Pensées Nocturnes – À boire et à manger

My initial reaction to this album was of immense disgust and displeasure. There is such a thing as trying too hard to go for an aesthetic. I understand an album trying to sound french, but there’s a difference between sounding french, and shitting baguettes and snail guts while a mime silently sobs in the background. I could feel myself growing fatter and bitchier, my skin starting to glow pale white, and I had almost completed my full transformation into a high school goth girl while this album played. However as I listened, I began to realize that despite my initial objections, and despite my undying disdain for albums that try too hard to get a certain sound, I had to admit that this shit actually kinda works.

Sure, the saxophones, accordions, operatic female vocals, violins, bass, acoustic guitars, piano, circus samples and so forth was a lot to take in. At times too much. But I had to think, if I were to try to make french boutique black metal, could I really do any better? Objections to the concept aside, taking it for what it is, could it have been executed better? The answer I believe is an honest to god no. As deplorable as the Satie cover could’ve been, it’s probably the best black metal cover a Satie piece I will ever hear. In fact as much as it pains me to say it, that’s probably the best track on the album. Sure there’s the issue of 80% of the album being a variation on the same chord progression, but the kind of music it’s based on is not exactly variable in nature.

I can’t really say I loved this album, but taking it for what it’s worth, I feel like this is an interesting enough take on black metal, that’s done in a way that’s not quite obnoxious enough to be unbearable, and for that, I have to at least give it a seal of recommendation, if anything else for the fact that it’s a curiosity.


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.


Ihsahn – Arktis

You know that autistic friend you have that doesn’t really act autistic? Like, for the most part, he’s completely normal, talks to people well, communicates fine, doesn’t do anything remarkably strange, that sort of thing. But at the same time, there’s always something a tad off about their mannerisms? Like their speech pattern might be a tad abnormal, they might accidentally interrupt you before saying sorry, and you can tell they have trouble making eye contact. And then once in a while, they’ll just ask a question or say something that’s just totally off and bizzare, to the point of being inappropriate, and then like an hour later they apologize? That’s this album. Arktis is full of great music, well constructed songs, and chilling harmonies, but hindered by this innate bit of awkwardness in everything it does.

I have to first talk about the vocals. The harsh vocals are definitely not optimal. Do they “work”, I mean sure. Lots of things can “work”. Whipped cream on a hamburger “works”, but I don’t think anyone in their right mind would say it’s a good idea in most situations. Ihsahn seems to be desperately trying to have a connection to his black metal roots in an album that aside from the vocals, is devoid of any of it. There’s blast beats i think twice on the entire album, and even if you argue the guitar tone is sometimes “black metalish”, note that a black metal guitar tone is not unique to black metal. If anything this has more in common with Alt metal than black metal. Back to the point, the vocals don’t work because nothing about the music supports them. They sound just out of place with the music being just heavy prog metal with fucking industrial and jazz influences. Clean vocals would improve the music substantially, and this is proven every time the clean vocals do come in on this record. Now, do they exactly ruin the music, not really.  But the point isn’t that they make the album bad, it’s that they hinder the album from being it’s best.

It’s the same with the random ass industrial synths. For fucks sake South Winds is half a dance track. Nothing else in the entire album sounds like it, and despite the fact that on repeated listens, it is kind of a cool track, it doesn’t fit with the theme of the album. Or at least it wouldn’t if the album even had a theme.

My biggest critique of Arktis is it’s lack of unifying elements. Musically, there’s nothing that unifies this album as album rather than a collection of songs. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but the problem is there are enough stylistic consistencies to make it so that it doesn’t sound like a collection of songs, but not enough to create a full picture of a complete album. The closest thing I can think of is that they have a heavy guitar sound, but you also have tracks like Crooked Red Line which sounds like it belongs in an entirely different album. Again, it’s not exactly obvious to the point of completely detracting from any quality music that’s put forth, but it’s something I noticed and the various weird quirks in each track managed to take me out of the album more than they did to keep me interested in it.

And then you have Celestial Violence. Where the actual fuck was that the whole record? The large majority of the time you have what is essentially heavy sporkprog with raspy harsh vocals because the frontman doesn’t want to let go of his origins, and then suddenly to close the album we get what would happen if Muse had continued to make good music after 2006. The have the haunting piano, fantastic orchestration, and the buildup to a brilliant climax. I mean yeah, that climax lasts the entire final minute of the song, and consists nothing of overly euphoric guitars and the singer saying the title of the song, but still. It’s a pretty large leap in quality from the rest of the album and makes me wonder why nothing else really approached that the rest of the way.

Despite me shitting on this album for most of the review, this was actually a very decent listen. All of the faults I listed were nothing super substantial, just reasons why I couldn’t rate this higher. At it’s core, Ihsahn has created an album full of fun, if maybe confusing and annoying quirks, centered around extremely heavy guitars and some gorgeous harmonies on occasion. If only it didn’t get in its own way by trying too hard to be unique.


Ferium – Behind the Black Eyes

To be honest, for the large majority of this record, I feel like I just don’t have too much of an opinion other than it sounds great. I was really trying to determine what kind of hardcore this is, or if it’s just groove metal. In the end I figured it doesn’t matter, although I guess it’s more groove metal. In general it was just a good album that had some good riffs, good vocals, and was solid all around, but the tracks were a bit too short, and there wasn’t too much meat here. And then A Free Man happened. That is legitimately the greatest groove metal track I’ve ever heard. That main riff still haunts me as I write this. I didn’t think it was possible for chugs to make me nearly cry, but fuck it happened man. It’s like super emotional, but it doesn’t seem forced like so much else that has any sort of core or groove influence in it. I really wish the rest of the album had more longer, a bit more emotive tracks that feel like the band put their heart and soul into it. Right now it’s a good record with solid musical material, but I don’t think it’s really super special in any way, other than being groove metal that isn’t shit. Still worth checking out I think.


Vredehammer – Violator

#quality 👌 generic stuff. Mostly just solid, but it has a couple of riffs that kill harder than ebola, especially on the title track. Too short though, I don’t know why you make #quality 👌 mmm yeah that’s some good shit right there, real good stuff 👌 metal and then make it 33 minutes. It’s like when you get a steak at a really expensive restaurant and it’s some bullshit like 5oz, except you’re getting this meal at just a really nice small town diner, so it’s a bullshit size without the beef that comes from cows who got spas or something.


Augrimmer – Moth and the Moon

I feel like you can’t really fully get the same effect unless you listen to this album late at night. It feels sort of like a black metal lullaby, except with enough of an edge to it to not sound super soft. Nothing particularly stands out here, but it’s extremely well rounded, never really having a moment that’s particularly jarring or bad enough to take you out of the album. It can at times feel a bit frightening, and others extremely meditative, sometimes a bit of both. Like Nyquil spiked with a bit of alcohol. Solid stuff, worth a listen.