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Knut "Terraformer" CD

Posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2006 @ 11:38am » permalink

Having been a big fan of Knut for many years now (believe me, we all owe Hydra Head Records a great deal for bringing this band to the attention of the US), I'm disappointed in myself that it took me so long to finally pick up their latest disc. I've read a couple of reviews of "Terraformer", which is only the third full-length in the band's extensive discography, that seem less than enthusiastic, but I don't know that the fuck for, because anyone who's been into the band's past efforts should be well on board with these jams. There are definitely some new twists and turns going on with this one – such as a number of abstractly melodic undercurrents that are truly fucking moving (check out the latter chunk of "Kyoto" below) – but for the most part the Swiss kingpins hold steady with their merger of mathy metal and noise rock, complete with loads of churning rhythms and occasional bursts of paint-peeling acerbity.

Aside from the aforementioned snippets of intriguingly atmospheric melodies and whatnot, the biggest surprise for me is the presence of a significant number of relatively short tracks (half of the album's songs hover right around two minutes), some of which are instrumentals or experimental noise interludes – and there are also a greater number of blatantly noisy textures employed throughout elements of the song structures as well. But fear not, there are a good number of meatier cuts that top six or seven minutes and unload a good ol' fashioned pounding when necessary! Of course, it is worth mentioning that well over half of the album is actually instrumental, which is another rather big surprise, but even though it tends to take a lot to keep me interested in the absence of vocals, I'd have to say that when the vocals vanish from this record it does a pretty damn good job of ebbing and flowing. Needless to say they've made splendid use of the more midpaced and discordantly melodic attributes of their writing this time around. Hear for yourself:

Knut "Kyoto"
Knut "Evian"

If you're a chump like I was until two weeks ago and still haven't picked this one up, remedy the situation now, kids:

@ The End Records
@ Relapse Records

Swallow the Sun, Fall of the Leafe, and The Eternal…

Posted on Monday, February 27th, 2006 @ 1:17pm » permalink

I've only been vaguely familiar with the Finnish label Firebox Records due to a handful of select releases over the years, but in the last chunk of 2005 they dropped three impressive whoppers one after another, and I recently purchased all three, so here's a quick rundown for your perusal (I'd say more but I feel like shit and I'm short on time today, as always).

Swallow the Sun - Ghosts of LossFirst up is "Ghosts of Loss", the long-awaited follow-up to Swallow the Sun's absolutely amazing debut, where this Finnish act continues to deliver a mesmerizing blend of crushing midpaced power chords and burly growls against loads of atmospheric clean breaks and intensely layered melodies with gorgeous singing vocals. These guys always seems to remind me of Novembers Doom to a degree, though perhaps they're a touch more energetic, but whatever the case we're talking about an incredible band here. They've got a very strong songwriting approach with a good variety of tempos and lots of unexpectedly creative riffing shifts that really carry the weight of the lengthy tracks (which average around eight minutes apiece). I'd probably say that the recording on this outing isn't quite as pristine as that of "The Morning Never Came", which doesn't hurt per se, but I do miss some of that perfectly smooth clarity at times. Though when all's said and done this album sounds damn near perfect itself, so I'm not complaining! This is just extremely high quality material that deserves much more appreciation for what it has to offer. Swallow the Sun is one of the best bands out there for this particular style, if not one of the best bands I've ever heard within this particular area of metal… period.

Swallow the Sun "The Giant"

Like it? Then buy the damn thing:

@ The End Records

Fall of the Leafe - VantageI've been following Fall of the Leafe for about six years now, and here they are with "Vantage" – already their fifth full-length album!? Admittedly these cats are somewhat of an acquired taste, but in my opinion this Finnish band is one of the most truly original sounding acts out there, and are most certainly worthy of a greater deal of attention. In their earlier days they largely sounded like a traditional melodic death/black metal band in terms of general riffing styles, though the vocal work was already starting to create a niche for the band before they eventually gave up on the aggressive vocals and opted for a more creatively rocked out direction. So these days, aside from a couple of straightforward dual guitar harmonies here and there possessing that Scandinavian flare, the band captures a sound that's all their own, and I'm honestly not even sure how to try and explain it. They're really quite a quirky little group. I've heard several complaints about the vocals over the years, and I guess I can understand how the vocal approach could turn some people away, but I don't know… I've always found the singing to be awesome, and when the band's delivery gels perfectly, some of the vocal lines are monumentally infectious (a couple of the tracks from 2004's "Volvere" are so impeccably catchy that I'm not sure the band can ever top them). Hopefully some of you will like this stuff, 'cause I'm a major fan of these guys and they're really overdue for a larger audience. They seem to jump to a different label for almost every record, so it'd be nice to see Firebox become a stable home for 'em:

Fall of the Leafe "The Fresco"
Fall of the Leafe "Receiver"

Like it? Buy this one too, then:

@ The End Records

The Eternal - Sleep of Reason "Sleep of Reason" marks my first exposure to Australian outfit The Eternal, though it's their second album, and it totally hits the spot with its midpaced rhythms and moody melodies. This one definitely has an "Icon" or "Draconian Times" era Paradise Lost tinge to its style, but it sounds somewhat more fluid and has this swirling sort of quality to all of the vocal harmonies and the general density of the recording. There are loose ties to Katatonia or Rapture or that sort of thing going on as well, but while not wholly original I wouldn't rely on any of these comparisons too heavily, because this is somewhat of a wide-spanning delivery that's almost doomy, not exactly gothic melodic metal that has a rocked out base. This is another long record, though the songs usually stick pretty tactfully around four or five minutes each, and like Fall of the Leafe, when this band is on, they're on. Just check out the broodingly powerful "To Drown". I mean, that chorus… whew, you simply don't find many vocal performances like that in the metal realm. I'm all over that shit. Well fucking done.

The Eternal "To Drown"
The Eternal "Everlasting"

Like it? You guessed it, make the buy:

@ The End Records

Bleeding Through and Ljå…

Posted on Thursday, February 23rd, 2006 @ 11:03am » permalink

Bleeding Through - The TruthI can't believe I'm going to post about Bleeding Through since the almost disgusting level of massive hype that Trustkill Records has been able to generate around "The Truth" makes me gag – not to mention the fact that this CD has already sold a shitload of copies, so they certainly don't need my help, but whatever. Somehow I actually dig some of these songs, and the video for "Kill to Believe" is actually kinda cool. That damn chorus got stuck in my head like a motherfucker for some reason, and actually made me curious to check this thing out when it hit my P.O. Box. So yeah, it's definitely a shitload better than their last record (which I fucking hated), but… it's just not a big deal. I mean, come on now, this is pretty far from the "trend-proof middle finger toward the glut of over-saturation that threatens to destroy a scene this band helped to build". And despite what the band may seem to state in interviews, they were not among the first to blend these metal and hardcore styles (though I suspect them to have been wronged by some slight misquoting in some of those "big cover stories", to be honest): They were just one of the first to get "popular".

