Album Art - click it for their myspace

Album Art - click it for their myspace

Before I jump into this album I would like to talk a little bit about a couple of things. First is a discussion I had with a reader who took a bit of an exception to the Baptized in Blood, “Gutterbound” review, saying I should take it easy on these guys who are working hard and love what they are doing among other things. I’d like everyone who reads this to keep in mind none of what I say is meant as a personal attack on anyone. I am interested in talking about the music only. If I say negative things about the music of some great guys, than that’s the way it happens. The Yage Letters have our good reviews and bad, of course. I would never take any bad review personally. If anything it gives me more drive to be a better musician, get better at my craft, and work harder over all. The discussion is worth a read but for some reason won’t show up on the article unless you click on the article title and look at it individually. But please do and comment back what you think. 

Some of you may remember that at the end of the aforementioned Gutterbound review I said I wasn’t going to talk about metal for a while. But when I noticed that one of the most curious metal bands around is about to release a new album I changed my mind. This band is called “Job For A Cowboy” and make no mistake about it, they are about as intriguingly heavy as it gets. They’ve been a pretty big name in metal since their first major release called “Doom” and since have released a bit of a more polished effort in 2007 called “Genesis”.  They are on an the american indie label, “Metal Blade.” This is a label I had heard of before because of a couple massive names in death metal, “Cannibal Corpse” and “Cradle Of Filth”. The latter has since moved on from the label. But in checking out their artist list I have come to realize just how big this label is. They are home to over 75 metal acts, which to me seems like way too many. But they do have some big names like the previously mentioned Cannibal Corpse as well as, Behemoth, Soilent Green, The Black Dahlia Murder, Gwar, Six Feet Under, As I Lay Dying, and Cattle Decapitation. The last band in that list I have never heard of. I simply put them in there because that could be the worst band name I have ever heard. They also have a band on the label called “Goatwhore”. What the fuck? So some big names and some hilariously heavy bands on the label, making it a suitable home for Job For a Cowboy.

This is a band I remember trying to get into in the summer of 2007 when I was in “training” for a job at the notorious Better Beef slaughter house. Which is an ironic thing to talk about after seeing “Cattle Decapitation” on that artist list. Anyway, a dude at the same training session heard me listening to Between The Buried and Me and had suggested Job For A Cowboy. So naturally I looked them up. I listened to a couple of tracks and quickly turned it off, in fear of having my soul torn apart by the madness or that a portal to hell would be opened and I would be sucked into an eternity of torture and suffering. In all seriousness it was just too overtop for me at the time. I have since given them a second chance on recommendation from a friend in London who shall remain nameless in case he doesn’t want his name dropped on the interweb. So I downloaded the two albums they had out at the time and was actually very impressed with “Doom” because of it’s crazy fast blast beats, unique vocals, and some definite silly moments. Genesis was a bit too much of the same old same old as far as their style was concerned so I was very excited to hear their new album.

 

Live - click it for their official site

Live - click it for their official site

So lets talk about the music shall we. The opening track is suitably named “Unfurling A Darkened Gospel.” As you might guess it is %100 pummeling right off the bat. A quick drum fill and it’s right into the madness that is Job For A Cowboy. This song like some of the rest of the record and a lot of their old stuff has some of the fastest blast beats I’ve ever heard and enormously heavy low end vocals. This track also has a couple of things they didn’t do a whole lot of on the other records. One is the creative layering of the vocals. Jonny Davy combines his dark deep and demon summing low vocals with either Brent rigg’s (bass) vocals, or an overdub of his own to create a wall of heaviness. There is also a pretty crazy solo in the middle of this track that shouldn’t go without mentioning. The second track has one of the most ridiculous transitions I’ve ever heard at about 1:07 into the song. The song is “Summon The Hounds” (which automatically makes me thinking of Mr. Burns) and which starts as usual with the fast 8th note on the hats and snare on every quarter with lightning fast double kick. The aforementioned transition comes out of this into an equally insane blast beat. The two parts themselves are nothing overly special. But you hear the transition coming and assume it’s going to the be average triplet over 8th note drum fill but quickly turns into a drum clinic that lasts almost 20 seconds and is sure to make your pants wet.

