Sunday, March 22, 2015

Enslaved and YOB with Ecstatic Vision and Kosmograd @ The Opera House, Toronto March 19, 2015

YOB killing it

Sometimes there's more to a show than just the bands playing it. When Enslaved and YOB come to town it's kind of a big deal for the underground metal fans. People show up, giving homebody shmucks like me a chance to meet all kinds of people I only know online. In this case I was attending a show that a bunch of my colleagues were also showing up for. After almost 3 years of writing for that site I finally got to meet Sean Palmerston, Laura Weibe, and Adam Wills. Renee and Danielle were there too but I didn't have the chance to meet them. I was also finally introduced to Profound Lore Records' Chris Bruni. While it was awesome to finally meet all them, a show is less than ideal for conversation. But I'll take it! On to the show.

Local band Kosmograd opened the show. I'll be honest. I wasn't paying that much attention. I was trying to chat with the above people, survey the lay of the land for later and check out the merch booths, where I didn't see Kim Kelly who was travelling with YOB because she got denied by some jerk at the border. But, what little I picked up sounded tight and they're stage presence was good. I was just distracted.

Heavy psych band Ecstatic Vision took the stage next. I'd watched some video of them performing at St. Vitus Bar in NY and they started off with the same song I watched. The biggest impression they left on me was passion. Dudes were either 110% into their art or blitzed on something. Or both. Their psychedelic heavy rock was sort of a mix of Milking the Stars-type Monster Magnet and Hawkwind jams. I bet I'd totally dig it on record in the comfort of my own home but in the live environment it kind of fell flat. I was also stone cold sober so that contributed but their energy was....different.

Here's why I made the trek to The Big Smoke. The almighty, incomparable YOB! Last year's Clearing the Path to Ascend is one of those instant classic albums that I will undoubtedly spin for my whole life. Needless to say I was excited. A handful of us found a nice spot near but not too near the stage to not only see and hear the doom trio but feel them. With only a 50 minute set time (a bigger travesty I have never seen) they could only get three songs in. All three were off Clearing and that was okay with me and the rest of the crowd that appeared just as buzzed about it as I was. From the opening sweep of "In Our Blood" to the closing notes of "Marrow" YOB kept the crowd entranced with their immensely powerful doom full of deep emotion. I'm sure I wasn't the only one that was totally taken over and let my eyes close, head tip back and just take it in all the massive and moving doom metered out by guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt and bassist Aaron Reiseberg.
The rolling rumble of drummer Travis Foster during "Nothing to Win" got things moving, sparking a sad three-man mosh pit right in front of me. I say it's sad because despite the jumped up tempo, YOB is not mosh music. It was short-lived however as the band settled into "Marrow" to close out the set. Here's where they excel at separating body and mind. As I stood transfixed, eyes closed, nothing was touching me but the music. I couldn't even feel my aching feet. It was like my body was floating in a vessel of sound, bouyed by the invisible waves and completely unaware of any other stimuli. It was exactly what I wanted. And despite my expectations, I didn't cry! Very nearly did but maybe I was just too happy to be there to break the dam. THAT'S what live music is all about.
YOB delivered. Plain and simple. They owned the stage. I wasn't alone in wishing they could play for 2 hours but that wasn't to be on this night. Enslaved was too take up arms next.

I had to do some hardcore catching up on the Enslaved discography before coming to the show. I had some unprecedented time to waste on YouTube so I took advantage and schooled myself. After listening to Frost and every full-length from Below the Lights on, including new album In Times, Vertebrae is still my favourite. Even with those albums in my recent memory I still didn't know what song it was unless Grutle Kjellson announced it. I started mere feet from the bassist/vocalist but moved near the back of the venue after one song so I could actually hear the band. Sound down front was limited to percussion, vocals and bass. Closer to the back I could hear Herbrand Larsen's keys and the guitars of Ivar Bjornson and Ice Dale ripping out their intense black metal struck with their growing prog influences.
Enslaved ran through a 90 minute set covering quite a wide range of their history displaying their excellent musicianship and almost over-the-top showmanship. Total rock stars. At least on stage. I can't speak to anything other than that but I didn't see them out with the crowd at all so.... Enslaved fans were not disappointed however. Despite the sub-par sound the crowd was into it. Fists in the air, heads bangin', lyrics sung. Just as it should be. Black metal can be a tricky proposition in the live environment but it didn't seem to bother the floor. At least once though the band went into one of their more progressive passages and it sucked the life right out of the room. You gotta keep that momentum going! But it didn't take long to amp the masses back up.
Highlights from their set included "As Fire Swept Clean the Earth", "Ethica Odini", "In Times", "Building with Fire", "Fenris", "Convoys to Nothingness" and set closer/live staple "Isa". For that one the Norwegians were joined on stage by YOB's Reiseberg and Scheidt for some vocal assistance, after which Scheidt left the stage bowing to Enslaved in reverence. I'm sure his sentiment was echoed by the throngs of Enslaved shirt-wearing fans. Their history is long and storied and they played up to that. They may even have won some new fans out of those (like me) who were there to see YOB.

I hadn't been to an out of town show in almost two years but this one was worth it. It takes a lot to get me to travel for shows but after seeing YOB play, they could join the ranks of bands I'm willing to go to those lengths to see again and again. I personally enjoy Enslaved more with a good set of headphones but I wasn't disappointed. The icing on the cake was meeting my friends and shaking Mike Scheidt's hand to thank him for the interview I did with him last year for Full Metal Parenting and getting my picture taken with him and Bruni (and my buddy Gabe). I really should get up to the city more often but this show left enough good vibes in me that I should survive for a while.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

New Blliigghhtted Song Streaming!

The good follks at Metal Temple are hosting an exclusive stream of the track "Seven Zeroes" from the upcoming album Zeroes by Turkish experimental black metal collective Blliigghhtted!

Check the link below.

"'Seven Zeroes' Streaming at Metal Temple"

From the promo

The 45-minute album is by far the most progressive and chaotic material recorded by the prolific Turkish musicians. At once dissonant and mighty like Melkor's chants in timeless halls. Recorded in a conducted fashion helmed by Ruhanathanas, this dark journey has come to fuse together a variety of influences that one can get through high doses of hermetic Extreme Metal and Dark music. From Ambient driven Doom undertone to Psychedelic Synthesizers to relentless Black Metal melodies and chanting Death Metal vocals the album presents chaos of dark reality trying to break free of its cosmic shell.

Formed by Ruahanathanas known for her work in VIRANESIR. BLLIIGGHHTTED is a psychodrama for exploring the history and philosophy of dark spirituality through correlations and juxtapositions of tradition and degeneration in essence and form. Current members include filmmaker-musician Emir Togrul of YAYLA and the idiosyncratic drummer Merdümgiriz. The project is releasing the debut album "Zeroes" through Merdumgiriz Records March 31st.

As with his work on YAYLA, Emir Toğrul's grand vision, each Zeroes CD, Tape, t-shirt and patch is handmade; Emir sprays the discs, cuts and inserts the prints for the jewel case, jacket and tape making all non-machined parts from scratch. All current and upcoming merch comes to fans direct from the hand of the creator himself; there is no limit to the number of "Zeroes" merch, as long as the man is alive. Toğrul is also co-owner of Merdumgiriz.

Zeroes will be released on March 31, 2015. Preorder it at Bandcamp here!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Crypt Sermon - Out of the Garden

Recently I've been listening to a lot of Candlemass's Nightfall and a trio of Trouble albums (Psalm 9, The Skull, Run to the Light) so Out of the Garden by Philly's Crypt Sermon dropped into my lap at a most opportune time. Already riding high (literally and figuratively) on trad doom, Crypt Sermon's injection into very regular rotation was almost too much to bear at first.

I was instantly blown away by just how epic Out of the Garden is. And as usual when I love something so much, it quickly becomes hard to write about. It's difficult to critique something as a fan, and especially when it's basically without flaw. But I've been telling everyone who'll listen about it. I even tracked down a guy in a Candlemass shirt at a (thrash) show to tell him about Crypt Sermon.

Over the past couple months the litany of hook-laden melodies (both guitar and vocal based) crop up out of the blue. Sometimes though they just as easily morph into a Candlemass tune, or by extension and song by Below. Not to say Crypt Sermon are as blatant in their Candlemass worship as Below. And as for the references to Solitude Aeturnus, well, that's a band I've yet to check out. But if Crypt Sermon draws inspiration from them, then I need to get on that. Pronto.

The band itself is made up of a team of talented veterans. Vocalist Brooks Wilson (who also painted the extraordinary cover) plays bass in Unrest and Trenchrot which also include lead guitarist Steve Jansson. Rhythm guitarist James Lipczynski is the man behind the amazing Labyrinthine. Bassist Will Mellor is also in Hivelords and drummer Enrique Sagarnaga beats the skins for Ashencult.

