Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts 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 has Scott and Jordan duking it out again, in what will surely be a battle for the ages:
For most New Englanders, winter is pinnacle of all that is horrible and tedious about living in the Northeast—it’s full of dark days, cold weather, abundant strains of the flu, and more shoveling-related back injuries than you can count. To be fair, though, I actually like it. I adore the…
For those who missed our last installment, We post biweekly updates covering what the staff at Heavy Blog have been spinning. Given the amount of time we spend on the site telling you about music that does not fall neatly into the confines of conventional “metal,” it should come as no surprise that many of us on staff have pretty eclectic tastes that range far outside of metal and heavy things. We can’t post about all of them at length here, but we can at least let you know what we’re actually listening to. For those that would like to participate as well (and please do) can drop a 3X3 in the comments, which can be made with tapmusic.net through your last.fm account, or create it manually with topsters.net. Also, consider these posts open threads to talk about pretty much anything music-related. We love hearing all of your thoughts on this stuff and love being able to nerd out along with all of you.
With our general list for 2016 out of the way, we can now shift the focus from our aggregate opinion to individual ones. Both outlooks have their own merit; the former provides us with an overview of our year in music. However, the latter shines a light on something we’re extremely proud of and that’s the varied and eclectic nature of our staff these days. We used to have a very certain type of music associated with Heavy Blog and while we still have a long way to go, we feel like we’ve done a good job at expanding our palettes and the representation of different kinds of music and metal in our staff. The lists below reflect that; you’ll find black metal, avant-garde, technical thrash metal, hip hop, rap, noise, ambiance, post metal and rock, melodic death metal and much more throughout these lists.
Season of Mist teamed up in 2014 with Drudkh frontman Roman Sayenko to remedy the implicitness of folk tradition within black metal. Together, they gave us an underrated gem of an album called One and All, Together, for Home. It is nothing else but a collaboration album spanning various traditions, sounds and histories to shine a light on some of the folk music that acts as fuel for black metal. The roster includes the aforementioned Primordial, but also Haive, Winterfylleth, Kampfar and more. Together, they’ve compiled an album made up of a rich tapestry of styles, from true-to-source renditions of ancient songs to more metal oriented interpretations of said melodies. The guidelines for the contributing acts seem to have fast and loose and thus, the album features varied and disparate approaches, lending it a strong sense of personal, creative identity.
With cold, treble-tipped tremolo riffs, agonized rasps and Satanic imagery, black metal might seem like the farthest thing from acoustic folk. But despite their distance, acoustic guitar has slowly crept into black metal since its unholy birth, even with the strict cultural norms that once governed the sound and image of black metal. Interestingly, the use and purpose of acoustic guitars in black metal is not random, but traces patterns across the evolution of black metal, from Bathory to Panopticon.
Beyond the pleasure of meeting me, Be Prog! My Friend should be an interesting proposition for any fan of progressive music in its myriad forms. Before we get to the actual lineup, the festival itself and its grounds are lauded by the entire community as especially exquisite. Being urban as it is, centered in the beautiful city of Barcelona, Be Prog! My Friend eliminates many of the more worrisome elements of festivals, namely camping, logistics and transportation. In addition, the fact that it is in a more clearly defined and professional environment, it enjoys better sound qualities, higher production values on sets and many more perks. Lastly, unlike most festivals, it doesn’t go for a “bigger is better” mentality, preferring a small crop of quality bands over a slew of artists from all levels of quality.
For very unfortunate reasons, Myrkur remains a controversial artist. Being the brainchild of Amalie Bruun, the black metal project has faced intense scrutiny for deviating from the norms of the genre, despite other artists like Ulver (whom have collaborated with her several times) or Alcest getting praised for similar irreverences. While the backlash that targets her for her gender might have dissuaded other artists, she has instead trudged on and pushed back even further. Mausoleum is partly reinvention, but also partly defiance. Taking the songs from her debut full length M and rearranging them with a haunting choir, Myrkur is firmly walking the steps towards post-black-metal greatness.
Last year, we had a narrative. Following on the footsteps of the late, great Brian Shields, we had declared this, our time, The Golden Age™ of Metal. Releases were coming in in flurries and the quality was just as good. We got several of the best albums in recent memory…
The demand of a reviewer to come to an album with no preconceived notions is absurd. As humans, there’s no possible way for us to approach an album with a completely clean slate; we’ll always have our prejudices, expectations and ideas about how an album will sound like. The true demand from a good music journalist (and any journalist, if we’re being honest) is mental flexibility. The ability to discard preconceived notions in the face of the facts of the album is where true integrity lies; if you’re too possessive about them, you won’t be able to properly appreciate the works of art that you are faced with. More than that, these preconceived notions are useful tools, enabling us to relate and understand our fans, who have the same ideas and expectations. Thus, we need to learn how to connect and channel them, making sure that the tools don’t become the masters.
What in heaven’s name does this have to do with Perturbator? Well, this is where things get personal. You see, I had always liked Perturbator’s music but felt, at the same time, that there was more potential to be tapped. Dangerous Days is a great album but one which, I feel, could have been a fantastic album if more variation had been added into the breakneck rhythm’s. Lying dormant beneath the furious dedication to darkwave barrages, crouched in wait below the thrumming, never-ending, neon-tinged tracks, I could feel some sort of future flowering waiting for space to breathe. To be sure, there are plenty of ambient tracks on there but they felt tacked on, an afterthought rather than a true, organic part of the album. Sure, “Minuit” and “Hard Wired” existed but they were somehow lacking, not fully realized in their deviance.