I'm still not down with the whole fashion/image-conscious thing, and the lyrics are still too goofy for me in many instances (I'm all for blunt rage, but when it comes to painfully literal blunt rage about heartbreak… it just seems silly and overly immature on occasion). Aside from one pretty painful ballad ("Line in the Sand"), which does have its tolerable moments (it's just that the singing isn't strong enough to carry it), the improved production values and greater reliance on thrashy riffing and harder speeds/power chords wins me over from time to time. Plus there's just better songwriting all around, and the instrumental title track is actually pretty fuckin' slick with its dissonant chord phrasings – I love that kind of shit. Overall the singing portions of the vocals aren't quite "there" yet, but it does work in most areas, though the harsher shit definitely comes across as more comfortable. The keyboards make a lot more sense on this album, too – though honestly I still think they'd be better off tossing 'em. In the end their approach still falls too close to overdone contemporary metalcore for me to really get into a lot of it, but… there's still hope for this band yet. Oh, and the photography used for the layout is pretty badass, I have to admit.

Bleeding Through "Kill to Believe"
Bleeding Through "The Truth"

I don't imagine many people reading this are Bleeding Through fans, but if you've been swayed, just buy the disc online and hide it once it arrives so you can keep your shame tightly bottled beneath the surface. Just rip it to an iPod and label all the tracks "Cro-Mags" to keep your reputation intact… and make sure not to turn the headphones up too loud!

@ The End Records
@ Trustkill Records

Ljå - Til Avsky For LivetWhat else could I use to wash my hands of decent yet painfully overrated metalcore than the not quite "kvlt" but absolutely "troo" Norwegian black metal of Ljå's debut full-length, "Til Avsky For Livet", on Aftermath Music. I bought this last week because the cover art kicked ass (How's that for old school methodology?) and the songs I heard from their demo were strong, and here we are with 10 tracks and 50 minutes of consistently fierce and tactfully razor sharp black metal with snarling vocals and just the right amount of melody. I thought their demo sounded a hint more powerful in terms of the guitar tone, but the drums and vocals are pretty dead on here, so I can live with the slightly overzealous bite of the distortion since things tend to balance out overall.

Like a lot of black metal there's not much deviation from the path with this one. There are hints of dissonant melody in the guitar work, the vocal sneers sound pretty strained and raging, and musically speaking the song structures are fairly simple – offering a decent array of tempo changes that tosses in some of the almost oddly rocked out swagger that accompanies the work of those bands within the genre who tend to look to the past. And hey, that's fuckin' alright with me. This isn't as cold or atmospheric as the kind of shit that really hits home, but I'm down. Rather than sneaking up behind you to slice your throat, these guys seem more likely to just punch you dead in the mouth before sitting back down with a beer, you know what I mean?

Ljå "Tilgi Dem Aldri"
Ljå "Granatsjokk"

You've probably got a little too much light in your life, so pick this up and feel the darkness. Maybe they'll throw in some spiked armbands to accent your wardrobe?

@ The End Records

Slacks, Aereogramme, and To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie…

Posted on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006 @ 12:06pm » permalink

Slacks - TerrestrialI'm giving the hard shit a rest today, so first up is the latest release from Slacks: "Terrestrial", which is out on Translation Loss Records. Having been a fan of Slacks' debut, I had been meaning to check out this follow-up for awhile once I finally got the chance. And I thought this was a full-length, but at seven tracks in about 27 minutes, it really plays more like an EP to me. So now, I'm not gonna lie, about 90% of what I listen to is metal and hardcore/punk, so for me to dig a band like Slacks as much as I do is sort of weird – except for the fact that if music is truly good, I'll generally enjoy it. So even though I fucking hate almost anything even remotely connected to country music and all that shit, there's something about the laidback yet emotive bluesy rock and countrified acoustic guitar/banjo runs that Slacks often delivers that just works. The bulk of these tracks are actually instrumental (two different vocalists contribute to the two full-on compositions), but it's still a really powerful listen for me, and it's more consistent than their debut as well. It's actually really odd in that the songs always carry a somber undercurrent, and yet still often make you smile!? In a way that's totally fucked up, but I have to say, this band is fucking criminally underrated, and I really think there are a lot of people out there, just like me, who would totally love this shit if it crossed their path… even when it doesn't necessarily make sense to love it! But then again, it's simply good music, so how can you deny it?

I really respect this band a lot. They're doing something far different from what most of the audiences to which they're linked are accustomed, and they're doing so brilliantly. Do yourself a favor and give this track a shot, you'll probably be pretty damn surprised.

Slacks "The Man Who Couldn't Rage"

This one comes very much recommended, so definitely pick it up if you're into it. And look into their debut as well:

@ CD Baby
@ Translation Loss Records

Aereogramme - SeclusionI heard a few tracks from the Scottish outfit Aereogramme on the D3s|nt3gradô mp3 blog last year and had been meaning to buy a couple of their older albums, though in typical fashion it kept slipping my mind. So when "Seclusion", their latest release on Sonic Unyon, showed up I was psyched to finally get to hear more from these cats. Once again this disc seems to be being treated as a full-length, but at six tracks and 32 minutes it's barely scraping by, and I tend to expect closer to a minimum of 40 – 45 minutes of material from bands of this nature to constitute an actual full-length. No matter, though, as this is good stuff.

Of course, when I initially popped this one in I was horrified to be greeted by hipster sounding keyboards and a weirdly upbeat little run that had me wondering if I was confusing Aereogramme with another band, but thankfully they put the synths to rest quickly and the remainder of the material herein is far stronger and a bit moodier as well. Not that their older material was over the top "heavy" or anything, but this time around there are lots of lush layers of swirling guitar riffs and soft singing with smatterings of keyboards or various electronic accents – limiting the occasional forays into heavier territory to rare excursions that generally refrain from exploding into full blown distortion. You can tell they're big on dynamics and creating a real journey within three- to five-minute compositions (though one mammoth track herein does top 10 minutes), and there are some extremely moving little melodies here, so the band's writing and the way they pay such close attention to details really pays off. I really like the simple looking design of the packaging as well… somehow everything fits together nicely to make for a concise little release that leaves you wanting a bit more.

Aereogramme "Dreams and Bridges"

Unfortunately this one won't actually be out until April, so you can't buy it yet (and for this reason advance promotion is annoying as shit, in my opinion), so if you dig this just keep 'em in mind for another month-and-a-half… at which time the CD should be fairly well distributed in stores and whatnot, I'd imagine.

