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Monday, August 18, 2014

Can-Con Double Feature: The BODY POLITIC - Egressor and WHERE GIANTS ONCE STOOD - Live Above



I try and support Canadian metal, I really do. But sometimes I get promo CDs that I have a hard time promoting. Like Egressor, the new EP from Nanaimo's The Body Politic. And even then it comes down to taste. The Body Politic can be categorized generally as mainstream metal. A young band for young fans. I'm old.
There are a lot of progressive elements weaving their way through the emo-core these lads are co-ordinating. Djent and staccato rhythms hammer away as synth/key melodies meander below the current and soaring vocals trade off with aggressive screams.
At times TBP sound like they are tripping over themselves in an effort to make the songs as jagged as possible. Also, in the attempt to diversify they shoehorn parts in where they aren't necessary and it can ruin any flow the song has going.
There's no doubt their live show is a co-ordinated attack with the long-banged masses losing their shit over the emotive outpouring juxtaposed against the back-breaking poly-metrics. For those raised on Sumerian-core, Protest the Hero or anyone who thinks that Meshuggahswitch Engage would be the sickest shit ever will find that Egressor scratches that itch between the shoulder blades. But if you had pimples when say, Metallica released ...And Justice for All, you might want to run the other way.



On your way out of there you may come across the place Where Giants Once Stood. This Toronto group bears a lot of similarities to TBP but take things in a more metalcore direction. There are still staccato rhythms but they incorporate more groove and defined breakdowns on their EP Live Above. Less emo, more aggro. Vocally the death growls and snarls pull down the clean vocals making it all less whiny sounding than it could be. The technicality is less in your face but still tight. Many karate moves will be flashed around the pit at a WGOS show, I can guarantee you that. I could have seen such a sight for myself a couple weeks ago but I was out of town.
I can hear a similarity to Linkin Park here and there but without the electronic elements and again, less whiny. Actually, the growls and snarling screeches aren't all that bad. “Living In Security” (nifty little play on words) has some nice guitar work, both within the riffs and the solos but follows with the syncopated nature of the album.
Less progressive and more -core than their Nanaimo counterparts, WGOS may appeal to a larger subset of metal's younger demographic. Still not my cup of tea but I could see this doing well on satellite radio or that Vevo metal channel. Plus, I know a guy who is going to love both. Kids these days....


Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moloch / Haggatha split 7"



I find splits to be a good way to introduce myself to new bands. Thus this 7” split from Dry Cough Records serves as my intro to the UK's Moloch and Vancouver's Haggatha. Clocking in at just over ten and a half minutes it won't take up much of your time but it may sap you of all your energy.
Moloch offer up four minutes of doom-laden sludge with “Head of Coil”. Vocals like a sadistic and vengeful badger spit venom from a mouth full of hate. Feedback and thick as tar tone issue forth from straining amps in powerful downstrokes and menacing riffs. Their rolling crush of ill-content snarls and oppresses sending waves of negativity cascading through your mind. Find the pleasure in extreme pain.
Haggatha counter with “Time and Suffering”. The six and a half minute track is depressive and slow, dragging the listener toward oblivion with a plodding cadence. An incessant doom riff drives you deep underground as its hypnotic aspect coils around you. Buried under immeasurable pain, the deep roars of utter anguish anchor the track in a world of despair. It's funereal and heart-wrecking. Throw these guys on a bill with Loss and Pallbearer and they'll fit right in. You listening, Profound Lore?
Weak souls may find solace in the relative brevity of this split but hardened doom warriors will ache for this kind of punishment til the end of days. Sign me up for a double dose of Moloch and Haggatha please.




Friday, June 13, 2014

Doors to No Where - Lucky You


I usually try and review albums that are either pending release or recently released. Lucky You by Santa Cruz trio Doors to No Where was released back in October 2012. That's putting a stretch on “recent”. But the band reached out to me and if a band is still pushing that hard a year and a half later, I can at least give it a try, right?
It didn't take long for me to get hooked though. Lucky You is actually incredibly refreshing. Most of the fare I find myself navigating is of the death/doom/black/grind variety and various permutations of such. Not much of it is light-hearted. Not much of it catchy in the same way Doors to No Where are.
D2NW take a mix of desert rock, classic rock, trad doom and even grunge and run that shit through the groove machine set to maximum. Their approach is simple yet effective. Take proven and familiar sounds, put them together without sounding cut-and-paste and crank it to 11.
The title track starts things off as first tracks should. It displays many of the elements that comprise their sound. Vocalist/guitarist Marc Lewis' guitar tone has crunch to spare but is also dialled in pretty hard to a Kyuss vibe. A rhythmic bar room chug drives the track, with Sean Sandford's solid bass lines riding shotgun.
Vocally Lewis brings a tackle box full of hooks. His clean tones sound human and familiar, while when he adds volume they get a bit rougher and make me think of Sixty Watt Shaman. That's not the only thing that reminds me of those stoner rockers of old. (I think I heard they're reuniting?) Speaking of old, one might also be able to discern a bit of mid-90s Eddie Vedder in there too.
As the album progresses the distinct Kyuss sheen starts to wear off a bit letting other stonerrific influences shine through. Mid-period Corrosion of Conformity and The Sword vibes make an appearance wearing Fu Manchu and Speedealer t-shirts. Dig a little deeper and you might even unearth traces of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Cathedral and Candlemass.
Lucky You is far from formulaic but there are attributes that crop up with regularity. Namely boundless, infectious riffs equally suited to filling dive bars or arenas, pretty sweet and soulful solos and songwriting chops with enough dynamics to keep the listener interested. And let's not forget all the rockin' and rollin'. Whether doomy, stoned or grungy, it all takes a hefty beating from drummer Alex Ross. Toss in some Toadies, early thrash and NWOBHM and you've pretty much figured out the recipe.
Doors to No Where aren't doing anything you haven't heard before but they do their own thing convincingly. In a time where it seems every band is trying to one-up the last one, D2NW's simple approach to riffs, song structures and vocals is a welcome shot in the arm. The sun is shining so you might as well roll down the windows and crank Lucky You on your way to the party. Then just leave it on.



Purchase at iTunes

Sunday, April 27, 2014

King Dead - King Dead



It wasn't the self-proclaimed “spaghetti western doom sludge” tag that drew me to King Dead. It was the fact that the instrumental trio is two bassists and a drummer. I love that dynamic. In fact, the spaghetti western part could very well have turned me the other way. It's not exactly a style I'm fond of. Try as I might I couldn't even make it all the way through that last Across Tundras album. But I gave King Dead the benefit of the doubt and forged ahead.
Forging ahead is actually a common theme on this self-titled debut. Without the benefit of vocals the music itself does the narration. Most often one can get a sense of the scene by the way King Dead shape their dynamics. They build up towards the spilling point creating a sense of drama.
The really interesting thing is one bassist, Will McGrath plays a 6-string and his role is higher pitched and steely, while Kevin Vanderhoof takes the low road with his growling low end. At times McGrath will soar like an eagle while Vanderhoof plods away below. At others Vanderhoof plays the lead role while McGrath provides more atmosphere. It's not the sound you'd expect from two basses but that makes it all the more appealing.
Directing the show in a way is drummer Steve Truglio. As he goes, so does the song. He can sit back and let the bassists do their thing or he can push the energy through, sparking the drama to unfold in cathartic climax.
On the hole King Dead is ethereal and smokeladen. The steely and rumbling basses are quite expressive. It can go from depressing to triumphant and back again. Their bluesy psychedelia sounds like solitude and introspection. But there's a resolve, determination and urgency that filters through over the course of the journey.

