Some promo... this picture is actually cool. makes me laugh. click it if you want to see their myspace.

Promo Shot... click it if you want to see their myspace.

Before I start talking about any music I’d like to tell you all a story about how I came to the decision to review the new Baptized In Blood record. It started a couple of days ago when I was talking to a fellow Yage member who brought up the “Fm96 out of the box poll.” This is basically a little thing the main radio station in London does where they put two bands that have recently released records and put them to a head to head vote on their website. I was shocked  to learn that three days in a row Baptized in Blood had won. If they were up against other london hardcore bands it wouldn’t be shocking, but they beat out Metallica, Nickelback, and Bobnoxious. You have to understand (if you are unfamiliar with this radio station) they are all about the strait up alternative and 90’s style stuff. The listening audience is primarily working class londoners and post-secondary students who think Nickelback is the best Canada has to offer. Even more shocking is the margin of victory between the bands. Baptized won each time with over %90 of the vote. So yesterday when I logged into facebook (which admittedly I do much more than is healthy) Brandon Eedy’s facebook status was at the top of the “news feed.” Brandon Eedy (for those who don’t know) has a little thing in London called “Summer Camp Productions” which has a firm hold on the london music scene (what’s left of it). Baptized in Blood is under his management and admittedly is one of the most popular bands these days in the London and area hardcore scene.  So after reading Eedy’s status which reads “Everyone go vote for Baptized in Blood. fm96.com” I became curious and went to check out the numbers. So I go to the site and vote for “The Dead Weather” who I’ve never heard before and see the results at %99 for Baptized in Blood to %1 for The Dead Weather. Being the cynic I am I immediately assume that either Eedy (or someone in Baptized) has set his quick keys to vote continuously for his band  or someone is sitting with a couple of windows open voting over and over for their self-interest. So Naturally I open four new windows in safari and start voting as fast as I can and as many times as I can for The Dead Weather. Within five minutes I have The Dead Weather in front by %10-%15. Satisfied that I had proven someone in the Baptized camp to be a bit of a tool and FM96’s pole to be pointless in general due to the ability to vote infinitely, I left my computer and went about my other business.  A few minutes later I come back to my computer and, after a bit of inter-webbing (fans of the show 30 rock may get that reference), I went to check the stats of the pole. Wouldn’t you know it, much to my chagrin, Baptized was back up to %92 of the vote! Not wanting to waste anymore time I didn’t vote anymore, but the whole scenario left me a little depressed for a couple of reasons. Having lived in London for four years and seeing the whole music scene basically die before my eyes because of a couple promoters, it depressed me to see the trend continuing. It also depresses me that people are using tools like this FM96 thing, which obviously has no merit if you can swing the entire vote with five minutes of voting, to gain some sort of credibility or standing for their band.  So, having only heard the two songs from their myspace I decided then and there to download their album (god bless torrents) so I could see what, if any, the fuss was about. 

Before I jump right into the record I want to define hardcore a bit. Now this definition is just what I hear from the scene recently because hardcore used to have a much different meaning and “hardcore” bands used to have a much different sound. So basically (despite what hardcore bands themselves will tell you) it is a dumbed down version of speed or grind metal with a definite punk tone to the percussion. That’s a simplified version, but if you really want to know what it sounds like just click one of their pictures to see their myspace and for more samples just click anyone of their “top friends.” At said myspace, Baptized describes themselves as “2 parts Eddie Van Halen, 2 parts gutterthrash, 3 parts southern comfort, and 4 parts hyperspeed, Blend and serve chilled.” Not only is that statement completely ridiculous, I could not disagree with it more. They do try incredibly hard on the record to sound like Eddie Valen with the taps over somewhat fast guitar. But to compare yourself to someone like that especially when you’re no where close is a bit over the top. Who knows what the hell gutterthrash even is. But I think it implies something that is even more dirty than thrash and I don’t even want to start a list of bands that are dirtier and a hell of a lot more “thrash” than them. 3 parts southern comfort? no comment. Oh, and four parts “hyperspeed” is a hilarious statement seeing as they don’t have even one blast beat on the entire record. 

The album is called “Gutterbound” and as you’ve heard already the band is called “Baptized In Blood.” These names piss me off because they are the reason metal gets an ugly stereotype from uneducated people. It just grinds my gears to see this horrible metal stereotype being perpetuated by bands that feel they have a need to be as metal as they possibly can be.  This problem is all over this scene. “Textbook Tragedy,” “Knife Party,” “Burn Us Both,” “Misery Signals,” “Dead and Divine,” just to name a few. 

