Wednesday, July 25, 2012

HavocNdeeD - Distoria Album Review

Last year I listened to nearly 1,000 albums that were released in 2011. This year, I'm on pace to hit that total again, if not significantly exceed it. When I sit back and actually think about those numbers, I realize that there is rarely an album that truly sticks with me. There's the occasional effort here and there that gets me to perk up and that might even get me to toss them on a year end list or something, but when I look at my musical catalog, there's probably only a group of 50-75 albums that I ever want to actively listen to. These albums stand out because they are either wonderfully unique or they exemplify the peak of a genre. One of those albums was the self titled effort from Innerpartysystem. It was something new and fresh at the time; I'd never heard an amalgamation of pop, electronics, new wave, and rock quite like that before and, frankly, haven't since. But then HavocNdeeD went and released Distoria…

I nearly skipped over this EP simply because of the band's horrendous name. It screamed late 90s or early 00s nu-metal and the album art wasn't doing them any favors to dispel that assumption. Luckily, as mentioned earlier, I am an insatiable monster that craves new music from every source and genre possible, so this eventually hit my headphones. Nearly instantly I knew I found something different, something that was going to make me keep coming back. "Breathing in Seconds" was the closest thing I'd heard to the amalgamation Innerpartysystem put forth years back. The pulsating undercurrent of industrialized beats stretched to their extreme, guided the methodical pace of the song, allowing the vocals to float above it all while a heartbroken piano line pulled at you… this song… it's moody as hell and you can't escape the grasp it will have on you.

But as quickly as HavocNdeeD hooked me, they almost lost me. "At Last," the second track on this EP, is the one oddball of the bunch. Instead of sticking with the moody electronics of the rest of the EP, they delve into a country and Americana influenced approach that, on its own actually isn't all that bad, but as a part of this EP comes across as something zooming in from way out there in left field.

From there, however, the EP gets back on course and continues to play with the combination of modern electronics, absolutely spot-on downtempo pacing, melancholic (almost nu-metal-ish crooning) vocal lines, utter coolness, and infusions of dubstep (not brostep, drop-heavy, Transformers-raping-each-other shit, mind you, but churning wub-wub bass lines and movements). After the first two tracks, which are easily the best and worst songs on the album, the trio seemingly goes through a growth and evolution of their unique sound.

"Vision" carries forward the themes and vibe of "Breathing in Seconds" but pulls back just a bit in intensity, which allows the new mix of "Headspin" to come through with full force when it follows. The pulsating bass lines are coupled with grimy, distorted, buzzingly huge electronic pushes that guide the vocals and show the first hints of the dubstep influence, an influence the band wields expertly.

"Waiting Game" lets the dubstep tendencies of the band fly free, being the most aggressive, cathartic, and booming track on the album. I'd be remiss to note that this could easily fit at home between efforts from Bassnectar or Flux Pavillion, but it's so well done that it doesn't feel like a contrived shoe-horning in of a currently popular sound.

Then you get the closer, "Where Do We Go," that puts together all of the individual pieces of what HavocNdeeD worked with on this EP. There's a further exploration of dubstep wobbling, haunting vocals, thick bass undercurrents, and methodical pacing. It's completely evident that this trio are a mature band that can expertly create a sound that is wholeheartedly unique, while uniquely utilizing pieces of genres that are already oversaturated well known.

If you've been waiting for the second coming of Innerpartysystem, here you have it, after a fashion. If you crave some serious electronic and dubstep flavored music, here you have it. And if you want a sure-fire inclusion for your year end EPs list, here you definitely have it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XXIV

After my last article, which lacked the usual metalcore and hardcore entries, I wanted to make sure I touched on those genres and their closely related brethren because there are, despite what I may have insinuated in that article, some great bands and albums in those genres that seem to be sliding underneath everyone's radar. So here are some recent heavy picks that should keep your workout mix fresh!

Sky Came Burning - Patent Pending

I readily admit that some of the songs on this album are not very good (and with only 9 tracks, that's usually a bad sign), but some really tickle the nostalgia center of my brain. There are some definite bits of Killswitch Engage throughout, along with some hints of Static-X (mostly in the vocals) and early 2000's metalcore to be found. The album is a little rougher than most modern metalcore albums; there isn't that glossy sheen coating everything. This rawness helps the band feel more "real" than a lot of their contemporaries, even if they're not exploring any new territory.

