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Diurnal Aural Experiences: Opeth’s “Eternal Rains Will Come” from Pale Communion (2014)

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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Art, Geek, Music, Nature

 

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Year End List for 2014

I did no reviews last year. Therefore, I’m going to still do a top 10 list and disappointment list for 2014 releases. Without further ado, here goes my ten favorite releases from last year:

10: Junius – Days of the Fallen Sun EP: Stunningly heavy and dense without ever having to go into traditional metal tropes, Junius’ short release burned up my headphones for quite a long time in 2014.

9: Bloodbath – “Grand Morbid Funeral”: Yes, please, more with the heavy and the dark and the genuinely old school feel and vibe. I completely enjoyed this album.

8: Alcest – “Shelter”: Dream pop at its finest, but the overall sound lost contrast quickly when the intensity was removed.

7. Agalloch – “The Serpent & the Sphere”: A band, whose music is typically dense, melancholic, and reminiscent of the sky just before the clouds break, offers up a serving of the coldest, darkest music they’ve done to date in my opinion.

6. Devin Townsend Project – “Z2: Dark Matters”:  Campy, original, filled with fart jokes, and evoking a 50s radio play, this album’s jaunt through Dev’s witticisms is fun if not a touch too saccharine at points.

5. Behemoth – “The Satanist”: Ranked this high due to the sheer factor of sarcasm dripping from Nergal’s voice in the first track: “Blow your trumpet, Gabriel!”  I was never a fan before, but I find that I am now.

And, because I’m a massive and amazingly terrible writer that cannot make up his mind, I have 4 albums in a tie for the first spot, depending on my mood (which will be listed below) and these are in no particular order:

1d.) Causalities of Cool – “Causalities of Cool”: Dark, melancholic space country rock?  WTF, Dev?  This album has seriously some of the most amazing textures, rolling noise, and themes I’ve heard in a long time. Here’s “Ether” from that album that demonstrates this wonderfully:

I found myself gravitating to this when I was feeling extraordinarily stressed or needing to reflect.

1c.) Opeth – “Pale Communion”:  Holy shit, it’s not a jangled mess of riffs and thoughts. While I enjoyed Heritage, it was like a sentence fragment.  Here’s “Moon Above, Sun Below” from the album:

I found myself going to this one when I needed the melancholy feels from Opeth and when I wanted something openly and unrepentantly creative.

1b.) Solstafir – “Otta”:  This album defines Iceland in my mind now. It is stunningly gorgeous, filled with texture, and wonderfully performed. Here’s “Lagnaetti” from the album:

Similar to Casualties of Cool, I found myself coming to this album as I could when I needed a bit of stress relief. Even the abrasive moments are wonderfully performed and never out of context or character.

1a.) Tritypkon – Melana Chasmata”:  Oppressively heavy, stunningly depressive, and at times hauntingly beautiful, the album hits a progressive metal fan right in the gut and does everything it needs to do well.  Further it has a love poem dedicated to Emily Bronte on it. I enjoyed their first album greatly, but I didn’t get overwhelmed by it.

I came to this album again and again just because I wanted to hear it.  It appealed to times when I was down, but also times when I needed to explore a different headspace.

Biggest disappointments of 2014:

1.) Soen – “Tellurian”: Their first release, “Cognitive,” stunned me.  It was an amazing album.  This album I listed to maybe to or three tracks and switched to a different band and never went back.

2.) Encoffination – “III: Hear me, O Death (Sing Thou Wretched Choirs)”:  This album was on the list because if you are going to name yourself with something as off  the wall as this, then you better damn well be good.  They weren’t.

3.) Mayhem – “Esoteric Warfare”:  These are the fathers of Norwegian Black Metal?  Eeeeeesh.

Two Albums that Blew My Fucking Mind:

1.) Primus & the Chocolate Factory:  Like listening to the soundtrack only (no pictures) of the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory on LSD.  I need not say more.  Listen to this album.

