Friday, December 21, 2012

Final Exam 2012: Show No Mercy's Top 40 Metal Albums

Brandon Stosuy, who's in charge of Pitchfork's Show No Mercy metal column, recently made known his top 40 metal albums of the year.  Be sure to head over to the site to check out Stosuy's explanations for his top 25 as well as sample tracks from those records.  Go here for the detailed list.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Final Exam 2012: Le professeur de musique's Top Metal/Near-Metal Albums

And now it's time to reveal my top metal and near-metal albums of the year.  For the past few years, my music diet has consisted almost exclusively of releases from the metal world, and this year wasn't much different.  Although I didn't hear every metal record that came out this year, there were certain ones that ended up on heavy rotation.  And from these came my top twenty.

My number one pick came out of nowhere and blows me away every time I hear it.  This band's been flying under most people's radar, but it's about time these guys get the recognition they deserve.

So without further ado, here's my top metal/near-metal list.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Final Exam 2012: Le professeur de musique's Top Non-Metal Albums of the Year

Coming up with a list of my top 10 non-metal albums was a fairly easy exercise.  Coming up with a top 20, however, would have been much more difficult.  I didn't listen to a ton of non-metal records, mostly because there weren't that many that grabbed my attention and warranted repeated listens.  But the ones that did catch my ears are worth noting and are thus listed below.

Admittedly, I did not hear every record that came out this past year (nor do I wish to).  My number one pick is an album that got better and better each time I heard it early on.  And it's been a go-to record for much of the year.  The other releases from my top 10 are formidable and also merit your time if you're not already down.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Final Exam 2012: Le professeur de musique's Honorable Mentions

Later in the week, I'll be posting my top 10 non-metal albums and my top 20 metal/near-metal albums of the year.

In the meantime, here are 5 records that didn't quite make the cut for my metal/near-metal list.  Each of these releases is very solid and worth checking out if you haven't already done so.

There will be no honorable mentions for the non-metal list.

Le professeur de musique's Metal/Near-Metal Honorable Mentions
1.  Dawnbringer - Into the Lair of the Sun God
2.  Deserted Fear - My Empire
3.  Posthum - Lights Out
4.  Sylosis - Monolith
5.  Testament - Dark Roots of Earth

Monday, December 17, 2012

Final Exam 2012: The Year's Disappointments

Later this week, we'll take a look at the year's best albums, but let's focus on the year's disappointments first.  Here are five of mine:

1.  Band of Horses' Mirage Rock.  I saw Band of Horses open up a show for Iron and Wine in the summer of 2005.  This was before BOH even had a record out.  Despite the horribly talkative crowd, I enjoyed both sets.  Since then, I've thoroughly enjoyed BOH's first two records, but Mirage Rock is the point where I must think of this band as a thing of the past.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Final Exam 2012: MetalSucks' Top Metal Albums

The staff at MetalSucks have each posted their top 15 albums of the year, and you can check them all out if you go here.  You can also find out what various metal musicians have chosen as their favorite records of the year.  So when you get some time, browse the 20+ posts here - they're all conveniently listed on the same page.

Final Exam 2012: Stereogum's Top Metal Albums

Props to Stereogum for giving the metal world some coverage on a somewhat regular basis.  Although the site tends to overdo things with so much rap and hip hop (at least for my taste), it's nice to see that they've put out a list of the top 40 metal albums of the year.

The list is below, but head over here to read their interesting introduction, to hear samples from each album, and to find out why Converge, Baroness, Swans, and Torche are not on the list.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Extra Credit: Kowloon Walled City

San Francisco's Kowloon Walled City plays a sludgy, noisy kind of post-metal.  At times, the band brings to mind Fugazi's slower moments.

Kowloon Walled City recently released Container Ships, a collection of 7 songs that lasts about 35 minutes.  If you like opening track "The Pressure Keeps Me Alive" (and you should), then you'll also dig the others.

