Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hintergrund - Nemesis

Two piece drone outfit Hintergrund hail from Ohio and lack any kind of boundaries, form, or subject. Instead, Hintergrund operates in a gaseous territory where aspects of ambiance, noise, and drone mesh together in a form that usually lacks any kind of discernible pulse. Hintergrund conjure up nothing in the way of riffs, vocals, or typical melodies and that's fine by me. These attributes are far from negative; they're all positive.

Hintergrund's most promising aspect is their enchanting ability to let you zone out; something much music strives for and achieves in two drastically different ways. Thankfully the ability to zone out admist Nemesis is thanks to its superb ambiance and not its boring nature. Slow, ethereal  and omniscient is probably the best way to describe this mixture of prepared saxophones (whatever those are), guitars, loops, circuit bending, and other stuff. It's not an album to put on for a minute or two, or even for a song, but rather for an extended period in which you're free of distractions.

While Nemesis is thankfully a full album effort, tracks do offer varied approaches as one might be more subdued than its noisy neighbor ("As the Elk Lays Down to Die" is a floating, calm track and its offset by "Circuit" which is a subdued outing of feedback, white noise and swirling echoes). "Herbstmord", the track before the two previously mentioned acts as a teaser as it mashes both harsh and pleasant noises into easily the band's best effort.

If I were to complain - it would be in the name of my own super subjective taste - I would like a bit more melody or maybe some dreamy vocals (or haunting) thrown into the mix. But regardless, Nemesis, is a great piece of abstract noise that should appeal to a broad lot of you.

Made available by the band, here's a download.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Flourishing - Intersubjectivity

While I couldn't get my head around Flourishing's debut full length, The Sum of Fossils, I've become quite a fan of their latest release Intersubjectivity. Nestled somewhere in between their signature uncomfortable shamble and a newer, more inviting territory, Flourishing have finally bridged the gap between dissonance and warmth. The warm and robust production does wonders, especially for the hallow sounding drums and the guitars when they get all wonky. That section midway through the title track is so great and mysterious sounding and that's where they're supreme.

Hard to pinpoint, but I'd say they fall in the realm of death metal- in the most abstract kind of ways.
Immediate comparisons would be newer Deathspell Omega and Ulcerate as they've managed to create paradoxically inviting yet dissonant music in a similar way yet at a much slower pace. Saying Portal, Gorguts or even Abyssal sound similar wouldn't be a far stretch but not enough credit to the band as they're really pushing the envelope.

Check out on the bandcamp for their label, The Pass Less Traveled.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pillars of Taste - A Blaze in the Northern Sky

One of the seminal releases of the infamous second wave of black metal, A Blaze in the Northern Sky serves as a stepping stone for Darkthrone to their own particular niche in black metal as well as a guide for the less inspired as to how to create phenomenal black metal. ABITNS is a funny album because Darkthrone obviously wears their influences on their sleeves and the album obviously owes much to CF/Hellhammer, yet at the same time ABITNS contains its own unique voice and there simply has never been an album like it.

Setting themselves apart from their contemporaries, Darkthrone strived to achieve a catchy and "metal" album. Not forgetting the importance of riffs from the forebears of black metal and the thrashy/groove elements championed by Morbid Tales era Celtic Frost, Darkthrone implements guitar solos (something many second wave, as well as modern black metal bands, tend to overlook), mid-section groove stomps and countless rhythm changes. When comparing 
ABITNS to contemporaries of the time it is interesting to see how Darkthrone retained a death metal/trash sense of composure and time as opposed to others who pushed a much more stripped down approach.

The drums are so powerful and authoritarian on this album; I love it. They guide each song with such brute strength and have a great tone. Fenriz's performance is one of my favorites and is very fun and interesting to listen to. The strong backbeat of "In the Shadow of the Horns" and the slower sections of "
Kathaarian Life Code" lock in perfectly with those gut-punching riffs to make some of the most gratifying and excellent music to bang your head to.

Darkthrone have established themselves long ago as one of the most important names in black metal, and much of that credit is given to Transilvanian Hunger. But it was with ABITNS that Darkthrone modernized the music they had been influenced by and were able to create many of the variables that have characterized the scene since. The album surges and jumps, contains a vibrant and robust production that really emphasizes the power behind every instrument, another element they lost to the muffled and lifeless production of Transilvanian Hunger.