From ambling cadences to full-on sprints the album unfolds with a sense of purpose. Drone, doom and sludge all have their place on this heartfelt, expansive and callous-handed release. The desert aura and steely/synth tone would have you thinking in reddish hues but the album pulses with a blood more blue. The noonday sun shines not on King Dead. Storm clouds gather on the horizon at dusk bringing a chill to the air. And well, King Dead is pretty cool.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Moon Coven - Amanita Kingdom



*enters room panting and breathless* Hey, sorry. Yeah. I had to run out and get some bellbottoms, sandals and a new shirt before writing this. Get into character, ya know. Right on. Ok. Lava lamp, on. Patchouli, burning. Bummer. No black light. It's all good. Where was I? Oh. Moon Coven. Amanita Kingdom.
Seems like anymore when I hear that a band is from Sweden my thoughts go in the direction of retro-styled stoner rock rather than death metal. Bands like Witchcraft, Horisont and Truckfighters being some of the more well known of the style. Moon Coven stands to join those fuzz-riden heavyweights with debut Amanita Kingdom.
Touted as an EP, the album actually clocks in around 34 smoke-addled minutes. But it is only five songs. Five totally solid songs. The quintet features three guitarists making their groove-heavy riffs dominate the speakers with a monstrous fullness. Despite the immensity of tone, the power lies in psychoactive realms rather than a simple display of volume.
Moon Coven's aural aesthetic is one of impeccable smoothness; their highly repetitive jams feeling effortless and natural. Fuzzed-out riffs and blazing solos float by with an ethereal lightness and a desert tranquility. Carefree and relaxed, the listener easily falls into Amanita Kingdom's embrace leaving all troubles behind. That feeling of escapism is a theme that runs throughout the album.
The clean vocals sound distant and dreamlike, and carry with them a detached sort of bliss. Music this authentically vintage sounding calls for nothing less. (But can you believe these guys used to be in a tech-metalcore band?) One can hear an analog hiss to go along with the overdriven amp worship. It's a package that points to the obvious influence of none other than Dead Meadow. My reaction upon hearing lead track "Ruler of Dust" back in October was strikingly similar to when I first laid ears upon a Dead Meadow record playing in a record shop all those years ago. That being "OHMYGAWDIMUSTHAVETHIS." Both bands have that quality that instantly binds to the soul lending a familiarity bordering on predictability without feeling like a rip-off or stale. It's like a sympathetic resonance. Ya, that's it.
Moon Coven's debut takes what it means to be stoner rock and embodies it wholly. Heavily psychedelic and mind expansive with a keen sense of melody and a few Sabbathian licks thrown in for good measure makes it easy to get completely absorbed in Amanita Kingdom. They make it all too easy to sit back, surrounded by the comforts of delirium, gaze into the night and wonder where it all went wrong out there. Headphones are highly recommended although intense volume would also suffice.
So Amanita Kingdom. Dude, it's like totally......psilocybacious! Know what I mean?! Just choose the right mushrooms, man.

http://mooncoven.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/mooncoven

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kingdom of Noise Top 40 Albums of 2013

2013 was a damn good year for metal. I didn't listen to as much as I did in 2012 though. I spent more time with albums as I tried to write the best reviews I could. I was writing for other people now and not just myself. That being said, I did listen to a LOT of music. I posted what did slip past me last year and I have picked up on some of those albums. But this is about what really turned my crank last year. I could make a list of 100 albums that are worthy of my recommendation but I'll go with the usual 40.
However, I won't be breaking each one down with a blurb as I have in years past. I simply don't have the time. And since I already wrote about most of them it seems kind of redundant.
So without further ado, MetalMatt's Top 40 Albums of 2013 (with accompanying review links, mine or those of friends).
And don't pay too much attention to the order up to around #20.

40.  Full of Hell - Rudiments of Mutilation (A389) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
39. Nails - Abandon All Life (Southern Lord) Kevin Sirois' review at About Heavy Metal.
38. Phil Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only (Housecore) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
37. Sepultura - The Mediator Between The Head And Hands Must Be The Heart (Nuclear Blast) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
36. Inter Arma - Sky Burial (Relapse) Reviewed for Hellbound.
35. Adoran - Adoran (Consouling Sounds) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
34. Monster Magnet - Last Patrol (Napalm) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
33. Fell Voices - Regnum Saturni (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
32. Ash Borer - Bloodlands (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
31. Cara Neir - Portals to a Better, Dead World (Halo of Flies/Broken Limbs) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
30. Exhumed - Necrocracy (Relapse) Dean Brown's review for Scratch the Surface.
29. A Storm of Light - Nations to Flames (Southern Lord) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
28. Earthless - From the Ages (Tee Pee) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
27. Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse (Season of Mist) Dave Schalek's review for About Heavy Metal.
26. Yellow Eyes - Hammer of Night (Sibir) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
25. Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu (Svart) Bill Haff's review for Scratch the Surface.
24. Castevet - Obsian (Profound Lore) Reviewed for Hellbound.
23. Lychgate - Lychgate (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
22. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - Mind Control (Rise Above) Karen Mann's review for About Heavy Metal.
21. Uzala - Tales of Blood and Fire (King of the Monsters) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.

#20-11 are pretty fluid too.

20. Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos (Cruz Del Sur) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
19. Shooting Guns - Brotherhood of the Ram (self) Reviewed for Hellbound.
18. Beaten to Death - Dødsfest! (Mas-Kina) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
17. Corrections House - Last City Zero (Neurot) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
16. Demon Lung - The Hundredth Name (Candlelight) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
15. Vista Chino - Peace (Napalm) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
14. Kylesa - Ultraviolet (Season of Mist) Reviewed for Hellbound.
13. Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
12. Pyres - Year of Sleep (Granite House) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
11. KEN Mode - Entrench (Season of Mist) Reviewed for Hellbound.
10. Windhand - Soma (Relapse) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
9. Woe - Withdrawal (Candlelight) Dave Schalek's review for Last Rites.
8. Noisem - Agony Defined (A389) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
7. Cloud Rat - Moksha (Halo of Flies) Reviewed for Kingdom of Noise.
6. Jucifer - за волгой для нас земли нет (Nomadic Fortress) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
5. Batillus - Concrete Sustain (Seventh Rule) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
4. VHOL - VHOL (Profound Lore) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
3. Subrosa - More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore) Reviewed for Hellbound.
2. Anciients - Heart of Oak (Season of Mist) Blurbs written for Scratch the Surface and Metal Bandcamp.
1. Clutch - Earth Rocker (Weathermaker) Blurbs written for Scratch the Surface and Hellbound.

There it is. Now I can take this piece of paper with the list on it out of my pocket for good. It's only been there two months.
17  D

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Ones That Got Away

Try as I might there are always a few albums each year that manage to evade my ears. Sometimes it's because I hadn't heard of them. Sometimes I just didn't have the time to sit at my computer streaming. Sometimes I didn't care. And sometimes it's because I only downloaded three albums all year through less-than-legit channels. I broke good, people. So before I get into the 40 albums of 2013 that I did hear, and that I loved, here's a list of a shitload that I missed. It's mostly Metal Blade or Nuclear Blast or Century Media. And it's a pretty good list! I've seen well over 50% of these on other people's best-of lists. Guess I'm missing out.

Alright, so here's the shit I missed. So don't bitch at me when you don't see it on my Top 40.

