Saturday, May 14, 2011

May 2011 album reviews

Sat May 21, 2011 12:11 am

Liturgy - Aesthetica 2LP

So here we have the highly anticipated brand new album by the most controversial band in Black Metal. Remember the days when Darkthrone or Burzum were the most controversial bands, due to sketchy nationalistic leanings? Well I guess that's old hat because what you really need to do to cause a stir these days is be (or at least look like) a hipster, create a Black Metal manifesto and preach to the legions of the BM elite how much more you know about BM than they do. Hunter Hunt-Hendrix is just such a fellow and boy has he been creating waves of hate and has become BM enemy number one, plus the target of ridicule amongst many in the scene. I personally don't see anything wrong with taking a more intellectual stance on Black Metal, wanting to take it to higher level of seriousness beyond its origins of Satan and Sacrifice. The dude seems awfully excited about the genre and he took it upon himself to write up a long ass manifesto explaining his feelings on the matter and how much the music touches him on a spiritual level. Black Metal has always been spiritual music to me though, a lot of us have already been there done that years ago. That's cool though, I can appreciate his youthful enthusiasm for the genre, and I know as well as anyone who's been "touched" by the spirit of Black Metal that it's a powerful force that makes you want to shout your feelings on the matter at the top of mountain and then conquer the world in the name of Black fucking Metal! I get that Hunter is a pretty intelligent and well-educated individual, but what Hunter has failed to realize is that Black Metal is not a school project. It is not there to be deconstructed, viewed in general terms, re-assembled in fragments and then handed in as a 5-page essay to maintain your GPA. It is not something over which you can reason with other individuals. Black Metal is very personal and "individualistic" experience for everyone. It is a realm of your own making, in which you sprout wings and lord over it on your own terms. At the end of the day, I'm really not all that bothered by HHH's opinions and antics, it's the art that counts. For good or worse, HHH has now become a "character" in the ever expanding stage of BM. Black Metal has always been full of "characters" that have been, eccentric, loony, unhinged, criminal, pretentious try-hards, even flat out liars, this dates back to Euronymous and Varg and even earlier with the ever peculiar Quorthon. But you know?... I tend to like my musicians to be a little off beat, queer and even a little controversial, they are the unconventional force that have keep the creative BM flame alive. So what we have left is the ART itself and does Liturgy put their money where their mouth is? I'd say a resounding YES! Their first album (Renihilation) had a loose style of fast and soaring melodies (that almost sounded like they were improvised), built over stop-and-go drum patterns that conjured the heaving sounds of a hurricane. It showed promise but I wasn't blown away nor was it anything original in the least. Actually that first album reminded me a lot of the rolling blast & scream style of Anal Cunt in a funny way, hehe. So now we finally get to Aesthetica. Which to my summation demonstrates huge improvement over their debut. It's much tighter for one, riffs are more distinguishable and intractably layered. The production is liquid gold, the music shines bright and it's much more complimentary to their ceaseless and perplexing style. The dueling noodly riffs are just as lightening fast, but they show more sophistication and purpose this time around. The superimposed guitar lines weave gorgeous melodies together that sound like streaks of light racing up through the sky and out the stratosphere! One of my complaints with their debut was that the songs were, for the most part, makeshift bursts and blasts with disorganized structure. While Aesthetica still has plenty speed going on, there are more breaks and bends into other tempos giving the songs more shape and contour. I'll say Liturgy has made remarkable progression here, and they've also developed a sound all their own with trademark deliberations that are distinctly, Liturgy. The track "Returner" is a fine example of what this band is capable of. Starting with an immediate, scatter rhythmic passage that liquefies into triumphant phrasing that reminds me of some of the lullaby anthems of the Cardiacs! They hook back around to the mathy intro riffs, and then throw in a bit of blasting interwoven between the complex rhythms and the escalating melodies that increase the ensuing epicness, ...until the exultant ending that leaves me breathless! A song like this is why I love BM so much, and is evident as to why Liturgy chooses BM as a medium to deliver on their mission of 'transcendental' enlightenment. The song "True Will" has a moment of pure ecstasy when they build to a radiant, hammering drone at the 3:30 minute mark and carry it for a good 40 seconds before that moment of orgasmic release. It's little maneuvers like this that make the album enjoyable for me, and I still haven't fully absorbed Aesthetica in its entirety yet. I have a feeling this is going to be the feel-good album of the summer for me! I will say there is a bit of gristle on this album that could have been trimmed or intermingled a little more tactfully. You have a few instrumental cuts like "Generation" and "Veins of Gold" that offer some variation and are nice breathers between the main cuts, but I skip past "Veins of Gold" and find it to be a bland attempt at something "Doomy" or "True Metalish." Not sure what the purpose is with that track, but it's overly long and really sucks the energy out of the album IMO. You also have a twiddly little synthy track "Helix Skull" which acts as a midway point and an intro to the second half of the album (or second LP to the 2LP set) it's nothing remarkable, but at least it doesn't linger too long either. And then you have "Glass Earth," a layered chorus of psychedelic folksy chanting that acts as a zen like springboard that launches finale of the album "Harmonia." That track is a winner and a very appropriate one-two punch way to end the album IMO. It's a shame that a lot of people already have their minds made up about this band/album before even giving it a chance. But everyone has their own hang-ups are and can't see the art past the artists shenanigans. But of course you'll have plenty that will hate it because its not their type of BM to begin with, and that's okay. For me personally, it would be hard for me NOT to like this album and it would go against the essence of my being to hate it for the sake of "Black Metal integrity" or some other silly shit like that. This is a fine album indeed, one of the better BM albums of the year so far. And while I have no desire to defend the verbal romp of Mr HHH (once again I state, I don't subscribe to his harangues) but I will stand up for the music of Aesthetica, which turned out to be one hell of an impressive album.



