Reviews Coming Soon

Album Review: TBA

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Album Review: Palms – Palms

Rip out the gnarled beasties that lurked within ISIS, the howling, human cyclone that was Aaron Turner and the sudden, throaty wall-of-sound guitar that Michael Gallagher was capable of, and you’re left with a bit of a soft touch. However, throw in the unique, game-changing voice of Deftones’ Chino Moreno and suddenly you have an excitingly fresh, dynamic combo that offers the potential for something truly special. Early run-throughs of this, Palms’ self-titled debut, reveals that the heart of ISIS still beats on and within Jeff Caxide (bass), Aaron Harris (drums) and Bryant Clifford Meyer (keys and guitars) it appears to be beating more strongly than ever. The dark, brooding anger of their old band may be gone, but retention of emotion is still their raison d’être and this thing is flooded with it.

With everything kept in-house, right down to the production and mixing duties (handled by Harris), the overall tone is immediately familiar. ISIS’ burnt-out, skidding instrumentals meet Chino’s gorgeous croon head on and the end result, although being way more lush than expected, is littered with moments that remove your capacity for resisting emotion and motion – your heads will nod, your hair will stand on end and your spine will shiver.

Doing justice to the impact that “Future Warrior” has made on this reviewer is a tough ask. With its cogently circular verse, bridge and chorus, it is a creation that is about as tangibly close to being populist as these artists would ever dare travel, and yet it resists any of the finer trappings of the mainstream by remaining beyond the reach of those fashionistas with their prerequisite short-attention spans. God forbid they ever release a radio edit though – it could make and break them all at once. Chino’s vast vocal range, from deep, softly-whispered croaks to piercing, divergent, anguished howls, beautifully complements the warm, haunting tones and creamy textures of the strings and keys, lifting them from the warm, crystal-clear waters of their birthplace to the heavenly skies above.

The difference between the similarly luscious, soft-hearted tracks “Shortwave Radio” and “Tropics” and the rougher, electro edges of “Mission Sunset” is marked. The latter, dark of purpose, burns with a slowly-released reserve of buzzing energy and clanging melancholy. The first signs of imperfection crop up here as the vocal and backing do jar a little in places, almost like two pieces from different puzzles, wedged together. “Antarctic Handshake” isn’t faultless either and although it truly is suitably spartan and determinedly steady of pace, the tone remains unnvervingly warm as pastel vocals are brushed back and forth across a gentile, yet vibrant backdrop. At nigh on 10 minutes, it is mostly just filler, spending much of its running time warbling within its watery repose, rebounding back off its own walls and doesn’t age at all well.

It would be harsh to expect this debut release to be wholly organic, but it is an interesting novelty to discover the oddly digital, viscous quality that lurks within. As much as you loved Deftones gritty, subversive edge or ISIS’ heaviosity, this ambient-minded collective are, as Chino suggests on “Shortwave Radio”, just as capable of offering you both polar extremes – “Ascending you to Heaven whilst staring into Hell / You’re staring into Heaven, descending into Hell”.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Album Review: Damned Spring Fragrantia – Divergences

When music comes at you like this, attacking from every angle, it’s often all too easy to phase the individual sounds into a conglomeration and assume that everything you are picking up is identical. This band aren’t all blitzkrieg, nor are they a single-minded, unoriginal, write-off. Sensitivity to multiple sound sources isn’t going to help here – this isn’t music for the faint of heart. However, for those hard-skinned devils willing to apply a little patience and perseverance, sounding out these Italians can offer rich rewards. Listen long enough and you will discover that the key to unlocking Damned Spring Fragrantia, and this may seem odd considering their strength of purpose, is to focus on their subtlety of touch.

‘Still Alive‘, with its brooding anger and creepy taped overdubs, marks them out as the proverbial stalker. It is them taking the opportunity to calculate their method of attack before they launch upon you with brutish gang chants and sudden, dizzying changes of pace. This is the only calm they understand and it comes before the storm of ‘A Common Tragedy’ and ‘Lost Shores’ hit. And yet their creative peak arrives when they fine-tune their rage a little.

Take ‘D.M.Z.’, the track at the heart of their debut album Divergences. Named after them, defining them, it is littered with little nuances, showcasing their complete range and is underpinned by a writhing series of polyrhythmic, thunderous assaults. A clever combination of scrawl and crawl, it is real guts and glory stuff and yet it holds enough back to really hit home. Team this with ‘Drowned In Cyan’, another track that, appropriately, floods you with a little bit of everything and you’ll get an idea of just how talented this bunch really are.

