Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Simon Whetham – Understory

December 2008 • Trente Oiseaux

Man, do I ever need something to clear my ears after all the grindcore I've saturated myself with recently... how about something light and airy; perhaps some field recordings? Simon Whetham's Understory is one of a huge collection of avant-garde material available from the excellent Trente Oiseaux netlabel; unfortunately it's not one of their better releases.

Essentially, Understory contains a wide variety of sounds recorded by a lake in Brazil, both naturally-produced and otherwise, such as birds and insects, storms, and bits of static, noise, musique concrète, etc. The recordings are assembled together, mostly unprocessed, for a sort of "raw" experience of the nature of the area. It's mostly presented in a very quiet, non-intrusive, ambient fashion, the kind of sound you can easily ignore if you want, with a few exceptions scattered here and there (like the sudden metallic noises near the end).

It's an interesting collection of sounds, to be sure, but I'm not really a huge fan. It feels very disjointed and aimless; one sample leads into another with little warning. It feels like watching a slideshow of someone's vacation photos—perhaps there are some that are nice, but stacking them all together doesn't make them any more interesting. I mostly find myself feeling bored listening to Understory. I don't see the appeal; I could go out to the suburbs and make a recording and it wouldn't sound much different.

Perhaps Understory is good as a jumping-off point for taking nature and making something out of it, but that isn't what happened here.


Monday, January 28, 2013

Fuck the Facts, Bastards, Earthburner, Domestic Terror

January 25, 2013 • Carabar, Columbus, Ohio

I promised myself I wouldn't go back to Carabar ever, due to their atrocious booking skills that caused two shows I attended back in 2010 to last until 3 AM. However, they make it darn hard to resist with free shows and some really excellent bands. You may recall from my Disgorge Mexico review that Fuck the Facts is a pretty awesome band too, so I had to check this one out. It wasn't a fantastic show (largely due in part to the horrible audience), but it was fun all the same.

Domestic Terror

I didn't have high hopes for these guys going in, having sampled their stuff online, so I wasn't too disappointed by their mediocre performance. They market themselves as "shitty, but fun to listen to" (direct quote from someone who gave me a CD-R of their album), and at least the first part was right. As far as their sort of juvenile grindcore goes, there's definitely a way to do it right (Anal Cunt) and wrong (these guys). "Funny" song titles is not how you be a good band. Their drummer was actually pretty decent, using an interesting alternating-hand technique for blastbeats, but the guitar work and songwriting was poor.
3Most China Cymbals Award, Like Seriously


I did have high hopes for Earthburner, being more of a "sludgecore" band, but I found them to be a slightly disappointing example of it. Their music is very repetitive, as basically every song is the same open chugging over and over, with the occasional hardcore section sprinkled here and there. Decent for a song or two, but it got boring quickly. Still, they weren't horrible, and knew how to put on a decent groove. It might have been better if anyone in the audience seemed to care (aside from the half-dozen drunkards idiotically dancing around).
5Fanciest Les Paul Award


Now here was a decent surprise. I was ready to dismiss them as being unprofessional after their incredibly long setup time (silly, I know), but they put on a hell of a set. They play a sort of death metal-influenced strain of grindcore, with lots of tempo and rhythm changes for thirty-second songs, and were technically very impressive. Particular praise should go to their drummer, who seemed to be making the fastest snare blasts I've seen by sheer force of will alone.
7Nerdiest-Looking Grindcore Band Award

Fuck the Facts

Unfortunately I don't have a whole lot to say about the headlining band's set—basically my opinion on the band was already laid out in my previous review, and their performance was reflective of that. Good energy, great songs—well, see for yourself! Someone was kind enough to tape the show. I don't think you can see me in it, though.
7Vocalist Who Looked Most Like a Receptionist Award

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Mathbonus – Languid

November 18, 2012 • self-released

After clamoring about the redemption of the witch house scene that was Shrines, it seems a bit unfair that I'd basically ignore the genre after that, even though I do have an interest in the original groups. Mathbonus isn't pure witch house either, and if the original scene ripped off southern hip hop, the new stuff is after electronica. Languid still retains the dark, gloomy atmospheres and club-like beats of the older groups, but strips it down and refines it a bit into something definitely more tolerable.

