These posts are written by: Scott Murphy

Stepping Stone: Emmure // Felony

This post probably seems way out of place among the many pieces I’ve written for Heavy Blog. But for anyone that knows me, bands like Emmure comprised the bulk of my high school listening, and I threw down hard during their set at Warped Tour 2010. That same year marked the peak of my adoration for “-core” music, though, as I started gravitating more towards the old school metal bands that my friend Mark would show me during lunch. My iPod started filling up with songs like “Dead but Dreaming” by Deicide rather than “Dead but Dreaming” by Carnifex, and before I knew it, I was another metal elitist scoffing at the very thought that Emmure used to be one of my favorite bands. Thankfully, I’ve matured quite a bit since then; not to the point where I’d write an “In Defense Of” post for Emmure, but enough to ignore any news updates about the band rather than leaving an unproductive shitpost in the comments section (“lol, binary code metal, amirite???”). And as I saw updates on their latest album Look at Yourself, it made me reminisce about my old listening habits and prompted me to revisit what used to be my favorite record of theirs: Felony. The result was the following nostalgia-ridden Stepping Stone for a band I view as both one of the worst and most important bands that defined the trajectory of my growth as a metal fan. It was my full intention going into this to be as objective and honest as possible, and I hope this will read as a fair critique of one of metal’s most polarizing bands.

Soundtracks for the Blind: The Necks // Unfold

One of the most unique and consistent contemporary avant-garde bands, The Necks are perhaps most notable for carving out and perfecting their own meditative niche. On the surface, the Australian group’s roster solicits expectations for a standard jazz trio – Chris Abrahams (piano, organ), Tony Buck (drums, percussion) and Lloyd Swanton (bass) seem to hearken back to the golden age of bare-bones bop and bandleaders like Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk. But these Aussies differ in how far they stretch their jazz roots into the avant-garde, comparable to but far beyond albums like John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme and Pharaoh Sander’s Karma. Though there’s a distinctly transcendental, spiritual vibe to The Necks’ music, the trio’s approach to this style is heavily informed by the sparseness of artists like Evans and Monk, with a considerable focus on minimalism, improvisation and ambiance that stretches their musical atmosphere from a smoky, luxurious piano lounge into a general ether of organic landscapes.

Kvlt Kolvmn – January 2017

When I originally launched Kvlt Kolvmn back in 2015, my intention was to create an HLT-style outlet for all of the noteworthy releases I find while digging around for underground black metal. But as you can tell by the singular installment linked above…that didn’t end up happening. I never stopped my constant conquest for new BM, though, and I figured a new year would be a great opportunity to compile all of my findings in one place and jot down why I think they’re absolutely worth our readership’s time and attention. So here we are with Kvlt Kolvmn, Take Two – a monthly round-up of my top 10 favorite BM releases from the past 30 days. There’s a fair amount of variety here in terms of where these bands/one-man projects are from and the music they’re churning out, and my hope is you’ll find at least one of these albums worth your time (and, potentially, support). And while this might be self-explanatory, please comment with any releases I’ve missed out on but are definitely worth a spin.

Draugsól Continues Iceland’s Black Metal Dominance

Just about this time last year, Simon ran a piece about how Icelandic black metal was primed to be the next big movement in the genre. Though I had been familiar – and highly impressed – with albums from Misþyrming and Naðra, I was genuinely surprised to see how many other quality black metal bands hailed from the small, not-so-icy island. And thankfully for BM fans, Simon was right about this being a growing trend, as 2017 has already plopped Draugsól’s Volaða Land onto my running top releases list for the year. The album title’s apt translation to “poor country” points to the desolate atmosphere that permeates throughout the record.

I Feel It Coming – How Streaming is Changing Music Consumption

Over the past couple years we’ve published two massive articles about the current state and impending trends of music consumption—my deep dive on the tough realities of streaming platforms and Nick’s bullshit-free synopsis of Nielsen’s 2016 music industry report. While both of these pieces had minimal references to metal, the research and analysis we presented outlines some staggering changes to the entirety of music, changes that continue to expand and show no sign of slowing. And though it’s been just over a year since I channeled my B.A. thesis on streaming for my deep dive, Billboard published a story that compelled me to revisit the topic and write down my thoughts as soon as possible. The facts of the story are relatively simple—because Billboard now incorporates track streams into the sales figures they consider, The Weeknd’s Starboy remained at #1 on the Top 200 for this week because it technically “sold” more albums than The XX’s I See You, landing the British indie pop trio at #2 on the list despite selling more actual albums. If you don’t see why this fact is reason for at least some concern, then please head past the jump to consider the following question – are streams and purchases comparable?

Various Artists – NOISE

In their down time from story-boarding episodes of Rick and Morty and Mr. Pickles for Adult Swim, the team at Williams Street Productions has been an odd source of quality underground music compilations and albums. Not only does their catalog feature works from the likes of Captain Murphy (a.k.a Flying Lotus) and Destruction Unit alongside annual, multi-genre compilations, nearly all of these albums are entirely free to stream and download. If you’re searching for a negative here, there isn’t one, a point the company proved yet again last month with their most avant-garde offering to date. The appropriately blunt title for NOISE should point to the abrasiveness of this collection of tracks; an eclectic range of compositions from an equally broad roster of artists, all of whom approach “noise” as a malleable concept meant to be stretched to its limit.

Soundtracks for the Blind: Eli Keszler // Last Signs of Speed

Before jazz became a regular occurrence in my rotation, I thought bandleaders were exclusively pianists, trumpeters saxophonists given the prevalence of the instruments in the genre. This quickly changed as I ventured further into the genre, exploring the discographies of artists like bassist Charles Mingus and flutist/clarinetist Eric Dolphy (who, to be fair, also played alto sax). But it wasn’t until hearing Jack DeJohnette’s drum solo on “What I Say” – from Miles Davis’ Live-Evil – that I truly fell in love with jazz drumming, drawing me towards eminent jazz percussionists like Max Roach. To be clear, none of this is meant to frame Eli Keszler as a jazz drummer; his playing and composition on Last Signs of Speed doesn’t fit neatly in any particular style. Yet, as I listened to Keszler’s use of texture throughout the album, it reminded me of the songwriting sensibilities of drummers like Roach – musicians with a deep understanding of percussion’s mechanics and how any additional instrumentation should be placed in the surrounding space.

Twinesuns – The Empire Never Ended

Nearly every drone metal album is bound to receive the inevitable comparison to Sunn O))), and unsurprisingly so. Drone is a difficult genre to master, what with it’s focus on mood and experience instead of typical songwriting tropes. Yet, while perusing reviews of Crystal Shipsss’ I Will See No Moon No Sky a couple years ago before writing my own, I found a blog with an interesting take on the album genre. While not verbatim, their general assertion was as follows: Crystal Shipsss’ brand of drone metal may recall Sunn O))), but in the end, no band can claim ownership of “the drone.” But let’s fast forward a bit – what exactly does any of this have to do with Twinesuns’ excellent new album, The Empire Never Ended? Well, after but a few minutes into the album, it’ll become clear that 1.) the bands sounds like Sunn O))) & 2.) this by no means discounts the sheer intensity and invention that they bring to the genre.