Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Non-Metal Recommendation of the Month: Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago


Band: Bon Iver
Album: For Emma, Forever Ago
Genre: Folk

Since being released in February of 2008, Bon Iver's magnum opus "For Emma, Forever Ago" has yet to get old.  This album is just jam-packed full of flawless songwriting, emotion, and atmosphere, and it's easy to see why.  After the break-up of his previous band, Justin Vernon retreated to a cabin in Wisconsin in hopes of "hibernating."  That is how this album came to be.  One man, living on his own, in a cabin filled with his own sorrows, regrets and insecurities.  The final product delivers a first hand account of the inner workings of this, dare I say, geniuses head.

Let's face it.  We all get sad at some point in our life.  When that time comes, I highly recommend you throw this album in the player.  It may not be the pick-me-up you need, but what it will do is provide you with the proper mindset to think, and to cope, as well as peace of mind that you're not the only one out there who is hurtin'.  This album will touch you in places of your emotions you never knew existed.  

So, if you're feeling like diverging from your solid intake of ear-blasting metal, check this album out.  It's truly one of a kind, and you'll find yourself yearning to hear it many times over.  It's a little gem that you can bust out whenever you're feeling down, or just need something different.  It's tiny bit of zest that everyone needs in their music library.  Plus, the chicks dig it!  Go out and pick this one up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Annotations of An Autopsy - II: The Reign of Darkness


Band: Annotations of An Autopsy
Album: II: The Reign of Darkness
Genre: Death Metal/Deathcore

Newly transformed death metal band Annotations of An Autopsy delivers their first full-length album since switching genres from the stale realm of deathcore.  This album is definitely a move in the right direction for the band in terms of musical growth, but there are still areas in which the band relies heavily on the chug-a-lug breakdowns that somehow made them famous.

Lets be honest.  The genre of deatchore catches a lot of flack for being a lazy genre.  But, after hearing a lot of the music that is popular in the genre, it is easy to see why.  Most bands rely too heavily on mindless breakdowns and poor lyrical essence.  Clearly, Annotations of An Autopsy wanted to prove themselves as musicians on this album.  I don't know if I can say their efforts fully payed off.  True, this album has some good ol' death metal influence to it.  But, just because there is influence, doesn't mean it's good.  Most of the tracks on this album feel rushed, and as if they are only there for filler.  The riffs have a tendency to build to a stupidly slow breakdown that sounds far too familiar for my liking.  There are guitar solos in the most random spots in songs, and the drums seem to be doing the same exact thing every track, while the bass is completely inaudible.  With this release, it seems like the band had a bunch of riffs that they had written, and decided to throw together in random order without any time or thought.

The poor structure leads to a lack of emotion in the music.  For most death metal bands these days, it seems pretty clear about what they are pissed off about.  I get the feeling through the music that the band produced, that they don't really know why they are pissed, other then because they are supposed to to fit in.  While this album was aimed to establish them as a death metal act to be taken seriously, it has really only reduced them to that awkward kid that stands in the corner at a party talking to himself.

The final thing that truly bugged me about this album were the lyrics.  I'm going to be frank.  They sound like they were written by a five year old, and they are on the same level as the lyrics displayed on Howl's "Full of Hell" album.  The only difference between the two is that "Full of Hell" has some good music to drown out the awful lyrics.  The same can't be said for "II: The Reign of Darkness."  The piss-pour lyrical content is clearly displayed in tracks such as "In Snakes I Bathe," where the lyrics "You make me fucking sick" are present at least six different times in the song.  Again, the songs feel like filler.  If all you're coming up with is "You make me fucking sick" over and over again, it sounds like you need a new writing implement.

Though there are a lot of negative aspects to this album, it isn't all awful.  Songs like "Catastrophic Hybridization" and "Impale the Sun" show that there is some driving force of death metal on the album.  The band actually formed some decent riffs that were head-bang worthy.  Unfortunately, said riffs didn't last long enough, and transpired into nothing more then another heartless breakdown.  All the same, it's a serious step in a good direction.  Hopefully on their next release, there will be more music like it.

