Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Song of the Week: Quest For Fire - Strange Waves 

This song is a rich source of both quality songwriting and otherworldly atmosphere. Slow and psychedelic, it weaves its way into your mind, slowly overtaking your perception. This song makes it seem like time is going by slower. Harmonica occasionally lingers in the background, adding a subtle country twang. The lead guitar is bluesy and draws you into it's aura. The songwriting is spectacular; however subtle, it is not something that shall soon leave your memory. This whole album takes you to another world, and this is one of the best songs.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Review - Warning: Watching From A Distance 

This Is Supposed To Be Polarizing?

Warning, and later 40 Watt Sun (featuring two of the same members), have made a big splash in the doom scene. Often Warning is heralded as pure brilliance, breathing new life into an allegedly stagnant genre. Others act is if Watching From A Distance is the single worst doom album ever released. For something so polarizing, this is really boring. An abomination against mankind this is not, but if you've heard one song off this album, you've heard them all. This is a supposed to be an emotionally hard-hitting homage to crippling depression, yet in the end it comes off as melodramatic and watered down. 

Although to some it must seem as if Warning came out of nowhere to take the doom world by storm, this is in fact not their first album. While not hugely successful, their debut was met with some limited success. It was generally regarded as a good but not great doom album. This album was from 1999 and lots of people eventually forgot about it. Warning was inactive for a considerable time as Patrick pursued acting. The band was eventually reanimated for a second album. While the seeds where certainly there, the first album didn't sound like the sophomore. One of the main difference, besides it not sounding completely the same throughout, is it had actual riffs. You know, the type that are somewhat convincing and hard-hitting. On their second offering, they would forgo riffs that actually feel like riffs in favour of atmosphere. The riffs, if you can even call them that, feel powerless and are utterly unmemorable. The guitar tone doesn't help things - it feels grey and flat. Not grey as in a way that embodies life-crushing depression and despair, but grey as in dull, monotonous and lifeless. 

The lack of real riffs could be forgiven if they were omitted in favour of an atmosphere that was truly wondrous. Much of atmospheric music is largely about escapism. At the risk of sounding wildly pretentious, I'm going to assert that listening to successful atmospheric music is somewhat akin to reading a good book. A good book can draw you into another world, supply you with temporary relief from whatever bullshit is happening in your life. For me, I find that atmospheric music can do the same thing. It can bring emotions to the surface and more than anything, it can divert your mind away from reality. 

This album is often compared to funeral doom, which is without a doubt one of the metal sub-genres most know for its atmosphere. Abstact Spirit's Tragedy And Weeds can bring the listener to a bizarre world far removed from whatever monotony that every day life may bring. Fungoid Stream's (look past the name, they're a very interesting band) debut has an ethereal otherworldly aura you can lose yourself in. Ahab's Call Of The Wretched Sea can make you feel as if your braving stormy weather at sea. Warning just doesn't have that quality of escapism - the music lingers there, but sometimes I almost forget I'm listening to it. The reason that it's often compared to funeral doom, besides it's attempt at atmosphere, is the lack of speed as well as the repetition. This recording is indeed very slow. While there surely are many funeral doom bands that are much slower, Warning come close. 

Being slow in itself isn't something I could possibly fault a band for. I'm a big fan of doom, including the funeral variety, and I like a fair bit of drone as well. Slow metal often has a tremendous amount of atmosphere as well as feeling crushingly heavy - in a very different way then, say, a brutal death metal band. It doesn't crush you with chaos and bombastic, unrelenting fury. It crushes you in another way, a way that has more to do with texture and feeling than technicality and brutality. Another way in which this relates to funeral doom is the lead guitar parts. While the lead guitar sound most associated with funeral doom has a slightly different timbre and vibe (this is prevalent on many albums in the genre, but Colosseum's debut would be a good reference point) it is still vastly similar. While not overtly displeasing, Warning's take on these leads yield no significant impact. They all sound very much the same, and grow tiresome over the course of the album. While funeral doom bands often are repetitive in just about everything, including lead guitar work, successful bands use this to their advantage by using subtle variation, using the repetition to create a potent atmosphere as well as crafting the melodies so that they are the type that one would not take issue with hearing over a long stretch. Many bands also switch things up from song to song. Warning, however, does none of these things, allowing the lead work to stagnate and therefore fail to capture the imagination or have any lasting impact.

