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2018-09-30

VOIVOD - The Wake

Ok, after kicking it off with the review of the E-Force show on Friday, Voivodmania continues with their new full-length album "The Wake".


And this album shouldn't even exist.


Wait, hold your hate! I'm not giving a slating here. It's just that in the world of metal I don't have any real preference for this.




VOIVOD - The Wake (white vinyl 2LP / side D etched) (plus Deluxe Edition download) (2018)

Of course it has happened before that long-running bands released respectable, even very good records 35+ years into their careers. But the way how Voivod are checking every single box here is astounding:

They are building upon their classic sound without just retrospectively reprising it. Instead they are still expanding and driving forward. "The Wake" is overflowing with fresh ideas and love to detail. Every song has those wow, what is that? moments we all know from some of our favorite records which the respective artists recorded at the creative peak of their career.

Everything about this album is so ridiculously good, it screams the question: How is this possible?


But instead I'm asking: How - after "Target Earth" and even more so after the "Post Society" are we, am I even surprised now?


After my enthusiastic reaction to "The Wake" I revisited those releases, half expecting to discover major flaws now which I hadn't been aware of before. But no, these are still killer works that leave most of the world of metal far behind.

But there are indeed a few key differences.

"Target Earth" was a very heterogenic record which drew inspiration from every of the many phases in Voivod's history and thus also functioned as a showcase for Piggy's successor Chewy, proving his versatility as well as his deep connection and truthfulness to the unique original Voivod guitar style.

Yet there were two things which in my opinion held "Target Earth" back from stirring more attention outside established Voivod fan circles than it did:
The production wasn't there yet. It's hard to find a consistent guitar sound that works for the diversity of the song material and somehow in conjuction to the bass it got a tad too muffled and just a bit demanding to listen to.

It also was a long album with a lot of stand-alone stories, whereas "The Wake" marks the return to the concept album formula, which ties the songs together tighter and makes it an easier, more coherent listening experience despite being a stylistically even wider and more progressive ride than "Target Earth".


Voivod live 2017
With "Post Society" all sound issues were resolved and the new bass player Rocky was successfully integrated into the band. It's still a perfect release for me, but of course it's just an EP with four original songs and one cover version.
"The Wake" now doubled the content, took this quality and even elevated it within the framework of an overarching story.

Or in other words: "Post Society" found Voivod on such a high level, it just didn't seem plausible that there was still uncharted space left above it. Yet appearantly there was.


So how did they reach it? I assume it has a lot to do with the uncommon constellation that the two musical main contributors are still identifying as much as fans of the band as they are members. Chewy and Rocky both experienced the very same Voivod show as their first concert when they were kids. So here we have two immensly talented musicians, who have still maintained the perspective of being fans who fantasize about how the dream album of their favorite band would sound. And they have the opportunity to co-craft this very album.

And even though the long-time original members of the band rightfully say that "The Wake" is Chewy's masterpiece, Voivod are and have always been a team operation.

All of Chewy's stunning input to this album works in favour of the story which singer Snake has laid out.
And as always Away doesn't only tie everything together with his relentless and remarkably effortless drumming, but of course also with the visuals that play such a big part in painting the whole picture.


Funnily the chaotic qualities of the cover artwork and how it jumps right into your face of all the things reminds me of the fascinatingly repulsive apocalyptic gore on Autopsy's latest release "Puncturing The Grotesque".

But just take a look at this artwork (vinyl available in several colours; I'm a sucker for white records, even though it makes the edging on side CD almost invisible):




Ok, you may have noticed that I've already hinted at my full approval for the album here and there. So let me at last get a little bit into what awaits you on "The Wake" without losing myself in every track or recapping the story, because that would be a little too extensive.
"The Wake" just like the last two releases draws its inspiration mainly from the classic late 80s to early 90s period of Voivod. And it does it in a way that results in a new flavour. A mixture of "Dimension Hatröss" and "The Outer Limits" is a description I've read a couple of times, but I would add with the production philosophy of "Nothingface" to it.


The album sees Voivod at their most progressive, which means technical thrash metal as much as actual prog rock. There's a rock opera feel which heavily calls back to "Jack Luminous" and  includes some very storytelling-oriented arrangements including space sounds or that string quartet which pops up in the middle of "Iconspiracy" and feels like the theme of some sci-fi tv show.
On the other hand the band still maintains the urgency of their punk roots, which is absolutely no contradiction to their prog side. Just listen to the wild demeanor in which they throw you from one time signature to the next. It's all connected.
The primal connector of everythings that's going on here is probably Snake's vocal performance. Fuck, he really gives his best on this album. Whether he screams or croons, he's presents himself in top shape and works in some of his best melodies to date. I haven't heard verses reminding me that much of "Angel Rat" from Voivod since... well, since "Angel Rat".

The production philosophy of "Nothingface" - what I mean when I say this phrase actually is the approach which Robert Fripp found for the 1970s and 80s King Crimson records "Red" and "Discipline": At a certain amount of technical playing the best choice to keep your sound clear but also hard-hitting is to keep it dry.
So during riffs and most licks the guitar on "The Wake" doesn't go overboard with effects and has a rather tame distortion by today's standards. But it's the precision which evokes the heaviness here.
All in all this is pretty close to what the band did on "Nothingface". Just listen to that punchy snare drum which accompanies the guitar so perfectly. And when the guitar is supposed to sound ethereal and spacy like the psychedelic patterns under the verses of "Always Moving" the contrast is all the more effective.

