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Archive for January, 2011

Time again to turn the withering eye of self-criticism on my former follies.  Namely, throwing out into the universe a handful of album reviews I wrote some seven years ago, having apparently done nothing else with them since.  They have been neither shined nor polished, and their daft insights grow dafter each minute they exist.  This is how writing happens, and I am making it happen in reverse.

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Cradle Of Filth, Nymphetamine (2004)

So, like, I guess 'fire' is the main thing they want to communicate

To avoid an unnecessary argument, let us be clear on one thing: Cradle Of Filth was never a band for the black metal purists.  In fact, apart from the briefest of flirtation with blastbeats on “Mother of Abominations,” and Dani Filth’s trademark caterwauling, there’s nothing even remotely black about the band’s first album for Roadrunner.  In other words, this ain’t no Sardonic Wrath.  Nevertheless, Cradle Of Filth has long been one of heavy metal’s guiltiest of pleasures, a fact that Nymphetamine continues to solidify.  Overproduced?  Yes.  Self-indulgent?  Yes.  More melodic and poppy than fuck?  Yes.

Still, this is probably Cradle’s freshest batch of songs since Cruelty and the Beast, and it’s a ghoulishly satisfying return to form, especially after last year’s hopelessly muddled and overwrought Damnation and a Day.  Album opener “Gilded Cunt” goes straight for the jugular, sporting a lockstep groove and some powerful, sprightly riffing.  This track, a compact, whirlwind thrasher is precisely what Cradle Of Filth needed to knock them off their collective duff.  “Nemesis” is another early highlight, combining a slower, pummeling chorus with lightning fast sections that allow for some nimble dual-guitar interplay.

Later highlights include “Swansong for a Raven” (a sequel, of sorts, to “Her Ghost in the Fog” from Midian record), and the vitriolic “Filthy Little Secret.”  Despite the gratifying amount of NWOBHM-style galloping and dual-guitar heroics present, Nymphetamine sometimes displays a bit too much of Cradle’s penchant for neoclassicism, especially on “Absinthe with Faust,” the downright annoying “English Fire,” and the requisite Gothic instrumentals.

Clocking in at over 75 minutes, this record could definitely stand to cast aside some of its chaff, starting with the ludicrous “bonus” version of the title track tacked on at the end.  Although Cradle Of Filth may never again match such past glories as V Empire or Dusk…And Her Embrace, Nymphetamine proves that even rotting corpses can age gracefully.

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A few stray observations: Apparently I believed (whether mistakenly or not is for you, fair reader, to say) that black metal purists in 2004 could find no higher paragon than Darkthrone’s Sardonic Wrath.  Odd.  Second, though I still maintain a healthy enjoyment for Cradle Of Filth as a ridiculously guilty pleasure, this album has probably been played maybe three times in the seven years since I wrote this.  I still contend that Damnation and a Day is the most laughable, unlistenable, turgid piece of garbage yet belched forth by the band.  Third, and finally, even though it’s cheesy as hell, I still kinda get a foolish little grin about that closing line.

See you next time for more embarrassing blasts from our collective musical past.

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Alright, folks, this is the first in a five volume series that is primarily about house-cleaning, but is also an attempt to keep myself honest.  Think of this, I don’t know, maybe like the ultra-shitty demo takes and ill-conceived Slayer cover a moderately-established band might tack on to a “deluxe” reissue of a debut album.  These early words about sounds from yours truly are, essentially, the reason the phrase “warts ‘n all” was made.

For the sake of journalistic integrity (quit laughing, that’s, like, a real thing), I have only made cosmetic alterations to these reviews, as found buried deep in the recesses of an external hard drive from seven years ago.

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Pig Destroyer, Terrifyer (2004)

Still terrifying after all these years

Grindcore has never been known for subtlety, and indeed, most of its purveyors would have it no other way.  With Terrifyer, however, the twisted nihilists in Pig Destroyer have provided an utterly convincing proof of grindcore’s continuing relevance and professionalism.  Building from the groundwork laid by 2001’s excellent Prowler in the Yard, Terrifyer lunges out of the speakers with confrontational intensity to grab the listener by the throat.

There is method to this madness, however – more so than ever before, as this savage trio has figured out how to incorporate into the speed and overall extremity of grindcore a plethora of muscular, memorable riffs.  Despite the fact that each song flows seamlessly to the next throughout the album’s 32 minutes of fury, what saves Terrifyer from being simply an exercise in brutal virtuosity is the conviction, precision, and feeling with which it is realized.  For as much as this album thrashes about with its grinding blitzkrieg, it just as easily falls into thunderous grooves, most notably on highlights such as “Thumbsucker,” “Sourheart,” and “Gravedancer,” the latter of which bursts out of the gates with a perfectly evil Southern rock n’ roll lick.  This diversity, coupled with the band’s obvious commitment to total aural destruction, results in an incredibly fresh sounding grindcore record.

