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Album Reviews Coming Soon: Wildlights - Wildlights, Man The Machetes - Av Nag

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Album Review: Yellowtooth – Crushed By The Wheels Of Progress

For their second stab at a long-player, Indiana’s Yellowtooth have decided to get heavy. With Year Of Desolation’s John Hehman twiddling the knobs, together they’ve produced an eminently raw-sounding recording and with it a whole world of pain. Yep, the proverbial nut gets the full sledgehammer treatment here.

Opening with a cut from a particularly vicious line from the 2003 movie Open Range, Crushed By The Wheels Of Progress sets it’s stall out early with snarling vocals spewing hate-filled lyrics. It all lies beneath a wall of the filthiest riff sludge and butt-clenching drum thunder heard since the murderous crush spewed out by the likes of Crowbar or High On Fire. With its swampy wash, Southern-tinged slowly dying open chords and thrash affectations it’s like listening to the gnarliest of Orange Goblin songs getting tortured into submission by the concrete fists of Snailking or the sonic blitzkrieg of Sepultura.

Having been beaten into a corner by the initial choking swathe of aggression and primitive lyricism, the maddeningly obtuse song construction struggles to extract the listener without walking itself down strange blind alleys. Take “Season’s End”. It contains no end of dropouts, kicks into double-time and oblique switches in key – it’s the aural equivalent of riding a three-legged horse that keeps falling over.

The eight-minute title-track builds up a pretty solid groove with a gritty chorus and digs out a sweet riff to sit alongside it. The guitar scrawl eventually picks up gifting us with a high degree of mania to wedge behind the acid-gargling vocal roar of Peter Clemens. Ramp up the volume on this beast if you want to really piss off those neighbours. Dig in further and they begin to hit a particularly evil streak as they rip into death metal territory with the deliciously dark “Spiral Stairs” inviting the headbangers to the party and the agonisingly base attack of “Before I Return To Dust” pulling the teeth straight from their Bay Area and Brazilian peers.

Yep, I bet they had a ball writing and recording this monstrous album, but sadly the end result isn’t pretty. Cast adrift somewhere between kicking the shit out of the stoner metal fringe and ramming deathly metal down the throats of the bad-ass rock n’ roll brigade, Yellowtooth will struggle to make friends with this. It’s fit to burst with macho angst and is ripped with nasty guitar lines but there’s very little that actually sticks in the memory banks. Yep, that sledgehammer did the trick, but I’m afraid that nut is dust.

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Thursday, August 6, 2015

EP Review: The Bridesmaid – Grayson

Someone wiser than me once said “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. Ignoring such wise council, I find myself pre-judging the latest disc to land on my disc. Robert Høyem, who has also created art for bands like Sahg, Heksed and Kampfar, has conjured a really beautiful cover to accompany this EP from London-based instrumentalists The Bridesmaid. Picturing a religious figure lost deep in prayer it glows with an eerie presence. Mimicking the effect of woodcut art, his subject matter is all very suggestive of something spiritually ominous, possibly with black metal overtones lurking within and, if not that, then certainly music with an extreme, penetrative construct. The reality is a propulsive sound that, at times, dips its toes into emotionally soothing waters.

The track-titles suggest connections to the names of explorers of continents, rivers and even outer space. The tracks, however, struggle to marry up to my hypothetical concept (try the We Lost The Sea’s deeply-moving “A Gallant Gentleman” if you like the idea and require closure) so I realise I must stop. Diving back into Grayson then with an open mind then… Opener “Oates” crackles into life and slowly builds drawing on warm glossy tones, much like those that colour Skyharbor’s latest single “Evolution”, before releasing into “Ives” which heads deeper into the darker, choppier waters of other instrumental post-rockers like Russian Circles and Pelican. Here the yawning, melancholic backdrop stands in contrast to the driven groove which never quite allows it to get away or develop organically.

