Sunday, July 21, 2013

Prepare for the Mindscan - Prepare for the Mindscan (EP)

Option Paralysis and The Slip are the two examples of playing safe working out that first come to my mind so I'll use them to corroborate my point that if you know what you're doing and you know you're doing it correctly, you're free to play safe all you want. Axe to Fall's another good example. Or hey, Razor's career. Best of all still is Amon Amarth – Twilight of the Thunder God: for all I care their inspiration might have come from a Metal Blade memo containing a list of criteria entitled “Things your next album, which will be called Twilight of the Thunder God, is to include”, the memo might have even come to a bunch of session musicians who did all the work because it doesn't prevent the album from being extremely tolerable, even pretty good at times.

In fact, being considered a legendary band is mostly rooted in being seen as quite good by the largest number of people. What comes to success, ambition is not the first go-to virtue. Being consistently okay, though, that is something. Once the songwriting skills are nursed to the point that one's reaction to your output is “that is really really okay, I'm impressed, holy shit wow. That is the most okay thing I've heard in a long time”, a little dose of unique novelty will cement you in history.

So my thesis is that a critically successful album will rarely have defining, historical musical moments but it will absolutely never have terrible ones, and that's a very lubricated rope to balance on atop a crocodile lake indeed, consistency is key, one mistake ruins everything. Well, not everything, but it has a huge negative impact on the plan.

Keep in mind that Prepare for the Mindscan the EP is absolutely nothing new. The first thing that comes to mind when you hear grindcore, powerviolence, a few stock 'evil' black metal chord progressions and frontrabiddog put together is what this release is like. Production is a bit tricky but for the most part takes a back seat, the lyrics are appropriately unintelligible as they should be, guitars stick to the 101's for the most part despite a few more memorable sections, drums feature a few nice subtleties to keep things interesting when no one else can. You know the drill, trust me.

Considering the length of the tracks, it's logical that they'll have to complement each other by way of timing variation and fillers correctly in order to form a cohesive whole. Prepare for the Mindscan are certainly aware of this and have been aiming at that butter zone where the entire almost 13 minutes of material are super fucking okay by way of this trick. It works splendidly for the first half and then something happens. It was always an absolute given that the EP was bound to have one of those chug a note bash the splash breakdowns eventually, the real problem is the timing. Once they decide to get more ambitious with “Driven to Kill”, the whole scheme falls apart. We have satisfying dynamic work at first, the introductory idea is developed from beginning to variation to pre-transition. Meanwhile, the breakdown is by nature some sort of a climax. And it comes straight after the intensity descends so the section can repeat or a new one can be introduced, resulting in a very jarring peak of intensity. If this track were an intensity graph, there would be no derivative at the part where the breakdown starts. After the awkwardly long breakdown, the band proceeds to act as if nothing happened and just continues the track with no mention of it ever again. Was that breakdown there as an easter egg to check whether someone was paying attention, like when a teacher is too proud to admit that they are human?

Long story short, they never recover from that blow. They certainly tried during the first half to ensure that every track brought some new element to work with, but during the latter half they simply don't. There was a breakdown present before, too, so “Driven to Kill” doesn't contribute much of anything. To this I tell the band that you surely didn't run out of ideas after five fucking minutes, now did you, or did you really?

There was a Cracked article I saw once that claimed that the song before the last on a shitty release will invariably be good, and this EP doesn't differ, so I'll ignore that one, meanwhile “Die for Weed” and “Rise of the Machine Elves” are, respectively, subpar and really subpar. It's not that the second half sounds like a different band, it's more like the same band on the next day with a hangover. More to the point it sounds like they suddenly got lazy. They had some things going for them and they had the elements to craft a very very good release, but they couldn't be assed to do so. Goddammit.

And then there are the fucking b-movie samples to begin a release. Right, I guess it's a tradition or something, a way to get the audience worked up, I don't know, but after it's been done as many times as there exist metal releases, does anyone get excited about some random intense dialog? If it hardly even sets the tone then there is no point for it entirely. What is the thought process when someone decides to splice in a minute long “I'll move heaven and hell to get you” analog that has no reason to exist at that given spot? I really want to know.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Embryonic Devourment - Fear of Reality Exceeds Fantasy

PeterGueckel was patronizing and left me kind of offended the other day, but I have to give credit when credit is due. He had a point about how easy it is to get lost in the superficialities of music. There are whole genres dedicated to them, COUGH COUGH SPIT A KIDNEY AND ONE BONE MARROW * post rock * EYE COMES OUT OF SOCKET AND BECOMES DEATH DESTROYER OF WORLDS. Embryonic Devourment were criticized the other day, on no other source of endless enlightenment but the YouTube comment section, for not soloing enough. Some real individual actually logged in, made a detailed analysis of his ideals/criteria and of what result these have on his standpoint regarding the work of artistic craft unraveling before him and took the time to write the something along the lines of “you guys would be cool if you made more solos” that they ended up writing. Point was made.

