Even a cursory glance of our biweekly “What Heavy Blog Is Really Listening To” posts (last week’s 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 has Noyan and David getting together for the first time for a steamy exchange of liqu… playlists.
Noyan’s Grid & David’s Comments:
The only playlist swap I’ve done so far was with Scott, with whom I probably share the most similar taste on Heavy Blog staff. That’s why I found the idea of swapping with Noyan particularly interesting – this time I would be exchanging music with someone whose tastes drastically differ from mine. Though, this hasn’t always been the case. I became rather disinterested in most metal about two years ago, but prior to that I had been listening to many of the same bands and subgenres as Noyan (ie a lot of tech death and prog). Hence, this was a chance to break out of my usual listening habits, and revisit a bunch of styles that I once held dear.
Fractal Cypher—The Human Paradox—“Imminent Extinction”
Noyan: I just wrote about these guys a few days ago, gushing about them in an HLT, so I’ll just be lazy and link you there.
David: I went into this song with no knowledge of Fractal Cypher beyond Noyan’s recent HLT post, in which he heavily compares the band to prog titans Dream Theater. This would normally be a turnoff for me as I’ve never enjoyed DT’s take on the genre, but I found the song to be pretty good! The guitars kept me glued the entire time, especially whenever they would segue into the next section a few moments before the rest of the band caught on. This made each transition perfectly seamless. The rhythm section was entirely respectable, too, with the drums near the end being particularly of note. The over-the-top synths and vocals were the only aspects I didn’t like, though they weren’t too much of a bother.
Noyan: I have a love/be-mildly-underwhelmed-by relationship with Aborted. They’re great, but sometimes they get a bit tiring. I kind of overlooked this year’s Retrogore, which in retrospect (hah) was a bit of a mistake. I still love the crew’s output in Oracles, but this song is just heavy. Nothing else to it really, great and heavy. It’s been on my workout playlist lately, hence its presence here. While David’s comments below about other bands are totally true, sometimes you need that dumb heavy thing for the heavy lifting.
David: I never got into Aborted’s studio output, however I had the chance to see them supporting The Black Dahlia Murder, and I have to say they put on a fun, heavy as fuck show. I think it makes sense, too, that their music would work better in a live setting, which is something this song confirmed for me. The relentless nature of its blasts, riffs and growls seems tailored to whip crowds into a frenzy. Of course, it sounds pretty potent when listening at home, too, but it’s ultimately not something I can connect with. I just feel that, even in the niche genre of deathgrind, there are artists like Cattle Decapitation and Cephalic Carnage who create much more dynamic and multi-faceted music than this. Just not my thing, I guess.
Anaal Nathrakh—The Whole Of The Law—“Hold Your Children Close And Pray For Oblivion”
Noyan: For the longest time, Anaal Nathrakh wasn’t really my thing. They were too abrasive when I was first getting into metal, then they were too primal when I was into more intricate stuff. Well, somehow this album really clicked with me, and I’m quite happy with it. In this particular song, I really enjoy the over the top chorus and how non-stop fast the whole thing is. The electronic drum beat in the verse is kind of stupid and unnecessary, but the rest of it is so good that that short but doesn’t break it for me. Yet another good workout song, by the way.
David: Speaking of music that is decidedly not-my-thing, we have this Anaal Natrakh song. A quick glance at Wikipedia told me they play a fusion of various extreme metal styles with industrial music. Well, that sounded interesting on paper, as I’m a big fan of industrial, but as soon as I turned this on I knew it had “not for me” plastered all over it. An example of this would be the bizarrely distorted beat during the verse, or the ridiculous chorus vocals. Actually, the more I listen to it the more things I find that put me off, so I’ll just leave it at that.
Crator—The Ones Who Create: The Ones Who Destroy—“The Judge On War”
Noyan: Somehow Crator evaded me. I love Origin and Gorguts, so a project with John Jongstreth and Colin Marston shouldn’t have flown under my radar. I blame my work and life situation as of late. Anyway, recently I got turned onto this, and of course I love it. It takes what I love from Origin, aka the relentless heaviness, and spices it up with some Marston-style weirdness that prevents it from getting rote. Honestly, I’d listen to pretty much anything as long as John Longstreth is playing on it.
David: I’m interested to hear any band with Colin Marston in it, and when it’s a supergroup that also features two Origin members…well, needless to say, this was one of the songs I was most excited about. And for good reason, too, as Crator absolutely deliver. ‘The Judge on War’ is an onslaught of left-field tech death, of which I loved every second. The production was particularly praiseworthy for how organic it was, and how it gave Marston plenty of room to shine. Following his basslines was a treat as he schizophrenically hopped from playing off of the guitars or drums to doing his own twisted things.
A great song overall. Will definitely listen to more of this band in the future.
