Thursday, February 12, 2015

Album Review: Vision Of Disorder - The Cursed Remain Cursed

I don't know why it always takes me so long to sink my teeth into a Vision Of Disorder release, they always seem to deliver once you give it a chance. I remember first hearing 'Element' on some Road Runner sampler release and being really impressed with it. That first self-titled record was the only album from them that I never really dug, file it away as finding your footing I guess, or my own. Two years later I bought 'Imprint' on a complete spur of the moment and was completely blown away by it, five star fucking album. Those raw, swirling guitars and that relentless momentum throughout the whole thing - such a unique and identifiable sound. It was a seizure happening somewhere between NY Hardcore and West Coast Skater Punk - kind of sounded like something those five guys you knew down the street growing up could have bulls-eyed with after decades of garage rehearsals.

Their third official LP 'From Bliss To Devastation' was a leap away from it's predecessor, fronting a more polished sound and a more hard rock direction; I bought it hoping for another 'Imprint' and needless to say shelved that fucker after a couple of rotations. It was a good three years until I came back to it, and when I did I was able to embrace it for what it was, genuinely. It's really a hell of a hard rock album, still wielding their unique sound, but a bit more dynamic and clear enough to really see all the dirt underneath the fingernails. Slower and with a way more structured and traditional songwriting approach, but still wielding sharp enough of an edge to cut you, balancing a sonic and thematic line somewhere between the sleaze of Appetite-era Guns N' Roses and the dark of Alice In Chains' 'Facelift' (not comparing, just combining) - and once I kind of observed it in that light I wound up really getting off to it.

From what I understand from internet sewing circles, that change in sound not only drove away a number of fans, but also ended up splitting the band. Bassist Mike Fleishmann and drummer Brendan Cohen went on to form a band called Karnov ( name...ever), and vocalist Tim Williams and Guitarist Mike Kennedy became Bloodsimple, whose two releases front a similar sound to the writing style on 'From Bliss To Devastation', only a bit more commercial (this song rocks though).

Well, 11 years later the band got their shit together and released 'The Cursed Remain Cursed', and I gotta say it's pretty fuckin' good. All those layered little dynamics that made 'From Bliss To Devastation' seem so polished are gone again. This record  sounds like five guys plugged in, hit record and started playing the shit they just wrote and rehearsed an hour ago - in a good way. Compared to their previous full lengths the sound is thin on 'The Cursed Remain Cursed', and admittedly it takes a couple of tracks to get used to - kind of like when Biohazard's 'Mata Leao' first came out - but once you start breathing that fluid this album is a blindfolded roller coaster ride jumping the track. VOD are amazing at zigging where you expect a zag, and that's one of the characteristics that made 'Imprint' so memorable, well there's a lot of that here. There's a song on 'Imprint' called 'Jada Bloom', and in it the band pieces together something kind of beautiful made completely out of ugly parts - VOD really hone in on that on TCRC - but not so much so that it becomes tired or predictable, the opposite in fact - something comes along amongst the spit flying hardcore/thrash frenzy that really rises above everything else, and then it's gone. You'd like to hear it again, but in order to do so you have to manually go back - so it leaves you impressed and wanting more.

This is one of those records where, except for a couple of watermarks here and there, on the first couple of listens all the songs kind of blend in together. There's not a whole lot of effect pedal wanking going on (but when there is it's awesome - check out a third of the way thru 'Annihilator') and I dig that from a band like this, because it just makes the whole thing seem like letting the song writing speak for itself. It can also be a bit exhausting, by the time track 9, 'New Order Of Ages' plays through I felt myself starting to get a bit numb to the whole experience, but VOD save some of the best for last in both 'Beat Up On It' (were those gang vocals!?) and the closest-thing-to-not-a-ballad on the album 'Heart And Soul', which dangles you in the air for a bit before swinging you into a brick wall - spoiler alert.

That being said, I also feel that TCRC is a front to back listen. Sampling a track here and there was the mistake I was making for the last two years, every song on here lends energy to both the tracks before it and after, a sum of the whole if you will. Nothing on here is a ball-crusher by itself (maybe 'Annihilator'), but together they serve as a concussive buckshot to the temporal lobe.

'The Cursed Remain Cursed' is a nice mix of their two previous efforts - and by that I mean it feels about 65% Imprint and 35% From Bliss To Devastation - you can figure out which parts when you hear it (though 'Skullz Out' feels like it came almost directly from the latter's sessions). After the hiatus I'm pleased to hear them come back this way - with a thousand little cuts rather than trying to steamroll over you, because it's what they do best. Once you're in and going you're slapped with the realization of that unique Vision Of Disorder sound, and you can't help but feel that this is it stripped away of all it's bells and whistles. 'Imprint' to me is a hard record to top, but I gotta admit after just a few listens this fucker lasts the rounds. Ask me in another 11 years and I may have a different answer for you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Top Ten Fav's of 2013:

