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

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