LTTP Album Review: Sothoth – Rise to Conquer

I came across these dudes randomly while surfing Youtube for new metal and I am super glad I did. They kick ass! I won’t say they are doing anything crazy that you haven’t really heard before, but what they are doing they are doing really well. It’s a damn fine album and I am really digging it.

OK, I will throw a few descriptors out there first off to get you primed for what you are in for – deathcore. Yup, I don’t need a few, that’s pretty much it. But wait! Don’t let that deter you! If I had to compare them to some established bands I would probably say Job For A Cowboy (Genesis era), Through The Eyes Of The Dead, and a dash of Fear Factory’s more straight metal stuff. If you like this style of music, you will most likely dig these guys.

Righty-oh, let’s start with some positives. The riffage on this album is awesome. Unlike a lot of bands in this genre, the riffs aren’t just going for “cool and brutal” and winding up as a generic collection of stuff, they are actually memorable. Each song and the sections within has its own identity and yet it still sounds like an album. Its a really good balance. I think a lot of that is down to the composition. The riffs do stylistically jump around a bit, but all of the tracks do that to some degree and that is part of what makes this band work. Going from straight death, into a melodic black metal section and then into a djent-y stutter might sound a bit off putting at first, but all of the songs do this rather well. In short, the songs sound well rehearsed rather than slapped together. There are also a couple times where a little keyboard flourish will crop up. They are great additions to the tracks they appear on and help set the songs apart. Be brave and turn that shit up Sothoth!

The drumming also fits in really well here. Much like the guitars and bass, there is nothing you haven’t heard before, but its put together in a way that feels fresher than the sum of its parts. I like the way the drummer will sometimes accent the riff rhythm and sometimes decides not too. Its a simple change up from a lot of the genre staple drumming where its pretty much always accents, and its not done as often as it could be, but it helps the feel of the songs change up from the norm to a greater degree and adds to the memorability of the album.

OK, Sothoth, if you read this, don’t be angry, but I’m going to hit you with some constructive criticism now. Cool? I only have 2 issues with the album, neither of them are deal breakers, and both are easily corrected.

1 – The guitar solos don’t fit….at all. They are very competently played, no doubt. The technical skills are there for sure. But the solos just sound like they were recorded for a different song and dropped in. The melodic lead lines, like on tracks 4 and 10, are spot on awesome though. I would love to hear this band do a little more of that. The leads like that really help set this band apart.

2 – The vocals are a little bland. He’s got a great growl and they fit great rhythmically, but there needs to be a bit more tonal variety to keep the listener interested. Just mix it up a bit to liven up the tracks. High here, low here, mid here. Stuff like that. Nothing huge, even just a couple sections on a couple songs on the next album and the vocals would be golden.

I’ll briefly hit on the sound of the album – its fine. That’s really it. I love that the bass comes through clearly on every track. Other than that, it sounds like the engineer just did presets. Lead guitar preset 3 here, snare compressor preset 5 there, you get the idea. There is nothing wrong with it at all, but it also adds nothing. Oh, and track 10 has this weird popping starting in the mid section. The attack on the bass compressor must be set at just the wrong time to let that through. Oh well, no biggie.

All right, I’m gonna wrap it up. This is a super great head banger of an album. It has a few little issues that keep it from being awesome, but nothing that gets in the way of enjoyment. If you like slightly blackened deathcore, go get this immediately. I mean, its 3 freaking dollars. And its damn good. I very much hope this band continues to put out music and evolve. I will be trying my best to keep up with them and I know if they release a follow up album, I will be picking it up day one.

Stream and purchase the album here:

https://sothoth.bandcamp.com/releases

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LTTP Album Review: Sothoth – Rise to Conquer

Album Review: Neurosis – Fires Within Fires

Being a huge fan of this band for a very long time (they are probably my 2nd favorite band of all time), I am always excited when a new album comes out. However, after the lackluster Honor Found in Decay, I felt a lot of trepidation. I was fearful that they had lost their intensity. I don’t mean intensity in that the music needed to be heavy or angry, but as in emotional at all, soft or heavy. I worried that Neurosis had lost their spark. Thankfully, the aptly titled Fires Within Fires shows that the spark has once again ignited flame.

This album reminds me a lot of the Sovereign EP writ large actually. Well, slightly larger. Its just over 40 min, which is basically an EP for these guys. That is not an issue at all, however, as 40 awesome minutes is way better than 70 minutes of meh. These songs wax and wane with the best of the band’s catalog and keep you interested and engaged the entire time. Their use of space and dynamic counterpoints here is second to none and feels very natural on this album, as opposed to their last effort where it felt rather forced to me. From the opening hit, through the delicate ambiance to the final bellow, you can follow the band on a journey of mind, body, and self-discovery through their auditory hallucinations.

