CD Reviews: February In Metal, Part II
After 2010’s Agony & Opium became my favorite release of that year, I couldn’t wait for a follow up from this five piece. Playing pretty traditional heavy metal with a definite ’70s vibe to it, I was curious to see how they would build upon the hype of the first release. And I’m happy to say they’ve gotten even better!
Based on the great hype of Agony & Opium, the band moved from the 20 Buck Spin label to the bigger Relapse, clearly understanding they already had grips on the underground and now it was time to get some mainstream exposure. What I’m waiting on now is to hear the words “sell out.” Back in 2010, it was all the rage for critics like me to nut all over the debut and proclaim Christian Mistress as the next big thing. Then in 2011, as happens with all bands that get hyped up beyond anyone’s expectations, it was the popular move to say that you just don’t get them. Based on that, you know they are going to take shit for going to Relapse but really, fuck ‘em all. It’s about the music and it always should be.
Christian Mistress could have taken their sound in two different directions. They could have went for more of a ’70s rock vibe but instead they opted for vintage sounding metal, which makes this critic extremely happy. I loved Christine Davis’s vocals on the first record but they are even better on the new album. Here, her vocals sound quite a bit more polished and less demo like. Some may say that takes away her edginess, but it works fantastically with the music.
The name of the album comes from the band Faith, a short lived doom metal band from the ’80s. The song “Possession” which is covered here, was the B-Side to a single they put out in 1986. Christian Mistress’s cover of the tune is simply fantastic, one of the few slower moments on the disc, placed right in the middle of the album, which helps you rest your neck a bit from all the headbanging. The solo’s on the album are fantastic as well, with the standouts coming in “The Way Beyond” and the absolutely rippin’ “Black To Gold.”
Really, the whole thing is spectacular. Christian Mistress’s vintage vibe and tight metal riffs make them just an irresistible force of nature that you don’t want to fuck with. It’s the new wave of US heavy metal (or NWOUSHM!). Get on board.
“Black To Gold”
Album: Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Label: Black Thirteen
Release: February, 2012
Human Toilet frontman Gary Suarez contacted me a while back with an e-mail subject line “Review Consideration: Human Toilet.” Scary as it was to open that e-mail and click on links that may or may not have taken me to scatological porn sites, I eventually came across this New York trio’s 8 track album. Featuring a very DIY album cover (aka, something a talented 4th grader with a warped mind would draw) that wouldn’t necessarily indicate there’s something of quality inside the packaging, the immediate punch of the record instead hit quite hard.
Human Toilet have a very raw and old-school punk vibe to them. It’s the kind of music that could have been made by Iggy Pop in the ‘70s and in the ‘90s by…by, well Iggy too. It’s the type of music that makes a band like Unsane always necessary. It’s simple, it’s brutal, it’s raw, it’s punk and it’s kind of timeless. It’s the type of music that can pack 60 people into a tiny club and have them still make more racket than the 10,000 seat venue. It’s the type of music that may very well incite a riot followed by hugging it out. And it’s the type of music that keeps rock alive and well. Whether it’s a song about a cock blocking dog (“Must Love Dogs”) or a good ol’ fashion beatdown (“Giuliani Time”) the self-titled disc accomplishes what any good punk rock record should. You get in, you get right back out and it leaves you wanting more. I think I have to toss this one on my potential best of 2012 list.
Album: Crown, The One
Release: February 6, 2012
Here’s a nice Bandcamp find, the debut EP from the sludge-doom trio known as Crown. As they say themselves, they are two men, two guitars, a voice and a machine. The five tracks vary from atmospheric and ridiculously slow to face pounding doom. They get a lot of life out of the “machine” and experiment with noise varying from feedback to static and yet still maintain a pretty clean sound.
The cool thing about all five songs is that none of them are your standard doom metal. That traditional sound has been beat into the ground over and over for the last few years, so when a band like Crown comes along and twists things up by getting a little progressive or throwing in a post-metal-like passage now and again, it’s worth taking note.
While all five tracks are nice and gloomy like good doom should be, the nine-and-a-half minute closer, “Orthodox” is the most intriguing one on the disc. Almost like a three part suite, the first 3+ minutes feature a strong backbeat with drone-like chords underneath. That turns into a mesmerizing section where a sweet guitar riff plays nicely with the percussion from which Crown throws in some vocals and the fuzzy noise of the second guitar on top for the final three minutes of the tune.
The One was a good way to begin for these guys as it’s not too short but definitely leaves me wanting to hear where they go from here. Pay attention to these dudes as they’ve got something special going on.
I never seem to really know how to describe the feelings behind Scandinavian Funeral Doom. On their second release, this Finnish four piece takes four 12 minute + works and creates an album that is beautiful, mesmerizing, dark, creepy, mournful and about 1000 other adjectives all at once.
Any really good funeral doom album has to have an organ, which this does. Among plodding riffs, dark growls and somewhat poetic lyrics like, “Dethroned and forgotten / he sees no suffering rest / in his temple, now relinquishing from the soil / deep in his wounds of starlight / the nights are still silver” (“When Autumn Cries a Fiery Canticle”) lies a hymn-like organ passage that make you want to weep quietly in a corner.
The album is seriously dark as it’s meant to be but it’s also a beautiful release from the world. It’s a record that you need to shut your eyes and listen to through headphones to get the full scope of every purposeful note over the space of 58 minutes.ends up really fucking with your head, in every good way possible
“When Autumn Cries a Fiery Canticle”
Norway has this whole music scene that would probably fit in nicely in America but most bands don’t get the chance over here. Indie Recordings is one of the leading metal labels in Norway that’s shipping things out to the U.S. and trying to break them in the states.
A band like Dunderbeist has been releasing music since 2008. They’ve put out four albums, two in English and two in Norwegian (I’m assuming) but I’ll admit that I’ve never even heard of their name before right now. But upon reading their story (well, what I could, because most articles about them aren’t in English) I found something interesting. They are crooks, robbers and thieves. Apparently that’s the persona they put forth on stage and have been known in Norway as a group that “steals” pieces of music from other bands and creates new songs around those lifted parts. Not a new idea, but interesting to see in writing, fully admitting that.
And that’s where Black Arts & Crooked Tails comes in. There are 10 tracks on the album, eight of which have been re-recorded from the two English records and two new tunes which hits all ears for the first time. So first, following in the act of being crooks, they have stolen from themselves, taking music they already created and reworking it for the US audience. This also may explain why there are a ton of influences that you can hear in the tunes. There’s a bit of Mike Patton in “Through the Peephole” and “Hum Hum,” a tad of Alice in Chains in “Lucifer Eyes” and sadly maybe only a select bass slap away from “8 Crows and Counting” being a Korn tune.
The end result is an album that doesn’t flow too well but does rock out pretty hard. However, I’m unsure about what U.S. audience is the target for this release. It’s too rock for metal fans and too obscure for rock fans (I mean after all, we make Nickelback the biggest band in the country). But, if you like hard music in general Black Arts & Crooked Tails is certainly worth a listen or two.
“Through the Peephole”
Albums currently on the list for top record of 2012 (in alphabetical order):
Christian Mistress, Possession
Goatwhore, Blood for the Master
Human Toilet, Human Toilet
Terrorizer, Hordes of Zombies
Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies & Electric Light