to eleven

Review: Windhand – Windhand by Jayson
January 2, 2012, 12:25 pm
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: , ,

Windhand album cover

Ah… this was out in September. I can’t really explain why I didn’t review it then. I apologize for that.

Ok, so fun fact about me: I hate trad doom. It’s not something I scream from the top of the mountains, mostly because I don’t want to razz the legions of trad doom fans out there, some of whom are pals. I think it’s because a lot of what I’ve heard, even some of the really admired stuff in the genre, skews more toward “doing my Ozzy impression” than “this is the stylistic basis of my approach to music.” It’s a focus on duplicating the sounds of a specific band at a specific moment in time, rather than the deeper level of the stuff that basically made doom, doom.

My point in even bringing all that up is that Windhand ain’t do any of that. They’re playing trad doom crafted in the tradition of their mightiest forebear(s), not auditioning for a Sabbath cover band. Yeah, the riffs are crushing and the vocals eerie, but this is managing to feel both fresh and familiar at the same time. This is one of those records that is so good it doesn’t need a masters thesis of a review. This slays.

Buy it from Forcefield Records. Do this now.

– Jayson

Top Best Albums of 2011 by Jayson

Out of the way. Quick & Dirty. Stuff I reviewed only. I think anyway. Order does not imply ranking. I didn’t want to re-review these here, if I had any additional thoughts, I’ve added them.

Full Lengths:

Batillus – Furnace

I spent the whole time from when the vocals where announced to when I got to listen to it worried that they’d screw it up. They didn’t. Not at all.

Matt Bauer – The Jessamine County Book of the Living

Emotionally devastating to listen to.

Letna – Adria

In this broad genre of ambient music, this was the brightest light in a year of fantastic stuff.

Wugazi – 13 Chambers

Mashups are art, 13 Chambers is proof.

We’ll Go Machete – Strong Drunk Hands

Noise rock is back, people.

naisian – Mammalian

Picking up where Isis left off.

Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage

Wolves’ Oceanic.

Harmondale – Spirit of 73

So one lady proves she understands country music with her first release better than any new artist I’ve heard this year.

SP-33 – Escape From Tha Carter

This is music from a real future that exists somewhere.

Mastodon – The Hunter

I was super hard on this, but honestly in the wake of a year of challenging releases, The Hunter is seriously my go to album to unwind with. Girlfriend/In the car metal for life!

Special Dispensation:

Hurray For The Riff Raff

Technically this came out in the USA, where I am in 2010, but we were actually contacted by the UK pr and reviewed the UK release of this album. I loved it, heartbreaking. I am cheating to put it in here, but I can do that.

Graf Orlock – Doombox

Yeah, the 10″ has new material, but it’s most about being a comp.


Soul Khan – Resolution

Soul Khan had an incredibly prolific year in 2011. Of all the stuff he did, Resolution is my favorite. Khan is now one of my top 5 living MCs, real talk. Also as a thing, this has Nine on it. Seriously any day I hear ‘Whutcha Want’ on the radio, I think it’ll be a good day.

Big’n – Spare the Horses

Noise rock is back. Seriously back.

Butterfly Trajectory – EP 2011

So looking forward to what this band does next.

Witch Mountain – South of Salem

I want to listen to this and make out with a girl that has slightly crooked teeth.

So anyway, musical year in review. I kinda came back to metal this year after near total burnout last. There was some good, enjoyable stuff out there and I was glad to listen to it. Noise rock coming back was the big thing. I don’t want to get into the ‘yeah, but has it musically progressed?’ argument. It’s being back is really enough for me. As you can see by the list, though, it didn’t quite dominate my listening. Nothing really did. I view that as a good thing. This is a pretty well rounded list of the kind of music I like to listen to and review. It was also really hard to pick the top out as it was a uniformly good year here. I don’t have any major disappointments either, because there was very little I had serious anticipation for. As I sit here writing this though, I am really at a loss to say anything other than 2011 musically was the year that was.

Review: Sulaco – Build and Burn by Jayson

The thing about Build and Burn was, for me, the fact that I basically had some kind of musical deja vu listening to it. Sulaco are walking a lot of fine lines. Their music is math rocky but not spastic, weird but not corny. It’s got enough noise that my Am Repdar is going off, but there is metal happening. I heard the deedly even. Definite heaviness. I had a basic realization here, like River Pheonix crashing through the ceiling in Sneakers, Sulaco are saying “it’s not easy what we just did!” I buy that. The balancing act between all their influences could have pretty easily resulted in a bad album, which this is not. It’s a good album. The thing for me is, having listened to it a bunch and formed opinions I still can’t tell you what kind of music it is. Good music will have to do.

