Monday, August 9, 2010 Reviews (4)

My Ruin - Ghosts and Good Stories (Tiefdruck Musik)
Sara Heitman

[10/10] Ghosts and Good Stories, My Ruin’s sixth studio album, blows all of the others out of the water. A combination of everything that makes My Ruin so remarkable, the duo (married, that is) of Tairrie B. and Mick Murphy have made what is creative, angry, passionate, and fun! This charming husband and wife duo kick ass, colloquially speaking, and Ghosts and Good Stories is their latest testament of this.

The album starts with a strong beginning, just the guitar, in "Diggin' for Ghosts." Vocals layered with whispers and spoken word set an eerie tone to the album, sending shivers down your spine. The music is remorseful and we are given the impression that a painful past is being exhumed, confronted, and then left behind. There seems to be an underlying theme throughout the album that trust ends in regret, and things believed eventually prove false. What is appealing about My Ruin is that their heavy songs have a memorable quality that could easily become stuck in your head. "Long Dark Night," to name one, has such a quality with its energetic rock beat and colorful guitar riffs. We can also relate to this one on a personal level.

Skipping ahead a bit, "Eyes Black" points a feminist finger at a very touchy subject. It is controversial to even mention topics of this nature, mostly because it seems that anyone who does tends to suddenly disappear. There are certain cultures in this world with people who believe it is perfectly acceptable to treat women as possessions, forcing them to cover their "meat" so to not attract unwanted attention. While the believers of these traditions behave as though they are perfectly content with this (even the women), it definitely attracts some attention from the rest of the world. Tairrie does not seem like the kind of woman to take these practices lightly, and continues to be an admirable role model to our misguided gender.

A more intense version of The LVRS is what immediately comes to mind when hearing the song, "Deathknell," which is the last track on Ghosts and Good Stories. The LVRS is an intimate, spoken-word side project which brings the listener into a dark, quiet place. Slow and tragic, holding onto pain, this expression of anguish is also apparent in "Excommunicated," which also dips into spoken word. Tairrie's prolonged scream of agony will continue to reverberate in your mind. "La Ciudad" holds a similar shape, while simultaneously sounding intimidating, and we realize that Tairrie's voice could easily be placed in a lounge, atop a piano, coated in a smooth layer of southern whiskey.

There are too many noteworthy elements of this album. So, before getting carried away, we will end only after briefly mentioning the musical middle finger held up in "Money Shot," a Rollins Band cover of "Turned Out," and the gut-wrenching screams of "Suicide Tuesday." There is a thrilling solo in every song by Mr. Mick Murphy. Each one is unique and amazing in its own way. However, the song where the solo personally strikes a nerve is in "Malediction." Here, he shreds the kind of solo that makes you turn to your neighbor with a look of surprise and mouth the words, "Holy shit." At least, that's what I did! In short, Ghosts and Good Stories is gracefully bone-chilling, filled with teeth-chattering terror, and leaves your unworthy soul melted in a puddle on the floor. A masterpiece!

Hero Destroyed - Throes (Relapse Records)
Sara Heitman

[8/10] If you want something, you need to be proactive. Very seldom does life throw you a house-warming party and just hand you a basket of soap. Amazing things don't just happen; you have to make them happen. This is how I came to know the album, Throes, by Hero Destroyed. I knew that I wanted to write a review for Cephalic Carnage's new album, Misled by Certainty, so I contacted Relapse Records to have it sent to me. Along with it came a copy of Throes. So the listening begins.

Hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Hero Destroyed has been around since 2005 and released a self-titled EP in 2008. They are described as hardcore, death metal, or metalcore. When I think of metalcore, though, bands like Killswitch Engage and Bullet for My Valentine come to mind. This is not the sound of Hero Destroyed. Thankfully, metalcore, in the annoyingly commercial-to-the-Hot-Topic-bone sense of the word is not detected. Instead, Dustin Newman (bass), Pat McNicholas (vocals), Neal Andrus (drums), Zach Moore and Jeff Turko (guitars) have put together a tasty little full-length debut for us, to be released in the end of August through Relapse Records.

Of course the cover of the album was my first impression, and it is very intriguing- a human heart, protruding with desperate arms, connected by machinery. It reminds me of the "real world" where humans live in The Matrix. I was expecting something breathtakingly mind-altering and unexpected. I was impressed, yet somehow disappointed. The first, and most obvious disappointment, for me, are the vocals. Sorry, Pat. There is something that rubs my eardrums the wrong way, and they stay consistent throughout the album, which becomes slightly annoying and boring eventually. You could describe them as old-school hardcore punk meets metal vocals. Also, at times the recording sounds a bit muddy, but it is possible that could be due to the performance. Throes includes numerous areas where the compilation of sounds is very technical and complicated. In order to achieve this successfully, each instrument needs to be performed precisely to keep up; starting with the drums.