Solos are what you do for kicks after all the hard work is done. Especially in Death Metal, songwriting, structure and dynamics are key, and other things are keyring. My weight justifies the making of a comparison of solos, layerings and atmosphere, to icing on the cake. I'm in a band in which I mostly do atmospheric accompaniments to preexisting guitar lines and lyrics. I am as keyring as can be there, the most expendable member of the band, and it's soul-crushing to think of how many people could totally do my job for me, and better. And if the band sucked, I wouldn't have been able to help, I could be playing the most awesome keyboard lines in existence and they wouldn't transcend beyond awesome keyboard lines embedded in a shitty song. What I'm saying is that without a good framework, you're not going anywhere.

What Embryonic Devourment are saying is that everyone already knows what a good framework sounds like anyway, so why not challenge mentalities a bit. With a sound methodically dry and soulless they trod at a pace fast enough to sound exactly like a relaxed one, convolving their path from A to B and exploring every possibility that they provide themselves with thanks to an especially abstract riffing style. They manage to merge catchy melodic phrases with the elements one would expect to come out of a production job of this kind: chugs, pinch harmonics, the like. Sometimes they bring a few of those textbook interval sequences that you'll hear every average TDM band employ too. Now here's the interesting part. They put their own spin on these elements, and they calculate riff interlocks and phrasal variations in such a way as to proportion a truly grueling, confusing, disorienting, and most of all, dynamic experience. Couple that with the generally cyclical and/or stream-of-consciousness-like song progressions and before you know it, they've succeeded in making standard Progressive Metal and standard Brutal Death Metal fuck each others' brains out in a radioactive slum to the point of highly mutated conception, and you didn't even notice anything because you were too busy calculating the exact percentage to which the band has doomed its entire career by having chosen a vilification-magnet of a snare drum.

Not that I blame you, I don't think Embryonic Devourment blame you either, in fact I think they're celebrating a plan FOREF - phase 1 pulled off flawlessly.

You see, there's a respectable amount of deception going on in this release, intentional or not. For the sake of justifying the ejaculatory stream of praise to the axe and thunderwielders in question, I'll assume that all aspects of the album are intentional. The first thing to take into account is the employment of a Tony Koehl artwork, stylized in a distinct Tony Koehl fashion, all juiced up in the usual Tony Koehl fare. The cover is trademark sci-fsychedelameriguro with the master of sci-fsychedelameriguro inking up the paper, is what I'm saying. Meanwhile, the music itself is quite evidently separated from spacey / psychedelic / goreporn aesthetic. Most evidently at the latter half, what with the “neo” “-” “classical” melodies and the tribal motif at the end. The production has also taken you for a ride, you succumbed to your expectations, haven't you? You heard tech pap in good material, you haven't noticed the craft, right? These guys have done their job well, now as a listener your duty is to be patient.

This is the go-to album for when one has the feeling of having gotten a hang of life because of the understanding it gives regarding one's own imperfections. The mind is not strong enough until one is entirely aware of the direction these tracks take at all times.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Explosions in the Sky - The Earth is Not a Cold Dead Empty Place

I remember that there was a time, not very long ago, I must point out, when I really disliked TEINACDEP. But along the way, I don't know what happened, but something must have clicked, because now I simply abhor it with all my heart. I loathe it as if it were an actual part of what defines me as a human being and an individual. It completes me, just like my suicidal tendencies. While I have to appreciate Explosions in the Sky's ability to make music that flares up such strong emotions within me, I get the impression that anger, tedium and disgust aren't the ones they were going for. And with those words read, you hereby accept that what you're currently digging into is a rant. You don't have any reason to subject yourself to the torture that is this album, unless it's your thing. And you also don't have any reason to subject yourself to the cliché of reading a rant on the internet now that I've provided you with this helpful warning, now ain't that nice of me? Anyway, this album makes me pissed in ways that those who intend to make the listener pissed could never even imagine considering the possibility of dreaming of achieving, and this review is a homage to that.

But before we actually further analyze my opinions, I suggest we make a quick shout out to what I imagine the fans of this endless desert of sugar, spice, and everything boring are like. Let's introduce my experience with this album via a memory of past events that I have:

It was dark outside, which coincides with the luminosity quotient one would expect from around 2:00 AM, and, consequently, the time of this memory, which happened at around 2:00 AM. I had decided to expose myself to the Explosions in the Sky release I had on my iPod at the time, for shits and giggles. And before I even begun listening, I noticed how the titles of the second and third track didn't fit on the tiny screen so I allowed them to scroll, at which point I was enraged to find out that I had correctly predicted “Alone” and “Ocean”, respectively, to be the last words in the titles.