Orchid - The Mouths of Madness (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam (Loma Vista)
Norma Jean - Wrongdoers (Razor & Tie)
Purson - The Circle and the Blue Door (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Horisont - Time Warriors (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Scorpion Child - Scorpion Child (Nuclear Blast)
Carcass - Surgical Steel (Century Media)
Kvelertak - Meir (Roadrunner)
In Solitude - Sister (Metal Blade)
Thrawsunblat - Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings (Ignifera) (listened on bandcamp a bit.)
Voivod - Target Earth (Century Media)
Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer (Party Smasher)
Tribulation - The Formulas of Death (Invictus)
Portal - Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam (Nuclear Blast)
Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
A.M.S.G. - Anti-cosmic Tyranny (Profound Lore)
Northumbria - All Days Begin as Night (heard once on bandcamp)
Deafheaven - Sunbather (Deathwish)
Morne - Shadows (Profound Lore) (just went on bandcamp. Very impressed.)
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)
Deicide - In the Minds of Evil (Century Media)
Six Feet Under - Unborn (Metal Blade)
Vattnet Viskar - Sky Swallower (Century Media)
Motorhead - Aftershock (UDR)
Russian Circles - Memorial (Sargeant House)
Church of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum (Rise Above/Metal Blade) (heard some in a friend's car)
Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Watian - The Wild Hunt (Century Media)
Lord Dying - Summon the Faceless (Relapse) (Just not enough time with it.)
Protest the Hero - Volition (Razor & Tie)
The Ocean - Pelagial (Metal Blade)
Hawkeyes - Poison Slows You Down (MeatTooth) (kinda forgot about it)

There's probably a couple dozen more I didn't hear that I should have. Like Cult of Fire. And everything else on Iron Bonehead.  And tons of others.
I'll right some of these wrongs one way or another over time. Or not. There's always something new right around the corner.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Death Toll Rising - Infection Legacy



Infection Legacy is the sophomore album by Edmonton's Death Toll Rising. Thankfully the new album doesn't have any references to death by feces in the title like the last one. The death (metal) on hand here is more of the apocalyptic variety.
For nine tracks over 47 minutes the Albertans go for broke with hard-hitting and edgy death metal. DTR blend a mix of chug and speed with subtle technicality. Two-toned death vokills (low/high) tear through chords as well as anyone else, and the drummer is pretty outstanding.
One can hear the uh, legacy of classic DM bands in their sound but overall DTR sound fresh and modern. Ripping solos and scorching runs balanced by burliness and grit. It's a formula bound to ensnare plenty of death metal fans. But death metal is a tough genre. True innovators are hard to find. There are plenty of horrible DM bands though. But a good majority simply do death metal very well. DTR is one of those bands. Not much really stands out but as far as death metal goes, there's really nothing to complain about. Lots of aggression, tight musicianship, good vocals, and infectiously catchy riffs.
Well, I will complain about the overly dramatic spoken/sampled intro and outro. I understand their aim to tie together the concept but they sound really cheesy. If only they were separate tracks...
Infection Legacy is worth checking out. You might even want to "Crack Open a Cold One" to go along with it. I mean beer, but that's not what the song is about.

http://deathtollrising.bandcamp.com/album/infection-legacy

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Until Dawn - Horizon




I don't know much about Fort McMurray, AB but I know that's where Until Dawn are from and that there isn't much other that going on there. I mean, my stepdad considered a job out there and my mom said she wouldn't go with him because it was too boring. And she's the biggest homebody I know. (Love ya, Ma!) But without big city distractions these guys had plenty of time to hone their chops for debut album Horizon.
These lads can play. Riffs abound and dexterity is there in spades, but the issue at hand is stylistic. Until Dawn dig deep beneath the mines already picked clean by metalcore/melodic metal heavyweights like Killswitch Engage and Soilwork. I might even hear some Darkest Hour and The Haunted in there too. Given the base they're working from you can bet Horizon is packed with riffs that will get buried deep in your skull even if they aren't the most original. Some parts seem directly lifted from KsE. However, Until Dawn don't follow that good cop/bad cop vocal style to the same extent as KsE. There is varying degrees of intensity but even the cleaner side has some grit.
By and large most of the tracks on Horizon are virtually interchangable. Which makes the fact there are 13 (including bonus tracks) seem a bit of overkill. Spicing things up a bit is “This Fallen Fortress” which starts almost Panterish before devolving into stock metalcore. “DNR” stands in as the ballad. “The Trial” has a bit of a different energy and feels a little nu-metallic. But as stated, Horizon is basically a well-executed and produced melodic metal album.
No doubt there's a wide porton of metal fans who will eat this right up and know every word and sing along with just as much conviction to those big hooky choruses. These same fans will do their best to break their own necks to the syncopated rhythms slicing up the melodies.
But when you break it right down, Until Dawn aren't breaking any new ground and will be hard pressed to draw in listeners that aren't already diehard fans of this niche genre. I have to give them credit for sticking to what they want to play, and doing it well for what it is. And at least they've got something to do.

Until Dawn bandcamp

Monday, November 4, 2013

KEN Mode and Full of Hell @ The Mansion, Oct. 22, 2013


Oh Tuesday night shows. Your case of the Mondays hasn't worn off yet and Friday is still so far off. Do you really want to be out late? Fuckin right you do! Even when you've just worked 4 straight 12 hour days and you're staring in the face of 4 straight 12 hour night shifts, you grab your concert buddy, lace up your shitkickers and get your ass to the show because it's KEN Mode and Full of Hell! But apparently Kingston did get the memo about dedication because turnout was weak. Ah well, more room for me to throw my body around like a Queen's University Engineering jacket at Homecoming.
 
Local openers In Your House warmed up the uh, crowd with some pretty groovy tunes. They had some more agressive leanings but for the most part they entertained us with some slick riffs and a passion for their music. While their banter was mostly awkward, they did hit the nail on the head when they asked "Is there anyone here NOT in a band? Me, my friend and the one and only Kevin Stewart-Panko raised our hands. That might have been it. Show up early kids.
 
Vera Pearl took to The Mansion's tiny stage next. Last time I saw VP play they were missing some members due to illness and had ex-I Hate Sally/The Chariot bassist Dan Vokey helping out. This time, the band was all there and they were on fire. Kingston's mathmetal mongers had no trouble bending time signatures to their will despite their sparse live performance record. Their guitarist downplayed their performance but from this side of the monitors, shit was tight. Also on this side of the monitors was their vocalist. Barking with hardcore might, he climbed couches and chairs and even got a piggy back. Somebody buy that man some Old Style Pilsner!
 
The lone (all) American band on the bill was Full of Hell. Their latest album, Rudiments of Mutilation, puts hardcore on the rack and stretches its limbs into a distorted nightmare. Their set took the more extreme elements of their sound and thrust them full force into the room. Their set was over far too quickly but when caught in the moment of it, time became irrelevant. The band flayed the skin from our flesh as vocalist Dylan Walker stalked the floor in front of the stage, screaming his challenging and thought-provoking lyrics like his life depended on it. Physically engaged or not, the noise breaks were almost a welcome respite in which to catch a quick breath. And no one needed that more than their drummer. Full of Hell don't play fun music. And Full of Hell don't play with big smile on their faces either. But don't mistake their stoic expressions for disinterest. Rather, their furrowed brows and tight lips are the faces of total immersion and commitment to their art. No doubt the unititiated were left stunned by their dark and twisted hardcore noise. Simply put; they killed it.
 
