Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last weeks update here) 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. Our inaugural post brought staff members Simon Handmaker and William France together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Simon: I’m filled up on Pad Thai, my comfort food, and it’s been steadily raining outside. I’ve spent all day writing other things for Heavy Blog – the review of the new Demon Lung (here) and my entries for the 25 Albums thing (here) – and taking breaks for an hour or so at a time to play Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor. It’s been a nice, relaxing day, but also highly productive where writing is concerned. I’m in a fantastic mood, and lightning flashes are dancing across the grey clouds, which have been torn straight from some beautiful watercolor painting, in what seems to be a similar sort of elation. I’m incredibly excited to sit down and write this, so here goes, I guess. William’s taste isn’t particularly foreign to mine, but there’s very little on here that I’ve listened to recently (Coma Ecliptic is really the only thing on here I’ve listened to in the past couple weeks besides for this feature). I’m really stoked, and ready to write, so here we go:
“Famine Wolf “- Coma Ecliptic – Between The Buried And Me
The new Between the Buried and Me record was exactly what I expected, which is a little weird in of itself. I went into it thinking, “it’s going to be enjoyable, but I doubt I’m going to go back to it other than for choice tracks”. “Famine Wolf” actually happened to be one of those tracks. One of the most enjoyable cuts from Coma Ecliptic, Tommy’s keys and Paul’s doodly-doo noodling make this energetic track a regular in my rotation of good singles from the year.
“Undone” – Restarter – Torche
This is a super fun track. I don’t honestly know how I haven’t checked this release out yet; it seems right up my alley. Short, grungy, and to-the-point, this song is actually killer. I’m going to have to listen to this whole album right away. I’ll keep it short, to match the song, and move on.
“Three Swords” – Pathway – Secrets of the Sky
Pathway is probably one of my most personally slept-on releases of the year so far. Every time I hear it, it strikes me that I NEED to listen to this all the way through again, but I just haven’t. Everything about this album, and especially this track, is super on point, and it all clicks in such an incredible way. Two (or should I say three?) thumbs up.
“Dark Divinity” – Epistemology – Keep of Kalessin
Following up on Pathway, this is another super slept-on release by me this year. I love this sort of stuff and this is really right up my alley. I’m honestly not sure why I’ve ignored this for so long, but I think it has something to do with the dude’s nipples on the album cover. They look unnatural and they’re certainly unsettling. The song is great: the keyboards are fantastic and drive the music forward super well, and the fun guitar riffing really sets a nice tone. Definitely a track I’m going to have to follow up on.
“Red” – The Congregation – Leprous
Einar Solberg’s voice is the scariest thing in the world to me right now. Chilling yet passionate, he brings such an intense energy to every track on The Congregation that I actually cried the first time I listened to this album. Mired in the atmosphere the first time around, this track broke me down into a million different little pieces as I sat on the kitchen floor with tears building up in my eyes. Now, what I mainly notice is that the keyboard riff in the second half of the song kinda sounds like a slowed-down version of the refrain from that “I Like To Move It” song from Madagascar. You know the one.
“Dead Rope Machine” – Living as Ghosts With Buildings as Teeth – Rishloo
I’m immediately intrigued by this opening riff. It’s super twinkly and enticing, and it leads into such incredible vocals. The dude on the cover is probably listening to this opening bit. Wow, these vocals. The delivery and intonation remind me slightly of Maynard James Keenan, of Tool fame, in the smallest way. This is beautiful.
“Roofquake” – Not of This World – Adam Nitti
Holy crap, this is super snazzy. I’m really, really enjoying this. Just about everything I want out of jazz, this makes me want to move and groove but I’m too busy writing this right now. In all seriousness, this is some incredibly funky stuff and there’s no way I’m not going to check out this album in the near future. Keyboards, horns, bass, and drums are melding here into an absolutely incredible combination. I really love this track, and there’s no way I’m not following up on this. Thank you so much, William.
“Proclamation” – The Power and Glory – Gentle Giant
I’ve never been too into old progressive rock- the scene is so inaccessible for someone like me- but this might just change that. I love these opening synths, and the vocals are certainly piquing my interest. Definitely continuing the snazz train from the last one, and this just keeps going. I’m really digging on this track quite a lot.
“Oban” – Starfire – Jaga Jazzist
I’m typing this bit before listening to this track: I’ve heard so many good things about Jaga Jazzist from fellow staffer Ahmed Hasan and editor Nick Cusworth, and I’m pretty excited to be sitting down and listen to another track from these guys. Okay, following this are my observations of the track. I was… intrigued the last time I listened to a Jaga track. It didn’t really grab my attention, but I walked away from it feeling like that was more because of inaccessibility than because of a particular fault of what seemed to be a really talented group of songwriters. Yeah, this is really good. These mingling electronics remind me of dolphins: playful, elusive, and slippery, they dance across the track and spread out to form some really cool bits. This is super groovy too, and it just keeps building up and getting better. I can see myself really getting into these guys.
