Wednesday, June 11, 2014
New Haven atmospheric sludge trio Sea of Bones has written a doom metal masterpiece - The Earth Wants Us Dead - that will send you plodding through a geas of shadow, wondering where your soul went.
This October 31, 2013 self-release from the Connecticut band is a colossal step forward in their development, drawing from roots of meandering dissonance in their earlier works to beget a rhythmically-sensible yet organically-rich monolith of gritted, soiled, pulsating sound.
Should music truly be the silence between notes, this record is evidence that the interruption of that silence provides little mercy for the listener. Poignant breaks in bleak, ominous sequences of chords and beats are given form and character by wailing screams of inescapable conclusions, while riffs of slightly melodic intonation prove to be fools' errands to any who clutch desperately to a glimmer of hope. Tom, Gary, and Kevin have unquestionably tapped into a mother lode of core emotion and have the skill to inundate us with the entirety of their pernicious find.
A mere swath of adjectives is not likely to do the album justice, but a listen will doubtless convince those teetering on the razor's edge of Sea of Bones' prowess at sonic architectonics. Any disappointment you have from listening will be at the loss of your capacity for positive thinking.
Sea of Bones will be playing at Three Sheets New Haven on August 9th for their 2014 North American Tour.
Thursday, November 7, 2013
Make no mistake, there is nothing happy about this album.
There isn't a note out of place on Gary Numan's latest effort, and it has the level of consistent quality fans have come to expect. In fact, the production on "Splinter" is technically superior to Numan's last few releases, if not more, courtesy of band member Ade Fenton. Interesting contributions from other live members can be found throughout the album, as well as several guitar collaborations with Robin Finck of the current and past live Nine Inch Nails lineup.
Though eccentric at times, the sound design is distinctly Numan, and some familiar voices are coaxed out of the synthesizers he uses on these cuts. Distorted guitars, sharpened synths, and mournful wailing vocals abound along with the murk of heavy industrial-sounding beats and extensive reverberating atmosphere. Artistically, Numan is carving out a distinct style of industrial rock from his synthpop roots, not quite as abrasive as those he purports to be drawing upon for reflexive influence but certainly as hard-hitting and ablative in the long run.
"Love Hurt Bleed" and "I Am Dust" are the obvious choices for singles from the album, bringing their pounding grooves to bear on anthemic choruses. Other fast-paced tracks can be found with "Here In The Black" and "Who Are You" but the general slow creep of this opus does not mean you are in for easy listening. "Lost" and "My Last Day" certainly make one wonder just how deeply Numan is willing to dig in his emotions to find lyrics, and he does not disappoint - just don't expect to be smiling at the end of them. A breath of fresh air can be found in "A Shadow Falls On Me," carrying construction and mood similar to his prior work "Walking With Shadows" from the 2000 album "Pure". Still, pensive melancholy doesn't exactly interrupt the dark mood, and it could be accurately described as an exhausting listen.
Without a doubt, "Splinter" is Numan's finest work to date since "Pure" and perhaps technically superior to the latter. It is worth repeated listens and Gary should be commended for this work.
Monday, October 28, 2013
So, despite my ridiculous schedule I've decided to take a little time to put together a small tribute to Lou Reed. Certainly, one of my inspirations. And rather than burden you with another trite bio of Reed, I am going to post some great songs and albums. I'm certain Reed would rather you listen to his great music than read about how great he was...
(You tube videos were not uploaded by us! So, if they die or have weird shit in them, don't blame us.)
Waiting for the man:
Mexrobo's Top 4 VU albums
1. White Light White Heat
Friday, October 25, 2013
After David Scott’s only son was killed eight years ago, he turned what was once a pastime into the primary way of dealing with his grief. Dark Blue Grass is a collection of songs that emerged over that eight-year period and, as one might expect, they are filled with themes of heartbreak, nostalgia, and vengeance (to name a few). However, like good blues musicians, Scott has the ability to step outside of his emotions and display a control that’s both masterful and captivating. The result is a beautifully crafted record laced with rich poetry, blue-blooded soul and immaculate instrumentation.
Musically, this album is American in every sense of the word. Songs based on folk style finger-picking live alongside tracks that make heavy use of drum samples and synthesizers (check out the summer evening cool of “Lose You” or the apocalyptic doom of “Seldom Heart”). And as the album’s title suggests, there are overtones of Appalachia here and there (see “Honey Pie”). But Scott’s most powerful work is comprised of just his voice and acoustic guitar.
Case in point: “St. Louise” is as sweet as it is sorrowful, as it is prophetic. Amongst haunting background vocals and a descending chord progression is a lyrical cascade of images both profound and devastating: “I have been sent here by St. Louise/We have been watching your arrows in the sky/Honey, and it’s clear enough for me/I will see you just one more time.”
The tracks “Karma Boutique” and “Baby’s Revenge” are as equally brilliant and unique but I won’t get into that here. There’s no point – because – as it is with any self-stylized artist of this caliber, you’re either going to love him or leave him. But if you open yourself up to this music, it runs deep. And no matter how dark it gets, there’s always a light flickering somewhere.
Stream/buy the album here.
Friday, September 20, 2013
Gone are the thrashing beats and chugging guitars. Gone are the piercing appeals to Satan, or Cthulhu, or Thor, or whoever the kids find rebellious these days. Instead, there is the raw, acoustic pounding of hide drums and the hoarse wailing of goat horn flutes. But make no mistake: this is not Enya for black metal fans. With their second album, Yggdrasil, Wardruna brings an authenticity to their music that pushes it well above and beyond the typically bland offerings of new age or world music.
