About Me

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I'm Chris. I'm 22 years old and I'm into a large variety of music, from Metal in its many forms (mostly the extreme ones) to Goth and Postpunk, Reggae, Jazz, Prog, Techno, Ambient and Film Scores. This is where I rave about albums I really like, and other stuff.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Pestilence - Spheres

Album review: Pestilence - Spheres (Roadrunner, 1993)
Prog/ Metal

Out of all this long lasting Dutch metal band's albums, this one is probably the most neglected. Listening to it I can understand why, despite the fact I find it underrated myself. This is supposed to be Pestilence's "jazz" album, while I don't think that is necessarily true its certainly their most wierd and experimental one. At the time of its release mainman Patrik Mameli had supposedly grown tired of the metal scene and its admittedly largely fickle audience, and become obsessed with Jazz virtuosos like Alan Holdsworth. Apparently, after he was first exposed to Holdsworth, Mameli stopped listening to all other music in an attempt to block out all outside influences. Contemporary reaction to "Spheres" was largely quite negative and Mameli later went as far to basically disown the album. Coming from the same year as a whole bunch of seminal albums in the same field ("The Erosion of Sanity", "Focus", "Elements" and "Individual Thought Patterns" being the most obvious choices) it isn't hard to understand how "Spheres" tends to get forgotten about.

This is a shame, because "Spheres" is a really enjoyable album. I think calling it "jazz" though is a bit of a stretch. There's not really anything wierd going on with the rhythms and many of the riffs are quite straightforward, just put together really well. There are however a lot of unusual (for death metal) chords on display, and the spaced out soloing certainly adds to the overall vibe. Not to mention the fretless bass playing (courtesy of one Jeroen Paul Thesseling). The album also has a very odd production which, while appropriate for the music it does lack the impact and heaviness expected even from the most leftfield death metal. You'll notice this as soon as the album starts, its mostly the guitar tone which is very odd indeed...but not unfitting in the context of this album. There's also generous use of synths - no keyboards! the booklet hastens to add, instead all the sounds come from guitar synths the same way Cynic did on their debut.

Similar to the previous album, "Spheres" is made up of tracks seperated by interludes, just not between every track like before...these include definite highlights of the album in Patrick Uterwijk's spacey "Voices From Within", Mameli's bizarre violin instrumental "Aurian Eyes", and Thesseling's moody bass solo "Phileas". Out of the main body of tracks I find "Multiple Beings" and the title track to be my favourites, and whichever one it is that reminds me of Sun Ra having a go at metal. As I've said this album is quite underrated, unfortunately due to the mostly negative reaction to this Pestilence split up afterwards for several years before deciding to reform and be more predictable and obedient on their less interesting comeback albums.

Friday, 20 July 2012

The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland

Album review: The Sisters of Mercy - Floodland (WEA, 1987)

Described by many as perhaps the quintessential 80s goth album, the second outing by The Sisters of Mercy offers a striking difference to their previous works. By this point the band of previous years had essentially been reduced to Andrew Eldritch and the drum machine known as "Dr. Avalanche". Accompanying him was the controversial Patricia Morrison, former Gun Club bassist (who supposedly played no actual bass on the album), the New York Choral Society, and a small selection of other guest session musicians. It comes as no suprise then, that Floodland is entirely a studio creation and no live dates were performed to support it (After their 1985 "farewell" show at The Royal Albert Hall, The Sisters didn't return to the stage at all until 1990) .

This album is all about one thing: BIG and BOMBASTIC songs with production values to match. Eldritch teams up with Meatloaf producer Jim Steinman on the singles "Dominion/ Mother Russia" and "This Corrosion". The first opens the album and will tell you everything you need to know about it: it is at once silly and glorious. Gloriously silly. BIG 80s sounding drums and reverbs abound as well as saxophones and brilliantly pompous vocals and synths. "This Corrosion" on the other hand, would be great if it didn't take around 11 minutes to make its point. I like long songs, but there's only so much of this one I can personally take now. The other "hit" track from this album is of course "Lucretia", driven by a propulsive (and programmed) bassline and yet more big choruses. Now that those tracks have been dealt with, we can turn our attention  to the real strengths of this album, the non hit single tracks. These include the duo of the sinister "Flood I" and its absolutely MASSIVE sounding partner "Flood II", and "Driven Like the Snow" which after all the times I've heard it never fails to hit me where it hurts the most. The piano/vocal ballad "1959" I can take or leave depending on my mood, while "Never Land" finishes the album on a magnificently creepy and ambiguous note.

