King Goblin – Goblin King – 4/5
Hello my old nemesis, articulation. Just precisely how do you try to define a band that has next to no comparison, doing it enough to justice to permit this up and coming Japanese band the recognition they deserve? Metal-Archives lists their genre as the horrifically convoluted “Doom / Stoner / Sludge / Psychedelic Metal / Rock” and then goes on to point out the 70s prog and Free Jazz influences along with the growled vocals. It doesn't exactly sound like the author knew what he was talking about does it? Shoving together just about every common combination of doom and its sub-genres in the bands general direction and going 'that'll do,' and I'd berate him further if only I could do any better myself. The fact is this style of Doom – that it is some sort of Doom metal is at least clear enough – doesn't really exist except perhaps as some sort of strange combination of King Crimson, Primus, Eyehategod and Baroness all in some batshit insane package that defies all attempts to pigeon-hole it.
The fact that it seems to take all these influences and combine them into the one package is more than merely impressive, but it allows for a subtle diversity between the tracks as certain aspects take hold; sometimes the free-jazz influences allow for that chaos to rule over the track, though it never gets too carried away, constantly fighting back in that thick sludge like manner to retain its coherency, the dominance of the track steadily swaying as new passages arise from the progressive manner the track unfolds. At other times the dissonant nature takes a notable back seat allowing for the track to take a more slow-paced and sludge filled course, at times bordering on Funeral Doom in its pace, with the bass driving the track forward. And yet then there are still other times when the guitars aren't happy with this idea and start to force their way through the thick wall of sound, slicing through for some psychedelic stoner riffs to sink your teeth into. Point in fact, there isn't a weak point in their sound and it seems all this trio of members can do to wade their way forward to prove they ain't slacking back there.
But this versatile nature comes with its own drawbacks as well; yes they might be unique and their tracks diverse, but its all a little too diverse, and as the album progresses preferences for how they should play begin to emerge. The tasty stoner riffs never come into their own often enough for my liking, and the few sections where they throw in a chaotic 'free jazz' fill to get themselves out of a particular passage on moving forwards are underutilised in the end result (though I would fully expect others to prefer their slower passages, and wish for them to frequent themselves more often). In trying to be everything to everyone, they can never quite fulfil everybody's wishes and will find it difficult to make it into anyone's regular playlist. It doesn't take long to realise they're a creative and talented group of musicians with no shortage of ideas to throw into their creations, but it still feels a little as though they have yet to quite find their sound; the final product begging to be slimmed down, needing a more consistent balance between their influences throughout course of the album. That they have so many styles they can lean on merged together into the end result is their greatest selling point, but they haven't quite got everything as cohesive as it could be, and I wonder just how long I'll have to wait before they do.
Highlights: Megalomaniacs, Equosys, Motordead
Over the years this has grown into my own personal project, reviewing the artists that I discover and interest me. If you wish to see more of my work, particularly my more metal-orientated material, you can find me as a regular contributor for the online magazine
Jenarium – Rise of the New Sun - 1/5
I'd been eagerly anticipating this release for a while now, advertised on a few budget sites but largely remaining unheard of, it's the very concept that lies behind it all that had me on my toes, eagerly anticipating the time it would fall into my hands. Assuming you've never seen the site, it contains an entire history of this concept that looks set to rival Kalisia in the 'epic' department; the noble Jenarium, the master race who gave life to their creations, the Sinturians who take the centre stage in this epic battle across the planet. But lurking deep beneath the oceans are the malicious Rifers, subterranean savages existing in the caverns deep under the ocean floor created by those Jenarium who had fallen from their pedestal, the Notari. Despite the intricacies, it is essentially a battle between good and evil; a concept spanning both books and this debut album complete with a full complement of musicians, choral work and a symphony orchestra; this could have been the work of Magni Animi Viri, Frank Klepacki and Kalisia in one epic wrapping.
The problem here is a little tricky to pinpoint beyond 'its fucking awful.' Take a bit of Rammstein's or Rob Zombie's industrial bombast and mix it with some autotuned pop atrocity by Britney Spears or Lady Gaga (the B-sides that were removed for being too instantly forgettable for filler material) and you have the meat of the project. Interspersed with poor taste are the spoken passages akin to a book on CD, which are irrelevant as with music this bad you'll probably soon lose interest in the concept regardless of whether it was worth it or not. And when the orchestra kicks in to try and create something epic, all it really does is allow you to become disheartened all over again as what sounded like it might become promising goes to shit. It's not enough that they have to kill all your hopes for the project but they have the infuriating desire to resuscitate you so they can do it all over again.
In fact, for an album at 35 minutes in length its rather impressive just how much audial excrement they've managed to pack into this; there sounds like what seems to be a good 10-20 minutes of dialogue, though much of it is difficult to actually hear without straining. Fortunately it never feels like you're missing much based on the grounds of the rest of the music, and quite frankly listening to generic orchestral work in the background is preferable to the minimal actual music being offered, usually filled with one or two nonsensical sentences yelled with a noisy auto-tune. In fact, calling it Industrial as I did before seems a little offensive to Industrial music as the edgy or 'rough and ready' atmosphere the genre promotes never presents itself. Instead it often feels closer to an awful dance track with some mentally challenged man screaming a nursery rhyme over the top; the chorus for “Danger Rising” for example being sung in the same manner as the opening line from “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” and then repeated endlessly.