Constitutional Masturbation is your classic Job For Cowboy, but the one recurring theme has an incredible blast beat rhythm. The snare is the classic 16th note triplet but on the ride he plays an incredible math progression that I can’t quite figure out with the accents played beautifully over the math guitar riff. This is something he actually does a couple of times on the record and of course they throw the slow punishing riff at you at the end. The 4th track is called “Regurgitated Disinformation” which is pretty much the same title as the previous track in meaning. The track uses some good high screams which I love about this band but doesn’t have much to write home about accept it ends with some of the heaviest vocals I have ever heard. At this point in the record it came clear to me why i initially couldn’t get into this band and it’s an issue I have with a lot of these bands. Like Beneath The Massacre for example. At first glance and listening from a far it’s pretty much impossible to distinguish one song from the next. But let me assure you, if you take the time to get into the music, most songs have their own unique attributes, but the vibe never changes. I will talk more about this later.

You have probably noticed just as I have, how cliche the names of these songs are. The 5th track is no different and is called “March To Enslavement” and actually has a pretty cool first 45 seconds with an interesting drum progression. It is also the longest song on the record at 6 minutes, where as the rest are around the average single length. This song also incorporates the most layering of vocals. I wonder if the increased use of this was a production call by someone or a conscious decision by the band during the writing process. The vocals on this track are just so good. There is a section at about 4 minutes where the scream sounds almost like a vomit at the beginning. So awesome and dirty! He follows a couple of those with a massively long vocal bit that goes from his extreme high screech all the way down to his lowest of the low growl, reminiscent of Tommy Rogers from Between The Buried and Me who does that frequently. Although Rogers does everything that is possible with the human voice. 

Like most bands that do the average 10 to 13 songs of 3 to 5 minute length, (especially if they do the average one album every one or two years) the middle section of the record tends to be filler. This band is no different. Tracks 6 through 8 seem to be songs they just threw on to make the record the appropriate full length size. That being said every song on this record is a drum clinic including these ones. This is especially true on the 8th track, “Psychological Immortality” where it is pure ridiculous speed the whole song. Note to all the hardcore bands around these days: Don’t call yourself hyper-speed, thrash, speed metal, or whatever, until you hear this song or this band in general. 

The album finishes fairly strong. Track nine is appropriately titled “To Detonate And Exterminate” and it does both often. I dig the fact that they change a lot in this song and never dwell on the same riff for too long. This includes the last change to a great doom part that reminds one of everything that is deep, dark, or black. This section also has these pinch harmonics in the background that last a good 10 seconds and those who know me know that I love a good pinch! The album finishes with the title track. This is definitely the most complete song on the record and incorporates more ideas and influences than any other song in their catalogue. It is even, dare I say, ambient at times! It’s also the only song where the drummer isn’t constantly crazy. Although he is still impressive. This song also shows the power of the vocals in this band more than any song on the album. It truly is a stand out as the band grows the song like a post band almost. 

 