To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie - Retire EarlyAnd finally, another relatively short one that I've been sitting on for way too long (which is apparently just what I do) is the six-track, 30-minute "Retire Early" EP from To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie. This is the first proper CD release for the duo, who were originally located here in Richmond, VA before moving to Minnesota, having released a couple of CD-R's and a great split 7" prior. Musically I'm not even sure where to place these two anymore, which certainly isn't a bad thing. My initial exposures to their work were geared more towards a form of experimental noise, and while that ambience and experimentation has definitely remained a major factor over the years, this material is more structured and musical – though not something that plays out like a traditional "band" or anything (and the songs routinely run more than five or six minutes). There's just a little more reliance on vocals and beats within the faintly glitchy textures and billowy waves of melodic hums, and though numerous instruments are employed there's often so much manipulation going on that the minimalism sort of takes hold and creates an almost hypnotically relaxing atmosphere that comes across as more simplistic than it probably is. This is easily the group's most consistent release to date, and leaves me wondering where they'll go from here.

To Kill a Petty Bourgeoisie "I – 20"

Since this one's self-released it's not around at many distros, so I'd order it direct from the band for $8ppd if you're enjoying the sounds. You can also get it at Floodlight Distribution, but I'm not sure why they've priced it at $10 since it's billed as an EP (which comes in a stripped down matte digipack that matches the minimalism of the music, by the way). So either email the artists for ordering information or pick it up online and help them move some copies:

@ Floodlight Distribution

XBishopX and Scarlet…

Posted on Tuesday, February 21st, 2006 @ 1:16pm » permalink

XBishopX - Suicide PartyWhile they apparently used to work under the even more horrendous name of XDiary of a CorpseX, Florida's own XBishopX boasts not only one of the worst band names I've come across in awhile (Even in the 90's I couldn't really hang with the whole "XPlace Nand Name HereX" thing, what can I say?), but quite possibly the stupidest looking album art of any hardcore record thus far in the new millennium. I'm sure they were just going for something atypical and humorous, but god damn, if I ran a label and a band handed in something that looked like this I'd have a fuckin' heart attack. I guess that's a testament to Ferret Music's dedication to providing artistic control to their bands, but… whew, sometimes you need to bring the hammer down, man!

Thankfully, "Suicide Party" is actually a pretty good record. Aside from the fact that the recording feels a little suppressed to me, this one's generally chock full of short and pissed metallic hardcore tracks with a balance of 90's chug and traditional chord progressions without sounding like a throwback. And hey, with a back to back attack of songs titled "Go Fuck Yourself" and "Eat Shit", I have to give 'em credit where due for that one. But there's really nothing fancy or out of the ordinary going on. It's not totally one-sided since they do toss in some unexpected twists here and there, but the gruff vocals and burly riffs aren't going to challenge the boundaries of the genre by any means… and I'm sure that's exactly how they want it, too.

XBishopX "Hookers & Blow"
XBishopX "Eat Shit"

Like it? Buy it:

@ Ferret Music
@ Very Distribution

Scarlet - This Was Always Meant to Fall ApartAlso recently released by Ferret Music is the latest from Scarlet, "This Was Always Meant to Fall Apart". I've never been a big Scarlet fan, but I've never really disliked them either (well, not since their earliest work, that is). I slept on their last full-length for a long time before finally picking it up thanks to one amazing song, but nothing else on the record could match that tune for me, so I'm still somewhat undecided there. This new effort sees the band more closely joining the ranks of caustic metalcore acts that blend ultra harsh screaming with fluid singing – which is of course nothing new – but as has been the case with Scarlet's progression in the past, this is another tighter and more focused effort.

Aside from the occasionally fucked up time signature or unexpectedly weird smattering of electronic programming, there's not much I'd cite as original in terms of the chugging picking patterns and staggered staccato riffs, nor the plethora of wild pull-off runs that are rampant throughout. But the songwriting isn't nearly as borderline obnoxiously acerbic as their last outing, so things are easier to grasp without lacking an edge. And I have to say that the loose melodic swells and tactfully employed (i.e. not overused) bouts of singing really help add some dimension to the listen – notably in the awesome "The Separation Of", which is one of the band's finest tracks to date. I believe they have a new vocalist on this one, which definitely provides for a noticeable shift. I'm into the slick ass layout as well, where the booklet's outermost cover is printed vellum and all that jazz. I'm still not floored or anything as a whole, but this is a solid offering that sees the band yet again moving forward after another lengthy delay between releases.

Scarlet "The Separation Of"
Scarlet "Swarm Manifesto"

You know mp3's are weak, so buy it if you dig it:

@ Ferret Music
@ Very Distribution

Structure 24 "In Our Disposition" CS

Posted on Monday, February 20th, 2006 @ 1:32pm » permalink

Structure 24 - In Our DispositionI can't believe a Google search for these guys only returns two or three accurate results, one of which is from a review on my site. You'd think there'd at least be a couple of mentions of demos on trade lists or something, but apparently not. That being said, I don't really know much about Structure Twentyfour anyway. They were from northern Virginia and formed in the early-90's, releasing at least one demo prior to the "In Our Disposition" cassette, which came out on $iege Records in 1994. As you'd probably guess from the band name, they bore the tagline "Virginia Straightedge", and their music and lyrics were a pretty good representation of that whole scene at this particular time: Way more metal than hardcore (without being too far gone) with a pretty good blend of dissonant melodies and chunky power chords, lyrics that wandered from socio-political to personal issues, etc. I don't really remember how I came across this tape when I was a kid, but despite its fairly rough (though very tolerable) sound quality I always dug it, and "For Shame" definitely remains a favorite of mine. I don't know, there are just some interesting traits here that weren't overly typical back in the day. The last track below is just some unlisted silliness that comes after the final song on the tape, but I'm a huge nerd, so I ripped it and included it just 'cause it's there:

1. "Wrong/Tear at the Mountain"
2. "For Shame"
3. "Underestimate"
4. "Hypocrite's Rage"
5. "Memories All Burn"
6. "The BDC Props Song" (unlisted)

I think this was the last thing the band released, but I could be wrong. Their vocalist "Aaron Edge" Connell ended up relocating a lot and being involved in loads of solid bands like Anonymous, Christ, Genuine, Grip, Harkonen, Himsa, and numerous others. He's currently working with both Grievous and Iamthethorn (and yes, he's still straightedge), which you can check out through his website. I have no real clue what happened to anyone else in the band, though.

And judging from the aforementioned lack of Google hits on Structure Twentyfour, it's probably safe to say that you won't be able to get your hands on an original copy of this tape unless you really scour the hell out of eBay or track down someone in the band that might happen to have one or two leftover.

Triac "Dead House Dreaming" CD

Posted on Thursday, February 16th, 2006 @ 12:16pm » permalink

Triac - Dead House DreamingTriac, from Maryland, is without a doubt one of the most underrated grindcore bands in the US right now, and they keep getting better and better. This band has been undergoing a blatant progression on every level from day one. I mean, their first demo in 2003 was damn good, but… they're an entirely different beast now. And shit, even their new t-shirt designs eclipse past efforts! There's no doubt in my mind that if these guys were on a label that had the advertising push of, say, Relapse or something, you'd probably be reading about 'em all over the damn place.