Sat May 14, 2011 11:34 am

Deafheaven - Roads To Judah CD 2011

Another one of those new BM bands that the members obviously come outside the world of BM. For that alone people will ignite the hate without ever giving them a chance. No matter, because this band is actually huge already due to internet buzz plus the flighty devouring youth DLing their album 10 times faster than anyone can buy them. The plan here with Deafheaven seems to be a melting pot of Post-Rock, Shoegaze, Screamo and of course Black Metal. Honestly Deafheaven doesn't offer a progressive take on any of those genres and nothing on this album will come off as anything surprising. The songs always utilize the typical Post-Rock climb (sometimes at the beginning, other times during a midway break), the expected tremolo picking playing a melody with the longing sappy atmosphere that eventually explodes into long stretches of blasting Black Metal, over top a melody that's in the same key and chord structure of the instrumental parts. The entire album is pretty two dimensional (hey, two is better than one, right?), a bit too predictable with the two distinct sides they play up. The vocals are actually pretty one dimensional too; if they be influenced by Screamo at all I'd hope they be more expressive in the vocal department at least, but I guess not, pretty bland. I feel their strength actually lies in the slower more "Post-Rock" side, as the blasting BM parts for my money seem to last just a little too long, I'd like to hear more tempo shifts and not have it be so 'by-the-numbers': here's the Post-Rock part and here's the blasting BM part, wash, rinse, repeat! With that said the transitions between the two dimensions of this band do sound fairly natural and don't come off as jarring and forced...keeping the melodic arrangements samey helps with that. I also do like the drumming on this album, the guy hits hard and during the ascending blasting passages, his accents on the cymbals and the how he almost seems to loose himself in the battery on the kit, he really provides a much needed emotional injection into the formula. The production on this album is also massive, the guitars have a nice shimmery quality but are also full and loud. And of course the drum tuning is big, round and enveloping. If the production were any thinner, I think it would have lost much of its power. At the end of the day, I do enjoy this album but I don't see myself looking back 10 years from now thinking this was anything but one of the many' doing this style in 2011, perhaps just a slight cut above the rest?...maybe, maybe not...only time will tell. I'll be curious if this band is in it for the long haul, or if they're just hoppers of a trend, and so the history of Black Metal rolls on...I love being a seasoned old time observer, bring on the next flavor of the month!



1 comment:

  1. I'll have to give it more spin but I'm really into deafheaven's album. It struck a chord with me that can't stop ringing and I might call it one of my album of the year. Not because it's an inovative record but because it blends a lot of different influences in a way that is as pretty as engaging. Pretty is not a word usually associated with black metal but I don't see them as being a black metal band but more of one of the many post band that are creating a new culture outside of metal, far away from it's template, much like punk musicians "created" a new genre called post punk.