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Optimum Wound Profile "Lowest Common Dominator" CD

Posted on Friday, September 30th, 2011 @ 6:28am » permalink

Optimum Wound Profile - Lowest Common DominatorOptimum Wound Profile was a unique UK industrial band formed in 1991 (by members including Extreme Noise Terror vocalist Phil Vane, who sadly passed away earlier this year), and they had already released their debut full-length, "Lowest Common Dominator", on Roadrunner Records in 1992. I don't really remember how I discovered this band, as I've never been big on much industrial stuff, so it's very possible that I bought it simply because it had an eye-grabbing album cover and was on Roadrunner! Right off the bat, though, I knew there was something different about this band. The way they fluidly integrated samples and industrial noise textures into a somewhat more traditional songwriting framework was really cool, and their dual vocal approach was a great match for the raw, hardcore/punk energy of the material. Hell, there are actually some pulsing bass grooves and hooky rhythms here and there that even have a grungy kind of vibe happening; not to mention the full-on dark ambient/experimental noise segments. Listening to the album now I'm actually picking up on a number of outside influences and associations that I've never spotted in the past, which is always fun. I'd really like to post a few of my other favorites from the album ("Downmouth", "You're Weak", etc.) to provide further examples of its diversity, but I'm weird about posting shit without permission, and unfortunately these are the only two tracks already available online. At least they're among the album's best, though!

Optimum Wound Profile "Drain"
Optimum Wound Profile "Tranqhead"

The band released two more albums before calling it quits in 1996, and while all of their work is solid, the first two records are definitely the most mandatory. "Lowest Common Dominator" remains my favorite, however. Its overall aesthetic and unexpected blend of influences really stands apart from everything else I've heard from comparable artists.

Metal Mind Productions actually reissued the band's first two albums a few years ago, which was a pretty damn cool and highly unexpected move seeing as Optimum Wound Profile doesn't exactly strike me as being thought of as a sought after piece of the Roadrunner back catalog, you know? But that being said, this album still seems relatively scarce, so perhaps the band has been more appreciated over the years than I thought? There are some super cheap used copies out there, though, so if this seems like something that interests you there's no excuse not to give it a shot!

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com

Pyrrhon "An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master" CD

Posted on Wednesday, September 28th, 2011 @ 5:45am » permalink

Pyrrhon - An Excellent Servant But a Terrible MasterFrom Selfmadegod Records comes "An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master", the debut full-length from New York's Pyrrhon (which was originally self-released by the band). I'm not always a fan of this chaotically technical and challenging brand of death metal, but these guys seem to have both the chops and the creativity to pull it off in a convincing manner that's somehow tangibly listenable. The vocals alone contain bitter snarls, burly (almost shouted) growls, gang backups, and then some; while the songwriting is loaded with intense tremolo picking, crazy bends/dives/slides, totally warped harmonics, etc. And then they'll break into some jazzy percussion and fuzzy, freakout solos, or maybe slow things down for a killer run of churning dissonance with chunkier, more straightforward rhythms. I've only seen lyrics for two tracks, but those are quite strong, which I find to be an especially important factor when dealing with music this non-linear and potentially grating. And the production's pretty solid, too. The caustic elements of the guitars and vocals can tend to push forward a touch, so if there's a way to retain a hint more clarity for the rhythm section in the future that would be excellent. Don't get me wrong, for as busy and off-the-wall as this stuff is it sounds very good, but there's so much cool shit happening across the board that it seems like some of the nuances of the basslines and drumming might be getting lost. Believe me, there's far more at work within these compositions than what I've touched upon here, but I think you'll understand why I'm not exactly sure how to communicate what's going on. So check out a few tracks for yourself and see what you think:

Let's hoard grains of sand and worship junk data. Let's build a palace of static and lose ourselves inside. Let's march around and around and around again…

This one's not very widely distributed at the moment, but hopefully that will start to change shortly…

Purchase:

@ Pyrrhon
@ Selfmadegod Records
@ The Omega Order

Wolves in the Throne Room "Celestial Lineage" CD/LP/2xLP

Posted on Monday, September 26th, 2011 @ 6:42am » permalink

Wolves in the Throne Room - Celestial LineageI must say, "Celestial Lineage", the latest seven-song/49-minute offering from Wolves in the Throne Room (released by Southern Lord), has recaptured my interest in the band. I was a big fan of "Diadem of 12 Stars", but for whatever reason I sort of lost interest after that. I've maintained a respect for and a curiosity regarding their subsequent efforts, but just haven't paid that much attention for the last few years. I really dig the aesthetic of the cover art for this album, though, so maybe that was (stupidly) enough to draw me in for a complete listen? I don't know, but whatever the case, I like what I'm hearing, so I should certainly re-investigate all of the band's output in between.

