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Sunday, 11 December 2011

Weekly album analysis, week 9

On the plus side, this is going to be bigger than usual. On the downside, this is going to take longer to write than usual. On the note of an apology, I was too preoccupied last week to write one. Sorry.

Agents Of Satan - The Old Testament [2003]

Crazy stuff. Is it sludge, is it powerviolence? Took me about 20 tracks into this to realise that the two terms are not, in fact, mutually exclusive. What this is, however, is ever-so-slightly repetitive. Sure, it scratches the itch for something a little bit unusual in terms of combinations of genres, but many of the riffs seem to be reused across several tracks. Never mind; one gets the feeling that, were this spread across fewer tracks, the riffs wouldn't feel quite so repetitive. Still, as it is, it needs some work. [6/10]

Antichrist - Forbidden World [2011]

Antichrist (the Swedish thrash act, not the BM act that released Sacrament Of Blood) seem to me to have dropped here what is quite possibly the best thrash album of 2011. That said, thrash in 2011 has been a little bit lacking - the only really amazing albums in the genre this year seem to have both found themselves in this analysis - Anthrax was predictably poor, Evile was a step up from Infected Nations but still a little bit behind what we know they're capable of, Onslaught and Persecutor were good, but not great. Anyway - this is a collection of songs with variation, but several common themes throughout - frantic pace (mostly), great riffs, and unusual vocals, which only adds to the intrigue of this album. [8/10]

Atavist - Alchemic Resurrection [2008]

Just two tracks here, but two damn fine tracks. I know they're a reference point for nearly all sludge, but this is essentially Eyehategod with a little pinch of Dragged Into Sunlight and a tiny hint of funeral doom. Of course, Dragged Into Sunlight is a retrospective comparison, but it is certainly apt; the inherent sense of evil that both have makes for a quite unsettling, but ultimately rewarding listen. I'm not sure how well this would work in the context of a full-length - it may become a little bit boring - but here, it shines as a very strong EP. [8/10]

Cranium - Speed Metal Satan [1997]

Swedish extreme thrash metal this is, and for what it is, I can say that it's... passable. It's fun at times, and gets the blood pumping as all thrash should do, but what it isn't is particularly memorable. There's very little which really sticks out to make this above-average thrash. The songs are fine, but not more than that; the riffs are fair-to-middling, and the production, oh, fuck me that production is awful. I don't know what it is, but EVERYTHING seems to be too loud. Possibly that it's forcing tedium on me that I really don't want to encounter. [5/10]

Crooked Cross - Crooked Cross [2011]

Yeah. In case you hadn't guessed, blackened punk is pretty much in vogue. There are some excellent acts within the genre (step forward, Ramlord), and there are acts like Crooked Cross, where it's not possible to tell if they're not really trying or just have no inspiration. I love black metal, and I love punk, but this has no riffs which one could conceivably call good, the vocals are made grating by the production, and... oh, did I mention the production? I'm not one to usually complain about lo-fi production, but this simply doesn't work with it. It's too lo-fi to be enjoyable as metal (Transilvanian Hunger is my crossover point), but not so lo-fi that one could pretend it was Wold and be done with it. [3/10]

Cynic - Carbon-Based Anatomy [2011]

Wow. And to think I expected Cynic to 'bounce back' from Traced In Air and create something fit for human consumption. Not that TIA isn't alright - it's just not on the same level as Focus, and not what was waited 15 years for (trying to exclude myself from that statement as I was only aware of Cynic in 2007). But this is just so... bland, so inoffensive. Consider the soup you have that's too thin to really have a texture, and doesn't really taste of anything. If you cover it in salt or other condiments, it's better. Now attempt to apply that analogy to music, and you've got a fairly accurate idea of this. [2/10]

Deafheaven - Roads To Judah [2011]

Not the best of the 'hipster' black metal crowd by some distance (although I will give them being better than Liturgy, also by some distance), what this does is convey atmosphere through harsh vocals and guitars and blastbeats in a way that's not wholly derivative of those who came before them. It's a good album, I'll give them that, but it just feels like there could be something more coming out of them than what's on offer here. Shows potential, but the band are not yet a finished product. [7/10]

Depress - Culture Is The Enemy [2011]

Another crust punk EP this year that's impressive to say the least. My one major gripe is that there is too much time on this EP spent using samples of people speaking, much in the same way that Mortician and goregrind bands make their already poor music worse. The comparison ends there; there is nothing else to link Depress to Mortician thankfully, and their use of the standard techniques of crust is informed and well-done. Brings nothing new to the table, but you don't say no to your Christmas turkey, do you? [7/10]

Devin Townsend Project - Addicted [2009]

