Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bonde Do Ro

"With Lasers"

Don't get me wrong bub, Bonde Do Role's "With Lasers" is pretty good. It's dumb, messy, sweaty fun. And the album sounds like it would totally take flight live and inspire all sorts of frenzy (which makes me even more disappointed that they pulled out of their early October TSI shows, citing that showbiz standby "exhaustion") and audience/performer overlap. So, cool, yeah. But "With Lasers" taken alone, without the live performance immediacy? Hmmm.... It's like a bratty collage of Beastie Boys "Fight For Your Right To Party," (the sadly departed) Shampoo, MIA and Miami booty bass with exotique Brazilian flavor. Besides CSS, they're the main ambassadors for the baile funk movement and apparently a bunch of metal samples didn't make the final cut - for legal reasons. I had my money on the opening track using Angus Young's riff from AC/DC's "Thunderstruck."

Sometimes "With Lasers" is a little too "wacky" (or new or fun or dancy) for my tastes but on tunes like metallized scorcher "Bondallica," the frenzied shouty chorus of "James Bonde," "Marino Da Bairro" full of snotty Kraftwerk groove and breathless boy/girl vocals, "Gasolina" with its toy synths and chants of "Afrika Bambaata," everything works out just fine. Songs are punk-rock length, so don't worry if there's one you don't like, thee's another one on the way. It's weird though, in the end this record will make people dance and have fun, and that makes my blood run cold. Hey no, enjoy it though.

-Matthew Moyer

Godless Rising

"Battle Lords"
Moribund Cult Records

As the immortal Voivod once said, "RRROOOAAARRR!!!!!" The nucleus of Rhode Island's (also home to Lightning Bolt, mind you) Godless Rising is Jeff Gruslin and Paul Flynn, both formerly of Vital Remains, presumably having ditched that outfit to create something even more antisocial and sacreligious. Good news! They've succeeded! Godless Rising are an inexorable charge of amphetamined death-metal overkill. Visions of Angelcorpse, Deicide, Bolt Thrower and Suffocation dance in my head whilst I'm being pummeled by "Battle Lords'" enthusiastic lack of finesse and spike-gloved bodyblows. What you gets is a taut whirlwind of Satanic speedkicks and complex riff breakdowns collaged together for maximum discomfort, dual lead guitar acrobatics with gurgling high/low (Benton-esque) vocals that relish each slurred blasphemy and "what the hell? Is this real?" typewriter quick drums. The vibe is meant to summon forth classic death metal witchery, but the sound is surprisingly modern. Music like this is meant to divide. Fuck. Yes.

In an age of religious extremism, are dath metal musicians the new humanists? Or the last line of age of enlightenment, secular defense? Discuss.

-Matthew Moyer

The Vision Bleak

The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey
Napalm Records

I first heard The Vision Bleak on their debut cd "The Deathship Has A New Captain" and I must say I really dug it. The duo of Olf Theodor Schwdorf and Allen B. Konstanz lay down a terrifying metal dirge of doom guitar riffs, thundering bass and drums while adding dark atmospheric synths and low eerie vocals. Yeah I know , there are a million gothic/metal bands doing the exactly the same formula. So what sets them apart from the fold? Beats me. These guys just... make it work better than a lot of their peers. Even Schwdorf's vocals slightly remind me of Type O Negative crossed with The Sisters Of Mercy to some extent, but so what? The lyrical influences range from H.P. Lovecraft, to Egyptian mythology, vampires, Poe, etc... They move all over the horror genre with frightening ease and on their new Cd "The Wolves Go Hunt Their Prey" it really pays off. So, if you like your gothic metal with a little more "bite", then I highly recommend The Vision Bleak. Just in time for Halloween kiddies.

