Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sunn O))) - Domkirke (C)

Sunn O)))’s latest masterpiece, Domkirke, is marketed as a “live album”, it really is just an original studio album that happens to have been recorded in a church in Norway in front of a crowd of what sounds to be about 10 people (all of whom I assume are either involved in the band, trained sound technicians, or close friends invited to witness the momentous occasion) if the clapping at the beginning of the album is to be believed. After the tremendous display of clapping, Sunn choose to start off the only way they know… Slowly. Why Dost Thou Hide Thyself in Clouds is, for me, possibly one of the greatest things Sunn has produced in their entire career. The first five minutes of low feedback eventually gives into pipe organ and deep, Gregorian chants. As the sparse, but powerful backing (dominated by the church’s featured pipe organ) plods onwards, the vocals go for a dramatic tromp through Norway’s mountain ranges, belting like a Wagnerian epic only to reduce themselves to the rumbling valleys once again like a cascading avalanche. This song, in the end, is what made Domkirke a worthwhile purchase. It truly demonstrates that Sunn, for all the shit they get (refrigerator metal, no talent hacks, just lean your guitar against your amp, anyone can do it, etc.), truly do maintain the ability to take their entire history and improve upon it time after time, and turn something admittedly intrinsically stagnant into a refreshing and enjoyable piece. As for the rest of the album, Sunn take a few more steps forward by allowing their influences to shine through like elegant stained glass – Steve Moore provides trombone on some tracks that adds elements of newer Earth pieces, while retaining the noisy despair of Sunn. The songwriting really displays Sunn’s functional use of the church’s space, as well as paying homage to its past. Domkirke, is, in my opinion, while not necessarily going to be hailed as “THE BEST SUNN ALBUM EVER!” easily a marked improvement on Sunn’s material, and a great step forward for them. It is a solid album from start to finish.

Suffocation - Despise the Sun (V)

Despise the Sun is something of a short masterpiece. Every song is effective, tight, brutal, heavy. The guitar tone is great, balanced and powerful without going too far in any direction. Vocals sit defiantly and confidently exactly where they belong. The kick is clear and defined. The lyrics are powerful. This album makes you want to pick up an instrument or a microphone and create something to reflect its perfection. There's no mistake that swarms of younger bands are constantly compared to Suffocation. Though their last couple of albums (as clich├ęd as this complaint is) don't live up to this EP, probably largely as a result of weaker, washier distortion and less pure violence, Despise the Sun is a set of perfect song after perfect song.

Yes, I'd probably put this on first thing for anyone I wanted to get into death metal, and I've done it before. This album, further, is a perfect reflection of Suffocation's live machine. It tears, uplifts, and smashes through all . . . 16 minutes. Every song on the EP is worth the effort to learn and play. And you'll never be ashamed of it. I don't want to know how many times I've listened to this CD, and every time I see them I scream for one track or another. Grab this, and see them. Really. And if you already have, see them again.

Socialistic Jonny Goblet - Translations of a Seance (K)

Visuals are important when it comes to music. To the fan as well as to a neutral person they can give a first impression of what to expect and whether they should give the music a try or not. Some fancy fantasy painting is as suggestive as a photography of a horribly mutilated body; the former will hardly offer brutal goregrind, while the latter one would certainly not cover a Britney Spears release. Hence, give these visuals to a person some sort of certainty and might even motivate someone to actually buy a release in case the visuals are of an exceptional quality; such was the case when I ordered the «Darkside» release of «Necrophobic».

«Translations of a seance» does not follow this set of rules. On the cover you see some sort of black metal writing of the short form of the band's name, further are there two inverted crosses, a pentagram, a '666' in the top and also two wings on each side. Judging from this impression, one would easily classify this as a black metal release, one from the underground, one of these 'ultra trve' demos; but all this is far from what the band actually performs.

There is no metal on this release; this is nothing even close to it. Instead something weird is offered. Noise in a various degree and with occasionally fascinating atmospheres can be found on this 3"-CDr. There are moments in which you get the feeling like listening to the music of one of these old-school 'horror' games, when you are locked in a room and have to do some certain steps in order to leave it and to proceed with the story. This monotonous themes in the background, the endless repetition of some motives and ideas and sounds that are simply not right; music that wants to mess around with the brain cells. Slightly nightmarish, dark and haunting, but also annoying is the art of «SJG» and each song is different from the preceding one. «Disforming Scratch Transforming» is a very monotonous one, but progresses through the use of new styles of noises and ideas; the same can be said of «Settling Nature of Obsurdities».

