some dumb joke from Puerto Rico, and be surprised that the joke has been going on since 1993. In essence, there are no obvious reasons why anyone should be paying attention to Godless except one: fun. Just pure, dirty, old school fun. If you want to make sure your neighbors think of you as a demented, evil, drugged Satanist who is about to steal their kids and sacrifice them to Lucifer, Godless is your band. (6.66/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Mladen
 

MARE COGNITUM/SPECTRAL LORE - Sol - CD - I, Voidhanger - 2013

Some have it, some don't, and in Spectral Lore's case the band certainly has it - it always had, and we're pretty tired of telling people how great it is! Yes, the new one is amazing too. No, it didn't fail. No, we don't know if it's better or worse than the other Spectral Lore releases and we don't care, neither should you. We're not feeling too transcendental these days, so just pretend we wrote fifty lines about light and darkness, warmth and cold, tangled yet clear, sophisticated and blunt, majestic and distant, talent, knowledge, inspiration and sacrifice, and add a few of your own. Got that?


The thing that comes as a surprise, though, is that Spectral Lore found its match on this split, and that Mare Cognitum's half is in no way behind the Spectral Lore part. Sol sounds like the two one-man bands match perfectly and feed off each other's energy, talent and ideas. 29 minutes for one track, 26 minutes for another, and then a 14-minute instrumental done by Mare Cognitum and Spectral Lore together. In-between the beginning and the end, there is the universe, and two artists observing its mysteries, looking for purpose and meanings. Sol will take you on a grand journey - paths, experiences and impressions.

If by this time of the year you still haven't heard Sol and you have somehow, for some reason, found yourself on this page, let Sol be the next thing you check out. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Jerome
 

THE LUST - Decomposition Deluxe - CD - Wordlessness Records - 2011

We hope someday there will be a word to describe how horrible this album is. There's no better way to say it, we HATE this album. Why? Well first, this is something you give to your 13 year old niece who listens to Ke$ha, rather than an album destined for metal audience. This is "Girlfriend Metal" in its purest form: highly polished production, more keyboards than "The Final Countdown," and clean female vocals reminiscent of tripe such as Therion, Nightwish and Lacuna Coil.

Even the musicianship on this album suffers horribly from riffs that are hollow, generic and lack emotion. Nothing stands out. It's almost as if this is a backing band for a pop band. From time to time "Guttural" male vocal surface, attempting to dissuade the listener from thinking they're listening to a pop album.

This is the 5th full length from Russia's The Lust. After looking into some of their earlier work, we can see no musical development or progression - they are simply repeating generic cliché's. We can assure you that buying this album will be the biggest regret of your life. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
1/10 Jerome
 

SATANIC THREAT - In To Hell - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2013

In 1981 a band from Washington DC released an EP that would change American Hardcore punk forever - a recording that would catapult a lot of the disenfranchised youth into a movement devoted to being drug free and abstinent. That movement is known as "Straight Edge," and if you haven't been living under a rock your entire life you will know this band's name: Minor Threat. The band's self-titled EP is regarded as one the greatest punk releases of all time, and during the start of the early 1980s Reagan regime it gave the youth of America - which many expected to be silent and subdued - the voice it needed.

Fast forward to the present day, Midwest, and an album that is nothing more than a farcical, cheap parody and a slap in the face of everything that Minor Threat's frontman Ian MacKaye did.

In To Hell lives up to its satanic threat. When we first picked up this album we had decent expectations due to the promise of members of NunSlaughter and Midnight doing "Fast Satanic punk rock," with two of our favorite elements - Black Metal and Punk Rock - combined on one album. Very soon though, all hopes were dashed, leaving us disgusted.

It's one thing to cover a band that had a major influence on you, it's completely another to make parody's of songs and replace the lyrics with inane ramblings that a teenager in his parents basement would find poor and pedestrian. Some examples of this are "Guilty of Hating Christ"," Small God, Big Cross" and "He's on the Cross", which takes MacKaye's original lyric from "Filler" of "It's In your Head/It's In Your Head/It's in your Head/ Filler!" to "He's on the cross/He's on The Cross/He's on the Cross/Jesus!"

This was a one off, so to speak, one EP plus one live show on one release, and the only thing that's slightly redeeming was a live version of Minor Threat's "Stepping Stone" (which in itself is a cover of The Monkees' song of the same name). But that was not enough to save this release, and we had to listen to the Teen Idles in order to get this poorly done parody out of our head. (1/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Jerome
 

GRAVEWURM - Infernal Minions - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2013

If you live in or around the New England area, there is a very strong possibility you know who GraveWurm are. For over two decades they have been one of the most destructive and uncompromising forces in the underground Black Metal scene on the east coast.

Their new album Infernal Minions is, once again, a complete assault of raw, primitive black metal. In an age where underground music is as accessible as going to the store for a pack of chewing gum, and other groups have incorporated progressive and avant-garde elements into the genre, this album shows us the old, universal truth that the old ways are still the best ways.

We're firm believers in a VERY limited use of keyboards in metal albums - sometimes it's done right, and this album is one of those occasions. On the track "Dominion of Lost Souls," the atmosphere generated by the haunting melody of the keys, with the bleak riffing on top, almost takes us back to being a teenager hearing Emperor's Wrath Of The Tyrant EP for the first time.

On top of that, the elements of Beherit, Grand Belial's Key and early Graveland give this album the edge over so many imitations that are flooding the scene.

In short, GraveWurm is a band aged to perfection, a beacon of bleakness and legitimacy in sea that seems to be overflowed with imposters. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
6/10 Jerome
 

INTOXICATED - Rock and Roll Hell Patrol - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2013

The debut of Intoxicated is just what the doctor ordered. Everything I love about Motorhead and Broken Bones. No frills, this is just NWOBHM inspired, sleazy hard rock. This is the kind of album you listen to on a Friday night when all you want to do is drink whiskey and go pulling for birds.

However, there are a couple of grievances I have with this release, mainly its lack of originality and the number of times I found myself thinking "Hey I've heard this before"; not from the music, mind you - I understand that there's only so many chord progressions that you can write and that don't remind you of something you have heard before. I'm referring to some of the song titles, "Sex, Drinks and Satan"? (nothing at all like "Sex, Drinks and Metal" by Sarcofago) and "Heavy Metal Porno Slut" ("Porno Slut" by The Exploited).

Keep in my mind, when these songs are good, they're good. "Crush Your Local Disco" and "Lock Up Your Daughters" serve as a reminder to the heathen 1970s, when Metal was in its infancy. My favorite track on this album has to be without a question, the cover of "The Chase Is Better Than The Catch" by Motorhead - all these years passed and this song still holds up, and Intoxicated certainly do it justice.

All in all, a decent album, which is worth a spin. (6/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Jerome
 

IMPIOUS BAPTISM - Wrath of The Apex Predator - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2013

Do you love the Black Filth spewed out of Brazil's Cogumelo Records in the Early/mid 80's? If so then the debut full length from Australia's Impious Baptism is that tradition carried on with unsurpassed excellence.

Featuring J (ex-member of Destroyer 666 and Destruktor), this comes to us from the same continent that gave you Bestial Mockery. While some bands have tried to do the whole Hipster-Indie-Shoegaze post-Black Metal crap we have heard so many times before, this album in particular is a breath of fresh air. You won't hear any Indie-Rock chord progressions, synth or clean vocals, just the raw, stripped down approach that Black Metal should be, remaining true to everything Sarcofago and Holocausto were about, as well as inspired by Finnish bands such as Beherit and Impaled Nazarene.

We cannot find any track on this album that doesn't rip through the pages of your mother's bible and spew forth hatred of all things holy and pristine. Wolves In The Throne Room they are not, and with good reason. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
10/10 Jerome
 

GRIND, JOEL - The Yellowgoat Sessions - CD - Hell's Headbangers - 2013

Take early Destruction, Bathory and Swedish hardcore punk bands like The Black Uniforms and Anti-Cimex, and particularly the stripped down, raw production that made all of these bands come alive, and this is what you get.

For us, "Foul Spirit Within" is the prime track on this solo album by Toxic Holocaust's Joel Grind. It has the same feel of songs like "Return to The Eve" by Celtic Frost, with the raw, bleak aesthetics one might find on Anti-Cimex's Victims of a Bomb Raid EP. Everything we love about Black Metal and Hardcore Punk is present on this release, and for those of us who love Venom, "Grave Encounters" is FINALLY Venom worship done properly.