That also goes for the beautiful solos, which are the one element definitely more Daniel Mongrain than Chewy channeling Piggy. His solo style is very much that of a jazz fusion player with a metal background, so automatically Cynic's Paul Masvidal comes to mind.


Further novelties specifically of this record are the additional orchestral percussions. The timbals mostly provide atmospheric interludes, which have a similar function to the soundscapes between the songs on "Phobos". But they also sneak into some of the actual compositions, like the dramatic finale of the second song (and closest to title track) "The End Of Dormancy".

And there is of course the whole last song "Sonic Mycelium". The over twelve minutes long conclusion of the album is something quite familiar in the realm of concept albums, a final synopsis which reprises themes and lines from the whole album and kind of works like the closing credits of a movie.

Voivod however have never done this thing before - and they are adding a special twist here, as they are pulling direct musical and lyrical quotes from the seven previous tracks, but they combine them in a new way. So you get all the central motifs stamped into your subconscious, but it doesn't happen with the sledgehammer, because you are also in a different place now.


The groove of "Sonic Mycelium" has a strong "Jack Luminous" vibe to it - and yes, I know I have mentioned the legendary longtrack from "The Outer Limits" before.
When I listened to "The Wake" for the first time, I actually thought after not even ten minutes, that this whole effort felt like Voivod were applying on "Jack Luminous" what Dream Theater did, when they resumed the song "Metroplis Pt.1" with the whole "Scenes From A Memory" album.

And what happens in "Sonic Mycelium"? Between all the other quotes from "The Wake" Snake suddenly goes: "You will never switch him off, when you're hypnotized..."
Damn, I'm so good, haha!


So let's come to the end! And the end is of course the reappearance of the string quartet for a beautiful final crescendo, before not so beautifully falling apart. Wow, what a great way to close this masterpiece!





You can put "The Wake" next to anything this band has ever done, it will never look weak in comparison. Of course it's different and it has the disadvantage of not being associated with your personal nostalgia yet, but make no mistake: this is peak performance Voivod.

It's the best thrash metal sci-fi opera since Vektor's "Terminal Redux" and the best Voivod album since... "The Outer Limits"? "Nothingface"? Hell, do I need to decide?

And yes, guys: After six months you mercilessly kicked Anna von Hausswolff's "Dead Magic" from the top of my album of the year list. I hope you're happy now, you bastards.



I have to go into heaviest nitpicking mode to find anything on the negative side. I wouldn't mind if "Sonic Mycelium" was two minutes shorter. But also don't really mind that it isn't, so fuck that. Nope, the band has done everything right.

The vinyl quality is good, there are only a few noises on the end of side B of my copy. But those are easily within my tolerance range.

No, the only thing really bothering me is that no digital copy is included, especially since other Century Media releases like the new Lucifer record which I purchased alongside "The Wake" provide an additional CD.
So I was left with the choice of digitalizing the album myself or buying another copy.

The options at choice are the regular CD or a special 2-CD version, which also includes the whole "Post Society" EP plus six live tracks from their last 70.000 Tons Of Metal concert. So I opted for the pure digital download of this Deluxe Edition, which misses the "Post Society" tracks (don't care, I already have those), but comes with the live recordings.

"Inner Combustion", "Order Of The Blackguards", "Psychic Vacuum", "Lost Machine", "Fall" and "Voivod" are a good representative mixture of what the band was up to live during the last couple of years. The recordings are good bootleg quality, so they wouldn't be suitable for a standalone release, but work just fine as bonus material.





Highlights: The End Of Dormancy, Event Horizon, Spherical Perspective, Iconspiracy ... well, basically the whole thing, because this album only has a-list material on it.



2018-09-29

E-FORCE, FLAMING WREKAGE and DEVARIEM live at Bambi Galore, Hamburg (28.09.2018)

E-Force


With the phenomenal new album "The Wake" just released (review shortly) and the current tour coming to Hamburg soon, I'm in full Voivod mode these days. And what a great icing on the cake, that not only SnakeAwayChewyRocky are touring Europe, but Eric Forrest, who sang and played bass on "Negatron" and "Phobos" in the 1990s is on the road under his moniker E-Force, revisiting exactly those two albums!

But even though I was stoked with anticipation, two things bothered me before the concert:

1. The promotion was a hot mess. How do you work three mistakes into the headline of your announcement / concert ticket? It's the ex Voivod bassist, not "guitarrist", and that word has one R too much, unless you meant to go full denglisch. And the correct name of the support band is also on the tour flyer.

2. For years I had this original Voivod 1997 tour poster on my wall, which we had scrapped off a billboard directly after the concert back then. So why did I only think of bringing it with me to have it signed, when we were already on our way? That would have been so cool.

(Well, now that I've looked for it, I think I have disposed of it in a bigger tidying up a while ago anyway. But as I said: it bothered me before the concert, haha.)    


Devariem


The evening began with a local support band. Devariem from Lübeck brought a good bunch of people with them, who were only there for them and assumingly had no idea about the headliner. I guess that's ok, in the end a paying guest is a paying guest.

Musically they brought old school conservative comfort zone thrash metal. A little Bay Area here, a little "Teutonic Four" and Motörhead there. And at their best moments, when they went really fast and a but darker, it went into the direction of Thrash/Death bands like Protector. The main vocals were predominantely shouted in D.R.I. manner.

It was ok... as long as you didn't start to nitpick about the lack of control, precision or originality, which is all kind of very important to interest me in thrash metal. Especially in comparison to the following bands it was pretty mediocre, despite all that nostalgia.