Happily, “Aldrin” does offer some evolving panic and heavy action before releasing into a sweet, repeating series of keyed strokes. Only here does it feel like any instrumental lead role is being taken to replace the absence of vocal colouring. The pattern of riffs visit several touch points and eloquently guide the listener along through a strong sequence of shoegaze and post-metal. “Ballack” follows suit in grinding out a darker path without ever quite finding its voice. And therein lies the problem with Grayson as a whole. It doesn’t engage or challenge the listener beyond those initial bursts.

Of course, I understand now why I felt a compulsion to create meaning within. Unguided, experiencing this EP felt like walking into a stranger’s room full of strange objects and even now, after the tenth play, it feels like a record without a mooring. It’s the lack of a lead element that has cast it adrift. Perhaps their future works will feature enough running time to invite true introspection and perhaps then a connection to the contents will follow more naturally.

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Friday, July 24, 2015

Album Review: Year Of The Goat – The Unspeakable

Album number two from Swedish occult dark rockers, Year Of The Goat, comes with heaps of their usual melodrama plus a subtle blend of multiple genres. Each one is shot through with their own stylized affectations woven into more recognisable musical touchstones.

The vast 13-minute pastiche of opener “All He Has Read” thrusts us from an introductory summoning of dark spirits before it switches up and kicks into gear with echoing bell tolls and melodic riffs. There are forceful impressions of folk in the rhythmical drum runs and the accompanying rise and fall of the backing vocals breathe a symphonic air into proceedings. The insidious tone of the second movement and minor chords of the guitars mark out the band’s gothic leanings whilst the whole employs some, at times, pretty rough cloak-and-dagger lyrics all breathed out by Thomas Sabbathi’s strained, affected delivery. I had to check the liner notes to check to see if it wasn’t actually Suede’s Bernard Butler!

Upbeat numbers like “Pillars Of The South”, the addictive blast of “Riders & Vultures” and the bluesier “Vermin” jink back and forth upon solid riffs whilst slower, more foreboding tracks like “The Emma”, laced with pantomime villainy, and the Jethro Tull-esque “World Of Wonders” drink deep upon proggy blasts of mellotron allowing the band to really sink their teeth into the flesh of their chosen subject matter.

Dig deeper and you’ll find wedged into the middle of the album are the curio couplet “The Wind” and “Black Sunlight”. Both are invigorated by employing the galloping country rhythms, harrowing narrative and dull baritone of Nick Cave. A trickle of unhinged discomfiture in a sea of assuredness.

Relentlessly engaging without ever really demanding of the listener, The Unspeakable is a solid hitter played with a straight bat. It’ll certainly be interesting to see if next time out they go for something a little more thematically grizzled, perhaps with an eye towards engaging with the extreme, because this hints at it and they have left plenty of room for manoeuvre.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Monday, July 20, 2015

Album Review: The Whorehouse Massacre – Altar Of The Goat Skull

Self-releasing all but one of their first five releases, these fly-by-wire monsters from Ohio are a bit of a rare find. With few having heard their suffocating wall-of-death sound before, it’s a delight to finally wrap ears around it. Well, a delight compared to being poked in the eye with a burnt stick; a delight compared to being put in the stocks and having bricks thrown at you; a delight compared to having your ears syringed with hydrochloric acid. You get the idea.

One suspects their live show must be a bit hairy seeing as the three members all play bass. Luckily, Kyle M. is also adept at playing lead guitar and their vocalist, Willy P., also has a knack for bashing ten bells out of a drumkit. They’ve been hoiking out demos and EPs since 2005, and this latest release marks a compilation of some of their later material. Shot through with distortion and overdrive, the music within is undeniably aggressive, oppressively doomy, dense to the point of crushing and yet curiously hypnotic.

“Indignation” is the equivalent of aural mincemeat. Teeth-rattling bottom-end, sludge-hurling chugs and Neanderthal guttural sounds and animal grunts that form themselves into such eloquent wordplay as “Steel toe mother fucking your head into the curb” and “Choke on your last fucking screams”. No surprise then when it all slowly begins to disintegrate into a torrent of feedback. “Buried In The Darkness” digs out a soft and sweet longwave riff, whilst the scrambling “Bowels Of Hell” goes for something with a similarly bludgeoning sound and equally sympathetic lyrics – “Just another example of living human waste”. Oh hell, what a bundle of joy, this is.