«Spirits of the Dead (E.A.Poe)» is an interpretation of a novel by this American writer; the vocals might not be everyone's taste though. Some neat ideas can be found on this release and even though the package might suggest something different, the content can still be enjoyed. Fifteen minutes is this CD-r long and the listener has to go through a lot of different stages of atmosphere until the end is finally reached. Should be listened to in the dark.

Neutral Milk Hotel - In the Aeroplane Over the Sea (V)

Neutral Milk Hotel is a perfect collaboration of the weird and that which every human heart understands and needs. Simple acoustic chords somehow manage not to become at all stale, probably benefited by clever and memorable melodies and the other elements Neutral Milk Hotel uses throughout. The band has full-time brass people, not session musicians, mixes in strangely filthy electric guitars and bass, driving drums, and random eccentric instrumentations. One song will be quick and to the point, another will be slow and thoughtful. One song will slide past with almost meaningless lyrics and an energetic feel, another (in fact, most) are filled with lyrics that tell all the facets of a story at once - not just the usual "I love you" and "my father died" but all the things that happen at every stage in life, the things large and small that make life meaningful and wondrous.

Perhaps the reason I've delayed hunting down any more of their albums is the fact that I don't feel like I'm missing anything from this album - it continues to please and fulfill. I have no doubt that I will continue to cherish this already ten-year-old record for years and decades to come. Well-suited for crying and singing and romance and hurting and loving. And just living. I don't think I would have understood it 5 years ago, but I don't think I'll ever feel even a temptation to get rid of it.

Moose - Cool Breeze EP (V)

This is the first Moose release I've picked up, so I can't compare it to previous or later work, but it's slowly growing on me. Overall, the EP strikes me as a loosely cluttered combination of Slowdive's male vocals without the ambience, early jangly My Bloody Valentine, a touch of leftover punk influences, and a quirky approach to sounds and percussion.

The general effect of all this is somewhat mind-scattering and distracting, and the melodies aren't quite of the heart-consuming quality I've found in My Bloody Valentine's hooks, but as I continue to listen to this creation, I'm beginning to develop a fondness for Moose's own strange musical personality. All in all, I'd say check it out, and delve further into Moose: but give it a chance to soak in. This isn't quite the same old shoegaze over again. I find it quite enjoyable when I have the concentration to deal with the confusion imparted most particularly by some nuance of the unusual concentration of snare drum.

I think my appreciation of Moose is more akin to . . . a free jazz take on early shoegaze, a warm but confusing performance rather than the transcendent beauty that creates my main joy in shoegaze. If you like Pale Saints, you'll probably like Moose.

Malory - Not Here, Not Now (Reissue) (V)

Not Here, Not Now is pretty much a German echo of Souvlaki-era Slowdive, with a slightly greater emphasis on the softer tones and electronics and a song about the Lord of the Rings. It's an untitled bonus track, but . . . There is, sadly, nothing really original here, despite the review on their website that reads "they definitely do not fall into the trap of countless other "ripoff" bands." It's actually nigh-uncanny the degree to which they've emulated Slowdive's sounds. Identical vocal reverb, identical tones, voices emulating the same timbre with just a hint of accent.

Malory is good enough in their emulation that I'd see them if they came around, but their songs don't touch me the same way Slowdive has managed on repeated occasions. Of course, to be fair, the same is true of more than one "classic" shoegaze band, but unless you're curious to hear some Tolkein poetry as a Slowdive song, I'd recommend passing this release up in favor of the people who not only created this sound, but could write entrancing songs within the idiom.

Khanate - Khanate (V)

Khanate is smashing and loud. Khanate is heavy and slow and torturous. Khanate is filthy and harsh and full of feedback. I'd not miss a Khanate show. Khanate is intense and focused. I really don't know why the Sunn O))) project is more popular. Khanate is so visceral and powerful. Khanate is suicide and murder. Khanate feels more like the intense ripping scenes of brutality (imagine a knife slicing through skin and muscle and hesitating for a moment at the spine before tearing through) in perfect detail. Perfect for headbanging, if only my neck weren't so sore from the Wolves in the Throne Room show the other night.

