Monday, 29 March 2010

Professor - Academizer [ALBUM REVIEW]

1. Professor
2. Immatriculation
3. Into the Auditorium
4. Numerus Clausus

You don't come across a record with the lyrical themes about University and studying too often, so you'd be forgiven for thinking 'Professor' are a joke band. 'Academizer' is their only release and they are virtually unknown. Forgiving, this is not, the EP is an intense barbaric assault of Death Grind done the traditional method, light speed blasting, putrid gutteral growls and grinding guitar riffing. The heaviness of this record lays waste to everything that calls itself grind these days, this is grindcore paying homage to the genre's forefathers Napalm Death, Carcass and Terrorizer, but with it's own unique twist. Where as the aforementioned bands were more into their politics and thinking of fun things to do with the human anatomy, Professor are more like three discontented students who got kicked out of university, and could think of no better option to vent their anger than through a blistering piece of grind on seven inches of black wax.

Opening track 'Professor' consists of three and a half minutes of pure sonic obliteration, the guitar playing is unbelievably fast and even sometimes breaks into an almost groove like thrash riff while the vocals sound like someone dragging a sheet of plywood over a concrete floor. 'Slayer on steroids' would be an apt term to describe them. Unlike a lot of grind, each track is distinct in many ways from its predecessor, 'Immatriculation' sounds like early german thrash only doubled in speed with an underworld demon for a frontman. There is even a strong nod to early Bathory in 'Into the Auditorium' with the ragged, loose guitar riffing and feral nature to the song. Closer 'Numerus Clausus' again keeps up with very thrashy riffing, and at forty nine seconds, clearly play a section of the infamous 'Reign in Blood' riff, which I would say is more a homage to their heroes than blatant plagiarism.

Grind isn't a genre which interests me at all, apart from the main players, I tend to find a lot of it banal and brutal purely for the sake of it, but with Professor my attention didn't wane a single moment as the music is so diverse and incorporates many different styles of metal, from thrash to Black to Death. The music is surprisingly dynamic for a grind record and this is what sets it apart from the sea of other acts, it's a shame this is all the band produced as there was a mountain of potential in this release. If you're a student who is feeling the stress of exam time, and want a musical outlet to vent your frustrations, certainly let the grinding juggernaut Professor give you a hand.



Sunday, 28 March 2010

Vostok - From Lofty Peaks [ALBUM REVIEW]

1. From Lofty Peaks
2. Badbea
3. The Last Days of Autumn
4. Leaving

The Scottish black metal scene has been producing a lot of notable upcoming bands somewhat of recent times, from a scene which was basically non existent circa ten years ago. From Askival's emphatic debut last year to the 'Velvet Cacoon' idolatry of 'In Vino Veritas', it has certainly been flourishing of recent times. This short EP is from another new project, 'Vostok'. The music envelopes everything from the twisted black end of funeral doom to the antagonistic wailing of Shining and short passages of clean picking. I'm not sure sure if it is what's intended, but this EP gives me the impression of 'In the Woods' except with a shedload more malignance and shorter songs.

The first track 'From Lofty Peaks...' is an introduction, and my stance on introductions on ninety percent of black metal albums is the same, pointless and to fill up space. Although being an EP, that can be forgiven because there's no real point to trying to fill up room on one. It consists of a two minute dirge, more reminiscent of Candlemass suprisingly than anything else. Towards the middle a nifty guitar lead appears and sounds almost as if it's coming from well... a 'lofty peak' before Hamish, the lone hand behind the project, vomits out something completely incomprehensible. A very fitting introduction to the EP, although I do feel the second half could have been put to better use incorporated into another full length song instead. 'Badbea', the longplayer of the disc, starts off with a short picked section before you are blown back by the drums and riffing which can only be likened to a black metal jack-hammer, the riffing is mid-paced and ominous, and vocals an anguished howl. The pace is dropped towards the second half where the music becomes a twisted maelstrom of harrowing cries and funeral dirges. Definitely the highlight of the EP. 'The Last Days of Autumn' is a lot less direct at the beginning, a light, buoyant melody for the first half of the song before we are reintroduced to the misery of before. The main riff that sees out this song is absolutely pulverising, an undulating grind that imprisons the tortured wails buried beneath it, trapping everything in the agony. Closer 'Leaving' is suitably titled, closing out the EP, best described an occult wake drenched in feedback and filth, even more petrifying than it's predecessor.