A Sense Of Gravity—Atrament—“Guise Of Complacency”
Noyan: This is kind of cheating, as the song isn’t publicly available yet, but I love it. It’s everything I loved from ASOG’s debut Travail taken to the next level. I don’t want to spoil this song too much, so I’ll just give you the single released from the album so far that’s the closest to this one. But let me say that without doubt this album is going to be awesome, and the best of it hasn’t even been revealed yet.
David: I really enjoyed A Sense of Gravity’s debut album, Travail. Its mix of modern and classic prog with elements of death metal was executed beautifully. Hence, this was another song that I was eager to hear, and likewise, it completely justified the hype. The musicianship on display here is frankly staggering. I could praise the guitar and drum playing for days, but the keys stood out just as much. The subtle synth that crept in near halfway through immediately put a smile on my face. From there the song kept getting better and better, segueing into two killer solos before finishing with a somber piano outro.
Looking forward to hear the whole album once it drops!
Thrawsunblat—Metacthonia—“Fires That Light The Earth”
Noyan: I don’t know why Eden particularly singled out this one, but he quickly pointed it my way once he discovered it, and I’m glad he did. I love folky/blackened stuff, but there’s just too much chaff out there that’s either just cheesy-ass folk metal or poorly written black metal. This is neither, as it takes a Wintersun-like sound and makes it a lot more serious and makes it feel a lot folkier. It has good black metal screams, great cleans and overall great composition. A big winner.
David: Ugh, I’ve seen enough folk/black album art to know where this is going… If there was ever a genre that I automatically dismiss without even bothering to give it a chance, this would be it. I do enjoy black metal in some of its other forms, but when passed through the already cheese-infested filter of folk metal, it leads to some of the most cringeworthy music I’ve ever heard. Having said that, I admit my bias was unfair in this case, as ‘Fires that Light the Earth’ was actually a solid song, with some pretty cool guitar parts to boot. Alas, it’s a bias I can’t remove myself from.
Job For A Cowboy—Sun Eater—“Eating The Visions Of God”
Noyan: I mean, this doesn’t really need introducing. It was our album of the year when it came out, and it’s an amazing death metal album with really cool sections and noteworthy bass playing. Just listen to it if you’ve somehow lived under a rock in the past few years.
David: Sun Eater is the only album on Noyan’s grid with which I was already well familiar. Nonetheless, it had been a while since the last time I spun it, and this was basically a convenient excuse to do so. Like the Crator song above, ‘Eating the Visions of God’ reminded me once again how much I love perfectly audible bass in progressive death metal, especially when it’s played this masterfully. This holds true for the rest of the album too, and the fact that Sun Eater marked such an unexpected change of trajectory in Job for a Cowboy’s career makes it doubly impressive.
Gods Of Eden—From The End Of Heaven—“Gods Of Eden”
Noyan: When I first heard this song in 2012 it blew my fucking mind, and I still haven’t gotten over it. One of the best pieces of progressive technical metal I’ve ever heard, I still love this song so much and can’t get enough of it. My impressions linked above still stand true after all the years, so go read that if you must.
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David: I was meaning to check out this band, seeing as virtually everyone else on Heavy Blog staff seems to be enamored with them. After listening to the song, I can see why. While it isn’t exactly up my alley purely in terms of aesthetic (read: a bit too cheesy and overproduced), I was very impressed with how Gods of Eden manage to achieve a perfect balance between melody and technicality. The breakneck riffing was a joy to listen to, and the flamenco-inspired acoustic guitar parts were an awesome surprise.
Coma Cluster Void—Mind Cemeteries—“Everything Is Meant To Kill Us”
Noyan: I’m going to be lazy again and link my thoughts on this very song from when I premiered its video.
David: Similar to Crator, Coma Cluster Void was a band that I hadn’t heard of prior to this playlist swap, yet became immediately interested in once I read up on them. Also similar to Crator, their music is fucking insane. ‘Everything is Meant to Kill Us’ is four and a half minutes of batshit crazy, mathy death metal that sounds absolutely suffocating. It reminded me of everything from Meshuggah and Car Bomb to Pyrrhon and Ulcerate, and it weaves all those influences together to form an entirely singular brand of madness. I didn’t even try to understand the music on a theoretical level by e.g. guessing the time signatures, as I was perfectly content to just go along this headfuck of a ride. “Mind cemeteries” indeed.
David’s Grid & Noyan’s Comments:
Like David said, I knew he used to listen to more prog/tech stuff a few years back, but I haven’t kept up with what he’s listening to lately. I find that these swaps are a good opportunity both to catch up on each other’s tastes, but also to expand my horizons, so I usually try to get into swaps with people whose tastes diverge from mine a bit. Some of the artists here I’m familiar with in varying degrees, like Boris, Meshuggah, Mouth of the Architect and Earth. Others, I have no idea, so we’ll see where this goes!
