Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Flourishing- The Sum of All Fossils(2011)

 Flourishing- The Sum of All Fossils

The Sum of All Fossils represents the hope of Death Metal.

New York's Flourishing are a fresh face, formed in 2009 with The Sum of All Fossils being the bands first full length release, yet also a last proud member of a dying breed: a breed of innovators and fearless song-writers in the Death Metal scene.  It's not hard to see that Death Metal has, at the very least, become a regressive and trend happy genre: the scene is dominated by imitators, flavor of the month worship acts and tired veterans grinding out the same releases every year for a quick buck and a reason to go on tour.  Flourishing do not fit into any of the categories, which in and of itself is worth praise: while the Gorguts influence is obvious, The Sum of All Fossils is in no way a cheap imitation or easy worship, but a unique album with a new, explosive sound.  This is so rare in Death Metal now, it's almost a shock to hear it and I wasn't sure how to approach The Sum of All Fossils, as I could not easily categorize it, and any genre that I placed on it sounded either stupid, fake or failed to encompass the full scope of the album.  Not being able to stick "Incantation clone" or "stupid wanky, clean BS" on it was a bit intimidating.  But that's what makes The Sum of All Fossils so damn special.  While other bands pose tough and grunt about Satan to stolen riffs, Flourishing have created an album which is actually tough to listen to. It's what Death Metal was always supposed to be: challenging, nihilistic and heavy as fuck.

In a vague, worthless attempt to categorize The Sum of All Fossils, it's fairly easy to hear the Gorguts influence here.  What's nice is that the influence is clearly From Wisdom to Hate and not Obscura: the bass sounds pretty similar, and like From Wisdom to Hate it's an album which would fall closer to atmospheric then Jazz-y.  Songs don't rely too heavily on speed or all out aggression to make their point, with each track taking the right amount of time to fully explore every idea.  But it never becomes tedious or worn out and tracks move at the perfect level of pacing.  While it remains largely mid-paced the band to a spectacular job mixing up tempos on a more subtle level, combing with the obvious technical chops on display to make The Sum of All Fossils one of the best active listening experiences I've heard from Death Metal in a long time.  This is not merely background music as you surf the internet or read or some stupid, not-actually-listening activity that most Death Metal seems perfectly designed for in the modern scene.  The Sum of All Fossils demands your maximum attention and energy to fully impress upon you just how complex, original and breathtaking it can be.

Flourishing accomplish all this by being fearless songwriters who don't care how stupid an idea might seem on it's surface, but instead take a level-headed, talent-guided shot at doing something new.  In this case, it's mixing complex, discordant Technical Death Metal in the vein of Gorguts with Post-Rock.  Now, that maybe doesn't sound like the best idea: it's one that would send your average musician running straight into the arms of Autopsy worship and never leaving that warm, gooey place again.  It's a testament to the members of Flourishing that they even attempted this, but even more so that they pull it off so fucking beautifully.  Despite sounding professionally recorded and played with actual skill and talent, The Sum of All Fossils is one of the deepest and emotional Death Metal albums I've heard in ages.  It frequently crosses over into beautiful territory, particularly the final track "As If Bathed in Excellence," which has not been a word I have used to describe a Death Metal album since Anata's The Conductors Departure... another genre-defining masterpiece.  It can also being extremely heavy and utterly chilling, while the Post-Rock elements bring so much to the table.  The dynamic vocal shifts of "By Which We Are Cemented" are at first a bit off-putting on a Death Metal album, but once they grow on you it's hard to imagine why more Death Metal bands are not trying new things vocally(or why Flourishing don't go back to this later in the album.)  Long sections of disonant, massive Rock guitars add a whole new level of immersion on The Sum of All Fossils, like the opening track "A Thimbles Worth," which starts off as a fairly typical Gorguts-style track before morphing wonderfully into a Shoegaze-y, wall-of-noise torrent that drenches you in longing and wonderment.

The fact you can't listen to a single track on The Sum of All Fossils without discovering something new and interesting, which more then makes up for the tiny nitpicks here and there.  I am not a huge fan of the primary vocals and wish the band had remained consistently adventurous with them, instead choosing to stick with an energetic yet somewhat grating mid-growl for most of the album.  I'm also not a huge fan of the drum production:  they actually don't sound triggered which is great, but they do sound very clean and uneven in the mix.   And not matter how impressed you might be with The Sum of All Fossils initially, it's a grower(it's not even in my top 20 albums of last year, as it took several listens to fully sink in).  Little things... things that don't even really fucking matter.  I am too impressed with The Sum of All Fossils as not only a wonderful, powerful album but as a piece of art.  The album drips with personality and identity while remaining viable and accessible, and I never picked up on any pretentiousness or cynicism.  And perhaps most impressive is that despite the Post-Rock elements, the professional production and the lyrics which don't in anyway touch on Satan or decapitating hookers, The Sum of All Fossils is a real Death Metal album.  It's a challenging album which doesn't pander, posture or worship. It strikes out into a harsh, barren wasteland and from dying soil produces vivid, all encompassing life.

