Friday, December 31, 2010

New Vinyl Roundup--Disfear & Doomriders--Split

Today I took my first trip to Waterloo Records in downtown Austin in quite a while.  I love going there, because they are probably the only independent record store I've ever been to that not only carries a plethora of underground music ripe for the picking, but they have entire sections devoted to most bands that you wouldn't see anywhere for any reason (there's an entire AIDS Wolf section there.  Where have you ever seen an AIDS Wolf record?).  They also have a pretty respectable vinyl selection that runs the gamut from too old and stupid for anyone to care anymore to too obscure and stupid for anyone to care ever.  It was while perusing the metal vinyl section (which is amazingly small considering the rest of the place is packed with metal goodness) that I found something that I've been salivating over for quite some time: the Disfear/Doomriders Split 7".  "Oh my word," I thought to myself "it has been a little while since I got my D-boner stroked nice and proper."  And yes, several minutes is my definition of "a little while."

I won't bore you with the details of my delightful shopping trip (since you'll likely see almost everything I bought posted up here in the next couple of weeks), but I made off with some really good stuff, and I was finally going to have more Disfear products to rub all over my sweaty, greasy body, so I was/am feeling pretty good.  Now, on to the music.

Disfear and Doomriders each contributed just one scant track apiece to the split, but they each contributed some good stuff to justify my $6.  Disfear's track comes out swinging, but surprised me with the windy emptiness of Tomas Lindberg's vocals, especially compared to Live the Storm, Misanthropic Generation, and anything that At The Gates ever put out.  But the music is an out of control D-beat rocket to hell with the welcome addition of some more open chord voicings that fill the musical space a little better than their normal punked-out heavy metal power chord attack does.  It's a veritable extravaganza of D-boner heavy petting, all wet and glistening and hypersensitive to temperature fluctuations.

Doomriders, the side project of Converge's own Nate Newton, contribute a solid mid-tempo song to the record.  This is my first musical exposure to Doomriders, and I like what I hear.  They conjure images of Struck by Lightning toying with Iron Maiden-style NWOBHM twin guitar attacks and pomp.  It's probably about high time I checked out their full-length album, but I've been sworn away from Waterloo Records for a while (spending $100 in one trip and mistaking the female cashier for a man makes me want to stay away from there anyway), so I'll just have to make do with what I have and keep spinning this on my fancy new turntable apparatus.

On top of two excellent songs, the Split also doubles as a badass poster that I would put on my wall if I didn't have such a poor track record of poster retention post-hanging.  They always rip!

I wanted to do one more post today, but since my wife decided that she wanted to spend the day psychologically torturing me I've decided to call this good until next week.  And come next week, you'll be able to expect Withered and Coliseum album reviews, as well as the second installment of Since You Didn't Ask Me, where I'll be examining the kvltroversy surrounding the virtues and downfalls analog media versus digital media.

Everyone have a great, beer-fueled New Years, and don't be an asshole.  Get a designated driver or get drunk at home alone, sitting in the bathroom in the dark (like me.  No DUI's, no way, no how!).

Agalloch--Marrow of the Spirit

Black metal is an enigma to me.  Don't get me wrong; there are bands that I do enjoy a great deal spanning every major genre inside of the general "heavy metal" category, but black metal has always been the one that I could never really get behind.  In fact, the only kinds of black metal that I've ever been able to get down with have been those bands who would not be considered tr00, which is to say bands that take elements of black metal and integrate it into other styles (blackened death metal, blackened grind, blackened tech-klezmer, et al).  Agalloch, therefore, seemed to me one of the most monumental overstatements of heavy metal greatness; they are a black metal band, but everyone seems to be getting gay over their newest album, 2010's Marrow of the Spirit.  The album also captured the #1 spot on Decibel Magazine's Top 40 of the Year list for this year, which is a fantastic achievement indeed, but made me suspicious that this was another cosmic trick played upon us all by the Universe or God or whatever, like Jersey Shore's popularity, or the fact that my wife gets angry at me when I'm feeling depressed, because it "makes [her] angry" when I feel bad.

I decided to give Agalloch a shot, however, since even my closer homebros were touting it to be the heaviest hitter of the year.  And I'm here to tell you, I disagree.

Agalloch are a band that I categorize in my head as "fancy black metal," which is generally marvelously pretentious and pretty irritating.  "Fancy black metal" bands are constantly comparing themselves to winter frost and streams of water, and are constantly using words like "soundscape" and "cascadian" in interviews.  The scourge of the underground, "fancy black metal" usually sounds like a bunch of dudes in puffy shirts standing around in the forest arguing about who knows how to hate people the most effectively.  In my mind, these arguments last until their mothers call them home for dinner, which they manage to eat in the most resentful possible way.  They tend to have customer service jobs at an arcade or Blockbuster Video or something.

With all that said, Agalloch actually are reasonably enjoyable for a "fancy black metal" band.  They have some interesting quasi-minimalist interludes/intros/whatever that are reminicent of Steve Reich or Philip Glass (oww, my pretention!), as well as some pretty sweet guitar solos that tickle my wank-bone in a gloriously acceptable way.  While there are some really triumphant moments in Marrow, the album suffers from some compositional missteps as well, including the opening track ("They Escaped the Weight of Darkness"), which utilizes a lone viola (or violin?  I don't feel like listening to it again...) coupled with the sounds of a flowing stream (!!! So Fancy !!!) to create a banal attempt at Ligeti-style solo string pieces that just kind of falls flat.  Another big problem I had comes at about the 7:30 mark on "Black Lake Nidstang" (holy shit that's fancy), where Agalloch start utilizing some truly unfortunate vocals that sound like they were recorded by a dude who has been chained up in the back of a cave for several years.  Also, the dude has a terrible voice.

And one more thing, this album has way too much whispering on it.  There's just something about whispering that drives me out of my tree, and Agalloch not only throw way to much of it into the mix (particularly on "To Drown"), but then they drown it in reverb and stretch it out for ten agonizing minutes.  Lame.

The fact that black metal has been getting so much lip service in the last couple of years is unsettling to me.  I prefer that whatever high-minded, pretentious thing I'm listening to not feature a grimacing people who are trying their best to look menacing in a cape (that's not possible anymore, I'm sorry).  Maybe if it was just some jerk sitting next to a piano looking smart, like this:

So fucking smart

but black metal makes a caricature out of itself far too effectively.  The practitioners and listeners alike tend to look more like this:

The default name for this picture is "turd_nugget" and I didn't make that up

My verdict, as such, is that Agalloch aren't as bad as I expected them to be, but that they aren't deserving of #1 status on anybody's list.  The relative fanciness of their music makes the listening a journey, but not an easy one since four of the six songs are longer than ten minutes (and a fifth song only misses the ten minute mark by 20 seconds).  If you consider yourself grim and kvlt and own one or more puffy shirts you'll doubtless enjoy Agalloch.  Otherwise, you might just want to continue skirting the black metal genre the way I do, picking at the musical structure the way you would pick at your oozing genital sores, leaving what's good and discarding the unfavorable bits.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Stopgap Post to Tide You Over Until I Sober Up, or, A Personal New Year's Greeting from Monsoon Fucking Cobra

This last work day of 2010 has brought many great joys and illuminated great sorrows in my life and in the lives of those who are close to me.  Great joys: company sanctioned champagne toasts that lead to all of us drinking 15 bottles of champagne on the clock, followed by cooking fettucini alfredo and (for some reason) revisiting the feature film Tales from the Hood.  Great sorrows: not getting enough sleep last night, and discovering far too late in your working life the joys of drinking with your boss while you get paid.  What a world.

This is only a short post to remind you that I am still here and will be doing some major league posting tomorrow, which will be followed by a booze-induced silence that will continue into early next week.  With my wife finally home, I guess it can be argued that my routine has stabilized to the point where I'm at least showering regularly again, and that's good enough.

Tommorrow is the Agalloch post, and I'm also going to go visit Waterloo Records for my own entertainment, so keep your eyes out for some unexpected surprise posts (!!!) that might even make me stare vacantly and say " (asteroid hits the earth)."  Let's have an adventure this weekend and remember: in Texas, it's No Refusal Weekend, which means they'll suck your blood out like non-faggy-actually-evil vampires.  However, in California, it's just regular old Friday, which means there will be DUI checkpoints every 300-600 yards on every major street with officers who accuse you of "being a smartass."

I'll see you at least a couple times tomorrow, and don't get popped, you lovably crusty heshers you.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

New Vinyl Roundup--Assuck--Blindspot

Having just this week obtained a turntable for myself to geek out on and sling my DNA at, I decided that now the time was finally ripe to introduce the New Vinyl Roundup feature, where I get records that might be new (they aren't, they're just new to me) and give you the inside skinny about what kind of crap you can buy at a show down at Red 7 in Austin, TX.  Today's feature was only made possible through the lack of effort of one Van Damned of Crustcake fame, who I count among the tip top as one of my crustiest and cakiest bros.  He left this record (as well as Tragedy's Vengeance LP) in my car a while ago, and I've been keeping it safe for him until he finally apparates to claim what is rightfully his.  Well, surprise, bitch!  I'm listening to your records!

