The last few months have been hectic, what with recording and releasing the first Djinn & Miskatonic album, and I have a number of album reviews pending. I’m going to do a few shorter, but hopefully equally useful reviews until I’ve caught up with the backlog.
Gotherburg crust/sludgers Agrimonia’s sophomore effort, ‘Host of the Winged’ was one of the most dense and relentlessly intense releases in this space in 2010. Particularly with the modern US sludge scene dwindling away on the trail of accessibility, it’s heartening to see that, on ‘Rites of Separation’, Agrimonia continue to practice the art of adding melody and expansiveness to their sound without compromising on the sheer weight of negativity their tutelary genres are supposed to embody. Christina’s vocals are harsh litanies of acrimony, guitarists Pontus (also in the excellent OSDM band Miasmal) and Magnus unleash a range of six-string-soundscapes that maintain the pressure while exploring almost post-metal like whorls and tides of sound and melody. The 5 songs here are all generally of epic length, and the layered, lush yet corrosive sound is augmented by thoughtfully positioned keyboard layers contributed by Christina. She even contributes gentle piano lines – piano on a crusty sludge record! – which only add another element of contrast and cohesion to Agrimonia’s arsenal. Martin’s bass work is especially effective at bringing in dolorous, droning undercurrents in the more introspective sections and Bjorn, who also plays for Miasmal, anchors the sound with his incisive, dynamic drum work. This one is up there with Kongh’s ‘Sole Creation’ and Primitive Man’s ‘Scorn’ as one of the most crushingly massive releases of the year from the sludgier side of the tracks, but that heaviness is only furthered by the moments of melodic reflectiveness that are interspersed throughout the album.
The band’s stated genre is doom/thrash and I was curious to see how they would make that work. Mainly they’ve taken the crunch of thrash and some of its more mid-tempo aspects and melded it to a histrionic, melodic, traditional doom framework. This isn’t miles away from how Trouble (which is bassist Ron Holzner’s alma mater, after all) always brought the doom without being overtaken by the pace and energy of their coevals in the thrash scene – nothing here will be mistaken for an Exodus outtake. Instead we have songs that are long on melody, augmented by generous lashings of violin, and can move from moody, slow passages to 8th-note grooves with pounding drums and chugging power chord riffs. The band’s musicianship is top-notch but I found the vocals a shade too grungy at times, which is a shame because Mark Weiner does a mean Eric Wagner when the mood catches him, such as on the magnificent ‘Tilted World’. Violinist Rachel Barton Pine’s contributions go well beyond simple layering or novelty interludes, perfectly meshing with the seasoned doom-mongering of the rest of the band. The end result is a sound that makes the band a natural addition to the front row of classic American doom bands. Certainly, their decision to include two classic doom covers in their debut offering (a great version of ‘Burning A Sinner’ which makes the Witchfinder General sound more like Trouble and a cover of Pentagram’s ‘Relentless’ which sees Weiner apparently channeling the vocal stylings of Wino) shows how closely this band identifies with the history of the doom genre, but doesn’t capture the variety and lush romanticism of the music on offer here, which isn’t just limited to retreading what has gone before.
Kraut is alive, and it’s got shoes. While Samsara Blues Experiment purveys the darker end of the modern kraut spectrum, their scene-mates and countrymen, Suns Of Thyme have a more airy sound, less grueling, more filigreed and bright-eyed. There is a sense of wide-open spaces and endless, ecstatic jamming in these songs, but there is also a certain serene contemplativeness underlying the psychedelic excursions. These songs are also decidedly concise, with running times in the 3-4 minute range most of the time. It’s kraut crossed with shoegaze: shimmering guitars, motorik jams and hazy vocals intertwining to form a dreamlike, propulsive sound. Everything here, especially the voice, sounds like it has been slathered in layers of glistening star-stuff (not to mention delay), and while individual songs do not jump out at you on initial listens, there are enough way-out bits and shimmering, melodic passages to make this album a pleasant excursion down the river of Lethe, the sonic equivalent of a kaleidoscope held to the eyes on a warm summer afternoon.