At its core, this material is powered by the same aptly raw, pulsing black metal and sneering vocals that made the band's debut so powerful – accented by simplistic lead melodies reminiscent of early Agalloch, as well as some subtly melodic ambient tones and droning, choral vocals (all of which add to the somewhat hypnotic elements of the songwriting). And where atmospheric elements can often detract from the force of an album as a whole, in this case they succeed in simply adding to the overall feeling. For instance, there's a certain quality level achieved by the chant-like calls, low-end hums, and windy field recordings of ritualistic interlude "Permanent Changes in Consciousness" that's all too rare. And the female vocals scattered throughout the album add further dimension to such "ritualistic" characteristics with truly eerie effect (most notably during "Woodland Cathedral", where they remain the focus for the duration of the piece). Opening track, "Thuja Magus Imperium", is probably the single composition that best suggests the variety of approaches one might expect from "Celestial Lineage" in its entirety:

Wolves in the Throne Room "Thuja Magus Imperium"

For collectors, the album is also available as a deluxe double-LP combo that includes an exclusive t-shirt design, so… you know what to do!

Purchase:

@ Southern Lord (CD/LP)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Play Dead "From the Promised Land" CD/LP

Posted on Friday, September 16th, 2011 @ 6:00am » permalink

Play Dead - From the Promised LandIn no way, shape, or form am I capable of holding much of an intelligent conversation about classic "goth" acts (Is that even what you call bands like this?), but I definitely flip out over that stuff on the rare occasion that I stumble upon it done right. And that's damn sure the case here. Play Dead started out in England in the early-80's and amassed a rather sizeable discography by the time they folded in 1986. I was first exposed to their work a little over a year ago when I downloaded this incredible mix and was blown away by "Pleasureland" (an absolutely amazing tune, seriously), so I bought most all of their output shortly thereafter.

"From the Promised Land" is their second full-length, originally released by Clay Records in 1984. Much of the material is driven by dense, plunky basslines with winding guitar riffs and half-yelled/half-sung vocals, but maybe this stuff gets a little more aggressive than other "goth" bands? I don't know. It's definitely a little different. Perhaps somewhat darker and less immediately "catchy". Hypnotic. I can't very accurately describe the music here, so I'm not going to try that hard. As always, you can check 'em out for yourself and come to your own conclusion. I'm just trying to steer you in the right direction! I don't really understand why Play Dead isn't talked about just as much as The Sisters of Mercy, though. They probably have a cult following or something, but clearly the band is painfully underrated, seeing as I can't even find my favorite songs from this album on YouTube or anything. That being said, there's an extremely detailed fansite out there (even if its design still reeks of the mid-90's internet) where you can download the original mix of this LP (scroll down just a bit for the details/mp3's for "From the Promised Land"). Apparently the band was unhappy with the first pressing of the album, so it was tweaked, remixed, and re-released after the initial pressing of 1,000 copies. I'm not sure I agree, though. Both versions are quite good, but the muddier, more bass-heavy atmosphere of the original really adds to their aesthetic quite nicely.

Honestly, their third and final album, "Company of Justice", is even better, but the song "Pleasureland" is what introduced me to the band (and remains my favorite of their tracks), so I'm writing about this one! That being said, "From the Promised Land" is actually the hardest of their albums to find. Their other full-lengths are available digitally, for example, but not this one. Go figure!? There are some vinyl copies on eBay, and it's been reissued on CD with bonus tracks a couple of times (in one form as "Resurrection", which for some reason doesn't include the track "Weeping Blood"), but those are increasingly rare/somewhat expensive, too. It's a mystery and a shame, as this album should absolutely not be lost to obscurity…

Purchase:

@ Amazon.com ("From the Promised Land" CD)
@ Amazon.com ("Resurrection" CD)

I'd definitely be interested in hearing recommendations for other good bands of this style as well. Obviously my knowledge of this niche is very limited, but I'd love to hear more. Thanks!

Sutekh Hexen "Shadows" 7"

Posted on Wednesday, September 14th, 2011 @ 6:00am » permalink

Sutekh Hexen - ShadowsAnother change of pace from Holy Terror Records, "Shadows" marks my first exposure to San Francisco duo Sutekh Hexen, who've already released several demos, EP's, and one full-length since forming in 2010. Much of what I've read about the band uses terms like "blackened noise" (and indeed some of their material does contain tangible riffs that could be associated with black metal), but they also have tracks that follow more of a straight up dark ambient/death industrial type of approach (which I actually find to be more effective in some cases), and that's the case here, with the nearly seven-minute "Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby, Standing in the Shadows?" (Some sort of Rolling Stones reference?) The bulk of the piece is driven by layers of subtly melodic drones with a little bit of wispy abrasive texture lingering in the distance, before surging forth into a dense wall of harsh noise and what appear to be indecipherably distorted vocals for its last few minutes. I'm definitely a big fan of the fact that even the grating assault of distortion retains a sense of atmosphere and feeling, though, as that always makes more of an impact. The B-side is laser-etched with the band's logo, and believe it or not also contains a locked groove (which is almost impossible to detect visually, but it is there) made up of a quick snippet of dusty grit over an ominous low-end hum. Very cool. Aptly mysterious packaging as well!