It's a "Throwback" album that doesn't seem like it was recorded last week by some come-lately who heard Venom's Calm before the Storm for the first time, giving us all we were hoping for. (10/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

CLARK-HUTCHINSON - A=MH^2 (Reissue) - CD - Angel Air Records - 2012

In 1969, multi-instrumentalists Andy Clark and Mick Hutchinson of Sam Gopal's Dream recorded this album, not before they conducted another recording session, which remained unissued until this reissue. Here, the two sessions - each of a totally different character - were put together on the same CD, giving fans of the original recording a good reason to get it while at the same time making the genuine recording available for new audience.

The original, instrumental album, seem like a proto prog release with its orchestrated rock settings. The orchestrated notion does not stem from being dominated by a rich orchestra (even though wind instruments pop up sporadically) - it is mostly the product of the arrangements and the length of the pieces. The exotic backdrop delivers a dynamic scenery for improvisations, and sounds at times like early Santana meeting the electric Miles Davis (the opening track is actually called "Improvisation on a Modal Scale" while the closing one is "Improvisation on an Indian Scale"). You can imagine bits of it (specifically, "Acapulco Gold") by thinking of The Doors' "Spanish Caravan" being transformed into a psychedelic piece coupled with western movies theme.

But backdrop aside, the true star of this recording is none other than Mick Hutchinson's guitar. In fact, the entire album is basically a guitar solo album in disguise. The other instruments might set the scene, but it's the unstoppable guitar, delivered with a wide tonal range (and untouched by any studio effects!), which dominates throughout and creatively leads you as through imaginative roads.

The eight bonus tracks - which were rejected by the record company at the time due to their bluesy nature - are in fact fine blues rock numbers. Unlike the released album, these are all songs that feature vocals, and they echo the 1968 Super Session by Bloomfield, Kooper and Stills with their eager, lively and uplifting, blues rock and Hutchinson's wailing electric guitar ("Make You" even benefits from a Hendrix feel). (9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

DECKCHAIR POETS - Who Needs Pyjamas? - CD - Angel Air Records - 2013

For some strange reason this Deckchair Poets release is being promoted as a progressive rock product. Now, we are in the more liberal camp when it comes to the prog-rock definition, and still we can't see it. Certainly, being in other prog rock bands doesn't entitle keyboardist Geoff Downes (of Yes and Asia) or drummer Nick D'Virgilio (formerly of Spock's Beard) to use that questionable tag in everything they produce; and quite frankly, especially given prog-rock's notoriety, we can't even see why they need to do so.

As it is, Deckchair Poets, fronted by Jerusalem's Lynden Williams, is a fun, clever and versatile rock band. Deep Purple fans will find much joy in quite a few of the tracks, due to the classic rock inspired organ sounds(check out the keyboards on "Brown Trousers") and delivery (and a bit of trivia: it was DP's Ian Gillan who produced Jerusalem's 1972 album); and while there's also some old fashioned rock and roll in "One Ugly Child" and "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)," the band manages to sound quite fresh and true to current times, by means of production and tones. "Elephants, Not Ivory," for example, is modern rock sounding in terms of both its electronic keyboard sounds and its guitar work.

The lyrics are humorous (there's a trilogy about household necessities - toilet, washing machine and refrigerator; and that's not the funniest thing on the album), and the music is suitably fancy and rocking, with "Whipsnade Escapees" being a prominent example as it features animal-like sounds a hooking theme.

In conclusion, Who Needs Pyjamas? is a proficient, amusing listen, and in that aspect it's a kind of album you don't see much of these days (which earns it an extra point!). (8/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Avi
 

BROMHAM, DEL - Nine Yards - CD - Angel Air Records - 2013

Del Bromham was (and possibly still is) the guitarist of Stray - a UK, hard rock band that emerged in the 1970s (you can read more about it in our review of the Stray release in issue #70). The material in this second, solo release is quite different from Stray's material, though. While it relies on similar, basic foundations of blues, it emphasizes them at the expense of the hard rock vibe and its wall of sound which was loaded with distortion and other effects.

The production is clean and minimalist, appropriately giving the songs a natural, unpolished feel, allowing the casual man lyrics to echo clearly on their way to the listener, and the guitar playing to be absorbed with all its subtleties (mostly these of Bromham picking). "Bills," for examples, showcases the strength of Bromham's performance: when he sings "Bills, bills, bills, / coming through my door. / So much paper, it's hard to see the floor" to a naked, blues styled guitar picking, you soon find yourself relating as this is pure authenticity (and one which could not have come from a rock star).

There is quite a variety when it comes to the blues rock styled approached here. "Walking Down The Road" relies on slide guitar playing, "Everybody Has To Sing The Blues" shares a common theme with Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama," "Words" is a boogie rock song, "What Comes Around" is a duet piece (featuring Cherry Lee Mewis), and "You Don't Know How I Feel" is one of a few numbers here that puts rock back in the center of things (including a robust bass playing, also by Bromham, who plays all of the instruments here bar the drums, played by Stray's Karl Randall).

On "Smiling Face" and "Father And Daughter, Mother And Son" there is a monotonic keyboard line which does not quite belong with the gentle, blues themes, detracting a bit from the songs; but other than that Nine Yards is an honest album, filled with simple, low profiled songwriting, played from the heart to the heart. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

EMPTY DAYS - Empty Days - CD - Altrock - 2013

This debut release Empty Days finds the versatile leader Franceso Zago (of Yugen and  Spaltklang) continuing his exploration of the vast territories explored by Robert Fripp (check out our review of the latest Zauss album in the previous issue), and here he focuses on expanding the restrained yet full of subtleties, ambient envelope which was introduced in the 70s releases of Fripp & Eno.

Unlike Fripp & Eno, though, this modern music offering relies significantly on songs, with just a few instrumental pieces, as well as on the use of varied instruments (there are four other players listed supporting Zago with keyboard and percussive instruments). Vocalist Elain Di Falco (Caveman Shoestore) sings on most of the songs, with a reserved, disciplined performance which bears just the slight warmth to shine through while faithfully reflecting the minimalistic music and its atmosphere.

On the fifth track, something interesting happens. The context of Di Falco's laid back performance and the overall calm but reflective and occasionally dangerous soundscapes is contrasted with a breathtaking performance of John Dowland's classical music vocal piece "Flow My Tears." Zago's sneaky guitar line is there but it's Rachel O'Brien who handles the vocals. We are no suckers for classical music styled vocals, but O'Brien manages to harness her classical training for pronouncing the lyrics not only with articulation and beauty but also with chilling emotion, shining with her manifestation of grief. (8/10)

[The foundations for this review appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling. Check it out!]

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

GIGAN - Multi-Dimensional Fractal-Sorcery and Super Science - CD - Willowtip - 2013

Normally, we do not judge the sonic quality of recordings based on mp3 (PR people: that's one of the main reason why we prefer actual discs), but here in the case of this new release by Gigan we have to make an exception: this sounds monstrously huge!

 While we often have reservations regarding the staying power of extreme metal, there is no denying that Gigan leaves you, as a listener, stricken as if you were just nuked. Mainly, it's the drums that do the job: they are brutal, rumbling like the pits of hell with overriding cymbals that keep you alert. It's a relentless attack, fronted by gnarring vocals, which does not stop. Well, at least until the fifth track - "Obsidian Sun."

 It is more or less on that track that the psychedelic, extreme metal bash makes way for a growing experimentation with atmosphere, interspersed with some finely textured yet equally alarming guitar hooks - a trend which continues on the subsequent numbers. You need not worry - the drums are still there, but there is a spicy vibe that is refreshing to the inferno. This is just the way an intense listening experience should be built and maintained!

Gigan are less accurate than Meshuggah (intentionally we believe), but they are not any less overwhelming, and the psychedelic twist is a feature that gives the band a character truly its own. (9/10)

 

 

 

 
7/10 Avi
 

HATRIOT - Heros Of Origin - CD - Massacre Records - 2013

Hatriot is a Bay Area band fronted by Steve Zetro Souza of Exodus fame, and this - the band's first full length release - spawns some brutal, old school styled thrash. Like the music, Souza's vocals lack melody but they are as devilish as it gets, sounding like the eccentric and more evil twin of Udo Dirkschneider. The music is relentless, featuring fast riffs, lots of thundering drum rolls and double bass, as well as an occasional guitar solo, high on adrenaline but low on identity.

