That's right, time for another go at the latest batch of releases from EEE Recordings! This time the focus is on a handful of releases from two of the label's main priorities, Njiqahdda and Oaks of Bethel. All the releases listed below are EPs, so they are all rated from 1-8 as usual.
Monday, June 17, 2013
Country: Rimini, Italy
Style: Progressive/Groove Metal
I remember back in the sophomore year-ish of my high school career, one day my dad happened to be playing this one record that caught my ear one day when he was driving me to school. That record turned out to be Empyrios' 2008 record, The Glorious Sickness. At the time it shocked me because, now looking back, it was a record that definitely predated the rise of a genre called djent.
So, with that statement above, one should be able to get a nice and clear image of what this record sounds like, more or less. This is a groove based prog-metal record. Now, the reason I don't necessarily view this record as "djent" so much as many others is simply because of a few very minor factors which first, and probably most importantly, are the vocals. While there are a couple of growls on here, the majority of vocals performed on here are cleaner - and more importantly they fall somewhere between power metal and thrash metal sort of singing. That doesn't mean high-pitched and annoying so much as aggressive, but very clean, and very clearly showcase an accent in the guy's voice. It's not for everyone and frankly, not every song on here features a great vocal performance from him, but it is a distinction. Next is the more industrial tone that a couple of these songs have. Again, not a big difference from other djent based groups, but they aren't quite as over the top you could say as many younger groups. Now, this is obviously only my opinion, so feel free to tell me I'm full of crap if you feel the need to do so.
To be completely honest, even when I initially heard this group I wasn't quite sure why I liked them, and to this day I'm still not sure. Musically, there are bands who do this sort of sound better, there are better vocalists out there, and there are bands who write more interesting and catchy songs than these guys do - yet I still take time to listen to this album and dig what they are doing. There's just this sort of quality about this band that somehow appeals to me and keeps me listening. But enough of me rambling, and back to the album at hand. This album does probably the worst thing a band could do when releasing a new album and open the album with a pair of pretty weak tracks. In my opinion, Nescience and Domino are two of the weakest songs on the entire album and they both open up the album. Obviously this is just my opinion, but doing that can prove to be a failure of an album to many people who will judge an entire disc based off of those initial tracks - so if you can get past those first two songs than you'll actually get some rather badass, groovy progressive metal. I'd say the shift into some great material is rather immediate. Pretty much as soon as Masters opens up, you're going to hear some of the best material the band has written to date (despite the rather ill-judged dubstep conclusion of this aforementioned song). These songs aren't going to change the game of prog-metal or djent or whatever, but I do feel like they are catchy little numbers that have stuck with me since I heard them.
For me, the clear highlight has to be the album's centerpiece Renovation, which isn't all that different from the other tracks so much as everything just works. Instrumentally, you get some solid grooves, but both the synths and vocals take a more atmospheric approach that definitely shows during the chorus in particular. This chorus just soars and is easily the catchiest song on the entire album. The middle section also brought to mind a bit of Deftones as well. On a side-note, maybe it's just me, but does anyone else hear Gillaume Bideau (of Mnemic) providing some guest vocals on Square One - I could swear he's growling and singing on it?
Overall, I was pretty impressed with this album and found myself replaying it several times. There are a couple of weak spots here and there, but the songs are strong and catchy to overcome that for the most part. If you're not a fan of more groove based metal, chances are you aren't going to dig this, but it's a nice meeting point between power metal (for one reason or another I see more fans of power metal embracing this than other groups - go figure) and modern metal.
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Reverie, Unplugged, Renovation
Posted by maskofgojira at 8:13 PM
Country: Poitiers, France
Style: Progressive Death/Groove Metal
For as much as I love the French metal scene (whether it be the black or progressive styles) there are always some bands who I just have problems with. I found out about Hacride, originally, back when they were mentioned in an interview with Gojira, and have been trying to get into them ever since. They're just a band I have had trouble getting into in the past so I had hoped that this new album might finally provide me with a way in.
I don't know why I've always had such trouble getting into this band. Their take on the whole progressive groove metal sound was one that I think Gojira had mastered and thought these guys did well but nothing ever seemed to stick. I respected the hell out of the band's last record, 2009's Lazarus cause I thought it had some really cool ideas and songs on it. But since the release of that album, the band has replaced half the band - bringing in a new vocalist and drummer. With that shift comes a bit of a departure sonically for the band. It's not a big shift, but it's one that definitely caught my attention. I know that it's been the biggest topic of debate when talking about this album, but the biggest difference is definitely the vocals. While the band's previous vocalist was pretty consistent with a harsher delivery for the most part and cleaner vocals being used sparingly, clean vocals have definitely come up since the last album. Now, that's not a bad thing in my book, but this new guy's clean voice definitely reminded me of the sound of the first singer of the band Drowning Pool (yes, I listened to them back in grade school). I never meant it in a bad way (frankly, if I'm going to listen to Drowning Pool, I'd have their first record over any of the other crap they've put out since). You can decide whether or not you find that as a plus or a minus when it comes to the album, but it definitely threw me off at first.