But as you can tell from the comparisons already made Crypt Sermon sounds nothing like the members other bands. This is trad-styled doom of the most epic kind. Ominous and dark melodies gracefully weave their way through the stories of times ancient. Times of fealty when monarchies (in the back pocket of the church) meant something. When it was the Christians mercilessly slaughtering in the name of their god. Times you'd expect to hear about by taking a look at the cover and what appears to be a member of the Knights Templar.

Out of the Garden is stacked with layers and atmosphere. Even after dozens of listens it continues to reveal itself. It's clear that the band has taken this quite seriously. There's no skimping on just pounding out some doom.

Neither is there any lack of dynamics. Plodding doom pace, heavy-handed mid-paced, and hearty gallop all have their place, often within the same song. Not to mention Jansson's amazing solo work. They're triumphant and honestly add to the overall songs in a way beyond the purely sonic.

At times, such as the chorus of "Will of the Ancient Call" where it seems to come at the listener from all sides, like in the thick of battle without feeling chaotic. And on the title track where they come together in a wave of clashing sounds then spread out and lock into a doomy groove.

The best aspect of Out of the Garden is how moving it is. Wilson's vocals have a lot to do with that. He's simply amazing and what's scary is that he's actively trying to get better. Might we have another Messiah Marcolin on our hands? Wilson (and the rest) really shine on what has cemented itself as my favourite track, "The Master's Bouquet". It features a wickedly dreadful riff that carries death on its back and a terrible vengeance. It's a simple enough story that I won't ruin but Wilson sells it so, so well moving between gorgeous and gritty.

I've no doubt Out of the Garden is going to be fighting for a spot near the top of my year end list for 2015. I'm still working my way back through the 80s and 90s for traditional doom to love and Crypt Sermon have definitely sparked that search. There's only so much funeral or stoner doom to take in so something like this spreads the melancholy around in a different way. The melody, the grit, the solos and Sagarnaga's underappreciated percussion coalesce into a trad doom album that nears perfection. It's too early to label it a classic but that's just a matter of time.

Released February 24, 2015 on Dark Descent Records.

Crypt Sermon on Facebook

Out of the Garden on Bandcamp

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars

Sludgy is as sludgy does, sir! That's the kind of straight backed reaction Poisoned Altars, the newest from Lord Dying will give you. There's nothing sloppy or undisciplined about it. The mission is to pound the listener's will into oblivion under a barrage of chugging rhythms, dangerously heavy riffs and venomous vocals. Mission accomplished.

The Portland group continues on from Summon the Faceless without a hint of a sophomore jinx. They've just honed the edge of their deadly, hammering sludge. The dirty tone and gruff vocals keep it rooted in the filth with fiery runs and galloping guitars emerging from the muck. The resulted blend of down-tuned force and massive riffs makes Lord Dying one of those bands that end up sounding like the energy they put into the tunes.

Their thrash is handled in the same way as High on Fire. It's not all about unbridled speed or flashy solos but you know they'd like nothing better than to see a thousands fists in the hair as waves of hair banged furiously along to their wicked riffery.

On Poisoned Altars you won't hear the band trying to overcomplicate things. Dooming out and steamrolling while remaining dynamic can be achieved with guts and grit and that's what Lord Dying are doing here. They got vigour and dark intent without trying to terrify.

Red Fang's Aaron Beam lends guest vocals to "An Open Sore" and his cleaner voice works well alongside Erik Olson's bullying bite. You can hear a lot of hardcore in Olson's delivery to go along with it's gruff character.

There's isn't a dud to be found on Poisoned Altars. The tone leads to the overwhelming urge to shower, the riffs are epic and profoundly catchy and it's all pulled together by an undeniable groove. They've cemented themselves well in the sludge world, ranging from High on Fire to former tourmates Howl to early Mastodon while bringing in those thrash and stoner flavours a la The Sword.

There's no ill effects to feel from approaching Poisoned Altars. It's got all the muscle and heart of it's predecessor and then some. But it seems more realized and tighter. The guitars are more confident and the attitude is more pissed. High energy sludge with plenty of hardcore edge. Amen.

Released January 27, 2015 on Relapse Records.

Lord Dying on Facebook

Lord Dying on Twitter

Lord Dying on Bandcamp

Monday, January 19, 2015

Horisont - Break the Limit 7"

If you've been waiting for Swedish throwback rockers Horisont to release a new album you'll have to wait a little longer. I know, Fall 2013 was so long ago! But in the meantime the quintet has released a killer 7” called Break the Limit (Rise Above) to whet the appetite. Comprised of two songs both just barely cracking the four minute mark, it's not much but the boys pack in as much as they can.
“Break the Limit” utilizes deft fret work and cruisin' riffs to great effect, immediately taking the listener back to the days of yore. The chorus is as hooky as Hell is hot in August particularly thanks to vocalist Axel Söderberg himself. When he hits those hight notes you just have to sing along. Or at least try to.
Drummer Pontus Jordan is swift and filly, with jazzy movement. The bridge is slow(er), ominous and heavy on Magnus Delborg's bass. And of course, guitarists Charlie Van Loo and Kristofer Möller simply tear it up with soaring guitarmonies and shredding solos.
Flipping over to “Yellow Blues” we're greeted by some fancy keyboard work. No word on who's playing them but they need to keep it up! It lends extra flair to the bellbottoms and makes hair grow. They don't stick around too long as they give way to some rumbling riffage. Jordan propels his thunder feet down the highway like a semi without brakes. The keys come back with a psychedelic edge just before the glory. Van Loo and Möller battle each other as if they went down to Georgia. It's all very bluesy and such but when they lock horns together they just fire off into the stratosphere. Fantastic.
I actually missed out on 2013's Time Warriors so this 7” is the first I've heard Horisont since 2012's Second Assault and I just about forgot how tight these guys are. I never realized how much Söderberg reminds me of Early Man's Mike Conte until now. A Horisont tour with Early Man and Dune would be stellar! Anyway, as good as Break the Limit is, it's more of a tease than a stop-gap.
These songs have a fire burning under them and one can only hope that extra energy carries over to a new full length as soon as possible.
In the meantime, check out the video for “Break the Limit”!

RIYL: Witchcraft, Blues Pills, Brutus, Graveyard, Thin Lizzy

Released November 3, 2015 on Rise Above Records.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fayne - The Queen of Kings

I'm not going to spend a lot of time on The Queen of Kings by Montreal's Fayne. Mostly because this sort of music is targeted at a young audience and at 36 I feel anything but young. But also because regardless of age, there isn't much that's interesting about it.
Metalcore/deathcore is a tired genre whether the genre's backers want to admit it or not. And Fayne pretty much regurgitate the same recipe as a million other bands. Whiney emo vocals, like Alien Ant Farm covering Michael Jackson's “Smooth Criminal”, or a third-rate Chino Moreno, trade off with your typical death grunts.
(I kid you not, mere seconds after writing that Alien Ant Farm bit, a guy walked in on me and when I shut it off for him to use the phone he says “Oh I know that one! Smooth Criminal! Alien Ant Farm!” To which I replied “You'd think so. But no.”)
Breakdowns a plenty and that djenty lack of flow comprise the bulk of their sound, with a fair share of guitar acrobatics and emotive solos. Some of those breakdowns are worthy of breaking a chair over someone's face (in a good way) but it's nothing countless others can conjure up.
Stuff like this sells whether I like it or not. I suppose it does have a market (a buddy of mine likes it) among the melody deprived karate dancers. And for what it's worth it sounds good. But despite production values that make The Queen of Kings sound as clean as a waxed asshole, it doesn't change the fact that what's coming out is shit. And it doesn't smell like roses either.