The overarching theme of this album is depression. And I get it, sometimes you just need to feed the fire before things can get better - sometimes people who are down just need something they can relate to, something that lets them know they aren't the only ones feeling that way. This isn't to say that depressed people are the only people who listen to music that is dark, slow and dreary, not by a long shot. Obviously, many perfectly happy people listen to music in this vein, there are many talented musicians playing these styles and many interesting atmospheres to discovered. But it's pretty obvious that a depressed person can relate to it, and therefore would often be drawn to this type of music. A depressed person may also be drawn to making it, which the singer (who also plays guitar) obviously is, if his lyrics are any indication of how he really feels. Everything about this album bleeds depression, the lyrics, the sound - hell, even the artwork is a metaphor for depression. The album cover is done in shades of grey, depicting a man attempting to move up an incline, being hindered by a heavy weight on his back. 

The thing about this album depicting depression is that I really just can't see a person in the middle of a dark, crippling depression who feels that life simply isn't worth living actually being able to relate to this. Watching From A Distance simply isn't convincing. It doesn't come off as oppressing despair; it doesn't come off as a soul-crushing shroud of hopelessness. If anything, this comes off as dysthymia. For those who may not know, dysthymia is a form of depression that is long lasting and less severe than major depression. People can go years, even a lifetime without being treated, as its usually not bad enough to bring normal functioning to a complete halt. Many people just believe that it is just part of their personality. Sure, these long-winded song all have a dreary vibe, but can any moments evoke parallels with episodes of crippling episodes of severe depression? Not a snowball's chance in hell. And as for the long lasting analogy, its not specifically that the individual songs are long; many lengthy songs evoke a deep sense of despair. No, the thing about this album is that the whole thing might as well be one song, because everything sounds the same, and certainly not in a wonderfully atmospheric or a perception-alteringingly hypnotizing way. This is just one mildly downcast marathon of monotony. Rather than having intense, truly oppressing moments of anguish, this is just a long lasting slab of slight discomfort. 

The vocals are overwhelmingly this album's biggest detractor. When I was first recommended Warning, I was intrigued by the vocals. If for anything, the singing at least deserve credit for uniqueness. Patrick Walker has a very distinct voice. His voice is a very present force, it has a full sound, although often drifts into nasally territory. It's really bizarre, he often wavers between a relatively deep voice and a nasally voice many times in the same song.  There is this intangible element to his voice that is just slightly off. Even if all the nasally elements were eliminated, there would still be something strange about his singing. It doesn't help that he often goes a little over the top. Not in a power metal-esque theatric sort of way, but just in a way that you can tell he is giving it 110% when maybe he should show a little restraint. Although his singing isn't the biggest on variation, there are a few interesting vocal sections in "Faces" and "Bridges". These moments, however, are fleeting. He also has this annoying habit of getting his most nasally in these sections, which particularly does the music a disservice. In the end, his vocals are hard to enjoy for the entire endurance of the album. They don't make it unlistenable, but they certainly don't help matters. 

The lyrics are just as bad, if not worse, than the vocals. As an embodiment of true depression, as they are often portrayed as being, they are completely unconvincing. They come off as more 14 year old emo kid who just got dumped than an honest portrayal of paralyzing depression. Many of the lyrics are about missing a girl and being sad about it, which I don't really want to make fun of, but it does come off as a bit cliché. Most of these lyrics come off as more filled with cheese and predictability than with endless torment and true sorrow. Here are a few examples:

"I want to be master of my own emotions with a fire that fills me. But I don't understand myself, and I don't know what my heart is anymore."

"But I'm afraid of the way that I'm feeling, afraid of this new understanding now; afraid for the beauty within me,
and that which I hold within my hand. And this is the ultimate secret that many before me have ever known.
So capture me while I am weakest, I want to know, I want to know."