"Dead House Dreaming", their debut full-length on Reptilian Records, blows through 13 songs in 21 minutes (Including a Bauhaus cover!?), complete with everything from precise technical flurries to harried fits of caustic noisiness, as well as traditionally speedy tremolo picking and a dingy air of absolutely awesome slow to midpaced dissonance that really spices things up nicely – all with maniacal vocals under light distortion that don't sound like your usual growls/screams, which definitely helps to give the band a different sort of feel. Triac is just a killer fucking band, and has reached the point where everything they do is totally raging. This outing in particular carries with it a harsh yet warm recording that harnesses plenty of punch for the nicely barbed songwriting that takes no prisoners and goes for an aptly raw and acerbic attack while still coming across as creative and striving for something beyond the usual perimeter of the genre. Oh, and great looking cover art from Stephen Kasner, too? Sign me the fuck up.

Triac "Rust in His Sleep"
Triac "Dimmer Suns"
Triac "Snakes of the Earth"

The end. Now shut your fucking mouth and buy this shit:

@ Relapse Records
@ Very Distribution

Autumn "Wire Hangers" 7"

Posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2006 @ 12:17pm » permalink

Autumn - Wire HangersAutumn formed in Pennsylvania in 1994 from the remnants of a straightedge band called Forethought and played a fairly east coast sounding brand of metallic emo/screamo hardcore stuff that actually reminds me (musically, though somewhat vocally as well) of a couple of bands from my area around that general time period. Of course, as with many such bands in this realm of the hardcore scene, the vocals are pretty damn shaky and definitely take some getting used to. But the riffs… I mean, some of these riffs are fucking amazing, and dissonant shit like the intro to "The Nameless" (or the "chorus" about 37 seconds into "My Eternity", for that matter) is the kind of stuff that I go nuts over, so it's really a shame that there are just so few bands around these days that still capture that particular style.

This 7", "Wire Hangers", came out in 1995 as a split release between Seven One Seven and Nevermore Records, and according to the insert the four tracks were originally slated to appear on a nine-song CD that was never released. They had done a demo prior to this EP, and went on to release a four-song CD EP on Crisis Records, not to mention the obligatory handful of compilation appearances. I'm not sure if the five leftover songs from the unreleased CD were doled out to the comps or not. Oh, and as you can see above, also similar to many other 90's bands, these dudes had terrible taste in visual aesthetics, resulting in what is undoubtedly one of the lamest record covers in the history of hardcore. Oh well. I personally think the music makes up for it:

1. "My Eternity"
2. "Every Day I Live"
3. "The Nameless"
4. "Wrong"

This one's out of print, of course, but you could probably find it on trade lists or something if you wanted, as I imagine there are plenty of people out there who couldn't get past those vocals. Here's their track from "The Tie That Binds" compilation in 1996 just for the hell of it:

Autumn "Suffer"

Intronaut and Taken…

Posted on Tuesday, February 14th, 2006 @ 10:26am » permalink

Intronaut - NullThe self-released version of Intronaut's "Null" EP is another that received a full review on the old site awhile back, but I decided to give it a second hit now that it's being "officially" released by Goodfellow Records. The band features current and former members of Impaled, Uphill Battle, Anubis Rising, and Exhumed and cranks out some fucking wickedly creative metal that's almost sure to surprise fans of the aforementioned acts with its excellent musicianship and songwriting. Read the full review if you want specifics, 'cause I'm just gonna let this song speak for itself.

At this point in my life it really does take a hell of a lot for a song to really hit me 100% and trigger an actual wave of emotional response, but "Fragments of Character" certainly succeeds time and time again. This was easily one of the top 10 songs of 2005 for me, and I can safely say that if you don't appreciate at least portions of this song I probably think you're a complete jackass and your taste in music is reprehensible. There are some riffs in this thing that seriously make me want to kill everything on the planet – in a good way. Fact: If you listen to any kind of "heavy" music and don't like this song, you are fucked.

Intronaut "Fragments of Character"

I'm not sure if they remastered this version of the EP or not, but I feel like I'm having a slightly harder time making out the basslines (which are absolutely impeccable, though really the band's entire rhythm section is monstrously badass) this time around, so hopefully they'll up the levels a touch on their next outing. I've also found that the recording on this one works better in headphones, whereas the somewhat dry muddiness (if that makes any sense) loses some impact out in the open somehow. No big deal, though. The songs deliver the goods.

The disc won't really be out until later this month, but you can get it early from the label if you pay a little extra for a t-shirt package deal or something. But whatever the case, buy this shit and keep your eyes peeled for more from these cats… I can't fuckin' wait.

@ Goodfellow Records

Taken - Between Two UnseensAlso from Goodfellow Records, though I've been sitting on it seemingly forever, is "Between Two Unseens", the final EP from Taken, which is actually my first exposure to the California band (I think). It's basically contemporary emo/screamo metalcore type of stuff that falls on the artier (and more "mature", for lack of a better term) side of things due in large part to loads of soaring layers of guitars that are drenched in various effects. There's some pretty flashy drum work on occasion as well, and while the music is not something I would call technical per se since these flourishes aren't exactly over the top or blatant, there's definitely a certain level of musicianship here that's above average within this particular niche. I wish they'd lay off some of the clean guitars in favor of more distortion though, 'cause when they pick it up and start getting a little chunkier some of the riffing hits on some Shai Hulud-esque shit, and you can't lose with that kind of action. I definitely think the fierce screaming over the layered melodic dissonance of the distorted passages is more powerful and interesting than so many similar sounding reverberated clean breaks. Damn nice looking layout as well, and the lyrics have a cool flow, too. This is pretty good stuff, don't let the "classifications" fool you, there are actually bands of this nature that do it right.

Taken "Swirling Memories"

This one also comes with a bonus DVD that includes the band's final show in its entirety, as well as interviews and footage from older shows and whatnot. To be honest, I actually haven't watched the DVD yet because I keep forgetting to do so and never really have the time, but even if it sucks it's cool that they tossed it in for free, right? Make the grab:

@ The End Records

Craft, Svartsyn, and Arckanum…

Posted on Monday, February 13th, 2006 @ 1:03pm » permalink

Craft - Fuck the UniverseI recently received a package from Sweden's Carnal Records, and I'm fucking psyched that they sent a copy of Craft's latest, "Fuck the Universe", because I had first heard these Swedes years back with "Total Soul Rape", which I enjoyed, but since I wasn't floored I hadn't really followed the band since then. Well, that was a massive mistake on my part, because this is an absolutely incredible record on every level, and it wipes the floor with 95% of the black metal that I've heard in the last several years. The riffs are fucking badass across the board – whether they're in the vein of old school black metal with that hardcore/punk kind of vibe or the colder, eerier dissonance associated with mid- to late-90's black metal on into the present. There's definitely some mangled shit going on with some of the guitar work, and those twisted chord phrasings and discordant textures definitely add a lot to the overall atmosphere of the record. It's basically true-to-the-roots, no frills black metal, but it thankfully lacks the usual dose of redundancy that comes along with that approach, so they basically go straight for the throat while achieving an absolutely flawless sense of chilling feeling. You just can't fucking lose. This disc seriously nails pretty much everything that I look for in a black metal album. I love it.