 

Live

Live

 

 

Okay so I’m going to go into the music now, but I’m not going to go into each individual song like I would normally because it’s just a waste of characters in my WordPress text-box. The album as expected comes out guns-a-blazing with the snare on every quarter note followed by the half-time groove. If you plan on listening to this record get used to this trend which leads to my biggest beef of the record… the percussion. So to not waste time later I’m going to get a bunch of stuff concerning the drums of my chest now. It’s like the drums were pre-programmed in a plug-in where you just set 3 loops over and over and then set how often you want it to fill. The quick punk drums that have been rammed down our throat since god knows when are getting so old. Quick 8th note on the high-hat or crash with the snare every quarter, into the half time crash and snare groove. It used to be I could say “Ya but at least he’s double kicking with the guitar picking!” But now that is just the norm so how can I possibly take anything away from that. But the biggest, most hilarious aspect of the drums on the record is his fills. Granted his fills are quick, but if your going to listen to this band at all do me a favour and count every four bars. Bet all your money that he’s going to fill at the end of that fourth bar with a big two handed crash on the down beat of the next one. It’s boring. 

I also complain a lot about breakdowns. So I will save you a rant and make like Dr. Evil and say “pretty standard really”. But at least they show a little bit of skill with the tapping and such overtop. The tapping annoys me on this record though. It’s like they were trying to prove as hard as they could to show they are influenced by Van Halen. Let be said that I have no issue showing your influences, but there is a difference between that and stealing riffs. I have even bigger beef when they are stolen half-assed. Speaking of stealing “Down and Out”  (original title eh?) is a prime example of a compilation of stolen parts packaged for your generic music purchasing needs. The main breakdown hook: “Down… Down and Out!” is just pure stolen southern metal reminding me of bands like “Throwdown” or other quintessentially generic bands. The middle part is so euro-metal that it hurts. Alexi Laiho style to the bone. All they need is the synth harmonizing with the guitars and they might have been taken to court by Children Of Bodom’s lawyers. The album has a few sections like this which are mostly the better parts.

Baptized in Blood leans on the “guitarmony” in almost every song in every breakdown and bridge. Which when all said and done is a cool and very flashy tool to use. There are unique and musical ways of using this tool and Baptized has a couple sections where they pull it off well. But in most songs especially “Next Stop Hollywood,” it just seems like masturbation. It’s fun to do, but it does nothing for anyone else! In the middle of the album they have a couple of songs with some decent attributes. “Blue Oyster” is the best song on the album and the only song that stands on its own, with some cool grooves and some sections that make you think the album might not be a total loss. “RATTtails and Rainbows”  is worth mentioning because it’s really the only song with a bit of a different intro, but then of course four bars later and another drum fill they proceed to a pretty standard hook: “Are you feeling alright! Are you feeling alright!” Almost the exact same hook as “Down…Down and out!”

The album doesn’t change for the last three songs and curiously the last song is called “Only Time Will Tell”. All you have to do is scroll down to my review below to see where they could have taken that from. Farewell to Freeway is in the same genre and only an hour down the road. I think someone should have caught that. The song itself has the most generic breakdown on the record at about 3 minutes in. If you are familiar with a lot of metal and have listened to a lot of it, listen to this song and the breakdown at the end and try not to laugh. I laughed at loud to myself as soon as I heard it. They then go into a riff at the end which is almost as generic. They play it for almost 2 minutes and then fade out with it. Not a good choice.

I’d like to talk about individual members as well. The lead vocal is pretty dirty. He sounds heavy and obviously fits the genre and the overall vibe. But my issue with him is that the growl is all he does. No singing, no screaming, no yelling, no piercing black metal vocal, and no attempt at any of the above. But he does have the big vocal for the breakdown and makes it sound nice and thick. But just like my beef with the double-kick thing earlier, it’s just expected now. It’s been done so many times that, if you want to be in a genre where people expect you to be heavy, you have to have that vocal. Just like the lame, soft vocal dripping with presence in female contemporary or auto-tune vocals in newer pop/r&b music. It’s just like the genre standard and after a while doesn’t it all just become pop? The guitar players are what holds it all together in the band. They are flashy and play some crazy fast riffs. They obviously have skills! No doubt about it. Personally I’m a fan of the big pinch harmonic and these dudes have some massive pinches on the album. I’m not sure what they use but it sounds like an Ibanez S series or something with the whammy bar used to full affect. I’m not even going to talk about the bass. Why talk about something that doesn’t exist at any point on the record?

The production, as expected, is pretty solid. The guitars sound big. The vocals are dirty and the guitar lead is in your face. But did the engineer not record the bass and then they decided to put out the album without it or something? There are a couple of cool production idea’s, including one at the end of “Next Stop Hollywood”. The drums could have been bigger for my liking though. They seem to be mixed really thin and confined. Especially the snare in the parts (although very few and far between) that are clear of high gain guitar and are bit more mellow, the snare is just naked and awkward. But other than that I have no real problem with the mix and the engineers clearly knew what they were doing. 