On top of that, Terrifyer boasts a second disc which contains the single track “Natasha,” mixed as a DVD-Audio track in either Stereo or 5.1 Surround Sound.  Throughout its 37-minutes, Pig Destroyer alternates between brooding ambient passages with whispered vocals and various samples, and crushing sludge rock, at times bordering on doom.  This second disc, while staying true to Pig Destroyer’s monstrous spirit, further displays their desire (and more importantly, their ability) to broaden their swath of mayhem.  Add to all of this some appropriately disturbing artwork and vocalist JR Hayes’ equally brutal and beautiful lyrics (perhaps similar to what one might expect if Hannibal Lecter decided to front a grindcore unit), and it amounts to one brilliantly conceived and realized album.

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Rough.  Generic.  I know.  Stay tuned for more of these queasing shenanigans.

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Something whiny about having stolen the title from Code

Also published today over at Metal Review is my review of the latest album by Danish black/punk fiends Horned Almighty, in which I make some relatively bold claims about the influence of said album on one’s behavior in the produce section of one’s preferred grocer.  Check it, wreck it, etc.

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Like a Marduk-ified version of Maiden's "A Matter of Life and Death," no?

My review of the debut album by militaristic black metal band Moonreich is up now over at Metal Review.  If you (like me) were disappointed with Eastern Front’s Blood On Snow, you owe it to yourself to check out this much-improved and highly professional take on similarly modern, war-themed black nastiness.  The power of ghost soldier compels you!

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My review of the magisterial split release between these two jovially-depressed entities – first done right here at ol’ ST – is now also up here at Metal Review, in case you missed it the first time, or would like to read it at a more aesthetically pleasing website.

Sooooooo slow; sooooooo good.

So, go on and get yourself introduced to them black arts.

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What's worse, the band name or the album title?

My review of the reissue of the undercooked 2007 debut album from Danish blackened funeral doom/death downers Woebegone Obscured is up now at Metal Review.  The reissue’s cover art is way better, though it’s somewhat confusingly Tolkien-ish.  Ah well, c’est la zzzzzzzzzz.

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With the orgy of freshly-purged best-of thoughts and back-slapping still ringing in my e-ears (i.e., the ears I use to ‘listen’ to the Internet – try to keep up), I thought I’d take a little time to highlight some of those albums that passed me by, like two ships passing in the night, except one of those ships is just some dude with opinions, and the rest of the ships are (mostly) noisy heavy metal albums.  Me, I like to take my metaphors and reeeeeeally stretch ’em out further than is probably wise.

My failure in regard to most of these albums is that I didn’t hear them until much too late in the year for them to figure into my various end-of-year endeavors (in case you missed ’em, that’s here for my end-of-year wrap-up for Metal Review, and here, here, here, and here for my four pieces for this blog you are currently drinking in with your e-ears).  With a couple of them, though, I acquired them in a reasonable enough time, but just never gave them a frequent-enough listen to allow their charms to be revealed.  With these ones, I was like the father in some maudlin biopic, always too busy to go outside and throw the ball around with my son.

So here’s a belated apology to 2010’s music: You were pretty fucking great, but I let some of you down.  Hopefully you won’t find yourself coping with bizarre father issues in your adult sex life, ’cause therapy’s expensive.
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Blut Aus Nord, What Once Was… Liber I


Yet another profoundly disorienting trip from the masters of fucked-up French blackness, this one both comes as a surprise and makes perfect sense following the cosmic beauty of their last proper full-length, 2009’s Memoria Vetusta II.  This first volume in what I’ve heard is intended to be an ongoing series of (relatively) more straight-ahead metal from Blut Aus Nord plays like the grafting of the hideous black prismatics of MoRT onto the more driving frame of Odinist or even The Work Which Transforms God.  The whole thing sounds deceptively straightforward, until you actually sit and try to follow those careening shards of guitar leads off into the hidden corners of music-space, only to find them re-entering the field of perception from a completely new angle.  Really great stuff, and a shame I came to it too late.

The Wounded Kings, The Shadow Over Atlantis


This one was released way back at the beginning of 2010, but I didn’t get my hands on a copy until late fall after having reviewed their wonderful split with Virginia doomheads Cough (full review here).  None of the individual songs here speak to me quite as clearly as their half of that excellent split, but taken as a whole, the album is a wonderfully hazy trip down an idiosyncratically British style of esoteric doom.  Never too heavy, but always textured and unobtrusively psychedelic, this one worms its way a little deeper into my heart every time I hear it.

Jumalhämärä, Resignaatio

Damn, what a mesmerizing black trip this album is.  This Finnish band has been kicking around with various demos and underground rumblings for the better part of a few decades, and while I think I had heard one of their demos several years back, I totally missed out on the news of the finally-realized debut full-length.  It’s still pretty tough to categorize, as it drinks deeply from the wells of all sorts of black metal styles, but proceeds with a calculated sense of pacing, drama, and emotional impact.  Sometimes buzzing, sometime blurring, sometimes just plain beautiful – the underground is alive and well, if this is any indication.