Released November 20, 2014

Saturday, November 22, 2014

He Whose Ox is Gored - Rumors

He Whose Ox is Gored followed me on Twitter about a dozen times. Must have been a glitch but I never followed back. No offence, but at the time it was just another random band. Until the promo for Rumors landed in my inbox. I had no idea what I was missing.
After diving into this 10+ minute EP I feel like a fool. This band is really cool. It deserves to be said plainly. If these three tracks are any indication of their style, they can be added to the list of bands defying categorization. One can hear alt-rock, noise rock, grunge, sludge and techy/progressive elements woven into an aesthetic that feels decidedly unpretentious.
Vocalist/synths Lisa Mungo sings with confidence. One can sense her natural expressiveness and ingrained talent. Her vocals are a mix of sweet and easily digestible and a more passionate yell without loss of control. Paired with the atmospheric synths and she serves as contrast to the more abrasive tones laid down by her bandmates.
Opening track “Void Assault” has guitarist/vocalist Brian McClelland bringing a rolling semi-tech riff somewhat akin to modern Mastodon but with enough mathiness to make it sound like Meshuggah through a post-hardcore filter. Bassist/vocalist Mike Sparks also shines here with a bass solo that is just bonkers.
“Buried Twice” shows off their gnarlier side. The superfuzzed tone and straightforward, catchy riffs take hold as Mungo wails the chorus beyond a doubt of conviction.
The synths aren't as prominent on much of the title track but their subtle impact is still felt. The track drives hard as well as leaves space open for Sparks's dynamic bass to not get lost amid the crunchy fuzz and drummer John O'Connell's energetic and nuanced playing.
Overall, Rumors sounds intimate and heartfelt while maintaining an adequate energy. It's just edgy enough to be cool, but not so aggressive as to turn off a larger audience. They walk a stylistic line that could lead to quite the broad cross-section of converts. Rumors is incredibly catchy, especially in the vocal department. I have a feeling they could do much more musically but they wisely sacrifice overbearing virtuosity in the interest of songcraft and gut reaction.

He Whose Ox is Gored on Facebook

He Whose Ox is Gored on Twitter

Rumors on Bandcamp

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Wrekmeister Harmonies - Then It All Came Down

Cover design by Simon Fowler

Then It All Came Down is the second work from the Wrekmeister Harmonies project spearheaded by J.R. Robinson. For this 34 minute track he's brought together the talents of a number of artists including Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Sanford Parker, Chris Brokaw (Codeine), Ryley Walker and members of Bloodiest, Disappears, Indian and Leviathan to name a few.
The concept of the track revolves around the process of natural decay and accepting that all that is brought into the light must eventually return to the darkness.
Unfolding over such a period of time means that patience is rewarded. Containing a number of movements, TIACD begins beautifully with a droning organ and chimes ushering in female choral vocals. Acoustic guitar (Walker) seeps in from the middle distance completing the scene of serenity.
The peace is broken though as Wrest's coarse growls penetrate an ominous darkness that falls over the whole. A deep drone and various noises move the listener into an unsettling and foreboding realm. It's a short period of unnerving though as mournful strings come into play.
Sorrow and ache now dominate as all feelings of hope are now lost. The calm has been restored but it is a more desperate one. Lamont's pastoral chants deepen those feelings as the strings swell with emotion accompanied by more instrumentation, filling the sonic space to a breaking point.
At that time an ear-shattering tone explodes into powerful doom feeding back magnitude and crushing atmosphere. The tipping point has been reached and the decay goes from deterioration to crumbling collapse. It's absolutely massive and haunted by spectral vocals. The destruction intensifies as percussion enters, crashing as pieces fall away.
As the decay nears completion it softens, and a melody return amid the drone. Vocals both possessed and pastoral continue to afflict the listener as the serenity of completion comes full circle and the light fades into darkness.
Then It All Came Down is a powerful, thought-provoking and existential piece of music. Robinson's vision is executed with care and understanding. Bringing so many elements (and people) together could not have been easy but the results speak for themselves.
Although enjoyable (as much as something this morose can be) under any circumstances, the full impact of the work requires an ideal listening environment. Solitude, subdued lighting and the absence of distraction allow for the full breadth of human emotions displayed here to encapsulate the listener, penetrate the soul and thus allow the full scope of the composition to be realized.
One can only imagine how moving this was when it was debuted at the Bohemian National Cemetery in Chicago under a full moon in July 2013. What an experience that would have been.

Released October 21, 2014 on Thrill Jockey Records

Monday, August 18, 2014

Can-Con Double Feature: The BODY POLITIC - Egressor and WHERE GIANTS ONCE STOOD - Live Above

I try and support Canadian metal, I really do. But sometimes I get promo CDs that I have a hard time promoting. Like Egressor, the new EP from Nanaimo's The Body Politic. And even then it comes down to taste. The Body Politic can be categorized generally as mainstream metal. A young band for young fans. I'm old.
There are a lot of progressive elements weaving their way through the emo-core these lads are co-ordinating. Djent and staccato rhythms hammer away as synth/key melodies meander below the current and soaring vocals trade off with aggressive screams.
At times TBP sound like they are tripping over themselves in an effort to make the songs as jagged as possible. Also, in the attempt to diversify they shoehorn parts in where they aren't necessary and it can ruin any flow the song has going.
There's no doubt their live show is a co-ordinated attack with the long-banged masses losing their shit over the emotive outpouring juxtaposed against the back-breaking poly-metrics. For those raised on Sumerian-core, Protest the Hero or anyone who thinks that Meshuggahswitch Engage would be the sickest shit ever will find that Egressor scratches that itch between the shoulder blades. But if you had pimples when say, Metallica released ...And Justice for All, you might want to run the other way. 

On your way out of there you may come across the place Where Giants Once Stood. This Toronto group bears a lot of similarities to TBP but take things in a more metalcore direction. There are still staccato rhythms but they incorporate more groove and defined breakdowns on their EP Live Above. Less emo, more aggro. Vocally the death growls and snarls pull down the clean vocals making it all less whiny sounding than it could be. The technicality is less in your face but still tight. Many karate moves will be flashed around the pit at a WGOS show, I can guarantee you that. I could have seen such a sight for myself a couple weeks ago but I was out of town.
I can hear a similarity to Linkin Park here and there but without the electronic elements and again, less whiny. Actually, the growls and snarling screeches aren't all that bad. “Living In Security” (nifty little play on words) has some nice guitar work, both within the riffs and the solos but follows with the syncopated nature of the album.
Less progressive and more -core than their Nanaimo counterparts, WGOS may appeal to a larger subset of metal's younger demographic. Still not my cup of tea but I could see this doing well on satellite radio or that Vevo metal channel. Plus, I know a guy who is going to love both. Kids these days.... 

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Moloch / Haggatha split 7"

I find splits to be a good way to introduce myself to new bands. Thus this 7” split from Dry Cough Records serves as my intro to the UK's Moloch and Vancouver's Haggatha. Clocking in at just over ten and a half minutes it won't take up much of your time but it may sap you of all your energy.
Moloch offer up four minutes of doom-laden sludge with “Head of Coil”. Vocals like a sadistic and vengeful badger spit venom from a mouth full of hate. Feedback and thick as tar tone issue forth from straining amps in powerful downstrokes and menacing riffs. Their rolling crush of ill-content snarls and oppresses sending waves of negativity cascading through your mind. Find the pleasure in extreme pain.
Haggatha counter with “Time and Suffering”. The six and a half minute track is depressive and slow, dragging the listener toward oblivion with a plodding cadence. An incessant doom riff drives you deep underground as its hypnotic aspect coils around you. Buried under immeasurable pain, the deep roars of utter anguish anchor the track in a world of despair. It's funereal and heart-wrecking. Throw these guys on a bill with Loss and Pallbearer and they'll fit right in. You listening, Profound Lore?
Weak souls may find solace in the relative brevity of this split but hardened doom warriors will ache for this kind of punishment til the end of days. Sign me up for a double dose of Moloch and Haggatha please.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Doors to No Where - Lucky You

I usually try and review albums that are either pending release or recently released. Lucky You by Santa Cruz trio Doors to No Where was released back in October 2012. That's putting a stretch on “recent”. But the band reached out to me and if a band is still pushing that hard a year and a half later, I can at least give it a try, right?
It didn't take long for me to get hooked though. Lucky You is actually incredibly refreshing. Most of the fare I find myself navigating is of the death/doom/black/grind variety and various permutations of such. Not much of it is light-hearted. Not much of it catchy in the same way Doors to No Where are.
D2NW take a mix of desert rock, classic rock, trad doom and even grunge and run that shit through the groove machine set to maximum. Their approach is simple yet effective. Take proven and familiar sounds, put them together without sounding cut-and-paste and crank it to 11.
The title track starts things off as first tracks should. It displays many of the elements that comprise their sound. Vocalist/guitarist Marc Lewis' guitar tone has crunch to spare but is also dialled in pretty hard to a Kyuss vibe. A rhythmic bar room chug drives the track, with Sean Sandford's solid bass lines riding shotgun.
Vocally Lewis brings a tackle box full of hooks. His clean tones sound human and familiar, while when he adds volume they get a bit rougher and make me think of Sixty Watt Shaman. That's not the only thing that reminds me of those stoner rockers of old. (I think I heard they're reuniting?) Speaking of old, one might also be able to discern a bit of mid-90s Eddie Vedder in there too.
As the album progresses the distinct Kyuss sheen starts to wear off a bit letting other stonerrific influences shine through. Mid-period Corrosion of Conformity and The Sword vibes make an appearance wearing Fu Manchu and Speedealer t-shirts. Dig a little deeper and you might even unearth traces of Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Cathedral and Candlemass.
Lucky You is far from formulaic but there are attributes that crop up with regularity. Namely boundless, infectious riffs equally suited to filling dive bars or arenas, pretty sweet and soulful solos and songwriting chops with enough dynamics to keep the listener interested. And let's not forget all the rockin' and rollin'. Whether doomy, stoned or grungy, it all takes a hefty beating from drummer Alex Ross. Toss in some Toadies, early thrash and NWOBHM and you've pretty much figured out the recipe.
Doors to No Where aren't doing anything you haven't heard before but they do their own thing convincingly. In a time where it seems every band is trying to one-up the last one, D2NW's simple approach to riffs, song structures and vocals is a welcome shot in the arm. The sun is shining so you might as well roll down the windows and crank Lucky You on your way to the party. Then just leave it on.