Overall we’re talking about an unsigned band’s first full length release. So putting it in that perspective it’s decent and they show great potential as guitar players. But that being said they are in a slippery slope being in the scene and genre they are in. You know that with the thousands of bands that are trying to do something in this genre and with most of them doing basically the exact same thing, the scene won’t last. So props to them for being one of the main bands in London right now despite all other contenders.

It’s the way this type of music is being made and marketed that makes it unattractive to me and non-unique in general. The songs seem pieced together. Like they aren’t complete unless they have a big breakdown and a fast hardcore section, in a certain order, and presented in a certain way visually. Like paint by numbers. Songs should be grown! You should be able to see a song grow like a plant coming out of the dirt in stop-motion. But this genre, including most of this record, is like seeing someone quickly assemble a Lego spaceship set with a bunch of random pieces.

Anyway, I’m done talking about this record and done talking about hardcore forever. I’m not going talk about metal for a while either. I can’t stand to see so many bands and people taking the genre for granted. 

Until next time.. DEATH TO KITSCH!

Hill of Yage

 

This week I’ve been listening to: Lot’s of Bob Dylan. Starting to get into some early 70’s stuff a bit more.  As I write this though, I am listening to Barry White. There is no medicine like Barry White.

This week I’ve been watching: The Jays finish their road trip 0-9! 2 in a row back at home though.

This week I’ve been reading: Haven’t started Dune yet… but have been reading the onion.com religiously and almost pee my pants every time.

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click to hear songs and watch videos!

click to hear songs and watch videos!

 

 

My earliest memory of Farewell To Freeway was seeing them play behind the school on the lawn near the bleachers during the terry fox run. It was grade ten for me so it must have been 2001 or 2002 or something like that. It’s funny to compare a Freeway show nowadays to Richie singing a Papa Roach cover from his drums back then. Maybe it’s just nostalgia, but I always remember the sound at those outdoor school shows like battle of the bands and “infrasonic” sounding better than any regular club. Now that I think about it, it’s probably not nostalgia but rather just a slow deterioration of my hearing.  Anyway, the point I’m driving at here is that Farewell has come a long way and have been together an astounding 8 or 9 years, although changing members around a couple of times. They are, for better or worse the most recognizable or “biggest” Guelph band out there right now. Considering all the horrible bands out there this isn’t a bad one to have representing our city, so I’ve always wished them all the best and really like to see them succeed. They are graduates of Year Of The Sun, under which I thought they did their best work with the “In These Wounds” Album. Since then they took a massive step up to “Victory “Records”, home to metal main stays like Between The Buried And Me, Darkest Hour, Silverstein and others. They’ve put out two releases with victory, the first being “Definitions,” which (without going into it too much) I was not a big fan of to say the least. The second release, which I’m going to go into a bit in the coming paragraphs is called “Only Time Will Tell”. 

First of all, let me just say I like it. Before I say anything potentially negative or positive about it, let it be said that I’m a fan. Itunes says I’ve listened to it 5 times so I must be diggin’ it a bit. Especially compared to definitions which I thought was basically strait pop with some  heavy breakdowns in between. Farewell diversified their sound a bit for this record; sometimes for the better and sometimes for the not so much. But at least their putting in some effort to do some cool stuff. which is much more than most bands can say.

The album starts as predicted though, with the fast fist-pumping metal that gets the metal heads and the scene kids into the show all at once. The strait up vibe gets the heading nodding for sure but, being the snob I am, quickly starts to bore me. The album has a ton of sections like this but unlike a lot of bands in this genre they throw something in when I start to get bored. And how do they do it? Maybe it’s even cliche to talk about anymore… but yes! It’s the breakdown! I rag on bands a lot for abusing the breakdown, and I will rag on Farewell for doing it later on, but personally I really like the breakdowns on the record. “No Fate, No End” has, of course, the big breakdown; but it also has the catchiest pop chorus on the record and a cool bridge. But it, like a couple others on the album, give me the same bored vibe I got from definitions. 

 

Live

Live

 

 

The album takes a turn for the much better through the middle section. Even on the second track you can realize the improvement on Adam’s growl. A good growl always helps me to get into it more. The second track ,”The Last Thing I’ll Ever Say” has a couple really cool sections, both catching my ear because of synth. One of my beefs with a lot of Farewell is that when I like Michele’s riffs they are often not heard and when they are heard, it’s when I feel they shouldn’t be at the front of the mix. At most times (this record included) as soon as the guitars get really heavy it’s like the synth is gone and then just as soon as it’s a mellow part the pad is right in your face. Let it be said you can be mellow with guitars and you can be heavy with keys. Just look at a band like Meshuggah! Why are their breakdowns so heavy? It’s because the lead is always a weird, creepy, dissonant, and more or less clean guitar at the front of the mix. And when Farewell’s breakdowns are good on this record they use a very similar technique with Michele’s synth. It works because, to be frank, we’ve all heard guitars with that tone playing those breakdown rhythms. So when you incorporate a synth riff like the one near the beginning of “When We Hit The Ground” doing a simple repeated arpeggio over the heavy guitars it makes you appreciate them that much more. Sometimes thats all it takes. This song also has the most bad ass breakdown at the very end. This again is made even better with the dissonant low synth riff. The lower the note the more dread! (Fans of “Peep Show” might get that reference).

