Saturday, May 19, 2012

Sanctification - Black Reign

Sanctification – “Black Reign”, 2009

You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Neither should a paragraph start with a cliche but convention and rules were invented to be broken. Swedish death metal band Sanctification either missed the memo about crushing the rules or the meaning got lost in translation. “Black Reign” is like when you get a packaged box for Christmas. You give it that shake that lets you know that someone was incapable of thinking of a more imaginative gift than a box of chocolates. The blame clearly lies firmly on the shoulders of the “Forest Gump”scriptwriters.

The expected down-tuned guitars, blast-beats, asthmatic elephant blowing through a snorkel vocals are all present on this album. The clear but gruff spoken chorus of the title song is the closest these guys come to any semblance of melody. “Thirst for Blood” is relentless with crushing riffs over pounding drums. Soundwise Sanctification edge closer to Deicide than Dismember. However most of the songs are the songs are mid-tempo so they blur together. Instead of invoking the feeling of being run over head on by a Mac truck which then reverses to make sure the job’s completed and leaving the victim flattened and incapable of passing on stories to his grandkids, “Black Reign” just leaves a listener flat due to its generic nature.


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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Shihad - Beautiful Machine movie review

Shihad – Beautiful Machine

Rock documentaries are a dime a dozen these days but bands that last close to a quarter of a century certainly aren’t and that length of time ensures that there are stories to be told. Shihad’s finest moment was their second album Killjoy and soon after The General Electric the band became New Zealand’s answer to Nickelback musically. Though from the band’s strength has always been their live show.

The animation in the trailer may make you think that you’re in for an Antipodean version of the Metallica documentary “Some Kind of Monster” and in some ways it does parallel that movie but there is no life coach for the band but similarly there is alcoholism and inter-personal relationship breakdowns as well as a similar part with the drummer's child sitting on his knee while surrounded by drums.

The film is more about relationships than about music and how time overseas affected them as a band and as people. There is a lot of John Toogood’s partner who rightly priotizes that her child is the more important than her partner following his desire for band fame overseas and felt the biggest strain due to partner absense. Other band member’s partners do get talked to although Phil Knight’s wife really only gets a wave in.

Parents of all the band members are talked to about their sons. Drummer, Tom Larkin’s parents talk about not knowing that the boys were doing pub gigs when Shihad is underage unsurprising but worth a smile. The parents and band members are all candid in all of their answers. The appearance of Killing Joke's Jaz Coleman is a surprise given the band's previous grievance's with him over finances.

The interview with Germany’s Noise record label people is interesting. Shihad basing themselves in Melbourne due to the signing with Warners is covered, as is the tour and recording in the States and how the band blew it in front of a lot of record label representatives. The band changing their name to Pacifier gets a lot of coverage. It was telling when Americans looked at the Shihad name and a few said it was close to holy war but a couple of young woman guess much more correctly. Shihad in front of label people who wanted to manipulate the band down to picking their set list is covered is paralleled with Larkin telling Knight to puff his hair up to look like a big rock star.

There are a lot of fond memories and Phil Knight’s animated first phone call between Ton Larkin, Jon Toogood and himself is a highlight. The band’s manager Gerald Dwyer is shown in a number of clips and remembered very fondly by band members and others associated with him. Dwyer’s drug habit, death and tangi are all talked about. Toogood talks about writing quieter songs because Dwyer wasn’t around to point out that the band’s grunty rock strength is what should be concentrated on. The missteps the band have made aren’t overlooked.

I loved that the band's early days were covered because I was following the band back in their demo days so would have liked to heard from the former bass players and also from other band’s that were around at the time. In fact, I may well be in the Mountain Rock audience footage. I also know people who were at the 91 AC/DC gig, which was bass player, Karl Kippenberger’s second Shihad. The first being a show the night before in Palmerston North(I suspect the then thrash metal band played with a goth band). Head Like A Hole’s experimentation with heroin in Berlin is only covered from the Shihad viewpoint. From a music point of view, the band’s surge into the mainstream when “Home Again” started being played at rugby games total lack of mention disappoints. There are also a number of personal incidents that go unmentioned. This documentary also sadly fails at showing how the band changed from working jobs to becoming full-time musicians. During the movie there is a change in quality of band filming over time as VHS and VCR recorders become digital and professionals can be afforded by the band. This documentary is aimed more than just the band's fans since it is really more about a group of friends from New Zealand chasing their dream of success overseas and the problems that come with it rather than just about music.