Rating: 10/10

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Curse Weekly Playlist: Raw As Fvck 2: Raw Vengeance

So I missed last week's playlist.  I could come up with a good reason for it, but in all honesty it was because I was playing Mass Effect 3 and didn't care about anything else.

Also, my current listening variety is shit: it's all either Japanese shit(that playlist went over swimmingly) or fucking horrible Black Metal.

So here is some more horrible Black Metal:

Raw Vengeance


1. Glossolalia- "Filth In The Light" : Raw Atmospheric Black Metal from the United States.  Off the compilation Odour of Dust and Rot(2011)

2. Klor- "Ancient Timer" : Raw Atmospheric Black Metal from Denmark.  Off the LP Klor(2012)

3. Akitsa- "Cultes Vertueur" : Raw Black Metal from Canada.  Off the LP La Grande Infamie(2006)

4. Sortilegia- "White Bones Black Flame" : Raw Atmospheric Black Metal from Canada.  Off the demo Pestilent Black Sorcery(2011).

5. Tardigrada- "Hoffnungslo" : Raw Depressive/Atmospheric Black Metal from Switzerland.  Off the demo Widrstand(2012).

6. Arts- "Astral Pathways Channeled Over A Purified Lake" : Raw Black Fucking Metal from the United States.  Off the LP Vault of Heaven(2010).

7. Barghest- "Hellish Entrancement" : Raw Atmospheric Black Metal/Blackgaze from the United States.  Off the LP Untitled(2011).

8. Unknown Artist- "Untitled I" : Raw Atmospheric Black Metal from Portugal.  Off the LP Untitled I(2010)

9. Old Morgul- "My Creations in the Past" : Raw Black Metal from Finland. Off the demo The Keys of New Realm(1998)

10. N.K.V.D.- "Incipit SSSR" : Raw Industrial Black Metal from France.  Off the EP Diktatura(2007)

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Anhedonist- Netherwards(2012)

 Anhedonist- Netherwards

Simplistic, bland and mostly forgettable, Anhedonist's debut LP Netherwards is classic genre pandering done with as little heart, energy or creativity as the Seattle, Washington based band could apply to the process.  I could easily imagine the entire album being written in a single day: just listen to a lot of Funebrarum and Mournful Congregation and do something that sounds kind of like that while cracking open cheap domestics in the storage room/practice space.  And that is exactly what Netherwards is: Funebrarum meets Mournful Congregation.  No doubt some of you are salivating at the very idea, but it's much, much more disastrous then it sounds.

Throughout my time with Netherwards, when I was not falling into a coma like state of sheer boredom, I found myself repeating the same thing over and over again: If you are going to write songs over nine minutes in length, make sure the songs have enough ideas to remain viable for such an idiotic run time.  Anhedonist are clearly seeking to combine the more layered, aggressive Death/Doom of a band such as Funebrarum(an obvious influence) with Funeral Doom.  But Netherwards merely ends up feeling like a pair of overly long, consciousness-obliterating-with-sheer-boredom Funebrarum B-sides, one half-way decent Funebrarum track with a much saner run-time of just over five minutes, and one of the worst, most pointless Funeral Doom tracks in history.  It's an endurance test of seemingly endless suck that goes on forever while feeling totally directionless and atmosphere free.  Netherwards does have a single thing going for it in that it at least sounds professional: the band don't miss any marks while playing the songs, and the production is appropriately heavy and static-choked.  But both of these things are not really strengths, since the simplicity of the song-writing makes these tracks easy enough to play in your sleep and the band are signed to Dark Descent records, a label with enough budget to make solid sounding albums.

