Friday, July 5, 2013

black metal, a sample selection -- part 1

Black metal is probably one of the genres of metal with the most potential for artistic expression and the creation of a broad range of atmospheres. I think anyone with a serious, dedicated interest in music *period* will be able to appreciate some if not all of the genre's offerings (and offerings is what they are). I've got most of the rest of the alphabet chosen, but I wanted to do two installments, as it's talking a lot of time and effort and I want to get it (partially) out there.

Enjoy. (also, cut your flesh and worship Satan)

Aeternus - As I March

Starting off with something not-too-inaccessible but also very high quality, Norway's Aeternus used to play a refined, mature form of black metal that had mastered atmosphere, transitions, and overall song progression/composition. Polished but still organic.

...And Oceans - Mechanic Hippie

Before turning into an electronic/metal band, Finland's ...And Oceans played a melodically symphonic and quirkily emotive kind of black metal. A little somber, a little nostalgic, and also just weird, transitioning to moments of wild fury and back again.

Antaeus - Seventh Ceremony

Extremely violent, fast-paced black metal from France. Not everyone's goblet of virgin blood, but represents the harsher, more ferocious side of the genre and does so with intense dedication and passion for its musical goals.

Apotheosis - The Maimed God

Very interesting one-man-band from Malta which only ever released a single album. Fantastical, bombastic, and full of mythology, this is complexly arranged symphonic black metal with atmospheric keyboard interludes and a subtle interplay between more thrashing, straightforward, battle-themed forays and more epic, sweeping sections.

Bathory - Woman of Dark Desires

Bathory started it all. The man behind the whole thing, Quorthon, basically invented black metal. He laid the template for the harsh, inhuman, rasping shrieks, the lo-fi production values (because he honestly couldn't afford better equipment), the morose subject matter, etc. Here is where it all began, and his material wasn't just pioneering; it stands time's test of quality as well.

Belenos - Morfondu

Another band from France, but very different from Antaeus. Extremely melodic with progressive, intelligent and overall very coherent and effective song structure. Filled with desperation, beauty and a strong sense of the sublime.

Borknagar - Grimland Domain

Before turning into a much more experimental band with black metal influences, Borknagar from Norway were significantly more straightforward, though definitely still possessive of a unique style all their own, made up of slightly folk-tinged elements, unorthodox lead guitar passages, and the distinctive, atmosphere-setting clean singing of Kristoffer Rygg.

Cobalt - Gin

And for something completely different: the American post-rock influenced band Cobalt, made up of two people, one of whom is a war veteran and took inspiration from his time overseas. Marked by simple, jagged, jangling guitar riffs and slower, softer, more introspective and reflective clean guitar passages, the formula is simple but the execution is exceptional.

Drudkh - Furrows of Gods

And again for something drastically different: Ukraine's Drudkh play a folky kind of black metal steeped in Ukrainian folklore, history, and art. They frequently quote directly from poems, and you get the overall impression that Drudkh is a sort of monument to Ukrainian culture. But more than just a tribute to the nation, Drudkh are are a prized musical export, playing passionate, varied, and emotionally raw black metal.

Eikenskaden - The Nymphs Will Pray for My Soul

French black metal with prominent classical influences, this album is filled with longing, reflective piano compositions, often serving as a foundation for the extremely raw, lo-fi black metal riffs and throaty vocals on top. Great contrast.

Emperor - Ye Entrancemperium

Other than Bathory, Borknagar and possibly a couple others, this is one of the few "classics" I've decided to include. Emperor made a huge name for themselves in the early '90s and have been a household name in black metal for years, though not without a large amount of division in the metal community. Some think their material is overrated, others think it's genius. I'm probably somewhere in the middle, but definitely leaning toward excellent. One of the first black metal albums I heard, this is driving, intense, and unique with an atmosphere of ordered chaos channeling the yin of existence.

Enslaved - I Lenker Til Ragnarok

Sandwiched between the early, more minimalistic, atmospheric albums and the later move to an increasingly '70s prog rock-influenced brand of extreme-ish metal, this is Norway's Enslaved at their most intensely straightforward, but also dynamic and definitely all-their-own. Tinges of folk, primarily in the clean vocals, round out the stomping, but flowing and at times larger-than-life-apocalyptic, melody-infused violence.

Falkenbach - Galdralag

A strong name in black folk metal, one-man band Falkenbach has established a strong legacy of pagan atmosphere and pride, from more direct black metal tracks to clean-sung heathen odes. This is the debut--raw, impassioned, cohesive, a classic in his discography, and probably my favorite.

