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 member Kit Brown and Editor in Chief Eden Kupermintz together to peruse each other’s tastes:
Eden Kupermintz: this list has been a long time coming. Kit and I have an interesting contract between us: on one hand, we listen to a lot of different things, genres which the other doesn’t even come closer to. On the other hand, we also share a lot of favorite bands and albums, finding things to bridge the musical divide between us. Because of that, I was really looking forward to this swap and I got exactly what I came for. Some of the track here are personal favorites and I was thrilled to listen to them within this context. Some of them I had never heard before and wanted to listen to and this was as good an excuse as any. And some were just not my thing and listening to that stuff from time to time is super important. All in all, this was both a pleasurable experience and a learning experience, which are some of the best experiences you can have.
Kit’s Grid & Eden’s Comments
Death Grips – Bottomless Pit – “Eh”
As I recently said on the podcast, my relationship with Death Grips is complex. On one hand, I can understand the charm of their music and what people find in it. On the other hand, a lot of their fans are elitist in the extreme and act as if they’re the Second Coming of Christ. To be honest, the band seem to think that as well. However, Bottomless Pit is probably my favorite album by them. It’s metal influences are much more blatant and even on tracks where those influences are missing, Death Grips sound more cohesive and filled with purpose. “Eh” is a good example; there’s no metal to be found but something about the direction the track goes in, admittedly simple, is engaging and well made. This track calls back to more “chilled out” hip hop and I like that. All in all, I’ll probably wait a year or so for some of the hype to die in before diving super deep into Bottomless Pit. See what I did there?
Aborted – Retrogore – “Termination Redux”
Oh hell yeah, now this is what I’m talking about. Aborted have been on the forefront of extreme death metal for years now, one of the most veteran and consistent bands out there. Retrogore is no different and I actually prefer this (slightly altered) version of “Termination Redux” than the EP one. Sven is, of course, on point as always. The riffs go super hard, which should be no surprise if you know Mendel and the amount of skill he has. My favorite thing about Retrogore in general and this track specifically is how little fatigue you feel, even when you put it on repeat. Something about the dynamics of the riffs and the more…”laid back” parts, really allows this album to garner my attention without assaulting me completely. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing solo work near the end of the track, perfectly blending into one of the most ferocious outro riffs. Ever.
Bathory – Blood Fire Death – “A Fine Day To Die”
Bathory is one of those mainstay metal acts that I never really understood. Even when I was revisiting it as an older listener, with more black metal experience than I had as a kid, I couldn’t quite get a handle on it. Sadly, this was true this time as well. The blend of lo-fi production (yes, I know it’s intentional) and what feels to me as super uninspired riffs, just kills it completely for me. I mean, some of these riffs just sound like Metallica, of all things. Maybe it’s because both drummers are pretty bad? Sure, the vocals are amazing in their brutality and primalism, I’ll give them that, but other than that, I really don’t see anything to like here. Coat everything in that oh-so-special Bathory mix of paganism, pseudo-fascism and nature worship and you have my aversion from them written plain and clear for all to see. Sorry, I just don’t get it (and don’t get why other people do, either).
Beyonce – Lemonade – “Sorry”
I really like that this track is here. I haven’t heard a drop of Beyonce’s Lemonade but I have of coursed witnessed the Internet tying itself into knots trying to love it and hate it. I got to say that that’s the same for me: I love the opening spoken word and its messages. I love the thick rhythm that moves this track forward and the dreamy quality which its bass creates. But I just never liked and, probably, will never like Beyonce’s voice. She doesn’t do enough interesting things with it on this track for me and some of our choices are down right bizarre. There’s a faint haze of effects on some of her lines which makes absolutely no sense: even own that shit, or leave it out, in my opinion. Overall, this track was not bad at all, it was just pretty bland and I was expecting more, both because of the hype but also because of the great clip and the spoken word intro. Moving on, I guess.
Darkthrone – A Blaze in the Northern Sky – “In the Shadow of the Horns”
Now here’s a band that I’ve always wanted to dig into and didn’t really have the chance. Classifying them and Bathory in the same category is kind of ridiculous but that’s what often happens. To be sure, some elements are shared: the lo-fi production, the screeching vocals, the deceptively straight forward riffs. However, everything feels much more honest and with purpose here than it did on Bathory. This track was super exciting and had a momentum which kept barreling it forward, even when it got more esoteric and rarefied. I’ll probably be digging into this album, one of their classic, as the starting point for filling this gap in my education. Color me excited.
Casualties of Cool – Casualties of Cool – “Moon”
We’re back on firmer ground for me here; everything that Devin does has a warm place in my heart. Casualties of Cool is no different, with its sonorous and seductive messages from a malicious entity. It’s one of Devin’s most haunting albums, perhaps akin only to KI in the weird energy which is contained within it. Country, chillout, rock and blues all mix together in the astral places of this unique album. “Moon” is one of the best tracks off the album: it’s slow, initial build up is finally released in the amazing saxophone work of one Jørgen Munkeby (SHINING). That just escalates the already amazing vocals on this track to whole new levels, driving home the forelorn and morose vibe. This track never fails to give me chills and this time was no different. You owe this albums to yourself, if you haven’t heard it yet.
