SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18: MAIN SHOW
The sound for the apocalypse has arrived.
If there is one thing I see far too often in metal, it’s an overuse of hyperbole and too much hype surrounding a certain sound or album. However, if there is one thing that always struck me as true it was describing Anaal Nathrakh as “apocalyptic.” The band has played their hybrid of black metal, noise and industrial music since they formed in 1998, having released seven prior full-length records. 2014 brings us the new endeavor from the Birmingham, England duo, Desideratum, and the band is showing no signs of slowing down. In one of the more chaotic and fulfilling releases of the latter half of the year, this record does not stop and is a great, complex piece of work from the get go.
The opening track gets us off on a great foot. The three minute instrumental “Acheronta Movebimus” allows the listener to take a little bit of a breath before the rest of the record kicks in. As soon as the second track “Unleash” begins though nothing is held back. There is a great combination of screams, clean vocals, samples and fast chaotic music. The vocals themselves sound somewhat buried by the music, but it is quickly understood that it helps to accentuate the feeling of being out of control, and a feeling of entropy. The clean vocals are very well done and very welcomed here. At times, they sound akin to some power metal style vocals; which add a great dimension to the album.
Musically, the album is fast. There are a few slower moments, but these do not last long and are very sporadic. The guitars have that tremolo picked black metal sound; the drums (which would be programmed) are intense yet not overdone and distracting. They are restrained when needed. An interesting note to this record; while the band has used electronic passages before; this record sees Anaal utilize British artist Gore Tech to help with the electronics.
The electronics are where the biggest issue on the album is for me. As stared before, the band is no stranger to using electronics on their prior albums, but for this record there seems to be a high emphasis on the electronics which take away at times from the rest of the music. The electronics can add to the out of control feel of the record, but ultimately feels as if Anaal Nathrakh took their own sound out to add in this experiment. Further, the guitars, while performed well, don’t have the most interesting riffs or the best presence on the album. The contestant pummeling sound makes the album stand out as one of the more extreme and loud releases I’ve heard this year, but the riffs themselves are not nearly as memorable as some that the duo have presented on past recordings.
Despite a few flaws Desideratum is still a very strong effort. Fast and loud, and with so much going on it’s impossible to hear everything the first time. The clean vocals are among the best V.I.T.R.I.O.L have ever done, and his vocal performance in general is very strong. The band may have taken a step back with the very heavy electronic sounds, but there are some good to great moments on the record as well. It is safe to say this is another strong addition into an already great discography and still one of the better “extreme” releases I’ve heard this year.
Poised on the cusp of greatness.
Proving that their well-received eponymous debut was no flash in the pan, Portsmouth’s Bloodshot Dawn have released in Demons not just an album that blows its predecessor clean out of the water in every regard but one that also makes many of their peers (Arsis, Revocation, The Black Dahlia Murder) look like helplessly effete dilettantes. This can be ascribed not only to the dexterity and chops of the band but also because they seem to have approached the creative process with the right mindset, showcasing a keen understanding of the simple notion that ability means nothing without enthusiasm (and vice versa), resulting in an album that comes across as having been conceived simultaneously in both a laboratory and a sweaty rehearsal room. It’s the best of both worlds and seeing as how the album in question was crowd-funded (they achieved their Kickstarter goal in only four days), you can bet that fans will get the requisite (head)bang for their buck.
Not to descend into unadulterated hyperbole but Demons really is the total package. Not only is the artwork visually stunning but it also represents a rare case in which shades of pink manage to look completely badass, something which seems to tie in nicely with the actual music: sexy leads and melodies abound but at the end of the day the riff is the law and guitarists Josh McMorran and Ben Ellis are the Chief Justices. Every facet of their sound complements that which came before and sets the scene for what is to follow, whether it’s the perfect synthesis of Burning Bridges/Wages of Sin-era Arch Enemy style melodic death and Arsis-like intricacy of “Smoke and Mirrors,” the curb-stomping pugilistic grooves around the 3-minute mark on “Inadequacy” or when they go full-tilt on “The Image Faded,” taking your head clean off with some of the most insane fret-tearing abuse this side of Megadeth’s “Hangar 18”. What else would you expect from a song that features guest spots by Christopher Amott (ex-Arch Enemy), Teemu Mäntysaari (Wintersun), Andy James and Per Nilsson (Scar Symmetry) all throwing down and seemingly soloing holes into the very fabric of reality?!
The confluence of soaring melodies, knuckle-dragging buzzsaw riffs and nimble thrash flourishes never lets up, and the musicians’ dexterity ensures that a deft balance between intricacy, intensity and melody is maintained throughout. When an all-out assault is called for they don’t disappoint (listen to the way the layers of riffs, leads and blasts increase to almost inhuman levels on “Smoke and Mirrors”), when a bit of classic Carcass/Exhumed style groove ‘n’ grind is needed they throw down the gauntlet on “Consequence Complex” and when it’s time to wander into darker, more demure waters they bring a whiff of keyboard drama to the fore on the title track. Even though the rough outlines of their influences (i.e. old Arch Enemy, Into Eternity, Carcass, Quo Vadis etc) are evident throughout the music is composed in such a way that every lead section or thrash break doesn’t necessarily sound choreographed, imbuing Demons with a subtle sense of unpredictability. It’s stupendous stuff all ‘round and proof positive that this style can still be as vital and exciting as ever when left in the hands of capable and hungry musicians. Highly recommended!
Grandpa Joe approves.
While not metal in the strictest sense of the word, the Californian genre-dabbling Primus have long been adored by the metal community for their eclectic brand of silly yet freakishly rocking musical stylings.
