Reviews Coming Soon

Album Review: TBA

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Feature: Johnskibeat's Best 20 Albums Of 2012

1. Gojira - L’Enfant Sauvage
In an industry increasingly dominated by individual scenes with bands lazily referring back to blueprints to create, Gojira inspire hope. The number of mathematical twists and turns that their music takes actually gives me goosebumps. I thought they'd created the ultimate devotional beast with my 2008 Album Of The Year, The Way Of All Flesh, but with such awe-inspiring peaks and emotionally-charged troughs as those that feature here, I'm beginning to believe they, unlike the majority, literally have no limitations. 

2. The Ghost Inside - Get What You Give
Simply put, this is without doubt the most powerful and unexpected album I have heard in a long, long time (yep, a real "Dark Horse"). In a genre that is floundering, for TGI to come along and break new ground, take metalcore places that it has never ventured before, is quite frankly mind-blowing. Hit up the track "Engine 45" and just dare to argue.
3. Skyharbor - Blinding White Noise: Illusion And Chaos
As word spread of Skyharbor's brainchild Keshav Dar and his progressive songwriting genius, as more and more legends signed up to his project, whispers became shouts and by the time this album had dropped, a new star had already been born. The input of ex-TesseracT vocalist Dan Tompkins was undoubtedly the key that turned tracks like "Catharsis" and the multiple award-winning "Maeva" from cotton into sheer silk. An outstanding and truly international album.

4. Lamb Of God - Resolution
Album by album, LOG are building the most impressive of portfolios. Here, vocalist Randy has never sounded angrier, never sounded more intensely determined and never sounded more effective. With portentous tracks like "The Number Six" and "King Me" these Virginian heavies have also proved, beyond doubt, that they are no one-trick pony. Throw fists, people.

5. Fear Factory - The Industrialist
The key to this album is and, always will be, the colossal chorus of "Recharger". That epic build to Burton C. Bell's soaring melodics. Those crazy programmed drums. The infinite echo behind it all that just reverberates on and on and on. The first time you catch a snatch of it, the rest of the album slots perfectly into place and the conceptual majesty of it all becomes apparent, defining the legendary power that Fear Factory wield, who they are and why they are such a tour de force.

6. Enslaved - RIITIIR
Continuing their sonic morphing between black and prog metal, from somewhere out of the ether, Enslaved have conjured up a stonker that marries past glories to more contemporary creations. Featuring a surprising subtlety of cadence, a mixture of rhythmic anomalies and a strong focus on concocting a vastness of sound, this one will confound like no other.

7. Graveyard - Lights Out
The kings of retro offer up yet another album of outstanding beauty. Breaking out the most stunning of croons, the kind that tip-toes between soft dough and rough crust, vocalist Joakim Nilsson adds the perfect accompaniment to complement those gently-undulating, subtly sludgy soups the band create behind him.

8. The Sword - Apocryphon
Intertwining fresh lyrical potency around their Sabbathian worship with galloping Maiden-esque rhythmic touches, The Sword offer up shifting tempos, synthesized wanderlust and a great deal of menace to produce their finest work to date.

9. High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis
Often the most bamboozling of concepts seem to produce the greatest of albums. HOF have allowed their imaginations to run wild with this one and blown yet another hole in the doorway to our minds. If "Bloody Knuckles", an exhaustive lesson in the art of vitriolic power, doesn't leave you in pieces, then the warm, roiling broth of "Madness Of An Architect" will undoubtedly break your resistance.

10. Twelve Foot Ninja - Silent Machine
Another left-field doozy, Silent Machine really is a little of piece of sonic magic. These Aussie lunatics clearly have the attention span of a goldfish and the subtlety of an elephant, yet only men of genius could combine the cool cojones of Faith No More with the enigmatic, feisty grooves of System Of A Down and still manage to emerge with something wholly original. Come on people, let's conga!

Highly Recommended:
11. Feed The Rhino - The Burning Sons
12. Black Breath - Sentenced To Life
13. Cancer Bats - Dead Set On The Living
14. Hummune - Crafted In Darkness
15. O.S.I. - Fire Make Thunder
16. All Hail The Yeti - All Hail The Yeti
17. Family - Portrait
18. Ihsahn - Eremita
19. Texas Hippie Coalition - Peacemaker
20. The Weakening - Chains Of Plato

Full TNR Staff listings can be found here.
Full Ave Noctum Staff listings can be found here.

