Throes of Dawn – Our Voices Shall Remain

Absolutely gorgeous. Immensely melancholy, sad, soothing, and smooth. It’s like hearing your hands run through silk. I love all the little bit and pieces they put into each track to make them interesting, like the saxophone on One of Us Is Missing, or the piano throughout the album. It runs a bit long, and I feel like it has a little bit too much of a “putting you to sleep” vibe, but it’s lovely none the less. Very relaxing if anything else.


8.5/10

The Writhing Squares – In the Void Above

Just a bit too much space on the space rock part of things. The album gets stale after the first few tracks, and not even the saxophones can help. The production is terrible, even for a space rock album. Only Balloon to the Moon did anything for me. I feel like there’s just too much emphasis on texture, and not nearly enough on actual content. I mean yeah, it’s cool to hear all of the weird guitar noises, but 46 minutes of that with relatively little else interesting going on just doesn’t do it for me. The jazz parts are really basic and seem to be there more just for superficial flavor, rather than being an integral part of the music. Call me unconvinced.


5.5/10

https://thewrithingsquares.bandcamp.com/

No Man’s Valley – Time Travel

Two first’s here; first psych rock album I’ve reviewed, and first non metal album I’ve reviewed this year. And as it turns out, both of those factors breed success. No Man’s Valley’s Time Travel is an exquisite, psychedelic rock record that doesn’t let on to the band’s current amateur and unknown status. The production is absolutely fantastic, sounding like a majorly influential psych rock album from the 80s-90s, rather than some random bumfuck’s record in 2016. Almost every track is a hit, but I especially have to point out Killer The Bees as my favorite. That sarod (?) line is going to be stuck in my head for a while now.

The trouble is for as much as I like this, it’s hard to come up with shit to say about it, for various reasons. For one, you do have complete stinkers like The Wovles are Coming, which is the only track on here that doesn’t tack advantage of the psychedelic atmosphere that tinges the record, giving it the sound of someone warping through the time continuum. It’s generic stoner rock and isn’t memorable in any way, which would’ve be too bad if the album gave us more chances to have memorable moments. Time Travel is just around as short as this review is going to be, not even clocking in at 35 minutes. It feels more like an extended EP than a proper album, and that doesn’t really fit what is apparently a concept album. It’s like giving us the abridged version of a much longer story. You know those classics abridged books that were popular back in the late 90s? They looked just as thick as the original books, but that’s because the font was huge and every other page had a picture? And I mean I loved them when I was like 11, and at that age I’m like “wow these are great, I’m so good at reading for getting through these hard books!”, even though they’re like 200 pages and have 40 pages worth of words. I sort of feel like that here. Obviously with tracks such as Love or Axe Murder, this album isn’t kids friendly, but it feels like a shortened version of a much greater story that we’re all missing out on. Perhaps this album is just a feeler album that the band is putting out before doing something greater. This is their debut album, so who knows what they will do in the future. However it would’ve been nice to get at least 10 more minutes of the time travel blues.

But who am I kidding, this is still great. I’d much rather albums be too short than too long, every single time, and even if there are two stinkers (the finale, Goon, is massively disappointing for it’s length and has awful piano sections), 6 out of 8 is good, especially when 5 of those are fantastic. I’m don’t have a massive amount of experience in this kind of music, so my perspective is quite limited, I’ll be the first to admit that. But for what it’s worth, I enjoyed the fuck out of this, and would recommend this to anyone who wants a trip from a relatively underground source.


7.75/10

Wolverine – Machina Viva

So I’m actually going to do a first for this review. Until now, I have never given a progressive metal album that didn’t have any other genre attached to it (such as folk metal, death metal, etc.) an 8 or higher. I’ve often bagged on about “oh man,  if only get to like generic prog, I really want to like this but I’m retarded and don’t have the capacity to enjoy simple things” etc. Well fear not jaded prog fans that view my site for some reason, hope as arrived. Wolverine just made me a believer with their new album Machina Viva, a depressing and soulful look journey that made me self discover what I really want from progressive metal.

