Even a cursory glance of our biweekly playlist updates 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, where two of our contributors 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 Josh and Cody together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Josh’s Grid And Cody’s Comments
Parkway Drive – “Feed Them To The Pigs” (Horizons)
So right off the back Josh is flying his Aussie flag high. Naturally, it’s one of Australia’s biggest metal exports. I’ve never really delved into Parkway Drive. When they we’re blowing up here in Canada, I was getting into prog and death metal and slowly distancing myself from this kind of music. However, deathcore has always been in my peripherals and I’ve never become so grouchy that I couldn’t bedroom mosh to a good old breakdown. For this particular track, I like the bulk of it. Old school dissonant breakdowns haven’t aged too well in my opinion, but Parkway Drive have a way of developing their breakdowns and it actually acts like a reverse hook. Instead of formerly holding the title of climax, the breakdowns actually act as jumping off points for the good stuff. A particularly cool angle. The thrash and metalcore riffs are decent to great. It’s not bad. I could see it making a playlist of mine somewhere.
Don Broco – “T-Shirt Song” (Technology)
This song is truly remarkable. To my own surprise, probably my favourite on Josh’s list. I’ve always been a sucker for falsettos and a good hook. This just checks a lot of boxes I never thought I’d put on the same list. It’s how I wish Deftones sounded. Maybe a less noisy Death From Above 1979. Overall it’s a weird R&B or Top 40 take on Nu Metal. Definitely it’s own animal. Anthemic, warm and catchy as hell. Thanks Josh.
Extinction A.D. – “In The Wake Of Uprising” (Decimation Treaty)
This is thrash worship. Leftover Testament and Anthrax riffs. Seems like a passion project. I’m down for a good thrash album but this doesn’t scratch the itch. It’s very paint by numbers in the genre and they aren’t bringing any fresh takes, going over the top or being exceptional in ways the Big Four weren’t. A total wash. Filler they would play before their Slayer and Metallica covers during a show. Just not feeling this one.
Ihsahn – “Until I Too Dissolve” (Arktis)
Ihsahn is always a pleasure but this is an odd choice. The way it comes across, it’s Ihsahn repurposing old Judas Priest type riffs in one of his sweeping operatic type songs. It’s absolutely his way of doing an homage to NWOBHM. In some ways though, it leaves me wanting. I wish he’d lean into the drawn out twangy parts and make them more psychedelic. Or cheese up the heavy metal riffs and really belt out those operatic lines he sings. Just hit the gas a little more in one of the ways the song pulls to give it more edge. But I digress, Ihsahn is playing a dangerous game with this type of song. It’s clear that he’s walking on eggshells to preserve his sound and integrate the stuff he’s nodding to in this song. A challenging balancing act. Overall my impression isn’t the most obvious. I’m torn but I unquestionably like it. Regardless, I need to listen to Arktis more. Maybe it’s context I lack.
Fit For An Autopsy – “Hydra” (The Great Collapse)
I’ve slept far, far too long on Fit For An Autopsy. This is beefy, massive and everything I look for in deathcore. The riffs are great. The production is god tier and the vocals are insane. Every moment hangs in the balance of the song coming crashing down. Is it all a breakdown? Are they transcending that? It’s crazy. Will it linger on dissonant strings and tribal beats with it’s vocalist embellishing violent and nihilistic themes, forever? When the song picks up do they go all in with metalcore and thrash, or does give way to the emptiness their breakdowns live in? The answers to these questions are, for lack of a better word, impressive. This was a blast. The lack of Fit For an Autopsy in my life is ending immediately.
Psycroptic – “Forward To Submission” (The Inherited Repression)
It’s hard to hold a candle to Psycroptic. The Haley brothers have been writing some of the best tech death out there for decades. The Inherited Repression and this track is no exception. One thing in particular I think this track excels at is being accessible. The guitars are a bit weird and the drums are absolutely breakneck, but it remains simple in tone and structure. This has always been Psycroptic’s strength. They are intuitive despite their complexity. The writing is always on the wall (and off it) which makes an otherwise challenging song fun to listen to.
Rivers of Nihil – “Subtle Change” (Where Owls Know My Name)
I have an apprehension to the word masterpiece. A masterpiece should be immediately recognizable as such and be redeemable at a late stage in the listening cycle or indefinitely. It’s no question that the album this track is pulled from is incredible. Practically perfect. But it’s status as masterpiece is still up in the air for some. I’ve described it as Goldilocks metal. I think it inhabits a space that scratches the itch for many many fans of progressive death metal and the likes. It’s “just right”, so to speak. This track is a testament to that. It’s groovy and atmospheric and scratches the itch caused by the an abandonment of the sounds many of the modern greats left behind after 2007-2012. In many ways it’s a continuation of Opeth, Between the Buried and Me, Gojira, Deconstruction, etc. It accomplishes so much. It’s utterly fantastic but only time will tell if it’s simply a placeholder for that era of metal’s revival or if it’s a classic in its own right. Regardless, this track will be on repeat, along with the rest of the album for a long time.