Andrew Eldritch has always been a fine songwriter and on parts of this album he really proves his worth, perhaps more than ever. Especially in the lyrical department, but the hooks and arrangements are no less epic and powerful. With all the overblown attitude surrounding this album I admit I sometimes forget just how great it really is. One of my favourite albums ever, in fact. The reissue of it is well worth picking up, as along with the obligatory B-sides ("Torch" and "Colours") you get the "full" (and apparently fake) 10 minute version of "Never Land" and perhaps the finest possible example of The Sisters doing a cover that completely destroys the original in every way as they always do so well: an amazing version of Hot Chocolate's "Emma", recorded before the original lineup split. Despite their current state of near non existence (regular touring yet no new releases since 1993), The Sisters of Mercy were at the top of their game in the mid-late 80s and there's no better testimony to that than "Floodland".

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Ulver - Vargnatt

Album review: Ulver - Vargnatt (demo, 1993)
Folk/ Black Metal

Norway's Ulver is a chameleon. A band that certainly never made the same album twice and has taken in all manner of sounds in their long career, from their early raw folk/ black metal to glitch, ambient and trip hop until their most recent album this year consisting of covers of 60s psychedelic rock like The Byrds and The Electric Prunes. Obviously there are the purist fans who prefer the early Black Metal days, specifically the reknowned "Nattens Madrigal" album (the supposed "rawest album ever", thought really not at all, and its rawness is very contrived and artificial despite how great an album it is)  and dismiss the later material for simply not being old Ulver. I admit I too prefer the early albums though I enjoy a selection of their later works ("Silencing the Singing" comes to mind). This review takes a look at their earliest recording, the "Vargnatt" demo.

This is a wierd piece of music. It doesn't really resemble the debut album "Bergtatt" despite preceding it directly, although you can see how they would go on to create that album after listening to this. There is more of a crusty feel to some of this that reminds me of early Darkthrone ("A Blaze...") along with some very unusual and avant-garde aspects. The riffing is just plain wierd, dreamy and wonderful. There are folky acoustic passages, and VERY goth sounding clean electric guitars accompanying the fuzzy black metal parts. The bass is pronounced and never dull. Drums are handled by none other than Carl Michael Elde of Ved Buens Ende, which perhaps explains this album sounding more than a little like VBE in places, he performs some very interesting beats on this recording. Garm's vocals here are very strange, a raspy shout paired up with falsetto singing that sounds suspiciously like Morrissey in places. These vocals may be the thing that make or break this demo for you, I happen to quite like them.

Also, being that this is a demo the production quality may turn you off a lot too. I don't have a problem with it myself, the guitars are a little bit "fizzy" on the distorted parts but aside from that the clean guitars sound lush and the rest of the instruments are well balanced. I think this is very well recorded for a demo from this period, a recent reissue by the killer Greek label Kyrck Productions (who have also reissued the other essential wierd Norwegian BM demos by Ved Buens Ende and In The Woods...) has cleaned it up more removed the heavy tape noise which can also turn many potential listeners away. This is a wierd, wonderful and unique recording.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Mortiis - Keiser av en Dimension Ukjent

Album review: Mortiis - Keiser av en Dimension Ukjent (Cold Meat Industry, 1995)
Darkwave/ ambient

Any listener of Black Metal will surely be aware of our friend Mortiis and his prosthetic troll nose. he played bass on early Emperor recordings before starting his own solo project about as far away from BM as you can get in terms of sound, but in terms of atmosphere it isn't as detatched as you might think. This is my favourite Mortiis album and I think the last of what is known as "Era 1" - the "dungeon synth" style he created (along with acts like Wongraven from Satyricon's frontman Satyr), before Mortiis albums became more streamlined and based on individual songs ("The Stargate" and so on) and before he tragically slipped and fell into Marilyn Manson's ass. Or something.