"It's always frightened me how some things lose their meaning, how some things change direction with a breeze."

Despite all the negative qualities of this music, the drum work is something that deserves praise. It perfectly goes along with the music, and feels like the only thing that emits any true feeling. Heavy on cymbal-work, the drums plod along at a slow pace, while always providing well above and beyond a mere adequate performance. There is always something more going on than just a standard beat. There are many fills, which are always well executed and often provoke intrigue. The drums have wonderful tone, feeling very organic. Unfortunately good drumming can't save bland songwriting and apathetic atmospheres.

While this definitely is not the masterpiece of modern doom it is often heralded as, it would be hard to deny that Warning are passionate about what they do. Many awful music is done with passion as a driving force behind it. I mean, surely no one can accuse Celine Dion of being apathetic towards her music. Neither the first album of Vulvectomy or Waking The Cadaver was born out of disinterest - the people behind the bands obviously believed wholeheartedly in what they were doing. It just happened that what they believed in so dearly translated into something that was largely over the top and in bad taste. When someone puts all their heart into a rotten idea, thats where truly awful music is generated from. Warning are a unique case. They are not truly horrendous, they are just mediocre. Music that is not horrible, but merely comes off as stale, is not something that is often the spawn of true passion. Unfortunately, Patrick's passion for creating a true feeling of depression didn't play out perhaps not in spite of his passion, but rather because of it. Perhaps in his attempts to paint everything grey, he lost sight of everything else an album needs to succeed. Maybe he focused so much on making the album feel as devoid of life as someone in the grips of major depression, he failed to recognize that one ingredient just won't do a convincing job. The album does indeed feel grey, it just comes up short of any real feeling, likely because the whole album sounds the same and ends up feeling more monotonous than depressing.

As much as I feel this album has many negative qualities, I find it hard to actively hate it. Just as many people act as if this album was made by God himself, many doom fans act as if this is the worse thing ever produced in the entire history of the genre (well for starters, Patrick's next band would prove to be infinitely worse). I think the reason many people feel like this is literally the worse piece of doom ever is because of it's popularity. I could see how someone would feel like it poses a threat to the equilibrium of the genre - what if they inspired an endless stream of clone bands? As for this band saving doom, that is just plain silly - doom was never in need of saving and even if it was, Warning would not be the band to reanimate the corpse. I still find it impossible to hate, listening to it isn't pure agony - its just there, not really doing anything. Sure its got a nice flow to it, which is probably why it's not that hard to listen to, but it has no impact. It's just the same thing for an entire album. While it is better than silence, it is only so by a very thin margin. 

It really is baffling that this is such a polarizing release. Sure, they have a somewhat unique sound, but it's not like they ever do anything with it. This is no Master Of Reality nor is it a Cold Lake. This is just a very boring album - nothing more, nothing less. 

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Review: Agalloch/Nest Split

True Collaboration Between Two Unique Bands

Your average split is usually nothing more than two bands putting songs on the same record. Often, the bands will have two very different vibes and this can sometimes make the split come off as not a cohesive listening experience. Not only is this a split where both band's sounds go together, it is a split where both bands are collaborating and giving the other band a helping hand. For this nature-inspired release, Agalloch provides both vocals and acoustic guitars for Nest's song. The artwork on the picture disk and postcards are done by a member of Nest. More than a split, this is a true collaboration.

The first side of the split is Agalloch's "The Wolves of Timberline". This release is the third and final small release for Agalloch that was put out between 2002's The Mantle and 2006's Ashes Against The Grain. This song has the nature inspired acoustic vibe of The Mantle as well as the winter atmosphere Ashes Against The Grain. The two previous releases between the two albums were not as well received as this split. The first of these two EPs was Tomorrow Will Never Come. Wile the guitar work was beautiful and the samples were very interesting on the title track, it was the other song that got this release a lot of negative press. It was called "The Death of Man (Version III)". It was a pointless third version of a song that was already captured well in two different contexts. The Grey was not well received due to its over-long songs and strange, abstract experimentation. The Grey showed a side of Agalloch that does not often rear its head (it would show again in the final song of Ashes Against The Grain.) Unlike the Grey, "Wolves of Timberline" has that classic Agalloch sound. While not sounding like a derivative of older material, it captures the essence of who Agalloch are. Agalloch are one of those bands who often experiment with different genres, but be it a metal or a folk song, they always had a unique aura around them distinct to the band.

