Tombstone Highway – Ruralizer

Today we have reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy reviewing the album ‘Ruralizer‘ from the band Tombstone Highway. Label: Agonia Records

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Track List

1. Old Blood 04:49
2. Acid Overlord 04:52
3. Graveyard Blues 07:18
4. Hellfire Rodeo 02:32
5. Ruralizer 05:14
6. Bite the Dust (and Bleed) 05:08
7. At the Bitter End 09:03
8. Mississippi Queen (Mountain cover) 02:28
9. Hangman’s Friend 05:25

Review in Haiku – ‘The sonic equivalent of a Spaghetti Western’

This is the sonic equivalent of a Spaghetti Western – a production that is steeped in American idioms, but actually emerges from Italy. The old Italian cowboy movies usually drafted an American star to helm the cast, but Tombstone Highway rely entirely on their own homegrown skills, and those of a few special guests from the Italian scene.

This doesn’t mean that their hard-rocking mix of bluesy hard rock, stoner metal and shades of Americana is in any way inauthentic or sub-par. The songs here are tight, furious and delivered with conviction. The banjo obligato on the opening track, ‘Old Blood’ is a nice touch, although it doesn’t really go anywhere – I would have loved to hear an electric guitar/banjo duel. Such deliverance not being on the cards, the next track, ‘Acid Overlord’ kicks in with familiar stoner grooves, laced with pinch harmonics that remind me of Black Label Society. ‘Graveyard Blues’ hits the ground with a riff that is pretty reminiscent of ‘War Machine’ by KISS and it strikes me that this is the problem with a lot of bands that try to occupy this hard rocking, stoner-friendly, groovy/heavy space: the sheer number of entrants in the subgenre mean that it takes a lot to forge a unique style out of these widespread influences. Tombstone Highway doesn’t try to establish a unique identity – instead they are happy to churn out songs that sound like any number of other bands.

The good news is that these songs are well written and well played. The album may have been recorded by a duo, but it sounds and feels like the product of a well-oiled machine firing on all cylinders. Stomping riffs and catchy hooks erupt from every seam and some well-placed guitar breaks help. What I question is the ‘doom’ tag the label gives this band, in addition to the completely understandable ‘hard rock’ bit. A song like ‘Hellfire Rodeo’ certainly rocks hard, but is it, or any of the material here really doom? I think not. Rather, the band’s musical vocabulary is not unlike that of an 80s hard rock band, driven by the same root influences – some southern rock, some Blue Cheer, some blues – only filtered though a post-Corrosion of Conformity/Orange Goblin/Spiritual Beggars sensibility rather than the glam and pop aspirations of a lot of those 80s bands.

The title track is as strong as a title track should be and brings back the banjo layering. ‘Bite the Dust (and bleed)’ mixes heavy power chords with slide melodies in a manner that reminds me of Physical Graffitti – era Led Zeppelin. At around 9 minutes in length, you’d assume that ‘At The Bitter End’ might be the song that justifies Tombstone Highway’s doom aspirations, but as far as I am concerned it’s bluesy hard rock. There’s a scorching guitar solo and even some tasty Hammond organ work to add to the fun. It’s the Mountain cover, ‘Mississippi Queen’ that makes me see why I’ve mainly been damning this album with faint praise. It’s a good cover, but it doesn’t have the sense of space and groove the original has. The sound on this album is thick, the guitar tone is great, but it is overwhelming, filling every available space in the music until it feels like there simply isn’t enough space for the rhythms or the melodies to breathe. It’s very slick, very professional production, but a little lacking in character and nuance.

This is a good album, but it’s generic. Your appreciation of its merits will depend on how committed you are to that genre and how willing you are to listen to a band that brings nothing new to the table, but knows its craft. Perhaps with time, Tombstone Highway will move towards a more expansive, unique sound – they certainly have the talent for it. In the meantime, I think I’ll settle for a bit of mountain climbing – the sort that’s propelled by Leslie West’s endless soloing.

