What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To—Playlist Swap—8/5/16

Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s 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 Karlo Doroc and Jimmy Mullett together to peruse each other’s tastes. To infinity and beyond!

Karlo’s Grid & Jimmy’s Comments

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Jimmy: I’ve been meaning to do a playlist swap with Karlo for some time now. While he and I are almost completely disparate when it comes to taste in music, I still thought it’d be cool to listen to some of his tunes. As it turns out I didn’t like everything he had to offer, but that’s part of the fun of the Playlist Swap; it’s going to be something of a surprise every time.

Bring Me The Horizon—That’s The Spirit—“Doomed”

Karlo: I’m a huge fan of 2013’s Sempiternal and I quite enjoyed their latest offering too. They’re going for something akin to a Linkin Park 2.0 with their new sound, which suits them quite well (at least on record) and has seen them really grow their fan base. This is my favourite track of the new album, with the falsetto during the chorus a particular highlight. Great radio track and awesome way to kick off the album.

Jimmy: I really, really don’t like deathcore. Honestly, it comes off to me as one of the laziest subgenres of music when it comes to songwriting. That being said, I do have a soft spot for Bring Me the Horizon’s Suicide Season; it’s just a well-done album, in my opinion.

I’d heard that BMTH had basically done a 180º in terms of sound with this album, but I didn’t really have enough interest to bother listening to it. All in all, “Doomed” isn’t horrible. I actually enjoyed the verses and the stripped-down, ambient feel of the song as a whole. (The choruses, not so much; Oli Sykes’s yell/scream has never really been a part of BMTH that I’ve liked.) At the same time, though, there’s nothing here that really keeps me coming back for more.

Eskimo Joe—Black Fingernails Red Wine—“Black Fingernails, Red Wine”

Karlo: This song was huge in Australia when I was growing up, and it’s easy to see why the country warmed to their homegrown talents. The music has a dark feeling to it and thought-provoking lyrics, but at the same time it’s accessible and has a great vocal hook. One of my favourite rock tunes.

Jimmy: Eskimo Joe is a band that I think I’ve heard mentioned, but whose music I’ve never really listened to. In a way, I was surprised how similar my opinions from the previous song were to “Black Fingernails, Red Wine;” the verses were great, almost reminding me of a more alternative version of Depeche Mode, but then the chorus comes and basically ruins the darkness the band had built up with some major cheese and acoustic guitar. Just no. No thanks.

Fountainhead—Reverse Engineering—“999”

Karlo: Wow. Just wow, what an amazing track. My favourite track of 2016, and if you want to know why you can read what we wrote about it when we premiered it, as well as the artist’s own thoughts. This brilliant album drops today – so go buy that while you’re at it!

Jimmy: Karlo’s review of this band and album really interested me, so I was really psyched to try it out. (Seriously, just the idea of a fretless guitar being utilized on a prog metal album is fucking cool.)

With that in mind, I actually liked this track for the most part; the fretless guitar and Ebow work made for an interesting listen, though by the end of the track I sort of wished there was more in the lead besides that fretless guitar. The first few minutes were probably my favorite; the tribal drumming and the guitar dovetail very nicely, sort of blending the archaic with the futuristic. I’ll definitely have to give this album a listen sometime.

Glenn Stafford, Tracy Bush, Jason Hayes—Warcraft III Official Soundtrack—“Bloodlust (Orc 1)”

Karlo: Warcraft III was one of my favourite games growing up; I just loved the storyline and lore, and so it’s one of my great inspirations when I write my own fantasy work. It should come as no surprise that when I write I will often listen to this soundtrack, or the soundtracks of films or other video games. This is the one I return to the most though, and this track in particular is one of my favourites and particularly relevant to what I’ve been writing recently. The emotive, foreboding horns get things off to a great start, whilst the furious tribal drumming is another highlight for me. I feel like regardless of whether you’re familiar with the game, if you close your eyes when listening to this your mind is going to conjure some pretty damned cool imagery.

Jimmy: OSTs can be hit or miss for me; scores from movies like There Will Be Blood and Requiem for a Dream have redefined how I view soundtrack music, while others (the Harry Potter movies come to mind), while interesting at first, come to eventually be a little boring aside from a few key tracks.

“Bloodlust” was a bit loose and unwieldy in parts, but when the horns and the percussion all came together and built up I was in Orc-themed heaven.