Headliners. Juno winners. Advocates of Kill Everything Now. Really nice goofballs. KEN Mode. The Winnipeg noisecore giants capped off an evening already worth the $15 admission. It was like overtime. Or rather injury time, as the double-digit assemblage had free reign of the floor for all manner of shenanigans. Leaning heavily on material from their latest masterpiece, Entrench, the brothers Matthewson (Jesse and Shane) and Andrew Lacour shook The Mansion to its foundations with a seriously intense set. The crowd was fully into it as they crashed through frantic highs and crushing lows. Knowing looks passed between concert goers saying "Yeah man. This is awesome." Because it was. Really, it's probably impossible for KEN Mode to put on a bad show. The material is rock solid and these are professionally trained musicians. Crowd pleasers (why does that sound dirty?) like "No; I'm in Control", in which Jesse plays bass as well (two basses!! Ooooooh yeah baby! That's why it sounds dirty), and "Figure Your Life Out" brought things to a fever pitch. But none more so than "Your Heart Warming Story Makes Me Sick". Someone probably pulled some back muscles during the tension and release leading up to the chorus on that one. (ie. Me.)
The concentrated energy of KEN Mode being filtered into a small crowd like that breathes with a different kind of intensity. From the strangers, arms draped across each others shoulders, locked in a chain head bang, to the guy who was just way too into it and you know is gonna have a week-long bangover (me, again), everyone in that room was engaged. Small shows in intimate venues can lead to unforgettable experiences.
If Full of Hell killed it, KEN Mode ground it to dust and put it in the ground. Kingston is getting less and less metal shows and it's a bloody shame. So when you get shows like this one you really appreciate it. In Your House, Vera Pearl, Full of Hell and KEN Mode put on a monster of a show. You shoulda been there, man.
 
Oh, and Shane will not rest until the entire nation refers to Tim Horton's as "T-Whores". So get on it. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cloud Rat - Moksha




You can read all the magazines and websites you want searching for new music to satiate that burning desire but often it’s the bands suggested by friends that make the biggest impression. Such was the case with Cloud Rat. They’re the kind of band that makes your jaw drop and eyes bug out, and then keep them that way for the whole album. The album being referenced is Moksha and it is 30 minutes of mind-blowing grind. Well, not all grind. When Cloud Rat are going all out, the results are absolutely flattening.

This Michigan trio (from Mount Pleasant to be exact but this is anything but pleasant music) packs as much as they can into every song. Cloud Rat augment their furious grind attack by working doom tempos, sludge ridden passages, tremolo picking and d-beat groove into their retinue. Often all within the same song. The tracks twist and turn on a dime with concussive inertia.

Drummer Adrien abuses his kit as if it’s some foul beast that just won’t die, blasting away or laying down that d-beat with equal abandon. Guitarist Rorik follows suit with seriously crunchy tone, sick riffs and even some industrial flavour (“Aroma”). But Hell hath no fury like a Cloud Rat (vocalist) scorned. Vocalist Madison is seriously pissed off. Her spitting nails delivery leaves no room for argument. Her screams are manic and vitriolic, teetering on the brink of madness. While her lyrics deal with very serious topics such as abuse, neglect and drugs, they are presented in abstract and metaphorical ways. As angry as she sounds there is an underlying sadness to it. As if a deep emotional hurt is expressed by lashing out. It’s made for one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in a while.

But Moksha is not all slash and burn, and violent rage. “Infinity Chasm” sounds like Veruca Salt dropped acid and left the recorder on in the rehearsal space. That is until the track builds in intensity until it explodes for the last 30 seconds reminding us that this is still Cloud Rat. They even cover Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” transforming the song into a much more sonically formidable beast.

“Vigil” may be the most powerful track on the album. Two minutes of demented rage directed at the lack of concern and compassion in today’s world. I must admit, I get shivers at the end as Madison screams, with the utmost conviction, “Simply love/We shouldn’t survive/We shouldn’t exist/All of a sudden, Earth/My chest feels heaven”.

Breaking the mold of the hedonistically violent grind found on most of the album is the closer “Moksha”. Whispers and drone blow across melancholic piano. The listener is overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and defeat. Its placement at the end of the album is like a quiet sob when you’re finally alone; the sweet release of a held breath or the dead-eyed shock in the aftermath of catastrophe, and it’s liable to bring you to tears every time you hear it.

Moksha is a stunning album in every sense of the word. Brilliant performances from all involved create a multifaceted grinding blast encompassing a vast range of emotions. Its unpredictable nature and stellar execution produce enough “Holy fuck!” moments to make the Pope resign. Moksha is visceral and transformative and human. For fans of highly destructive grind with meaning, I cannot recommend this enough.

And as if this album didn’t capture my heart enough, the vinyl jacket is printed on old recycled jackets turned inside out. The beautiful artwork printed in an enviro-friendly way? It’s all just too much.

9/10

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thanks for the crazy year: Looking back

