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.
This week’s post brought staff members Jimmy Mullett and Spencer Snitil together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Jimmy Mullet: I’m super psyched to have done this swap with Spencer. Out of all the staff at Heavy Blog (with the possible exception of Scott), Spencer’s tastes probably most align with my own. But Spencer’s had a completely different path that I’ve had musically, which makes this grid privy to some really cool hidden gems that I probably overlooked. Hopefully he’ll enjoy my own grid (and hopefully he’ll be able to find links for some of it–sorry ahead of time, Spence!).
Spencer’s Grid & Jimmy’s Comments
Hiromi — Spark — “Dilemma”
Spencer: I love Hiromi, and I actually got to see her live a couple weeks ago. It was by far the best show I have ever seen, but in particular, it’s largely due to her playing tons of songs off her latest album Spark. I’ve always felt that over the last three albums, she’s evolved as a musician and a performer and let the other two members of her trio (Simon Phillips & Anthony Jackson) have more of a say in the music. While She is still writing nearly all of it, it feels more cohesive this time around, and has some of her finest work on it. “Dilemma” is a perfect example of what she is about, and has some of the most hypnotic piano work of her career on it, not to mention the great solo she does in the middle.
Jimmy: I’ve actually never heard of Hiromi, so this was a treat. And, wow. I don’t think I’ve ever been so divided in opinion on a song before. I’m definitely a sucker for almost anything jazz, so in one aspect I’m salivating just listening to Hiromi’s piano when she gets all bluesy with it. On the other hand, though, it’s not exactly the jazz I usually listen to. In my opinion, it sounds a little overproduced in a way, as if the natural improvisational feel of jazz had been sucked out of the track. Hiromi’s playing is exceptional, but at times it sounds more like Chopin playing a Kenny G cover—not really my ideal thing. Overall, though, it was an interesting listen.
Converge — Converge/Napalm Death Split — “Wolverine Blues”
Spencer: It’s Converge covering Entomed with a bunch of guest musicians, and it’s just flawless. I definitely think this version hits harder than the original, and is incredibly fun to play on any instrument.
Jimmy: Converge—one of the greatest hardcore bands ever—covering a song by one of the best death metal bands ever? I was pretty much born to like this. Granted, it took me a long time to really appreciate Converge, but thankfully I came to my senses. Yup. This is great. It’s cool how Converge manage to make even a cover song their own, with Jacob Bannon’s great vocals, and Kurt Ballou’s insane guitar tone. And, of, course, the feedback. How can you forget the feedback?
SikTh — Death of a Dead Day — “Summer Rain”
Spencer: The opening riff is why I chose this song, because it has something that really doesn’t make sense except for a band like SikTh, where they’re basically doing slap on the strings instead of using a pick. It also is one of the more driving songs they’ve ever done, and has a great groove to it, coupled with some great leads. It’s perfect to listen to any time, especially when I’m at the gym.
Jimmy: SikTh is a band that I’ve always had interest in, but never really pursued it. I think that my gut reaction of not bothering with them seriously was probably the right one. Don’t get me wrong, this is a cool song that is entertaining and very technically proficient, but I could listen to Protest the Hero or Exotic Animal Petting Zoo if I wanted the same thing. Nothing against SikTh; I’ve just sort of found my own little nest of sweet math-filled prog.
Deftones — Deftones — “Needles and Pins”
Spencer: I didn’t find out that this song is actually two basses instead of a guitar and bass until recently, but that makes it that much cooler. Stephen Carpenter was, and still is, an innovator, and I think that his technique he used to attain such a monstrous tone on this song is a testament to that. Not to mention the song itself is absolutely fantastic, and one of my favorites from their discography.
Jimmy: It’s funny that Spencer managed to pick probably my favorite Deftones song off of their self-titled album. God, just Chino’s vocals alone on this track make this incredible. Deftones is such an underrated album, in my opinion; it’s probably the most experimental the band has gotten so far, and it has some really killer tracks, like this song, “Hexagram,” and “When Girls Telephone Boys.”
Northlane — Node — “Ohm”
Spencer: I thought their first two albums were ok, but I got absolutely floored by how phenomenal this record was. The addition of a new vocalist plus a direction leaning towards embracing some alternative rock music really helped the band, and “Ohm” is a great example of that marriage. Plus, it has some great ambient parts and some of the best vocal work on the album, particularly with the chorus towards the end of the song.
