Mini-Reviews from Around the Bowl: 08/17/17
And here we are, at Summer’s end. I don’t want cold, but I can’t pretend. These wounds, they will not mend. My rhymes are at their… end. Listen to some Portrait, Canyon of the Skull, Kimi Kärki, Atriarch, Lör, Marty Friedman, Contrarian and Lodo.
Take a bit of Mercyful Fate/King Diamond, add a bit of Metal Church and stir in Sweden, voila, you have Portrait. Unfortunately nowhere near as exciting as it’s recipe – regardless of having briefly blown the minds of traditional metalists with Crimen Lasae Latinic Words in 2011. Seriously, how do you take such awesome influences, have good riffs and great vocal talent, yet manage to evoke so little to say, stir so few emotions. I’ve pretty much already said everything there is to say about this and I don’t really understand it. Christian Lindell brings forth a plethora of riffs any metal band would be proud to have written, Anders Persson gives a passionate performance on the kit, Per Lengstedt‘s quick switches between eerie high’s that lack that something which makes so many dislike King Diamond, and more powerful mid-range backed by faint chorus sounds better than ever. Yet I feel no incentive to play Burn the World again. Could it be that the album is too presentable? A model example of how to do trad metal ends up like a mannequin, not a real person – that’s the only reason I can think of at least. – Karhu.
The thing about single-song records is that it makes it difficult to preview your music before the release date. Canyon of the Skull’s 37-minute EP does just that when I wish it hadn’t. It’s an easily segmented doom record where the transitions are forgettable, but the tracks within the track are pretty dang good for the young band. The wordless album makes its desert and Native American themes come through in a really subtle but apparent way, which is to say it is consistent but not overbearing. The Desert Winter is a nice introspective doom album as long as you are willing to be taken away by slow doom every once in awhile between the solid fuzzy riffs. – Joaquin Stick.
Kimi Kärki is best known as the guitarist of Reverend Bizarre and Lord Vicar, but his career has seen him tackle on prog, electric ambient, and now – two albums worth of archaic singer-songwriter folk. Eye for an Eye is rich with intimate compositions, drawing more from romanticism and old ballad tradition than the marketable s-s folk of the day. The warm tones, scarce harmonies and occasional use of eBow leaves Eye for an Eye less apocalyptic and more dreamy than its predecessor, as is immediately clear from the opener “Entangled in Pleasure“. Though the beauty found within these tranquil compositions is more haunting than anything. The climaxes are subtle, a chorus of female vocals, or few bare percussive hits – but they work well. guest vocalists, like Patrick Walker, offer a pleasant, but ultimately unnecessary counterpoint for Kärki’s somber singing, but if any fan of Warning or 40 Watt Sun grabs this record because of him (and they would do well to try), it’s all good. You’ll not find a better record to silently stare at the fire to, sipping an exquisite cognac while reflecting upon your departed friends. – Karhu.
Atriarch‘s 2014 album An Unending Pathway was a fearless leap in a new direction: a pitch-perfect consortium of doom, deathrock and sludge. A large degree of the album’s success is owed to the vocalist’s ability to shift in and out of the styles associated with these genres at the drop of a dime. I’m not 100% certain that a new vocalist has taken over on Dead as Truth, but I’m sure not hearing those voices I loved before. I’m hearing a lot of Cookie Monster (I wish this were an exaggeration; it is not). Lyrically, these songs sound like a grumpy middle-schooler’s attempt to be inspired by past Atriarch lyrics (“STOP SAYING WORDS!!!!!!”). Musically, the whole album is a gigantic leap backward to the monochromatic two-chord doom of their first two albums. And since they’ve already used all of these dreary two-chord progressions before, I’m at pains to find anything worth a second listen here. Which is a shame, because when this promo came across my desk I pissed myself with excitement. Oh well. Flush! – Sad Richter.
Somebody get a pen and paper ready: I have fallen in love with a power metal album… and I don’t even really care for the stuff! It lasts 70 minutes and never gets boring, not once. Lör are master songwriters who incorporate power, progressive, folk, and a few scattered bits of death and black in all the right places. The songs are long (a few over 10 minutes), but I’d even wager to say they could be longer, that’s how well they’re crafted. The riffs and the solos are finger-kissingly good, the hooks will become lodged in your brain for days. All hail Randall Thor for this recommendation. – McNulty.
The man who shredded his way to Japan and back, Marty Friedman, returns with the follow-up to 2014’s Inferno. Wall of Sound follows its predecessor’s approach while managing to stay fresh and engaging, melding modern metal riffing with an array of influences as diverse as the cast of guest collaborators (including members of Deafheaven and Black Veil Brides). The collaboration that shines the brightest is, once again, the one with Jørgen Munkeby of Shining; “Something to Fight” sounds like what I imagine would be Shining with Friedman on guitar, melodic sensibilities and masterful fretwork intact. These two men need to start a band yesterday, really. The remainder of the album is just as killer (if in very different styles), and any fan of hard rock and metal will find something to enjoy here. – Moshito.
Hey, remember that awesome prog-death project Contrarian? Well good news if, like me, you do: their sophomore full-length has been out for some weeks now. For the uninitiated, the band sounds like a post-Necrophagist take on the early Cynic/later Death sound, if that makes any sort of sense. It’s heavy yet sensible, maintaining a natural sense of groove and an un-processed approach to the technical abilities of each member throughout. Cyborg drum machine George Kollias handles both drumming and vocal duties this time around (even producing some nice cleans), again reminding me of Chuck Shuldiner‘s throaty rasp that he used during the latter half of his career. Catchy exotic melodies atop double kicks, crazy fills and jazzy bass lines await thee who enter, so don’t waste any more time. – Moshito.
Instrumental post-metal is a total yawner, right? Guess again. This Spanish quadrangle constructs some pretty excellent tunes drawn out to the perfect length. There’s no time for empty passages besides the moody lead-ins that explode into great riffs. With this brand of post-metal, you always sense when those shifts are about to happen, and there’s nothing worse than a band who can’t deliver the punch after the set-up. Lodo is great at not falling into that pitfall. While nothing is extraordinarily unique here besides that sweet southern guitar solo in “Santa Agueda” (more of this please), these guys are worth a listen if you need some good traveling tunes. – Joaquin Stick.
Hey you. Yeah YOU. Want to contribute to mini-reviews? Find an album you’ve dug (or not) that preferably hasn’t been reviewed on the blog yet and has been released recently (within the last few months, or year if you’re so inclined), write around 100-120 coherent words about it and send it to toiletminis[AT]gmail[DOT]com. Please include the album’s release date, title, label, a link to the band’s facebook (if they have one), another one to their bandcamp (or any other place to listen to/buy the album if they don’t have one) and any other information/links that you think are relevant and want to include.
Don’t do it for me. Do it for the ghost of the MasterLord.