Forefather - Deep into Time

English Anglo-Saxon black metal with an extremely melodic but also unpolished focus. Soaring, complex, interweaving guitar leads topped with intermingling pagan shrieks and strong, deep-intoned clean vocals. A landmark in melodic black metal that avoids many of the subgenre's failings and excesses; not to be missed.

Gorgoroth - Krig

Known primarily in the mainstream for their iconoclastic, gruesome live shows with lots of faux-crucifixions and other "shocking" theatrics, as well as for Gaahl's "...Satan" documentary interview moment, Gorgoroth were once a powerful musical force. Trash can drums and a mixture of more violent, brutal stylings with prominent touches of melody, this is essential Norwegian black metal.

Hordes of the Lunar Eclipse - Beneath the Veridian Loche (interesting video...)

Fog may be the better-known main project, but Hordes... is something special on its own. Magic-infused, ritualistic black metal from Indiana with some absolutely sublime melodies, this stands in the higher tiers of USBM.

Inquisition - Where Darkness is Lord and Death the Beginning

Complete mastery of a style all their own, Inquisition are primeval and droning, trance-inducing, utterly (sac)religious art. By far the best live show I've ever seen. An experience unlike any other, even on CD. Uniquely brilliant, simplistic but insanely effective with just two band members and a song-writing template of little but riffs, well-chosen, well-timed, atmospheric guitar leads, and the croaking of a man clearly possessed by someone or something.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

sometimes to die is a good thing

like not knowing what
you're even saying anymore
like being completely caught
in the frame of some narrow door
and ceasing to talk

like when the cup is full
of poison, of life poisonous
and you knock it over
and forget the spill
and it runs over anew and pure

like when be-ing is a chinese finger trap
or a soaked rag
and you pull to break the bond
and you wring to drink, to be drunk
but you forget how to move your arms

like when your stomach is a maze
of shifting pains and aches and
you cut the thread leading out
and you wait until night to move an inch
you feel the texture of the walls
you marvel at the cold
and you wonder: not how to get out; you wonder

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Essential and arbitrary electronic/trip-hop/dubstep/etc mix from over the years

Goth-Trad - Mirage

mechanically fluid, a combination of the systematic, robotic tendencies of dubstep and a more natural but still alien kind of oscillating insect-language.

Chronos - Towards the Light House

peacefully grandiose, a score to the most larger-than-life orange sunrise. Driving, electrifying ambient music.

Assemblage 23 - I am the Rain

accusingly disillusioned, bitter social message wrapped in a package of dark, accessible, melodic dance music. Not without a little optimism.

The Glitch Mob - Animus Vox

organically energetic, incredible sense of rhythm and melody and songwriting/pacing, great production job. All the buildups and crescendos of post-rock with all the dynamics of this kind of big beat electronic music.

Carbon Based Lifeforms - Tensor

creatively surreal, recalling early mornings and drops of water traveling toward the bottoms of window panes. Or science fiction biodomes and the dew on extra-terrestrially grown grass.

Fatali - I Believe

hypnotically enchanted, classic primitive goa dance rhythms meet dreamy melodic lines and advancing/receding songwriting.

Saltillo - Blood and Milk

sublimely melancholic, from one of the most brilliant trip-hop albums ever made, straddling the false dichotomy between sadness and beauty.

Labs Cloud - Evolving Natural Forms

cautiously progressive, exactly what the name implies, a shifting pattern of melodies leading from one to another, gradually replacing and adapting.

Neuroticfish - I Don't Need the City

painfully nostalgic, ready to abandon everything. Not hopeless, but not satisfied. More disillusioned, bittersweet, vocal-driven dance music.

Ott - One Day I Wish to Have This Kind of Time

knowingly wakeful, beginning with the wisdom of an Alan Watts sample and the sounds of early dawn critters before exploding into the day with playful, child-like psychedelic dub music.

Slackbaba - Drink More Tea

pensively aware, neither too positive nor too negative, breathing with the energy of the whole. Some Terrence McKenna samples thrown in just because. Psychedelic trance-ish ambient-ish.

The Flashbulb - Lawn Wake IX

madly animated, a guitar solo gone dubstep, alternating between moments of rapid, frenzied inhalation and quiet, necessary deflation.

VNV Nation - Space & Time

openly embracing, poppy, bombastic and insanely infectious dance music. Saccharine, but I'll take the cavities.

Friday, April 26, 2013

traditional heavy metal; a sample selection

Thinking of doing a series of these, different genres with specific songs I love a lot and think exemplify what the shit's all about. I dunno if anyone cares, but I've probably devoted more of my life to digging for music than most other things, so I like to share my discoveries. Also, these will reflect my own tastes, so they won't be comprehensive or anything like that.