I'm also bored by people in music discussions throwing the term "hipster" around as soon as something goes over their head. And Devariem premiered a new song called "Anti Hipster Squad". Since I'm a bearded guy who listens to far more jazz, advantgarde stuff and doom than traditional thrash, I guess that squad was supposed to tickle me? I don't know, man. I don't care. Just grow up, guys, ok?


Flaming Wrekage



Flaming Wrekage from Australia were next and they did it right.

Maybe the vocals were a bit too exchangable, but on the other hand we were now presented with some actual songwriting including original riffs, fluent turns from trash metal to melodic mid-tempo death and high-speed blasts. Plus one other thing they were really good at: exciting harmonic double lead guitars.

No doubt: These guys know what they are doing and their show went by much faster than that of Devariem. Yet even though Flaming Wrekage definitely delivered, the night was of course going to end on a wole different level, which only very few thrash bands on this planet can rival...


E-Force


Man, they didn't even play all my favorites like the "Phobos" title track, but boy, what Eric Forrest and his bandmates had in store for us was so fucking close to the real thing... no, let me rephrase that, since these songs are as much his as they are Away's and were Piggy's: This was the fucking real thing!

Unlike back in the days the music was performed with two guitars featuring one player who looked like Piggy and one who played Piggy's signature parts. Clever move. But seriously, it was a very good decision, because Voivod had that wall of sound philosophy on those records, which would probably allow you to play the tunes with six guitars and it would still be awesome.

The main attraction of E-Force besides the phantastic source material (and "Negatron" is not even my favorite Voivod album by far) is the man Eric Forrest himself.

Fuck, what an insane voice is that? That guy has some sick custom effect installed in his cyborg body. That particular voice colour somewhere between gargling distortion and almost throat singing is something no other singer I know pulls off, especially within his vocal range.
It's strange, brilliant, and while it's totally different from Snake's style it is also so fucking Voivod through and through.

Only one thing was not wholly Voivod, but at least it started with a V also. Just like last time twenty-fucking-one fucking fuck are we fucking old years ago,we got a crushing killer version of Venom's "In League With Satan".


What more can you wish for? Maybe a t-shirt in XXL, but that's it. Anaaaaark!
 



Devariem:

 
 



Flaming Wrekage:

 
 
 



E-Force:

 
 
 
 
 





2018-09-26

RMFTM & 10.000 RUSSOS - RMFTM & 10.000 Russos

Leute, wisst ihr was fetzt?

Krach.

Ohne Verarsche, Krach ist der heiße Scheiß.




RMFTM & 10.000 RUSSOS - RMFTM & 10.000 Russos (LP) (2018)


Die Geschichte dieses Albums ist, dass die Portugiesen 10.000 Russos auf Tour einen freien Tag in den Niederlanden hatten. Da hat DBDSEZZFIINA, Die Band die seit einiger Zeit zu faul ist ihren Namen auszuschreiben aka Radar Men From The Moon, sie einfach zu sich ins Kabuff eingeladen und man hat zusammen Krach gemacht.

Dass RMFTM Kollaborationen können, haben sie ja schon gemeinsam mit Gnod als Temple Of BBV eindrucksvoll bewiesen.

Das Resultat diese neuen Zusammentreffens mit Fuzz Club-Labelkollegen ist eine aus immerhin vier Tracks bestehende, gemeinsame Platte. "This is for the primitive impulses that govern us." steht hinten drauf. Übersetzt heißt das: Uns erwartet Krach. Geil.

"A Song To Get Rid Of Crooked Crosses" beginnt zunächst wie eine Verbeugung vor Sunn O))) inklusive Attila Csihar - aber in space. Und mit einem sich allmählich aufbauendem Schlagzeug, welches schließlich in einem fetten motorischen Umpffumpffumpff mündet, welcher die Mischung aus Psych Jam und Phurpa-Gedröhne bis über die Vierzehn-Minuten-Marke trägt. Dabei eskaliert das Ding immer weiter und bleibt durch seine vielen Lärmzwiebelschichten stets interessant.

Im kürzeren "Dazzling Rays" schalten die Bands dann eine Intensitätsstufe runter, was nicht heißt, dass es nicht immer noch kräftig wummert. Dieses Stück ist flottes Elektrokraut, welches mich ein wenig an Teile von Sula Bassanas Solowerken denken lässt; doch es wird verfolgt von einer Dronewelle, welche beständig droht, sich wie ein nasser Mantel darüber zu legen.

Auch die B-Seite beginnt mit einem fast viertelstündigen Longtrack. "The World I Hunt" ist das sich am geduldigsten und hypnotischsten stufenweise aufbauende Stück. Wenn sich nach fast zehn Minuten endlich die volle Bass-und-Drum-Wucht entfaltet hat, erinnert diese Kombination aus u.a. Dub und wabernden Gitarren sehr an das gemeinsame Schaffen von Kevin Martin und Dyln Carlson aka The Bug vs. Earth auf "Concrete Desert". Extrem gelungen und mein Favorit, wenn ich mich entscheiden müsste. 

Das abschließende "Clamber Into Night" ist dann wieder ein Zusammenprall typischer Elemente beider Bands (roboterhafter Upbeat, analoge Elektrozirpigkeit, spacefuzzige Gitarre - man muss schon sagen dass 10.000 Russos und die Radar Men an sich schon sehr eng artverwandt sind) mit tieferen, Richtung Abgrund drückenden Sounds.


Jedes Stück hat einen eigenen Charakter und kann für sich glänzen, wobei die kürzeren Jams schon etwas mehr auf den Albumkontext angewiesen sind. Und zusammen ergeben sie einen monströs starken Gesamtkrach.