Container Ships is available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can download the record for free or pay what you can to support the band.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Reading Assignment: "The Atheist" by J.R. Hayes

Pig Destroyer's latest album Book Burner is definitely worth checking out, especially if you're into extreme metal.  With the deluxe version of the CD, LP, or digital version, you also get a copy of vocalist J.R. Hayes' debut short story "The Atheist."  If, however, you don't have a deluxe version, you can still read the short story thanks to J.R. Hayes and the folks at Cvlt Nation.

Without giving too much away, the story takes place in a future where Christianity becomes the official religion of the United States.  As might be expected, the protagonist is a non-conformist.  "The Atheist" is an interesting read, and my only complaint is that the ending comes out of nowhere and could have been further developed.  Nevertheless, it's a quick and enjoyable read regardless of how you may feel about religion.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Extra Credit: Arsis

The folks at Scion A/V have done it again.  We've already received free EPs from Revocation, Witch Mountain, and Corrosion of Conformity, and now we're offered a new EP from Arsis titled Lepers Caress

The six-song EP starts with the instrumental "Haunted, Fragile, and Frozen" and then blasts into "Six Coffins Wide."  From this point forward, you'll be hit with a good dose of technical and melodic death metal.  The aforementioned second track and "Carve My Cross" are early favorites.

Lepers Caress is available as a free download here as long as you're willing to give up your email address.  You can also stream the EP here if you want to give it a listen before downloading it.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Class of 2012: Neurosis - Honor Found In Decay

It's been quite a year for bands already in their second or even third decade.  Bands like Saint Vitus, Converge, and Testament released records earlier this year that prove the relevance of their new music.  And now we can add Neurosis to that list.

Honor Found In Decay is Neurosis' tenth album, released five years after 2007's Given to the Rising.  It features 7 songs in just over an hour's time and definitely requires several listens to fully digest.

"We All Rage in Gold" starts the album off in fine fashion.  If you like this song, then you should enjoy what's about to come.  For the first minute of next track "At the Well," you may wonder if DC Berman of the Silver Jews is singing (he's not).  On this standout second song, you'll hear noticeably strong drumming (the same applies to "All is Found...In Time") and what sounds like bagpipes from 4:20-4:55.  But what takes this track to the next level occurs from 7:00 to the end - it's my favorite part of the record.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Extra Credit: Solbrud

Solbrud is an atmospheric black metal band from Copenhagen.  This Danish four-piece's self-titled debut gives us 4 songs in about 46 minutes.
Opening track "Bortgang" definitely has that mid-tempo, atmospheric feel to it.  It's followed by "Øde Lagt," which gets off to a much faster start after just a bit of ambiance.  At just over 7:30, "Dødemandsbjerget" almost feels short.  Closing track "Skyggeriget" begins acoustically and then blackens considerably.
Solbrud is available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Class of 2012: Nihill - Verdonkermaan

Verdonkermaan is the third and final installment of Nihill's extreme metal trilogy that began with 2007's Krach and continued with 2009's Grond.  Many would view this as a difficult listen, and that's probably the reaction that this Dutch band aimed for when they started this project.

Verdonkermaan starts with "Vurr: the deathwind of resurrection," a noisy and rather punishing track.  The vocal delivery is top-notch, primarily of the black metal sort with a hint of a death growl at times.

Next comes "Spiral: the tail eater," considerably slower and hypnotic for its first 2 minutes.  This song and the next ("Oerbron: returning to the primal matter") are the album's high points.  "Oerbron" is more like the first track but takes an interesting turn from about 3:30 to 7:00.  During this section of the song, you'll hear howling and growling over avant-garde noise that very nearly becomes Sonic Youth-y.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Final Exam 2012: Decibel's Top 40 Albums

It's not even Thanksgiving yet, but it looks like the end-of-the-year lists are already starting.

Decibel Magazine's list is the first major one that I've seen so far.  While I don't agree with everything on the list, they've managed to include some very good records.  I'll be posting my own top albums list later next month, so stayed tuned.

In the meantime, check out Decibel's top albums of 2012:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Class of 2012: Sylosis - Monolith

Sylosis is a British modern thrash band with hints of prog undertones.  For Monolith, the band looked to Greek mythology (Orpheus and Eurydice) for inspiration. 