This song is one of those tracks that evoke strong imagery. While listening, I can't help but picture heavy snowfall in a carnivorous forest during the dark cover of night. This is atmospheric acoustic guitar at its best. Simple, but not overly so, this draws you into a peaceful state of mind. Possessing a rustic feel, this would be perfect for hiking to in a snow covered forest or simply watching the snowfall while sitting by a fire in a wooden cabin. This type of folky instrumental has always been a part of Agalloch's sound, and was especially prominent in The Mantle. This may remind some of "A Desolation Song" or "The Lodge", and especially "Haunting Birds" off their EP Of Stone, Wind and Pillor. This is a sound that was further explored in the only EP released between the band's third and fourth albums, The White. The EP completely eschews metal in favor of folk and a bit of ambient.

Nest's song is a collaboration with Agalloch. The most prominent aspect of Agalloch's contributions is John Haughm's vocals. The vast majority of his vocals are a croaky near-whisper. The diversity of the instruments is one of the largest factors contributing to this song's success. Part of what makes Nest such an interesting band is the inclusion of traditional Finnish plucked string instrument Kantele. A didgeridoo lumbers in the background, setting the atmosphere for the whole track. The acoustic guitar solo is wondrous and majestic. This track is different from the majority of Nest tunes as in it has a strong songwriter vibe. While still very atmospheric, most Nest songs are long-winded, do not feature vocals high in the mix and have a very abstract songwriting approach. It is interesting to see Nest in a different setting, which they adapt to flawlessly. Nest member Alsak Tolonen who handles the artwork, has created the enchanting images for both band's sides. Agalloch's side of the picture disk features a rustic winter scene and Nest's side, also orientated around nature, has a wonderful and bizarre atmosphere about it.

Music needs more splits like these. Instead of two bands putting in their separate input, this is true collaboration. This is about as far as you can go without it being like Sunn O))) and Boris on Altar where the album was basically recorded as one band. This split has a cohesive sound throughout, and the songs feel like they truly belong together. They both capture the essence of the wilderness. This shows how well two unique bands working together can end up when they both share a common vision. The picture disk is absolutely beautiful, so it would be advisable to jump at any opportunity to own this.


Monday, 23 July 2012

Song of the Week: Man's Gin - Nuclear Ambition

God Be Damned When The Music's Over

To be fair, this is two songs. The reason I chose to present them as one is because, although different, they are meant to be heard together. Sure they can both stand alone as great songs, but they flow into each other, form both parts of an (abstract) story and share a chorus.

Erik Wunder not only has that undefinable spark that separates the great from the good, but he is able to translate that into more than one vision. Cobalt's Gin was fantastic, certainly a landmark for American black metal. It had riffs, it had atmosphere, it kicked ass while exploring new territory, but more than anything it was a breath of fresh air in a largely saturated scene. It was not only excellent, it was one of those rare moments where music can completely take you somewhere. 

Phil is in the army, so that means Cobalt can only record sporadicly. In his downtime, Erik has created Man's Gin, which is a completely different entity than Cobalt. Mixing bluesy americana with a fair helping of grunge, Man's Gin are also one of those rare occurrences where music can truly take you out of yourself.  This two-parter shows both the quieter side of Man's Gin and the more rock'n'roll side. The first side is mostly acoustic based, and much of it has a rustic quality about it. 

The second track is truly anthemic. It has an ass kicking take-no-prisoner style existentialist message. With great lines such as "Live and let die when your going nowhere, live and let live just don't work for me", "I wanna die in a concrete ocean, I wanna ride a neutron bomb" and "In a world gone wrong and I'm gone wrong too, yeah, God be damned when the music's over", this song packs one hell of a two thumbed (Thompson is definitely an influence for the lyrics) punch. 