Deftones – Gore – “Hearts/Wires”
I love this playlist because it’s such a god damn rollercoaster for me, swinging between bands I love and bands I just don’t get. Chalk Deftones into that latter colum; I’ve never connected with their albums, and the new one is no exception. Nothing they put out is offensive, it’s obviously very skilled and intriguing music, but nothing has ever clicked with me on an emotional level. This track is a perfect example, being made up of one riff with pretty lazy leads overlaid above it. Nor are the vocals a saving grace; their progression and emotions are predictable and pretty standard. Again, nothing is offensive or badly made, but the end result fails to leave more than a surface impression on me.
Fit For An Autopsy – Hellbound – “Do You See Him”
Fit For An Autopsy are just a hell of a lot of fun. They remind us why we got into metal originally: to channel aggression, imagine a better life and mainly vent the darker and more aggressive parts of our soul. “Do You See Him” (and Hellbound) in general, do that perfectly: the levels of ambiance give the track power and tenacity while never overshadowing the basic aggression which makes it tick. From start to finish, all the pieces are laid out in a perfect line leading to the eventual, destructive conclusion of the outro breakdown. That breakdown itself is super rewarding, containing enough variation to beat off the stagnation that this musical tool is often associated with. Long story short, this track is dynamic as all hell and it fucking kicks ass while being so.
Malignancy – Eugenics – “Cataclysmic Euphoria”
Grindcore is the perfect way to close off this playlist. You know what, I’m not even going to do an in depth blurb for this. Here’s what you need to know: this is heavy. Very heavy. It goes hard and fast and low and guttural at the same time, aiming to penetrate your skull with a chainsaw of violence and sheer hate. The album is called Eugenics and the cover is of a radioactive mutant. This is all you need to know. Play it fucking loud, will you?
Eden’s Grid & Kit’s Comments
Kit Brown: Like Eden mentioned above, we both share a common core of musical interests but frequently end up enjoying things in a completely different way. To be honest, that’s one of the things that I think makes the website as healthy and as well-rounded as it is! What made me the most excited to check this playlist of his out initially was the fact that it starts off with four bands I’ve never actually checked out before. It’s a great and easy way for me to see what I’ve been missing over the past few years, and then I’ll be able to check out stuff from familiar groups, albeit some new material from groups like The Fall of Troy and Wishbone Ash that I haven’t gotten around to until now. I’m really happy that our selections ended up being almost entirely different from one another because it truly helps show the vast amount of stuff that a lot of us here simply can’t get enough of. Oh, and I did have an odd satisfaction from knowing that Eden was going to listen to a Beyonce song in-between two sinister cuts of old school black metal…but I digress. Onto the music!
Three Trapped Tigers – Silent Earthling – “Rainbow Road”
Wow, talk about a way to kick things off. This is my first song I have ever heard from this band, and I can already say without a doubt that I’m completely floored. I feel dumb for not having listened to them before, and am going to be delving much deeper into their catalog once this is over! Even though I haven’t been into much instrumental music lately, this song carries more than enough dynamic shifts to keep things interesting, all while being backed by one of the most viciously inventive drum performances that I’ve heard in months. I’m not even sure who this drummer’s name is just yet, but somebody buy that dude a beer, he’s earned it. On top of that, “Rainbow Road” is jam-packed with lush synthesizer work, dreamy guitar lines and plenty of memorable melodies that already feel like they’ve stuck to my bones after just one spin. This slays, period. Get this now.
Motorpsycho – Here Be Monsters – “Lacuna/Sunrise”
Whoa, these guys have been around since 1989? How did I never even hear of them? Anyways, Motorpsycho are really mellowing things out nicely here with plenty of good midnight jam-rock riffing that definitely owes a good deal to The Dark Side of the Moon. That’s not a complaint, mind you; the dense vocal layers and keyboard swells around three minutes in feel downright epic and certainly make it feel like you’re hearing way more than just a three-piece. Then, oddly enough, the song settles into a sparse and head-bobbing groove section reminiscent of, well, Pink Floyd’s Animals. This band may not have as strong enough of an identity as I may normally go for, but they’re definitely pumping out some good jam sessions to lose oneself in late at night.
The Samuel Jackson Five – Self Titled – “Electric Crayons”
More tripped out rock from Norway, you say? I’m down. In a lot of ways, this actually reminds me of Tesseract if they completely ditched all of their metal influence and just went straight into pure rock. Even though this song is under three minutes, it still feels undeniably complete and packs in plenty of surprises. Whether it’s the consistently-harmonized guitar work or the ambitious vocals, “Electric Crayons” shows off a lot of musical prowess without ever appearing overtly-showy, which is definitely a plus. Most importantly, this track is consistently groovy even though it’s almost never in 4/4 and feels like it needs to be played in a huge room to let the full effect of their spacy aesthetic set in. I was definitely not expecting the band to sound like this considering their semi-ironic name, but I’m pleasantly surprised and will surely be getting into the rest of this album.