In einem Jahr, welches mir im Spannungsfeld zwischen Drone, Psych und wahlweise Advantgarde, Industrial, Noise oder Metal schon einige bemerkenswerte Veröffentlichungen beschert hat, setzt "RTFTM & 10.000 Russos" auf jeden Fall ein weiteres, ganz lautes Ausrufezeichen.

Primitive Impulsivität herrscht!



Highlights: The World I Hunt, A Song To Get Rid Of Crooked Crosses




2018-09-25

DARK BUDDHA RISING - II

Dark Buddha Rising, die finnische Band, über die man eigentlich gar nichts schreiben braucht, da sie ohnehin klingt wie ihr Name, dunkeldröhnender Cousin von Oranssi Pazuzu, hat im April eine EP rausgebracht, welche schlicht "II" betitelt ist, obwohl es keine EP namens "I" gibt.

Das auf CD-R eigenveröffentlichte Debüt aus dem Jahr 2007 heißt allerdings so. Die Frage, warum man erst fünf Alben später auf die Idee kam, die römische Nummerierung fortzuführen, kann ich hier leider nicht beantworten.




DARK BUDDHA RISING - II (LP) (2018)


Vielleicht bezieht sich der Titel ja auch nur auf die Anzahl der Tracks, welche Teil I und II des Stückes "Mahathgata" bilden. Auf der tadellos gepressten Schallplatte und ihrer Hülle findet sich nirgends ein Hinweis auf diesen Titel, er offenbart sich aber, wenn man den beiliegenden Download einlöst.

Die fünfzehnminütige A-Seite wird dominiert von einem an der Oberkante des Dröhnometers schnarrenden Bass, der uns durch eine Handvoll tonnenschwerer Riffs drückt, die man je nach persönlicher musikalischer Preferenz sowohl im sludgigen Post-Metal à la Neurosis, im spirituellen Drone Doom (Zaum) oder auch einfach im angeschwärzten Death Metal verorten kann.

Und abschnittsweise auch ganz klar in der heaviesten Variante des Psychedelic Rock. Wobei für diese Einordnung nicht nur die Gitarren, sondern viel mehr noch alle anderen Elemente verantwortlich sind:

Der Beat, der zwar kein Tribal-Rhythmus ist, durch die hypnotische Repetition allerdings wie ein solcher wirkt, die unter der Brachialgewalt schwelenden, mystischen Soundtrackklänge - und vor allem der beschwörerische, überwiegend weibliche Gesang, der wie eine dunkle Abwandlung osteuropäischer bis persischer Folklore klingt.


Der Ethno-Gesang bleibt auch auf der zehnminütigen B-Seite erhalten. Das musikalische Umfeld jedoch wandelt sich:

Statt kolossaler Riffmacht steht hier noch mehr die ritualistische Atmosphäre im Vordergrund. "Mahathgata II" ist ein Dark Ambient/Drone-Score zu einem imaginären Horrorfilm. Nur im letzten Drittel schält sich für eine Weile schleichender Drone Metal der Marke Bong aus der Vollmondnacht.


Oder kurz zusammengefasst: Trotz unterschiedlicher Ansätze in den beiden Akten klingen die gesamten knapp sechsundzwanzig Minuten dieser EP hundertprozentig nach einer Band, die den Namen Dark Buddha Rising trägt.

Exzellent.


Highlights: Mahathgata I, Mahathgata II




2018-09-21

PSICOMAGIA - Psicomagia

Ok, das hier wird jetzt nicht super detailliert in die Tiefe gehen. Aber ohne eine laute Empfehlung abzugeben, kann ich diese Neupressung einfach nicht ins Regal wandern lassen.

Dass ich die musikalische und ästhetische Ausrichtung von El Paraiso Records sehr mag, sollte inzwischen bekannt sein. Ich besitze nun auch immerhin genug Platten des Labels, um einen eigenen Abschnitt im Regal zu rechtfertigen. Diese Ehre teilt sonst keine Plattenfirma, aber das tolle einheitliche Design schreit einfach danach.

Der Versand aus Dänemark ist ziemlich happig, doch zum Glück findet man El Paraiso-Platten auch immer mal wieder zu günstigen Preisen in deutschen Musikversandhäusern. In dem Fall lohnt es sich eigentlich immer zuzuschlagen, zumal wegen der übersichtlichen Auflagen auch nicht garantiert ist, dass die Chance noch einmal kommt.




PSICOMAGIA - Psicomagia (red/black swirl vinyl) (2013 / 2018 reissue)


Das selbstbetitelte - und leider noch immer einzige - Album von Psicomagia erschien ursprünglich 2013 und wurde dieses Jahr in unaufdringlichem rotschwarzen Vinyl neuaufgelegt.



An der Marschrichtung des Projekts, an dem u.a. Mitglieder von Radio Moscow und Brian Ellis am Saxophon beteiligt sind, besteht von Anfang an kein Zweifel: wilder schneller Jazzrock, ständig in Verwandlung und Bewegung, immer nach vorne peitschend.

Und so bleibt es auch, sowohl im halbstündigen Kernstück "El Congreso", welches in zwei Hälften geteilt präsentiert wird, als auch in den beiden vorne und hinten flankierenden kürzeren Tracks "El Memorioso" und "Simplón".

Während der Bass in erster Linie ein stabiles Fundament schafft, welches alles zusammenhält, schreddern und irrwischen Orgeln, Saxophon und Drums darüber wie Colosseum auf Steroiden. Darüber hinaus spricht streckenweise noch eine Spoken-Words-Stimme Poesie über das ekstatische Treiben, was den Eindruck grandios chaotischer Überladenheit noch weiter verstärkt.