For me, it is a tough debate between De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas or A Blaze in the Northern Sky as the king album of the second wave. They offer radically different approaches to the genre in question, and are amazing in their own right. ABITNS always seemed like a good stepping stone from thrash and death metal to black metal, DMDS feels like an album that requires a lot from the listener and isn't as simple as just picking up.This is one of the few albums I actually have fun listening to as an activity in of itself. While there's a toss up between the two in what I'd like to think of as some sort of objective "grimness meter" I just can't coincide there to be a better written and performed black metal album than ABITNS.

Some behind the scenes...

Funnily enough, when I was first getting into black metal I bought this album, along with Bathory's Hammerheart and couldn't see why people liked it. I found everything to be so neutered and uninteresting. I was a victim of Dimmu Borgir and later Immortal and couldn't understand the cave like cacophony of ABITNS and I had no appreciation for old school black metal. Eventually I made my way through nearly every band's discography and thought I should reattempt ABITNS. It was one of those moments where I was so happy to love the album, yet so worried at how stupid I had been to ignore it. 

Take it from me, if this album doesn't catch your fancy the first time around, put it down and come back to it, because it really is a marvel and gem of music as a whole.

We are a Blaze in the Northern Sky
The next thousand Years Are OURS

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Pillars of Taste: Bliss Torn from Emptiness

As far as drone goes I was like the fat kid at the swimming pool party. I saw everyone else enjoying the water in the baking hot weather, but insecure with my girth I sat awkwardly in a chair simply watching all the  people having fun. Like dipping my foot in the water, I discovered Sunn 0)))'s The Black One, which appealed to my black metal appetite and cooled my body down just for a second to realize that there might be something to this. I further dipped my leg in and it was with Nadja's rerecording of Bliss Torn From Emptiness that I nearly drowned my fatass in that pool of drone amongst all those little twerps.

Nadja's discography is vast and daunting, much of the older stuff I've avoided due to its label of being sub par and lacking. This rerecording serves as an excellent place to delve into all that Nadja has to offer. Nadja, while obviously Nadja on all the records I've heard, employ distinctly different attacks and approaches to song writing, and more often than not form a tight cohesion between those said styles; this LP is no exception. Equal parts of heavily distorted guitars and serene effects swim out of the speakers to construct a powerful monolith of peaceful and superb drone.

Staring with a dreamy and surreal ambient atmosphere for the better part of six minutes "Part 1" slowly evolves to a mammoth distorted doom riff and jaunting and off sounding drums. The atmosphere is established and then Nadja build and build a sonic staircase that hits a wall of streaming effects and eventually transpires into a swarm of dreamy little noises and tidbits creating a very pleasing and relaxing atmosphere. Finally the effects fall to the background and the riff cuts up and plays quarter notes and gets a heavier feel then the track slowly fades out into strands of distortion and faint effects. Perfectly composed and absolutely absorbing, Part 1 starts the album right.

Similar, yet different, "Part 2" carries on the heavy drums and fuzzed out wash of a guitar and the heavy humming bass which lead the way for a consistent stream of wonderfully indulging effects. The chemistry between the fuzzy and harsh guitars and the warm bass and dreamy effects works so well only to burn themselves out in a wonderful flame of dreamy droney goodness. Effects becoming sparse and  the feedback settles, looping and modded vocals come in creating a hypnotic soundscape. The vocals loop, repeating the odd line of "My whole life has just  been one long hot fuck with God" for what feels like forever. While the phrase might be off kilter, it is soothing and  lulls you away.

"Part 3" carries along where "Part 2" left off and develops a chaotic, but utterly blissful wall of noise as the record comes to an end. Concluding the LP, Bliss Torn From Emptiness sets itself up as an effigy of dreamlike music that detaches the listener from reality's constraints.

