This has been a super-busy month for metal, and it’s not even over yet. The next two Tuesdays bring a ton of new stuff, and I’m still trying to get into my ears all the things that have come out the first two weeks of September.
There are a few albums to which I’ve devoted time that I haven’t gotten to write about yet, so this is as good a time as any to do a quick roundup on said albums. Two of them can be had right now by hitting up your local record joint (or you can get in your car and go to a far-away record shop … what do I care?), and one of them comes out this week. All three sound completely different from each other and are likely to draw different audiences, unless your tastes are like mine and you end up into all three of them. Let’s get started by taking a deep walk into the woods.
Pacific Northwest atmospheric black metal band Wolves in the Throne Room are down to just two permanent members, the brothers Weaver, vocalist/guitarist Nathan and drummer/synth player Aaron. On their new album “Celestial Lineage,” they complete a trilogy they started with their masterful 2007 album “Two Hunters,” my favorite album of that year, and continued on 2009’s “Black Cascade,” a more stripped-down album that wasn’t bad but also wasn’t up to par with the band’s capabilities. Their new opus is far more in the vein of “Two Hunters” and even their debut album “Diadem of 12 Stars” in that the epic songs are more dramatic, built with soundscapes, and are absolutely riveting in nature. In fact, after my first listen, I knew this is exactly the type of album I’d hoped the band would deliver. Subsequent visits confirmed that.
Frequent collaborator Jessika Kinney is back, and she makes her presence known right away by delivering the gorgeous vocal introduction to opener “Thuja Magus Imperium,” bellowing out, “Redness in the east beyond the mountain, the wheel begins to turn anew.” She just grabs you and pulls you in, and by the time you’re enraptured, the rest of the band blasts in with a tidal wave of woodsy black metal, Nathan’s shrieking storytelling and gargantuan guitar work by guest Milky Burgess (Master Musicians of Bukkake, Asva, Earth). “Subterranean Intuition” rips open with a furious melody, a rush of keys and almost demonic vocals, and it’s one of most effective songs on here. It’s almost like prog black metal. Almost. “Woodland Cathedral,” also featuring Kinney, simmers in a dream state, and you might find yourself reaching out for the fog if you day-gaze away. It’s that mesmerizing. The track also features Aaron Turner (ex-ISIS) and Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer) on chants and other mind-altering sounds. Both “Astral Blood” and “Prayer of Transformation” are your typical Wolves epics, and I mean that in the best way possible. Really effective use of the time, as both tracks are blood-surging and even magical in the way they unfurl, with “Prayer” the slower, more contemplative of the two.
I still have to give the edge to “Two Hunters” as my favorite Wolves album, but “Celestial Lineage” is a damn-close second. This album lived up to and surpassed all of my expectations, and it made good for what I thought was a bit of a mundane, though not bad, album in “Black Cascade.” This band, by the way, is incredible and powerful live, and if you get a chance to catch them, definitely do so.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.wittr.com/
To buy “Celestial Lineage,” go here: http://southernlord.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php
As ashamed as I am to admit this, I really didn’t get into a lot of hardcore until early last decade. I’m not sure why, but that’s just the way it happened. When I did, it wasn’t really pure hardcore that got me going (I admit that bands such as, say, Judge and Terror just aren’t my thing), but more post-hardcore and stuff that used that style as a base and went elsewhere with it were the ones that swayed me. We’re talking Cave In, Thursday, Boysetsfire, Knut, and Botch. And while NYC newcomers Tiger Flowers don’t exactly sound like those bands, and in many ways they are much heavier and much more metal, there’s something about their self-titled debut EP that takes me back to those days. Maybe it’s the in-your-face thrashing, maybe it’s the shout-out-loud airing of grievances, maybe it’s the passion of their music, but it reminds me of what made me love this stuff in the first place.
Their debut is but four songs long, but it’s damn good, and it’s really, really heavy. I listened to it last week when I was running on the treadmill, and I noticed immediately that my adrenaline kicked into high gear just minutes into nine-minute opener “Drag,” a song that owes a nice debt of gratitude to sludge. It’s a calculated pounder that squeezes the living daylights out of you, and once it goes for pretty about halfway through the song, you’re too bruised to feel comforted. “Last Horse” has more of the hardcore feel, and it even mixes in some Dillinger Escape Plan-style trickery to its assault. When the dudes shout, “These scars that we wear are scars that we’ve earned,” you believe the sentiment blindly because they’re that convincing. “The Weight” is super-charged and will get your fists pumping by way of its unbridled energy, and moody, yet pulverizing closer “Cuts” also goes for shifty guitar work and zig-zagging, and when it’s over, you’ll probably be sorry there’s no more left.
Tiger Flowers are a band on which I’ll keep close tabs in the future. I am enthralled by this four-track effort so much that I actually can’t wait to hear what they can do with a full-length record.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/TIGER-FLOWERS/149290739547
To buy their self-titled EP, go here: http://tpltr.bigcartel.com/
For more on the label, go here: http://www.thepathlesstraveledrecords.com/
Speaking of trickery, New York tech-death metal band Pyrrhon do some wacky, brain-bashing stuff on their debut full-length “An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master” (love the title, by the way), but luckily they remembered to write songs and not just crazy licks. I’m in the group that can’t quite get our heads around tech-death because so much of it feels like show-off time, and there’s not enough thought put into writing compelling pieces of music. Maybe it’s because I don’t play an instrument, and if I did, perhaps I’d be all into it as well. I certainly admit that’s possible. But as much as I like to hear dudes and ladies play the craziest stuff they can dream of, I want to walk away remembering something more than how wowed I am by technique. Pyrrhon made me think of their songs instead.
Another thing I like about “An Excellent Servant” (Selfmadegod is re-releasing this after the band out it out on their own) is the portion size. There are eight songs, and the whole thing runs 45 minutes. Yes, their songs are a little longer than most, but they’re not overbearing. They get in and get out in the right amount of time, not allowing themselves to bloat this thing. I hear a little bit of Meshuggah, Gorguts and Death in what they do, three other bands that have/had a lineup of excellent players who almost always remember/remembered to make strong songs. “This too shall pass!” the band shouts along in unison on opener “New Parasite,” a song that hooked me right into the band. “Glossolalian” has some off-kilter mashing, with frontman Doug Moore going for a deeper approach to his growling; “Correcting a Mistake” opens with a cool bass run that eventually runs headlong into a cacophony of violence; “Gamma Knife” manages to sneak a little sludge into the room, keeping things fresh and you guessing; and “Fresh Isolation Chamber” (with a nice quiet mid-section to bring you down and then back up) and “A Terrible Master” (with fierce, confrontational, reflective vocals from Moore), both more than eight minutes long, end the record on a note of total demolition.
I really like what I hear from Pyrrhon, and this album made me go back and seek out their debut EP “Fever Kingdoms,” itself an impressive piece of work. Like Tiger Flowers, I’m excited to hear what this band does next, and hopefully they keep intact the formula that makes their debut so special and damn exciting to visit.
For more on the band, go here: http://www.facebook.com/pyrrhonband
To buy “An Excellent Servant But a Terrible Master” go here: http://selfmadegod.com/pl/shop
For more on the label, go here: http://selfmadegod.com/