Since there's essentially just one track here I'm not posting an excerpt, but you can listen to a number of Sutekh Hexen's compositions over at SoundCloud to get a feel for what's in store. This 7" is honestly the best material I've heard from the duo to date, so I'll certainly be seeking out more of their efforts.

The record is limited to 300 copies – 100 on orange (sold out), 200 on black, each with a 6" tall iron-on patch – and I'd expect this to become a bit of a collector's item one day, so… don't sleep on it if you're interested!

Purchase:

@ Holy Terror Records

L'Esprit du Clan "Chapitre V: Drama" CD/LP

Posted on Monday, September 12th, 2011 @ 6:00am » permalink

L'Esprit du Clan - Chapitre V: DramaLike an idiot, I sort of lost track of L'Esprit du Clan sometime after 2007's "Chapitre III: Corpus Delicti", so when I recently looked them up I was psyched to learn that they'd released another full-length in 2009 and had a fifth on the way. So, I actually bought "Chapitre V: Drama" (released by the band's own label, La Casta) from iTunes the day it came out, and I don't think I've ever done that on iTunes before. The band hails from Paris, France and has been at it since 1995. While their early material essentially sounded like a French version of Merauder, they've morphed into more of a full-on metal band over the years, though I'd probably still argue that there's a hardcore/"metalcore" edge in there. Expect loads of galloping rhythms and thrashy chugging with just the right amount of melody tucked away, crushing breakdowns, dual-vocal trade-offs between assorted gruff sneers/scathing screams, etc. This time out there are even a couple of intense blasts and some dissonant, atmospheric riffing that almost touches on a mild black metal influence (granted it doesn't really come across as "black metal" in this context, and that's probably a good thing in terms of overall cohesion). As far as the band's more metal-based outings go, I'd say this material is a little more diverse overall, and (perhaps as a result) the songwriting's also heading in a stronger, more memorable direction. Of course, all of their lyrics have been in French since day one, so I can't really understand a word of it, but I still love 'em! I actually respect the fact that they don't give a shit about trying to achieve a wider range of success by singing in English, you know? They've been deserving of a lot more attention for years, though. They've always got absolutely sick, top-notch production values, and I could totally see them appealing to the type of audience that flips out over bands like Machine Head or whatever. I would imagine they're pretty "popular" in France? I hope so, 'cause they fuckin' should be! Check out a couple of their new tracks on Vimeo for a taste:

L'Esprit du Clan "Fils de Personne"
L'Esprit du Clan "Atheist Metal"

I'm seriously kicking myself for not following the band more closely after their third album. I've been a big fan of their work for many years, so I don't know what the hell my problem was!? This is a killer record and I'll always look forward to hearing more.

It's generally damn hard to get L'Esprit du Clan's shit here in the US, so I can't find physical copies available anywhere else that I'm familiar with. Thankfully they've got their more recent albums available digitally. If you like what you hear and are unfamiliar with the band's discography, I highly suggest checking out their early output as well. "Chapitre II: Reverence" is a particular favorite of mine…

Purchase:

@ L'Esprit du Clan (CD)
@ L'Esprit du Clan (LP)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Xaxaxa "Tango Revolucioner" CD/LP

Posted on Friday, September 9th, 2011 @ 6:41am » permalink

Xaxaxa - Tango RevolucionerI've been sitting on "Tango Revolucioner", the first album from Xaxaxa for far too long now, so it's about time I finally get it written up here. Released by the always intriguing Moonlee Records, this Macedonian trio (all three members are also in Bernays Propaganda) delivers their lyrics in Macedonian and recorded live in the studio, which brings a really unique sound to their approach – which hits my ears as somewhat of a combination of somber pop-punk (If such a thing could exist?) and indie rock. The live-in-the-studio setup really gives the album a raw, natural aesthetic that works perfectly for their style, and since the guitars barely use any distortion there's plenty of room for the amazing basslines to run amok right at the heart of the mix. They've got just the right amount of dirtiness to the tones and jangliness to the playing. But above all, this material really proves to me that you don't need to be able to sing along to a song for it to be catchy as hell (check out "Ova e Tvoj Grad", especially, for example). I certainly don't understand the Macedonian language, but I can easily pick up on the emotional atmospheres of the songs, and the arrangements still strike me in a manner that's really memorable. (I've seen English translations of the lyrics and they contain a good mix of personal and political elements – some of the titles translate to "Take Back That Bloody Day", "The World is a Mirror", "A Child of Hunger", etc.) In the end it all amounts to 10 songs/27 minutes that are somehow both relaxed and energetic. Listen for yourself and see what you think. I'm really, really into this and am totally kicking myself for having taken so long to check out the album!

