Earlier this year, Iron Maiden released The Book of Souls, the sixteenth studio album of their storied 40-year career. As this is the band’s first double album, it is refreshing to see that a band so deep into their career is still willing to enter unchartered territory and push the boundaries of what they have done before. Yet, before looking more closely at the album itself, one thing should be made abundantly clear: this is an Iron Maiden record, which means it sounds like Iron Maiden. If you’ve never been a fan of the band, this is not an album which is going to change your mind. Similarly, fans of the band are in for an absolute treat, whilst casual listeners should find plenty to admire in what is undoubtedly one of their finest releases.
Category Archive Reviews
Anyone who has ever looked at a map of the world at least once is aware that Russia is the largest country in the world in terms of area. Stretching across Europe and Asia with a total area almost twice the size of Brazil, Russia is home to lots and lots of peoples and cultures who have lots of differences amongst themselves. Amidst this kaleidoscopic cornucopia of cultures that is the Russian population lives an estimated 2.3 million Finno-Ugric people. They consist of different groups spread out from northern Sweden, Finland and the Baltics to Hungary to western and central Russia all with cultural and linguistic differences.
Pacing is one of the most important aspects of the musical arts. Often, unfortunately, it goes ignored or unutilized, but proper pacing can be an incredible strength for a piece of music. No matter the genre in question, a good command of an album’s pace and speed can be a huge strength, and, in some cases, the difference between the release being a success and it being a failure. Artists like Dreadnought and The Mars Volta, to name bands in very different places on a musical spectrum, have both mastered the art of pacing an album properly and use it to lend a huge sense of strength and progression to their music.
Maybe the hardest hitting album with an astronaut on the cover, ever, Inverted is going to be the first major milestone people look at when they Google (there are other search engines available…) A Dark Orbit. A big, brutal beast of a record, it may take some repeated listens to digest the ideas, patterns and sounds present. With the proper attention and a little patience however, this album gives so much while still demanding a lot of the listener. These thick, repeated grooves share the limelight with a seemingly endless amount of filthy, planet clearing beat/breakdowns. Hardcore influenced, progressive modern doom? Fuck knows. Leave the genre tags where they are for now and let’s dig in.
There is an important observation to be made about the press release that accompanied our promo for Circular Time, which began by claiming that “it’s been nearly twenty years since we last had a full-length album from Ramleh operating in “rock” mode, but the sprawling new double album Circular Time sees these British noise rock legends returning with their most intense work since re-emerging in recent years.” As with any genre tag, there’s some malleability when it comes to defining noise rock; pioneers like The Jesus Lizard perverted a punk foundation, whereas newbies like White Suns pump in more feedback and distortion than coherent riffs. But while Circular Time may not resemble Ramleh’s beginnings as a power electronics group, it’s a bit of a stretch to slap a noise rock label on the album either. This isn’t to dismiss the album in any way, nor to insinuate it doesn’t have any elements of noise (rock). Rather, what Circular Time has to offer is more of a fusion of expansive, droning post rock and distinctly Seventies influenced psychedelia, all of which culminates into an incredible sonic offering.
Collaborations are always a process that, from the audience’s point of view, hold a huge amount of possibility. Although the artists/bands in question may have a very specific sound they’re going for, nobody outside of the collaborative process knows exactly what elements from each the writing process will wed; thus, we often find ourselves fluttering somewhere between anxiety and excitement, unaware of what the results could be.
This year, so far, has been an excellent year for collaboration in the metal universe. 2015 has seen the release of Alkaloid’s debut, a band whose lineup is a “who’s who” of European tech metal, the stellar XoroAHbin, a collaborative album from The Body and Vampillia, and, more recently, the first album from prog metallers Good Tiger, whose self-titled first album is one of the most interesting and dynamic releases in progressive metal since the last album from The Safety Fire (the band from whose ashes Good Tiger rose). And now, here to add onto this growing list, comes N.V., the collaborative effort from black ambient artist Gnaw Their Tongues and noisy death metal stalwarts Dragged Into Sunlight.
Collaborative ratios are one of the first points of discussion mentioned before and after two prominent bands announce that they’ve entered the studio together (whether physically or virtually). Full of Hell & Merbow initially had fans pondering the potential interplay between Full of Hell‘s powerviolence and Merzbow‘s noise, which then evolved into a discussion of the artists’ choice to clearly split the emphasis between the FoH dominated main release and the Merzbow-heavy follow up Sister Fawn. Of course, the subsequent and more prevalent point of discussion always becomes the album’s quality; no matter how distinguished the two halves of a collaboration are, the final product must hold its own. Metallica and Lou Reed may have produced some of music’s greatest albums, but Lulu is certainly not one of them, something that most of their fans made abundantly clear. Juxtaposing these examples with The Body and Krieg‘s self-titled debut as a collective is merely meant as a framing device, as the project is more cohesive than FoH/Merzbow and not nearly as bad as Loutallica. But while the album comes together as a seamless mesh of the two bands’ focuses in experimental music, doom/sludge and black metal, their times together as bedfellows hasn’t produced a noteworthy offspring.
In a scene where overly masculine manly men bands breed like rat and somehow seem to all land a record deal (while of course still staying true to their “crews”), Birds In Row is somewhat of an anomaly. They reside out of the stylistically strict boundaries that decide what is popular in hardcore, do not, even once, mention their crew, and yet are still widely recognized among the hardcore scene as a band to watch. That is, of course, due to the fact that Birds In Row consistently puts out subgenre defying, emotionally intense music rooted in hardcore, giving everyone a reason to listen.
A place for everything and everything in its place. Thus goes the common saying that explains a lot of how we listen to and understand music. Sometimes, the skies are dark and raining and the right companion is crusty, black metal from the depths of pain. Sometimes, you’re driving long distances and doom sets the tone to the somber background around you. And, sometimes (maybe very rarely for us trve, frostbitten, Internet Metal Nerds) there comes the time to party. To throw down. To dance. When that time comes, metal offers a poor and limited selection: most bands on the lighter side of things are either intentional jokes or just very poorly produced and through out affairs.
But Skindred is neither of those things. They are veterans, wizened artists who have been around the block their share of times, seen all the riffs, played all the venues and partied with the best, and worst, of people. With Volume, they condense their hard-earned experience into a package so well produced, so cleverly arranged and thought out that, while you’re chair-dancing, headbanging or dashboard singing, it truly transcends the boundaries of “party metal”.
Ever since the hole left by the dissimulation of one of the most formative deathcore groups of the past ten years, The Tony Danza Tapdance Extravaganza, other bands have been trying to fill the void that Josh Travis and his atonal, noisy, aggressive-beyond-belief approach left in the worldwide scene. Even though Travis released a full-length with his other band, Glass Cloud, there’s been a definite lack of the sort of chaotic, rough approach that he took with Danza. There’ve been some great Danza-inspired deathcore albums, like the most recent outing from iwrestledabearonce, and some not so great ones, but by and large, many are still seeking something to fill the void left by the band’s breakup.
Frontierer wants to push their way directly into this hole. Their debut album, ORANGE MATHEMATICS, is noisy, chaotic, and aggressive: the concentrated essence of Travis’ reflections into dissonance lives on through the powerful trio of Pedram Valiani, Owen Hughes, and Chad Kopper (guitars, drums, and vocals, respectively), and on their first LP, they manage to totally knock it out of the park, crowning themselves as the new go-to for anybody looking for some Danza-inspired mayhem.