Friday, February 13, 2015

Steven Wilson - Hand. Cannot. Erase.

Solo projects are somewhat of a double-edged sword.  An artist certainly has the freedom to explore different territories than previously explored in their primary project, but that freedom can sometimes come across as self-indulgent and perhaps even irksome for fans of the aforementioned mainstay.  Steven Wilson, the mastermind behind progressive metal band Porcupine Tree, is evidence of how a solo project can yield amazing results.  It's been six years since the last album from Porcupine Tree, but since then, Wilson has released three solo albums, each being progressive rock/metal journeys that are unique unto themselves.  Hand. Cannot. Erase., the latest and fourth installment in this solo discography, is no exception.  While it contains Wilson's poppiest material to date, its undercurrents stay true to the experimental boldness that was so much a part of the DNA of the three previous albums. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Primitive Man - Home is Where the Hatred Is

Few - if any - records have been as aptly titled as Primitive Man's Scorn.  That album, released in 2013, was forty minutes of dense, repulsive sludge metal unlike anything I had ever heard.  A lot of sludge bands steep themselves in gloom or a state of forlorn anguish, but Primitive Man bathes in spiteful ugliness, unapologetically spitting in the face of humanity.  Outside of (maaaaybe) the UK's Dragged Into Sunlight, nobody does misanthropy like Primitive Man.  Scorn is an agonizingly bleak album that I honestly have trouble listening to often because I occasionally enjoy being happy, but I can't deny how great it is, and how good Primitive Man is.  Whether you can listen to them once a day or once a month, the band is so punishingly on point with their sound and vision that you start thinking "Yeah, fuck everything! ...except these guys; these guys are pretty great."  Home is Where the Hatred Is, the band's EP follow up to Scorn, goes to show you that even if you can't judge a book by its cover, the title can still be a pretty good indication of what you're reading.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Exclusive Interview - Cold Blue Mountain

Last Thursday night, Mick and I ventured out into the cold Chicago night to see a concert (as we are wont to do).  Neither of us had been to the venue (Live Wire, in Old Irving Park) before, so there was additional excitement in the air.  Live Wire is a solid if unspectacular dive bar/venue, with a stage at the far end of the main room, movies playing on mute on the tvs, and ice cold Lagunitas IPAs ready to be drank.  Not a terrible place to see a show, so we settled in.  Cold Blue Mountain was the attraction, as the Chico, CA band is in the midst of their first-ever headlining tour supporting their sophomore album Old Blood.  I was lucky enough to get to talk to four of the guys in the band about their roles and responsibilities, the musical talents of water heaters, and Billy Joel's promising career in metal, all of which you can see in the video below after the break.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Napalm Death - Apex Predator - Easy Meat

You know a new year is starting off right when Napalm Death choose to have it start with a new album of theirs. The oddly titled Apex Predator - Easy Meat continues the band's streak of strong albums which include more recent entries such as Time Waits For No Slave and Utilitarian. Barney Greenway, Shane Embury, Mitch Harris and Danny Herrera; the band's main battery for over 20 years are firing on all cylinders. Has it really been 3 years since their last album?

Monday, February 2, 2015

Bucket List Shows: The Bands I Need to See

I'm fortunate to live in Chicago, a city that has a staggering number of music venues across all shapes and sizes, including multiple joints that pull in a terrific number of metal bands.  Rare is the tour that misses Chicago, and even then, there's a 99% chance the band is playing Milwaukee, which is a short drive north.  Like I said, fortunate.  That said, occasionally there are shows I miss out on, for any number of reasons, and that makes me sad; I love seeing bands live, and I love seeing bands I love live even more.  In thinking about some of the gnarly concerts coming up, I started thinking about the bands I've missed over the years, and came up with my ten "Bucket List" bands, the bands I most want to see before I shuffle off this mortal coil (hopefully not anytime soon).  I stayed away from bands that have broken up (or Isis would have made the list) or older bands whose members aren't going to do it (same for Pink Floyd).  A few honorable mentions before we get this show on the road: Tool, Meshuggah, Lamb of God, Anathema, Sleep.  All would be amazing to see, but they don't quite crack the Top Ten.  So... here goes!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Sarin - Burial Dream

It seems crazy to think about, but 2015 marks five years since Isis called it quits, leaving the metal world without one of its most important and influential bands.  Just as crazy to think about is that post-metal as a genre is doing at least as well now as it was when the world lost Isis.  Part of that is due to the members of the band pursuing other projects with the same insane level of talent they brought to Isis; another is a new wave of post-metal bands following in Isis' wake.  Pelican continues to defy expectations and improve on every album they release, and I've written before about my love for Cold Blue Mountain and their phenomenal 2014 album Old Blood.  Now another disciple has stepped forward to spread the good word, in the form of Brampton, Ontario's Sarin, and their new album Burial Dream.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Sylosis - Dormant Heart

2015 sure didn't waste anytime gearing up for a year of excellent releases.  Here to set the pace is Dormant Heart, the fourth full length album from England's Sylosis.  While the band's formula over the course of their discography hasn't changed too dramatically, their knack for molding pulse pounding rhythms and infectious thrash riffs into a darker atmosphere is something that's noticeably improved with each release.  Dormant Heart has taken this predestined groundwork and unearthed an album that could well be considered the band's magnum opus.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

New Listening: Periphery, Lost In Pain, Luna, Desolate Shrine

The beauty of the dawning of a brand new year is the renewal of the never-ending challenge of sinking your teeth (ears?) in as much new music as possible.  Thus far, 2015 seems to have been very generous in satiating our needs towards this end.  In this roundup of new tunes I'm stumbled across, there are four entries that cover the spectrum of blackened death metal, djent, old school, and instrumental funeral doom.  These entries are formatted to be short and sweet; even calling them mini-reviews might be a stretch.

Check it out after the break!

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Lord Dying - Poisoned Altars

Metal sub-genres are often problematic endeavors.  At their best and most worthwhile, they give some vague descriptor of sound to potential listeners; at their worst they pigeonhole a band's sound so specifically that every band out there turns into their own sub-genre.  I'm glad they exist, because it can be a nice, easy way to describe a band without exerting too much effort; "Oh, you like doom metal?  You gotta check out Bell Witch (seriously, check out Bell Witch if you haven't yet)!"  At the same time, I hate that they exist because it can be damn near impossible to categorize some bands or albums.  Genres are basically a series of shifting venn diagrams that exist with the complete circle that is "Metal," and quite often a band will exist inside multiple overlapping circles.  Such is the case with Lord Dying's sophomore effort Poisoned Altars; you wouldn't be wrong to call it sludge or stoner metal, but neither of those labels properly convey what awaits you on the album.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Things I Missed in 2014 (Part 1)

It happens every year, without fail, like clockwork, as inevitable as the tide and as destructive to my psyche as a tornado.  I get through my Top Albums of the Year List, settle on the order, become happy, make my peace with my favorite albums of the year, and sit back with a nice glass of scotch to wait for the next year's bounty of metal goodness.  And then, within seconds of that ball dropping and people screaming "HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!" I find something new.  Something highly enjoyable that I should have found earlier, something worth listening to, and occasionally, something that would have changed my year end list.  Every.  Fucking.  Year.

What follows is a list of 2014 releases I've discovered in the opening weeks of 2015, along with a mini-review of each of them and links to any music I could find.  Most of these fall somewhere into the category of "Man, I'm just really happy to know these exist!" but the last one probably would crack my Top Five from last year if I re-did my list.