And that’s it from me for now – stay tuned for a couple more catch-up posts this week!
1. Bottom Feeder
3. False Philanthropy
4. Narcissus Nemesis
5. Sustain the Yoke
7. Praying Mantic
8. Waste Not
10. Pythia Misunderstood
11. The Shape of Grind to Come
13. Big Man Plick
14. Snoop Scion
15. Swallowing Androcles
16. Van Grinder
I couldn’t really think of an intro to this so I think I am going to be feminist here and tell you how much I love women in Grind, the women of Grindcore are amazing. They’ve been part of bands like Fuck the Facts(Mel Mongeon) and Cloud Rat(Madison Marshalls ) who have changed the dynamics of the genre and have proven that grind can be used to evoke deep emotions other than chaos and anger , such as loss, pain and the ensuing grief. Additionally bands like Lycanthropy (Zdisha) and Cretin (Marissa Martinez) have given some really tight, intense straightforward grind. Damn it! I love all you women of grind! You are really are awesome! Don’t let chauvinist assholes let you down.. I love you all so much that I would buy you all drinks at a bar!!!… ok maybe not but I still love you! and to celebrate that love I am going to review a female fronted grind band today! A band called Transient.
Transient are a four piece from Portland consisting of Krysta Martinez(Vocals) Jesse Shreibman ( Drums) ,Stefan Thompson (Guitar) and Adam Wilson(Bass). Transient have a very diverse sound, one that mixes, blast beat driven grindcore, crushing Nails like metallic hardcore and simple crust/hardcore that blends the skank/ D- beat with chord driven guitar riffs. Although this is the crux of the band’s sound, in some cases one can hear a bit of stoner, yes stoner!! Like in the starting of False Philosophy or at the start and end of Sustain the Yoke. At a few places the band adds some tech grind which can be seen in the song Narcissus Nemesis and Positivism SFP Opt.1. All of these features work for the band’s benefit, and these guys are able to bring a lot of fresh and interesting ideas to the table and mesh them rather well, which of course makes them sound unique and different, and makes them do something that very few bands are able to achieve. In effect, to be playing a form of grind that is catchy, but still able to maintain the brutality and harshness of the genre, and this is honestly something that only Six Brew Bantha have been able to do( these guys are one of my favorite bands by the way). This is in fact quite remarkable if you ask me. On the negative side they do need to be a tad more aggressive, and only by a very slight measure that is indeed a very small gripe that I have with the band.
So in the end Transient turned out to be another female fronted grind band that I ended up loving! I think these guys are fantastic and if this is what they have produced the future can only be brighter and more brutal!! Indeed this band is another reason why I love all the women of Grind!!
PS. I would like to give a shout out to my friend Kylie Ackerson who used to be a woman of grind! She played in a pornogrind band called Rimjob but now she’s a thrasher, Kylie you are awesome!!!
Artwork by Nicolas Huck
1. 7 Year Witch (11:37)
2. Book of the Fallen (08:37)
3. Vulcan’s Forge (04:54)
4. Voice from the Tomb (00:58)
5. Weird Tales (16:56)
Doom metal is a style that is still relatively foreign in the embryonic metal ‘scene’ and its enthusiasts in the subcontinent, and the past few years have seen the rise of a few bands playing around with the genre, which has at the very least brought to fore the existence and awareness of this slower side of extreme metal. This has always been overshadowed by the more dominant, velocity-fuelled side of things regardless of geographic location. Doom metal has trodden a variety of paths since its inception during the zenith of Black Sabbath and the then incipient Pentagram and similar bands, and has thereon gone onto spawn forth a variety of stylistic derivatives. While not all of these are congruent with the proto-type of the genre, perhaps the most obvious commonality all these aural offspring have is their lumbering pace and crushing minimalism. If Bevar Sea presented the more jammy, convivial side of Bangalore’s nascent doom/stoner movement (if one could call it that), and Dying Embrace the monstrous local overlords of the death/doom mould, then Djinn and Miskatonic present a more reticent, sedated and punctilious position that is more thematically focused and staid. The band name’s etymology is an open exaltation to their thematic inspirations, ranging from classic horror to weird fiction, à la H.P Lovecraft. The name is a play on the gin and tonic cocktail – djinn being the Qur’anic equivalent of genies and Miskatonic being a fictional university, featured in a series of stories in the Lovecraftian mythos.
