Friday, October 10, 2014

As We Draw – Mirages

October 4, 2014 • Throatruiner Records

Compared to Lines Breaking Circles, not a whole lot has changed except that the band has somehow gotten a lot better. Thought nothing much has changed since their debut, something about it really grabbed me and I think it may be one of 2014's finest so far.

Mirages basically comes in two flavors: long atmospheric sludgy tracks, and shorter Converge-esque chaotic hardcore / mathcore ones—and there's definitely something to be said for both. The longer tracks (basically just "The Window" and "Shipwreck") have this great post-rock-influenced buildup structure that works really great with the heavier guitar sound without being too clichéd. The shorter tracks are almost perfect: full of blistering energy, stabbing guitar lines and crashing drumming, and never overstaying their welcome. They're angry as hell, but they don't get too wrapped up in it that they lose sight of the song structure.

I don't know for sure why this one is hooking me a lot more than their first—maybe it's my mood, maybe somehow my taste for this stuff has grown—but I can't discount the fact that this music just grooves hard and in a way that I am really enjoying. It's not an album that I'll be able to listen to often—it's a little too punishing at times and the whole thing can be a bit draining. But when I do get the urge, it satisfies handily.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Scott Walker & Sunn O))) – Soused

October 20, 2014 • 4AD Records

You know I can't resist Sunn O))) collaborations. I can resist them even less the more bizarre the other artist is—and of course it's harder to get more weird than Scott Walker, he of The Drift, one of the most messed-up albums I've ever heard. But sometimes that's not always a good thing and, even though my hopes have been high for these collaborations (especially since I liked Terrestrials considerably), I can't get behind Soused at all.

As for the music: to be honest, it's basically what I expected. Sunn O))) drones away on their guitars o' doom, while Walker belts out some impressive singing over top (yeah, he's 71, and sounds way better than most people half his age). Meanwhile, creepy noises and synths and samples bubble and stomp around. "Bull" and "Fetish" shake things up with a bit of rhythmic almost-rock and there are a few industrial-style loops here and there, but for the most part they stick to the formula closely.

And that's about all that happens for forty-eight minutes. I'm not really sure what to make of it. I feel like I usually get what is going on with Sunn O))), and Walker's stuff I've heard before isn't particularly obtuse, but this feels like there's really something missing. I can tell they have good intentions but there just isn't enough happening to justify five whole tracks of this. Come on, Sunn O))), I know you're capable of doing better.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Contortionist – Language

September 16, 2014 • Good Fight Music

Yes, The Contortionist is back! Even though these guys have been one of my favorite obscure prog-deathcore bands ever (I've reviewed both of their older albums here and here), to be honest I didn't have high hopes for this album. Usually bands like this fizzle out pretty quickly unless they totally reinvent themselves.

Well, this band didn't totally reinvent itself, though there are a few changes to go over. As to what's the same, we have the post-rock-tinged progressive metal, with complex chugging djent riffs integrated seamlessly into soaring, epic songs. They still do those metal grooving patterns better than most; while I'm usually not a fan of totally amelodic, pseudo-random guitar lines, they have always had just enough structure to lock into a really great rhythm.

Of what's new, most notable is the vocalist, who tends to focus more on clean singing. Though there are still harsh vocals present, they're more of a raspy hoarse shouting type than the intense death growls of before. While the new vocalist fits the softer sound better, and he does a fine job, I do miss the sheer ferocity and energy of the old guy. But I don't think I'd want them to go back just for him.

Additionally, the band has now fully let go of the deathcore sound that made Exoplanet so great but had mostly eroded away by Intrinsic. I still am a bit disappointed by that as I thought they did it really well and it was something really unique about them. So to the uninitiated, Language will probably feel like a pretty generic prog metal album—and I guess that's not totally wrong anymore.

The album does have some major problems with structuring, though. It takes a while to get the album geared up—the first two tracks are kind of wimpy compared to when "Language II: Conspire" launches into the band's signature math metal fury. The album goes on a roller coaster from grooving, jazzy polyrhythms to passive common-time noodling and can't seem to ever make up its mind what it wants to do. When I gave this album a solid focused listen, it mostly turned into a game of wait-for-the-heavy-parts. But maybe I'm just impatient.

Language is a good album, and The Contortionist is still a good band, but I think they're either heading in the wrong direction or they simply need more time to refine what they are doing. This album is still worth picking up and checking out, but it's not their masterpiece and it's no Apparition. Maybe next time.