Monolith starts thrashy with "Out From Below."  Just when you feel like the song can go no further and is about to end (at about 4:00), it keeps going and reaches an outstanding moment at 5:25 as it slows to eventually finish.

Clean vocals are kept to a minimum, but on the next three tracks ("Fear the World," "What Dwells Within," and "Behind the Sun"), Sylosis momentarily become a different band with the inclusion of brief points of clean vocals.  During these few seconds at a time, the songs have a very modern metal feel to them.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Class of 2012: Graveyard - Lights Out

Sweden's Graveyard plays classic-sounding, bluesy, psychedelic rock.  Last year's Hisingen Blues didn't receive the attention that it deserved (I know that it did in some circles, but...).  With Lights Out, however, Graveyard seems poised to get bigger and bigger.

Lights Out gives us 9 songs in just under 36 minutes.  Consequently, this record doesn't overstay its welcome.  Opening track "An Industry of Murder" reminds us of Graveyard's sound and at the same time lets us know that not much has changed since Hisingen Blues.  (This is a good thing.)

The slow-burning "Slow Motion Countdown" feels somewhat average until the two-minute mark when its sweeping chorus takes over.  This song turns out to be one of the record's highlights.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Extra Credit: Corrosion of Conformity

Once again, the folks at Scion A/V are offering up some free metal music.  This time it's a five-song EP from Corrosion of Conformity called Megalodon.  For the price of an email address, you can download this EP for free, or you can simply stream it here to see if you like it.

First track "Feed On" is okay, but it's followed up with "Priest Brains," which really gets the ball rolling.  "The Megalodon" comes next and has a bit of an Alice In Chains feel at a certain point.  The band may have saved their best for last with the final two songs, "Strong Medicine Too Late" and "The Vulture."

Monday, November 12, 2012

Class of 2012: Pig Destroyer - Book Burner

Pig Destroyer is an extreme metal band whose music is not for everyone.  It's abrasive, aggressive, noisy, and super fast-paced.

Pig Destroyer tear through Book Burner's 19 tracks in just under 32 minutes.  And while most of these songs range from short to very short, there's a lot packed into each one.  At times, this can simply sound like noise, but at other times, you'll hear a band at the top of its game.  New drummer Adam Jarvis plays with ridiculous skill and speed throughout the record, and it seems unlikely that guitarist Scott Hull will ever run out of crushing riffs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Today is National Metal Day

11/11 is National Metal Day.  How do you plan on celebrating?  As for me, I'm going to finally watch Last Days Here, a documentary about Pentagram singer Bobby Liebling.  And then I'll throw on some metal - maybe some Black Sabbath or Judas Priest or Iron Maiden or Slayer or Testament or early Metallica or Bathory or Darkthrone or Neurosis or Skeletonwitch or Deafheaven or Wolves in the Throne Room or Death or Converge or Black Tusk or Ulcerate or Disma or Kylesa or High on Fire or Saint Vitus or Windfaerer.  (You get the point.)  In any case, be sure to listen to some metal today, and if you feel like watching a movie, then maybe check out This is Spinal Tap or Lemmy or Until the Light Takes Us or Metal: A Headbanger's Journey.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Extra Credit: Cara Neir

Cara Neir is a Dallas duo consisting of Chris Francis (vocals/lyrics) and Garry Brents (guitars/bass/drum programming/backing vocals).  On the Sublimation Therapy EP, the band offers up 17 tracks in about 22 minutes.  The sound is grindcore meets punk with some crust and death thrown in for good measure.  Standout tracks include "Fearless Transfixion of the Devil," "Son's Lament," "Make Room for More," "Prudent Oath," and "You Are Missed."  "Stained Bedsheets" and "Sturdy Belief in Flimsy Gods" find the band at their most accessible (and most enjoyable).
This EP is available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can download it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Pass/Fail: Chrome Waves - Chrome Waves

"Chrome Waves" is a song from Going Blank Again by shoegazers Ride.  Chrome Waves is also a blackened metalgaze trio consisting of Jeff Wilson (Nachtmystium, Wolvhammer), Stavros Giannopoulos (The Atlas Moth, Twilight) and Bob Fouts (The Gates of Slumber, Apostle of Solitude).

