September 18, 2013

Blog Closed


I will no longer be updating this blog.

I took a break a while back and as I was feeling like getting back into writing about metal, I saw that Contaminated Tones was looking for another reviewer. Given that this is 1 of only 15 metal websites that I regularly follow, I was really eager to throw my name into the mix. Luckily that is where I will now be putting up my reviews! I have a few reviews done all ready and am liking it to the point where I currently don't want to devote any time working on this blog. I am very excited and hopefully will be putting stuff up there for a while into the future and think this will encourage me to be a more prolific and better writer.

I love metal so its fun for me to listen to and write about and Contaminated Tones was a site that I had respected for a while. All of my metal news sources/blogs etc. share many common traits, inclding:

(i) Honest - Too many places praise everything under the sun and act as an uncritical marketing extension;
(ii) Articulate - Some metal reviewers out there focus too much on imagery or humor without really getting into the music; and
(iii) Underground - I like Slayer and Iron Maiden as much as the next person, but some websites/magazines ignore bands that don't have high-res glossy band photos and press kits, I all ready know what Natchmystium  and Amon Amarth sound like.

So, with that ringing endorsement, I hope whoever stumbles upon this post will head on over and check out Contaminated Tones:

- Apteronotus

May 24, 2013

Check Out Progenie Terrestre Pura

Progenie Terrestre Pura is a spacey black metal band from Italy the reminds us all that you can mix electronic elements into black metal without sacrificing the heart of both genres. On April 15, 2013 the band release their first full-length U.M.A., which uses the electronic influences as a musical set design for the metal riffs. This is beyond a mere background effect because it creates a rich and immersive environment that is worthy of equal attention with the band's heavier side. Post-metal elements are also visible, mostly through the long song structures that have slower melodic changes and liberal repetition. Consequently, there is an overwhelming sense of atmosphere that is never suffocating. Rather, the sound is almost antiseptic and this works because the space theme suits the band's decisions to be clean, beautiful, and expansive. A comparison to Samael's Passage is warranted, but Progenie Terrestre Pura is absolutely its own entity. Although U.M.A. contains the two songs from the band's 2011 demo, it still makes for a complete and exciting album.

Also, the band's taste extends over to the remarkable cover art, which couldn't be any more appropriate for their music:

You can listen to Progenie Terrestre Pura here:


May 14, 2013

Avariel - Avariel

Avariel - Avariel 
What's the Rush?

In this prematurely released demo from 2009, there is no doubt that the hamstrung vocals are the strongest element. Following the usual gothic/symphonic metal formula, Avariel saunters forward with Shannon Kelly’s singing, embellished with guitars and synthesizers. Avariel is strongest and most promising during the moments where the band sticks to the staples of their genre. There, the songs have a sense of cadence with fairly timed build-ups and crescendos that display a more than competent structure. But each time the band deviates from this and steers more toward ballad or poppy territory, the songwriting becomes stagnant and flat. More problematic is how the songwriting can not compensate for how weak each instrument sounds.

Worst of all are the drums, tinny programmed drums are not exactly rare in metal demos. While the drum lines are programmed with serviceable variation here, the actual samples are strikingly and distractingly poor. Were they were recorded from a cheap keyboard that had tears in the speakers and water damage? Unlikely, but the result is the same and even immediately apparent due to “Bleed” starting off with the very worst of it. The demo will even come across as cheap and unfinished for listeners who have been inured to distracting drum samples because of the shoddy synths. This is bad news for a symphonic metal band; attempting to channel the richness of a symphony with a few simple synth pads is difficult. The task becomes impossible when those synth pads also sound inferior, melodramatic, and cheesy. “Tunnel’s Light” in particular showcases an exaggerated synth motif, a slurry of notes so devoid of character that it both bookends the song and serves as a transition from its climax. Adding bland digital guitar and bass tones on top of this heavy handed aspect of the band also fails to salvage the demo.

Unreasonable and disappointing decisions kill the hydra’s last head - vocals. Avariel’s misuse of the vocals is a mix between deliberate decisions and an apparent rush to release a demo. Deliberate vocal sabotage occurs mostly on “Tunnel’s Light” featuring ridiculous effects that adulterate the vocals: a 1970’s telephone sound-quality effect and an obnoxious tremolo effect. This is really irritating and reeks of poppy pandering, but unfortunately isn’t the only way that Shannon Kelly’s vocals are misused. While clearly capable of singing in each song’s range, she does so inconsistently even within individual songs. She wavers between a raw and strained performance to effortlessly hitting higher notes, giving off the impression that the recordings were too rushed to allow for better takes.