Dexter fans will revel to find the tribute in the form of "The Violent Times Of My Dark Passenger," but just about any other thrash fan who care less about the melodic side and more about a nonstop brutal delivery should bash to this one. (7/10)

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

HUMBLE GRUMBLE - Guzzle It Up! - CD - Altrock - 2013

Humble Grumble is an hyperactive band. Sometimes its musical performance is so dynamic that its memorability is compromised. At least that's what we felt about its previous release (the 2011 Flanders Fields). However, as the more focused front cover suggests (portraying a single creature as opposed to the mosaic on the previous), this release is less overcrowded and finds the band harnessing the dynamics to achieve better fluency.

 The cheerful songs featured in this album are with no doubt inspired by Zappa's comic works (there's no way you get pass "The Little Man" with all its thoughtful arrangements and narrative vocals without thinking Over-nite Sensation), and as such it reminded us of labelmates miRthkon. Humble Grumble, however, is less metallic (even though a hard rocking guitar does emerge on "Skunks") and less strict compared to miRthkon - the timbres here are more old fashioned and rawer in terms of performance. The rawness might in fact make the occurrences sound a bit forced at first, but it comes off effective as it leaves ample room for the occasional jazzy improvisation (possibly less than before, but still to a satisfying degree - check out the marimba and sax solos on the arguably epic yet definitely dazzling opener "Kurt's Casino") and the fooling around, as appropriate for the colorful and eclectic, half jazz-rock half prog-rock material, eventually making it lasting affair.

 A fine example of the music's unrefined quality is the rap inspired section on "Accidentally in San Sebastian" - there's something crude about it, and yet it holds a certain charm and sounds at the very least original, if not modern, especially as the female vocals take over in a Charming Hostess kind of way. Arguably, the most representative piece is the aforementioned "Skunks" - a sex dripping song that mixes Zappa styled and Magma styled arrangements (including marvelous female background vocals and beautiful horns-drums maneuvers) and a jazzy drive, as well as whimsical vocals that sound like a hybrid of the Derek Shulman (of Gentle Giant) and Gordon Haskell (of King Crimson's Lizard) only more extroverted. (9/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

MACHINE MASS TRIO - As Real As Thinking - CD - MoonJune Records - 2011

As Real As Thinking is a splendid jazz rock release. It's as simple as that. Recorded live in a trio format (drummer Tony Bianco, guitarist Michel Delville and woodwinds player Jordi Grognard) and with no overdubs, the music here sounds so layered and rich, attesting to a clever usage of loops, and these guys just keep surprising you as a listener, which alone makes for a worthy listen.

The opening "Cuckoo" is an electronic jazz number, featuring dominant beats and sax playing as well as some nicely flowing electric guitar work. Listening to this piece, which clocks at over nine minutes, might lead you to believe that Machine Mass Trio had fulfilled its potential on the first track and that there's no real reason to move on.

But that's only half true: the group has indeed fulfilled that specific potential. However, it soon moves to explore other territories to an equal, if not greater, success: The following "Knowledge" is a more relaxed, plaintive affair, while "Let Go" is a fierce, rockish number, mixing wild free jazz leads (by both sax and guitar) with equally rampant rhythm section which never stops rolling while at the same time injecting fresh blood to the heart of things. The reflective, fittingly titled  "Khajurao" then holds a laid back, Indian flavored vibe with excellent, outspreading flute and tempered strings sounds, invoking Pharoah Sanders' psychedelic world music (such as the 1969 "Karma"). The somewhat trippy "Hero" sounds a bit like the electric Miles Davis (with bass clarinet instead of trumpet), whereas the 18 minute Bianco-Delville improvised duet - "Falling Up" - collects scattered sounds, reflects on them and then gradually leads towards a fascinating free jazz climax.

While the events are at times forceful, they are never brutal or forced - instead building their momentum on solid, comfortable grooves, memorable leads and compositional sense (even when things rely on healthy improvisation). In this sense it reminded us of the recent Soft Machine Legacy release, though this one's more modern sounding and arguably more consistent. (9/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
9.7/10 Avi
 

MAHOGANY FROG - Senna - CD - MoonJune Records - 2013

At first we had trouble with the electronic sounds on the opening "Houndstooth," especially the drum beats. But the more we listened to the album we adjusted, and in fact recognized the brilliance of Mahogany Frog's musical esthetics.

 In fact, Mahogany Frog can be regarded as a modern day Yes, and that's no mean feat! Sound wise, this instrumental recording by the Canadian outfit is layered with big, majestic sounds. We can't quite remember the last time we heard such a rich, intriguing and original sound coming from a contemporary instrumental rock band.  Every instrument is clear and toned: the keyboards work is majestic and grand yet mischievous with its occasional 8-bit styling, the guitars are full of finesse while at the same time storm with memorable hooks, the bass is fat and fuzzy and the drums are tricky yet forcefully gripping.

But even more important, everything adds up masterfully to a compact yet elaborate web, attractive with colorful sonics and fantasy themes. Just give one listen to the stupefying "Expo '67," which sounds like a psychedelic symphony crammed into five minutes due to a nuclear, rhythmic explosion; or the epic, dazzlingly textured "Message From Uncle Stan" and you'll need no more convincing.

This is a brave take on progressive rock music - firmly grounded in the grand aspirations and the devotion to articulate sound of old, yet served with dense, overtaking modern twists. Marvelous! (9.7/10)

P.S. The band has recently won the 2013 West Canadian Music Award for the best instrumental release of the year. We can certainly see why.

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Avi
 

SH.T.GN - Sh.t.gn - CD - MoonJune Records - 2012

One can never be ready for what Sh.tg.n has to offer, as this Belgian outfit has brewed some brave, catastrophic music for its debut.

Recorded live with excellent fidelity (which is already a statement in itself), this music is raw yet punctuate. It holds true to the fire of rock while at the same time breaks out of established patterns in its practice of free music and experimental twists. It is layered (we especially dig the usage of vibraphone - an abnormal instrument in the brutal music scene, which adds subtlety and extra timbres as well as enhances the tension when used inside all the turmoil that's going on here) and constantly pushes the boundaries by navigating between the disciplined and the recklessly wild, retaining its energy by use of relentless rhythmic engagement.

Early on, the deranged vocal tones, the menacing alien keyboards (by leader Antoine Guenet, whom we recently caught live with Univers Zero in the RIO festival which is also covered in this issue) and the swirling guitars and rhythms of the two first tracks set the scene for "Eyjafjallaokull" to demonstrate its harsh admonition with Alex Harvey styled vocal theatrics as well as with a certain song-texture refinement which becomes all the more apparent when confronted with the following "Shitgun" and its freestyled jazz metal.

That, however, is just the precursor to the violence ahead. Not much later, "Shotgun (Afraid Of)" showcases the band as the avant rock version of Rage Against The Machine (including what we believe to be  deliberate quote of "Killing In The Name" in its last seconds).

Sh.tg.n is unlike anything else we've heard, and if you like your music viciously raw, extremely energetic yet creative and filled with deadly atmosphere, then you owe it to yourself to listen to this. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.9/10 Avi
 

SOFT MACHINE LEGACY - Burden Of Proof - CD - MoonJune Records - 2013

On paper, Soft Machine Legacy has a lot to prove, as it follows in the footsteps of the legendary band Soft Machine - a band which was without doubt an avant garde when it comes to psychedelic music as well as jazz rock music. On record, however, this group - which is composed mainly of Soft Machine veterans -  does not seem to make an effort. And no - it's not that "Burden Of Proof" is not good; on the contrary -  it is the effortless approach which makes it highly appealing.

The opening tune demonstrates just how naturally laid back the music of the group is. It is executed with the same ease that made Soft Machine's seminal releases, such as the 1971 album Fourth; (to which current bassist Roy Babbington contributed) and the 1972 Fifth; (which included both Babbington and current drummer John Marshal on the bill) so captivating despite being daring. The fuzzy rhythm is infectious, being not only groovy but also somewhat mysterious, staying true to the spacey reputation of Soft Machine. "Voyage Beyond Seven" is similar in its embrace of the original band but has more epic feel to it, offering a bold journey which at some point features an intensely structured yet free formed mosh of drums, guitar and sax.