Track 6, “The Dude” is worth talking about only for the fact that is also has some good dread and a cool ambient part. The following song “Years” is a good example how the pad in this band becomes a bit redundant at times. When the guitars are strumming open power chords (a la pop punk style) the pad is just distracting. It’s just so many things playing the same four-chord progression that maybe my brain just won’t allow the extra instrument. Immediately following that part though, is a great example of the synth’s worth in the band with a cool complimentary lead riff.  This song also has a great outro! A nice cool ambient thing with a little bit of experimenting with the tone. “Here As One” and “Cemetary Dates” (amazing title) are along the same sort of line but not overly disappointing. Not worth talking about too much accept the former has a cool hardcore intro and the latter has a cool power metal bit at the end followed by some cool ambience. I know I have talked about the synth a lot and I will stop. But the last thing I want to say is that I hear the Micro-Korg coming into the track and I can hear her other synth (not sure what it is) coming in. I love the Micro-Korg! I have owned one in the past and it sounds great and adds so much where as the other one is used primarily for pads and sounds a touch cheesy. Ok thats all about synth I’ll talk about other things now.

The song worth talking about the most is the eighth track called “Waking The Giant.” It seems like they put the track on there as a cool ambient interlude but it is by far their best build on the album! It’s only 3:48 long but I would have been happy with them building on that riff for another 5-10 minutes. It’s such a great tapping riff and right as the build is getting intense they fade out. The Fade is cool, it just should have been a few minutes later. An extended live version would be a great live tool as well. I think the fans would really love a nice long change of pace and a break from pitting or throwing down or whatever the scene kids do in there that makes them look so ridiculous. Who the hell knows or wants to know what it’s called. The last song is way too similar to the first and has almost the exact same rhythm in the main riff and the same sort of structure. They should have cut that song and finished with a 9 minute version of waking the Giant. That would have been bad ass!

Just a quick side note concerning the whole scene kids in the pits scenario. I have a favourite story concerning the subject and the ongoing battle between the hardcore kids and the metal kids/adults. It happened oddly enough, at a Farewell To Freeway show. It was the tour kick off show for “In These Wounds” at a grimy hole called “Club Shadow”. Don’t get me wrong I do love the Shadow. Sounds way better than the Vinyl, it just smells horrible all the time. Anyway, I’m at the Farewell show and getting into it, and this was back when I loved to get into the pits, so naturally I was getting in there. I’m pitting harmlessly the way metal kids do and from behind me wouldn’t you know it some hardcore kid swinging his arms around like a douche bag catches me square in the nose. Of course it starts to bleed. Naturally I am just fuming, and although I’m not the biggest guy in the world, I’ve been told my “about-to-snap-face face,” is scary. And it had blood dripping down it. So I look up at a small ass dude wearing women’s jeans, a tight black shirt and a classic emo swoop dyed blonde. I take one step towards him and he just runs strait up the stairs at the Shadow and out of the club. I got a bloody nose at a Soulfly show too. But that time I was almost happy about and had a good laugh with the dude after. No scene kids at that show let me tell you! 

Anyway back to the album. Let’s talk about lyircs. They are pretty standard really and by far the cheesiest part of the record. The emotional tone of the choruses have really cheesy one line creeds like “Do you know who I am, and who I will be,”  “Seek no redemption,” and “I won’t let it get the best of me.” As you can see it’s pure cheese and, dare I say, a bit too “Emo” for my liking. 

 

Overall musically it’s nothing spectacular but at least they have enough changes in a song to keep you interested and involved. They have a couple spots when I even said to myself “This reminds me of a Johnny Truant riff.” And for those of you who don’t know that band,  saying that is a HUGE compliment. As for all the members, they all hold it down. It’s hard to find a weak point accept for the fact the bass is almost never on its own. But in a band like this it almost always has to be that way. My most pleasant surprise was the production. This record sounds massive! The production is not unique in any way. But it gets the job done. I can nit pick about a lot of things and probably come up with a lot of reasons why it’s a “bad” record. But the bottom line for this music is that its catchy and it makes you bob your head. And I liked it!