Jimmy: If I had listened to this band like two years earlier, I’d probably love this exponentially more than I do now, and I really like this at the moment. I sort of expected the same old djenty bullshit after looking at that artwork, and the song titles, but I was so damn wrong. This is solid, incredibly melodic music. Much love to Spencer for sending this my way.
Katatonia — The Great Cold Distance — “Increase”
Spencer: “Increase” is definitely one of the heaviest songs on the record, and that’s likely why I chose it. I love Katatonia, and cannot wait for their newest album to drop, but I always find myself going back to this album. Maybe it’s partially due to the awesome album art, or partially because it has the best overall tone of any record they have ever done, but this record and this track are both spectacular. Jonas Renske does a great job conveying his emotions here, and I feel like this song has the band more in sync with one another more than most.
Jimmy: My last experience with Katatonia was not a positive one; I remember trying to listen to Dead End Kings a few years ago, and it sounded like really sub-par alt metal. I’ve heard that their earlier work—especially when they were more of a death/doom band was really good, but I never really had any interest. This honestly isn’t bad, though; the guitar work is really grooving, which is always a plus for me. I don’t think I’d bother listening to this album more, but it’s nice to know that Katatonia once had some pretty cool music.
Disfiguring The Goddess — Deprive — “Home of the Dollmaker”
Spencer: Disfiguring The Goddess are an acquired taste, so I applaud Jimmy for giving them a chance. This song has some really cool electronic parts in it that help set it apart from the rest of the stuff Cameron Argon has done under this moniker, and I really hope that when he decides to do a new record, he keeps these ambient elements around. “Home Of The Dollmaker” is, in my opinion, his best track, and it’s due to his gutturals being absolutely insane plus the great musicianship displayed here. To be honest, Cam needs to come back into the metal scene again, because we all miss him.
Jimmy: Not a huge fan of vocals that are so deep that it sounds like the singer is burping, but this had some pretty sweet moments when it suddenly gets ambient and creepy. I’m not big on the breakdowns and the djent elements, but it was still a cool listen.
Death Grips — The Money Store — “The Cage”
Spencer: This song I chose solely because it’s so much fun to cover on the drums. “The Cage” is definitely one of the coolest songs they’ve written, and has a super catchy drum beat through both the first and second verse. It’s probably my favorite song on The Money Store.
Jimmy: Again, Spencer makes my day with what is my absolute favorite hip-hop album of all time: The Money Store. Although I’m not as big a fan of their more recent work (I’ll still listen to Bottomless Pit, though), I owe Death Grips majorly; I probably wouldn’t love rap and hip-hop as much as I do if it wasn’t for this and their Exmilitary mixtape. And this song—if it wasn’t for “Get Got,” “The Cage” would be my favorite song on The Money Store.
Lapko — Love — “River Venom”
Spencer: I don’t really remember who showed me this record, but it was someone on staff (sorry if I’m forgetting your name!), but I was hooked. It’s like weird alternative rock blended with Scandinavian prog vibes, which is definitely something I enjoy quite a bit. It definitely caught me off guard, especially the poppy vocals, when I first heard it, but it’s been on regular rotation since I got it.
Jimmy: This is…odd. I just didn’t expect a band sounding like this…it’s like less-insane Protest the Hero mixed with some solid alt-rock. Me gusta mucho, though. Major props for that weird cover art, too.
Jimmy’s Grid & Spencer’s Comments
Spencer Snitil: I haven’t talked to Jimmy as much as some of the other writers we have on staff, but from the conversations we have had I can tell he has a very diverse musical taste and is someone I can really gel with personally and musically. When I saw this playlist, I got excited, because I saw stuff that I was completely unfamiliar with. Part of discovering music is the newness of it all, and so whenever I see something I’ve never listened to, I get a bit giddy. Granted, I had a feeling there might be some stuff I didn’t like on here, because not everyone has identical tastes in music, but I went into this playlist with the mindset that I might get thrown out of my comfort zone a bit, which is what I was really eager to do. So, let’s get started!