And it started when I came to the realization that I loved this and they weren’t doing anything super weird. I know, I’ve said both that prog needs to push boundaries, and that there’s nothing wrong with being generic. I feel like both are true in certain situations, but to be honest I don’t give a shit about hypocrisy, whatever helps me make my point at the time is fine. If I said something contradictory to that earlier, then well, oops I guess, things change. For my argument that being generic is fine, I’ve often stipulated that bands still need to add something for me to latch onto. I can’t just hear wanky alt/power metal for 50 minutes and be impressed. Wolverine passes this with flying colors. There is a distinct depressive atmosphere to this album that remains consistent throughout the entire work, and one I don’t remember experiencing on any other album I’ve listened to. Prog is generally a happy genre, filled with wannabe goofballs that think wacky chugs are the way to go for experimental music. There is nothing wacky or chug reliant on Machina Viva. The whole record is not necessarily immersed in any riffs or particular melodies (though they aren’t too shabby on the melody department either, the main melody to Nemesis in unf worthy), but a direct focus on providing a calm and introspective atmosphere.

There is this unique melancholy to this album that you just don’t experience often in metal, outside of maybe depressive black metal. Though to be fair, this is barely metal. I would’ve reviewed it anyway, but this is maybe 15-20% metal, and the rest prog rock and electronic. Which fuck, I HAVE to talk about the electronic synths here.

One of the reasons the whole feel of the album is consistently mellow is how subtle the synths are. They add this ethereal, alien-like aspect to the music, that contrasts so well with the extremely human sound of the guitars. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like there’s this slight impersonal tone that in an abstract way further cements the feeling of isolation and loneliness that I get from this record. You know how they say depression is a warm blanket? That’s kind of how I feel here. The guitars and vocals are the depression, the synths are the blanket. There’s this warm sadness throughout the whole album that actually made it quite difficult for me to review until multiple listens (which is tough on time, this is over an hour long). I love how sometimes I even mistake the synths for other instruments, like horns or saxophones. I say that if the synths are good enough to make me think they’re using french horns, it’s a job well done.

I do want to touch briefly on some faults however. I can’t really pick a favorite track on this album, partially because they’re all so spectacular, but also because the album is very monotone in it’s flavor. It delivers melancholy, and ONLY melancholy. There needed to be more tracks like Shed, which put a different, even somewhat happier spin on the established canon of the record. Pile of Ash kind of does this, but I see that as more the generic acoustic guitar track that I guess is mandatory in prog albums. I don’t like how that track and Nemesis just end with no conclusion. Like they just stop, there’s some silence, then they move on to the next track. Takes me out of the album for a bit, it’s jarring. Also there’s the issue of Machina just being too quiet, not as a dynimc, but just from a production perspective. The studio should’ve turned the volume up slightly, that’s all. I would’ve liked a bit more oomph in the production, I feel like no matter how good your music is, if you can’t physically feel the music at all, it can only do so much. I’ve recently bagged on bands for being too noisy in their production, but I feel like there’s a difference between not being able to hear the instrumentals, and just not feeling the music in your gut at all. You need that little love tap to make the emotional punches really count.

I think if maybe one of the tracks would’ve been replaced with something a bit more diverse in nature this would’ve been a 9 easily. Machina feels a bit weak that doesn’t have the impact the run of tracks from Our Last Goodbye to Nemesis does. It’s weird, because Machina does try to be a bit more experimental with the electronics, but it isn’t experimental enough to justify it’s place on the album, and doesn’t have some of the tension building that Wolverine does so well on this record. Before I end I do have to speak about that, because this is important as fuck. I really am impressed by the fact that these guys were able to create meaningful buildup and climax without anything feeling like a forced crescendo. Everything feels like a natural evolution of the song, rather than trying to just pile on layers of noise until it breaks upon itself. That’s a mark of top notch composition skill, well done.

Other than that, there’s not much more to say. Color me very impressed, this is prog AOTY so far and I expect that to stay the same unless something drastic happens. Just goes to show you what a bit of care and subtlety can do to turn a record from pretty good to spectacular.


