Thursday, January 28, 2010

Lostprophets - The Betrayed

One of the Valleys' finest Lostprophets have returned with The Betrayed - album number 4. It's the follow up to the word beating Liberation Transmission which saw them conquer many an unruly height in its cycle. So begins a new chapter in the Lostprophets tale, how does it fare? Click HERE to find out.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Korn track

A rough mix of a new Korn track has surfaced online. The band has been cooped up recording with old partner in crime, producer Ross Robinson. Allegedly the band has been revisiting their young roots, especially considering Robinson was the man behind their first two, enormously imperative records.

This new track is supposedly entitled 'My Time'. At this moment in time record companies and management are scurrying across the web removing these leaked clips.

Immediately making itself known is that this track does lunge into the past as it’s bustling with that old school aggression. It’s heavy as tits and that ever missed rasp in Jonathan Davis’ voice has returned. The album is slated for a release in the first quarter of 2010. By this it looks good.

This clip may stop working after a while, but for now is working fine.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Idioms to the lions

There’s a phrase that you’re, more than likely, familiar with to some degree. It has been pervading the sphere of metal for a number of years now. The term to which is being alluded is “Christian metal”.

In a frustrating and outright irksome manner this phrase has morphed superciliously into a sub-genre of its own. But the ugly truth is that it’s utterly ludicrous to assume that a word referring to set of beliefs can describe a band’s entire sound and style, and with that, appoint a weighty and infuriating burden upon their unwilling shoulders. But, how did this notion come to the fore?

Well, many would blame Stryper, the band who are accountable for some journalist(s) coining the, thankfully rarely used, term “white metal”. Formed in 1983, the band played a style easily paralleled to the glam dominance of the time, but instead of Girls Girls Girls, you had track titles like 'To Hell With The Devil' and 'In God We Trust'. Despite some reasonable attention, for many they were an amusing entity and in many respects that is true as in actuality, Stryper have been essentially a tepid, minute blip on the screen, and even remained so after their reunion in 2003.

But in more later times and with far more relevance to now, one must look at Living Sacrifice. Reforming only in 2008 after their original split in 2005, Living Sacrifice are a ruthless force of chaotic metal with dashes of death and thrash, but they’ve been dealt this unfortunate card of “Christian metal”. Granted, they are Christians, their lyrics are overtly religious, upholding strong Christian beliefs and damning the heathens etc. etc. An example of this is in the track, 'Reject' with the lyrics, ‘Not God, reject. Reject all lies. Rebuke, take hold. Intrepid Spirit of God.’ But just because of your lyrical subject matter, should it determine the name of the tag that the press and fans put on you? If so, by that, far too in depth and bluntly, fastidious logic Rage Against The Machine could be called something makeshift and inane like Political Angst Rock. Hell, Protest The Hero’s Fortress album would fall under Genghis Khan/Goddess Worship/Irish Mythology metal. Point made.

From the 00s on, “Christian Metal” is more associated with many mainstream metal acts, like As I Lay Dying and Underoath, who are enjoying some huge mainstream success. They’re on massive tours and have surprisingly high record sales in an age when people just aren’t buying albums. Yet you’ll still find an irritating exchange of words in many a conversation when some people are trying to describe them: “What are they like?” - “Christian metal.”

It’s a lazy cataloguing of music that grows more and more in this time where everything needs to fit snugly into specific boxes. Sure, As I Lay Dying are far from being a ground breaking act in their creative outpour of late. Artistically, they share the same, now inundated, vein as a lot of similar bands. But they still retain their own distinct edge that made them a fairly inventive band at the release of Beneath The Encasing Of Ashes, their debut record in 2001. The harsh repercussion of this explanatory indolence is that fans end up honing in too much on the fact that they’re Christians when discussing their music and attempting to describe it, it shouldn’t play any role.

But the oddest of all the Christian labelling of bands has to be in metal’s most extreme form; black metal. Christian black metal (or sometimes referred to as “Unblack metal”); this phrase has brought many a smirk to black metal purists’ face and to be honest you can’t blame them. Bands such as this include Horde from Australia. However, that’s not to say that a Christian playing black metal is laughable. But the purists will vehemently argue that what keeps this genre’s dark heart beating is abhorrence for religion and allegiance to Satanism or sometimes Paganism. The church burners will agree. The murderer Varg Vikerness will agree. With that still in mind, it is with boisterous candour that we should exclaim that times have changed.