Lets take the opening track "Saturnine" as an example: it begins with almost two minutes of mostly silence with some slight noise, before the opening riff kicks in with a bit of fury.  And there is nothing wrong with the opening riff, or in reality any of the riffs on the album: it's how everything is structured that makes Netherwards a chore.  "Saturnine" is largely undefined and hazy, yet somehow manages to be utterly predictable, while the repeated use of pinch harmonics also brings a chuckle.  The track feels all of it's utterly pointless nine minute and forty two seconds of running time, despite not really being written for it: the track essentially repeats the same idea back to back with a Funeral Doom intro, a bit of Incantation-like aggression and then some blatant diSEMBOWELMENT worshiping leads over the top of ultra-simplistic riffs that crawl along like a drunken zombie missing it's bottom half.  It feels like two tracks shoe-horned together into a single one, which seems to me the only explanation for why it is so painful.  Vocalist "V.B" is a competent enough Gallina impersonator, but little more, and his presence feels largely inconsequential to the actual songs: all of these tracks would have been equally unimpressive without him.

The following tracks, "Estrangement" and "Carne Liberatus" are stronger then the opening stinker, though barely.  "Estrangement" at least feels like a single track with a single vision: one of lifeless, colorless fields of sleep and tedium.  The track feels much, much longer than it's run time, and constantly seems on the verge of ending.  Only it never does: it's like a Judd Apatow movie, featuring dozens of climaxes before it actually finishes, and leaves you uncomfortably shifting in your seat waiting for the fucking thing to be over.  "Carne Liberatus" which I assume the band likely means as "Absolved Flesh" but could also be translated to "Free Steak"(I know that I am combining languages here, but I am trying to have some fun at the expense of this very joyless album) is better, but only because it ends before it becomes unlistenable.  It's heavy, slow and very Old-School sounding, so it panders well, but little else.

Then we come to "Inherent Opprobrium," which without any doubts is the single most boring track of 2012.  I have said before that Funeral Doom is not my favorite genre, but I do appreciate enough of the the genre's best practitioners to know tedium when I hear it: "Inherent Opprobrium" tedium incarnate.  At a soul-siphoning fifteen minutes and fourteen seconds, it goes absolutely nowhere.  Really.  The song is spends it's entire run time building up to something, but doesn't bother with any pay-off: no symphony of tortured voices, or cacophony of death knells.  No final tortured screams or sudden bursts of Death Metal aggression.  It just meanders between riffs and sections, and by the time we reach the ten minute point, the horrifying realization that the song isn't over hits like a sledgehammer to your skull... which might be a preferable outcome to actually finishing the song.  Perhaps this is the point of "Inherent Opprobrium," and Netherwards in general: to be punishing and unforgiving in it's boredom.  If I had even the slightest inclination that Netherwards was boring and lifeless on purpose, I might be kinder to the album.

No, what we have here instead in flavor of the month genre pandering at it's apex: the story of Death Metal in 2012.  Netherwards has all the disparate elements that bring together the various aspects of music in the modern-age: all the Old-School credibility one could ask for, with the lovely cover-art and clearly displayed Old-School influences without any of the timeless aspects that made those classics so wonderful to begin with.  Netherwards is an album designed specifically to sell lots of copies the moment it is released and generate lots of hype, but within two years be a completely forgotten piece of "oh yeah, I remember that album" trivia.  This is not art: it's a product, tricking listeners into thinking it's more than the sum of it's parts by playing up how "true" it is.  But by "true" what they mean is "genre re-hash money generator." 

Now, I am not saying that the band Anhedonist themselves are in it for the money: this is Death Metal after all, and there is a good chance that Netherwards is not making the band a single dime because of how brutal label contracts can be.  And I have no doubts that Anhedonist are making music they want to make because it's what they like and are passionate about: no doubt the guys in Anhedonist care about their music, because making Extreme Music of any kind is a labor of passion.  I also have no doubts that there are a lot of people who genuinely like this album(in fact, I know for a fact their are).  My point is that in today's modern scene, an album like Netherwards is the Death Metal equivalent of a movie like Transformers 2 or Avatar: digestible, simplistic, bland product that has all the parts of the real thing, designed to appeal to the masses, at the expense of more creative, inventive and challenging art that encompasses everything great about the medium.  Before 2005, an album like Netherwards would have been totally ignored.  Now, this is the Savior of the genre I love... apparently.

