Thursday, July 22, 2010 Reviews (3)

Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire - Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation (Prosthetic Records)

[9/10] A band's name is like the title of a book. It is often a deciding factor in whether or not the audience will take that extra step to read the book or, in this case, listen to the album. With a name like Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire, it almost tells a story in itself. In a recent interview with the vocalist from Clinging to the Trees of a Forest Fire (hereafter known as CTFF), Ethan stated, "Our name comes from the idea of holding onto something completely and utterly fucked/hopeless/ruined..." Bands with unusually long and descriptive band names, for the most part, will either produce extremely impressive music or total garbage.

Fortunately for CTFF, they have succeeded in creating something that fans of several genres can appreciate. According to some tags from a website, if you like brutal deathgrind, chaotic grindcore, power violence, smoking pot, worshipping Satan, and being unreasonably pissed off, you will probably enjoy listening to CTFF and Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation.

Band members include: Ethan - vocals, Ben - Guitar, Zach - Bass, and J.P. - Drums. Ethan uses gruesome vocals alternating between harsh roars, and screams that could be resonating from a torture chamber or uttered from someone being burned alive. The drums create unexpected beats. Guitar and bass use unique riffs, clashing in all the right ways.

The album starts off with a blast of heat. If you are having a problem waking up, "Teeth and Hair" will solve it for you. It will slap you in the face like opening a scorching hot oven. Your eyebrows are singed, and you love it! Everyone had better get out of your way when this song is playing. Songs of Ill Hope and Desperation is what sounds like death metal and grindcore mixed with doom metal. It has elements of sludge metal, and has been referred to as "funeral grind." Each song is out of the ordinary, and that is refreshing. CTFF uses dissonant chords and bizarre progressions making it difficult for your ears to collaborate with your brain to process what is happening. Needless to say, they are outside of the box. In fact, you could say they are so far outside of the box, they have stomped on the box, run over it with their horse and plough, and buried it under 300 acres of shit!

CTFF's collective sound is remindful of early Anal Cunt (think Morbid Florist EP). My favorite song from the album is, "They Smeared Shit on Their Skin to Blend in at Night." It has such a splendid and amusing title, and reminds me of Ana Kefr's "Feed a PETA Member to a Starving Child in Africa." This song by CTFF is different from the other songs overall. It seems to roll around in every direction and has a brief spotlight on an accelerated bass. It is power and violence, inspiring destruction past the breaking point.

"Made of Coal" delivers angry screams accompanied by ultra-fast drums. Then it slows down to a stoner sound, with some of the riffs reminiscent to the work of Adam Jones from Tool. In "Boquet of Self Pity," our cochleas are pierced with a high-pitched squeal, and a slow start makes the drums stand out. The doomier moments of CTFF sound like some of the better doom elements of Cephalic Carnage; the song "G.lobal O.verhaul D.evice" as an example.

Overall, CTFF has managed to bring us material that the music world is severely lacking- something unique. What is particularly impressing is the last track of this album, "Remove the Light." Without giving it away, the ending is very dramatic. After it is over, we are left feeling disoriented, like after waking up from a terrible dream. It feels strange to return back to reality. Personally, there has never been another album that manifested such a horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. That, in short, is stupendous!

Mose Giganticus - Gift Horse (Relapse Records)

[7/10] This is not a typical metal album. In fact, it is a stretch to call this "metal" at all. Others have described the genre of Gift Horse presented by Mose Giganticus as grunge metal, synth punk, electronic, and death metal. This also isn't a typical metal band. It is even a stretch to call Mose Giganticus a "band" at all! The style and sound of Mose Giganticus is created by the keyboardist/drummer/programmer/songwriter/vocalist Matt Garfield of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Personally, anything that is outside of the box is favorable. So, when playing Gift Horse for the first time, a curiosity arose. A blend of synthesized sounds combined with electric guitar-themed music, create a mellow image with a rock energy. There is a quality comparable to the Berlin electronica sound. The majority of it is entertaining. I, the reviewer, have stepped out from behind the shadows of the music, and taken the liberty to coin the term "relaxation metal" as a new, softer branch of the genre to describe the album.