Dan Terminus – The Wrath of Code – “Heavy Artillery”
I’ll be honest with you here: I’m not the kind of person who listens to 8-bit or video game inspired music during my free time. I am in no way saying that this music doesn’t have any value, it’s just never something that I’ve wanted to invest a lot of time in when I wasn’t kicking untold amounts of ass in Castlevania. With that in mind, this song is definitely pretty fun and really does feel like you’re playing some old-school top/down arcade shooter game from the early 90s. “Heavy Artillery” is exhilarating, extremely well-produced and dramatic as all hell, but it’s way less monotonous than a lot of other music like this that I’ve come across over the years. I don’t think I could ever bring myself to listen to this type of stuff for any lengthy period of time, but this was another great way to keep this playlist incredibly interesting.
Katatonia – Dead End Kings – “Lethean”
I used to listen to Katatonia more often when I was still in college, so this was a great way to go back and visit a familiar band at essentially the last point in their discography I left them off at. This is basically everything that I remember loving Katatonia for in the first place when I saw them open for Opeth years ago, as “Lethean” is an incredibly moving and captivating song with simply mind-blowing vocals. Seriously, Jonas Renkse really does feel like he’s one of the only guys in the progressive metal scene that continually improves on his craft with each and every recording. And much like the band and song itself, this isn’t a huge departure from albums like Viva Emptiness and The Great Gold Distance, it really feels like a logical direction for the band and feels way more convincing and genuine than some of their other Swedish peers that shall remain nameless…for two more songs. Color me impressed!
Wishbone Ash – Argus – “The Warrior”
One of the most underrated bands of the classic rock era, no doubt. Wishbone Ash surely blazed a lot of trails for hard rock and metal musicians the world over without ever being given their deserved recognition, and for whatever stupid reason I’ve never actually listened to “The Warrior” until tonight! This is everything that you could really ask for from this band, seriously. This track is just as dreamy as some of your best Led Zeppelin cuts, as inventive as vintage King Crimson, and carries just as much hard rock edge as the first few Rush albums. What more could you ask for from a 70s rock band? Each musician in Wishbone Ash complements one another seamlessly and always gel together well to make sure the overall message of the song is as potent and clear as possible without delving into too many insane solos or jams. If you’ve missed this style but got tired of the same old albums, give Argus a spin.
Opeth – My Arms, Your Hearse – “Credence”
Shout-out to Eden for including a song from one of my all-time favorite bands ever, Opeth! Also, this is exactly what I was talking about in my paragraph at the beginning of this whole section; we share a common love of certain things while still being fairly differing in our opinions. Don’t mistake me, “Credence” is a near-flawless piece of 90s Opeth, but it would have never been my personal pick from this album (that distinction goes to “April Ethereal”). Regardless, this song is an incredible listen that feels decidedly more minimal than some of their more recent and cleaner output. Mikael Akerfeldt’s vocals feel way less refined but are also some of his most passionate melodic performances at the time of its release. Not only that, the basic riff ideas feel way less involved than anything you’d find on something like Heritage or Damnation, but instead lay back and help create one of the more soothing Opeth tracks in their extensive catalog. Oh, and it’s also worth noting that the best section of the song starts at 4:20. I’m so sorry, Eden.
The Fall of Troy – OK – “Side By Side”
Though I’m definitely a fan of several quirky and mathy bands, I’ve never been able to really get into The Fall of Troy, and it pains me to say that “Side By Side” won’t be the song that converts me either. Though I can certainly appreciate the band’s obvious musical chops and could never dream of playing some of these riffs, the structuring off the song just feels off to me (not a good off, for you math rock fans out there) and the vocals never feel as impactful to me as they should be. It’s covering a lot of the same ground that bands like Dillinger and Botch stomp all over, but it’s just not as menacing or as cohesive as either of the aforementioned bands, and the clean vocals just bum me out hard. Next!
Agent Fresco – Destrier – “Pyre”
Let’s close things out with clean vocals that most certainly do not bum me out! Agent Fresco was one of my absolute favorite musical discoveries of last year thanks to the rest of the guys at the blog, and “Pyre” has always stood out as one of my favorite tracks on this incredible album. In a lot of ways this is a great song to choose if you ever had to show Agent Fresco to someone who’s unfamiliar with them. It’s got one of Arnór Dan Arnarson’s best vocal performances fucking ever and an incredibly tight instrumental performance that’s masterfully backed by Hrafnkell Örn Guðjónsson’s insanely captivating drum work. If you didn’t see this way up there on our year-end list for best albums of 2015, this should be another reminder for you all out there. If you’re a fan of progressive rock in any form, you owe it to yourself to delve into Destrier.