There are no pauses between tracks but you’ll catch when they switch as the thing is like a patchwork quilt of jumps, skips and oblique key changes. There is very little variation in tone or deviation from style. “Sewer Dreams” makes a stab at it, with some flitting, tuneless, ethnic instrument buzzing like a rampant fly stuck in your right ear, but even here they refuse to let you out of the gutter. The grooviest thing is the Sloth cover, “Sassy Pants”, which pitches back and forth with a lively drum section and a quick switch-up in chord structures. It’s quickly down into their usual fare of heads-down, dark droning though. If you can make it as far as the fearsome “Temples Of Perdition” you’re doing well, but I swear if you do the band will have broken you. They broke me there – hell, I even cracked an exhausted smile. Something I last did at an Annotations Of An Autopsy show back in late 2008.

Essentially this is 45 minutes of careless, low-fi slops and barrel-scraping, death-obsessed, elephantine doom-mongering watered-down to the simple joys of constructing a song round a riff, spewing hate and ejecting face-melting levels of distortion. Basic, honest music with zero frills. And therein lays the true pleasure of The Whorehouse Massacre. With so many bands these days welding multiple genres together and throwing everything but the kitchen sink at their music, TWM stick a defiant middle finger up and say “suck on this, you fuck”.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Album Review: Vattnet Viskar – Settler

Hailing from the American heartlands yet taking their name for the Swedish for “the water is whispering”, Vattnet Viskar have always been an innovative, multi-faceted band. On the one hand, their clear first love is for the more familial strains of second wave black metal with its speeding double-kick, cascading chords and vocal scowling. On the other, their nous for conjuring strong grooves and melancholic, progressive noodling allows for a deeper connection to the various outlying strains of the genre.

Spending months rather than weeks writing this latest effort allowed the band to really stretch themselves. Bassist Casey Aylward explains: “I think we had a lot of time in the studio to mess around with details and textures… we were diving into different territories a lot on this record”. This extra time taken meant they were keen to find a producer who could bring the most out of the wealth of this fresh-sounding material and so they searched out Sanford Parker (Yob, Twilight). He certainly seems to have given the music more colour than much of their previous material and has retained the visceral edge that so defines them.

Firing us into a squall of feedback, “Dawnlands” sets the pace with classic lines and dark portents before “Colony” picks up the baton and introduces a strident, battle-hardened groove to proceedings. Here, the lyrics begin to disintegrate into binary and the structure and pacing quick-steps between the track’s many facets. Like some bizarre, mutated combination of Lamb Of God’s “Straight For The Sun”, Isis’ “Wavering Radiant” and Steak Number Eight’s “Photonic”, the magical post-doom of “Yearn” settles into a memorable, cyclical riff accompanied by a roared vocal hook. It takes just these three tracks together for us to establish our place upon Settler‘s musical roundabout.

Like its neighbour, the accurately-titled “Glory” similarly takes its influence from the post-metal kinks of Isis, yet summons their more explosive side, piling raging power on top of Nicholas Thornbury’s maniacal, howled vocal. It pitches us straight into the slowly-emerging structure and hefty theatrics of the truly epic “Heirs”. It’s a track that whisks us from speeding metallic grunt to drifting melodics and barbarous, deathly grooves before finally cramming us into the closing dynamic oblivion of something truly special.

Most certainly there are weaknesses in the album, but these are confined to the odd disrupting stumble between segues and a failure to fully-integrate the faster, less accessible parts. The fans should be happy with the result but mere passers-by may find themselves alienated by the looser, more ragged hits of “Impact” and the title-track. What cannot be disputed is Vattnet Viskar’s desire to experiment. From the very first glance of that conflicted and emotionally-cutting front cover (a recreated photo of a beaming Christa McAuliffe training for NASA’s ill-fated 1986 Challenger mission) right through to Settler‘s closing combination of melody and feedback, the band are seeking to expand our minds and their own. They toy with a huge concept by applying varying degrees of pacing and atmospherics. The end result isn’t flawless but it is, ultimately, beguiling.

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