Callejon - Blitzkreuz

I've been paying attention to Callejon for a few years, noting they had potential, but they never seemed to capitalize on it; they were always a bit just below average. On Blitzkreuz, however, they've finally pulled it all together to create a fun, electronic-tinged melodic metalcore album. Not quite as trendy as many current metalcore bands, Callejon put a lot of focus on melody and making songs that are catchy as opposed to making sure they stay within their genre's strict confines. Imagine It Dies Today mixed with a modern Bullet For My Valentine flair and toss in some hip-hop flow from time to time (I realize that sounds horrible, but it's only slightly awful).

From the Eyes of Servants - Change the World

If you don't pay close attention, it would be pretty easy to mistake Change the World for a new Comeback Kid album. The only things that are missing are a few big, catchy choruses. Beyond that, this is a solid hardcore effort that falls into the same vein of what you'd hear from Verse orThis Is Hell (earlier career). There's not a lot else to say other than this is very, very solid and plays to the genre perfectly.

Galaktik Cancer Squad - The Gathering

Just ignore the band name. Yeah, it's lame, but that shouldn't detract from enjoying a hefty compilation of the band's previous works into one nice package. The Gathering is 74 minutes of black metal tinged atmospheric sludge metal. Predominantly instrumental (there are a few harsh black metal vocals here and there), Galaktik Cancer Squad excel at creating epic, lengthy compositions that channel the spectrum of bands from Isis toWolves in the Throne Room. This effort comes at you with a full wall of sound and rarely lets up.

Guardians - The Alignment

Progressive metalcore is like candy to me, and The Alignment is a big ol' Snickers bar loaded with breakdowns, start/stop riffs, melody, and punishing drumming. Take some of the best parts of August Burns Red, Architects, Misery Signals, and After the Burial and you've got a good sense of what to expect from Guardians. There may only be nine tracks on this album, but all of them are executed perfectly, getting the most out of every moment.

I initially wrote these guys off after their debut, Earth Harvest. Their brand of deathcore with technical elements seemed sloppy and wasn't really all that compelling. On their sophomore effort, however, they've transformed into a deathcore band that has some stellar technical moments. Their riffs are precise, thick, and bludgeoning when they need to be. I'm still not a huge fan of their fairly standard and uninspiring deathcore vocals, but everything else about the band exemplifies what is needed to make a successful technical deathcore album.

Tigerscout - Home Less

Imagine a much more pissed-off version of La Dispute mixing it up with some early Thursday and maybe even a tinge of The Chariot, but also staying true to the traditional screamo aesthetic. There's a lot of musical craziness and abrasive passages swirled together into this 11 song EP (many tracks don't even break the 2 minute mark). There's no room for fat on this effort, and that's absolutely perfect.

Aviyn - Aviyn

If you hate the Rise Records sound, move along. If you find yourself sometimes drawn to it, then you could do a lot worse than Aviyn. Ever since the early 2000s, I've loved metalcore that fully utilizes the harsh/clean approach. Bands like From Autumn to Ashes and Beloved were two of my favorites. As time has progressed, we now have a newer take on the sound they started. You have bands like The Devil Wears Prada and The Air I Breathe and Of Mice & Men who have made the harsh/clean style of metalcore more aggressive, breakdown filled, and keyboard tinged. Some hate it, but I enjoy it. And it is this latter class of metalcore bands that Aviyn falls smack dab into the middle of. If those band names are appealing to you, then you shouldn't miss this album. Just don't get your hopes up for their Deftones cover… it's kind of lacking.

Choking on Illusions - Guide Me Home

I feel like there are less and less melodic hardcore bands around today. The scene has shifted to metalcore and deathcore or gleaming, shiny post-hardcore. Even melodic hardcore heavyweights The Ghost Inside went a bit soft on their last album. Choking on Illusions don't play that game. They're quite comfortable playing melodic hardcore that would feel right at home in the early to mid 2000s, often eschewing breakdowns in favor of more traditional hardcore elements. They do slip into a few metalcore tropes here and there, but it's pretty rare. Instead you'll hear influences ranging from Comeback Kid to No Trigger to Strike Anywhere.