Assuck takes me back to good old Bakersfield, CA, where I grew up in suburban bliss (read: angry white punk rock kid).  I had some homebros who would argue music with me from time to time, and one of them came across an Assuck album and for some reason bought it.  This was unusual for us back in those days, because this was pre-Interbung and pre-actual-employment for all of us, and the fact that he would spend some of his weed money on a record none of us had ever heard of is, I suppose, a testament to Assuck's truly ridiculous name and admirable punk rock aesthetic.  He brought the album home and showed it to me, and I remember being impressed with his boldness for buying and bringing home an album by a band with the word "Ass" in their name (these were much more innocent times, indeed).  We immediately put it on, hungry to have the cutting edge on our friends and ravenous to be the first to have heard such an exciting band with a curse word emblazoned across each and every one of their albums.

What came out was...unsettling for me.  Assuck is a grind band, for one thing; I was more than accustomed to things that were reasonably faster than the average music, but this went beyond the simple rebellion that I had cultivated from political punk rock and constantly whacking off.  It had what I now know are called blastbeats.  Holy shit, I remember being completely taken aback by such a brutal assault.  This coupled with the (at that point) amazingly guttural vocal style made me long to hear the nasal vocals and socially acceptable rebellion style of my favorite bands.

This early foray into the bleak, unsettling world of grindcore sticks with me to this day.  Since Van bought an Assuck album at some show we went to (I think it was Thrones), I decided that the imposing album should immediately be listened to by me so that I could listen to it with my impressive new set of ears and the adult cool that keeps me from being frightened by any new music, except Lady Gaga (have you SEEN that bitch?!?).  What I found zapped me back to that bedroom in the year 19-dickety-whatever where I got my first taste of tr00 underground grind.

Blindspot is, in the normal fashion of Grind EP's, painfully short.  At seven songs, it's actually pretty tedious to listen to, because every 4 minutes or so you have to go put the needle back at the beginning of the side or flip the record over.  What is this, the middle ages?  Listening to vinyl, I guess it basically is.  Assuck's grind assault sounds just as I remembered it to sound, which is to say it's got the guttural grunts and br00tal slams that, during my formative punk rocker years, would invariably lead me to turn my nose up in disgust and pretend that I wasn't afraid of something so extreme, and that I just thought it was gay.  Assuck churn and blast, the music adequately disjointed and tumultuous for my average 7 a.m. music listening sessions.  The EP also has that old-school "charm" of early metal, having been recorded at Morrisound Studios in 1992, which, as we all know, is the heyday for br00tal metal music that nobody had any idea how to record or mix.  Which is a good thing...right?

The debate over analog versus digital recording is a kvltroversy I intend to explore later on (soon), but the bottom line is that Assuck is not as gay (frightening) as I remember them being.  In fact, they're pretty good and should be (and probably already have been) experienced by any grind enthusiast on the market for something that will make you feel superior to others due to it's shaky production and early 90's aesthetic.  You haven't heard Assuck yet?  *Scoff* I've been listening to them since I was, like, 10.  Get with it, homo.

Now let's all go start a fire and ride our skateboards...oh lame...I mean get ready for work.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Network--Bishop Kent Manning

Welcome back from Christmas, friends and party people.  I hope your Christmas consumerist splurging and culinary excesses went as swimmingly and tasted as fine as mine did.  With my wife back in town to keep me reigned in, it's high time I started participating in my normal daily rituals, which are namely 1) eating regularly, 2) showering, and 3) writing.  Things to look forward to this week: my non-exclusive Agalloch review, and...potentially some other stuff.  But for right now, I'd like to talk about the New England thunderlizards known as The Network.

The first time I heard about The Network was in a Decibel Upfront profile that detailed their latest album, Bishop Kent Manning.  I'm no musical historian; however, I like to think that I'm no slouch.  But when it comes to making lofty comparisons to bands that nobody's ever heard of, the Decidudes/Decidudettes take the cake.  It's actually quite impressive, and if you haven't checked out the magazine yet, you should pick up a copy from your local news stand or visit their website to see what I'm talking about.  When I read Decibel, I try to look out for buzzwords or familiar turns of phrase that clue me in to whether or not I might like a given band.  Buzzwords that I like to look out for can be words that indicate that I'll really like the band (for example, crusty, shreddy, prog, D-beat), as well as indicators that almost always mean I will hate them (psych, noise, grim, frostbitten, good cop/bad cop).  Based on these indicators, it's always pretty clear what I will and will not like, and though I can't remember what buzzwords were used to describe The Network exactly, I was certain by the end of the profile that I would enjoy their musical stylings.

Fast forward a couple of months, and I'm at Waterloo Records on 6th and Lamar.  I have some extra cash dollars to spend, and I just happen to stumble upon The Network's Bishop Kent Manning album, which I am forced to purchase based on an arbitrary set of rules in my mind that are based on circumstances for musical purchases following one of many  predetermined paths.  It's pretty convoluted and not at all interesting, so I'll skip that part.

The Network blew me away the first few times I listened to Bishop Kent Manning; their thick and gritty hardcore attack forsakes the standard Converge/Tragedy formula and focuses largely on midtempo thunder with some more uptempo passages to propel the suffocatingly heavy music forward.  One thing I am still particularly impressed with is The Network's singer (who I'm not going to Google, because I never do), whose voice drips with anger and languishes in thick, bilious vitriol.  His picture-perfect shredded throat screams complement the music perfectly, which is something that hardcore vocals fail to do, sometimes falling into the regrettable "mongo vocal" range that can take the wind out of the proverbial sails and leave the listener (me) flaccid as an oversteamed stalk of celery.

This is not to say that the vocalist is a one-trick pony.  The vocal range also dabbles in regrettable almost-clean singing passages that festoon a glistening Neur-Isis backdrop ("Corpse Paint), and some very oddball delay effects that leave him sounding like he fell into a well and decided to just go ahead and finish the record from down there ("You Fucking Fakes").  And there's even some bizarre, screeching girl vocals that accent the music the way a fine silver cock ring would class up a gentleman's unit for a night at the opera ("Following and Failing").  I imagine someone's girlfriend was dying to make her recorded vocal debut and she really knows how to deliver a top-notch beej.

With all the problems Bishop Kent Manning has, the music is still superlative and easily makes up for the few shortfalls and poorly-conceived artistic risks The Network took in its creation.  To see the music played live is one of the many things I would love to see; however, the last time I tried to go see The Network live, they were the first band on a bill with Strung Out and some other eighth-graders-only punk rock bands, and there's no way I'm going to pay $18 to go in and see the very first band play and then leave.  My hope is that The Network will be back soon with some more metal-friendly bands for me to fling my warm, soggy legal tender at.  Or at least some better punk bands.

If you're interested in hearing some great hardcore (or maybe it's really just regular old metal?), check out The Network on their Myspace or follow their Blogspot for up-to-date tips and info (possibly).  Since they just got home from Asia, perhaps they'll grace the mean streets of Austin again and allow me to justify seeing them live.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Complete Failure--Heal No Evil

With Christmas Eve finally upon us, our traditional trek to my grandma's house and the ensuing White Elephant gift exchange behind us, and preparation for my special BLT deviled eggs already underway, I would like to sit back and reflect for a moment on what the true meaning of this season is: failure.

Some people attribute the origins of Christmas to the Winter Solstice, or Jesus, or pagan rituals involving bones and fire or something, but we all know that the true meaning of the holiday months is to remember that what you are and what you could have/should have been are probably two completely different things.  Take, for example, me.  What could I have been?  That's for the alternate universes to decide, obviously, but as a child I, like many of you, was told that I was so bright that I could do anything I set my mind to.  Instead, I got a music degree (strike one), a ten dollar an hour job (strike two), and an obsession with heavy metal so rampant and pervasive in my life that I started this blog (strike three, back to the dugout).

Luckily for me, there are bands like Complete Failure around to help me remember that failure is subjective and in the eye of the beholder.  I tend to gravitate towards bands like Complete Failure, generally because I could see myself wearing one of their shirts with a surprisingly appropriate descriptor of myself emblazoned on the front (this is also why I'm so into Cynic, Tragedy, Guttermouth, and an up-and-coming band called Fat Lazy Turd with Glasses).  However, Complete Failure mislead the audience with their name; as a grind band, Complete Failure succeed.

The first time I heard of Complete Failure was fairly recently during a marathon Decibel-reading session in the bathroom.  Their new album was out (which I thought was this one, but it's labeled everywhere as being from 2009), and had gotten a review with all the right buzzwords that turn my brain into a furious whirlwind of "must have MUST LISTEN NOW."  Since I don't have that issue of Decibel anymore, and I never do any research or even bother to Google anything for any reason, that information is lost to the ages.  But the thing I remember most vividly about the review was that the author described Complete Failure as perfect tourmates for Trap Them.  This, of course, delivered unto me a purple, veiny D-Boner ready to sling D-jizz into the nearest D-receptacle.