 The Chrome Waves EP starts off with the instrumental "Hearts Over Feathers," which is a great intro that builds as layers of guitars get added on top of one another.  It leads perfectly into "Height of the Rifles," the record's longest track.  At about the halfway point, this second song slows down and becomes Alcest for a moment.  See if you can hear what I mean.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Class of 2012: Yakuza - Beyul

Led by Bruce Lamont, Yakuza plays an interesting style of music.  Is it metal?  At time, yes, it is.  It's also avant-garde with some jazz tendencies, too.

"Oil And Water" starts with an experimental intro and then actually has a grungy feel (think early work by bands like Mudhoney and Soundgarden) at certain points.

The next two tracks, "The Last Day" and "Man Is Machine," are the album's highlights.  The former has a great moment that starts at the 0:50 mark and makes great use of instruments other than the expected guitar, bass, and drums of a metal band.  The latter has its great moment from 2:18-2:40.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Movie Day: One Man Metal, Part Three

The third and final installment of Noisey's One Man Metal documentary is now available to watch here.  If you haven't seen the first two parts, then go here for part one and here for part two.

The last part of this documentary continues its interviews of the artists behind Leviathan, Striborg, and Xasthur.  Jef Whitehead gets personal and explains why we shouldn't expect any more music from Lurker of Chalice.  Russell Menzies puts on corpse paint and turns into a totally different person.  And Scott Conner discusses why, among other things, he doesn't feel the need to dress up in corpse paint anymore.

One Man Metal is a great look into the men responsible for black metal projects Xasthur, Striborg, and Leviathan.  Hats off to Vice/Noisey for putting this documentary together.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Extra Credit: Barghest/False split

On their side of the split, Barghest offers up two songs - "Shifting Sands" is an old song and "Inhuman Hatred" is new.  Coming from Baton Rouge, the band plays an abrasive, low-fi version of black metal.

On the other side of the split, Minneapolis' False gives us one song, but it runs for over seventeen minutes.  "Heavy as a Church Tower" is more of a black metal journey - it's atmospheric at times, speeds up and then slows down, and even features synths.

The Barghest/False split is currently available at bandcamp courtesy of Gilead Media for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Class of 2012: Enlsaved - Riitiir

Norway's Enslaved started out over twenty years ago as a pretty straightforward black metal band.  Over the years, the band's sound has evolved into a melodic/blackened/progressive style of metal.

Riitiir starts off strong with "Thoughts Like Hammers" and "Death in the Eyes of Dawn."  The former has a riff that will stick in your head for weeks, while the latter features an incredibly catchy hook.

Next comes "Veilburner," which is a solid track, but it can't compare to what follows.  "Roots of the Mountain" has a soaring chorus that fittingly sings of wings, eagles, and the sky.  Oddly enough, this chorus brings Garden State to mind.  See if you can figure out what I mean.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Extra Credit: Ah Ciliz

Ah Ciliz is the Mayan god of solar eclipses.  Ah Ciliz is also an atmospheric black metal project out of California. It's the vision of Elmer, who gets help on drums from Marco.
Led Astray, released at the beginning of this year, has a low-fi, homemade feel, but therein lies its charm.  It doesn't even really sound like metal until after four minutes into the self-titled opener, but then the vocals kick in and you get the full sound of Ah Ciliz. 
The strongest tracks here are "Ailing" and "Secrets of the Forest."  Be sure to give these a listen before making up your mind.
Led Astray is available at bandcamp courtesy of Broken Limbs Recordings for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Class of 2012: Winterfylleth - The Threnody of Triumph

Winterfylleth is Olde English for "Winter Full Moon."  And while we're at it, a threnody is a song, poem, or hymn to commemorate the dead.

Winterfylleth is a British black metal band with slight folk/pagan leanings.  The band describes its music as "English heritage black metal."

The Threnody of Triumph opens with "A Thousand Winters."  It's a pretty good start, has effective tempo shifts to add variety, and ends with chants of drawn-out "whoa"s.  The chanting also appears on next track "The Swart Raven," which is one of the album's highlights.  It starts very strong, twists at just past the halfway point, and then shifts back toward the end.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Movie Day: One Man Metal, Part Two

Part two of Noisey and Vice's One Man Metal documentary is available to watch here.  If you haven't yet checked out part one, then do so first right here.

