Tuesday, 11 December 2012

5. The Sword - Apocryphon

I dig The Sword. I never really understood the cries of "sell-outs" and "posers" from their detractors. These Austin, Texas hombres dig the riff and play it for the world.

Ooh! I like this cover version, much better than the proper one.

Over the years the frequency of solos has increased and the mesh between vocals and guitar melodies has thickened.

I would go so far as to say in a currently Pepper Keenan-less Corrosion of Conformity world, The Sword are about the closest we get to fully formed songs with rad riffs, harmonised leads, boogie and slightly melancholic vocals through a Black Sabbath filter.

On Apocryphon, the lads pull out all stops including some thematic updates connecting them with the real world and some analog synth blasting them off of it.

Friday, 7 December 2012

6. Here they come, bury your head it is the A-Kyus

Why the appearance of lists under single entries? Kind of unfair to both the bands mentioned and the principle of a top ten, is it not? Nevertheless, in spite of my unashamed zurui-ness here is the list of A-kyu tech-death for 2012.

2012 will prove to be an excellent vintage for tech death. Great bands released amazing albums and continued to push metal in astounding new directions playing with timing and rhythm without engaging the djent manifesto and incorporating sophisticated, yet tempered, never-overly baroque approaches to melody and harmony. Decompressing after these albums takes time. Indeed, enjoying them takes considerable effort since they are so dense with ideas. But do not let difficulty turn you away.

Spawn of Possession bring it with Incurso. You know when people talk about Iron Maiden and duelling guitars? This is a whole album of that, set to death. From the lead lines to the bread and butter riffs, every single thing is analysed, harmonised and off the wall yet there is a forward moving coherence that keeps you anchored throughout the musical adventure.

Gorod's A Perfect Abosolution is in someway more straight ahead heavy in the Suffocation style brutal stakes but where Spawn of Possession bring highly complex rhythmical arrangements, Gorod allow more breathing room and dare to swing and groove. This is not Pantera "power groove" (though long time readers know I have no problem with that) in fact it is at points reminiscent of Atheist with a bossa feel. The soloing here also tends to be more classically metal-oriented making it and easier access point to the thech death novice.

Inhereted Repression by Tasmania's Psycroptic sounds like every other Psycroptic record: tight-ass guitars with tight-ass drums and every 16th and 32nd note used within a millisecond of its life. The difference this time around is that the band must have been drinking at the same bar as Meshuggah. Do not be fooled, there is nary a moment of djent here, just twin ten ton balls of swinging groovy steel. This is the Psycroptic album that grooves.

Though I am not sure they belong here, they are tech enough for me. Arkaik released Metamorphignition, a tech album which to my mind focuses on the "heavy" rather than the technical. This is a perfect distillation of classic death metal brutality updated to the twentieth century. It is smart and dumb at the same time, the band have a knack for being able to push into very heavy terrain. Technicality tends to be used as a punctuating device.

Autotheism, third album by post-Necrophagist inspired youngster(s) The Faceless is The Faceless gone 70s prog. Less rhythmically and harmonically extreme yet more conscious of song structure, melody and concept. Perhaps not what people were expecting, at times reminiscent of Devin Townsend, Mike Patton and Opeth.

Sophicide's Perdition of the Sublime dared to argue that we no longer need a Necrophagist album in the twentieth century. He might be right!

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Portal: A scheduled break in programming

Currently listening to Portal's [SEEPIA].

Recording style flattens and obscures dynamics. This is ferocious. It sits somewhere between the suffocating atmosphere of occult oriented suicidal black metal and brutal death metal. The sonic mush forces the listener away at the same time drawing her in.

I want to hear this! She screams.

This is like Krallice but without the catharsis. What the fuck is this?

Opaque, cryptic, mysterious, I don't need to understand this to get its vibe, the grime, the horror, the filth. I love that it does not proclaim, I love that it writhes like some kind of dying Lovecraftian abortion, sick, dangerous but just out of reach.

Horror music offers what horror movies do not: an abundance of interpretive space. It forces our attention, commitment and imagination.

Step through the Portal.

Check out some videos over at Heavy Blog is Heavy who are in the middle of an Avant-Garde metal special week long feature.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

1. Meshuggah - Koloss

Yeah, breaking with the space time continuum, stay tuned for six through nine.

Just been reading MetalSucks' various contributors' Top 15s. Both Rosenberg and Neilstein traveled to the future, read my review, re-wrote it into two better versions. So I copy and paste here. All credit to the original authors.


Meshuggah are to the Hulk as djent is to Loki. Djent talks a big game, but in the end, Meshuggah can just pick it up by the ankle and slam it back and forth on the floor like a dish rag. Koloss has groove more elastic than a rubberband and so cavernous that the record needle actually disappears into the wax. And those are its most pleasant qualities. Because mostly what it sounds like is a fucking giant walking into a room full of people he doesn’t like, and then just pummeling those dudes, breaking every bone in their bodies, getting them to a point where they’re begging for death… and then just pummeling them some more. Rarely has an album’s title been so apt.


They did it. They really did. A LOT happened in the four years since Meshuggah release ObZen, namely the rise of an entire sub-genre built upon the groove-based, downtuned metal template they created. But Meshuggah somehow managed to rise above it all, writing an album that kept the basic idea the same but changed up the formula just enough (slower tempos, more guitar solos) to firmly stick their feet in the sand and say, “FUCK ALL YOU POSERS! WE ARE STILL THE BEST AT THIS.”

***All artwork pilfered from the supremely rad artist luminokaya.

Hawkeye 2012

And now for a deviation from the top ten...

The new series of Hawkeye from Marvel Comics is likely one of the best new comic series of the year. It easily the best new Marvel title in years.