Biosphere – Dropsonde – ‘In Triple Time’
David: Ambient grandaddy Geir Jenssen a.k.a. Biosphere is probably one of my top 5 music artists. The Norwegian has constantly tweaked his style over the many releases he’s put out, yet his artistic imprint – an icy cold atmosphere which permeates through virtually all of his songs – is unwavering. That said, Dropsonde simultaneously feels like one of his warmer, friendlier albums, which is mostly due to its prominent experimentation with jazz. ‘In Triple Time’ is one of the cuts where this marriage of ambient and jazz is most evident. It’s basically a triplet beat and a bassline with layers of hazy synth on top, but what I love most is the feeling of coziness it evokes – like sitting near a wood fire, wrapped in a blanket while everything outside is freezing to death.
Noyan: I’m not the biggest fan of more ambient, chill-out type of music. See, I’m generally a more urban type of person. When I was younger, during summers my parents would drag me to beach clubs because they enjoyed it, so I must do as well, right? Of course those were miserable experiences for me. They always played house/lounge styled chill music, which always evokes a visceral negative reaction in me. This song really reminded me of those times, so I can’t really view it objectively! That being said, the jazz feeling in here is much appreciated, and I checked out a few other songs from this album and they resonated more with me because they didn’t sound like beach music to me.
Mick Jenkins – The Healing Component – ‘Drowning’
David: Chicago emcee Mick Jenkins has been on my radar ever since dropping the excellent mixtape The Water[s] in 2014. The prospect of a proper debut album – and another conceptual project, at that – was especially enticing, but the end result is surprisingly lackluster. The Healing Component falls flat on both a musical and lyrical level, with some of Mick’s least interesting instrumentals setting the stage for a rather bland narrative. Thankfully, the album does redeem itself on a handful of tracks. Of these, ‘Drowning’ is the clear highlight, and is possibly Mick’s best song yet.
Noyan: While seeing words like “emcee” and “mixtape” tend to put me on edge, I enjoyed this one. I like the style of singing and the minimalist instrumentals juxtaposed together. It evokes a southern vibe that also feels modern. The jazzier turn near the end was neat too, however it almost distracted from the rest of the atmosphere in the song. There’s probably two songs’s worth of material here. Might be worth digging deeper for me.
Oureboros – Dreaming in Earth, Dissolving in Light – ‘Devoid of All Time’
David: Oureboros is the side project of members of another act, Orphx, which happens to be my favorite in all of electronic music. Both are steeped in an industrial aesthetic, with the latter making music that’s more kinetic and beat-heavy, while the former focuses on meditative sound design. Dreaming in Earth… blends industrial music with dark ambient and drone, as well as elements of shoegaze. Modular synths are the dominant force at work here, backed by occasional live instrumentation in the form of percussion and reverb-drenched guitar. I feel that, despite being one of the more abstract cuts, ‘Devoid of All Time’ is suitably representative of all these styles and elements, and its foreboding atmosphere always captivates me.
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Noyan: Straight up, misspellings of “Ouroboros” always tick me off. Pet peeve. Regardless, I’ll give this one a fair shot. However, there’s really nothing here for me. People with a creepily keen memory might remember from my last swap that I really don’t enjoy industrial music. I wouldn’t let that stop me from trying to enjoy this one either. Unfortunately though, I can’t say I took away anything from this. It’s probably my ignorance of the genre, but it just sounds like six minutes of ambient noise to me. Hard pass. I tried!
Esoteric – Paragon of Dissonance – ‘Abandonment’
David: We continue with the theme of dark, foreboding music, albeit quite a different breed. Esoteric’s style of psychedelically-tinged funeral doom makes them one of the most interesting bands in the genre, in my opinion, and Paragon of Dissonance is one of the best examples why. Like pretty much all of its tracks, opener ‘Abandonment’ stomps onward at a monolithic pace, conjuring an impenetrable mist of melancholia and crushing heaviness. Yet it also displays the band’s interesting musicianship and sense of dynamics, both relatively rare feats in the realm of doom.
Noyan: Alright, this one’s definitely more my speed. Older swap fans and general longtime followers of my shitposting career here on the blog might know that I don’t really enjoy doomy stuff either, but for some reason this clicked with me. Maybe it’s the palate cleanse after the previous song, or maybe it’s the harmonic minor-ish leads. Maybe it’s the crushing chugging in the background. I like this. Good stuff, and from within a genre I generally dislike as well!
