The vocalist of one of Australia’s oldest and most respected heavy metal acts talks about Dreadnaught’s extensive career, their new album Caught The Vultures Sleeping, the state of the Australian heavy music scene and the virtues of Thin Lizzy.
Are you perturbed?
Perturbator is a synth/electronic project hailing from Paris, France whose sole-creator James Kent formed the project in 2012. The project has been on the line between some beautiful synth and some of the darker sides of the genre. Kent has had a great deal of experience with metal in the past which shines through in the albums under the Perturbator moniker, and 2016 sees the release of his newest fascinating album, The Uncanny Valley, brought to us by Blood Music. With plenty of darker tones, interesting and heavy beats but plenty of melody and memorable moments, this new release is getting the project some much deserved attention and is one of the most interesting releases of the year thus far.
One thing that is clear off the bat is that the album features plenty of the futuristic and even retro sounds you would expect from a synthwave type of project. The electronics create some wonderful 80’s inspired sounds, but the sound is still computerized enough and the layers added to each song make it feel as if this is something the should come out in about 30 years or so. There is an incredible balance of making the tracks feel “old” while having them be fresh and totally new at the same time. Further, where as some of the more retro bands in the genre today go for pure bliss and nostalgia, Perturbator manages to utilize synths in a more dark manner, making the album feel haunting, creepy and downright disturbing. That is not to say there are not moments of beauty or melody, but there seems to be fine line between the softer touches of synth the record is producing and outright industrial music from time to time. While industrial is much more harsh and intense, that is not to say Kent has not managed to create plenty of heavy beats and harsher tones on a few of these tracks. There is something certainly left of center about Perturbator which is wonderful when stacked up against plenty of acts going for a similar sound.
The album itself is mostly instrumental but there are a few tracks featuring some guests. “Venger” for instances the first track to feature vocals on the release, and the airy and melodic female voice fits perfectly to the lighter sound of the overall song. Kent proves that he is able to work solo or with others very well, and can match any song to the emotion it needs to convey. Heavy or not, each track flows along with top notch writing, making the nearly 70 minute record feel quite a bit shorter and still manage to give you something new each time you listen. Where “Diabolus Ex Machina” for example comes across as one of the heavier overall tracks with some very intense beats and rhythms, there is still plenty to grasp from one moment to another much in the way you can for a softer track like “Sentient”. There is no shortage of ambience and layering on the album making the replay value quite incredible.
Production wise, The Uncanny Valley is very clear and polished. Each bit of nuance is captured perfectly but mixed just right to still give the listener a reward for discovering everything, and the actual flow of the album makes sense. There is a great interplay between the faster and more bombastic style songs and the ones where you can just chill and zone out a bit. The tracks were definitely not placed on the album haphazardly and it shows from beginning to end. Perturbator is a project that clearly has a lot of thought behind it, which is great as it leads to some very well crafted and enjoyable material.
The Uncanny Valley may not be the first Perturbator record, but it seems to be one of the first to really be getting so much attention from the metal world. Mush like GosT before, the synth work and layout of the album is just so enticing its hard to deny it has metal qualities and really should appeal to anyone interested in fully fleshed out memorable songs. Electronic or not should not matter when the material is this strong, and this is strong for sure. The synth movement and retro sound is not new but seems to be seeing a bit more validity lately with some excellent acts releasing great records, but Perturbator is one step ahead of them in making something that still sounds different and stands out from the pack. This is not an album to sleep on or ignore, and has quickly risen to one of the best of the year.
Finding balance amid chaos.
From the tech-thrash of 2011’s Chaos Of Forms, through the more progressive stylings of 2013’s self-titled record and on to the more straightforward death/thrash hybrid of 2014’s ironically-titled Deathless; Revocation have always been a band to prod and challenge the comfortable little death-thrash niche they’ve carved out for themselves. Great Is Our Sin is no different—if not leaving behind, then certainly shifting aside the tech/prog/traditional death metal tinge of their previous releases in favor of a distinctly melodic death metal-influenced approach.
Great is the sin of the album title’s lack of contrast, amirite?!
Revocation’s trademark blend of death and thrash metal reaches new heights with Great Is Our Sin. Blistering opener, “Arbiters Of The Apocalypse” sounds like Annihilator playing mid period In Flames material, and it’s both an interesting and successful take on the death-thrash sound that the band are reluctant to let go of throughout the rest of the record, and for good reason. Along with the added melodic emphasis, there’s also a greater degree of progressive death metal elements in play, which—though not quite as obvious as Revocation’s abrupt banjo break—remain in constant, yet subtle, play throughout the record. “Profanum Vulgaris” brings to mind Morbid Angel at their most dissonant, along with the loftier moments of Death’s later output, in equal measure; while “Crumbling Imperium” and “Monolithic Ignorance” are the kind of tracks you wish Gojira were still making these days, with ex-3 Inches Of Blood drummer Ash Pearson playing perhaps a more-subdued, though no less proficient role than his predecessor, and “The Exaltation” draws heavily from Sepultura’s more-destructive moments.
Something truly unique to Great Is Our Sin—in terms of Revocation’s discography—is its refusal to ever grow dull or off-putting. As objectively impressive as efforts such as Chaos Of Forms and Revocation were, their explosive moments are largely undone by a tendency to overwhelm the listener with their fast-paced, impressive technicality, to the point where getting through the album(s) in one sitting—as enjoyable as their material inherently is—becomes quite the chore. Great Is Our Sin is similarly single-minded, but there’s enough texture and layering within its eleven exhaustive tracks to maintain interest and give the listener a welcome reprieve from all the brutality when necessary; so that the record actually builds to such devastating outings as “Only The Spineless Survive”—which is similarly followed by the more subdued and melodically-inclined “Cleaving Giants Of Ice”—rather than continually ramming them down the listener’s throat.
