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The Bureaucrat’s Top Ten of 2013, Best Songs, and Disappointments of the Year

It’s that time of year for me; I like waiting until the very, very last minute before I write these just to snag a chance of listening to any albums that sneak their way into the current year.  Last year, I had my mind fairly made up by December 1; this year was completely different.  There was so very, very much to enjoy.  Without further ado:

10. Anciients – Heart of Oak: I love the Vancouver, BC/NW US metal scene.  It’s amazing, and Anciients did absolutely nothing to disappoint on their first full release.  Alternatively, heavy and melodic, the band’s efforts are wholly rewarding (Review).

9. Black Crown Initiate – Song of the Crippled Bull: A damn fine approach from the PA metal band.  This was one of the most enjoyable listens of the year simply for its desire to push past the conventions and build something of their own.  I’m looking forward to their full release (Review).

8. Scorned Deity – Adventum: Operatic, tense, seething, and soothing, Scorned Deity’s release this year hit me like “Into the Nightside Eclipse.”  Their brand of metal evokes an Emperor with refined American sensibilities (Review).

7. Leprous – Coal: Ever evolving, Leprous hits you with their sounds from every different direction.  This is a heavy, dark album that never quite gets too over the top in tone or strength.  “Coal” marks their steps away from Ihsahn and his solo career and into their own light (Review).

6. Witherscape – The Inheritance: What do you get when you mix old school early 80s heavy metal with death/doom?  This.  Witherscape’s release this year was a wonderful joyride composed of nostalgia and awesomeness.  I loved nearly every minute of it; though Dead for a Day brought it down a few notches here (Review).

5. Deafheaven – Sunbather: An album I had to experience alone and think over to truly understand, Sunbather is a wail of textured noise and fury centered around a nearly ironic and idealistic view of the American dream.  The band executes to near perfection metal gaze sounds, and seems to be reaching for an answer to the questions of what happens to the children when things fall apart (Review).

4. Gorguts – Colored Sands: A concept album about the plight of Tibet?  Yes.  It’s beautifully done, well written, pensive, violent, and all those myriad things that go with such an emotionally charged subject (Review).

3. Katatonia – Dethroned and Uncrowned: When I first saw this, I didn’t take it seriously.  I’d just seen the band live and their metal sets from Dead End Kings was spot on, tight, and heavy.  But, this remastering worked.  It’s very nearly better than the original album, shedding a far more vulnerable light toward melancholy than their heavier approaches (Review).

2. Ihsahn – Das Seelenbrechen: I believe this album will be looked back by those that have only considered it as its basest level and be viewed as a landmark experimental creation.  Unlike Ihsahn, who typically takes ideas from his previous albums, rephrases them and then moves forward from there, this album seeks to create something that stands right next to Eremita instead of after it.  Beautiful from start until finish, this is genuinely one of most introspective albums of the year (Review).

1. The Fall of Every Season – Amends: A genuine, beautiful and bright album, The Fall of Every Season’s lyrical themes, musical qualities, and generally powerful scale made it stand out from the other albums released this year.  Heavy when it needs to be, fragile when it reveals itself to the listener, The Fall of Every Season truly made a magnificent piece of work (Review).

For my stat nerd self, here’s the break down of nationality: 3 bands from Norway, 2 from Sweden, 2 from Canada, and 2 from the U.S.

Best Non-Metal Albums of the Year:

Bruce Soord with Jonas Renske’s Wisdom of Crowds

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Push the Sky Away

Ghost’s Infestissumaum (sorry, this was Prog Rock, not metal).

Best Songs of the Year:

Biggest Disappointments of 2013:

No new Cynic album (yay! 2014); The Ocean’s Pelagial; Steven Wilson’s “The Raven that Refused to Sing”

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Posted by on December 31, 2013 in Accountability, Art, Geek, Inspiration, Music, Reviews

 

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Music Review: Gorguts’ Colored Sands (2013)

Gorguts-Colored-Sands

 

 

I admit: I’ve never even heard Gorguts’ sounds until this album.  I know nothing of their start and their famed Obscura album that apparently catapulted them into the minds of the metal community.  I know now that their primary driving force is Luc Lemay, who’s French, and that this a concept album regarding Tibet, and that they are considered pioneers in the Technical Death Metal genre.  I found this band on a lark from following Disrhythmia and Krallice and Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston. So, I decided I would give it a spin.

The first minutes of “Le Toit du Monde” brought me spiraling into a particular brand of discord set to the dancing rhythm of a waltz accented with harmonics to which I had never been party.  Its tone ominous, monolithic, and cold, the song wraps you round its familiar rhythmic pattern as periods of brutality leap out, burning the soundscape into your head.  The ebb and flow found on this song between soft and harsh accented with harmonics is indicative of the sound to continue; however, make no mistake, this is very much a Technical Death approach to the music and concept.

“An Ocean of Wisdom” is arguably the heaviest song off the album, rolling in smashing waves of the most extreme nuances of the sound.  Yet, like the rest of the album, nothing ever truly feels that heavy.  If anything, the discordant heaviness evokes a sense of muted trepidation like the coming of a heavy storm in the distance; the harmonics humming off mountain valley walls. What is most remarkable is that ultimately the exchange between the dualities made for the impression that I was never quite listening to a metal album, though assuredly I knew I was.  Combining with “Forgotten Arrows” and “Colored Sands,” this section is the heaviest on the album, constantly breaking clouds in its swirl of dissonance.

“The Battle of Chamdo” breaks the album’s concept in half, transitioning from the death of the Dali Lama and the search for his successor to the injustices levied upon Tibet.  If the album ever reaches a lamentation, it is here in the desperate strings that crescendo into the album’s second half with “Enemies of Compassion” that rips straight out similarly to “Le Toit du Monde” but never pulls back or down into the tense quiet.

Outrage becomes the music’s theme, but is used in focus maturely to never lose sight of the sounds or scope of the album.  This section is a subtle balance between extremity, aggression, and making a point.  “Ember’s Voice” details the use of self-immolation as a practice of protest by Buddhist monks, while “Absconders” highlights the feeling of alterity that Tibet receives from the West and from Tibetans. If there is a mission call, both in tone and lyric, “Reduced to Silence” hits it.  Evoking the heaviness of earlier, but with the pensive restraint and dancing melody a pinning undercurrent, the song roars to the album’s conclusion abruptly.

You will want to either purchase the hard copy of the album with its associated lyric booklet or research the lyrics here.  Lemay admitted that he spent between a year and a year and a half researching Tibet for this album.  The lyrics and their associated quotes really, really bridges the gap between the music and the point.  I am not one for much Technical Death Metal. I listen to it here and there, but it’s not my cup of tea.  However, this album, in its nearly clinical precision and its well reflected conceptual approach,  is definitely worth the purchase.  In so many more ways, Gorguts demonstrates what it means to use music, specifically metal, as art and a mission statement.

 

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Accountability, Anthropology, Art, Geek, Music, Reviews

 

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Diurnal Aural Experiences: Gorguts’ Absconders from “Colored Sands” (2013)

Enjoy!  Review posted later today.

 
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Posted by on September 9, 2013 in Art, Geek, Music

 

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