Now, wasn't that fun? So why did I fume upon predicting those two words? It's not like Death Metal song titles are all that surprising either, and yet it remains as my favorite genre of all time and I can't help but praise it and get all tickly inside upon the mention of the word combination. Well, not tickly per se, I'm way too absent of a heart of the [(x^2 + y^2 – 1)^3 – x^2 y^3 = 0] kind for that, but let's pretend, okay? Mostly it was because titles such as “The Only Moment We Were Alone” and “Your Hand in Mine” are reminiscent of a mindset that I completely disagree with, one that advocates complete passivity, the thesis that emotion trumps rationality and the notion that one can justify a decadent lifestyle via the possession of glasses that boast rims the scale and girth of an aircraft carrier and an arsenal of sweaters and overtight / overbaggy clothes to complete the “totally a serious and talented artist photographer / graphic designer” outfit. Essentially a mindset that values the kind of non-circulatory characteristics of the human heart that I positively don't have and therefore feel excluded.

Sadly, Explosions in the Sky aren't Anal Cunt during their Picnic of Love period under a different guise, so this group also made sure that the music is consistent with such a mentality. The result is an album that sounds like the members lost the one testicle that they had between them in the good part of Dubai and now all they want to do is to stamp an Instagram filter onto their corneas, run around in open fields, eat chocolate and cry. You know the videos where they show 20-something-year-old female humanoid wads of crackerdom, armed with perfectly white teeth and clothing comprised entirely of things colored after different coffee to milk proportions? Those videos where these whitest of the white are shown exhibiting behaviors associated with people one third their age, only filmed in that week's fashionable developing country, in the rain, in the sun? Well, for every song except “Memorial”, that's not effeminate enough. The Notebook is Fight Club in comparison.

We start our adventure with one prolonged note on a castrated clean guitar, played 7 times, taking up 38 seconds before anything of actual relevance happens. Then we hear a cute little bittersweet melody, then another, then another, then another ad nauseam. We have louder parts, we have less loud parts, endless crescendos, some guitar effects, cat bells, the usual Post-Sissy fare. In fact, I'm quite surprised that they didn't feel the need to include a horn section for no reason. Some melodies are more irritating than others, drums are dull, bass is uninteresting, guitars are uninspired and annoying. Actually, that doesn't sound as bad some of the things I've listened to and felt indifferent towards. It's nothing that I wouldn't be able to endure. Certainly doesn't explain my absolute hatred towards everything related to TEINACDEP that I have. As far as you're concerned I might just be too closed-minded to be able to appreciate the sound they're going for, am I mistaken?

Well, the real deal-breaker is their method of delivery. These guys don't write songs, no. Because the consensus is that a song is an amalgamate of musical patterns organized in a coherent way which furthers the impact of the singular ideas. Meanwhile, this cheerful bunch is convinced that they can beat the system by splicing some crescendos together haphazardly five times and then take the rest of the week off. Every song can be neatly divided into the first half, where all the barely-existent songwriting efforts go to, and the second, which is a huge, repetitive crescendo, with some predictable variation mixed in, just so that you don't actually feel compelled to go and do something else. And that's another trick they like to employ. These guys are able to constantly and violently disappoint you: every time they come to an actually competent part, they proceed to unerringly ruin it in the most gruesome way imaginable. That's like if someone returned your dog only after having injected it with a deadly neurotoxin. It's sociopathic behavior!

They also fall for the old trap of assuming that everyone who hears their music is a moron. At least that's my explanation as to why they believed that being less spontaneous or imaginative than basic math and having no idea of what dynamics are beyond the word crescendo would ever cut it. But they don't just stick to level James LaBrie, they go the extra mile in this category. They seem to truly believe other humans' brains to be a cold, dead, empty place (if you found this line funny, they're right, by the way). Otherwise, why would they have ever felt the need to repeat every melody until you need to puke whilst being as derivative as needed to ensure that you do? It's like they're trying to force an idea into your head at all costs when no idea is present. I guess that if they hadn't done it, people could notice more easily just how much Explosions in the Sky fail in the songwriting department, so good thinking, guys.