Mathbonus, to me, sounds like the Burial of witch house, believe it or not, mostly due to the abundance of pitch-shifted vocal samples and clattery shuffle beats. While Burial's use of vocal samples never sat well with me, it seems to work rather well for Mathbonus somehow. Other elements like the deep, clean, atmospheric drones and cold melodic lines behind the loud beats bring the dubstep giant to mind—not to mention the arpeggio lines in "Haunt Me" that seem lifted straight from "Ashtray Wasp". But it all clicks together pretty well, and there isn't a lot that feels forced about the EP's sound (though the vocal samples can be a bit jarring at first, especially in "Orchid").

Hopefully, Languid is indicative of a maturing trend when it comes to witch house and garage; a more stripped-down and reasonable sort of music without the tacky "eerie" moods (or, at least, less of them). Or maybe I just like this more. Who knows?


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Bastard Sapling – Dragged from Our Restless Trance

October 23, 2012 • Forcefield Records

I saw this band play (briefly) back in their infancy in 2010, and while I was nonplussed by their early EP V: A Sepulcher to Swallow the Sea, I was pleasantly surprised to hear of the recent release of their full debut and that it's actually pretty good. Admittedly, it's nothing particularly special, but it's very well-done and scratches that black metal itch just right.

Bastard Sapling simply plays a very old-school variety of the genre. Lots of atmospheric, hazy tremolo guitars, fast drumming with plenty of blasting, choral samples, the works. It's relatively generic black metal—and I don't necessarily mean "generic" in a bad way, not in the same sense as "average" and they definitely aren't amateur. They simply take the tried-and-true atmospherics, moods, and intensities of the old standards and bring their own songwriting to it, and it's successful.

And what songwriting it is, too—such a diverse selection of riffs, some catchy, some melodic, some with unrelenting dissonant fury. It's a good mix, one that prevents the album from getting too repetitive, which is a relief considering the length of the songs. At no point do they pull out a line and repeat it ad nauseum like many atmospheric black metal bands tend to do. "The Apex of Suffering" showcases the songwriting best, where the rhythms and melodies shift quickly from softer melodic strains to deep, crunchy grooves to angry blasting. At no point does it ever really feel unnatural, either, giving everything a very organic feel (highly desirable, to be sure).

If I had to make one complaint (and of course I do), the vocals definitely come off as the weak point—and, considering how far back in the mix they are, I wonder if they knew it. While they aren't horrible, they don't really have much kick or emotion to them until the last couple minutes of the album. Maybe that's just me.

Regardless, for any fans of the first-wave black metal sound or modern atmospheric stuff, that's more or less what you're getting here and you'll already know if you will enjoy this. While the album may a while to really sink in, it's worth the time, and I congratulate the band for an impressive improvement over the last couple of years.


Monday, January 21, 2013

Atira – Ins†rumen†als vol. I

September 9, 2012 • self-released

I went browsing Bandcamp just for kicks, as is my wont, this time looking for some cloud rap, not knowing I'd stumble onto one of the greatest hip hop productions I'd ever hear. Sound like strong words? Yeah, maybe I'm exaggerating a bit, but Ins†rumen†als vol. I is still beautifully-crafted and I've been loving every minute of it.

Atira's production is the "cloud" sound at its most pure—triumphant choirs, glittery sci-fi synths, ambient drones, deep bass, all drenched in reverb and glued together with some stripped-down yet rock-solid drum beats and the occasional trap hi-hat rhythm. It's a pretty basic formula, one that doesn't change much between songs, but it's one that I think is done better here than I've heard just about anywhere else. Okay, yes, you have the great Clams Casino instrumental mixtapes, but Atira's sound is a much different style—much more classical-oriented than Clams' soul-based music. (An oversimplification, but you get my point.)

Being instrumental, I suppose that one's enjoyment of this album would rely on how long they can handle these kind of ultra-dramatic beats (and I know more than a few people find this kind of music to be cheesy), but I don't feel that it really needs any vocals (especially not the sort that usually go with cloud rap). I feel like it would ruin the pristine vibe the music gives off. True, without vocals it does get a bit repetitive as it goes on, but I'm probably not really "supposed" to be listening to it all the way through at once. But you never know, the right rapper could add a lot to these beats, someone just has to try and find out.

Anyway, Atira has really got something great going on here, and deserves a much bigger audience. Maybe it's just me who thinks that cloud rap is one of the most interesting new scenes, but if so, albums like this will probably change peoples' minds.