Having listened to Heal No Evil, I have to agree with the Decibel writer's review; Complete Failure have a true talent for D-beats that change abruptly to washing-machine grind blasts and back, which is something that I tend to associate with Trap Them.  Complete Failure also make much more use of the double bass pedal and approach songwriting in a way that is highly reminicent of old hardcore punk.  In particular, the vocals are striking, tending toward a throaty, raspy punk rock shout than the standard hardcore vocal attack that could be attributed to that of Jake Bannon or that stupid wang from Earth Crisis.  Complete Failure give the Christmas gift that keeps on giving: misanthropic, hateful grinding hardcore that serve to counteract all the garbage that gets radio play these days.

So this Christmas, give thanks for the important things in your life (read: crusty grinding hardcore), and forget all the rest.  Your family?  Your family is dumb.   Your friends?  If you're reading this, it's likely that you have no friends.  Being alive?  Don't even get me started.  To observe the caustic maelstrom that makes me so incongruously happy, you should just follow your nose and prepare yourself.

Tomorrow, I'm going to spend the day drinking Budweiser in my mom's backyard with my ridiculous family and an army of idiot dogs, so to all of you out there, have a great Christmas.  And to the other religions with holidays around this time, I'd just like to say that I don't understand you and am therefore afraid of you. 


Thanks, Kwanza-Bot.  I'll see you at the Hanukkah Zombie's luau.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Armed--These Are Lights

I have been feeling painfully and increasingly under the weather the last few days.  I think that we can all agree that having a bad cold is probably the worst of those experiences that you can have that don't make you think that you're going to die.  It's just generally shitty, and the fact that it's largely bearable to have a bad cold makes it that much worse.  So these last couple of mornings I wake up and head straight to the sink to expel and behold what new horror my sleeping body has coated my esophagus with, followed by a day of trudging through work with the lonesome goal of getting to my long Christmas weekend keeping me standing.

Boo hoo hoo, right?

Since my wife is also out of town until Monday, my nights have been a rollercoaster of sitting around alone listening to music that trying to construct similes that pertain to human and/or animal genitalia.  Today I decided that I would pull something that I thoroughly enjoyed out of the vault (my iPod) to reinvigorate my body and soul, namely These Are Lights by The Armed.

I first caught wind of The Armed when some jerk with a Hitler-related pseudonym took over Metalsucks for a day or a week or some such thing.  Out of everything he wrote (and there wasn't much), the one thing I took with me was his high praise of The Armed (actually, it was the fact that he said they were good and they gave away all their music for free).  I proceeded to download their available discography, specifically the Common Enemies EP, followed in short order by These Are Lights.  What I found rocked my ass off at first listen, and now, during my fourth listen today, I find that the music has an additional degree of staying power, which is increasingly uncommon in today's atmosphere of music as a throwaway artform.  Indeed, as the fashion becomes to have more music downloaded/purchased/stolen than anybody else, it's ridiculously uncommon that somebody can give you their impressions of almost any album they listened to more than a couple of days ago, and less common (even for me) that half of what is obtained gets more than 1 full listen before it goes in the heap of "stuff I've heard."

Now.  The Armed tend to wear their musical influences on their sleeve, which is fine.  That they do it while still maintaining an identity of their own is impressive, as thi is a difficult balance to strike for any band, anywhere, ever.  The easiest and quickest comparison to make would be to Dillinger Escape Plan; The Armed appropriate the mathy, rubbery style of Calculating Infinity-era Dillinger to create their own brand of mathed-out thunder skronk.  The riffs shriek and yelp in a whirlwind of revolving time signatures and churning hemiola, off-kilter like that dude that we've all seen in Las Vegas who gets kicked out of the Venetian for being too drunk at 1 in the afternoon. 

The "mathcore" label might apply to The Armed even more than to Dillinger themselves, in that The Armed showcase much more of the typical hardcore underpinnings that (to me) always seemed absent from DEP's sound.  This is where their other obvious influence tends to appear: Converge.  Now, we all LOVE Converge, right?  Right.  The Armed pluck the ripe hardcore-apple from the Converge tree to synthesize their Mathcore Moonshine, creating something enduring and endearing.

I contest that if DEP and Converge all stood in a circle and touched their dicks together at the same time, The Armed would spring from that bundle of Glans Penises fully clothed in armor and wielding a spear.

The Armed also throw a couple of curveballs in the mix that really add some punch and pizzazz to the mix; gang vocals (a personal guilty pleasure of mine) rears its ugly head from time to time to make the whole shebang sound like the soundtrack to my formative high school years.  My favorite moment in the album comes in the form of the connecting vignette titled "I Steal What I Want," which is a hamfisted swing tune with a totally killer clarinet player JAMMING THE FUCK OUT.  Silky chalemeau to soaring squeals, the clarinet player glides in and out of the heavy-handedly strict tempo, weaving a gorgeous soundscape with his/her/its flowing, expressive rubato.  It takes me back to my college years where the thought of a #11 would cause nocturnal emissions and the inability to look anyone in the eye the next day.

Does all this waxing ecstatic make you want to check this out, or what?  Well, why don't you just follow your nose to their impressively slick website and download this and their EP for FREE?  You might like it, and if you don't, you should tell me all about it in the comments.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy--Every Man for Himself and God Against All

I was observing my stats today (which I do obsessively because I want to be big time) and I noticed that there was a sudden and frantic spike in traffic from America's neighbor to the north, North America's finest knit cap (or "toque"), the great nation of Canada.  My stats tend toward being very....sad, but I like to see the tiny spikes that occur throughout the day as Ed and Kacy check in to see what kind of bullcrap I'm spewing via keyboard into the Interbung.  It's a miserable, lonely lifestyle that I would recommend to anybody anywhere for any reason.

This sudden spike of enthusiasm (read: oddly heavy traffic) came because of a review I did for Burning Ghats, who you should absolutely check out if you love amazing demos followed up by pretty okay EPs.  This spike guided me to do a review of another relatively unknown band that I have been meaning to examine, a band from my neck of the woods known as The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, hailing from San Antonio, TX.

My enthusiasm for getting familiar with relative unknowns in the metallisphere is most likely shared by the greater portion of my readers, since you probably like metal and are therefore drawn to discover bands that you can later say were "better before they got big."  Our noses pointed ever skyward, we all appreciate the feeling of having heard and enjoyed a band before anyone else ever did or could, stroking our egos and making us feel more kvlt and tr00 than the average peon bunghole.  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy could very well be one of those bands in the future; at least I hope they are, because I just want to feel superior to others in any and all ways, no matter how miniscule or convoluted.

The fact that I've been focusing on bands that exude the "Isis shimmer" that I pretend to have noticed first is not lost on me; in fact, I have gravitated lately to metal that either a) rejects the flat, colorless backdrop of heavy metal in favor of something more textured and radiant, or b) jacks my D-boner with the enthusiasm and fervor that can only be compared to our collective middle school masturbatory practices.  The Grasshopper Lies Heavy falls squarely in the former category, focusing on bludgeoning heaviness and effects-soaked orchestrations that set fireworks displays off in the minds of stoners and garden-variety crusty drunks alike (yo).

The Grasshopper Lies Heavy's greatest triumph (aside from somehow surviving in San Antonio, TX) is that they abandon the Isis/Neurosis/The Ocean school of dueling vocal styles in favor of having...wait...NO VOCALS?  That's actually a surprise.  This fact gives Grasshopper an added allure; their music must now, by default, stand for itself, without having the normal critical fallback position of "well, they would have been okay except their vocalist sucks ass" that we get to mercifully force upon a countless measure of other bands (Periphery, Exodus [yeah, I fucking said it], and later Cave In [did it again, bitch]).  Grasshopper's textured shoegaze sludge stands up against even the best of the rest, however, and delivers a truly stony experience for anyone who can deal with listening to roughly 31 minutes of dynamic, textured sludge (which is virtually nobody).

It wasn't too long ago that my good buddy, Van Damned of Crustcake fame clued me in to The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, describing them as, well, some kind of a band.  I stop there because I don't really remember what he said about them, but I can tell you that it was probably good, since I still have the scrap of paper that I wrote their name down on so that I would remember to check them out, which I did.  It was six months later, but I still got around to it, so why don't you just leave me alone and stop being a dick about it?

Instrumental prog metal is no new genre that needs to be tapped (Scale the Summit, Animals as Leaders, the best parts of Dream Theater, and probably other bands), but The Grasshopper Lies Heavy takes a huge chance and lets their instrumental shoegaze onslaught take center stage, throwing off the shackles of having some jerk moan about who-the-hell-knows-what over the top of it.  Kudos for that, fellows.  I hope that you stumble upon this review and it trends on Twitter or something, because I require constant validation that only the Interhole can provide, and you deserve accolades for creating an interesting and arresting soundscape for the rest of us to enjoy after stealing it off the Web-u-hole.