Holy shit, this is woefully bad. As much as Deconstruction was a return to form for the Canadian musical idiot savant, this was perhaps his worst moment up until Ghost II (see below). If you ever wanted to hear a mixture between the saccharine melodies of modern pop and the downtuned dumbfuck attitude of old Korn, well, you're in luck. For the cocksucking fanboys who will lap this shit up, I applaud you, but for the rest of us whose ears work... well, the album speaks for itself. It doesn't, for me at least, affect his legacy, but this is really a worthless piece of crap. [0/10]

Devin Townsend Project - Ghost II [2011]

I'll admit to not having heard Ghost, but to be honest, after listening to this, I'm somewhat glad I haven't. The reason is that this is absolutely terrible - I understand that it's ambient, and not metal or rock, but this is piss-poor ambient. The problem, Devin, is that when you expand out into new genres, you've got to remember that you might not be particularly good at those genres. The ONLY, and I mean that, redeeming factor of the EP is that the closing track is somewhat reminiscent (deliberately) of moments on Deconstruction, and that reminds you what you should be listening to instead of this - good music. [1/10]

Discharge - Propaganda Feeds [2011]

How excited was I when I found out that Discharge had new material out? Disensitise was brilliant, and this is good. Two tracks, released for their tour of Japan, one of which is fantastic (the title track), and one of which is simply good, but not more ('Legacy You Left Behind'). I don't really need to explain Discharge - if you know the genre, you know Discharge, and more Discharge material is never a bad thing. A welcome release. [7/10]

Exodus - Turk Street demo [1984]

This is pretty much demo tracks of the songs on Bonded By Blood, with a few tracks replacing the ones usually present there ('Instrumental', 'Death Row' and 'Strike Of The Beast' - although the latter has since been released several times). Therefore, compositionally, it's very strong. It is not, however, as good as BBB - the lack of vocals on several tracks really takes away from the material. It may be welcome to hear different versions of beloved tracks, but these are not better than the final product. [6/10]

Fuck On The Beach - Eat 'Em All [2011]

More from Fuck On The Beach, one of the quintessential Japviolence bands. It's what you'd expect. Fast? Check. Violent? Check. Tongue-in-cheek humour? Check. Has an inherently DIY feeling to the whole thing? Motherfucking check. It's not clever, but it is rather funny, and altogether satisfying music. Let your violent side be expressed through music rather than violence itself. [7/10]

Fuck... I'm Dead - Bring On The Dead [2001]

Australia doesn't fail us for death metal, black metal and thrash metal, and now I can add grindcore to that bourgeoning list. Although some find something, somewhere to develop a mortal grudge against this band, I really can't see why: although this is nothing special or out of the ordinary, it ticks all the boxes - it's fast, frantic, and pretty damn fun. Comedic song titles only help its case - shall we resume with 'Fucking The Fetus'? [6/10]

Goat Vulva - Baphometal [1991]

Frankly, it doesn't get more kvlt than a pre-Beherit demo. It almost sounds like Fallen Angel Of Doom at times - not quite at the same standard, but the murky guitar tone which makes it difficult to discern melodies (thereby forcing the listener to really concentrate), the nearly relentless pace and the all-around sonic assault means that this is a good offering to look at for fans of that seminal album. The one downside is that if anything, the production is even harder to get through, thus somewhat limiting one's enjoyment of the music. I have my limits with production, and Fallen Angel Of Doom is already right up there. [6/10]

Gripe - Pig Servant [2011]

Gripe are one of my favourite discoveries of this year, and when the excellent American Aftermath blog (don't expect illegal downloads there) - and even better, it's available for free from their bandcamp (which I'm going to let you find yourselves)! Grinding powerviolence is what today's special is, and Gripe pull it off with aplomb. Don't expect technical overdoses, do expect punk simplicity in an awesome form. Highly recommended once again. [8/10]

Heller - Heller [1989]

I have never encountered bad Serbian music. Fact. I still haven't after hearing this - it's a very solid, and pretty original offering of thrash fuckin' metal. Lyrics alternate between Serbian and English, and the riffs are beautifully constructed. The vocals might for some people be a sticking point - unorthodox is an understatement, and the echo effect might put others off. Not me. This is a good album, and once again proves Serbian supremacy. (Hah) [7/10]

Jacula - Pre Viam [2011]

Jacula were the weird one amongst the Italian progressive rock scene - their attachment to ritualistic approaches to music and the occult set them apart. As did the existence of a song which was proto-funeral doom on their nineteen-sixty-nine debut. This is Jacula modernized - it's their first album since 1972, and to still have coherent creativity after that sort of time is quite impressive. That said, it's simply altogether cheesy at times, and although the repetition is supposed to feel ritualistic, it sometimes is simply... well, repetitive. [6/10]