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reighnbeau – Ashes

January 2, 2012 • Bridgetown Records

I can't say I know much about slowcore, even having been a fan of Red House Painters for a short time, but that's about as far as I've ever gotten. Reighnbeau's Ashes is, therefore, probably a horrible choice for me to review, even though it's quite a good album.

At the very least I can contrast it to Down Colorful Hill: Ashes is much more focused on the music and the mood than the lyrics, which I appreciate. The vocal delivery is very hushed and pushed back in the mix, bringing the moody, introspective guitar and rhythm section to the fore instead. On the whole it's a very dark and atmospheric take on slowcore—even though the production is pretty clean, there is a very oppressive and gloomy atmosphere over the whole thing from the hushed vocals and minimalist drumming. It's all very effective, especially when they bring other sounds into play like the subtle ambience on the title track or the woodwinds section on "Fingers". Somehow, it's even catchy at times, like the surprisingly major-key riff of "Snakes" and the more aggressive drum groove in "Restless".

Whereas other highly-acclaimed similar bands like Low get all the praise, I never liked how repetitive and stale their music was. Reighnbeau, on the other hand, never seems to get anywhere near as monotonous—and it really works, like I mentioned in the above paragraph. And consequently, despite its slow pacing, the album seems to fly by pretty quickly... I suppose that probably just means I like it more than anything, but I was surprised at the level of engagement I got with it.

Then again, it's from Bandcamp, the legendary website of neverending music gems, so I guess it's par for the course. Anyway, it's good stuff, so go stream away.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP

January 15, 2013 • Polo Grounds Music

I haven't listened to it much since, but A$AP Rocky's debut mixtape from 2011 LiveLoveA$AP turned out to be a really cool release, especially with me being pretty new to the whole cloud rap thing. On the other hand, Long.Live.A$AP, the followup and commercial debut, doesn't have the same fresh spark its predecessor does. The album goes back and forth between a handful of really great tracks and a handful of completely uninteresting ones, sometimes leaning a bit more towards straight-up party rap, and leaves a bit to be desired.

It has its moments, though, and there's truly a lot of great moments on the album. Opener "Long Live A$AP" has a really cool contrast between the heavy trap verses and a light, airy bridge; the transition between the two is anything but subtle and it sounds great. "Goldie" has a fantastic minimalist-yet-heavy beat. "Fuckin' Problems", as the single, is predictably good with a great guest spot from Kendrick Lamar—one in a great list of guest spots, like ScHoolboy Q's great verse on "PMW (All I Really Need)". Even the Skrillex appearance on "Wild for the Night" is fitting and (almost) tasteful. My highlight might be the production on "Phoenix", which might seem like typical cloud stuff at this point but I really like how it works on this album.

But at the same time there are a couple cuts I just didn't care much about, even the Clams Casino-produced "LVL" and "Hell", which pale in comparison to his earlier tracks, especially the repulsive hook on "Hell" (and that extreme bass across the whole album is giving me a massive headache). Many of the tracks sound simply like generic modern rap, which goes against all of what made A$AP Rocky interesting in the first place, as he doesn't do it quite as well as I bet he could. I suppose the fact that the producers on this album are so comparably diverse is what hurts the album the most; it makes the album feel really disjointed as opposed to the solid cloud production of LiveLoveA$AP. Rocky's rapping is not terribly great either—he's definitely not bad, technically he's decent (let's not get into the awful lyrics though), but there's nothing distinct about it that makes it nice to listen to and the guest spots almost all outshine him.

It's hard to quantify what I think about Long.Live.A$AP or not—I feel as though I like it and I don't like it at the same time. It's definitely a step down from the mixtape, unfortunately, as the song quality is just too inconsistent. I don't think the tend towards more mainstream rap works that well for A$AP Rocky. But at the same time there's plenty of cool ideas here; it just sucks that you have to dig through some crap to get them out.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dios Trio – High on Bikes

September 20, 2011 • Well Weapon Records

Have I made it abundantly clear yet how great Bandcamp is? Better yet, Bandcamp recommendation threads? Anyway, someone threw Dios Trio out there—it's not often that I instantly love an album upon first listen (though that seems to be happening more often lately), but I was instantly taken with this one.