 

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KEN mode – Entrench

Today we have Mohammad Kabeer letting out his thoughts on KEN mode‘s new album Entrenchreleased via Season of Mist.e

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Track list :
1. Counter Culture Complex
2. No; I’m in Control
3. Your Heartwarming Story Makes Me Sick
4. The Terror Pulse
5. The Promises of God
6. Romeo Must Never Know
7. Secret Vasectomy
8. Figure Your Life Out
9. Daeodon
10. Why Don’t You Just Quit?
11. Monomyth

I remember hearing about   KEN mode during my college days by my friend when the band was still struggling to get known. My friend had seen one of those ads   which asks if you are a Slipknot  fan or  a  Metallica  fan  or  a fan of any  reputed , distinguished band and recommends you a band  just like that which is relatively unknown, in my friends case it was Neurosis and boy was he excited  about them  when he found KEN mode  that he kept  pestering me to listen to them  which  I did ,  and  I found their style of music  to be quite  interesting  but then it didn’t really  astound me like it did to my friend. After that I didn’t really follow the band, sure I heard the singles that came out on music blogs and streamed some of their music online  but I never got to listening their albums in its entirety, although  I was happy for them  as they  had  made a lot of progress since  then and were  playing at major festivals like Hellfest. Now five years later on, I found out that I had to review their new album, I was a little surprised, but also feeling a little nostalgic. It was like  visiting an old friend wondering what  he’d be like now, even if he wasn’t a close one, after all these years would he still be able to conjure up dark images? Would he still be as energetic as he was in his youth? Well.. It seems that he still has some of the old charm but has gone a little rusty with age.

KEN mode  is a three piece Hardcore/Noisecore  outfit  from Winnipeg, Canada  and consists of Jesse Matthewson(Vocals, Bass and Guitars,Piano,MicroKorg) Shawn Matthewson(Percussion) and Andrew  Lacour(bass) .What I found most  interesting   about KEN mode  is their  ability to create  a really dark  atmosphere through their  chaotic dissonance laden  guitars,  which is here  as well, but  only in the slower songs of the section such as No, Im in control  in which  the distorted bass  and the off kilter guitars  create a really gritty atmosphere , The  Terror  pulse whose   creepy dissonant  guitar twangs sent a chill up my spine, also  worth  noting are   Daeodon   with its massive  chugs  and  even Romeo must Never Know which is a ballad of sorts , a rather uncanny  one  with whispered vocals . The faster songs however, save  for the promises of god which really  epitomises  what KEN mode is about don’t really   do  much  here,  they  just seem pretty mediocre  mathcore/noisecore ditties  that heavily borrow from  bands like Converge and  The Dillinger escape plan and I don’t  really think that that’s working for them.

So in the end what we have here is quite a mixed bag, while the slow songs are quite intriguing, they don’t really change my opinion of the band too much, this is not something that I will listen again and again and the reason for that is something that I can’t really fathom, as far as the faster songs are concerned the band has definitely gone down a notch. But nonetheless I think this is a good album that I might enjoy occasionally, however I am sure fans of the band would beg to differ. Now if you’ll excuse me  I think ill go listen to some Gaza.

Listen to a stream of the entire album below!

Spektr – Cypher

Today we have  reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy from the bangalore based band Djinn & Miskatonic doing a review of the new album from Spektr titled  ‘Cypher’. The record was released via Agonia Records.

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Tracklist:
1. Hermetism
2. Teratology
3. The Singularity
4. Solitude
5. Antimatter
6. Solve et coagula
7. Cypher
8. Decorporation
9. Le Vitriol du Philosophe

Review in Haiku – ‘A spawning ground for nightmares’

Funny old genre, black metal. Of all the extreme metal genres spawned in the 90s, it’s turned out to be the one most amenable to mutations and experiments. There are any number of more or less orthodox bands keeping the core sound of the genre alive, and at the other end of the spectrum you have the popular, cheesy bands like Cradle of Filth who hardly even play black metal anymore.

Spektr is neither orthodox nor cheesy.