‘Forever in the Realm’, the band’s debut album after being active for around two years as a live band, merges a variety of these styles into its creative mould – primarily traditional doom in the vein of Trouble and Saint Vitus with very healthy doses of more jammy, stoner influences – think Electric Wizard and Sleep, and even hints of death/doom and sludge metal. The introduction of a guitarist in the band in turn omitted the more drone-driven, spacey quality that the band previously exhibited, and this is certainly evident in the album. ‘7 Year Witch’ is the tone setter of this record and opens with a direfully commanding spoken word about the depravity that is witchcraft, and soon descends into an infectious riff that is rather standard by doom norms but enjoyable nevertheless. The vocal approach is something one immediately takes note of, and showcases a wide range of styles that cover everything from impassioned warbles to harsher growls. The leads are laden with striving lead work that is reminiscent of Dave Chandler or even Tony Iommi. The band drops a bombshell with a bombastic, groove-laden, thrashing segment that I’ve often observed is an additive to the dynamics of the band’s sound in a live setting, and it is no different on record. ‘Book of the Fallen’ brings to fore a more robust facet of the band – the pace is almost marching in a sense and the entire mode of action is far more menacing than foreboding. It certainly isn’t devoid of coercive doom segments, which have some excellent melodies that are complimented by befittingly clean vocals working in congruence with the aforementioned leads.
The track that follows, ‘Vulcan’s Force’ enters the realm of dark humour and surrounds alcoholic excesses and consequential contemplation on the futility of existence. The guitars take a step back and make way for more fuzz-driven, baritonal bass work. The ritualistic electronic/ambient track ‘Voice from the Tomb’ serves as an interlude of sorts that features undecipherable waves of spoken word from the deepest crypts. ‘Weird Tales’ is the goliathan track of the album and is in a sense a summation of the various elements that forms the Djinn and Miskatonic creative canvas, channeling the bizarre, abstruse and esoteric. Dismal, cheerless and creeping bass-lines bleed into guitar riff-led dawdling, with tempo changes and vocal modulation aplenty.
The charm of this release essentially lies in its sensibly primal minimalism. Axe-man Sriram K.R’s presence in the band has turned its sound into something less befogged and more monolithic, while Jayaprakash Satyamurthy’s bass work is likely to seem drowned out to the casual listener courtesy of the dominating guitars. However, a seasoned listener of the heavier side of music will quite easily be able to construe the bass-lines, which serve to illuminate and accentuate the riff in focus. A casual enthusiast need not fret apropos this nebulosity; as fuzzed out, solo bass guitar segments are ample which successfully throw light on this highly imperative instrumental facet of these droning-doomoid rockers. The bass work could perhaps be compared to the likes of Tim Bagshaw, who is known to alternate between bone-crushing dirges and spaced out, yet jammy elegies. The guitar tone is satisfactory, and is sufficient to please the seasoned doomster, while not scaring away the casual listener either. Siddharth Manoharan’s percussive dexterity is solid and handles tempo changes with ease, and certainly brings in some enjoyable grooves and fills into the compositions. Gautham Khandige’s vocal style is rather unique, at least going by the little knowledge I possess of the genre, and invokes sonorous theatrics, aural timidity and harshness at desirable and appropriately opportune times. If a comparison is a must, I would liken his vocal approach to the likes of, say, Scott Reagers, who had excellent operatic/clean vocal abilities and yet had an enjoyable dissonance to his voice that made Saint Vitus all the more unusual and noteworthy. Yet at times, the more harsh vocals are eerily similar to Lee Dorrian of Cathedral (circa Forest of Equilibrium era).