Right off the bat, you know that this it not some sort of throwback album. The band continues their post-A Sun That Never Sets direction and keeps it firmly in dirge territory. No walls of noise, insane samples or multi-layered tribal drums. Just humongous and glacial slabs of intense music. Honestly, I would love to hear a more aggressive and/or experimental album from these guys with their current composition and sonic skills, but I don’t think that will ever happen. Its not a huge deal, but I kinda feel like they are too comfortable with their sound now and don’t take many risks anymore. Personally, I want them to just go off the deep end with their next album.

It’s also a great sounding album. The pairing of the band with Steve Albini has been going on for over 15 years now (!!!) and its been a fruitful one. He helped the band reign in their sound a bit to where it became a more discernible palette of ideas than it was before. It feels like once Neurosis started working with him, they started thinking more about what they were doing with the songs and each member’s parts within them. This of course led to their current sound, love it or hate it. Either way, you can’t argue with the sonic results. Everything is perfectly audible and very natural sounding. The spatial separation between the instruments is also true auditory bliss.

I can’t really think of much more to say here. I know that may sound odd for what I say is one of my favorite bands, but if I wanted to say more I would be going into some sort of 20 page written history of this band dissecting everything they’ve ever done leading to this point along with reviews of all of their albums. I like this band so much that everything they do carries the weight of history with me and my opinions of their music follow suit. To try and sum it up for the casual fan: if you like what they’ve been doing musically since the turn of the millennium, you’ll probably dig this. It’s a finer tuned version of that. If you pine for older, crazier Neurosis, this will not bring you back. If you’ve never heard the band before, start with A Sun That Never Sets and either move backwards for more aggressive experimentation or forwards for more dirge heavy doom. I think this album is fantastic and very much worth a purchase for any fan of any genre of metal as the band’s impact on metal as a whole is so massive.

Stream and purchase the album digitally below:

https://neurosis.bandcamp.com/album/fires-within-fires

If you are more of an analog person, check out the band’s store at their website for all sorts of vinyl:

http://www.neurosis.com/

Album Review: Neurosis – Fires Within Fires

Album Review: (Hed) PE – Forever

Yes, Hed is still alive and releasing albums. Yes, I still listen to and like them. You know why? Because on top of them doing legitimately good rap metal, I sincerely think that Jahred is one of the most underrated vocalists in rock.

Let me expand on that for a second before I review the album. He can pull off so many vocal styles, its just crazy. If you’ve never given them a chance because of some stupid musical prejudice against rap metal or possibly the ICP association (yeah, ICP sucks but that has nothing to do with this band) this is a really good album to check out. He can sing, rap, scream, harmonize, go all Prince screechy, do some straight up death metal, and even throw in some Manson-esque gravel. The dude has got pipes and, unfortunately, due to the type of music he does (and some really, really shitty misogynist or just crazy lizard people lyrics) he is often overlooked.

OK, onward to the album itself. Its pretty damn good, actually. They take the more straightforward heavy rock sound they started with on their last album and keep it going here. They do some surprisingly heavy stuff as well. Pay Me is probably the heaviest riffing I’ve ever heard on a Hed album. The hooks on songs like Hurt get stuck in your head too. Its just a damn well written album all around. Its less bouncy and aggressive than a lot of their earlier work, but the songs themselves make it work and I would bet that it translates great to a live setting.

Another pleasant surprise, for me anyway, is how much I liked the dub style tracks. I HATE reggae and dub with a passion. But somehow, the keen songwriting on this album carries over well enough to these tracks for me to like them. Take Shadowridge. That is probably the first time I have ever legitimately liked a song in that vein.

I do have 2 minor gripes about the album. One is the abrupt change in styles. Hed did this on their last album too. The first tracks are heavy, and then after that, the entire end of the album is not. Its just such an odd decision. Why not work the other songs into the track flow? Its like they had 2 different EPs and just smashed them together. My only other gripe is that all the heavier songs sound about 5bpm too slow. Its an odd feeling, but that’s what I get out of it. Just speed them all up a tiny bit and they would rock so much harder and have a ton more life to them. Instead, they often feel like they can’t quite get going.

As for the sound, its definitely their best sounding album since being on a major label in the early 2000’s. Its nice and clean, with a great balance to everything. I’m not really sure what else to say about it other than it sounds great. All the instruments come through cleanly and, though its not a very spacious mix, it hits hard and sounds good loud.