The original Soft Machine's music still sounds extremely relevant today,  a fact which helps Soft Machine Legacy sound modern without even having to elaborate the recipes of the original band. The rework of "King and Queens" (which first appeared on the aforementioned "Fourth") is representative in that sense, retaining the majesty of the original as the floating, rhythmic hook is maintained, and yet sounding fresh as instruments which were not on the original track (guitar and flute) play the leading role with fit and appropriate creativity.

While the Soft Machine Legacy might not take the original band's sound to newer heights, the band does expand the original pallet by exploring some bordering subgenres to varying success. "Pie Chart" sounds like a generic jazz rock fusion tune and ends with a stupid fadeout, and "Black and Crimson" is mostly an electric guitar showcase that might be a derivative of latter day Soft (of which current guitarist John Etheridge was part of) though stills feel a bit out of place; while "The Brief" is a fiery, relentless free jazz oriented number. "Fallout" - credited to the only Legacy member who was not at any time a member of the original band, sax and electric piano player Theo Travis - is a noteworthy jazz-rock tribute to the progressive rock band King Crimson (which influenced many of the groups Travis plays with, as well as led by Robert Fripp, with whom Travis recorded a few duos), blending the intense trickery of early King Crimson with the spacious explorations of Soft Machine; and "Pump Room," as a final example, is definitely more chugging and rockish than Soft Machine ever was. (7.9/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

TAYLOR'S UNIVERSE - Evidence - CD - Marvel of Beauty Records - 2013

This latest release by Robin Taylor and Co. comprises lengthier pieces than those composing Worn Out, which was released earlier this year (and reviewed here. This expanse, ranging between nearly eight minutes to almost fifteen per piece, allows for a tenser treatment.

The tension we're talking about is not quite you might expect, though, as it will not bind you to your sit with vigilance but rather soak you into to the music with comfort. For a visual comparison, you might think of The Matrix with its suspended action scenes in which some of the action is sacrificed for a tempting, acrobatic imagery.

The music sounds like Canterbury rock, with its strong jazz leanings, being fitted into the 1980s sounds and production aesthetics, sounding more accurate and punctuate. Rest assured, though, this does not take much of the recording's modern feel nor of its creativity, which flows abundantly, mostly due to the improvisations served on top the instrumentals' atmospheric and rhythmic bedding. In that aspect, the Danish leader brought together two of his country's famous '70s jazz-rock group Secret Oyster - guitarist Claus Bohling and sax player Karsten Vogel (who also appeared on some of Taylor's previous releases) - and, together with the other players, they're doing an fine job in enriching the music with interesting, relevant lines and sounds. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.9/10 Chaim
 

VALEFOR - Hidden In The Arms Of Death - CD - Sabbathid Records - 2012

Turkish one-man band Valefor has composed a simple yet effective little album of ultra melodic and contemplative black metal that is ultimately (and arguably) more black than metal; conjuring emotions of solitude and despair in a very organic manner; music that sounds often almost too simple, but without losing its grip on the listener with its mesmerizing melancholic tunes and its hypnotizing repetitive guitar lines. 

Played mostly slow, the album's material showcases a rather accomplished musician who has the ability to summon soundscapes of sadness and dark solace. The album's songs sound more like a soundtrack of a ritual, foreboding, worrisome and funereal-esque essence with little variation to be found.

But variation is not the issue here, nor is the technical ability of the sole figure behind the project; the musician's grasp of melody - moody, ethereal and often transcendental - is what matters here: the listener's ability to relate to the tunes, their impact and the overall atmosphere.  In that regard, Valefor's music is intimately flirting with the listener's emotions and consciousness; the riffs on display excel in promoting negativity and futility and their beauty coupled with their tame malevolence hit you in the gut with unbridled sadness and, well, almost suicidal romanticism. 

Take this album for a little walk in the woods, hand in hand; meditate to its sounds; converge into thyself in a dark and empty room and soon it would squeeze out all of your inner demons, like a fucking lemon spurting out black, rotten seeds. 

This little album of negativity comes as a positive surprise from an unexpected place. It sounds organic and well-rounded even though its music is paradoxically simple and repetitive; its ideas are fully realized and the emotions it captures and in turn generated in the listener are unparalleled given how allegedly simple this album is, comprising mostly circular guitar strumming with almost no distortion and a few occasional incoherent vocal bursts. This is NOT your average suicidal depressive black metal recording, the likes of which you probably have heard time and again; this album is not a statistic in a sea of faceless copycats practicing the same routine. Try it and you shalt know! (6.9/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Chaim
 

FROM BENEATH BILLOWS - Monolith - CD - frombeneathbillows.com - 2013

From Beneath Billows' 2007 EP left a tremendous impression with its tame violence and dark, greater-than-life compositions. It was one of the best atmospheric hardcore outputs of that year, for sure.

Six years later, this Norwegian quintet has finally offered its fans its debut full length album, namely Monolith; a 75 minutes quality atmospheric / post hardcore piece where long contemplative soundscapes converge with heavier, angrier parts.

Although the musicianship is top-notch and the body of music is in many parts captivating and beautiful, the album as a whole is somewhat of a pedestrian experience as it does not go to lengths, being neither completely spellbinding in its mellower parts nor the exercise in full-blown violence it should have been. Too laid-back for its own good, the instrumental parts could be at times too long and a tad exhausting, while the brutal stuff is way tamer and civilized as well as short-lived. 

There is, however, a thoughtful suspense inherent in/to the music, a sense of drama and storytelling (like in good film-making) and each long track is rather varied in emotive expression and dynamics: from total, meditative transcendence to plowing, metallic scythes of delicate nihilism. 

The aesthetics, both sonic and visual, are excellent and the mysterious and austere artwork suits the album's general theme perfectly. Monolith showcases a mature band of proficient musicians taking their art to the maximum of their talent and expressing it with the highest level of finesse and enthusiasm. However, they seem to focus mainly on songwriting and on the delivery of the smaller details, neglecting all the while the originality factor - what ultimately results in an album the likes of which we have heard before; musical substance that is often too familiar. 

You will not hear any surprises coming from this album, nor should you expect any; this is definitely not another Neurosis copycat - both in positive and negative senses - as it sends another message altogether: the aspiration to bond with the forces of nature rather than with one's inner demons; and in addition, the music is heavily influenced by American folk (Southern Rock, Americana) - a fact cannot be attributed to Neurosis' music.

Final thoughts: If you happen to like bands such as Omega Massif or Across Tundras, you will probably dig this exquisite album; It's not as vitriolic as any of Neurosis' stuff (or Cult Of Luna's, for that matter), nor it is as unique as the stuff coming from the French atmospheric hardcore gods Dirge. Ultimately, it will definitely caress and sooth you to a greater extent than it will bite, but its beautiful moments and its musicianship are simply sublime.

Support this band - its music definitely deserves it. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8.5/10 Chaim
 

GNAW THEIR TONGUES - L'Arrivee de la Terne Mort Triomphante - CD - Crucial Blast Records - 2010

L'Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante is probably the most accomplished Gnaw Their Tongues work, judging upon the material we have been acquainted with by this Dutch one-man twisted musical project.

Fascinated with death, fecal matter, torture and extreme morbidity - be it esoteric or habitual - this recording sees Maurice de Jong, the sole member of this aural abomination, at his most musical phase, where his ability to compose real tunes shines the most. Shedding all (black) metal and noise elements, he now focuses mainly on some of the most unsettling neo-classical music to be found.

Not unlike the ghost ride offered by Elend's monumental The Umbersun L'Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante is a colossal work of layered tragedy, dramatic soul-crushing cinematic excursion through the darkest reaches of existence, and in the end of everything - it is an intimidating piece of dark sonic artistry so enormously brutal on the senses, it can only be compared to Glenn Danzig's Black Aria and Laibach's Macbeth (or Elend's The Umbersun for that matter, only more militarized and way heavier), and even those aforementioned are only a pale shadow when comparing the sonic atrocities of this Gnaw Their Tongues opus from 2010, to the relative easy listening experience of both Danzig's and Laibach's masterpieces.

Using a thick sonic cloth of martial percussion and sampled orchestra instruments (mainly brass and string instruments), some synthesizers and some processed vocals that are hardly ever prominent, Gnaw Their Tongues offers a madman's journey through rot and agony, using classical music paradigms and compositions that could have only been born in hell itself.