Rating: 2/10

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Dodsengel-Imperator (2012)


From the beginning, I had approached the 3rd full-length by Norwegian Occult Black Metallers Dodsengel with a sense of urgent trepidation.  While I had enjoyed earlier releases like Mirium Occultum and Alongside Chronzon immensely, reveling in the winding, mazelike riffs that rarely failed to transport one into a realm of omniscient dread, the songwriting had always felt a tad derivative for a band with such grandiose vision for their infernal doctrine.  As Dodsengel constantly strove to distinguish themselves from the masses of black metal acolytes following the release of Mirium Occultum, plunging themselves deeper and deeper into less traditional waters with EP after EP, I could not help but feel that an additional push from Below was needed to propel them into the realms of true Orthodox triumph, alongside charred scene luminaries such as Deathspell Omega, Watain, and Ascension.   When Imperator finally surfaced upon my metallic radar, I could not help but feel my blood boil at the thought that the breakthrough album this band was always meant to make had possibly ascended from the Pits of Tartarus in all its fetid glory. 

After multiple listens and subsequent internal contemplation, I am able to safely conclude that Dodsengel have reached their vaunted potential at last, at least in part.  Clocking in at 2 and ½ hours in two discs, Imperator is not an album meant for the weekend warrior or Cro-Magnon headbanger looking for a quick blackened fix.  Indeed, I found this album an intimidating beast to digest at the onset, and was initially befuddled at the seeming monotony stretched over such a vast length.  Gone were even semblances of the forward-driving grooves and wicked hooks that once helped latch listeners onto the sides of past demonic vessels.  Instead, there existed a dreamlike, astral sense of torment that tempted the listener to their own damnation.   The ritualistic aspects of the music were more heightened than ever, proceeding with a stately grace befitting an infernal monarch leading his slaves to the sacrificial altar. 

Indeed, listening to Imperator was more reminiscent of a waking nightmare than a wild hellride, an experience aided by the increased presence of synthesizers, a contribution that added a psychedelic rock presence to the music that had only been hinted at structurally on earlier efforts.  Like Pink Floyd hollowed into a vessel of the Devil, Imperator took me deep into emotional and contemplative chasms while my body stood fixated in petrifaction.  Every additional listen revealed more crevices along the blood-soaked walls of the temple.  Over most of the experience, Kark’s vocals rasped like the grinding of dry, crackling bones along desert sands, imbuing the ritual with a feeling of hopeless desolation.  Yet at parts of the album, they warped into maddening high-pitched shrieks that brought to mind the raving of dementia-ridden hierophants.  Female vocals even made an appearance, soaring like the reveries of harlots and witches over the music, evoking a sense of ecstatic and diabolically-lustful exuberance.

While I initially felt that Imperator lacked the immediate black-mailed fist to the gut provided by past works, it became obvious to me as I explored the album more that it marked a true turning point in Dodsengel’s career, in the same way that Si Monumentum was the cornerstone in Deathspell Omega’s that transformed them from well-composed Darkthrone-worship into one of the most revolutionary bands to ever grace the face of the genre.  The unique psychedelic presence added by the increased use of synthesizers, coupled with a usage of archetypical orthodox-styled riffs in unorthodox ways, have created for Dodsengel an easily distinguishable sound that they can truly trademark as their own.   Some standout tracks include Hymn to Pan, a trance-inducing ritual with bacchanalian undertones belying an antediluvian madness hidden beneath the veil of civility, Asphyxia, a highly emotional affair resembling a crueler, more primal manifestation of the work of Frenchmen Blut Aus Nord, and Upon the Beast She Rideth, a work that evoked the sensual, yet sinister aura of Walpurgisnacht.  

Yet Imperator’s greatness comes as more of a sum of its parts than in individual moments of glory, for what the album represents is an expulsion of every experimental and creative desire Dodsengel have only tempted us with in the past 3 years, yet somehow taking a coherent and masterful form.  With their artistic vision now clear to them, I feel that future efforts by this band will see not only further sonic advances, but a tightening of those remaining loose ends in their songwriting as well.  Imperator is a staggering, yet enticing work that sheds fresh blood upon the long-stagnating Norwegian Black Metal Scene.   While other bands continue to obsess over childish clichés in nostalgic striving for past glories, Dodsengel represents one of the chosen few who have dared to glance further into the darkness, emerging with an exciting vision for black metal that promises even greater aural flagellation in the coming aeons.

Rating: 8.8/10

Lunar Aurora- Hoagascht (2012)

 Lunar Aurora- Hoagascht

Literally translated, Hoagascht, the title of Lunar Aurora's first album in five long years, means "home-garden". However, as Whyrhd explained in an interview with Lords of Metal, its greater meaning in their region of Germany is "a loose meeting of musicians to perform in one’s home’s garden." It's no surprise that the lyrics of the album are wholly in the Upper Bavarian dialect: This music comes straight from their hearts and their hearths. Lunar Aurora are indeed home. Before I begin, I find it impossible not to mention Lunar Aurora's incredible 2007 release Andacht in relation to Hoagascht. After such a brilliant album, it was hard not to have high expectations for Hoagascht, and I want to get out of the way my thoughts on the matter; Hoagascht does not trump Andacht in the slightest, but still presents for the listener a nocturnal world, frigid in temperature and deep in atmosphere.