I guess that about wraps it up. This is a solid offering from Hed and actually a pretty good jumping off point if you’ve never checked out the band before. I know rap-rock or whatever is out of favor right now but I don’t care. These guys were and continue to be the cream of the crop in that genre.

Check out their youtube stream of the album below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP6egMvxvkg&list=PLwYoR20o9hnPIjpjQQpIOJCas9sHvMks7

 

Album Review: (Hed) PE – Forever

Album Review: Primitive Weapons – The Future of Death

Everything I can think of to say about this album is pretty much summed up with the following description: If Nirvana and Refused took an S&M session way too far after doing a bunch of cocaine, this is what it would sound like.

I was honestly a bit worried when I first heard the single Electric Drama. It sounded like they had lost that little edge of insanity that drew me to their last album. Boy was I wrong. Sure, that particular track is a little more “radio friendly” (and I mean that only in relation to their other songs, there is nothing radio about this band) but the rest of the album is breakneck bonkers.

I’m actually going to start off with the bass. The bass plays such a huge part of this band and its really great to hear it so prominent in the mix. I know the phrase “holds it down” in relation to bass playing is really overused and usually a cop-out for actually complimenting a bassist, but those words are just so true here. The bass playing is really what holds all of these crazy ass songs together. The bass is what lets all the other instruments and vocals just go off into never-never land without the song losing complete focus. The bass on this album is as important as the bass in funk, and like a funk bassist, Eric Odness is 100% on his game.

Vocalist David Castillo is fucking intense. My goodness. I absolutely love the way he allllmoooossst hits notes. Whistle Past the Graveyard is a great example. Its just so pitch perfect for the chaos that is this music that I can’t imagine any vocals other than what was committed to here. Every single song is like that too, just exactly what the song needs, there is Castillo right with it.

And drummer Chris Enriquez, ooof. Just a powerhouse. There are spots on this album where he just freaks out and it’s the best damn thing ever. But he doesn’t overdo it, he knows exactly when and where to do everything. Pound straight accents, groove, counterpoints … all are in their proper place.

Onto Arthur Shepherd. The guitar parts are so fucking good. So fucking good. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, I really like dirty tones and parts just noisy, dissonant, and cacophonous enough to be interesting. He hits that balance remarkably well here. The riffs stick in your head and some of the chordal and harmonic structures almost hurt they are so wrong but oh so very right.

The list just keeps going. The sound of this album is super unique and just as great as the rest of it. Dean Baltulonis’ production and engineering is as much of a contributing factor as the instrumentation is to the album’s overall awesomeness. Everything is just shy of being clear, but also totally audible and articulate. I’m not sure how they got that balance, and the closest thing I can think of to relate it to is if Machine tried to sound like Steve Albini after getting super drunk. But that is not quite it either. It has a crazy use of artificial sounding spaces that is very distinct. Its another example of something on this album that always sounds like its on the verge of falling apart, but never quite topples.

Sorry if it sounds like I’m just shilling for these guys, but its one of those rare situations where every member of the band (and engineers and everyone who worked on the album) just clicks so well that the sum of the parts is so far above the individual pieces its ridiculous. It all just works. This album is distilled vehemence and if you want some straight up aggression with insane hooks that stick in your head, go pick this up.

Here’s a handy link to stream and purchase:

http://primitiveweaponsnyc.bandcamp.com/releases

Album Review: Primitive Weapons – The Future of Death

LTTP Album Review: Bush – Man on the Run

I know, I know, its not metal. I like Bush though. At least I used to back in the day. I was on a “reliving my youth” music kick and decided to check out their last album. You know what? Its great!

I haven’t really followed or cared about Bush since the hugely disappointing Golden State. It had a great first single, but the rest of the album was really, really bland and forgettable. I mean, I guess there was only one album between that one and this, but it was still over a decade. Let’s get crackin’ on this album, shall we?

Firstly, let me just state that I think this is the their (and by their, I guess I mean Gavin’s now since 2 members left back around Golden) best album since Razorblade Suitcase. Yes, I even think it’s better than The Science of Things. The songs have great hooks, but don’t over-do the gloss like Golden State did. They feel just raw and immediate enough to have life while retaining that radio sheen. I mean, sure most of the songs are very standard in structure, but they live so well there that I don’t care.