Very quickly you’ll unveil their rampant Meshuggah worship, but you’ll catch plenty of The Acacia Strain‘s raging ‘core in there too. The clean, crisp production and vast dynamic range is an absolute thing of beauty allowing for a seamless blend. Yet, despite this and their obvious technical skill, most of the album can rather pass you by. All too often there is the sense that they aren’t taking full advantage here; that they aren’t ramming each point home deeply enough. The album is littered with little game-changing moments but they are too randomly scattered. This cherry-picking from their collective skill-set, can be jaw-dropping when they employ it, yet they need to use these moments to define their songs.

There’s the flicking, enigmatic tapped riff in ‘The Obsidian Fate’, the interesting split-channel switching and slow-motion shred in the title-track, and the fiendish melodic flourishes that lurk in ‘The Refusal Effect’, ‘Drowned In Cyan’ and ‘Pariah’ (which features a welcome guest spot for Heart In Hand vocalist Charlie Holmes). Even Nicolò Carrara’s regular bouts of phlegm-regurgitation or the heart-stopping sub-drops in ‘Heritage‘ and ‘The Refusal Effect‘ all excite. All these things burn brightly enough to transform a stock album into a timeless classic and yet they are just fleeting, quickly-forgotten moments.

Carrara’s one-dimensional vocal doesn’t help either.
- Almighty throat-ripping roar? *ding ding ding*
- Variety of delivery? *fart noise*
Clearly they also need a good tidy-up in the songwriting department, but his vein-bulging vocal angst that seemed such a bonus on the wall-of-sound ragers, like ‘Lost Shores’ and ‘Heritage‘, ends up being a massive weight around their neck when the music cries out for diversity.

For anyone feeling brave enough to tackle Divergences, you really need to know only two things. At its core, there is plenty of solid, workmanlike muscle. At its extremities, there is the potential for better, wilder things yet to be revealed. Damned Spring Fragrantia, hope springs eternal.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy =

Friday, June 14, 2013

Album Review: Dark Buddha Rising – Dakhmandal

An altered state of consciousness, is any condition which is significantly different from a normal waking beta wave state. There’s plenty of ways to achieve this, through sensory deprivation, psychotropic drugs or yoga, even by hiring the services of a thing called a derrenbrown. Someone once told me that focusing intently on the tempo of Cannibal Corpse’s specific brand of death metal, a tempo that usually spins at 200-250 beats per minute, once sent him into a trance-like state.

Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising definitely dabble a little in aural psychedelia and a lot in rhythmic mantra to achieve their altered state of mind and this fifth album of theirs, Dakhmandal, definitely proves its working for them. With tracks titles reduced to single letters (one assumes “D”, “K”, “H”, “M”, “N”, and “L” spell out the consonants of the album) and a plain album cover, there is no other artistic invasion of your own journey through the album other than the gentle shifting of their insistent, mesmeric drones.

With “D” setting the tone by slowly presenting layers deep enough to hide a planet in, from distant forest sounds and far-off, hollow ironmongery to front-of-house metronomic bass and piercing full-frontal feedback, the first, big impression is left for “K” to make. You needn’t worry because as much as it can, staying within the confines of the big concept, it makes a real spectacle of itself. Opening up with crushing bottom-end supporting dark, mysterious, incantations it moves through several phases of doom-laden crush before suddenly slacking 6 minutes in. Here, you can actually pick up the sounds of a bong being fired up – the rough clicks of a zippo, the pipe inhalations and accompanying bubbling – as the stoned vibe rolls onwards. When the vocal re-emerges, the deep chants have, understandably, been transformed into mad, half-choked, ravings in some scathing Goblin tongue.

There is no doubt that their are dark, occult forces at work here within Dark Buddha Rising’s elephantine doom-drone – think Ghost on morphine. “N” burns with a fire that threatens to overwhelm as it gently morphs around a mile-thick chant that sounds like it comes from the throats of a coven of hooded giants. Loud enough to move the earth with enough low-end to invade the sub-conscious, then vehement and wild enough to send your brain into spasms. This is music not of this world. Even when they’re playing it straight there’s a nihilistic black magic at work. “M”, for instance, is basically the sound of Depeche Mode playing over a howling gale – melancholic, down-tuned strings spiralling into and around the hungry spout of a tornado. Yet, before the rhythm can begin, you have to endure the opening horror film moments of a discordant Hammond organ. Nothing is straight-forward here and anything goes.