Do yourself a favor and check out The Grasshopper Lies Heavy on their Myspace page, or you can follow your nose to the EP download which will make you feel guilty, unless you're like me and you have no conscience.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kowloon Walled City--Gambling on the Richter Scale

In 7th grade, I broke my knee in a relatively lame and extremely unimpressive skateboarding accident.  I was left on crutches for (what I remember to be) months, waiting for the swelling to go down enough for me to use it for walking and finally let my armpit calluses heal.  All the while, there were several girls that I was interested in (since this was 7th grade, I'll just go ahead and say EVERY GIRL) that would give me attention for being on crutches, alternately calling me cute, a cripple, and "poor you!"  Talk about cognitive dissonance; I wanted to stay on crutches forever but somehow be mobile enough to get in and out of the shower without incident and comfortably abuse my body (which happened....a lot).

These last few days, my old gimpy knee has been feverishly trying to go akimbo on me again; I am in a constant battle with my beleaguered joint to make sure I don't tempt it enough to go flying back out of place.  It makes work more difficult, because while my coworkers are trying to surprise each other with the smelliest fart they can conjure or find a newer, more hilarious way of calling me a homosexual, I'm stuck trying to coerce my knee into behaving itself.  It is not acceptable.

Finding a new sludge/doom metal band that I can really get into really only happens once in a blue moon, just like when my old "sports" injury flares up.  Enter Kowloon Walled City to remind me that sludge doesn't have to suck; sludge can groove and wail, punish and pound, without having to tickle someone's nostalgia bone to gain fans (like some bands I recently wrote about).  Kowloon Walled City do, however, fall into the genre's standard trappings of 1) mostly playing the same tempos with little variation and 2) having a vocalist that doesn't sound the way you would expect given the music.  Let's now examine their newest fare, Gambling on the Richter Scale, with our musicians' hats on, shall we?

Gambling is, by and large, well written.  The riffs are highly infectious and supremely heavy without being horribly muddy from too much downtuning or relying on Sunn amps to make them sound good.  This heaviness is refreshing, not because I haven't heard it in a while, but because I haven't heard it mixed so that the riffs will turn my bones into a fine powder even through my terrible computer speakers.  Kowloon Walled City also have a way of writing a song without just tossing in some really slow, painfully crappy riff that just gets played ad nauseum, which is a genre staple for "epic tracks" (read: tracks longer than 4 minutes).  They also keep their songwriting refreshingly concise; all of the songs clock in between 3 and 6 minutes long, which is commonly referred to as the "not obnoxious" range for song length.  Realistically, a band has to have written a killer song if I'm going to put up with it being longer than 6 to 7 minutes pretty much no matter how you cut it.  Opeth can usually do it.  YOB cannot.  But that's neither here nor there.

The most striking thing about Kowloon Walled City is the vocal style that pervades the record.  It's the familiar "I-can't-believe-it's-not-mongo-vocals" hardcore style that is prevalent in bands like D.I.S., and would sound more at home in an Agnostic Front/Sick of it All cover band.  In fact, the vocalist actually sounds like he's physically shouting, barking the lyrics at what could be a misbehaving dog or a wayward child who got caught inexplicably urinating in the dirty clothes hamper right across from the toilet (I still remember the look on my dad's face).  This disparity is the most unsettling aspect of the music, but if you can't get past the sound of a vocalist, you're probably reading this because you're my mom and you want to see what it is I'm spending all my time doing these days.

Kowloon Walled City take their name from a walled city called Kowloon Walled City, and the name is surprisingly apropos.  If I were asked to give a visual representation of what Kowloon Walled City sound like, I would say this:


because I would be hard-pressed to find something else that gives an adequate approximation.  The sound is dingy, heavy, and caked in filth, like a middle-school boy's spooge rag of choice.  Or the city pictured above.  Whatever.

Kowloon Walled City also maintains what I like to call the "Isis shimmer" in their riffs, which is to say that they don't only play the bottom three strings on their guitars, but they incorporate full chord voicings and even suspended 2nds and other chord extensions into the music.  I respond very strongly to this kind of open, thick sound for some reason; it's probably because my mom used to beat me with a D sus2 chord when I was a child (and that's a concert D sus2 for all you fancy-pantses out there who want to be lame and ask if that was on a series of A clarinets and bari saxes or something).

If you want to check out Kowloon Walled City, you should go buy some of their totally sweet music or merch (no link provided), or you can just follow your nose to the dank recesses of the walled city itself.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Gay or Not Gay*?--Alcest

Welcome back and happy Monday, party people.  This gloriously drab day has inspired me to provide you with another installment of Gay or Not Gay*?, where I investigate the most divisive metal bands in the pantheon of extreme music and give you the lowdown on whether the band in question is totally righteous or unequivocally lame.  Today, let's take a look at Alcest, the fanciest "black metal" band France has to offer.

I remember earlier this year when I was working at the hospice medical supply company (you want to talk about a grim and br00tal job) and Alcest was dominating the Interbung with glowing reviews of how amazing their brand of black metal was.  Since I spent so much time on the road and had recently dug up my iPod radio transmitter, I decided that the time was ripe to check out some new tuneage, and since Alcest was everywhere, I picked myself up a copy and made haste to my van.  I was on call and had to go to beautiful Spicewood, TX, home of one gas station, a barbeque place that never seems to open, and a thousand backwoods hillbilly types who were apparently all about to die.  Some grim jamz seemed perfectly in order for such a horrifying excursion, and Alcest was first on the list.
Alcest seems to be one of the most hotly contested bands in extreme music, and I'll tell you why.  Critics freaked out over the ambient and "beautiful" atmospheres churned out by Alcest, claiming them to be one of the best new metal bands out there.  Others protest, claiming that Alcest are most false and ungrim, and should therefore be treated with scorn appropriate to something that doesn't sound like Mayhem or Funeral Mist.  And I have to tell you, though I am about as in to black metal as the average 8-year-old rodeo star, I had to agree with the latter camp.  Alcest are FALSE and UNGRIM (capitalized for maximum impact).

Let's examine the music for a moment: Alcest are one of those bands like Kvelertak who have been lauded as being so great and amazing that we should all bow to them and acknowlege their superiority to mere mortals.  Like Kvelertak, however, Alcest are NOT a metal band.  They likewise exude certain characteristics of a black metal band (two or so parts with washing-machine blast beats and pterodactyl shrieks), but lack the generally agreed upon execution for anything resembling metal.  No, Alcest exhibit the stylistic characteristics of the average Indie Rock outfit; where there should be frowns and corpsepaint, you instead find poorly executed, chorus-drenched melody and melancholic clean singing that would be at home in one of the sadder songs Spoon has ever written.  Alcest are the worst offenders of being NOT METAL in that they have bamboozled the critics into thinking that this is acceptable for any metal band.

For people like me, who were expecting some original sounding black metal (for once), this jarring reality is akin to travelling to get a Swedish massage.  Upon arrival, you find that the spa's take on the Swedish massage is to put you in a room in the nude and forcing you do submit to a cat licking your anus with its sandpapery tongue.  In other words, it is not an acceptable take.

I can still taste the disappointment I felt driving down 71 West out of Austin.
Like Kvelertak, this is what makes Alcest so divisive in the Metalsphere.  That their connection to the extreme metal that we have collectively devoted our lives to is at best oblique and loose makes them the most odious offenders that I have come across yet.  Like climbing into a car with a fish hidden under the passenger's seat, Alcest take what you might normally expect from an experience and make it super, super lame.  And when this experience refers to black metal, which is commonly disappointing and poorly-conceived, this is the "getting a dog that died in the box overnight for Christmas" of music.

So to Alcest, I suggest that you move over to Indie Rock where you belong and leave us alone.  I'm disappointed in the many critics and writers around who have lauded their attempts to infiltrate our ranks with music lame and unheavy, and hope that they will at least resemble heavy metal with any newer material they choose to write.

Q: Alcest, Gay or Not Gay*?

A: So, so gay.  Ohhhh....gaaayyyy....

*The term "Gay or Not Gay?" is not a libelous statement against homosexuals.  It is a colloquial term that describes something that is sub-par, unfortunate, or generally annoying.  So please don't be gay by denouncing my use of the word.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The General Problem with America (One Man's Poorly-Reasoned Opinion)

I've been having a really difficult time the last few days keeping up with what I want to do with my stupid, pointless blog.  Thinking about what I'm going to write about and doing the appropriate listening to form a moderately-coherent opinion about the subject matter is difficult enough, and that's before I even start to generate penis- and poop-themed jokes to drop in there to make two of my friends laugh.  It really is difficult to constantly keep pushing yourself to be creative and make something fall out of your brain, particularly when it doesn't want to come out (read: you're drunk), and to tell you the truth, I'm painfully ready for the weekend, which will bring my company Christmas party (open bar and free food, suckah!) and some much needed rest.  That's not really what I want to talk about right now, though.  What I'd like to do is make a clear and concise treatise about the greatest problem in America today: people.

This might sound strange, my having literally blamed America's ills on people in general rather than specifying what kind of people are the problem.  The issue is that there are too many different kinds of people who are destroying everything to actually blame the downfall of Western Society on just one subgroup of the population.  And it should also be noted that if you're not part of the solution, you're part of the problem.  Now let's you and I take a trip through some subgroups of people who are ruining America, shall we?