Saturday, 21 July 2012

Review: Black Moth - The Killing Jar 

A Seamless Integration Of Varied Influences 

Taking as much inspiration from L7 and The Stooges as Black Sabbath and The Melvins, Black Moth's sound is very fresh. This is not your standard doom/stoner affair. Black Moth feature grungy female vocals, which go perfectly with their dirty riffs. As well as having a strong grunge vibe, the band often draws on psychedelic influences. With their unique blend of influences, Black Moth truly prevail in creating an interesting and enthralling sound.

If you are someone who gets hung up on categorizing bands into (sub)genres, this will be a troubling record for you. While their sound is certainly rooted in doom and stoner metal, this does not begin to encompass who they are. The grunge influence is highly prominent. Psychedelia does rear its head on several occasions. The most prominent example of this is on the album's riveting closer "Honey Lung". The song is a fascinating mix of doom, psychedelia, arabesque guitar sections as well as some more rock orientated sections. 

Despite the sound being largely doom/stoner metal, the song structures generally have more in common with rock. It never really sounds like actual rock music, but many of the songs are written in the same way you would go about writing a rock song. This makes sense as the band lists proto-punk and hard rock as influences. With scathing lyrics as seen in "Chicken Shit", Black Moth certainly have a rock'n'roll attitude. Vocalist Harriet Bevan says that the recent bands that speak to her the most are the heavy, abrasive and sleazy. This certainly shows in her own music.

The Killing Jar was produced by Jim Sclavunos, who has played in many bands. He has been in Sonic Youth, as well as accompanying Nick Cave in The Bad Seeds as well as the recently defunct Grinderman. The band has said that Jim really pushed them to be at their best. It looks like his high standards has really payed off. While the riffs have a dirt-ridden sludgy feel to them, the production is great. While dirty, you can still make everything out. It is neither overly polished or needlessly raw. 

Black Moth's unique sound would be wasted if their songwriting wasn't of high quality. This is not a problem for them. Every song is well thought out and sounds great. Female fronted doom metal is something that is really picking up lately, and Black Moth are one of the best. Their seamless integration of a variety of influences is something that deserves to be heard. 


Thursday, 19 July 2012

Review - Apocryphon: Self Titled EP

A Spectacular Mix Of Death Metal And Psychedelia

Apocryphon are a true diamond in the rough. Playing a unique brand of psychedelic death metal, their genius is the ability to mix the orthodox with left field experimentation. They play with the charm of old school death metal, with tech-death being frequently let into the mix. The psychedelic influences are just icing on the cake, putting an interesting touch to an already amazing release. With strong songwriting, excellent instrumentation and unique psychedelic experimentation, Apocryphon stand firmly ahead of the pack. 

Its difficult to pinpoint exactly why, but technical death metal and psychedelia mesh incredibly well together. Perhaps it is due to the contrasting styles. It worked incredibly well with Gigan's spectacular "Order of the False Eye". Orbweaver, who have an ex member of Gigan, also employ this style with great success. Before anyone gets the wrong idea, Apocryphon are certainly not strictly tech-death - they have plenty of orthodox riffs. They do, however, have many technical passages. The samples enhance the psychedelic vibe, with topics including subject matter like aliens and LSD. There occasionally brief psychedelic soundscapes, which helps this album stand apart from other death metal releases. 

The instrumentation is spectacular. The guitar is a large part of what makes Apocryphon so special. The riffs are varied, never falling into a routine of monotonous formula. The lead guitar near the beginning of "Carnivophile" is incredible - being both ferocious and a bit bizarre; the arabesque tremolo that follows is an example of how Apocryphon try many different ideas with their music. The drums, while not as out there as Gigan or Orbweaver, are perfect at what they do. While they don't ever really take the forefront, their drummer is obviously a very talented man and always displays good taste. The bass also briefly takes centre stage at times, which is something they might want to consider doing more of in the future.