- Craig Harvey

Monday, October 29, 2007

Satans Host

Burning the Born Again... A New Philosophy
Moribund Cult

Okay, this is fucking awesome. The atmospheric, synthy Goblin-esque intro gives me a quick moment to tell you that Colorado's Satan's Host have been going for about two decades now, honing their underground thrash sound to a sharper and more serrated point. SO here we are in the year 2007 and purveyors of all things black, Moribund Cult Records, have snatched them up from the underground and given them a new purpose and new audience. Satan's Host are, like Napalm Death, a legacy band, founder Patrick Evil (YES!) having assembled a (mostly) new blood lineup, roughing up the edges of his sleek thrashy riffs, giving them a blackened discoloration. It's fucking cool though, the sound of "Burning the Born Again" is classic thrash, without the museum piece stigma or self-conscious retrofitting that often accompanies this type of musique. What we're left with is a smoldering slab of good ol' Satanic death-heaviness executed with aplbom and acumen! "Burning" is reminiscent of the sound of classic Swedish death metal, especially Entombed circa "Left Hand Path," evil thrash like Dark Angel, some tense Iron Maiden-y bits and a lot of the early deathcore like Carcass. It's dirty and grungy as fuck. Downtuned, buzzing migraine guitars and catchy, vile riffery gives way to technical sections that never forget the essential brutality of their tunes (but evoking that awesome unpredciable bird on a wire tension of metal), a tight, speedy rhythm section, great discordant leads landing between Motorhead and Morbid Angel, and sicko vocals like LG Petrov and Jeff Walker, just way more unhinged. That sense of wild abandon and dedication to their blunt-force craft, nudges them way above their younger peers.

Check the call-and-rssponse chorus of "H.E.L.L." - in between blistering speed runs! Or the brittle, doomy riffing in "A Darkmoon Gathering!" The Dead Can Dance interlude of "A New Philosophy!" The swaggering riffery on "The Unholy Sabbath!" There's like a million fucking songs on this album. No way that you won't get your money's worth. Here's hoping all those nu-thrash dorkos give the proper respect to these dissolute godfathers. Too good to be a cult obscurity.

-Matthew Moyer

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Horrors

The Horrors (EP)
Stolen Transmission

So what we, uh, don't have enough of these days is bands looking like they sound. Trust me, with the exceptions of the Cramps, Siouxsie and every black metal band ever, most bands aren't willing to make that extra jump into total identity immersion and reality creation. Not So! with the Horrors. They're the NME saviors it's okay to like! They have unfeasibly big hair! Unfeasibly tight undertaker outfits! They're going to be in an episode of the Mighty Boosh! They're not afraid to be goth! They have an organ player! I could go on. The visual imagery of the Horrors is way fucking cogent in discussing their overall aesthetics - that of cobblestoned streets in the dead of night, dank crypts, darkened velvet drawing rooms, consumptive radicals, cape-wearing dandies, Dickensian urchins, Baudelaire and Rimbaud knife fighting down dark streets, Ghoulardi broadcasting B-grade horror films from someone's basement, the Count Five wearing Dracula capes...

Okay, the Horrors are too young to be so good in that dirty, filthy garage-crypt-robbin' way. But they pull it fucking off! Half of this lightning quick 5-song EP (no song over 3:30 minutes, buddy!) sounds like the Cramps' foster children, the other half sounds like they could have been the opening band for either Bobby "Boris" Picket and the Crypt Kicker Five or maybe Screamin' Jay Hawkins in his prime. It's a blur of messy, evil cavestomp genius - Billy Childish and Jesus and Mary Chain and old 78s, dig those backing vocals and that screeching organ, dad.

"Death At The Chapel," besides having one of the coolest song titles ever, doesn't overstay its welcome in a careening two minutes worth of horror movie organs (from Spyder Webb), fuzzed out guitar vomit and Faris's screams ushering in a guitar solo and an organ solo respectively! With a crash effect at the end! "Crawdaddy Simone," ostensibly about a creepy loner, might instead be about any member of the band, down to the stylish dress and not having any friends - my favorite part about this song is the high, beat group backing vocals. Not to mention lead howler Faris Rotter's bizarrely mature vocal roar, reminiscent of Nick Cave circa Birthday Party with a lil' bit of Mark Arm. "Sheena Is A Parasite" reimagines the classic Ramones number as a spazzed-out, teethgrinding goth raveup. If Bauhaus was a Nuggets band! Release the bats! Following that is a cover of Screaming Lord Sutch's Halloween classic "Jack the Ripper," and they do the old boy proud. It's all taut, darkling mod frenzy - with wiry, one-note guitar, four on the floor rhythms, atonal organ vamps, little boy lost call-and-response vocals to Rotter's deep gurgles. A glorious mess. "Excellent Choice" somewhat breaks with the previous black planet/batcave vibe with a number that reminds me of "Jesus Built My Hotrod" or "Louie Louie." Now THIS is what a young band/Britain should sound like.

Any justice in the world and they'll ignite a youth cult like Roxy Music before them. Fashion is art is music is pose is death... I mean life.