The cover artwork, conceptualized and furnished by Nicolas Huck is impressive, and envisages a sense of otherworldly allure and fantasy. In summation, ‘Forever in the Realm’ is an effort that certainly impressions upon one, and is unique in a variety of ways, although it doesn’t impart anything very groundbreaking stylistically sans the welding of the various sub-genres of the greater doom sphere. But it would be unfair to view it purely from a genre-specific angle, and one should take into account the demographics of the band’s local scene, and in that light the band is certainly a unique force, and is hopefully one of many such releases from the area.
01 – Hive Minds
02 – If You Got It at Five, You Got It at Fifty
03 – Wrongdoers
04 – The Potter Has No Hands
05 – Sword in Mouth, Fire Eyes
06 – Afterhour Animals
07 – The Lash Whistled Like a Singing Wind
08 – Neck in the Hemp
09 – Triffids
10 – Funeral Singer
11 – Sun Dies, Blood Moon
Christian metal… An oxymoron to many, a source of inspiration for some, good music for a mere handful. More often than not, your average heavy music enthusiast shuns it like the plague. This is precisely where one needs to bring in that ever so clichéd phrase, “You don’t know what you are missing.” To people with faculties that abound in the dumb ignorance quotient, Christian metal, despite their overtly religious tones has its share of unique bands, which haven’t been given due credit. From the death metal cavalry of Mortification, prog laced thrash from Believer, the unmitigated onslaught that is Living Sacrifice, and the inseparable paragons of old school doom which is Trouble. It probably is safe to say that the 90s held fewer Christian metal bands, yet being those who never allowed quality to take a nosedive like we are full witness to today. Post – millennium, what you have is a slew of metalcore bands that rehash rehashed material and served with a cup of evangelical tea.
Here’s their first single. To just give you a preview of what to expect.
As the case may be, there will always be a few exceptions to the rule. Zao was one, Underoath and Becoming the Archetype for a good part were as well. While the rest, were quite content on donning exactly the same piece of clothing and a whole lot of swagger. Then there were a small lot that started out boring, continued being boring albeit hinting at improvement, until finally they just decided it was time to quit and start anew. Norma Jean is an example.
With their last release Meridional, it was quite obvious they were finally beginning to find their feet as opposed to showing mere glimpses of it. The sound of Meridional was something of a homage to every sound they’ve previously tried out on, to moderate success. Wrongdoers, their 6th down the line, sees the band honing its craft and delivering with much conviction which lacked previously. Just the like their last record a few Dillinger Escape Plan-esque mathcore comes into play, but this time with their own, subtle yet conspicuous little spin on it. Even a few surprisingly sludgy sections do take a peek in and out of a few songs. Then there is your share of off heatseekers such as the absolutely emotive closer Sun Dies, Blood Moon. Playing along the slow reflective line rather than the all guns out blazing style the band is recognized for, coupled with Cory Brandon’s unfeigned warm croons and strung out screams of despair, all makes for a much endearing listen. Songs like Triffids (yes those venomous man eating plants you see on cartoon network), Funeral Singer, If Got It At Five You Got It At Fifty all count powerful crunching riffs than on senseless guitar pyrotechnics.
The album capitalizes on all past misgivings, restructuring them into something more cogent and yet relishing in its controlled yet chaotic environment. Effectively lending the album the necessary appeal and high replayablity, which past Norma jean records I personally think, sorely lacked. This will be their antecedent benchmark for all Norma Jean releases to come. Wrongdoers can do no wrong.
A B-side from the album