Thursday, September 3, 2015

Iron Maiden - The Book of Souls



The shambling corpses of Iron Maiden have trotted out to show that Lemmy is only the second most lethargic English heavy metal legend. While Lemmy might require a cane to hobble out on stage, at least he tries to deliver some sort of speed and energy that these seniors have completely failed to deliver. The soaring, operatic vocals of Bruce Dickinson have slowed to a pitiful wail which maintains his signature tone, yet fails to impart any of the energy and the adventurousness which made his best performances so unique. The guitar work has resigned itself to passive gallops, a variety of harmonies, and solos which are remarkably energetic compared to the trudge of unenthusiastic guitar work.

This album isn't just slow and long, the lethargy comes from every piece which one made Maiden great. Nothing grabs a song and elevates it to a fantastic level. Think of everything that made this style of metal illustrious and ethereal - easy to imagine here because this band, these same men, were the ones to do it. They delivered each statement with gusto, from the hasted lick which began The Trooper, to the lofty, soaring wails which raised Aces High to the sky, to the mournful tone-setting and subsequent twist into Hallowed Be Thy Name. They just warble their way through peakless stories without any awareness of how atrociously long and repetitive their ramblings are. It takes two minutes for the first track to even get to an electric guitar, and many more for a bona fide guitar riff. Whatever you're looking for in Iron Maiden, this is pathetic and absurd!

The height of the horrors is not only is every song stretched out into a tepid wail, but they manage to stretch songs which present no musical dynamics into 10, 13, even 18 minute tales. Maiden tailored epic tales into songs half this length through illustrious dynamics and musical storytelling, from the freewheeling Di'Anno-era Phantom of the Opera and Transylvania to the greatly-expanded palette of Dickinson's soaring vocals in Hallowed Be Thy Name and a well-calibrated band painting from high to low tides in Rime of the Ancient Mariner. This album presents a band that only lacks these same skills in composition and presentation, but one that is entirely unaware that they are but a shadow following in the galloped footsteps of what they once were. To reminisce on the reflections of a once-great band:

"When the priest comes to read me the last rites
I take a look through the bars at the last sights
Of a world that has gone very wrong for me

Can it be there's some sort of error
Hard to stop the surmounting terror
Is it really the end not some crazy dream

When you know that your time is close at hand
maybe then you'll begin to understand
Life down there is just a strange illusion"

The world has gone very wrong, it is really the end, not some crazy dream. Your time is close at hand, but you haven't begun to understand. Your time has passed, lethargic old men. Your brand name may still be viable, but your expressions are dying and elderly.

Show Me Wolves - Between Man, God and False Idols

It would be hard to argue that Show Me Wolves’ debut album Between Man, God And False Idols is anything other than well performed, professionally produced, and thoughtfully composed. Still, this album just doesn’t do it for me. Hörður Lúðvíksson’s solo project mixes elements of hardcore with metal, and adds in a progressive flair that makes the project sound somewhat in the vein of bands like Ludicra. Naturally, the vocals follow along with this and are rather intelligible, pushing a lot of air, and relatively light on the rasp. It’s a vocal style that I generally hate, and this album unfortunately isn’t an exception. On the other hand, if you are really into the vocals, I imagine that their execution is about as enjoyable as the rest of the album.



Unlike a lot of the post-”xyz”styled band’s out there, Show Me Wolves has an interestingly dynamic flair. This also ties into the album’s strong and intricate composition. For example, you’ll see how the closing track “From Ice to Fire” balances out a bouncy melody with furious tremolo picking. Similarly, in the intro track, the wandering bass line is balanced out by the triplet motif. It all works together nice and orderly, and is also well polished. But, you could also say it’s polite and sterile because of the hyper modern solid-state guitar tone; and how the album manages to be proggy without having any musical surprises. Sometimes, a call and response interplay leaves you thinking once again “that’s nice, I guess.” Overall, the album is a mixed bag.