While black metal is not for everyone, it's interesting to compare and contrast these three artists behind the music of their solo projects Leviathan, Xasthur, and Striborg.  Did you know that Jef Whitehead got his start as a skateboarder?  Russell Menzies seems very normal.  He's married, has a family, and has been drug-free for 10 years.  Scott Conner avoids getting too personal, but he makes it clear that he's not a people person.

Part three should be available in the coming days or weeks.  Stay tuned.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Pass/Fail: Titus Andronicus - Local Business

I'm sure that I'm in the minority, but I didn't love The Monitor like everyone else seemed to.  I liked it (and still do), but I think I'd rather listen to The Airing of Grievances.  I'd almost forgotten about Titus Andronicus when I found out that a new album, Local Business, was about to come out.

Titus Andronicus plays indie rock with a punk spirit.  Think Bright Eyes meets The Dead Milkmen.

Local Business opens with "Ecce Homo," whose first few seconds bring "Ring of Fire" to mind.  It's a good start.  Next comes "Still Life With Hot Deuce On Silver Platter," which is pretty good until the poppy line "Here it goes again / I hear you took it to another level" becomes way too repetitive.  Speaking of repetitive, wait until "Titus Andronicus vs. The Absurd Universe (3rd Round KO)," which repeats "I'm going insane" over and over.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Class of 2012: Horrendous - The Chills

Horrendous are an old-school death metal band with a bit of a punk influence.  Imagine Lemmy getting together with a death metal band and releasing the results.  The Chills is what it might sound like.  On their debut album, Horrendous gives us 9 songs (8 if we don't count the short instrumental "Sleep Sickness") in just under 42 minutes.

First track "The Womb" features a great introduction - the opening riff is catchy and the bell chimes add a special touch.  As the song progresses, it's clear that it's going to be hard to beat.

There's no question that this is death metal, but certain moments have a slight punk feel to them.  Listen to "The Somber (Desolate Winds)" and "Fleshrot" and you'll hear what I mean.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Extra Credit: Witch Mountain

Scion A/V gave us a free Revocation EP not too long ago, and now they're offering a two-song EP from Witch Mountain for the price of an email address.

Formed in Portland, Oregon, fifteen years ago, Witch Mountain are a doom-metal band.  Since finding a voice in singer Uta Plotkin a couple of years ago, the band has released two albums (South of Salem and Cauldron of the Wild) in the past two years.

Of the two songs on this EP, "Bloodhound" is new and "A Power Greater" is a re-recording of an old song.  If you're new to Witch Mountain, then these songs should serve as a fine introduction, and if you're already a fan, then I'm sure that you'll enjoy both tracks.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Class of 2012: Converge - All We Love We Leave Behind

Unlike 2009's Axe To Fall, All We Love We Leave Behind is a Converge-only album.  In other words, there are no special guests or collaborators on this record.

Opening track "Aimless Arrow" is a great starter and one of the stronger songs on the record.  It has a bit of a Guy Picciotto-fronted Fugazi feel to it.  This happens when vocalist Jacob Bannon sings a little more than usual.  "Tender Abuse," "Sadness Comes Home," and the title track also bear this resemblance.

Another standout, "Sadness Comes Home," starts with a slow intro that features a bluesy riff by guitarist Kurt Ballou.  Then it takes off but comes back down with an outro that matches its beginning.  It's followed by the slightly industrial-sounding "Empty On The Inside," whose vocals at one point remind me of Love and Rockets.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Class of 2012: Witchcraft - Legend

It's quite possible that Witchcraft had fallen off your radar.  Their last album (Alchemist), after all, came out in 2007.  Upon hearing Legend, however, Witchcraft should quickly fall back into your listening rotation.

Witchcraft's doomy classic rock sounds straight out of the seventies.  The Black Sabbath and Pentagram influences are obvious, but there are also a few Tool-like moments when the songs get loud.  To hear what I mean, for instance, listen to "Democracy" and "Dead End."

