Monday, April 23, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XIX

The music that I listen to, in many cases, is reflective of the state of things in my life. When things are calm, simple, and stress-free my listening habits are pretty consistent to match that stability--I'll stick to the same genres and listen to stuff I know. When there's stress or upheaval or I get frazzled, I often spin through as many different musical styles, artists, and albums as I can. The more out of sorts things get for me, the more varied my listening habits. With that being known, the crazy mix of albums below is a reflection of my attempts to relieve the stresses of the last few weeks. So if you're scratching your head a bit reading through the list below… well… maybe you'll find something interesting you usually wouldn't listen to?

Amaranthe - Amaranthe

You might as well start giving me shit for picking this album. Amaranthe's mix of modern MDM, metalcore, and power metal, all done with an extremely glossy sheen, is sure to turn off anyone looking for "deep" music, but if you want something to get stuck in your head for days, just listen to "Hunger." These guys are like the bastard child of Dead By April and Within Temptation, excelling at what each does best. The only missteps are the somewhat bland ballads.

Dirge Within - There Will Be Blood

Remember the bands Soil and The Blank Theory from the early 2000s? Yeah, that's right, those crappy nu-metal bands. Well, Dirge Within contains a couple of members from those bands, so you can only guess what to expect, right? WRONG. This is far from nu-metal schlock. Instead you'll find that There Will Be Blood treads much closer to the groove metal you'd hear from God Forbid, Shadows Fall, or even Machine Head. There's a little bit of metalcore here and there (mostly in the double bass rolls and occasional breakdown), but for the most part it's simply well executed groove metal with just the right mix of riffing, solos, and solid songwriting.

Leech - If We Get There One Day, Would You Please Open the Gates?

Yes, the album name is a bit pretentious. Yes, Leech are a long-winded post-rock band. Yes, they strive to be as epic as Explosions in the Sky (but not quite as epic as Godspeed You Black Emperor). Yes, you will traverse numerous peaks and valleys throughout each song. Yes, there is a lot to take in during a single sitting. And, yes, most importantly, you will love every last damn minute of it.

A Whisper in the Noise have been a Minnesota band perpetually on my radar. Having existed since the early 2000s, they've perfected their band of slowcore, ambient, post-rock-influenced art rock. I've always had trouble describing their sound, but at the core their breed of music is focused on the mellow, introspective side of things… perhaps something like an entire album of The Dear Hunter's mellowest works, but put through a Sigur Ros filter and given a significant tempo downshift.

Solitude - Tied to the Anchor

Bullet For My Valentine's debut album Poison was a spectacular blend of Metallica influences with a lot of modern metalcore appeal. I played that album to death. It's unfortunate that their follow up albums were utter balls. But that's where Solitude comes in to play. Tied to the Anchor feels like the sequel to Poison. Solitude may not have been trying to be Bullet For My Valentine Version 2.0, but when you listen to this album, you won't be able to think of anything else. Considering how much I miss the early BFMV sound, though, this is far from a criticism.

Rusko - Songs

I know Dylan mentioned Rusko in his dubstep article, but I think he needs another mention, especially to have you take note of his latest release,Songs. This album sees Rusko going a little more in the dance direction, but there are still the trademarks of dubstep found throughout. Although, to set your expectations, don't go looking for tons of drops and brostep tendencies. Those elements are there, but are metered between many other influences.

Poets of the Fall - Temple of Thought

Most alternative rock that I enjoy leans in the "progressive" direction. However, in this case, Poets of the Fall play a very straight forward style of modern rock with some pop leanings here and there. Although, for as much as I enjoy this album, I have a hard time placing the influences (which is probably why I actually enjoy it). You could think of a slightly less upbeat Mae or a lesser hard-rock oriented Anberlin… but neither of those comparisons really does the band justice. Each song is very well crafted and thought out, and I feel like the band is very comfortable in their own skin since their sound is so natural feeling; not once do I ever feel like the band is forcing things.

Make Me Famous - It's Now or Never

This is really a band I should hate… vehemently. They play trendy keyboard infused deathcore. They ape The Devil Wears Prada a little too heavily at times. The singer sometimes feels like he's auditioning for Emarosa. There's more breakdowns than I know what to do with. The band name is terrible. The list goes on and on. But, the fact remains, I keep listening. Even though I logically should be turning the album off, I keep it on, I nod my head, I bounce my legs… I oddly feel like I'm enjoying the experience… but I shouldn't be… yet I am… help?

All Else Fails - Ruins Punk for Everyone

My love of cover songs raises its head once again. Here we see metalcore band All Else Fails providing their take on a number of punk songs. They show they have an uncanny ability to mimic the bands they cover, paying a nice homage to each, while not getting too experimental. They do a pretty spot-on cover of Type O Negative's "I Don't Wanna Be Me" that is nearly as good as the original. They put some life into "The Meaning of Life" from The Offspring. And they show their appreciation of 90's punk with various covers of Good Riddance, Bad Religion, Milencolin, andAlkaline Trio. All in all, this is a great covers album that doesn't feel cheesy or trite. Instead it feels like a nice tribute to those who have influenced the band.

Cliff Lin - This Is War

Finally. This is a stellar marrying of industrial, electronics (with some dubstep), soundtrack aesthetics, and a sense of epic grandeur--all this while still sporting track lengths usually in the 2-3 minute range. Since he's had a lot of experience creating music for movie trailers and TV spots, this would seem only natural, but his compositions are great to listen to even without the backing images.

