Monday, October 20, 2014
Ah, the joys of coming across the onomatopoeic band-name. To all intents and purposes, Craang sounds like their moniker suggests they should. The sudden resonant “craaannng” of strings reverberating through a mass of distortion. Actual metal on metal action. Oddly enough, as a heavy band capable of dredging up some powerful emotions, Craang are reminiscent of another onomatopoeic band, Kongh. Despite their blacker outlook and doomier “kooooonnngh” those Swedes definitely share a love for a good wall-of-sound and pounding repetition with this impressive Greek trio.
As a debut album, quite frankly TTESOTU is astounding. There have been plenty of releases of late riding the retro gravy train but this four-track concoction of space, stoner and psych is quite unlike anything that has come before. Yes, some of its content may bear a passing resemblance to Hawkwind, Zappa or Pink Floyd but it actually draws strength from far more contemporary sounds than these. Take “Butterfly” for example. It digs out the kind of sick, splattering riff that Fu Manchu or Orange Goblin might have conjured and rides it until it sinks so far into your consciousness that you cease to notice it any more. You can feel your own pulse begin to syncopate, realigning itself with the music to create a new cadence for you to live by. Not only this, but the cyclical lyric “hold your breath” [or "breasts" as it beings to sound after one to many t̶o̶k̶e̶s̶ rotations] will follow you to your grave. All this, and still the music remains utterly uplifting, infectiously introspective and emotionally exacting.
Throughout, you’ll pick up on the slow, steady development taking place in the layers beyond the drone fuzz brushstrokes. Forever shifting, the picture morphs before your eyes, as much as the album’s stunning artwork suggests it might. Perhaps it’s the warm production, maybe it’s the fact that as a three-piece the sound is spartan rather than busy, or perhaps it’s the little effervescent qualities that shine through, but all I know is that “Magnolia” plays like an absolute dream. You really do feel a certain sense of having been removed from space and time as you go drifting off into the cosmos-stretching sonic wonderland that Craang have created here.
One criticism one might throw in their direction is that they have a tendency to wallow towards repetition a little too easily. Consequently, all the songs bear a passing resemblance to one another – “Slo Forward Jam” plays like an instrumental build to the majesty of its neighbour, whilst the lengthy jam, “The Meteorian”, essentially drives off the same rhythmic pattern that “Magnolia” sets up. What this latter track does sport is some effortlessly affecting dreampop lyrics and an immense section of synth that lifts the whole piece into something incredibly cinematic in feel. You might also catch the strains of a flying saucer coming in to land as they wind up the warble effect to Biblical proportions. The truth is out there, apparently.
There is definitely no hiding from the enigmatic joy, passion and crushing presence that this album carries. The whole is weighty yet the tone remains light as a feather. Quite where they go from this mountaintop remains to be seen, but the safest bet on the planet would be an immediate invite to Roadburn, ProgPower or Desertfest.
I've been throwing some input into a few of these selections recently...
Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Best Of: Spooky Albums For Halloween
Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Best Of: Power Metal
Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Best Of: Way, Way Different
You want a change of musical direction? Try Iron Maiden‘s The Number Of The Beast on for size. Being NWOBHM pioneers, the sound of those early albums was hewn from a combination of the strongest heavy music scenes of the time – melodic rock, thrash and, thanks to Paul Di’Anno’s delivery, a heavy dose of punk. Bruce Dickinson, arriving from the all-conquering Samson, brought us his operatic range, his ear for harmony and, most importantly of all, his love for a good story. Consequently, the songwriting became more complex and the performances more vivid.
Heavy Blog Is Heavy's Best Of: Progressive Metalcore
Whether screamed or sung, played at break-neck or ponderous speeds, the whole is balanced beautifully. It is the sort of loud, impactful music that current heroes The Safety Fire have been blowing our minds with of late. One defining focal point that says it all comes worming its way through the skidding middle-distance wedge of strings and drums, from behind the drop-offs and dreamscaping, from beyond even the distant, meandering lead. One solitary voice; a bellowed front of house vocal that builds to scream “What have we become?” in our recoiling faces. Yes, busting with infectious hooks, introspective wit and some of the most gorgeous segues this side of an Arusha Accord construction, IO marks one giant leap in the evolution of No Consequence.