Despite not being a fan of the main vocal style, the cleans on “Sea of Trees” and even the pitchy vocals on “Unknown Reflection” work much better and are sprinkled in just enough to be interesting without becoming overbearing. The groovier sections are also decent enough, never overindulging in chugging (or other pitfalls you might expect in this kind of a mix). One highlight that really could have used more emphasis are the impressive guitar solos. Rather than just harmonizing the entire way through, the leads sometimes end up playing diverging lines. This makes the leads a lot more interesting. He’s definitely got the chops for some additional shredding, and the music lends itself to lead sections, so hopefully this will be a focal point in the future.

I’d recommend this to anyone who is into “post” stuff that is looking for something more dynamic and aggressive. (Hörður Lúðvíksson also plays guitar in Offerings, where he shares guitar duty with Benedikt of Azoic, whom CT interviewed here )

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

One Master - Live In The Castle Of Quiet


One Master's Live In The Castle Of Quiet is a fascinating artifact providing evidence of two very select groups in the northeast. The first, and most obvious, is the close-knit Massachusetts black metal scene which is quite expansive with much incestuation. The second is a much less known, yet very important, WFMU audience which is North Jersey and New York specific (other than those that stream online, of course). Since college I have tuned in to listen to William Berger's My Castle Of Quiet radio show - some may have seen the name appear on this blog at times as well every often - and One Master's live set from his April, 25th 2013 show offers insight to the interests and musical direction of Mr. Bergers show.

The tape starts with Berger's coaxing voice. One Master initiate the live set with "The Destroyer Pts. I and II," which engage the listener with pretty clear Eastern European black metal styling.  After the miasma that is the opening track, "A Cursed and Dismal Mind" offers a slower discordant doomy intro with evil guitar fragments tacked on before cutting it's life line and falling into chaos. "Intolerance" crusts right on along like a barnacled speed boat sitting low in the water churning onward fastidiously, an expected malevolence drifting across the sound plane, which we've been accustomed to and expect even by this short point along. The highlight of the tape itself is the memorable marching series of riffs which flanks the introductory cannonade. This section is decidedly Norwegian in extrapolation. A comfortable muddiness and satinesque production culminates with "Infernal Silence," an initially fast and then slower moody piece.



Live In The Castle Of Quiet is a good starting point, honestly, with regards to One Master. The material here will surely entice me to explore the band's three full lengths. With one track being from their sophomore effort, The Quiet Eye Of Eternity, and the other three having been recently released on this year's Reclusive Blasphemy, both portions of the band's earlier and more recent material is present, and the consistency supports the proposition. Both albums - and the debut, Forsaking A Dead World, are available through Eternal Death. More simply than being a good gateway to the band, One Master present to us once more a gem of black metal which emphasizes the importance that atypical recordings such as live material, radio spots, demos, and whatever other sorts of clever imagined concoctions have as fan-base building devices. A great band is able to utilize multiple canvases for their creations. For One Master, this live tape is not a canvas wasted. Get it from No Visible Scars.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Slutlust - Spread Angel / Interview


Slutlust recently released their killer demo tape, Spread Angel, full of boozed up raucous speed metal mayhem. It's possible this is an entity which we my find has absquatulated from existence in a short while like many demo-bands do, and so, I felt it necessary to get the word from the horse's mouth on what the story is with these brawlers. Haven't heard about any upcoming demos from them since this interview was done.




Friday, August 28, 2015

Crazy Bull - Mold Crow


Crazy Bull, out of Philly, play some hard rocking and driving throwback metal here on their demo, Mold Crow. Though short, lasting only nine minutes, the three tracks are forceful hard rock in the same style as Fireball Ministry with a touch more speed metal influence a la Speedwolf or Motorhead. Short simple songs, memorable rhythms, passionate leads. It's a great combination. "Won't Stop Now" opens the tape adequately with some zest however it's "Wicked Machine" that's the strongest entry to the recorded world. It bears some similarity to DarkBlack's Sellsword album with contrasting harmonies and a darker tone. Hints of doom are evident and sluggishly pull the song into the faster parts. Proteanly moving between the doom metal and hard rock genres, launching into big bluesy leads, and leaving many a loin moist, Crazy Bull are targeted here. "Rok Bullet" grates on my nerves immediately due to the spelling, but it's really just not up to par compared the earlier tracks. Pick this up for "Wicked Machine."