Lou Reed And Metallica - Lulu [2011]

I'd heard bits of this before this period, but I had never once sat down to listen to the whole album in its entirety. Wire reckons this is musical genius. No. It is not. It is the table. It is a desecration to the legacy of Lou Reed (Metallica have been doing it for themselves since And Justice For All), and both acts should be ashamed of themselves for producing something so utterly devoid of merit. There is a photo circulating of this album in a shop window described as 'A Metallica jam session with Lou Reed muttering over the top. Probably the worst thing ever. $22.99.' The accuracy of that is astounding. [0/10]

Melvins - Gluey Porch Treatments [1986]

Albums with short songs should be a little shorter than the 40-minute duration of this, but that's fine. Melvins here arguably made the first sludge album - the genre clearly isn't quite formed on this, but it's damn close. The album is good. But it does not, in my eyes, deserve quite all the critical acclaim that it receives. Much of the album seems to simply descend into the 'riff salad' territory that is usually reserved for tech-death and genres like that. Still, the historical significance cannot be denied. [6/10]

Mithras - Time Never Lasts [2011]

This is more a teaser for an upcoming album than an actual EP. It pisses me off, to be honest, when bands release EPs which are really just various material off other releases, past or future, and then mix in a few live tracks and possibly one original track. Still, Mithras fanboys and girls will doubtless be pleased to hear evidence of their creativity these past few years. The music on offer here is good, and certainly very good by the standards of brutal death metal, but the sentiment is not. [5/10]

Myrkgrav/Voluspaa - Split [2011]

I'd never heard of Voluspaa before this, and I'm going to pretend that I still haven't, for their side of the two-track split is completely overshadowed by one thing: NEW MYRKGRAV! One of the few folk metal bands who can seriously command respect, their track here is, on first listens, as good as anything they've released before, if not better. The melodies function very well. The vocals never feel out of place. The only possible criticism for it is that there is too much Voluspaa and not enough Myrkgrav. [8/10]

NunFuckRitual - In Bondage To The Serpent [2011]

It seems that about 90% of what Dan Lilker plays a part in is gold. Sure, Nuclear Assault had a dud, and he had a few misguided ventures, but not this. I think that this is the first time he's played black metal - and the most appropriate comparison is not the frantic pace of his earlier bands, but rather, the suffocating feeling of the early, slower material of Beherit. If you like that one song, you know, 'The Gate Of Nanna' (in other words, the best song on Drawing Down The Moon), there's a strong chance you'll like this. [7/10]

Scraps - Aaargh! [1987]

I think it's best to get the shit in the air: fans of Siege will find a lot to like here. It has much of the same proto-grind/powerviolence feel without being a full-blown example of either genre. The date suggests that it wasn't particularly innovative, and it's not, but this is a style that despite the every-single-fucking-genre-in-the-whole-wide-world resurgence that's happening at the moment, doesn't seem to be aped much. Well worth checking out [8/10]

Seeds Of Iblis - Jihad Against Islam [2011]

I became aware of Seeds Of Iblis due to a member shared with the controversial Janaza (see my post on her), but to be honest, although this shares the same controversial anti-Islamic values, the musical merit is lower. Musically, this is, to be honest, piss-poor. Black metal is one of those genres that really stinks when done poorly, and I'm afraid this really is done poorly. Dangerous actions and words do not equal good music, as this shows quite adeptly. [3/10]

Sheer Ignorance - Conditioning [2011]

This, unlike Crooked Cross, is blackened crust done well. Perhaps I say that because the 'crust' element is much more apparent than the 'blackened' element, but whatever it is, it has cracking tunes, and enough variation in pace to hold one's interest - the longest track comes right in the middle (although it's only four minutes), and it's a slow, chugging track. Yet another contender for 'best new crust band of the year'. Don't miss out. [8/10]

Sihirator - Mračna Strana Svjetlosti [2011]

Bosnia, unfortunately, doesn't have quite the same track record as Serbia, especially when it comes to stuff like this. Thrash metal this is quite ostensibly, but it is utterly devoid of hooks, and thus of interest. Frankly, there's a reason why this band hasn't yet been snatched up by Century Media or whatever the major metal label is nowadays - because they're not very good. There really isn't much more to say. Get it if you fancy a third-rate imitation of Chaos AD. [2/10]

Tom Waits - Bad As Me [2011]

Another year, another great Tom Waits album. His truly individual voice brings all of these songs alive, and they're well-written songs to begin with. Stand-outs would have to be the title track and 'Hell Broke Luce' - both some of the more empassioned tracks on the album, but the quieter stuff is very, very good too. Tom Waits stands out from the rest of the bluesy country mob for a reason. If you only like metal, you won't like this, but I urge you to open your mind to it as it really is your loss. [9/10]