Now, what do you say to me being more specific? No? Well, I don't care, I'm on a roll. I'll start from the beginning, the first song: We have one crescendo, which ends. Everything stops for a while, until we're introduced to a completely different theme, and the song just stays there. They possibly make half an acknowledgement of the existence of the first four minutes, but that's all. It makes this second crescendo until we eventually hear some random dissonant drone and the song ends without reaching a climax. “Okay, no biggie. This can be a set-up to have the next song blow everything away.”, one might think, but they'd be wrong. The next song is even mellower. But we don't discover that straight away, we have to listen to 40 whole seconds of possible potential to find that out. By the time this one truly marks its presence, it's too nothing, too late. And then it just goes its own way, making sure to end 7 minutes after the prompt. “Six Days At the Bottom of The Ocean” brings a slightly darker tone, encapsulated in the rich texture of two shit melodies repeated over and over, separated by a gigantic silence. “Memorial” nearly constructs itself into a decent track, but then the band doesn't resist the temptation of plopping another masturbatory crescendo half-way in. Also, this one pulls another “The Only Moment We Were Alone”: the previous song and the guitar feedback intro to this totally justifies and really begs the composition to piledrive the listener a few seconds in, “Hama”-style. What does it do? It becomes the mellowest track in the album instead, of course! Meanwhile, “Your Hand in Mine” is just an excerpt of what “The Only Moment We Were Alone” would become if it prolonged for another half-hour. And it ends, you guessed it, with another stupid crescendo, only more irritating because of how predictable such a move is by now. And throughout the whole thing, no parts that stick to you, no parts that stand out, no climactic sections timed in such a way as to actually have any perceivable impact.

And these guys are Post-Rock, goddammit! They're supposed to know how to work all that context, structure and dynamics stuff like the palm of their hand! They should be giving this lecture to me, not the other way around! Take these traits away from a Post-Rock album and the result is a bunch of effects and basic melodies stuck together with no sense or reason to justify them. The result is this very album! This is really the farthest you can get from understanding an inkling of music. If I want to listen to some pleasant sounds, I'd rather go outside, thank you. In fact, I'd rather break both my legs than be exposed to this atrocity again. Have Explosions in the Sky no shame? There are people out there who work restlessly to create the most accomplished and rewarding pieces of music ever, and these guys opt to stick to mediocrity and feel entitled to a CD and Vinyl release. And even at mediocrity they fail! They miss it by miles! They don't offer anything that would make any piece of music worthwhile, whatever the genre.

I honestly don't understand what the legions of fans of TEINACDEP see in it. Am I listening to the wrong album? Am I not scrutinizing it enough? Are they actually so lacking in imagination that they're content with 45 minutes of pointless relaxing noises, as if they aren't able to formulate the same thing in their minds with ease? Honestly, I'm even led to think that the Explosions in the Sky army might just be sorry for the dudes. Because one thing that is said by most everyone who praises this band to the stars is that they're up there with Sigur Rós. Now, one thing that I've never heard anyone say ever is that Sigur Rós are up there with Explosions in the Sky.

So, the verdict. Explosions in the Sky – The Earth is not a Cold Dead Empty Place. Did I like it? Well, not really. No.

Standout tracks:
First Breath After Coma

Saturday, July 14, 2012

AP Quinteto - 6 e 5

O venerable indifferent apathist, please forgive my sinful ignorance. For I prefer Grimes over Purity Ring and fail to dislike iamamiwhoami after no longer cool it is for her music to like. I also do not see the blasphemous side of The Money Store, prize the occasional hearing of Witch House and indulge in the reprehensible crime of consistently enjoying Metal subgenres not called after a color. I truly am a waste of human flesh and resources of a kind previously unheard. I have a taste for Free Improvisation, Drone, Noise, Modern Classical. And most inexcusable, I kinda dislike Jazz. Truly my cranium is void of all but void itself. Incorrectly applied krokodil should become my fate for transgressions of this magnitude.

Uh, wait. It would appear that my crippling inner frustrations and lack of self-esteem are infiltrating into my writing. Please excuse me while I fix that problem *your screen suddenly fades out and back in again in your imagination*.

That's better. I don't feel as dopamine-and-REM-deprived now as I did when I wrote that intro. My heart's now in its right place, as in lodged between the correct organs, muscles and osteoblastic crowbars, and it's appropriately pumping caffeine and glucose while the haematocytes watch the carnage completely motionless and contemplate the paradox of a Russian having the symbol of Capitalism for metaphorical blood rather than ethanol. Nah, just kidding, I slept a few times. Speaking of sleep and using big words as a cheap substitute for humor, I probably shouldn't just throw a cliffhanger into the air without any sort of resolution, so let me explain exactly what bugs me about the cool and refined and cultured and cultural genre that AP Quinteto's 6 e 5 is a part of.

