It’s been a long road, but the sax is back, baby. For years the instrument, once employed lavishly upon all sorts of classic and progressive rock tracks through the 60s and 70s, became a revolting cliche and symbol of rock excess, softness, and melodrama. And, frankly, given how the instrument became abused and synonymous with the type of smooth jazz playing that would coat pop and rock ballads through the 80s into 90s with a sonic perfume strong enough to make you gag, it’s not surprising that it fell out of style. In many ways it went hand-in-hand with the back-to-basics mentality that ran through the punk, DIY, grunge, indie, and (to a different extent) metal movements of the 80s through the 90s and well into the turn of the century. Since then, though, the pendulum has slowly but steadily moved back into the other direction, and more bands and listeners view the sax and other woodwinds as viable and enticing flourishes or even centerpieces to give their music either a certain distinction or whiff of nostalgia. And though metal has perhaps resisted incorporating the instrument for longer than most other genres, there is now an utter wealth of examples of artists and bands using the instrument to (mostly) good effect, particularly in the more progressive black, death, and doom spheres, where bands like Wrvth, Aenaon, Dreadnought, and, of course, SHINING – Jorgen Munkeby probably more than anyone has made the idea of sax-heavy metal sound forward-thinking and “cool” – are releasing high-quality work that makes use of the instrument in a whole wide range of ways.
These posts are written by: Nick Cusworth
As I wrote in my review of LA post/math-rock enclave Arms of Tripoli’s recent sophomore album Daughters, I have a particular soft spot for the band not only because they clearly pull influence from so many instrumental and progressive bands that I already love, but also because they were the first band I came to know and love specifically through writing for Heavy Blog back in 2014 for their debut full-length Dream In Tongues. In my mind the band are just about everything that is good about instrumental post-rock without any of the bloat, mediocrity, and tediousness that plagues so much of the genre and its heavier cousins in post-metal. I’ve been following them closely since and eagerly awaited their next release. So when Arms’ bassist Mike Bouvet reached out to me personally about the upcoming release of Daughters, I knew that I wanted to talk to them about a whole bunch of things. Over a few e-mails we discussed their formation, their collaboration and improv-focused writing process, what sets them apart from most post-rock bands out there, and, of course, eggs.
RVRSAL’s first release, entitled Finding it and Losing it, is exactly the kind of blend of jazz influence with a host of other flavors that is guaranteed to grab our attention, and we are very pleased to be premiering it in its entirety here!
Man, 2017, y’all. We realize that it’s kind of our m.o. to be proponents of the whole “Golden Age of Metal” narrative and be incredibly positive about the consistently great level of stuff that is being put out from pretty much every part of the musical spectrum, but it’s such an easy thing to do when we are so constantly bombarded with new material that utterly consumes our attention. Even in months where one of us might not have as many new albums that really impressed them, without doubt there will be another one who could barely keep up because of all the superb releases from genres they pay close attention to. This April has certainly been no different in that regard, and we have a whole slew of top-notch albums to recommend to you all.
Last we wrote about the LA post/math-rock enclave Arms of Tripoli was for their 2014 debut full-length Dream In Tongues, which came to us out of nowhere and quickly became a blog favorite among several of us for its mixture of bright and summery post-rock and shoegaze sounds with some knottier and more math-y elements thrown in to keep things more than interesting. As a brief personal pretext to this, Dream In Tongues was one of the first albums I reviewed for Heavy Blog, was the first album I had given a very positive review of, and it was also quite possibly the first album that myself and now editor-in-chief Eden Kupermintz (both of us were still just mere innocent and not yet completely jaded newbie writers at that point) bonded over, thus forging a friendship and partnership that is responsible for much of what you know of Heavy Blog as today.
We’re on the record now on multiple occasions spilling our love for the blog post-engineering, both for their posts in…
It’s been a while since we mentioned Boston instrumental post-rock group Pray For Sound here. Originally we told you to listen to their 2014 album Dreamer, which Eden complimented for its open, cinematic sounds calling to mind the likes of sleepmakeswaves, Explosions in the Sky, and plenty more. True to form, after telling you all to listen to that album over half a year after its release, we somehow managed to let these guys slip through our fingers again as they released their truly excellent follow-up Everything Is Beautiful last fall. Don’t ask us how it happened because we don’t have a good answer other than us being fools. Certainly don’t think it has anything to do with the quality of the album because Everything Is Beautiful is undoubtedly the most fully-realized and expansive record Pray For Sound have put out. It’s sweeping, cinematic post-rock at its finest that knows how and when to hit heavy and add plenty of interesting knots throughout while maintaining its general feel of open, pastoral beauty.
It’s been a while since we’ve written one of these columns, and that’s not because we dislike them. Past a certain point it starts to become more difficult to find important bands representing or making waves in a certain genre or sub-genre and finding a group of similar or tangentially-related bands to recommend. Up to this point though we haven’t really written one of these posts as essentially a response or plea to listeners. Sometimes bands who execute a certain style or sound garner a lot of critical and popular praise to the point of being credited with some sort of innovation or something radically different from anything else out there when the reality is far from that. It’s rarely the fault of the bands themselves though as they don’t give themselves that kind of credit, but once in a while it’s important for someone to politely correct consensus thinking and offer a little more context, and that is exactly what we’re going to do here and now with the debut album from metal/jazz fusion band Nova Collective.
Garage rock is one of those more amorphous genre tags that nevertheless has a very identifiable sound to it. You might not be able to describe what it is exactly beyond fuzzy guitars, generally lo-fi production, and punchy, catchy songs, but you know what it is when you hear it. It’s not a style I’m totally enamored with as oftentimes the stripped-down approach comes off as a bit too facile and simple, trying to make up for a lack of depth and with immediacy and charismatic energy. Hailing from Los Angeles, Meatbodies are proving to be an exception to the rule for me, though most of that stems from their evolving way beyond simple garage into something far more interesting and fun.
We’ve spoken a lot about the importance of atmosphere in post-rock, post-metal, and other instrumental rock music here on this site. Cinematic music that is more concerned about mood, texture, and sense of place than any particular riffs or technical prowess often gets a bad rap from many looking to be actively engaged and hooked in. There’s something to be said for music that possesses the transportive quality though. Songs and albums that are able to construct entire sonic worlds within the span of a few minutes, evoke the senses in strong ways, and create a full sense of immersion are difficult to pull off well, but when done right allow the listener to form bonds with the music in ways that few other sounds can.