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Monday, May 14, 2012

Into The Storm - Captains

Into The Storm – Captains, 2011

Anyone who has been reading this blog regularly will be aware of the current wave of noisy Seattle rock bands. Into The Storm are definitely in this category and fall under the experimental metal umbrella.

The band have self-released a five song album. There’s absolutely no nice greeting for a listener in the opening song “Bodhi Zephyr” as the song opens with fast complex riffing and raspy scooby doo death metal growls yelling “Fuck Off”, the song does slow down for a little and the death metal growls continue over slow clanging metallic noise. Quick tribal rythms open “Jean-Luc Picard” which then slow down into ambient noise that is not unlike some of the territory Jakob cover but that cartoon dog voice comes into action once again before the song ends with samples over the quieter side of the band. The cliched metal reviewer adjective crushing was coined for “K’nuckles” as it is punishing Obituary death metal. This song is easily the highlight of the album and also the shortest. “Walter White” has a more melodic voice half-singing and dueling it out with the death metal guy and the end of the song the more melodic guy is still left standing.

While the self-releasing an album is applause worthy, Into The Storm could have been a better album if the band either made better use of the melodic vocals or did away with them completely. The death metal vocals make it unpleasant to listen to and that may well be the point but it doesn’t win the band any points here and neither does the fact that most of the songs are just too long.

“Captains” is available from the bands bandcamp site below either digitally at a price of your choosing or on vinyl for $15US.


Into The Storm on bandcamp.

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Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sigh - Insomniphobia

Sigh, In Somnophobia,2012
Candlelight Records

Admittedly black metal was getting even more boring with a bunch of bands treading out the same old corpse paint and covering the same old ground. But while you’re likely balling your eyes out about the demise of Ludicra, you’ll pleased to know that Japan’s Sigh have returned with a new album.

The latest album opens mixing classical metal with classical music and black metal in “Purgatorium”. For the most part the vocals are clear although it’s pretty hard not to figure out lyrics such as “I live, you die.” Ignoring the black metal vocals “Keeper of The Seven Keys” period Helloween is a band that comes to mind when listening to this song and ignoring the black metal vocals.
“The Transfiguration Fear” is an opera from hell complete with a church trained sounding choral group. The song has a few jazzy moments but it is the choir that assists to convey an aura of unforeseen terror.

The nearly half an hour “Lucid Nightmares” is made up of seven separately titled chapters. “Opening Theme” is exactly that with an evil voice welcoming the listener into their nightmares. ‘Somnophobia” conjures up hell with metallic noise, jazz and more eerie choral voices. The metal works out the door and the jazz takes over towards the end of the track before. L’Excommunication A Minuit” has the vocalist take the role of mad ringmaster with the band walking high upon their carnival music tightrope to occassional bursts of inexplicable laughter. Creeping blues opens “Amnesia” and the vocals are much more film noir blues than metal. When the black metal vocalscome into play the musical proceedings veer towards jazz complete with keyboard tinkering. “Far Beneath The In-Between” adds a short snake charm to the lounge jazz metal hybrid insanity.

While Sigh are going to be exalted in many quarters for “In Somnophobia” due to their innovation, it’s only really their experimentation that keeps a listener interested because there’s a serious absense of hookiness in a high percentage of tunes on this album. This weakness makes difficult for the indiscriminate listener to tell where one song ends and another starts. The vocals are clearer than most black metal but Sigh still often fall into the unclear mirky vocal genre trap. Despite its failings this album will get repeat playings due to simultaneously fulfilling jazz and metal listening desires.


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Sigh- Scenes from Hell review

High Priestess - High Priestess

Record Label: Ripple Music High Priestess are a recently new Los Angeles trio who play heavy psychedelic music. The band was formed...