So Dakhmandal definitely comes with a warning. If you happen, like me, to find yourself walking around the streets of your hometown, headphones in position, throwing strange hand-shapes, eyes drooping, muttering under your breath, all of which should get you some pretty strange looks, do stop listening. Dark Buddha Rising’s latest, no matter how gloriously trance-inducing it may be, is pure evil and as such it should be restricted to small amounts and is definitely for personal consumption only.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =

Album Review: Alice In Chains – The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here

Deliberately side-stepping the band’s sad history of injuries and deaths and the religious controversy surrounding the title The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here, we now have access to an album that, whilst wallowing in its own melancholic tones, drags you back more closely than ever to the kind of immersive, organic experience that the Staley-era Dirt offered up.

Even though it seems like Alice In Chains have been around for ever, they are only on their fifth album and second since their reunion and addition of vocalist William DuVall. It feels like this because they have been around for ever. Formed back in 1987, their songs are ones that continuously find their way back onto the soundtrack to your lives. Of course, DuVall’s enigmatic harmonies with the luxuriously oiled pipes of Jerry Cantrell are key to continuing the rhythm of their early material, reigniting the memory banks of times gone.

Initially, the yawning basslines and Neolithic pace of Dinosaurs is like being thrust into the arms of Mother Nature. Up into the sky where the seductive winds blow you gently along, into tight eddies and through shape-shifting cloud formations; deep into the forest where you lie, ear pressed to the dry earth, whilst trees creak and moan as they peer into your soul; and down into the depths of the ocean where lapping waves soothe, cavernous spaces reverberate and dense pressure spots impinge upon your inner ear.

Further in, the band lighten the load, increasing the urgency of delivery, by breaking out their more mainstream material like ‘Voices’, ‘Low Ceiling’ and ‘Pretty Down’. These are songs that Nirvana might have referred to as “radio-friendly unit shifters”. Amongst these distinctly accessible moments are surprising, eclectic touches where they grasp hold of a brilliant middle ground that elevates the album to a coveted position where it allies itself to more contemporary tastes whilst remaining respectful of former glories.

With 12 tracks on offer, there is plenty of time for Alice In Chains to get their teeth sunk into the two styles of attack and, in both, there are, fine examples of why they are masters of their own destiny. The visceral ‘Scalpel’ offers a chance for DuVall to sing alone and he shines, gently twisting the knife. The rough edges of ‘Stone’, on the other hand, bite down hard with Cantrell’s rise-and-fall riff providing a contrast to his and Inez’s walking fretwork that forms the backbone of the bleak, vertiginous ‘Hollow’.

The only weak spots here seem to be those moments which stir up trouble, overreach their concept or, conversely, feel a little undercooked. The big guns like the colossal sledgehammering ‘Phantom Limb’ (the vicious lines “I’ll just hunt you like a phantom limb, I will wear you like a second skin” are like something out of a zombie movie) and the worryingly catchy ‘Breath On A Window’ have no trouble picking these ephemera up like mischievous dust-devils.

As a comeback album, Black Gives Way To Blue felt a little light on content overall and The Devil Put Dinosaurs Here has put that right with the value of its unpredictable songs improving with each and every play. It will undoubtedly offer them the same success that King Animal achieved for Soundgarden as it threatens to cultivate the band a crack at retaining their current crowds whilst providing material for a new, altogether more youthful, fanbase.

Also online @ Heavy Blog Is Heavy =

Monday, June 10, 2013

Album Review: Dinosaur Pile-Up – Nature Nurture

Even before you hear their music, it’s very easy to find yourself predisposed to love Dinosaur Pile-Up. Just look at their cute moniker – it’s bursting with imagination, full of potent suggestion and ripe with happy childhood memories of playing out fight scenes with plastic tyrannosaurs and stegosauri. Now glance over at that album cover of a chap falling flat on his face – how can they go wrong with such bare-faced self-mockery? Of course, that’s a rhetorical question – you’re better off asking a politician about self-mockery if you actually want a serious answer.

DPU clearly do understand the concept of experimentation, as over the course of their first two albums they’ve set about dumping the twee-ness that made their EP so discardable. Now sporting beefed up electric guitars and with plenty of throbbing bass thunder inserted whereever they can find space for it, they’ve cultured a grungier rock vibe that has placed them firmly back in time, mimicking bands that are either now defunct or have moved away from their original sounds.

So, where exactly do they intend to fit in? Certainly, by starting and ending with a bang, bookending Nature Nurture with their best material, they give themselves a chance here. Opener ‘Arizona Waiting’ is ripe with blasting bottom-end, a lush wedge of Weezer-esque harmonics and a bitter Deftones-esque minor drop, whilst closer ‘Nature Nurture’ burns with a precise, spacious and single-minded two-key chorus. When something this simple forms the album highlight, there’s surely something awry.

