Norma Jean – Wrongdoers

Review of Norma Jean’s new album titled Wrongdoers, and released via Razor & Tie Records.

normajean-wrongdoers

Tracklist:
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

 

Extol – S/T

Extol’s self-titled was released via Indie Recordings / Facedown Records.

Extol-cover

Tracklist:
01 – Betrayal
02 – Open The Gates
03 – Wastelands
04 – A Gift Beyond Human Reach
05 – Faltering Moves
06 – Behold The Sun
07 – Dawn Of Redemption
08 – Ministers
09 – Extol
10 – Unveiling The Obscure
11 – Sting Of Death

It is hard for a band to leave their indelible mark on a listener’s psyche post-2000. Simply put, there are just too many bands at it. The mighty riff attack of the 80’s and early 90’s have stayed gold all long, beyond which there’s been a lot of, well, quite unremarkable releases. Either falling victim to creative stagnation or just being plain average at best. Unfortunately with the internet, more of these got fed into our systems, exasperating as it is. Yet there is a light at the end of every dark tunnel.

Extol seems to be a band that has remained relatively unscathed in the fray. For their brand of metal have always paid homage to progression and has never really played the same album twice. Something even the progenitors of the great genre find themselves doing.

Extol’s self titled and 5th full length, after a hiatus of 8 years, have already had the hype train running all over the interweb. As is the case, every hype train meets with partial to complete derailment. Well in this case, they just seemed to hint at derailment, while in reality never amounting to more than a wobble. Extol’s flag of progressive/melodic death metal still flies high. All the years of relative idleness, have not let their level of musicianship into a state of decline. The self-titled is still a case of hitting the stride like all their releases. Soulful and equally melodic leads, thrash technicality and above all, their signature abruptness runs the gamut through the album. The abruptness here, refers to the extremely unpredictable structural changes of their songs, changing the flow and dynamics within each song, effectively bolstering the overall replayability. This particular point has grown to be a bone of contention amongst most technical metal albums, as they can easily descend, and quite often at that, into senseless wankery. Extol on the other hand, use their technical wherewithal intelligently and follow it up with a sublime melodic lead or a groove. This befuddles the listener, as much as it invokes appreciation. And this alone warrants the record more reruns.

The grand point of convergence, where the band, the album and the song are all share the same title, is probably the catchiest track from Extol’s entire discography. The massive yet infectious melody permeating throughout the entire track will leave you in awe at Ole Borud’s uncanny ability, to pen down some of the finest melodious riffs there is, a la Undeceived.  Espovell’s clean vocals, dexterous in execution, add an air of lightness to each song. Wasteland and Faltering Motives are other fine examples of Extol’s craft. On the contrary, opener Betrayal, Behold the Sun and Ministers are decent tracks in their own right, but does lack the mysterious charm beheld in the rest. Things come to a happy ending with the eloquently crafted ‘Unveiling the Obscure’.

In all, the self titled is equal parts a progression and a throwback. Although not quite the next ‘Undeceived’, it does come a close second. And that is no small feat indeed.

Bovine – The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire

Jayaprakash Sathyamurty checks out the new album from Bovine titled ‘The Sun Never Sets on the British Empire‘, released via FDA Rekotz.

255275_477420662275813_1151896898_n

Tracklist:
01. Barium
02. Ghost Chair
03. Thank Fuck I Aint You
04. Heroes Are What
05. The Sun Never Sets On The British Empire
06. The Battle Of The Sinkhole
07. Aneugenic
08. I Will make You Real
09. Military Wife
10. Not Another Name

The postcolonial dilemma: is this metal at all?

At first listen, Bovine might seem to sit in the neo-sludge metal camp ushered in by Baroness and Mastodon’s crossover success. Throw in some later-day stoner influence, mainly from the Josh Homme camp, and there you go. Certainly, once the brooding, minimal intro ‘Barium’ is over and ‘Ghost Chair’ bursts in, its sheer aggression and energy make for a most satisfying package. The vocals vary between a tuneful, soaring style and more tortured shouting. The guitars are massive and tight and the drums are slamming. There’s a great change in pace towards the end, and a final blast that is full of righteous intensity. It’s during ‘Thank Fuck I Ain’t You’ that I start thinking about Mastodon’s slow dilution of their own sound, Baroness’ drift from the poised artistry and heaviness of the Red Album and, well, of Muse. The soaring, modern Brit rock vocals, the bouncy bravado of the riff – it really isn’t too far away from the sound of Devon rockers.