Trash Talk - Awake [2011]

Trash Talk used to be better than this. Indeed, I posted an album of theirs, but this is simply uninspired. Perhaps it's their tour with shitty indie mob Wavves, but this really has taken a large part of the edge off their sound. Profoundly disappointing; Trash Talk seem to have forgotten how to go above mid-pace. Extreme music is like cricket bowlers - most of the time, it's either fast or slow when it's good. I'd recommend avoiding this, but it could be alright to huge fans of the band. [4/10]

Trench Hell - Southern Cross Ripper [2008]

Trench Hell are yet another of the fantastic bands that Australia seems to produce all the time. The one thing that jumps out at you, kicks you in the balls and screams at you whilst listening to this is To Mega Therion, but Trench Hell mix well-placed influence from that album with just enough originality to keep things interesting. Even on this EP, and thus shorter length though, I'd like to hear a little bit more variation in how they conduct proceedings. [7/10]

Trio Socijalne Pomoći - Nismo Ničije Igračke! [1997]

I'm not sure if readers of this blog have guessed yet, but I quite like Serbian music. This is sort of mid-core punk - it's not quite hardcore, and it's not  quite just punk, but what I know it is is that it's damn good. Its short length is appropriate for the style of music, and each individual song has something which makes it stand out from the others (although 'On Je "D Best"' is probably the best). It even mixes a Dead Kennedys-esque approach with blastbeats on 'Propast'. It's worth seeking out, but I warn you, finding artwork is very difficult (I had to print screen a Youtube video). [7/10]

Tussock - Devastation Of Nuclear Proliferation [2011]

Tussock are a grindcore band from Malaysia (!) who are pretty good. Sometimes the riffs get lost in the maze of drums and thin production on this, but the general intent of this release always remains fairly obvious to all those who go searching for it. It's nothing original, and it's nothing fantastic, but if good, honest grindcore is what does it for you, what floats your boat, this ought to scratch the itch, hit the spot, be just what the doctor ordered, or any other number of cliches you care to mention. [6/10]

Unutrasnji Bunt! - Veliki Brat Til Se Smesi [1998]

Yeah, so, more Serbian stuff. Deal with it. This isn't on the same level as TSP - many of the tracks seem to simply do nothing, but it's fair. Punk rock is fine. This is fine. I really have little else to say about it. Artwork for this release appears to be utterly non-existent. [5/10]

Vektor - Outer Isolation [2011]

Well, this is an improvement, even from the lofty standards of Black Future. Although that album is one of perhaps ten truly essential albums of the thrash resurgence, it did drag a little at times due to its long runtime. The shortened runtime certainly aids the album in its coherency, and of course it's still got all the elements which made Black Future so special - the technical, yet memorable riffs, the unique vocals, and the attention to detail which cannot be foregone in an album this ambitious. Essential, and a strong candidate for album of the year. [9/10]

Violent Pink - Propaganda Of The Deed [2011]

Although the last.fm tags are things like 'communist hipster faggot', I believe that these are personal complaints rather than those against the music itself, which is quality noisy power electronics. Those who have strong anti-leftist convictions, don't worry, there is nothing to the music which would suggest a political agenda; although vocals exist, lyrics are incoherent. This comes from the chaotic end of the genre, which suits me fine - it's quite short too, so it's not the endurance test that some of these things are. Best of its genre this year. [8/10]

Zimmer's Hole - When You Were Shouting At The Devil... [2008]

Zimmer's Hole would do much better just to abandon all pretence and become a Strapping Young Lad tribute act, sans Devin Townsend of course. Imagine a modern-day Death reunion. Now apply that to Strapping Young Lad. You've got a good picture there. Essentially, all the music on this CD could quite easily have come off The New Black, but it feels a dozen times less inspired than even SYL's worst material. That said, there is some lyrical genius on offer in 'Anonymous Escophagus', and it's not nearly as bad as some of Devin's recent 'diverse' offerings... [5/10]

Zygoatsis - Satanic Kultus: Unholy Desecration [2011]

Bestial black metal - not particularly novel; from Thailand - not unheard of; that isn't wholly derivative of either Blasphemy or Archgoat - fuck me, that's novel! Whilst influences from both of those bands do shine through strongly on this album, there is enough of the Asian flair to make this significantly different from the eight million and one different bestial BM bands which have popped up recently. It must be said though that it speaks volumes that the best track on the album is the closing Impiety cover. [7/10] 

Part one 
Part two (please note that parts are not in alphabetical order)

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