Lunar Aurora have always made use of dark ambient synth work to broaden their music's atmospheric power, but in Hoagascht synth use is a particularly important part of the music. From the dark ambient opening of "Im Gartn" to the closing rainfall of "Reng", every track has some ambient element that contributes heavily to the track, and at times the guitars and electronics swap places in measure of importance, or blend together completely. The riffs in the album aren't throw aways by any means. Rather they coexist with the electronics, providing for the listener an interplay of texture and tone to create an enveloping atmosphere. One need only listen to the beautiful synth melody (of sorts) in "Beagliachda" or the minimalist synth touches of title track "Håbergoaß" to hear what I mean. In fact, the latter song's synth use is even reminiscent of that in Burzum's classic "Burzum" (aka "Dunkelheit").

The riffs stand strong on their own more often than not. Most aren't instant classics like those on Andacht, but the main riff of "Sterna" is absolutely beautiful,  those of "Nachteule" are freezing cold, and similar moments appear throughout the album. The riffs are appropriately frigid in sound and often surprisingly heavy, with thick chords shifting throughout the music, often conjoined with electronics. The riffing is burgeoned by a strong production; every note is clearly heard, my only complaint being the somewhat mechanical sounding nature of the cymbals. The vital need for synths and guitars to blend well is satisfied by a good mixing job as well.

As far as complaints, my only explicit one is that there is less variety in tempo than in previous Lunar Aurora albums, such as Andacht and Zyklus. A greater variety in mood that can be created by tempo changes is missing, and is probably the album's weakest point. Still, Hoagascht is a beautiful and emotional album, an excellent example of ambient black metal. Lunar Aurora are back, and I'm glad to have been invited to their home.

Rating: 8.5/10

Originally posted at Temple ov Bastet.


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Upcoming Releases To Get Horny About: Leaks Are Bad

Yeah, so the new Mutilation Rites album has already leaked.  So for a lot of people, this album is already old.  Me personally?  I don't download leaks.  Not anti-download: I download quite a bit of shit.  But many times, I give bands the common courtesy of waiting until after the official release before pirating the album... and sometimes, when I am feeling kinda crazy, I even pay for music.  In 2012.  Creepy no?

I absolutely adored last years double release from Botanist, and I see the project as one of the best and most exciting in Black Metal right now.  So I could not be more stoked for the new album, which sees Botanist become even more strange, spell binding and atmospheric.

Another leak, this one has been up on Youtube for a few weeks now, and yes I listened to it that way.  No where near enough to make a full judgment, but my initial feeling is this: pretty bad.  I am in the minority when it comes to Belus and Fallen: while neither were masterpieces, I enjoyed them.  Umskiptar feels totally toothless, and frequently heads into "irredeemably cheesy" territory.  Still, once I get my hands on the full length, I can spend more time with it.

Fucking killer new band from Sri Lanka, Genocide Shrines debut EP should be hitting pretty soon.  Thick, skull crushing, atmospheric Death Metal.  Reminds me a lot of Innumberable Forms and Muknal.  Should be one of the best releases of the year.

Also got a couple of bonus links for all my lovely readers:

 New Martyrdod track via Pitchfork:

Sounds solid.  Martyrdod deliver the goods.

New track from The Tallest Man on Earth via Rolling Stone:

We here at the Curse are big Folk music fans, so any news of The Tallest Man on Earth is gonna be a big deal.  Truth be told, Kristian Matsson's project has been on a steady decline since Shallow Grave, but at the very least There's No Leaving Now should be pretty and relaxing.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

The Curse Weekly Playlist: Japan > Music

Today, since the playlist is late, I thought I would do something... well completely different from the normal way things are done around here.

This week's playlist will feature 100% Japanese artists, and NOT A SINGLE ONE OF THEM IS METAL.  OR JAPANOISE.  We are kinda taking things easy this week with some nice noise-pop, post-shoegaze, math rock... and some other crazy shit which is purely of the Land of Godzilla.