Of course it helps that High on Bikes was already right up my alley; it could be described as a simple fusion of indie emo's jangly clean guitars and slight punk aesthetic with the rhythmic complexity and occasional aggression of math rock, accomplished with some incredibly beautiful riffs and melodies. It imparts a sense of juvenile innocence and nostalgic happiness that I love in this kind of music (really, how can anyone not feel joy in the beginning of the title track?). Even the "Fast Car" cover, which may seem bizarre at first, fits perfectly in my mind as I've always secretly liked that song and it takes me back a bit.

The songwriting itself is a bit hyperactive, jumping from section to section rather haphazardly without much thought for structure, but then again I don't think the music really suffers for it, especially seeing as there are almost no vocals (and what vocals are present act as just another instrument). The composition style makes the music always have a sense of drive and movement, making the album's forty-minute runtime blink by. It feels half as short as it is, not that that's a bad thing. (It might also help that the music is awfully fast most of the time, almost impressively so.)

I don't know how appealing Dios Trio might be to the general crowd, but High on Bikes was an instant hit for me. The band doesn't seem to have been terribly active since its release—just a single last July—but I hope they get off their bikes and put something new out soon. Not that I'm dissatisfied with this album, of course!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Ephera – Ecstasy

January 1, 2013 • self-released

I'm always a bit hesitant to really get into amateur electronic music, because more often than not it's total garbage (too many kids in too many bedrooms thinking it's easy when it's not). But sometimes, as evidenced by my previous Ephera review and this one, there's gems to be had. The duo has progressed and matured a bit this time around, and the end result is all the better for it. Ecstasy is chock full of great beats and a great atmosphere not to be found in many other places.

Ephera's main draw hasn't changed a bit, its rainbow of electronic dance styles stripped down and fused together with the same trademark style on the debut. Though it takes cues from cold, clinical genres like dubstep, future garage, and the like, Ephera's sound is again warm and welcoming. The shimmering, hazy atmosphere punctuated by tick kick beats and quick hi hats, combined with video-game-like synth lines—often highly complex and still very melodic—it's all very well-composed. The sort of "space trap" style (similar to, but not the same as, cloud rap) is fairly unique and I really like what I'm hearing.

And while Home was a bit idiosyncratic and never could seem to settle on a style, Ecstasy is thankfully a bit more consistent in its textures and sounds, eking ever-closer to that magical point where an album is consistent without being too samey or too diverse. They're not quite there yet, but this is a big step up. It helps that many of the songs revolve around a specific hook or sample and build on that, anchoring them down and making the tracks a bit more memorable. It probably also helps that there's a personal association I get with a lot of the tracks—the opening to "Stigma" reminds me of Fuck Buttons, while the middle of "Paranoia" reminds me of a song from Earthbound (I think), just to name two. Pretty neat (but that's just me).

Anyway, this is a great sophomore effort and Ephera is on a great trajectory. Definitely a good listen for fans of more cerebral-yet-dancy electronic stuff (again, Clark comes to mind). Let's hope they can keep it up.


Friday, January 11, 2013

Isis – Temporal

November 6, 2012 • Ipecac Recordings

If I hadn't made it clear before, Isis has long been one of the most important bands to me and the development of my music taste—I remember having my mind blown by "So Did We" back in 2004, eating up the rest of their discography, and eventually managing to see them on tour in 2006 before their breakup in 2010. I hardly need mention that they were a classic band, almost universally-revered by the rock fans who knew of them, and at the very least it was good to see them go while they were still near their peak.

Anyway, enough with the eulogy, and onto the hefty contents of Temporal, a collection of demos, B-sides, and videos, fit to round off their career. Most of the songs have been seen before on various limited releases like the two covers from Sawblade and the Wavering Radiant-era outtakes, along with a couple of B-side remixes. All of the non-demo material I've heard before and it's mostly solid stuff, even the "Streetcleaner" cover many people seem to dislike (I love their really old sound, very industrial and dirty). It's good to see some of the best songs that never made it to an album get a high-profile release, like "Pliable Foe" which quickly became one of my favorite Isis songs when I first heard it and I'm not sure why it was only on the iffy Melvins split and never on Wavering Radiant like it deserved to be.