Indeed, L'Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante couldn't completely escape from the distinctive industrial approach Gnaw Their Tongue is so (in)famous for, delivering its passionate, multi-layered, neo-classical dark and apocalyptic, mind-fucking beauty with gritty, cold industrial undercurrents that further enhance the music's cold ferociousness, but the big picture is that this album is something altogether different than the band's usual routine; it's not abstract at all, nor is it being reduced to sheer noise anywhere throughout its 45 minutes, not even once; it's very melodic in its own unnerving way, with a good perception of both melody and atmosphere.

L'Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante is a soundtrack to your worst nightmare, if there ever was one; highly addictive and in the end, also very much enjoyable neo-classical / martial-industrial effort by one of the most inventive musicians the underground have ever spawned. (8.5/10)

 

 

 

 
3.9/10 Chaim
 

HIGHGATE - Survival - CD - Total Rust - 2013

This is our first encounter with Highgate, a band we've heard a lot about and heard nothing in terms of their musical endeavors. Frankly, we don't feel like we've missed much.

Survival is a typical, tedious sludge recording treading the same paths and exhibiting the same routine of its many peers, and it kind of gets old pretty quickly, because this album portrays nothing we haven't heard in the past, many, many times. This is a typical sludge/doom combo playing the same sludge riffs in repetition, probably for lack of ideas, filling the otherwise empty space of the disc with the same patterns over and over again - a never changing formula with which they could go on forever, making every song last not 12, 15 or 20 minutes like they do in reality, but rather ten times longer. 

Highgate target upon a formula and excessively repeat it ad nauseam for as long as possible, delivering perfectly stagnant music with no surprises or added values whatsoever, and while doing so, they do not manage even to escape (the apparently inescapable) happy-happy stoner factor, a travesty too many bands execute and something that we find absurd and totally misplaced, given the fact this is after all sludge/doom and for the obvious reasons cannot contain any 'party material' such as stoner rock / metal influences that ultimately condemn the whole musical endeavor to sound goofy and a tad ridiculous. 

The band's music is simply not interesting enough to be delivered the way it is presented on Survival, that is to say long, very long tracks of little to no variation coupled with the absolute lack of ideas or any kind of novelty, power or dynamics. These guys must either add something to their boredom-fest on display here, alter their main style altogether or get out of the way.

Avoid this album if you can, and seek elsewhere for some interesting, hard hitting and inspired sludge (mind you, there aren't many of those, so eventually Highgate are not an unusual phenomenon) - Survival is definitely not one of those. This is one album we won't be returning to... (3.9/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Chaim
 

CATARRHAL - Fleshgrave - CD - Rotten To The Core Records - 2013

I hardly ever listen to brutal death metal; never a big fan, unless I'm presented with something unique that pushes the boundaries of the style's aesthetics. In most cases I find listening to this kind of bands an utter waste of time and effort. Rare are the albums in the brutal death metal department that ignite my interest and make me actually enjoy them, and frankly, I still haven't listened to anything as good as Suffocation's Effigy Of The Forgotten. Sue me.

Catarrhal's Fleshgrave is one of the very few I consider as worthy, and it begs further exploration, as it contains some of the vilest, most engaging and utterly effective sounds ascending from the murky, muddy, filthy soils of the current, brutal death metal underground.

Equipped with the right atmosphere and an intelligent songwriting approach, Fleshgrave is a beast of an album, played super tight, hyper-fast, and as professionally as it gets. Coupled with a super-massive, adequate production that is modern enough yet rooted deeply in the past, this musical brute - wild, dark and blasting - escapes almost every genre cliche: no ridiculous cookie monster belching vocals were used, nor does it exercise annoying slam / metalcore / deathcore breaks or groovy sections. Furthermore, the album does not succumb totally to heaviness for the sake of heaviness alone, at the expense of melody.

As ironic as it may seem, everything here is done with a certain degree of civilized moderation (relatively speaking), in comparison to the usual, brutal death metal paradigms: the vocalist is a middle of a road growler, the blast beats are sporadic if tight, the melody is definitely there and the whole charade is quite varied and well balanced. Those attributes are probably what makes this album flow so well and mark it as one of the finest offerings of 2013.

The album's highlights lie in its foreboding, bleak atmosphere and the songwriting capabilities of the band. Deep and dark ambiances generated by a blanket of vitriolic guitars, complemented by a wise choice of riffs, as well as some dissonant scales and some semi-oriental passages paying homage to the legacy of Death (the band) are noticeable for those who pay attention.

Monolithic and grand, Fleshgrave is a modern sonic artwork of calculated brutality that will satisfy even the most elitist cynics among you and would probably reignite your interest and passion for the most brutally effective sounds modern music has got to offer, where sinister frequencies converge with pure dejection and solemn cadaverous sentiments. It is a huge album of negativity and colossal hostility that is by no means deprived of melody, atmosphere and technical ability of the highest kind in regards to this form of death death.

I'd put this album on a pedestal together with last year's Embrional's release Absolutely Anti-Human Behaviors. Even though, as stated above, both albums do not display rigid, brutal, death metal aesthetics distinctive to this very style, they are so good that eventually no listener should care for this nonconformance to the guidelines of this or that sub-genre of metal. This album WILL blow your mind either way. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Chaim
 

KHAOS REIGN - The Reign Of Signs - CD - Indie - 2008

This obscure Russian metal band took us by surprise when we had heard its music for the first time, knowing nothing about its existence and expecting nothing grand from this short recording presented on a CDr with handwritten info in black marking pen on the CDr's top.

And thus, with expectations as low as they get, the speakers belched out some ferocious, clinically-precise, atmospheric death metal of the highest order!

Catchy in their peculiar way, hostile sounds of dark metallic essence rained upon us like infinitesimal nuclear bombs, shattering our already shattered world some more.

With mechanical blast beats and some brooding slower parts, the music - aided by a super massive low growler - is raining upon the listener showers of terror, suffocating ambiances and violence of the highest kind; an undiluted, sonic hatred and unbridled bestiality that numb the senses and lock the brain in a constant state of awe and amazement.

Four tracks of absolutely barbaric, brooding vitriol of sheer musical excellence, bombarding the senses with ominous sounds of pure death metal that is thrilling and captivating even though it hasn't got too much to offer in the department of originality, for which the atmosphere compensates, and then some... (8/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Chaim
 

DAMNATIONS HAMMER - Disciples Of The Hex - CD - I Hate Records - 2013

English thrashers of doom Damnations Hammer have released this massive debut and the world even doesn't know, if to judge upon the non-hype the album has received till now in various Internet communities. The Metal Archives describes their style as death/doom, while to these very ears they sound like a thrash metal band playing their thrash slow and heavy with a very predominating epic touch; and no - this is definitely not death metal in the traditional sense.

You could call this album doom metal, but the guitar sound and riffs are totally thrashing; belching, sweeping, fat, ominous thrash the likes of which are rare and far between. In fact, the music is so heavy, it sounds almost like the brainchild of a really angry sludge band that cannot help itself from throwing in a couple of thrash metal maneuvers and other genre-shticks. The outcome is nothing short of astounding.

The excellent vocalist, an unusually disgruntled guy with a clear, clean voice yet low in pitch and high in a disturbing factor, adds his almost soaring, grand and epic approach to the powerful music on display. The result is a dark, ritualistic kind of thrash/doom amalgam with a strong apocalyptic vibe and simple yet extremely somber tales of horror and darkness.

This album is the sound of the occult: its cold, insidious dreariness spreads like cancer through excellently written songs of gloom and doom, gargantuan guitars and a charismatic vocalist who adds an added value to the music, transcending it from a mere thrash metal album to being the soundtrack of the occult.

Vile, heavy, singular and mostly beautiful a beast of darkness and more darkness, Disciples of the Hex is a unique entity of force and esoterica, a herald of a new age of darkness. Be it doom or thrash metal, both at the same time or none of the above - this album should be heard and acknowledged. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
6.5/10 Chaim
 

DEATHSTORM - As Death Awakes - CD - I Hate Records - 2013

Only formed in the year 2010 yet sound like something from the mid-to-late 1980's, this Austrian outfit offers, through the this debut album, a fierce, if juvenile, recording which almost perfectly captures the ultra-hysterical, ultra-violent, almost primitive form of European styled thrash metal. An ode to the origins of the violent type of metal that is so high-pitched and treble-heavy, it verges on the very seam where punk rock, black thrash, black metal and 'classic' thrash / speed metal converge.

Not as heavy or as violent as Hypnosia's 2000 album Extreme Hatred, nor as gritty and skeletal as either Kreator or even Bathory - this record, however, reeks of old times and naivety; it contains some ominous riffs, a lot of repetition, excellent barking vocals and a strong, if not inspired, powerful drumming that plays in high velocities (not too typical to thrash metal, which is, for the most part, played in mid-tempos).