-Matthew Moyer


The Open Door
Wind Up Records

Evanescence took the hard rock/metal world by storm back in 2003 with their debut cd "Fallen". Amy Lee's soaring, angelic vocals merged with Ben Moody's massive guitar riffs sent them straight up the charts. Granted their musical formula was not entirely new, as European metal acts such as The Gathering, Nightwish, and Lacuna Coil have always had strong female vocalists. However, Evanescence was the first American band to put this style in the limelight. World tours followed along with the hit singles "Bring Me To Life", "My Immortal", "Going Under"and "Everybody's Fool". Even with the huge success of the band, tensions arose and co-founding member Moody, left because of creative differences. From there, this began a downward slide for the rest of the band, which caused the remaining members to depart due to various reasons. However replacements were found and the band continued forward. In 2004 the Cd/DVD "Anywhere But Home was released with a live concert from Paris on the DVD, and several unreleased and live songs on the Cd.

Finally in late 2006 "The Open Door" was released with fevered anticipation by fans worldwide. The album was another major hit for the band and spawned four more singles "Call Me When Your Sober", "Lithium", "Sweet Sacrifice" and "Good Enough". Even with the total line-up change minus Amy Lee, Evanescence sounded just as heavy and tight as ever. The songwriting had not suffered either, despite Ben Moody's departure (considering he and Lee were a team for so many years.) Replacement guitarist Terry Balsamo (formerly of Cold) helped co-write the lyrics to many of the songs this time around as well. However, the main focus here is Amy Lee's stunning voice. Her range is simply amazing. The emotion she exudes is breathtaking, putting every ounce of her soul on the line for the listener. You are swept up in her pain, her love, her sadness and her joy in each and every track. This is Evanescence's real strength. Not to say the rest of the band aren't important, far from it. However, I think any good set of musicians could stand behind Amy and come out shining. Her presence leads the rest of the members like a beacon, giving them direction and guiding them strong and true through her emotional, musical tapestry. I was hard pressed to find a song on this album that I thought was mediocre. And you know what? I couldn't. "The Open Door" is a solid, beautiful album that is a perfect combination of power, elegance and beauty. A winner in my book from beginning to end.

- Craig Harvey

Friday, October 19, 2007

Small Sins


My, how they’ve improved! Small Sins’ debut didn’t really strike me as anything but a wannabe Postal Service. This time, main man Thomas D’Arcy is joined by several co-conspirators for a far more satisfying experience. From the opening “I Need A Friend” to the closing “Bullet”, this is purely enjoyable electrorock, with very little filler. Highly recommended, and a much better starting point than the debut.

-Adam Naworal

BM Linx

FB Records

Excellent new wave/electro rock. The standout cover of Sonic Youth’s “100%” is the kicker for me, but highlights abound on this delightful disc. Certainly nothing new is being done here, but electroclash and new wave fans would do well to invest in BM Linx.

-Adam Naworal

Happy Mondays

MVD, 2007

Oof, Watching someone destroy their image in public is never pretty. Farrah Fawcett for instance. Shaun Ryder doesn’t fare much better in this ill-advised DVD. Now, before I go any further, let it be said I will NEVER knock Happy Mondays during their heyday. Who doesn’t have fond memories of “Step On”, “Bob’s Yer Uncle”, “Kinky Afro”…….? On the same token, who wants those memories stamped to death? Ryder’s Mr. Magooish appearance in DEMON DAYS LIVE pales in comparison to this display of a once-amazing voice that is far too ravaged from years of every imaginable substance abuse. The formerly sensual “Bob’s Yer Uncle” is remade as a lecherous drunk’s pickup line. Certain tracks fare better (ironically, “Reverend Black Grape” possibly elicits the best performance from Ryder), and the band’s playing is spot on, but Ryder ruins everything. Well, not EVERYTHING. Bez does what Bez does best with aplomb throughout.

-Adam Naworal

Shocking Pinks

DFA, 2007

DFA has done it again. Will they ever cease providing us with amazing bands that recall the cream of 80s post-punk in all its guises? New Zealand’s Shocking Pinks is the product of Nick Harte. Nick has obviously done his homework in absorbing Kiwi acts (ESPECIALLY the Flying Nun roster), British shoegazer, and US noise-pop. SHOCKING PINKS (comprised of two previously import-only EPs) glides effortlessly from soft washes of treated guitars, to pastoral dreamscapes that remind one of Slowdive, all the way to a conga-heavy dance-punk number that recalls prime Liquid Liquid. With a few exceptions, this is a mostly downbeat and somewhat fuzzy affair, bound to appeal to the same folks who love My Bloody Valentine and Ride more than labelmates such as LCD Soundsystem and Hot Chip (but perhaps appealing to the same set as Prinzhorn Dance School, another of DFA’s less dance-oriented acts). That having been said, Shocking Pinks are an extremely talented group that deserve a special place in any shoegazer/post-punk collection.