The production I must add is extremely fitting. A clean production would completely ruin music like this, but Hamish has opted for a largely claustrophobic atmosphere, highly compressed and burying the reverberated vocals in the mix, which adds highly to the mood being conveyed. The guitars are extremely distorted and fuzzy, the traditional 'beehive in an amp' sound as is commonplace these days, and Hamish has clear talent on his guitar, a lot more than can be said for a lot of bands pertaining to this style of music. The drumming is competent enough, with a nice organic feel to it, a lot more preferable to the sterile drum machine so oft used everywhere these days. The bass is also quite distinct, which again is nice to see for a change.

All in all, this is an extremely good release, of which I can't find really anything to dislike about. If I was going to nit-pick, I would have made the first song/intro longer, but other than wishing the actual release had more material, I can find nothing wrong. Another extremely fine release for the genre from Scotland, I can't wait to see what else the genre has to offer this year.



Saturday, 27 March 2010

[ALBUM REVIEW] Soror Dolorosa - Severance

1. Beau Suicide
2. 43
3. Dare Me
4. Trembling Andrygenous
5. Thousand Clouds
6. American Chronicle

The glory days of the brooding, misery enshrouded goth music are long gone, you wont find a goth connoiseur who will try to tell you otherwise. The beginning of the nineties heralded the arrival of the synthesizer to the fore of the alternative goth scene, with the traditional sound of jangly guitars and throbbing bass finally left to languish in the netherworlds, in favour of a more dancable and arguably more commercial style of music. Bands like 'The Cruxshadows' and 'London After Midnight' opted for 'New Order' and 'Clan of Xymox' rather than the post-punk style of goth fathers 'the Sisters of Mercy'. Some bands stayed true to the old guard, but very rarely got as much notice as their knob twiddling peers. Rather than merely acknowledging the development of the new sound, many of the jackboot and leather crowd embraced the deathrock scene which was garnering a significant amount of attention at the time, a style which stayed true to the original values and ideas of the genre. 'Christian Death' paved the way in the deathrock scene and are a significant influence on the French band 'Soror Dolorosa' who debuted their EP 'Severance' late in 2009.
Suprisingly, the band have their origins firmly in the metal scene. Drummer 'Andy Julia' fronts the faerie aficionados 'Nuit Noire' currently, while previously having brief stints in 'Peste Noire' and 'Celestia'. Generally when metal musicians dabble with goth, it ends up as some overweight pseudo-operatic vocalist trying to pass themselves off as seductive, over lacklustre doom riffing, rarely do they actually ever end up producing 'real' goth music. Before hearing 'Soror Dolorosa' I was firmly of the opinion than metal musicians should keep themselves from sullying the goth tag, and keep at what they do best. I would say that opinion now is firmly open to debate.
'Beau Suicide' is the ideal opener, and if you didn't know better, you would swear blind this was lifted directly out of the late eighties. The main guitar riff is swaying and hollow with large delay, and incredibly dark and gives way mid-song to an angular jag. The vocals are exactly what you would expect, Andy clearly idolizes Rozz Williams, the vocals are sombre yet infectious. Andy has managed to capture the theatrics with which Rozz sang so well, while maintaining melody and avoiding the try hard pit into which so many end up falling in to. The basslines are thick, and stand out in the way the Sisters could make them, and as so many bands seem to forget, the bass is an extremely important part of goth. Try dancing 'Temple of Love' with the bass removed, you couldn't.
The music is extremely bleak, none more so than closer 'American Chronicle', an rather long player at over ten minutes, it contains passages of anguished vocals coupled with long passages of empty guitar echoing. 'Thousand Clouds', the most 'uptempo' song on the EP could easily be an absolute dancefloor classic with more exposure, the bassline pounds while the guitar screeches about in the background with Andy's even more distressed vocals over the top, with an added sense of urgency than before. I can imagine nothing better than swaggering about to this on a smoke filled dance floor, black aviators together with cowboy hat and boots with vodka and cranberry in hand.
This is a record which you can end up humming the basslines for hours after you've turned it off it's that catchy. This is extremely passionate music, just as detached as Christian Death and the ilk, 'Soror Dolorosa' have got the eighties goth sound down to a tee, the oscillating basslines, scratchy, jagged guitar drenched in delay, the thumping bass drum and the over the top vocals with what was so synonymous with goth when it first began. They have managed to gain quite a bit of interest so far due to this EP, but unfortunately in the wrong scene. With the band having the background the do, most of their fans seem to be from the Amesoeurs/Alcest crowd, while virtually unheard of on the goth side of the coin. I can't help but think this is hindering them, and it would be a criminal if it did, because there are so many other more famous bands out there doing the 'goth revival', but are mere second rate 'Joy Divisions'.