While there is some promise and talent in the songwriting and vocals, the demo falters through its poor instrument quality and boring poppy proclivities. Clocking in at around 15 minutes, the decision to have a ballad for the second song is also puzzling and disappointing. Although only a demo, Avariel should have recorded this after they had more professional sounds and given more time for Shannon Kelly to consistently sing the vocal lines.


April 29, 2013

Check out Metallus Compilcious, a compilation

I am a big fan of The Metal Archives in general and I particularly enjoy the "For the Musicians" sub-forum of the website. There you will find dozens of dedicated musicians discussing just about everything involved in the process of making music. Recently 14 of those musicians have rallied together to form a nice compilation that the musicians themselves are working to promote. You can listen to the compilation at the above Bandcamp or Soundcloud links and download it for free.

Here is the tracklist along with links for some of the projects:

1. Only a Shadow Remains - The Human Virus

2. Oshiego - Blade of the Conqueror

3. Dark Sacrament - Upon A Torch

4. Hermanessences - Despise Existence

5. Theophagy - Born to Defy

6. Mountain Grave - Rage and Ruin

7. Antica Arcana - Vacillation Forest

8. Terrestrial - Supreme Organic Architecture

9. Morbid Footnote - The Politics of Inbreeding

10. Primal Order - Tears of Gold

11. Andrew Highland - Rebirth of Evil (demo)

12. Nucleus - Biopsy

13. Alpthraum - Nothing

14. Black Smith - Deadly is the Cure (demo)

I am not really a compilation person, but this was a great way to explore a bunch of projects. I was glad to hear a bunch of really well-done and creative material on here. This was both a fun listen and a testament to the knowledge, ability, and skill the Metal Archives' user base is capable of.

April 5, 2013

Fleurety - Department Of Apocolaptic Affairs

                                                Fleurety - Department of Apocalyptic Affairs
                                                             Incoherent Irritation

Fleurety’s “Department of Apocalyptic Affairs” is unusual. Despite how unbelievably incoherent it is, nearly every turn in the music manages to be irritating. For the sake of context, this Norwegian duo is perhaps best known for either their first full length and highly regarded black metal album “Min Tid Skal Komme” or from the fact that Alexander Nordgaren stopped singing after damaging his voice due to impossibly high pitched whistle-register vocals on the band’s earlier releases. Here, Fleurety diverged from their past and took a hard left into experimental territory while simultaneously plummeting in quality. Experimentation can be refreshing, no one likes stale music that merely reiterates what has been done in the past. “Department of Apocalyptic Affairs,” however, shows how novelty alone is painfully insufficient to create an album. Indeed, novelty is the only real driving force here, and little attention was given to more important considerations like vision, structure, or melody. Curve after random curve yields new musical ideas, directions, and disappointments. This failure is haphazard and thoughtless eclecticism.

Opening up with “Exterminators” is helpful for understanding the problems. Within the first two minutes you can get a strong sense of most of the album’s major deficiencies. We are introduced with a silly circus melody joined with wacky flanger guitar and a walking bass that ambles its way into a third unrelated direction. This third direction later turns out to be a genre change. Jazzy, intimate, and silly female scatting vocals abruptly make the bass more comprehensible, but without remedying the impression that we have started a new song. Naturally, some dissonant guitar chords then chime in, only to be interrupted by a nonsense piano diddle. This is in turn followed by a boring guitar riff that comes across as something between an echo and interminable repetition. The entire album often keeps going on like these first two minutes do, failing to sustain any kind of atmosphere or even establish a mood other than disorganization and silliness. Even the component parts that make up the songs are grating because of how they fail to mesh together. Sure, it isn’t completely awful. The bass lines are often interesting and more vivacious than what is normally expected in metal. Still, everything feels entirely out of place and even individual components that may have some merit become grating when carelessly thrown together.

The primary style and source of novelty is the amalgamation of loungey elevator jazz and black metal somewhat in the vein of experimental releases from the same era such as Mayhem’s “Grand Declaration of War” and Dødheimsgard’s “666 International.” When listening to it though, one would think there were also half a dozen other genres involved at all times because of how indelicately these two major themes are blended. Abrupt and pointless changes in music sections sound like the band made two separate albums in different genres, cut them into chunks, and then shuffled together like a deck of cards. The Mayhem comparison provides a nice contrast even for those unfamiliar with “Grand Declaration of War.” “Shotgun Blast” features Maniac on vocals and presenting the lyrics in a harangue-the-listener style as he also used on that album, but as the rest of the music meanders around with dance pad sounds it just feels like random nonsense. Next consider how Dødheimsgard’s more industrial approach also used similar dance percussion elements with driving bass lines to create an interesting mood, which we never hear with this despite the similar parts. Fleurety fails to match their contemporaries in quality because their quest for a more experimental and eclectic approach sacrificed too much of their central metal roots. This does not mean that the album is flawed because it sounds too much like dance music or jazz. Instead, the problem rests with how it tries to be a metal album without the metal, and this leaves the band with no organizing principle or direction. A particularly glaring example of this lack of direction is how with only 8 tracks the duo felt it necessary to include two very similar versions of the song “Face In A Fever” with each member having their own edition. Fleurety’s unwillingness to even settle on one version of the song means you end up listening to it twice, and this is just another instance how the failure to synthesize ideas leads to ruin.