‘Heroes Are What’ further underscores the modern rock sensibility with its clean opening, complete with those slightly anguished vocals that became a mainstay of the genre after Jeff Buckley’s success. The song then takes a swift turn into faster territory, but it’s more rocking than slamming. The riffing style itself is starting to grate on me a bit with its jaunty singlemindedness, a far cry from the intricacy of Mastodon in their prime, nevermind the acid-and-barbed-wire approach of the original wave of sludge acts from the NOLA area. The title track ups the ante a bit with a driving yet restrained build-up and more complex, probing melodies. Sure, it’s Leviathan Lite, but it’s a good song. ‘The Battle of the Sinkhole’ manages to make the most of a few transitions between moderate and fast passages, and has some great drumming. ‘I Will Make You Real’ is a standout, like the title track, heavy, layered and not without a certain subtlety. ‘Military Wife’ hints at some hardcore influences, along with a few glitchy effects. It has some very effective riffing too – much more convincingly heavy and interesting than the more alt/grunge fare that was all over the first half of the album, and the shifts in tempo really work this time. ‘Not Another Name’ is marred  by the fact that the band’s more shouty vocals just don’t have that much repeat value.

Bovine is a band that has a lot of buzz about it at this point, and I can see their mix of sludge, stoner, grunge and modern rock influences finding favour in a lot of places. Perhaps it’s a measure of my own preference for the more trudging, misanthropic aspects of the sludge idiom and my lack of enthusiasm for the linear qualities of modern rock that make me somewhat less sensitive to this album’s charms. So it’s a classic YMMV deal: if you like the sound of the mix of styles I’ve alluded to, this is a superior example of its kind. If not, well, Eyehategod should have an album out any year now.

Ofermod – Thaumiel

We have our resident reviewer Raul Singh bleeding black with the latest album from ‘Ofermod‘ titled ‘Thaumiel‘.

url

Tracklist:
01. Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence 07:42
02. Black Gate 05:40
03. Calling of Setnacht: Twofold Triunity 06:33
04. Undead Moon 05:17
05. Prayers Unto Warped Eternities 05:15
06. Chôshekh Ên Sôf 06:05
07. Chained to Redemption 06:09
08. Via Noctis: Veil of Gargophias 05:04

Ofermod is what I’ll call the pioneers of new world Black Metal. Hailing from Sweden, they’ve already released an album and a single, and the tag they were given, was Orthodox blackened death metal.
I, for one, always expect swedish bands to be somewhere in the realm of “trve” norwegian black metal, but the likes of Marduk, Shining , Dark Funeral, Dissection and all had kept trying to merge a pinch of freshness in their works, deviating from the musical pattern of the “kvlt”. Ofermod can actually be placed in the likes of these, a fresh new sound for the dark music.
The name “Thaumiel” is a hebrew word, stands for “twins of god” represents the dark powers of “Kether”, the first “Sephirah”  of “Sephiroths” of the Tree of life. It is actually personified as giant dual heads with bat-like wings, but with no bodies and are called the Divided Ones. Thus, their album artwork has the two headed figure.The production quality is as good as it can get to be called Black. The music is dark and sinister as is expected. Its rather manages to be very  different but yet very well within the black metal ethos.


“Thaumiel” starts with “Sisters of Rapture and Pestilence” and it takes you straight to the world of occultism and darkness with its very mid-tempo  riffs, and neo-classical drums. This is the limit of delivering pure evil just by riffs.  Composition wise, this is my favorite track off the album. The next track continues with their mid tempo/slow riffs , when suddenly it crashes into “Calling Of Setnacht Twofold Triunity”,  amplifying everything that was going deep before. Another track, which will have your attention, is “Undead Moon”. The man, who was sulking my brain with his corrosively dark vocals, just starting singing clean !! . Of course it might seem a tad misplaced, and probably would sound better off alone, but it owns none the less. Vocals are one of the highlights of this album , with a lot of variations, both on cleans, deep, gutturals, and screeches, a very rare but simple blend of a man’s voice I’d say.
Ofermod offered something which is different on a whole lot different. It had brought the darkness in music without the use of any corpse paint, or any war-like gesture which had been the point of mockery for Black Metal, or any under quality production, or … you know what I mean. It made me believe in a simple logic of mine, its easy to make music what people already like, but its hard to make music which people will start to like. They proved that you don’t have to be complex and technical to make good music. And something as simple as this blew my mind without bringing in uber complexity simply amazed me.

This one is as worth as anything you’ve got your hands upon recently.

“Chosekh En Sof.” the song on its own struck me as a death dealer. With that I close my itunes right now, and i here end with a quote by the insane Caligula (quoted in the very same song)

Caligula – “I have existed from the morning of the world and I shall exist until the last star falls from the night. I am all men as I am no man and therefore I am a God