Thursday, 18 March 2010

Levellers - Levelling the Land [ALBUM REVIEW]

1. "One Way" – 4:08
2. "The Game" – 3:28
3. "Fifteen Years" – 3:11
4. "The Boatman" – 5:56
5. "Liberty Song" – 4:29 (co-written by original member Alan Miles)
6. "Far From Home" - 3:22
7. "Sell Out" – 4:17
8. "Another Man's Cause" – 4:35
9. "The Road" – 4:00
10. "The Riverflow" – 3:02
11. "Battle of the Beanfield" – 3:41

The Levellers are a bunch of grubby Socialists from Brighton. In a nutshell, they don't like 'the man' and they don't like Sobriety. 'Levelling the Land' is the second album, following on from the debut 'A Weapon Called the Word'. A lot more rounded and complete than the debut, you can tell this was the sound the band were aiming for, opting for a more level balance between the punk, folk and more general rock sounds.

The album beings with a trio of songs which I feel are among the band's best material they have ever written, and if these don't grab you then maybe this album isn't your cup of tea, 'One Way' opens the album, arguably the band's 'Dearg Doom', and quite rightly so, an anthem promoting independence and free thinking and fairly straight forward in it's delivery and to the point. No abstract pretense or cryptic referencing here, Mark claims “There's only one way to life, and that's your own”. The bombastic, singalong chorus upheld by the throbbing, funk bassline make this a bona fide classic, and a perfect introduction to anyone wanting to get into this band. 'The Game' is an infectious fiddle laden jig, again with a memorable chorus, like so many other songs on this album. '15 Days' is slightly darker that the first two songs, a more sombre number about a drunk beyond redemption. Again, the fiddle playing is extremely prominent, the bass bandies about in the background while Mark delivers his simple, but animated vocals. The next few songs don't live up to the quality of the opening trio, but they're by no means bad. 'The Boatman' never really grabbed me too much, it lacks the fire with which I associate the band with. Maybe it's just because it's much more subdued than the stunning openers, but to these ears it's just a mediocre sea shanty. 'The Liberty Song' on the otherhand the Clash influence sticks out like a sore thumb, its upbeat, 'in your face' tempo and brash political lyrics pointing fingers at the powers that be would not be out of place on any seventies punk album, while 'Far From Home' is the kind of song that wouldn't be out of place playing in the background on a summer's day with a cider in hand. 'Sell Out' is heavily akin to the pounding, boot-heel pomp of 'New Model Army', again with very outspoken lyrics about modern day bureaucracy. 'Another Man's Cause' is an Anti War protest song, relevant at the time with the ongoing fighting in the Persian Gulf while the next two songs 'The Road' and 'The Riverflow' are both sweet, jovial folk-pop ditties, while simple yet discerning at the same time. The last track is the absolute stand out on the album though. A snarling, boot stomping punk anthem of anti-authoritarianism concerning the infamous incident at stone henge in 1985 where a large group of travellers were assaulted by Wiltshire Police, accused of extremely heavy handed tactics. 'The Battle of the Beanfield' is a true modern protest song, ferocious and un-relenting in a brief four minutes, it documents a piece of modern history fantastically in a handful of verses. It reeks of 'The Clash', the influence is obvious, in the lyrics as well as the music. But that's nothing to complain about is it?