Based on my knowledge of Jazz thus far, which equates to an entire encyclopedia on the subject, burnt down to anorexic bite sized bits of info here and there that anyone knows through intuition anyway, a handful of classics that I heard whilst attempting to multitask, one gig in which I was far more interested by how awkward I looked Nile-tee-and-beer-bottle-clad, and half a gig in which I was extremely busy drunkenly mumbling an extended version of my thesis from the first paragraph to anyone who would listen, the genre revolves around technique. Now, that would have been all fine and dandy if it weren't taken so literally by some people. It's like the musicians race through all the delicious twists and turns you can make within a structural and dynamic backbone so they can reach their personal soloing nirvana in which the listener's snoring isn't even present, only caring to go back to what they were doing in the first place as an indicator of when to clap or when to press the replay button, depending on the medium. And in 6 e 5, this is done 6.7 out of a possible 7 times, and it's an hour-long album! Imagine that you go to a restaurant and take your order, you skip the appetizers because screw them and they serve you the main course straight away. It's very tasty. Then they proceed to serve the same main course another six times. How would you feel, Mr. Creosote?

The solos and solo sections aren't the problem, considering that they're fantastic and all, it's just how many of them there are. AP Quinteto definitely know what they're doing within this limbo world of endless possibilities: they've got some admirable skills at making sprawling yet dynamic sections where one instrument steals the spotlight for a pop song's length while everyone takes subtle goes at challenging this temporary alpha male. But then these happen in very much the same way a bunch of more times and the listener is left to await the sweet release of death. And most of all the quintet appears to have some serious problems when they try to fit these beasts into the structured receptacles, or themes, as they're called by the sane, which they seem to have composed separately. They have though managed to ensure that “6 e 5” and “Espero (ou não)” kept their identity as singular cohesive compositions, but that's about it. All others sound, to a certain extent, like a bunch of ideas spliced together somehow. Then, there are all the consequential problems one has to confront: “Irene (Balada Para)” ends its lifetime with great fanfare but no reason, “Inominada” has only one memorable moment when the second solo transitions back to the theme, which I guess was somehow supposed to save the whole thing from being completely forgettable generic drum/guitar interplay, and it's torturously easy to predict how any track is going to shape up after “Essegê” gives a blueprint to all of them. It's still great stuff for a casual listen, but if this music is to be listened to casually and casually only, then why release it in album format and risk the possibility of being victim of a curious/obsessive-compulsive listener?

One thing I enjoy hearing in an album is how the band evolves along the way and begins adding new elements to their sound. I find it jarring how 6 e 5 does the opposite by having the drummer, bassist and guitarist completely forget that they had another two band members lying around the rehearsal room for the two final tracks, but I guess that's just personal opinion. My final conclusion is that I've spent the entire review vastly underplaying the good aspects this debut reveals, so I'll talk about them now.

I really liked the intricacy shown in both the solos and the themes, the jumping around from idea to idea in a non-nonsensical way, when they did manage to do that. The themes and riffs were excellent, the instrumentation had a tendency to be rather catchy throughout, and despite sounding pretty much exactly how an uninitiate would expect a Jazz album to sound, AP Quinteto still manages to display hints to a characteristic vibe. But most of all, I like the way they work around with dynamics. They really know how to keep a song going forward what comes to transitions. They also make some interesting experiments along the way, such as how “Espero (ou não)” introduces the listener to a theme and then reconstructs that theme through the winding solos that you'd have grown to detest by then and would probably detest less after the referred track.

So my actual final conclusion is that 6 e 5 is a collection of great jazzy ear candy, but when you remain conscious about what you're listening to, you don't have that much of a good time anymore. Awesome stuff is presented in this album, but then it's presented over and over again in pretty much the same way for 59 minutes. It's like they're trying to get an idea firmly placed in your thoughts when either the idea isn't actually there, or it's absolutely basic but you've been mistaken for a penguin. These guys really like their solos, and I wish they'd like them a lot less, or would cut out some of the more useless bits. Something! Fuck...

Standout tracks:

6 e 5
Espero (ou não)

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Band Of Skulls - Sweet Sour


I'd face a total of zero problems writing a list of things that do not, in any physical or metaphorical way, kill you or make you stronger. But that would mean that I'd have to stick a bunch of filler in anticipation to listing this album. Band Of Skulls seem to wholeheartedly agree with the adaptation of the ignorance-bliss theory to the active asininity paradigm, the one that effectively simplifies all that defines stupidity into the stylish four-letter acronym YOLO. So essentially what I'm saying is that you learn absolutely nothing and your outlook on music changes in no way whatsoever from listening to Sweet Sour a bunch of times. This album came out a few months ago, so to quicken things up, I'll explain right away why this review isn't completely irrelevant from my perspective. I bought this album on a whim because the cover is fantastic, thinking that I could at least have a laugh if it were bad. So this is a personal vendetta: I want either my laugh, or my time among the living, or my parents' money back. Since I can't really be contacted directly, I suppose I'll stick to recovering the laugh.