Throughout Legend's nine songs, Magnus Pelander's vocals sound great.  Strangely enough, there's a moment on "Dead End" where Pelander's voice reminds me of early Bono.  See if you can find it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Extra Credit: Dead Beyond Buried

England's Dead Beyond Buried play death metal with elements of black metal and thrash.  Their third album The Dark Era is currently available at the band's website as a free download.  If you'd like to give it a listen before you download, you can also stream the record here.

Here's how the band describes The Dark Era:
"A man finds himself as the only survivor after his home world is savagely torn apart.  Now he is a spirit of the void searching for the hope his faith has promised him. The silent black ocean before him offers no kindness. With every turn he sees horrors unimaginable to the conscious mind.  Driven to the edge of the universe, will he find the peace he craves or join the shadows in the night on their path to utter annihilation....."

Dead Beyond Buried plans to release CD and vinyl versions of The Dark Era later this year.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Movie Day: One Man Metal, Part One

One Man Metal is a three-part documentary by VICE and Noisey that interviews three solo black metal artists who do not regularly (or ever) appear on camera - Jef Whitehead of Leviathan, Russell Menzies of Striborg, and Scott Conner of Xasthur.

At the beginning of part one, we're given a brief history of black metal and its several waves, which is then followed by the actual interviews with each artist.  

The documentary crew visits each artist in his home to conduct the interviews.  Whitehead and Conner are both in California (Oakland and Alhambra, respectively), whereas Menzies lives in the middle of nowhere in Maydena, Tasmania.

Unfortunately, only part one is currently available to watch at Noisey.  However, parts two and three should become available in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pass/Fail: The Mountain Goats - Transcendental Youth

Sadly, the last great Mountain Goats' record is 2002's Tallahassee.  Since then, John Darnielle and company have released albums and songs that have been very hit or miss.  Newest record Transcendental Youth is no different.

There's no doubt that Darnielle is one of his generation's great lyricists.  I'd put the Hold Steady's Craig Finn in that same category, too.  With both of these guys, you can count on interesting characters and stories, but both of these sometimes come at the expense of the music and song structure.

Opening track "Amy aka Spent Gladiator 1" sounds like a typical recent Mountain Goats song, and this sets the tone for the rest of what's to come.  It's a decent song, but it's not very memorable.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Class of 2012: Black Breath - Sentenced to Life

Black Breath combines hardcore, thrash, and death metal over the course of ten songs in just over 32 minutes on Sentenced to Life.  While this has been done time and time again, Black Breath have found a way to make it seem fresh and rather original.

Sentenced to Life gets off to a blistering start.  The first two songs, "Feast of the Damned" and "Sentenced to Life," are easily two of the best songs here.  They're surprisingly catchy and showcase the band's hardcore/punk roots.  The title track, in fact, with its chorus of "terrified of living / too scared to try," brings to mind the heyday of bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag.

On songs such as "Home of the Grave" and "The Flame," the band slows things down a bit.  It's on tracks like these where Black Breath sounds the most metal and least hardcore.  On "Endless Corpse," however, the aforementioned genres meld together very well.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Class of 2012: Guided By Voices - Class Clown Spots A UFO

Class Clown Spots A UFO is GBV's second album of the year, and a third one is slated for a November release.  Album number two of 2012 is considerably better than its predecessor, Let's Go Eat The Factory.  The songs are more memorable and the band has shaken off some of its rust since reuniting.

Class Clown has its share of great songs.  The instant-classic title track stands out as the album's highlight.  It's perfect pop in a way that only GBV can produce, ending with Robert Pollard singing "I am the one / who is the one / who am the one / who are the one."  The simple and repetitive "Keep It In Motion," in spite of its slightly off-beat drums, also stands out.  "Hang Up And Try Again" may not be instantly catchy, but at some point, unexpectedly, it will pop into your head and you'll find yourself singing "Hang up and try again."  Moreover, "He Rises! Our Union Bellboy" and "No Transmission" make great bookends, opening and closing the album effectively.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Extra Credit: Wound Upon Wound