Other Top 20s: 2011 / 2010

Monday, December 10, 2012

Album Review: Bloody Hammers - Bloody Hammers

The cover should tip you off to what awaits inside. That watery purple font echoes those that adorn ’s Master Of Reality album and the candles, goat’s head and naked chick imply somebody’s been dabbling in witchcraft. Your imaginations will race but what you should expect is something of a watered-down version of that. It’s a debut album that drags you kicking and screaming back to a simpler time when minimalist mid-tempos, verse-chorus-verse structures and lyrical repetition dominated rock music. To that end, a dose of Sabbathian doom is threaded directly through ’s somewhat barmier take to grant the band a grimy, infectious drive mixed with an overpowering whiff of -esque cheese.

What really goes and spoils the backstory is ’ nagging emotional detachment to their music. Add to this failing, a paucity of originality, the upsettingly predictable path each song takes and the gaping holes where all its sweet riffs should be. Cyclical patterns can be used wittily, but here, time after time, the song-title merely forms the rusty pivot to the track. Take the dire opener “Witch Of Endor” with its undesirable, somewhat sad hook that will annoyingly glue itself to your skull – “Solution is raise the dead and find the conjuring Witch of Endor (raining in Hell) / Solution is raise the dead and find the conjuring Witch of Endor”. The three-chord, non-committal dullard “Fear No Evil” follows that up with a chorus of “Oh, fear no evil / Oh, fear no evil”. This criminal filler material is being promoted as the album’s selling points; they form their two front-of-house, straight-off-the-bat tracks. It blows me away. Call me a philistine but, after the tenth spin of this pair, I wanted to dig a hole and bury them both.

The lyrical themes, despite being a bit “out there” really aren’t at fault – it’s the slack, toothless delivery that lets the content down. The album’s foot-draggers like “Say Goodbye To The Sun” and “Don’t Breathe A Word” should be filling me with dread, soaking me in the bleak emotional turmoil of their creators, but there’s definitely something severely wrong. Ignoring the amateurish implementation, including that meandering church organ and those grim, sludge-soaked power chords, there is a distinct sense of drama. To engage the listener these songs require them to feel endangered, on edge, as if the players are just a tad unhinged. If they’re really aiming for an occult vibe then perhaps, it would all gel, if the songs were more engaging; perhaps sparked a little bit of bewilderment. Those on offer are crying out for the dark crackle, the mad twists and enormity of tone that and so many of their peers and offspring have conjured. need to embrace their crazy.

These North Carolinians certainly know their historical onions, so it feels like I’m properly missing something here. Yet, all I’m hearing is an over-reliance on sludge-packing dissonance to bail out Curse’s dull 4/4 rhythmic plod, Devallia’s groaning organ and Magna’s bassline dirge and baleful crooning vocal. Today’s retro fan should be demanding that their heroes reboot history, not simply rehash it. Perhaps, in the future, they’ll shy away from that desire to rely on their twin attack of ineffectual mooching / turning their strings to mush – to my mind, it does them a disservice. The only point where they seem to offer something more of themselves is in the upbeat march of “Beyond The Door” and the hopeful blues vibe that infects “Souls On Fire”. Other than those flickers of life, there’s little else to get excited about. To be frank, need a bit more bloody and a lot more hammer next time round.

Also online @ The NewReview =

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Album Review: Late Night Venture - Pioneers Of Spaceflight

Since the year 2000, Danish post-rockers have set about turning psychedelic shoegaze into art. The starting point of each song they write is always the vast, cosmic soundscapes created by Jonas Qvesel’s aching, mellifluous keys. They are the orchestral canvases upon which the rest of the band paint streaks of colour like stars across the sky. What separates the band from their peers is their refreshingly sparing use of vocals – the song always comes first and if the instruments alone are enough to complete the picture then the vocals simply aren’t given a role.

This being my first taste of the band, I did a little digging and discovered that the album was recorded completely live in the studio. Then, with the assistance of long-term collaborator Magnus Lindberg () – the man with the mixing studio – they were able to subsequently craft the album into shape as an editor would slowly edit a film from his reams of raw material. The laborious process took them a whole year and a half, but the end product is most definitely imbued with a wonderfully organic flow, as if it was grown from the ground itself.