Friday, August 21, 2015

CTP - 027 - L: Tarpit Boogie - Clash Bar Bootleg


Contaminated Tones is excited to release another New Jersey band's tape. This one from Tarpit Boogie (Ex-Maegashira, Midian, Functional Idiots members). I go back a few years with some of the members, so it's awesome to be able to support them in this way. I originally saw Maegashira play with Clamfight at the Clash Bar in 2010 with Iron Man a few days before they came on radio show. Diane "Kamikaze" Farris DJ'd the show. 

Fast Forward three or four years, and I hadn't seen or heard from George or John for some years when I met them at the Clamfight gig at Dingbatz where I recorded the Clamfight live tape. It's awesome how things circle around and I'm glad to know both bands but especially the guys in them, who are some of the more down to earth people I've met.

Get the tape until September 4th for $4. Get both Clamfight's live tape and Tarpit Boogie's live tape until the end of September for $8.

Ignore the August 31st on this...

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Morgirion - None Left To Worship


In the grand tradition of supreme extreme metal demos, Morgirion's None Left To Worship has comical cover art (sorry artist Laura Hansen). I mean, yeah hairy bear arm raising a mallet, prepared to crush the rafters of a hilltop church is awesome but when it's drawn with the talent you'd see a gifted child actor in a horror movie scribble on their bedroom wall I'm not as impressed. There are snakes evaporating from the earth, and a mutated goat head with six eyes looming ready to... I don't know... ask for a six-lense set of glasses, demand the local townspeople to trim the hair around it's ears, or some other bizarre goatly request. Also in the underground simmers a tradition of there being no relation between the quality of cover art correlating to the quality of killer music. Evidence is abound all over the place but for starters there's this twenty-page thread on Metal Archives documenting some pretty hideous artwork (I'm not sure how Spectrum of Death or Terror Squad made appearances, but they did somehow) with plenty of great albums showing up among the pages. Ultimately, Morgirion offers sick and twisted black metal buoyed by the lo-fi, some punk splatter, and momentary droughts of melody.

There is a lo-fi element drizzled into the production by virtue of the live recording aspect of the material presented here. There is no feedback, however, and the overall recording has enough clarity to distinguish riffs and notes. Raspy guitars saw through the magnetic filament's contents with respect and authority (I'm guessing from the loudness of the guitar, the recording device was placed closest to the guitars in the rehearsal room). Equally vicious is the saw-throated attack of "D." While I wish his exploits were slightly louder, as a demo, his energy still impregnates the ears with vigor. He doubles on bass well. "J" on drums fills the percussive elements with bombastic fills such as in "None Left To Worship," where the bridges launch into tirades of tremolo notes and blast beats. "B," on guitars, smears small but integral segments of melody into the tracks which appear almost nonchalantly.

Highlights for me are definitely the title track, "None Left To Worship," where interplay between bass and guitar late in the track generate opportunities to lose oneself in the material quite deeply for a couple minutes. Side B starts out with the powerful "Infiltration of Divine Entity." Probably my favorite track, the back and forth fret mashing intro leads into violent vocals tucked among a series of riff with sparse, yet emphasized, quarter (or half) note rests. The execution of these rests indicate to me this is also probably the band's favorite track to play. There is a bit of late 90's / early millennium Darkthrone blackened punk to be found in the home stretch of the song as well. "The Pulse of Death" and "A Cancer Now Served" sit at the even spots in track list. Both are solid ("A Cancer Now Served" especially), as is Morgirion here in general. This cassette is a good representation of what the underground has to offer. Cool tape all around (even the silly artwork!). I'm checking out their full length immediately.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Unshored - The Unshored