This is Viking music, and very much sounds the part. With their pulsing beats, droning fiddles, and vocals weaving between the beautifully harmonious and the frighteningly guttural, Wardruna has written the soundtrack of early Scandinavia, from the majestic fjords of Nordland to the vicious sack of the monastery at Lindesfarne.
While one has to admire their dedication to authenticity (the band primarily wields primitive instruments native to medieval Norway, and sings in the dead tongues of Old Norse and Proto-Norse) and the novelty of the music itself, Wardruna's portrayal of their cultural heritage often descends into unintentional self-parody of Immigrant Song-like proportions. Each and every song, composed in decidedly minor keys, plods along like a war march while Gaahl and Kvitrafn growl menacingly like berserkers on the eve of battle.
And therein lies the problem. While Wardruna has left behind the more ostentatious trappings of the black metal scene, they have not entirely abandoned its aesthetic. Yggdrasil is reactionary, nationalistic, and decidedly macho. It's almost sadly ironic that in their attempt to bring "traditional" Norwegian music to wider audience, all Wardruna has really done is perpetuate the stereotype of the dolorous, bloodthirsty Viking, utterly lacking in emotional and intellectual depth.
All said, however, Yggdrasil is a fantastic recording, filled to the brim with elements both novel and evocative. While it may not hold your attention for very long, you will enjoy it while it does.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Grayskul's fourth full-length record is brought to you via New Haven-based label Fake Four, Inc.
Seattle's JFK and Onry Ozzborn have teamed up with a medley of track producers for their latest outing on "Zenith" and the result is a few memorable songs, a few that could have been on their last two records, and a few that will not end up in the tour setlist. "Aggressive" was the word of the day when Grayskul savagely tore a name out of the indie rap game for themselves with "Deadlivers" in 2005; "expressive" is more fitting for this album's somewhat haphazard and lackadaisical collection of lyrics and beats.
"Come On" is the first released song, produced by 6 Fingers, and keeps some of the darker tone of early Grayskul. "Zenith," "Apollo 11," and "Clubs" will stick with the listener for a little while. "There Is No Edge," "Wide Awake," and "Face & The Fang" are pleasant but quickly fade into the rest of the album. "Maggot" comes with some overproduced vocals for the chorus but doesn't quite dent the hippocampus with a lasting impression. "The Gift" is more emotional and deep, exploring personal loss.
On the whole "Zenith" is a complex and clever. The production is excellent when each track is considered separately - not to say that there is no consistency to the album, but the consistency is similar to a blade that hasn't been sharpened in a while. "There Is No Edge" could easily describe the state of what used to be a razor-sharp set of teeth and claws. Yes, JFK gives these variegated beats a rapid and thorough tongue lashing - as usual; Onry Ozzborn brings his wry wit and creatively odd rhyme schemes - again, as usual. Wu-Tang's Raekwon the Chef tells us that this album is about the "nin" (likely the Japanese for "people") and with a host of guests including Aesop Rock on production and raps they manage to cover all their bases. Still, Grayskul's days of rhyming unstoppably under the monikers Recluse and Reason seem to be long gone.
Fans of the duo will have a few one-liners to digest, and one can listen to the album comfortably - but one can just as comfortably not listen to the album and select only one or two songs to slap on an mp3 player. Therein lies both a major problem and its own solution. "Zenith" begs the question, "Why listen to the whole thing?" It stops short of offering something drastically different from what they've already accomplished, while refusing to take off their gloves and throw the knockout punches we've seen in the past. Consequently, while good, "Zenith" can't quite surpass "Deadlivers" as the peak of their career.
Grayskul is currently touring the Pacific Northwest.
Thursday, September 12, 2013
The immortal titans of metal have returned after nearly 20 years with tidings of doom that do not fail to leave an impression.
With the entire founding lineup of the band save Bill Ward (citing musical differences and contractual difficulties) Black Sabbath have ground out a razor-sharp axe of an album, slicing its way to the top of the US and UK chart this year, yet also hewing through the competition to be recognized on various underground forums across the internet - albeit to love-hate reviews.
Brad Wilk from Rage Against The Machine stands in for the session drumming on 13 - seamless, tight, and appropriate for the band's atmosphere. In no way does he pose a stylistic concern for what Black Sabbath was trying to achieve, and technically speaking he fits like a missing puzzle piece. Low-profile is perhaps the most apt word for his contributions, providing the sea upon which their ship sets its course.
Geezer Butler's lyrics present us with a slow start to the album's thematic content with "The End of the Beginning," but by the second track they pick up quite a bit of gravity. ("God is Dead?" is coincidentally the first single, despite nearly pushing the 9-minute mark.) Osbourne's voice is quite clean and dynamic, though his range and emotional impact have perhaps waned a bit with time. Butler breaks in with some virtuoso basslines here and there, and Iommi's guitar is enough to fill the ears at every turn. Very rarely will a song sound empty with this crew, and Rick Rubin's production is smooth and lively.
Familiar doom metal song structures proliferate along the 8-track album, and the sound is very consistent and unmistakably Black Sabbath. Apart from the first two tracks, "Age of Reason" is a high point of the record. Interestingly enough, the song most likely to have served as a second single is only available on Spotify and the Deluxe Edition - "Pariah" keeps a steady pace and arena-worthy chorus.
Fans of old Sabbath may find this to be the most worthwhile offering in some time, but it is hard to imagine a more standard doom metal album. It is conclusively solid, loud, and heavy. It is also old hat for these fellows, and it shows. If the single doesn't catch your interest, the rest of the album most likely will not. The band has concluded their North American tour for this year with Tommy Clufetos as drummer (from Ozzy's solo endeavor) and will continue through South America and Europe.