Write This Down - Lost Weekend

When Decoy covered Write This Down's debut album, it was noted that the album was a bit all over the place, traversing many of the trendy genres of the time. On their sophomore album, this is still the case, but they've narrowed down their focus a bit. The majority of the songs on Lost Weekend have a southern rock/metal bend to them, but that doesn't stop the band from still treading into the realms of metalcore, pop-punk, and straight up alternative rock. You can hear bits of Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, He Is Legend, Chevelle, Anberlin, and Taking Back Sundaystrewn about this album, sometimes to good effect, other times not as much. Still, this is a compelling album simply from the standpoint that the band is not afraid to branch out and take chances on seemingly every song.

Enabler - All Hail the Void

There is no slowing down the pace of Enabler's hardcore/metal concoction. This is piss & vinegar infused, distorted, abrasive, crusty, metal-tinged hardcore. It's like the members of Enabler took the best parts of the bands they used to be in (ie: Harlots, Shai Hulud, Earth Crisis, Trap Them) and fused them all together into a rage-filled album intent on punishing you in all the right ways.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Rick's Discoveries Volume XXIII

During the last month or so, I found myself listening to tons of metalcore and hardcore--much more than I usually do. Because of that, I think I took notice of bands that fell outside of those genres a bit more as they were a distinct change of pace from what was usually coming through my headphones. What that means is this batch of discoveries will be a bit more diverse than some others. Enjoy!

Aerodyne Flex - Transmissions

If you had Between the Buried and Me listen to a bit of Devin Townsend's heaviest efforts and mix in some Corellia, you'd get a close approximation of what Aerodyne Flex sounds like. There aren't as many odd flourishes as you'd get with a BTBAM album, but there are definitely a lot of time changes, as you'd hear with BTBAM. There's also a healthy interspersing of ambiance and atmospheric slow-downs to temper the intermittent breakdowns and sledgehammer riffing.

Hypomanie - Calm Down, You Weren't Set on Fire

Be still my beating heart! It's true, you have found a blackglaze band that actually has solid production values and focuses on the "glaze" instead of the "black." Yes, there are still some underlying bass rolls and distorted guitar movements, but it's all there to accentuate the post-rock leaning shoegaze that Hypomanie uses to tug at your heartstrings, instilling an overwhelming sense of melancholy and bittersweetness. Fans of Alcestwith an appreciation for post-rock will definitely be fans of Hypomanie.

69 Chambers - Torque

I'm a sucker for female fronted hard rock and metal, so it's no surprise that I liked 69 Chambers' Torque. There are easy comparisons to make to All Ends, Lacuna Coil, and your favorite radio-friendly post-grunge bands. The majority of Torque sees the band playing grungy hard rock with some alternative metal tinges here and there. All of the songs are pretty easy on the ears and smooth going down… but it is a little overlong. With 14 songs on the album and half of them clocking in over 4:30 each, you may find yourself getting worn out, but taken in small bits 69 Chambers give you some great female fronted hard rock.

Leander - Szividomar

Leander comes to us from Hungary, bringing with them a combination of modern groove metal and alternative metal. I hear bits and pieces of mid-career Machine Head throughout the album, but with a lot less suck than mid-career Machine Head. You shouldn't have a hard time banging your head and air-guitaring to Szividomar, but unless you know Hungarian you'll have a bit of a difficult time singing along!

Jairus - Streams Over Sad Parades

Jairus have been flying under the radar for over a decade, mostly because they don't release much in the way of new music. I've been a fan ever since I picked up The Need to Change the Mapmaker thinking it was a Junius album I'd never heard of. What's odd is that the two bands aren't so different from one another. Jairus takes the space rock approach into the post-hardcore realm, infusing some bits of well placed aggression that counterbalance the Hopesfall influenced space rock of the rest of the EP. Again, we're treated to only a morsel of Jairus' musical talents as there are only 3 songs and an interlude clocking in for a total of 13 minutes to be found here, but it's definitely worth it.