Musically, the band hasn't changed too much, though this album is definitely more straightforward and driving than their last two have been. Songs are shorter and more direct rather than the longer and winding tone that was taken on their last album and the more experimental one on 2007's Amoeba. At times it does hint towards a bit more of a hardcore sound than previously known, as well as an occasional nu metal one from the vocals. Granted, there are just small things that can be heard every now and then throughout the album, as a whole, the band still remain true to their more groove metal sound. I don't have much of a problem with the route they've taken, it works, though I have to say that neither the more direct nature of the music or the more varied vocals did anything to increase my enjoyment of this album. I do have to say that the bass tone on this album was well done and there's some really well done guitar work done on Ghosts of The Modern World. I actually wish more features from that track had actually appeared on the rest of the album because there was some really cool progressive riffs on that track that make it the clear standout on this album. Album closer Requiem For A Lullaby also has a bit of a Deftones kind of a vibe at times as well - another feature I kind of wish there was more of on here.
Frankly, I wish I would have enjoyed this album more than I did because I know Hacride is a good band, but this album just did nothing for me. Like I said in the beginning, I just have trouble getting into this group for some reason, and unfortunately this album did not heal that problem. If you're a fan of more progressive forms of groove metal (not djent) than give this one a go.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Introversion, Edification of The Fall, Ghosts of The Modern World
Posted by maskofgojira at 4:43 PM
Saturday, June 15, 2013
That's right, I'm bringing back the split reviews! I got a pretty good response from this last year so I've been collecting, and receiving, some nice splits over the months since the year started and have finally started getting enough ones that I want to cover to start this section again. As always, these splits are reviewed from 1-8.
Friday, June 14, 2013
Country: Drachten, Netherlands
Style: Atmospheric Black Metal/Shoegaze
Label: Sulphurous Productions
Mories is a very talented man in my humble opinion. I think that his various projects, from Gnaw Their Tongues to Aderlating to De Magia Veterum to Cloak of Altering, the man knows how to write unique music that can disturb and disorient any listener. Seirom has showcased a different end of his sonic palette and with each new release I get another surprise.
Where other projects have, more or less, expressed Mories' disdain, hatred, and disgust with the human race and all things alive and breathing, I read in an interview that his work with Seirom was to show off more of his lighter side. You can't have all darkness, all day, everyday, and Seirom does show more of a hopeful side to the man in question. Of the various releases he's put out under the project thus far, I have actually found myself in a state of hit-or-miss with them, and always surprised by what he does next. The Seiromistkrieg EP definitely showed a more post-black metal side to the man, and it was one of my favorite EPs to be released that year. It was something I didn't anticipate hearing from Mories but he was able to show that there was still some ideas left in the post-rock inspired black metal world. Then there was the Forest EP, which was definitely more of an ambient-noise release, still good, but not quite as satisfying. Then came last year's full-length, 1973, which showed a wider breadth of sonic experimentation from the project. From witch-house like electronic pieces to dreamy ambient ones, post-black metal aggression as well as shoegazing melancholy. That was the first I was more meh on. This EP definitely returns to that whole post-black metal sound that I first fell in love with the project for. While the title-track definitely takes the whole post-black metal style and just runs with it, Only Miss You When It Snows takes a slower, almost ballad-esque thanks to the piano used in it, approach which certainly made it stand out to me. Both tracks on here take that sound and just run with it. Despite both being around the ten minute mark, the time just passes by.
So yeah, great little cassette EP that is definitely a return to form for the project, at least in my opinion. This is dreamy, melancholic, beautiful, and noisy all at the same time and I love it. If you're a fan of post-black metal or any of Mories' other projects, definitely do yourself a favor and check this tape out!
Overall Score: 8
Highlights: Sparkle Night
Posted by maskofgojira at 3:38 PM
Style: Shoegaze/Post-Black Metal
I had only heard about De Arma though their split with Fen back in 2011. Even then, I didn't really pay much attention to either their material or to the band simply because they featured a member of Fen in their ranks, and I was having sort of a love spat with the band at the time. Since then, Fen has released a record that is actually long lasting (more than a few listens) so I decided to give this album a chance.
Sonically, I have to say that De Arma isn't a drastic shift from Frank Allain's work in Fen. I mean, of course there are some difference, but there isn't as big a change as I think I expected. I remember reading some reviews of that split and hearing that De Arma's material was actually the highlight on it. Before listening to this album I went back and listened to the three songs from that album and frankly I didn't think they were anything special. They were alright, but I wouldn't say they outshined the songs Fen contributed. The sound of the band is, at least my opinion, Fen with a lot less metal. For the most part it's very atmospheric metal, sort of like Katatonia actually, and after thinking about it, it does actually sound as if Allain was going for a similar style of singing as Jonas Renske from that band. That in and of itself isn't a bad thing, Katatonia are a great band even if I really disliked their last record, and De Arma do try to add a bit more of a post-rock and shoegaze influence into their songs, but I wouldn't say it was enough to really grab me either way.