The trouble with the running order here is that they spend every track in between carefully placing their feet on paths well-worn by their heroes. ‘Draw A Line and ‘Derail’ rockgasm over a spot of Foo Fighters riff-and-chug teasing, whilst ‘Summer Gurl’, ‘Start Again’, with it’s fluorescent electro riff, and the delicate touches within ‘The Way We Come’ are bruised with Feeder and Ash colourings. Really dig around and you’ll hear the rip-chords and quicker time signature of early-Nirvana in ‘Heather’ and the warm tones of the long-forgotten Arlo glistening through both ‘Peninsula’ and the gorgeous cruise tune ‘White T-Shirt and Jeans’.

Tried and trusted methods are employed like the split quiet-loud verses and the short pause before the happyslap of the chorus hits. Essentially, it’s paint-by-numbers songwriting, which is fine if you’re filling holes, but a little more innovation would go a long way.

So, where do they go from here? Well, settling on a signature sound would be a start, be that through greater employment of their enigmatic, tone-changing minor chords or, perhaps, aiming to unsettle the listener with odd, possibly even angry, passages that demand self-introspection upon the listener. Dinosaur Pile-Up remain as lovable as ever but, oddly, considering their position, they appear determined to remain unambitious and, therefore, are in danger of becoming irrelevant. So, whilst the Foo Fighters have chosen to evolve and the more elegiac Feeder still get away with shifting thousands of units a week, on this form, Dinosaur Pile-Up seem destined to remain the poor man’s alternative.

Also online @ TLOBF =

Monday, June 3, 2013

Album Review: Colossus - Wake

Fans of heavy-lidded rock will probably know that Baroness’ Yellow & Green double-album was their first to really divide opinion. With its softer, more mainstream approach to songwriting, many missed the bruising throb and howling vocals that so characterised their early years. Those souls may find solace in the arms of Colossus and their debut, Wake.

Hailing from Stockholm in Sweden, the three men of Colossus offer up a variety of songs that range from roared, psychedelic stoner to powerful NWOBHM melodies. Often ripped with the thunderous, stoned rock n’ roll of The Sword or tweaked to allow grungier elements in, Wake combines echoes of the past and blasts of the contemporary. Tracks like the dark, emotive aggro-beastie “Kingdoms” and the game-changing “Traitor’s Gate” burst with Orange Goblin-esque buzzsaw guitars and crushing Mastodonic reverb-loaded howls. These moody, swamp-slicked anthems are there so you can wail them to the heavens – “As cold winds chill the marrow in your bone / Just think of what you’ve done / You’ve gone and fucked them all”.

Entombed’s Lars G. Petrov adds his vocal prowess to “Pillars Of Perenity”. It’s an instantly loveable track with thunderous drumming and brutish intent; one which veers about sucking up the chameleonic heart of modern post-metal whilst keeping one foot firmly inside the Swedish death metal scene. Together with “Suncarrier”, which moves from apocalyptic bass bombast into a steady hammering home of its groove, these two monsters provide the beating heart of the piece.

On the downside and despite opening eerily with a recording of footsteps on gravel and a clichéd tyre squeal, “A Stir Of Slumber”, fails to build on the mood and, oddly for a first track, ends up being the weakest track on the whole album. It’s a cyclical rock number in minor keys that snags its dark cloak every time it returns to the verse. Niklas Eriksson’s vocal, for some ungodly reason, comes across as shaky and cringingly inspid. He fires out the lyrics here in a rapid rising then falling cadence which quickly becomes obnoxiously repetitive. At the other end of the scale, by the time we reach the splatter attack and slowly shifting mudslides of “Cloudhead” and “Fungal Gardens”, Colossus are sinking fast into gallons of overdrive and walls of fuzz. Only Eriksson’s, by now, storming vocal remains above the surface, soaring high.

The lyrical content is a bit intermittent in quality. It ranges from the mangled mistranslation “The sky gave finally way and the pieces yet remains” to Eriksson’s mercilessly repeated final fling of “Oh, great wind give me the wings to soar once again”. There are also plenty of rough edges to the mix (the flat, flabby snare and clipped cymbals are particularly grim), but the soul and purpose of the music are all present and correct.

So you may find it a bit of a patchy, back-to-front album with everything inside just continuing along an downhill road of heavy with its subtle nuances drowning in ever-increasing levels of filthy fuzz – kind of like the sonic equivalent of starting out with a pin hammer and ending up with a wrecking ball – but none of that actually seems to matter much when you hear this trio really lay down. Consequently, this is a debut album that will undoubtedly astonish (sublime) and infuriate (ridiculous) you. Put simply, if you make it past track one, you’ll find only the good and the great inside.

Also online @ Ave Noctum =