Usually avoiding thrash metal due to its usually dull musical content, this record is a pleasant surprise. Despite its somewhat infantile aspects, it is the insanely tight playing, the rare and fresh dynamics - as well as the fact that the album contains extreme violence yet is sparse enough to enable the melodies to breath - that make this a perfect homage to the style's pioneers (if nothing else), and one that is fun to listen to, given the right circumstances and the right amount of alcohol. (6.5/10)

 

 

 

 
7.5/10 Avi
 

UNTIL DAWN - Horizon - CD - Indie - 2013

Canada's Until Dawn mixes metalcore with melodic metal in a way that is natural and rewarding. The music on the Canadian's band second album takes the melodic appeal, the rhythmic storms, the abundant, memorable riffs and the conquering hymns of Iron Maiden and deliver them even faster, with a crushing vibe. "The Red Sun Rises This Day" is exemplary, and serves as a testimony to the band's songwriting and performance capabilities.

Until Dawn's songs often benefit from including a surprise element on top of their engaging nature - be it a sudden clean guitar section, an embellishing guitar line placed on top of the devastating riffs (this is certainly a band that truly makes use of its dual guitar lineup!), a trick of drums or even an unpredictable stop; and considering the fact that Horizon is self-produced, this is all the more admirable.

While we do not always care for the harsh, screamed vocals (and often wish these were served with a bit more melody), we do find them effective and true, and Until Dawn does know how to blend cleaner singing, and even some gentle, heartfelt moments (such as the power ballad "DNR," which does echo another infamous Canadian rock/metal band which we will avoid mentioning, demonstrates).

All in all, Horizon is a highly potent and professional self-released album which metalcore devotees will surely enjoy. (You can listen to the album at the band's Bandcamp page, and buy a copy if you like it) (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
8/10 Avi
 

DOUBT - Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love - CD - MoonJune Records - 2012

Like Machine Mass Trio (whose recording is also covered in this issue), douBt comprises drummer Tony Bianco and guitarist Michel Delville, only this time they teamed up with keyboardist Alex Maguire. And like that outstanding release, Mercy, Pity, Peace and Love is another inventive jazz-rock album, which is characterised by a tuned sense for exploration as well as strong, instrumental storytelling quality.

Early on, the first tracks disclose a prog-rock deconstructed into jazz-rock notion popular in this recording. In a sense, this culminates on the third track - "No More Quarrel with the Devil" which features a certain guitar motif that sounds like a paraphrase on a King Crimson's "21st Century Schizoid Man" as well as playful keyboards - and specifically organ sounds - that echo other progressive rock textures.

But surprise surprise! Come the fourth track - "Rising Upon Clouds" - and things tend more towards free jazz, with cascading key strokes and ethereal sonic setting by the guitar and the drums.

Without going into extra details and ruining the other treats that douBt has in store, we do care to mention the hard rocking and somewhat trippy cover of Hendrix's "Purple Haze," the classic, melodic appeal of the congenial "The Invitation," the spooky, somber feeling that is at the heart of the title track; and last but not least, the inspiring and thoughtful way in which the closing "Goodbye My Fellow Soldier" builds from a theme which sounds quite like King Crimson's "Exiles" (can it be that we're just too much of Crimson fanatics so we hear Crimson in everything?) onto slightly static yet rumbling ambience inspired by 70s Electronica.

Without doubt, this album reflects a rare, borderless taste for emotive music. (8/10)

 

 

 

 
9.5/10 Avi
 

FIVE-STOREY ENSEMBLE - Not That City - CD - Altrock - 2013

Five-Storey Ensemble is one of two groups to emerge out of the Belarus based, modern progressive rock band Rational Diet, and while we were immediately struck by the second Rational Diet release at the time (see issue #71 for the review), this one took a bit of getting used to, probably due to its more restrained nature.

But we persisted, gradually acknowledging this is truly an original work of art. Five-Storey Ensemble's output is indeed reserved, but that does not mean it is any less interesting or impressive. In fact, listening to this album is an adventure, full of mystic roads, luring sceneries and sensual temptations. We dare you to listen to the vocal dialogue on "Yesterday Dormant" and tell us it does not belong in motion pictures - it is so animated and expressive, supported by music which holds a built-in tension. The singing on this recording is truly beautiful, and even though we are not typically moved by classical music inspired chanting, we find the vocal performance here stirring (and we only wish we knew what the lyrics are saying, as they are in the group's native language).

Unlike the aforementioned Rational Diet release, this one carefully unfolds. The opening piece - "The Harbinger" - is true to its name, serving as an exposition with marvelous, bright sounding reeds contrasted by moodier strings, piano and accordion that insinuate an emerging threat. There is certainly less rock here, and the music shares its elaborated, dark compositions and its esthetics with Univers Zero and Art Bears, but also with classical music and the slavic chill. Some of the detailed orchestration - especially in its way of utilizing the reeds and strings to form harmonious movements - is considerably modern classical (perhaps even romantic), and cleverly aids the avant garde exploration to act without compromising the naturalness of the music, which maintains a majestic elegance throughout. As a weird and slightly abnormal manifestation of this, we suggest you sample "Amid The Smoke And Different Questions," which sporadically serves a drone over contemporary music, baroque music and finally some free styled avant garde. (9.5/10)

[This is a revised version of the review which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
6.25/10 Avi
 

V/A - Gravity's Drop Out:Tracks For Non-Existing Movies - CD - Alrealon Musique - 2013

Gravity's Drop Out (Tracks For Non-Existing Movies) is an interesting assembly of six musical pieces by different artists. Produced by Robert L. Pepper (of PAS Musique), this is music you are more likely to hear at modern art museums rather than on record.

The first piece -PAS's "To Understand Colours"- demonstrates the patience and minimalism that, to some degree, characterises the entire collection. It is passive, slow and atmospheric, showcasing a well contained effect. In a way, it's like witnessing an explosion in slow motion.

The second piece - Margitt Holzt's "Bears Head" (which is available online at https://soundcloud.com/alrealon-music/thorsten-soltau-margitt-holzt) starts off like a borken record of horns and melody, before using these sounds in the context of an ambient setting, and finally making a turn to illustrate a more menacing threat, evoking industrial references.

Herr Penschuck's "The Drig Bift Transition" follows, and while it is more low-keyed, it features a greater sense of motion, as some recordings of traffic are at its heart.

Gramo Memo's "Ebinger" is arguably the most vivid piece here, and benefits from the exotic, Arabic touch of its verbal reflections, ethnic percussions and strings. These are gradually taken over by an electronic treatment which has a clear, digital feel but still somehow manages to correspond with the acoustic samples, conveying spiritualism with a twist.

Whereas the aforementioned managed to enchant us, the last two pieces succeeded less in doing so. Jousan's "Nika Son" is a relatively short scene of hovering sounds overtaken by alarms; and "Screening: Delfter Blau Simultan & Urmutter/Hohlspiegelgondolier" - the collage by Herr Penschuck & Thorsten Soltau which closes the album, sounds like a trip through a radio's channel dial. In a way it reminded us of the Midnight Peacocks' "Insomnia" (see our review of Shalosh in issue #60), but the treatment here is more scattered and uneven, and while the reception and statics are entwined with undercurrents that offer attractive fragments of melodies or bird sounds, it feels like a miss in terms perceiving the travels. (6.25/10)

 

Related reviews:
 
Destruction of the Heavenly Realms (issue No 6)  

 

 

 
7.5/10 Avi
 

JURICA - Distant Memories - CD - Alrealon Musique - 2012

The Croatian contemporary composer and fretless guitarist, Jurica, leads the listener through nine, evasive instrumentals.

Jurica relies mostly on his fretless guitar in order to deliver concrete content in the form of brief melodies, semi-rhythmic hooks and microtonal sounds, and augment these with field recordings (for example, those of a crowd of people, of birds, etc.), sensitive computer manipulations and artificial sounds. The result is a magical, electroacoustic adventure - intimate in nature, yet detailed and busy enough to keep you intrigued throughout. (7.5/10)

 

 

 

 
9.25/10 Avi
 

MONSTER MAGNET - Last Patrol - CD - Napalm Records - 2013

Monster Magnet is back. Not only with a new album, but also in time, as Last Patrol revisits the earlier, psychedelic garage vibes of the band.