The demo tracks, though, are just alright. For the most part, aside from the alternate version of "Wills Dissolve" and the fantastic acoustic version of "20 Minutes / 40 Years", essentially you're just hearing the same songs you already know, just a bit sloppier, sounding like live concert recordings. It's a situation similar to all of Isis' live albums: the studio versions are excellent classics, so any live or demo version just seems inferior and kind of pointless. Obviously that doesn't make these demos bad; I simply would rather listen to the albums proper. Perhaps it's all to justify the inclusion of the never-officially-recorded "Grey Divide", which is actually quite a good song in its own right, and it's a shame it never got its proper due.

The DVD is similarly a bit lacking—five music videos and no other footage, sadly (not that you'd need it if you have the excellent Clearing the Eye). I've never been a huge fan of their videos, but it's nice to finally have them all packaged together.

If my review sounds a bit negative, don't despair. I have a tendency to be a bit overly critical with my all-time favorite bands; I mean it's Isis after all. If you're picking this up, you are probably already a fan and you already know the kind of thing you're getting. And you probably already know if you're going to like it.


Struck by Lightning – True Predation

April 24, 2012 • Translation Loss Records

So I've been following Struck by Lightning for a while, ever since I saw them open at a show and checked out their debut from a few years ago. This, their second album, is almost a year old by now but I'm finally catching up. Anyway, it's good. It seems that the band has moved up a bit in terms of sound and created something pretty darn cool.

The crust punk style that defined Serpents definitely still dominates the album, though (if you couldn't tell, just look at that classic cover art)—dirty, crunchy, and fast guitars, standard yet aggressive hardcore-punk-style drumming, and raw, angry, nihilistic sludge vocals. Some of my favorite elements of different kinds of heavy music all smashed together, and it's awesome.

While Serpents often flaunted a prog-sludge formula that was catchy but admittedly not terribly original, on True Predation it's more or less gone. Basically, there's less of that Mastodon sound (though the dual-guitar harmonies show up now and again). I think it's a good change for them; it seems they're a little more comfortable with their own sound and are developing a more tailored style. Songs still range from the more plodding ("Mindfucker") to fast and blazing ("Stalk and Prey"), so it doesn't get stale.

Essentially, Struck by Lightning is just as good now as they were back on their first album. I'm not totally sure if I'd say they're tons improved, but True Predation definitely doesn't disappoint. I can only wonder why they haven't done any shows around here lately (or, if they have, why I haven't found out about them).


Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Death of Her Money – Spirit of the Stairwell

February 27, 2008 • self-released

It's tough to review any sludge album after Cult of Luna because it's probably going to feel underwhelming to me, and I hope that didn't happen with The Death of Her Money. Turns out they're quite a good band in their own right, with a very nice and varied approach to the style.

The Death of Her Money plays a standard locked-in-a-groove sort of sludge—not in the stereotypical Southern style, but there's hints of that here and there as the band sort of sits in the middle of the road between the atmospheric style and the down-and-dirty style, which is neat, if not particularly unheard-of. It has a very dissonant, syncopated style to the riffs but it also slips into more melodic stuff now and again. It's a nice balance and the band plays it off well, easily sliding from softer post-rock-like parts into really nasty palm-muted breakdowns or these strained, atonal tremolo passages. The grooves are really quite nice, even the simpler ones like the buildup at the beginning of "Newport Scars" with its all-enveloping-but-not-suffocating sound and washes of guitars—just one of a good handful of cathartic moments on the album.

I also really like how the album was mixed and produced. There is this very distinct buzzsaw-style sound to the guitars (and really, the production in general), making it a bit reminiscent of Isis' very early material with a bit of polish on it and a bit more of an emotional edge. The rare use of vocals is also an interesting touch, and when they are present they're always pushed to the background, keeping the focus on the razor-sharp riffs and walls of sound.

I'm not sure how much relistenability this album has, and Spirit of the Stairwell may not be truly unique, but the band's own personal sound is quite good and anyone who enjoys the standards of the genre will find something to like in this.


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Build Buildings + Marlo Bright – Isomers

September 1, 2007 • Standard Klik Music

Another trip to the defunct netlabel Standard Klik Music's archives today, and another release I don't know a single thing about yet I'm going to tell you all about it anyway. Build Buildings and Marlo Bright are apparently a couple of microhouse artists who remixed each others songs and put them out.

