Sunday, 29 June 2008

When released in 2003, Akercocke were little known to me, only by noticing that their dress sense live was rather odd, and that they had sexual content within their lyrics. Whether that already convinced you to pick up this album or not back then, it’s fair to say that this record is preposterously good, and hindsight never should aid such a remark.

A definitive ‘majestic’ was told to me by a companion of mine, to somewhat characterize their music and it’s an excellent comment. Such is the majesty of Akercocke on Choronzon; their typified black metal brutality is exalted within its progressive movements. As you move throughout the album, the change of gear is so great, perhaps you’ll feel inebriated or exhilarated throughout the fumes. Akercocke dare I say have set the standard for extreme metal on this record moving out of the underground and can be considered much heavier and exceedingly extremer than that of underground blasters. Notably the Satanist vocals are interesting, and even though myself being categorically tagged ‘atheist’ or ‘nontheist’ could perhaps inherit the overall lyrical values differently, I do see the general insight and devoutness within such meaning. Akercocke’s combination of progression, and extreme brutality, is incredibly artistic, and peaking to various technical boundaries. Furthermore their beautiful two-note swinging riffing combined with melodic guitar lines in contrast to sections of absolute nefarious brutality is ones self stylistic following within the genre, and it’s a delight. Their influences coming through on this record perhaps more than ever before, it can flood memories of everything you’ve heard before, to completely nothing. The villainous synth work is something which should be accredited; it adds dimension, and dementia to the overall piece which again feels artistic and helps contrast this overall wave of brutality, and beauty.

An intoxicating release, that is breath taking and should undergo a careful listen. Musical magic, enjoy - 5/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:58 am
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Usually when I decide to pick up a Nuclear Blast record, from any of their assorted regions, I often cringe. Anyhow, with metal giants, Testament releasing their ninth studio album, I felt it was essential to add to the collection.

"Dull. Contrived. Boring." these are the first notes I took upon listening to the album through the fourth time. "It's all so needlessly 1987, it's all so boring, repetitive song structure, repetitive album structure, dull, and boring. Clichéd and generic." That's the second. As you read, I was fairly disappointed upon placing this one into the CD player. A steadfast issue, that could do with a push-back; this record will be universally accepted within the metal community, as one of the better records of 2008, simply because of the name, and status of such a release, not to mention artists. Testament still within formation, are celebrating their twenty fifth anniversary since their initial formation. Four out of five of the original dominion of Testament has reunited for their first appearance onto a studio album in sixteen years, for Formation Of Damnation. Clemente is the only missing entity, and we now have Paul Bostaph taking the role of drumming throughout this album, (noted, past Slayer drummer). So, you can predict the type of stigma that such a line-up carries.

Moving onto the structure of the actual record, the actual song titles make me shudder and redden at the same time. It's slightly unfair that I'm single handily parting these issues, often I ignore song titling until I've read the lyrical value behind them, but, such titles are so melodramatic, a stereotypically boring westernised examination of political stances across the globe, and read as if we're living in North Korea. And I'm still convoluted about the title ‘FEAR’ (note it’s written specifically differently on the cover – ALL CAPS). I'm not sure if their referencing the video game (mind you the lyrics pose on no stance about a survival horror first person shooter, that the story revolves around a supernatural phenomenon which the squad FEAR are asked in presence of to contain), or they've simply wrote the title to gather the attention of the viewer - as if the expansion of marketing was needed for a record of such calibre. So, onto the actual music, now that I’ve cleared some minor frustrations. The production of this record is of course top notch, and beautiful; but what do you expect of someone as excellent as Andy Sneap. This is another artistic beauty to his mammoth of a portfolio. This is Testament, so I’m not expecting anything incredibly deviating, but I haven’t enjoyed this past fifty or less minutes listening to this attempt at straight thrash metal. Bill Hicks’ interpretation of one being upon the effects of marijuana whilst continuing to attempt to be interested on an on-going medium is rather a summing of my feelings toward this record, apathy. However, I would lie to you if I didn’t suggest that “Killing Season” was OK, at least I didn’t ‘sigh’ for around one hundred and sixty seven seconds. There’s something else I enjoyed about this album; I did enjoy the last track, “Leave Me Forever” because truth be told, this record will. The performance of each band member is excellent however, and perhaps this is a credit to the engineering present throughout the record, but the vocals, guitar work, and drumming is outstanding and typically artistic as thrash giants Testament get (typically I’m ignoring track layout, in depth analyses of track structure, and the tracks themselves because it’s all binary, if not, a typical thrash motion and I believe I’ve already expressed enough steam yearned by the frequency content of such a record).