As with all of Moonlee's releases, mp3's are available for a very inexpensive price via Bandcamp, so definitely show your support with a purchase if you like what you hear. I definitely encourage you to check out the rest of the label's discography as well. They're responsible for some truly underrated gems…

Purchase:

@ Moonlee Records (CD/LP)
@ Bandcamp (mp3)

.45 Stainless "O.G.B.D." CD

Posted on Wednesday, September 7th, 2011 @ 5:34am » permalink

.45 Stainless - O.G.B.D."O.G.B.D." (which stands for "Orighetto Beatdown", where I assume "Orighetto" is a reference to the Oriketo area of Turku, Finland) is the debut outing from Finnish sextet (that's right, two vocalists) .45 Stainless (released by German label Beatdown Hardwear). And based on that sentence alone, you should already be well aware that this band operates in the "beatdown" vein of the chugging metallic hardcore spectrum – citing influences such as Shattered Realm, Irate, and of course the masters of this niche, Bulldoze. Expect eight tracks in just 21 minutes dominated by pounding rhythmic grooves and massive breakdowns, occasionally accented by quick little Slayer-styled runs, pinch harmonics, and I think there's even a divebomb or two in there! They use the dual vocal approach to take the high/low road by combining death metal-esque grunts/growls with midrange sneers, and while I'm generally not into "metalcore" that brings the over the top growling vocals to the table, these guys pull it off, in large part due to solid songwriting that gets right down to business. The recording is pretty damn perfect for this style, too. The guitar tone is nice and meaty, you can hear the bass plugging away in the background, the kick drums are thick as hell, the mix is well-balanced… yeah, this shit definitely sounds great. Even the samples are nicely integrated into the tracks (which is extremely rare) – they don't disrupt the flow or delay the impact at all, which is nice. Unfortunately, I've lost track of a lot of what's going on in Finland these days, but apparently their hardcore scene is still cranking out some of the best contemporary "metalcore" out there, and that's just awesome. Check out two tracks from .45 Stainless below:

In addition to the following links, you can also email the band to get your hands on CD's and merch…

Purchase:

@ Beatdown Hardwear (CD)
@ Amazon.com (mp3)
@ iTunes (mp3)

Blasphemour Records

Posted on Monday, September 5th, 2011 @ 6:50am » permalink

One Hell of a Compilation, Deformity - Murder Within SinRyan from Blasphemour Records recently sent me an email and let me know that the label has decided to give it another shot (he's looking for bands to work with, so get in touch if you're label hunting), and asked if I'd be interested in writing about his past efforts from the late-90's (as well as offering my readers a coupon code, see below). Blasphemour Records started up in 1999 and quickly released two CD's that same year before eventually calling it a day: "One Hell of a Compilation", and Deformity's "Murder Within Sin". Both of these releases have had a home in my collection for some time now, so of course I agreed.

"One Hell of a Compilation" is a 17-track collection featuring an assortment of bands such as the metal-based "hardcore" of Deformity, Length of Time, and Burial Ground (If anyone can hook me up with the "Let Us Pray" EP, please let me know! I've been searching for ages!); the rugged abrasiveness of Milhouse; or the straightforward death metal of Abnegation and Skinless – not to mention an early appearance from Goatwhore, and rare experimental noise tracks from Arora and Psywarfare. (The Psywarfare contribution alone is almost 17 minutes long!)

"Murder Within Sin" is the debut full-length from Belgium's H8000-linked Deformity (which was released in Europe by Next Sentence Records), and marked the band's first foray into a sound that was essentially full-on death metal with just a few crunchy breakdowns here and there (whereas their prior EP had maintained a little more semblance of a metallic hardcore type of edge). As far as "metalcore" bands that started moving towards death metal goes, this album sits right at the top of the heap for me. The quality of the riffs, the intensity of the vocals, the songwriting… everything falls into place nicely, and hits with more force than a lot of comparable material from that general time period.

You can listen to one track from each CD here, and for a limited time you can get 40% off of your total order from Blasphemour Records using this coupon code:

aversion

I know I'm not saying very much here, but I threw this post together really quickly so people could take advantage of the coupon code. There are very few copies of the compilation left, so don't wait around for too long if you're interested!

Purchase:

@ Blasphemour Records

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