If you had told me 13-14 months ago I'd be in the position I am now I would have snickered and said "Yeah. OK. Whatever." I mean, who was I? I was just some 33 year old guy with this little blog that nobody read, on which I'd throw a few words together about what I had been listening too. I'd give a rundown of my favourite albums of the year. Talk about shows I'd been to. I never thought it would amount to anything. (And it likely never will.) I mainly started it as a way to generate discussion about the music I love so much. It was 2008, 7 years after moving home from university and life was getting in the way of the connections I'd made with my friends who share my passion for metal. (Spencer, Todd, Kopko; man hugs bros.) Kids, jobs, distance. You know the drill. Kingdom of Noise (taken from the C.S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters) started as a way for me to let those friends, and anyone else who cared to listen, know what was turning my crank. I don't think that plan ever really worked but I kept going anyway.
Fast forward to 2012. Readership was up a bit. (Some reviews were getting like 20 hits!!) But I still felt like it was just for my own personal enjoyment. Athough, I had started making connections with like minded individuals all over the world (*tips hat to Twitter and all my tweeps* You know who you are.). When Gigantour was in town, I had coffee with a certain Adam Sewell. He of Monster Voodoo Machine/Damn 13/Bastard Child Deathcult etc fame. Adam was VERY encouraging. I felt really good to be receiving praise from someone who has totally been there and done that. However, I was still very naive to how the whole music journalism thing worked but I felt like people were starting to take notice. In particular my good friend and amazing writer, Mr. Craig Hayes. Craig had a confidence in me that I hever had in myself. Through reading his work, and that of the Canadian writers at Hellbound.ca, in particular Kyle Harcott, Laura Weibe, Gruesome Greg, Natalie Zed, Adrien Begrand and Rob Hughes, I strove to become a better writer. Through their example and encouragement, especially from Craig and Kyle, I was taking my work more seriously.
Then Craig started showing me the ropes. Took me under his wing so to speak. I had no idea how things worked. PR people? Album promos? Servicing lists? I had no idea. I don't know how I thought things worked but clearly I was more naive than I thought. Craig explained things to me and pointed me in the right direction. Apparently I'd been offered a spot on one of the biggest metal-based servicing lists in North America months prior and didn't even realize it. Again, terribly naive. Mr. Hayes' next move was to encourage me to contact Hellbound editor Sean Palmerston about contributing to the site. At this point my confidence level still needed some work but I straightened my back and sent him a couple samples. Sean said he was familiar with my work and offered me a spot with the team! I'm sure partly based on my review of Titan's Burn. The first promo I received! Thanks Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle!! It took a good few days to wipe the shit-eatin' grin off my face. It was about this time I was approached by Jon Asher of Asher Music PR about covering a band called Titan's Eve. He'd obviously found me through my blog as he called me Marcus. (My email is shogunnamedmarcus@... in reference to the Clutch song of the same name. A forgivable mistake that's been made a few times since.) This was to be my first review for Hellbound. It was published on July 16, 2012 and so everything began in earnest. I've written a good number of pieces for Hellbound in the last year. Reviews, interviews, show recaps. Hellbound is where I got my start. Hellbound is my home.
It was also about this time that Craig chose to interview ME (shoulda been the other way 'round, mate!) for his blog sixnoises.com. And, the lovely Lav Nandlall asked me to write a special piece about how metal has affected my life for her Air Guitar Blog. To quote one of my favourite films, Almost Famous, "It's all happening." Those two articles gave my words a face. (Seriously, they both had a picture of me. Both taken by my wonderful, beautiful, and talented photographer of a wife, Becky. serendipitystudios.ca shameless plug!) The ball was rolling.
After I had a few reviews for Hellbound under my belt I was approached by former Hellbound (among others) writer Raymond Westland about writing for his start up online magazine called Ghost Cult. An exciting prospect indeed so I jumped onboard. I believe he said he was given my name by Craig and that my involvement with Hellbound was a major factor in contacting me. Thanks again Craig and Sean! Getting in on the ground floor of a publication that sees around 20,000 reads every month is pretty cool if you ask me. Thanks Raymond! Especially for when you said I was one of your most reliable and solid writers. There's some great people to be in company with so that really means a lot.
For the remainder of 2012 I contributed regularly to both Hellbound and Ghost Cult. I reviewed some great bands that I might never have covered were it not for being assigned them. I also interview a slew of bands both over email and over the phone. The interview list includes, but is not limited to, Titan, Vilipend, Amenra, Planks and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity. (This year I've done Andrew Fiddler of Black Tusk, JP Gaster of Clutch (!!!), Norska, Demon Lung and The Monolith Deathcult) Perhaps the highlight of the year though was being included in Hellbound's year end lists. I had completed my Canadian list in advance of the submission call, then contributed the blurb for Vilipend's Inamorata. For the overall list, I pretty much used the same list I had submitted for Ghost Cult, then was given the honour of writing the blurb for Album of the Year: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction. Awesome. And to see my name on the same post as writers like Sean Palmerston himself, Craig and Kyle, Natalie, Raymond, Adrien, Laina Dawes and Kevin Stewart-Panko was pretty darn cool. Yes, I'm a nerd. 
The new year brought a new opportunity. Craig, (yet again) tipped me off to a new opening at a very respected site. About.com Heavy Metal was making some changes and needed to recruit writers. Guide Chad Bowar's aim was to cover as many releases as possible with 100 word write ups in addition to a few full length reviews. To do that he needed people. I had sent Chad some of my work previously but at the time he wasn't looking. This time I got the job. A few other notables from across the globe joined the team as well, including Leticia Mooney and my pal Dean Brown. Both writers I looked up too. Joining a team like this was pretty great too as Natalie and Dan Marsicano were already there as well as Craig to some degree. Not only did this allow me to cover more and more material but I could do it in a short amount of time. Win-win. Plus, I met some great people such as Tom Campagna, Edward Banchs and Jason Statts! I kept up with Hellbound and Ghost Cult, and even wrote some full reviews for About.com including Batillus, VHOL and most recently Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals and Jucifer. Thanks Chad! It's been a blast.
OK, so I'm trying to keep content on my own blog, sending reviews to Sean at Hellbound, and taking assignments from Raymond and Chad. All while working up to 50 hours a week and raising 3 kids. How do I have the time? Sadly, it's come at the expense of my reading time. But I enjoy writing just as much. If only I could tear myself away from the tv/couch. I'm just so tired though! What else do expect from a shift working parent?
Since I'm seemingly a sucker for punishment, I recently accepted ANOTHER writing spot. This time it was David Teixeira of Scratch the Surface webzine that came knocking at the door. I'm pretty sure it was my Adoran review for About.com that really sent him in my direction. I'd worked with David at Ghost Cult too so I'm sure that helped. Anyway, I'm stoked to join the StS team and write alongside Dean and Cheryl Carter, among others. I've already reviewed the latest Armed for Apocalypse album and a couple days ago my Mouth of the Architect review went up. And my next assignment has me feeling all funny down there. I like where this is heading. 
So, one year down and I've gone from pissing around on blogspot to writing with amazing people on four websites, in four countries on both sides of the Atlantic. It's been wicked fun so far and I can't see it going south any time soon. Although, I think this is just about all I can handle. I'm writing at a consistent pace that I never attempted when I was all on my own. So any other zines out there who may be looking for new writers, keep moving. HAHAHA! 
For as much writing as I do I still don't consider myself a writer. And I certainly wouldn't dare to call myself a journalist. As I've said before, I'm not a writer, I write. But I've had people tell me I'm good at it. I didn't enjoy English class in high school and despised essays. So what do I do with all my spare time now? Basically write essays. If you see spelling mistakes, grammar snafus and facepalm worthy misuse of punctuation, that's because I just don't know. That's the editor's job. Just kidding fellas. 
If you've made it this far, you must have been really bored. But I thank you. I'm gonna keep going at this writing thing until I'm just plain out of hyperbole and nonsense metaphors. You've been warned.
Thanks to all those people who have made this guy who felt isolated feel like part of a community. It's truly been one of the best years of my life and it feels so good!
Listen to me. Up with people! I feel so alive! Wooo!!

Thanks Team Hellbound: Sean, Kyle, Rob, Natalie, Renee Trotier, Jason Wellwood, Greg, Laura, Adam Wills, Bill Adams, Laina, Ola Mazzuca, Adrien, Jonathan Smith, Albert Mansour, Steve Earles, Jay Gorania and anyone I may have missed. 

Thanks Ghost Cultists: Raymond, Keith Chachkes, Jon Keane, Chris Tippell and Sarah Worsley, Christine Hagar, Angela Davey, Matt Spall and the rest of the Matt's (what is there, like 6 of us?), Pete Ringmaster,  Dean, Curtis Dewar, Chris Ward, Ross Baker, Tom Saunders, Sander van den Driesche, the list goes on and on.
Thanks to the About Heavy Metal crew: Chad, Eddie, Jason, Tom, Dean, Dan Drago, Dan Marsicano, Natalie, Kevin Sirois, Leticia, Evan Mugford and the handful I can never remember.
I don't know everybody yet but thanks to David, Dean and Cheryl at Scratch the Surface!
And special thanks to all the people who put the music in my ears: Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle, Jon at Asher Media, Dave and Liz at Earsplit, Scott and Ryan at Clawhammer, Bariann at Black Birch, Jon at Freeman Promo, Nathan at Svart and Napalm, Kelly at Prosthetic, Kim at Catharsis, Bob at Relapse, Enrique at Season of Mist, Adam at Gilead Media, John at Granite House, Carl at Action!, Lisa at Hold Tight!, David at Viral Propaganda, and probably more I can't recall and I can't access Haulix from this computer to double check, and of course my editors, Sean, Raymond, Chad and David, for hooking me up with many of the lists above and music outside those avenues as well.
And thanks to my wife and daughters, and to some degree the dogs and cat, for putting up with all the screaming and screeching, loud guitars and pounding drums, droning and moaning, and general noise I subject you to on a daily basis.
So thanks to everyone I listed, all the people that read my work and everyone I forgot for making the last year one of the most exciting, fun, challenging and rewarding years of my life in every aspect. My grey hair might be accelerating but I guess getting old isn't so bad.
Thanks Craig. I owe you big time, brother.
Matt

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chosen - Resolution

From the Emerald Isle come Chosen and their album, Resolution. This prog-minded extreme metal duo is comprised of percussionist David McCann and guitarist/vocalist Paul Shields. For nearly an hour Chosen hash out an intsense blend of heaviness and melody with complex song writing and flawless musicianship.
With no song less than five minutes these Irish lads take ample time letting their ideas flow forth. When dropping the heavy, it gets really heavy. Chunky riffs force the need for movement, whether just headbanging or full-on mosh destruction. Those churning and heaving riffs are countered by plenty of syncopation, with the duo locked in with each other, pounding your ears into submision. The effect is close to maybe deathcore or metalcore but never feels as played out as those genres.
Let's not forget the melodies. As deft as Chosen are at the ground and pound, they are equally adept at laying up and letting prog elements filter through. The effect of such diversity is that you can never really pin Resolution into one genre. The cruch and pace likens to death metal, as does Shields's scratchy rasp but at times one can feel classic metal influences or even a touch of industrial. Track such as "The Narcissism Epidemic" and "Metalphysical Contradiction" -- the two longest -- also see Shields utilizing clean vocals to emphasize the softer side of the band.
While the band do play with mostly culture-neutral tendencies, their Irish roots are displayed in places via acoustic guitars and other strings, but only briefly. It's something this writer wouldn't mind Chosen exploring more in the future.
Resolution is an enigmatic and agressive album from a band with a clear vision of their direction. Chugging staccato rhythms and sweet melodic prog blend seamlessly to form tracks that will bubble to the surface of your mind when you least expect it. Ride the waves crashing into the rocky shores. With further development Chosen is a name we could be hearing more of.