We begin Gift Horse with "Last Resort." An upbeat synth sound welcomes us, and brings to mind visions of a sunrise. It has a slow tempo with a Dream Theater essence, but heavier vocals. The vocals retain the same quality throughout the album, and at times can sound like players of a football team belting out team spirit. The combination of the melodic sound with the guitar riffs in "The Left Path" make for a catchy beginning of the track. The lyrics are simple and follow straight-forward patterns. One source states that the lyrics in Gift Horse are written from the perspective of the Christian god and the fallen angel, Lucifer, having a conversation. However, when the "football vocals" (another term I have coined for this album) are remindful of the chorus from Chumbawumba's "Tubthumping," it is hard to imagine they are based on a topic of such serious nature.

By the third track, "Demon Tusk," the uniqueness of the synth metal sound loses its luster. Everything starts sounding repetitive, and it gets difficult to establish the differences between each song. They do, however, become songs that one might find useful to help cure insomnia, or to play after the end of a sporting event or a movie as the masses begin shuffling out to their cars. Background music.

There are two tracks that stand out in this album. "White Horse," and the last track, "The Seventh Seal" both have memorable aspects. "White Horse" begins with a high-pitched keyboard melody which jumps around energetically and sounds like it is running a race. Then, the guitar comes in to run alongside it. The fast keyboard accompanied by the slower guitar musically creates the idea of "The Tortoise and the Hare." Some may find the bouncy keys to be annoying, but this is personally entertaining, because it continuously brings to mind the scene from the movie Revenge of the Nerds where the nerds perform the ultimate synthesized musical number and it blows everyone away!

"The Seventh Seal" seems to have the most variation. It is not a happy song, and presents slow, clean vocals. The sorrow, in my opinion, would have been conveyed more effectively with one solitary, heartfelt voice, instead of the use of layering again. There is even a short solo here! Though, it seems that it is almost too little, too late.

A gift horse is an apparent gift that has substantial, associated costs. Maybe that is how we are to treat this album. It is a gift. Take it or leave it, but if you choose to accept, don't criticize. Applause should go to Mr. Garfield for his ambition and drive to create this full-length album practically on his own. There are not many people who have that kind of motivation. Mose Giganticus has given us the gift of music, and while it may not be everyone's cup of tea, Gift Horse has the ability to inspire our imagination.

Waking the Cadaver - Beyond Cops. Beyond God. (Siege of Amida/Candlelight Records)

Occasionally, before even listening to a new band to review, researching the band and their history, and observing what others have to say about the music will give an idea of what to expect. In the case of Waking the Cadaver, there was no other conclusion to be made from previous reviews but to expect the absolute worst piece of garbage that one has ever laid ears on in the history of music's existence! Seriously. Here are some excerpts of reviews written for the band’s debut album, Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler found on Encyclopedia Metallum - The Metal Archives:

"The breakdowns are uninteresting, generic, and boring."
"...guitar playing that is an insult to the instrument..."
"It shows no emotion other than a rape of a snare skin and a palm muted open note..."
"Just about everything sounds the same."
"Combining poor growling skills and cheap production with oinking, they seem to come from the most pissed off pig you will ever see."

Several reviewers claimed Perverse Recollections of a Necromangler was literally the worst album they had ever heard, and one said that the album was great if you were looking for a laugh. So, now that Waking the Cadaver are releasing their second album, Beyond Cops. Beyond God., have they taken any of these remarks into consideration?

My answer is both yes and no. First, "no" because, as a whole, the album is, as quoted, "uninteresting, generic, and boring." It is lacking originality, and the ability to make anyone want to listen to it again. I would have to say that it is a bold move to copyright the term "Slamming Gore Groove," if it is in fact copyrighted. However, after listening to the album, it seems like it is a last ditch effort to look like they are unique on paper. They are trying too hard to sound tough. This is apparent from the album title alone, and could be compared to the authoritative identity that Eric Cartman from South Park created for himself. A child stating, "I am above the law," or "Respect my authority!" is comical. There are ways of letting people know you are tough besides simply declaring it.

That brings us to the lyrical aspect of the album. From what is available to read, this member of the musical audience is not impressed. The lyrical themes are of rape, gore, and violence. From a female metal fan's perspective, songs about rape don't make you sound powerful, they make you sound pathetic. The lyrics in "Beyond Cops," from Beyond Cops. Beyond God are simplistic, and seem juvenile and forced. To me, the words are important, especially in the metal genres. The majority of the time, they are masked by the delivery, so listeners have to take that extra step's worth of interest in the band to look them up and read. One hopes to be amazed with eloquent poetics or impressed by intelligence. Instead, with the lyrics for "Beyond Cops," one must solely be satisfied with the fact that the extra step of effort was made at all.