Apocryphon's ability to mix the orthodox with the bizarre is astounding. While many technical death metal bands forgo coherent song structures and many psychedelic bands go in a more formless jam oriented direction, these guys have serious chops when it comes to crafting a song's structure. Their songwriting is coherent and always go somewhere. Never do their songs drift off into a stagnant dirge - they are always fresh and enthralling. 

Apocryphon are a shining example of how there is still new territory to explore in death metal. They bring new light to an old sound. With a solid mix of the familiar and the strange, this EP is great from beginning to end. The psychedelic sections are a wonderful addition, although not the main attraction, these parts do much to give this release character. One can only hope that the psychedelia is something that is even more prominent in their next release. This is a true gem, and one of the more interesting recent death metal releases.


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Red And Anarchist Black Metal (RABM): Two Very Different Approaches - Part Two


Masterminded by talented multi-instrumentalist Austin Lunn, Panopticon break the stereotype of the one man black metal band. With one man black metal bands, most people would think of a kid in his late teens or early twenties making a raw, lo-fi black metal record on his computer in his bedroom. Panopticon are anything but that. Austin is a talented drummer, known for his abrasive and unorthodox style, although he knows when hold back when need be. As well as that, he plays the rest of the instruments, which go beyond your what you would typically expect. Most notably, Austin is very good at playing blue grass on the banjo, which was an integral part of two of his records - Collapse and Kentucky (which surprisingly works very well). 

Panopticon is known for experimenting with their sound. They have released four albums so far - five if you count ...On The Subject Of Mortality, which was originally released in two parts as part of splits. Each of their albums sound different. Their first was a very raw mix of crust and black metal. Their second was a very dark and aggressive mix of bluegrass and black metal. The aforementioned ...On The Subject Of Mortality was post-rock and ambient mixed with black metal. Social Disservices was filled with bleak, devastating soundscapes. Kentucky was also a mix of of bluegrass and black metal, but deviated greatly from the sound of Collapse. The bluegrass in Collapse was a lot darker and often slower. The black metal in Kentucky was not as brutal and featured much more melody. The second split with Wheels Within Wheels even dabbled in shoegaze.

Sound is not the only factor in which Panopticon records deviate from each other. The stories behind them are all different. Collapse is basically speculative fiction, which portrays life after the collapse of the government. Social Disservices deals largely with America's (lack of) social safety net. ...On The Subject Of Mortality's title speaks for itself. Kentucky is an homage to the state in which Austin resides, largely focusing on its history of coal miners and the eco-pollitcal issue of mountain top removal. 

Panopticon has an approach that differs greatly from fellow RABM band Iskra's essay-esque lyrical style. Austin's lyrics are never preachy and his words aren't about getting you to have the exact same view of him on a variety of socio-political issues. The lyrics of Panopticon are much more abstract and poetic. This is a much better approach than having lyrics that read like a poli-sci essay, which many people find preachy and even sometimes condescending (some political bands do have a holier-than-thou attitude when it comes to political issues). No, Panopticon's lyrics don't shove anything down your throat. They do, however, make you think:
Predator and prey.
The wolf grinds its steel teeth.
In a false twilight, the night came so long ago: When children where domesticated and caged in white rooms.
A helpless herd to wringing hands.

His back dented with high-heels, cleaved into the meat of his shoulders.
Breast-fed toxic waste, the umbilical noose.
Born into death, neglected battered and wasting away.

Panopticon is a one of a kind band. RABM doesn't really begin to cover it, besides that tag seems to describe more about lyrics and the way the band presents themselves rather than actual music content. It can basically mean any black metal band that centres around their leftwing ideologies. Panopticon play a variety of different styles, and do not always stick to black metal. Black metal and bluegrass is a very odd combination. The two being integrated in a way that is amazing is nothing short of a miracle. This band is at the forefront of RABM and one of the main things keeping it from becoming redundant. 

Red And Anarchist Black Metal (RABM): Two Very Different Approaches - Part One


For those unfamiliar with red And anarchist black metal (hereafter referred to as RABM), it is basically a leftist answer to national socialist black metal (NSBM). NSBM is an extreme right movement, which attracts many neo-nazis and preaches fascism and often racism. Black metal is not inherently political and draws in people from both sides of the political spectrum. RABM is, to oversimplify a bit, left wingblack metal. Often with a strong overlap with the crust punk scene, RABM is often very far to the left.