This isn't a bad record, but frankly, it shares almost the exact same flaw I had with Fen's 2011 album, Epoch, which was that, while I can't say any of it was bad or not enjoyable, after a while the flatness of the sound just put me to sleep. If an album puts me to sleep, I have to take that into account in my review. I don't have any qualms with what these three guys are trying to do musically or aesthetically or anything, but the sound on this album just lacks the right dynamics to keep me interested. The album never really gets loud or gets soft. I'm sure the band have parts where both those things happen, but the sound of this album just makes it sound so one-dimensional it lulls me to sleep because there are no blasts of aggression (which this album doesn't really need) and there are no contrasts with sections where the music becomes even softer. It doesn't help that Allain's voice isn't the most dynamic or expressive out there, so his imitation of Jonas really just adds to the flat production tone. When he lets out a black metal snarl, I will certainly say that it makes a difference, if only because it means the band is trying to make their song a bit more intense or aggressive. The only track that really got my attention for being a bit more interesting was Behind These Filth Panes which had an interesting riff in it that made the song stand out from the more shoegazing atmospheric metal that the rest of the album is filled with. Also, I just need to say that drummer J. Marklund is a beast as always behind the kit and was easily my favorite parts of pretty much every song on here with his various fills and interesting approaches to how dull the pace of some of these songs can be and probably would have been without him backing them.
So, overall, this was an album that did pose a problem for me in reviewing it. I wound up listening to it many times before I could finally gather an opinion that might be worthy of some substance. The album and band aren't really anything special, at least in my opinion, but the problem for me lies in the production. I hope if you decide to listen to this album you do not encounter the same problem I did with it.
Overall Score: 7
Highlights: Left to Hide, Behind These Filthy Panes, Wretch
Posted by maskofgojira at 12:05 PM
Country: San Francisco, California
Style: Post-Black Metal
Label: Deathwish Inc.
What can you say about Deafheaven that hasn't already been said by hundred of people already. Whether you believe they're hipsters playing black metal or one of the most exciting groups to crossover from black metal into the "mainstream", you have to admit that they at least get reactions from people. This new album has been highly touted by many respected blogs and zines so far, let's see if it is actually up to the hype.
Frankly, even since I first heard Deafheaven's demo I've been impressed with their work. Their combination of black metal, post-rock, screamo, and to an extent even shoegaze may not have been an original one, but it was a sound that they managed to make fresh with those first couple of releases. Praise has been heavy on this new album, with many people claiming it to be one of the finest releases of the year thus far. It's gotten to the point where I just started thinking that this album had to great simply because people I respected had been saying so many great things about it since Dream House first came out as a single a couple of months back. I didn't listen to the song back then simply in order to try and keep things fresh for myself. I wanted to see if I could avoid all new tracks until the album had been released in full so I could judge it based on the merit of the entire album, and now that I've been able to listen to the full album, several times now, I have to say that I was left rather unimpressed by it.
Now, make no mistake, I'm not saying this is a bad album, but for all the high praise that it's been receiving I just don't appear to have gotten it. Yes the band are combining the aforementioned elements and styles together again, as they did before, but the songs on here just feel a lot less interesting. What happened to all the dynamics? They replaced songs that went up and down with songs that went hard and then interludes that went soft (for the most part). I just don't get it, why do that for an entire album. Frankly, I think that most of the material on here is actually pretty forgettable. It's certainly not throwaway material - I have heard worse (this year even) - but for a band who was so impressive at writing these sort of songs that really did blend the above styles together in a way that made it appealing to fans of screamo and emo music as well as black metal fans (who weren't too caught up in their kvltness), these songs just feel so uninteresting. I get it, you want to go hard for an entire song, that's fine, I got no qualms with that, but I really don't want to hear this band go hard for nine-plus minutes at a time. After a while I just got bored. If anything, the thing that made me even return to this album was that the band actually managed to infuse this album with a brighter and more "beautiful" atmosphere. They create more uplifting melodies than almost anything else I've heard a "black metal" band create before and for that I'll certainly give them praise. It's more akin to post-rock than black metal actually, and that was something that I thought had improved for the better on here.
I actually found myself struggling to even stay interested in this album while I had it on. That's a huge problem when listening to any piece of music, especially one that makes it so obvious that each song is supposed to work as a part the whole. Most of this just felt stale and rather boring to me. Not bad by any means, but certainly not up to what I was expecting based on all the praise this thing has gotten thus far. In addition to all of that, as soon as this album ended (or rather, each time it ended) I found myself at a loss for what I had just listened to. I couldn't remember a single vocal line, guitar melody, drum pattern, or anything for the life of me. With all that being said, and I do realize that this review did come off pretty negative, but while this was on I did enjoy it.
So yeah, despite the mountains of praise that have been shoveled upon this album since before it was even released, I thought this was pretty average stuff. Definitely nowhere near that "album of the year" comment I've seen so many reviews make. It's certainly worth hearing this year, perhaps if for no other reason than to say you have actually heard it, but aside from that I can't really say much more in it's favor. Fans of any of the genres I mentioned throughout this review, you should give this a shot, make your own calls about it.
Overall Score: 6.5
Highlights: Vertigo, The Pecan Tree
Posted by maskofgojira at 8:22 AM