Polkadot Cadaver – Last Call in Jonestown Track Review

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Simply put, if you haven’t listened to Polkadot Cadaver yet, you are missing out on the best music you never knew existed. Todd Smith is easily one of the most promising musicians in the business, and this new album is shaping up to be the band’s crowning achievement. Two key members of Polkadot Cadaver, the aforementioned Smith and guitarist Jasan Stepp played in Dog Fashion Disco (with Jasan joining prior to the release of DFD’s magnum opus, “Adultery”), so you already know what an exciting time this is if you’re familiar with that band. Todd and Jasan have been astoundingly prolific these past few years. Since 2011, we’ve had a new PDot album, a debut from Knives Out!, and a second solo release under the name of El-Creepo. And now, they’re poised to release a new Polkadot Cadaver album that threatens to nullify them all.

As far as I’m concerned, Polkadot Cadaver is a continuation of Dog Fashion Disco. Both of Polkadot Cadaver’s albums make this abundantly clear with their zany circus music mixed with groove metal and the occasional disturbing ballad. The most exciting thing about this album so far (aside from the fact that the one song released so far pretty handily blows everything on Sex Offender [2011] clear out of the water) is the pride on display from the contributing members. Following several of the musicians on Facebook, every status for a while was about how “LCiJT is a rager.” or something to that effect. For reference, the pre-release hype from the band has never been this high for any of their other recent projects.

Onto the song itself: The new track is quite possibly the heaviest song the band has ever done. There were moments on PDot’s debut that had a bit of a thrashy edge (What’s the Worst Thing That Could Happen? is the most obvious example), and Knives Out! certainly had its fair share of heavy moments. This song, however, is downright uncompromising in its aggression. While Jasan had a tendency to write simple, groovy riffs that were perfectly headbangable, the riffs here are much more complex yet just as catchy. Smith’s lyrics take a break from sordid love songs and serial killer biopics and instead talk about the infamous massacre from which the song derives its name. Included for good measure is a spoken word passage from what I assume is one of the cult leaders involved in the event. I can already see this song becoming a live favorite with its infectious, “shout-along” chorus. Jasan even tests the waters with a pretty solid guitar solo, which is a very rare occurrence for this band.

As the opening track on the album, this song seems like it’s setting the stage for the remainder of the album in the best way possible. Pre-orders can be found here. There’s a wide variety of bundle options including shirts, stickers, and even a freaking skateboard deck. Dig deep, folks. This is a band that deserves any support you can give them. Last Call in Jonestown releases on May 14th, with the album release party (which I will most certainly be attending) to be held at Peabodys Down Under in Cleveland, OH on May 3rd with special guests Psychostick and Downtown Brown.

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Rishloo – Feathergun (2009)

I have no idea what's going on in this album cover, but it's pretty artsy.

I have no idea what’s going on in this album cover, but it’s pretty artsy.

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Rishloo is a fascinating entity with a very short, sad history. They released three albums before the singer (the strongest link of the band, more on that later) left for undisclosed reasons. Feathergun, their swansong, is an absolute monster of an album that deserves much more attention that it will, unfortunately, ever get. This album seamlessly blends groovy nu-metal riffs with atmospheric textures and contains one of the most impassioned vocal performances I have ever heard.

The album starts out with Scissorlips, a hard-hitting opener that dazzles with a sweeping melodic chorus interspersed with a groove-laden riff and incredibly passionate vocals from Andrew Mailloux. As the song goes on, we are treated to an ethereal bridge before the chorus is altered to a more optimistic sound. For the rest of the album’s duration, the mood seems to jump from utterly bleak to cautiously hopeful at the drop of a hat. Brilliantly, the band doesn’t rely on either style to convey a single emotion. For example, Diamond Eyes is one of the albums darkest musical moments, and it accomplishes this feeling without a single distorted guitar. Feathergun in the Garden of the Sun, easily the most technically challenging song here, has a raucous chorus that immediately turns sour with a dreary chord progression.

Special mention must be made of Downhill, the album’s centerpiece and crown jewel. Beginning with a repetitive guitar motif and some beautifully raw, crooning vocals, it eventually takes on a bit of a groove before descending again into the depressive aura that permeates the album. It later leads to the often-cliched “epic build up” culminating in the most incredible moment of Rishloo’s entire career. Seriously, the guitar solo on top of it could be up there with Comfortably Numb as one of the most emotional performances by any guitarist ever.

Now, the vocals: I can already anticipate that a lot of people probably won’t care for Andrew Mailloux’s voice that much. The high notes are often “barked” out and sound like they’re right at the edge of his vocal range. To me, this just adds to the passion that Andrew brings to the table with every line he sings. And that’s really the ultimate key to this album. The band members aren’t anywhere near the benchmark for technical proficiency in progressive metal (though the drummer has an affinity for cymbals that rivals Neil Peart), but they get by on the sheer emotional impact. The songs are rich with hooks, and the atmospheric sections are especially impressive. Every now and then, a solid nu-metal riff will stomp you back into submission.

Because of the constant stylistic variation, the album has excellent flow. It gains a great deal from being listened to as a whole, but the songs have clear and distinct boundaries. To facilitate the flow, songs are connected by the occasional beautiful interlude (See Turning Into Goats and Systematomatic). Even so, songs like River of Glass and Diamond Eyes could just as easily be listened to on their own.

Overall, this album should be required listening for anyone into progressive metal and looking for something different. Even fans of straight ambient music looking for something with a bit more substance should find plenty to fall in love with here.