Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Pillorian - Obsidian Arc

By now, all metal fans know the story: Agalloch broke up last year, due to a schism between singer/guitarist John Haughm and the rest of the band.  Don Anderson, Jason Walton, and Aesop Dekker joined up with Aaron John Gregory (of the late, great Giant Squid) to form Khôrada.  Jon Haughm teamed with drummer Trevor Matthews and guitarist Stephen Parker to create Pillorian - an adjective defined as "of, or relating to, scorn and condemnation."  Good thing there's nothing to read too deeply into there.  It isn't - well, shouldn't be - a competition between the two bands, but it's naive to think that if one band succeeds while the other flounders, the successful band will be hailed as the victors of the Agalloch break up.  While that is a silly way to look at it, we can finally start the actual conversation: Pillorian's debut album Obsidian Arc was released last Friday.  Is it a worthy follow up to one of the most acclaimed American black metal bands of the 21st Century?  Or is it merely a celestial effigy of what once was?

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Fen - Winter

"Winter" is a word that holds a lot of meaning to me.  Living in Chicago, I associate it with feet of snow, driving winds, sub-zero temperatures, whiskey for warmth, and the resilience needed to go outside while it's still dark and wait for a bus, hoping it gets there before you freeze to death like Jack Nicholson in The Shining.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Ranking Scott Kelly's Mastodon Songs

You may have heard there's a new Mastodon album coming soon.  Emperor of Sand will be released March 31, and the three advance tracks have me excited for a 'Don album for the first time in what feels like forever.  In anticipation of the new record, I've been listening to a lot of Mastodon, which inevitably means I'm hearing some Scott Kelly.  The Neurosis co-frontman and guitarist has appeared on every Mastodon album since Leviathan (and has confirmed an appearance on Emperor of Sand), and his presence typically results in his track being one of the stand out songs on the album.  So I decided to rank Kelly's Mastodon collaborations and ruminate on each one, if only because March 31 seems like too long to wait to write anything about Mastodon.

Monday, January 30, 2017

The Great Old Ones - EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy

I've been hearing about EOD: A Tale of Dark Legacy, the latest release from French black metal outfit The Great Old Ones, from other metal bloggers and fans for what seems like forever.  The hype around this album is real, and while I'd never heard of the band before catching an advance track for this album, I'm a sucker for hype when I know nothing about the band.  So I decided to check it out and see if the hype was justified, or just a bunch of noise.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Tanakh - Unwilling

I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I am a bit of a morning person.  I like to get up early, have a cup of coffee or six, and make breakfast before heading off to work, and sometimes that leaves me time to look for new music.  I know I've mentioned before that "look for new music" usually starts with checking out No Clean Singing, which is what I did the other morning.  There were quite a few great things that jumped out at me, but as you've no doubt surmised, the one that really caught my attention was an embed of the debut EP Unwilling by Sioux Falls, South Dakota band Tanakh.  Tanakh features Nick Murphy on vocals and Michael Iverson on all the instruments, which would be impressive even if the music on Unwilling were half as good as it actually is.  Being that it's actually pretty great, it's pretty mind-bendingly impressive.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Chicago Open Air 2017 Preview... With Some Thoughts!

Last year, the first annual Chicago Open Air Festival arrived, featuring mainstream metal bands like Rammstein, Disturbed, Korn, Five Finger Death Punch, Breaking Benjamin, and Slipknot, alongside heralded underground bands like Carcass, Deafheaven, Gojira, and Meshuggah.  It was an interesting and pretty decent - if unspectacular - mix of metal that a lot of folks have heard alongside bands that hover in more extreme territory.  Also Hollywood Undead was there, which throws my perception of the whole thing off a bit.  I didn't make it to the festival last year, but I did catch the sterling aftershow featuring Carcass and Deafheaven, which was excellent.  Obviously a giant, open air metal festival in my backyard is something I want to support and attend, so I was eagerly awaiting news on this year's lineup.  Last week, the festival organizers announced the lineup for the second iteration of the festival, to be held at Toyota Park in Bridgeview (just outside Chicago) July 14th-16th.  Would the festival bring in more underground bands?  Would early-2000s alt-metal continue to headline?  Would 2017 be the year that puts COA alongside Maryland Death Fest or Southwest Terror Fest in the pantheon of American Metal Festivals?

Monday, January 23, 2017

Trevor Shelley de Brauw - Uptown

One of my favorite random categories of music is albums that take their name from and subsequently shape their sound and message around a place.  Panopticon's stellar Kentucky is a sterling example, blending black metal with the local flavor of bluegrass in addition to the strife encountered by the state's coal workers.  Though I've driven through, I haven't spent much time in Kentucky, and so my experiences and feelings around Kentucky are filtered through things I've read, seen, and heard about the state, including Kentucky.  I'm using the experiences of others to create my own idea of a place, to form my own associations with it; for all I know, it's all a lie, and my idea of Kentucky is completely false.  Trevor Shelley de Brauw's debut solo album Uptown is named after a Chicago neighborhood in which I've spent a fair bit of time, has no such issues.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Op-Ed: Ne Obliviscaris Ad Sustinere Musicorum

It isn't a surprising thing to say that the music industry is in a state of flux.  Unless you're Taylor Swift, Adele, or Beyoncé, album sales are way down.  In their place are streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music - which pay artists next to nothing - or more illicit options like torrents or uploaded YouTube audio (which pay artists nothing).  It's a pretty rough time to be a working musician, as your livelihood has to depend on album and merchandise sales and tour revenue; if too few people show up to your show in Calgary, and only a few of those too few buy shirts or physical copies of the album, it can be tough to make ends meet.  And even if the venue sells out, and you sell out of your daily allotment of merch/records, there's still the next show to worry about.  Point is, it's tough to make a living as a band where there are bills to pay and mouths to feed and real life non-rock star shit to take care of.