2.) Cynic – “Kindly Bent to Free Us:” Like listening to the soundtrack of peace and harmony on LSD.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2015 in Accountability, Art, Lists, Music, Ranks

 

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Weekly Music Review: Witherscape’s The Inheritance (2013)

Witherscape_The_Inheritance

 

The musicians involved here are two of the best in modern rock/metal that you’ve most likely never heard of unless you’ve dug for it.  Dan Swanö and Ragnar Widerberg offer their particular spin on a familiar sound in Witherscape’s The Inheritance: progressive death metal.  Released on Century Media records in July 2013, the album marks Swanö’s return to musical production rather than being behind the scenes.  On the album, he produces, sings, plays drums and keys, and provides songwriting.

First and foremost, this is not a death metal album and that’s not a bad thing.  Per the band’s website, The Inheritance discusses the fortune man whom inherits an estate in country and, deciding to investigate his new holdings, he finds “all kinds of weird shit.”  The use of the concept establishes the approach firmly in the progressive atmosphere.

Sonically, the band roars in true death metal fashion on “Mother of the Soul,” leaning heavily on Swanö’s familiar bestial roar before twisting into his strong, clean singing voice which belongs in 70s high concept art rock.  The song sets the tone for their approach, cleanly produced and dramatically emphasized instrumentation that holds more in common with Rush, Yes, or even Porcupine Tree than with Arch Enemy, Edge of Sanity, and other pure death metal acts.  It shares tonal qualities with their country mates Beardfish from their 2012 release The Void.

The rich tone of the rock styled guitars mingling with metal is one of my favorite things, and Witherscape does nothing to disappoint with their approach here.  Thematically, they make each song fit, never transitioning poorly between compositions.  “Astrid Falls” is a a nice sprawling, primarily cleanly sung song that demonstrates the boundaries of Swanö’s voice.  Yet, the best of the album comes from “Dying for the Sun” a song that takes you from a tentative acoustic opening into a thrashing metal core then back into a modern progressive atmosphere into “To The Calling of Blood and Dreams” that continues the metal assault.  “The Math of the Myth” and “Crawling from Validity” all serve to give the music room to break free from the progressive approach into a variance of mood swinging metal akin to friends and former bandmates in Opeth.

Weaknesses approach when you really listen to some of the lyrical decisions the band makes.  For example, “Dead for a Day” (a song that gets as close to classic death metal as any on the album) contains the lyric: “Oh, how I wish I could be dead for a day, so that I could hear what all the people would say.  To find out in the end who was really my friend and what the meaning of life is about.”  This is trite and childish writing that is refreshingly not often repeated through the rest of the album.  Further, musically, the band pushes a bit too much to classic metal sounds similar to Iron Maiden that not only ramp up the epic feeling also increase the kitschy feel of the album at times.

Generally, however, unlike Sammy O’Hagar from metalsucks, I believe Witherscape’s album is a great piece.  The roiling combination of 70s art rock, modern prog, classic metal, and death metal come together well here and develop to their logical conclusion in the instrumental ending.  The point is to entertained and Witherscape is certainly entertaining.  The music created herein develops a nice set of images in my head and gave me something about which to think, which are two primary thresholds of music I enjoy.

 

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2013 in Accountability, Art, Geek, Music

 

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Diurnal Aural Experiences: Opeth’s “Windowpane” and “Blackwater Park” (Live)

To account for the duality of this band, here’s another:

 
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Posted by on July 12, 2013 in Art, Music

 

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Diurnal Aural Experiences: Opeth’s “Lines in My Hand.”

Continuing the thought from the first image, regarding a character.

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2013 in Art, Geek, Music

 

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Diurnal Aural Experiences: Opeth’s “Silther” from Heritage (2011)

 

Enjoy!

 
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Posted by on July 1, 2013 in Art, Geek, Music

 

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Weekly Music Review: The Ocean’s “Pelagial” (2013).