This is my go to relaxation album, my favorite drone release, and really, the album that pushed me into this realm of music. I think many people become attached to a particular album because of circumstances surrounding it. For Bliss Torn from Emptiness, it was a rainy Saturday morning. The air was thick with moisture and the sun was a good hour or two from rising. I played this album in it's entirety as I zoned out to a video game and I felt completely removed from my bedroom. Maybe it's because of that memory that I love this album so much.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pig Destroyer - Fahrenheit 451

Without the bad, we wouldn't know the good. Without great music, bad music might seem good, or even great. Its with this train of thought that I think Pig Destroyer exist. With their recent effort, Book Burner, Pig Destroyer have produced such mind boggling mediocrity that it just  highlights how amazing their second album Prowler in the Yard is and how awful their current album is.

The decline has been pretty sharp since the band followed up their masterpiece with the overly produced and neutered album Terrifyer. While Terrifyer was anything but good, it retained some strain of style and one or two good riffs from Hull. Phantom Limb stumbled in, with it's flavor of the week cover art, songs of ponderous length, and one too many breakdowns that seemed to put the nail in the coffin for Pig Destroyer. With the announcement of another try at the whole "grindcore thing," people like me gained some hope that Pig Destroyer might be able to tap into whatever they had that made Prowler... so powerful.

With a hefty amount of time to work back to their glory, Pig Destroyer have done an impressive job in making one of the year's most inoffensive, sterile, and extremely marketable releases. Book Burner represents most of what I hate in metal. Sterile production, click track perfect drumming a'la robots like Derek Roddey, inane lyrical matter/song titles and guitar riffs that do nothing for me. Relapse, as well as Century Media, Metal Blade, and others, have made their agenda to revolve around this brand of meat and potatoes metal gussied up in surgical production, lack of character, current fads and marketability. Well Book Burner's no different. Some super lame cover art, dumber name, 3,000 different ways to pre-order the album, a slew of guests, and a new drummer spells ca$h I'm sure, but does it spell good music?No.

"The Diplomat," a 3 minute cookie cutter track presented as the album's first single as well as one of the first glimpses into the album's sound offers nothing new. Spending most of its time hovering around a stock chugga chugga guitar line, midtempo drumming and of course breakdown sections, "The Diplomat" is almost as bad as the video made for it (something I'd rather not talk about here).

As for the rest of the album, it's a sprinkle of what Misery Index's been doing since 2006 with a pinch of Terrifyer, and a bottle or two of Ambien. Jarvis, the new man behind the kit, of course made his name playing as a clock for Misery Index, so the sterility in that department isn't surprising. What is surprising is that the best vocals on the album come from Kat of Agoraphobic Nosebleed and Salome fame on "Eve" and Richard Johnson of Enemy Soil/Drugs of Faith  fame on "The Underground Man." Between these two guests, there's more emotion, vitriol, and a pulse than the rest of the band. This is particularly alarming as Pig Destroyer have always operated best in filth, depravity, and twisted thoughts. Yet they've become as harmless as Mastadon or whoever's the big cheese nowadays.

As for the riffs, most lay in between "alright" and "sure." As I write this, the generic-ness surrounding this album is so stupefying that I really can't find words to describe how little of an impact and forgettable most of the tracks are here. The only one standing out for me is "Permanent Funeral" as Hull gives an interesting treatment to a very Destruction-esque riff and makes it work for nearly 4 minutes. While the song should be 2, this might've been the one song that made me look at the track list out of joy rather than malice.

Is it unfair to compare this to Prowler in the Yard, or anything else for that matter? I don't think so, but if I did, the overwhelming lack of character here makes it feel like a different band, a band I wouldn't give two shits about.

So while people, press releases, reviewers and media outlets will continue to call Hull a guitar genius, Hayes " the poet laureate of extreme metal," Harrison a master of atmosphere and Jarvis "the pinnacle of inhuman drumming" Pig Destroyer have effectively created one of the most memorably mediocre albums in extreme metal.

To quote another band that went down the drain, "don't believe the hype."

****On a side note, the biggest offense here, without a doubt, are the bonus cover songs. Pig Destroyer's never been good at covering songs. Their "Burning of Sodom" cover might be okay, but as for their treatment of the Dwarves, the Melivins, The Stooges, Carcass, and whatever else has always been pretty lackluster. But to take rough cut punk classics like Black Flag's "Depression" and play with that fucking sterile robot Jarvis is a complete mockery. The guitars lack any kind of punch and the band rides Hayes's vocals as he does a surprisingly great job ripping things up (especially on that "Wolf's Blood" cover). This is real bad shit here and it'd do your mind best to avoid it or else some of your favorite punk classics might leave a bad taste in your mouth the next time you hear them.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Pillars of Taste- Effigy of the Forgotten

Without a doubt, Suffocation's first full length Effigy of the Forgotten has been the most important death metal album in my life. It was the first Suffocation release I ever heard and was the most brutal, thick, and rhythmically masterful album I have ever heard. While I know deep down somewhere that Pierced From Within might be the best Suffocation release, Effigy of the Forgotten is still my favorite.