Purchase at iTunes

Sunday, April 27, 2014

King Dead - King Dead

It wasn't the self-proclaimed “spaghetti western doom sludge” tag that drew me to King Dead. It was the fact that the instrumental trio is two bassists and a drummer. I love that dynamic. In fact, the spaghetti western part could very well have turned me the other way. It's not exactly a style I'm fond of. Try as I might I couldn't even make it all the way through that last Across Tundras album. But I gave King Dead the benefit of the doubt and forged ahead.
Forging ahead is actually a common theme on this self-titled debut. Without the benefit of vocals the music itself does the narration. Most often one can get a sense of the scene by the way King Dead shape their dynamics. They build up towards the spilling point creating a sense of drama.
The really interesting thing is one bassist, Will McGrath plays a 6-string and his role is higher pitched and steely, while Kevin Vanderhoof takes the low road with his growling low end. At times McGrath will soar like an eagle while Vanderhoof plods away below. At others Vanderhoof plays the lead role while McGrath provides more atmosphere. It's not the sound you'd expect from two basses but that makes it all the more appealing.
Directing the show in a way is drummer Steve Truglio. As he goes, so does the song. He can sit back and let the bassists do their thing or he can push the energy through, sparking the drama to unfold in cathartic climax.
On the hole King Dead is ethereal and smokeladen. The steely and rumbling basses are quite expressive. It can go from depressing to triumphant and back again. Their bluesy psychedelia sounds like solitude and introspection. But there's a resolve, determination and urgency that filters through over the course of the journey.

From ambling cadences to full-on sprints the album unfolds with a sense of purpose. Drone, doom and sludge all have their place on this heartfelt, expansive and callous-handed release. The desert aura and steely/synth tone would have you thinking in reddish hues but the album pulses with a blood more blue. The noonday sun shines not on King Dead. Storm clouds gather on the horizon at dusk bringing a chill to the air. And well, King Dead is pretty cool.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Moon Coven - Amanita Kingdom

*enters room panting and breathless* Hey, sorry. Yeah. I had to run out and get some bellbottoms, sandals and a new shirt before writing this. Get into character, ya know. Right on. Ok. Lava lamp, on. Patchouli, burning. Bummer. No black light. It's all good. Where was I? Oh. Moon Coven. Amanita Kingdom.
Seems like anymore when I hear that a band is from Sweden my thoughts go in the direction of retro-styled stoner rock rather than death metal. Bands like Witchcraft, Horisont and Truckfighters being some of the more well known of the style. Moon Coven stands to join those fuzz-riden heavyweights with debut Amanita Kingdom.
Touted as an EP, the album actually clocks in around 34 smoke-addled minutes. But it is only five songs. Five totally solid songs. The quintet features three guitarists making their groove-heavy riffs dominate the speakers with a monstrous fullness. Despite the immensity of tone, the power lies in psychoactive realms rather than a simple display of volume.
Moon Coven's aural aesthetic is one of impeccable smoothness; their highly repetitive jams feeling effortless and natural. Fuzzed-out riffs and blazing solos float by with an ethereal lightness and a desert tranquility. Carefree and relaxed, the listener easily falls into Amanita Kingdom's embrace leaving all troubles behind. That feeling of escapism is a theme that runs throughout the album.
The clean vocals sound distant and dreamlike, and carry with them a detached sort of bliss. Music this authentically vintage sounding calls for nothing less. (But can you believe these guys used to be in a tech-metalcore band?) One can hear an analog hiss to go along with the overdriven amp worship. It's a package that points to the obvious influence of none other than Dead Meadow. My reaction upon hearing lead track "Ruler of Dust" back in October was strikingly similar to when I first laid ears upon a Dead Meadow record playing in a record shop all those years ago. That being "OHMYGAWDIMUSTHAVETHIS." Both bands have that quality that instantly binds to the soul lending a familiarity bordering on predictability without feeling like a rip-off or stale. It's like a sympathetic resonance. Ya, that's it.
Moon Coven's debut takes what it means to be stoner rock and embodies it wholly. Heavily psychedelic and mind expansive with a keen sense of melody and a few Sabbathian licks thrown in for good measure makes it easy to get completely absorbed in Amanita Kingdom. They make it all too easy to sit back, surrounded by the comforts of delirium, gaze into the night and wonder where it all went wrong out there. Headphones are highly recommended although intense volume would also suffice.
So Amanita Kingdom. Dude, it's like totally......psilocybacious! Know what I mean?! Just choose the right mushrooms, man.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Kingdom of Noise Top 40 Albums of 2013

2013 was a damn good year for metal. I didn't listen to as much as I did in 2012 though. I spent more time with albums as I tried to write the best reviews I could. I was writing for other people now and not just myself. That being said, I did listen to a LOT of music. I posted what did slip past me last year and I have picked up on some of those albums. But this is about what really turned my crank last year. I could make a list of 100 albums that are worthy of my recommendation but I'll go with the usual 40.
However, I won't be breaking each one down with a blurb as I have in years past. I simply don't have the time. And since I already wrote about most of them it seems kind of redundant.
So without further ado, MetalMatt's Top 40 Albums of 2013 (with accompanying review links, mine or those of friends).
And don't pay too much attention to the order up to around #20.

40.  Full of Hell - Rudiments of Mutilation (A389) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
39. Nails - Abandon All Life (Southern Lord) Kevin Sirois' review at About Heavy Metal.
38. Phil Anselmo & The Illegals - Walk Through Exits Only (Housecore) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
37. Sepultura - The Mediator Between The Head And Hands Must Be The Heart (Nuclear Blast) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
36. Inter Arma - Sky Burial (Relapse) Reviewed for Hellbound.
35. Adoran - Adoran (Consouling Sounds) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
34. Monster Magnet - Last Patrol (Napalm) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
33. Fell Voices - Regnum Saturni (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
32. Ash Borer - Bloodlands (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
31. Cara Neir - Portals to a Better, Dead World (Halo of Flies/Broken Limbs) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
30. Exhumed - Necrocracy (Relapse) Dean Brown's review for Scratch the Surface.
29. A Storm of Light - Nations to Flames (Southern Lord) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
28. Earthless - From the Ages (Tee Pee) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
27. Inquisition - Obscure Verses for the Multiverse (Season of Mist) Dave Schalek's review for About Heavy Metal.
26. Yellow Eyes - Hammer of Night (Sibir) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
25. Oranssi Pazuzu - Valonielu (Svart) Bill Haff's review for Scratch the Surface.
24. Castevet - Obsian (Profound Lore) Reviewed for Hellbound.
23. Lychgate - Lychgate (Gilead Media) Reviewed for Hellbound.
22. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats - Mind Control (Rise Above) Karen Mann's review for About Heavy Metal.
21. Uzala - Tales of Blood and Fire (King of the Monsters) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.

#20-11 are pretty fluid too.

20. Magister Templi - Lucifer Leviathan Logos (Cruz Del Sur) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
19. Shooting Guns - Brotherhood of the Ram (self) Reviewed for Hellbound.
18. Beaten to Death - Dødsfest! (Mas-Kina) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
17. Corrections House - Last City Zero (Neurot) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
16. Demon Lung - The Hundredth Name (Candlelight) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
15. Vista Chino - Peace (Napalm) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
14. Kylesa - Ultraviolet (Season of Mist) Reviewed for Hellbound.
13. Skeletonwitch - Serpents Unleashed (Prosthetic) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
12. Pyres - Year of Sleep (Granite House) Reviewed for Ghost Cult Magazine.
11. KEN Mode - Entrench (Season of Mist) Reviewed for Hellbound.
10. Windhand - Soma (Relapse) Reviewed for Scratch the Surface.
9. Woe - Withdrawal (Candlelight) Dave Schalek's review for Last Rites.
8. Noisem - Agony Defined (A389) Reviewed for Metal Bandcamp.
7. Cloud Rat - Moksha (Halo of Flies) Reviewed for Kingdom of Noise.
6. Jucifer - за волгой для нас земли нет (Nomadic Fortress) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
5. Batillus - Concrete Sustain (Seventh Rule) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
4. VHOL - VHOL (Profound Lore) Reviewed for About Heavy Metal.
3. Subrosa - More Constant Than The Gods (Profound Lore) Reviewed for Hellbound.
2. Anciients - Heart of Oak (Season of Mist) Blurbs written for Scratch the Surface and Metal Bandcamp.
1. Clutch - Earth Rocker (Weathermaker) Blurbs written for Scratch the Surface and Hellbound.

