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Posts Tagged ‘Brann Dailor’

Have you been flinching as much as I have on this trip into the time when words were small, and ambitions smaller, and opinions surprisingly timid?  Have you recalled the follies of your own former selves in the process, or has the calcifying march of time so blotted the stains of memory as to render them fuzzed and vaguely pleasant?

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Mastodon, Leviathan (2004)

Still some of the coolest fucking album art in, like, ever

Certainly among the most highly anticipated releases of 2004, Mastodon’s sophomore full-length Leviathan has already been subjected to endless hyperbole, so I will do my best not to add to the prattle.  As in any case where the expectations are so high, it is inevitable that many will be disappointed with Leviathan.  Those who are most likely to be disappointed, however, are those who were expecting Mastodon to release Remission – Pt. II, with little or no alteration to their already crushing and well-developed style.  Instead of treading water (pun only slightly intended), however, Mastodon has incorporated more melody, especially into the vocals – which are no longer hoarse barks, but rather tuneful bellows – and has polished the production up a bit.  Neither of these developments, though, has made their overall sound any less punishing.

Despite these modifications, Leviathan may be easily compared to Remission due to the fact that Mastodon has again written an incredibly strong group of songs, and simply plays the hell out of them.  Brann Dailor’s drumming is still the most easily recognizable and unique facet of their sound, as he whips through churning, chaotic rhythms with a subtlety and understated flair borrowed from jazz and progressive rock.  “Blood and Thunder” and “I Am Ahab” kick off the album furiously, while introducing the aquatic theme (much of it taken from Melville’s Moby Dick) of the record.  Far from being a mere pretentious bid for intellectual and musical depth, Mastodon’s sound is indeed massive enough to deserve the theme it claims, easily evoking visions of monstrous creatures rising from the watery deep to feed on the hearts and flesh of man.

Other album highlights include “Naked Burn,” in which Mastodon’s new found sense of melody is used to great effect; “Aqua Dementia,” which features throat-tearing guest vocals by Scott Kelly of Neurosis; and the positively epic “Hearts Alive,” which is able to suggest both crushing weight and transcendent beauty, as a ray of sunlight pierces the murky abyss.  Throughout Leviathan, Mastodon’s playing is fluid, inspired, and inspiring.  Although this attempt to avoid hyperbole has clearly failed, this is one band whose hype and acclaim is more than well-deserved, given that over the course of just two full-length albums they have managed to discover new ways for heavy metal to be heavy.

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Dry, right?  Although there’s probably something to be said in favor of this more straightforward writing style.  Generally folks aim to get less pretentious as they age, but I seem to by doing my utmost and damnedest to reverse that pernicious trend.  Don’t encourage me, then; I’m incorrigible.

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The Dead, Ritual Executions (2010)

Claustrophobic avant-sludge doom/death with jaunts into funk? Yes, please.

Australia’s The Dead self-released their sophomore album Ritual Executions last year.  2010, however, sees them freshly signed to India’s newly-launched Diabolical Conquest Records, with Ritual Executions getting a remastering job, updated artwork, and seeing a proper label release.  A murky hybrid and death metal and doom is the order of business for this Australian trio, but we’re not talking the doom/death of early Peaceville mopesters Anathema, Katatonia, Paradise Lost et al; instead, this is more like the dank, doomy, crypt-like death metal of early Incantation, or the quicker moments of legendary gut-wrenchers Disembowelment (though, in all fairness, if Incantation worship is your cup of righteous tea, the new Father Befouled album out on Relapse ought to be destination one).

The album starts off with a slow dirge of a song in “Burn Your Dead,” with a pleasantly thick, skull-rattling bass tone on the arpeggio riffs.  Vocalist Mike Yee demonstrates some abominably deep, guttural death tones, which are mixed in such a way as not to overpower the music, but still somewhat higher in the mix than many similarly-pitched vocalists, in a manner which verges on the comprehensible.  The closing sections of “Burn Your Dead” utilize an effective rhythmic compositional style to drone out with – a measure of 4/4 time followed by a measure of 3/4 time.  It’s a fairly simple tool, but it demonstrates that some deliberate thought has gone into the crafting of these tomes of death.

If you’ve picked up on that, though, later track “Centurian” is a bit of a let-down, since it, too, boasts that same meter (though in a somewhat more straight-forward 7/4 attack) for pretty much its entire duration.  The vocals also become somewhat monotonous as the album wears on, although not so much that they detract terribly from the masterful display of grooving, doom-tinged death metal.