When an album simply fails to come together, it is unfortunate and can result in a failure. This goes much further, its exhausting and obnoxious. More prominent than the obnoxious elements I mentioned earlier are the vacuous vocal decisions that rapidly drop the quality from incoherent to awful. After singling out Maniac’s beatnik poetry reading on “Shotgun Blast” it is hard to pick from the numerous examples what might be next most irritating item on the list, but the cartoon super-villain vocals at the end of “Facets 2.0” are nearly as awful. Again, the surprising part of this is how with so many vocals styles why none of them manage to be anything but aggravating. Even the relatively inoffensive female vocals on “Facets 2.0” sound strained, thin, and wholly inferior to the band’s “Last-Minute Lies” EP version of the same song. The album’s incoherence also makes it naturally exhausting but this is compounded by bad pacing decisions such as having the sixth and seventh tracks so mild and one dimensional (yet still incoherent) that they create the sensation that the album is coming to a close. Not so. Instead, after about 14 minutes of creating that feeling, the album actually ends with a song whose gauche saxophone intrusions had worn out their welcome when the song was the second track.

“Department of Apocalyptic Affairs” does some new and unusual things for a metal album but fails to ever be interesting or organize these various ideas together. Combine this with how irritating so much of the album is and you get something that is far worse than a run-of-the-mill failure.

March 26, 2013

Jute Gyte - Discontinuities

Jute Gyte - Discontinuities
Sui generis

The wildly outlandish Jute Gyte is an unquestionably unique musical project. With the occasional tremolo picked riffs and glass shards in the throat vocals, it is obvious that Jute Gyte has taken some cues from black metal. However, outside of these superficial aspects of “Discontinuities” there is no sense in trying to think of the album in terms of existing metal sub-genres. It is best to think of the project as extremely experimental. Jute Gyte takes melodies that are so unusual that they almost sound like accidents and layers them with seamless and oddly natural asymmetry. Think of how a flounder twists and flattens as it ages. The end result of Jute Gyte’s twisting asymmetry is alienating yet spectacular, while “Discontinuities” has its flaws, the album clearly illustrates how Jute Gyte is absolutely unforgettable.

Experimentation permeates every moment of “Discontinuities” in ways that are readily apparent yet deep seated. Dissonant waves of jangling jump out one after another, starkly assuring the listener that the full yet unfamiliar sounds will persist, instead of being used to contrast or highlight soothing melodies. Even the calmer and relatively sedate sections of music are still unsettling and weird. This may not sound like anything new on paper, but the use of a 24-tone guitar means that the album uses notes that typically are not used in Western music. To oversimplify, normally on a guitar you can play 12 different notes but this album uses a guitar that allows for 24.

Ultimately, this is just another tool that Jute Gyte uses to create uncomfortable soundscapes. Instead of making everything sound out of tune, the dizzying flurries of notes are jarring, but deliberate. This approach keeps the experimentation from sounding either haphazard or manufactured, and with such an important change to the guitar this success is vital. As past albums have shown, Jute Gyte does not need a 24-tone guitar to make off-kilter music. At its heart, “Discontinuities” is unusual because the overall approach to composition and melody immerse the listener into an alien world. So while Jute Gyte utilizes many tools like a 24-tone guitar or polyrhythms, which do influence the composition, the central focus is still on the music rather than how it was put together.

Despite the overwhelmingly dissonant nature of the music, the mood isn’t nearly as abrasive as one would expect. Outside of the shrieking violence in the vocals, there is a peculiar and even paradoxical calmness in the tone that supersedes the frenzied parts that make up the album. Most of the time this feels like a stalwart sense of direction that guides the notes along the way through all of the chaos and is perfected at the end of “The Haunting Sense...” This is also a key part of how enveloping waves of clashing notes can be. Infrequently however, this quasi-calmness sounds like the cold emotionless side effect of contrived musical ideas. Fortunately, “Discontinuities” mostly maintains a strong direction through the very same technique that helps create some of this paradox of calm chaos. This technique is the careful layering of melodies on top of one another to bury you deep in dissonance.