1) Hipsters:  This one is completely obvious.  Everybody hates hipsters exept hipsters, and they only like them on an ironic level that is deep, confusing and convoluted, like the plot to Inception.  Living in Austin, TX, I'm living on the San Andreas fault of hipsterism; their presence pervades everything, and in the back of your mind, you know that one day something is going to slip just right and you'll all be killed in a catastrophic event made of rusted fixies, knit caps (worn only during the summer months) and skinny jeans.  Hipsters are not the only problem with America today, however; the hipster army does have one solitary redeeming quality.  "That's bullshit and you know it."  Yeah, I heard you say that from all the way over here.  But you're wrong.  You see, the hipsters' devotion to irony (which used to actually be funny) has transmogrified itself into an amazing and affordable source of entertainment.

Example: during SXSW I was walking around downtown with Wife.  This was on the last Sunday of the festival, and we were talking about how ready we were for everybody to leave so we could travel on the freeways again.  I had just remarked that SXSW brings a staggering number of surplus hipsters into the area, which prompted Wife to ask me to define "hipster."  At that exact moment, a group of gentlemen rounded the corner.  They were all clearly hipsters of the highest grade; the most odious offender was wearing (and I swear that I'm not making this up) liederhosen, cowboy boots, a porkpie hat, hornrimmed glasses and a handlebar moustache.  All I had to tell my wife was "Like those dudes," and she immediately understood.  it was the most ridiculous and memorable thing I saw all weekend.

Bonus example:  Goatwhore concert at Red 7.  I'm rocking out super hard with Van Damned of Crustcake.  Abysmal Dawn slayed, and Abigail Williams had mercifully finished their set early so Goatwhore could play some extra tuneage.  It's an ocean of crusties listening to some seriously gnarly black/death metal played by a significantly smaller group of crusties.  Stage left (my left, I'm not sure how that labeling is supposed to work), a couple of clueless tardmo hipsters had wandered in, no doubt thinking that a metal show would be "super quaint and ironic" to take in, especially considering the headliners were a band called GOATWHORE.  The look on these assholes' faces was fucking priceless; they gazed horrified at the stage while grown men in gauntlets sang about Satan, suddenly feeling out of place wearing cowboy boots with cutoff shorts and drinking their Lone Star beers through straws (?????).  Hipsterism is like cancer, except normal people can't die from it; they have to live with it until it kills itself.  And that's taking far too long.

2)  People that don't like Meshuggah:  If you don't like Meshuggah, you are wrong.  I know I say that about lots of bands, but this is fur reelzeez.  The only thing heavier than Meshuggah is the Earth itself, and I don't care who you are or what you do for a living.  If you don't like Meshuggah, you are destroying America.

Now, the first thing many people might point out to me is that Meshuggah aren't even American.  They are from some ridiculous and inferior European country that I don't care about.  Not important.  Meshuggah should (collectively) be allowed to be the president of the United States, because then we'd all be rocking our balls off so hard that war and famine would be obsolete and relief agency rice would rain down on Africa while the dulcet tones of "New Millennium Cyanide Christ" blasted over the Serengeti, causing antelope to die mid-gallop and hit the ground fully cooked and stuffed with mozzarella cheese.  What a world that would be!

My coworkers don't like Meshuggah.  I tried to sneak some in at a time when I was all alone (I can't wear earbuds), but they snuck back in while I was packaging some stupid piece of computer equipment.  Usually people are frightened by Meshuggah, which is what I expected and is the main reason why I chose to try to shield them from my taste in music.  They threw me a curveball, though.  They started making fun of Meshuggah!  Blasphemers!  It made me want to puke.  I didn't realize that they hated things that were awesome and great (but, to be fair, the amount of reggae music I'm subjected to on a daily basis should have tipped me off).  I don't hold this against my coworkers, though.  It's really not their fault.  It's the fault of the last group of people we will examine for this exercise.

3)  Old people:  We all love our parents in some way, whether that's the way that we wish they had given us any attention as a child (slutty girls/dudes with Ed Hardy shirts), or the way that we shave the bunions off our parents' feet as a means of passing time (nerdmos and people without functioning genetalia).  However, it is not commonly known that old people are the actual scourge of America.  Did you know that all of those retards that spend their time and money inexplicably throwing tea into the ocean are rich, well-established old people?  It's true!  They also think that you and your devil music are unarguably and unequivocally evil.  They think that such angry stuff makes people do horrible things, like become a homosexual or support upper-class tax hikes.  These same people will be caught soliciting gay sex in an airport restroom or housing their illegal immigrant housekeeper and poolboy in their reinforced sex dungeon underneath their house.

The most important thing that you can remember for yourself is that old people are always wrong.  They preface truly racist statements with the phrase "I'm not prejudiced, but..." and will generally assume that you are their oldest son/younger brother (trust me, I worked in hospice care for one horrific year of my life).  That they like to hang around chanting "no taxation without representation!" while the Senator and Congressman they voted for sit in their plush beanbag chairs in D.C. is telling of their mental status.  "Don't trust anyone over 30" is a quote that can be attributed to Homer Simpson back when The Simpsons was still funny (Episode: Homerpalooza, from season 7), and should be followed precisely.  I quickly approach the age when I cannot be trusted, and beyond that, I hope for a swift death that silences my nonsense opinions before I can be holding a sign that accuses a president who won the presidency through the standard course of democracy of being an illegal immigrant/homosexual/9-11terrorist.  I hope you'll kill me before that happens.

And there you have it; a brief-ish synopsis of the ills of America created to fill space and distract from the fact that I hadn't done any of the stuff that I laid out for myself to do this week.  It's been a hell of a week, and I hope that next week, you'll be around to join me for the next edition of Gay or Not Gay*? and my Kowloon Walled City review, which will probably refer to human genatalia a great many times (as my writing tends to).

With that, I'm taking a three day weekend.  Next week will also be short, since it'll be Christmas and I'll be busy putting up with my family and playing video games alone in my darkened living room.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ghoul--We Came for the Dead

So, here's the thing.  My reference monitors took a crap early last week.  What does this mean?  It means that I can't record or mix the garbage music I personally create properly (double lame), and it means that I can't enjoy other peoples' tuneage properly, either.  Computer speakers are like an aural curse cast upon us by Apple and HP.  It's as if they want to taunt us, saying "Look at all the stuff you can do with our computation machines!  Oh, you want to hear things the way they actually sound?  Well, technology isn't THAT good."  Balls.

With that said, I wanted to make it clear that Ghoul's first album, We Came for the Dead, sounds truly horrifying on my laptop's speakers, and it will probably sound similarly bad on yours.  Probably not even trying is the right thing to do, since all of the heaviness of the music is so efficiently stripped away, leaving only ride cymbals and vocals to rock your stupid, ugly face.

My history with Ghoul is as such:  The WZA'd, my good buddy and one of my Crusty, Cake-y homebros from Crustcake, teletexted me the other day, proclaming that "Ghoul totally slays.  You need to hear it NOW."  Or something.  That's a paraphrase of what happened.  At any rate, I proceeded to finish what I was doing at the time, do some other stuff, watch a movie, and achievement hunt on Fable III, at which time I realized I was running out of stuff to write about on my own stupid blog.  Oops!  Enter Ghoul, stage left.

The name Ghoul automatically sends my brain into a tizzy, transporting me back to my childhood where I would watch Tales from the Crypt with the horrified awe of a child who, for some reason, fails to realize that the retarded stories presented by the decaying corpse of the most annoying person who ever lived aren't real.  The Cryptkeeper never failed to arrest my attention every time he came onscreen.  He also never failed to describe everything as either "fiendish," or "ghoulish," and to create horrible puns on these two words ad nauseum until somebody in the story finally choked ironically on a sea-cucumber or something and we could all go back to our normal lives.  Oh, my innocence....where have you gone?

The first time I listened to Ghoul was on my lunch break at work.  I rocked it through my iPod earbuds, which was reasonably satisfying but largely unacceptable for Ghoul's sound.  Ghoul falls under the categorization of "ye olde-schoole Deathe Metale."  What does this mean to you?  It means that the production and playing are thick and dirty, with a disturbing, greasy sheen that reminds me of the pillow I sleep on every night (Head and Shoulders sucks, son).  The closest comparison I could make to Ghoul's sound is probably Morbid Angel teaming up with Wormed to make an album that sounded as old as possible while retaining the most ridiculous and guttural vocal stylings that have been concocted through the end of the year 2010.  The resulting sound is simultaneously brutal, crusty, dirty, and slick, like the inside of a toilet bowl after a Thai food bender.

Ghoul jumps on the bandwagon of so many modern death metal bands by taking great pains to be "olde schoole" while implementing the most extreme new vocal and instrumental techniques.  They have the production down, and if their songwriting were a little more solid and memorable, I'd probably have found a way to compare them to a penis.  However, (and admittedly without the proper listening paraphenalia) Ghoul doesn't live up to the hype that one dude gave me probably while high.  Are they any good?  Yes.  Do they rule?  Not really.  Hopefully they won't let my crappy, inane writing discourage them from growing as a band, because they certainly have potential.  As such, I don't think I'm fully sold.