Machine Head – “Razorblade Smile” (Catharsis)
To the disdain of my peers at the blog, I have slept on Machine Head and allegedly been missing out on one of the best thrash bands of the late 90’s and onwards. But I have to say, this is probably not an apt introduction. The lyrics are overtly cheesy and the song itself is a bit generic. It doesn’t have a lot going for it, especially as a newcomer to the band. I know this band has some top tier music and I think there are other bands that do this kind of angst driven party metal better. The stuff here is just trashy. Another wash but c’est la vie.
Slugdge – “The Spectral Burrows” (Esoteric Malacology)
Slugdge has been a grower for me. They obviously have some cool ideas and are capable songwriters. The galactic gastropod concepts on display are hilariously awesome. This particular track however just isn’t my speed. It feels like a half-baked Opeth song with Gojira style riffs. And honestly that’s hardly a mark against the song. If you’re aping classics and doing a good job, the result will probably be just as enjoyable, but they’re lacking a bit on this track. It’s a bit too mid tempo all the way through and a tad too repetitive. A great chorus and occupying the space Gojira and Opeth used to just isn’t enough to make this song transcend its influences. It instead feels more like a product of it. As well, there are much better tracks on Esoteric Malacology.
Cody’s Grid And Josh’s Comments
Baptists – “Abandon” (Bushcraft)
This is a pretty confronting way to kick things off and I started off pretty unsure about this one. My first thought was that it sounded like Converge, to the point that the bass break in the middle specifically recalls the one from “Empty On The Inside”. Converge are one of my absolute favourite bands, but this song just seemed a bit too rough and lacking the “spark” that that band and the other elites of their ilk have. However, the more I listened to it the more it sunk in and, having checked out the whole record I’m now keen to delve into more of what Baptists have to offer.
Trivium – “Sever The Hand” (The Sin And The Sentence)
Until last year, I’d been a life-long Trivium detractor, but that’s only because they’d never released and album as good as The Sin And The Sentence until now. “Sever The Hand” isn’t one of my favourite songs on the record but it’s still brilliant. In many ways, it’s probably the song from the album that has the most in common with the older Trivium sound that put me off them in the first place (i.e. Ascendancy/The Crusade) but it’s just done to such a better standard here. Matt Heafy’s vocals are amazing on this record, and the Metallica-aping mid-section is one of the best example of its kind this side of the new Judas Priest record. Alex Ben’t drumming really does make all the difference, and I can just imagine them writing this song and going to him: “We’re thinking like Iron Maiden’s lead sections, but like if they had the drums from ‘One’ going on behind them”; and he absolutely nailed it. Great stuff.
Good Tiger – “Blueshift” (We Will All Be Gone)
I remember spinning this album a bunch when I first got the promo for it and, while bits and pieces jumped out at me here and there, it just never seemed to stick with me as a whole. “Blueshift” is kind of a microcosm of that. Overall it’s fine, but it doesn’t leave a lasting impression and what fleeting highlights it offers up usually have to do with Eliot Coleman. The chorus on this song utterly demands your attention, and the part where he sings “cut out my tongue” is the sort of thing that will give you shivers. However, I feel like the rest of the track is pretty forgettable and never develops its own identity and, as much as I do enjoy listening to it while it’s on, nothing about it is making me reach for the replay button once it’s over either.
Yazz Ahmed – “Jamil Jamal” (The Space Between The Fish & The Moon (La Saboteuse, Chapter One))
I don’t listen to as much non-metal/rock stuff as a lot of the other Heavy Blog writers and this song is really pushing the limits of my knowledge. I like what I’m hearing on this track, but I don’t know… I feel like there could be more to it. Maybe it’s the metalhead in me talking but I feel like this track could be denser and more complex. I kind of feel almost like I’m missing half the song here, especially given how long it goes on for. There is some great melody and lead stuff going on, but it doesn’t have the kind of rhythmic or percussive backing to it that I would have liked. Maybe it’s one of those Flaming Lips-type deals where you need to play another album at the same time to hear all of it? Or maybe I just need to listen more to the notes she’s not playing? As I said, I do like what I’m hearing here, I just need more of it.
