Friday, July 28, 2006

Shelfcore Quest 2006: Step 3 [35] (repost)

Repost of album review snippets, plus a show review down at the bottom.


Tankard - B-Day [4/7]
"Maybe Tankard doesn't know how to do anything but pitch it directly down the center. Maybe they just don't choose to."

Yattering - Human's Pain [4/7]
"If you want early Vader, this band isn't a bad place to look, but there's nothing here to particularly recommend them over Vader's own early material either."

Sentenced - Amok [6/7]
"...more than a transition record between the death-metal and post-death periods of this band."

Sentenced - Love & Death [5/7]
" of the strongest arguments out there that the change in singers did not in itself change the band. Sentenced was changing before Jarva left, and as this EP shows, the trajectory of that change was still producing good music."

Death - Individual Thought Patterns [7/7]
"The former assessment stands: some of the most perfect 40 sequential minutes ever recorded. Anyone who can handle the music should own this."

Blind Guardian - Nightfall In Middle-Earth [7/7]
"Among the actual songs, there's not one that's noticeably weak, and the guitar sound that comes off as tired and overdone on A Night At The Opera is still fresh and fairly ripping here."

Burzum - Det som engang var [7/7]
"Here, as practically everywhere, Varg is doing something absolutely unique, and fortunately, unlike his post-incarceration material, it's also stuff that people will want to listen to."

Elvenking - Heathenreel [5/7]
"The standard rap on Italian power metal bands is that they suck. This is usually true, but not for Elvenking. Their style here is a lot more muscular than customary..."

Hypocrisy - Hypocrisy Destroys Wacken [7/7]
"Metal is live music, meant to be played live, but it's very seldom that any live record actually pushes through the full punch of the band's abilities and captures a truly awesome set. Here, Pete et al come out roaring and absolutely don't let up, blasting through the full range of their material to this point, working death metal of varying vintages and conceptual viewpoints into a unified and irresistible whole."

In Extremo - Suender Ohne Zuegel [6/7]
"...a great, solid record, but also strongly metal, even in the way the archaic touches are used, presenting a height that they only barely got back to with the recent Mein Rasend Herz. It's a shame that this was the last of their albums to see wide American release...."

Carnal Forge - The More You Suffer [5/7]
"....sounds a lot less revolutionary and a lot more like the way that everyone else is mixing death, thrash, and hardcore. It's still good music, and if you want a crash course in NSWOTM, it's not a bad place to start, but it's not as earth-shaking as it may have appeared at first glance."

Dissection - Live Legacy [5/7]
"The quality isn't always the best, and the set is quite short, omitting a bunch of favorites in favor of a couple weaker tracks, but after a seven-year drought it came as a welcome sign that Dissection wasn't completely gone."

Nokturnal Mortum - To The Gates Of Blasphemous Fire [5/7]
" that's lost some of its luster in the light of Goat Horns and NeChrist.... This is still an excellent album, and probably essential for black metallers, but it's not quite the be-all, end-all that I may have initially considered it."

Bathory - Twilight of the Gods [6/7]
"....this still sounds vital and inspiring, and fifteen years ago it was absolutely like nothing else. I don't concentrate on the past in these, but in the case of something truly epochal it's not valid to just simply ignore it either..."

Heaven Shall Burn - Whatever It May Take [6/7]
"....the conviction that this band is pushing some of the strongest material metalcore has to offer remains."

Agalloch - The Mantle [7/7]
"It's not possible to tire of a true classic, or outgrow something with this much depth, this many twists and turns. I'm confident that not only do I feel this way at four years' distance, but that I will still react to this disc in much the same manner if I make it out another forty."

Enslaved - Eld [5/7]
"Apart from "793 (Slaget om Lindisfarne)", this record is more solid than superlative, still tightly bound to black metal tropes and ideas."

Dismember - Hate Campaign [5/7]
"[Dismember's] not going to change the face of music, or probably ever make an album that surprises anyone, but even if all they ever do is release iteration after iteration of ripping death metal with just that right amount of melody, that's still plenty reason for anyone who loves metal as metal to get into them."

Iron Maiden - Seventh Son of a Seventh Son [5/7]
"....there's a lot of good material on here, and nearly everything is single-worthy, but I prefer my Iron Maiden a little more chewy and complex than what's presented here."