Dublin, Ireland, is not likely to wind up on anyone's list for up-and-coming metal hotbeds.  Wound Upon Wound, however, are doing their part to change this mindset.  Named after the Gorgoroth song of the same name,the band play black metal with elements of doom and death.
The self-titled Wound Upon Wound features seven songs in 50 minutes.  Opening track "I Become" is mostly doom and death but is followed by the more blackened "Descent" and "Awakening."   After the atmospheric "Eulogy," everything comes together on "As The Waves Draw Closer," the strongest piece on the record.  The final two songs further reinforce what the band does well.
Wound Upon Wound is available for free at bandcamp.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Class of 2012: Guided By Voices - Let's Go Eat The Factory

Let's Go Eat The Factory is the first GBV reunion record that came out this year.  While it may not win over that many new fans, it's a welcome addition to the GBV catalog for those already among their fan base.

Songs like "Doughnut for a Snowman," "The Unsinkable Fats Domino," and "Chocolate Boy" seem too easy - it's like Robert Pollard could do this all day if he wanted.  Unfortunately, he also wants to do songs like "The Big Hat and Toy Show," which finds the band simply messing around.

A predictable Pollard complaint rears its head only two songs in - "The Head" is too short.  I'd like to hear this track further developed.  Furthermore, "Go Rolling Home" and "The Room Taking Shape" sound like demos.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Class of 2012: Mutilation Rites - Empyrean

Self-described as "filthy" black metal, Brooklyn's Mutilation Rites tear through six songs in just over 35 minutes on Empyrean.  Don't expect any ambient or avant-garde interludes - this is not that kind of music.

"A Season of Grey Rain" is a near-perfect start with several impressive moments.  For example, go to 3:55 and listen to the rest of the track.  You'll hear a couple of such instances within a mere minute and a half.

Throughout Empyrean, George Paul's vocals are indecipherable, and from what I've read, that's how he wants it to be.  Nonetheless, topics and themes include vices, depression, and substance abuse.

Beginning at a break-neck speed, "Ancient Bloodoath" features solid but never flashy guitar work.  The band then slows things down considerably for the track's final two minutes.  While the rest of the album is also fast-paced, the twists and turns of each song keep things interesting.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Pass/Fail: Down IV Part I - The Purple EP

The Purple EP is the first of four EPs that Down plans to release.  This one features six songs, three of which are very good, while the others fall into the mediocre/average category.

"Levitation" gets the EP off to a great start.  Like the rest of the tracks, it has a certain doomy/sludgy feel to it.  It's also the catchiest song here.

"Witchtripper" slows things down a bit but then speeds up at the chorus.  Unfortunately, the chorus is simply "Witchtripper," which seems somewhat lazy to me.  Nevertheless, this is still a good song.

The middle of the EP is where Down stumbles a bit.  "Open Coffins" is the weakest track, but "The Curse Is A Lie" isn't that much better.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Extra Credit: Percht

Percht is a post-black metal project out of Belgium.  It's the work of Ferre Bulté, who handles everything from vocals and instruments to effects and programming.
The Aftermath of a Velvet Season consists of 8 tracks and comes in at just over an hour.  There's a definite Wolves-In-The-Throne-Room-type influence going on.  It's available at bandcamp courtesy of Broken Limbs Recordings for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Class of 2012: Krallice - Years Past Matter

I was surprised when I saw that Krallice had a new album out.  Last year's Diotima was nearly 70 minutes long, and I didn't expect them to release their next installment of American black metal just yet.

The six songs on Years Past Matter are basically untitled.  The first track is "IIIIIII," and each track increases by "I" so that the final track is "IIIIIIIIIIII."

Despite the two vocal styles employed, vocals are not a top priority.  Consequently, at times, this album has more of an instrumental feel to it. 

If you're familiar with Krallice, then you won't be surprised that four of the songs clock in at over ten minutes.  At under two minutes, however, fifth track "IIIIIIIIIII" is not even a song - it's more of an avant-garde black metal interlude.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Class of 2012: Dinosaur Jr. - I Bet On Sky

When bands split up and then reunite years later, you have to question their motives.  It seems like a lot of bands get back together just to tour and make money.  Are the Pixies ever going to record a new album?  Who knows?

