Monday, November 23, 2015

Fallen Angels - World in Decay

A band from Seattle of all places that’s steeped and schooled in the art of ‘80s Bay Area thrash? Yup. Fallen Angels prove that grunge didn’t finish the job. Their third album, the Michael Rosen produced World in Decay couldn’t be thrashier.

The quintet is locked tight with dual leads battling amid razor sharp rhythms, prominent bass keeping up, and vicious percussion holding down the fort. The musicianship here was never in question. But can they write songs?

Sure. These nine tracks of pure thrash attack are well-composed operations that keep up the adrenaline with timely breaks in the aggression letting the listener catch a breath. Throughout they show off their ability to induce the kind of furious headbanging and fist pumping that thrashers live for.

One can hear their careful study of classic acts such as Metallica, Megadeth and Anthrax as well as second-tier thrashers. With those pitiless riffs and blazing solos Fallen Angels can hold their own against today’s collection of neo-thrash flag wavers like Havok and Evile.

Fallen Angels aren’t blazing any new trails but they’re running along those well worn with enthusiasm, skill and a healthy appreciation for their roots. Thrash on, brothers. May patches be ever on your jacket.

Released August 4, 2015 on Cyberdyne Records.

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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Wrekmeister Harmonies - Night of Your Ascension

Night of Your Ascension is the third full-length composition by J.R. Robinson under the Wrekmeister Harmonies banner. For this release he’s enlisted the talents of members of Indian, Yakuza, The Body, and Bloodiest as well as Sanford Parker, vocalist Marissa Nadler, cellist Fred Lonberg-Holm and harpist Mary Lattimore among others. (Extended list below)

Inside are two compositions, “Night of Your Ascension” based on events in the life of Don Carlo Gesauldo and his madrigal “Ahi Dispietata e Cruda” and “Run Priest Run” inspired by the brutal in-prison murder of convicted child molester Father John Geoghan. Both are harrowing explorations of justified violence - at least in the eyes of those carrying it out - putting together sorrowful beauty and doomed ugliness.

The title track ushers in a beautiful quiet with female vocals casting a haunting yet serene melancholy. It delves into solemn and repetitive contemplation with delicate melodies dancing like butterflies. String and harp speak with ancient and downcast voices, giving way to a deep cello groan and rising, tension-filled noise. Guitars and drums come in with a crash that’s still emotionally draining but is swollen with doom.

That inescapably oppressive doom is shaded by voices and a madness of overstimulated nerves. Violence is unleashed, cymbals abused and lamenting voices join the angelic and an unbroken rush of corruscating guitar fills the space. A brief respite ensues then returns to the sinister pall. Melody and doom tremble with energy. Noise filters through a determined chord progression with ghastly howls curdling the blood and deeper chants suffering under spine-tingling noise until its abrupt end.

“Run Priest Run” starts out ominous with a quiet tension as if a foul smell is carried on the whispering breeze moving the wind chimes, triggering events about to be set in motion. Choral voices call into being thunderous and malevolent doom. Doom for the unrighteous. A violent and cruel justice.

An angelic voice casts a darkness that gains intensity until Chip King unleashes his most unholy howls of terrifying and maniacal violence. Methodic yet uncontrolled madness flails through the plodding chords and crashing percussion bringing a swift end to the victim. When all's said and done peace and justice is restored by pristine melody.

Over 32 and 17 minutes respectively “Night of Your Ascension” and “Run Priest Run” explore the human condition. Solitude, violence, peace and murder play out through a draining display of composed art. Sonic extremes meet and mingle in both cooperation and conflict. Any Wrekmeister Harmonies release is an emotionally taxing journey and this is no exception. It fills both the soul and the mind with a spectrum of pain that can deeply affect the listener.

Wonderful work again, Mr. Robinson.

Incomplete list of contributors:

J.R. Robinson, Chip King and Lee Buford (The Body), Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten), Eric Chaleff (Bloodiest), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea), Dylan O’Toole and Ron DeFries (Indian), Solomon Lee Walker (Morrissey), Cooper Crain (Cave), Marissa Nadler, Mary Lattimore, Olivia Block, Mark Solotroff (Anatomy of Habit), Chris Brokaw (Come), Jaime Fennelly (Mind Over Mirrors), Fred Lonberg-Holm

Released November 13, 2015 on Thrill Jockey Records

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