Iskra is probably the most prominent example of the overlap with crust punk. While they import some of the grime from crust punk, purely sonically speaking, Iskra is a relatively orthodox black metal band. They play fast and unrelenting, and many of their songs sound very similar to each other. They are good at what they do, but they aren't very interested in playing with a left field sound. To be quite honest, when I buy an Iskra vinyl, I am buying it just as much for the packaging as I am for the music, maybe even more so. Their art is always interesting, and will remind some of the packaging of really well done crust punk (while certainly not the same, Dystopia comes to mind). For example, their side of the booklet with the Against Empire split is astounding. Featuring explanations, an essay and lyrics, it goes above and beyond, especially when factoring in the varied and politically charged artwork. Their aesthetic is very powerful and feels dangerous, something that a heavy political band always should.

Their lyrics are very left wing and radical. While they definitely make some valid points that need addressing, they sometimes drift into over the top, and even conspiracy theory territory. "Deep Intergration" off The Terrorist Act EP is a good example. In the essay outlying the thesis behind the lyrics, which are very essay-esque themselves, they allege that Canada is going through a process in which it will slowly be amalgamated into the U.S.A. Not as a complete state, but as an American controlled territory of sorts. They say that students in Canadian schools will be taught that they are North American and not Canadian and everything that embodies the Canadian identity will be eroded. An allegation of this grand a magnitude surely needs concrete evidence to back it up, which is not sufficiently provided. Other Iskra songs also have lyrics that allege things that they have no hard proof of or a hyperbolic version of reality. 

Iskra's lyrics often read like a poli-sci essay. There is no imagery or poetic leanings. It takes an issue and addresses Iskra's opinions on it and why they feel you should be angry. Many people have taken this in a bad way. On internet forums, many users complain that they find their lyrics to be overly preachy and basically demanding that the listener think like Iskra. One song in particular that people took issue with is "Acceptance Not Tolerance." The lyrics to this song is actually one of the bands least essay-like. What people took issue with is that they felt the band was trying to dictate how to act (and mind you, the vast majority of these people where pro gay rights) as well as preaching that everyone should think like them. 

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Song Of The Week: Living Is Suicide - Dax Riggs

"Have mercy on the devil, he's a friend of mine."

With lyrics like "Have mercy on the devil, he's a friend of mine" and "If God looked upon us it would surely leave us blind", one might expect this song to sound dark and dreary, especially considering that Dax once fronted legendary extreme metal act Acid Bath. However, the music is surprisingly upbeat. Perched carefully between singer/songwriter and rock'n'roll, this is certainly no generic formula. The songwriting here is impeccable, as it is for Dax Rigg's entire debut solo album "We Sing Only of Blood or Love." It is a vast improvement over the final Deadboy and the Elephentmen album, which seems to be the only misstep in Dax's career. 

Classics: Sabac Red - A Change Gon' Come

A classic in my books, anyway. Although this is one of the best political rap albums of all time, it is criminally underrated and largely unknown to the majority of rap fans. However, Sabac has received decent coverage as member of rap group Non Phixion. This song has two version, this smoother one back by the R&B croons of Antwon Lamar Robinson as well as a remix backed by metal guitar, which is standard for albums released on Necro's Psycho-Logical label. While the R&B sining is not omitted in the remix, it is largely obscured under the distorted guitar. This is perfect, the political lyrics are witty instead of preachy. Many political artists put their worldview and lyrics before the music, but this is certainly not the case here. An instant classic, this one will (and has been) in my playlist for years to come.