8.75/10

Cough – Still They Pray

You know it dawned on me while listening to this that it’s actually been around 5 months since I’ve reviewed a proper stoner doom album. Sure I reviewed Church of Misery’s new record in March, but that was much more stoner than doom. You really have to go back to Conan’s record Revengeance that I reviewed in mid February to find a proper heavy as fuck stoner doom album. And even then I didn’t like it at all. Even in general I’ve had a massive lack of doom metal reviews compared to last year, where I reviewed almost 50 I’m pretty sure. This year has been around 15 past the halfway mark. It’s just funny because doom metal (stoner doom in particular) was really the first metal genre that got me into the whole scene. Literally this whole episode of my life was started because one morning before school I decided to listen to Dopethrone. Last year I even commented while trashing some no name band from Russia’s stoner doom album that I didn’t think it was possible for me to hate a stoner doom album until now. A year later I barely listen to doom metal at all. Funny how things change.

I really do think if I had reviewed this last year I would probably be giving it a damn high score. I’m talking maybe high 8 range. This is in part due to the fact that the first half of Still They Pray is Cough’s shameful Electric Wizard worship. I mean worship that’s so hard they’re sucking that wizard’s cock like his cum is bong juice. I guess they can claim that it’s more atmospheric and less riff-centric than E-Wiz, but you’re splitting hairs at that point. Even right down to the exact guitar tone and vocal mannerisms, this is some shameful riff-off shit. Now that sounds like I’m shit talking them, and I am, but only for being uncreative. Musically, if you need to rip-off a band, Electric Wizard is a pretty damn good band to rip off in my opinion (as if that wasn’t obvious by this site’s name). And again, due to this, a year ago I would’ve praised the fuck out of this. But I have some more miles on me now. I’ve seen a fair amount of shit, and that shit’s told me there’s better shit than this shit right here. My pants no longer get soaked by anything ridiculously heavy, I am a more refined man, who would rather listen to poorly played guitars screech randomly while some Norwegian guy yells about how much he wants to kill black people and Christians, than a few British dudes playing extremely heavy blues rock and singing about weed. Artistic merit and whatnot.

But man, thank god albums come in two halves, right? Yeah, the first half is just copying the kings of their genre in a pretty correct but overdone way (I mean fuck, not even the band literally named Dopethrone copies this hard). But the second half is where the album really starts. Let it Bleed is the top track on this album, featuring a MUCH more subdued, almost heart aching, mostly instrumental doom experience that doesn’t let up at all until the end of the album. The final four tracks are like almost an album by themselves, a weed induced journey through your mind and soul. It’s the first time I’ve ever felt sad listening to a stoner doom album. They have this reflective quality in them that’s almost meditative in a way. I mean fuck me, those strained vocals on The Wounding Hours get to me man. Those don’t sound like far out stoned vocals, those sound like cries for help. And the organ to end the track just… fuck man. Since when does music for cheech and chong make me soft in the dong? I will say that the closer, the title track Still They Pray is a bit weak. Yes, it’s nice to have that cooldown with the clean vocals and acoustic guitar, but I really wanted that held organ chord to end the whole thing. Would’ve bee much more powerful, and brought the album time down slightly (which would be good, this shit’s 68 minutes long).

When Cough isn’t being a copycat, they make some great shit. I get it, this produced by one of the dudes from Electric Wizard, so they’re going to leave their mark somewhere. But it would’ve been nice if I hadn’t had to wait through around 35 minutes of ok music to get to the good part. But when the good part hits, it’s hits it harder than a junkie going through a breakup, delivering a uniquely somber, psychedelic, and satisfying experience that I had only wished I could have experienced a bit longer.