This one's heavy metal. That is, the stuff that kicked off in the '70s and is still being made, but not what a lot of people call heavy metal. It's Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, that sort of stuff. It's cheesy and over-the-top to a lot of people, but I prefer to think of it as completely unabashed and unapologetic, no holding back. And when it isn't serious, it's still serious.


Attacker - Zero Hour

Speedy riffs all over the place, and gotta love those crazy vocals.

Ballistic - Call Me Evil

Really fun band, not too serious but I love the guitarwork and the overall attitude.

Brocas Helm - Drink the Blood of the Priest

They're an '80s band, but they released this in 2004. It's a classic even though it's under a decade old.

Bruce Dickinson - King in Crimson

This is the Iron Maiden singer's solo band. Modern and really heavy but still great heavy metal.

Crimson Glory - Queen of the Masquerade

One of very few interesting heavy metal bands to flirt with glam "metal." They do it SO well though.

Dark Quarterer - Colossus of Argil

Progressive, epic, sprawling and utterly insane Italian heavy metal.

Isen Torr - Mighty & Superior

AMAZING material, it's a huge shame the singer died and they didn't record more than this 2-song EP. Bracers and leather armor and axes and stuff.

Liege Lord - Kill the King

This is actually a Dio cover, but they do it complete justice. Great guitar riffs and vocals, pure metal.

Manilla Road - Necropolis

Long been one of my favorite bands of any genre. They're very quirky and strange, but also entirely unique and they've been releasing quality music for over three decades.

Manowar - Blood of My Enemies

Manowar are a massive joke to a lot of people, and I mean, the imagery is definitely ridiculous, but early on in their career they released some great heavy metal. This is one of my favorite songs from them.

Omen - Be My Wench

OMEN ARE SO MUCH FUN. This is basically a soundtrack to the Conan the Barbarian stories by Robert E. Howard.

Rainbow - Stargazer

This is Dio's band before his solo career and stint in Black Sabbath. It's also his best material.

Riot - Sign of the Crimson Storm

Anthemic and catchy as hell.

Running Wild - Under Jolly Roger

No, Alestorm didn't invent pirate metal. Running Wild did, and they ruled at it.

Slough Feg - Heavy Metal Monk

The lead singer/songwriter is a philosophy professor. That's impressive, right? No but Slough Feg are great, a sound all their own (with some nods to Brocas Helm and other classic bands).

Friday, April 12, 2013

Austin/Houston Epic Heavy Metal Band -- Eternal Champion

Seriously impressed by these guys and can't wait to see them open for Speedwolf/Manilla Road at Chaos in Tejas next month. EP is due out at some point.

The world never has too much well-written epic trad metal. I can see these guys standing up to names like Isen Torr, Cauldron Born, Holy Martyr et al. if they keep it up.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Playa de la Cruz

It's somewhere I've never been and wouldn't care to. Dream location. Dreams reflect the unfulfilled will. My beach is my bed. The sheets are waves and I am a ship. It storms and I rock, I toss. I dream of being chased. There's a stairwell I jump down, because the closer to the ground I get the closer to freedom, the further from the tidal front that chases, the hurricane that promises no moored, center eye. But it's an Escher stair and down is sideways. I find a landing and I wake, but there is no landing.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Glitch-hop and related genres; a sample selection

Big Gigantic - Sky High

interstellar crossroads between the Final Fantasy 7 soundtrack, bass-infused hip-hop beats, and a little flair of jazz funk. What?

Four Tet - My Angel Rocks Back and Forth

beautiful, glitchy, laid back trip-hop/Bonobo-sounding stuff with piano and strings, more minimalistic than most of the songs in this note but not any less affecting.

GRiZ - Smash the Funk

killer hip-hop/glitch-hop/dubstep beats, laser melodies, and more jazz interluding.

Heyoka - Two Sea Blues

an addictive main synth line complemented by nice, heavy undulating bass and lighter melodies. Dude has some dreads.

KOAN Sound - 80s Fitness

'80s fitness audio samples and big, catchy, glitchy beats, plus some great and sometimes hilarious retro-sounding melodies.

Minnesota - Breathe

repeating, spacy, hypnotic main melody progresses and builds to a heavy, bassy synth line that continues underneath evolving melodies.

Opiuo - Bill Bro Baggins

saw this guy live recently, ultra funky, love the organ-sounding melodies and the off-beat rhythms.

PANTyRAiD - Jail Bait

brilliant bass and synth lines, great use of the keyboard synth. Makes me want to use adjectives like 'sick' and 'dope', must be good.

Tipper - Higgins

alien and unpredictable, swirls and thunks and I don't even know, the dude is crazy.

Vibesquad - Janitor

saw him live with Opiuo, less funky but really inventive and original, and he was smiling hard the entire set.