And things don't really start out well for me, because to describe the sound here is to describe the sound of your neighbor's band for any hermit readers out there, which is a rather dull and insulting waste of time, another strike by this landfill of a bunch of sonic information. All the people out there who upon meeting another individual for the first time state, unsolicited, that they have a band that should be checked out by said new acquaintance, via Myspace, no less, use this sound in their music. It is the kind of sound you get either from the desire to get lucky or the desire to get lucky and famous, meanwhile not being sure how either of the scenarios are supposed to work out. The only difference is that the second scenario somehow actually worked out for Band of Skulls. There's a review of this very album on the guardian dot coe dot you kay, I'll have you know! I've no opinion of their previous endeavors with the exception of unconscious bias, but I end up with the idea that they got where they are by following the same “rock out here; stick out lighters here; we compose everything drunk during rehearsals; sing-along chorus here; dynamics out the window” ethos that your neighbor's band follows.

Same simplified old-schoolish rockish sound with riffs that you've heard in your head when you were taking a shit at the train station that one time, accompanied by all the proficient and bland instrumentation and sounds you can get out of a bunch of money and an ordinary old-schoolish rockish band line-up. And that's when they're not doing generic ballads you get from jamming for some minutes and then coming back the next day to add finishing touches. I bet they even send text messages with their lyrics to their “fans”, blegh. They must be the kind of people whose hobby it is to claim that “music nowadays sucks I wish I was born in the 60s so I could be even more smug than I am right now Nicki Minaj hurr hurr”. I'm led to assume that the album cover is a photo of my opinion of them, moments after it escaped my esophagus. They irritate me so much that my bile is bloody, try to top that!

Of course, I wouldn't want to send the wrong message across. If Band Of Skulls are reading this, they can sigh with relief. I haven't vomited in years, so I wouldn't actually know anything about my bile by now. As for Sweet Sour, it's hateful, but not actually bad. It's completely average. Bang in the middle of the bell curve of album quality and totally not worth your time. It's better during the first half and reveals its true nature when the bass distortion kicks in on “Lay My Head Down” to play an extremely boring sequence of intervals, followed by a disappointing “heartfelt” bluesy guitar solo. After that moment, you can't help but imagine the smug looks on these guys' faces as they indulge in their belief that they're utterly brilliant. I'm not basing my score on such childish factors as my unfounded and stupid opinion that these guys be obnoxious fucks, but the conviction with which they choose to be generic and uninspired and the insistence to disregard dynamics in favor of being even more obnoxious fucksy is simply depressing.

“Navigate” was excellent until it completely failed to go anywhere. “Bruises” seems to have a cool opening riff for the sole purpose of not trying the listener's patience too much. “Lies” must have been written mid-concert, during the process of playing “Lies”. “Hometowns” appears to have been picked from a catalog of stock indie songs and yet is one of the album's highlights. “Close to Nowhere” is a totally useless but pleasant little thingy that should have been an interlude or something. Meanwhile, they stick to the simplest and most default song structure in the existence of rock music and still manage to fuck it up notoriously a couple of times. At least there are a few okay songs to even things out, and sometimes it actually sounds like they tried. I'd dare to even say that “You're Not Pretty but you Got it Going On” is great, and “Wanderluster” is not far behind. Then again, your neighbor's band also has its couple of good tunes, am I right or am I not so right?

As for the mindset that I assumed Band of Skulls follow on the first paragraph, you do only live once, so you should most definitely seize the day and do something important. And that implies not wasting time listening to the nth repetition of an underachieving chorus. I do just that so that you don't have to because, as you know, I have no life. This is a 2.5 out of 5 album, which means that you have no reason to listen to it to know how good or how bad music can get, and it's not even all that enjoyable. Stick to appreciating the album cover.

Standout tracks:
Sweet Sour
You're Not Pretty But You Got it Going On

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Wormeaten - Tortured Cadaveric Humanity

(PROTIP: if you're in a hurry, don't read my reviews; if you hate reading, like I do, skip the first two paragraphs and be amazed at the lack of context)

I think it's pretty obvious by now that Brutal Death Metal, and to some extent modern Death Metal in general, are pretty much completely detached from the original genre they spawned from. Sure, we have the “retro” kind of releases here and there, Rotten Death or The Dominant being gleaming examples *sarcastic cough for those not brain-dead enough to intentionally read my drivel*,  but they mostly seem to be just as pathetic as the 2nd generation Glam Metal bands that are actually 1st generation Glam Metal bands hiding behind an HD band pic and loudness war. The really important stuff, the kind that has more thought than fanboyism injected into its creative process, seems to have moved very far from the Sabbathian way that birthed it.