Unexpected Cover: Choking Victim - Money Changes Everything

So unless you've been living under a rock for your entire life, your probably at least aware of the Cindy Lauper's version. Although originally recorded by rock band The Brains, it was Lauper's version that made it big. Chocking Victim changed not only the music but the lyrics. Unsurprisingly, Choking Victim's version is ska-tinged punk. The lyrics are more appropriate for their dirty punk sound - "Life is such a lonely place and theres no one you can trust." In a Choking Victim tribute album, Who Am I covered the Chocking Victim version, making it a cover of a cover of a cover. 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Song of the Week: Fear - I love Living In The City

This is an absolute classic of the punk genre. Depicting the grimy side of city life, this song sounds as grimy as its lyrics. The guitar solo sounds broken, which fits in with the theme perfectly. This song was shown live on the movie The Decline Of Western Civilization. This lead to their infamous performance on SNL. If your looking to hear the classics of old school punk, this is a song you need to hear.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

Review: Demon Lung - Pareidolia

Sin City Doom

Hailing from the bright lights of Las Vegas, Demon Lung are an interesting female fronted doom band. For a first release, "Pareidolia" is killer. Instead of a badly recorded demo, their debut release has the production qualities of an established band that is perhaps a few albums deep. With an incredible guitar tone and wonderful hazy female vocals, this is certainly an indicator of a band that will do some very interesting things in the future.

The guitar is what really sets Demon Lung apart from other doom bands. Sure, they do have a female singer, but so do lots of doom bands. Actually, there seems to have been an upsurgence of female fronted doom lately. The riffs have more to do with thrash metal or even simple, straight-ahead death metal than doom metal. Just slowed down to a crawl. I can't remember ever hearing this many pinch harmonics played by a doom band. The guitar tone is what really makes this. Its thick, massive and overpowering. The guitar is mixed well above everything else, becoming the driving force behind the EP. 

Shanda's vocals are perfect for a doom band. They are a lot lower than you might expect from a woman. They sound a bit like Jus Oborn (of Electric Wizard fame) at his mellowest and most accessible. While on the subject of Electric Wizard, it should be mentioned that they have a song called "Demon Lung", which can be assumed as the source of this band's name. Like the drums, the vocals are much lower in the mix. They have a creepy, drugged-out quality to them, and putting them bellow the guitars helps bring that out. If they were higher in the mix, they wouldn't have the same lingering effect. They function well being somewhat in the background, which isn't at all to say they aren't a crucial part of the band. They give off a certain hazy feeling that Demon Lung wouldn't achieve if things weren't exactly as they are.

Film is a very strong influence for Demon Lung. For example, "Sour Ground" is based on the film version of Pet Sematary. Their music does have somewhat of a cinematic quality about it, albeit in a very subtle way. Their music has the atmosphere of a horror movie. Not an in your face, mindless slasher flick, but a creepy slow moving horror film where suspense is built up over a longer period of time. The slow powerful riffs certainly bring out a feeling of impending doom. Not in an immediate way, but a "slowly but surely the killer is going to get me" sort of way. Its like in the Halloween movies (I know I said its not like a slasher film, and the over all atmosphere isn't, but this example seems appropriate regarding many of the riffs) where Michael Myers is walking slowly towards a victim scrambling for their life. Although Michael is moving slower, he eventually reaches and kills the unfortunate victim. 

"Lament Code", the opener to this EP, contains the best songwriting. It is in this song where the riffs, the vocals and the songwriting mesh together in the tightest way. The songwriting for Demon Lung is not the most by the book. It is also not the most abstract. While this doesn't feature that many bizarre twists and turns, it isn't your typical verse-chorus repeat affair. They have their formula and they stick to it. One nice touch is the occasional addition of psychedelic elements. This is also most evident on the first track. A weird tone is added to the mix, one very mellow and otherworldly - like what one would imagine being on magic mushrooms underwater would feel like. Although not very common, these subtle psychedelic stylings add a nice touch of variety.

For a first attempt, these guys come out swinging. From the depths of Sin City, Demon lung are a band to watch out for. They don't do anything too crazy here - they establish their formula. Its a formula well worth hearing. Their hazy atmosphere and unorthodox way of playing guitar in a doom metal band is an interesting approach that doom fans should check out. Now with the basic sound of Demon Lung laid out, it will be very interesting to see what the band venture to do next.