This is the type of album which would have appalled many a middle class parent back in the seventies, but it wasn't a case of the band being outspoken for the sake of it, 'The Levellers' were a band with a genuine issue and opinion and stand by it to this very day, and for that they deserver utmost respect. The topics toyed with here are all still extremely relevant today, the economy, war, restriction of religion and bent politicians. 'The Levellers' were born in the wrong era, I know this will have been said many times before, but had they have been around in the sixties/seventies, they would have garnered a lot more appreciation, but they only achieved minimal success with this album, more than likely due to the grunge and nu-metal emergence of the early ninties. Teenagers didn't care for genuine world issues then, nor do they now, more concerned with 'being different' and full of angst for no apparent reason.
This isn't an album for those extremely sensitive about lyrics, nor is it album for 'Sieg Heil Sammy' who lives down the road, but I would recommend this album for anyone who appreciates music with a message, music with the fire and punch of the seventies. If you appreciate Horslips, The Pogues and The Clash, this album is a must. Grab it, get drunk and invade your neighbouring farmer's land.



Sunday, 7 March 2010

Dekadent Aesthetix - Dekadent Aesthetix [ALBUM REVIEW]

01. Audio Curse From Transilvania (1:13)
02. Plethora (3:44)
03. Suicide Hobby (5:04)
04. 17 (Ladytron cover) (3:23)
05. Track 0 (4:32)
06. Rock'n'Roll Machine (6:21)
07. Ziua in Care Decizi Sa-ti Cumperi o Arma (4:56)
08. Incantatie (8:44)
09. Shyny Morning (2:10)
10. Whore Rifflefuck (5:18)
11. Prohodul Domnului (7:27)

Dekadent Aesthetix are a strange band. Previously having only heard their split with the eccentric 'Joyless', I was waiting this release eager to hear with what oddities they would come up with next. It's impossible to pin a sound on them, for the split with Joyless was a mix of searing, almost shoegaze like guitar lines, and an avant-garde form of post punky black metal, with an almost carnival-esque attitude to it. Their debut album basically follows on from where they left off on the Joyless split, but shifting up a gear.

From the off, it is clear the band don't appear to take themselves too seriously. Song titles such as 'Audio Curse From Transylvania' and 'Whore Rifflefuck' make it clear from the off the band are obviously not the norm of 'Post Punk Black Metal' such like Swedish self harmers Lifelover or the French gloom peddlers Amesoeurs. Even the intro is obscure, which is something sounding like a deaf leper playing 'Auld Lang Sang' on a badly out of tune fiddle. The music sways between fast, tremelo picked black metal with snappy, rasping vocals and a long, contemplative guitar wash which recalls the likes of My Bloody Valentine among a plethora of other styles. The vocals can never really be pinned down to one style, as they are never exactly the same on each song. Take for example 'Suicide Hobby', one of the highlights of the album, it sounds as if Prong invaded a Jesus Mary Chain recording session, and each side as it were are battling it out as the song alternates from chugging riffing to extensive pedal abuse on a 10th generation Shergold. The vocals in this song have a heavy reverb effect to them, slightly raspy but not enough to be called 'Black Metal'.
'Rock n Roll machine' almost have a stonery feel to it, and again those hollow guitar passages appear amid the chugging riffs and moping vocals. The harsh vocals on the album remind me of Nocturno Culto's style, short throaty rasping. One song which I feel I must comment on is the fantastic, dreamy 'Track 0'. It was originally on the split, but the band have re-recorded it completely and it shows. It is almost purely instrumental, consisting of a lightly strummed acoustic guitar at the start, before eventually succumbing to a sullen piano melody combined with a spacey swirl of a guitar lead which ascends out of the wash of melancholy and soars above all else. There are no vocals as per-se, rather an angelic female voice appears towards the end of the song, not singing anything as such, but following along with the ebb of the guitar which only increases the celestial nature of this piece. For me this song emanates everything that was great about the dream pop of the early 90's, the sweet mystical vocals and hazy guitar tone so synonymous with the genre. It's a pity this song is the only one really like it on the album. Other songs do incorporate this style, but not exclusively like 'Track 0'. That's not to say the rest of the album is bad, far from it, the rest of it is so different you can't really be expected to compare them.