It could be argued that Great Is Our Sin is Revocation’s best outing to date, and this is certainly an argument I’d be willing to make, but the same could be said of any of their releases really—given the consistency and surprising variation they’ve delivered over their remarkably short and relatively prolific career. However, what is surely certain is that this sixth album represents the best collection of songs the band have put together to date, and there’s no denying that it’s their most consistent. Much like In Flames’ Colony (1999)—which it so readily brings to mind—Great Is Our Sin shares that rare distinction of possibly being both Revocation’s best and most developed record, along with undeniably being its most accessible.
Raised brims set to stun.
Despised Icon have a strong claim to being the original deathcore band, and remain one of the better examples of the oft-maligned genre. The band released their debut in 2002, and went on to release three more critically acclaimed records before disbanding in late 2010, with Best marking their first release since reuniting in 2014, and—while it doesn’t quite live up to their classic output—it still goes to show that Despised Icon continue to be masters of a sound they pioneered.
Despised Icon bowed out of the deathcore game at time when the genre was seemingly at its peak—both in terms of popularity and concentration. Bands like Suicide Silence, Bring Me The Horizon and Whitechapel had come to dominate the genre and push it in directions increasingly removed from the extreme metal traditions expounded upon by Despised Icon and fellow pioneering deathcore acts like Glass Casket and All Shall Perish.1 Now, in 2016, deathcore has given way to the tech-metal thread and it is largely only those then-outstanding acts that really remain relevant to the contemporary metal scene, with each continuing to expand upon and experiment with the core deathcore sound. With Beast, Despise Icon have welcomely provided an altogether more traditional take on the style than much of what is available from these other genre champions in the current era.
Although the current Despised Icon line-up consists almost entirely of those members responsible for the band’s much-celebrated 2005 record The Healing Process,2 Beast bears little in resemblance to that album’s technical death metal-aping style. The record, instead, more-closely resembling the mosh-driven direction of 2009’s then-swansong Days Of Mourning—being built around a foundation of hardcore groves and minimalist beatdowns, punctuated by intermittent blast-beats and occasional forays into dissonance. The record’s ferocious opener, “The Aftermath”, is an absolute master class in hardcore aggression—tempering the song’s more-extreme inclinations into something altogether more direct and increasingly lethal. The track is quickly followed by two comparable, if slightly less-effective numbers in “Inner Demons” and “Drapeau Noir”, and later tracks like “Time Bomb” and the colossal, closing, title-track join these earlier outings in making a strong argument that Despised Icon haven’t lost an ounce of their brutal effectiveness in the seven year interim since their last release.
However, Beast is prevented from reaching its full potential through a couple of unshakable missteps and a prevalently uneven presentation. Despite the album clocking in at a mere twenty-nine minutes, two of its ten tracks are given over to relatively-lengthy interludes that do far more to disrupt the records concentrated assault than they do to accentuate or preserve it. “Dedicated To Extinction” is a seemingly meaningless synth break, of the kind you might expect from Cradle Of Filth or Bleeding Through. A similar track might have provided a refreshing palate-cleanser amid all the brutality—which is the only real justification for its existence that I can come up with—yet the track is so underdeveloped and jarring that I causes more confusion than reassurance. “Doomed” is a more-effective example of the form, providing a solid lead-in to “Beast”. However, it still seems overly superfluous and unremarkable when considered on its own merit.
Of the remaining tracks “One Last Martini” is a woefully uneven number, seemingly thrown together from recording-session leftovers—being made up of a promising begging and a memorable breakdown ending glued together by a number of disconnected, “stock” deathcore sections in-between—while “Bad Vibes” borders on embarrassing. The track begins with a thuggish chug and a shoutout of “Break this down now!” in the style of Hatebreed’s “Tear It Down” and goes on to wax lyrical about someone being given the heebie-jeebies beneath a bunch of obscuring blast-beats and poorly-implimented pig-squeels.3 Although these two tracks constitute the only two definitively “weaker” (fully-fledged) moments on Beast their mid-section placement alongside the aforementioned, baffling “Dedicated To Extinction” and the rather unremarkable, if-innofensive, “Grind Forever” accentuates these faults into an almost record-stopping affair that drains much of the impact from the surrounding onslaught.
Beast isn’t quite the triumphant comeback it could have been. Yet it is nonetheless an impressive and largely-enjoyable take on a genre that was seemingly down for the count. The album can’t really be used to argue that Despised Icon are still the best deathcore act in the game but it provides convincing evidence that they continue to be one of the better ones and pushes, beyond refutation, the notion that a world with Despised Icon back in it is a better place than one without.
1 The other important name to bring up when talking about the foundation of deathcore is, of course, The Acacia Strain. However their sound has always had little to do with anything particularly resembling death metal—approaching the genre instead from an angle of hardcore distillation rather then extremity.
2 With only guitarist Yannick St. Amand being subbed out for Ben Landreville, who joined on Day Of Mourning (2009).
3 Apparently the band make t-shirts specifically for this song…
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Four of the juiciest June jams going ’round.
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 24th 2016
Tons of Rock Festival in Halden, Norway – June 23rd 2016
May the month’s most outstanding metal releases be with you.
All of April’s most-awesome metal albums all in one awesome metal place.
Some mammoth offerings from the month of metal madness that was March.
Four fortissimous frolics for a fantastic Februrary!
Live at Blå in Oslo, Norway on February 11th, 2016.