Søren Hartvig and Peter Lau Olsen’s vocals don’t get an airing until the album’s third track; the twinkle in the album’s eye, “Houses”. It pulses and glows, casting its emotional, introspective spell for its entire length – “Would you follow me where the waves crash?”. Everything that comes before or after is part of the journey, but “The houses by the shore” are our welcoming destination. “Kaleidoscopes”, initially rich in instrumental -esque drama, marks out the vastness of the Heavens from which we fall, whilst the mean -like pop twists of the song’s latter stages take us reeling into the gentle field recordings and tremulous strings of “Peripherals”.

No matter at which point you are in the album there seems to be two rules of thumb. Firstly, the music must be laced with -esque blasts of epic melody and at some point there will be a noisome switch-up to crashing bottom-end. Take the gentile openings and powerful closing of “Birmingham”, dull and dreary at its outset, it’s a track that is soon imploding around us. So much attack and release can become a little nauseating, but here it all seems to be fastidious preparation for the angry, repeating action of “The Empty Forest”. Where there’s a lull in proceedings, such as the slower drift of tracks like “Glitterpony” with its vinyl crackle, and “Hours”, a slower reprise of ’s “Close To Me”, there are the counteracting -esque dance beats and crushing synth markers that drive both “Trust” and “Carisma”.

Yes, it seems perfectly reasonable to view Pioneers Of Spaceflight as a series of musical paintings. Undoubtedly, all feature immense beauty with stunning use of light and shade and all are gloriously textured, but there is a suggestion that the artist’s dedication to this one theme has resulted in a body of work where each piece bears too strong a resemblance to those of its neigbours. Fans of post-rock’s soft and airy style are the ones who will see past this and adore the work of . Souls of a darker nature may find it harder to accept so willingly.

Also online @ The NewReview =

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Album Review: Mammoth Mammoth - Volume III: Hell's Likely

It might be some massive Movember-related office in-joke that I’m not aware of, but I’ve been reviewing a lot of hairy bands recently. And I mean bands with hirsute monikers. I’ve had the frizz of All Hail The Yeti and the cowlicks of Texas Hippie Coalition moulting all over my desk and currently I’m sweeping back the endless fringe of Australia’s Mammoth Mammoth.

You know that any band who describes themselves as “Chasing mayhem… hunting unicorns… murdering fuzz” have a seriously good sense of humour. That is evident from the music they are making and exactly what kind of tools they are wielding here. You’ll recognise their warm throb of the sort bandied about by bands like Orange Goblin, but instead of digging out a slow groove for it to sit in, Mammoth Mammoth attempt to weld that to some pretty fast Motorhead-esque rock chops instead.

The title-track of this third album of theirs sets off at a breakneck pace, with “Go” and “Bare Bones” ramping up that “heavy murder fuzz” that they seem so desperate to sell. Underneath it all though the simple chord structures and vocal harmonies of naff 70s/80s rock combos begin to peek through – almost as if a coiffured Poison or rug-sporting KISS are trying to party up the joint. The juxtaposing upbeat songs and down market amp-abusing sees the band begin to pick off a sound approximating that of a cotton-wool smothered AC/DC. That overzealous bass buzzcut just murders the vitality of their standard rock gimmicks like the call-and-response tactics or the wild guitar solos that they plant. Instead the clean strings and vocals are dragged down into shit-kicking their way out of places like the interminable marathon “(Up All Night) Demons To Fight”. I don’t care how “fun” your band is; recycling three chords for seven minutes can’t be anyone’s idea of a good time.

The second half of the album sees the band really ripping into their songs. This addition of chugged grunt and sinister vocal allows them to grasp something a little more tangible. Both “I Want It Too” and “Bury Me” plunder more torpid rhythms and feature bleak nagging passages that reaches down to much darker places. They are songs that begin to draw comparison with bands like labelmates Monster Magnet and Canadian looney-tunes Barn Burner. With no fewer than five bonus tracks on this here promo, they certainly have plenty of tuneage to offer. Party anthems “Another Drink” and “Let’s Roll”, the monstrous grind of “Weapon Of Mass Self-Destruction”, the lighter, nimbler “Slacker” and “The Bad Oil” (where they attempt to transform into The Ramones and miss the boat by running the track for six minutes too long) all benefit from grittier production which really brings their gnarlier side to the fore.

End of the day, Mammoth Mammoth clearly didn’t write Hell’s Likely with the finer details in mind; they just wanted to write music that was fun to play and with enough bottom-end to break eardrums. By the album’s close, you’ll either be besotted by their no frills, no nonsense, all power bravado or bored to tears by their lack of ingenuity and “bull in a china shop” approach to song construction. Expect plenty of bristle, but don’t be surprised if all you get is split ends.

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