Infinite Density—Recollapse of the Universe—“Infinite Rebirth”

Karlo: A great technical death metal album which was released by Ne Obliviscaris’ bassist Brendan Brown, I’ve been listening to this album a lot lately. I really like the way it combines groove with melody, with both aspects helping to make the track really catchy, particularly in its latter parts. The vocals are diverse and it gets this record off to a good start.

Jimmy: Somehow, I was expecting something a bit more melodic and exploratory considering the name and artwork and the way it was described on Bandcamp (“cosmic” was one of the tags), and I sadly didn’t get that vibe. Don’t get me wrong, though, because when it comes to tech death, this is interesting enough to keep my attention, with some excellent songwriting thrown in with some excellent guitar work. Like that Fountainhead track, I’ll probably end up listening to this entire album at some point.

Iron Maiden—The Number of the Beast—“Hallowed Be Thy Name”

Karlo: I saw Maiden recently for the first time, and this is my absolute favourite song by them. If the first minute and a half doesn’t give you goosebumps at any point, then I simply don’t know what to tell you. Brilliantly evocative vocals and one of the greatest heavy metal riffs of all time, not to mention some killer solos, make this one of the greatest songs ever.

Jimmy: I already loved this song before listening to it again, so this was just an awesome excuse to listen to some classic Maiden. (Not that one needs an excuse to listen to Iron Maiden.) I can remember being a newbie metal-head in high school and listening to this so many times that I knew it word for word. And the way the song just takes off after that haunting opening, with Dickinson holding that final line of the intro seemingly forever—it makes my goddamn day. Irons up, mate.

Mastodon—Leviathan—“Blood and Thunder”

Karlo: I don’t listen to this album nearly as much as I should. This song would make any album great. One of the best openers you’ll ever find, that fucking riff just absolutely slays. I really enjoy all of Mastodon’s albums, but they will never again create a riff that damned good. Gets me every time.

Jimmy: Yet another track that I absolutely adore. Mastodon might be playing a different tune these days (and the news stuff is really not as bad as people think it is, by the way), but you can always go back to albums like Leviathan and Crack the Skye for proof of Mastodon’s sheer importance to the genre of metal.

It’s funny: despite the fact that I have a BA in English and took a 19th century American literature class, I’ve never actually read Moby-Dick all the way through. Listening to Leviathan always makes me want to change that, though. But then again, I could just listen to Leviathan without having to suffer through chapters of nonsense about whaling…

Hybrid Nightmares—The First Age—“Illumination”

Karlo: A local band from Melbourne, they were playing a heap of support slots and so I got to know their sound, and this particular EP, really well. Progressive metal with black metal vocals, they’re really starting to pick up steam and gather a larger and larger following off the back of consistent touring and the release of four related EPs last year. This track is my favourite one from the first of those four EPs, and showcases a lot of what they bring as a band.

Jimmy: You gotta hand it to Karlo for finding some cool Australian metal. I don’t think I’d listen to any more of Hybrid Nightmares after this, but this was a fun listen nonetheless; it’s sort of like a more extreme and/or progressive take on what black metal groups like Barshasketh and Hegemon have been doing of late. And the album cover makes you reconsider what you’re listening to—it’s black metal, but there’s much much more to it, both musically and lyrically.

Ouroboros—Emanations—“Scion”

Karlo: Death metal with a strong Egyptian flavour, I love the way they introduce their Middle Eastern influences in this song. One of the best examples you’ll find of blending that sound with DM, and I hope we get more bands of that ilk in future. More accessible than Nile, they bring elements of sinister darkness as well as grandiosity to create a pretty great album, one of my favourites from last year.

Jimmy: Fuck…that guitar, man. If it wasn’t for those beefy riffs and that incredible acoustic passage in the middle of the track, I probably wouldn’t love this as much. The vocals are a bit lower than I usually like, but there’s a nice distinction to them which sort of makes up for that.

Seriously, this is really well-done stuff. This is what I like my death metal to sound like—brutally epic in every single possible facet. May God/Buddha/Allah/L. Ron Hubbard bless you, Karlo.

Jimmy’s Grid & Karlo’s Comments

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Karlo: Every time I do one of these swaps it just happens to be with someone who’s taste is extremely different to mine, so I’m a little skeptical about how many of Jimmy’s picks I’ll enjoy. In saying that, there are a couple of artists here I’ve been meaning to check out, so this is as good an opportunity as ever – and you never know what might jump out of nowhere as a pleasant surprise.