There it is. Now I can take this piece of paper with the list on it out of my pocket for good. It's only been there two months.
17  D

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Ones That Got Away

Try as I might there are always a few albums each year that manage to evade my ears. Sometimes it's because I hadn't heard of them. Sometimes I just didn't have the time to sit at my computer streaming. Sometimes I didn't care. And sometimes it's because I only downloaded three albums all year through less-than-legit channels. I broke good, people. So before I get into the 40 albums of 2013 that I did hear, and that I loved, here's a list of a shitload that I missed. It's mostly Metal Blade or Nuclear Blast or Century Media. And it's a pretty good list! I've seen well over 50% of these on other people's best-of lists. Guess I'm missing out.

Alright, so here's the shit I missed. So don't bitch at me when you don't see it on my Top 40.

Orchid - The Mouths of Madness (Nuclear Blast)
Ghost B.C. - Infestissumam (Loma Vista)
Norma Jean - Wrongdoers (Razor & Tie)
Purson - The Circle and the Blue Door (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Horisont - Time Warriors (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Scorpion Child - Scorpion Child (Nuclear Blast)
Carcass - Surgical Steel (Century Media)
Kvelertak - Meir (Roadrunner)
In Solitude - Sister (Metal Blade)
Thrawsunblat - Wanderer on the Continent of Saplings (Ignifera) (listened on bandcamp a bit.)
Voivod - Target Earth (Century Media)
Dillinger Escape Plan - One of Us is the Killer (Party Smasher)
Tribulation - The Formulas of Death (Invictus)
Portal - Vexovoid (Profound Lore)
Suffocation - Pinnacle of Bedlam (Nuclear Blast)
Immolation - Kingdom of Conspiracy (Nuclear Blast)
A.M.S.G. - Anti-cosmic Tyranny (Profound Lore)
Northumbria - All Days Begin as Night (heard once on bandcamp)
Deafheaven - Sunbather (Deathwish)
Morne - Shadows (Profound Lore) (just went on bandcamp. Very impressed.)
Darkthrone - The Underground Resistance (Peaceville)
Deicide - In the Minds of Evil (Century Media)
Six Feet Under - Unborn (Metal Blade)
Vattnet Viskar - Sky Swallower (Century Media)
Motorhead - Aftershock (UDR)
Russian Circles - Memorial (Sargeant House)
Church of Misery - Thy Kingdom Scum (Rise Above/Metal Blade) (heard some in a friend's car)
Blood Ceremony - The Eldritch Dark (Rise Above/Metal Blade)
Watian - The Wild Hunt (Century Media)
Lord Dying - Summon the Faceless (Relapse) (Just not enough time with it.)
Protest the Hero - Volition (Razor & Tie)
The Ocean - Pelagial (Metal Blade)
Hawkeyes - Poison Slows You Down (MeatTooth) (kinda forgot about it)

There's probably a couple dozen more I didn't hear that I should have. Like Cult of Fire. And everything else on Iron Bonehead.  And tons of others.
I'll right some of these wrongs one way or another over time. Or not. There's always something new right around the corner.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Death Toll Rising - Infection Legacy

Infection Legacy is the sophomore album by Edmonton's Death Toll Rising. Thankfully the new album doesn't have any references to death by feces in the title like the last one. The death (metal) on hand here is more of the apocalyptic variety.
For nine tracks over 47 minutes the Albertans go for broke with hard-hitting and edgy death metal. DTR blend a mix of chug and speed with subtle technicality. Two-toned death vokills (low/high) tear through chords as well as anyone else, and the drummer is pretty outstanding.
One can hear the uh, legacy of classic DM bands in their sound but overall DTR sound fresh and modern. Ripping solos and scorching runs balanced by burliness and grit. It's a formula bound to ensnare plenty of death metal fans. But death metal is a tough genre. True innovators are hard to find. There are plenty of horrible DM bands though. But a good majority simply do death metal very well. DTR is one of those bands. Not much really stands out but as far as death metal goes, there's really nothing to complain about. Lots of aggression, tight musicianship, good vocals, and infectiously catchy riffs.
Well, I will complain about the overly dramatic spoken/sampled intro and outro. I understand their aim to tie together the concept but they sound really cheesy. If only they were separate tracks...
Infection Legacy is worth checking out. You might even want to "Crack Open a Cold One" to go along with it. I mean beer, but that's not what the song is about.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Until Dawn - Horizon

I don't know much about Fort McMurray, AB but I know that's where Until Dawn are from and that there isn't much other that going on there. I mean, my stepdad considered a job out there and my mom said she wouldn't go with him because it was too boring. And she's the biggest homebody I know. (Love ya, Ma!) But without big city distractions these guys had plenty of time to hone their chops for debut album Horizon.
These lads can play. Riffs abound and dexterity is there in spades, but the issue at hand is stylistic. Until Dawn dig deep beneath the mines already picked clean by metalcore/melodic metal heavyweights like Killswitch Engage and Soilwork. I might even hear some Darkest Hour and The Haunted in there too. Given the base they're working from you can bet Horizon is packed with riffs that will get buried deep in your skull even if they aren't the most original. Some parts seem directly lifted from KsE. However, Until Dawn don't follow that good cop/bad cop vocal style to the same extent as KsE. There is varying degrees of intensity but even the cleaner side has some grit.
By and large most of the tracks on Horizon are virtually interchangable. Which makes the fact there are 13 (including bonus tracks) seem a bit of overkill. Spicing things up a bit is “This Fallen Fortress” which starts almost Panterish before devolving into stock metalcore. “DNR” stands in as the ballad. “The Trial” has a bit of a different energy and feels a little nu-metallic. But as stated, Horizon is basically a well-executed and produced melodic metal album.
No doubt there's a wide porton of metal fans who will eat this right up and know every word and sing along with just as much conviction to those big hooky choruses. These same fans will do their best to break their own necks to the syncopated rhythms slicing up the melodies.
But when you break it right down, Until Dawn aren't breaking any new ground and will be hard pressed to draw in listeners that aren't already diehard fans of this niche genre. I have to give them credit for sticking to what they want to play, and doing it well for what it is. And at least they've got something to do.