Everyone has been patiently waiting for more vocals in the style of Ved Buens Ende’s Written in Waters, right? Well, whether that’s true or not, the extremely distinctive vocal style here isn’t something you hear every day. But, The Unshored really pulls it off on this debut self-titled album. For those that aren’t put off by the unusually layered baritone moans and their sometimes off-kilter delivery, this is an interesting but flawed work. While the album sounds much too wide to be an obvious solo project, it actually is. Aside from assistance on the drum and bass composition the entire work is straight from the mind of Mike LaRocco. Using genre tags like black, death, and progressive, the music also has some clear doom/sludge influences; which is a broad enough set of influences to give the project the nebulous extreme metal moniker.



In fairness, the album uses a variety of vocal styles, death growls to black metal raps, but the weirder ones are absolutely the most effective at adding color to the music. The sad part is that Mike LaRocco underutilizes the bizarre harmonized cleans, although the first and final track use them to great effect. However, the middle of the album sags like an old horse’s back. The doom/sludge influences often cause the album’s pacing to stall out in overly simplistic repetition. When this composition device first shows up at the end of “Unheimlich,” it works pretty well. But by the time you get through a similar (and long) passage in “Nocturnal Psychosis,” you can see the project’s weak point. Progressive tendencies elsewhere in the music only make these rather dull sections more glaring. Discontinuities between the uptempo “No Vacancy” and the songs before and after it also suggest that the project is still developing a direction.

Given that this is a debut release, and a full-length at that, it’s easy to speculate and play the role of editor. This would have been a really solid and promising demo, or EP for that matter. The first and last tracks are really damn good and make up more than 20 minutes of material! The Unshored’s eclecticism isn’t the problem, the project just needs further refining. In particular, the weaker tracks have less intriguing structures when compared to the pieces like “Unheimlich” and “The Spinning Sphere.” Of course more weird vocals would be great, but aren’t the kind of thing that everyone will appreciate. Definitely worth a shot if you have a Written in Waters itch that Virus is too rockin’ to scratch or if you have a taste for unusual vocal styles.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Diablo Swing Orchestra - Pandora's Piñata

I'm being honest and serious here - the car accident I was in was better than this.

Look at Western mythology and you’ll notice a lot of horrible creatures come from mixing different species of animals. Minotaurs, centaurs, chimeras, harpies, and now we have the worst of them all - Diablo Swing Orchestra. Mixing a parodied version of swing with touches of power chords in a failed effort to seem metal, Pandora’s Piñata is guaranteed to disgust fans of either genre of music (or any genre for that matter). Diablo Swing Orchestra’s style of swing relies heavily on a dance-oriented feel. This means, like with all dance music, that the primary point of the composition is to have listener focused on something other than the music. Since metal is not dance music, Pandora’s Piñata is existentially worthless. It cannot be danced to. It cannot be listened to. A monstrosity created by mixing different musical animals.

The clear operatic female vocals suggest deep influences from Evanescence. This actually makes a lot sense, because the parts of the music that are intended to be metal are 100% nu-metal chugging. Other vocal styles are splattered on the album, like the teenager yelling “you’ll never see me again” on “Exit Strategy of a Wrecking Ball” (revealingly awful metaphors abound), or the choir of ostensibly full grown Swedes pretending to be Asian schoolchildren on “Black Box Messiah.” By the way, take note of the cutesy alliteration in that song title and in the album title too. This is the degree of immaturity that we’re dealing with.

Glitzy trumpets, a guitar chug on every beat, and obnoxious snare rolls are the mainstay of the composition. But, given the band’s inherent lack of direction, you also have rows like the ostentatious “Aurora” and first five or so minutes of “Justice For Saint Mary” that pretend to be serious with its pseudo-classical approach by removing all pretenses of being metal (another sign that the band doesn’t take metal, or music, seriously.) On “Mass Rapture” there is a sitar getting down with the sickness with punkish whiny teenager vocals. Maybe a theremin synth pad somewhere. Some wicky-wicky guitar doodling over a call and response section on “Honeytrap Aftermath,” which might remind you of Marky Mark. The heavy use of rhythmic staccato throughout the album makes the pain something like treating third degree burns with acupuncture. Every burst of idiocy another irritating needle.