The overall sound of the album is very coherent and I’m really digging it. The little electronic flourishes along with Chris Traynor’s super well placed and composed lead guitar lines really bring a different sound to Bush that works well. While I still miss the crazy and noisy leads that Pulsford brought to the table, the direction that Traynor goes is a welcome differentiation from the band‘s earlier work and flows perfectly with their current sound. You can really hear the balance being struck between the modern synth-y elements and the straight out grunge rock on tracks like Dangerous Love and the album opener Just Like My Other Sins. I feel like this is what Rossdale had wanted to do with Bush’s music since Science and he finally achieves it here.

Rossdale turns in a great performance as well. He’s comes with a lot of the things you expect via his timing, note choice, and that great little thing he does where he repeats few lyric pieces over a chorus. The difference here is that unlike the last two albums, he really sounds like he’s in the moment and very invested in the content. His lyrics are also several steps up from the stream of consciousness stuff he used to do. My only real complaint about him on this album is his continued use of pitch correction. He doesn’t and has never needed it and it severely hampers the emotion in his performance.

I need to geek out about the guitar tones on this album for a second. So good. I read in an interview that they used lots of cheap and/or old “garage sale” guitar equipment to get these sounds and it ends up being just plain amazing. I’ve always been a huge fan of “just bad enough” guitar tones and this album nails it. Scratchy but full. Dirty but articulate. Straight up some of the best guitar sounds I’ve ever heard on an album.

As a Bush fan longing for the days of yore, this album scratches that itch while maintaining a great progression in style and song-craft. That is a really hard thing to do for a band and Bush completely pulls it off on this one. If you are at all a fan of radio rock or feel like a bit of 90’s nostalgia, this album has both. Make sure to check it out!

Stream it via the band’s official Youtube channel below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWplrQAI-BU&list=PLa_OmvQFMvlnZ-ucZbhmZ8eIDBy1T2d6W

LTTP Album Review: Bush – Man on the Run

Album Review: Ade – Carthago Delenda Est

Awesome. After only recently discovering their fantastic previous album, Spartacus, a few months ago, I was chomping at the bit for this one. Let me tell you, it does not disappoint.

Ok, I’m going to try an throw out a label and some comparisons first up to try to get you in the head-space of what this band is about. Maybe something like “ancient-symphonic tech-deathcore” would be a good start for a genre label. For band comparisons, take some Septicflesh and Nile, and add a dash of deathcore of your choosing. To be clear, I’m not trying to label-to-negate the achievements of this band, I just want to give you the best idea I can up front of what you might find here.

Now, those are some pretty big names to throw out for a comparison. Those two bands are really at the top of their respective (sub)genres. I do that as praise and not to imply a derivative nature to the music however, as I really feel like Ade deserve to be considered in the upper echelons of metal along with the greats. They have achieved a fantastic sense of the epic on this album while giving away none of the brutality extreme metal demands.

The ancient instrument symphonic elements, which for a band all about ancient Rome are pretty important, are worked in quite well here. In contrast to Spartacus, however, they are used more to fill out the tracks and give a sense of scale. Now, I won’t lie, I am a tad bit disappointed in that. One of the things I loved about their last album was that the ancient instruments would often come to the melodic forefront and take over, much like a lead guitar would normally have done. That doesn’t really happen here very much. What does happen though, in a bit of a trade off, is that this album gets absolutely huge. And I mean the battle end all battles, armies marching to annihilate an entire city-state, you can picture it in your head like a good film score huge. I’m fine with that trade off myself as it gives the album a distinct feel from their last effort.

The metal side of this album also absolutely slays. There are some really awesome riffs on here, as well as some nicely shred-tastic solos. One thing I really like, and this is comparable between all their albums, is that they don’t rely too heavily on one specific style of metal. They get a bit tech, a bit core with some drops and grooves, and bit experimental, and even a bit black metal chordal here and there. It all comes together in a very identifiable way so that Ade carves out a unique sound.

New vocalist Traianvs kicks major ass here. He’s got great range and I hope he has a future with Ade so he can expand his palette with them further. While he for sure has a preferred vocal range that he uses for the majority of the main vocal lines, he expands it considerably in the back of the mix. He gets high, low, guttural, screechy, and even hits some notes. I really want these lesser used elements to come out more on his next album with Ade as they add great flavor to an already abundant sonic mix.

Drummer Commodvs is the other new member on this album, and he nails his contribution to the tracks as well. Blasting with the fastest, dropping with the grooviest, and barreling full speed ahead like he’s on crack. He adds some great flair at times and lets the epic nature of some sections shine through just right. My only minor complaint is more of a genre thing than his play style – its OK to back off those double kicks once in a while and play a more normal drum beat.

