Sunday, March 20, 2011

Inquisition - Ominous Doctrines of the Perpetual Mystical Macrocosm

Black metal can be hit or miss with me. This one is hit and miss. Stylistically, it's my kind of black metal. No keyboards. It's got nice, long, well-composed songs that don't just bury the listener in blastbeats. The songs have texture. They aren't monochromatic. They ebb and flow and breathe. As the title suggests, it's ominous and mystical. I think it's a fantastic of musicianship and songwriting ability. That's the hit part.
The miss part is the vocals. I don't know if it's all natural or computer assisted but in either case, it sounds like someone is choking a frog. Could be the strangest vocals I've ever heard. Not really my thing. However, they're not quite a dealbreaker. While they're aren't my favourite, they do fit with the music for the most part. I can't help but wonder what it would sound like with a more traditional vocal style.
Overall, it's a pretty good traditional, keyboard free, black metal album with weird vocals.

Crowbar - Sever the Wicked Hand

Sometimes it's hard for me to write a review of an album that I know I am gonna love before I even hear it. Because then when I do hear it, and I do love it, all I can think of is "It's awesome. Why do I have to convince anyone?" And in this case, it's Crowbar. Why do I have to convince anyone? I'll do my best regardless.
It's been 6 years since the last Crowbar album. 6 LONG years. But lone original member and mastermind Kirk Windstein hasn't been sitting on his duff. He's been busy with the venerable Down and Jasta colab, Kingdom of Sorrow. More recently, he's also been busy getting clean and sober. His journey through the process of getting clean and sober is the inspiration for Sever the Wicked Hand. They say the pen is mightier than the sword and the lyrics penned within are mighty indeed. It is they that sever the wicked hand. The wicked hand being that holding the blow or the drink. The beautiful and inspiring lyrics provide an interesting contrast to their delivery. Kirk's sandpaper vocals act as a physical reminder that despite the push towards positivity and the beauty of clean living, the battle is a harsh one. It's a battle I can relate to. I've struggled with alcoholism for years. It's a battle I'm still fighting and I have scars that will take a long time to heal. But Sever's lyrics about healing and cleansing and taking back control of your life have inspired me to push harder. Addiction is a very personal road to travel, and to be able to draw inspiration from someone that I look up to is pretty special. It makes the road a little less lonely.
Let's not forget the backdrop for all this traveling. In a Decibel interview, Kirk described Crowbar as a mix of Carnivore and the Melvins. Ashamedly, my experience with Carnivore is non-existent and with the Melvins it's limited. So in my mind, it sounds like Crowbar. I'll hear other bands with that NOLA sludge groove touched by some hardcore influence and think they are trying to sound like Crowbar. TRYING. The Crowbar sound is signature. Whether the tempo is fast or achingly slow, Sever the Wicked Hand delivers an aural beating. When Kirk and co. put the pedal down it's like being hit with large bore automatic gunfire at close range and when the pace slows to a plod, each note is like a concussion grenade right to the chest. This is powerful stuff. The memorable riffs and sonic beatdown come courtesy of a bottom end that'll shake your house off its foundations and muted notes that sound like chainmail being scraped across sheet metal. And the drums pound with the force of a crumbling sky. In other words, it's classic Crowbar. You have to remember, this is the band that made "Dream Weaver" sound heavy. (That Inhale 4:20: The Stoner Rock Compilation was badass!)
6 years is a long time between albums. But as the saying goes, good things come to those who wait. The patient have certainly reaped the rewards of their steadfastness with Sever the Wicked Hand. A demon is slain on the Adam D. designed cover and inner demons are slain on the masterpiece found within. Not only will this album stand up as one of Crowbar's best ever, but I think it's an early favourite for 2011 Album of the Year.
Crowbar rules!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Abysmal Dawn - Leveling the Plane of Existence

Sometimes I can't understand myself. Sometimes within the same sub-genre I will like one band and not like another. For example, I like Origin. I don't like Obscura. or Cynic. But I do like Abysmal Dawn. If you haven't guessed, I'm talking about technical death metal. (ok, maybe Cynic doesn't fit in there) I can't really explain why I like certain bands over others. But I'll try and explain why I like Abysmal Dawn.
First of all, for the most part, the lyrics are discernible. This isn't a big sticking point with me but it helps. If I couldn't make out any words, I'd dismiss it outright only because the music makes up for any vocal shortcomings. Don't think the vocals aren't brutal though. They are. Very much so. But they are very well done and far from repetitive grunting. Also, they aren't everywhere. There is a good balance between the vocals and the music.
I can appreciate musical ability. Mainly because I have very little. I try but... So when I hear a band play with the immensity of talent that the dudes in AD have, it blows my mind. Now, just being able to play very well doesn't mean you can write. I can play softball. Doesn't mean I can coach. That's what appeals to me about Abysmal Dawn. They have serious chops but they are able to turn that into songs. Pretty complex songs at that. They can bring the muscle and power of traditional death metal and meld that with blissful solos and untraditional song structures. They can be technical without shoving it down your throat or being overly arty. I don't think they'll be the band that swings me over to the uber-tech/prog side of  the fence but if I want to feel inadequate, I'll put on Leveling the Plane of Existence.
I'd really like to say more about this but I'm getting a case of writer's block.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Scale the Summit - The Collective

I'm not huge on most instrumetal. More or less because not much happens. And when something does happen, I've waited so long for it that it's always disappointing. Maybe I don't listen to the right stuff. Anyway, I don't not like The Collective. I don't necessarily yearn for it either. (It's better than what I am listening to right now though.) The Collective is the kind of album that I can put on and not frighten people. It's full of sweeping melodies and just enough punch to make it palatable for someone like me who likes the more aggressive stuff. It actually reminds me a lot of that G3 album with Vai, Satriani and Johnson. It also brings to mind Marc Rizzo's solo work. I have a hard time saying very much about it because I feel like it's just kind of "there". I know plenty of people love this stuff and that's good for them. It's great background music and I'll likely listen to it plenty more time before the year is out.
Elevator music for metalheads.