At The Gates - Slaughter of the Soul [7/7]
"It ... kicks an absolutely inordinate amount of ass, and the new-wave-of-whatever-metal contingent is still trying, mostly unsuccessfully, to recapture the bounce, groove, hookiness, and pure punch of this one."

Nevermore - Enemies of Reality [5/7]
"I'm still on the original production, which despite being pushed to the center, still sounds pretty decent. Nevermore does better with a fuller dynamic and positional range, but in the context of this record, the claustrophobic, boxed-in feel actually works."

In Extremo - Verehrt und Angespien [5/7]
"This is the disc that a lot of In Extremo's classics come from, but their own style, oddly enough, isn't very developed here yet.... Live, this rocks; on record, it's still good, but the punch of the later material and the flash of the visual (and tactile, given the amount of pyro they pump around) elements of the performance are both missing, and the effect is correspondingly less."

Borknagar - The Archaic Course [5/7]
"....the least black metal of Borknagar's works, but also not quite the most progressive, and the result is an in-between mix that fans (like me) will dig, but everyone else can safely skip."

Testament - The New Order [5/7]
"....a good Bay Area thrash record, though not as good as its predecessor, but one track on it is quite debatably the best thing the band ever recorded. .... If you're more easily swayed by emotion and like screaming along on "DON'T FOLLOW THE PREACHER!!", feel free to add another point or two."

Incantation - Diabolical Conquest [6/7]
"Lots of other bands try, but so far only Incantation has been able to summon the sounds of H.P. Lovecraft's Outside; here, without explicitly trying. And when brutality and chaos are the aims, it's difficult to think of a higher mark."

Bal-Sagoth - A Black Moon Broods Over Lemuria [4/7]
"For fans of first-generation evolved black metal, though, this disc is a decent outing, and depending on how you feel about the band's later direction, might be proof that even Bal-Sagoth didn't always suck. "

Morbid Angel - Gateways to Annihilation [5/7]
....full of thick, dense, brutal death metal, with quite a few of the twists and technical tricks that the band is rightly famous for, but there's little that stands out from the pack. It's still a good record, but it's probably not essential for anyone but fans; they've done work that everyone, let alone all death metallers, should own, but here the feel is more average..."

Metal Church - Metal Church [6/7]
"....3 of the first 4 songs on this album are power/thrash classics, and the impulse for any metalhead exposed to them is to shout their praises from the rooftops. The recorded-in-analog-for-analog-playback production may make the total sound a little thin, but the power of "Beyond The Black", "Metal Church", and "Gods of Wrath" is undeniable...."

Testament - The Legacy [7/7]
"....more melodic than usual for Bay Area thrash, but that doesn't stop the progress of the music: there's not really a bad song on here, and a handful of true classics. Even all these years later, and with such significant changes to their sound, Testament hasn't really gotten back to the heights of this record...."

Emperor - Prometheus - The Discipline of Fire & Demise [6/7]
" uncompromising fireball of both trueness and progress, and notice served that the two need not be always separate. I favor Anthems… over this one as Emperor's best, but the argument really could go either way for a lot of people."

Emperor - Emperor/Wrath Of The Tyrant [6/7]
"....this is the true raw unapologetic black metal that touched off the Norwegian explosion and changed extreme music. Not everyone is even going to be able to listen to this, let alone appreciate it, but those who can won't have it any other way."

Emperor - Scattered Ashes - A Decade of Emperial Wrath [--]/[6/7]
"If you've obsessively collected everything Emperor's ever done, you don't need this. I'm hard-pressed to think of anyone who actually does, but like all collections it makes a convenient package for those too lazy to rip and burn their own favorites, and comes backed with a bunch of stuff that'll be cool for fans."

Borknagar - The Olden Domain [7/7]
"....nine years and four records after it was laid down, it's a legitimate pick as Borknagar's best work. It's neither afraid to blast, scream, chug, or lilt, and the mixture thereof is probably the reason why it's still so huge to me now as when I discovered it."

Anthrax - State of Euphoria [6/7]
"....there's a lot of really good music on here, even if you have to dig down through the for-analog mastering to get at it. Anthrax has done better performances, and more consistent ones, but I'm not sure they've got a record with more total quality of material than this."

Zyklon - World Ov Worms [5/7]
"While they've become more death metal and more original/separable lately, at this stage Zyklon:Emperor::The Haunted:At The Gates is still true."