Resolution is available for free at www.chosen.ie

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Clutch! with Orange Goblin, Lionize and Scorpion Child, April 18, 2013 at Sound Academy, Toronto

I'd been looking forward to this show for a LONG time. For a number of reasons. First, Clutch is my favourite band, DURR. And it had been over three and a half YEARS since I'd seen them. An event now known as "The Incident". But that's a blog post for another time. On top of that, Orange Goblin had never played Toronto before. Therefore, I'd never seen them play. I've been a fan for over a decade so I was stoked. I'd caught the tail end of Lionize when they toured with Clutch a few years ago but I remembered almost nothing. And lastly, I saw a Scorpion Child video on youtube and was looking forward to hearing more.
In my excitement (and anticipating heavy traffic) I left my house way too early and showed up at the venue over two hours before doors. I doubled back to an Asian market and bought some food. I wasn't eating no bar food, I can tell you that. But I should have checked the ingredients on the (super-calorific) Vietnamese red bean pastries. Lard. Fucking lard! Read beans, I'm thinking all vegetarian and stuff but no. Wasted a buck fifty. Almost sat down on the curb to eat right by a discarded condom. Listened to the new Black Sabbath track (meh). Exciting stuff, I know! So with like an hour before doors I headed over to the venue and sat in the parking lot watching the weirdos roll in.
Once inside, and thankfully with no guest list issues, I chatted it up with fellow Hellbound.ca writer Gruesome Greg. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to see the show! Almost. It was really cool to finally put a face to the name. As well as spend some time with a handful of other friends I don't see nearly enough. Alright, alright. Enough preamble.
First band to hit the stage was Scorpion Child. As I said, I'd watched a video for "Polygon of Eyes" on youtube and liked what I saw. To my delight, they did not disappoint. Heavy on the Zeppelin and other 70s rock acts influence, their style fit perfectly with the other bands on the bill. Despite the crowd being comparatively sparse, they played like the house was packed already and the crowd responded. Their enthusiasm was unflappable. Hair flying, guitars raised, drums being handily abused, and vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black slinking around the stage belting out the tunes with dynamic range. His passion, as was the rest of the band's, was never in question as he engaged the crowd and even sang much from his knees, compelled by the power of music. And yes, they did play "Polygon" after which Black quipped, "Now that that's out of the way.." They knew what people wanted to hear. Their album comes out June 25th on Nuclear Blast and you can bet they made some fans who'll be checking it out. Myself included.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Lionize again. From what little I could remember (Re: "The Incident") I dug their vibe but for some reason I never took the time to check them out between then and now. Well, because I can never get enough Clutch, I won't be over-looking Lionize anymore. It's obvious they hold Clutch in high regard as, to the unseasoned listener, you could be forgiven for mistaking the two bands. The most glaring differences being the vocals and their use of keys (although Clutch did for a time). Their laid-back, grooved out rock with bluesy influence gave the crowd a taste of what was to come yet allowed the gathering to hold some energy in reserve. Especially when they pull a little Sublime out of their sleeve and add some reggae flavour to the recipe. While I found nothing to complain about, the highlight of their set was the jam session. I couldn't see the stage well, but I heard something change. A shift in position revealed Clutch's Tim Sult up on the stage with them! There's no mistaking his sound. A few minutes into the jam Orange Goblin's Joe Hoare also grabbed a guitar and joined in. At the end of it, Lionize guitarist/vocalist Nate Bergman sort of, apologized, for it. Hey man, no apology necessary! That's what live music is all about!
By the time Orange Goblin took the stage for their first ever Toronto show, the Sound Academy was about as packed as it was going to get on this evening. And the assembled mass was ready. When the OG boys walked out on stage they received a welcome a headliner would be proud of. And for the love of Sabbath, Ben Ward is a beast. I had heard he was a large man but until you see him in person, you never really know. Never mind his well-seasoned vocal attributes, his mere presence demands your attention. And what a frontman he is. Stalking around that stage with his fist(s) raised and pumping, he makes it his mission to ensure the crowd is amped. How could you not get behind a band who's singer air guitars just as hard as anyone else there? Any Goblin fan worth their weight in salt was sure to be pleased with their set. Not surprisingly leaning on tracks from 2012's Eulogy for the Damned, they played a selection from across their career. Orange Goblin's high-octane, blooze-fueled stoner metal ran the gamut with cuts from the more psychedelic Frequencies From Planet Ten and The Big Black through to the newer stuff and even included a number of songs I was shamefully unfamiliar with. (Which will be rectified, whether you like it or not.) Ward's between song banter showed how appreciative the band was of the reception they received and the crowd responded in kind, pumping their fists and banging their heads ever harder through set closer "Scorpionica".
At this point one could be fully satisfied that they'd received their money's worth on any given night but there was still possibly the greatest touring band on the planet yet to come. Clutch. I'm not just saying that because I think they're the best. Their reputation as world class performers should be well known to anyone reading this.
By this point there was a healthy percentage of the patronage well acquainted with the bar staff and as such the buzz of anticipation was almost a physical thing. Any flicker of movement from the area of the stage lead to a chorus of hollers from the uninhibited. The glowing Clutch logo of the backdrop cast an eerie light over what was soon to become the highlight of any given attendee's week/month/year. When the fantastic foursome of Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and JP Gaster took the stage they received no less than a hero's welcome before launching into the set with a trio of tracks from the recently released Earth Rocker in "Crucial Velocity", "Book, Saddle and Go" and "Cyborg Betty". The band's motive towards Earth Rocker was to create an album with good energy from front to back and lend itself to being played well live. Starting the show with those three only proves that their mission was accomplished. Here Fallon states "We're only three songs in and you're already the best crowd we've had all tour!" I like to think he wasn't just saying that. What followed was a set heavy on Earth Rocker cuts but featuring a splendid selection of tracks from Elephant Riders on. What Clutch show in Canada would be complete without "The Mob Goes Wild" and the lines "Everybody move to Canada. Smoke lotsa pot. Everybody move to Canada, right now."? It's a given. It's expected. And it's probably the only time EVERYONE sings along. (I suspect "The Yeti" is a must when they play in Winnipeg as well.)
Part of what makes Clutch such an amazing live act, in addition to their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their own material and subsequent varying set list, is the jams. On this night, not one, but two songs were extended by the magnificent jams of these four individuals that just know each other so well. "D.C. Sound Attack" and "The Soapmakers" got the extra time as well as a sweet drum solo from Gaster. He's just such a unique talent. He thinks drums differently while not thinking about them at all (at least while on stage). Sult and Maines were in their familiar places to the left and right of Gaster, respectively, as Fallon stalked the stage in his usual animated fashion. He's almost like the director of a travelling sideshow, waving his hands around with sweeping gestures and finger pointing. His captivating stage presence enthralls the onlookers and innocent bystanders, demanding their attention. (Which baffled me all the more that there were people NOT paying attention. For shame!)
The low-key "Gone Cold" gave the crowd some time to recharge before finishing the set with "The Face" and  "Oh, Isabella" and closing with a crunchy version of "Dragonfly". But the closing number is never the closing number with Clutch. Returning to another raucous reception, the Maryland quartet wowed the crowd with an encore of "Cypress Grove", "Electric Worry" and "One Eyed Dollar". The closing words being "Today's our day!" a fitting end to what was unquestionably Clutch's day indeed. Clutch never fails to deliver and this night was no different. While I personally would like to have heard at least one song from their self-titled, I was by no means disappointed. In fact, it was quite possibly their best performance I've been witness to. Start to finish, every band put on an excellent show, complimenting each other in one way or another. The lesser known Scorpion Child and Lionize no doubt won over some new fans. Orange Goblin as well, while reaffirming their might to the previously converted. And Clutch? Well, Clutch proved yet again that they are an untouchable live act, thrilling fans young. old, drunk, stoned, sober and of almost every conceivable hard rock/metal subculture. Because hey, that's the name of the game.
Full Set List:
Crucial Velocity
Book, Saddle and Go
Cyborg Betty
The Mob Goes Wild
DC Sound Attack
The Soapmakers
Burning Beard
Earth Rocker
Unto The Breach
Subtle Hustle
Regulator
Gone Cold
The Face
Open Up The Border
Oh, Isabella
Dragonfly
Cypress Grove
Electric Worry
One Eyed Dollar