Click on this image to feel better...

Can you believe that 18 musicians worked on this? Even in the most disciplined cults you’ll still hear stories of people escaping or disagreeing with the leader. Everyone involved must have been bribed heavily in order to put their names on this because it is bad enough to completely write off everything else they will do musically for the rest of their lives. Pandora’s Piñata is the third full-length from this ill conceived gimmick, but it’s clear that the band was out of ideas immediately after the phrase “swing metal” was uttered. This is the kind of music a bunch of drunk musicians might play at a party as a joke, too drunk to notice that the decade long joke was never funny.

“Justice For Saint Mary” ultimately closes the album out with a techno remix version of melodies from earlier in the song. It’s as if the band was trying to remind everything, just one more time, that they can’t write music and are capable only of mixing ideas of different genres. Every last second of this album is unbearable and entirely devoid of any artistic merit. I have never heard anything worse in my entire life.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Tyrant's Hand - Dystopia



Tyrant's Hand is yet another of Armon Nicholson's projects. This slab - Dystopia - takes the form of death metal in a more melodic - but not so melodic as to be Gothenburg - strain. The black metal nomenclature has appeared in descriptions but that's like putting a 'Made-in-the-USA' tag on Ikea furniture. Notable about Tyrant's Hand is that unlike Yfel and Licrest, there is a live component to Tyrant's Hand which leads me to also mention that this is also, as far as I know, the first time Armon had paired with someone to utilize real drums. Bob Hodgins offers a safe, professional percussion layer to the four tracks offered here. The implication is that the recording of this EP was done relatively early in the duo's history, as it's tight, controlled, and not loose at all indicating that not a lot of time was spent maturing the brew. It's missing some of the spontaneity that sometimes sneaks it's way into the capturing of material that's become run-of-the-mill for the performers.

Looking at the production itself, this is quite balanced. No one particular instrument stands out more than the others. The drums are probably hidden back in the mix more than I would prefer in most death metal. That ultimately sits with me, considering giving them a more pronounced role would just emphasize how bland some of the drumming parts are. The guitars are muffled during a lot of the record but occasionally, such as near the end of "Absolute Butchery," stand out when more melodic or riffy moments rear. The opening minute of "Bloodshed" is a good example of how the guitars don't take an extreme tone in either direction. Armon's vocals are decent, nothing to complain about; a typical death style growl / screech (greech?). Once again, as with the other Armon projects, the CD doesn't offer much information but an insert with some credits. Apparently politically motivated lyrics exist here, which I'd love to read, but they don't manage to protrude in any form of comprehension in either the music or the insert. The cover art of Dystopia appears to show bombed out Warsaw at the end of the German blitzkriegs of World War II - if my historical knowledge is up to snuff.

The album is generally mid-paced. While opener "Darkness" is slightly faster, we are not in the range of "blistering speed." My biggest gripe with the album is the songs all have extraneous repetitions to riffs in them. In "Darkness," for example, a riff a couple minutes in which would be best served acting as a bridge in some sort to the slower breakdown section instead becomes a repeated non-sequitur. "Absolute Butchery" take about a full minute and a half before turning into something. Trust me, the other two songs have unnecessary components as well. The noteworthy segments here include a culminating melodic foray in "Absolute Butchery" of a slower arpeggiated section where notes ring out with a somber tone, a pull-off laden headbanging riff in top track, "Long Live The New Flesh," and - at least in my opinion - a great immediate urgency initially in "Darkness".

Live reviews claim the duo has a "crazy thick and delicious sound," so perhaps the best impression would be to see the band live. Overall, this is sturdy, but I don't know how important hearing it is. As always, Armon does offer it for free download on bandcamp so if anything here interests you, easy and free listening is at your point-and-click-whims.