Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Body - No One Deserves Happiness

It was a real treat to take our first reader request and try my hand at something outside my normal radar. I'd never heard anything by The Body before, and avant garde sludge has never been my go-to style of music, so I decided to go in blind and avoid reading any buzz or reviews. On first impression, the cover says it all: grimy, minimalist, but with a clear dedication to a simple message. As promised there isn't a moment of happiness in the album, but it explores a lot of ugly emotions in an often beautiful way.

The guitar tone is a lo-fi halfway point between distortion and fuzz, and I can't help but think back to my own ill-fated attempts at playing metal on a Fender Jaguar just because it looked cool. But there's also a careful orchestration to the album's soundscape, and the low fidelity almost becomes an instrument in own right, with a rhythmic drone that kept reminding me of slow waves crashing against a shore. The occasional bells and string sections add a nice bit of variety to the atmosphere without compromising the griminess of the guitars, which is something I haven't gotten to say since I discovered gothic metal. The pounding drum machines are a hit and miss element, helping build the mood at times, distracting from it at others.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Steignyr - The Prophecy of the Highlands

Surely it's no secret (courtesy of my personal Top 10 Metal Albums post) that I love me some cheesy folk metal. So imagine my joy when I saw a band described as "Celtic Folk Metal" in this week's New Releases thread on /r/metal. So I went to YouTube, and clicked on the first Steignyr song that came up (Tales of a Forgotten Hero, apparently the title track of their second album). Upon realizing that I own better medieval-y garb than anyone in this band, I decided I had to give their newest release a shot. This is also my first encounter with Steignyr, so this will even be the first album I review with no prior conceptions about the band.

The best way I've come up with to describe Steignyr is that they sound like a less folky Eluveitie with a deeper vocalist. Granted, saying a band is less folky than Eluveitie is like saying a person is less wet when they're not in a swimming pool, because, for crying out loud, Eluveitie has a full-time hurdy-gurdy.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

I had to try several times before this post had a title: Gornok's top 10 metal albums

Hello, functioning literates! I'm Gornok. Or Metalex. Or any number of other appellations. I love getting new nicknames and monikers – each is a another step on my sobriquest. Greg told me I should come up with a list of my 10 favorite metal albums and why, so I did. I'm pretty confident in about seven of these choices, and the other three slots are dependent on my mood (sorry, Obituary). Odds are, I'm going to be reviewing things in a more grindy/black/death/obnoxious vein than Danny or Greg. 

Atheist – Unquestionable Presence
The opening two bars of the record: tritone-based bass riff in 5/4, followed by guitar-harmonized version of the same. Steve Flynn's chaotic samba/jazz/metal drumming erupts before resolving to a groovy thrash. I won't describe anything beyond those first thirty seconds, but suffice to say that Atheist knew their strengths (an incredibly technical maelstrom that comes off catchy, effortlessly, and human) and played to them every single song on this album. Countless bands would follow their templates and steal the paints from their palette, but Atheist lives up to their titular boast. Did I mention that this absolute motherfucker of a record came out in '91? This is the birth of tech-metal.

Naked City – Torture Garden
I'm honestly not sure what genre to classify this record as. Naked City is the thalidomide-flippered-and-laser-cannon-armed lovechild of NYC-freejazz-weirdo-saxophonist John Zorn, whose love of Japanese bondage and grindcore were matched only by his inability to stay in the same genre for more than ten seconds. He found four other people on similar wavelengths (all other parts of the 70s/80s NYC "downtown" no-wave and free-jazz scene) and put out this compilation of grindcore minatures. I can't tell you more without ruining the fun of finding the surprises, but I can tell you that I'll slap you if you don't like it.

iamthemorning - Lighthouse

This review is going to be where the "mostly" in this blog's title comes in. While I'm sure all three of us would proudly describe ourselves as a bunch of metalheads, none of our tastes begin and end there. So for a slight change of pace from vikings and space operas, I figured I'd return to a hidden gem from Steven Wilson's Kscope label, Russian chamber prog duo iamthemorning.

Chamber prog might sound like a genre I just made up, but the combination of alt-prog and chamber folk/pop feels intuitive in practice. The duo of Marjana Semkina on vocals and Gleb Kolyadin on piano plus a couple of guest musicians sounds minimalist at times and closer to a full orchestra at others. And on Lighthouse they get a bit more eclectic, incorporating electric guitar and horns in unexpected places.