All in all, this album was a failed attempt at being a legitimate death metal release.  The band reverted back to their lazy roots far too much, and didn't spend nearly enough time making fresh, quality music.  The riffs, solos, and drum beats are all too bland and stale to give the album any more presence then a stale bag of marshmallows.  Do yourself a favor and skip this album if you are into real death metal.  If you're more of a deathcore listener, then chances are you'll be enjoying this album a lot more than I will.

Score: 4/10

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Last Chance To Reason

(Photo Credit: Jessica Harvey)

When it comes to progressive metal, one can expect just about anything.  Bands like Dream TheaterHunab Ku or even Augury prove this point.  What I'm saying is, in the realm of progressive metal, just about anything goes, and anything could be the next big thing.  Last Chance To Reason hopes to be that thing, exactly.

Hailing from Augusta, ME, Last Chance To Reason is further blurring the lines of, as well as expanding on, the already vast landscape that is progressive metal.  With the wait on their new concept-album, "Level 2," soon to be announced, fans are growing anxious for the drop of the album, as well as what comes with the record.

The band's new concept-album is based on a video-game that the band wrote and are making themselves, with the help of a Mr. Tom Vine.  The band wrote about the album/game on their MySpace saying:

"Level 2 is a new take on both the concept album and the videogame. It is a melding of both arts into a unified experience. In Level 2 you will battle through fully interactive interpretations of Last Chance to Reason’s futuristic progressive metal. The game/album’s story unfolds through thematic riffs, stirring vocal hooks and progressive virtuosity while the player blasts his way through viscous gameplay inspired by classics such as R-Type, Contra, and Super Metroid. Level 2, a collaboration between LCTR and indie game developer Tom Vine is slated for release in 2010."

Now, If you're wondering what the video-game will look like, here is a quick 10 second clip of the boss at the end of the first level:

Last Chance To Reason is an up-and-coming force to be reckoned with.  The six piece band bring the sounds of two schools of progressive axe-work, a six string bass, futuristic murmurs via key-board, drums so complex you'd swear the guy had three arms, and a mix of clean and harsh vocals that will hush you with allure, and beat you to the ground with no remorse.  

These guys have already finished one tour with the band Iron Thrones, and will start touring the album more as the release date grows closer.  The band also has just been announced to be on Prosthetic Records.  You can check the band's MySpace and Facebook for future live shows coming near you.  The brutality of their music can be heard in their recordings, and felt as they dominate the stage live.  It's a show you will certainly not want to miss.  

If you're a fan of heavy music whatsoever (or video-games, for that matter), I highly recommend you check these guys out, and urge you to keep an eye out for them.  Their futuristic brutality can not, and will not be stopped.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Saddest Landscape - You Will Not Survive


Band: The Saddest Landscape
Album: You Will Not Survive
Genre: Screamo

The Saddest Landscape has come a long way since their formation years ago.  Early on, they established themselves as one of the forerunners in the screamo/emo scene, combining hauntingly atmospheric passages with riffs and beats of complete chaos to follow.  Their latest release, "You Will Not Survive" is more than just another screamo album.  This album is a milestone in the career of a band that continually grows upon itself.

This album is a true gem, in that there is nothing like it.  This is still The Saddest Landscape, yet its them in a completely different light.  Their growing musical talents, along with the bond that these band members share is reflected clearly in the music that they produce on this record.  Being a fan of the band for a year or two now, I've grown accustom to how these guys sound, and to hear something that is completely different, yet almost exactly the same really says a lot about the where the heart of this music lies. It shows a great sophistication in the musical abilities of the band.

Most of the songs off "You Will Not Survive," are in the same vein of pretty much all the other songs TSL have made.  The exception that makes these songs even better than usual, is the fact that these are all sad or angry songs, and they are clinging to the past in the same way we cling to our painful memories.  This quality of the album gives the listener a very personal experience while listening.

Tracks such as "Declaring A War On Nostalgia," and "Imperfect, But Ours" are prime examples of the rage and pain that is engrained deep down into every note of this album.  Every scream is a haunting reminder of the skeletons in your closet that surround you every day.   It's this aspect of the album that listeners will be able to relate to most.  Each one of the songs touches a fear, insecurity, dread, or pain and lets you know that you're not alone in your feelings.  