Painkiller — Guts of A Virgin — “Blackhole Dub”
Jimmy: (Note: this track was originally in Painkiller’s Buried Secrets EP, but was combined with Guts Of A Virgin later on.)I’m surprised Scott’s not annoyed with how much I obsess about John Zorn. The man is just incredible, and, in my opinion, the reigning kind of avant-garde music. Anyway, I’m getting off track—Painkiller is a side project of Zorn’s that is basically a mashup of grindcore and jazz. It’s super weird and super awesome. “Blackhole Dub” is sort of an odd duck in an album full of odd ducks—it’s atmospheric and spooky, with some really awesome sax work by Zorn.
Spencer: I have absolutely 0 experience with Painkiller. At first I thought it was a silly power metal band or something just purely based on the name, but I was pleasantly surprised that it’s actually some seriously cool jazz/avant-garde stuff (because if Jimmy made me listen to a power metal track unironically I think I’d have to kill him). This song is very eerie. It feels like it could be something off of a Mars Volta or Norwegian Shining album with the weird atmosphere and spooky sax work. I don’t hear the grindcore stuff as much, but I definitely hear how this could be some super cool avant-garde jazz stuff. I really dig this track, and am definitely going to check out the rest of this discography. It’s perfect late-night writing music.
Depeche Mode — Music For The Masses — “To Have And To Hold”
Jimmy: Depeche Mode is one of the few bands whose entire discography I own. While Music For The Masses isn’t my favorite of their albums, it’s still a great listen every now and then. “To Have and To Hold” for me has this huge intensity that’s jam-packed into a whisper.Dave Gahan’s vocals are always top-notch, and really complete the foreboding feel of this song.
Spencer: I have very limited experience with Depeche Mode. I’ve listened to their first two albums, but nothing beyond that. This song is a pretty cool one, and has a very Swans-esque vibe to it. It sounds very creepy, like someone being stalked in the night on the way home from a late night out. Somehow, it manages to never get too creepy, largely due to the upbeat instrumentation going on, particularly with the synth accents throughout the track. It’s definitely a unique track, but honestly, I already have Swans, so I probably wouldn’t listen to this band beyond what I’ve already heard unless someone recommends it to me.
Dead Can Dance — The Serpent’s Egg — “The Host of Seraphim”
Jimmy: I wish I could own all the Dead Can Dance albums, but I can never find them when I go CD shopping. (I should just buy them on Amazon, but whatever.) “The Host of Seraphim” is a strange track if you haven’t listened to the band, but it’s so beautiful, not to mention it sounds like it was plucked straight from an epic fantasy novel. Lisa Gerrard is probably my favorite female vocalist ever, and this is just proof of that.
Spencer: I feel like Jimmy and I need to talk more because so far the first three tracks have been: 1) haunting 2) creepy and 3) melancholic. Honestly this song sounds like it was made for a soundtrack of some sort. It’s incredible. The vocals alone are enough to give me goosebumps, and the pounding “thun-thun” of the gong drum in the beginning generates all kinds of mental images within me. From having no experience with this band before, I can already tell this is going to hurt my wallet, because I now have to work on getting their entire discography, purely based off of this song. Not many band have been able to have that effect on me, so thanks to Jimmy for bringing these guys to me attention.
Billy Joel — The Stranger — “The Stranger”
Jimmy: I’m a little obsessed with Billy Joel, if that hasn’t been established. “The Stranger” is a track that I love on every level, and I’ve listened to it so much that I can almost do the whistle in the intro perfectly. I’ve always wanted to write a story based off the lyrics as well, as they paint an interesting picture about relationships and identity for me.
Spencer: It’s “The Stranger”. It’s my favorite Billy Joel album and my favorite Billy Joel song. There’s really nothing more I need to say. It’s pure perfection. If you still haven’t checked out this song, then shame on you.
Tom Waits — Rain Dogs — “Clap Hands”
Jimmy: If you don’t like Tom Waits, I can absolutely understand; the man’s music is really tough to like when you’re not used to a voice that sounds like Satan with strept throat. I still have trouble listening to some of his stuff, but I come out of every listen happy that I stuck through it. If you’re interested, though, “Clap Hands”—and Waits’s Rain Dogs (considered his magnum opus by many a critic)—is a great place to start. This track in particular has a mysterious, hazy feel to it with its instrumentation, and Waits’s vocals aren’t as hard-hitting as usual.