Overall, this album is interesting and unique with a mixture of styles. The music is unpredictable with unexpected timing changes, and aspects of math metal make it interesting. There are some oddly-timed, uncommon riffs, and while they can be repetitive, they keep the album moving forward. "That's an Axe," "Army of Draccoons," "The Last Upper," and "Dom Wampus" all have sections that highlight the bass guitar. As someone who is currently learning to play the bass, I appreciate this display of the dimension the bass adds to music. "Cerberus" is my favorite track. It is instrumental and strange, and sets a different tone.

Take the vocals out of Throes and you have Cephalic Carnage's little brother. The deadpan vocal delivery is the only thing that is keeping me from purchasing this album for my own personal collection. The major downfall of this album is that they have no variation, but the music does. In the future, it would be nice to hear vocal variety, whether it is full-fledged death growls, spoken word, clean vocals, or even a whisper. Anything would help break them up enough to match the level of variation in the music. There are certain musical aspects, like in "Army of Draccoons," where each instrument joins in after the other into an erratic rhythm, and in "Minion" where each guitar is playing something different and recorded so that one guitar plays in your right ear and the other in your left. It's like a massage for your brain and it would be great if the vocals contributed to that!

It is difficult to determine whether or not Hero Destroyed will develop and progress with their sound. It is apparent that they are still experimenting with their own style, but there has not been much variation with Throes compared to their previously released EP. If some of the creative elements from "Permian - Triassic" or the almost psychedelic-sounding beginning of "Army of Draccoons" were brought into the mix more, it would bring a wider sense of dynamics to the songs and help advance their already unique sound even further. Hero Destroyed needs to push through to the next level.

Cephalic Carnage - Misled By Certainty (Relapse Records)
Sara Heitman

[10/10] Astounding. Misled by Certainty is an album that needs to be listened to multiple times in order to grasp all of the individual elements that exist in each song, and that is the plan. After Xenosapien, we couldn't imagine anything better, but Cephalic Carnage has succeeded at surpassing their own boundary.

In Misled by Certainty, each song is completely unique and fully capable of standing alone, yet we get the sense that there is a strong connection between the songs and their themes. From Cephalic Carnage, a more emotional, melodic, and even humorous side to them has surfaced with this new delicious jewel.

The album kicks off with "The Incorrigible Flame," which, research shows, has been around since late last year and was even performed in Denver without vocals or a name. It starts off with a catchy guitar riff and later descends into darkness when it slows down and horrifying vocal growls stomp in. At times, the guitars emanate the sound of giant bees dying a slow and painful death. "Warbots A.M." presents us with unbelievably fast guitar riffs and the first somewhat noticeable display of connection between songs. The word "cordyceps" can be made out from the lyrics, which is also part of the title of one of the other songs.

There is a variety in vocal styles during this song which helps add to the depth of their sound, and in the end we are whisked into an H.P. Lovecraft story with a tribal chant to Cthulu which achieves a chilling effect of intimidation."Cordyceps Humanis" embraces a menacing beginning, staying slow and brutal. One can appreciate that Cephalic Carnage does not find it necessary to create every song as fretboard-burningly fast as the next, and it is just as effective. "Cordyceps Humanis" ends with slower dramatic guitars, followed by what sounds like a U.F.O. spacecraft preparing for flight and then taking off into "Raped by an Orb." What a humorous title, and too closely connected to be a coincidence.

There are two other songs with humorous demonstrations. The menacing "Pure Horses" ends suddenly with a horse's neigh. While appropriate to the song's title, this inspires a couple of chuckles from the listener. "P.G.A.D." begins abruptly with a high-pitched scream. It is very loud and chaotic, and before you realize, it's ending with obnoxious chewing sounds, and dare I say, a fart!

Compared to Xenosapien, Misled by Certainty is heavy in a more melodic and emotional way. The emotion bleeds through in songs like "Ohrwurm" with the bass guitar and saxophone stealing center stage. Also, heartstrings are yanked in, "When I Arrive" and "Repangaea." Although "When I Arrive" is capable of invoking a sense of anxiety and disorder, it touches on an emotional and controversial topic (if my analysis is correct). Also, the ending is a bit surprising. However, this modern sound could be an interpretation of a very biblical idea. "Repangaea" is undoubtedly going to be the most buzzed about track. It takes you to a different place and time; simultaneously gallant and mournful.

Misled by Certainty takes you on a journey. This "rocky mountain hydro-grind" group has come together to bring the metal world something completely awe-inspiringly brutal and unique. It is refreshing to hear something so tangled and strange, yet so beautiful. It is also pleasing to know that these guys are still just a bunch of fun-loving characters who aren't afraid of letting their personalities out in their music. Finally, we ask to please make sure the "compruder" remains fixed so we may hear more!