I've actually read a couple of reviews of this record that complain about the production, and I can state without question that those reviewers should be benched for life, because this thing sounds fuckin' great… especially considering the nature of this particular band and the black metal genre as a whole. Is it raw? Yeah, somewhat. But if you think this is a bad sounding black metal record? You're fucking deaf. This is a damn near perfect album and I find no faults with the sound quality whatsoever. Listen for yourselves and you'll see what I mean:

Craft "Thorns in the Planet's Side"
Craft "The Suffering of Others"

I think this was being billed as Craft's third and final release, but thankfully that's not the case. They recently lost their drummer but have decided to continue on. I've gotta grab their past releases as soon as I get the chance, without a doubt. Southern Lord released this one on CD in the US, so it should be easy to grab most anywhere. I can't recommend this one enough. Great, great work. Money well spent, so make the buy:

@ The End Records
@ Full Moon Productions
@ Relapse Records

Svartsyn - BloodlineMore Swedish black metal comes in the form of Svartsyn's "Bloodline", from Sound Riot Records. Released for the first time on CD in late-2005, "Bloodline" was actually recorded in 1997/1998 and released as a double-LP five or six years ago. So, even though it's coming out on CD a couple of years after their fourth full-length, it's actually their second album – with the two tracks from the "Tormentor" 7" (1998) tacked on as a bonus. This one sticks fairly closely to the standards of the genre in terms of relying largely on moderate speed and harsh chord progressions with only minor dashes of dissonant melody in the guitar work. On rare occasion there are a couple of relatively insignificant keyboard flourishes, but that's not something that stands out or gets in the way at all. Dating back eight or nine years, the recording suffers in a couple of minor areas from a sharp guitar tone that has a mildly unnatural bite to it, but thankfully this is something that only springs up as somewhat of a hitch in the listening experience a handful of times throughout the album, which is otherwise a very competently delivered slab of tried and true black metal. Though, amusingly, Svartsyn is perhaps the only black metal band in existence to have included a MySpace URL in their CD booklet!?

Svartsyn "Terrordemon"
Svartsyn "From Haunted Depths"

As usual, if this is something that meets your tastes, pick it up:

@ The End Records

Arckanum - The 11-Year Anniversary AlbumYet again from Sweden, and also on Carnal Records, the oddly put together collection "The 11-Year Anniversary Album" was my first exposure to Arckanum, so sadly the disc begins with the two tracks from the band's absolutely terrible 1992 demo, which is perhaps understandably bad considering this was the first material ever recorded by the band, but holy shit… they should've arranged this CD in reverse chronological order, because the first demo's practically unlistenable, and things do pick up from there. Basically this CD compiles 11 assorted rarities for a total of a little over 50 minutes of material spanning Arckanum's rather extensive discography throughout more than a decade of existence. The next three songs come from 1994's "Trulen" demo and are also really raw (plus the vocals are mixed too loud), but I can listen to it, and the band's songwriting had advanced greatly at that point to match the form of frantic black metal that was becoming the standard at the time. Beyond that there are a number of assorted tracks from the mid-90's on through 2003 that were either unreleased or taken from various 7"s or promo cassettes – but three of these tracks aren't even listed anywhere on the packaging, which makes no sense and annoys the hell out of people like me who are neurotic about details, ha, ha! I don't really like collection CD's because I'm a big time completist, so if I dig a band I want to own all of their records anyway, but aside from the lack of details surrounding those three "bonus tracks", this is a decent glance at Arckanum's back catalog that does provide liner notes and such. And, of course, there are loads of pictures of the core band member wearing some silly demon mask and a hooded cloak or something. Ahhh, black metal… But at least the quality of the songs increases chronologically, so there are some solid tunes to be had.

Arckanum "Kolin Væruld"
Arckanum "Kosmos Wardhin Dræpas Om Sin"

Full Moon Productions looks to be the US source for Carnal Records' releases, so pick it up if it's your thing:

@ Full Moon Productions

Arckanum/Svartsyn - splitLast but not least is a split CD between the prior two bands, Arckanum and Svartsyn, also released by Carnal Records. This disc sees slightly newer material from each band (Arckanum recorded in 2003 while Svartsyn's tracks date back to 2001), and for the most part I actually like these songs a little better than those on "Bloodline" or "The 11-Year Anniversary Album". The recordings are still rugged but sound a little more effective and balanced for each act, while Arckanum offers more consistent songwriting and Svartsyn's speeds harness a greater deal of ferocity and power. You can also hear the basslines in the songs from each of the artists, and that's always a plus – especially when it comes to a genre like black metal that often tends to bury the bass in the distance. This is good stuff. Nothing fancy, just a fairly streamlined attack of classic styled black metal with just the right amount of atmosphere and variety to catch your ear. Both of these bands seem to have hit their strides in more recent times:

Arckanum "Hæxhamar"
Svartsyn "Furnace in Purgatory"

Once more, if you enjoy the tunes, buy the disc for yourself:

@ Full Moon Productions

Old Lady Drivers and Blatant Crap Taste…

Posted on Thursday, February 9th, 2006 @ 11:57am » permalink

Old Lady Drivers - RegurgitationEdit: Purchasing information for this CD has been removed, as Alan Dubin emailed me to let me know that this is in fact an unauthorized bootleg. The good news is that the band is currently in negotiations with a couple of interested labels to secure a proper CD release for this classic material!

Old Lady Drivers (usually referred to as OLD) were from New Jersey (It's just a coincidence this time, I swear!) and released their debut self-titled LP in 1988 on Earache, and at the time consisted of the trio of Alan Dubin, James Plotkin, and Ralph Pimentel (the core of the band – Dubin and Plotkin – are of course in Khanate at present). This collection, titled "Regurgitation", sees that 1988 LP on CD for the first time, along with the band's half of a split 7" with Assück (1990), and the Regurgitation (pre-Old Lady Drivers) "Bathrooms Rule" demo (1987). Now, inexplicably listed under the CD tray and tacked onto the end of the disc is a 16-track Extreme Noise Terror live set recorded in 1988 in Burladingen, Germany – which makes this entire release just scream bootleg, especially since I have no idea who sent this to me, and the only contact information listed is a Huntington Beach P.O. Box under the name of "Old Lady Drivers Records". Plus, the layout totally blows ass (though it does include lyrics and some weird "liner notes" that seem to be minimal commentary penned by the guy who pressed this up), so… I dunno. It's always cool to see rare material become available again, especially on CD, so I'm down with that, but bootlegs are definitely touchy. I don't know the story behind this release though, so fuck it.

