Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last weeks update here) will reveal that there is a great deal of variety among our staff’s musical tastes. Due to this, we brainstormed the idea of “Playlist Swap,” another biweekly segment that takes place between playlist updates. We randomly select two of the participants from each update, have them pick their favorite track from each of the nine albums in their grid and then send the list over to the other person to listen to and comment on. Within these commentaries occurs praise, criticism and discovery, and we hope that you experience a few instances of this last point as well. This week’s post brought staff members Scott Murphy and Karlo Doroc together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Karlo’s Grid & Scott’s Comments
Scott: This swap probably represents one the widest gaps in taste that we have on staff. I was excited to sat down and listen to what’s been dominating Karlo’s playlist recently, since I there was an even spread of albums I’d heard, heard of and never seen before. Honestly, I was more worried about what Karlo would think about my shitty taste in music; I try not to make people suffer through what’s on my turntable or in my Jeep on any given day. Still, I love this column, and I’m about to dive in to remind myself why.
Eye Of The Enemy – The Vengeance Paradox – The Oath
Karlo’s pick: Last week we ran a great piece on the best of headbanging music, and this track fits straight into that category. It’s one of my go-to tracks when in need of an aggressive outlet and it’s easy to see why: pummelling drums with an absolute cannon of a snare, aggressive riffage with a hint of melody, and a vocalist whose ferocity behind the mic is matched only by his clear enunciation and excellent lyricism.
Scott’s thoughts: I remember skimming/editing our HLT on these guys from the other day, and this wasn’t the shade of melo death that I anticipated. There’s still some great melody sewn within the fold, but they put a heightened emphasis on thick, groovy riffs, which all comes across as Lamb of God channeling some Gothenburg influence. I’m personally not a huge fan of the styles that Eye of the Enemy are working with here, but I hope they garner some attention from this release; I’d be surprised if fans of the genre didn’t fawn over this.
Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory – Crawling
Karlo’s pick: Linkin Park weren’t just my gateway into metal, they were my gateway into music. I was completely disinterested in music until I heard them, and they were my favourite band for ten years. My tastes may have changed markedly since those early days, but I still say with pride that I love a lot of their music and this is one of my all time favourites. Mr Hahn’s electronics and background noises are awesome and the guitars are powerful, but it’s the cathartic lyrics and heart-crushingly emotive vocals which make it so special.
Scott’s thoughts: My inner angst-ridden teen was wicked stoked to see Linkin Park in Karlo’s grid. My first taste of LP was actually through Meteora and not Hybrid Theory, and I’m pretty sure Meteora was the first CD I bought in general. I’m a little biased towards it given how fucking long it stayed in my CD player; I honestly can’t remember spinning another record that summer. Still, “Crawling” is an LP staple and one of the best examples of what their earlier career had to offer. They were always one of the more subtle nu-metal bands and knew how to pull their influences together into something a bit more elevated from what their peers were doing. Plus, they were one of the rare instances of overlap between the music my mum and I like, so I have to give them credit for that too.
Mastodon – Crack The Skye – The Czar
Karlo’s pick: Mastodon have a ridiculously good discography, and this is the pick of the bunch. Ethereally atmospheric, soothing yet creepy, aggressive and progressive, this song simply has it all and, on top of that, it fits perfectly within the record’s concept as well. Most importantly, how many bands can claim to have written a riff/passage anywhere near as good as the one at 3:43?
Scott’s thoughts: Call me a hipster (which is probably accurate), but Crack the Skye is easily my favorite Mastodon record. I never understood why this album got that H-word label, though; all they did was take their progressive leanings, focused all of their energy on them and made a phenomenal album. I’d probably pick “Divinations” as my favorite track because I’m addicted to catchiness, but “The Czar” is obviously the cornerstone track on the album. It’s a gorgeous suite that easily makes the shortlist of music I’d space out to if I ever took shrooms or dropped acid.
Megadeth – Dystopia – Dystopia
Karlo’s pick: Megadeth’s latest release is surprisingly good, and the title track is probably the pick of the bunch. There is definitely an early 90s vibe about the record, always a good thing when considering their illustrious releases from that period. The riffing and tasty soloing during the chorus is the highlight, Mustaine’s vocals taking a backseat as he lets the band’s musical prowess take centre stage.
Scott’s thoughts: If I’m being honest…this was the only track on Karlo’s grid I wasn’t looking forward to spinning. Megadeth has never vibed with me as much as the rest of the Big 4, and Dave Mustaine is the primary reason why. His shitty conservative views have challenged my support of “separating the art from the artist” and always demotivate me from trying to like his band. I will say that this track was a lot more melodic than I expected, but it loses its steam as it plays out and feels bland and tired out. And of course, there’s Mustaine’s obnoxious vocals to top it all off, hindering the moments that I actually do enjoy. Karlo framed this as a return to form in our Staff group on Facebook, so I guess my feelings towards Megadeth’s initial form predisposed me to disliking Dystopia.