Monday, March 25, 2013

96 - Caught in the Grips


After spending most days listening to sludge, doom, black metal and variations thereof, the exuberance of a band like 96 is a welcome kick in the pants. With their album Caught in The Grips, these Jersey boys inject a high octane shot of adrenaline to get your ass moving.
Slinging 13 tracks in 22 minutes, 96 employ the smash-and-grab technique; maximizing effectiveness and minimizing waste. It’s best to describe 96 as hardcore punk. They bring a harder edge to straight up punk as with hardcore, but lack the kind of anger found in today’s hardcore bands (not a bad thing). Their mosh-ready tunes are littered with killer riffs played with a controlled looseness. Tight performance with great feel. Whether full-speed ahead or bouncing in mid-pace, Caught in the Grips will keep you on the go.
96 manage to take a template rooted in the old school and keep it fresh. One can hear sounds that remind of Biohazard, Sick of it All, Madball and DRI without sounding like ripoffs. The result is an album that has a classic familiarity without sounding dated.
Gang shouts are sparse but well timed while Corey Donohue’s vocals have a very crossover feel infused with snarl and even some tongue-in-cheek lyrics (as referenced by a song about iced tea).96 are packed with enthusiasm, tearing through Caught in the Grips barely leaving room to catch a breath. Infectious energy, outstanding riffs and some fuck-yeah solos come together to make 96 a mosh pit wrecking crew. Go ahead, get Caught in the Grips.

www.ninetysix.bandcamp.com

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Xul - Malignance


It never ceases to amaze me how much metal talent there is between these Canadian borders. From the Diminished Fifth roster in the East straight through to Vancouver’s Anciients in the West, top quality metal litters the map at all points in between. A heavyweight representing the left coast is Vernon, BC’s XUL. Their album Malignance dropped last year and it’s a shame I’m only hearing it now.

Malignance is a fitting title for the eight tracks of death metal madness within, because this is anything but benign. Xul’s articulate and speedball riffs leave a trail of black smoke in their wake, darkening the skies in a carcinogenic pall. Absolute demoncy befits the scowling vocals of Levi Meyers plastering bile over the frenetic guitar work of Wallace Hoffman and Bill Ferguson (also contributing vocals). The rhythm section of Lowell Winters (drums) and Marlow Dieter (bass) spur the beast forward with nimble fingers and supernatural speed. These entities coalesce to embody the darkened horde of blackened death metal of tracks such as “Mastication of Putrescent Empyrean Remains” and “Incinerate the Earth”. Fusing the malevolence and grime of death metal with the flair and urgency of thrash and the scorching hate of black metal, Malignance beats with a heart as cold as night.

Malignance features a stunning display of musicianship with its ultra-slick leads, hyperspeed percussion and incredible bass tone. Meyers’s fetid vocals salivating on the album’s rotting body ties the whole gruesome scene together. Xul wreak “Vengeance” on the ears of death metal fans, forcing their way in the cortex to fester and boil. This is one Malignance you’ll be dying to have.

Pay What You Want download at xulmetal.bandcamp.com

AOTY #1: TITAN - BURN

From the first time I heard BURN from Toronto's Titan I knew it was going to be my Album of the Year. Sometimes when you hear an album the connection is instantaneous. It becomes part of you. That's what happened here. Titan's blend of hardcore, doom, sludge and black metal is the very definition of powerful. Intense performances, interesting lyrics, impeccable musicianship and top notch production combine in sonic glory on BURN. The clear choice of 2012 Album of the Year.

For more thoughts on why.....
Have a look at my (rather extensive) review of BURN here.
I interviewed vocalist James M. and guitarist Chris W. here.

AOTY #2: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction

No album had the kind of widespread impact on the metal community as Pallbearer's Sorrow & Extinction. Fawned over by critics across the board, S&E found it's way onto just about every end of year list. And it's certainly deserving of the praise. One could even go so far as to call it an instant doom classic. Cleanliness is next to godliness they say, making Pallbearer worthy of worship with clean vocals evoking the deepest of sorrow from the listener. Cleanly picked guitar compliments the deep doom dirges as well with such clarity of vision and execution as to make one wonder how the band could possibly follow up this incredible full length debut. Sorrow & Extinction is a monumentally powerful album sure to stand the test of time and stand as a benchmark for the doom genre as a whole.

AOTY #3: Woods of Ypres - Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light

The circustances regarding the release of Woods 5 are most tragic. Mastermind and frontman David Gold was killed in a traffic accident mere weeks before the album's release, leaving the metal community (especially the Canadian one) in shock. Woods 4 could be considered WoY's breakout album and landed them a deal with Earache. Yet just as Gold's songwriting skill was finally getting the recognition it deserved, fate intervened. Such a cruel twist.
What was to become Woods of Ypres's swansong was, in my opinion, the most emotionally charged album released all year regardless of the posthumous situation. GS&EL's heavily gothic tinged black metal is beautifully crafted for maximum emotional impact; its hooks pulling the listener in close. Gold's lyrics centered around mortality and death are quite gripping and thought provoking yet made all the more real (and at times prophetic) by Gold's early departure from this cruel world. I am not ashamed to admit that Woods 5 brought tears to my eyes almost every single time I listened to it. Woods 5 would most definitely sit at the same position on this list were Gold still with us, but his legacy strengthens the album to legendary proportions. One can only hope David has found the peace in death he never found in life.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

AOTY #4: Krallice - Years Past Matter

In 2011, Krallice took home top honours of my AOTY list with their album Diotima. Krallice came right back with their self-released Years Past Matter. The new release is no less deserving of the highest honour I can bestow upon an album but the top 3 are also very very deserving. I listened to YPM a couple weeks ago in bed. As captivating as it is in any circumstance, enjoying the album in a completely distraction-free environment is a totally different experience. With undivided attention and relinquished of other stimuli, the myriad textures, shades and intricacies dissolve within each other in perfect solution. A homogeneous mixture of the brilliant musician ship found in the band. Krallice is modern black metal at its very finest.