Anyway that’s all for now. But I have recently downloaded the new Minsk record and I can’t wait to start listening to that. So you can expect a review of that shortly. Also I’m going to start a new thing with my posts where I say a something about stuff thats going on at the end… you’ll see.

Until next time… keep waging war on Kitsch! 

Hill of Yage

This week I’ve been listening to: Isis – Wavering Radiant

This week I’ve been watching: Peep show season 3 and re-watched Punch Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson = genious)

This week I’ve been reading: Finished “Homage To Catalonia” by George Orwell and now am starting the Dune series… gonna be a long hawl.

 

click the picture for a link to Odium's webpage

click the picture for a link to Odium's webpage

 

 

So I’m back from touring the east coast and thought I’d take time out of this glorious day to stay in a dark room and write about some local metal. Fitting don’t you think? As promised in the first post I’m gonna talk about a local Guelph band that has been recently signed to “Year Of The Sun.” 

I had the opportunity to see these guys at the Vinyl and spoke to every member including the lead singer who was ill at the time with a nagging cold. So, I was eager to hear his voice on a recording to get the full effect of the band. Also, the sound at the vinyl always sounds suspect to me unless you get a really big band coming through. So with all those variables it was impossible to get a good grasp on the artistic vision, (if any) and over all quality of the band. Needless to say, I had to come at the album with fresh ears. 

My first listen to this album was in the back seat of a car with three other guys. All three are into the genre and one follows and studies it closely. The reaction was a unanimous, “Ummmm let’s put the i-pod back on shuffle,” after about three songs. Once again though, it’s hard to really know what an artist is trying to do on an album in the the back seat of a car, although my initial reaction was not positive in anyway. I have since listened to it on my mixing speakers twice where the picture and  vision of the album came perfectly clear to me.   

The album starts out with the cliche metal production tool of the creepy intro into fast generic metal. Something we’ve all heard from bands like Metallica, Sepultura, Slayer, Children of Bodom, and the list goes on. The first song is called “Oblivion’s Gates.” Whiuch is just one example on the record of, not too subtle imagery notorious in all bands that strive as hard as they can to be “Metal”. I did, of course, find myself bobbing my head right off the bat to the fast guitars and constant double kick. But even for someone who lives and die’s by the heavy guitar and fast drums, that initial reaction I get to almost any metal was quickly quashed by the verse, chorus, verse, chorus, and half time breakdowns that anyone expects and now rolls their eyes at if they know anything about the genre. I would normally comment on lyrics from song to song and break them down as they pertain to the music specifically. But the lyrics throughout this record are just regurgitated so I will talk about them all in a later paragraph.

The album moves on from the first song to two more of pretty much the same vibe and caliber. Lamb of God verses into pop-metal chorus into a generic breakdown bridge with growl.  The fourth song however is worth commenting on for one very upsetting reason. It is (even more than the rest of the album) almost stolen directly from Lamb Of God. The riff (which is actually pretty bad ass) that comes in at about a minute is way too similar to a couple of Lamb Of God riffs. The one that comes immediately to my head is the break down riff near the beginning of “Break You” on the “Ashes Of The Wake” record and the first song on the “Wrath” record.  And although I’m not going to call Lamb Of God unique and groundbreaking, they are at this point the quintessential band in the genre and therefore come to mind when I see this kind subliminal (hopefully) plagiarism.

The title track “At The Bottom” is also worth mentioning for a couple of reasons. It, like all the others, has no real attempt to be unique in anyway. But it does have a lot of good things going for it. It’s the only song that has the catchy vocal line that has you singing after the record is done. The lyric “You can’t fix the broken and make them whole again. I’ll trust in you to leave me at the bottom.” is a pretty catchy melody and, for better or worse, has the same sort of impact that bands like “Evanescence,”  “Lacuna Coil,” or Killswitch Engage use to sell into the platinum numbers. This in general is the main strength of the band. The long melodic vocals that sit above the heavy guitars in the chorus. The problem with this writing technique is that they abuse it horribly and there are always issues with reproducing that effect live. I’ll talk about that a bit more later. 

The rest of the album is pretty much the same as the first. They have their style set and don’t deviate at all from it…. EVER! Some songs like the vibe leading out of “The Failure” are cool. But it leads strait into riffs that, once again are border line stolen from grind bands like Lamb Of God. The other thing i notice when I was getting further into the album is the placement of hooks. They are always placed within the first forty five seconds of the song. That exact same thing is the killer of every decent metal band. It was the different between the the glorious Metallica records of the early 80’s and the over produced records following “And Justice For All”. Granted, Metallica went from selling 100 000 copies of their record to selling over a million copies of the black album. But they also lost all credibility in the real underground metal scene which the used to dominate. Basically if you are writing the kind of “metal” that relies on the catchy hook at 30 seconds it loses all credibility as “metal.” If this is the route you choose to go than you are no better than the four o’clock after-school, much-music, pop hit of the week. Or to put it bluntly… selling out before you’ve even had a chance to really make a name for yourself.

