Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Wolfpack Unleashed

Anthems Of Resistance
Napalm Records

Thrash metal from the Fatherland!! Wolfpack Unleashed lay down some of the tastiest thrash metal riffs that brings me back to the days of Megadeth, Metallica, Testament, Exodus etc.... when Thrash was king!!! The vocals even have a nice James Hetfield vibe to them, but still has the tinge of that German accent that rolls across the tongue of lead singer/bassist Gunther Wirth. He's got a gruff edge, and does the occasional growl now and then, but he's no screamer. It's even got a great twin guitar team consisting of band founder Wops Koch and Karl Preininger and these guys mean buisness. Galloping riffs and smoldering lead work simply set the songs on fire!! Oh and lets not forget about the drum and bass. Man what a massive bottom end! The double bass drums simply destroy! As I mentioned before, vocalist Gunther Wirth handles the bass duties as well and he is fine form keeping up with both guitarists with some nimble 4 string fretwork. He can really play the bass, not simply do the bare minimum. That said, this is an album for metal fans of all areas. It's got enough kick ass musicianship and great songs that should put it right up there along side the metal giants that these guys so revere.

- Craig Harvey

Enthroned

Tetra Karcist
Napalm Records

The history of this band can be a little confusing. It seems there has been a ton of line-up changes since the first incarnation back in 1993. I did a little research and there have been 11 former members prior to the group as it exists today. Even the founding member Cernunnos committed suicide by hanging himself (geez what is it with these black metal bands?) I don't think any of the current foursome other than vocalist/guitarist Nornagest have been with the band more than a few years. Nornagest played guitar with the band since 95' but had to assume vocal duties when their singer Lord Sabathan (who had been with the group since 94') left the band. Anyway enough with the revolving circus of band members. On with the music. Well, it's black metal for sure. It's got all the right elements; blast beats, evil growling/screaming vocals, satanic lyrics, haunting gregorian chants and eerie keyboards for good measure. And lo and behold some good production! A lot of early black metal had this annoying habit of shitty production with no bottom end and thin guitars. Some "purists" tend to slam any band of this genre for actually sounding good! What morons. Who wants to sound like crap because they think it's cool? One interesting thing I noticed was the guitar solo's were very melodic and not chaotic at all. They had these... almost "beautiful" dark melodies that contrasted so well over the blackened riffs, that it made it that much more evil. Granted these guys have not re-invented the wheel here, but they have done it better than a lot of their peers. This is supreme metal blasphemy at it's finest!

- Craig Harvey

Cyanotic

Transhuman 2.0
Bitriot Records

This two disc set of hard industrial tunes is actually performed by an actual band, not one guy with a computer, midi keyboard and a few other effects toys. Nothing wrong with that of course, but on stage, this foursome actually have more to do than stand behind one synth and scream into a microphone. The live feel of bass, guitars, vocals and of course keyboards are much better eye candy if you ask me. The music is definitely on the harsh side (no synth pop here) and the lyrics are about the inevitable melding of man and technology as part of our natural evolutionary process. The second disc also adds some remixes into the song line-up as well. With 28 tracks to choose from this is a splendid deal from a darn good American industrial act.

- Craig Harvey

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

IAMX

The Alternative
Edel

IAMX is one of the many musical aliases of Chris Corner - better known as the man behind the electro shapeshifters the Sneaker Pimps. For "The Alternative," the second IAMX full-length, Corner assumes a visual and sonic persona not unlike that of David Bowie's dissolute, European and sinister Thin White Duke, revelling in a performance dripping with old-world decadence and a fetish-club update of Keith Richards'"elegantly wasted" ethos. Corner's voice goes from deep and commanding to a crystalline falsetto at the drop of a (peaked, leather) cap, full of seductive yearning, while a mix of coked-out disco, stadium-ready electronics a-la Depeche Mode and glammed-out EBM swirls woozily all around him.