The production isn’t quite gritty or fuzzed-out enough to push this album into sludge territory, but some of the songwriting veers in the direction of booze-drenched misanthropy.  There are a few frustrating quirks to the drum production, though.  The hi-hat has got a weird buzz to it, and the kick drum could stand to be mixed a little higher.  Still, it’s not overly clean, and although it rings somewhat hollow, the drum production still sounds like a real person pounding away on a real kit.

The album works effectively as a whole because of the band’s strong compositional skills, and the smart sequencing of tracks to alternate between trudging epics and more in-your-face, aggressive death metal blasts.  Some of the quicker tunes like “Cannibal Abattoir” show a very sprightly, almost jittery style of drumming (particularly in the snare drum work), which is occasionally reminiscent of a slightly less-busy Brann Dailor from Mastodon’s early work (think Remission or even Lifesblood).  I’m also not sure if it’s just because I’ve been listening to too much Kylesa lately, but I swear that some of these faster moments have a similar psychedelic feeling in the riffing.  At any rate, if the prospect of this type of doomy, well-composed death metal with non-obtrusive psychedelic touches gets your blackened heart all a-flutter, then you would do well to check this album out.

The funk drumming breaks in “Born In a Grave” are a bit jarring, but ultimately provide an interesting contrast to the more standard death metal signifiers used throughout.  The latter sections of this song, however, have some great, cavernous echoing effects to match the atmosphere of patient, plodding doom, and actually turn this track into one of the album’s highlights.  The build-up and eventual release around the five-minute mark (“BOOOOOORRRRRN…IN A GRAAAAVE”) is absolutely fantastic, and leads me into a near-apoplectic fit of wanting to smash furiously anything within reach.  Hide the china.

Other excellent moments include the groovy riff and breakdown around 1:30 into the title track, which is seriously crushing.  Think of the bulldozing momentum of Bolt Thrower or Asphyx, and you’re well on your way to grasping the effect of concrete slabs dropped repeatedly on your head.  The closing track “Death Metal Suicide” is a quite interesting change of pace, offering up another set of pretty funky grooves, especially in the drumming.  Whatever else you may think of it, it’s an extremely bold choice, playing a ten-minute long, funk-influenced instrumental jam to close out one’s album in a genre as frequently myopic and orthodox as death metal.

Some of the more avant-garde moments on this disc recall queasy death metal savants Gorguts (circa Obscura, primarily) and Portal, the latter of which may be more than a coincidence, as Ritual Executions was remastered by Aphotic, one of the guitarists from Portal.  The Dead don’t ever quite reach the same level of otherness (or what-the-fuck-ness) as either of the aforementioned bands, but it’s clear that they are drinking some of the same fetid water.

In general, the mélange of styles offered on this record ends up meshing rather well into a unique death metal whole.  Fans of the already-mentioned unsettled death metal acts Portal and Gorguts may find much to enjoy here, as will fans of the more strictly deathly side of doom/death metal.  One of the primary references which continues lurching into mind is Lasse Pyykkö (of Profound Lore’s Hooded Menace, as well as Phlegethon, Vacant Coffin, Claws, etc.), fans of whose should flock to this Australian cult with morbid glee.  Diabolical Conquest Records have found themselves a real winner of an album here, and I will be eagerly following future releases from this grimly determined band.  If Tom G. Warrior is to be believed, and only death is real, then get yourself a copy of Ritual Executions for a sledgehammer dose of heavy fucking metal reality.

Overall rating: 80%.  “BOOOOOOORRRRN…IN A GRAAAAAVE!!!”  Doesn’t get much better than that, friends.

More information on Diabolical Conquest Records is available at their website, where you can also order a copy of Ritual Executions.

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Yeah, I think I’m going to have to come back with a provisional answer of “Yes, this is the WORST FUCKING SONG EVER.”

At first, I was loath to even include the soul-sucking thing in this post, but figured that, just on the off chance you haven’t been forcibly subjected to it recently, well, I’d better include it for your listening displeasure.

Now, certainly this isn’t the Worst Song ever in any objective sense.  I mean, clearly all of the musicians involved are reasonably competent at playing their instruments.  Clearly, the recording engineer was capable of pressing ‘record’ at the proper time to capture this turgid, bloated mess on tape.  The song has a discernible verse, and chorus, and all those regular song-like qualities.