John Zorn—Cobra: John Zorn’s Game Pieces Volume 2—“Tamangiri”

Jimmy: Cobra is what’s called a game piece, which consists of file cards (with certain rules written on them) wielded by a prompter that interact with a group of improvising musicians. It’s tough to explain given the limited space (if you want more information on game pieces, check out the Wikipedia entry on it), but essentially these game pieces work out like their namesake, unfolding in interesting ways under certain rules and conditions.

“Tamangiri” is probably my favorite take of Cobra on this album, as despite the fact that everything you listen to is completely improvised, it sounds like an avant-garde take on a noir soundtrack.

Karlo: For the majority of this song the only thing running through my mind was ‘what the fuck am I hearing right now’. It’s some kind of improvisational jazz with a lot of strings, brass and percussion, and a heap of samples thrown in as well. It’s very weird and I can’t say I like it, though I don’t exactly dislike it either. The end part got more melodic and structured, so that was easier to digest. There’s something about the track though which asks me want to listen to it again and again, but I’m not sure it will win out against my regular rotation.

Lisa Gerrard—The Mirror Pool—Sanvean (I am Your Shadow)

Jimmy: Lisa Gerrard—half of the darkwave duo Dead Can Dance—is perhaps my favorite female vocalist. I love her range, and how she manages to convey serious emotion without even using lyrics, as she usually sings in idioglossia. While I highly recommend the entire Mirror Pool album, “Sanvean” is probably the most powerful track on the album, with Gerrard showcasing a mortal loneliness tempered by solitary resolve, using really nothing but her voice and a few strings.

Karlo: I’ve heard Lisa Gerrard once before, she sang on the amazing soundtrack of my favourite film, 2000’s Gladiator (starring Russell Crowe and Joaquin Phoenix). Thus I had a rough idea of what kind of style this would be and I was cautiously optimistic about how it would turn out, particularly as I loved the song “Now We Are Free” from the Gladiator soundtrack. This song didn’t really do anything for me though. It just seemed to meander along and I couldn’t connect with it emotionally. She has a great voice, but the style of music relies on being emotive so if you’re not feeling the connection you probably won’t enjoy it.

The Weekend—Echoes of Silence—“Initiation”

Jimmy: I adore The Weeknd, ever since I started listening to him some years ago. His last studio album, Beauty Behind the Madness, was my favorite album of 2015 by far, yet nothing compares to his original trilogy of mixtapes, of which Echoes of Silence is the final installment.

I was tempted to pick the cover of Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana” that opens this album up, but “Initiation” was the first track to come to my mind, and for good reason, as The Weeknd puts his incredible singing chops against some dark and moody production. The entire track feels like it’s been ripped out of a Requiem For A Dream type of scenario, full of drug use and bursting to the seams with the dark underbelly of hedonism.

Karlo: I’ve never heard of The Weeknd, so I had no idea what to expect. It sounds like a space where R&B meets hip-hop, with several passages full of effect-ridden vocals making it an interesting shake-up to what one may typically hear on the radio. Overall it’s a pretty catchy song and pleasant enough, but not really my thing.

Masami Akita—Wattle—“Wattle (Part 1)”

Jimmy: Masami Akita—better as Merzbow—has become a recent interest of mine. I’ve found his harsh noise music to be reminiscent of an Abstract Expressionist painting, where the focus is more on the outlying parts that come to you rather than conventional aesthetics. You don’t listen for scales or structure, but rather what you hear above all the noise. It’s definitely not for everyone—and I’m not really sure if Karlo is going to like it—but I can totally understand why.

Karlo: Again, I had not idea what to expect, and this time it was really unenjoyable. I don’t mind elements of noise creeping into other styles of music for short periods of time, to build atmosphere or to add something new into the mix, but I absolutely cannot stand noise music in and of itself. I barely made it a few minutes into this song before I had to stop, it was just too much. Don’t do this to me Jimmy.

Aesop Rock—The Impossible Kid—“Rings”

Jimmy: I haven’t been incredibly impressed with a lot of albums this year, but Aesop Rock’s latest effort is an exception, from his odd style of production (using what sounds like vintage synths and some very light trumpet work over well-thought-out drum beats) to his over-the-top lyrics. “Rings” is about Aes’s failed attempts at becoming a visual artist, but moreover, it’s a song about regrets—something we can all take a lesson from.

Plus, the music video for it is pretty rad. Where else are you going to see all the wooden fairy things and drawers that reside inside Aesop’s mind?

Karlo: This is the only track here I have heard before, as I checked it out when it was first released and garnering some hype within the blog. In saying that I hadn’t spun it since so I couldn’t remember it. This is a pretty good track and definitely more up my alley in terms of the style of hip-hop I can enjoy. The lyrics sound pretty cool as well, not the insufferable bitch/hoe/nigga snoozefest, so I would like to check out this album in full.