With that being said, it was not all that bad. Every song on the album is at least more interesting than "Chased Through the Woods by a Rapist," which seems to be the most popular of the previously released songs. The vocals are diverse. Pig vocals alternated with deep, guttural growls keep it interesting. There is an impressive stretch of time with one prolonged roar, making the song worthy of the title "Waking the Cadaver." At times the vocals sound like someone removed the catalytic converter from a monster truck! They also emulate a dog's bark and an elongated belch in "Suffering Upon Revenge." Actually, "Suffering Upon Revenge," is the most noteworthy song, in my opinion. Towards the end of the song, the drums start producing an ultra-fast blast beat, and then there is a fluttery guitar melody unexpectedly added into the mix! Short-lived, but exciting!

Waking the Cadaver is formerly known as Death to Honor and is from Shore Points, New Jersey. They have just started walking the path of their musical careers, and have a long way to go. Beyond Cops. Beyond God. is not as bad as some would lead you to believe, but it is definitely not quite ready to be described as "good." They can play their instruments, it is just not that interesting. There is always potential and the hope for creating a better sound. Finally, I give my compliments to the band for not giving up despite receiving some brutally harsh reviews for their debut.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Music Reviews Part 2:

Early Graves - Goner

[6.5/10] Do you feel like jumping into a mosh pit and giving somebody a bloody nose for no reason? Do you have the urge to piss off your parents or a religious person, perhaps? Do you have 25 minutes to kill? Listen to Goner by Early Graves. They have risen from the remains, and dusted off the ashes of what used to be known as Apiary, having developed a new sound. The new sound is unprecedented with a unique combination of genres. Imagine thrash metal mixed with hardcore punk; pour and bake, and you have a delicious batch of some angry cupcakes! Goner this group's second album, has only just been released, and Early Graves are currently on a national tour in celebration.

The album is filled with extreme, fast drumming, harmonic squeals, finger-shredding guitar riffs, and a bass that emulates thunder, all covered by the vocals which sound like they could drill a hole in your eardrums. The majority of the songs include these aspects throughout, and this is outstanding if you would like to hear the same thing over and over, but not so much if variation is what you appreciate in music. Now, Early Graves has something promising in their grasp, but they need to kick it up a notch and step out of the box a bit, or they may meet their own early grave.

Personal favorites on this album include "May Day" and "Wraiths" but for differing reasons. "Wraiths" stands out because it is stylistically different from the rest of the tracks. It has a slower tempo and the drums lean closer to a rock beat. It is a refreshing break. Aspects of this song send out the impression of pain and resentment. "May Day" paints pictures of various events using different musical techniques as brush strokes. In the beginning, the guitars resemble the rumble of helicopter blades beating the air. Then slowing down, and emphasizing the drums and the bass, this song sounds like it is coming to a close, but it is only halfway finished. One might be able to imagine the earth rapidly racing toward your flight craft, visions of memories flashing in slow motion as you face your premature death. Hope is lost, and the final signs of life disappear after a hair-raising guitar shriek.

We are introduced to a fantastic solo at the end of "Bastard Tears," and backing vocals in "Give Up" and "Harm" adds some variation in this album. "Old Bones" contains interesting riff patterns. Harmonic squeals and shrill feedback contribute toward the uniqueness of this band, but are overused. The band are skilled musicians and they have presented us with a new take on metal genres illustrated in ten short tracks. Whether they create Goner 1.5 or continue to change and develop the unique style they have created for themselves, only time will tell what Early Graves will bring to the table next.

Dark Haven - Fallout

[8.5/10] A dying music box feebly tinks out the distorted notes of the theme song from Love Story. Wind blows, leaves rustle. There is close to no life left from our civilized world after an atomic bomb has exploded. Suddenly, heavy guitars come stomping in and break the silence. Dark Haven positioned atop a towering cliff, play over the Earth's remains. "Skyscraper" reduces everything to ashes leaving us questioning what it all means. Dissecting the tangled mess of reasons that caused the end of humanity, Dark Haven presents the world with our very own Fallout. They must determine whether this world is worth rebuilding or if we are undoubtedly destined to be destroyed. It is too late. The dust has cleared, and no life will remain.