Show review: My Pet Demon with Ravage and The Four Horsemen, Peabody Jam Rooms, 3/24/2006

This was a good show, and a fair time out for seven bucks, even though the puritanical attitudes of this country meant no beer was available. (All-ages show, and liquor licensing boards have giant logs up their rears...) That's all right, though; public transit also sucks here, so I had to drive and couldn't drink anyways.

The venue in question is pretty damn classic, built into an old factory building which now serves as rehearsal space. The outside's all tar paper and weathered plywood, and short of having to swing down into a venue through a hole in the floor, there's little better place for an underground club. Size-wise, it's roughly comparable with Sputnix, and for the current scene, that's about the size of club that can be supported. Headcount was about 30, maybe as high as 50.

As before, scores:

The Four Horsemen [3/7]: They went on first, and had the worst sound of the night, probably due to not doing a sound check -- they got better by their second song. They put on a decent performance, but on this bill they were simply overmatched; they've got some talent, but it's unevenly distributed and their original songs weren't particularly memorable. They covered "Walk" and "Five Minutes Alone" well, but they're going to need more time and development before they can move up in the world.

Ravage [4/7]: Ravage is ready for Europe, and Europe (if I read it right, they're playing their first German festival show in the fall) will be ready for them. The Spectral Rider material is stronger and deeper than Curse of Heaven, and the new song they debuted here, "Freedom Fighter" is better still. Their overall sound was better than The Four Horsemen, but with the complexity of what they do with two lead guitars, some stuff was still lost; if they get a dedicated sound dude who knows their material as well as they do, and when and how much to bring up which guitar in the PA mix, they should be golden. With Matt Barlow gone from the stage, Al is as good a replacement as the Continent is likely to desire, and the band has the punch to back up the soundalike nostalgia with the *current* conviction that this bunch is pretty kickass overall.

My Pet Demon [5/7]: The headliners, and the best sound of the night, which is normal, but was definitely aided by the fact that their style of thrash is pretty much purpose-bred for the sound systems of small clubs. A couple of Alex's solos were a little diminished, but the overall effect was pretty good. What really strikes me, at this point, is how much good material this band has, so that over a 45-minute set, they don't have to play nearly all of it. I can ofcourse remember back when all they had was the stuff from A New Found Evil, a couple covers, and the instrumental to "Revolution's Breath", and had to play every note to fill the time. Now, the only thing left in the setlist from that period is "Demons Are Forever" (which they're back to opening with), and the gigantic, largely gratuitous (but still awesome) breakdown in "What Would Jason Do" has taken the place of the lock-in bridge in "Self Destruct" (a song that they're glad to finally put to rest) for getting people to go fucking bananas. Their cover of "The Trooper", which they closed with, was about as good as I've heard from anyone not Iron Maiden -- or at least, what I could hear of it over 40 other psycho metalheads also rushing the stage and yelling along with every word.

On the whole, this was a pretty good gig; the scene is still strong around here, and The Four Horsemen prove that there's still new blood coming up, which is necessary to keep the scene from becoming overpopulated with old farts like me who can't mosh because we've got no ligaments left in out knees. The future is also looking promising for the bands in this bunch that are looking at larger stages; Spectral Rider got decent reviews in German metal mags, and when Ravage is able to take their thrashing power metal live, they'll probably drive enough sales to pick up a couple more festival slots next year, and such incremental steps are how you build your career as an underground band. MPD's new material ("Expiration Date") was pretty good as well, but they have enough strong songs that if they just re-recorded the best of their current two-and-a-half demos with improved production, they'd have a fair shot at a contract with someone, somewhere. Turning that deal into success is still the hard part, but right now they definitely sound committed enough to make it happen.

I got a shirt, though more to support the band than because the design was especially boss. MPD's logo looks better in that context, but still looks kind of like it was typeset using the Big Internet Box of Scary Fonts, and might potentially hold them back in the future. First impressions count a lot, sadly, even in the underground where we have maxims to support music over image. Kenny was talking about redesigning the logo based on a cow skull somewhere between the one on the Crime Pays cover and the Wacken symbol; if I get the time I might to try and scratch something up; criticizing stuff that you're able to do something about and not even trying to do something about it is never cool.

In about a month I'll be scratching up something similar for Metalfest...maybe sooner if I can get out for the Morbid Angel/Krisiun date next weekend. With reliable transport and disposable income, not getting out to show just isn't really an option any more.

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