Ghost, Opus Eponymous

Neither as brilliant as its slavish promoters would have it, nor as derivative and lightweight as its myriad detractors claim, this Ghost record ought to just be taken for what it is: a really fun, insanely catchy ride of well-crafted doom/rock pop songs.  “Ritual” and “Elisabeth” are probably the immediate stand-outs, but the whole album is a devilishly smooth experience, with buoyant instrumentalism, obviously-King-Diamond-derived falsetto vocals, and bewitching organ snarls.  I think I heard Metal Blade picked it up for a U.S.-distribution, so although I already got my copy at a somewhat reasonable non-import price, hopefully this quaint, somewhat subdued gem will be available for all hungry ears soon enough.

Ellen Allien, Dust

Ellen Allien’s smooth, generally melodic take on German electronica is right up my alley, and after the vocally-overloaded Thrills and the minimalistic, nocturnal Sool, Dust is a great return to the shimmering melodicism and forward drive of Berlinette, long since my favorite of Allien’s albums.  Her stealthy, breathy robot vocals are still a titillating highlight, but there are some wonderful songs throughout the album, particularly “Sun the Rain” and “Should We Go Home.”  Allien can whisper these ass-shaking paeans to gleaming futurism directly into my ear any damn time she wants.

Royal Thunder, Royal Thunder


Okay, so in all honesty, I don’t necessarily think that I let this record down – I’ve been trying to pimp the shit out of it ever since I reviewed it for Metal Review (read the full piece here).  I’m tempted to say that Relapse let me down with this one, not putting it out until just a couple days before Christmas.  I know, I know, this is just a reissue of the band’s self-recorded and self-released debut EP (though at 34 minutes, it could easily qualify as a full-length – don’t even get me started on trying to pass off Nails’ Unsilent Death as an LP…), and maybe Relapse is just testing the waters with a new act, but this band is already writing and performing at an astonishing level of quality and depth for such a young act.  If you’ve found yourself digging the sultry sounds of Jex Thoth, The Devil’s Blood, Black Math Horseman, or any other blues/rock/doom conglomeration lately, you owe it to yourself to get this NOW.  It really is that good.

Kill The Client, Set For Extinction

I didn’t listen to too much grindcore in 2010, and that’s my bad.  There was plenty in the way of grind/death/hardcore hybrids, with great albums from Early Graves, The Secret, Nails, Black Breath, and so, but Kill The Client’s third album was one of the best platters of straight-up, pissed-off, throw-a-dining-room-chair-at-your-cousin’s-nose grindcore.  My bad, then, dudes.  A handy one to have in the pocket for the next time you’re just flaming angry and need to spend some twenty-odd minutes of your day fuming and yelling and breaking shit.

Lantlôs, .neon

I missed out on Lantlôs’s debut album, and nearly missed this one, too, only coming around to it in the last week or two of the year just gone.  Still haven’t given it enough time to know whether it would have displaced any of my other top 30 picks, but it is a strikingly confident post-black metal album, which I choose not to imbue with any of the typical whining and baggage that accompanies a tag like ‘post-black metal’.  Sure, there are strains of the French romanticism of Alcest and Amesoeurs, the stern, patrician melodic rigor of Drudkh or Hate Forest, and the barely-contained menace of the German black metal vanguard of bands like Secrets of the Moon, Dark Fortress, and so forth.  More important than that, though, as with most albums that resonate almost immediately with me, is that the sounds within present a singularity of musical vision that succeeds because of, rather than in spite of, its stylistic hodge-podge.

Solefald, Norrøn Livskunst


I’ll be blunt about it: Solefald’s last two records (the companion pieces Red for Fire and Black for Death) bored me to tears.  They seemed to rein in the free-flowing experimentalism of early Solefald (like, first two albums early) without also delivering the great melodies and stately grandeur of Pills… and In Harmonia Universali.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, I hadn’t even realized that Solefald had a new album out until I read a few positive write-ups of it and decided to swallow my recent disappointment with the band.  And hell, am I ever glad I did.  Solefald sounds absolutely reinvigorated on this album, regaining their sense of playfulness while simultaneously kicking more heavy metal ass than they’ve probably done since all the way back at their debut, The Linear Scaffold.  Cornelius even dispenses somewhat with the ‘bored old man’ croak of his vocals, and if you haven’t heard it yet, “Tittentattenteksti” is the most absurdly grin-inducing song I’ve heard in heavy metal outside of Devin Townsend’s extensive catalog.  Welcome back, friends.
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So, which albums did YOU come to a bit too late in the game for proper 2010 consideration?  What foul, dank creatures are still lurking on the margins of availability, clamoring desperately for our collective attention?  It’s a great wide world out there, folks; let’s explore it together.

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