Oathbreaker – “Where I Live” (Rheia)
Rheia is one of those albums I’ll throw on every couple of months just to see if it finally clicks with me, but it never does. I definitely don’t think it’s a bad album; this is one of those cases where I’m entirely certain that it’s me who is the problem, and I really do feel like I’m missing out because I just don’t get it. Listening to “Where I Live” in isolation hasn’t really changed that. For what is obviously such an emotional track, I find myself unable to really get swept up in it. I really have trouble switching off the analytical part of my mind when listening to the songs off Rheia. I always catch myself trying to break them down and make connections to other things in order to try and find an entry point. Converge and Cult of Luna are the two most common comparisons I find myself making, which I think is especially true of “Where I Live”. Yet, as much as I like those bands, and as much as I try, I just can’t seem to find my way in. Honestly, it’s all just very frustrating.
Archspire – “Involuntary Doppelgänger” (Relentless Mutation)
Ok, at the risk of getting kicked out of Heavy Blog: I don’t think Relentless Mutation is that good. I even wrote review of it for another publication where I compared it to Attila. That’s out there. You can Google it. I don’t particularly stand by that review. I was given a 48-hour turnaround in which to write it, which is not ideal for an album as complex as this one. However, I do stand by my overall assessment. The guys in Archspire are clearly very talented, I get what they’re going for and I’ve enjoyed their previous work. But a lot of this record just comes of as gimmicky and, often, very “goofy” to me. “Involuntary Doppelgänger” is one such instant. Ever since I first heard it it’s reminded me of Dethklok and I just can’t listen to it without imagining Nathan Explosion raising an invisible orange the whole time. The over the top ridiculousness of this song and the silliness of its lyrics might have worked for me in a cartoon setting, but I find it really hard to take seriously within a real-world context (says the guy who picked Slugdge). In a couple of years I’ll probably put this back on and discover that I actually love it and kick myself for being a complete idiot this whole time. Today is not that day, however.
Linkin Park feat. Jay Z – “Jigga What/Faint” (Collision Course)
As somebody who never really bought into Linkin Park, I’m really surprised how strong the individual material on this song is. Mike Shinoda is absolutely great here, and his and Jay Z’s verses compliment each other perfectly. Unfortunately, I don’t think the other elements of this mash-up rise to the same sort of level. “Faint” is certainly one of the stronger tracks from Linkin Park’s early period, and probably one of Chester Bennington’s greatest vocal performances as well. However, they feel really jarring here. It would be silly to say that they sound they’ve been pulled from a completely different song (duh!) but, while the verses work perfectly together, the chorus really spoils the flow of the song for me. This is especially true of the end, where it feels like it’s just tacked on without anything really being changed about it other than the electronic drums that have been playing for the whole song continuing underneath. At that point the song just pretty much becomes “Faint” and the Jay Z part disappears entirely, which seems a bit lazy after how well the first half of the song was stitched together.
Bikini Kill – “Strawberry Julius” (The Singles)
I’ve always been “aware” of Bikini Kill, primarily—as I’m sure is the case for many—through their association with Nirvana. Yet, while I’ve heard a bit of their stuff here and there, I’ve never properly delved into their catalogue. Cody picking one of their songs for this playlist swap has given me an excuse to do just that and, I’ve gotta say, I like what i hear. “Strawberry Julius” is immediately memorable and reminds me of The Replacements’ “Cherry Bomb” run through a Stooges filter. The only thing that let’s this song down for me is the vocals. Not that they’re bad: quite the opposite. Kathleen Hanna has a really expressive voice and I really like the way it comes across on some of the band’s other songs, but I feel like the way they are distorted on this track robs her of a lot of power. That’s a pretty minor complaint though and, on the whole, I am pleasantly surprised by how much I actually like this.
Ihsahn – “Arcana Imperii” (Ámr)
I love Ihsahn. I love everything he’s ever done (to some degree) up until this point, and if we’re talking the best metal albums of the last decade then 2010’s After is right up there for me. However, “Arcana Imperi” leaves me feeling pretty nonplussed. To borrow a phrase from the mighty Lars Ulrich, this song just sounds so “stock” to me. I feel like, if there was such thing as a generic Ihsahn song, then this is it; or else it’s like some kind of reworking of a song left off of Leprous’s Congregation. The main riff just sort of repeats. It never branches off in any weird or unexpected ways, and when the whole thing ends it just sort of… ends, without building to anything. Maybe it will work better within the context of the album, but this really isn’t getting me excited the way “Mass Darkness” or any of his other singles have before it.