Was mir in diesem brillianten Jazz-Fusion-Tsunami zunächst gar nicht auffiel ist das komplette Fehlen der bei so starkem Rockanteil eigentlich obligatorischen Gitarre. Nein, dass hier fetzt auch ohne Sechssaiter auf Weltklasseniveau.

Keine Frage, "Psicomagia" ist ein instant classic und eines der absoluten Topveröffentlichungen des Labels. Wäre zu schön, wenn sich die Truppe wieder für einen Nachfolger zusammenfinden könnte!


Highlights: El Congreso Pt. 1, El Congreso Pt. 2



2018-09-20

LUMERIANS - Call Of The Void

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LUMERIANS - Call Of The Void (LP) (2018)

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            Oh, sorry.

I've already done one of those weird reviews for the last Lumerians album from 2015.   



So let's be serious. Lumerians are back with a new record and their space-fuzzy keyboard-heavy psychedelic sound hasn't drastically changed.

In structure "Call Of The Void" settles somewhere between the longer instrumental jams of the last release "Transmissions From Telos Vol. III" and the more songwriting-orientated approach of "The High Frontier" from 2013. Given that we have eight tracks (one is missing on the listing of the LP), mostly around five minutes long, here, it's obviously closer to he last-mentioned.

And is it good? Undoubtly.

I mean, it's all there: that distinct bass tone, the typical rhythms. That strange atmosphere, which somehow feels trippy and relaxed, but at the same time laden with an impalpable dark undertone. On the surface Lumerians appear to work with very simple, naive ingridients. It's easy to listen to them, but hard to fully grasp what kind of krauty flavour they are ultimately cooking.

But while a certain amount of confusion is probably part of the concept and welcomed, I must admit that I'm still a little on the fence with "Call Of The Void". Maybe my expectations for the album just were too high. I think I mainly hoped for bolder, more fleshed out and recognizable melodies.

There is always a lot of sound going on above the foundation of the songs, but it doesn't always lead to something overly interesting  and stays a little too flat.
When there are vocals involved, the songs immediately get a slight gothic touch that reminds me of The Osiris Club on their latest album. It works, yet I still prefer the sunnier vibe of "The High Frontier".

So there are those minor complaints which add up to the feeling that yes, it's all good, the production kills, no track is bad... but it's not yet as glorious as it should be.

But...


All that being said, the whole album is still winning me over a little more each time I listen to it. It's a slow and steady grower. So maybe it will pass my critique one day. Or maybe I should have just written another weird bullshit review.
Well, as I said: I'm still one the fence, my final judgement about it just isn't possible yet.

So for now I will just pretend that I'm using a review scale here and say: 11,5 out of 15 voids.





Highlights: Fictional, Fuck All Y'All, Ghost Notes, Masters Call


2018-09-14

DNMF - Smelter

Ok, since I like my Dead Neanderthals reviews to come in pairs - and I bought this together with "Molar Wrench" - here's yet another collaborative record of the New Wave of Dutch Heavy Jazz duo:




DNMF - Smelter (LP) (2018)


"Smelter" marks the second time after the self-titled debut in 2014 Otto Kokke and René Aquarius team up with the hyper-prolific ambient / drone artist Rutger Zuydervelt aka Machinefabriek under the moniker DNMF.

The album only consists of one single thirty-nine minute drone track, which can roughly be seperated into four phases.

During the first one, which makes the largest part of side A, the low-frequency raucous roaring of "Craters" is combined with a steadily stomping doom beat and majestic slow organ chords. The result is huge, it feels like being dragged through an enormously vast dome of drone.

When the drums break away for the second part, the composition loses volume and brutality for a while, but grows even more transcendent in its clerical, religious tone.

If there was one thing missing during this first half of "Smelter", I would say it's the magical voice of Anna von Hausswolff. Because up to this point, this album totally feels and sounds like an instrumental appendix to her masterpiece (and still number one contestant for album of the year) "Dead Magic"!

The third act then sees a shift of atmosphere, when first the familiar drum rhythm is reprised, but it soon gets overlayed with more and more increasingly loud and dissonant noises.

Finally the whole thing explodes and slides into a very long finish, dismantling itself over the span of ten minutes, which is very reminiscent of what Justin Broadrick has done in Godflesh's "Go Spread Your Wings" or Jesu's "Infnity".

So now that I've spoiled all the plot points - enjoy this!


No, seriously. This is monolithically good. Easily the best Dead Neanderthals release of this year so far.

There are still a handful of LP and CD copies left, which I very much recommend. The brilliantly minimalistic artwork alone is worth it.


And to close this review let me address the obligatory jazz question:

Nope, even with the most ambitious mental gymnastics, this isn't jazz.
But I'll file it under jazz in my record shelf anyway, because it's - at least half - the fucking Dead Neanderthals, so fuck all of you!

Yes, I'll stand by this. I've said it, so I'm owning it. Fuck you all! Yeah.






Highlight: Smelter



2018-09-13

SLY & THE FAMILY DRONE + DEAD NEANDERTHALS - Molar Wrench

Not that it has been too long (the Konstrukt & Keiji Haino double review is still among my recent top posts), but let's go back once again to the lovely genre of extreme free jazz!

Here's something from the Dead Neanderthals I missed last year. Ok, I knew it was out there, but especially when vinyl and international shipping are involved, I just can't order everything I want. But then they recently offered a hefty 30%  discount for their Bandcamp followers, so I took the oppurtunity to grab one of the very last copies of this record.