MaLLy & The Sundance Kid - The Last Great…

MaLLy has had a presence here in the Minneapolis hip-hop scene for a few years. Up until The Last Great… he's shown tons of potential, but hasn't quite been able to nail down an album that exploits that potential. Here, however, he's finally found his groove and puts forth a great conscientious hip-hop effort that sounds a bit like a mix of Childish Gambino (his slower numbers), Atmosphere (their newer efforts), and a bit of Aesop Rock. Add to this some guest spots from K. Raydio, Brother Ali, and Claire de Lune and you have a pretty rock solid hip-hop effort.

Anatomy of the Bear - Anatomy of the Bear

I'll get my biggest criticism of this album out of the way right now--this album is overlong. That being said, Anatomy of the Bear's self titled album weaves its way in and out of the various post-rock sub-genres, focusing predominantly on the ambient side of things. There are moments of Sigur Ros' beauty, God Is an Astronaut's pacing, and The American Dollar's ambience all over the place. If you're a post-rock fan, this will cover all of the bases for you, just make sure you have the endurance to make it through as it is a 70 minute journey.

The Chant - A Healing Place

On their third album, it looks like The Chant have perfected their form of gothic rock topped with hints of ambient, alternative rock, and progressive rock. Sharing a lot in common with Paradise Lost and Katatonia, The Chant focus on lengthy compositions that provide plenty of time for the listener to get lost in the dreary, downtrodden atmosphere the band creates. With only one song under 6 minutes in length, The Chant don't rush anything and, for them, it pays off immensely.

Fail Emotions - Speed of Light

Ever wish that Enter Shikari was more electronic and less post-hardcore? Or that you could hear an early version of I See Stars without the extreme dosage of suck? Then Fail Emotions are right up your alley. They're very electronics heavy and layer their post-hardcore/metalcore influences into the electronics. Usually it's the other way around, but not here. With this inversion of the usual in this genre, you'll no doubt find yourself more inclined to have some dancing tendencies instead of moshing/spin-kicking to the songs.

Gigawatt - Detritus

Please note right now, there's a healthy amount of Meshuggah worship on this album. If you can overlook this fact (which isn't really that big of a deal, unless you're burnt out on djent), you'll find a solid progressive metal album with some lengthy compositions. Besides the Meshuggahinfluence, you'll also hear a bit of Nemertines in some of the dissonant playing patterns and dirty guitar tones. The focus of this album is mostly on big, meaty riffs and less on technical wizardry, which works out quite well.

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Gideon - Milestone Album Review

It was only a little over a year ago that Decoy Music took a listen to Gideon's debut album. The general consensus was that the band was far from doing anything unique, but they knew how to get a head bobbing or a toe a-tapping with their brand of mosh-centric metalcore. In the scant amount of time that has passed since Costs, not much has changed for Gideon other than a tightening up of their sound and a phasing out of some melodic elements.

Whereas it was quite noticeable that The Ghost Inside explored a more melodic angle of the metalcore realm with their latest, Get What You Give, Gideon keep their feet firmly planted in the ass-kicking, breakdown heavy, abrasive, non-melodic metalcore realm and go heavier than they did onCosts. You'll notice quite early on that there's a menacing angle to many of the songs. For example, the guitar groove during the last chunk of "No Acceptance" is downright murky, while the many breakdowns found on the album are often void of any surrounding melodicism. The occasional melodically tinged guitar line can be heard here and there, but it is the exception, not the rule and is most noticeable in the Misery Signalsinfluenced bridge guitar lines in "Overthrow."

As with any beatdown inducing metalcore band, there is a tendency to get hit over the head with a few too many breakdowns. This is a problem here, but not as bad as with a band like, say, Emmure, who seem to write songs consisting only of open chord breakdowns. Gideon also don't fall into the trap of trying to make each breakdown heavier than the next. Yes, there are some moments where they try to go full-on gargantuan, but many times you'll find yourself treated to more traditional hardcore flavored slabs of heaviness.

In a genre that doesn't have a whole lot of potential variety to begin with, Gideon actually does a pretty solid job at making an effort to give genre fiends exactly what they're searching for--a succinct album with little filler (sorry, but "Milestone" just feel out of place and wasting time), plenty of meat, aggression to spare, and no obvious laziness in the songwriting department. There's not much more you can ask for from a modern metalcore band.