-Adam Naworal

Extra Golden

Thrill Jockey, 2007

While the pairing of two indie rockers (one a member of Weird War and the other in post-rockers Golden) with Kenyan benga musicians may smack of novelty, Extra Golden surpass all expectations on this absolutely delightful sophomore album. Whereas their debut OK-OYOT SYSTEM sounded slightly forced and never quite gelled (despite some stunning moments of genius), HERA MA NONO comes together as a perfect meeting of the minds. While perhaps not revolutionary, Extra Golden are extremely accomplished at grafting indie-style rock and Afro-pop textures for a release that is equally good on the dance floor or the surround sound system. Worth investigating and keeping an eye on.

-Adam Naworal

Acumen Nation

Crack Nation, 2007

Right down to the similar cover designs, Acumen Nation delivers every bit as dark and aggressive an album as its sister album by DJ? Acucrack. Their sound has updated a bit to incorporate perhaps a smidge more Acucrackish programming (there’s definitely a wee bit more d’n’b-type drum patterns than before). Thankfully, the more overtly metal parts that have been making their way in (as opposed to the more rock sound of earlier Acumen releases) have been perfectly integrated for a classic Acumen feel. Overall, the updated ragga jungle/industrial rock fusion manages to rekindle my old fondness for these mainstays. Old fans will be delighted and new fans will see what the fuss is about. Highly recommended; buy this and Acucrack at the same time!

-Adam Naworal

DJ? Acucrack

Crack Nation, 2007

Possibly the darkest Acucrack release yet, this newest collection (released at the same time as its sister Acumen Nation album) tears through drum and bass maelstroms and eerie atmospherics with aplomb. Given the tile, an emphasis on horror is expected, and these electronic stalwarts deliver! HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP is also perhaps the closest DJ? Acucrack has ever come to sounding like Acumen Nation while still maintaining a distinct identity as far more than a side project. A solid listen from start to finish, and absolutely recommended to all Acucrack/Acumen fans.

-Adam Naworal

Monday, October 8, 2007

Two Gallants

"The Scenery of Farewell"
Saddlecreek Records

When I kept reading that the sound of the Two Gallants, though rollicking and rough, was rooted in the blues, I got cold chills down my spine. The thought of two earnest young dudes playing the blues immediately brings to mind hawaiian shirts, porkpie hats and shades indoors, not to mention making those crazy faces during guitar solos. I needn't have worried. In fact, this'n is a taster, a breather before the new album and much more reminiscent of Austin's rebel country scene and the Minneapolis sound circa the 80s. Amongst others.....

For the uninitiated, this might not be the most characteristic introduction to the backwoods, insular sonics of Two Gallants, usually an altogether more raucous affair. HOWEVER, "Scenery of Farewell" seems to be a chance for our intrepid dueo a chance to try out some of that "quiet is the new loud" jive and relax, experiment and sing joyously from some mountaintop backporch (with some harmonica and violin/fiddle along for the ride) in a more restrained and mostly acoustic setting. So we've got this here ep.

It's pretty good fucking stuff. What jumped out at me first, and I'm surprised no other critics have picked up on this, is the sonic/vocal similarities between this and Chris Bell's doomed, lovely solo set "I Am The Cosmos." The same deep loneliness and yearning to communicate and connect with someone else out there, punctuated by bursts of all-too temporary ecstasy, found as the vocals and instruments link together and try to rise higher to transcendence, just to prove all the fucking doubters and demons wrong, knowing full well it'll all end in (dirty) tears.

The overall mood is one of weariness and heartbreak - at times to the detriment of the ep as a whole. It feels like they're holding back, or too road-weary to rouse themselves from a torpor of endless roads and nameless stages. The production is surprisingly clean and clear too. I expected more low fi-tronics. Their next full-length should be good, albeit louder, stuff. Let's have it.

- Matthew Moyer

Patrick Wolf

"The Magic Position"
Low Altitude

Though he may cut a dashing, albeit moppet-esque, figure in his Boy Scout-goes-glam outfits and color-coordinated tangle of hair, it's clear that former Leigh Bowery associate (and former boy genius) Patrick Wolf is doing something FAR beyond being a mere pop eccentric or a sort of sartorial Quentin Crisp for the 21st Century. Indeed no, it's his towering musical ambition that makes The Magical Position difficult for me to fucking listen to the first few times around. It's almost TOO big, the pop TOO soaring and dizzying and perfect. I need grit, grime, missed notes and the ambient hiss of a room. But Wolf has no time for that, he's too busy nipping at the heels of (to my ears at least) Bjork, U2, Jarvis Cocker, REM and Arcade Fire with his oddball symphonies, laptop Dexys fever dreams and perfectpop choruses. I'm just stunned; who am I to stand in the way of this worldbeating songcraft?