This record may be essential to any only thrash loving fan, and dedicated Testament hardcore, but for wiery neutrals like myself, you could save throwing money at it. It didn’t surpass any expectation being perfectly honest, although carried much weight on its’ shoulders. I believe I’m done with straight thrash for twenty four months, at least I think that’s a fair recovery period. Now where’s my copy of The New Order, The Ritual, or The Legacy? 2/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:55 am
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First things first, there's a reason behind my known confidence upon placing this album into my CD player, and it's not Ghost Reveries. Ghost Reveries was indeed, a great critical acclaim for Opeth, and was received within the margins of success within the metal scene, making them your no longer, 'best kept secret'. But for myself, Ghost Reveries was received with a little apathy. Perhaps a slight too much panache, and too much understanding was read within this album from myself - but then I'm being extremely harsh.

Watershed, is a quite a leap from Ghost Reveries. Many may argue that a similar "vibe", is evident from Ghost Reveries, however I disagree. Watershed achieves so much more depth than that simple example of many laden critical judgements, I've been observing over the past week. These comments, simply lack dimension in the gravity of this album. The shear dissonance of this record is absolutely astounding, it creates an oblique surreal place for us to dwell in. And it's incredibly haunting, (I've almost lost two evenings of sleep due its unparalleled frequency content) bringing us in and out of this place of dread, and horrid atmosphere. What's more interesting, is at last, you're not able to simply take a back seat, and enjoy the show. Almost every track has its haunting event as the faders begin to draw down in DB level, as the tracks finally close. What's more potent about these tracks, is that they all don't have that distinctive progressive flow about them. You can't simply put your hair down, and start thwacking your head around the place in all metallic delight, as segments of riffs instead of progressively dying, just die, and cut off with and without regression. This assists greatly on the creation of that eerie, haunting atmosphere, I am failing on conceiving and justifying. Furthermore there are sparks and mirages of beautiful Opeth, which help wildly contrast the imagery, I at least get when listening to this album.

Every single track has its highlights, and again, it would be unjust and impulsive for myself to say that 'track xx is the highlight of this album, as it helps achieve a fundamental mood change personally'. However as you would expect, this new Opeth does not disappoint on the performance area of album reviewing. It's rich, and dare I say different. This is also a credit to Åkerfeldt's song-writing, which is again ingenious and jaw dropping. Furthermore the performances by each band member individually are a delight, and deserves more than accredited.

Anyhow, my words, and indeed other fan-boy words cannot assist in fully pledging you to pick up the album, and give it a go - the words simply too weak. However Opeth, cannot seem to do a bad a record within their career, yet. Perhaps if I mention that this album is truly unique, may convince you otherwise - 5/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:49 am
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So many have condemned the release of Damnation & Deliverance; however I rejoice. The very fabric of any good death metal record is present throughout this mix, it's class of generic isolation along with this seemingly dark, cold, ambiance created by Åkerfeldt and Lindgren's melodic guitar lines is only something that must be accredited for. Furthermore the sheer mystery of the lyrical values present throughout this album is not only interesting - it's rather baffling. Considering that there previous effort "Blackwater Park" is a cross of lush, warm, and still acoustic tonality, but with the same harshness and dissonance as Morningrise or Orchid; the riff work throughout this album appears to be much more aggressive, but lyrically a completely different concept - and I enjoy this. I like the fact that Opeth consistently deviate from the clone of category.

Listening to the track "Deliverance" we're introduced to a memorable haze that only Opeth can create. It's repeatably dark theme is present even throughout the acoustic tracking, we are consistently hearing this release of cold incendious Opeth. And the obscurity of this album is what helps it drift apart from previous Opeth records. I get the impression from listening to "Wreath" all of the way through to "By the Pain I See In Others" that some sort of plot is developed throughout this entire album - something that all of us are not supposed to put are finger on, something that we are not supposed to simply understand. It's plethora, simply too much. The subplot of course being "Damnation".

Controversial none the less with Opeth fans. And I can tell why - the hair is back up, riffing slightly more rigid, the mix perhaps slightly quieter than expected. However, the rhetoric technicality within this record must be adored, along with it's sparse humane feel, and dare I say - a beautiful mix. This record is definitely not the Opeth I have grown to know, but is certainly the Opeth I can't help but credit - 5/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:46 am
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Odd. An album claimed by the band that nothing "new" as such was going to be done on Obzen and furthermore the writing process appeared to be digging further back into their "roots" - is something I agree with. Upon hearing the entire album the seventh time back, there's really nothing new here that Meshuggah hasn't done before, in their monstrous career. However, that's not to say that this a disappointment; Meshuggah has raised the bar so high over the years, it wouldn't be fair to say that they are clinching a limbo under it, but I am slightly underwhelmed.

