Even a cursory glance of our biweekly playlist updates 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, where two of our contributors 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 Josh Bulleid and Eden Kupermintz head to head in a battle of the eclectic, the heavy, and the just plain great. Here we go:
Eden’s Grid and Josh’s Comments
Caligula’s Horse – “The Tempest”
Eden: Anyone who knows me, knows that Caligula’s Horse is one of my favorite bands; from their more concept heavy albums through to their more direct, song-based releases, I just love everything this band does. On the upcoming Rise Radiant, they’ve channeled a lot more Leprous into their sound and the good sort of Leprous. You can hear it on the “The Tempest”, in its staccato main riff and the way it seems to lurch with the synths on the track’s opening. I know that Josh has had his difficulties with the band but I anticipate him like this track, and the album in general, a fair bit more. It’s a banger and one of their more direct releases, cutting right to the core of the sort of hopeful, powerful, and evocative progressive music they’re so good at making.
Josh: My struggles with getting into Caligula’s Horse have been documented in previous playlist swaps. “The Tempest”, however, feels a lot more immediate than a lot of their more recent material and is connecting with me a lot more than anything they’ve put out since The Tide, The Thief & River’s End (2013). It also seems a lot heavier than anything they’ve done before – at lest over the duration of an entire song. The main riff has a really djenty/tech-metal vibe to it and the song overall reminds me of Haken during some of their heavier moments. It still sounds a bit too “clean” for my liking, which mostly has to do with the vocals this time around. I’d probably be way more on board if it still had that rougher, The Tide, The Thief & River’s End-style production, but I think this is the most I’ve been interested in a new Caligula’s horse release since then, and I look forward to hearing what the rest of the album has in store.
Purity Ring – “Pink Lightning”
Eden: The duo that is Purity Ring is unstoppable; I wrote more about that in my Unmetal Monday entry for this album. There’s just something about them that manages to rise above the synthpop/indie genre. I’m not usually a huge fan of the style but Purity Ring has this transcendent quality, both to the production and the vocals, that just makes me keep coming back and back again to their work. WOMB is no different, clinging furiously to its spot on my top listened albums list for the past few weeks.
Josh: At first, I was like “hey, I didn’t think Purity Ring sounded like this”, and then I was like, “oh this is what I thought Purity Ring sounded like”. What I though Purity ring sounded like and what “Pink Lightning” does sound like – eventually – is a mellower Chvrches, which isn’t a bad thing at all. I really like Chvrches and I really like this and, although I tend to like Chvrches most when they’re more upbeat, the mellower vibe of this has its own flavour to it that helps set Purity Ring apart from all the other electro-pop acts out there. It sounds like what Bring Me the Horizon were trying to do on their last album, except good. I don’t know why I’ve never bothered with this band before. It also sounds like something my partner would really like, so I plan on delving deeper into them next time we’re looking for something to listen to together.
Hemotoxin – “Corrupted Flesh”
Eden: This is the album of which I have the least to say on this list because it just fucking goes. Every once in a while, I just want that old-school, Death influenced kind of death metal and when that happens, nothing else fulfills me like a good slab of righteous riffs. I was in that mood this week and Hemotoxin more than fit the bill, delivering riff after solo after riff.
Josh: I considered including Hemotoxin‘s Restructure the Molded Mind in the last Into the Pit post but ultimately didn’t, for two reasons: 1) I decided it was more of a death metal album than a thrash metal one and, 2) it just didn’t stick with me. I have no idea why, the band’s blend of technical thrash and old-school progressive death metal is right on my ally, although I’ve also had the same sort of trouble with Revocation, who Hemotoxin really remind me of. This song absolutely rips though. I love the sound of fretless bass and the section about a minute in with all the double-kick and fretless bass is so good (and I reminder that I should really play mine more)! The vocals also remind me a lot of John Henry from Darkest Hour, who I utterly adore, especially during the groovy section at the end, which absolutely rules. I’ll definitely be revisiting this one.