William: Currently neck-deep in various tasks and mid-way through a wonderfully chilly Australian Winter, I’m writing this from the comfort and proverbial safety of my floor heater. The list that Simon has provided me today is chock-full of bangers, but also features a bunch of bands I would not have heard of had it not been for this article. Not entirely positive, I’ve tried to keep my impression of today’s list constructive and informative, while also offering my honest thoughts on Simons’ last week of music:
Touche Amore – …To The Beat Of A Dead Horse – “Nine”
I’ve admittedly never listened to Touche Amore. My only experience with the band, if you could call it that, has been when I confuse their name with stoner-pop group Torche. On first glance, this song nods towards influences from older La Dispute but with a more focused approach to songwriting. While not something I would find myself listening to on a regular basis, I do have somewhat of a softspot for some bands of this genre.
The Dear Hunter – Act III: Life And Death – “The Poison Woman”
Funnily enough, I first found this band through Periphery‘s Facebook page. Misha Mansoor excitedly posted about the group, and after checking out their album “Act 1”, I was hooked. “The Poison Woman” exhibits all of the characteristic traits that make The Dear Hunter the incredible band that it is. Soaring vocals underpinned by subtle harmonies marry perfectly with a pulsating swing feel help to build emotion and intensity while never straying from the band’s perfect sense of structure or control. If you haven’t had a chance to check this band out before, I implore you to do so.
Prurient – Bermuda Drain – “A Meal Can Be Made”
This is… certainly interesting. I’ve never been a fan of this genre, often finding it too jarring to sit through more than a few minutes of. The marriage of heavily distorted, growled vocals and pounding electronic riffs creates a confronting sense of cacophony, leaving me searching for something positive to say about this track. I don’t outright hate this song, but it doesn’t register to me as something that would inspire or grip me as much as other genres do.
Joey Bada$$ – B4.DA.$$ – “Christ Conscious”
A late bloomer for hip hop, my interest in the genre peaked when I was put onto clipping.‘s most recent release by some of the other staff at Heavy Blog. Having previously written off the genre because of unjustified reasons, it occurred to me when I started thoroughly enjoying groups like Death Grips and Run the Jewels, that there was a lot more to this style than I had first thought. My feelings towards ‘Christ Conscious’ are no different. There seems to be quite a lot of depth to this track, not only in the lyrical content but also in the way it’s produced. I’ll definitely be looking into Joey Bada$$‘s other releases after this.
Teethgrinder – Misanthropy – “Iron Jaw”
Grindcore as a genre for me, has been largely hit and miss. While I thoroughly enjoy dissonant and chaotic aspects of other genres, grind has always been too overwhelming for me to sit down and properly listen to. However, there are a couple of bands who meld the random chaos of grindcore with other influences, who have really stood out to me, Teethgrinder being no different. There are tinges of Converge and Weekend Nachos, as well
as a wonderfully crusty, hardcore vibe that all seem to perfectly coexist with each other to create a wall-of-sound not unlike being punched in the face.
Thy Art Is Murder – Holy War – “Light Bearer”
Arguably one of the most popular deathcore bands of the genre, Thy Art is Murder have risen to fame through solid composition (for the genre) and a series of well-played publicity stunts that have had them steadily in the media spotlight for some time. This song, and the rest of Holy War are undoubtedly some of the best tracks to emerge from the genre in recent times but consistently leave me wishing the band would explore more ambitious territory. “Light Bearer” is by no means bad, but if you ask me, Oceano‘s Depths, Despised Icon‘s Day of Mourning and Ion Dissonance‘s Minus The Herd will forever and always remain the pinnacle of deathcore.
Dark Tranquillity – Fiction – “The Lesser Faith”
This is a band I often hear thrown around in conversation but never had the chance to properly explore. After hearing this track i’m not exactly confused as to why Dark Tranquillity haven’t been a very high priority of mine over the years. While I shouldn’t judge an entire band’s catalogue by one song, the first things that jump out at me are the cheesy synths and that god awful snare tone. The mildly interesting guitar riffs and song structure are overshadowed by the thin, metallic production and monotonous vocals that unfortunately leave me wondering whether I’m listening to Adagio‘s Archangels In Black.
The Contortionist – Exoplanet – “Flourish”
Where to start? The Contortionist‘s first release, and somewhat of an anomaly when compared to their two succeeding albums. A sound that a lot of fans preferred to their current form, “Flourish” was the first song that I heard from Exoplanet, and continues to be a formidable listening experience to this day. Jonathan Carpenter’s singing voice had such a unique timbre that worked so well with the band’s ambient sections. However one of the most glaring aspects of this album was the band’s ability to segue from beautiful, soaring melodies to crushing grooves and breakdowns without ever seeming out of place or unwanted. An excellent song and album, start to finish.
Dance Gavin Dance – Downtown Battle Mountain II – “Heat Seeking Ghost of Sex”
A longtime favourite of mine, Dance Gavin Dance really stood out to me from similar bands in the genre when I heard their 2008 selftitled, specifically, “Uneasy Hearts Weigh the Most.” While the band’s sound has evolved over the years, that initial attraction still remains present throughout the rest of their catalogue, with no exception to this song. I also prefer the vocals of Kurt Travis to those of Jonny Craig. He has a great voice and there are obviously worse choices for the position of vocalist in DGD, but I feel it doesn’t retain the same intensity during the parts where he’s belting it out. With all that said, this is an excellent song from an even more excellent band, who will always remain dear to me.
-SM, SH & WF