There must be something in the water in France; the French BM scene seems to consistently come out with bands with wonderfully weird, eclectic takes on BM. All this would be mere experimentalism for its own sake if they didn’t also preserve the core values of the genre: that sense of off-kilter menace and occultism. Blut Aus Nord have been venturing further and further afield into new and unexpected textures without diluting the intensity and darkness associated with the genre, and bands like Reverence and Stagnant Waters continue to offer up fascinating platters of mutant music that is still, somehow, firmly in the BM camp.

Like many of their compatriots, Spektr has evolved over the years. While the ambient and experimental elements were evident from the start, there is a distinct trajectory from shared BM idioms to a unique musical vocabulary from their 2003 demos to 2007’s ‘Mescalyne’ EP. The band took their time crafting a follow-up to that release, and while I wouldn’t say that ‘Cypher’ is the career-defining opus I would have expected after such a prolonged hiatus, it’s definitely another step onward in Spektr’s path.

At first glance, the album seems to consist of 5 or 6 long songs with a few shorter ambient interludes interspersed. However, it isn’t quite that simple. The songs themselves sometimes contain minimalist passages amidst the more structured, guitar-dominated sections. And some of the interludes contain distinctive melodic ideas, blurring the lines between songs and stage-setting. There’s also a single-mindedness to the music that suggests a single ongoing suite rather than a grab-bag of assorted songs.

It’s no surprise that the song names all seem to allude to alchemy and other esoterica, because this is definitely hermetic music. This time around, it also reminded me unexpectedly of the NY noise gods, Unsane. Insanely distorted guitars, playing riffs that are further deformed by deep bends and whammy bar usage – the end result is often similar to the surf-band-from-hell vibe that is a distinctive part of Unsane’s aesthetic. Elsewhere, soundscapes that sound like they were created by very sophisticated, very ancient sentient machines that are currently lapsing into senility alternate with turgid, churning musical passages that put me in mind of Portal. With the lack of vocals, the effective use of horror film and television samples, always blended well into the mix, and the bizarre, lurching guitar sounds, this album is a most effective spawning ground for nightmares. The unity of the musical approach means that the cumulative impact of the album is massive. If you’re at all into the more experimental side of extreme metal, you’ll want to spend many sessions with this album trying to unravel its Cypher and decode its arcane secrets.

 

Check out a preview of the whole album below:

Imperium Dekadenz – Meadows of Nostalgia

Today we have  reviewer Jayaprakash Satyamurthy from the bangalore based band Djinn & Miskatonic doing a review of the new album from Imperium Dekadenz titled  ‘Meadows of Nostalgia’. The record releases today in the US and on March 19th in Europe via Season of Mist.

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Tracklist

01 Durch Das Tor… 2:24
02 Brigobannis 5:31
03 Aue Der Nostalgie 10:05
04 Ave Danuvi 6:18
05 Memoria 2:10
06 Aura Silvae 5:23
07 Der Unweg 7:33
08 Striga 9:35
09 Tren Des Bacchus 7:09

Review in Haiku – Visions Of Loss And Decay

Your mileage will vary, but this album is a grower. It’s fairly straightforward black metal, with a certain cold, melancholy atmosphere. Classic Burzum, and Bathory when they were moving towards a Viking metal sound, are the obvious influences. The tempos are middling, although the sense of bleak power is underscored by double-bass reliant drumming and incessant tremolo picking. It’s all quite orthodox in execution, but this German duo mixes it up with a couple of instrumental interludes that rely on tasteful acoustic guitars and some percussion and sound effects to set up the wistful, bucolic mood suggested by the title track.

The songs themselves are a stately progression of black metal hymns that vary in length but all have a similar impact. It took me a few spins to start thinking of the songs as individual entities, but there are standout passages that reward repeated listening. ‘Ave Danuvi’ introduces choral backing vocals and an atmospheric interlude with clean guitars, the sound of running water and whispered vocals. These are elements that might have come across as cheesy but are instead evocative. ‘Aura Silvae’ is more forceful, and the cascading riffs and subtle variations between sections make for a very satisfying whole. Still, I suspect Imperium Dekadenz simply do not believe in frontloading an album because  so much of the best material seems  to emerge later on in the album. For instance, the second instrumental, ‘Memoria’ lives up to its title with a yearning, intricate melody and is certainly a more substantial piece than the introductory instrumental, ‘Durch das Tor’. Similarly, the last two tracks may well be the strongest on the album. ‘Striga’ starts with a slow, doomy intro and contains enough dynamics and contrast to feel truly epic (although I must hasten to add that contrast is a relative term – the band never strays from their overall sound and mood). Finally, ‘Tranan des Bacchus’ includes some brilliant, almost classic metal melodies without losing the intensity of the rest of the album.