It's a collaboration with the extremely aptly named Sly & The Family Drone.





SLY & THE FAMILY DRONE + DEAD NEANDERTHALS - Molar Wrench (transparent blue vinyl) (2017)


I'm not that familiar with Sly & Family yet. I probably have seen more - pretty wild - live photographs of them than I've listened to actual tunes. But it's extremely easy to detect that their whole approach is close to that of Dead Neanderthals, as is their instrumentation, which only differs in the way that besides a drummer and saxophone player there also happens to be a vocalist, who is responsible for additional noises / effects as well.

So the premise of this collaboration is basically supersized Neanderthals.

There are passages like the opening minute of the album, where everybody does everything in his power to produce utter chaos, but during the majority of the four tracks playing time there is a controlled rhythm section basis including one of the saxophones functioning as bass, while the other wind player totally freaks out within the higher ranges.

So there are definitely more recognizable song structures than the Dead Neanderthals average on this record. Yet don't let this mislead you - "Molar Wrench" is still absolutely insane, mind-boggling, super-heavy sick shit!

And even though those attributes work for most of the album, each track has a very distinct arrangement and atmosphere. While the A-side with "Ghoul Whispers" and "Muck Man part 1" mainly deals in different flavours of jazz rock on steroids and hard drugs, the B-side begins with an almost ambient mood. The finale of "Muck Man part 2", when the track goes Hulk and escalates in a cacaphony of double-johnzorned grind jazz is one of my personal highlights on this record.

My favorite detail however waits in the closing title track, when someone actually sneaks in a few seconds of "normal" smooth melodic saxophone playing. Now that came unexpected among all the noise torture.


I cannot compare this release with the other works of Sly & The Family Drone, but within the Dead Neanderthals discography this is one of the most diversified offerings.

Of the beautiful transparent blue vinyl version there is recently only the very last of the total three hundred copies left. So go get it!
  


Or settle for the digital version. They are both available on Bandcamp.






Highlights: Molar Wrench, Ghoul Whispers



2018-09-09

DYLAN CARLSON - Conquistador

It's Sunday. Probably the best day of the week for this album.

But first things first: I bought the CD on Friday, after Dylan Carlson's concert in Hamburg (german review here!).

Even though the show was great it seemed like the Earth guitarist was a a little under the weather, having to clean his nose after each song. On Saturday his condition turned to the worse and he got so sick that he had to go to the hospital and cancel at least the two shows in Berlin and Dresden as of now. So let's all hope that he gets well soon!

For me personally yesterday started with better news, when I found out that the CD I had bought was indeed the Japanese version of the release, which includes a bonus track. And that track "Puente De Los Suspiros" also happened to be the closing song and one of my favorites of his concert.



DYLAN CARLSON - Conquistador (Japan CD) (2018)

Just like his solo shows the premise of the album is very simple, since it mainly consists of one man playing his electric guitar. So it's all about his unique style and the atmosphere it creates.

One a couple of tracks he is subtly supported ghostly slide guitar or deep baritone guitar, which were provided by Sargent House label mate Emma Ruth Rundle.

A third instrumental credit goes to his wife Holly, but given that there are really only very few percussion sounds on the album her role as muse and cover artwork model is probably a lot more important here.

"Conquistador" starts with the title track, which throws its shadow over the whole album, since it has more than double of the length of the following compositions. The main reference is clear. The stripped down approach takes you right back to "Hex: Or Printing In The Infernal Method", the first album of the Earth rebirth in 2005.

Dylan Carlson live
As the guitar meanders through the following tracks, the levels of distortion and effects are varying, and the equilibrium of repetition and melody is shifting. The general style however, which floats between the slowest possible form of country, Carlson's drone roots and the skeletons of doom riffing, always stays intact.

As does the spiritual feeling it evokes and its cinematic scope.

"Conquistador" may be a rather short album. Without the bonus track I'd probably call it an EP. But it's a true gem. And noone hinders you to push repeat.

At least on a Sunday.


Highlights: Reaching The Gulf, Puente De Los Suspiros, Conquistador



2018-09-08

DYLAN CARLSON live im Hafenklang (07.09.2018)



Moshpits und Walls Of Death erwartete gestern im Goldenen Salon, dem Obergeschoss des hamburger Hafenklang, niemand. Stattdessen waren Stühle und Bänke aufgebaut. Auch wenn es vor Abfahrt Stellingen noch geklemmt hatte, waren mein Bruder und ich so auf den Punkt vor Ort eingetroffen, dass wir uns noch Plätze in der ersten Reihe sichern konnten.

Auf der Bühne gab es zwar keinen Stuhl, dennoch war auch dort nicht mit Dillinger Escape-Action zu rechnen. Nein, es war ein simpler Abend: ein Mann, seine Gitarre, zwei Amps und ein paar Effekte.





Dylan Carlson, in seinen breit genuschelten Ansagen leicht sympathisch verpeilt wirkender, optisch saucooler Wino-Doppelgänger, ist als Gitarrist von Earth natürlich eine stilprägende Legende. Allerdings hatte man hier nie den Eindruck, dass hier jemand unter dem Druck eines vorauseilenden Rufes auftrat.
Nein, genau wie bei seinem gemeinsamen Auftritt mit The Bug (Earth selbst stehen nach wie vor auf meiner To-see-Liste), spielte der Mann hier einfach ganz lässig seinen Dronecowboystiefel runter. Ein Gitarrenheld ohne jegliches Gitarrenheldentum.