Dinosaur Jr., however, are clearly concerned with putting out new music - both songs and albums that are on par with their classics.  Since the reunion, the band has released Beyond, Farm, and now I Bet On Sky.

The new album doesn't stray from the standard Dinosaur Jr. formula, but it has a rather mellow vibe compared to the last two records.  Could this be a result or even a continuation of last year's brilliant J Mascis solo album Several Shades Of Why?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Extra Credit: Revocation

Today, Scion A/V released the five-song EP Teratogenesis by Revocation.  And best of all, as long as you're willing to give up your email address, it's free to download.  Just go here and get it, or give the stream a listen first and then download it.

Last year's full-length Chaos of Forms was very good.  If you like that one, then you should dig the new EP.  The guitar playing can get a little technical at times, but it's never in an over-the-top kind of way.  If you like Teratogenesis, then definitely check out Chaos of Forms if you haven't done so already.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Class of 2012: Bob Dylan - Tempest

At this point, we all know how we feel about Mr. Zimmerman.  Personally, I prefer the early stuff, tend to avoid the middle years, and consider anything since Oh Mercy worth my time.

As I was listening to Tempest over the weekend, my mother-in-law, who was visiting and who is a Dylan fan herself (she saw him in concert at some point in the seventies), remarked, "He still can't sing."  If you've heard recent Dylan, then you'll recognize that voice, which at times gives Tom Waits a run for his money.

Tempest gets off to a good start with "Duquesne Whistle," not immediately catchy but the kind of song that stays with you even as the next song begins.  "Narrow Way" is sped-up blues but goes on a bit too long (this happens more than once).  "Long And Wasted Years" finds Dylan at his most charming (and at his best).  Standout track "Pay In Blood" sounds like it could be decades old, and at one point, Dylan can't help but chuckle as he sings, "I pay in blood / but not my own."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Movie Day: It Might Get Loud

2008's It Might Get Loud not only tells the story of how three guitarists (Jimmy Page, Jack White, and The Edge) became who they are, but it also brings them together to discuss the electric guitar and also even jam a little.

In the opening scene, White builds a guitar using a two-by-four, a coke bottle, and little else, and then asks, "Who says you need to buy a guitar?"  For White, technology is a destructive force, whereas the Edge is big on effects and hardware.

Highlights include the following: footage of Jack and Meg winning over some veterans at the Chelsea Pension Home, Page playing air guitar to Link Wray's "Rumble," White and the Edge sitting in awe as Page plays "Whole Lotta Love," White's bloody guitar after playing "Blue Veins" with the Raconteurs, and all three guitarists jamming together on "In My Time of Dying."

It Might Get Loud is rated PG for mild thematic elements, brief language, and smoking.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Class of 2012: Mares of Thrace - The Pilgrimage

On this record, Mares of Thrace is a duo consisting of guitarist/vocalist Thérèse Lanz and drummer Stefani MacKichan.  Over the summer, however, Stefani left the band for "the educational program of her dreams" and was replaced by Rae Amitay.

Mares of Thrace is not your typical duo.  The vocals are mostly of the yelling sort with a little growling thrown in for good measure ("Act I: David Glimpses Bathsheba" and "The Perpetrator").  Lanz plays her custom baritone guitar with considerable skill, and MacKichan handles the sticks with equal aptitude.

Standout track "The Gallwasp" finds both Mares complementing each other perfectly.  The song is catchy in an unexpected way - not vocally but musically.  This album needs more moments like this one.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Extra Credit: Mare Cognitum

Mare Cognitum is Latin for "Sea that has become known."  If you're into NASA and outer space stuff, then you may be familiar with this term.
Mare Cognitum, however, is also Jacob Buczarski's one-man black metal project from Santa Ana, California.  Atmospheric at times, An Extraconscious Lucidity pummels its way through 6 songs in 49 minutes.  I stumbled upon this recently and am surprised that more people aren't talking about this.  It's available at bandcamp for the "name your price" option, so you can either get it for free or donate what you can to show your support.