The overall sound of the album is solid, but leaves a bit to be desired with one or two small things. On the upside, you can here everything well, the tones are great, and you can actually hear the bass. Yes! Bass on a metal album. I love it when this happens. That really accounts for most of what you could want from an album. The drums are clear and the vocals are very natural sounding with great use of space. The guitar tone is actually rather unique. I dig it, it has a neat kinda scratchy top end thing going on. For my nit picky downsides – the orchestral stuff is a bit over-reverbed to the point where it sounds like it was just plunked down on top of the mix after the fact. I like that its spacious, but the rest of the mix is so dry that it stands out a bit too much. My other nitpick is that it sounds as if maybe a limiter was a tad overcooked during mastering. This leads to the overall mix sounding slightly flat and a tiny bit of unwanted distortion creeping into the upper mids on occasion. Backing off a db or 2 would probably have resulted in a fuller sound. Oh well.

Overall, this is a great album, and I will be listening to it for quite a while I’m sure. It cements, for me at least, Ade’s place with the genre big hitters and I hope we hear more from Ade with this lineup in the future.

Stream the album and purchase/download it below:

https://xtreemmusic.bandcamp.com/album/carthago-delenda-est

 

 

Album Review: Ade – Carthago Delenda Est

Album Review: Gojira – Magma

For whatever reason, I had never listened to Gojira before this album. Well, that’s changing. This is an awesome album and I can’t wait to explore more of their catalog. This album just won them a new fan, which is a pretty good barometer for how good an album is.

I’m going to do this a little backwards from how I normally do it and talk about the sound of the album first. Holy shit this album sounds amazing. The drums are spacious without being thin or losing impact and sound very natural. The vocals sit right where they need to with perfect clarity and balance. The guitar tones are amazing. Seriously, just the right amount of crunch and dirt to be heavy but they retain complete accuracy and tightness. And the bass. Oh. My God. The bass tones on this album or so perfect. I think this album might have the best heavy bass tones I have ever heard. It’s also got phenomenal use of space. Sounds come in and out of the void like specters. This album just earned a spot on my “5 Best Sounding Metal Albums” list I did from awhile back. I just love it.

Onto the songwriting. This is an album, not a collection of songs. That’s something you don’t hear as often anymore, sadly. This album ebbs and flows over its course like a classic rock album from the 70’s. It feels like a good live set list. The run of styles on this album is pretty great too. Not being familiar with the bands back catalog, I can’t comment on the “Gojira-ness” of this album, but this album sounds very distinct. It reminds of Alice in Chains going on a drunken, pissed off rampage while occasionally having LSD flashbacks. On that note, like AIC, sometimes they take a section or idea a little too far. Take the title track “Magma”, it drags just a bit. Not much mind you, but when that main guitar line comes around again, you have to wonder why it needed to be repeated for the 50th time. Again, it’s a very minor thing, as it fits into the overall structure of the album.

Quick special mention to the song that made me check this band out finally – the first single from this album “Stranded.” Man, this track is probably one of the best heavy metal singles I have ever heard. Yes, I realize it borders on hard rock, but whatever. That track is some Metallica Black Album level of radio metal perfection.

Have I said how much I love Joe Duplantier’s voice? I guess the clean vocals are another area where the AIC comparison comes in with the way he layers them. He nails the whole “screaming with notes” thing too. There is a ton of feeling and depth in there. And when he gets angry and deep, it hits just as hard. Somehow, even when he’s just flat out screaming, he manages to get emotions into his vocal takes.

To go further into individual critiques for the rest of the band, well, they are all great. Mario’s drumming is tasteful with some great flourishes. I love the way he plays with the downbeat and syncopation as well as his great use of poly-rhythm as a contrast to the rest of the instruments. When it comes to guitars, I’m not sure what to attribute to Joe and what to Christian, so lets just say the guitar work is pretty damn nice. Everything fits like a glove. Moving from riff to riff and intertwining melodic ideas just feel right. Jean-Michel’s bass is just a massive fucking steel-toed boot to the gut. He manages to peak in and out of the arrangements in a fantastic way as well, so its not as blunt as it seems at first.

I think this just a fantastic album all around. Its also a great album for non-metal folk to check out. If you get into even mildly heavy stuff, like hard rock radio or grunge, you will probably dig this. Who knows, it may be a good gateway to the heavier stuff. Beyond that, if you are just a fan of good music that bucks a lot of modern conventions you should give it a go. This is a highly recommended album and I hope you get a chance to hear it.

Stranded:

 

Shooting Star:

Album Review: Gojira – Magma