Cymbals Eat Guitars – Pretty Years – ‘Have a Heart’
David: New Yorkers Cymbals Eat Guitars blew me away with 2014’s LONE, an indie rock masterpiece that is both incredibly emotive and twice as infectious. They followed it up this year with Pretty Years, an album which, despite being a far cry from its predecessor, proved to be formidable in its own right. Though my favorite track from the album is probably the saxophone-led ‘Wish’, I felt like giving Noyan ‘Have a Heart’ would be more fitting, as it shows what the band do best – indie rock tunes filled with endearing vocals and catchy, delicate guitar melodies.
Noyan: Ok, I’ll admit my bias here. Looking at the artwork and which sites are the top google results when you look up the album, I expected my eyes would roll as soon as I hit play. And while some of my preconceived notions were totally validated, I still enjoyed this song. While I dislike indie rock in general, I have a soft spot for old school europop/britpop, which this is evocative of. The overly dreamy sound I could do without, but I get that it’s almost a necessity for indie bands these days, so I’ll give them a pass. Good pick!
Boris – Flood – ‘Flood III’
David: Although I’ve been aware of them for a long time, I only recently took the plunge into Boris’s colossal discography, becoming obsessed shortly afterwards. This Japanese powerhouse has put out more releases than I can bother to count, and has drastically changed their sound just as many times. Of the handful of albums I’ve spun so far, Flood probably does the best job at summarizing their various styles – minus the J-pop, that is. Equal parts melancholic post rock, feedback-drenched sludge and endlessly repetitive drone, it’s a truly beautiful album that truly tests the listener’s patience.
Noyan: Similarly to David, Boris is one of those artists who I’ve heard about all the time but never really dug deep into. Starting as repetitive post-rock, the song later on turns into j-poppy-sludge, which was a nice twist. Though, being a fan of full-on j-rock and looking at David’s blurb, maybe I should dig deeper and figure out where the cheesier stuff in the discograpy is. I promise, one day I’ll take the plunge!
Earth – The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull – ‘Hung From the Moon’
David: And now for something completely different, it’s yet another drone album. Seminal drone doom outfit Earth is essential listening for any fan of the genre, and the best thing is, some of their albums are totally accessible compared to those of their contemporaries. The Bees… is definitely one of these albums. Sure enough, it’s still repetitive both in the density of musical ideas explored per song and in its monochrome palette of moods. In the end, though, it’s all executed with a certain mastery and attention to detail that make it easy to love and even easier to appreciate.
Noyan: I knew that I was eventually going to have to listen to this album. While I definitely appreciate the melodic texture they’ve got going and the overall sound, I am an active listener of music and need more defined structure to latch onto. As a result, while I can definitely enjoy this as it plays in the background, I can’t just sit and listen to it and truly enjoy it. Just not my speed, literally!
Meshuggah – The Violent Sleep of Reason – ‘Nostrum’
David: Not much to say about Meshuggah that hasn’t been said already. They’re one of my favorite metal bands, and one of the few for which my adoration has only grown after becoming drawn to electronic music more than metal. I found The Violent Sleep of Reason to be mind-blowing even by the band’s impossible standards, which speaks volumes at this point in their career. I probably could’ve picked almost any song off of it, too. Ultimately, I chose ‘Nostrum’ because dem drums.
Noyan: Obviously I am very familiar with this album and have listened to it several times. I’ve spoken about it with friends privately many times and on the podcast as well. While I think this album is a cop-out for Meshuggah and a disappointment for me as a very longtime fan, it’s not necessarily a bad one and I probably like this song more than the rest of it. Listen to the podcast for my thoughts on the album though!
Mouth of the Architect – Path of Eight – ‘Stretching Out’
David: New Meshuggah aside, Mouth of the Architect’s post-metal opus has been another top contender for metal album of 2016. There’s so much to love about this record: the production is near flawless, the rhythm section astounding, the structure of each song well developed, and the clean vocals some of the best in metal this side of Intronaut. Most important is that, like Intronaut, MotA make sparse use of actual heavy sections. In my opinion, this gives the atmosphere a lot more room to breathe and emphasizes said heavy parts when they do arrive.
Noyan: This album caught my attention when browsing iTunes for new releases a few weeks back. The artwork was really captivating and I gave it a listen. From the name and art I thought it was going to be a djent band, so I was pleasantly surprised when it was a legitimate progressive metal album. I’ve enjoyed most of what I’ve heard so far (except for a few overly drawn out sections) and I’ve been meaning to dig deeper, so this was a good chance. I like the Intronaut comparison David made, though I gotta say I like Intronaut’s latest album a bit more because it doesn’t actually make that sparse use of heavy sections! Maybe if they were heavier when they hit I’d appreciate them more, but it feels a bit too sludgy to really make a mark. Solid album, but not too much to my taste unfortunately. There’s some good stuff in there, but it’s lost among what my post-rock-blind brain considers as filler.