Craw. That’s it. These dudes are the spiritual successors to Craw. Can’t ask for more than that, whatever that means.

Available as a limited edition LP from Handshake Inc.

– Jayson

Review: Surachai – To No Avail by Jayson

It’s a basic fact that you pretty much have me at the words “experimental black metal.” Or at the least, you’ve basically guaranteed a listen.

On a continuum between conventional black metal and the more extremely experimental stuff that I love, Surachai are occupying a comfortable middle ground. To No Avail is an album that could easily be enjoyed by fans of a band like Deathspell Omega who really aren’t into the whole experimental angle, but is equally engaging to the listeners who like going one step beyond into territory that’s outside the traditionally defined boundaries of the genre. Surachai are completely destructive and malevolent as any traditional black metal, which is rad; I love that stuff, but the part of me that loves experimental music was really fascinated by the brutal ambient parts. I’ve experienced a lot of evil noise, but To No Avail’s unabashedly digital approach is something unique. Regardless of where you are on the spectrum of extreme music, To No Avail is completely worth your time.

Available digitally or as a limited edition record from Handshake Inc.

– Jayson

Review: Rwake – Rest by Jayson
September 20, 2011, 9:49 am
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: ,

Being honest here, I lost touch with Rwake’s music between If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die and Rest. So, not that they were bad at all, but they’ve come a really long way since then. Their sound has gone from what I thought of as sort of extremely angry sludge metal with black metal style vocals to more of a sludge-doom hybrid, with a little bit of progressive color. The biggest change are the vocals, that black metal style is gone, replaced with an almost hardc0re sounding shouted style. Going back and comparing it to the last album of theirs I listened to, I’m definitely hearing a band that’s evolved their sound. The changes don’t mute the overall hostility and bleakness that I’ve always associated with Rwake’s music. It’s more like, the longer they play, the more they fully realize their approach. Now any band that’s gone on to incorporate what we’re calling progressive elements has been subject to any amount of criticism. On Rest doesn’t feel at all forced, which is real test. Rest feels like it has a slightly more positive vibe here than on If You Walk… actually the whole album feels kinda like it’s building to something, and the quiet parts and use of acoustic parts contribute on the whole. I’m glad I caught up with what these guys are doing.

An Invisible Thread

– Jayson

Review: Butterfly Trajectory – EP 2011 by Jayson
September 14, 2011, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: ,

Butterfly Trajectory’s music represents exactly why I continue to write here. There are musicians all over the world doing brilliant work and they send it to me. I love it.

Butterfly Trajectory represent a more metal approach to post-rock. It’s actually quite a bit more metal, given the vocals. Pitor from Butterfly Trajectory is delivering straight up death metal vocals, very much in the tradition of Pitor from Vader. Being a huge Vader fan, the similarity in stylistic approach immediately won me over. The band’s approach to the post-rock progressive sound varies from going at it in a straight up metal approach to backing off for very quiet moments of beauty. It’s more of a calm before the storm thing; a very successful melding of elements from both genres that you don’t hear pulled off with this much skill very often.

I’m really looking forward to whatever these guys do next.


EP 2011 is a free download on Butterfly Trajectory’s Facebook page. Check it out and give them a Like.

– Jayson

Falling Down IIV by Jayson
September 7, 2011, 1:42 pm
Filed under: Metal | Tags:

Yann wrote me and asked if I’d be willing to write an article about an upcoming compilation record. Check out who is on this thing:

Mouth of the Architect (US)
Karma to Burn (US)
Julie Christmas (US)
Terra Tenebrosa (SWE)
Year of No Light/Mars Red Sky (Special Collaboration – FR)
Hopewell (US)
Rosetta (US)
Black Sun (SCO)
Ahkmed (AUS)
Vanessa Van Basten (IT)
Sendelica (UK)
Ayahuasca Dark Trip (PER)
Ocoai (US)
The Winchester Club (UK)
Planning for Burial (US)
Vespero (RUS)
Rorcal (CH)
Ethereal Riffian (UKR)

I am not familiar with all the bands on there, but I’m a fan of Mouth of the Architect, Karma to Burn and Rosetta. So I am anticipating this release. The video is really cool too. This will be out in 2012 and it is all going to be unreleased material. More bands are being announced, check out the Fallingdown webzine for updates. Just thought you should know.

