Pombagira, Baron Citadel (Black Axis)
Pombagira album coverBaron Citadel is a monster of a record and it includes a first for Pombagira: two songs clocking in under ten minutes! This is their third album in three years, with the first being a five-song double disc and the second a two-track album running just under an hour — so it’s kind of shocking to see both “Causeway Charred” (download) and “Baron Citadel” just over eight minutes long. However, they haven’t quite learned conciseness yet as the final two are 24 and 29 minutes, respectively.

The first two tracks are a little more upbeat than the final opuses, with guitars that sound quite electronically manipulated. Now, I have a feeling that the ripping sound of the guitar here are something that a lot of sludgy-doom bands use, but the tones remind me of the sound Deadsy had early in their career. If it’s on other records, then the point here is that it completely stands out in a great way on this album.

The final two tracks move along nice and quickly and certainly don’t feel like a half hour each. Both combine the faster, louder elements of the first half while meandering into some deep, sludgy instrumental parts for the majority of the tracks. Overall, it’s a loud and powerful disc that — despite its lengthy dirges — is quite engaging.

Serj Tankian, Imperfect Harmonies (Reprise/Serjical Strike)
My lord. If you are a fan of System of a Down or Serj and you listen to this album and don’t scream out “why, why, Serj ,did you put SOAD on hiatus for this shit?,” I would question your sanity. The word “imperfect” in the title doesn’t describe the sheer sickening atrocities on this album.

Cover ArtGranted, it’s not like Elect the Dead was a masterpiece, and Elect the Dead Symphony was totally unnecessary, but I continue to listen because I hold out hope that he will put out something even remotely close to the quality of the band. System was one of the most unique metal acts making music, and if it wasn’t clear by listening to Serj solo or Daron Malakian’s Scars on Broadway album, these guys work much better together than apart.

Imperfect Harmonies is all over the map, and since Tankian came out and said something to the same effect before the album’s release, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised to hear the music on this album. However, I really can’t deal with “Deserving?” sounding like a Killers outtake or “Borders Are…” (download) starting off with a sound remarkably similar to Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out For A Hero.” “Beatus” has some really quirky drum programming and he tries and totally fails to hit some brutally high notes in “Gate 21.”

I’ve listened to the album three times now, each with a different approach to find something good about it. I tried imagining this was a debut album from an artist I’d never heard of, figuring I might like it more if I didn’t have SOAD in the back of my mind, but nothing worked. So I guess now all a boy can hope for is that Serj has gotten these experiments out of his system and gets some inspiration to reform the group for another go, because this just isn’t working.

Torche, Songs for Singles (Hydra Head)
Cover ArtTorche is considered in many circles to be a sludge or stoner band, and neither really fit what they are. But the problem is they really don’t fit into any one category. They have elements of punk, post-hardcore, pop, rock, a billion things in between and the ability to bring a ton of noise together in super-short segments of energy.

Songs for Singles is an eight song EP with all but the final two songs clocking in around two minutes or less. I remember liking their last full length (2008’s Meanderthal) but while I’m writing this can’t remember a thing about it, so it certainly didn’t stick. But with this EP you get tunes somewhere in the vein of Jawbox, (“Face the Wall”) (download), Helmet or Unsane, and some really unorthodox beats. Torche seems to love to have these herky-jerky rhythms which seem to pause every few seconds, though none of it seems more than semi-ordinary and/or done before, making it a bit disappointing.

Flotsam and Jetsam, The Cold (Driven)
Album CoverAs bad as the Serj Tankian record is, it doesn’t remotely reach the depths of pure slop put forth on The Cold. A lot of fans like their second album (No Place for Disgrace) but I still maintain that there is only one great record in the Flotsam and Jetsam catalog, and that’s their 1986 debut, Doomsday for the Deceiver.

In 1998 the band released Unnatural Selection which was virtually unlistenable. I haven’t gone back to compare the two of them, but I think this might be worse. Maybe I should have been able to tell by the fact that after a five year layoff, the best album title they could come up with was The Cold. Or maybe I shouldn’t have bothered since I’ve really never thought singer Eric “A.K.” Knutson was really meant for their style of power thrash. But they are a classic in the history of metal, so I will always give a band like this the benefit of the doubt. Besides, I never hated them; I just really never thought anything past the debut was great. However, I don’t get how a band can leave the studio with such a disgraceful performance and be happy. If they think this is the best they can do, time to quit. Seriously.

Although it’s laughable from the beginning, the second track (“Take”) is really where the sheer brutality kicks in. A.K.’s vocals simply don’t fit the completely generic way-too-bass-heavy thrash rhythm and almost sound like they are sung at the wrong pace. But “Black Cloud”(download) takes the cake as the most remarkable misstep. It’s got an embarrassingly standard cock-rock rhythm that’s punctuated by some of the lamest lyrics heard on a metal record this year. Take a listen to hear gems like this: “always pay what I owe, owe what I pay / doesn’t matter if you’re female, Muslim or gay / if you’re cool with me, I’ll be cool to you / and if you lie to me I won’t be straight with you.” They’ve done this type of shit before, and I guess they still haven’t learned it sounds ridiculous. And then there’s “K.Y.A.” (the silly abbreviation for “Kick Your Ass”), which has a number of reasons why the guy they want to beat to death is a pussy, by calling him a little girl and telling him to run home and paint his nails.

It’s just so fucking terrible that I want to believe I’m listening to some fake album designed to foil downloaders, but I’m not. There are probably some good riffs somewhere on the album, but there are just so many insanely dumb moments that you become numb to it all after a while. It is unmistakably a gargantuan fail.