Beyond their innovations, Suffocation just sounded so different to me. This was a point in my life where I didn't know much about metal and still thought of Max Cavelera for Soulfly and not Sepultura. I had sought out other genre stalwarts such as Morbid Angel, Deicide, Carcass, and Obituary, but none of them stuck with me the way Suffocation did.

Small factors could've played a role. They were neighbors out on Long Island, me in Brooklyn, I had just picked up drums and thought the world of Mike Smith's style, technique and swagger, and they were interracial;  a huge abnormality in the world of metal. Beyond those tidbits, Suffocation pioneered a style that became diluted and  suffocating. While they introduced painful slams and breakdowns to their music they also incorporated extremely thrashy and godly metal stylings that helped them build favor with metalheads and hardcore kids alike. Unfortunately those bands who copied them lost this and moved away from Suffocation's strength in diversity.


Visceral is probably the best word to describe the Effigy. Slower sections sound like churning pools of sewage and offal accompanied by the ominous thuds of dead elephants in the mixture. The drums lock in with the guitars as they pummel and smash, the guitars at times sound more percussive than melodic, and the production overall is thick and viscous.

The muddy, thick and bottom heavy guitar and bass tone are its hallmarks. Right on the edge between corrosive and indiscernible, Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito chug and weave throughout each track so fluidly, a great example being  the opener "Liege Of Inveracity" with the greatest breakdown of all time or "Mass Obliteration" which finds enough time for some solos in between those amazing chugga chugga refrains. Locking in with Smith's trap, Mullen's demonic gurgles and that anchor of a bass, the guitars play something completely discernible  This discernability- sometimes even catchiness- is a testament to Suffocation's craft as they didn't just chug away anything; they relied on recognizable riffs, quality ones at that.

As I mentioned earlier, Mike Smith's performance is one of my favorite drum performances ever recorded. Technically speaking Smith is a beast. He might not go to light speed like other big death metal drummers, but his syncopation,  precision and style are unmatched. His style epitomizes Suffocation perfectly- technical and masterful yet dressed up in a primal suit of strong rhythm, pronounced accents, and satisfying thuds. A strength of the band is when the drums and guitars lock into a particular vibe and hammer the listener in the gut.


Sometime around 2004 or 05 they played with Cryptopsy amongst others here in NYC and the opening act, Despised Icon (who epitomized the deathcore fad that was gaining momentum at the time) said that playing NYC was special for them as their favorite hardcore act, Madball, and their favorite death metal act, Suffocation, both called the place home. This has always stuck with me. Perhaps no death metal band has had such an important cross genre influence, for better or worse, than Suffocation.

So there. I've embarked on a quest that I think scares everyone who writes about their interests. Putting into words how much you love your favorite records is a tough task, but I hope my enthusiasm will seep into whomever reads this little blog and cause some kind of reaction. I will continue by genres and once I'm done I'll simply be able to make equations as to why I like bands.

Ex 666. Suffocation+Despise You (Nadja) Darkthrone/Slayer+y=x Solve for x.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pumpkin Faces in the Night: Mixtape Curated by Ryan Page

A bit late, but damn well worth it, Ryan Page, mastermind behind body horror electro grind entity Body Hammer and the remorseless Robocop was kind enough to make a special mixtape for you loyal readers in the spirit of Halloween. He's even gone ahead and included some fitting summaries.

I approached Ryan thinking "who could be more perfect than a guy who names his bands after a Japanese body horror film and makes intriguingly frightening grindcore?" Can't thank Ryan enough, so please check out all his doings and projects.