Monday, March 11, 2013

AOTY #5: Bison B.C. - Lovelessness

One of my biggest regrets in life was not going to see Bison BC play a living room show on my 30th birthday. Okay, maybe not but that would have been the best birthday party ever!! Well, the semi-surprise party I had instead was pretty frickin' rad too. Riding an electric Vespa around the streets drunk in the middle of the night? Ya that was cool. Anyway, I wrote about Lovelessness for Hellbound.ca
Behold!!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

AOTY #6: Ash Borer - Cold of Ages

Whenever I listen to Ash Borer there is only one thing I want to do, and that is nothing. I just want to be. And let the sound wash over me, lift me. Raise this crude form beyond the earthly realm. Lift me to a place where all that exists is sound, colour and feeling. Fear, anguish, desperation, anger, melancholy. Beauty, hope, determination. Ash Borer's brilliant use of texture, layers and atmospherics on Cold of Ages is stratospheric. Haunting vocals low in the mix howl like spectres reaching out from beyond the grave.
Ash Borer are reaching for the top of the US Black Metal pile. If they continue to progress at the rate they have been and release material with such quality on a torrid pace (a split, EP and two LPs in less than two years) there's no telling what kind of legend they will bring upon themselves, whether they want it or not.

AOTY #7: High On Fire - De Vermis Mysteriis

It's fucking High On Fire. Theses guys could put out an album of themselves chewing their Corn Flakes and it would be awesome. It's a shame Matt Pike had to go into rehab, preventing the band from properly hitting the road to promote the album but in the long run, it's what is best for all concerned. Especially Pike. De Vermis Mysteriis, a concept album about Jesus's evil twin, is HoF doing what HoF do best. Des Kensel's abusive percussion, Jeff Matz's thick, rumbling bass and Pike's incomparable riffing and gravel-throated holler is a recipe that turns out perfect every time.
(E1)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

AOTY #8: Cattle Decapitation - Monolith of Inhumanity

I really should not have to explain why Cattle Decapitation's Monolith of Inhumanity is worthy of making #8 on this list. Monolith is an incredibly brutal display of top flight musicianship packaged as an absolutely vicious goregrind/death metal epitaph to all that makes this such a fucked up world. Especially people. Not to overshadow the contributions of the other members  but Travis Ryan is one monster of a vocalist. His howls and growls, shrieks and indescribable utterances go from one to the other in the blink of an eye. And it's not studio magic. I've seen him do it. Legendary. Monolith sees Cattle Decap at their most volatile and shocking yet. (Have you seen the video for "Forced Gender Reassignment?) It's kind of ironic for vegetarians but most animals are better than most people.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

AOTY #9: Bosse-De-Nage - III

This San Francisco group came out of virtually nowhere to captivate me almost beyond words. I tried to put my thoughts about Bosse-De-Nage's III into words for months but every time I listened to it I became overwhelmed by the raw emotion pouring from the album. I kept getting this vision of the band in a coffee house performing with all their heart as the seated assembly merely soaked in the experience like a piece of art. Or a poetry reading. I supposed the fact the lyrics read more like an essay than black metal lyrics aids that visual. I even referred to the sound as Coffee House Black Metal. III is such an emotionally charged album but in a very nontraditional way. I just wish it hadn't taken me this long to discover them.

AOTY #10: Vilipend - Inamorata

I'm not sure what more I can say about Vilipend's full length debut, Inamorata.
I reviewed the album here. (Probably my best written review of the year.)
I interviewed guitarist Derek Del Vecchio here.
And I wrote the blurb for their inclusion on Hellbound's Top 10 Canadian releases here.
It's fuckin' great.
(A389)
Vilipend.ca

Friday, March 1, 2013

EP of the Year: Wilt - Wilt EP

At first I thought Winnipeg was an unlikely place to find an atmospheric black metal band. But upon further reflection it actually couldn't be a more perfect place. Where the wild forests of Northern Ontario meet the frigid and bleak expanse of the Prairies, seems like a fitting inspiration for bands such as this. Wilt's self-titled EP comes drenched in a fog of grimness over an overflowing river of despair. While the vocals sound underworldly, melodies cascade across icy soundscapes and the organic drums beat with the lifeforce emanating from the natural world. A distinct aura of reverence and respect for nature envelopes the listener in a wash of warm tones and lilting rhythms.
That is not to say the EP feels like a celebration. It feels more like a funeral. A reflection on what once was. Anguish apparent in the black metal rasps. Wilt peel back the layers of the subconscious with hypnotic repetition, suffusing the mind with dark and ancient energies. Their bleak vision reeks of hopelessness yet captures the soul of the listener. Wilt is a stunning debut offering from this Canadian duo. This EP is essential listening; a jewel hidden beneath the frigid Manitoban snows.
Vinyl available from War on Music

AOTY #11: OM - Advaitic Songs

There's just something about OM that appeals to me on a deep level. Since their debut, Variations on a Theme they've kept me entranced with swirling hypnotic rhythms  that circle back and reappear throughout the album. Their simplistic bass/drum/voice approach resonates on a different level. Advaitic Songs sees Cisternos and Amos bring in even more Eastern flavour to an already highly meditative formula. Even at their loudest and most punishing OM still exudes a sense of calm and reflection. Listening to Advaitic Songs is like riding the whorls of smoke drifting from a stick of incense. It chases away negative energies leaving the listener feeling cleansed, centered and peaceful. I couldn't ask for anything more.
Interesting story: Back in the early 2000s (2002-2003 specifically) original OM drummer Chris Hakius was in a band called The Sabians with his wife, Rachel Fisher, Patrick Huerta and Justin Marler (ex-Sleep) and I fucking LOVED them. I was in regular contact via email with Huerta and to some degree with the rest of the members as well. I had mentioned the idea of starting a band with just bass and drums. No guitar. Huerta thought it was pretty cool and heavy, ya know. I can't recall if I heard from any of the others about it though. Well, the Sabians didn't make it to 2004 (much to my chagrin) yet in 2005 what should appear? OM, a 2 piece bass/drum/voice with Hakius behind the kit. Did I play a part in the formation of the band? I highly doubt it but it's a pretty fucking cool coincidence!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

'Dead Weight' A film review from Kingdom of Noise



Adam Bartlett and his company, Gilead Media have been unearthing some of underground metal's best bands and bringing them to the masses in splendid vinyl glory for a while now. As if we weren't blessed enough by the fruits of his labour, 2012 saw the release of the movie Dead Weight. Bartlett and Gilead teamed up with John Pata and Head Trauma Productions for this atypical take on both the love story and horror genres.
The story begins with the main character, Charlie (Joe Belknap) being separated from his beautiful and charming girlfriend Samantha (Mary Lindberg) during an apocalyptic outbreak. The film follows Charlie as he struggles to find her again at any cost. He does not partake in his journey alone. He is joined by other survivors in the quest for survival. But Charlie has more than survival on his mind. Survival is merely a means to an end. His goal is singular. Find Samantha. No matter what.
What makes the film atypical from the horror stand point is that while there is a "virus" and "infected", we don't see them but for the briefest of moments. No, the horror depicted in Dead Weight is humanity on both the micro- and macrocosmic scale. (Not to say there isn't a fair share of blood.) Self-preservation and self-satisfaction dominate the individual and collective psyche. In either case, sacrifice may be necessary for the attainment of the ultimate goal. Despite being apart the majority of the the film, flashbacks provide insight into Charlie and Samantha's somewhat tumultuous relationship. Through this the viewer can connect with Charlie, admire his determination, root for him. Knowing that although they didn't have the perfect relationship, he would do anything and everything to get back to her. Love is a powerful driver.
Without giving too much away, Dead Weight is a starkly character driven film with an anything but straightforward plot. The bleak atmosphere created in the post-apocalyptic landscape mirrors the emptiness of a lonely heart. Dead Weight is a heartbreaking story compelling the viewer towards introspection. How far would you go if faced with a similar fate? Would you be the one carrying dead weight?