Thursday, June 23, 2011

Rick's Discoveries Volume VI

Over the last couple of months, I’ve seen my folder of albums that I had received yet not listened to grow to house well over 200 individual albums. For a while I was having more albums added per day than I could listen to in that day. I needed to weed through what I had on hand. In doing so, I was a bit more judicious about what received full listens from me (usually I always believe in giving a band’s effort at least one complete listen). If a band didn’t grab me in a couple of songs they were either filed away or deleted. If a band did manage to get my attention, it got a full listen. If it managed to somehow elicit multiple listens from me, it made it onto this list! So out of the about 60 albums I tore through, these are the 10 that kept my attention. Enjoy!

Obscura – Omnivium

In 2009 Obscura put out the rock-solid tech-death offering Cosmogenesis (which more than makes up for the garbage that was Retribution). Two years later we now have Omnivium and Obscura have become even more of a progressive tech-death band. Don’t let the tag “progressive” throw you, though. This band could still run laps around The Faceless and Brain Drill when they need to, but what truly separates them from their peers is the infusion of progressive structures and playing styles into the tech-death format. It’s almost like you took pieces of Cynic and Opeth and found a way to have them make sense within the tech-death realm. A perfect example of this combination would be the almost nearly instrumental track “A Transcendental Serenade.” I don’t listen to a lot of tech-death because it often feels unnecessarily cold and mechanical, but Obscura have found a way to keep my interest, mostly by making sure that they’re creating actual songs, not just compositions that allow band members to wank off their instruments as much as possible.

Dirge – Elysian Magnetic Fields

Dirge have been around in some fashion or another since 1994, but Elysian Magnetic Fields is my first encounter with them, and after this encounter I will definitely start tracking down some of their past works. Utilizing lengthy tracks and sludge/post-metal builds and structures, Dirge will remind you of bands such as Zatokrev, Cult of Luna, and, of course, Neurosis (but not as much as you’d think). This album is a solid slab of heavy sludge metal with just enough atmosphere here and there to keep things from sounding too similar throughout. Dirge know how to create a dark, heavy sound that will slowly but surely tear you down… which is a good thing, right?

The Interbeing – Edge of the Obscure

I feel like I’ve been waiting for this album for a remarkably long time. Ever since I listened to Perceptual Confusion in 2008 I have anticipated hearing a full length from The Interbeing. Now that Edge of the Obscure is here, I am relatively satisfied. Relatively because they only bring 6 new songs to this album (they reuse the 4 tracks from their EP, albeit rerecorded). Still, this is some very solid melodic death metal in the vein of Disarmunia Mundi, Mnemic, and Scar Symmetry. The easiest way to figure out what you’ll think of this album is to look at your reaction to reading the listing of the three previous bands. If that got you interested, you’ll love this. If you rolled your eyes, then just stay away.

Paul Wardingham – Assimilate Regenerate

In reading up on this album, I’ve seen it described multiple times as sounding like an instrumental version of Scar Symmetry… well, yeah, that pretty much does sum it up. There are more guitar solos, some djent leanings, and slightly more focus on flow (since the songs don’t have to cater to interacting with vocals), but in the end if you like Scar Symmetry or Periphery or Chimp Spanner or any of the brethren of those bands, you’re going to downright love this album. Even with the heavy focus on lead guitar throughout many of the tracks, the supporting portions of the songs are extremely well fleshed out and provide a thick, layered background that actually gives the guitar work more weight. This is a phenomenal progressive metal album.

Skrillex – Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites

I am pretty sure many of you are reflexively cringing at my inclusion of Skrillex, the alter ego of Sonny Moore (who you no doubt know from his time with From First to Last). Moore’s electropop solo work under his own name was complete and utter garbage, so I’m not even sure why I gave Skrillex a chance, but I did. Skrillex has a bit of his electropop inklings still hanging around, but the majority of his work under this moniker involves combining house, dubstep, and EBM with cut up samples, rap remixes, and crazy breakbeats. It’s a very unique combination that I haven’t previously encountered and I have fallen in love with it. Dub and house aficionados are quick to hate on Skrillex, but I think that Moore has found his calling and I’m now hooked.

Parabelle – These Electric Pages Have Been Unplugged

Remember when it was a big deal to do MTV Unplugged or to put out an “unplugged” album? When rock bands took the opportunity to strip down their songs to an acoustic framework, people went nuts. Now it’s not such a big deal, but that shouldn’t change the fact that when it is well done it is still worth noting. Parabelle, which is former Evans Blue singer Kevin Matisyn’s new band, take songs from their two albums (as well as someEvans Blue songs from when Matisyn was with them) and give them an acoustic makeover. This works phenomenally well since many of their songs already had a structure and style that would easily lend them to acoustic arrangements. And when you toss some added help from Jasmine Virginia on 4 of the 10 tracks, it gets even better. This is an all around solid acoustic effort from a more than competent, underappreciated modern rock band.

This will be easy for you. Enjoy Caspian? How about Explosions in the Sky? And maybe some Mogwai? If you answered even a “sort of” to any of those questions, this will be a band to give a look. Hailing from Germany, Administration Shock Him (odd name, I know) have the traits of their influences firmly ingrained into their playing style. They have a hard time breaking away from sounding like their influences, but if they dig the aforementioned bands, or post-rock in general, then it simply means you will feel right at home with this album. I know I did. It was a comforting feeling, really, like getting together with old friends to reminisce about “the good ol’ days” and catch up.

The Book of Knots – Garden of Fainting Stars

Consider me a big fan of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. With that said, I really enjoyed the latest Sleepytime release, Garden of Fainting Stars where they added a female vocalist that sounds a bit like Julie Christmas and used more audio clips. Wait… sorry, this isn’t actually Sleepytime. My bad. It’s The Book of Knots, but you could easily be mistaken. The Book of Knots shares so many avant-garde musical traits with Sleepytime Gorilla Museum that it would be impossible not to make the direct comparison, especially since the darkly enchanting vocals of The Book of Knots come courtesy of Carla Kihlstedt of Sleepytime. Ok… so I’m not sure where I’m going with this, but rest assured, if you are an avant-garde, experimental rock fan this was custom crafted for you.

Voyager – Hypersleep

Isis will be a band that always has a place in my album collection. As time passes, I have come to appreciate and love all of the albums of their career and, as much as I rail against copycat bands, I would love to have more Isis clones around. Voyager isn’t strictly an Isis clone, but they do share a lot of similarities to a mix of early and mid career Isis. Voyager don’t stick to simply copying their main influence, however, as they add a bit of a sludgier bend to many tracks, almost eliciting some Mastodon or Neurosis comparisons, and the vocals are much more raw than Aaron Turner’s. This combination comes together extremely well to create a gem of an album.

I’ve been up and down about this band since hearing their self titled album a couple of years ago. Their self titled album didn’t necessarily grab me, but it was competent math-rock that showed a band possessing some talent. With Gangs I’m in the same position… sort of… I continue to recognize the talents of the band, and I actually find myself getting into some of the songs on this album (especially the heavy “Search:Party:Animal”), but there are still moments where the displays of virtuosity in playing ability tend to trump good songwriting. That criticism being said, for math-rock fans (which I’m only sort of one) this will be a very appealing album. There are plenty of stylistic shifts, exquisitely played sections, and flair-filled moments to sink your teeth into.

Yes, I realize there are no volumes I through V on this blog. I'll be posting them as I get through re-posting my content from Decoy Music over the last couple of years that I had taken off from blogging.

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