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XVIII

I'm on the 18th volume of this article series now, which means this series can finally buy lottery tickets, smokes, and serve in the military. It also means I've recommended 180 different bands throughout the course of this series, which is not a small amount, and I'm already also hard at work on volume 19. Before you know it, I'll be on volume 25… 30… 40… who knows how many bands will eventually get recommendations from me. It's actually pretty amazing to think about, that there's so many bands out there that I want to tell you about. I can't very well listen to everything, though, so I've added a section to Decoy Music for you to give your band recommendations. Let's all celebrate our diverse, varied love of music!

Ascariasis - Ocean of Colour

I'm not sure what to classify the genre that Ascariasis plays within. Deathdjent? Djentcore? Pro-djent-ive deathcore? Whichever way you want to slice it, Ascariasis melds deathcore and djent together to create a mechanical, progressive, aggressive, unrelenting set of 5 tracks on this EP. It's kind of like Periphery got into a bar fight with All Shall Perish. So if that sounds interesting to you (trust me, it is), then go get this from the bandcamp asap.

Scorned Embrace - Enclosures

Talk about wearing your influences on your sleeve. Scorned Embrace are a mix of equal parts All That Remains and Killswitch Engage. Every song, every passage, and just about every moment of this album screams out either one band or the other (and sometimes both). Be it the vocals, the guitars, or the song structures. I usually abhor bands that blatantly rip off other artists, but in this case… it's actually pretty damn listenable!

I usually am not a huge fan of straight-up deathcore (a lot of it sounds too contrived for my tastes), but I'll make an exception when something really interesting comes by. And Mirrors is definitely an interesting entry. This is very much a tried and true deathcore album, but there are some traditional metalcore elements that shine through, as well as a few mechanical, progressive elements. Don't doubt for a moment, though, that this album ever lets up--it doesn't. This is full-on, aggressive, face-smashing deathcore, but done tastefully.

Gypsy - Giant's Despair

Wow, talk about hitting a nostalgic nerve. Gypsy perfectly encapsulate the classic emo sound, embodied so well by bands like Jawbreaker and early Further Seems Forever. I also hear some hints of Puller and/or For Love Not Lisa during more than a few of the songs. But who they sound like specifically isn't that important. On a strictly genre-based level, Gypsy recreate the emo sound of the 90's from song structure, to chorus hooks, to production values. I feel like I'm in high school all over again.

The Sun Aesthetic - Composure

Between all the metalcore and progressive metal albums I listen to, I occasionally need something to bring me down; I need an album that is a calming hand on my shoulder after hours of smashing face. Composure is the most recent album to fit that mold. Imagine, if you will, a more ambient leaning God Is an Astronaut and you'll get a pretty good picture of the general feel of this album. Content with creating soundscapes and calming moods, there are few large crescendos, but plenty of movements that ebb and flow with ease. It is quite the relaxing experience.

Milo - Milo Takes Baths

I'm not quite sure if you could really call Milo nerdcore or not. He has some tendencies to rap about nerdy topics, but he also hits on pop culture, his personal life, and general thought-provoking topics. His approach is also much more laid back and relaxed than most nerdcore. Imagine, I guess, a combination of MC Frontalot and Atmosphere's When Life Gives You Lemons… for a general idea of what to expect. The combination of the mellow approach and rapid, yet flowing, lyricism creates a nice, breezy EP to listen to.

Caulfield - The Feast

Ok... so this is a deathcore heavy article... I must have been a little more aggravated than usual, but bear with me. In regards to this album, I'm just going to call this melodic deathcore. I'm sure that's a sub-genre, right? Imagine deathcore where the guitars (despite chugging along) at times take on some melodic progressions and undertones. Obviously not during the pre-requisite breakdowns, but during verses and bridges there's some hints of melody to be found. It feels a bit like Caulfield wanted to dive into the deathcore scene, but also was trying to hit the Misery Signalsdemographic. I won't complain about it since I'll take anything Misery Signals flavored.

OSI - Fire Make Thunder

Having been in existence since 2002, the duo of Jim Matheos (of Fates Warning fame) and Kevin Moore (who was the original keyboardist forDream Theater) have now put together 4 top-tier progressive rock/metal albums, and I'll fight anyone who thinks differently! Fire Make Thunderdoesn't stray too far from what's been established on their first 3 albums, so if you're a fan you know what to expect. If you're not, then imagine a mix of Porcupine Tree, Dream Theater, The Pineapple Thief, and a healthy dose of electronic undertones. That may make OSI sound like an also-ran or copycat band, but they're definitely not. Their influences can very much be felt, but these songs have their own life.

Transcends - Breathing in Oceans

When you compare one band to another band, one that is a leader in their genre, it's hard not to get some flack if the band you're talking about doesn't live up. So let me state right off the bat that even though Transcends at times reminds me of a more deathcore-y version of Misery Signals, I acknowledge that they don't quite measure up to that high bar. However, if you enjoy deathcore, breakdowns, and some atmospheric metalcore, there's a ton to like here. The vocals are really the only aspect of the band that I think could use a bit of an overhaul. The yelled vocals seem forced and don’t come naturally in spots.

Falloch - Where Distant Spirits Remain

Man, do I love me some blackglaze when it's done well. Falloch brings forth an epic mastery of the -glaze with, fortunately, little of the black- in their debut album. Multiple tracks span the 10 minute mark weaving together a mesh of equal parts Alcest, neo-folk, Agalloch, and Celtic influences. Most blackglaze lovers will be saddened by the lack of harsh vocals, but the softer melodic tones provide a melancholic feel that suits the overall pallor of the album. If I would have discovered this before now, it probably would have been a contender for my year end top-10 list of 2011.