Now, there are bands which at some point decide to go back and restore their days of old - a most notable example is the latest offering by Black Sabbath; but it's much rarer to find a band that manages to "regress" out of its later fancies and produce an album worth of material that equals the vintage works. Last Patrol is such a case, as it faithfully and authentically captures the spirit of the 1993 Superjudge as well as the original Monster Magnet agenda of recovering rock music its glory.

This is no coincidence, we believe. Rock's glory was founded on its urgency and the counterculture it stood for, and Monster Magnet's regression is in fact a sort of revolution, and goes hand in hand with the message of its new songs, as explicitly expressed on "Stay Tuned": "There ain't no targets to aim for / No more mountains to climb / ... Why even keep it hard in a flatlined world / where every piece of dung is the next big thing."

Monster Magnet is once again the band that picked up on the basic rock of Grand Funk Railroad and the spaced out exploration of Hawkwind - an underdog that strives for better as opposed to a bragging space lord (and don't get us wrong - we totally dig the 1998 Powertrip and some of its followups, such as Monolithic Baby, which was covered in issue #31; but the band did adopt a flashier and more modern twist then). Once more, the production is less bright and even dirty, the songs are about textures as much as they're about hooks, and the vocals are more desperate and heartfelt than hysterical. These are obvious from the very beginning, as the laid back "I Live Behind The Clouds" sets a dark scene of estrangement (a theme explored later on with the likes of "Paradise" and its disillusioned voice), before the title track, with its nine minutes or so of sensual, psychedelic affair takes over.

Longtime guitarist Ed Mundell is gone, but Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano more than make up for his loss with fantastic, bareboned yet effective playing that is simply nailing. "Mindless Ones," for example, opens in a way reminiscent of Arthur Brown, and features swampy guitars that soon turn into a thick vortex of rhythms, and as these suck you in, dazzling lead guitar is served on top acting as an hallucinative stimulus.

Last Patrol might have come from a parallel universe - one in which it directly followed Superjudge, and some of the other highlights are the magnificent cover of Donovan's "Three Kingfishers," which carries the original, psychedelic vibe of the song (sitar intact) and dresses it in an heavy rock setting; "The Duke (of Supernature)," which features a marvelous keyboard curtain and a majestic yet raw vibe akin to Led Zeppelin's "When The Levee Breaks," while incorporating psychedelic sounds of mellotron and theremin - sounds that also make the aforementioned "Stay Tuned" the reflective, emotionally loaded finale it is.

As long as Monster Magnet is on guard, rock will carry on bravely, and we sure hope that this ain't its last patrol! (9.25/10)

 

 

 

 
8.9/10 Avi
 

SPALTKLANG - In Between - CD - Altrock - 2013

The new Spaltklang album presents some changes compared to the previous ones (search our archive for reviews). The most obvious one is the lineup - which has been revised with new players (only the leading saxophonist Markus Stauss and the longtime drummer Rémy Sträuli remain of the original), but this also results in other changes that has more to do with the sound and the compositions of this modern music ensemble effort.

The new, extended lineup teams leader Markus Stauss (on saxes) with Richard Koch on trumpet, resulting in a jazzier offering. Of course, Spaltklang has always integrated modern jazz into its work, but here it is more at the forefront, with a considerable amount of improvised, lead playing. The compositions seem more inviting and provide an outstretching setting for the musicians to pick up on, showcasing their individual character as well as their attentive group playing.

Still, owing much to to Stauss' interest in chamber music, the music is disciplined, probably more than ever before. This is well reflected in the sound: the raw, gutsy and somewhat loose vibes that were once Spaltklang's trademark are almost gone, making way for accurate, clean esthetics. Basically, the music is more elaborate and rational as opposed to sensually overtaking.

While the new sonics may be common to many of Spaltklang's contemporaries (in the genres of modern creative / avant garde / free music), the material does hold distinctive qualities. The elaborate pieces (these are quite lengthy, ranging from nine minutes and a half to thirteen and a quarter) feature harmonized polyphonies and textural, free music explorations, evolving in a rational sense with the occasional rock elements thrown in ("4 Elements" hold a rocking backbeat, and at some point the closing "Ural Fragment" finds Stauss soaring with his blazing sax, only to be followed and matched by guitarist Francesco Zago breaking loose with ferociously noisy guitar). And of course, there are the staccato phrasings (Spaltklang meaning "split sound"), conveyed mostly by the winds but also within Sträuli's devastating rhythms. There is a lively joy contained in the music, and yet we were especially touched by the expressive "A Suite (in memory of Cleo)," which is sorrowful at times and features delicate sax/trumpet playing.

In Between is another album that proves Spaltklang as a fresh unit - a modern, creative music ensemble propelled by exploration and willingness to move forward.(8.9/10)

 

[Our first impressions of this appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
6.75/10 Avi
 

TARJA - Colours in the Dark - CD - Edel - 2013

While we do not consider ourselves Tarja fans, we gave this release a few tries only to reveal we actually like some of it.

The opening track, "Victim of Ritual," carries a symphonic arrangement that is only half baked, and like on some of the other songs the music often feels like it is merely a rhythmic backdrop to the singer (who demonstrates her rolling vocals in the chorus), with occasional stops and starts as if that is the essence of delivering drama. It's a type of rock meeting pop at the opera thing, which can truly get on our nerves once some programmed drums and crackling electronic effects are introduced to the mix, enhancing the kitsch and sounding backdated (hell - we believe they don't even use them in pop anymore!). The song's memorable quality does, however, cover for the production's atrocities, and the same applies - though a bit less - for the following "500 Letters."

The third song - "Lucid Dreamer" - does have a somewhat delusional midsection that makes it unique, and shows promise, before "Never Enough" hits you with its plain overdose of pop and "Mystique Voyage" overstays its welcome (which is quite short to begin with) with its bad New Age leaning.

Surprisingly though, Tarja manages to reinforce in the second half, living up to the aforementioned promise. "Neverlight" is truly rocking with its swirling, hard rock guitar work, and the closing "Medusa" - apart from hosting a powerful duet with Justin Furstenfeld, lovely eastern motifs and actual metal music - finally has a true dramatic element at its heart. There is also that cover of Peter Gabriel's "Darkness," showing that the lady can be a really good performer if she leaves out her excessive tendency to overdramatize the vocals (this cover alone is worth an extra point!). (6.75/10)

 

 

 

 
9.25/10 Avi
 

TOHPATI ETHNOMISSION - Save The Planet - CD - MoonJune Records - 2010

Apart from the slightly stale title, nothing is banal about this album, which includes eleven original titles by guitarist-composer-leader Tohpati. The music relies on raga fusion, with a world music orientation, as evident by the lineup which incorporates two Indonesian percussion players.

Being patient and disciplined, the material here remains true to the nature of Hindu music (and we do apologize for not being familiar enough with eastern music to distinguish the Indonesian charecteristics from Indian music), and holds a pastoral quality (check out the Sundanese flute on "Sacred Dance"!).

Still, the music is rich with memorable, often storming, motifs, and benefits from a highly dynamic, enthusiastic performance. As a result it is more engaging to us than some of the music by Shakti - the group led by guitarist John McLaughlin which emerged in the 1970s and is considered a pioneer in blending jazz and Indian music; and the pieces' bright, transcendent nature evokes of early efforts by Chick Corea's Return To Forever.

At times, the instrumental music found here holds a dramatic appeal that is akin to progressive rock, considerably leaning on thematic explorations and elaborations, and this helps in elevating the recording to the level of a jazz rock / world music masterpiece. (9.25/10)

 

[This review is based on a double feature which appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
9/10 Avi
 

WORM OUROBOROS, THE - Of Things That Never Were - CD - Altrock - 2013

Of Things That Never Were the debut album by the Belarusian band The Worm Ouroboros, relies on the attitude of classic (1970s) progressive rock to portray reflective journeys through vivid shades. Whereas the overall tone is that of restraint, tenderness and grandeur akin to Camel, and despite the faithful, successful reproduction of the vibes of old, a sharp modern production enhances the vitality of the pieces and often colors them with a touch (or more) of conflict.

The compositions are relatively epic and of high level, and the performance is thriving with delicate keyboards filled with noble atmosphere and playfulness (such as those on "Shelieth"), as well as harmonious guitars (listen to the glorious acoustic interlude "Dawn Angel") and wind instruments providing for imageries of pastoral landscapes ("Ladybird On A Moebius Strip" and its featured flute are a prime example).