Live -  click it for link to mayhemfest

Live - click it for link to mayhemfest

Normally at this point I’d talk about lyrics. But to be honest the lyrics are completely meaningless in this band. Just think of the vocals like another percussion instrument like most metal bands and you’ll do fine. So let’s move on to the individual musicians. The two guitarists are Al Glassman and Bobby Thompson. The type of music and the way they write really makes it impossible to distinguish which one is the lead or rhythm. They are clearly sick players and have considerable control of their instrument. My beef is that the riff writing is pretty “been there, done that” type progressions. They also never really solo save for the first song. They are pretty one dimensional on the record, but that being said they are better at this one dimension than I ever will be at any. Plus if you can keep up with these tempos and with this drummer you must be doing something right. The bass is not really worth mentioning other than the fact that I can actually hear it, which is more than most bands in the genre can say. I’ve talked about the vocals quite a bit already so all I will say is that no band I’ve heard comes close to this level of punishment from the vocals. It’s what bands like Lamb Of God wish they could sound like. I don’t know enough about the band to know exactly which parts are Jonny’s and which are Bobby’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jonny just does them all on the record and Bobby is purely live. If that is the case, than Jonny has a huge range and shows it. My one and only beef with the vocals is that he doesn’t do that dirty “pig squeal” that you hear so often on the “Doom” album. I don’t need to say anything about the drums either really… but i will. Jon Rice is definitely one of the most insane drummers I’ve ever heard. I would love to see this band live to see if he can do it all in person. Judging by videos on youtube he can. But live in person is a whole different beast. They are playing at Mayhemfest (link in pic above) which has some decent bands playing. But a lot of shitty bands too. So I doubt I’ll go seeing as I’d have to pay stupid amounts of money to have to sit through Mushroomhead among other lame acts.

The production on this record is really second to none. The drums sound about as natural as they can in this genre, which is to say they don’t really sound natural at all. But the kick at least has some life and the snare isn’t that annoying ping with the huge long reverb like so many other engineers abuse. The apparent loudness is top notch which goes without saying. Everything sounds huge, which goes without saying. The only real problem I have with the production choices is the annoying reverse delay that metal bands have been using since the early 80’s. It’s time to lay that effect to rest.

Overall I rather enjoyed the record but it’s not one I would recommend to a lot of people seeing as it’s just so over the top heavy. One massive plus is that there isn’t even one lame cliche breakdown! Thank God. The band in general has kind of painted itself into a corner with this style. They are so heavy and crazy that it’s hard to take a new approach to their music. In order to brach out with different styles and go even slightly less crazy you will instantly have the metal heads who don’t even know what they are listening to with this band, which is ironically most of their fan base, casting them out as sell outs. So they pretty much have to stay in this style which leads most people who don’t like the genre, which is the majority saying, “Every song sounds the same.” This I can completely sympathize with if you aren’t like me and look for little nuances in the blast beats and silly little changes in the music. It’s a catch 22 most metal bands have to deal with. Just look at The Dillinger Escape Plan with their last record. They put in some choruses with a melody and tons of stupid fans who have no idea what Dillinger is even doing labeling it as their worst record. Piss me right off. 

So that’s all I have to say about that. Any ideas for something I can review in later weeks, no matter what the genre, as long as it’s new and independent please just leave a comment.

Until next time… keep waging war on kitsch 

Hill of Yage

This week I’ve been listening to: Eluvium! this band’s music is so gorgeous and powerful it’s hard to describe. I fell asleep to it last night and had the most strange and wonderful dreams. I then woke up in such a weird surreal state. GO LISTEN TO THEM!

This week I’ve been watching: Finished Lost season 5. I can’t even believe what happened this season! so many questions answered… finally. I love not having any clue what’s going to happen in the next episodes. 

This week I’ve been reading: First couple chapters of “Catch 22.” Pretty good so far… too early to tell.

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Click the pic for their myspace!

I’d like to start off topic and say that I was at the Isis/Pelican show at The Phoenix last week and it was fantastic. It was one of those shows that really inspires you to keep making music and keep pushing to get to their level especially because they are both such a similar genre to us. That’s all I have to say about that.

So, you may recall me mentioning that I was going to talk about the new “Minsk” record. I have decided not to, because it would just be too biased. Almost as biased as my first review about “Hymn to the Immortal Wind.” Let me say though, that it is a great record. It’s called “With Echoes In The Movement Of Stone” and I highly recommend going out to buy that one or getting a free version off the net. You wont be disappointed. Anyway, after deciding not to review Minsk, I spent a while searching various indie label websites for some new albums that seemed interesting. One of which was “Hydrahead” who is home to a lot of great bands like, Jesu, Zozobra, Tusk, Pelican, Mare (who are reuniting for one show in Missassauga  June 20th, which is the same night The Dillinger Escape Plan play in Guelph… I am hoping to go to both) and many more. But the one that caught my attention was the new “Big Business” record. I have everything by this band on my itunes and am fairly familiar with them, but they aren’t a band I listen to regularly. They have a really unique sound but they seemed too strait up for me to really get into them. 