Das komplett als Soundtrack zum Verdursten in der texanischen Wüste geeignete Set bestand zu gleichen Teilen aus Stücken seines aktuellen Soloalbums "Conquistador" und Klassikern seiner Band, darunter auch der Titeltrack des vor kurzem auf Vinyl wiederveröffentlichten "The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull".




Was genau an einem in Zeitlupe desert-rockenden Gitarristen so großartig ist, lässt sich eigentlich nicht beschreiben, sondern nur erfahren. Der Ton, der Twang, das Dröhnen, die Atmosphäre, sind es, um die es bei dieseer Musik geht.

Nach einem gefühlt das lineare Zeitempfinden transzendierenden, tatsächlich etwa einstündigem Set hätten wir jedenfalls durchaus noch gut ein, zwei Nummern mehr hören können.

Fazit: großartiger Typ. Genialer Gitarrist. Tolles Konzert.






[EDIT Montag, 11.09.2018: Dylan Carlson schien Freitag Abend ein wenig angeschlagen zu sein und musste sich zwischen den Songs immer die Nase putzen. Tatsächlich war es wohl schon schlimmer als es aussah, da er alle folgenden Termine der Tour absagen musste und derzeit immer noch mit Leberproblemen in einem Krankenhaus in Berlin liegt. Gute Besserung!]

2018-09-03

KONSTRUKT & KEIJI HAINO - A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire / A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire (Live)

We all know those people who are stuck in some musical past (mostly the soundtrack of their own teenage years) and persistently claim that there is no more good music today. Every after Pink Floyd / Rolling Stones / Nirvana / Frank Sinatra etc. sucks.
And I always tell those guys the same thing: There has never been so much great music of all kinds out there - and it has never been so easy to discover it. If you are a too lazy creature of habit to look beyond what the music industry pushes into some charts - it's your fault alone.

I constantly find myself discovering more rabbit holes leading to all kinds of musical worlds than I can ever process in this one lifetime.

The following pair of album reviews is a good example of finding shit by following one of the million paths the internet provides. Just read Bandcamp Daily from time to time and you'll detect the weirdest, most obscure and exciting stuff.

Back in June they had this article "Devil Horns: Metal Bands Who Use Brass And Woodwinds". I mainly wanted to read the text about the Kayo Dot classic "Choirs Of The Eye", but then I saw that my beloved old John Zorn project Painkiller from the early 1990s was also featured there, but with their third album "Execution Ground", which I had never heard. It really is the band's masterpiece - and it was re-released on vinyl in 2016, by a german advantgarde label called Karlrecords (named after Karl Marx).

I got the double record, I love it. And I had Karlrecords in the back of my head now.

So when two weeks ago I received an email informing me about the label being featured on Bandcamp Daily again, that led me to Konstrukt and Keiji Haino - both names which didn't ring any bell for me before - and their two collaborative records.




KONSTRUKT & KEIJI HAINO - A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire (LP) (2017)

Yes, that album title is quite a mouthful, and even more so are the song titles on this thing. Luckily there are just two of those monstrous brainfuckers, even though there are six tracks on the records. But well, in the end that stuff is just a quirky sidenote anyway.

What do we have here musically? If I had to describe it only using the content of my blog as a source of reference, I would that the closest I could get would be a mixture of Black Cube Marriage's "Astral Cube" and the whole body of work of the Dead Neanderthals. And that would cover about sixty percent of what this album has to offer - max.

So let's take a look at the parties at play here:

Konstrukt
are a quartet, as much routed in the traditional Coleman / Coltrane free jazz approach and its advantgardistic offsprings, as in their turkish heritage, which is unmistakenly represented by the heavy use of folk percussions and mediterranian wind instruments. Imagine the Sun Ra Arkestra with oriental folk instead of afrofuturism. (And they have even played together with Sun Ra bandleader Marshall Allen in the past!)
On top of that they are also using analog synthesizers, tape echo looping effects and other electronic stuff. So maybe I could have also cited the Köhnen Pandi Duo above.
But what Konstrukt are bringing to the table is its very own beast. And it goes fucking berserk in all the best ways. With the broad range of instrumentation it's impossible to pinpoint every ingredient which gives this over the top inferno its special flavour. But even as the saxophone afficionado I am, there is no doubt that one instrument which particularly stands out in an almost unnerving, but absolutely brilliant way is the zurna. There hasn't been such a zurna overload in my record collection since King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard's "Flying Microtonal Banana".

Konstrukt have teamed up with Keiji Haino, who happens to be a japanese noise rock legend. And since his main contributions are wild guitars and the occasional insane shit screaming, there is no way I can keep my advantgarde free jazz noise rock grindcore whatever go-to-reference Naked City out of this. He also provides additional percussion and air synthesizers. If you haven't heard of those yet - you should definitely do a search on Youtube. Sick stuff.

If you are now assuming that all this can only add up to an unlistenable mess, you are probably right concerning your personal perception. If you hate free jazz and experimental improvisatory excess, this album surely won't turn you around.

But if you are receptive to the styles combined on "A Philosophy Warping", this record truly is a goldmine which bleeds instrumental skill and atmospheric instinct to a rich listening experience, which unlocks new details every time you spin it.


Highlights: All Things Will Be Reduced To Equal D お Tっっ3 BBRc MMM あ元 Part 1 - 3, The Darkness Of +​(​plus) And The Paleness Of –​(​minus) Drag Each To An Identical Distance And Reanalyse Blending In Some Pain Part 1- 3 - which is the whole album, because seriously: you either hate every bit of this or you love it all. There is no middleground here.