The typical path in music is to have many parts acting mostly together, as a flock of birds to create a whole, Jute Gyte instead favors more independent parts that coalesce to create a coherent whole. As a key part of this, melodies do not clearly stop and start together. Picture how the molecules of air inside of a jar are always moving around, yet that air never separates into chunks of its component elements. This speaks to the calmness in Jute Gyte’s chaos, as one melody drifts off into bizarre territory another melody is still pulsing or repeating. Each part is moving but the mix as a whole remains consistent. Look to how the persistent drums, plodding rhythm, and bass smooth out the angular melodies in “Supreme Fictions....” and “Acedia.” This is how there is such a sense of both change and stability and it makes the alienation fantastically alluring by forging its own sense of logic and structure.

Fleshed out and detailed with synths and a warm sinuous bass, “Discontinuities” also relies on them to round out the abrasive vocals and angular approach to the guitar and drums. The synthesizer in particular immediately drapes other instruments in its emotional color as when the eerie and light chords of “The Failure of Transmutation” sneak into the mix. Flourishes like this serve to keep the rough and jangling parts within the realm of the unsettling rather than creating more of a harsh atmosphere. Contrary to this, the drums feel bare and mathematical, yet follow the overall emotional intensity of the music enough to make their dryness fade away as an issue. 

While the large majority of the focus is on the composition rather than underlying technique, there are times where the album fails on this point. Sometimes the album is overbearingly alienating when the sense of calmness stops being unsettling and starts getting tiresome. Undue repetition is the culprit here, but it is a repetition of patterns rather than particular riffs or notes. The more structural example of this is in “Romanticism Is Ultimately Fatal” where the intro’s predictably declining melody repeats and then later gives way to a chugging riff that similarly rises without going anywhere. Sounding like the musical equivalent of a staircase drawn by M. C. Escher, these parts and the title track “Discontinuities” unfortunately come across more like sketches practicing with a new tool (a 24-tone guitar) than complete pictures. Still, both songs are strong. “Romanticism....” has perhaps the most eerie melody of the album, which is beautifully reinforced by electronic flittering. The minimal instrumentation on “Discontinuities” serves as useful break from the chaotic music, even if it is far too long and repetitive. There, the quiet screaming noises that bookend the song are also an excellent and subtle detail.

With this radical level of experimentation, the degree to which the album feels natural rather than manufactured is impressive. Perhaps it is unsurprising then that Jute Gyte is a one man band, the work of Adam Kalmbach whose experimental tendencies have gone untempered by the compromises that often happen with collaborations. “Discontinuities” is daunting because of its strangeness, its hour long length, and a certain kind of majesty that isn’t immediately obvious or instantly rewarding. Still, the album has lasting power far beyond whatever novelty it provides. Although supremely strange, it is more importantly a great album because of how the immersive layering makes such an alienating experience one that is absolutely worth repeating.

Jute Gyte's expansive discography is available to download (and as far as I know every release is free) or purchase a physical copy of here:

Metal Archives Page:

March 19, 2013

Check out Horse Drawn Death Machine

Horse Drawn Death Machine is a band hailing from Ohio that skillfully fuses sludge metal with stoner rock on their EP "No Light." The band's Rich rhythm tone serves well for serving up crushingly heavy riffs over which they let some stoner rock leads soar. Rather than a slow sauntering pace, Horse Drawn Death Machine mixes these elements with the high energy and climactic sense of early Neurosis. So instead of sounding like sludge mixed with some self indulgent solos the band alternates speed with force and stays aggressive and powerful because of it. The vocal work mirrors this, with higher pitched almost hardcore punk ethos for faster delivery and a deeper shouting for a heavier feel. The bass player's deft decision making undoubtedly plays a part of that killer rhythm tone.

Although the band claims to have black metal influence I am not really hearing it on the "No Light" EP unless I actively think about a riff and consider how it could possibly be influenced by black metal. Still, it is a killer EP and the closing song "Dark Days" is excellent and alternates at times between wild guitar work and just crushing rhythm sections. The self titled EP on the other hand has some punkier sounding riffs and Cradle of Filth high pitched double tracked with lower vocals stuff on "Pulling Teeth" that I really wasn't feeling. The only thing that I would say is up to the quality of "No Light" is the bass work. The difference is really striking because both EPs are 2012 releases and I am not sure I would be able to recognize that they were both from the same band without knowing beforehand. The band's self titled EP is also on their bandcamp and is available to download for free, but obviously I recommend listening to "No Light."

You can listen to and download Horse Drawn Death Machine here: