Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Desiderium – An Image of Solitude (Curt’s review)

     By definition “Desiderium” is what one would consider a “bedroom black metal” band although I hope they become recognized as something much more than that.  Desiderium are loaded with the “post rock” style melodies that have been taking over black metal as of late and transforming “black metal” into something new entirely.  The bands that Desiderium remind me of most strongly are Agalloch and Alcest.  With those two comparisons in mind you already know whether or not you like this band.

    This album starts off with an obnoxiously long piano intro that reminds me a little too much of Burzum’s “Han Som Reiste” with the constant stream of quarter notes.  This intro then flows into the song “Forest of Forgotten Memories” which also has an intro rendering the first song rather pointless in my opinion.  This is a minor problem because a person can easily skip the first song and be left with a brilliant 5 song album. 

     What sets this band apart from other Starbucks drinking hipster black metal acts is the progressive metal influence.  The song “Pale Cloak of Dawn” is a prime example of this.  About half way through the song everything stops except the bass (did I mention you can hear the bass) and a jazzy melody comes in that wouldn’t be out of place on a Cynic album.  There are a lot of different ideas presented on this release and there are always lots of things going on musically but at no point does it ever feel cluttered or “over the top.”  

     The guitar work is very good; there are excellent solos and melodies over most of the riffs.  It would seem that Phillip is a very proficient guitarist as he demonstrates tremendous amounts of talent in his guitar work.  The vocals are excellent, I can literally understand every word Michael says without having to strain my ears.  There are two styles of vocals present; a harsh rasp (closely resembling Agalloch) and a strong powerful clean delivery.  The clean vocals are very strong but only show up in the last two songs for brief moments.  I would have liked to hear more clean vocals on this release, hopefully there will be more on future releases.  The drums are programmed very well and do not distract from the music in any way shape or form.  There is a heavy synth presence which adds depth and character to the album without distracting from the guitars.     

     My personal favorite track would have to be the last one “The Passing of Life from Troubled Eyes.”  This is the most varied song on the album by far, it has clean vocals in the chorus and the rest of the song seamlessly flows from slow hypnotic doom metal to blistering fast black metal with tremolo riffs and blast-beats.  This song finishes off the album with a somber sounding symphonic part that sounds about 100 times cooler than the intro.  If you are a fan of “shoe-gaze/post rock” influenced black metal I recommend you download this ASAP!  If you are looking for “blastbeats of blasphemy” drenched in “hate static” you WILL be disappointed. 

Curt’s rating: 90% 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Desiderium – An Image of Solitude (Tex's Review)

Desiderium is a two-man black metal project. However, unlike the droves of atrocious bedroom black metal polluting the world today, Desiderium’s material is well thought out, well written and enjoyable to listen to. Desiderium plays a symphonic, often progressive breed of black metal that reminds me specifically of Agalloch and later Immortal.

The album starts with an ambient synth intro which at just under five minutes stretches far beyond what it should have. However, when the first song “Forest of Forgotten Memories” starts the album takes off in a big way. The song is full of sorrowful melodies and layers of guitars and synths. The meandering song structure of this and all songs on the album contain doomy plodding parts, blasty intense sections and beautiful synth breaks and guitar solos.

The guitar work on this release is truly fantastic. As much as I love ceaseless tremolo picked droning for an entire album, it’s great to hear some actual riffs on an underground black metal release! The soloing is not only competent, which in itself would be a blessing, but is really top notch stuff including great phrasing on the melodic parts and bouts of shredding used tastefully throughout, especially in the track “Pale Cloak of Dawn”. The synth work serves to add both melody and texture to the release without ever feeling overpowering or over the top cheesy. The synth often backs the guitars or playing counterpoint melodies for some great entwined, dense pieces of music.

The harsh vocals are a competent, if somewhat monotone midrange gargle. They fit the music well enough but are underwhelming compared to the great music and don’t sit very comfortably in the mix. The clean vocals that pop up on the last two songs “Waldeinsamkeit” and “The Passing of Life From Troubled Eyes” are fantastic and I would have liked to hear them utilized more in the other songs. Lyrically the album focuses on mountains, forests, ravens etc., well written, sorrowful but never melodramatic.  Another plus for this album is the competence of the drum programming. The drums are composed well, never monotonous and never draw attention to their synthetic nature. The mix and production are also far beyond your usual black metal project, clean clear and balanced without sounding overproduced.

While this album is mostly a winner, the songs can get a bit too meandering with not enough focus, and not every song had to be in the seven to nine minute range. While the melodies and riffs are great, they can start to sound a bit samey near the end of the album. It took me quite a few listens to fully appreciate everything and before anything jumped out as being super memorable, but I certainly didn’t mind listening over and over again! With a bit more focus and tightness in the song writing this could have been amazing. As it is, it’s still really good progressive black metal.

Tex's rating: 86%

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Damnum Animus – Sanity: The Lies of the Father (Tex's Review)

     I find myself constantly bitching about bands that overuse synths to the point of the guitars and bass no longer serving any purpose in the music other than to “be metal”. I do love epic synths in my metal, but even some great bands like Summoning or Rhapsody, while making great music, can really overdo it and sometimes render the use of guitar rather pointless. Damnum Animus seems to have solved this problem by ditching the guitars altogether and completely focusing on the synth!

     All the riffs and melodies on this demo are comprised of layers and layers of synth that blend together to create a wall of epic, sorrowful sound. The lack of guitars lends all the layers of synth some room to breathe and the result is a very airy, almost majestic sound. I do feel some guitar could have served to beef up the overall sound and add a bit of edge to the songs, but its absence isn’t missed much, and this demo most certainly still sounds “metal” to my ears without it.

     The vocals are pretty low in the mix and soaked in reverb, nothing out of place for an ambient black metal release. However, they sound more professional than a lot of underground one-man bands, as does the sound of pretty much everything on this demo.

     The compositions ebb and flow nicely, almost hypnotically, much like the aforementioned Summoning and band cited influence Burzum. However, all three songs are at the same tempo with the same basic drum beat with little variation. The mood also changes very little throughout the demo, aside from the last track “The Lies of the Father” which is decidedly more “evil” sounding. So, while the music here is well thought out and composed and nice to listen to, the songs do sound too similar to each other and  seem to blend together, and not in a particularly good way. The songs also start and end rather abruptly, which can be jarring in an otherwise dreamy listening experience.

    Overall, this is really good ambient black metal / dark ambient / whateverthefuckyouwanttocallit. If you’re a fan of this style, it’s certainly worth checking out. Some more variety in textures, melodies, tempo and mood would be appreciated, but it’s still a good piece of ambient, synth driven metal.

Tex's review: 78%

Damnum Animus - Sanity: the Lies of the Father (Curt's Review)

     Imagine that you are Frodo Baggins and you are standing before the gates of Mordor, you are over whelmed by their splendor and beauty, but at the same time consumed with the fear they represent.  This is the atmosphere Damnum Animus's music creates; dark, beautiful and ominous.

     When I listen to this band the first influence that I can pick up on is Summoning.  The vocals are almost identical to the reverb soaked harsh whispers of summoning and the synth driven melodies are also very similar.  Despite the similarities, this band doesn't sound like Avathar, Nazgul or any of the other bands that can only be described as "sounding like Summoning."

     The main characteristic that makes this band different from all of the other hoards of "Summoning-esque" style black metal is the lack of guitars.  The fact that this band literary has no guitars is going to turn off a LOT of listeners and is going to cause annoying sub-genre debates as to whether or not this band is "dark ambient" or "symphonic black metal" or "ambient."  The lack of guitars doesn't  seem like a gimmick or a mistake, there is nothing ostentatious or pretentious about it, it's simply an aesthetic choice the artist chose to make.  This brings up another point; what is the point of even having guitar in this music?  The main melodies are played on synth and the guitar wouldn't do anything except tremolo a couple of cords in the background, causing the band from going to "sounding like Summoning" to "trying to be Summoning."

     Another trait this band has that makes it different from all the other bands trying to make a name for themselves with this style, is the shorter song lengths.  The average song length on a Summoning album is about 8-10 minutes, whilst Damnum Animus are content on leaving the songs around the 5:30 mark, which prevents the listener from becoming bored of them.

     The only weaknesses are the fact that the songs don't have endings, they just sort of stop.  I also don't like how the fist song relies too strongly on the same pattern I have heard in over nine thousand different bands.  You know what I am talking about: "chord 1, chord 2, chord 3, chord 2."  This is a small complaint and is to be expected from a bands first release.  All in all this really exceeded my expectations and I look forward to hearing more from this band.