Until Dawn bandcamp

Monday, November 4, 2013

KEN Mode and Full of Hell @ The Mansion, Oct. 22, 2013

Oh Tuesday night shows. Your case of the Mondays hasn't worn off yet and Friday is still so far off. Do you really want to be out late? Fuckin right you do! Even when you've just worked 4 straight 12 hour days and you're staring in the face of 4 straight 12 hour night shifts, you grab your concert buddy, lace up your shitkickers and get your ass to the show because it's KEN Mode and Full of Hell! But apparently Kingston did get the memo about dedication because turnout was weak. Ah well, more room for me to throw my body around like a Queen's University Engineering jacket at Homecoming.
Local openers In Your House warmed up the uh, crowd with some pretty groovy tunes. They had some more agressive leanings but for the most part they entertained us with some slick riffs and a passion for their music. While their banter was mostly awkward, they did hit the nail on the head when they asked "Is there anyone here NOT in a band? Me, my friend and the one and only Kevin Stewart-Panko raised our hands. That might have been it. Show up early kids.
Vera Pearl took to The Mansion's tiny stage next. Last time I saw VP play they were missing some members due to illness and had ex-I Hate Sally/The Chariot bassist Dan Vokey helping out. This time, the band was all there and they were on fire. Kingston's mathmetal mongers had no trouble bending time signatures to their will despite their sparse live performance record. Their guitarist downplayed their performance but from this side of the monitors, shit was tight. Also on this side of the monitors was their vocalist. Barking with hardcore might, he climbed couches and chairs and even got a piggy back. Somebody buy that man some Old Style Pilsner!
The lone (all) American band on the bill was Full of Hell. Their latest album, Rudiments of Mutilation, puts hardcore on the rack and stretches its limbs into a distorted nightmare. Their set took the more extreme elements of their sound and thrust them full force into the room. Their set was over far too quickly but when caught in the moment of it, time became irrelevant. The band flayed the skin from our flesh as vocalist Dylan Walker stalked the floor in front of the stage, screaming his challenging and thought-provoking lyrics like his life depended on it. Physically engaged or not, the noise breaks were almost a welcome respite in which to catch a quick breath. And no one needed that more than their drummer. Full of Hell don't play fun music. And Full of Hell don't play with big smile on their faces either. But don't mistake their stoic expressions for disinterest. Rather, their furrowed brows and tight lips are the faces of total immersion and commitment to their art. No doubt the unititiated were left stunned by their dark and twisted hardcore noise. Simply put; they killed it.
Headliners. Juno winners. Advocates of Kill Everything Now. Really nice goofballs. KEN Mode. The Winnipeg noisecore giants capped off an evening already worth the $15 admission. It was like overtime. Or rather injury time, as the double-digit assemblage had free reign of the floor for all manner of shenanigans. Leaning heavily on material from their latest masterpiece, Entrench, the brothers Matthewson (Jesse and Shane) and Andrew Lacour shook The Mansion to its foundations with a seriously intense set. The crowd was fully into it as they crashed through frantic highs and crushing lows. Knowing looks passed between concert goers saying "Yeah man. This is awesome." Because it was. Really, it's probably impossible for KEN Mode to put on a bad show. The material is rock solid and these are professionally trained musicians. Crowd pleasers (why does that sound dirty?) like "No; I'm in Control", in which Jesse plays bass as well (two basses!! Ooooooh yeah baby! That's why it sounds dirty), and "Figure Your Life Out" brought things to a fever pitch. But none more so than "Your Heart Warming Story Makes Me Sick". Someone probably pulled some back muscles during the tension and release leading up to the chorus on that one. (ie. Me.)
The concentrated energy of KEN Mode being filtered into a small crowd like that breathes with a different kind of intensity. From the strangers, arms draped across each others shoulders, locked in a chain head bang, to the guy who was just way too into it and you know is gonna have a week-long bangover (me, again), everyone in that room was engaged. Small shows in intimate venues can lead to unforgettable experiences.
If Full of Hell killed it, KEN Mode ground it to dust and put it in the ground. Kingston is getting less and less metal shows and it's a bloody shame. So when you get shows like this one you really appreciate it. In Your House, Vera Pearl, Full of Hell and KEN Mode put on a monster of a show. You shoulda been there, man.
Oh, and Shane will not rest until the entire nation refers to Tim Horton's as "T-Whores". So get on it. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Cloud Rat - Moksha

You can read all the magazines and websites you want searching for new music to satiate that burning desire but often it’s the bands suggested by friends that make the biggest impression. Such was the case with Cloud Rat. They’re the kind of band that makes your jaw drop and eyes bug out, and then keep them that way for the whole album. The album being referenced is Moksha and it is 30 minutes of mind-blowing grind. Well, not all grind. When Cloud Rat are going all out, the results are absolutely flattening.

This Michigan trio (from Mount Pleasant to be exact but this is anything but pleasant music) packs as much as they can into every song. Cloud Rat augment their furious grind attack by working doom tempos, sludge ridden passages, tremolo picking and d-beat groove into their retinue. Often all within the same song. The tracks twist and turn on a dime with concussive inertia.

Drummer Adrien abuses his kit as if it’s some foul beast that just won’t die, blasting away or laying down that d-beat with equal abandon. Guitarist Rorik follows suit with seriously crunchy tone, sick riffs and even some industrial flavour (“Aroma”). But Hell hath no fury like a Cloud Rat (vocalist) scorned. Vocalist Madison is seriously pissed off. Her spitting nails delivery leaves no room for argument. Her screams are manic and vitriolic, teetering on the brink of madness. While her lyrics deal with very serious topics such as abuse, neglect and drugs, they are presented in abstract and metaphorical ways. As angry as she sounds there is an underlying sadness to it. As if a deep emotional hurt is expressed by lashing out. It’s made for one of the best vocal performances I’ve heard in a while.

But Moksha is not all slash and burn, and violent rage. “Infinity Chasm” sounds like Veruca Salt dropped acid and left the recorder on in the rehearsal space. That is until the track builds in intensity until it explodes for the last 30 seconds reminding us that this is still Cloud Rat. They even cover Neil Young’s “Needle and the Damage Done” transforming the song into a much more sonically formidable beast.

“Vigil” may be the most powerful track on the album. Two minutes of demented rage directed at the lack of concern and compassion in today’s world. I must admit, I get shivers at the end as Madison screams, with the utmost conviction, “Simply love/We shouldn’t survive/We shouldn’t exist/All of a sudden, Earth/My chest feels heaven”.

Breaking the mold of the hedonistically violent grind found on most of the album is the closer “Moksha”. Whispers and drone blow across melancholic piano. The listener is overwhelmed by a sense of hopelessness and defeat. Its placement at the end of the album is like a quiet sob when you’re finally alone; the sweet release of a held breath or the dead-eyed shock in the aftermath of catastrophe, and it’s liable to bring you to tears every time you hear it.

Moksha is a stunning album in every sense of the word. Brilliant performances from all involved create a multifaceted grinding blast encompassing a vast range of emotions. Its unpredictable nature and stellar execution produce enough “Holy fuck!” moments to make the Pope resign. Moksha is visceral and transformative and human. For fans of highly destructive grind with meaning, I cannot recommend this enough.

And as if this album didn’t capture my heart enough, the vinyl jacket is printed on old recycled jackets turned inside out. The beautiful artwork printed in an enviro-friendly way? It’s all just too much.


Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Thanks for the crazy year: Looking back

