Saturday, November 22, 2014

He Whose Ox is Gored - Rumors

He Whose Ox is Gored followed me on Twitter about a dozen times. Must have been a glitch but I never followed back. No offence, but at the time it was just another random band. Until the promo for Rumors landed in my inbox. I had no idea what I was missing.
After diving into this 10+ minute EP I feel like a fool. This band is really cool. It deserves to be said plainly. If these three tracks are any indication of their style, they can be added to the list of bands defying categorization. One can hear alt-rock, noise rock, grunge, sludge and techy/progressive elements woven into an aesthetic that feels decidedly unpretentious.
Vocalist/synths Lisa Mungo sings with confidence. One can sense her natural expressiveness and ingrained talent. Her vocals are a mix of sweet and easily digestible and a more passionate yell without loss of control. Paired with the atmospheric synths and she serves as contrast to the more abrasive tones laid down by her bandmates.
Opening track “Void Assault” has guitarist/vocalist Brian McClelland bringing a rolling semi-tech riff somewhat akin to modern Mastodon but with enough mathiness to make it sound like Meshuggah through a post-hardcore filter. Bassist/vocalist Mike Sparks also shines here with a bass solo that is just bonkers.
“Buried Twice” shows off their gnarlier side. The superfuzzed tone and straightforward, catchy riffs take hold as Mungo wails the chorus beyond a doubt of conviction.
The synths aren't as prominent on much of the title track but their subtle impact is still felt. The track drives hard as well as leaves space open for Sparks's dynamic bass to not get lost amid the crunchy fuzz and drummer John O'Connell's energetic and nuanced playing.
Overall, Rumors sounds intimate and heartfelt while maintaining an adequate energy. It's just edgy enough to be cool, but not so aggressive as to turn off a larger audience. They walk a stylistic line that could lead to quite the broad cross-section of converts. Rumors is incredibly catchy, especially in the vocal department. I have a feeling they could do much more musically but they wisely sacrifice overbearing virtuosity in the interest of songcraft and gut reaction.

He Whose Ox is Gored on Facebook

He Whose Ox is Gored on Twitter

Rumors on Bandcamp

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wrekmeister Harmonies - Then It All Came Down

Cover design by Simon Fowler

Then It All Came Down is the second work from the Wrekmeister Harmonies project spearheaded by J.R. Robinson. For this 34 minute track he's brought together the talents of a number of artists including Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Sanford Parker, Chris Brokaw (Codeine), Ryley Walker and members of Bloodiest, Disappears, Indian and Leviathan to name a few.
The concept of the track revolves around the process of natural decay and accepting that all that is brought into the light must eventually return to the darkness.
Unfolding over such a period of time means that patience is rewarded. Containing a number of movements, TIACD begins beautifully with a droning organ and chimes ushering in female choral vocals. Acoustic guitar (Walker) seeps in from the middle distance completing the scene of serenity.
The peace is broken though as Wrest's coarse growls penetrate an ominous darkness that falls over the whole. A deep drone and various noises move the listener into an unsettling and foreboding realm. It's a short period of unnerving though as mournful strings come into play.
Sorrow and ache now dominate as all feelings of hope are now lost. The calm has been restored but it is a more desperate one. Lamont's pastoral chants deepen those feelings as the strings swell with emotion accompanied by more instrumentation, filling the sonic space to a breaking point.
At that time an ear-shattering tone explodes into powerful doom feeding back magnitude and crushing atmosphere. The tipping point has been reached and the decay goes from deterioration to crumbling collapse. It's absolutely massive and haunted by spectral vocals. The destruction intensifies as percussion enters, crashing as pieces fall away.
As the decay nears completion it softens, and a melody return amid the drone. Vocals both possessed and pastoral continue to afflict the listener as the serenity of completion comes full circle and the light fades into darkness.
Then It All Came Down is a powerful, thought-provoking and existential piece of music. Robinson's vision is executed with care and understanding. Bringing so many elements (and people) together could not have been easy but the results speak for themselves.
Although enjoyable (as much as something this morose can be) under any circumstances, the full impact of the work requires an ideal listening environment. Solitude, subdued lighting and the absence of distraction allow for the full breadth of human emotions displayed here to encapsulate the listener, penetrate the soul and thus allow the full scope of the composition to be realized.
One can only imagine how moving this was when it was debuted at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago under a full moon in July 2013. What an experience that would have been.

Released October 21, 2014 on Thrill Jockey Records

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.

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.