Honey Harper – “Something Relative”
Eden: Why do I like this album so much? I mean, I’ve always liked American folk in a sort of cursory way, hanging around the fringes with people like Townes van Zandt, Scott Kelly or Dorthia Cottrell. I think what I love about the genre is the sense of mysticism and mythology which it evokes for a land otherwise devoid of history (since it destroyed every shred of the culture which existed there before Europeans arrived). There’s something alluring and elusive in the spaces of American mythology and all of those artists do a great job of summoning forth images in those spaces. Honey Harper is no different; there’s a sense of the journey about his music, the self-assigned “cosmic” vibe channeled via tone and effect which creates this sort of large, ethereal sound that I just can’t get enough of.
Josh: I’ve seen this album gaining a bit of traction within heaver circles and, upon listening to it, I’m not really sure why. Is it because he looks like Sephiroth? He also reminds me a bit of Nachtmystium‘s Blake Judd if he were dressed up as cowboy Ghostmane, so I get the visual appeal at least. A bit of Googling led me to some of the wankiest reviews I’ve ever read (this coming from a guy who compared the last Norma Jean album to being dunked on by a wave) and the fact that Honey Harper apparently plays something called “cosmic country”, which is like regular country, except everything is really (really) quiet.
A song as stark as this is meant to emphasize its lyrics, implying its singer has something important to say. So why does he make it so hard to actually hear them? The vocals are really low in the mix and there isn’t a whole lot else going on. When they are intelligible, they impart such wisdom as “When I look into your eyes there’s a garden of fortune, Where the true heart inherits the truth that it wanted to know”, which I didn’t thin was wasn’t really worth the effort to be honest. Maybe it makes more sense in context, but there’s something really forced about the supposed “profundity” of this song that really rubs me the wrong way. I’m probably just an uncultured heathen, but this is a bit too True Detective season one finale, as opposed to True Detective season one premier, for my tastes.
Spell – “Primrose Path”
Eden: OK, I lied; this one is actually the entry I have the least to say about because no words are really necessary. Spell rule. Opulent Decay rules. This track rules. So hard. Just listen to it. Goodbye.
Josh: This song rules! So hard! In fact, it’s probably my favourite song on Eden’s list. Old-school heavy/doom metal isn’t usually the sort of thing I’m in to. When it’s done well, however, I absolutely love it, and I don’t think I’ve heard this sort of sound done this well for some time. I don’t have much else to say about it, other than this owns. Opulent Decay isn’t at all the kind of album I would have sought out on my own, but it’s been immediately bumped to the top of my “to listen to” list. Thanks Eden!
Azure Emote – “Dark Realms”
Eden: The most fitting adjective with which to describe The Third Perspective is probably “self-indulgent”. The album goes wherever it would like to go, without regard to the listener’s ability to keep up or, indeed, make a cohesive whole of the album. It works though because it really is that good, exploring every corner of progressive/avant-garde death metal with equal flair and skill. Of course, as always, Your Mileage May Vary; it’s easy to be alienated by albums, and tracks like this one, which try to do everything at once. This is definitely an album which flirts with that line of excess, and even falls off the deep end a few times. You need to be in a very certain sort of mood for it but I find myself in the mood for that wildness in it more and more and so, I keep coming back to it. Everything else seems to fall a bit flat, not possessed with the same insatiable hunger for the weird.
Josh: I remember recommending The Third Perspective when Noyan was looking for “weird” things that had come out this year, but I never really followed up on it myself. Yet, while the rest of the album definitely goes places, there isn’t really anything all that “weird” about “Dark Realms”, other than that it’s really long. Maybe a bit too long, if I’m being honest. The whole thing sounds really cool, but I don’t know if the second solo section really adds all that much and it feels a bit repetitive after that. The song probably could have been cut in half and been twice as effective. Having said that the electronic section into the violin part at around the five-minute mark is great and I definitely plan on giving the album a few more spins and seeing if it sinks in a bit more.
Cryptic Shift – “The Arctic Chasm”
Eden: This album crept up on me from out of nowhere, recommended in our internal groups several times over the past few weeks. It’s extremely intelligent and well made death metal, channeling the styles that the genre has been occupied with this past couple of years with an enviable degree of polish. Visitations From Enceladus honestly puts to shame a lot of the veterans and shining stars of the style in how cohesive the album manages to be while still staying forward thinking and intense.