If you had told me 13-14 months ago I'd be in the position I am now I would have snickered and said "Yeah. OK. Whatever." I mean, who was I? I was just some 33 year old guy with this little blog that nobody read, on which I'd throw a few words together about what I had been listening too. I'd give a rundown of my favourite albums of the year. Talk about shows I'd been to. I never thought it would amount to anything. (And it likely never will.) I mainly started it as a way to generate discussion about the music I love so much. It was 2008, 7 years after moving home from university and life was getting in the way of the connections I'd made with my friends who share my passion for metal. (Spencer, Todd, Kopko; man hugs bros.) Kids, jobs, distance. You know the drill. Kingdom of Noise (taken from the C.S. Lewis novel The Screwtape Letters) started as a way for me to let those friends, and anyone else who cared to listen, know what was turning my crank. I don't think that plan ever really worked but I kept going anyway.
Fast forward to 2012. Readership was up a bit. (Some reviews were getting like 20 hits!!) But I still felt like it was just for my own personal enjoyment. Athough, I had started making connections with like minded individuals all over the world (*tips hat to Twitter and all my tweeps* You know who you are.). When Gigantour was in town, I had coffee with a certain Adam Sewell. He of Monster Voodoo Machine/Damn 13/Bastard Child Deathcult etc fame. Adam was VERY encouraging. I felt really good to be receiving praise from someone who has totally been there and done that. However, I was still very naive to how the whole music journalism thing worked but I felt like people were starting to take notice. In particular my good friend and amazing writer, Mr. Craig Hayes. Craig had a confidence in me that I hever had in myself. Through reading his work, and that of the Canadian writers at, in particular Kyle Harcott, Laura Weibe, Gruesome Greg, Natalie Zed, Adrien Begrand and Rob Hughes, I strove to become a better writer. Through their example and encouragement, especially from Craig and Kyle, I was taking my work more seriously.
Then Craig started showing me the ropes. Took me under his wing so to speak. I had no idea how things worked. PR people? Album promos? Servicing lists? I had no idea. I don't know how I thought things worked but clearly I was more naive than I thought. Craig explained things to me and pointed me in the right direction. Apparently I'd been offered a spot on one of the biggest metal-based servicing lists in North America months prior and didn't even realize it. Again, terribly naive. Mr. Hayes' next move was to encourage me to contact Hellbound editor Sean Palmerston about contributing to the site. At this point my confidence level still needed some work but I straightened my back and sent him a couple samples. Sean said he was familiar with my work and offered me a spot with the team! I'm sure partly based on my review of Titan's Burn. The first promo I received! Thanks Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle!! It took a good few days to wipe the shit-eatin' grin off my face. It was about this time I was approached by Jon Asher of Asher Music PR about covering a band called Titan's Eve. He'd obviously found me through my blog as he called me Marcus. (My email is shogunnamedmarcus@... in reference to the Clutch song of the same name. A forgivable mistake that's been made a few times since.) This was to be my first review for Hellbound. It was published on July 16, 2012 and so everything began in earnest. I've written a good number of pieces for Hellbound in the last year. Reviews, interviews, show recaps. Hellbound is where I got my start. Hellbound is my home.
It was also about this time that Craig chose to interview ME (shoulda been the other way 'round, mate!) for his blog And, the lovely Lav Nandlall asked me to write a special piece about how metal has affected my life for her Air Guitar Blog. To quote one of my favourite films, Almost Famous, "It's all happening." Those two articles gave my words a face. (Seriously, they both had a picture of me. Both taken by my wonderful, beautiful, and talented photographer of a wife, Becky. shameless plug!) The ball was rolling.
After I had a few reviews for Hellbound under my belt I was approached by former Hellbound (among others) writer Raymond Westland about writing for his start up online magazine called Ghost Cult. An exciting prospect indeed so I jumped onboard. I believe he said he was given my name by Craig and that my involvement with Hellbound was a major factor in contacting me. Thanks again Craig and Sean! Getting in on the ground floor of a publication that sees around 20,000 reads every month is pretty cool if you ask me. Thanks Raymond! Especially for when you said I was one of your most reliable and solid writers. There's some great people to be in company with so that really means a lot.
For the remainder of 2012 I contributed regularly to both Hellbound and Ghost Cult. I reviewed some great bands that I might never have covered were it not for being assigned them. I also interview a slew of bands both over email and over the phone. The interview list includes, but is not limited to, Titan, Vilipend, Amenra, Planks and Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity. (This year I've done Andrew Fiddler of Black Tusk, JP Gaster of Clutch (!!!), Norska, Demon Lung and The Monolith Deathcult) Perhaps the highlight of the year though was being included in Hellbound's year end lists. I had completed my Canadian list in advance of the submission call, then contributed the blurb for Vilipend's Inamorata. For the overall list, I pretty much used the same list I had submitted for Ghost Cult, then was given the honour of writing the blurb for Album of the Year: Pallbearer - Sorrow & Extinction. Awesome. And to see my name on the same post as writers like Sean Palmerston himself, Craig and Kyle, Natalie, Raymond, Adrien, Laina Dawes and Kevin Stewart-Panko was pretty darn cool. Yes, I'm a nerd. 
The new year brought a new opportunity. Craig, (yet again) tipped me off to a new opening at a very respected site. Heavy Metal was making some changes and needed to recruit writers. Guide Chad Bowar's aim was to cover as many releases as possible with 100 word write ups in addition to a few full length reviews. To do that he needed people. I had sent Chad some of my work previously but at the time he wasn't looking. This time I got the job. A few other notables from across the globe joined the team as well, including Leticia Mooney and my pal Dean Brown. Both writers I looked up too. Joining a team like this was pretty great too as Natalie and Dan Marsicano were already there as well as Craig to some degree. Not only did this allow me to cover more and more material but I could do it in a short amount of time. Win-win. Plus, I met some great people such as Tom Campagna, Edward Banchs and Jason Statts! I kept up with Hellbound and Ghost Cult, and even wrote some full reviews for including Batillus, VHOL and most recently Philip H. Anselmo & The Illegals and Jucifer. Thanks Chad! It's been a blast.
OK, so I'm trying to keep content on my own blog, sending reviews to Sean at Hellbound, and taking assignments from Raymond and Chad. All while working up to 50 hours a week and raising 3 kids. How do I have the time? Sadly, it's come at the expense of my reading time. But I enjoy writing just as much. If only I could tear myself away from the tv/couch. I'm just so tired though! What else do expect from a shift working parent?
Since I'm seemingly a sucker for punishment, I recently accepted ANOTHER writing spot. This time it was David Teixeira of Scratch the Surface webzine that came knocking at the door. I'm pretty sure it was my Adoran review for that really sent him in my direction. I'd worked with David at Ghost Cult too so I'm sure that helped. Anyway, I'm stoked to join the StS team and write alongside Dean and Cheryl Carter, among others. I've already reviewed the latest Armed for Apocalypse album and a couple days ago my Mouth of the Architect review went up. And my next assignment has me feeling all funny down there. I like where this is heading. 
So, one year down and I've gone from pissing around on blogspot to writing with amazing people on four websites, in four countries on both sides of the Atlantic. It's been wicked fun so far and I can't see it going south any time soon. Although, I think this is just about all I can handle. I'm writing at a consistent pace that I never attempted when I was all on my own. So any other zines out there who may be looking for new writers, keep moving. HAHAHA! 
For as much writing as I do I still don't consider myself a writer. And I certainly wouldn't dare to call myself a journalist. As I've said before, I'm not a writer, I write. But I've had people tell me I'm good at it. I didn't enjoy English class in high school and despised essays. So what do I do with all my spare time now? Basically write essays. If you see spelling mistakes, grammar snafus and facepalm worthy misuse of punctuation, that's because I just don't know. That's the editor's job. Just kidding fellas. 
If you've made it this far, you must have been really bored. But I thank you. I'm gonna keep going at this writing thing until I'm just plain out of hyperbole and nonsense metaphors. You've been warned.
Thanks to all those people who have made this guy who felt isolated feel like part of a community. It's truly been one of the best years of my life and it feels so good!
Listen to me. Up with people! I feel so alive! Wooo!!

Thanks Team Hellbound: Sean, Kyle, Rob, Natalie, Renee Trotier, Jason Wellwood, Greg, Laura, Adam Wills, Bill Adams, Laina, Ola Mazzuca, Adrien, Jonathan Smith, Albert Mansour, Steve Earles, Jay Gorania and anyone I may have missed. 

Thanks Ghost Cultists: Raymond, Keith Chachkes, Jon Keane, Chris Tippell and Sarah Worsley, Christine Hagar, Angela Davey, Matt Spall and the rest of the Matt's (what is there, like 6 of us?), Pete Ringmaster,  Dean, Curtis Dewar, Chris Ward, Ross Baker, Tom Saunders, Sander van den Driesche, the list goes on and on.
Thanks to the About Heavy Metal crew: Chad, Eddie, Jason, Tom, Dean, Dan Drago, Dan Marsicano, Natalie, Kevin Sirois, Leticia, Evan Mugford and the handful I can never remember.
I don't know everybody yet but thanks to David, Dean and Cheryl at Scratch the Surface!
And special thanks to all the people who put the music in my ears: Josh and Hassan at Red Tentacle, Jon at Asher Media, Dave and Liz at Earsplit, Scott and Ryan at Clawhammer, Bariann at Black Birch, Jon at Freeman Promo, Nathan at Svart and Napalm, Kelly at Prosthetic, Kim at Catharsis, Bob at Relapse, Enrique at Season of Mist, Adam at Gilead Media, John at Granite House, Carl at Action!, Lisa at Hold Tight!, David at Viral Propaganda, and probably more I can't recall and I can't access Haulix from this computer to double check, and of course my editors, Sean, Raymond, Chad and David, for hooking me up with many of the lists above and music outside those avenues as well.
And thanks to my wife and daughters, and to some degree the dogs and cat, for putting up with all the screaming and screeching, loud guitars and pounding drums, droning and moaning, and general noise I subject you to on a daily basis.
So thanks to everyone I listed, all the people that read my work and everyone I forgot for making the last year one of the most exciting, fun, challenging and rewarding years of my life in every aspect. My grey hair might be accelerating but I guess getting old isn't so bad.
Thanks Craig. I owe you big time, brother.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chosen - Resolution

From the Emerald Isle come Chosen and their album, Resolution. This prog-minded extreme metal duo is comprised of percussionist David McCann and guitarist/vocalist Paul Shields. For nearly an hour Chosen hash out an intsense blend of heaviness and melody with complex song writing and flawless musicianship.
With no song less than five minutes these Irish lads take ample time letting their ideas flow forth. When dropping the heavy, it gets really heavy. Chunky riffs force the need for movement, whether just headbanging or full-on mosh destruction. Those churning and heaving riffs are countered by plenty of syncopation, with the duo locked in with each other, pounding your ears into submision. The effect is close to maybe deathcore or metalcore but never feels as played out as those genres.
Let's not forget the melodies. As deft as Chosen are at the ground and pound, they are equally adept at laying up and letting prog elements filter through. The effect of such diversity is that you can never really pin Resolution into one genre. The cruch and pace likens to death metal, as does Shields's scratchy rasp but at times one can feel classic metal influences or even a touch of industrial. Track such as "The Narcissism Epidemic" and "Metalphysical Contradiction" -- the two longest -- also see Shields utilizing clean vocals to emphasize the softer side of the band.
While the band do play with mostly culture-neutral tendencies, their Irish roots are displayed in places via acoustic guitars and other strings, but only briefly. It's something this writer wouldn't mind Chosen exploring more in the future.
Resolution is an enigmatic and agressive album from a band with a clear vision of their direction. Chugging staccato rhythms and sweet melodic prog blend seamlessly to form tracks that will bubble to the surface of your mind when you least expect it. Ride the waves crashing into the rocky shores. With further development Chosen is a name we could be hearing more of.