If I had this sound in person, full volume, afterwards I would collapse a completed and exorcised being. You can't get this guitar/bass sound at anything less than crushing volume; you need instant, piercing feedback to play the riffs right. It screams. The songs are repetitive, but this will never work as background music.

This is not for everyone. In fact, I think I have yet to get anyone else hooked on it. This music, is, however, intense. Or, to quote a certain internet motivational poster entitled "Doom Metal," "that shit sounds like planets colliding."

John Zorn - Spy vs. Spy - The Music of Ornette Coleman (V)

Spy vs. Spy is quite possibly the ideal introduction to jazz for either a noisehead or a metalhead, speaking as both. It's chaotic. It's wild. It's fast. Zorn and Baron, later of Naked City, and fellows Tim Berne, Mark Dresser, and Michael Vatcher keep the pace just as relentlessly brutal as the most intense death metal. I'm not kidding. Hell, let old favorites like Immolation and Incantation compete with this lineup and these tracks for a pit and headbanging, and the metal kids might have something to worry about.

Zorn's combo here takes the unusual harmonies and group improv sections found throughout Coleman's catalog and play them about as fast as is reasonably acheivable with heavy thrash, crossover and grindcore influences. Napalm Death, Blind Idiot God, Lip Cream, DRI, and The Accused are mentioned in the liner notes. Sax solos throughout bring to mind Slayer's simultaneous leads at the end of "Raining Blood." I'm really not sure why this album hasn't forged a widely-popular style of music. My favorite of my Zorn collection, and of Coleman if you'll take it as such. There are blast beats scattered throughout. This is not grandpa's jazz.

Hanatarash - Hanatarash I (V)

Hanatarash's first album is delightfully raw. And it has music washing through the noise without itself being the noise. Eye sings and chants and screeches throughout the clashes of harsh churnings, blasts of noise, and shrill feedback. Try not to focus on the consistent use of "cock" in all the song titles. This record is actually a liberating assault on the ears that doesn't so much evoke rage as it suspends other realms of focus in favor of noise immersion. There's definitely variety - from the melodies and roar of Ultra Cocker to standard distorted noise vocals and drumming in Domination In Spunked Cock to the constant percussion of Cock Combat and the distorted electronic march of Cock Victory. This album singularly fails to convey any sort of message outside of hearing loss. Good noise.

Content Nullity - Rotting Walls of Decaying Sound (C)


Finally, Content Nullity material! After god knows how long of getting teasers, clips, and hearing ideas from the man who nearly got me into noise and industrial, he has finally released Rotting Walls of Decaying Sound through his label, Scrape Tapes (http://www.myspace.com/scrapetapes). This tiny mini-CD contains 20 minutes of dark insanity that starts like a wound, falls in a super-medicated spiral through hell, and then finishes with the death convulsions – displaying them in all their violence and grotesqueries. The real highlights of the album are the middle few tracks, which have a distinct style of layered drone and noise to create a truly chilling effect – worthy of a haunted house in true seasonal style – that turn the album from a great noise album to a true experience. I really cannot recommend this highly enough, I was blown away by it even having heard Content Nullity material before, it just wasn’t what I was quite expecting. Really a grade A album, get it now!

Celestia - Apparitia - Sumptuous Spectre (Remaster) (V)

Celestia seems to be something of a collective of side-members of classic French black metal groups. And while Celestia's music is straight black metal that has nothing of the inventiveness that French black metal is sometimes known for, it's not in the least lacking in melodic creativity or spirit. I would criticise the under-developed and obvious basslines and the overuse of none-too-tight tremolo picking, but the melodies created are effective and at least there's some presence in mid and low frequency ranges.

There's some good ambience here, and that combined with the strong melodies and decent sound (this is the remastered version) make what might otherwise be an exercise in endless black metal actually reasonably enjoyable to listen to. It might not be my first choice, but is certainly not the kind of black metal that makes me want to forget that I've ever listened to the genre. All in all, a more well-developed approach with more variety, complex structures, and more interesting harmony might come off as a respectable record.

