Thursday, June 10, 2010

Nevermore - The Obsidian Conspiracy

Just a quick note on this one. Rippin' tunes but not a big fan of that vocal style. Maybe it will grow on me the way the last Into Eternity album did. I didn't like the vocals on that one the first time around either. The Tea Party cover was a pleasant surprise though.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Burzum - Belus

I know who Varg Vikernes is. I know the story. But up til now, I'd never heard a Burzum album. I'm not surprised since I'm not really a huge Black Metal fan. I don't know why. I decided to listen to Belus more out of curiosity than anything. Varg's first album since his release is a big deal so what kind of metal "writer" would I be if I didn't at least check it out. Turns out, I'm kinda glad I did.
Remember, I have no experience with Burzum to compare too and not a whole lot of "traditional" Black Metal experience either.
At first I was put off a little by the lo-fi production but I remembered it is intentional and was instantly able to disregard that aspect and concentrate on the music itself. Other than the fact that the strumming almost never stops, it's not incredibly technical. It's the atmosphere. I think I might actually "get" Black Metal now. Belus has an atmosphere that I can understand now. It's bleak. It's evil. It's cold. I keep picturing a candle lit cave in the side of a snow covered mountain with a fierce wind in the depths of night. Since I'm from Canada, I can somewhat relate. Not really the mountain part or the cave part, but I have been camping in a tent in -30 Celsius weather in February. At least the sun was out during the day.
I really enjoy the subtleties I can hear if I really pay attention. There isn't any punch-in-the-face moments or anything but it has an energy to it nonetheless. There can feel a meandering in the flow of the guitar. Almost like flying with no real deadline or destination. The object flying just happens to be a bird of prey soaring over the treetops in search of its next meal. The drumming is uninspiring (not that I expected any different) and I can't understand a word he is saying. Most of it wouldn't matter even if it was English. Despite its indecipherability, I sense and theme or a story. A story of menacing desolation, isolation and loneliness.
Now, it's possible the Black Metal purist/fanatic/connoisseur may have a vastly different opinion than I do, but given my limited base of comparison as far as Black Metal goes, I think it's pretty good. I wonder if Belus could end up being my Black Metal gateway drug?

High on Fire - Snakes for the Divine (the real copy this time)

I have a hard time reviewing albums I really like. It's easier to pick apart a shitty band than praise an established band doing their thing. What makes it harder is I have virtually no theoretical musical background. I don't know a major chord from a minor. A sharp from a flat. An A from a G from a W. I don't even know what an arpeggio is. None of that matters because I know good music when I heard it. The problem is coming up with adjectives other than "awesome". But I'll try.
Frontman Matt Pike has a reputation. A reputation for being in great bands. From the legendary Sleep, to the short-lived Kalas side project, to the juggernaut that is High on Fire, you can be assured there will be high quality. High on Fire's latest album, Snakes for the Divine, is loaded with quality. From the opening dirge of the title track with Pike's fingers dancing over the fretboard, right through to the vocal blast that closes "Holy Flames of the Fire Spitter", there isn't a lemon to be found.
The many facets of the godlike talent and vision of Pike's guitar playing are on full display. Thunderous riffing, galloping rhythms, and masterful soloing paint a picture across the whole album. Pictures of movement, of battles physical, emotional and spiritual.
Of course with a such a formidable frontman, the rhythm section section has to be up to snuff. Jeff Matz and Des Kensel are certainly that. They really are a driving force. Matz doesn't lose a step against Pike and Kensel's drumming creates riffs in itself. The drums may be my favourite part of the album come to think of it. The steering wheel of my car has taken quite the beating the last several weeks. It provides a near constant pummeling with perfectly placed rolls and fills. It should inspire everyone who hears it to take up drums.
What High on Fire review would be complete without making mention of the gravel-throated rasp of Pike's vocals. Think Lemmy but more ravaged and with more range. In a previous life, that voice commanded armies. The fact that he can sing at all while playing guitar the way he does makes my head spin. Anyone outside the metal community (and many in it) would cringe upon hearing it. But in a world that almost shuns vocal perfection, it's the voice of power and passion.
As powerful as this trio is in recorded form, live is how they are meant to be heard. I saw them a few years ago on the first SOTU tour and I get to see them again next month. They are coming to town with Priestess and Skeletonwitch. In a small club.  It's gonna be.....(wait for it)....awesome.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Baby Varg?

My wife and I are spawning another minion, I mean, having another baby. I was looking through a baby name book while listening to the new Burzum album. Maybe not such a good idea. I mean, I wouldn't want to end up naming the kid Varg would I? Fat chance of that happening.
But, I wouldn't rule out trying to slip in a metal namesake.  The only one I can think of right now is Max (Cavalera). Metal isn't really known for having cool (and appropriate) names to choose from. Ozzy is out. I can't very well use Dimebag. Lars and Dez are out of the question. I'm at a loss.
Any ideas?