This is a very well produced album – the sound is full of nuances of aural shading that make for great headphone listening. This isn’t pig-heads-on-a-stick black metal of the raw variety, but it isn’t really artsy black metal either. It’s a very stark, even one-dimensional kind of sound, but with enough atmosphere and finesse to appeal to audiences outside the hardline black metal contingent. On the other hand, there’s a paucity of memorable riffs and tunes, with the music instead making its impact through the unity of its stratagems. Ultimately, you have to be willing to sit back and let this album gradually transport you into its visions of immemorial loss and ancient decay.

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Cognizance – Inquisition

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Tracklist:
1. Clones of The Night Sky
2. The Perennial Struggle
3. Epistemology
4. Defying A Natural Process

“A world of fascination lays before our senses

It reveals the most elegant design”

2012 was a brilliant year for tech death. Albums from Gorod, Gory Blister, Innerty, Sophicide, Psycroptic and The Faceless melted my face off at least half a dozen times. Come 2013 and I still do get a feeling that this year is geared to get even bigger and better with more bands getting into the genre. On one of my typical youtube streaming sessions I happen to stumble upon on a track called ‘Clones of the Night Sky’ from the band Cognizance. A single listen was all it took for my brain to get blown to smithereens and yet left me insatiate and wanting more. A bit of searching over at Facebook, led me to find that Cognizance was a two man technical death metal outfit hailing from Leeds, UK. They’ve just come out with an EP titled ‘Inquisition’ comprising of 4 tracks, this February.

More often than not, technical death metal usually ends up being one huge riff fest devoid of any character and simply exists to address a more instrument savvy audience. But with Cognizance, it’s just simply not the case. They give songwriting and structure its due credit.

The EP is nothing short of an absolute onslaught of the senses. Now there are only a few ways to pack so many riffs into one single song. Also when all of the four songs just happen to be around the 3-4 minute mark, this becomes almost impossible. But these guys do so with such relative ease and yet maintain a certain finesse so that it does not take a toll on the overall cohesive nature of the songs. Inquisition combines earth shattering brutality with intertwining melodies perfectly, emanating a certain sense of undeniable catchiness.  Tracks such as ‘The Perennial Struggle’ and ‘Defying a Natural Process’ see the band through its best moments. The former showcases some really intricate and surreal lead work and probably features some of the best grooves on the album. The latter track on the other hand impressed me with the lyrics . The lyrical output of the band seem to be more direct yet potent and not descending down to being just another exercise in medical jargon, as is staple in the genre. To the contrary they are more grounded in science and philosophy. ‘Defying a Natural Process’ talks about man’s relentless hunt for self advancement(physical and mental) and in effect defying and disrupting the natural order. With the rapid advancement of science this is really not that far off. Yet the same lyric may be interpreted in different ways as well.

“Acceptance is the key to fruition regarding this solitary master”

The craft doesn’t end there, the EP despite comprising of just four tracks feature a slew of impressive guest appearances as well. The track Epistemolgy features guest vocals from Aaron Matts of ‘Betraying the Martyrs’ fame. Also featured are Reece Fullwood (Eumeria), Scott Carstairs from the brilliant Fallujah and last but not the least the drums are played and tracked by Alex Rudinger who is now officially the drummer for The Faceless as well.

This is one EP that simply will not wear you down even after multiple listens. Meticulously crafted riffs, winding leads, mind bending grooves, blitzkrieg drumming and a good ear for songwriting all make up for an enthralling listen.

P.S. I sincerely thank Henry Pryce (vocals) for sharing the EP with me.

Follow the band on Facebook.

Buy their CD for just $3 here