As you probably expect, this EP has the same sort of minimalist, glitchy, stuttery, spacey music that Standard Klik seems to like. Microhouse isn't a genre I know much about, but based on what I've heard this is a relatively typical and safe example of the genre. Beats are simple 4/4 clicks and jitters with a wash of fluttery synths and thick background drones supporting them. A very "bedroom"-y sort of music, to be sure, but not without merit.

Like the rest of the Standard Klik catalog I've heard, Isomers isn't really anything terribly special, but it's a pleasing listen for what it's worth and a good way to get a small taste of a genre I'm not very familiar with. Of course I need to actually put in the time to explore the style further, and I haven't gotten around to that yet, but one day...


Monday, January 7, 2013

Cult of Luna – Vertikal

January 25, 2013 • Indie Recordings

Oh man. Oh yes. Okay... calm down... breathe... but how can I not be excited when my two favorite bands put out new albums within just a few months of each other? And there's no better way to start the year off with a bang—I've been hungrily following Vertikal's release info for months, and I'm so glad it's finally here (well, on pre-order, at least). Cult of Luna is one of those rare bands that has gotten better as they've aged; even though I frequently cite 2003's The Beyond as my favorite, their last one, 2008's Eternal Kingdom, turned out to be one of my top favorites as well. Vertikal is no different, offering more or less the same music I've grown to love, but in a ever-so-slightly different light.

Anyone familiar with anything the band has put out since Salvation is going to know basically what they're getting here: some of the heaviest, most crushing sludge metal there is, made with slow, plodding riffs that build up into a dense and oppressive atmosphere. It's all been done, of course, but Cult of Luna have long been the kings of the genre for me—perhaps it's the great variety of sounds they use, or the near-perfect songwriting they manage to keep cranking out. One of their biggest and most important strengths for me has always been writing great riffs, and it seems that the well still isn't quite dry. As on their previous effort, Cult of Luna can be somewhat melodic when they want to be, and still huge and heavy at the same time. The alienating dissonance of their debut and The Beyond are long gone, but I don't think melodicism is detracting from the band's quality at all (interestingly, it seems like after Isis' breakup that Cult of Luna has picked up a bit of their slack and some of the writing here is a bit reminiscent of Wavering Radiant in some of their softer sections). And they're often at their best when they keep things simple and catchy. One of my favorite things about the band is that at least once a song or so they pull out some groove that I can't help but stop what I'm doing and tap along or something. Take one of the album's best tracks, "In Awe Of", and how the band rides up to the climax halfway through its running time and just stay there for the rest of it; it's phenomenal. And don't forget the vocals on "Passing Through"—I've always loved their use of clean singing and since they use it so rarely it seems extra-special somehow.

Of course I have to mention Vertikal's particular "twist"—this time, it's the inclusion of lots of extra synths and electronics. Not surprisingly, it usually works well, as Cult of Luna has always injected a bit of dark pads and ambient sounds into their music; there's simply more of it this time. The band keeps things tasteful and uses them sparingly, but when they do it's effective. Synth leads aren't that unusual in their music but they take on a strong role in a few tracks, such as the solo in "I: The Weapon", the sprawling accompaniment in "Synchronicity", or the sci-fi-soundtrack interludes (especially "The Sweep").

On the other hand I can't help but feel that it's an attempt to make up for a few sections that are somewhat lackluster. There are a few moments, a few riffs here and there, that seem a bit rehashed from older material and thus don't sit with me as being particularly interesting. There are a few pacing problems, too, such as the overlong intro to "Vicarious Redemption" that seems to just pad the track out and really tries my patience. It's a problem with the band I've always seemed to have, but one that I can easily overlook. Fortunately these sort of moments don't come often, and even when they do I can still get behind the band's performance.

As I expected (and as happened with Eternal Kingdom), Vertikal is a bit of a grower. Cult of Luna's albums can often be hard to get into, but with patience it's absolutely worth it. Is it as good as their older stuff? Maybe not. As of right now, it doesn't grab me quite in the same way as I hoped it would, but it's still very solid and very enjoyable (and they haven't gone into a rut of repetitive mediocrity like Neurosis has seemed to). It'll probably grow on me like Eternal Kingdom did. (Or is that just confirmation bias? Well, who cares?) Anyone who liked any of their other albums will find the same things to like in Vertikal. Simple as that.