Weaboo Boogie


1. 385- "脳みそあらおう" : Noise Rock/Jazz Rock/Funk.  From the EP 脳みそあらおう(2010)

2. Mass of the Fermenting Dregs- "ハイライト" : Post-Rock/Shoegaze/Pop Punk.  Off the EP Mass of the Fermenting Dregs(2008)

3. つしまみれ- "J-POP" : Post-Punk/Rock.  Off the LP Sex on the Beach(2010)

4. 百蚊- "ライオット" : Post-Rock.  Off the LP 刺したい(2006)

5. ゲルニカ- "Shishou Miya" : Avant-Garde Pop.  Off the LP 新世紀への運河(1988)

6. ハイスイノナサ- "The Child of Imagination and City" : Math Rock/Post-Rock.  Off the EP The Child of Imagination and City(2007)

7. ミドリ - "Ai no Uta" : Noise Rock/Jazz Fusion/Crust Punk.  Off the LP Second(Heart)(2009)

8. toe(Featuring Toki Asako)- "Goodbye" : Math Rock.  Off the LP For Long Tomorrow(2009)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Ignivomous- Contragenesis(2012)

Ignivomous- Contragenesis

Australia based Ignivomous moniker translates quite fittingly to "vomiting fire," the exact thing that the band are doing on their sophomore album Contragenesis: shooting fire and sulfur from their mouths with scorching demonic wrath.  Easily one of the most sonically devastating albums of 2012, Contragenesis song writing is a strange mix of old-school sensibility and aesthetic that features a modern, warp speed presentation.  Contragenesis borders on exhausting, and it's relentless nature gives Ignivomous a bit of identity that the bands debut, Incantation-and-Incantation styled Death Transmutation, an album which did not lack for brutality either but also felt far too appropriate and digestible.

Ignivomous still evoke the Old New York Gods of Incantation and Immolation in their brand of merciless Death Metal: occult themed sermons, loaded with plenty of intense tremolo picked riffs and explosive bursts of eery dissonance coupled with odd time-signatures.  In this way, Contragenesis feels familiar and even a bit worn out: the whole Incantation-worship thing has been going on for seven years now and it's no longer all that interesting.  It felt like Death Transmutation 2.0, without any kind of artistic progression or fresh approaches to old ideas.  Contragenesis left a bad impression with me through a single listen, and it took me a bit of time to come back to it.

And I am glad that I did, because repeated listens begin to part the ancient fog and expose a sense of personal artistic direction missing from many Old School Revival acts.  Contragenesis brings a healthy dose of sheer brutality to their style which helps it stand a part from the dime-a-dozen worship albums.  No, I am not talking about breakdowns or chugs: Ignivomous keep everything decidedly old-school throughout.  But in the vein of an early Deeds of Flesh or Gorgasm(or Angelcorpse, for those of you who could not possibly handle the comparison), Contragenesis is fucking fast and driven almost completely by the blast-beat.  Both Incantation and Immolation had time for Doom-laden introspection, but Ignivomous are not interested in such silly concepts for much of Contragenesis, seeking instead to hammer points home in a flurry of riffs so thick you cannot see more than a foot in front of you.  Not every track is completely relentless: "Monumental Cosmic Transgression" and the finale "The Final Cadence of Bloodshed" slow things down a bit, for a few moments anyway before the torrent commences with violent furry.  Despite the occult themes, Contragenesis is not much for ambiance and ritual; it would rather just gut the listener and smash the parts that fall out with a hammer while screaming about Satan.  This might seem like a detraction, but it really is a major selling point for this album; it gives Contragenesis it's own identity.

Identity is great, and Contragenesis stands as one of the better Old School Death Metal Revival albums of the year, if not the best in a bad year for Death Metal(so far).  But identity does not a masterpiece make: Contragenesis is still largely recycling ideas from bands who came before them, and not every track feels like a masterpiece.  The previously mentioned "The Final Cadence of Bloodshed" does feature some of the albums slower and more atmospheric(intended anyway) compositions, but it is also the weakest link on the tracklist: ponderous, evoking old ghosts of Obituary and Master, and not really in line with the rest of the album.  Vocalist Jael Edwards is a decent Ross Dolan-imitator, but he mostly is just there and grunting dutifully.  I also would not describe Contragenesis is ultra-tight: some of the riffs here are damn complex, but there is also a sense of swirling chaos that at times feels out of control: about half way through "Seventh Seal Gnosis," the transitions become awkward because of the speed, and the drums seem to fall behind.  These moments are neither common nor game breakers, and certainly gives Contragenesis a sense of rawness, but bare mentioning none the less.