I bet at this point you’re saying, “But Andrew, who is this band and what are they about?” Well!… They are simple, but huge sounding sludge metal or doom-punk (if that’s even a genre). They have a pretty interesting back story. The band was founded by two members, Coady Willis on drums and Jared Warren on everything else. They are almost completely bass driven and so in the early days either performed as a two-piece or with a guest guitar player. The two also were members of the “The Melvins” on the “Senile Animal” album and did a fairly large tour as members of the band. If you are unfamiliar with The Melvins I suggest getting into them. They are a whole different world of music and such a unique sonic experience . Big Business like The Melvins have a distinct silly side to them which I could not love more. Since touring for their second full length, “Here Comes The Waterworks” they have added a permanent third member on guitar to fill the sound out. The lucky guy is “Toshi Kasai” who fits their sound perfectly. With the enormous success of the aforementioned album and touring with Tool for a leg on their last tour, their next album was highly anticipated and was finally released on May 12th of this year.  The album is called “Mind The Drift”.

Right away the album drew me in because of the cool drum intro to the opening track “Found Art.” The drums, although never complicated, sound incredible throughout the record. They sound natural and you can tell it’s a human playing the drums. Which is a refreshing change from the last three albums I reviewed. The pulse of the first song is impossible to ignore and has you tapping your foot and bobbing your head. They don’t stray too much from their style on the first track with the intense low end attack and powerful bass driven riffs. This coupled with the unique vocal style of Jared Warren makes this band sound like no other band I’ve heard. The only vocals that are similar that I know of are that of Lemmy Kilmister of Motorhead fame. The songs are usually fairly short and around the normal single length. But none of them are “single” type songs as they really don’t follow much structure. After having your chest kicked in with the pummeling vibe of the first song they go right into one, which is fairly similar, but with some cool attributes. Although I didn’t listen to the older Big Big business a whole lot, I don’t ever recall them using synth or samples very much if ever. The second second track, “Gold and Final” incorporates a cool sample throughout the first bit of the song which is used to perfection to create tension right before the big low end filled down beat before bringing it back at the end as a cool fade out.

The third song may be my favourite on the album. It’s called “Cats, Mice.” The 3/4 vibe throughout creates a great hypnotic feel that is sure to have you swaying with a partner (if there’s one around). The song also showcases Toshi’s guitar a little bit, although the music is always fairly minimalist and none of them really show off. The lyrics are great in this song, especially the main lyric which is, “Cats, Mice, rapped in their own device.” or “Cats, Mice, locked in their tricks tonight, quietly wait in the shadows.” This song also shows a writing technique they use throughout the record and not a whole lot on the other records, which is the use of back up vocals. It sounds simple enough, but they use them to great affect and they add so much to Warren’s vocals.  This is also used with great affect in the fourth song which is the most silly on the record. It has a great punk vibe but with a cool poly-rhythmical guitar at the beginning which has a great old school punk tone as well. This middle section in general is probably the most solid on the record including the title track which immediately follows. This song is the most classic Big Business vibe with the overly-simplified big bass riff with drums building around it. This song has the biggest and most obvious “Chorus” in the song. For being a sludge band this chorus is extremely catchy and has you singing the main line over and over, which I’ll talk about a bit more when i talk about the lyrics as a whole.