When first hearing "Combustion" I felt an overwhelming rise in panic. Contradictions Collapse on eight-strings just doesn't cut it for myself. However it's not an entirely bad track, and I definitely do feel, that fans will furthermore enjoy this track. It feels more like a celebration, an anniversary, a reflection over the years of what they've achieved with their eight-string thermonuclear bombs. Moving onto Electric Red, it felt much more exploratory. Further tension, and grind like movement combined with the explosion of the baffling riff within the beginnings of the track, sets this album to be exploring what level of rhythmic technique these guys really are at in 2008, and it's still enough to be in a simple state of 'shock & awe', with each note hit so elegantly, they move more potently and brutally than of which the sagitta could ever surpass. Bleed had been released prior to the albums release, and proved popular. It's simple structure with the new 'Meshuggah-like soul' is exhilarating - not to mention Haake's footwork; and causing myself - almost - neck injury. The highlight of the album, lies with "Lethargica". It's grind like motion, and solid groove combined with the emotionless roar of Kidman's vocal noises is absolutely astonishing, it really is at this depth, the bands passion is completely alight again. And there's more, with that caress break re-inventing that 'Meshuggah' atmosphere we hear now further expansion of the similar eerieness which Catch 33 gave us, and with such machine like ending, it felt like another continuation of Sum. Another mirage of sound, another defining moment in a sonic, scientific metallic career. "Obzen", "This Spiteful Snake", "Pineal Gland Optics", and "Pravus" move elegantly throughout the ending of the album, and hopefully providing Meshuggah with further new found live material. Typically "This Spiteful Snake, and "Pineal Gland Optics" are the more interesting, due to emphasised rhythmic science within them. However they appear to die out in contrast to their explosive beginnings, (more so Pineal Gland Optics, hence the more aggressive less progressive of the two). All of the songs never surpassing a simplistic binary song written fashion didn't matter - it all appeared fresh. It ends with the mammoth that is "Dancers To A Discordant System" and it's breath-taking. The shear verve of this outro contrasts vastly to previous efforts and I say again, it's fresh. Their collection of mechanical riffing and vigor of collected rhythms is something which this band will always uphold, and does so confidently.

Thordendal hasn't owed us anything for his dis-coherency on strings throughout his career, but yet he's ruffled through that jazz-Allan-Holdsworth book again, and gave us such a different dose of frequency content. Notably this style has created such a different atmosphere for the Meshuggah I used to know, giving the band - to an extent - a human face, although still maintaining that significant mechanical entity. Hagström's stroke of ingenious song writing is a credit to himself, and the band with devious, and deviating rhythmic work-outs. However, everything felt slightly restrained. The lack of acceleration through their typical mechanical riffing felt slightly dried up. By the slightest a softened Meshuggah, reborn.. perhaps, but only by the toe. That being said, this is essential for any Meshuggah fan and newbie. Perhaps not a classic - but another confident piece of work - 4/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:30 am
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It's interesting that a band of such calibre is able to push a record like this, without caring about what various broadcasters will say, and their record label. This album, hurtled from the band being considered by them as an "experiment", is really a following of one's self stylistic genre in metal. This album, is another branch of metallic science.

Such mechanic-ism throughout this album is achieved, and not for one moment are the pistons ever slowing. The highlight of the album considered "In Death - Is Life" and "In Death - Is Death" is Meshuggah portrayed in sixteenth gear. Sublime. And, let's never doubt that at the beginning of the record we are slumped with a slow repetitive dull rhythmic riff full of tedium, but rather we are introduced into this mechanic hypnotic maze that's only presented by the apparatus of what Meshuggah is. With the rusted spasm of each riff, and the device of Haake's 4x4 symbol 'hiss' we really have an engine gone wrong; or working 'nihilistically'. As we hear Sum, we are presented by what can only be described best as a mirage of sound - this machine functions.. not.

The albums eerie feel is unmissable. With such poised potency rhythmically, and the force which beckons Kidman's vocal work, will be remembered for generations to come. No one can and ever will, do this again - 5/5.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:22 am
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Due to not being able to fully afford the publishing of a small booklet within the slim-case of the release, I simply wish to thank my brother Alan, and Maarten Kleyne for their support, help and patience with working along side me on my project 'Blue Hat Thinking'. Alan, completing all of the bass guitar tracks for myself, as well as his definitive opinion on specific uncertainties within aspects of the music is something I want to fully credit him for. Maarten Kleyne who has worked very patiently with myself to mobilize the brushes in creating the excellent piece of cover art for the project is something I am very grateful for, and humble toward. Furthermore Kleyne being a part-time employed web designer, who undergoes creating album covers as part of side-project, hobby work shows the lustful talent he can produce artistically.

To both, many thanks.

Kleyne's portfolio.
Blue Hat Thinking project, (within Kleyne's portfolio).

Posted by Posted by Andy at 2:04 am
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Thought I could get back to this one, in case of someone not being familiar with the discogs website link I have posted around specific social networking accounts. The widget on this blog will have access to the discogs website, along with my own account there, which you can access should you wish to scatter through my records at hand, as proof of copyrights of the album reviews, and anything else.

Posted by Posted by Andy at 1:55 am