Curt's Review: 85%

Download here  http://damnumanimus.bandcamp.com/

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Amputation Spree – Terminal Velocity (Tex's Review)

     When I saw the band name, EP title and song titles I was ready for some brutal old school gorefest that would leave me squealing like a recently defiled schoolgirl. That turned out not to be the case, but what we have here is a decent work of modern “brutal” death metal.

     The main problem with this release is the severe lack of riffs. A lot of the time the songs are comprised of a few chords either chugging along or ringing out over a mid to slow paced drum beat, even trudging dangerously close to “breakdown” territory. I’m assuming this is where the band gets its “brutal” moniker from, but for me this kind of riffing (or lack thereof) is just jarring rather than heavy or brutal and serves mostly to derail the good ideas in the songs.

     Thankfully there are a lot of good ideas on this EP. Some great ones in fact! The use of synths in both “Third World Genocide Machine” and “Sudden Monolithic Realization of Chaos and Suffering” were a great unexpected touch that lends these songs some atmosphere while lending an epic flavour reminiscent of the use of synth in works by Nile and Nocturnus. These are also subsequently the best tracks on the EP, the latter containing a fantastic melodic solo section that I wish wasn’t so low in the mix or bookended by chuggy breakdowns. The absolute highlight of the EP is the vocal work which is truly brutal, consistent and professional sounding throughout the entire release.

     Unfortunately, the really great sections are hampered by the aforementioned lack of riffs, a plodding pace throughout and some bizarre choices in song structure. The artwork of the EP made me instantly think there might be some Human era Death style writing and structure going on here, but when the songs get unconventional they get clunky and almost lost. Especially bewildering is the fade-out-fade-in parts in “Addicting to Beheading Children Part II” (10 bonus points for this song title, btw). The first time it seemed kind of original and cool, even if a little oddly placed, but having it several times in one song just doesn’t work.

     While I may seem pretty critical, the parts that are good really are quite good, and the parts that aren’t don’t ruin the EP, even if they are abundant. While it completely defied my expectations and isn’t really the kind of death metal I’m into, with time and refinement this band could put out something really cool.

Tex's review:  65%

Friday, 17 June 2011

Amputation Spree - Terminal Velocity (Curt's Review)

     Amputation Spree are a Brutal Death Metal project from the united states, there is only one member; Spencer Van Dyk, who also plays guitar in another band called "Acrasia."  I hate to say it but I much prefer the music in Acrasia and after listening to them I realize that Spencer is not living up to his full potential.

     When I first heard the name of this EP I was expecting something a lot different from what I actually heard.  Terminal Velocity is the speed an object reaches when it cannot physically go any faster due to the forces acting on it.  Keeping this in mind I expected to hear some really fast music.

     The EP opens up with a really cool synth melody that wouldn't be out of place on a funeral doom album, the guitars quickly come in and deliver some slow crushing riffing which doesn't actually build up to anything.  Don't get me wrong, there are a lot of cool riffs present, but it always stays at the same slow to mid pace level.  I would personally really like to hear some blasting and some tremolo riffs to add a little bit of chaos to the mix.  The whole time I am listening to this I am feeling like it is building up to a climax that never actually happens.

     There are some positive attributes to this EP as well.  The production is thick and crushing and works perfectly with the music.  The vocals are also brilliant and one of the best parts, they are deep and powerful.  The last song "Sudden Monolithic Realization of Chaos and Suffering" is awesome!  It is dark and crushing, the synth adds to this dark atmosphere and you feel totally consumed in it.  There is a Melodic Guitar solo that adds tremendously to this track and reminds me of fellow death metallers "Prostitute Disfigurement."  

     What we have here is a weak release by a strong musician.  I think that on future releases Spencer should ether go in an "all out brutal assault" with fast chaotic guitar parts like "Gortuary" or go for a slow atmospheric doom metal approach like "Ahab" or "Esoteric."  My biggest concern with this EP is that is too "Middle of the Road" and never actually reaches "Terminal Velocity."  Although I said some negative things about this release I am looking forward to hearing what "Amputation Spree" will release next.

Download this EP and let me know what you think in the comment section.

I also think that everyone should check out "Acrasia"

Curt's Review: 65% (If I hadn't heard "Acrasia" it would have been much higher)