As you'll hear in the tracks below, the initial incarnation of OLD was a raw, silly grindcore band with smartass humor just oozing from every track. The music consists largely of noisy guitar riffs and blasting percussion with cackled vocals that run the gamut from shrieked screams or snarled yells to more lighthearted fare, and some of the guitar parts have that humorous edge happening as well. On occasion there's an oddball clean break or something a little more melodic and "musical" (if not left-of-center), which indicates as a precursor to their later material that the band wasn't exactly a straightforward grindcore act by any means, but the bulk of these jams bears more in common with a snotty hardcore/punk or crossover act of the mid- to late-80's, so its age does show (which isn't a bad thing). As one might expect, the Regurgitation demo sounds like OLD with a more straightforward crossover thrash/grind sound and a barely rawer recording, but the live tracks from Extreme Noise Terror sound pretty damn weak and it was an incredibly stupid decision to include them on the CD in my opinion. Here's a handful of tracks from the real content of the disc:

OLD "Total Hag"
OLD "I Laugh as I Chew…"
OLD "Rape, Carve, Smoke"
Regurgitation "Aggravated Assault"

Blatant Crap Taste - The Life and Times of Steven CharacterI had never heard of Blatant Crap Taste (commonly known as simply BCT) prior to this CD showing up, but it's actually a solo outing from Erik Burke (formerly of god damn Lethargy and Kalibas, currently in Sulaco and god damn Nuclear Assault), and "The Life and Times of Steven Character" (released by Yawn Factory Records) collects the entire recorded output of the project spanning 1997 – 2005, totaling fucking 77 songs in more than an hour. I'm assuming a good chunk of this stuff was never previously released, as the only documented BCT releases I can find mention of online are a self-titled CD-R from 1999 and a four-way split CD with Shield Your Eyes, Fledgling Death, and Drunken Orgy of Death from 2000. But despite ridiculous song titles like "Hot Dog Hoagie" and "Billy's Balls" (among many others), this material actually kicks some serious ass. I tend not to like "humorous" music very much, but few of these tracks hit the one-minute mark, and it's basically a maniacal grindcore free-for-all with loads of high-speed bursts that range from cacophonous wails of note bends and squealing pinch harmonics to raging runs of classic grind or slightly slower and more tangible breaks – often complete with a good sense of dissonance. Loads of samples are interspersed all over the place that are actually funny in most cases, and pretty much all of the recordings are damn solid despite their age (or the fact that every god damn instrument and the vocals are all handled by one dude). What can I say? I'm impressed. Here's a smattering from the four different recording sessions represented on the disc:

Blatant Crap Taste "Happy Hour"
Blatant Crap Taste "Born With a Beard"
Blatant Crap Taste "C.I.C."
Blatant Crap Taste "Shit Videos"
Blatant Crap Taste "Rite Aid"

I believe this one's only available via mailorder from the label at the moment, so contact them through MySpace or email and get your hands on one of these puppies. Blatant Crap Taste should no longer remain just some obscure little side project… this shit's got heat.

To the Lions, Omega Massif, and Malevolence…

Posted on Wednesday, February 8th, 2006 @ 12:22pm » permalink

To the Lions - 2005 demoNow that I try to "approve" all submissions ahead of time, I don't get many demos anymore, but when I was contacted by Canada's To the Lions about their 2005 demo, I sure as hell gave 'em the green light, because this shit kills. Members of the band have previously played in numerous other groups, among them Grade and The Swarm, but their style of metallic hardcore is heavily influenced by the 90's sound, and more specifically that of the Cleveland area, so the end result comes across sounding not unlike a contemporary take on Ringworm's early heyday. But there's a good amount of variety here, with ample tempo changes, a balance of hardcore and metal influences, a smidge of dissonant melody (see the awesome "From Fear and Hate Sets Free" below), etc. But the bottom line is that the songwriting kicks ass and totally throws you back to a better time when eyeliner and shitty melodic Swedish death metal riffs were of no concern. That says it all.

To the Lions "Ride the Apocalypse"
To the Lions "From Fear and Hate Sets Free"

This a free demo, so you can download the entire thing at the band's website, or possibly have them send you a hard copy – which comes in a nice looking textured folder sleeve (but you should at least offer 'em postage money if they're willing to hook you up). They also recorded this shit themselves, which is pretty impressive considering it's only a touch rough around the edges. A slightly thicker and more fluid recording could be truly devastating, but I'm pretty pleased with where they stand at the moment, and I'm definitely looking forward to hearing more. Good stuff.

Omega Massif - KaltNext up is "Kalt", the debut demo from Omega Massif, a relatively new instrumental outfit from Germany. I believe this demo is limited to just 100 copies, so I certainly hope at least one of those makes it into the hands of an interested label, because this band could do some serious damage with this shit if they find the right home. The demo may misleadingly appear brief as it contains just four tracks, but the songs run anywhere from eight to 15 minutes, so the total running time hits just past 45 minutes of slow, doomy material that blends an expected dose of crushing power chords with droning atmospheric textures and numerous explorations of softer dynamics. I wouldn't be complaining were they to mess with including at least a minimal amount of vocals, but they do pull off the instrumental approach without a hitch, and I can tell that the band has a strong vision since the demo's packaging is very well executed – using nothing but metallic silver ink over matte black stock. And while optimum circumstances would yield a louder, slightly more fluid recording in terms of emphasizing both clarity and cohesive natural warmth, this stuff actually sounds really damn good for a band that hasn't even been together for a year at this point.

Omega Massif "Eiswüste"

Since their website isn't up yet, contact the band via their MySpace page (where you can also check out another track) if you're interested in obtaining a copy of the demo. My eyes will damn sure be peeled in hopes of seeing more from these cats in 2006. Nicely done.

Malevolence - Celebration of Dysfunctional BecomingAnd then we have another 2005 demo, this time "Celebration of Dysfunctional Becoming" (And its wacky cover photography!?) from Malevolence. These guys have been around for over 10 years now, and it's hard to believe but I think this is the first material the Portuguese death metal act has recorded since their second full-length, "Martyrialized", way the hell back in 1999. As expected they're still staying true to their uncompromising brand of fast, straightforward death metal, but there are lots of weird guitar textures floating around in there that give the tracks a technical edge and a different sort of atmospheric feel. This approach isn't totally unique to Malevolence, but it certainly bears a lot of potential for the band's forthcoming album. I went ahead and cleaned up the track below just a bit as the demo is unmastered and was both a little on the quiet side as well as somewhat overbearing on the treble. A crisp, powerful recording could definitely yield strong results for such a quick blast like this particular track, so hopefully the band will be working under those conditions when the time comes to record the follow-up to "Martyrialized".