You won't hear a hail of melodies anymore. You won't hear one memorable riff supporting an entire song. You won't hear solos that stick to your unconscious and cause insomnia when you're reminded of them. Nowadays, you don't hear a powerful wail from the vocal cord person. You don't have the right for the comfort of knowing what the hell is going on. Malignancy, Mitochondrion, Ulcerate, Wormeaten and such are still definitely Death Something, just nothing resembling Metal, or even Rock, for that matter. If I had it my way, I'd actually have these bands be called Death Something and let the Bloodbaths and Tormenteds of the world stick to their precious suffix. I honestly don't mind, as long as, time and again, Something proves itself to be an absolutely fascinating genre and way of thinking.

Wormeaten are a Brutal Death Something band from Colombia. Now that we're familiar with the band we can move on to their album. Actually, no. I'm the lead procrastinator in the play “Endrey's Social Circle”, so let's properly impersonate the character by first dissecting the prefix behind Death Something that I employed two sentences and a few commas earlier (I won't dissect “Death” only because that's a perspective on what music should be and a perspective is a human thing, meaning that it's full of fallacies right to the core and then some, so dissecting it would make me sad). “Brutal” is absolutely not necessarily a specific sound, it's more of an intention. A method of delivery, if you will. What I mean by this is that Brutal music can come in any shape and style it wants, as long as it coincides with the original objective of straining and just overall messing with the mind of the listener, although having the snare sound be terrible helps. Even more than classical music, Brutal music outright forbids a casual listen from the get-go. The sloppy production, the confusing playing, the loudness, the chaotic composition, it's not accidental. It's not the aggression that makes the music Brutal, it's the listener's necessity to make sense of it. It ends up being a high effort / high reward system, so that's an addictive element ingrained here as well. To sum up, once you properly dig into Brutal Death Something, you don't get out.

Meanwhile, this band I'm supposedly reviewing is removing all the unnecessary noise, all the layers of residual Metal left behind, bit by bit, until the pure embodiment of this form of artistic expression I totally just pulled out of my ass is branded deep into the hippocampus. These guys are all that is subtle and misleading that comes with being Brutal. Beginning with the traditional shitty b-movie sample intro, Tortured Cadaveric Humanity lures the listener in with a relatively competent dose of BDS/M (contain your adolescence). Then, with each song, they alter their sound a bit, until by the last track we're left to savor the controlled and mechanical abstraction of the riffs and the pulsating quality brought on by the spastic songwriting. It's similar to having a manipulative acquaintance who with every calculated move dominates every aspect of your life and makes you their bitch. Anyone able to pull something so meticulous off in a musical form, even in the marginally half-assed manner we get here, is a genius.

Now allow me to explain what's half-assed about it. The first half is just pretty good, quite far from the holyfuckingshitthisisflawless-ness of the second. The songwriting ranges from absolute brilliant employment of micro-riffs and fills, not to mention some incredible skills in theme development, to some rather serious occasional structure and dynamic problems, lazy slam placement and a slight overall blocky feel in some of the tracks, particularly “Dismembered Victims”. Which is weird, considering that dynamics and slams are also the album's strongest points in other places. That tiny pause in “Rusty Chains And Claustrophobia” which then leads to the main riff gets me every time. And some of the riffs, wow, are they awesome, and some of the riffs, wow, are they just okay.

So what we get is an impression of what Wormeaten were seeking to do, which has to marinate for a long time before making sense, meanwhile there's “Dismembered Victims” and one misplaced riff in “Ground Human Flesh” ruining your day every time. Luckily, the experience just gets better and better, so there's an incentive to keep listening. And when you hear the breakdown at the end of “Internal Killer”, you know these guys have style. By the way, the BDS/M thing from earlier, it's Brutal Death Something / Metal, just in case you got amused.

Standout tracks:

Crying Cadaverine
Rusty Chains and Claustrophobia
Internal Killer


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mooseifer - Welcome To Amnesia Street

I expect that a music fan will like a challenge, so I want you to imagine that you're in a band (PROTIP: for reference, use your band), and you make a song. You're quite proud of your song, proud enough to want to include it in a future album. Now, the twist is that you're in a prog band and it's the 70s, so the xylophone solo alone is a whopping 20 minutes long, and the rest is another 50. Unsurprisingly, you aren't able to fit that into one 25 minute LP side. And since the song was originally conceived as a 3:30 minute single, and then somehow extended itself, no one had actually considered the question of how the listeners were to hear it. Now you were pretty frustrated when that happened in your imagination, huh?