The record ends much like it began which the strait up speed metal. Taking their queues from Lamb Of God once again. The last intense song, “Need To Exist” is probably the biggest example. This song hurt me physically. Although it had the quick metal changes and good drum fills linking the various sections, the song is the definition of generic. You want to tell them to stop by the end. If it wasn’t for the choruses with the attempt to be catchy I would have no doubt that Lamb Of God’s lawyers would be at their door ready to take legal action. The last song is the only none grind song on the album which creates a cool vibe and is a decent ending, but still very far from the category of unique. 

Individually, It’s clear that all the members, accept maybe the bass player, can hold it down! (nothing against the bass player it’s just hard to make an assessment on something that isn’t really even there) The guitar players can both play the fast riffs with the best of them and the singer clearly has some skills as he shows he can do a lot with his voice from growling to screaming to singing and beyond. In this genre though, you have to have a sick drummer. Odium’s drummer, Joe Mullen, clearly shows he is up to the task both on the album and in the live scenario. His beats, of course, can’t make up for the song-writing but at least helps to keep the listener involved with something going on. But you can only do so much from behind the kit and where Odium really lacks is song-writing. Which leads me to my next point of interest… lyrics!

My mom always told that if I didn’t have anything nice to say… just shut the hell up. So basically I’m going to keep it short. The lyrics are the most random compilation of metal cliches you could possibly imagine. One line has no continuity to the next and it all seems like a bunch of lines that might make the band seem as “Metal” as possible just thrown next to each other. I could rant about this subject for a long time so I’m going to stop. But I’ll leave you with some examples that are sure to make you roll your eyes.

“Let go of my hand – You’ll never stop this – Give me the shape to create life and I’ll make you a gun”

“She’s the only one that could save me – I know your concrete heaven – a prison for my mind”

“If i could breathe again I’d look down at the writing on the wall”

“My mind’s a feeding ground – You were the only star in this place of ashes”

I could go on but you get the idea. A whole lot of trying to deep and coming up massively short. You can be “metal” without resorting to the darkest creepiest lyrics that come to your head. I’d like to show Thomas some Lye By Mistake, Isis, or Between The Buried and Me (if he hasn’t heard them already) To prive that point. I wonder if perhaps some of the the time spent on the obvious over-production of the music on this album could have been spent on the lyrics. But thats just one issue i have with the production. It looks like Greg Dawson was the primary guy in charge of everything on this record as he gets credit as the producer, executive producer, engineer, mixer and mastering engineer. The mix and the engineering in general on this record is pretty solid. There are almost no complaints on my end with the sounds. The guitars are huge, the drums are in your face, and the vocals sounds the way they should in every section. My only issues with the mix is that the guitar tones never change, the drums sound like over-confined plastic, and the bass is barely there. All these problems are inherent to the genre. You put it any strait up grind band’s album you’re going to hear the classic “wooden paddle smacking the top of a large slab of butter” sounding kick drum and a complete lack of bass. I shouldn’t say lack of bass. It’s there and you can tell it’s there but no effort is made to give it its own identity in any way. Which also stems from poor song-writing. So the record sounds good but if Greg Dawson had a heavy hand in the production of the actual songs themselves then i have issue with his work there. The song structure was made exactly like a pop song in every track. Even if Greg changed nothing in the songs, a decent producer should have red flagged the never ending monotonous song-structure and regurgitation that is everywhere on the album. A true high class professional producer would have instantly cut about seven songs off of the record and told the band to spend another few months on writing and pre-production until the have a product that’s worth while. The difference of live vocals to studio version in this band was huge as well. I give props to Greg for making the vocals sound dirty during the heavy parts and big and spacious during the choruses. But the problem is, no one else in the band does the vocal thing. So live it sounds empty in a lot of parts. There are also many sections where there was an obvious usage of elastic time or some other waveform stretching tool as many times you could here a vocal note that has been unnaturally elongated. Which will also lead to massive empty spots ion the live show. Also, someone (probably the executive producer) should have also stopped the horrible art work from being printed. I mean… five guys in cloaks standing in the mist isn’t exactly the most unique metal cover. They might as well have put a skull with a snake crawling through the eye socket in the cover.

Overall as a first effort from a band it’s a pretty solid album. They show some decent potential as a band and if they can grow and show some variation in their song-writing they may have a bright future as the band obviously has some skill. Although this record will never be listened to again by me or likely anyone else who owns a Lamb Of God record, I can’t wait to see where they will take their sound on the next recording. If they get the chance to make one. Look for this record at a used CD store near you in the coming months or save your money and spend it on the new Mono album which I am still obsessing over. Hymn To The Immortal Wind has over 2o plays already in my itunes. 