Besides the instrumental pieces (all of the aforementioned tracks are included amongst these), this album also features songs that hold some of the drama and English quality of Genesis, some of the catastrophe of Van Der Graaf Generator and some of the colourful, hard rocking traits of Atomic Rooster, as "Soleil Noir" well demonstrates.

"The Curfew" goes even farther and builds on the avant rock timbres of Present and Magma (including that fuzzy bass and dark motifs) to form a number that is effectively menacing on top of being quite surprising (and the jazzy, funky keyboards solo certainly contributes another dimension to the latter effect!).

This is possibly the 2013 release that would appeal to the largest share of prog-rock audience, with its fantastic fresh take on retro tones; but also one that is likely to slip under the radar. We hope this review helps, if only a bit, in getting the word out. (9/10)

[Our first impressions of this appeared in our Facebook blog Gut Feeling]

 

 

 

 
8.8/10 Mladen
 

MORBID INSULTER - Funeral Mysticism - CD - I Hate Records - 2012

Sweet hell. Sixty minutes of it. On two CDs. Doesn't make sense at first, but if you consider the fact that Funeral Mysticism consists of six various demos, promos and EPs, and that a few songs appear twice in different forms, things look more reasonable. Especially because half an hour is just about the perfect measure for this kind of music. You just need to take a welcome break, make an effort to switch the CDs, before the aggression continues. You will feel like listening to all the raging, enthusiastic, mysterious deaththrashblack bands from the Nineties, and have so much nasty fun that you will almost forget that all the Morbid Insulter releases are actually from between 2005 and 2010.

There's even a frontman's suicide in the story somewhere, so you can also take Morbid Insulter more seriously than you would normally. But even that "normally" part isn't "normal" at all, as most bands, especially Swedish like this one was, wouldn't know how to write riffs like that if you played Mayhem's Deathcrush to them all day long. For some reason, Morbid Insulter had exactly the same energy, but developed in slightly different directions. Such a never ending barrage of riffs, blasts, swirls and twirls can't possibly leave anyone indifferent. The lyrics are the usual grave raping, Satan, blasphemy, evil and all that, and we wouldn't take it any other way. Exaggerated energy, exaggerated aggression, exaggerated speed and a dead band member? It's hard to get closer to being a "classic" than this. (8.8/10)

 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 
 

 

 

 

Rock In Opposition Festival 2013
September 20-22, 2013 - Cap'Decouverte - Maison de la Musique

review by: %%name=Avi Shaked%%

We've been hearing great things about the annual "Rock In Opposition" festival for a few years now, and this year's lineup was too good to miss, so we headed to the south of France (Midi-Pyrénées) for three days of progressive music.

For the uninitiated, "Rock In Opposition" (or RIO in short) was originally a 1970s movement of avant garde, progressive bands which elaborated not only the rock music palette but also its compositional attitude, and today the term is openly and alternatively used with "avant-rock" to describe forward-thinking artists as well as music which is demanding, typically complex (often "rehearsal intensive," to borrow the description off a Facebook group dedicated to such music) and genre-intolerant, and usually explores and extends the borderline of rock, classical music, modern jazz and just about any other genre that can fit the purpose.

We are well aware of the above absurd, trying to define and confine something which originally tried to break loose of defintions. Luckily, the festival's artistic director did not feel the need to conform with RIO associations, and besides avant-rock legends - such as Univers Zero and Present - the festival offered some surprising and refreshing anomalies such as the noise/alternative rock French band We Insist! and the comic rock trio Poil (whose raw, energetic and lunatic performance was considered to be one the festival's highlights), which helped in making the event all the more diverse.

Before going into details about the performances, we have to say we were pleasantly surprised with the festival's logistics. The location of an indoor venue in Cap'Découverte - a parking area surrounded by nature somewhere between the cities of Carmaux and Albi - was gorgeous: at any time you can go outside the venue and breathe the fresh air, whereas the venue itself was roomy (for the attendance of a few hundreds), and included two concert halls - the bigger one with enough seats to simultaneously accommodate everyone and allow the music to be absorbed as it should be, and a smaller one which that allowed a less formal gathering and the occasional progressive dancing (to the more upbeat performance); as well as a lounge dedicated to chit chats with the artists and merchandise stands and an interview floor which hosted interviews with many of the artists who participated.

One of the highlights of the first day of the festival included Aranis, which performed an articulate set, armed with pianist Pierre Chevalier and for the second half of the set drummer Dave Kerman (both participated on the band's brilliant RoqueForte which we raved about in issue #72).

 

It was Faust, however, which delivered the festival's most sensual set. Watching Faust in live action is like watching a mad scientist in his lab. The band's performance is about exploration, with experimental music produced in a sort of a jam session by both actual instruments and other tools, being complemented not only with obscure visual sceneries (and we're not just talking about the projected video but also about the group's staging, such as entering the stage wearing horse masks and playing the first number while still wearing them) but also with appropriate scents of the live welding. It was a truly multidisciplinary experience that cannot leave you indifferent.

The Chicago based Cheer-Accident opened the festival's second day. Fronted by the lovely Evelyn Davis the band gave a solid, entertaining and thoughtful performance. Like on records, Cheer-Accident music is not always concise, and we occasionally found ourselves distracted, but this also gives you the notion of a band that is constantly searching, even though they have the pop chops and songwritings skills to win you over.

Univers Zero - one of the original RIO members - followed. Like quite a few of the festival acts that revolve around their drummer - namely Cheer-Accident, the Japanese, jazzy avant-prog trio Korekyojinn (which provided a fair amount of its trademark intoxicating, intricate grooves and brief, engaging melodic statements later that day) and the Norwegian Panzerpappa (which gave a playful yet articulate performance the next day), Univers Zero's music is centered around and conducted by Daniel Denis, whose playing propels the music, both rhythmically and creatively. The band has performed in this festival - which to our understanding enjoys a comparably large number of returning visitors - a few times, and that might have contributed to the decision to leave some of its renowned pieces out of the set list. Regardless, the performance was dark, as expected by anyone who knows the band, but we felt that the current lineup lacked an acoustic string instrument to live up to the chamber music character that is typically attributed to the ensemble, leaving a somewhat stark impression.

After being impressed with the latest Soft Machine Legacy release (covered in this issue) we were highly expecting to see the group in action. So much in fact that we decided to skip most of Poil's show, even though we found the part we attended immediate, highly entertaining and cool (lets face it - most avant rock bands lack that spicy ingredient!), and for us it worked better than on record. Back to the Soft Machine Legacy - it was on the first number the guys did that we felt that something was wrong, or in fact missing. "This cannot be John Marshall playing the drums," we thought, and indeed it wasn't! Marshall fell ill and was replaced, leaving his unique chops dearly missed. Still, the performance was worthwhile, especially due to John Etheridge, whose guitar sound is unmistakably warm and elegant and his playing was captivating and full of emotion - if we had to pick the most valuable player of the festival - it's Etheridge!

Despite all the rewarding, aforementioned performances, it was the US band Mirthkon that closed the second day with a disappointment. We were expecting the band's entertaining material to be all the more lively on stage, but instead we found the band a bit lost: the arrangements were not exciting, the actual performance was not tight (in fact, sometimes it got messy or inaccurate) and try as he might, Wally Scharold is no Frank Zappa, and his seeming attempts of orchestrating the band out of the anchoring compositions did not result in any spontaneous brilliance or humor.

Things did get back on track on the third, final day. Guapo demonstrated more psychedelic Pink Floyd leanings than we remembered it had while at the same time living up to its trademark, thickly moody and intricate blast. Shortly after that sensational set, it was Nullstellensatz - a trio led by trumpet player Jean-Pierre Soarez of Art Zoyd fame - which delivered the festival's most sensitive and transcendent experience. Unlike Art Zoyd, which was actually a member of the RIO movement, the music of Nullstellensatz owed more to free jazz, and while the trio took a significant time to calibrate, it was just before we were about to leave the hall that the players started unleashing a slow, meditative number of unbelievabe beauty and tuneful ambience exploration. We estimate that this last engagement lasted for twenty minutes or so, but it's really hard to say as it left us euphoric.

Later that day we experienced a similar yet different excitement as the mighty Present - in the festival's closing, and arguably most intensely rewarding, set - managed to strike the chords of our soul with its relentless performance, leaving us exhausted but determined to pay this festival another visit.