Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XVII

When I think back to the beginning of this millennium, before the internet was as ubiquitous as it is now, the choice for what albums you could possibly listen to were what was on sale at Best Buy, what your friends already owned, or what you might be able to find scouring internet file-sharing apps. And for a band to be in any of those categories, usually they had to have already made it. Now… well, it's a totally different story. Anybody can write an EP or album, record it, mix it, produce it, (optionally, autotune the hell out of it), put it up on the internet, and promote it. What this means is there is SO MUCH to listen to that I'm overwhelmed with the sheer volume of music I have floating around on my computer, favorite websites, and in my email. It's this sense of being overwhelmed that got me to start this article series--I hoped to help get some good releases to the top of your listening piles. So, here, toss these on your pile!

Under the Flood - A Different Light

I've got a soft spot for well done hard rock and I've heartily enjoyed Under the Flood's previous two albums, so it shouldn't have been a surprise that I also dug A Different Light. Less "hard" than their previous efforts, the band almost has more of a pop-rock sheen instead of a hard-rock or alternative-rock aesthetic. I'm often reminded of Last Winter or a chilled out Trapt as I listen to this album. What it has going for it that most rock albums don't have is a genuine catchiness. The songs don't feel overly manufactured like a lot of what you hear that's popular in the pop-rock arena.

Max Karon - Will to Exist

I would be lying if I said that Max Karon doesn't worship at the Meshuggah altar. Many newer djent artists are trying to branch out into different realms, keeping the mechanical sound but adding something to it, but in this case, there are some serious Meshuggah overtones… and there's really nothing else to hide how blatant Max Karon's main influence is. That being said, anyone craving a solid, quite competent, instrumentalMeshuggah clone then this is your album.

Rogue Empire - Rogue Empire

Now this is an interesting approach to the progressive math metal genre--add a heaping dose of keyboards and electronics (but not in a gimmicky way), make sure to have extremely aggressive metalcore vocals, and then augment the djent-like proceedings with some well placed breakdowns. Heck, toss in some slight melodic death metal influences too for good measure. It may seem like a lot to pack into a 5 track EP, but it works very, very well. I'm quite anxious to hear these guys put together a full length album because this EP is simply not enough!

Arctic Plateau - Enemy Inside

What if Porcupine Tree were more shoegazing and post-rock influenced? Sound interesting? Because that's what Arctic Plateau sound like. UnlikeAlcest or similar shoegaze bands, Arctic Plateau's songs have many post-rock elements (despite lacking epic track lengths) that define songs, and upon this strong bedrock, they slather on the shoegaze and progressive rock elements (even some blackglaze at times!) that make their sound something uniquely bite-size and effective (most songs are in the 3-4 minute range).

I'm a sucker for cover songs. I love seeing how bands interpret someone else's songs. Sometimes covers are horrible, sometimes they're better than the original. For Tribunal Record's 100th release they've put together a 21 track collection of bands from their roster (past and present) covering songs of their choosing. This leads to quite an interesting and varied mix, which I quite enjoyed. How often do you have Vanisher coveringRob Zombie next to Century doing Seal next to Aria covering Coldplay or He Is Legend doing Third Eye Blind? Not too often!

Soen - Cognitive

Need something to fill that Tool shaped void in your life? Centerum didn't do it enough for you? Well, then how about you give Soen a listen or three? Whereas Centerum (from the last Discoveries article) didn't dive all that deeply into the prog realm, Soen definitely does. Besides sounding extremely similar to Tool, you'll also catch some Riverside vibes as well. Now it would be foolish to write Soen off as nothing more than a copycat band. They're most definitely not. Yes, they play a style quite similar to Tool, but this album stands on its own merits. It's well written, expertly executed, and will stick with you.

Like Vegas - Machines

Every now and again, I want to listen to something that makes me want to furiously break shit, usually when I'm staring at the treadmill or weight bench and need some motivation to get going (and a little adrenaline usually helps). Like Vegas fill this need nicely. What you have on Machines is 7 tracks of modern metalcore with none of that melodic shit or clean vocals (well, except on "Pathfinder" which has a guest vocalist). This is straight ahead metalcore in the vein of The Ghost Inside or Bury Your Dead that should get you pumped--nothing more, nothing less.

Waning - The Human Condition

I suppose you would classify this as black metal, but it doesn't feel like most traditional black metal. It has good production values, most of the songs are digestible lengths, and there's not as much monotony as you'd usually see… but Waning are still black metal at their core. There are a few blackglaze moments, but they're only an augmenting feature, along with some progressive elements, which sets Waning apart from the masses of untalented black metal bands that seem to play in the genre because it's easy to get away with being shitty (you just say you'resupposed to sound shitty, and all is accepted). This, however, is far from shitty.

Sunpocrisy - Samaroid Dioramas

Is there a particular reason why "progressive" bands like to bloat albums with filler? No one needs intro tracks or outros or interludes… they're all superfluous, especially when they're minutes in length. So just cut it out already. With that rant over, Sunpocrisy have written more than a couple sprawling, epic progressive metal tracks on Samaroid Dioramas. Mixing pieces of The Ocean, Burst, and Cult of Luna Sunpocrisy's progressive metal is slathered in sludge without being straight up sludge metal. And, if you want, you can call it "atmospheric" as well because of the spacey in-between sections, but the meat of this album comes in the form of a few epic, 10 minute-ish (each) tracks that allow the band to show all the facets of what they can do.

Valkiria - Here the Day Comes

Valkiria are long-time veterans of the gothic/doom metal realm and with Here the Day Comes, I think they've finally broken through into the upper crust of the genre. Mixing a healthy dose of atmosphere with early-to-mid career Anathema aesthetic and keeping it close to what My Dying Brideand Swallow the Sun create album to album, Valkiria know exactly what they're doing on these 7 well developed tracks. Here's to hoping they break out beyond their home country of Italy.

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