Josh: Seeing the words “thrash metal” being bandied about in relation to this album seems really weird to me. I can sort of hear some tech thrash undertones going on, and they do come through a bit more on some of the album’s other tracks, but Cryptic Shift‘s sound seems to me to have way more in common with the dissonant progressive death metal sound of Blood Incantation – except I actually like it. Maybe it’s the increased thrash influence, or just the more traditional song structures, but Cryptic Shift seem to have taken the undeniable power and talent of Blood Incantation and funneled it into a more cohesive and, I’d argue, more effective package. I actually think “The Arctic Chasm” is maybe my least favourite of the four songs on Visitations From Enceladus, although, at present, the pickings are slim and its as good a primer as any for what should rightfully be one of the most talked about progressive death metal albums of the year.
Satyr – “Apogee”
Eden: This album (and track) are just plain fun. Dynamic, bouncy, energetic; you name it, Satyr have got. “Apogee” is such a great example of that. It’s the opening track yet it spends zero time building up or guiding you in, just exploding into the same kind of hyper-energetic ideas and sounds that guide the rest of the album. And that rising scale! God, it’s so good, I can’t get enough of it; I often find myself humming it to myself in my day to day. Add in the supremely executed vocals, both cleans and screams, and you just get an album that’s brimming over with style and punch. It owns.
Josh: Protest the Hero vibes ahoy! If the band themselves hadn’t just dropped an absolute banger of a new track I’d be considering calling this the best Protest the Hero song I’d heard since Scurrilous (2011) (which is hugely underrated by the way) or, at least, “Clarity” (2013). There’s a bit more of a (post-)hardcore edge that sets Satyr apart from the Ontarians, although it’s also missing those big sexy hooks that make PTH best in class. I bounced off these guys when Eden first brought them up but spending a bit of time with “Apogee” this week has helped me get inside their sound a bit more, and I definitely plan on spending a bit more time with the record after this as well.
Aesthesys – “Exodus”
Eden: This is probably the most underrated release on my list. Even for the genre at question, it’s just an incredibly varied, subtle, and emotional album. It manages to express a really wide range of sounds and tones but without garnering the overbearing sense of excess that plagues so much of post-rock. This means that it’s direct on one side (look at the track length times and compare them to the rest of the genre; they’re much shorter) but still has enough space through clever songwriting and structure to express plenty of ideas on the other.
Josh: This is great! Again, as with Spell, this isn’t really the sort of thing I’d seek out on my own but which I really enjoy when it’s done well. “Exodus” is simultaneously melancholic and cathartic, in a way that really reminds me of We’re Here Because We’re Here-era Anathama, except without the overly affected vocals that have put me off their subsequent records. It’s not often purely instrumental music really grabs me, but I find this utterly compelling. Aesthesys are kind of cheating with the melodic strings, which sort of fill the role left by not having a vocalist, but why leave that role unfilled anyway? Eden’s list has turned me on to so much good music I ordinarily wouldn’t have bothered with already and Aesthesys is another one of my favourites that I’ll be checking out more of for sure.
Josh’s Grid and Eden’s Comments
Dyssidia – “Arrival”
Josh: Dyssidia don’t seem to be clicking for everyone else the way they’ve done for me, but they’ve clicked with me in a big way, and I refuse to believe anyone who loves the like of Caligula’s Horse, Leprous and/or Between the Buried and Me won’t love this as well.
Eden: I really like this album but I think (hope) that they’re next one is even better. Josh is right: any fans of Caligula’s Horse or Leprous will absolutely find something to love on this album. But it has a rough feeling to it, like things don’t quite fit together. Whether it’s the production (which I know Josh loves for its rough edges but I find a bit lacking, especially on the bass and the drums) or the vocal styles, “Arrival” is a good example of this feeling of just off the mark. I feel like the quiet break for the piano robs the track’s of its opening momentum and sort of hems in the chorus and the clean, grandiose vocals don’t quite fit. But to be honest here, this is just me nitpicking; Dyssidia’s Costly Signals is a great release and “Arrival” is a great track. I love the power their riffs always have, and the marvelous, “smaller” clean vocals which remind me of Agent Fresco more than anything. Check this album out if you’re a fan of progressive metal and let’s all hope that their next release delivers their ambitious vision in full next time. If it does, we might be looking at one of the more promising, mid-career progressive metal bands out there.