7.25/10

Wo Fat – Midnight Cometh

You know what the worst part about reviewing is? Contrary to what most people think, it’s not listening to bad albums. Bad albums are actually part of the fun of reviewing. I mean sure, it’s a painful listen, but you get a story out of it, and more importantly, you got a lot of shit to write about. I’d say it’s actually easier to write a review of an album you hate than an album you love, at least for me. Some of my best reviews in my opinion are just me taking a giant Cleveland Steamer on an album in some interesting ways. Great albums are fun to review to, but it’s hard to actually get fun with the review itself. The fun is in finding great albums, but the review seems more like a formality, and there’s always this notion that you have to write something grand and amazing for some of the top albums of the year. Plus it’s just more fun shit talking something that praising something, I’ll admit that right here.

No, the worst part about reviewing is having to listen to boring albums. Soulless albums, lifeless albums, albums that you have nothing to say about but still have to crank a few hundred words anyway. You can get creative with how you do that, but it’s always a struggle, and you can’t even take solace in knowing you destroyed something with your words. I mean yeah, theoretically you can just not review them, but then you’re basically missing an entire section of your (or at least, my) rating scale. Plus if they’re popular enough, sometimes you literally just can’t ignore them. Wo Fat’s Midnight Cometh falls somewhere in-between, an album that I could probably ignore, but I already spent the 50 minutes listening to it, and it has enough of a following that I might as well touch upon it anyway.

As implied by my previous statements, yeah this shit’s boring as fuck. Literally any stoner band with enough of a budget could make this. I’ll give it at least some credit, some of the riffs are ok, and the occasional tribal/beat poetry-like drumming is kinda cool. But that’s all the points this album’s gonna get from me. I can’t slam it because nothing here is exactly bad, but fuck this was annoying to get through. Literally 50 minutes of nauseating sameness. I mean sameness isn’t always bad. I’ve been on a bit of a deathgrind binge (well, starting to be at least) and I’ve learned that there’s a difference between good sameness and bad sameness.

Sameness that’s easy to swallow and nice to listen to is ok. I can listen to 40 minutes of deathgrind and just accept it for what it is. Fun riffs, cool atmosphere, nothing that’s going to massively challenge me other than just being br00)))))ooooo0tal. It’s nice to listen to even if there isn’t much diversity. Midnight however is the bad kind of sameness. It’s loud, obnoxious, trying to not be same while still be awfully uneventful, basically just a chore to listen to. Essentially, one kind of sameness is easy to swallow, and the other is trying to blend different kinds of flavors together and still tasting exactly the same. They’re both bland, but at least one kind doesn’t try to shit on your digestive system. Or in this case, ears.


4.25/10

Slutet – Slutet

So originally I was going to open this review up for  a joke saying that the band’s name sounded like an 1890’s brothel term. I can’t do that however, because this album goes beyond jokes. Not in the “wow this is such an amazing album” way, but in the “what the fuck did I just listen to” way. When I got this it was tagged as experimental black metal, which I figured “ok, I’ll get to review something a bit out of the ordinary. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover a cool band no one knows about”. What I didn’t think it would be, was basically an underground cult’s manifesto of some sort

The album opens up with samples of the 9/11 attack news coverage, segueing int this sort of black rock or sorts? Like it’s not black metal, but it kinda sounds enough like black metal while still being rock, to the point where I can’t even describe what genre it is. The “singer” sounds like a side character nigga from Rocky Horror Picture Show trying to do black metal vocals, while simultaneously giving a schizophrenic sermon on the street of a major city about how the world will end. Fitting, because the commune this band formed is called “The End Commune”. The tracks goes on like this for 10 minutes before ending with a sample of a jihadist yelling “Allahur Ackbar” and blowing himself up. It gets weirder from there.

Track 2, Raped Beauty Sleep, continues in the same style as track 1, while managing to get even creepier with some more whispered vocals. Track 3 is a pretty nice filler black rock (I don’t really know how else to describe it) track, but the real shit comes in track 4. This is a 22 minute dirge that starts off with some cool dark jazz elements with guitars playing one riff in the background. And throughout the entire song that riff just keeps growing with intensity. Towards the end you have this riffs growing and growing with “samples” of women being tortured in the background. I put that in quotes because they sure don’t sound like they’re from a movie or something. At one point one of the women cries out in her loudest voice possible “I. AM. A. HUMAN. BEING!”. And fuck me if I didn’t get chills for all the wrong reasons.

