Deftones – Live: Volume I: Selections From Adrenaline

Deftones – Live: Volume I: Selections from Adrenaline

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Record Store Day arrived with a new vinyl release from Deftones, an American alternative metal band. Live: Volume I: Selections from Adrenaline is the first release in a series of vinyl releases by the band. The idea is to release one of these for every studio album, each month. The vinyl includes 3 songs from the band’s debut album, Adrenaline, and also one B-Side called “Teething”. All four songs are recorded live, and taken from a concert back in 1996.

The sound quality is surprisingly good, and the songs sound really raw and energetic. Deftones had a more simple sound back when they started, but the material on this vinyl shows flashes of brilliance, that would later come on albums like Around the Fur and White Pony. The quality of the songs themselves is another question. Generally it often takes a band one or two albums to really get going, and in this case it’s easy to overlook the songs as being juvenile or unpolished, because the songs are not bad. I would say the strength of this release is that it gives you an experience of how Deftones sounded when they were a new band, touring for their first album.  Things have evolved since, and the band has undoubtedly become a much better band, but the early songs are charming, and they still work. “Engine No.09” finishes off the vinyl, and it was being performed live by the band on a regular basis as recently as 2010.

As a standalone Deftones release, this is a pretty great vinyl. The band has made better music, but it features interesting performances of some of the best songs from their debut album being played live. It’s a unique and charming release. It’s even more interesting now to see what they will do with the Around the Fur and White Pony vinyl next.

Standout Tracks: Engine No.09, Minus Blindfold, Nosebleed

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The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

The Knife – Shaking the Habitual

The Knife's Shaking the Habitual Artwork Revealed

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It has been called “The 2013 equivalent of The Seer”, and finally after 7 years of waiting, a new The Knife album is here. The Swedish duo consists of siblings Karin and Olof Dreijer, and they have been making electronic music together since the late 90’s/early 00’s . The previous album, Silent Shout received a lot of positive feedback when it came out in 2006, and following it up would not be an easy task. Shaking the Habitual however doesn’t try to follow in the footsteps of what the duo has done before, but instead they use the album to explore new territories. In fact, Shaking the Habitual is almost twice as long as it’s predecessor.

Shaking the Habitual is a sonic journey through different electronic genres, and the duo leads us through industrial sounds reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails, ambient sections with a hint of drone, topped off with vocals from Karin which sounds very similar to Björk. It’s impressive how cohesive and consistent the album is considering the wide amount of influences and the length of the album. Clocking in at roughly 96 minutes, Shaking the Habitual is the most ambitious album the duo has created, and getting into it might be a challenge for some.

The first song on the album is a fairly straightforward one. “A Tooth For an Eye” is a catchy song with really cool percussion-work and pretty fun synth sounds. It’s a nice little tune that could possibly be one of the hits from the album, but the following song “Full of Fire” marks one of the highlights on the first CD. The vocals are slightly more distorted, and there is a constant groove in the music that seems to build over 9 minutes. It seems like a much darker song than the opener, and there are hints at really experimental sounds that will appear later on the album. “Wrap Your Arms Around Me” is another very interesting song on the first disc, and it has a strong industrial vibe to it. Dark and dreary landscapes with a sound not that far away from what Nine Inch Nails did with The Downward Spiral. The last song on this CD works almost like an intermission between the two discs. “Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized” is a 19 minute long instrumental ambient/drone piece. This song certainly won’t be for everyone, but if you’re listening with headphones, this song is probably one of the most epic experiences of the album. A lot of subtle things happening, and it creates a very creepy atmosphere.

When you make a long album, or in this case a double album, you really need to have a strong second half. The first songs often get stuck first, and in some cases you tend to drift off towards the end of the album, so it really needs to hold up. Shaking the Habitual continues on a high note through most of the second disc. “Raging Lung” and “Stay Out Here” are two highlights on the album, and the latter has a really epic buildup with some really twisted synths, resulting in a very inventive sound. But when it comes to the album being experimental, it really reaches its peak of weirdness on the track “Fracking Fluid Injection”. It’s one of the most bizarre and avant-garde songs I have heard in quite a while, and it almost comes off as being more of a message. “You made it this far into the album without a problem? Let’s put that to the test with this song”. The song can best be described as having weird sounds and weird vocals. This is really the only weak point on this album, and I still appreciate it for the artistic idea behind it, even if the music in it is rather… out there.