Looking for answers we are surrounded by conflict, both externally and internally. Outward, in "Aphelion," meaning the point in its orbit when Earth is farthest from the sun, everything is beyond reach. The guitars in this piece exude tragedy with an elegant quality. Varying vocal patterns and styles add emphasis to the words. Inside, feeling helplessly trapped, surrounded by walls, life resembles an insane asylum. We reach a breaking point and run screaming through the halls; throwing chairs and pulling out hair. A melancholy bass calmly puts his hand on our shoulder and leads us back inside. The keyboard emphasizes the feeling of defeat and mournful, repetitive screams are filled with anguish as reluctant acceptance sets in.

For a debut full-length album, Fallout is indeed a statement. Dark Haven have been around for the last six years, laying low in Southern California's wine country. After they produced an EP titled Your Darkest Hour in 2005 and went on tour, Dark Haven found the message they wished to represent in Fallout. Like most bands, they have encountered the struggle of a changing line-up. Their current members include: Brennan Kilpatrick (Guitar), Don Linneman (Vocals), Nate Falzon (Drums), Ryan Kilpatrick (Bass), and Lance Orosco (Keyboard). The songs are about humanity and what will come if we do not change now.

The lyrics in "Shades of Ivory" demonstrate one aspect of this message. Beginning with keys, a calm intro, we then become acquainted with slow, tortured bellows, higher-pitched screams, fast drums, and Kilpatrick's fingers dancing across the fret board. At the end, we are directed to take a moment to breathe and reflect on what is happening, like taking a long drive down a winding dirt road. Both this song and "Malice" suggest an angry sadness. The beginning of "Malice" tells us to get our asses up out of our chairs and down into the pit, because something major is about to happen. This song is ferocious; full of chaos and energy, but would not be complete without the sorrowful solo and clean vocals.

Let's not forget to mention the song about Vikings! "Azimuth" is a term used in navigation. This track musically mimics the sounds of waves crashing and a boat rocking in certain sections. Clean vocals and hearty growls mixed together create an interesting effect. Harmonizing guitars and slower, this song is characteristically different from the rest.

It is not very often that we can find an album that captures our attention from beginning to end. From catching our breath after "Abysmal Horror", to holding our heads with regret and remorse from the song, "Through Dying Eyes," we are left wanting more. Dark Haven have been hiding in the shadows for the last six years, finding their direction and perfecting their sound. However, with the release of their first full-length album, accompanied by a newly posted internet music video for "Abysmal Horror," Dark Haven are quickly starting to show that they are on their way!

Lightning Swords of Death - The Extra Dimensional Wound

[6/10] If you've never heard of Lightning Swords of Death before, and have come across their album The Extra Dimensional Wound, you might be intrigued. First of all, the band name is unusual, and one may wonder if these people are actually serious. It sounds like they are trying too hard to sound brutal, or maybe English is their second language.

Upon further investigation we discover that the band is based in Los Angeles, so most likely there is no language barrier. We also learn that Lightning Swords of Death is taken from part of the name of a film from the 1970's, Lone Wolf and Cub: Baby Cart to Hades which was titled Shogun Assassin 2: Lightning Swords of Death upon release in the United States. Also, the album cover is quite detailed and depicts death with a bit of mystery; seeming to tell a story. In a recent interview with Lightning Swords of Death (hereafter known as LSOD), when referring to the album art, they stated, "The image depicts the polymorphic, emanations of living chaos erupting from the extra dimensional wound (a rip in the membrane that defines the hyper-modular latticing of the multiverse)." For lack of a better expression...huh? Did this guy just exude a higher intelligence? Anyone can projectile psychic disfigurements of crepuscular proportions. Just pick up a thesaurus and start making shit up!

The way this band expresses itself in writing reminds me of Seth Putnam's (Anal Cunt) side project Impaled Northern Moonforest. With knee-slap drums and song titles like "Grim and Frostbitten Moongoats of the North" and "Gazing at the Blasphemous Moon While Perched atop a Very Very Very Very Very Very Very Forsaken Crest of the Northern Mountain," one cannot help but to be amused. This style of writing and song titling is definitely entertaining, but, unfortunately for LSOD, it does not carry over into their music.

The Extra Dimensional Wound contains little variety, especially in the first half of the album. The guitar riffs are unoriginal and unimaginative. They hover in the safe zone of low tones and hardly surface into the higher octaves. There is nothing to keep the listener interested. To be fair, it is not all bad. The bass is distorted throughout most of the album, and in "The Extra Dimensional Wound" the vocals bring to mind the sound of cracking branches smothered by a ghost, and later suggest sounds of howling wind. The drums shine at the end of "Nihilistic Stench" and in "Invoke the Desolate One" it becomes apparent that this band is comparable to Dark Funeral.