Vipassi – Sunyata – Benzaiten
Karlo’s pick: I wouldn’t consider atmospheric, technical, jazz-fusion inspired instrumental death metal to be particularly catchy or memorable. Yet, during my days at work I found myself humming along to the riffs and bass lines as I practiced my air drumming – a true testament to the strength of the songwriting. It’s my favourite song from a record I gave a 5/5 in my recent review, so what more can I say?
Scott’s thoughts: Well this was a more than pleasant surprise, to say the least. I expected something post-metal-esque based on the cover and got some excellent instrumental tech death instead. I was initially disappointed by the lack of vocals, but Vipassi pulls it off incredibly well. The subtle touches of ambient female singing are perfect for the mood and add just enough to the instrumentation to feel like more of an instrument themselves. I would’ve never heard of these guys if it wasn’t for this swap, and I’m glad Karlo led me to an excellent band. I look forward to spinning this in full when it drops in February.
The Ocean – Transcendental – The Quiet Observer
Karlo’s pick: Another track from a concept record, ‘The Quiet Observer’ is one of the best songs The Ocean have ever written (check out our *prognotes to see why). With strings and various different movements, both clean and harsh vocals, melodic and dissonant guitars, and both in your face and laid-back drumming, this track is another progressive epic which tells a great story along the way.
Scott’s thoughts: Now I can see why our staff picked this as our favorite EP from last year. I’ve never given The Ocean a proper spin, but this track is a solid slab of post-metal with a ton of great melody, especially with the vocals in the latter half. I’m reminded of a more direct, upbeat take on Isis’ underrated masterpiece In the Absence of Truth. If this is a taste of what the next Ocean record will sound like, then count me in.
Orpheus Omega – Partum Vita Mortem – Karma Favours The Weak
Karlo’s pick: This track is a sampler for everything melodic death metal can throw at you: groovy rhythm guitar, melodic lead guitar, dynamic drumming, a combination of clean and harsh vocals, and some keyboards for added texture. Proof that you don’t need to have broken out in the 90s to make great melodeath.
Scott’s thoughts: Now this is the kind of melo death I can get behind (no offense, Eye of the Enemy). It’s a ripping cut of explosive melody that’s getting me so stoked as I write this; it’s bringing me back to my early days of spinning melodic metalcore nonstop. I definetly think these guys lean more towards the melo death side of the spectrum, but I’m getting some serious Darkest Hour and I Killed the Prom Queen vibes, the latter of which makes some sense since they’re fellow Aussies. I’m going to have to spin the rest of the record after I finish writing my entries.
Rage Against The Machine – Self-titled – Killing In The Name
Karlo’s pick: Anthemic, heavy, political and aggressive, if you’re young and this track doesn’t make you want to break things and fight the man, then I don’t know what to say to you. While a lot of the attention rightly goes to Morello’s spastic soloing and De la Rocha’s scathing lyricism and vocal delivery, lets not forget just how important the rhythm section’s groove and funk were to their sound. A true classic.
Scott’s thoughts: Similar to Linkin Park, I’m a huge fan of Battle of Los Angeles but not as familiar with Rage’s first two records. I bought all three albums on Amazon, and Battle was the only one that showed up in full; their debut never arrived and Evil Empire came with a case and no CD. Regardless, this is one of Rage’s essential tracks, and it showcases everything I love about them: Zack’s lyrics and delivery, Tim’s bass lines and Tom’s amazing riff-writing.
Trivium – Shogun – Down From The Sky
Karlo’s pick: Shogun is without a shadow of a doubt Trivium’s standout album, and should be essential listening for any metal fan. This track is so much fun to sing along to because its got a bit of everything: aggressive verses, a melodic chorus and a healthy dose of screams and growls in both the pre chorus and bridge. It’s sure to get fans singing, heads banging and feet stomping, everything you need in a classic metal track.
Scott’s thoughts: I really hope Noyan doesn’t read this, but I’ve never liked Trivium. One of my friends in high school that was huge into guitar was also a huge Trivium fan, and every time he’d play them for me, I’d just end up checking my phone and zoning out. This track is a good example of why; to me, they sound like a capital M “metal” band, and that’s about it. It just lacks enough flavor to be interesting to me, and I found myself zoning out now just like I did back in my friend’s bedroom. Now I really hope Noyan doesn’t read this…
Scott: I kind of wish this ended on a higher not (sorry Trivium), but overall, I enjoyed Karlo’s picks quite a bit. I had some nostalgic moments (RATM, Linkin Park), discovered some solid new tunes (Orpheus Omega, Vipassi) and listened to some stuff that’s just fucking great (Mastodon, The Ocean). I think I’ll refrain from mentioning anymore about Megadeth, but…yeah, good times. Now I can’t wait to see how Karlo felt about my picks.