Spencer: I never understood the appeal of Tom Waits. I’ve tried many times to listen to his music, starting at many different spots in his discography, but I always leave with a feeling of being devoid of fulfillment. This song sounds like a bad Tool B-side, honestly, and I’m sure if you’re a fan of his music you’ll hate me for saying this. But this does nothing for me. I can appreciate the effort and time he’s put into his music of the years, because it really must be grueling work, but “Clap Hands” really doesn’t sound appealing to me, and unfortunately, the rest of discography falls in line with this sentiment.
Rosetta — A Determinism of Morality — “Je N’en Connais Pas La Fin”
Jimmy: I consider Wake/Lift to be the better Rosetta album, but it’s been a while since I listened to A Determinism of Morality, so I thought I’d give it a listen. Frankly, Rosetta has ruined post-metal for me; I feel like they play beautiful and melodic post metal so well that no other act can really compete with it, even the big post-metal acts like ISIS and Neurosis. (I assume I don’t have to say “no, not that ISIS, right?)
Spencer: Rosetta are a band that I have been following for years, and it all started when I discovered this album in high school. Honestly, I’m pretty sure this is the first song I ever heard from them, and it remains my favorite track from this record. I love the guitar work on this, and when the vocals come in I lose myself in this song. Translated, the titled means “I Do Not Know The End”, and quite frankly, I think that’s as apt a title as any for a song this melodic and somber. This song will always hold a special place in my heart as the song that introduced me to the might post-metallers that are Rosetta, and I think the fact that it’s stuck with me for 6+ years is a testament to the true staying power they have.
Nile — Ithyphallic — “Even the Gods Must Die”
Jimmy: Nile is probably my favorite death metal band; I’ve always liked how they include Egyptian themes not only in their lyrics and artwork, but in their music as well. I’m sorry that I made Spencer listen to the longest track on the album, but I think it’s worth it; Nile’s Egyptian themes don’t get any cooler-sounding than “Even the Gods Must Die.”
Spencer: I love Nile, though I can only listen to them for around an hour before I grow weary of their sound. “Even The Gods Must Die” remains one of my favorite track they’ve done, purely based on the first minute alone with the awesome horns. It’s one of the more elaborate examples of how talented they are, with some of their more intense compositional work on it, and while it’s not their fastest song, I think it’s definitely one of their most “musical” tracks. Now I want to go listen to this album again, so thanks to Jimmy for making me want to jam it!
John Zorn — Templars: In Sacred Blood — “Evocation of Baphomet”
Jimmy: More Zorn. What do you expect? I’m a man obsessed. Templars is another album from Zorn’s Moonchild Project, which includes one Mike Patton on vocals. Musically, it’s a freaky album, full of occult references and avant-garde structure and enough organs to make Ghost Reveries-era Opeth jealous. What I like most about this album is that Mike Patton goes all out. For a man with a supposed 6-octave range, he doesn’t use his full talent enough, in my opinion, but he definitely makes up for it in the Moonchild albums.
Spencer: Honestly anything having to do with demonic stuff is something I’m going to check out. I love evil stuff, and that’s exactly what this song is: pure evil. It’s not a typical evil found in most black metal or death metal; it’s an evil that’s submissive and subdued, that lurks below the water waiting for its chance to rear its head. This song is fantastic, from the scratchy vocals to the quiet instruments playing in the background. I also love the little harmonic part around the 2:00 minute mark, as it adds a little bit of flare to a song that would otherwise grow stale after a few listens. This is definitely another album I’ll be checking out more.
Kaada & Patton — Bacteria Cult — “Red Rainbow”
Jimmy: What I just said about Mike Patton? It applies here. He doesn’t really make much use of his abilities as he should in Bacteria Cult, but composer John Kaada is able to make this work very well. I honestly didn’t expect to like Bacteria Cult as much as I do, too; I’m really not a big Mike Patton fan, but this album definitely made me rethink my opinion some. This will almost definitely by on my AOTY list in December.
Spencer: Mike Patton is a bonafide genius so I’ll pretty much listen to anything with his name on it. I’d never heard of his collab with John Kaada, however, so I was eager to check it out. Once again, Jimmy introduced me to an incredible record with some really spooky themes going on in it. For some reason, his taste seems a lot more avant-garde than mine, which is always a good thing, because it helps me expand my horizons. I cannot stop listening to this track, and I think it’s largely due to how minimalistic everything is yet how full it all becomes at the end. This is definitely worth your time.