Malevolence "Slithering Angels"

This demo also includes "Our Reversion: The New Front", the two-track 2004 demo from Angel, which is a two-man project that features the chief songwriter of Malevolence contributing lyrics and vocals. The recording on that demo is a little too rough for me to take, and I'm not particularly into the drum machines or electronic textures either, so it's kind of hard to get a feel for where that band is heading. But you can learn more about all of these efforts at the KK Structures website.

No Idols and Engineer…

Posted on Tuesday, February 7th, 2006 @ 11:05am » permalink

No Idols - Low (Swing the Pyramid Hands)Having been totally floored by their 7", I'd been really looking forward to the debut "full-length" (barely, it's only 23 minutes long, and a little over two of those minutes are made up by the overloaded drones that bookend the album) from No Idols, and indeed the Syracuse outfit blows through 11 killer tracks on "Low (Swing the Pyramid Hands)", coming from the fine folks at Hex Records. I find it really interesting how this band manages to somehow defy general categorization. I'm hearing a little more of a rhythmically surging post-hardcore influence on these tracks thanks to a really full and natural sounding recording that lets the dissonance ring out with maximum efficiency, but they certainly don't sound like any of the bands that the term "post-hardcore" brings to mind. It's also wholly heavy and hard-hitting, but there's nothing that sounds like a metal influence whatsoever. And while hardcore at heart, aside from the fierce vocals there's nary a traditional hardcore reference to be found. That's not to say that it sounds like some groundbreaking redefinition of hardcore as we know it, I wouldn't say that at all, but there's definitely something unique about it. It's not easy to take these types of frantic riffs and discordant textures and craft powerful, memorable songs out of 'em, but these guys nail it. Weird layout, too. And I really dig the flow of the lyrics as well. This is just great shit. Very much recommended.

No Idols "Belief"
No Idols "Stencil City"

You have no excuse not to make the grab if you dig it, and you damn well should, so go for it:

@ Hex Records
@ Very Distribution

Engineer - ReproachAlso from Syracuse, also from Hex Records, and also a debut full-length, Engineer's "Reproach" unloads nine tracks and about 35 minutes of pummeling metalcore (for lack of a better term) with badass low vocal shouts over everything from Botch-esque pull-off runs and winding dissonance (not to mention some angular textures reminiscent of the above No Idols disc) to crushing walls of dense power chords and occasional little rocked out runs. The density of the recording combined with the general beefiness of the riffs tends to create a darker atmosphere on this one – sort of like Deadguy making out with His Hero is Gone – but I wouldn't tie Engineer all that closely to any of the bands that I've named off thus far, these are just reference points. There's definitely a serious sense of massiveness going on in terms of just building up the layers and plowing through without looking back – they're not fucking around here. This one's also got a slick looking visual aesthetic and concise lyrics that fit the tone of the music very well. Another keeper from the Hex camp.

Engineer "In the Grit"
Engineer "Shiner"

I'm not seeing this one around at distros yet, so unless you feel like waiting for it to hit your normal sources, just grab it straight from the label for $10 (their site refers to it as a pre-order, but it's officially out now):

@ Hex Records

Zack the Rookie and Thumbscrew…

Posted on Monday, February 6th, 2006 @ 12:32pm » permalink

Zack the Rookie - Lonesome No MoreNo offense, but let's face it, in a perfect world, no band would ever name themselves Zack the Rookie, you know what I'm sayin'? Sure, I don't know what meaning the phrase might hold for the band, and hey, what's in a name, right? I know I can be a little too picky about such matters, but I can't help but wonder if that kind of decision might hinder the band's ability to reach the number of listeners that they should. Of course, the rather unattractive CD packaging isn't doing them any favors in that regard either, but that's life I suppose. The good news is that the only real "fault" I'd cite with "Lonesome No More", the band's debut full-length for the increasingly diverse Counterintelligence Recordings, is that it's entirely too long at 16 tracks and 57 minutes. Were they to trim things down to around 10 tracks/40 minutes they'd be set, because I'm pretty into the songwriting with this one.

I know nothing about this band other than the fact that they're from Louisiana, but their brand of somewhat standard contemporary emo with some lightly metallic riffing and a blend of singing/yelling still reminds me quite a bit of the mid- to late-90's leanings of the genre, and that's a good thing. The vocals could probably use a little more work to feel totally comfortable, but I really like the charming quality of the singing's rough spots – to the point where I think the band might be better off without using harsher vocals at all. At their best the cool melodic riffs and catchy harmonies win me over, and there's definitely tons and tons of potential here considering how huge a couple of comparable bands have become in the last several years. I'll be looking forward to hearing where these cats head down the road…

Zack the Rookie "Constellations"
Zack the Rookie "Bright Lights Will Kill"

This one's not officially out until next week, though I think you can buy it from the label right now, so contact them for ordering information if this is something that interests you.

Thumbscrew - All is QuietAll that melody doesn't stick around forever, though. The also somewhat unfortunately named Thumbscrew's debut full-length, "All is Quiet", is another recently issued Counterintelligence Recordings release, and I don't really know anything about this band either – aside from the fact that they're from Texas and play an ultra discordant brand of metalcore that's among the noisiest and most caustic material that I've heard in months. Honestly this album tends to be too chaotic for my usual listening habits and is therefore not the kind of thing that I could listen to on a regular basis, but they do pull it off better than many due to always retaining some sense of control performance-wise, so it doesn't sound like a sloppy mess despite the fact that there are loads of riffs based upon sheer over the top dissonance. I'm also thankful that they only employ a couple of annoying tremolo picking runs throughout, as that kind of thing can take this particular form of music and suck the promise right out of it. While more grating than memorable, I dig the fact that most of the songs are short and explosive, though I can't help but find myself wishing they'd slow things down a little more often, because a couple of the darker midpaced riffs and oddly churning breakdowns herein harness significantly more power than the usual doses of "crazy go nuts" intensity surrounding them. And I must point out that this disc boasts an amazing fucking layout using tons of metallic silver ink and semi transparent vellum pages that really looks impressive as hell.

Thumbscrew "Is That You Duke Raul"
Thumbscrew "Fighting Wonders"

Maybe I'm just getting too old for this tomfoolery, but if your ears can hang with such a dizzying cacophony of harshly executed riffing, support the band and the label with a purchase (the label probably sells it cheaper, so contact them to check on prices):

@ Very Distribution

Ocean and The Ocean…

Posted on Friday, February 3rd, 2006 @ 11:02am » permalink

Ocean - Here Where Nothing GrowsOcean originally sent me their two-song demo around autumn of 2005 (though the demo was dated 2004) and I was way impressed. I was in the middle of making the decision to stop writing full-length reviews at the time, so unfortunately I never got around to covering it on the old version of the site, and then when I went to write it up here in the blog, I learned that the band already had a brand new full-length out! So I figured I'd wait and cover that instead, but in typical fashion it took me a good couple of months to get around to buying the disc, and then I sat on it for a few more weeks… so here we are.