1. Goblin - "Buio Omega"  
Aristide Massesseci making me wanna vom, while Goblin plays disco or something…

2. Dead Neanderthals - "The Stake"  
Jesus Franko club scene on crank. That or my laserdisc player is malfunctioning.

3. Gnaw Their Tongues - "White Skin"  
Mrs. Hartevelt, I must insist.

4. The Conet Project - "The Lincolnshire Poacher" 
Lincolnshire: 39715

5. Brainbombs - "Die You Fuck" 
"Now I know why they call you Dirty Harry"

6. Dr. Dooom - "Apartment 223"  
Tenement: Game of survival remade in a McDonald's Play Place.

7. Black Sabbath - "Disturbing the Priest" 
The Entity with Barbara Hershey's role taken over by Bruce Campell at the last minute

8. Electric Wizard - "The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue" 
Scary because I like something off of 'We Live!'

9. Bathory - "Call from the Grave" 
Recorded inside of the coffin below that tombstone knocked over in Plan 9.

10. Cathedral - "Night of The Seagulls" 
Blind Dead get off the bikini model boat and take over where the Deep Ones left off.

11. G.I.S.M - "Nih Nightmare" 
Recently discovered sequel to Burst City contains way more balaclavas.

12. Butthole Surfers - "Strangers Die Everyday" 
The Mack driving down International listening to the distant gunshots and quietly playing 'Don't Fear the Reaper'

13. Death in June and Boyd Rice - "You Love the Sun and the Moon"

14. Death in June - "No Pig Day" 
Only Van Morrison's 'Ringworm' compares.
15. Dishammer - "Sex Witch"
Sex scene... WITH A WITCH

16. Fabio Frizzi - "Un Gatto Nel Cervello - Sequence 12" 
"A Cat on The Brain: "The original script was 49 pages long and contained no dialogue. It consisted of descriptions of bodily mutilations/imagery and sound effects that would compliment them on screen." "DOCTOR FULCI!"

Name Like His Master (distro where you can buy Ryan's projects)

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Buried at Birth - Buried at Birth

If you ever happen to talk to me about music and things get into vocal styles you'd quickly realize female vocals in hardcore are a quick way into my heart. It's not that I see it as an overriding factor and think the band "is totally cool bc they got a hawt chick who's into punk n'metal" but it's a great piece to add to an already good band. That said, anyone who listens to San Jose grinders Buried at Birth will focus on the vocals first and foremost.

Mixed higher then everything else, venomous and shrill, vocalist Veronica sounds disgusting in the best way possible (if you've ever listened to Poland's excellent Wojtyla you'll have a good idea of the vocals). Beyond the vocals, Buried at Birth have a very metal polish and heaviness to their sound that comes through in numerous tremolo riffs and chugga chugga sections despite their grindcore attention span and structuring.

Their latest ep, Buried at Birth, does well to mix rhythms and tempos with metallic guitar slabs and, of course, the vocals. "Pink Mist" starts with a very headbangable section that shoots right into a black metal riff and blast beats, highlighting the band's wandering gaze style-wise (the little freak out around the middle does well to break up the blast beaten onslaught). This is the band at their best, manipulating rhythms well and interjecting dynamically different sections seemlessly.

While I could ask for a bit of grit to the guitars instead of their super fat sound, Buried at Birth are quick to please with this too short  of an ep.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Geist - Der Ungeist

Geist's Der Ungeist is a balanced and raw black metal album with a bit of a digital polish and powerful vocals. What works best for Der Ungeist's is the live take feel of the album (which was, in fact "recorded live and left unrevised to preserve its nature") which really highlights the needlely and hazy guitars, demented vocals and thriving drums quite well.

Stylistically, Geist's not doing anything too different in terms of black metal. Songs revolve around 3 or 4 riffs, typical melodic lines and blast beats. Opener "Mond" goes on for a bit too long, but is at its best during the slower section (as is Geist for that matter), where as follow up  "Von Blut" is thankfully shorter and incorporates a bit more variation to keep the listener loyal.

For better or worse, Der Ungeist doesn't strike me too strongly, it's far from bad, but pretty generic as black metal comes. As for their presentation, the CD booklet  has a great cryptic and coarse charcoal painting for a cover and intriguing and bleak photography within which would lead the viewer to think Geist would operate in darker, more emotional realm rather than its very metal approach.

Der Ungeist lacks a certain dynamism that, if added, could catapult him into a modern pantheon of other great acts.
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