Black metal was born from the, than original jammings of Venom (who actually gave us the term with their second record Black Metal), Mercyful Fate, Bathory and Tom G. Warrior’s early activity in the extraordinarily imperative Hellhammer and eventual Celtic Frost. From there, Norway stepped in and the infamous murders and church burnings of the early 90s occurred. Mayhem, Darkthrone and Burzum were the poster boys of anti-Christianity. But from that early Norwegian scene’s dogma rose the likes of Emperor and Satyricon who eschewed their brethren’s escapades. But the former scene obtained the most notoriety during this time. Their, let’s just be completely honest and have common sense, stupid and immature antics brought fear to people in Norway. They wreaked havoc, all in the name of anti-Christianity and Satanism. But, never have these bands been called Satanic metal, yet Satanism was and is their driving force for the most part. So, why are metal bands of Christian fate so wrongfully tarred? That is the million dollar question.

But let’s return to the topic of subject matter in black metal. Repeat: times have changed. Bands like Absu throughout their career tackled themes like Celtic and Sumerian mythology in their lyrics. In the meantime, everyone’s favourite black metal eco warriors Wolves In The Throne Room stepped away from the cliché. While they don’t print their lyrics Satanism barely registers as a footnote for them. They’ve urged that thematically, nature as well as Shamanism play a more vital role in their music. On our own island, Altar Of Plagues have abstained from typicality with their own elucidations of the ecosystem, urbanisation and oppression.

Black metal has transcended the initial ideology. You don’t have to be a die hard Satanist or purveyor of anti-Christianity to play black metal. Nor do you have to be a “rebellious” teen who thinks that drawing a pentagram on their maths book and adorning corpsepaint makes them kvlt.

But even though this change has occurred it shouldn’t deter bands like that of Gorgoroth, Marduk and 1349 from continuing their barrage of hate fuelled anti-religious rancour. If anything it should compel them to up the ante. Times have changed within the genre and rightfully so. Thus, now the old and new convictions create an enthralling push and pull between the rigid approach of yore and the engrossing experimentation of late. Black metal should not be strictly an ideal but rather a style with ideals open to interpretation which leaves an arena for debate and most importantly, great varied music.

That thought isn’t just for black metal, but all rock and metal. The aforementioned As I Lay Dying and Underoath are now quite big bands. This set of ears deems their success and ever growing fan base to the quality of the music, the work ethic behind their vigorous touring and not giving up. Like any band in their situation it’s earned through years of merciless toil. It’s difficult to imagine an album’s sales sky rocketing because the Pope gave it a thumbs up during the Easter Vigil. An extreme example but again, the point has been made. “Christian metal” has no defining element stylistically, therefore it itself is not a genre. A band of any or no religion can have big riffs, solos, screams and melodies or breakdowns. Lyrics do not determine a classification as was made abundantly clear earlier.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Casshan studio footage

The Longford based metal band Casshan, who recently completed work on their debut record, have released several clips from their time in the studio. You’ll find two such clips below.
The rest of the footage can viewed HERE.

The band recorded the album at Shortstraw studios in Ballina, Co. Mayo. Click HERE to visit the studio’s site for details on recording, equipment, costs etc.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Ihsahn - After

Ihsahn. Ask any well seasoned metal fan that name and the response will ring many a positive reverberation. First hitting the radar with the enormously pioneering and influential black metal act Emperor, as their front man and guitarist, Ihsahn sculpted from the start a massively respectable repute for himself.
After further work with Peccatum, a project with his wife Ihriel and an immense reunion with Emperor, Ihsahn set about his first solo record, 2006’s The Adversary, an engrossing piece of grandiose metal. To follow up that he delivered angL. A superior record in multiple ways, it veered more and more towards heavily progressive and sophisticated musical vistas.

Now, After is the simply breathtaking culmination in this wholly remarkable musician and song-writer’s trilogy.

Shifting seamlessly through varying passages "The Barren Lands" commences After with stunning fret work and throat shredding vocals which move fluently into some smooth elegant clean singing in parts. It’s largely indicative of how effortlessly this collection of songs can switch between tones and moods and not feel even remotely unnatural or contrived.

After has one particularly crucial swerving element and that’s the collaboration with saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby of Norwegian jazz act Shining (not to be confused with Swedish black metal band of the same name). Munkeby sways between styles in his playing, vividly changing from eccentric chaotic blasts to the relaxed and soothing jazz with which his instrument is most associated with. His sundry playing is thoroughly exemplified on the schizophrenic waltz of "A Grave Inversed" as he collides with monolithic riffs. Then, with the extravagant album closer "On The Shores", Munkeby unreels some gorgeously melodic cadences which makes the whole jaunt an utterly captivating one.