But of course, the more I listen, the more it insuates itself into my subconscious until I'm swerving the car off the road miming along to the copious hooks of Magic Position. Damn you, Wolf! What was it that sealed the deal for me? Two things: 1. The point in heartbroken waltz Augustine where he whispers "Why does love leave me/So damn cold/Now I'm getting old/Is this what it should be" Followed by a seemingly etneral pause, the music drops out, and he dramatically intones, "Well, is it?" Now THOSE are lyrics. 2. And the realization that as Wolf's vocals mature, he's starting to become a dead fucking ringer for the ever-sublime and wonderful rich baritone of Human Drama's Johnny Indovina! Fifty feet deep. Fuck yeah.

"Get Lost" is one of those rousing escape anthems, beloved of, like Bruce Springsteen and Morrissey, it's totally toy orchestra anthemic and techno baroque. "Accident and Emergency" is a song Depeche Mode would absolutely kill for. He channels his inner Scott Walker with the torch song/agorophobia sketch of "The Bluebell" sequing effortlessly into the fist pumping Scary Monsters/Talk Talk theatrics of "Bluebells." Marianne Faithful pops up to play Nico in "Magpie."

Perfect for the young and the starcrossed.

- Matthew Moyer

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


Relentless Recurrence (Cd)
Seediq Bale (Cd)
A Decade On The Throne (DVD + CD)
SPV Music

Black Metal has spawned a host of bands from many countries (mainly Europe) but the last place I expected to find it crawling from the mire was Taiwan. Chthonic (pronounced "Thonic") however are deathly serious about their music and on these cd/dvd's it really shows. The band's name is derived from from the Greek legends pertaining to spirits or gods of the underworld. The lyrics revolve around the ancient history and myths of Taiwan and the band also incorporates traditional musical elements such as the "erhu" (a oriental two string violin) along side the guitars, bass, drums, keyboards etc... The "corpsepaint" that is usually worn by so many black metal bands is used by Chthonic as well, but their makeup is based off part of their culture. The "Eight Generals" deities who wear the paint to become one with Taoist spirits who in turn give the power to judge good and evil. Interesting indeed.
"Relentless Recurrence" (initially released in 2002) is the story of a benevolent spirit who seeks revenge, while their newest album "Seediq Bale" is based more in fact. It tells the sad tale of a Taiwanese tribe who sought rebellion against the colonial opression and was defeated by the Japanese army. Both albums have a massive black metal attack, with evil screaming male vocals and softer female vocals which is fairly standard these days, but it works. The use of the aforementioned "erhu" gives the music a more unique sound along side the other instruments as well. Metal fans will obviously hear similarities between Chthonic and other well known bands such as Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, Darkthrone, etc.... I personally hear a very big Cradle Of Filth influence(especially the vocals) which is fine, everyone has to start somewhere. However, the band is really making the music their own by branching out and pushing boundries lyrically and musically.
The DVD "A Decade On The Throne" has them playing to a huge crowd in their homeland. The venue appears to be a warehouse of some type, and the audience is packed to the hilt. So, how does the band sound live? Well, all the instruments come through without overpowering each other and even the "erhu" is very prominent throughout all the songs. Lead vocalist Freddy Lim shrieks like a banshee throughout much of the show and on occasion does sing, which is nice. To be honest his vocals are very hard to understand, but hey, whats black metal without some screaming right? There are the obligatory guitar and drum solo's to fill in space and give everyone else a break as well. Overall the show is well put together, complete with projection screens and some sort of open giant hand sculputre at the edge of the stage. So yeah, I enjoyed it. Also, there are two Cd's included with DVD of the same show. The entire package is displayed in this beautiful hardback book with photos and a lot of information in Tiawanese, so I can't give you the specifics. Not only is the DVD set exquisite, but so are the cd's Seediq Bale and Relentless Recurrence. They are both digipacks with dark gorgeous artwork inside and out. Chthonic spared no expense on the quality of these releases.
After all this, the band is perfoming at the Wacken open air festival in Germany, touring with Ozzfest (on selected dates) on their "UNlimited tour, and supporting (surprise, surprise) Cradle Of Filth as well . If your a metal fan you should be hearing about this band very soon if you haven't already. I think that after all this positive exsposure, Chthonic will have no trouble finding a fanbase outside it's homeland, and will taking the metal world by storm very shortly. Definitely a band to watch out for.

- Craig Harvey