If you're interested in hearing the deathy grossness, just make sure you follow your nose and check it out.  I have high hopes for what is to come from this band, and I hope that when that day comes, I can enjoy it properly with non-shitty speakers that don't shut down completely for no reason.

P.S. Do yourself a favor and don't buy any M-Audio equipment.  They will literally stop working for no reason about 8 months after you purchase them, and you will have to choose between spending hundreds of dollars to get them fixed or hundreds of dollars to replace them.  Fuck off, M-Audio.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BONUS POST--Perusing my iTunes Library--Huntress

An open letter to Huntress:

Dear Sirs and Madame,

You suck.  Please get off of my iPod, post haste.

There.  That's much better.

Cordially yours,
Monsoon Cobra, Esq. DDS

All Pigs Must Die--All Pigs Must Die

Ben Koller is a complete and utter badass.  I once read a posting from the inimitable Cosmo Lee on his blog Invisible Oranges that Ben Koller was one of the greatest live drummers that ever existed (or possibly something less grandiose).  At the time that I read his opinion, I had only heard one (oddball) Converge album, and I won't lie to you;  I thought Converge sucked (!!!!).  I felt they were overrated at the time, and that there hype had something to do with the fact that Converge guitarist Kurt Ballou had his sticky lil' fingers in so many totally sweet albums.  Turns out, upon hearing 2009's Axe to Fall, I had to eat my anti-Converge sentiments with a side of being-an-uninformed-asshat.  It was finally clear what all the hubbub about Converge was all about; it's because THEY FUCKING RULE.  Oops!

Fast forward to April of this year, when I finally got to see Converge live, and Cosmo's opinion is not even kind of unfounded.   Ben Koller is a whirling dervish behind the kit, and it's clear that he can a) play some drums, b) bring the energy that propels an entire band forward at breakneck speed, and c) play some additional FUCKING DRUMS.

Now, on to Ben Koller's new hardcore project band, All Pigs Must Die.  Honestly, having Ben Koller on the roster is the main reason anybody is giving this band the time of day; let's all be frank and admit that crusty hardcore/grind/metal bands are getting to be about a dime a dozen these days (which is great for me, since mass D-boner strokage suits me just fine).  Luckily for all of the rest of us, however, All Pigs Must Die actually do the D-beat/grind genres proud with well-written songs, sweet riffage, and a liberal dose of The Heavy.  Feedback squalls and Disfear-style "heavy bl00ze" solos abound, with more than enough blast beat assaults to keep the average hesher from being bummed out enough to regret stealing the record from the Interbung.

The easiest comparison to make in regards to All Pigs Must Die is, somewhat counterintuitively, to Trap Them.  Their footloose and fancy-free juxtaposition of sweet, sweet D-beat and grind-infused blasting mirrors Trap Them very closely; however, if you're a Trap Them vet (yo), don't expect a simliar style of riffing.  All Pigs Must Die tend to employ a crossover style of guitar attack, akin to D.R.I.'s punk/thrash elixir aged a solid 25 years or so, like a stinky cheese that nobody but the grossest purists could possibly enjoy.

I don't have any idea what All Pigs Must Die are going to do tour-wise; it seems pretty obvious that Converge is the cockblock that's going to keep All Pigs from getting into our collective pants in a live setting.  However, if they ever do come through, you should probably go see them, if only to watch Ben Koller do the things he does (listed above).  I'm hoping they'll take the time to make a full-length album, since it's clear that it would completely rule, like the giant, horrifyingly oderous, monumentally satisfying dump you take after a night of drinking beers with your favorite homebros.

All Pigs Must Die's self-titled album is out now, and can be easily found for purchasing.  Since nobody would ever do that for any reason, here's a place you can steal it from (I should really stop being so fake-judgemental when I link you to the places where I acquired the listening material in question).

Tune in tomorrow where I check out the band Ghoul and decided whether I am too Ghoul for school or too cool for Ghoul (I've been sitting on that stupid-ass punfest for way too long now).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Album Art Breakdown--Children of Bodom

In my daily interwebbing, I visit several blogs every day to discover things that people are listening to and what they think of them.  It's part of the fun of the webulogosphere; discovering what a bunch of nerds think about Black Label Society and other things that are much more acceptable makes me feel cool, and reading in depth their thoughts about any given album gives me an automatic opinion about whatever crap there is that I won't listen to.  Example: Korn's latest album was critically panned (and it's confusing that they are even covered on metal blogs since they haven't been a metal band in...ever), but had a surprising number of proponents who are more than happy to tell anyone that "Duuuhhhh, the ablum wnt taht bad, but Korn has defintly got badder siec they'r frist ablum, duuuuhhhhh."  Which, of course, proves that there are still a large number of Americans who huff spray paint in their parents' basement.

My most frequented site is Metalsucks, which I like because they post lots of stuff every day and participate in the dying art of journalism, wherein people try to hit the "next big scoop" by speculating on heresay rumors and, increasingly more often, cryptic and poorly-written Tweets from our favorite artists.  I was observing their fine net publication last night, and I came across something that made my heart leap in my chest: New Children of Bodom album, out March 3. (!!!)

Now, I know what you're thinking, reader.  You're thinking "Eeeeeeewwwww, Children of Bodom?  Duuuuumb!"  Which is true and valid.  I keep my love for the Amazing Flying Bodoms (and my passion for creating ridiculous alternate names for them using the word Bodom) no secret.  In the interest of full disclosure, the Bodom Family Carwash is one of the two reasons why I even got into heavy metal in the first place (you can also heap a fair amount of blame on In Flames' Whoracle), and I will defend the Bodom Steel Foundry, LLC to the death.  I think they rule, no matter how much more kvlt my tastes become, and I will almost certainly purchase this newest album as close to when it comes out as possible.  However, the actual reason I'm bringing this to your attention is because of the album art.  Welcome to the first edition of Album Art Breakdown, where I examine the dumbest album art and give you the inside skinny on what it's all about.  And this one is a doozy, too; Bodom Orphanage and Gruel House has had increasingly lame album art with increasingly high Michael Bay-style production values for quite some time, while never eschewing the theme they apparently agreed upon at the inception of the band, which is "Grim Reaper Getting Ready to Chop Stuff with Slightly Different Background."


The Bodom Manufacturing Concern has dropped another doozy of an album cover, and it maintains their zeal for Reapers A-Chopping, Dumb Fonts, and Poorly Translated Album Titles.  Let's break this down.

The Bodom Lake and River Conservation Project is obviously making a comment on the landscape of modern society with this gem.  The Reaper's clothes are much more tattered than usual, which can obviously be attributed to the global economic situation; Grim Reaping has become more competetive, and the jobs are drying up, so the Bodoms' Reaper has taken to angrily collecting trash along the highway.  That his face is now hidden is telling; likely, his wife left him for someone who collects garbage more efficiently (and not with a scythe).  Also likely, the new gentleman does not have his own Kitten Tree, where the husks of his dead kittens (Mikey I-IX) hang as a grisly reminder of his infertility and the fact that he should just stick to houseplants when it comes to nurturing living things.  His lack of respect for himself and his wife has been noticed by the neighborhood toughs, who have lately taken to toilet-papering his beloved Kitten Tree in an act of scorn, as if to say "Go back to living with your mother, homo!  You can't Grim Reap like you used to!"  And every year, on the Vernal Equinox (the yellowest day of the year), old Reaper takes an extended sojourn to his Kitten Tree, where he laments his many losses with some Punch Dancing while the city that betrayed him looms in the background.  The Bodom Brothers Haberdashery are shining light upon the rough times that befall even our reapers during this economic collapse.

The title of the album references the malaise of the Reaper's situation; his enthusiasm for reaping is offset by the fact that he can't get work doing his chosen profession, and now he spends all of his time cleaning up TP, Cheetos bags and leaves off the side of the city's major drag with the relentless recklessness of a spastic child weaned on the Jackass movies and Jersey Shore.  The dumb font reflects how dumb all of this is.

If you're interested, there's also a truly odd sample video for their lead single, titled "Was It Worth It?"  It features flaming skateboards (?), professional skateboarders doing some sweet tricks (??), and best of all, very little music with which to tittilate yourself (??!?).  Follow your nose to Metalsucks to take a gander if you're as False as I am and want to see the beginning portions of cool skateboarding tricks (is that Chris Cole?).

And I'd like to finish this post with a personal message to the Bodom Penguin Habitat Preservation Society: You aren't skate rock.  This video is confusing, and you should maybe consider adding more music to your next teaser trailer.  And I still love you.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Burning Ghats--Demo & Fool's Gold

It wasn't too long ago that I was hanging around my apartment, idly playing my guitar while my wife was playing video games.  I was pretty heavy into writing songs for my half-defunct band at this point, so I was pretty relentless and loud about whatever tasty lick I had conjured at any given time.  Wife was trying to enjoy Assassin's Creed II, but my in-your-face style of aimless wanking was preventing her from properly enjoying murdering Italian aristocrats, dignitaries, and clergymen, so she banished me to the bedroom where I would be less of a nuisance.  I had a long drive ahead of me the next day, and I decided I wanted something new to listen to; off to Bandcamp!