"Frozen Lakes On Marks" unhinges with a dazzling guitar lead before launching into a colossal riff capable of budging glaciers. The verses stampede a way through to a sterling chorus exhibiting Ihsahn’s chilling clean vocals.

This third solo offering marks another creative departure, being Ihsahn’s first record written and recorded with 8 string guitars – again, adding more and more layers to an already intricate equation. His ominous guitar dexterity is otherworldly evident with "Undercurrent" having the seismic riffs massed similarly to planets while "Austere" wanders through moodily ethereal verses. Furthermore, the harrowingly clean chorus of the title track and "Heaven’s Black Sea" serve up new dashes of the record’s shivering charm.

After is Ihsahn at his most cerebral and calculating yet, and has him meticulously sculpting out another opus for his trophy room. Atmospherically, After creates a hypnotising milieu akin to a thick misty maze-like forest in which you can and will become completely immersed in.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Swans reunion – it’s official, it’s on!

Reunions were bountiful in the last week about the legendary and massively influential Swans reuniting. But now the master of Swans, Michael Gira has made it official!

The title of their myspace page had been conspicuously changed to Swans Are Not Dead which began the rumours. Michael Gira has now divulged information on the reunion and new album!

“I have decided to focus my energy on Swans once again. I'm reactivating that project. A new album is in the works, and touring will follow in fall of 2010. In order to help raise funds / help defray the considerable costs of recording and promoting the new album, I have made a special CD/DVD limited edition handmade package called 'I Am Not Insane' available exclusively at the YGR website”.

The reincarnated Swans will feature original guitarist Norman Westberg as well as Christopher Hahn who was also active with the band. This is the full line up for Swans:

Michael Gira - guitar, vocals

Norman Westberg - guitar
Christoph Hahn - guitar
Phil Puleo - drums, percussion, dulcimerChris Pravdica – bass and gadgets
Thor Harris - drums, percussion, vibes, dulcimer, curios, keys

Welcome back, Swans!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

New Eluvium tracks

Matthew Cooper, better known under the pseudonym of Eluvium will release its 5th studio album of enriched, textured and elegant ambience at the end of February, entitled Similes. The two new tracks are “Leaves Eclipse The Night” and “The Motion Makes Me Last”. The former can be heard below and the other on the Eluvium myspace HERE.

The one instantly notable aspect of these new servings is the inclusion of Cooper’s vocals, residing along the piano led ambience. On both tracks his voice, though not spectacular, lends a hypnotising and haunting air to his usual atmospheric wanderings. The addition of vocals may alienate some older fans but will certainly open himself up to a whole new audience. Regardless of that, these two fresh numbers have a startlingly relaxing element which only raises the bar for the release of Similes.

Similes will be the follow up to 2007’s Copia and 2008’s Miniatures, the only album he has released under his real name. Cooper has also scored the Matt McCormick directed film Some Days Are Better Than Others.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

What does 2010 hold for Justin K. Broadrick?

Just in case you’re new to these parts, the ever-labouring Justin K. Broadrick is heavily exalted here. The former Napalm Death and Godflesh member and current mastermind behind the elegant weavings of Jesu was kept extremely busy in 2009. He delivered the staggering 50 minute Infinity and the EP Opiate Sun under the Jesu banner. Furthermore he teamed up with Isis front man Aaron Turner for Grey Machine, who released their debut record Disconnected, the sound of which harkened back much to the sound of Streetcleaner-era Godflesh. Finally he furthered some more work on Final. That’s all in an average year for Broadrick, who is producing more mind bogglingly amazing material in 12 months than some bands manage to in 5-10 years.

So, like the title says - What does 2010 hold for Justin K. Broadrick? One thing is clear. At this year’s Hellfest in France, Godflesh are reuniting for a one off show. Needless to say, fans aplenty greeted this news with rapturous elation. But once Hellfest is done what’s next? Granted, it’s a one off show; but Cynic said something similar nearly four years ago and look at them now. Is a full blown Godflesh reunion in the works, and more specifically is there a new album?

But since 2004, Jesu has been Broadrick’s lifeblood. Each EP, album and split he has made under this pseudonym has been an astounding and overwhelming affair, offering something new and fresh every time. Only he has taken the heady influences of My Bloody Valentine and meshed it with his Godflesh and Head Of David days of sonic beauty along with many drone aspects like that of Earth. Every year has been blessed with a new Jesu release big or small. So, hopefully the trend will continue.