Shaking the Habitual is an experience you shouldn’t miss. The album is long and experimental, and it won’t be for everyone, but just checking it out will be rewarding. It might take five or ten spins before it fully clicks, but it’s worth it. This might very well be the best album of 2013 so far.

Standout Tracks: Full of Fire, Wrap Your Arms Around Me, Old Dreams Waiting to Be Realized, Stay Out here.

Album Review – Infestissumam by Ghost

Ghost – Infestissumam

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Il Padre

Il Filio

Et Lo Spiritus Malum

Omnis Caelestis

Delenda Est

 

Anti Cristus

Il Filio De Sathanas

INFESTISSUMAM

 

If this haunting, Latin based chant is the first thing you hear upon pressing the play button on your media player of choice, then you’ve begun your journey into the densely ritualistic and heavily Satanic world that is Ghost (or Ghost B.C., depending on which pseudonym you’d rather refer them). Welcome, and Hail Satan.

For those with very little knowledge of the band you are about to experience, it might be best to understand a bit of their “back story”. Ghost are a Swedish metal band who always prove to be an interesting group to describe, as most people who decide to weasel a conversation out of you on the bus while you clearly have headphones stuffed in your ears will think you are bat shit nutty to be listening to a band who’s primary vision is to take the stage playing the part of “Devil Worshipper”.

But that’s just it exactly, Ghost play a part and they do it well. Whether it is through writing music heavily drenched in Satanic and evil forces or by taking the stage dressed as the “Anti-Pope”, this band goes all out, and they haven’t looked back once.

And I mean, who’s going to argue with a man dressed as the “Anti-Pope”.

So, with the introduction out of the way let’s get to the real meat of all of this. Infestissumam. Is it good? Did it live up to the hype that Ghost’s debut effort, Opus Eponymous, left us with? Well, before I go any further I just want to be blunt to the potential naysayers who already have a pre-disposition to dislike Ghost. If Opus Eponymous didn’t have you giving off a stupid grin on your face from the ridiculous amount of Satanic imagery or if the Mercyful Fate meets Blue Oyster Cult sound didn’t work for you, it’s probably safe to say that Infestissumam is not going to be for you. But for the rest, you are in for a damn good time that warrants many repeated listens and will probably have you jamming out in the shower shouting “Hail Satan!” during Year Zero (source: I take showers).

This sophomore release from the ever growing Swedish doom outfit only shows that Ghost is back once again and they have no intention of disappearing into the ether any time soon. Infestissumam is good. Really fucking god damn good.

It’s impressive to see a band who have already taken enough risks as it is, to continue this trend and not come off as stale or burnt out. You’d think that after one full album based around calling forth the dark forces of hell that only nightmares can comprehend, that many might ask for something new and fresh. Thankfully for Ghost, it is clear there was a conscious thought to do both. What they deliver to the listeners is probably one of the most promising concept albums of 2013.

The albums primary theme is the coming of the “Anti-Christ”  and welcoming in the evil soon to be bestowed upon humanity. A musical theme off-putting to many, but natural to just about any metalhead who’s been through their fair share of Deicide records and mosh pits. However, musically, it’s best to not expect anything even remotely as intense and destructive as Deicide’s musical output.

The most popular description of Ghost’s sound has always been “Take Mercyful Fate, get rid of the high-pitched vocals and mash it together with some Blue Oyster Cult. Let sit for 2-3 minutes for the contents might still be hot”. At least, that’s how I would describe Opus Eponymous. Infestissumam, while stylistically similar to the debut, manages to be its own album while maintaining that sound and atmosphere. Like I said, this album takes risks musically. From the Black Sabbath-esque riffs that viciously attack the listener during Per Aspera Ad Inferi, to the sounds of circus music heard on Secular Haze, to the piano ballad like section of Ghulel/Zombie Queen, there is a wide selection of music to dissect and keep your ear open for on this album. This sense of freshness is what really keeps this album going for its 47 minute runtime. There’s enough variety to help drive the album’s continual theme of heavily Satanic lyrical content.

