Saturday, October 01, 2011

Rick's Discoveries Volume IX

I’m going to be honest. This batch is a mess. There’s no theme, there’s no common connecting thread, and there’s not a lot of genre crossover. This truly is a compilation of what I found worth listening to the last couple of months, regardless of mood or genre. I’ve dove into the dubstep waters, I continue to explore the djent world, then I get back in touch with some post-rock… and let’s not forget to toss in some progressive metal and whatnot for good measure. If this volume of my Discoveries series doesn’t have something for you, I’m pretty sure we don’t have any common musical interests!

This band’s most famous claim to fame will be that it is the side project of Chino Moreno of Deftones, however, this isn’t an endeavour just for fans of Deftones. No, Crosses is much less Deftones and much more Depeche Mode crossed with Nine Inch Nails with Chino providing vocals. All five tracks on this EP ooze moodiness and atmosphere, which is a perfect backdrop for Chino’s vocal style. Truth be told, I wasn’t expecting much from this EP, but I was completely blown away. I am full of anticipation for a full length from these guys, especially if it’s even half as good as the contents of this EP.

Calista Divine – Calista Divine

Here I am once again finding a great post-rock band and not knowing how to accurately describe them than to compare them to other post-rock bands… anyhow, Calista Divine share many similar traits to post-rock bands that like to add atmosphere to their compositions, such as God Is an Astronaut or Saxon Shore. Sonically, Calista Divine sound much more similar to the former and not as much like the latter, but the feelings elicited are in the same realm. You also get some healthy doses of soaring Explosions in the Sky moments (which, I think, is a pre-requisite for ALL post-rock bands nowadays), and the occasional post-hardcore guitar riff. They’re used sparingly, but effectively.

Heartsounds – Drifter

This album takes me back. I’m reminded of the days when I used to listen to No Trigger, A Wilhelm Scream, Rise Against, and Crime in Stereoover and over again, loving their authentic punk sound. I’m sure many people have heard of Heartsounds after their breakout debut Until We Surrender from 2009, but in case you haven’t they continue playing uncompromising melodic hardcore infused punk. Drifer may not be quite up to the level of their debut, but it is still an extremely solid offering. The only criticism I have is that at time Laura Nichol’s vocals come through as a little weak, but this is a small drawback on a great album.

Turbid North – Orogeny

There is a very epic scope to this album, and to many of the songs on an individual basis as well. Playing a mix of melodic death metal, technical metal, and groove, the band creates a very large sound. By being able to ground their songs in massive, groove and death metal movements, they are able to branch out at appropriate moments to let their technical chops shine. 8 of the 10 tracks clock in at 5+ minutes, with 3 running over 8 and a half minutes each. The songs never drag, however, and the monumental closer is a 12:30 opus that allows the band to truly shine, creating a capstone to an already solid album.

Bassnectar – Divergent Spectrum

Dubstep has really gained a lot of attention the past year or so here in the US and with it, a lot of backlash. There’s quite a lot of hate for the genre out there, mostly with the criticism that it all sounds the same (which is valid to a point). However, there are some solid dubstep entries out there to check out with Divergent Spectrum being one. Unlike a lot of dubstep, Bassnectar doesn’t focus on “the drop.” Instead the songs use elements of dubstep and mix them with breakbeat, house, and hip-hop. This leads to some great songs, especially in the remix realm (the remix of “Lights” byEllie Goulding may be one of my favourite songs of the year), that have longevity and aren’t as in-your-face as a lot of dubstep. Yes, there are a couple of clunkers on here and a couple of songs don’t really go anywhere, but this is definitely one of the better overall dubstep full lengths to hit this year.

Nero – Welcome Reality

This is a another dubstep album. If that isn’t your thing, then continuing moving on. If it is, then this should be a treat. Nero has been playing around in the dubstep/drum & bass/house realm for years, but this is his first official full length release and he brings his A-game with him. Mixing together the big beats and drops dubstep is known for with some luscious vocals, futuristic soundtrack elements, and a variation on regular house themes, Welcome Reality should be a must-get album for anyone looking to find a top-tier dubstep release.

Stand Your Ground – Despondenseas

I’ve read a number of reviews of this band comparing them to The Ghost Inside, Hundredth, and Shai Hulud, so I had an expectation of what I was going to hear coming in to the album and at times I heard exactly what I expected—straight up melodic hardcore—but at other times there were some unexpected tinges of Misery Signals style of metalcore. Yes, for the most part this is really straight-forward melodic hardcore, but every now and again there’s a song on here that will get you to perk up your ears. It’s that promise of potential that draws me back to this album… and I hope they capitalize on it with their next go-round.

Anubis Gate – Anubis Gate

This is the fifth album by the progressive metal band, Anubis Gate, and the level of maturity on display shows that the band has been putting together songs for years. Being a fan of the band, I was a little tepid going into this album since, in the middle of its recording, vocalist Jacob Hansen abruptly left the band. With this change also came a change to the overall approach of the band. Not as concerned with creating lengthy, showy songs, the tracks on this album are a bit meatier (there’s less power metal influence this time around) and feel very tight. The majority of this album also feels catchier than their past releases, no doubt because of the shorter length of many songs. In my mind, this could be Anubis Gate’s best album to date, but it’ll take a few more listens to truly solidify that conclusion. As it stands, this is a very talented band creating a stellar progressive metal album.

Nemertines – Bad Blood

Similar to Dan Dankenmeyer, Nemertines is a one-man djent/progressive band that has put out a significant amount of material in the last couple of years. Bad Blood is the latest in a string of EPs and full lengths that number into the double digits. Unlike many popular djent artists, Nemertines has a somewhat grungier sound, as opposed to a completely mechanical sound. Now I say grungier not to signify the musical genre, but instead to note the dirty, grimy sound some of the songs have. The grooves and riffs are meaty and thick, often offset by keyboards that are much more upbeat in nature, which leads to a nice counterbalance. If you aren’t a fan of instrumental djent-influence progressive metal, this is not going to be something for you, but if it does interest you, this is definitely an artist to keep on your radar.

Thomas Bergersen – Illusions

Every now and again there’s a movie trailer that has an absolutely perfect score underpinning the brief compaction of the contents of a movie into its 2-3 minute running time. It suits the material, is necessarily epic, and builds to the perfect climax, making you want to see the film no matter how terrible it might actually be. Now imagine an album full of, to quote my brother, “epic trailer music” and you have Illusions. I think the proper genre is “neo-classical” or something like that, but really the description of “epic trailer music” works best. From swooning compositions that would fit perfectly behind an Oscar nominee to rousing action-oriented songs to menacing slow-builds, you feel like you should be watching something as you listen to this album. If you crave epic, you crave this album.

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