Want to catch the full lists? Go here: http://www.heavyblogisheavy.com/category/lists/
There will be more lists to follow... it is inevitable.
By evoking the kind of gentile, mind-expanding experiences prompted by bands like Pink Floyd, Amon Düül and Hawkwind, this Swedish quartet (comprising Anekdoten’s Nicklas Barker, Makajodama’s Mathias Danielsson, The Greencoats’ Daniel Fridlund Brandt and Magnolia’s Ronny Eriksson) caused a bit of a stir when they played Roadburn Festival last year and it’s easy to see why.
This latest instrumental album of theirs was tracked in a single day and plays like its been ripped from one single jam. It’s based around a simple premise. First, there’s the set-up. The slow winding up of the background noise like an orchestra warming their instruments. Then comes the bass setting a jazzy pattern as the warping effects begin to grind down, and then finally the rhythmic snare brushing and rolling riff that drag the bass into line to set the pace. “Song Of Innocence”, split into to parts, is essentially a pastiche of tricks that twist and bend the drifting sound whilst the exploratory lead guitar runs through its repertoire of solos utilizing ear-to-ear phonics to mess with the noggin. Wrapped up in a cotton wool fuzz, everything is kept soft , bluesy and echoing gently.
“Into The Cosmic Halo” is the first track to break-out as the hedonistic psych backs off and the riff finally kicks in. By suppressing the drums behind the bass and lead, they have left the album feeling a little cut adrift from its moorings but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Stripping the layers back further MTBW bring in a strong ethnic vibe to produce “Misty Mountainside” and “Garden Of Delights”. Boasting acoustic guitar, bells and tabla drums, the former drags you out to the peace and tranquility of a Himalayan monastery, and then has you breathing in the aromas of a colourful Turkish bazaar. The title-track features yet more acoustic guitar and a sweet build that wobbles about, yet never quite goes anywhere. That is until the bass drive of “Epilogue” takes us floating out the back door on a relaxing tidal wash.
My Brother The Wind apparently don’t need a direction in which to head, a focal point or a sense of purpose. As a consequence their music isn’t necessarily essential listening. It doesn’t provide the sort of experience that demands to be heard in any way. You need to want to go on this journey to appreciate the simple, enigmatic beauty of it. Even the album title has been designed to trigger deep thoughts. This is indeed music that transcends time. It will be rendered redundant in the wrong hands but it will become gold dust in the right ones.
Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Otherwise, it appears to be business as usual. There is still layer upon layer of dense sludge, wall to wall reverb, and that bruising, blackened tone they carry so well. Their standard thematic barracking still rises to the fore and their repeating riffs are jammed into oblivion. On the face of it Time To Die is one foul, gnarly and steady descent into the jaws of death.
The album comes bookended with the soothing sounds of a babbling brook and all seems well until the slow-wind up of those splattering guitars firing out with a dark purpose. Immediately, the repeating motif is established as snippets from news reports which drive home the band's modus operandus - it's a gimmick inspired by a combination of the tape-trading, underground music scene and the associated scare-mongering documentaries of Jus Osborn's youth. Very rapidly, the pit begins to open and Electric Wizard's sludge-packing, doom-and-gloom begins to pour out. Optimists should find some solace in the early lyric "We wanna get high before we die" - doesn't everybody, at least on some level?
You'd think the the evil contained in the words of the title-track might be the album's nadir. "Wake up baby, it's time to die" certainly strikes a chord as it describes the vindictive wish for your soulmate to be lucid when the time comes. However, just when you think the Wiz can't sink lower they begin to churn out the filthy noise-blender of a track, "I Am Nothing". Being force-fed this murderous distortion and blistered overdrive truly does invoke the emotions of being inside the shittiest of sewers. Vomiting from this sonic chaos frontman Jus conjures his most hangdog delivery, each syllable potent with the whiff of remorse and self-pity. The track climaxes in nothing less than a slowly dissolving explosion of thick noisome brain matter - chaotic, psychotic and gloriously hypnotic.
This first half-hour, covering just three tracks, leaves the band free to make briefer, less-intense explorations into the subject. There's the joy of hearing a small child gleefully exclaim "Almighty Satan, destroy those who love god", a chance to bliss out to the deconstructed freak-out "Funeral Of Your Mind", to trap yourself inside the monotonous crush of "We Love The Dead", or to rock out to the dual head-bobbing "SadioWitch" and "Lucifer's Slaves".
Dramatic, fertile and intensively personal, Time To Die sees Electric Wizard digging deep into their psyches to extract something so morbid as to feel obscene. Perhaps the album's final intonation should be translated as a warning - "When you get into these groups there is only a couple of ways you can get out... one is death, the other is mental institutions or, third, you can't get out".
Now let’s get this out the way. This DVD is fairly unsympathetic when it comes to covering the sound (in 5.1 surround) and visual elements of what Redemption have to offer. Funnily enough, the CD that comes packaged with this seems to be more of a balanced audio representation of the band’s abilities. However, if you do want to grab a snapshot of the band on the road, without actually being in “the pit”, then it certainly covers the basics.
The screen at the back of this particular show in Atlanta, Georgia displays words, pictures, psychedelic patterns, images, messages & videos which all seem designed to spark a reaction. Most, however, receive little more than a smattering of whoops from the fairly unresponsive crowd. My favourite had to be the words “Cancer is my bitch” which flashed up during a track written about cheating death and fighting the great fight.
The band as a live act seem a fairly static, play-straight-through, kind of band. Some gyrate with the music more than others, but mostly stay rooted to the spot. This inactiveness ranges from the rather sullen, stock-still keyboardist, cast almost entirely in shadow, to the vocalist who gently saunters around pausing occasionally to briefly engage with the onlookers. Consequently, Redemption appear every one of their years as they fail to fully engage – hardly an excuse when you consider the lengths that those old dogs Iron Maiden go to.
You’ll also immediately notice the the occasional bass drop-out and booming return here which occurs as the sound-desk tweak the levels. There is also the vocal cut-off as frontman Ray Alder continues to struggle with gauging the distance he can hold the mic from his mouth. The cameras are static, one full-frontal stage shot gets overused, but there are a couple of close-up cameras and one hand-held that roves around. More shots of the crowd might well have reinforced the connection between those on stage and those in front, but the fans are mainly hidden until the encore.
When it comes to the music, some of the riffs and progressions aptly display their love for bands like the afore-mentioned Maiden and Dream Theater, but when they find their feet and begin to thrash you’ll also notice their admiration for the power of Megadeth and Machine Head. They certainly aren’t afraid to use intros and radio rips to build the atmosphere. Conversely, the sparse lighting rig doesn’t help this cause using little more than tri-coloured spots and blackouts between tracks.
Happily the music soon picks up from a fairly feeble start and by the time they are hitting the complex construct that is “Dreams From The Pit”, with its multiple passages, hooks and melodic themes, they begin to really fire. It isn’t soon after that they are broaching more sensitive subjects such as 9/11, addiction and religious extremism which draw approving nods from the crowd.
“Parker’s Eyes”, in particular, sees bassist Sean Andrews with his hearty 6-string Ibanez, grab the spotlight and offers Alder the chance to use his huge vocal to great effect. He sports a sweet, husky tone and displays strength, passion and plenty of emotion in many of the set’s slower moments.
Redemption find their highlights when they are parading the triplet of “Noonday Devil” (grubby and gloriously thrashy), “Nocturnal” (with its teasing riff that falls disappointingly away), and “Stronger Than Death”. This latter hit sports a sweet riff, gutsy underbelly and fiery nature. Other superb little numbers are “The Death Of Faith And Reason” which has menace, bite and plenty of thrash woven into it and their finishing flourish, “Walls”. This final track is clearly their biggest hit as it finally gets the reaction from the crowd that their skilful reproduction of the music has deserved. Here, we do get a shot of the crowd and it reveals some clapping, pogoing and even sparks one or two singalongs.
What seems obvious from this whole package is that Redemption write their best music when they find themselves at their most angriest or sentimental. Strong emotions certainly seem to drive this band. Here’s hoping you catch a show when they’re really pissed off.