When your first record has such a catchy title, why not just use it again?

There you go...




KONSTRUKT & KEIJI HAINO - A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire (Live) (LP) (2018)


At least the colour scheme of the cover artwork is different. Those paintings look really great as the real physical thing by the way.

Ok, there are other differences as well:
This time it's a live album, recorded with an audience. And it's not a performance of the older album, but completely new material.

The song titles are... something... again, but this time there is no bothering dividing the record sides into parts, even though there technically are some breaks, where the band starts fresh. But it's all presented as two twenty minutes+ tracks.

Stylistically it doesn't fall too far from the first record, but there is a distinct emphasis on some elements. The first side finds the band more guitar-driven than before, while the B-side focusses more on the saxophony jazz sound. And on both sides the traditional turkish influences are dialed back.
Those statements don't go for every minute of each respective side, but at at least you can say that there is a tendency you can feel.

It surely pruduces a vibe which overall is a little different than on the 2017 album. Maybe it's just the musicians knowing each other better by now, but this records feels closer to live albums like "Dark Magus" or "Agharta" from Miles Davis (maybe with temporary Herbie Hancock sidekick and synth pioneer Patrick Gleeson in the mix) than its predecessor.

Plus the japanese vocal madness of course. Let's not forget that.


Highlights: Into A Trap Surely So Elaborately Laid Air Has Entered And A Splendid Beautiful Monster Now Swims, Excess + Analysis / Courage = (Yes, that's the album again.)




I really can't settle for a favorite between these two albums. Because just as they are equally named, they are both equally as impressive, rewarding  and out there. So it really makes sense to listen to these both albums as different sides of the same coin.

As of now there are not too many LPs left. And the high quality pressing undoubtly does the music justice. So if you think you might be interested in more than a digital download, you'd better act fast.

It might be too early to say something like that, but in the world of extreme experimental jazz "A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire" and "A Philosophy Warping, Little By Little That Way Lies A Quagmire (Live)" have pretty good chances to reside among my all-time favorites.


2018-09-01

EARTH - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull

Young God Records ist mit seinen Swans-Wiederveröffentlichungen (z.B. "Die Tür Ist Zu") nicht das einzige Label, welches für mein Budget zu viele hochpreisige - und dann noch mit happigen Versandkosten gewürzte - Wiederveröffentlichungen raushaut. Auch Southern Lord sind anlässlich ihres zwanzigjährigen Bestehens aktuell sehr fleißig. Da habe ich mir da schon einige interessante Käufe, insbesondere von Sunn O))), verkniffen.

Ein Album jedoch übte von Anfang an magischen Sog auf mich aus. Und als es dann zumindest ein wenig günstiger bei einem deutschen Versandhändler zu haben war, musste ich einfach zuschlagen.






EARTH - The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull (clear 2LP) (2008/2018 re-issue)


"The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" ist für viele Fans wohl das wichtigste Album seit der Wiedergeburt von Earth als Zeitlupencountrydoomband mit "Hex; Or Printing In The Infernal Method" drei Jahre zuvor.

Auch hier bestimmen der Twang von Dylan Carlsons Wüstengitarre und der verlangsamte Swing von Adrianne Davies den Sound. Wo sich "Hex" allerdings über ihren Minimalismus hinaus sehr sparsam zeigte - was auch die zentrale Stärke jene Albums ist -, reichert "Bees" die Klangpalette um weitere Farbtöne an.

Maßgeblich dafür verantwortlich sind vor allem Steve Moore, der mit Klavier und Orgeln sehr deutliche Akzente setzt, sowie das Spiel der Jazzgitarrengröße Bill Frisell, der auf einigen Tracks als Gast zu hören ist.

Frisell ist mir vor allem als Mitglied von John Zorns Naked City, deren erstes Werk aus dem Jahr 1990 für mich nach all den Jahren immer noch ein Allzeitfavorit für die Insel ist.
Womit auch schon die Brücke zu "The Bees Made Honay In The Lion's Skull" geschlagen wäre.

Nun kenne ich das Earth-Album zwar bei weitem nicht so lange, war mir jedoch nach ein paar - anfangs noch nicht so aufmerksamen - Durchläufen im Klaren, dass es erhebliches Ewigkeitspotential besitzt.

Und spätestens jetzt weiß ich, dass die entspannt epischen und staubtrocken majestätischen Instrumentalstücke von "Bees" zum Größten gehört, was die Dunstkreisschnittmenge von Drone, Doom und Psycheledic Rock je hervor gebracht hat.

Es ist ein Album, welches sehr vom Vinyl-Tonträger profitiert. Ich habe beinahe das Gefühl, andere Aufnahmen als auf CD zu hören, so viel reicher und voller klingt es unter der Nadel. Und ja, dies gilt tatsächlich auch für die bienenflügeltransparente Version, die ich mir zugelegt habe:


 

Neben der hübschen Aufmachung und dem tollen Klang trumpft die Schallplattenversion auch mit einem Bonustrack nach dem Titelsong auf Seite D. "Junkyard Priest" steht dem restlichen Album in nichts nach - und zeigt, dass Moore neben den Tasten auch die Posaune zu bedienen weiß.


Im Southern Lord-Katalog steht "The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull" für mich ganz klar auf einer Stufe mit "Monoliths & Dimensions" von Sunn O))).

Absolute doompsychcountrydesertrockdronejazzsaucoole Perfektion in makelloser Neuauflage.



Highlights: Miami Morning Coming Down II (Shine), The Bees Made Honey In The Lion's Skull, Oments and Portens I: The Driver