I listlessly trolled the Bandcamp archives for the coolest/most ridiculous band names and album titles, giving each one that caught my fancy a fair listen.  There is a lot of really crappy stuff on Bandcamp; bands like Richardson Richardson abound and vie for your attention with their outrageously bad band names and album art.  However, I found several oddball gems that night, the most notable (in my mind) being Vancouver's own Burning Ghats.

I have no idea what the name "Burning Ghats" is supposed to signify.  It seems possible that it's some manner of Candian slang term that doesn't translate to the United States, like calling a hat a "took."  I started streaming their demo at that point and I really enjoyed their crusty approach to metallic hardcore; I remember thinking of Converge when I was listening to the first track (at that point having my D-boner pointed firmly at Converge at all times).  The demo rocks through three tracks with the fury of a wild boar after slamming 60cc's of HGH directly into its eyeball, and the fact that it's free to download (no stealing?  Booooor-iiiiing) makes it all the sweeter.

I revisited the Burning Ghats Bandcamp page to try and dig up some information on them several months later, and found that they had released some new music in the form of Fool's Gold, an EP that extends their collected discography to seven songs.  Fool's Gold continues Burning Ghats' quest for crunch, but makes some strange missteps in the process.  It would seem that they may have changed vokillists over the course of the months that I didn't pay attention, replacing their original guy for the above mentioned boar.  After some research, it would seem that the original vokillist just somehow became...bad, which is truly unfortunate.  The resulting vocal performance sounds as wet as a seafood enchilada fart and as loose as the subsequent bowel movement.  Tragically far less consistent than previous efforts, and like so many bands before them, the singer smears the music with an uneven and dicey performance, which detracts a great deal from The Heavy. 

Since I am potentially the only man in all of Texas who has heard these guys (which was initally a point of pride for me), I want to attribute it to a poor mixing job; the vocals are less a part of the song and come across as the focal point that the band really should be.  They float conspicuously across the top of the music like a toxic film on clear, inviting waters, or the proverbial Baby Ruth in the swimming pool.  Usurping the role from the guitar players, who write some totally righteous riffs, seems like a misstep akin to accidentally leaving a baby in the oven or firing a shotgun into a Veteran's Day parade having mistaken it for a congregation of the walking undead.

Burning Ghats are a pretty good band at times, and I hope they do something about the vocal style from Fool's Gold.  The fact that I was so heavily impressed with their demo effort makes me want to like their second effort a lot more than I reasonably can.

If you want to listen, go to their Bandcamp page and observe.  Downloads are free, so live it up without having to steal something for once.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Eyedontget Eyehategod

This blog has given me a great opportunity to share the vast wealth of boner/jizz jokes that I seem to endlessly conjure up over the course of any given day.  It makes me feel good that my 3 readers seem to enjoy the retarded things that I say about music that 99.9% of people couldn't possibly hate more.  It has also given me a great platform to out myself for how uncool/false/lame my taste in music is, especially in front of people who are much tr00er than I am, and whose opinions I actually value.  In the spirit of outing myself and making myself appear to be the lamest metal dude ever, and in honor of the Eyehategod show on Sunday that I will skip (again), I'm finally going to get it off my chest: Eyehategod sucks.  There.  I said it.

Sludge and doom are the two microgenres of my most favorite thing ever that I have had a hard time getting into.  It seems so obvious to some people why I should be listening to this stuff, and the more I listen, the less I get it.  Now, don't get me wrong.  There are outliers in the genres that I actually appreciate, but they tend to be themselves the subject of a certain amount of disdain from the people who "get it."  For doom, I actually enjoy bands like Indian, ATX locals The Roller, Coffinworm, and the newest Thou album, Summit (which you can follow your nose to and hear for yourself).  Sludge is really where my wheels start spinning, though, because the bands I would most associate with the genre that I like, such as Isis, Kylesa, Neurosis, and Howl, would generally be regarded as "false sludge" by adherents to the Eyehategod sound.  The fact that the only sludge that draws me in is False and Ungrim makes me feel like a total turd, and Eyehategod stand with Buzzov*en, Thrones, Saint Vitus, Pentagram, Sunn O))), et al, as a band that people get totally crazy over that I just can't understand the appeal of.

The band I started about how I don't get it, with matching shirts
Now, especially with Eyehategod, I've really tried to get into the whole scene.  There have been several nights where I lock myself in a darkened bathroom with a box of doughnuts and a Chipotle burrito to try and listen closely and meditate upon the sound of Eyehategod's Southern Sludge.  I try all manner of things to unearth the appeal of their slow, poorly-played music, and I am generally pretty good at getting past a bad mix or questionable vocal style to hear the true quality of the music and its underlying intentions.  Eyehategod have eluded me every time.  I'm like Batman, and every time I get close to Eyehategod's Joker, he laughs maniacally and escapes by helicoptor, yelling something clever behind him, like "So long, Batboner!  I'll catch you in the funny papers!"  Or something better.

This phenomenon seems to keep occurring in my life, and the closest I've been able to get to a reasonable explanation is that a) I simply missed the boat, just like I did with Deicide, Obituary, and the greater portion of black metal, or b) that people mistake heaviness of tone and a lumbering tempo for good music.

Heavy tone does not good music make.  I'm looking at you, Sunn O))), and I can see Thrones hiding behind you, too.

With Eyehategod, I took two of their purported "must have" albums (Dopesick and Take As Needed for Pain) and made an effort to listen to them and enjoy them just by virtue of the fact that I don't want to appear any lamer to my cool-dude metal bros.  And the verdict is that Eyehategod either secretly sucks and I'm the only one who can hear it, or that I'm missing some portion of my hearing where the amazing-ness of their music is hidden (which, judging by the general opinion surrounding Eyehategod, seems more likely than the former option).

Rhetorical question: What is the big deal?  Where is the awesome hidden?  Why can't I hear it? (It's not rhetorical, and the answer to the last question is "Because you are an Ungrim faggy anus who should be hated")

I guess I'll just never have it.  *Sigh*

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Gay or Not Gay?*--Kvelertak

Kvelertak is one of the hottest and most hotly debated bands in extreme music today.  When their self-titled album (which I believe to be their debut but won't check) dropped, dudebros over at Metalsucks had an olde-school freakout over the album.  I love Metalsucks, but I think that any avid reader of theirs would recognize that their tastes in metal are much more...liberal than most other peoples'.  Example: I don't think that Illogical Contraption, The Living Doorway, or Invisible Oranges would ever be caught dead covering Ratt's newest release, or remarking upon what Axl Rose has been up to.  At any rate, the Webbies caught fire over debating the merits and relative fagginess of Kvelertak immediately, and as such, I decided that it was time for me to whip out my Investigator's Probe and go balls-deep into the Kvelertak controversy.  I am, after all, literally the only person who can put this debate to rest forever.  And I take my position fucking SERIOUSLY.

Now, I have put in some actual sitting-and-listening time with the album, and my first impression of it is that it has been grossly misrepresented.  I was, through the writeups that I have read of Kvelertak, lead to believe that they were some sort of black metal band that likes to party.  Upon reading this, I immediately thought to myself "That doesn't exist.  That's not a thing."  Turns out, I was right.  Super right.  Kvelertak is, in actuality, an amorphous blob of a band.  They are superficially metal, aren't really that heavy, and have almost literally no qualities that can be compared with black metal other than the vocalist's throaty hiss.  Pegging down what genre they may or may not belong to is like trying to eat an entire tree.  You can't do it, and you should understand that even trying is kind of stupid and pointless.  Now I know what you're thinking: "Why haven't you made a boner joke yet?"  I already did, but there's another one coming.

The real kvltroversy with Kvelertak lies in the misrepresentation that has been allowed to happen.  Kvelertak are not, on any level, kvlt, grim, br00tal, tr00, or heavy.  Their only real tie with extreme music lies in the vocal style being so similar to the commonly agreed-upon delivery for any black metal vocalist: Scream all high-pitched-like and do nothing else for any reason.  Also, they are from some kind of Scandinavian country, which most people agree makes anybody super Grim by default.  But if that's a qualification, there's a whole ton of liederhosen-wearing mountain yodelers that need to be derided for how False and Ungrim they are, too.

Now, I've seen this kind of thing happen with other bands, most notably Alcest, who are basically a crappy indie-rock band that throws in a section that superficially resembles black metal no more than twice per album.  They got lumped into the "black metal" community in the same way that Kvelertak did, which is by incorporating vocals that were more like black metal vocals than anything else.  The difference between the two bands, however, is that everyone fell for Alcest's ploy because it's so "beautiful" (read: boring and pretentious and gay).  Kvelertak attempt to have fun and be a party band, which isn't nearly hateful/boring enough to avoid the dreaded Ungrim label that is bandied about by black metal enthusiasts worldwide.  The only connecting factors between either of these bands and anything resembling extremity or general kvlt-ness is the use of the hiss.  Nothing else.