So that’s what I thought of the debut album from Odium. I hope it wasn’t too harsh as I know all the dudes are great guys and are super nice. I also know they have a copy of our record. So fire right back if you want to guys!

Thats all for now… I may go on to Isis’ new record for the next review as I have not heard it yet and although they are one of the best post-metal bands out there, the word on the street isn’t very good for their newest release. 

Thanks for reading,

Hill

 

click the picture for an album promo video

click the picture for an album promo video

Well seeing as this is my first post I thought I’d mention a couple of things about myself and where I’m coming from with respect to the reviews I will be doing in the future. Really there’s not much to know, I graduated from the world-famous Music Industry Arts program at Fanshawe College. I play in a progressive/post-rock band called The Yage Letters. The link to our site is just on the right there.

 

When it comes to art, and in particular music and film, I have 2 main creeds. First and foremost I believe that there is a monumental difference between personal preference and artistic quality. The inability for people to come to grips with this fact is a substantial fault in our society. One needs to be able to admit that they like something that has no artistic value in any way.  One also needs to accept the fact that a piece of well thought-out, artistically written art may not be their proverbial cup of tea. And that, by the way, is fine! There are a ton of albums and films out there are brilliant that I just don’t like all that much, but I’m still not going to be afraid to call them wonderful and important pieces of art.

 

The second is that no matter what genre of film or music you look at there are always decent artists doing something. One cannot impugn an entire genre of any kind wholly. This also comes back to my first creed. One’s preference may not be country, (in my case) death metal, folk, or whatever, but it’s downright outrageous to say there is nothing of value in any genre. There are literally hundreds of thousands of different people playing every genre or music and making every different type of film. Therefore if you dig deep enough, by the laws of nature and physics someone has to be doing something worthwhile!

 

So my goal with this blog is pretty strait forward. I feel like I have the knowledge and the general perspective to be able to talk about albums and films in matter that I’d like to share with others. I’m also one that is always talking about different works from both mediums to excess with friends and family, so I figure this may be a good way to save both parties from unnecessary rants and praise.

 

For my first review I was planning on doing a local metal act’s first major release. But then I listened to the newest album from a Japanese instrumental band signed to Temporary Residence. I’m talking, of course, about Mono.  I simply have to talk about this record for a number of reasons. Not the least is that it’s an easy start to the blog as I have been a fan of Mono since a good friend and band mate burned me a copy of their 2003 release from the same label called “One More Step And You Die”.  Since then I have been studying their catalogue and got a chance to see them at the Opera House last year where I witnessed one of the most powerful performances I had ever seen and will likely ever see again.

 

Promo shot for "You Are There" album

Promo shot for "You Are There" album

 

Their new album is called “Hymn To The Immortal Wind”, a concept album that parallels an epic love story. This album has more layers and imagery than I ever will be able to comprehend. It moves effortlessly between dark and light, joyful and heartbreaking, and evokes more emotion than any album I have ever experienced. The story, to me is told two different ways. One moves forward and one is moving from the end to the beginning as the contrasting imagery of life and death and the journey towards both is being shown.

 

The first time I heard the album I got a sense of a story moving backwards starting with death and finishing with life. I got the sense of being slowly drawn into someone’s life at their last breath and they are remembering the epic journey they took to get there and the one thing that mattered at the end, which was this one person in his life. It’s almost as if his life, though this one person, has flashed before his and our eyes. But after taking in the album, and entering the world that mono has created a number of times, I now see a different picture. I see a story about someone searching for his or her lover through endless trials and hardships but at the same time on a clearly laid out path. Searching with no other direction other than the one right in front of you no matter how hard they try to turn away. But it all seems to be happening in a different life as if both characters have died and are trying to find each other in the after life. But in both stories I get a sense of death leading to life in the end. I’m sure as I listen to this record many more times over the years it will paint many more pictures and tell more and more stories each time.

 

To highlight a couple of songs I’ll start with the first track. The album gets going with one of the five songs on the album that are more than ten minutes long called “Ashes In The Snow.”  The song gives a haunting start to the album with the rustling of the orchestra in their seats and the tapping of the conductor’s baton on his music stand. The song follows the traditional Mono structure for the most part. They establish a theme and without breaking away from it too much they use their dynamics to create a huge amount of intensity and space. It’s over 4 minutes before the song reaches it’s first peek and the extreme opposite right after leaves your body covered in goose bumps through till the end of the song. It’s the perfect start to the story line as it is the most reflective and emotional song but with a sense of hope at the end as well. At almost eight minutes, where the song finally gets to it’s ultimate peek we hear Yasunori Takada’s unique drums style that is pummeling yet still creates space and supports the overall size of the guitars and strings so well. It’s a hard song to top but the rest of the album follows it perfectly.

