This Week in Badass is going to take a look at all the killer music that has reached my ears in current week, whether it be music that was just released or items coming out in the near future. You might even get some vintage badass to get you through your weekend as well. Music will be ranked on the badass’ness scale — which of course goes to 11, the only true way to measure if something kicks ass. So throw your horns up and get ready to headbang along. Bands are bolded the first time they are mentioned if you want to scroll through to see if there’s someone you like.
So we’ve hit a lull in the amount of really cool rock and metal releases coming out these days. I had to anticipate this coming though as the first half of 2011 has seen so many great releases that everyone couldn’t possibly live up to that standard. Unfortunately not only are many things coming my way just not that good but even the amount of releases has slowed down tremendously to the point where there was two days that I didn’t even have one album in my queue to review. I do have a few now at least which means I’ve even going to get to talk about albums way before they come out instead of the week of.
The first one of those albums is seeing a release on August 23rd on Season of Mist, the new album from MINUSHUMAN, titled Bloodthrone (badass’ness: 7/11). The album is being promoted as appealing to a wide metal audience, which makes a lot of sense since there are elements of thrash, death, groove, straight rock riffs and even a Meshuggah like bass tone that adds a technical element to some songs. The tech moments aren’t nearly as complex as Meshuggah makes them, but you can hear the challenging rhythms in “Forgotten Fields” before the song moves into a somewhat metalcore feel. Following that track is one called “Three Mile Island” which is a groovy little rock number with growling vocals. Then there’s something like “Godspeed” that has this almost epic, power metal feel.
There isn’t a track on the album that’s bad and that works great for me, but if you only really listen to a specific genre or two, you’re probably going to find the album a little uneven. Bloodthrone is all over the map forgoing any semblence of a flow in order to give you their best ten tracks. And while I can appreciate that aspect, it just seems like there should be three separate side projects within this group in order to balance out the sound more. It’s definitely worth your time if you’re a lover of all kind of loud music. If you like just one or two of the genres mentioned above then be prepared to skim through half the disc.
The next album is one that I was anticipating for a while but is leaving me quite indifferent. Isis bassist Jeff Caxide is out on his own now and formed Crone. The debut record called Endless Midnight (badass’ness: 5/11) is due out on July 19th on Translation Loss records. Outside of metal this would be labeled as ambient but once you hit the harder circles, you’d probably be right to call this a drone record (Caxide + Drone = Crone?). Caxide has said one of his big influences is Mogwai and he’s pushing into that territory for sure. You can certainly hear elements of Isis’ post-rock flavor over their last few albums shining through here, especially on “The Silver Hammer” which ends up being the closest thing to post-rock on the disc.
I used to really be into drone. For a good two years or so, I was more than happy to listen to any drone band with the lights down just gazing into nowhere. But at some point I came to a conclusion that holding a note for 17 minutes gets boring at times and I’ve since stopped listening to it. At the same time, after listening to so much of it I still like to think I know a good record when it comes along and/or something that’s at least a little exciting. Unfortunately, this isn’t it. Isis fans should take note that both Aaron Harris and Bryant Clifford Meyer contribute to the disc, so this is definitely something the completionist will want to have as part of their collection. Past that, this could please those fans of ambient, post-rock or drone, but otherwise Endless Midnight comes across as relatively dull.
On August 9th, Napalm records will release two interesting records. The first one from Svartsot is a glorious piece of folk metal. Maledictus Eris (translation: Cursed Thou Shall Be) (badass’ness: 8/11). The press release says it’s a concept record about Denmark ravished by the plague in the 14th century. I go to the press release for this because it’s in Danish, so I can’t understand a word of the record, so lyrical content doesn’t matter to me, though it may to you even if you aren’t my one Danish speaking reader.
Musically, the band really brings the traditional folk elements up front for their third release. Bagpipes and especially the flute have a very strong presence throughout the disc and are meant to lead rather than be a background instrument. That doesn’t mean any edge is lost though as Svartsot make sure to keep the riffs hard and piercing to complement the folk sounds nicely. “DÁ¸dedansen” provides a nice example of this, where the flute work is actually quite creative and definitely keeps your attention during an otherwise headbanging track. I know I say that I really never want flute in my metal, but Maledictus goes a long way to convincing me I should change my mind. Thankfully it never gets old on the albums 11 tracks, which makes for one of the better folk metal records I’ve heard this year.
The other Napalm record is an interesting one from SkÁ¡lmÁ¶ld, an Icelandic band that bring forth an epic viking tale on their debut Baldur (badass’ness: 10/11). Although this appears to have been released in 2010 on a small label in the Faroe Islands called Tutl, Napalm is picking this up for a wider release, one in which is deserves. I rarely ever do this, but I’m going to copy and paste from the Napalm press release about the concept of this album (this one’s in Icelandic, so again, I can’t understand a fucking thing) but this is what the album is about:
“The concept album tells the dramatic turn of events of the Icelandic Viking, Baldur. The story begins in a time of peace when Baldur, a wealthy man, has just settled down. He has much land, a loving wife, and children. Yet disaster strikes, when a demon-like creature not-of-this-world brutally attacks his peaceful existence. His home is in ruins and, worst of all, his family dead. Finding two of his men, Gunnar Jarl and GrÁmur, still alive, Baldur swears revenge. Fighting their way across the harsh Icelandic landscape, the three never lose sight of their goal and a final battle against their sworn enemy. But victory comes with a price; a price Baldur is more than willing to pay, even with his life.”
The neat thing is that I keep reading this paragraph as I listen and I can totally feel this hunt and attack happening. I feel the love in “Heima” in which Baldur and his family chant and sing around a fire. Then I hear the anger in Baldur’s voice as he realizes his family is dead – followed by the grand gang vocals in “Sorg” as the three bond together for the hunt of the prey. On “Upprisa” I can picture Baldur chasing down the killer and dropping to his knees in the snow capped mountains as he is outraced. I mean, I could be totally off in the feel compared to the lyrics but since I don’t know what they are saying, I have to let the music do the talking and it paints a great picture of the concept. Baldur does what very few albums in foreign languges do for me – it keeps me totally engaged from start to finish. And if that’s not the mark of a great album, I don’t know what is.
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And finally, I thought it was only appropriate in the week where my other series – Bottom Feeders – ends, that I should talk about the four song demo from Jersey band Bottomfeeder. Demo 2011 (badass’ness: 8/11) is the first release from this new-ish melodic hardcore band. You know I’m still working my way into enjoying hardcore, so words remain at a minimum for me but records like this can’t hurt the process of converting me into a fan. Produced by Len Carmichael, who has since joined the band as the second guitarist, the four tracks on this demo sound like a band that has been playing together for years. Tight, melodic and ultimately fierce, this is definitely a record that you’d punch your grandma to. That is, if you were an asshole that punched grandmas (what did she do to you)?
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