I still can't find a ton of fault with Contragenesis.  In fact, I have some pretty high praises for it.  At least Ignivomous are trying to bring their own ideas and artistic expressions to their music, as so many of their peers are more than willing to suckle at the tit of their idols and rehash their songs in generally inferior ways.  I would like to see Contragenesis as a sign of things to come from the band, a band hopefully ready to spread it's black wings and bring a pestilence of it's own nefarious design.

Rating: 8/10

Thursday, May 10, 2012

First Aid Kit- The Lions Roar(2012)

First Aid Kit- The Lion's Roar

First Aid Kit are Klara and Johanna Söderberg, a pair of genetically engineered super-clone-musicians created by Sweden in some convoluted, super-villain scheme to slowly take over the worlds Folk music scene from the inside, leaving nothing but biologically superior, soulless monsters in their wake.  This is the only way I have been able to explain the sickening perfection of The Lions Roar: it's sheer perfectness, in both songwriting and performance, leaves no doubts that this pair of Swedish Sirens strumming out thoughtful, catchy Americana must be part some sort of nefarious plot.  I just do not think it possible of a normal human with normal abilities to produce something so god damn flawless in so many ways... The Lion's Roar is as frightening as it is beautiful.

The Lion's Roar is nothing if not precise and effortless: the Söderberg sisters have effectively melded the sounds of classic 60's Folk of Peter, Paul and Mary, Simon and Garfunkel and Joan Baez with the more modern, Indie Rock/Pop influenced Alt-Country of Jenny Lewis and later Neko Case into ten tracks of total musical perfection.  Not a single note is ever found out of a place, a single hook left unused or a single melody left unfinished: methodical yes, but just organic enough to feel real.  Which makes The Lion's Roar all that more deadly and utterly addicting.  I've spun The Lion's Roar two dozen times since I bought it, and still I return to it for it's infectious hooks, beautiful instrumentation and textbook Folk/Pop compositions: like musical Crack, I'm ready to break out a car window for a fix.

And then there are the vocals.

There are no doubts about it: the Söderberg sisters have two of the best voices you will ever hear, as well as absolutely stunning harmonies(which goes a long way to reinforcing my "genetically engineered super-clone" theory).  It's... well, it's scary.  In modern music, there are two kinds of "perfect": the perfect that comes from a studio(pretty much everything) and the real, tangible perfect, and the Söderberg sisters fit nicely into the latter category: the production does only enough for their voices to soar above the compositions like the healing songs of Angels.  Again, sickeningly perfect.

The Söderberg sisters deftly move around various sub-genres, giving The Lion's Roar a sort of grab-bag feel.  The title track is bombastic, rhythmically explosive combination of Folk Rock and Alt-Country, featuring gorgeously layered compositions that revel's in the variety of instruments while staying largely conformed to accessible song structure, which in the case of this particular genre is once again perfect.  "Emmylou" is easily the song of the year: the song spreads like a particularly virulent contagion within your hapless skull, sounding like Simon and Garfunkel on a trip through the country with Emmylou Harris(no doubt she was a major influence on the band).  Meanwhile, tracks like "Blue" and the finale "King of the World" feel decidedly more modern, drawing heavy influence from Jenny Lewis, Emmy the Great and Bright Eyes: it shouldn't be a surprise that Conor Oberst does a guest vocal spot on "King of the World," a jaunty, Pop-infused slice of Bluegrass meets Indie Rock, completely with another shockingly catchy chorus that will burrow into your brain-stem like a parasite and refuse to leave.

So we have established that The Lion's Roar is perfect, in almost every way, and that it is a musical equivalent to brutal drug addiction.  It's basically a moderately effective substitute for sex: Album of the Year, case closed right?

No.  Truth is, The Lion's Roar is a victim of it's own perfection.

The very best Folk albums of the previous decade: Our Endless Numbered Days, The Wild Hunt EP, For Emma, Forever Ago, all possessed a uniquely unpolished, raw emotional energy to them, energy that can only come from a strong understanding of the human condition.  By comparison, The Lion's Roar is a little on the sterile side: not plastic, just devoid of intensity.  Folk music are stories about imperfect people, and that super-clone like flawlessness of The Lion's Roar is and odd dynamic.

I'm ok with this: The Lion's Roar is incredible for what it is, and without a doubt the most listenable album of 2012.  It's forty-two minutes of perfection, and that is something you so rarely hear.  It just happens to be the wrong genre for this level of inhuman efficiency.  The Lion's Roar sounds like it was made by musical versions of Captain America, not a regular, unspectacular person with a story to tell.