The Ocean - Pelagial

 

To this point, every bit of media I’ve seen on this album has been heaping praise on this album; so, I figured I’d at least listen to it and give my thoughts.  First, The Ocean is a “post”-metal group from Germany, whose music in the past has always bordered on Tool, Isis, Cult of Luna (though not nearly as electronic), &c territory.  If anything, they have a touch more sludge than any of those bands.  Another defining point of interest is their lyrical concepts and music.  They came to my attention with the “Anthropocentric” album whereby they are using the metal soundscape, particularly a dark and dense one, to discuss topics from Dostoyevsky and others relating to the human conceptualization of religion and God.

In 2013, the Ocean returns with “Pelagial,” a noun meaning “relating to the sea or the ocean.” It was derived from the Greek where the word meant relating to the deep sea. Off the bat, you know you are getting a concept album here.  In some of the band’s promotional materials, they noted that the album started as an instrumental with a solidly defined concept musical, using this extended metaphor, to take the listener farther and deeper beneath the waves; each song is named after a strata of oceanic layers which have been determined by the amount of life and the amount of light that can enter there.  Back to the album, the music was mixed and produced by Jens Borgen, meaning that the overall sound quality is beautiful.

The Ocean do nothing to hide the concept of this album: it is an exploration through metaphor of the human psyche from a classic Jungian perspective.  In fact, it is very nearly the same metaphor that Jung used.  In his writings, Jung revealed the he believed the psyche was like an iceberg.  According to the promotional media for the album, it was also influenced by the submarine genre of war films, most particularly Das Boot. The music begins very light, almost effervescent in quality, becoming more and more claustrophobic and turbulent as the album progresses.  The roils of turbulence are few at first, but increase as one goes deeper into their psyche to find the object of their fears and desires.  Lyrically, the concepts are well written and wonderfully played.  The instrumental work is gorgeous and the vocals play very, very well with the rest of the music, ranging from bluesy rock stylings to anguished screams.

Ultimately, this album should be the one for the Ocean to really snag listeners and taking them on this wonderful ride to the bottom of one’s mind.  However, unlike Blabbermouth, who stated this album to be an emotional leviathan, I wholeheartedly disagree: it’s an intellectual leviathan.  I never felt my emotions get swirled up into this vortex, but I did find myself thinking a lot about what the album was saying lyrically and evoking musically.  This was a demanding trip through the mind.  Further, the album represented nothing really that the band had done previously.  Yes, there were sludge filled moments of dense atmospheres and claustrophobic passages; however, they were much closer to a traditional melodic death metal sound with the majority of the piece instrumentally.  I found this, like nearly everyone else that reviewed this album, to be a logical step for the band’s musical progression.  Yet, at the same time, why does the Ocean get a pass here?  Other bands who are branching out into new sounds to explore different emotions or thoughts are often lambasted by the metal community, why not the Ocean as well?  They diverged from their sound, successfully I might add, much in the same as Opeth and even Dark Tranquility yet both these bands are reviled for doing so. Even Agalloch saw criticism for cleaning up their production for Marrow of the Spirit (which was an amazing album in 2011).  To me, this is the only Ocean album I’ve enjoyed from start to finish.

Even so, why do I still yet have reservations in my mind over this album?  I’ve written now nearly 700 words on the piece and I do not feel like I’ve resolved this work completely.  Therefore, I must add this: I find this concept to be wholly trite.  Look, if this was the Ocean’s first album or if this is their first album of a new sort of musical journey, I would be willing to give a band, calling themselves the Ocean, writing an album called Pelagial a pass.  Being that this is their sixth album and the concepts behind their second through fifth albums were so heady and well considered, this just seems far too easy artistically for them.  Yes, the music was perfect for it and yes the lyrics were too, but ultimately, I feel like this was just too damned easy for them.  This does not mean the album was bad; the opposite is very much true.  It is a wondrously expansive and thoughtful piece deserving many listens to fully digest musically.  But, lyrically and conceptually, it’s over the first time you listen through the lyrical pieces.  I find myself listening to the instrumental more.  Overall, I recommend the instrumental version of the album more than the lyrical version, because it’s open to more interpretation.

 
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Posted by on May 28, 2013 in Accountability, Art, Music, Reviews

 

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