"Here Where Nothing Grows" is Ocean's debut full-length on Important Records. Be not misled by the fact that there are only three songs, however, as the shortest track runs just shy of 20 minutes, and the total running time tops an hour without even flinching. This is seriously some of the best oppressively bleak doom I've heard in ages, and as you'll hear in the eight-minute clip below there are a number of lengthy instrumental passages driving the bulk of the material. While the pacing is almost exclusively slower than dirt and the approach is certainly one of a rather stripped down and organic nature, there's actually a good breadth of riffing styles employed, from your usual dose of grittily churning power chords and bashing percussion to twisted feedback, eerie clean riffs, and subtly melodic dissonant textures. The band originally traveled to record in Chicago but weren't satisfied with the results, so they re-recorded the entire album in Portland, Maine (the band's home state), and I'd say that move paid off, because the fucker sounds great: Everything's warm, load, and clear. The sheer force of the band's material definitely deserves a stronger visual accompaniment in my opinion (the "deluxe" packaging edition had sold out before I ordered, so I'm not sure how it compares, but the visuals on their hand-packaged demo actually looked cooler than this standard version of the full-length), but that's not a big deal. These guys roll like a fuckin' steamroller, and any fan of this particular style should shit themselves over this stuff:

Ocean "Salt" (excerpt)

So, if you like your poundings bone-crunchingly slow and methodically sinister, I highly recommend picking this up. I'm expecting much bigger and better things to come from these guys. I honestly find the prices on this CD to be a little steep anywhere other than direct from the label (who adds a couple bucks for shipping), but their ordering process is a little weird in that you have to email 'em first and then they'll send you a total so you can pay using PayPal or whatever method you choose. So if you're too impatient for that, grab it from StonerRock.com's All That's Heavy store – though at $13.99 (better than the laughably inexcusable $16.98 pricetag at Amazon.com) if they add shipping charges the price would be higher than I'd pay, to be honest. I simply won't pay more than $15 (if that) for a newly released CD within the US. Ordering from the label adds a day or two to the process, but they're reliable folks…

@ Important Records
@ All That's Heavy

The Ocean - AeolianLike Ocean, my first exposure to The Ocean (who tend to refer to themselves as The Ocean Collective) came from their original demo back in 2001, though I inexplicably never followed the band afterwards despite enjoying that material quite a bit. Here we are five years later and the German act is about to release their second full-length (their first for Metal Blade), "Aeolian", after another demo and an EP, as well as a couple of split 7"s (one of which with the mighty Burst).

"Aeolian" was actually recorded during one long series of sessions from January – April of 2004 that also yielded the band's debut album, "Fluxion", and on this particular outing the band's core lineup consisted of four musicians and one lead vocalist (they add four more members for live performances, including one for visuals), along with an astounding six additional vocal contributors – including guest appearances from Tomas Hallbom (Breach), Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders, Old Man Gloom) and Sean Ingram (Coalesce) – truly making sense of the "collective" aspect of the band. While The Ocean bear a literal degree of plodding sludginess and occasionally lengthy songs (running times range from one-and-a-half to nearly 10 minutes) in common with simply Ocean, a close band name and certain atmospheric tendencies are all the two really share, as the Germans tend to run a significantly wider gamut of influences, not to mention far more active tempos. Loose comparisons to the earlier work of contemporaries such as Isis and Cult of Luna wouldn't be uncalled for in some instances, and there are occasional discordant metalcore-ish tendencies (in a good way) reminiscent of some of Hydra Head's late-90's roster as well, though I would not under any circumstances place this band within that musical category. The focus is definitely on powerful rhythmic surges and intense vocal interplay, and I'm into it. Oh, and this one does have a spectacular layout, printed entirely on matte stock with slick looking typefaces, subtle metallic ink, and a consistent overall aesthetic that really fits the music. Good stuff.

The Ocean "Queen of the Food-chain"
The Ocean "Dead Serious & Highly Professional"

This CD isn't out in the US until March, which is odd since I've had it for like a month already, so they must've started promoting this shit pretty damn early. If you like it, keep your eyes peeled around the second week of March and pick it up from your source of choice. I ought to do some backtracking and pick up their prior releases now, as well!

No Motiv "Daylight Breaking" CD

Posted on Wednesday, February 1st, 2006 @ 10:56am » permalink

No Motiv - Daylight BreakingIt drives me fucking insane that I didn't discover No Motiv until a year after their most recent record, "Daylight Breaking", hit the streets (which was in 2003) when I bought a used copy of "Diagram for Healing" (their fourth full-length) on a whim for like $3 or so because I liked the cover art and it seemed like something I might be into. Sure enough, I was hooked from the start in a major way, so I ended up buying three of the band's albums that week – and you bet your ass I played the hell out of every damn one of 'em.

No Motiv formed in California in 1995, and from what I can gauge based on their earlier material that I've encountered (though I've never been able to track down their rare first two albums) they were initially more of a pop-punk type of band with occasional emo/indie leanings. While their sound evolved quite a bit over the years and could've easily flirted with mainstream "alternative" bands at times or what have you, one wouldn't be stretching to use outlandish classifications such as "post-hardcore emo-rock pop-metal" or something along those lines to describe the band's incredibly diverse yet cohesive approach on their most recent two records. They tend to nail heavy sounding recordings with a darker edge, but loads and loads of melody and incredible vocal harmonies drive the tracks – making No Motive one of the most infectiously catchy bands I've ever heard in my life. This is seriously the kind of shit I can just listen to over and over and never get sick of it. "Daylight Breaking" is a definite 10/10 even for a finicky bastard like me.

What hurts the most is that the band is strongly rumored to have broken up, and the fact that their website hasn't been updated since May of 2005 does little to fight that assumption. I just don't get it, either: Why the fuck aren't these guys huge? Someone, somewhere should have their kneecaps busted over the fact that this band isn't sitting on millions of dollars right now. I mean, fuck, look how big a band like the Foo Fighters is: These guys are kind of like the Foo Fighters if the Foo Fighters actually wrote more than one or two good songs a record and stayed away from disgustingly sappy ballads that simply make no sense coming from anyone with a penchant for catchy melodic rock songs that actually rock. Yet another unfathomable injustice against an impeccable set of musicians… these motherfuckers should've been one of the biggest bands on Vagrant. Fuck Dashboard Confessional, fuck Senses Fail, and fuck Alkaline Trio, among other Vagrant labelmates whom No Motiv effortlessly shits upon. I can't even begin to express the level of rage that I feel over the fact that such brilliant music can pass by without receiving its proper level of appreciation. Buy this record immediately, and buy "Diagram for Healing" soon afterwards, you can often find them so cheap it's unbelievable:

@ Amazon.com
@ Half.com