Rating: 8/10

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Curse Weekly Playlist: Insert Theme Here

Cause I got nothin...

Track list:

1. Glossolalia- "Chains": Raw Atmospheric Black Metal from The United States.  Off the compilation Gold In The Throat(2010)

2. StarGazer- "Pale Brethren": Technical Progressive Death Metal from Australia.  Off the LP The Scream That Tore The Sky(2005)

3. Male Misandria- "Somni Specus": Blackened Grindcore from Italy.  Off the LP E.DIN(2011)

4. In Disgust- "Industrial Ghetto": Powerviolence from The United States.  Off the compilation San Jose Oldies, Vol. 1(2009)

5. Iconoclast Contra- "Wolf Sect: Profane": Black/Death/Powerviolence from The United States.  Off the LP Combat is the Voice of the Heathen(2011)

6. Disembodied- "Bloodshed Rain": Metalcore from The United States.  Off the EP If God Only Knew The Rest Were Dead(2003)

7. Wylve- "Vestiges": Raw Black Metal from The United States.  Off the demo Wylve(2012)

8. Deadstare- "Fetch the Baltak": Powerviolence from Austrailia.  Off the compilation Discography(2001)

9. Pek- "Funeral Orations For The Detoriated Corpse Of A Mental Deficient God": Black/Death from Belgium.  Off the LP Preaching Evil(2008)

10. Cultes Des Ghoules- "The Covenant and the Sacrifice": Raw Black Metal from Poland.  Off the LP Haxan(2008)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Pseudogod- Deathwomb Catechesis(2012)

 Pseudogod- Deathwomb Catechesis

A whirlwind of bloody debris and noxious sulfur, Deathwomb Catechesis is nothing if not sonically pulverizing.  These Russians have been building a head full of steam over the last few years with their various splits and demos, and the bands long awaited full-length debut had a lot of hype behind it.  Hype that I am not sure Deathwomb Catechesis completely meets, although the final product is perfectly competent, listenable and horrifyingly brutal... not any easy triumvirate to maintain over the course of an entire album.  Yet Pseudogod accomplish it beautifully on Deathwomb Catechesis by never forgetting their final goal: collecting enough skull-fracturing riffs to de-brain anyone who listens to it.

While the bands previous material hinted towards a very Teitanblood-like direction for Pseudogod, Deathwomb Catechesis bucks the trend so to speak.  Sure, Teitanblood and Bestial Black Metal acts like Blasphemy and Conqueror remain strong influences in Pseudogod's war machine, but it's impossible to not hear the blistering, sub-human percussive assault Angelcorpse or the slithering, twisted guitar work of Morbid Angel all over this release.  This strong Morbid/Angel/corpse vibe threw me off at first to be truthful, and was not entirely what I expected. I figured Deathwomb Catechesis would be the next Seven Chalices; twisted, discordant, inhumanly chaotic if not always tight and uniform.  What we got instead was a well controlled, tight, fast genocide machine, spewing lots of black smoke but moving with an easy purpose across the torched landscape.  Which at first felt largely unsatisfying, since desired revolution ended up being replaced with regression and a stale air of "been there, heard this."

But Deathwomb Catechesis is the kind of album that can beat down even the thickest of inner walls and reach the gooey, Metal loving insides of any increasingly cynical fan.  It's... just got riffs.  Lots of them, and most of them are fucking intense.  "Malignant Spears" rips off a half dozen blistering Trey Azagthoth-style riffs in mere minutes, only slowing down slightly to bang heads and break spines before the unholy storm of guitar madness breaches again into the mortal world, swirling with souls.  "Azazel" offers some slight variation in the form of some demented choral vocal arrangements, but it still feels like a long lost Order From Chaos track returned to the inglorious light of the Sun: blackened, hell-bent on speed and relentless in it's hunt for the holy flesh of Angels.  Deathwomb Catechesis is not the ritualistic enchantment I expected, but rather the full on invasion of Hell on Earth.

Deathwomb Catechesis is not the genre-defining masterpiece I wanted, and I admit it still bothers me: for all of its strengths, the album remains largely cut and dry, with each track providing similar charms and the inescapable sense of déjà vu which dominates it's thick atmosphere.  It's hard to argue with the final product though.  Deathwomb Catechesis is truly an album which fits the "poser-disposer" category... yet thankfully avoids the "idiotic, bland genre worship" category.

Rating: 8/10