Then the thought came: “Hey, if it took us half the song's length in time to compose that 70 minute thing, being brilliant and all, we can probably make an album's worth of shorter songs before the release date of the original album”. A roar of weed-smelling unanimous agreement ensues, the guitarist plays Something, the vocalist mumbles a verse about swords and portals and dragons, and 10 minutes later, the album's done. It's hypothetically released a week later as a collection of accomplished 8-minute semi-epics and is hypothetically received to a rumble of praise and devotion. What the hypothetical people didn't notice back then was that while the tracks made sense individually, you couldn't really think of them as parts of a whole. In terms of flow, the album was a mess, but it didn't really matter. You only got to listen to the same music for up to 25 minutes without pause anyway.

Now fast-forward to 1985. Your band (let's give it a proggy name. How about Philosophorgy?) is seeing some surprisingly consistent success. You've headlined tours, signed autographs, become selective of your groupies, the lot. Meanwhile the CD format is beginning to gain traction. So, to celebrate, you decide to finally record and release that 70 minute song from when you guys started. You unleash your most ambitious creation to the world, and the world wishes you hadn't. Even your most die-hard fans consider this album a slip in quality. Yet you were using pretty much the same compositional method as always. What happened? Well, for one thing, the xylophone solo alone was a whopping 20 minutes long.

What I'm talking about here is album flow, macrodynamics, if you will. You have the opener, the closer, the stuff at the middle, and all that has to make sense together. Once the albums become longer, this becomes a more evident concern. You must be able to maintain a balance between variety and consistency, creativity and identity of the individual songs. And that's why Welcome To Amnesia Street should have been a shorter album: it has great tracks, but they're all way too alike. Wait, that's not really true. What happens is that we have a pretty acceptable amount of variety, but it's spread among an amount of time that would require about half a metric fuckload of variety, at least. Or maybe some sense of progression, another thing this release really lacks.

Anyway, I suppose it's as good a time as any to be late to explain the overall sound of what I'm reviewing, so here we go. Based on my ludicrously limited knowledge of electronic music, we have here an interesting and unusual take on ambient electronic with slightly atonal and mathematical characteristics. The production is extremely dry, not usual for something of this kind. And personally, I like it. Because after that initial horribly-synthetic-sound shock, it works in the same way that a health freak's perception lets them notice and memorize every single freckle on their body, as well as the date each one popped up. All in all, Mooseifer's work here is comparable to a creative expansion of what Trent Reznor would do in his slower stuff, minus vocals, plus a dose of hipster cred closing in on LD50.

Back to the flow thing from earlier. We begin and end the listen on a disappointing note (this disappointment implying the existence of potential for greatness), and spend the rest of the time randomly leaping from mental state to mental state, with song quality ranging anywhere from “incredible” to “someone describing their stamp collection”. If albums were people, this would be a totally normal person, and that is not a good thing for an album to be. It has a certain personality, certain characteristics, certain details: some boring, some fascinating, and it doesn't know why it got them and what to do with them. So the listener ends up being given separate but consistent ideas to pick the best from. I'm not saying that Welcome To Amnesia Street should have been released as 16 separate singles, just that it's 16 singles under one name.

Also, some of the tracks sound like different takes on the same principle, especially on the latter half. I'd rather there were only one track per principle. Yet idea consistency is more of a tool than a burden, meaning that the actual problem is rooted in composition method. It never devolves into “add layer to main beat (*infinity)”, Mooseifer being careful to add some tasty changes, transitions, interludes and the occasional chorus to spice things up, but it doesn't negate the possibility of that devolution happening. Atmosphere is the main focus here, an almost droningly constant atmosphere. Meaning that song structure is rarely used for anything beyond novel variety. Dynamics are mostly absent. One song even shows how horribly this technique can backfire, isn't that right, “Joined Together (By The Eyes)”?

So yeah, judging by the tone of my review, I suppose you've deduced that I didn't really develop much of an emotional bond with this release. That is totally true, but it doesn't mean I don't like it. For one thing, there is something inherently human about the endeavor that seems to lack in better produced music. For another thing, the layers and sounds chosen and atmospheres are unlike anything I've ever heard. Maybe that's because I haven't heard all that much anyway, but my impression is that, through a creative use of presets, Mooseifer managed to somehow extend beyond the horrid production and make that his thing. Not to mention that the rationed use of dynamics works miracles in some songs. Mostly “Clam City Evacuation”, though. Finally, it's the sense of discovery that you get from this sort of thing: obscure music that oozes of and revels in its own obscurity. Music that makes you realize both how many talented people there are out there and how much of an important role the listener has after all. As for Philosophorgy, I like their name and backstory you imagined a while ago. I think I'll start using your hypothetical prog band more often. Oh, and your 70 minute song sucked, by the way.

Standout tracks:

Mind Eggs
Clam City Evacuation
Calmer Gardai
Summoning The Whatsamajig
Mega Witch 3
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