I’ll admit it, I’m a total pussy. I hate horror movies, and always get freaked out at stupid stuff like jump scares. I remember when I was a teenager I would go on 4chan’s /x/ board (this was around 2010, when there was actually some scary shit there), which if you don’t know is the paranormal board on the site. I’d go there for an hour late at night and go to bed with my head under the covers scared as shit. I would watch those “hidden footage” Japanese ghost captures and I would never be able to finish them because I would get freaked so hard. I still do that shit. I listen to stuff like black metal because in my head I know it’s all fake. I mean sure, some of those artists do believe what they’re saying, and sure, a very select few actually do some fucked up shit. But even then, I can remain blissfully unaware and pretend it’s all fairy tales. This shit I’m not so sure I can do that. You may ask “how do you know it’s not fake”? Well, technically I don’t, but I found their blogspot (http://theendcommune.blogspot.com/ NSFW) and…. yeah. This shit reads like something made by true loonies. Apparently this guys have a reputation for being fucked up, and their music sure serves that well. When those women are screaming, I genuinely think there’s a chance, even for only a second, that those might actually have been recordings of women they dragged into their chamber and did shit with.

I’m going to do something I’ve never done before, which is give something a full review, but not rate it. I feel like the music here isn’t the point. No numerical score would justify what’s in this record. If this is all fake, if this is all for show, if those samples are just from a movie, and if all of what I’m hearing is part of an act, then congratulations, you fucking got me. I’m spooked.


Unrated

FYI, I putting the recommended tag on this despite not giving it a 7, simply because this is interesting enough as a possible look at the fucked up underground of civilized society, and to me, that’s enough to give it the tag.

Fates Warning – Theories of Flight

I don’t think I’ve ever so desperately wanted to like an album in my whole life than this one. I don’t even know why, it’s not like it’s a genre of music I love. Generic prog is something I have a hateboner for in all forms, so this would seem to be the exact thing I would want to hate. Maybe it’s because I didn’t really appreciate Fates Warning’s 80s stuff, so I want to make up for that by giving them credit for what they’re doing now. Maybe it’s just the acclaim Theories of Flight has gotten so far. Regardless, the result is I couldn’t get myself to like this. The album feels like a disingenuous attempt at prog that ends up having more in common with pop rock than any form of progressive metal.

You know, maybe I wanted to like this so bad because From the Rooftops is actually really good. The intro is as stellar a beginning to an album as you can have, the rest of the track being charged with emotion, and a great lead into the album. But then on the 3rd track you have the chorus to SOS. Just what in the name of Jesus Christ’s hairy asshole is that fucking chorus? That sounds like a pop rock song. I would hear that shit on the radio in the mid 2000s as my mom drives me to middle school, what the fuck. And there’s shit like that on the album all the time. Various sections of songs that I can’t tell if the band is trying too hard or absolutely not trying at all. The Light and Shade of Things is fucking great, but White Flag again sounds like they’re pandering to moms and their 14 year old sons from 2007. I don’t understand, sometimes this is an awesome, technical, and wickedly catchy progressive metal album, and the other times it’s like the band sold the fuck out but didn’t want people to catch on to that fact.

Let me be clear, nothing on this album is astonishing. You’ve heard this shit before if you’ve heard 10 prog metal albums from after 2005. But when it’s clicking, it can convey some pretty intense emotions. As mentioned before, The Light sounds like a real diverse prog opus, albeit in a modern sense, and watered down on the pretension. It’s the shorter tracks that sound like complete fucking filler. Theories of Flight is the most filler track you could possibly put on your album, and it’s the closer. I just, I don’t know what possible purpose it serves on the album. It’s not even really a song, it’s just staticy noise and samples with guitar noodling. Why the fuck even put this on here? What does it add to the album that The Ghosts of Home (a 10 minute prog journey that is almost on part with The Light and Shade of Things) doesn’t?