Jesu on the live stage has been unfortunately sparse, but Broadrick took the project to the stage last October at the Damnation festival in Leeds, as well as a London show in November. Will 2010 see more Jesu shows? Or more interestingly will Godflesh’s show at Hellfest in front of tens of thousands of people re-ignite the lust for the thrill of the big (more frequent) live show?

Information on whether Grey Machine will be active in 2010 has also been meagre; again nothing has been mentioned about further releases or if the project will play live. Also, Justin has been known for remixing releases from other bands such as Isis, Pelican and Genghis Tron, perhaps the man of many talents will return to the mixing desk again. That said he has produced many of his own work, so it may not come as a surprise if his production skills leap out on to other bands.

Whatever happens, one thing is certain - Justin K. Broadrick will excite one way or another.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Grande Duke - Grande Duke EP

Post rock outfit Grande Duke are set to release their debut self titled EP in the coming weeks. But is it any good? Click HERE to find out.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

New HIM track

HIM return in February with their new record Screamworks: Love In Theory & Practice and “Heartkiller” is its first single.

HIM have always had a very appealing and easy accessibility in their sound but still retained that dark edge that brought them to the dance. But in recent albums the Finns have veered more and more to majority pleasing protocol. Sure, last effort Venus Doom saw the band revisit some darker melancholic roots. But alas, “Heartkiller” is heaving with unabashed poppy hooks and wouldn’t sound out of place on a 80s synth pop record.

However, the state of one track won’t deter the inevitable success of Screamworks: Love In Theory & Practice, with its overall manner still remaining a mystery.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Altar Of Plagues sign with Candlelight Records

Altar Of Plagues are one of the most intriguing and engrossing bands this island has delivered in many years. Melding influences and styles like that of Isis and Neurosis with early black metal as well as some new age experimentalists like Wolves In The Throne Room, their debut record White Tomb was a staggering listen.

Now, after that much lauded effort and many a live show, Candlelight Records, one of the most respected extreme metal labels have signed the Cork band.

The label just made the announcement and the band issued this statement:
"Altar of Plagues are very glad to announce we have signed with Candlelight Records in Europe. We are proud to sit on a roster alongside many bands that we have long admired and that have been a constant source of inspiration for what we do, particularly the likes of Emperor, Enslaved and Blut Aus Nord. We feel Candlelight's aesthetic compliments what we do perfectly and we're looking forward to working alongside them in 2010 and beyond."

This is a massive step forward for the band, one that will see their ambient genre bending excellence reach a whole new audience. Altar Of Plagues are set to release a new EP this year and commence new tours.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

New tracks round up

Ladies and Gents, this is the first post of 2010 and the return of New tracks round up. There’s no better way to kick this year off than having a quick a look at the sneak peaks we have for the mass of new music coming our way this year.

Ihsahn – The Barren Lands
Ihsahn’s third solo effort, After is growing closer and closer each day. “The Barren Lands” is another taster of the album following the monstrous “Frozen Lakes On Mars”. This track is akin to its predecessor in its lofty zenith of quality. It’s replete with razor edged riffs and Ihsahn’s trademark snarl but still that sophisticated progressive surge that has made Ihsahn’s solo work so enthralling.

Annotations Of An Autopsy – Cryogenica
One of the young UK death metal scene leaders Annotations Of An Autopsy are set to release their second album, II: The Reign Of Darkness on January 18th, the follow up to Before The Throne Of Infection. AOAA have fallen under scrutiny from death purists but have since persisted with the craft. If “Cryogenica” is indicative of The Reign Of Darkness’s direction then many a mouth will be shut, it makes its intentions vividly clear with no time to waste – cut throat and heavy as tits.

The band have also proved they have potentially much longevity by catching the attention Hate Eternal’s Erik Rutan (and producer) who has mixed the record and guests on the track “Bone Crown” on the record.

Listen to the track on the band’s myspace HERE.

The Empire Shall Fall
At the tail end of 2009 former Killswitch Engage vocalist Jesse Leach returned with a new band, The Empire Shall Fall, a much heavier and vicious entity than previous band Seemless. The band released their debut album Awaken, and is streaming entirely on the their myspace HERE. The material marks a return to Leach’s sorely missed scream but still retaining his blissfully clean vocals, complementing each wonderfully, almost to the extent that Alive Or Just Breathing did. The Empire Shall Fall are certainly worth keeping an eye on as with new label deals beckoning the name will be popping up again very soon.