– Jayson

Review: Wolves in the Throne Room – Celestial Lineage by Jayson
September 6, 2011, 2:29 pm
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: , , ,

I always feel like I have to write some preamble about the state of black metal regarding its audience and the divisiveness that results from discussing it. Forget all that though, it’s been said enough and I personally do not care. I like transcendental black metal. Bought the ticket, taking the ride.

Wolves in the Throne Room then, Celestial Lineage. I’ve been listening to it for a bit under a week and I’ve come to the conclusion that this might be their best record to date. One of the most compelling things about Wolves has always been how their philosophical underpinnings translate into the actual music they make. The female vocals absent from Black Cascade have returned, the ambient sounds feel more fully integrated into the music; I’d hesitate to call them samples. There’s also more of a willingness to run with the more transcendental side of the whole equation. Black metal is an ugly form of music, but the way Celestial Lineage is crafted gives us a genuinely beautiful album. When people use these adjectives like astral, earthen, transcendental as qualities to describe music, they’re often lacking in impact. It’s like there is a failure on the music’s part to communicate the qualities chosen to describe it, that couldn’t be farther from the truth here. Wolves have done it. If anyone doesn’t understand what this type of music is about, play them Celestial Lineage and they’ll get it.

Subterranean Initiation

Available on Southern Lord, of course.

– Jayson

Review: Odyssey – An Abstract Existence by Jayson
September 6, 2011, 10:00 am
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: ,

I’ve been an avid listener and advocate of the progressive side of metal for a long time now. While you’ll see in the previous review of Dirge that I am cool being served another plate of my favorite stuff, there’s also something to be said for going in a different direction. It’s kind of a thing to realize how long the reach of Isis and Neurosis have been. I say this because what really makes Odyssey stand out is how their take on progressive is really fresh and new for being so old school. Odyssey is playing progressive music, these are long songs that are pretty heavy duty composition-wise. What you’re not hearing though is the sort of prog-0f-2010 thing were a band would really quickly play some jazz scales and go back to what they were doing before that. Odyssey are playing what we used to call Heavy Metal. There is riffage, there is shredding, it all has a really distinct old school feel to it, but at the same time sounds really fresh to my ears, since everyone has been going and doing the Isis thing.

This is also top-quality musicianship, these three really know how to play. There is always a danger with dudes like this that they’ll get bored and wander off into some weird, self-indulgent territory; getting too jammy for their own good. This never happens on An Abstract Existence. This whole thing is super tight. Six songs of super tight, super enjoyable progressive metal. I am encouraging you, the reader, to check this out.

Cellular Deconstruction

Odyssey bandcamp.

– Jayson

Review: Dirge – Elysian Magnetic Fields by Jayson
August 31, 2011, 10:40 am
Filed under: Metal, Review | Tags: , ,

As time goes by I’m becoming more aware of French music and am continually impressed by what I’m hearing. Dirge have been playing since ’94 and are described in their bio as “the godfather of the European Neurotic Hardcore scene.” So I feel it’s kind of a shame that I am only hearing about them now.

Elysian Magnetic Fields exists in that continuum of heavy, progressively influenced bands that American audiences will associate with Isis and Neurosis. As an official style now, different bands have attempted this with varying degrees of success with Dirge being among the best I’ve heard.

I feel bad because I am kinda punting on this review. Dirge sound a ton like Isis. I don’t feel this a bad thing, in fact I love it. I don’t have whatever it is that you need to write “Elysian Magnetic Fields takes you on a dark voyage of hung heads and gray skies. A grande tour of bleakly dreamlike vistas and small glimmers of golden radiance.” It is really more of a thing for me where it’s like “There is a thing you like, here is some more of it” and am all like “Oh, excellent.” It’s like eating a hamburger or seeing a naked lady; Dirge is a burger from Kuma’s and/or has the rudest titties. It’s a road I’ve gone down plenty of times in the past, but in no way has diminished the pleasure I derive from it.

Morphée Rouge

Available on Division Records. Very, very highly recommended.

– Jayson