Moreover, the band also have quite the imprint on the history of metal, with carnival leader/bass player extraordinaire Les Claypool auditioning for Metallica following the untimely death of Cliff Burton, as well as playing in the progressive thrash band Blind Illusion with guitarist and fellow Primus player Larry “Ler” LaLonde, who also has the distinction of playing in Possessed and creating what many pundits deem as the first death metal album in 1985’s Seven Churches. Drummer Tim “Herb” Alexander, having spent time with A Perfect Circle and Puscifer, can also add former Blue Man Group drummer to his resume – metal, indeed.
And with that out of the way, Claypool, LaLonde, and Alexander are all back for the group’s eighth and assuredly most ambitious outing yet, Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble, a reimagining of the soundtrack to the 1971 musical-fantasy film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which, of course, is a movie based upon Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the classic 1964 novel by Roald Dahl.
When considering the psychedelic and off-beat charm of both Primus and the film/book, it really does seem like the perfect marriage. Over the course of their career, Primus’ discography has progressed into a multiform and intoxicating blend of rock and metal flavors, all the while catering to new, more adventurous fans and then, conversely, distancing themselves from those gone ill from their increased fondness for the quirky and unorthodox. Insofar as Primus have become an acquired taste, so always has been the Mel Stuart-directed film.
Cited as a family or children’s movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory has become one of the genre’s darkest offerings, with its cast of conceited kids, slithering antagonists, and ambiguous outcomes (not to mention one ghastly boat ride), the movie has arguably fueled as many nightmares as it has rumbling bellies – of course, if the film didn’t harbor such threatening and unusual plot devices, its popularity would most definitely be far less so. And while they don’t embrace the morbid fan theory of Wonka as a child-murdering cannibal, Primus get it right by instilling a hefty dose of the weird and the uncomfortable in their musical version.
Adhering to the original soundtrack’s layout, Primus saunter about with smirk-filled enthusiasm, gleefully touching up classics like “Candy Man, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket,” and “Pure Imagination” with equal portions of creepiness and playfulness – tricks and treats just in time for the Halloween season. Even though it falls short of Marilyn Manson’s “Prelude (The Family Trip),” the portentous “Semi-Wondrous Boat Ride” should have no problem prompting a wealth of uneasy smiles, and “I Want It Now,” sung by LaLonde, although a bit long in its execution, becomes one of the album’s more memorable tracks due to its usage of xylophone and a surf rock-inspired guitar tone. But ultimately winning the day are the four Oompa songs, each highlighted by the booming Oompa chorus and the work of Critters Buggin percussionist Mike Dillon and Frog Brigade cellist Sam Bass, the duo who comprise the Fungi Ensemble.
As successfully eerie as Primus & the Chocolate Factory with the Fungi Ensemble is, it remains an homage that delimits itself to Primus and Wonka fans exclusively, but depending on which party you were first enamored with, this sweet-toothed product just might make you a believer of both. Lastly, to make matters even more saccharine, join the hunt by purchasing the album on vinyl in hopes of finding one of the five golden tickets hidden inside. Your prize: Primus concert tickets for life!
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 17: MAIN SHOW
The second night of the Festival was deemed as the first “official” night for the fact that it was the first night of the “main” shows. My friend was coming along with me, and we were both pretty excited. The venue for the main shows this weekend was a venue called The Rialto Theatre, also in downtown Tucson about 45 seconds away from the District. The venue was chosen by the organizers due to being closer to hotels, food, and other accommodations than the prior venue (in 2012 and 2013) known as The Rock.
The Southwest Terror Fest in Tucson, Arizona just concluded this past Sunday (Oct. 19), and for the third year in a row, the organizers of the festival brought in various acts; in some cases, bands that had not played in Arizona, much less Tucson, for years, or if ever.
The festival’s first year was in 2012, and it wasn’t until the second fest when it finally came to my attention, due mainly to the band Subrosa being part of it. The lineup wasn’t too intriguing, but I love Subrosa, so I knew that I had to go. However, come October 2013, I was going through medical issues dealing with a herniated disc in my lower back. I wasn’t able to attend the festival that year (as well as missing out on the Alcest/Anathema show a few weeks prior), so I was restricted to waiting for this year’s lineup to be announced instead.
The wait was worth it. Acts like Goatsnake, Neurosis, and the mighty Sunn O))) were enough to make me buy tickets. The rest of the line up was icing on the cake. Suffice to say, I got to experience something new to me in more ways than one.
Dubbed by their countrymen “the Japanese Black Sabbath”, Ningen-Isu has been active in their homeland since forming in 1987. Despite the band beginning to gain worldwide acclaim, their name is still not commonly known among metalheads outside of Japan. The Metal Observer was recently granted the opportunity to interview these Japanese legends on the heels of releasing their eighteenth album, Burai Houjouo, in June of 2014, which could very well be one of the band’s only, if not THE only, interview in English.
Metal has had its fair share of oddities and curiosities, and more than once, as it happens, like a two-headed beast fighting over a shared body, we come upon two bands of the very same name, an unusual instance that often spawns tensions and lawsuits. TMO has gathered the 10 most prominent of these cases, looked into how they came to be, and then at whether or not a solution was ultimately found.
It can be bizarre. It can also be off-putting. But it’s an entirely new realm of the sub-genre that can afford some great new bands and masterpieces to listeners. The power metal scene has really blossomed since the arrival of X Japan in the ’80s, and since then it’s been taken to new heights and limits.
Hans gets up close and personal with Swedish melodic death metal band Meadows End and the whole band joins in to give some insight.
“What is freedom of expression? Without the freedom to offend, it ceases to exist.”
― Salman Rushdie