I really feel like this deserves a rating in the 5 range, I really do. But I can’t give it that. Because even though it’s lows are definitely low, when it’s good, it rests somewhere in the high 7 range consistently. And I don’t know, sometimes you just enjoy records even though all analysis points it towards not being great. This record is like that one awkward kid you should absolutely dislike on every level, but for some reason you can’t help feel a mixture of sympathy and shame for. You feel guilty that you don’t like it, so you give it better treatment. Music is weird man.


6/10

Katatonia – The Falls of Hearts

This album is like finding out your second favorite baseball team lost an early regularly season game.

This album is like stubbing your toe on a beanbag chair.

This album is like having a breakfast sandwhich from Burger King.

This album is like getting a B- as a final grade for a class and your parents going “well that’s not too bad I guess, try harder next term honey!”.

This album is like waking up 20 minutes before your alarm is supposed to go off.

This album is listed on the WWF’s endangered species list, but doesn’t have any danger signification next to it because it’s not quite there yet.

This album is like gathering your whole family to go to Olive Garden, then realizing Olive Garden isn’t actually that good, but you get unlimited salad and breadsticks so it’s w/e.

This album is that B student kid at your middle school who really liked dinosuars but never spoke in class and became a gas station attendant at Arco.

When you buy this album it comes with one free, unscented, plain red sticker.

If this album were a country it would be Latvia.

This album is like if pudding tasted like tapioca.

This album is like finding out the co-creator of the Simpsons died last year.

This album is like buying adderall off the street, using it 3 times, then pitching it because it’s “not your thing” and you don’t want to get in trouble.

This album was certainly an album I listened to and can’t really comment on any further other than making up mediocre roasts that sound like they came from a 19 year old’s twitter page. Could be worse.


5.75/10

Haken – Affinity

Very rarely do I listen to an album more than twice when reviewing it. This is almost entirely due to the fact that I’m massively stubborn, and very rarely does my opinion of an album change after first listen. I can count on one hand the number of times it’s changed drastically (three). Affinity is an exception, however not quite to the point of me being able to say I loved my listening experience. Initially I was bored by the generic chord changes, cheesy atmosphere, and the overall sound of a dime a dozen prog album. I gave it a 3/10 and moved on. A month later however, here I am, giving it over double the score I would’ve given it at the time of initial review. Have I changed? Not really. I got a bit of an appreciation for “generic” chord progressions, but other than that I’ve mostly stayed the same. The one thing that has changed is that I didn’t go into it desperately wanting to hate it. Any album that is labeled a generic prog metal/rock is almost always an instant dislike for me, and considering Haken has been a poster boy for generic, over the top, and cheesy modern prog, I went into the album wanting to hate it, and that’s what I got. On second chance however, I have come to appreciate it for what it is, while still maintaining that it has some serious flaws.

The two biggest elements that have been added to Haken’s repertoire are heavy djent and electronic influences, though RateYourMusic apparently disagrees, because prog fanboys are retarded. While on the surface those aspects seem like not only typical sellout tropes for prog bands, but also should be a massive annoyance on the listener. And to a degree that’s right. On The Architect these elements are combined into an extremely long opus that’s full of variety, but none of it enjoyable or even remotely worth making a track that long for. I very much actually enjoyed tracks like 1985 and Earthrise, despite their over the top and corny as all fuck faux 80s aesthetic (hence the faux retro cover). And the djenty, off rhythmic aspects of The Endless Knot actually makes for a killer track to bob your head to. Hell, generally speaking I actually enjoyed most of the fake aesthetic and djent aspects of this album. Sans the weird brostep like drop on Endless Knot (which actually prevented it from being the best track on the album), even the electronic aspects were handled with some appropriate restraint. But The Architect just takes all of what Haken was doing right, dressed it up in a clown suite, strapped to a gigantic Garfield balloon, and sent it off in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade with a sign attached reading “kill me”.

However overall, while I still can’t really recommend this as something I really like, I can see why people like it, and if anything present a precedent for me not to automatically shit on any modern prog that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. Because just because you didn’t change the shape of music, doesn’t mean you didn’t release an acceptable album, even if that’s the supposed purpose of your genre.


6.75/10