Lest ye think it's all Caligula-with-a-synthesizer and the record is gonna leave fluids and used needles on your record player, don't worry sweetness, the ratio of Saturday night to Sunday morning songs is way more even than you'd expect. Tear-soaked torch numbers like "S.H.E" and "This Will Make You Love Again" display an earnest vulnerability, like there's a Frank Sinatra circa "In The Wee Small Hours" buried under all the PVC, leather and smeared makeup, struggling to escape an endless cycle of bathroom stalls and one-night stands. Epic. For the most part though, the album is darker and more rhythmic, with songs like "Nightlife" attempting to approximate the Stooges headlining a rave (while copping the riff of U2's "Discotheque"), glammy stompers like "The Alternative" and "Spit It Out" going into full-on dancefloor dramatics and grand diva gestures. Additionally, the whole album has just enough cabaret influences and music hall flourishes to lend it a fin de si├Ęcle feel, where every cruelty and kindess becomes cinematic in scope. Did I mention that fucking falsetto? I did? As with love affairs, there are a couple of clunkers like the She Wants Revenge pastiche "Negative Sex" and the clattery cod-industrial of "Bring Me Back A Dog." He's better than all that. Throwing darts in lovers' eyes...

-Matthew Moyer

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Prinzhorn Dance School

"Prinzhorn Dance School"
DFA

Start from nothing - void, silence - and build. Children's rhymes had it right the first time. That's the twin maxims - from where I sit/stand - behind the stark, difficult beauty of Prinzhorn Dance School. Their sound is that of basic building blocks, the unbearable space between notes, silence as the third member of this wide-eyed duo, shouty, off-kilter lyrics that recall playground taunts and nursery rhymes as much as they do sociopolitical texts (the anti-corporatism and big-box store hate of "Do You Know Your Butcher" with its muttered fatalisms "Do you know your paper/Comes from the big store/Next to the big store" or "Worker's" accusatory, wake-up shouts of "You are the worker!").

Instruments are basic, insistent basslines (like when you first started playing the bass and you just wanted it to sound fucking cool) are supported by spare, mostly absent, drumming and wiry guitar interjections. The vocals are delivered stridently, matter-of-fact, more like slogans or prayers or threats by the bug-eyed unsmiling male vocalist, with underlines and counterpoints and punctuations provided by the girl vocalist's Huggy Bear/riot grrrly yelps and shouts, and occasional heartmelting duets. It don't swing, and you're probably not going to dance to it- too bad boo hoo- but it has this static nervous beauty to it that I just can't get over. Anxiety is freedom.

Sonic antecedents influences include Huggy Bear, Gang of Four, the Fall, Wire, Au Pairs. But Prinzhorn Dance School is even more stripped down and stark, so it (thankfully) becomes so much more difficult to play the rote game of "spot the influences." Intense eyes staring you down. Songs pulled out of thin air, you realize they were always there.

-Matthew Moyer

Wet Nurse and Jason Irvin Presents...

Wet Nurse
"Electrocute Your Cunt"
Self Released (http://www.myspace.com/thewetnurse)

Wet Nurse aka Danielle Mathieux is the vocal (and xylophone) half of the one of the best young bands I've heard in 2007 -  A Woman's Weapon - and luckily for me they happen to live in Jacksonville where I can check out truly thrilling, heart-rending, eccentric music on a somewhat regular basis, without having to deal with a lot of buzz and static. Jason Irvin is the other half (on chord organ and everything else) and WHILE I much prefer them together - their solo records are very illuminating peeks into how the solo obsessions of each member feed into the wonder that is A Woman's Weapon. A fucking great band, it has to be said.

Now, why I love Wet Nurse too - it's basically down to her voice. It's a gorgeous voice, clear and true, tinged with melancholic yearning, but also very dramatic, strong and not afraid to venture into more stagey affectations. It's an interesting paradox of "Electrocute Your Cunt" that Danielle has such a beautiful voice but she spends most of the album disguising and defacing it behind effects or tape-speed fuckery, or burying it in toy orchestra white noise. She's like a particularly committed character actor, remember all of those pull-outs from horror magazines of Lon Cheney's Thousand Faces? Okay, maybe it's not exactly like that. But close.