I would recommend this album especially to fans of the Amesoeurs album, as they draw the same influences, and sound fairly similar, but are a lot more diverse and eccentric. If you like the idea behind Lifelover, but can't stand the vocals and theatre, then the least you could do is give this album a try at least. It isn't flawless, some parts do wane, and the 'strangeness' and diversity as it were, can also be slightly jarring, but the pros do out-weight the cons. They even managed to fit a Ladytron cover on the album. However the fuck did they manage that? It's ….'special', I'll give them that.



Saturday, 6 March 2010

Siculicidium - Utolsó Vágta Az Univerzumba

1. Utolsó vágta az Univerzumban
2. Halványan az idő ellen
3. Bizonytalan ideák 1-2 - Ellenállás! (Bizonytalan ideák pt. 2)
4. Talán (ha hallanám...)
5. A sajnálat utolsó lehelete (Taxidermia)
6. Lebomlás, lelassulás

I have been meaning to review this album for a while, but only got round to doing it now. This was one of those CD's that you find sitting in a record shop, you see the cover and a war erupts in your head whether to buy it out of pure curiosity because it looks like you might enjoy it, or be sensible and save your hard earned (or not so hard earned) cash. I chose the former, I am a complete sucker when it comes to buying music blind.

'Utolsó Vágta az Univerzumban' is the debut by Romanian black metal outfit 'Siculicidium', which roughly translates to 'The Last Gallop of the Universe'. Worth noting as well are that the band are also from Transylvania, an area of infamously horrific folklore and legend, which many other black metal bands write about, but can only dream of experiencing. I suppose an apt term for describing Siculicidium's music would be 'Transylvanian Black Metal', for they embody everything of the legend that shrouds Transylvania and her many mysteries. They play a very undermined style of black metal, the type of slow, brooding venom that Inquisition produce. Inquisition appear to be the biggest influence on 'Lugosi Bela' here, the guitar riffs are the same type of rolling, throbbing rhythm present in their Columbian peers. Rather than just remaining content with being an Inquisition clone, the music is sporadically intertwined with melodic, acoustic guitar, giving it an added edge of originality, take for example in the first song at 2:30, it helps in breaking up the music from its macabre procession and keeping you from pressing the skip button. What is notable too is that the music is extremely melodic but still holds the acutely evil atmosphere they are aiming for. Although don't get this mixed up with 'Dimmu Borgir-melodic', for it doesn't contain any keyboards at all, the melody all comes from the guitar riffing and vocal patterns which LB uses almost in unison with the turbulence of the guitar. The vocals are again heavily influenced by Inquisition, akin to Dagon's morbid crowing but slightly more 'sung' and less like they were being spoken. The drumming is fairly simple and straight forward, which is more that suitable for this music as it doesn't require a Hellhammer or Frost to hammer the kit to pieces. Simple rhythms and patterns keep the music at it's lethargic, underworldy pace, where as anything else would just be a distraction. If I had to pick a comparison, I imagine the best I can come up with is twenty percent Barathrum, and eighty percent Inquisition.

The production here is thick and dense, it's good to see the band have also went to the effort of getting a decent production as more often than not it hinders a lot of black metal albums. The band look to have gone for a completely different style than is the trend at the minute, while we are infested with swarms of 'DBSM' clones at the minute, 'Siculicidium' have gave us a very unique album in 'Utolsó Vágta az Univerzumban'. It stands out from the crowd, and I would love to see these guys getting more recognition, because based on this album, they deserve it. If you like your black metal with a real evil atmopshere, catchy riffing and identity, and detest the 'blast and flail norsecore' style then I would strongly recommend this album.


Sun & Moon