Now, on to the original question:  Kvelertak.  Gay, or Not Gay?

Answer:  Not nearly as gay as they have been made out to be.

Though Kvelertak are billed as extreme black metal fun-havers, they are actually just a rock band that, for some unknown reason, decided to take one aspect of that most hateful genre, utilize it front to back, and turn themselves into posterboys for falsehood and, therefore, lameness.  Trying to explain that they shouldn't even be saddled with the "black metal" genrefication is seemingly useless.  It's like calling your penis "gigantic" because it shares a single quality with a penis that is actually gigantic, such as being attached to a human or having a tattoo of Wile E. Coyote pushing a lawn mower right next to it.  That's why people hate Kvelertak so hard, and that's why they are controversial.  Their music is actually pretty good and fun to listen to if you are able to separate them from the idea of being a Metal Band.  If they were presented as what they are, which is a goofy rock band from Europe whose singer screams all icky, there would be no problem whatsoever.

Issue resolved, and you're welcome.

*The term "Gay or Not Gay?" is not a libelous statement against homosexuals.  It is a colloquial term that describes something that is sub-par, unfortunate, or generally annoying.  So please don't be gay by denouncing my use of the word.

Trap Them-Filth Rations

Cobra Family photo, circa 2011

Allow me to be clear: If you don't like Trap Them, you are wrong.  You are personally what is wrong with America.  You may as well be outside performing sex acts on children, that's how wrong you are.  I know what you're thinking, too.  "Oh, that's extreme.  What would your mom think if she read this?  She wouldn't approve at all."  Don't bring my mom into this, imaginary person delivering dialogue that I invented just now.  Don't you FUCKING DARE.

Now.  Trap Them are a band from somewhere in Washington (state), which I could easily look up but won't.  They are the best band that you've never taken the time to listen to because you a) suck, b) are mentally handicapped (read: a retard), or c) don't like amazing grindcore (read: 99% of living/dead humans). I had the pleasure of experiencing Trap Them live for the third time in fourteen months this past Saturday, and they got my D-boner raging so hard I started knocking stuff over with it.  Playing only the choicest cuts and dedicating the set to me personally (in this comic strip I drew), Trap Them make me giddy as a schoolgirl everytime I see/hear/think about them.  In fact, their set was only barely audible over my girlish screaming, which is surprisingly shrill and piercing.

Anyway, Filth Rations.  As the newest EP of tasty-hot grind, Filth Rations contains some of the hottest, grindiest, most vitriolic tuneage from what could be the greatest band on the planet (for once that's not a joke).  Filth Rations begins with "(Day 38) Carnage Incarnate," a solid opening track that beckons the listener back to "Guignol Serene," from the the band's previous offering, 2008's Seizures in Barren Praise.  The second track, "(Day 39) Degenerate Binds," however, indicates a possible direction for the next Trap Them LP; the song begins with a thrashy intro that explodes into a full-on Entombed-style D-beat assault.  In fact, this song is the standout of the EP, and my wife hopes desperately that they don't write any more songs like this, since she's been having such a tough time keeping our apartment clean with the constant attention I've been giving my D-boner.  It's a hot, sticky mess over here, and I'm already pressing to sign a new lease for next year so our security deposit will go toward "normal wear and tear," and not "disgusting conditions resulting from beating off."  We'll see how it pans out.

Filth Rations finishes off with "(Day 40) Dead Fathers Wading in the Bodygrounds" (what the fuck is that supposed to mean?) and "(Day 7) Digital Dogs with Analog Collars." "Dead Fathers" harkens back to "Mission Convincers"and "Gutterbomb Heaven on the Grid" from Seizures in Barren Praise with it's quasi-doom approach that pits the listener against a repetetive and totally gnarly riff that mostly repeats ad nauseum until the song finally ends about 5 minutes later.  "Digital Dogs," on the other hand, is merely a retread track from the group's debut LP, Sleepwell Deconstructor, which similarly totally rules.

Trap Them just jumped on tour with Skeletonwitch, so if they're coming to your township/village/hippie commune, do yourself a favor and go check out the show.  At the merch booth you'll be able to find the Filth Rations limited-run compact disc (I own one of just 1,000), and you should pick it up unless you have a turntable.  Then you can just get it on vinyl.  However, like I said before, if you don't listen to Trap Them, you're more evil than Glenn Beck, McDonald's, High Fructose Corn Syrup, and Osama bin Laden combined.  Can you deal with being that evil?

If your answer to the above question is "That's offensive and not funny," the real answer is obviously "Yes, I love being that evil.  Now if you'll excuse me, I have some child pornography to distribute."  Go observe Trap Them in all their glory.  In fact, the link will take you to their Myspace page (I hate those words more and more lately), where you can hear many of the songs I referenced here and develop your very own Throbbing, Raging, Granite-Hard D-Boner.

Tomorrow, the latest edition of "Gay or Not Gay?*" where I tackle metal's most divisive bands and give you the inside skinny about how horrible they are/are not.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Slammin' Saturday Live Roundup Hoedown XXXTreme

The Perfect Saturday

Saturday was totally sweet.  First of all, I got to go catch Mitch Fatel's live standup comedy act, which was hysterical.  He included in his act a real think-piece about shooting jizz on a lady's face that raised philosophical and existential questions that rattled me to the core.  No, he just made a funny face.  It was awesome though, and if you haven't ever heard his live act, you should find somewhere online to steal his albums from; homeboy can write the shit out of a dick joke.

The meat of my Saturday was spent at Red 7 in downtown Austin at the Skeletonwitch/Withered/Landmine Marathon show.  I had been anticipating this show for quite some time; my cash flow just recently got revived and I wanted a night out on the town and a totally kvlt Withered shirt to make me feel like a big man.  Thankfully for me I wouldn't have to go it alone, as a couple of my crusty, cake-y homebros from Crustcake (Andy Wilhelm and the WZA'd, from the metal blog you should be reading instead of this garbage) came through and helped me do some sausage-party rocking.  It was a recipe for some br00tal fun and wholesome kvltitude.

Arriving just after 10 o'clock, I caught Landmine Marathon's set in its entirety, which totally rocked.  I wasn't so floored by their newest album, Sovereign Descent, as I anticipated I would be; something about the production just didn't really do anything for me.  Luckily, there wasn't a producer in sight as Landmine thundered through a brutally heavy set.  It is a revelation finally getting to see Grace Perry perform.  I had heard that she brings the FUCKING FURY when she performs (moreso after dipping into Ol' Grandpa's Cough Medicine apparently),  and the rumors proved true.  Her voice was very impressive in a live setting, and the band as a whole should not be missed.

Withered was the band that I showed up to the show for, as I have experienced the tightly focused thrash attack of Skeletonwitch shortly after the release of their latest album, Breathing the Fire.  Withered was the band supporting a brand new album on this go 'round.  I have yet to experience their latest black/doom metal opus (titled Dualitas), but I do know that I'm cuckoo for Withered, and what I've heard from the album proves to be at least as stellar as their last outing (Folie Circulaire).  Their set was as tight as any blackened-doom band could be; fuzzed out bass interludes gave way to washing-machine drumming and maelstroms of bilious hate.  Their signature smoke machine was conspicuously absent from this set, but they offset that by burning incence on the mic stands, which made the stage area smell like a Hot Topic.  It was unsettling (in a bad way), which detracting from the normal good kind of unsettling that accompanies listening to Withered.  And to answer your question, hell yeah I got my shirt.  Sheeeeit.

Skeletonwitch was great.  They played a tight set that suffered only from the bass being painfully low in the mix, which detracted from The Heavy; however, their song selection was impeccable and played with the fervor and gusto of a hungry band; since they are a metal band, I assume it's because they are quite literally malnourished (beer apparently has very few vitamins and minerals).

The greatest moment of the night was actually a surprise for me.  As I walked into the show, I happened to glance upon the bill that listed the bands and the times they were to start playing.  Second from the top, where I expected Withered to be, I beheld the two greatest words any person can read: TRAP THEM.  Hell yeah!  A little background for the uninitiated: I am gay for Trap Them.  Their supercharged grind attack gets my D-boner raging so hard I can feel my heartbeat in it.  I have only seen them 3 times now, which is not nearly enough, considering I would pay them to follow me around on a papier mache demon float and play their music all day long if it were fiscally possible.  They played a great set with a new/fill in drummer who totally slayed, with choice cuts from Sleepwell Deconstructor all the way through their latest EP offering Filth Rations.  Speaking of which, they are currently carrying with them a limited run of Filth Rations, the previously vinyl-only EP, on Compact Disc, so get your ass out to the show and pick it up like I did, because it's amazing.  In fact, Filth Rations will be the focus of tomorrow's post, so stay tuned to watch me jack my spicy D-boner all over it, because it rules that hard.

Happy Monday, slaves!