Well thank you Jenarium, you've removed all difficulty in picking this years biggest disappointment. Robert Dominic Gennari, For the love of all that is good in this world please stop. Stop trying to promote it by using the name of Craig Parker; calling him a 'Star from Lord of the Rings' because let's be honest here, there were trees with more lines than him; claiming he's a gifted actor when his biggest film role to date was a bit part in Underworld 3 (and hence probably not something he should be particularly proud of); and when his only role here was in speaking a few lines of this atrocity. Just...just stop. You filled me with hope and have succeeded in doing little more than pissing on the work of Vangelis, shitting on pop princesses, and hurling huge chunks of vomit over the already questionable appeal of the genre of industrial rock. In trying to make an 'accessible classical film score' you have made an abomination seeming to involve as many participants as you possibly could to maximise the potential ripples of pain and suffering. This is awful on a level I barely knew could exist and will haunt its participants for years to come. Bravo.
Stone – No Anaesthesia – 4.5/5
The Finnish metal scene seems in no short supply of people willing to complement it for their consistency, competency and ever so slightly unique style of doing things, but their origins always seem to be overlooked. I once was once told that almost nobody outside of Finland has ever heard of the local legends that formed 'Stone,' and the younger generation of Finns seem to have forgotten their heritage as well; for all the talk of Children and Bodom and Amorphis, nobody realises that actually their beloved bands owe a lot more to Stone than they realise. In fact, they would go on to elevate both aforementioned bands; the drummer Pekka Kasari arriving in time for Amorphis' “Elegy” - the start of a new direction for the band – and the guitarist and chief song-writer (along with the bassist/vocalist) cited as Laiho's inspiration, Roope Latvala, making waves with his debut in Waltari's first Orchestral offering “Yeah! Yeah! Die! Die! A Death Metal Symphony in Deep C” before joining Bodom himself.
But if you think that's impressive, bear in mind as you start your exploration of this progressive thrash gem that kick-started the Finnish metal scene that the musicians responsible for it were barely old enough to drink when this was recorded. It may never race off in a frenzy, content at remaining relatively mid-paced in its aggression but this is not without reason; at no point does it feel like tracks blur, the hefty bass bombastically crashing with an almost thick Sludge-like tone; thick and meaty riffs are given the time to groove, develop and shift with the gradually fluctuating tempo's, but perhaps most importantly of all it allows for such a variety of styles to emerge. When the twin guitars start firing off like a lost Coroner solo it's given all the more impact coming from the slow epic passage that preceded it. Riffs are thrown about haphazardly and can change at a moments notice but it never feels out of place or unintentionally jarring, rather progressing over time, as of course all good prog should.
The production sounds undeniably dated – it is nearly a quarter century old after all – but still feels impeccable, everything just given a slight coating of dirt, sounding as though it's just walked through the abyss just to kick you in the ass. The drums seem to know exactly when the music needs to change pace and with a fill and a flurry morphs the track for the rest of the musicians to follow; the vocals remain oddly accessible to those not a fan of the Exodus train of thought, retaining much of their clarity and still demonstrating their Traditional Metal origins as was common for the time. But above all this is the twin guitar work from Roope and Markku; rarely have I heard such a perfect marriage of technicality and melody; epic chorus lines with shredded solo's, the duelling guitars intertwining to create something awe-inspiring. These teenagers helped inspire an entire generation of music and today their influence is felt all over the world, and after giving this a spin it isn't difficult to see why.
Highlights: Sweet Dreams, Empty Corner, No Anaesthesia, Light Entertainment
Disfear – Live the Storm - 4/5
So right now I'm depressed and I'm angry, and rather than find myself reaching for my collection of death metal or grindcore, I find myself clambering for this bands most recent offering (admittedly at three years old, I'm still late to this party) and hoping I can write this all up before my inherent alcoholism takes a turn for the worse and I start making bad metaphors. But lets back everything up a little; Disfear is a name that all hardcore punk fans should know. These Swedes took the old English standard in hardcore punk and married it to a handsome couple of D-Beat and Crust (with perhaps a mistress' touch of rock n' roll thrown in for good measure); the former renowned for playing most prominently on the downbeat (hence deriving their name) and the latter a sort of 'fusion' of punk and metal. But don't go thinking of some sort of metalcore tripe, this the shredding guitars of the best thrash solo with all the bass of doom coupled with the chaos of hardcore. This is one step away from grindcore and I'd be turning up the bass a notch to appreciate this fact, except this album really doesn't need it.
At only 35 minutes, it never really manages to strike up a huge amount of variance. The drums are a major source of the problem, always there to supply what seems like a very limited offering and maintaining a remarkably similar beat from start to finish. The vocalist doesn't have a great range with the only difference being the times he's pissed and the times he's really pissed, the bass feels mostly there for atmosphere and the guitars spend an awfully long time playing power chords. There are flourishes with other ideas; “Maps of War” has an electronic sounding breakdown – done well I might add – but for the most part they don't stray too far from the D-Beat handbook. You could pick a random point from a random track and it would be a good place to start listening to the album. And it won't be long before you find yourself nodding your head in appreciation.
You see, this is why none of that matters. Of all the three major “Dis's of D-Beat” - Discharge, Disclose and Disfear – only two are still going, and only Disfear has seemed to be able to keep up with the times. The production is modern but still not without that raw edge; the bass is still loud enough to make your spine vibrate but it never for a moment loses track of the guitars assault and their relentless supply of solo's and riffs, without a doubt the highlight of this album's performance. The vocals are still oddly warm and yet have lost none of the passion that made them big to begin with. D-Beat isn't big business and it likely never will be. The fact that these lonely Swedes are overshadowed by their “Discharge-ing” contemporaries must be a constant frustration, and you can tell. Every shredded guitar solo, every time the vocalist struggles to sing above the cacophony wailing behind him, every time the rest of the band can't help but get their thoughts out by screaming along with him; the never ending quest to destroy studio equipment to relieve some of their anger, it all reeks of frustration and aggression. It kicks off with a bang and slows down for no man.