On the technical end of the album.  All is the same in the musics form.  I don't want to say that the music is rehashed, because, honestly, some of the band's best work to date is on this album.  The music is simply familiar.  It's the emotions driving the music that are different this time around.  It's almost as if The Saddest Landscape are allowing the listener to live vicariously through their music on this album.

The sound of the release is phenomenal, as well.  This is another characteristic of the album that contributes to a more mature sound.  This album doesn't sound like it was recorded in a basement (not that that's a bad thing).  It has a very polished sound, which I feel gives this album not only more accessibility, as well as makes a bolder statement when conveying the emotions of the music to the listener.

I'd like to think that this whole album is a musical representation of the journey that this band has gone on.  "You Will Not Survive" pulls traces of all their previous releases, mends them all into one sound, and then presents the emotions of the artists at this point in their life.  It's almost like a musical documentary on the lives of these guys.

So, if you are already a fan of The Saddest Landscape, I highly encourage you to track this album down.  It's their best to date, and the band shows no sign of letting up on the intensity as the years go on.  Also, if you are new to screamo, pick this album up.  It is very accessible for first time screamo listeners.  I'm giving this a green-light for pretty much anyone who has an interest in the emotional side of screamo.  

Score: 9/10

DeathCult - The Living, The Dying, and The Damned


Band: DeathCult (U.S.)
Album:  The Living, The Dying, and The Damned
Genre: Death Metal

Isn't it funny how some of the more talented bands never seem to strike it big, forever doomed to be lost in time?  It's a real shame because tons of bands that should be recognized simply aren't.  Hailing from Los Angeles, California, DeathCult is one of these bands I am talking about.  On their first (and only) full-length album, they establish themselves as musicians who both know what they are doing, as well as possess a yearning to break the confines of the generic meat and potatoes style of old-school death metal.

There are various elements of "The Living, The Dying, and The Damned" that make it a noteworthy release.  This album seems very reminiscent of Autopsy's album "Mental Funeral," in that it incorporates both the traditional death metal sound with a demented sort of doom metal aspect as well.  These guys clearly know what they are doing, because the riffs sound heavy as hell, and are very easy to slam your head to.  The band also makes great use of the dual guitar on this album.  The two instruments are very well mixed in the sense that you can hear both doing their own thing at the same time.  Both players are audible throughout the whole album, instead of just getting muddled into one cluster of sound.

The flow of the album is another one of its noteworthy qualities.  DeathCult knew exactly what they were aiming for when writing and recording this album.  I find that with a lot of bands (especially the more unheard of ones) some of the tracks on an album feel forced, almost as though they were just made to fill up space on the album.  Each track off "The Living, The Dying, and The Damned" has it's own atmosphere and place on the album.  When you listen to the album, it doesn't feel like a collection of songs.  It simply sounds like an album, and its a quality that is appreciate that greatly.

All this being said, there were some aspects of the album that were off-putting to me.  Before I get too far into this, I must say, that for an unsigned death metal band, the production on this album is far above par.  The guitars, drums and vocals blend very well, but my one complaint is that very seldom is the bass audible.  This is generally on the slower doomy passages, when there isn't as much chaos going on.  But, when I listen to heavy music, I want to hear that bass slamming along.  It's something that takes away from the finished product.

The other aspect of the album that I couldn't quite get into was the hint of avant-garde that is sprinkled throughout this album.  It was interesting in a way, because it reminded me somewhat of the early releases by Gorguts.  I'm not saying that these passages of the album weren't well done, because they were.  It's just simply not my kind of thing.

So, if you are sick of all this chugging new-aged death metal, and you want a blast from the past in a very refreshing way, I highly recommend you check out DeathCult.  They are a rather unheard of band that brings a lot of intensity to their music.  If you aren't into avant-garde death, I'd still give it a shot.  There is far more death and doom to this album then anything.  You can check these guys out by visiting them on their MySpace page.  Show them your support, because these guys have churned out a pretty solid first full-length here.

Score: 7/10