Everything changes once we arrive at "Zwartgallig," however. Hope returns during this short and sweet track with clean guitar. Even though this instrumental song is gloomy, it is the most interesting out of all eight tracks. It suggests the numb aftershock of a long battle; scanning the masses for a glimpse of life. If LSOD were to take the style shown in this song and insert it into any section of the others, for variation, it would make them much more enticing. Also, the final track, "Paths to Chaos" is another song that shows this group is capable of variation. It is more interesting than the rest because it goes beyond what LSOD have presented to us until now. Heavy drum beats and lead guitar followed by ambient rolls of thunder make this song stand out from the rest. In my opinion, for the next album, the elements of this song should be developed and expanded.

"Venter of the Black Beast" slows everything down for dramatic effect and incorporates long, tormented roars. In this song it sounds like the musicians are either on drugs or half asleep while playing, which, research shows, may not be far from the truth. "Vorticating into Scars" is personally disturbing. Do you know what "vorticating" means? Probably not. It’s not really a word.

On the other hand, LSOD must be doing something right. They have been fortunate enough to land themselves with a major record label and tour with well-known bands. Also, viewers say they put on an extraordinary live show. This album is LSOD's second professional recording experience, and they have potential. Let's hope that it continues to grow.

Allegaeon - Fragments of Form and Function

[8/10] It's hard to put a finger on the sound that Allegaeon has given to us. We are presented with music that consistently hops from one metal genre to another within a single song, like wormholes of music. This band is relatively new to the music scene, and consists of accomplished musicians. Fragments of Form and Function does not entail songs about subjects that are stereotypically metal, like female mutilation (which I can personally appreciate), Satan, or death and destruction. Instead they cover topics such as science, evolution, space, and time. Described as extreme melodic metal and melodic technical death metal, there are aspects of death metal, and hints of metalcore and modern hardcore intertwined.

After we are led into the album with a low rumble and mysterious ascension in "The Cleansing," it quickly becomes obvious that Allegaeon has talented musicians. An elongated window-shattering guttural scream, pounding drums, and rapid technical rollercoaster riffs are some pieces of the evidence. Followed by "The Renewal," Allegaeon moves in and out of tough death metal riffs and deathcore melodies in this energetic track. Jordon Belfast (drums), Ryan Glisan and Greg Burgess (guitars), Ezra Haynes (vocals/lyrics), and Corey Archuleta (bass) state that their songs are about " related theories." This is showcased in "Across the Folded Line." Most likely, the title of this song refers to a quantum physics theory about folds in time and brain function. The beginning sounds like we are blasting through space. With intense drumming and guitars buzzing and fluttering like insects soaring through space we are "symmetric in time across the folded line."

By the time we get to "The God Particle," however, the flittering melodic guitar solos start to get uninspiring. Needless to say they are phenomenally played; tearing up and down the music scales, running circles around the other instruments, and the drums are particularly ambitious. Nevertheless, something is missing. What is it? The heart, the passion, the feelings that a melodic solo should invoke. It is disappointingly empty. One may argue that songs about science and evolution should not include emotion and passion as a requirement because they are based on such logical and factual topics. Wrong. Science may be able to be reduced to "finite compounds," but music is infinite, and we should not settle for routine.

That being said, we know that Allegaeon are completely capable of stepping over that boundary, and doing something unique and creative, just by listening to "Accelerated Evolution." With a vivid impression of a muddy earthquake from the vocals, and super fast drums to start, about halfway through the song something happens. We are suddenly whisked into a new dimension of sounds, breaking out of the typical characteristics of the genre into something completely different, yet still retaining the unique sound that is Allegaeon. Personally speaking, this is the best track. This part of the song is absolutely delightful and really makes the album shine. More of this type of innovative creating is needed to make Allegaeon stand out from other bands of this genre. This section of “Accelerated Evolution" is animated, saddening, and fierce all at once. Bravo.

Not sure what to think? It's definitely worth giving Fragments of Form and Function a listen, especially if you like the metalcore and hardcore style of metal. The words, unlike other bands, can mostly be deciphered within the deep growls without losing their gruff quality. The vocals are comparable to Randy Blythe from Lamb of God, as well as some of the instrumental aspects. There are Dream Theater sections of solo after mind-blowing solo, and some parts reminiscent of Killswitch Engage. There is something about life, philosophy, and this world that can be learned just by listening, and that is not something we come by frequently.