The musical set pieces are fascinating as well - simultaneously ornate and spare while also clearly homemade and roughly collaged with the glee of early Surrealists and Dadaists - "Electrocute Your Cunt" feels like the antithesis of the Pro Tools laziness you find among so many electronic musicians. There's a sense of, if not necessarily mad scientists, than sleeves rolled up, scissors, piles of magnetic tape and loops constructed by hand. In the final analysis, "Electrocute Your Cunt" is a sonic mix of early Sparklehorse's solitary sadness, Jarboe's vocal exorcisms and the crude but heartfelt pop experiments of Jad Fair and Blectum From Blechdom.

Two covers pop up amongst the originals - Butthole Surfers and Daisy Chainsaw offshoots Queen Adreena. Under all the dried blood and splintered machines...


Jason Irvin Presents...
"The Dirty South"
Self Released (http://www.myspace.com/jasonirvin)

In stark contrast to the rough-hewn, beautifully minimalist orchestrations he creates for A Woman's Weapon - Weimar music hall filtered through a lens of cracked Americana - Jason Irvin's "Dirty South" solo outing is an unhinged foray into electro-whimsy and great, squiggling swathes of white noise clearing everything in their distorted wake. Equally mining veins of puckish glitchcore and punishing power noise, Resident's poisoned-apple whimsy, with a good dose of early industrial's sense of architectural shaping of noise - "The Dirty South" is a complex recording that takes numerous listens to fully digest. Distortion drips from every note, tracks are seemingly left out in the sun to bend and warp, there is a mad-scientist homemade feel to the whole affair. Some "songs" are like audio mirages, the drone becomes so all-encompassing that your traitorous ears invent changes and dynamics that aren't even there - like those crazy 3-d paintings from years back. I definitely prefer him in service to the song (oh! the song!) with AWW but there is no denying that Irvin is a precocious and voracious musical mind that can take on any genre he wishes to.

-Matthew Moyer

Friday, November 2, 2007

Silverchair

Young Modern
ELEVEN

The Australian trio have outdone themselves by continuing in their tradition of shape-shifting their musical presence with each release. Maybe it actually has something to do the lengthy 5 year gap since their last album "Diorama" (an epically orchestrated masterpiece), which shocked listeners and critics alike. Somehow the Chair have managed to start looking at the bright side of life and are now having a little more fun with their craft. In "Young Modern," it is hard to tell what exactly is trying to be accomplished, but much like a confusing film, this is what makes each listen worthwhile. This Long awaited release is vibrant, intelligent, sexy, spastic, and it will leave your eyes wide and teary from the vivid mushroom like trip that you will think you just experienced. Frontman and song writer, Daniel Johns has managed to create tracks that sound like past Chair sounds meets Jellyfish. It is as though the two groups are joining in holy matrimony inside of a traveling circus complete with a ball-balancing seal doing the honors of being the flower girl. It is hard to believe that these are the same three young gents who put out "Frogstomp" as their debut release back in 1995. Being an incredibly large fan and follower of the band, I have noticed that upon mention of the band's name, most of the music loving population will first speak of this 12 year-old release and seem to have completely disregarded anything post-Frogstomp. This is very sad. Ladies and Gentlemen, they are not a teenage grunge band anymore! In fact, each and every record they have placed on the shelves of our music stores has appeared to be a completely different animal than those preceding. To praise this new compact disc for a moment, I say that the songwriting is immaculate, the choruses are breathtaking, and the sore-ass syndrome you'll experience from each listen comes from Daniel John's vocal godliness. To sum it up, if "Young Modern" was a tasty beverage at your local coffee shop, you would need to order an experimental blend rock album brand of bean, brewed through an indie-dance-retro-funk filter, and topped it with a colorful, simplistic artful layout to bring forward it's truly aural bliss.

- Brandon Blane Highfill