Very cool minimalist artwork, washed out 4 colour palette, tight writing, dark humour all about the lamest Avenger when he is not an Avenger. The writing is Fraction at his best. Scratch that, this is Fraction's best writing. Smart, meta and very cool. How long can it stay like this?

7. Royal Thunder - CVI

Sometimes, with the weight of mysoginy and homophobia stacked against them, the girls not only get it right but they do it better. Especially in the world of stoner and doom

Jex Thoth, Soma's Kim Pack and now Royal Thunder's Miny Parsonz are all examples of this. Parsonz channels Stevie Nicks and Janice Joplin and runs them through a doomy Ozzy Osbourne and restrained Dio filter. Her overdubbed harmonies are lush but not overly sweet - she sounds tough without trying to "sound like a dude".

Add into all this a band who can lay down some pretty rad down tempo doom and make vibes in the spirit of resurrected doom via Witchcraft and Graveyard and just a whiff of Rise Above Records catalog of the occult and you have a solid, unquestionable 2012 top ten entry.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

8.Attack of the B-kyus

2012 was the year I got more deeply acquainted with technical death metal. The seed was in a random purchase of Decrepit Birth's Polarity. After seeing the rad dreads and sandblasted face of singer, Bill Robinson singing over Morbid Angel lurching groove in the video for "The Resonance", I was sucked in. I did my research and got sucked in.

Somewhere in this top ten, I will feature the A-kyus, but for now at number eight I want to focus on the second stringers, the second line. Sure they are following up the rear in terms of fame and prestige but they all have potential, original voices and more than a smattering of dope tunes.

First is Fallujah. I have written about them before. I like that they adopt a blackened, Euro-Death, death-core and djent peppered jack of all trades vibe. There is perhaps little distinction between their compositions but if they can harness their talents in a more focused direction they could end up giant killers. Plus their Decrepit Birth-isms (melancholy harmonised leads) and Cynic-isms (reverberating jazz solos) are a fun listen.

Next is Over Your Threshold's Facticity. Daft name but slick rhythm section. Influences are showing through a bit still but once they find their own voice...

Here come the bastards, the much maligned Rings of Saturn. I love Dingir. It is artificial, scientific and a huge step forward from their last album. With focu they bring diversity. Now if only they can do a better job on production.

Which brings me to Abiotic's Symbiotic. Cool name, great concept, no focus. Too young, too much, too soon. Some great ideas, pity the internet has sped up time and flattened trenches.

Last of the killer B-kyus is End of All Reason. Again, like their peers they seem to have a problem with focus. A lot of pots on the boil here but what makes them a worthy inclusion is their bravery in traversing genres. From black metal, to death metal, power metal and tech somehow they just get it right. Again, a more explicit direction and help from  a solid producer could turn these guys into A-kyus in a minute. There is talent there.

Any other B-kyus I missed? Let me know in the comments.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

9. Gortuts VS Cryptopsy

It is likely that I will face charges of cheating. Perhaps even accusations of laziness. Frankly, y'all can go get nicked. These are two re-issues I bought (and there are several others I want, sigh) which were re-issued on vinyl in 2012. So they count, alright?

First up Gorguts. Obscura is a harrowing listen. It is unrelenting and its emotional dial is set on frantic psychosis for the duration. It is exhausting, impenetrable, opaque and convoluted. Yet for some reason, time and again I am drawn to this album, drawn into it. Obscura is one of the most original, genre defining and genre defying albums in the history of death metal. The guitar tones are relatively clear, crystalline at times, reminiscent of jazz or noise rock, the arrangements are circular, with song like structures spiraling into themselves, challenging the listener down awkward rabbit holes...

Two pieces of information helped me finally get this album. The first was a random internet opinion that argued for an underpinning Assyrian/Egyptian tonality. Apprehended in this way, Obscura sounds like a related yet distinct peer to Nile. The second tidbit was that guitarist Steeve Hurdle suffered from dysthymia, a type of debilitating depression. This latter fact puts a new spin on the approach to vocals and the psychological spaces opened up by the convoluted internal structural aesthetics. This is not about voyeurism and watching a man go mad, rather it is the sound of a man wrestling with his mind, and constructing the world from a unique place.

Obscura is easily one of the most important extreme metal albums of the twentieth century. Get it before the print run sells out. Before this last one, CD copies used to go for $US60. On vinyl for $CND12 you really have no excuse.

Now to Cryptopsy. None So Vile is to brutal tech-death what water is to plants. The rhythmic density of the drumming is intense, the vocals horrifying and the bass is just plain rad. However, what elevates this album above its many competitors is, swing. This baby swings. Contemporary tech-death relies on high frequency meter and tempo changes. Songs progress rapidly rarely giving the listener a chance to find her/his feet.

None So Vile dares to groove, dares to be listenable and in this way is more dangerous than its competitors. Much tech death requires a kind of musicological aesthetic fluency but this album plain rocks. Do not be mistaken, it is heavy and no doubt exhausting to the novice listener. Nevertheless, pleasure is taken to a new level by the historical and musicological literate listener.

What makes this album so innovative for its time and so exciting even in the present is Flo Mounier's drumming. Cryptopsy are one of the few metal groups led by the drums. Listen to the lyrical ways in which he punctuates blast beats, flying off on a hyper brief effortless tangent, a kiss or a wink to the savvy listener, to the inner drummer in us all. Indeed, None So Vile could likely be stripped of everything but the drums and still sound thrilling. What makes Mounier's performance especially outstanding is that the album was recorded in 1992 before the advent of micro-midi-management of triggered and replaced drums. This is wholly human percussive intensity.

Re-issues of both albums made 2012 a better more historically informed year. Thanks War on Music. And thanks, Canada. What is in your drinking water?