Ghost are proving to be a very unique piece of the metal community. With two extremely strong records under their belt, and what I consider one of the best live shows money can buy, this band’s ever growing popularity is encouraging. It’s refreshing to see a group of musicians pursue their artistic vision, regardless of how taboo and bizarre. Infestissumam is the perfect indication of how Ghost are going about their journey as musicians and artists. I say more power to them as long as we keep getting output as strong as this.

Highlight tracks – Per Aspera Ad Inferi, Year Zero, Jigolo Har Megiddo

Hail Satan, everyone.

-Alex Sylvester

The Dear Hunter – Migrant

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To escape.. to escape

Brainchild of Casey Crescenzo, The Dear Hunter, has never been known as a musical project that creates the same thing twice. After three immensely well received Acts albums, and a gargantuan EP project released in 2011 entitled The Color Spectrum it seemed that there was nothing that Crescenzo and his musical brain couldn’t do. Less than two years after the release of the Spectrum, The Dear Hunter is back with a new album that is centered around its frontman’s personal life. 

This lush, yet dense offering opens with “Bring You Down” a track which flows outwards from a morphing string maelstrom and grabs the listener right from the beginning. The album’s lead single, “Whisper” immediately kicks in afterwards and by the time its chorus arrives it’s quite impossible to be anything but enamored by Crescenzo’s knack for churning out songs that are musically interesting, yet catchy beyond comprehension.

Two more songs that were debuted prior to the albums drop, “Shame” and “An Escape” continue to pelt the listener with bluesy and intense vibes that leave the audience begging for more. “Kiss of Life” becomes the album’s first ballad, which after about a minute of emotive crooning explodes into a warm, passionate chorus. As the song continues, it becomes more and more rhythmically complex, keeping the audience held up by the lapels.

One of the clear standout tracks on this record is certainly the moody, wonky “Girl”. Completely new territory for Crescenzo, it is clear that there will be no wavering as he continues on his seemingly unstoppable musical journey.The female vocals on this track (performed by none other than Casey’s sister Azia Crescenzo) give the song an interesting twist that hasn’t yet been heard on a Dear Hunter track. The back-and-forth between the siblings is one of the album’s shining moments, and the final minute of this track will leave virtually anyone listening besides themselves.

“Cycles” seems to be the next step in the musical progression that has been created with the Blue EP, as it is awash with reverb guitars, and features a musical finale that hearkens back to “What You Said”. The album continues into another ballad, “Sweet Naiveté”. This track is predominately a piano/string piece who’s vocals feel like a slow, gentle waltz, in a vein not all unlike some of the less angsty tunes off Act III.

The band finishes the album strong with a 1-2-3 punch that is started with what is bound to become a live staple, “Let Go”. Launching into one of the most singable choruses the band has, this track not only has some of Crescenzo’s most dazzling vocal performances, but has perhaps one of the most memorable melodies the band has ever crafted.

If anyone was upset or worried that not diving right back into the Acts after The Color Spectrum might be a bad idea, they need not worry. Casey Crescenzo has once again proven that he is capable of quickly turning out a handful of beautifully crafted pieces which will without a doubt stand alongside with the best of whatever 2013 has to offer.

Standout tracks: “Whisper”, “Shame”, “Girl”, “Let Go”

Beach House – Bloom (2012)

Beach House – Bloom (2012)

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It’s a strange paradise

Beach House is a dream pop duo from Baltimore, formed in 2004 and consists of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally. Since the beginning of their career, the band had put out three studio albums before the latest one, Bloom came out last year in 2012.  The previous album, Teen Dream was a bit of a breakthrough album for the duo when it was released in 2010 and as a result, Bloom went on to sell 41 000 copies within the first week of its release.