Horace Silver—Song For My Father—“Song For My Father”

Jimmy: Although Horace Silver was a very accomplished pianist, he never seemed to make it (at least in my opinion, anyway) to the heights that, say Bill Evans, Thelonious Monk, and Herbie Hancock (among many others) reached in terms of recognition. Nonetheless, he was great at what he did; this album and his collaboration with The Jazz Messengers remain some of the best examples of hard bop music to date.

I remember trying to listen to Song For My Father many years ago and not liking it—I found Silver’s playing to be a little too sparse and repetitive for my liking. But giving it another try recently completely changed my mind for the better. The title track is nothing short of a jazz standard, and serves as both an interesting fusion of bop and latin sounds and a good primer for listening to latin jazz.

Karlo: This was a pretty cool jazzy number. It’s the type of thing which works really well as background music whilst you go about your day-to-day activities, though it’s probably not something I’d sit down and give a really thorough listen to. I know some people scoff at that kind of stuff and just label it useless elevator music, but there’s a number of things I do where I just need something nice and unobtrusive in the background and this would slot in seamlessly. Will definitely be giving this a few spins.

Barshasketh—Ophidian Henosis—“Ophidian Henosis – I”

Jimmy: There are a number of albums that I could name as incredibly influential on my own musical tastes, and this album would definitely be on that list. While I never hated black metal, I certainly was never going after it too much, aside from the times that Scott would urge me to listen to a Mayhem or Darkthrone album he’d bought. Barshasketh opened my eyes to the fact that black metal can sometimes defy all expectations, and that even a relatively-stripped back album (compared to bands like Deafheaven and Blut Aus Nord, who include a lot of other influences with black metal) such as Ophidian Henosis can pack a lot into it sonically.

Karlo: Another name which was completely foreign to me, this time I was in for some good old black metal. The vocals are, well, black metal vocals, whilst the guitars are also your pretty standard fare for the first half of the track. The drumming was probably the highlight musically, they really seemed to be driving the song along nicely. The second half of the song is a bit more on the melodic side, with the guitars opening up a bit and playing some mellower stuff. Overall it was pretty good, but nothing really special. The last minute introduced a killer riff though, so that piqued my interest enough to want to hear the rest of the album.

John Zorn—Transmigration of the Magus—“The Divine World”

Jimmy: While I enjoy this album more and more, I still find it to be one of the more difficult Zorn releases to digest. Instead of the bizarre and amazing atonal chaos that I attribute to a lot of John Zorn’s music (e.g Naked City, Painkiller, “Cat O’Nine Tails,” etc.), Transmigration of the Magus is lush, heavenly, and almost blissfully surreal. If you close your eyes and really listen to it, it sounds like its title, with one’s soul slowly transcending into the other realms of the cosmos.

Karlo: Welcome back improvisational jazz man, I wonder what I’m in store for this time. It opens nicely, with what sounds like xylophone and some carefully picked guitar, or perhaps harp. Maybe both. Later on an organ seems to come through as well and the whole piece is really soft and gentle, only to end with discord, the final note chilling and eerie. This is not really like anything I currently listen to, though it’s probably my favourite track of the list thus far.

Charles Mingus—The Black Saint and the Sinner Lady—“Track A—Solo Dancer”

Jimmy: Every time I listen to this album, I feel the need to relisten to it. It’s experimental in a way that only a musician like Charles Mingus could pull off, yet it feels at home with other, more traditional jazz tunes. Like much of Mingus’s later works, it utilizes a big band sound, but also adds an element of mystery to it, as if Mingus was listening to Miles Davis’s soundtrack to the noir film Ascenseur pour l’échafaud while writing and recording it. I don’t think that Black Saint is one of the most accessible jazz albums, but it’s worth a shot if you want to explore into more avant-garde territory without jumping in headfirst.

Karlo: Here is the third and final familiar name, and even then it’s only because I’m pretty sure this guy featured the last time I did one of these playlist swaps – so I knew it would be more jazz. As a relative novice to the genre, I don’t know and understand the massive variety of sub-genres out there – it’s all jazz to me, as I haven’t spent enough time digging into it. But whenever someone mentions jazz, this is the sound that I think of in my head. Walking double bass lines, random brass instruments competing against one another and then deciding to work together, and a piano popping up every so often to add its own voice. Pretty good stuff.

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