Archive for the ‘Goat-killing metal’ Category

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Too close to the fire

August 11, 2008


I’m not sure what it is about Sweden, but their music scene doesn’t seem to have too much in the middle ground.  Either it’s more-twee-than-twee pop like Jens Lekman or The Radio Dept. or it’s face-melting metal like Opeth or In Flames.  (OK…I realise this is a gross generalisation and where would you put a stoner-rock band like Dungen in there?)

I like both ends of spectrum for completely different reasons.  And the thing with both of them?  You have to suspend your sense of the ridiculous for a moment.  Twee pop can be so unbelievably wussy and precious that you wonder what they’d do if something really bad happened if they get that upset about a papercut.  Metal can make you wonder how someone can be that into dragons and not have something clinically wrong.

Opeth are easily one of the most ridiculous metal bands ever, sitting as they do at the progressive end – that “progressive” as in “progressive rock” like Yes or Genesis.  They bludgeon you with a double-kicked riff for thirty seconds and then rip into a flamboyant neo-classical acoustic guitar bit with some absurdly portentous lyric over the top.  They’re also easily one of the most awesome bands in the world.   You just have to pay attention to their proficiency in melding together multiple genres, their control of dynamics and emotion, and their sheer power and energy.

The new album Watershed is pretty much what you’d expect after the majestic Ghost Reveries and all those other folky metal albums they’ve done in the last decade.  It’s also one of the best albums I’ve heard this year, hard rock or otherwise.

You couldn’t ask for a better summary than “The Lotus Eater”, which involves driving death metal, a flute line and some wicked Rick Wakemanesque keyboards.

Oh, just listen to the damn thing…

Opeth – “The Lotus Eater”

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Stone me into the groove

June 4, 2008

For someone who doesn’t smoke pot, I sure like me some stoner rock – Black Sabbath-copping rhythms, untelligible lyrics, tightly-wound guitar solos. Tune your guitar down, muddy up the sound and jam away for a few hours and I’ll probably like you.

But I also love the new breed of arty metalheads like Pelican and Isis who are just as much about texture and dynamics as they are about the Almighty Riff. These guys appeal to the much-more-dominant indie side of me and my love for experimental atmospheric rock.

So I guess it’s no surprise that I’m liking the new album by Miami band Torche. They’re intelligent enough to fill their music with subtle flourishes and amazing atmospherics – and they’re also goofy enough to let rip with some thunderous riffs. The album name, Meanderthal, seems appropriate for that reason – it makes me think of a big-ass caveman smelling some roses and enjoying the scenery.

A lot of the time, they make me think of those classic early 90s bands that sat somewhere between metal proper and grunge – Helmet, Kyuss, the Melvins etc. The rest of the time they’re like those contemporary bands that love Mogwai as much as Maiden.

What’s more, you can actually hear this split-personality all in one song.

Torche – “Fat Waves”

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Doom and optimism

October 22, 2007

One of my favourite artists working in the world of metal at the moment is Justin Broadrick and his Jesu project. The first Jesu album back in 2005 was a brilliant combination of stomach-turning doom metal with flashes of ethereal beauty. Since then, he’s moved even further away from his misanthropic metalhead roots in bands like Napalm Death and Godflesh. 2007’s Conqueror album could almost be considered a “pop” album. If your definition of “pop” stretches as far as mine does.

Every song moves at the speed of toxic sludge and the guitars have never been tuned higher than an octave below normal. But the chord progressions are anthemic and Broadrick’s multi-tracked vocals sound positively angelic at times. The sound isn’t exactly metal and it’s not exactly shoegazer or space rock either. It’s a sound that’s currently unique to Jesu.

The catchiest song on the album is “Mother Earth” and it’s as good an introduction as any. At this rate, the third Jesu album will be produced by Timbaland.

Or not.

Jesu – “Mother Earth”

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Thunder down under

October 5, 2007

pelican promo shot

Last night was Chicago instrumental metal (instrumetal if you will) legends Pelican’s first ever Sydney show and it was all it could have been. Actually, it was a little strange to see only four people on stage – on record the music sounds like it should have been made by a cast of thousands, standing on an icy lake and all playing minor variations on the same riff. Not mere mortals, surely.

Pelican were the first proper metal band I ever got into and it was an easy step for two reasons:

1. No metal vocals. Cookie monster growls took a while to start working for me.

2. They’re really only a tiny bit heavier than the resolutely un-metal Mogwai.

And last night, they were magnificent. My favourite moment was when they played the stand-out track from 2005’s The Fire In Our Throats Will Beckon The Thaw. The recorded version is amazing and will hopefully give you a sense of what you missed out on when they took the stage last night.

Pelican – “Sirius”