Code Orange – “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole”
Josh: As someone who literally just passed their final review for a PhD about the cultural promotion of vegetarianism, it’s rather ironic that my favourite song of the year so far is called “Swallowing the Rabbit Whole”. Ironies aside, I’ve gone from one of Code Orange‘s biggest skeptics to one of their biggest supporters off the back of Underneath, and this song shows exactly why. Everything about it is just so expertly crafted and deployed and I love throwing it on the morning and getting instantly fired up. Might want to clear some room for this one Eden.
Eden: Confession time: I can’t listen to this band because of all the hype surrounding it. I’m not one of those people who always waits until hype dies down to check something out; I played Doom Eternal on release day, I love some really big releases, and I read books on bestsellers lists. But I just don’t get why people are absolutely losing their shit over this band. Like, don’t get me wrong, this track is fine! I might even say it’s good. They’ve definitely grown a lot in the recent few years, musically at least, and I appreciate where they’re trying to take their sound but it’s just…not that good and it honestly makes me feel like I’m losing my mind to hear people saying that this is one of the best albums of the year. Again, it’s good, it goes hard, it grooves; but Gojira did all of this ten years ago and adding the hardcore/industrial sound to it just doesn’t do it for me. Sorry Code Orange fans (read: literally almost everyone in my circles); this is good but it’s not amazing.
Testament – “Night of the Witch”
Josh: Testament rule and this song rules. What more do you want from me?
Eden: I mean, it’s fucking Testament, yeah? So you know exactly what you’re going to get, which is in your face thrash that just goes hard and then goes a bit harder. No frills, no games, just riffs and loud ass vocals. It’s not something that I listen to in my day to day but you’re kidding yourself if you think I can’t enjoy this. It makes you headbang, it makes you move, it rules.
Art Far Away – “Obfuscation”
Josh: Art Far Away were the first band I ever wrote about for Heavy Blog and I truly believe their 2014 debut Verisimilitude & the Second Estate is one of the best and most overlooked records of the last decade(/ever). They only ever released one other EP, Ghost Dancers & The Absolutes of Dolour (2015), which wasn’t as good and, as far as I can tell, appear to have broken up, with some of the members moving on to less-exciting nu-metal-based projects. Still, I endeavor to make as many people as possible (beginning with Eden) listen to this album!
Eden: Oh man, I forgot about these guys! That’s really dumb of me, because this album absolutely slays. It’s like a heavier, busier Misery Signals, a precursor in many ways of the current fashion for chaotic, loud and fast progressive metalcore heralded by bands like Freighter (go listen to The Den right now). I love the more melodic tinges this album has, recalling genre progenitors Protest the Hero of course, and the way they get swallowed up by the heavier riffs and the hardcore flavored vocals. That latter touch I really love, as it adds a kind of vulnerability and edge to the track that reminds me of Circle Takes the Square in some ways, an emo sort of emotions that just works really well with how wild everything else is. Long story short, I really need to get back to these guys; thanks for reminding me of them, Josh!
Maserati – “Wallwalker”
Josh: I didn’t know anything about Maserati before hearing this album, and I still don’t know much, but I know this song makes me want to boogie up and down my dwelling’s foundations.
Eden: Maserati basically invented synthwave. OK, that’s probably unfair because there are plenty of other seminal bands which influenced the kind of synth-heavy, sometimes guitar laden sort of electronica that’s all the rage today but honestly? It’s not that unfair. Entering their 20th year as a band, Maserati are still incredibly powerful; no one really channels the same kind of space-rock a la Hawkwind vibe and melds it with Vangelis reminiscent synths and walls of sound like they do. The end result is exactly what Josh said above: it makes you want to boogie, it makes you want to raise your hands to the sky and scream out loud with how much life, verve, and spunk these guys channel into their music. I haven’t talked about Enter The Mirror nearly as much as I should have; I might be rectifying that in the weeks to come. Until then, if you’re able, just spin this track in your car with the windows rolled down and remember sweet, sweet freedom and open spaces rolling around you.
Carnosus – “Totalityranny”
Josh: For me, Carnosus‘s Dogma of the Deceased has been the stand-out death metal album of the year so far. The album is surprisingly varied and it It was hard picking a song to give Eden here, but I went with “Totalityrany”, because it has more of a progressive metal vibe that I though Eden might appreciate …and because it has a sweet bass solo.