Scott’s Grid & Karlo’s Comments
Karlo: OK so I have to admit, I’m a little nervous about checking out Scott’s picks. The reason we agreed to do this swap is because I have never listened to a single band on his grid, let alone one of the albums. More than that, Swans and Scott Walker are the only names I’ve ever even heard before, so this is going to be interesting. It looks like there’s quite a bit of jazz there and, whilst I haven’t listened to much jazz before, I’ve liked what I have listened to and I’ve wanted to get more into it, so this is as good a place as any to start.
Ariel Pink – Pom Pom – Put Your Number In My Phone
Scott’s pick: I honestly can’t remember why I didn’t check out Pom Pom in 2014, but it would’ve easily made it into my top five. It’s full of infectious and eccentric lo-fi pop with a distinct retro vibe that hits practically every bit of criteria I have for loving an album. There are so many standout tracks that I could’ve picked, but I felt that this one was the catchiest and most normal of the bunch and might appeal to Karlo best.
Karlo’s thoughts: This is exactly the type of music I generally try to avoid (sorry Scott!), because it simply doesn’t sit well with me. This sounds like an old-school pop song, I’m talking 70s style, and I can’t help but cringe at the the mellow chord progressions and the understated vocals, which form some sort of hybrid between singing and talking. At times like these I like to grab hold of the one aspect I enjoy the most, and in this case the bass playing is ok. Just not my style.
Big Black – Atomizer – Kerosene
Scott’s pick: Atomizer cemented my desire for a Big Black reunion album. Both this album and the amazingly titled Songs About Fucking are without question some of the best iterations of noise rock ever laid to tape, and it’s a shame that they might remain the only Big Black full-lengths. What I love most about Big Black is Steve Albini’s guitar tone; it’s such a brittle, abrasive sound that places his riffs in territory between the sounds of an actual guitar and just dedicated feedback.
Karlo’s thoughts: Right off the bat this one sounds a lot more interesting. There is a weird sort of industrial, jingly intro which immediately draws me in as I try to figure out what it is that’s making those sounds. It builds nicely before vocals kick in, and again they seem more like speaking than singing. The song then seems to meander along, the vocals the obvious centre of attention. Given that there isn’t really anything interesting about the vocal delivery, the attention falls squarely onto the nihilistic lyrics. This isn’t a huge attraction for me given that I rarely pay much attention to lyrics, instead I divert most of my attention to the underlying music. The second half of the track sounds more familiar as the vocals and instrumentation amp up the aggression, and this is more up my alley. Not something I would choose to listen to, but it’s not bad and this is definitely a big improvement on the previous track.
Brian Eno – Another Green World – The Big Ship
Scott’s pick: I’m always amazed by how many albums from the seventies were so ahead of their time, and Eno’s discography is a shining example of sonic innovation. The art rock tracks on here are strange and endearing, but it’s his experimentation with ambient soundscapes that I love most. This track specifically is spectacular and sounds like something Mogwai used for influence for their more electronic compositions.
Karlo’s thoughts: Ironically, this track speaks to me more than the other two, even though it’s 100% instrumental! Quite a minimalist piece, it seems to make use of an accordion-like synthesiser which dominates most of the track. Some light percussion adorns the background and as the track progresses some more effects and melodies slowly work their way in, as other instruments are added. It’s got quite a spacey vibe to it and it would fit both a contemplative mood and one in which you just want to chill. I’ll have to see what else Brian Eno has to offer because this is pretty cool.
Eric Dolphy – Out To Lunch! – Gazzelloni
Scott’s pick: This is an essential avant-garde jazz masterpiece that every jazz fan should have in their collection. It’s such an odd, explorative record that proved to me how great jazz flute can be. I picked this track because it’s both my favorite and probably the most immediate track on the album; I wasn’t sure how familiar Karlo is with jazz, so I didn’t want to toss him into something too challenging right off the bat.
Karlo’s thoughts: Now we’re in full-on jazz territory on this one. A flute takes on the lead role as it plays in a slightly schizophrenic nature, a double-bass wandering up and down in the background and providing a bit of swing to the track. The drumming seems to follow the flute’s lead when it comes to weirdness, coming in at seemingly all the wrong times to keep things strange. Around the halfway mark the flute’s out and a horn comes in, though whether it’s a saxophone or trumpet I’m not sure. It sounds great, playing in a more traditional style than the flute which preceded it. A xylophone replaces it shortly afterwards, not a move I saw coming, and it’s always cool to be surprised and hear some instruments you don’t usually come across. All three lead instruments come together at the end and the track as a whole comes across as pretty avant-garde, though as a jazz novice I wouldn’t really know. It’s probably my favourite track thus far, so more of this please Scott.