Resolution is available for free at

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Clutch! with Orange Goblin, Lionize and Scorpion Child, April 18, 2013 at Sound Academy, Toronto

I'd been looking forward to this show for a LONG time. For a number of reasons. First, Clutch is my favourite band, DURR. And it had been over three and a half YEARS since I'd seen them. An event now known as "The Incident". But that's a blog post for another time. On top of that, Orange Goblin had never played Toronto before. Therefore, I'd never seen them play. I've been a fan for over a decade so I was stoked. I'd caught the tail end of Lionize when they toured with Clutch a few years ago but I remembered almost nothing. And lastly, I saw a Scorpion Child video on youtube and was looking forward to hearing more.
In my excitement (and anticipating heavy traffic) I left my house way too early and showed up at the venue over two hours before doors. I doubled back to an Asian market and bought some food. I wasn't eating no bar food, I can tell you that. But I should have checked the ingredients on the (super-calorific) Vietnamese red bean pastries. Lard. Fucking lard! Read beans, I'm thinking all vegetarian and stuff but no. Wasted a buck fifty. Almost sat down on the curb to eat right by a discarded condom. Listened to the new Black Sabbath track (meh). Exciting stuff, I know! So with like an hour before doors I headed over to the venue and sat in the parking lot watching the weirdos roll in.
Once inside, and thankfully with no guest list issues, I chatted it up with fellow writer Gruesome Greg. I was almost as excited to meet him as I was to see the show! Almost. It was really cool to finally put a face to the name. As well as spend some time with a handful of other friends I don't see nearly enough. Alright, alright. Enough preamble.
First band to hit the stage was Scorpion Child. As I said, I'd watched a video for "Polygon of Eyes" on youtube and liked what I saw. To my delight, they did not disappoint. Heavy on the Zeppelin and other 70s rock acts influence, their style fit perfectly with the other bands on the bill. Despite the crowd being comparatively sparse, they played like the house was packed already and the crowd responded. Their enthusiasm was unflappable. Hair flying, guitars raised, drums being handily abused, and vocalist Aryn Jonathan Black slinking around the stage belting out the tunes with dynamic range. His passion, as was the rest of the band's, was never in question as he engaged the crowd and even sang much from his knees, compelled by the power of music. And yes, they did play "Polygon" after which Black quipped, "Now that that's out of the way.." They knew what people wanted to hear. Their album comes out June 25th on Nuclear Blast and you can bet they made some fans who'll be checking it out. Myself included.
I'd been looking forward to seeing Lionize again. From what little I could remember (Re: "The Incident") I dug their vibe but for some reason I never took the time to check them out between then and now. Well, because I can never get enough Clutch, I won't be over-looking Lionize anymore. It's obvious they hold Clutch in high regard as, to the unseasoned listener, you could be forgiven for mistaking the two bands. The most glaring differences being the vocals and their use of keys (although Clutch did for a time). Their laid-back, grooved out rock with bluesy influence gave the crowd a taste of what was to come yet allowed the gathering to hold some energy in reserve. Especially when they pull a little Sublime out of their sleeve and add some reggae flavour to the recipe. While I found nothing to complain about, the highlight of their set was the jam session. I couldn't see the stage well, but I heard something change. A shift in position revealed Clutch's Tim Sult up on the stage with them! There's no mistaking his sound. A few minutes into the jam Orange Goblin's Joe Hoare also grabbed a guitar and joined in. At the end of it, Lionize guitarist/vocalist Nate Bergman sort of, apologized, for it. Hey man, no apology necessary! That's what live music is all about!
By the time Orange Goblin took the stage for their first ever Toronto show, the Sound Academy was about as packed as it was going to get on this evening. And the assembled mass was ready. When the OG boys walked out on stage they received a welcome a headliner would be proud of. And for the love of Sabbath, Ben Ward is a beast. I had heard he was a large man but until you see him in person, you never really know. Never mind his well-seasoned vocal attributes, his mere presence demands your attention. And what a frontman he is. Stalking around that stage with his fist(s) raised and pumping, he makes it his mission to ensure the crowd is amped. How could you not get behind a band who's singer air guitars just as hard as anyone else there? Any Goblin fan worth their weight in salt was sure to be pleased with their set. Not surprisingly leaning on tracks from 2012's Eulogy for the Damned, they played a selection from across their career. Orange Goblin's high-octane, blooze-fueled stoner metal ran the gamut with cuts from the more psychedelic Frequencies From Planet Ten and The Big Black through to the newer stuff and even included a number of songs I was shamefully unfamiliar with. (Which will be rectified, whether you like it or not.) Ward's between song banter showed how appreciative the band was of the reception they received and the crowd responded in kind, pumping their fists and banging their heads ever harder through set closer "Scorpionica".
At this point one could be fully satisfied that they'd received their money's worth on any given night but there was still possibly the greatest touring band on the planet yet to come. Clutch. I'm not just saying that because I think they're the best. Their reputation as world class performers should be well known to anyone reading this.
By this point there was a healthy percentage of the patronage well acquainted with the bar staff and as such the buzz of anticipation was almost a physical thing. Any flicker of movement from the area of the stage lead to a chorus of hollers from the uninhibited. The glowing Clutch logo of the backdrop cast an eerie light over what was soon to become the highlight of any given attendee's week/month/year. When the fantastic foursome of Neil Fallon, Tim Sult, Dan Maines and JP Gaster took the stage they received no less than a hero's welcome before launching into the set with a trio of tracks from the recently released Earth Rocker in "Crucial Velocity", "Book, Saddle and Go" and "Cyborg Betty". The band's motive towards Earth Rocker was to create an album with good energy from front to back and lend itself to being played well live. Starting the show with those three only proves that their mission was accomplished. Here Fallon states "We're only three songs in and you're already the best crowd we've had all tour!" I like to think he wasn't just saying that. What followed was a set heavy on Earth Rocker cuts but featuring a splendid selection of tracks from Elephant Riders on. What Clutch show in Canada would be complete without "The Mob Goes Wild" and the lines "Everybody move to Canada. Smoke lotsa pot. Everybody move to Canada, right now."? It's a given. It's expected. And it's probably the only time EVERYONE sings along. (I suspect "The Yeti" is a must when they play in Winnipeg as well.)
Part of what makes Clutch such an amazing live act, in addition to their near-encyclopedic knowledge of their own material and subsequent varying set list, is the jams. On this night, not one, but two songs were extended by the magnificent jams of these four individuals that just know each other so well. "D.C. Sound Attack" and "The Soapmakers" got the extra time as well as a sweet drum solo from Gaster. He's just such a unique talent. He thinks drums differently while not thinking about them at all (at least while on stage). Sult and Maines were in their familiar places to the left and right of Gaster, respectively, as Fallon stalked the stage in his usual animated fashion. He's almost like the director of a travelling sideshow, waving his hands around with sweeping gestures and finger pointing. His captivating stage presence enthralls the onlookers and innocent bystanders, demanding their attention. (Which baffled me all the more that there were people NOT paying attention. For shame!)
The low-key "Gone Cold" gave the crowd some time to recharge before finishing the set with "The Face" and  "Oh, Isabella" and closing with a crunchy version of "Dragonfly". But the closing number is never the closing number with Clutch. Returning to another raucous reception, the Maryland quartet wowed the crowd with an encore of "Cypress Grove", "Electric Worry" and "One Eyed Dollar". The closing words being "Today's our day!" a fitting end to what was unquestionably Clutch's day indeed. Clutch never fails to deliver and this night was no different. While I personally would like to have heard at least one song from their self-titled, I was by no means disappointed. In fact, it was quite possibly their best performance I've been witness to. Start to finish, every band put on an excellent show, complimenting each other in one way or another. The lesser known Scorpion Child and Lionize no doubt won over some new fans. Orange Goblin as well, while reaffirming their might to the previously converted. And Clutch? Well, Clutch proved yet again that they are an untouchable live act, thrilling fans young. old, drunk, stoned, sober and of almost every conceivable hard rock/metal subculture. Because hey, that's the name of the game.
Full Set List:
Crucial Velocity
Book, Saddle and Go
Cyborg Betty
The Mob Goes Wild
DC Sound Attack
The Soapmakers
Burning Beard
Earth Rocker
Unto The Breach
Subtle Hustle
Gone Cold
The Face
Open Up The Border
Oh, Isabella
Cypress Grove
Electric Worry
One Eyed Dollar