Eden: Ah shit, I’ve been meaning to listen to this album ever since Josh posted about it for the first time and it looks like I fucked up by not doing that. This fucking goes, holy shit. I love the massive feeling these guys have on their riffs, further amplified by that taunting guitar line on the chorus that undercuts. And boy is that bass loud and do I love loud bass. The guitar solo was a bit weird and killed the track’s momentum, especially with that “on off, start stop” beginning of it but honestly, the track has so much of that momentum that it just keeps going.
Paradise Lost – “Tragic Idol”
Josh: I’ve been on a big Paradise Lost kick lately in anticipation of their new album, Obsidian, which comes out next month. I know a lot of people prefer their earlier/later, doomier stuff, but my favourite era of the band is the flawless run from 2002’s Symbol of Life to 2012’s Tragic Idol (and also 2015’s The Plague Within, but that feels more like the start of a new era). Although all arguably overlooked, of the five albums they released in that period, I think Tragic Idol is by far the most underrated and the one where they really managed to balande the more up- and down-beat aspects of their sound. (I have no idea why the YouTube embed has the awful cover for Poisonblack‘s Of Rust and Bones (2010), rather than Tragic Idol‘s own, rather striking artwork, but what are you gonna do…)
Again, picking a song from the album for this playlist swap was difficult, but i ended up going with the title-track, which showcases more of the 80s pop/hard rock aspect of their sound, as opposed to some of the heavier cuts (“Honesty in Death”, “In This We Dwell”) that I was also considering, and for the sexy sing-alongs.
Eden: Confession time: Paradise Lost is that big band that I just don’t get. Never have and probably never will. Putting aside that their most recent output seems incredibly out of date and lackluster (released just because of their big name and momentum), their classic releases also never had any impact for me. This track is no different; I just don’t like grunge that much and those vocals dripping with angst and emotion just do nothing for me. I’d rather listen to Anathema (slightly disparaged by Josh above for their vocals, which I love) or something like Soundgarden than this. Sorry (don’t pitchfork me please).
Heaven Shall Burn – “The Sorrows of Victory”
Josh: If Heaven Shall Burn had cut the double-disc Of Truth and Sacrifice down into a more concise single offering, we could have been looking at a true contender for their career best. As it is, it remains a great album, but it’s a shame the band hide so much of their strongest and most adventurous material behind a disc of solid, yet also fairly derivative melodic death metal. Case in point: “The Sorrows of Victory”, which is easily the most ambitious song they’ve written to date.
Eden: I totally agree with what Josh wrote above; Of Truth and Sacrifice has a great album somewhere in there but it’s buried way too deep beyond a truly monumental, and unnecessary, amount of chaff and filler. In a way, I feel like Heaven Shall Burn have always suffered from this problem but it’s a thousandfold magnified on this release. And yes, “The Sorrows of Victory” is a great example; the evocative guitar line opening this track, the powerful vocals, the ambition that this expansive track has, are all great. But you have to work your way through some stock melodeath riffs to get here and that’s a damn shame. Luckily for you, and me, I can just listen to this track (and a few others from the album) directly and be the happier for it.
Parkway Drive – “Chronos”
Josh: At the risk of overwhelming Eden with elongated, power metal-influenced epics from unlikely sources, my final pick comes from Parkway Drive‘s Reverence – one of my favourite albums of 2018, and one I think a lot of more traditionally minded metal fans should find a lot to like about if they gave it a chance. I’ve been getting back into playing guitar since seeing Parkway Drive headline the Good Things festival back in December and “Chronos” – the last song on their last album – is a hell of a lot of fun to play along with, and joins “Gimme A D” – the first song on their first album – as possibly my two favourite Parkway Drive songs to date.
Eden: I like Parkdway Drive! But that’s the extent of my relationship with them. They’re fine, they go hard, they have some catchy guitar and vocal lines, but that’s about it. This track is much the same; it’s not really bad but it just doesn’t do much to reach out and grab me. It might be how one-tone the vocals are or how many times I’ve heard similar guitar ideas and structures but this track doesn’t manage to scratch the surface for me. I’d nod along to it but I won’t go full “invisible oranges” or “stank face” on it. It kind of just stays there, doing it’s thing without really reaching me to any extent.