Bloom is a logical continuation of Teen Dream, and it follows down the path of catchy choruses, beautiful melodies and a very rich sound. Beach House has been compared to the classic band Cocteau Twins, and there might very well be a small influence there. One big difference is that Beach House has strong Indie-vibe in their sound. They fill a void in the current world of popular music since dream pop is not a very common music style compared to other genres.

Bloom starts off with a very solid four-song run that just becomes better and better with each song. “Myth” is the first one which has a slightly darker atmosphere than some of the other songs on the album, but it has very memorable melodies with some great guitars and a catchy chorus. During the first four songs each song gets better than the previous, and it escalates on “Other People” which has one of the best choruses on the whole album. The verses are excellent, but the chorus is really what lifts the song. It has a great use of guitars, keyboards and catchy vocals, resulting in one of the best moments on the album.

The second half of the album was slightly harder to get into, but more rewarding when it finally clicked. Most of the songs follow in the pattern of having really catchy and well written melodies, but you need more than just a good chorus to make a good song. Luckily that is the case with these songs, and the end of the album is possibly the best part of the whole album. “On the Sea” stands out as being slightly different from the other songs, fewer layers and less keyboards resulting in a more straightforward sound on that song. The closing track “Irene” is the big highlight on the album, and everything has been leading up to it. The 17 minutes of runtime might confuse you because about half of it is silence with a hidden track at the end. Personally I would not have mind if the song was actually 17 minutes, the way it builds and escalates with Victoria singing “It’s a strange paradise”, that part alone could have gone on for 5 more minutes and I would have been happy.

Bloom is another sensational album by Beach House, and it is one of the better releases from 2012 without a doubt. If you are into indie music or like pop with catchy melodies and vocals, make sure you check out Beach House.

Standout tracks: Irene, Other People, Wishes, Troublemaker, Lazuli.

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

My Bloody Valentine – m b v

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My Bloody Valentine is a band that needs absolutely no introduction. The arrival of the newest album from the infamous shoegaze band, m b v, was destructive enough to nearly tear apart the entire fabric of the internet.

The band’s legacy is already firmly cemented with Loveless, an album which is often called one of the greatest albums ever released. The reaction to m b v will do nothing to change that in any way. It’s almost ridiculous to try to qualitatively compare any subsequent release from My Bloody Valentine to that album. Hell, I wouldn’t even try to compare anything in the entire shoegaze genre to Loveless. I suspect that some of this celebration of Loveless, as well as the massive anticipation for m b v, is due to the fact that My Bloody Valentine has not released a single note in 21 years. That fact alone can certainly change a lot of people’s perceptions about a band.

Comparisons of quality aside, m b v picks up right where Loveless left off. The band certainly knows how to handle fan expectations, because most of these songs sound like they could have been released in 1993, meaning they could be a natural progression from Loveless. Both “She Found Now” and “Only Tomorrow” are fantastic opening songs, which follow right in line with what My Bloody Valentine was trying to accomplish in the 90s.

Eventually the album does change it up with “Is This and Yes,” which is one the most unique tracks My Bloody Valentine has ever done. There are no drums to speak of whatsoever, and the entire song is just synth chords and Kevin Shields singing. At first it’s a very jarring transition, but the atmosphere created by these songs does grow.

“New You” is musically a great song, featuring traditional My Bloody Valentine pop catchiness. The lyrics which consist of “doo doo doo doo doo” may tire and bore certain listeners, but for the most part it fits with their overall sound. “In Another Way” again sounds like a traditional My Bloody Valentine song, but much more aggressive, which makes it way more interesting. It features a fascinating drum beat that gets busier as the song progresses. The synth chords that pound in the background remind the listener of “Sometimes.”

My Bloody Valentine is a legendary band; that status cannot be in question. With these things in mind, it almost brings m b v into a different context. This album can only further solidify the band’s greatness, not take away from it. Some fans may have wanted the album to be more similar to Loveless, some may have wanted something entirely different, or maybe some thought that this was just right. Either way, m b v is a more than worthy addition to the band’s catalog.

Standout tracks: She Found Now, Only Tomorrow, Is This and Yes, In Another Way