Early Mortiis is all about loooong compositions devoted to transporting your mind away from this world and into his. There are two songs on this album and they're both over 20 minutes in length. They consist of passages of sorrowful and triumphant melodies, classically inspired perhaps. There is also spoken word and some chanting from the troll himself. The sound of the album is heavily MIDI based, think slightly cheesy mid 90s sampling keyboard patches and you're pretty much on the mark. Yes the album does have that very "dated" sound and there may be one or two rather cheesy sounds in there, does this damage it? I think not, if anything it further enhances the atmosphere of which there is plenty (this is no "Daudi Baldrs" believe me, and even then I can find some saving graces in that mostly hated album). The construction and ambience of the pieces is just brilliant.

Right from the beginning this music will conjure up images of desolate landscapes, ruins and forgotten memories.  Or something along those lines. As it is basically ambient music I imagine it makes good background sound for reading, I personally like to just stick it on and lose my head in it. This guy clearly had a vision at this time and on an album like this, its a great thing to behold.

Friday, 13 July 2012

Death - Individual Thought Patterns

Album review: Death - Individual Thought Patterns (Roadrunner, 1993)
Tech death/ speed metal

"Behind the eyes, is a place nobody will be able to touch
Containing thoughts, that cannot be taken away or replaced"

Time to discuss my other favourite Death album, the one constantly fighting "Human" for the top spot in my head. They're both completely different but to my mind represent the very best of Death's discography. Instead of further developing the sound of "Human", Chuck goes off on a new tangent while retaining some similar features. Yet another lineup change is the most obvious one: the Cynic guys are gone, but bass mastermind Steve DiGiorgio is still here (and you can hear him! Thank fuck!) along with Dark Angel drumming maniac Gene Hoglan and guitarist Andy Laroque of King Diamond. The whole vibe of the album is noticeably different: the production is noticeably thinner all around than "Human". That album's extensive passages of bass heavy mechanical grinding are replaced with much more thrashy and melodic playing (starting to become almost not death metal at this point). The songs themselves utilize a bit less repetition and their lengths are also somewhat trimmed down to reflect this. The tracks flow together in a very organic way and they are all highly memorable.

Chucks lyric's are as sharp and on point as ever, this album is full of some of the best ones he wrote IMO. The riffing is still pretty techy, but more speedy and melodic. Laroque's more flamboyant and blatantly melodic lead playing provides a great contrast to Schuldiner's classic Death style solos. Gene Hoglan is at once all over the place and tight as hell, really a worthy successor to Sean Reinert. Steve Digiorgio, after being criminally buried on the original version of "Human", is here given a huge deal more volume and you can hear his bass lines prancing alongside the guitars providing audacious counterpoint at many moments (the breakdown in the title track is a good example, it almost cracks me up from how wacky it is). His tone and playing should be the envy of every aspiring metal bassist, the guy is and always has been perhaps the greatest bass player in metal and a big inspiration in a genre where the instrument is often a bit neglected.

Overall while it shows Chuck's songwriting and music beginning to move away more obviously from the death metal of the previous albums, "Thought Patterns" shows even more progression from a band that never made the same album twice, even in the early days. And of course, this is the album that featured "The Philosopher", a favourite of all Death fans. Essential!

(A note on the recent remix/remaster by Relapse: Don't bother. They did an admirable job remixing "Human" but they completely screwed this one up and ruined the sound of the album completely. The mix sounds too mushy and all the reverb on the vocals and leads has been rather stupidly taken off. The only benefit is a full live show from 1993 on the 2nd disc, which is well worth checking out. On Spotify. For free.)