We could definitely find “worse” songs out there, if we’re looking for amateurish instrumental capabilities, disjointed song structures, poor recording quality, and so forth.  I would even venture to say that we could find songs which are on the order of one hundred times more annoying than this song.

Still, I’m fairly confident in standing by my judgment that this is the Worst Fucking Song Ever.

For a song whose title (and entire conceit) revolves around “flying away,” never have a heard a piece of music which so ruthlessly, endlessly, unforgivingly drags me down to earth, rubbing my face in the harsh light of the reality of just how much it sucks.  Nothing here uplifts.  This on its face is fine; after all, I listen to plenty of downright miserable heavy metal which is intentionally hopeless and misanthropic.  The key word there, however, is intentionally.

This song makes me horribly depressed because it just sits there, limply.  We can call it a ‘song’ only because it matches the skeletal outlines of what we think a ‘song’ needs to be.

Here are a few specific things that just piss me right straight the fuck off about this song:

The drums: Okay, so that’s a pretty dull drum line.  Fine.  Not every song needs a Brann Dailor (of Mastodon) behind the kit.  But what in the name of sweet fucking Moses is up with that obnoxious synthesized hand-clap on beat 3 of the measure?  Nobody’s clapping in the video.  Nobody will clap in the audience, unless you count the barrage of relieved clapping when this Cthulu-esque monstrosity of a song is done violating their ears.

The tempo: This song isn’t fast, and it isn’t slow.  To even call this song “mid-paced” would be an affront to all the perfectly respectable mid-paced songs out there.  I will suggest, instead, that we should call the tempo of this song ‘excruciating’.  Not excruciatingly slow, or excruciatingly fast, or anything like that.  Just, excruciating.  In fact, I can imagine that if you played this song at double-time, it might actually be marginally more interesting.

Or conversely, if you slowed this track down to a funeral doom crawl, then the juxtaposition between the morbidly creeping tempo and the ostensibly flightly, kinetic subject matter might be artistically intriguing.

But, no such luck.  Instead, this song plays like it is sitting on my chest.

The chorus: Son of a BITCH I hate this chorus.  It is the most insipid, uninspired, droning, ridiculous chorus ever inflicted upon a man’s ear drums, and I hate it to death.  It is catchy, I suppose, but so is ebola.  Also, what ever on this whole sweet earth is behind Mr. Kravitz’s decision to, during some of the later repetitions of the chorus (I lost count, but this is probably on like chorus repetition numbers fifty-seven through seventy-four), to, instead of singing, “I want to get away, I wanna flyyyy awaaaaay / Yeah, yeah, yeah,” overdubs himself singing “You” over the second in that string of “Yeah”s?

Did we decide that “Yeah” was too sophisticated a word, especially when thrice repeated, so we needed to change it up a bit?  Or have we just all agreed that nobody is paying attention anymore, what with their brains slowly dripping out their ear holes like cold oatmeal, so that “You” overdub is really like a “Hey! You! Pay attention to my awesome sooooooong!”?

The video: Don’t you have to imagine that in order to get the people in the video shoot to dance like that, they must have been playing them something which was actually sexy?  I mean, if you believe the narrative the video tries to present, play this song for a lady friend and there will instantly appear twelve other lady friends for some serious sexy times.

The way I hear the song, though, if I played it for a lady friend, I think her uterus might honestly DROP RIGHT OUT OF HER BODY.  Which would be okay, I guess, because it would give us something to talk about besides how GODDAMN INSUFFERABLE THIS LENNY KRAVITZ SONG IS.

The bottom line is, this song is absolutely terrible.  It is so single-mindedly dull, bland, and inoffensive that it just about becomes the most OFFENSIVE thing ever to my ears.  I can find basically no redeeming quality in this song, except maybe (just maybe) that when it’s finally finished playing (the YouTube link claims it’s a 3:42 run time, but I swear it goes on for at least two hours), absolutely any other piece of atrocious music in the world that you could think of to play will sound like divine intervention, like the sweetest melodic redemption ever bestowed upon a humble, Lenny Kravitz-suffering sinner.

We’re talking, like, Aqua’s “Barbie Girl” becomes Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony, here, folks: this shit is THAT SERIOUS.

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