Buzzardstein - Live Demo (C)

Buzzardstein are a band that I had come across a couple times, hearing their name floating across the internet before I really understood what they “meant”. Then, one day the idea of Sludge really clicked for me, and of course I started searching out everything I could find. In a strange twist of fate, I found out that Buzzardstein’s bassist was around some of the same internet haunts that I was – and he had links to copies of Buzzardstein’s “live demo”, their only release so far. The link came with a thousand warnings of terrible audio quality, and being a general waste of time, so I braced myself for a recording that would make Varg Vikernes’s skin crawl. Unsurprisingly, the quality on the live demo is actually not that terrible. It certainly doesn’t sound like Steve Albini had anything to do with it, but it’s listenable, and adds to the sludgy effect overall. The live demo manages to jump from traditional Grief-style sludge to more Noothgrush-esque bluesy sludge that you find yourself unable not to tap your foot to, and somewhere in between in the span of three songs. The vocals are completely unintelligible, but provide amazing atmosphere for the crushing riffs that drive Buzzardstein down, down, down south. Though Buzzardstein may by no means be a big-name band that has the ability to tour often or far, or produce albums at every whim, I feel completely comfortable putting the live demo in my playlist right between Grief and Eyehategod.

Apostle of Solitude - Sincerest Misery (C)

Apostle of Solitude’s full length is a heavy-as-fuck slab of doom. Featuring the drumming power of The Gates of Slumber on guitar and vocals, Apostle manage to roll out exactly 9 great, memorable doom songs with Sincerest Misery. I, personally, would put this at the top of my 2008 list of Doom Metal albums, and even near my list of 2008 releases period. Every song has a degree of catchiness, a tinge of misery, and great solos. They remain unafraid to throw back to the likes of Candlemass, with distinct touches of Pagan Altar to create wholly unique pieces touched by emotion, but retaining their epic heaviness. Instead of just relying on doomy power chords, Apostle allow for more melodic sections, and trade off between many different styles. This combinations gives the album both a uniquely Doom flavor, as well as the aftertaste of several non-traditional styles such as touches of alternative rock. As a whole, the album fits in well with more classic traditional doom and provides both great contrast and harmony with other classic albums. A must-have for any doom fan, in my opinion.

_Algol_/Cloudy Horizon - Split (K)

The internet has given us the advantage to communicate with people from around the world and in case they are artists to enjoy their art (theoretically speaking); even though thousands of miles lie between us. Such happens to exist in terms of _Algol_ & Cloudy Horizon: both of them are projects of the same person: Daniel, a guy from Siberia. His idea is to create ambient music in a variety of styles and this split release offers two approaches on how this might sound.

_Algol_
According to the MySpace site as well as the homepage, the term «space ambient» has been used to describe this project and it is very fitting. The music is very minimalist with a slow progressing melody and reverb in the chords. Only few textures appear at a certain time and accordingly it is very easy to follow the music respectively concept. Spoken passages appear but on a very small scale; opening of «The Total Siberian Eclipse», towards the end of «Dark and Light near the Tannhauser Gates». Noise textures are also used, but not on every track they play a dominant role. There is some resemblance to the art of Vinterriket and hence would fans of this band also like what Algol performs on this split release. It should be noted, though, that the Russian band does not use field recordings and this does differentiate this band from the Austrian one.

Cloudy Horizon
In comparison with _Algol_ the music of «Cloudy Horizon» offers a kind of atmosphere the other project if not able to create. This has to do with the use of an acoustic guitar that plays an important role in the concept; not only in terms of the atmosphere. Further is there a drum-computer playing in the background and also samples from the nature had been used; water play and thunder sound. Beyond these conceptual differences, the most obvious one to the listener is the existence of a beat which keeps the song going. Despite the minimalism which does also appear here, it is easier to get the idea. Both songs are well performed and offer some sort of folk ambient. Both songs are very linear and take the listener through different stages of atmospheres as well as arrangements. Yet all is very calm and without anything that would work as a counter-point towards it.

Ambient interpreted in two different ways, this could be used as a description for this release. Music that is easy to follow, never irritating and also somehow catchy. An interesting release.