 

It is a concept record but each song has it’s own vibe as far as dynamics and theme. That being said tracks two and three I feel go together more than any others. Track two, entitled “Burial At Sea,” is the definition of a good strong build and should be an example in textbooks and music classrooms everywhere on how to do just that. When it reaches its’ ultimate peek at almost eight and a half minutes the drums are about as powerful a they come on any record. Tamaki Kunishi’s huge bass chords provide an enormous backdrop for everyone else throughout the record, but she is especially noticeable at the end of this song. She meshes perfectly with the drums allowing both guitars to create that vintage mono intensity throughout. When the song makes the transition to the six minute track called “Silent Flight Sleeping Dawn” its barely noticeable that the track even changed as it moves into a beautiful string and piano driven track that seems to be there almost in support or the second part of the conversation started in “Burial At Sea.” The strings and overall beauty of the song is enough to make you want to weep and is a nice break from the surrounding songs that are so intense it’s hard to have one after another.

 

The whole album is one massive highlight and every song has it’s own unique flavour. But in order to save some time I’ll just mention a couple things about the middle tracks. “Follow The Map” has perhaps the most gorgeous slide guitar I have ever heard, as “Yoda” and Takaakira “Taka” Goto are complete masters of their instrument throughout. The last song “Everlasting Light” is the perfect song to end on, and probably my favourite on the album. The hypnotic piano at the beginning with the effortless drone of the guitars is all that’s needed to draw you into the world this song creates and never let you go. It has probably the most unique and interesting chord progression on the album as well, straying a bit from the strait up major vibe of most of the album. It’s called “Everlasting Light” and I wish it were everlasting. It’s only ten and a half minutes long yet could easily be double that. They do such a magnificent job of building this song until the very end where the punishing climax of the whole album, followed by the immediate silence, leaves your body in chills for minutes afterwards. You feel like you’ve just been on a long journey and have had a shared experience with the band, the orchestra, the writers, and anyone else who worked on the album.

 

Speaking of working on the album, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t talk a bit about the production. This is the area on every record where I find it’s easiest to be picky and find fault, and believe me I was looking. I knew I would have a biased opinion coming into the record cause I was already a big fan of the band, so I was going through as closely as I could looking for any fault. And although at times there were aspects of the production I would have done differently, there is not even one mistake or bad decision. The album was recorded all analogue and you can tell. The warmth of the tape is the perfect compliment to this massive sound. The confined nature of pro-tools is something they did not want on the album that much is clear. It’s one of the most natural sounding records I’ve heard in a long time as you can hear the orchestra move in their seats during quieter parts along with the conductor talking at points.

 

The panning is basic. Yoda on one side, Takka on the other, and Tamaki up the middle at most points. That being said there is way more going on in the spectrum than you initially hear as different parts of the orchestra move in and out. The glockenspiel is also panned quite cool as individual notes will ping pong back and forth in the spectrum. As far as tone goes, as always, Mono are the best. They have some of most magnificent guitar tones around. I guess I also owe partial thanks and credit to Fender for that. As a lot of the spring reverb is obviously Fender and I’m sure they use Fender guitars throughout the record as the play Stratocasters, Mustangs, and Jaguars live. The bass tone, although it doesn’t change much, is the massive consistent undercurrent they need in every song and it is mixed perfectly for the guitars to rest on ever so gently.

 

Overall I really can’t say enough good things about this record. The writing, instrumentation, musicianship, production, and everything in between are nothing short of perfect. To me this is like Mono’s “Dark Side Of The Moon”.  It sounds to me like they have accomplished everything that they set out to do and maybe didn’t have the backing or time to do in their past records. It will go down in history as Mono’s quintessential album and establishes them, in my view, as the quintessential band in the genre. Not to take anything away from bands like Explosions In The Sky or A Silver Mount Zion, but this record separates Mono from all else. They are beyond post-rock now and should just be considered 21st century classical. There has never been an album that matches the sheer epic scale and size of this record. To put it bluntly it is one of the most important albums of all time! It’s one that must be listened to by anyone who enjoys well-written music. It might be a hard one to find in stores, but you can get a hard copy on CD or vinyl on their website for $12 and $20 respectively. If you’re ok with a digital copy it’s on iTunes for $9.99, and of course there are a few decent torrents out there. Normally I am not only ok with downloading but encourage it to avoid supporting major labels. But this is one that I strongly encourage to buy a hard copy of. This band, and the label they are on for that matter, is worth spending the money in order to give them the support!

 

So that’s all I have to say about that record. Later on in the week I will put up a review of, Odium’s first release called “At The bottom.”

 

Peace,

 

Hill