Scott Walker – Farmer In The City (Remembering Pasolini)
Scott’s pick: Fuck, do I love Scott Walker. I’m perpetually impressed by the fact that he went from a standard sixties pop star to one of the best songwriters in avant-garde music. I just added Tilt to my Scott Walker vinyl collection, alongside Bish Bosch and The Drift, and it might be my favorite of the lot.
Karlo’s thoughts: I love this right from the start, a dark, foreboding fog enveloping the listener, the hairs on the back of my neck standing up. The vocals are similarly eerie, the addition of strings simply perfect as the song begins to build in tension. There isn’t a ,assize amount happening here, but what is happening is great, and there is something about the overall aesthetic here that reminds me of David Bowie’s latest masterpiece Blackstar, which can only ever be a good thing. Walker’s voice has a nice deep tone to it, much deeper than most other singers I’ve heard and I will definitely be checking out more of his work, this is simply fantastic.
Swans – The Burning World – Saved
Scott’s pick: Apparently there was a lot of backlash against this record when it first dropped, but I’m not entirely sure why. Sure, it’s quite a bit different from their earlier material, but Gira and crew are such excellent songwriters that I really don’t think it matters what genre they operate within. Granted, I do think the handful of records that followed The Burning World were more adept at capturing this sound, but it’s still a great album.
Karlo’s thoughts: The beginning of this track had me thinking back to the first of Scott’s picks, and I immediately began mentally preparing myself for what was to come. However, this track has a lot more layers to it and it slowly won me over as it progressed and new elements were thrown into the mix. It didn’t do enough to make me want to explore what else Swans have to offer, but it’s not bad and there are aspects of this which I can definitely enjoy. Overall though a bit too slow and folky for my personal tastes.
Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones – In the Neighborhood
Scott’s pick: I have no clue why it took me so long to listen to Tom Waits. It helped that I had a lot of driving to do after Jimmy let me borrow his copy of Swordfishtrombones, so I was able to loop it over and over and revel in how fucking amazing it is. I had a hard time picking a favorite track for Karlo, so I just wrote down one of the album’s singles to make it easier for myself. And of course, it’s a phenomenal.
Karlo’s thoughts: This sounds like some kind of cross between blues and jazz, a few horn instruments in the background and a martial snare beat. The focus of the song is Waits’ deep, bluesy voice and this is fine by me, as I love those smoky, raspy voices. I don’t know why, but the melody played by the horns just as the chorus begins reminds me of some Disney movie, though I can’t place where I may have heard it before. This is pretty good and I would be happy to listen to more music from MrWaits.
Wayne Shorter – Speak No Evil – Witch Hunt
Scott’s pick: In my opinion, this, Miles Davis’ Kind of Blue and Herbie Hancock’s Maiden Voyage are the first three jazz albums and newbie to the genre should start with. The horn line on this track is orgasmic, so it was a no-brainer to send it over to Karlo for our swap.
Karlo’s thoughts: We’re back into jazz land here, though this track seems a lot more traditional than the quirky track by Eric Dolphy. The double-bass is similar between the two tracks, but the percussion is more even here as they look to establish a proper beat. A saxophone seems to take the lead role and the playing is great, keeping a hold of the listener’s attention throughout given the rest of the music is a little deeper in the mix, kind of in the background. When I hear the word jazz, this is exactly the type of thing I think of and I like it, even if the runtime is a little long for what’s in it. I’ll definitely be listening to the rest of this album.
William Basinski – The Disintegration Loops – dlp 2.1
Scott’s pick: I considered picking my favorite track on the album for Karlo, but figured he wouldn’t want to listen to an hour long song just for the sake of this post. It’s definitely essential listening for any music fan, though; if you haven’t read into Basinski’ process and the context of these pieces, they’re essentially ambient masterpieces that captured the tragic but unifying mood of the 9/11 attacks. It might take a long time to get through all four installments, but it’s more than worth the effort.
Karlo’s thoughts: We end the swap with a ten minute piece of ambient music, which is unfortunately a genre I simply cannot get into. This track is not bad, but the reason I’m not a huge fan is because, as with all ambient music, I feel like not much is happening throughout. My tastes have expanded a lot over time and I feel like eventually I could really get into this, but I’m not there just yet.
Karlo: Overall I must say I’ve come out of this feeling better than I expected. I really enjoyed four or five of these, which is pretty good going considering I’ve never listened to any of these artists before, and most of them occupy genres I rarely, if ever, listen to. Big thanks to Scott for helping to put me in touch with some music I would likely never have found on my own.