The last three songs don’t disappoint either, although they are definitely that classic Big Business vibe. They do however keep you interested with some different additions that you don’t hear on their other songs or records. “Ayes Have It” has a really cool organ part throughout with a bit of a different outro and “Cold Lunch” has a bit more guitar than normal overtop of a bit of a flashy drum intro. The last track called “Theme From Business II” is, in the simplest terms, awesome. The build is great and the samples in the background create an enormous amount of tension right before the drums come in fully at about two minutes in. The build is the longest on the record as the song takes about eight minutes. If you know me, I love the big long build so it’s no wonder I really love this song, especially with the guitar play during the second major build. This song has the most variety in parts and the most cool transitions as it moves from the almost funeral march first build into an almost happy and over all epic last half. The drums are phenomenal on this track and are a great example of how to build up and tear down a song using the drums. There are a lot of bands, some of which I have talked about on this page, that should listen to this track in order to gain this important skill. 

 

Click it for their main website.

Click it for their main website.

 

 

Lets talk about lyrics. The lyrics are just great on the record with lots of weird metaphors and imagery that leaves the meaning and emotional impact up to the interpretation of the listener. The rhythmical style of his vocals is great too and different in most songs while playing off the bass so well. The lyrics of the title track are a good example of everything he does well, and it’s short so I’ll let you read the whole thing. 

You take the east, I’ll take the west
If we end up in the middle then we’ll know
You start sinking, better grab your oars and row

Can’t draw a map with honey
Not a lesson, that’s just good advice
Unexplaining how it happened twice
It happened thrice

If you’re talking you better be walking
And please take the path that you know
You stop thinking, making up the words as you go
As you go

(repeated)

The production on this record is second-to-none. The band went with a familiar face in Phil Ek, who produced their two records preceding this one. Big business has such a unique sound that they rightfully went with someone who knows the sound well. Phil Ek along with whoever did the mix (can’t find that out anywhere on the net. I guess thats a bonus of actually buying the album and having the liner notes) did such a great job with all the tones. Being as bass driven as it is, they made sure the low end was so massive and pummeling that you can’t mistake the tone for anyone else. The only bass tone I’ve come across that’s bigger is a band called “Lightning Bolt” who is insane! The drums sound so natural on this album! This is something I’ve noticed as a trait with most Hydrahead bands. The toms sound so huge and the kick drum sounds like… well… a kick drum with actual musical quality to it. The guitar sounds great too. Although with seemingly nothing above 1K in the mix, save for the pick of the bass, the engineers had a lot of space to work with for the guitars and vocals. The vocals are mixed great too, with tons of layers all the time. 

Musically they all get the job done and have compiled a lot of really great, well-written riffs. But those who know me know that I love a little bit of show off. Especially when there is space to do so. I know they go for a simple vibe and are a groove based band above all. That being said, there are some spots that the guitar or drums could have ripped for a couple of minutes and I would be happy. Toshi shows he really knows his place in the band though, as he mostly just lets the bass and drums build the songs and plays texture around the vocals. Which is what you would expect in this band. 

Overall I really can’t complain about this record in anyway. It’s not my favourite band or type of music. But it’s different and definitely gets the head banging. I recommend a listen to anyone who likes cool music and I will definitely see them if they come around this area. Although they aren’t coming to Canada on this upcoming tour, they are heading to Detroit if anyone want to drive through a ghost-town/state to see some good sludge metal. Anyway, thats all for me for now. 

Until next time… NO MORE KITSCH!

Hill of Yage

This week I’ve been listening to: “Behold… The Arctopus!” Such a great jazz-metal band from New York. Dude plays a 12 string bass and they have a song called “You Will Be Reincarnated as an Imperial Space Turtle.” What more could you possibly want! Also a quick side not… Blind Gaurdian is right after Big Business in my itunes so I also listened to almost their entire discography and I don’t know whether to love them or laugh at them. I guess that’s their goal though.

This Week I’ve Been Watching: Just Started Lost season 5… judging by the first episode I’m in for a mind-fuck of a season.

This week I’ve been reading: Not doing Dune yet. Just got a book called “Catch-22” from Luke. Apparently it’s a dark comedy about the Second World War. Can’t wait!