I don't always listen to albums when they're released. It's not that I don't get around to it - it's just that most times a flavor is best savored for a certain time of the year. Moons align, winds change, seasons whither - everything has it's soundtrack. In turn, sometimes that leaves a two year window for which to satisfy my sonic palette, especially when a record is released just after it's most appropriately designated epoch. So consider this a list in arrears. These are my favorite ten albums that were released in 2013:

10. Jesu - Every Day I Get Closer To The Light From Which We Came

With each Jesu album sole member Justin Broadrick seems to step further into a comfort zone of post-metal electronic shoegaze - and consequently the material he continues to release keeps getting better. Like a chromatic butterfly emerging from the putrid papal sac that was Godflesh, Jesu takes the cold industrial tones of it's previous form and sheds it of it's chains, carrying the sounds to places where the sun can reach, and it's never in a hurry to get there - which is a good thing.  EDIGCTTLFWWC stands out from it's previous releases by sounding like more than just a man and his computerized audio interface. Broadrick adds what sounds like genuine organic instrumentation to some of his pieces here, including the piano intro on "The Great Leveller", a flying Woolly Mammoth of a song that is so magnanimous in it's presence it makes the rest of the album sound as though it was written around it.

9. Blood I Bleed - split w/ Lycanthropy

Sometimes (more times...), I just need that primal, unhinged surge of recorded-in-one-take, go-for-the-throat Powerviolence/Grind, and Blood I Bleed is pretty much the Slayer of that. They do what they do and you know what it's going to be, and that it's going to cut.  Like being dropped into the center of a turbulent hive, with 11 songs in less than 10 minutes Blood I Bleed's half of the split is an insane barrage of crazy little fists pummeling you faster than your senses can maintain.  The band sounds like the title of this blog. Music with this kind of frenzied ferocity has it's best effect in this kind of format - being either a split or an EP - where it can get in, rattle the brain, and then blast through it's exit wound leaving you dazed and confused and not overstay it's welcome or allow your Central Nervous System to adapt to it's poison. Too many of these kinds of bands are unfortunately at the mercy of their labels, requiring them to put out something over a certain time limit and forcing the album to possibly draw itself out, not allowing the artist to strike hard and strike deadly. Plug this fucker in and you'll swear you can feel that spittle hitting your face. Oh, and the Lycanthropy half ain't a bad grind either... Wouldn't let me post the vid: so here's a link...

8. Palms - Palms


Sounds exactly like you'd think it would, Chino Moreno singing with the dudes from Isis - because that's what it is, but it still works. To me the music sounds like the album's artwork (job well done), painting sonic palettes of fading sunsets and the expansive oceans that lull them to their edges. 6 to 10 minute glides of lush atmospherics undulating beneath gently plucked guitars and occasional power chords that soar hand in proverbial hand with Moreno's wonderfully unique crooning. It's hard to separate this project from either of the entities' full time gigs at times (and the criminally under rated Team Sleep), but with enough repetition and heavy meditation in it's swaying melodies you may find yourself letting go of all of that and simply watching your shadow barely keep up with you on the water far below.

7. Matt Elliott - Only Myocardial Infarction Can Break Your Heart

Elliott's latest output is his most stripped to the bones body of work yet, probably the logical place to go after the absolutely phenomenal and potentially unsurpassable 'The Broken Man'. There are very little of those subtle and haunting atmospherics lurking in the shadows this time around, as are usually present deep within the muck of elegance on previous efforts. OMICBYH showcases more of  a straightforward early 19th century no frills acrobatic flamenco as is toned in the album's 17+ minute opener 'The Right To Cry'.  While violins and xylophones do sparsely pepper this album in all it's right places, and Elliott's trademark multi-layered low hums do occasionally come sweeping in to carry us to a climax here and there on the record, it still sounds almost sunny when compared to the rest of his body of work as a solo artist. Well, maybe partly cloudy. And more importantly it still sounds like Matt Elliott, and nobody else does. The last song on the album, 'De Nada', is in my opinion one of the best things he's done to date.

6. The Dillinger Escape Plan - One Of Us Is The Killer

TDEP continue to tear faces off with creatively spaztastic riffs fighting against stuttering time signatures and occasional lurches into mainstream rock hooks and melodies. Unfortunately it's their fifth album, and the first one to feel like it's rehashing old formulas in it's totality. For a guy whose been listening to the group since their inception and still finds Calculating Infinity to be their least exciting record, I'd love to hear a whole lot less of the hooks and a whole lot more of the seizures. One Of Us Is The Killer is the first album DEP have released that sounds like they're standing in the same place as the record before. That being said, nobody really comes close to touching the palpable energy these gents translate onto their bodies of work on anything they've done, so it's still pretty fuckin' awesome and still wickedly creative.

5. Pearl Jam - Lightning Bolt

Ever since George Dubbya Bush got pushed out of office PJ's sound seems to have eased it's grip on itself and become a whole lot less tense. Lightning Bolt - while still an evolutionary step for the band - sounds like a sequel to a movie that takes over right where it's predecessor left off, and that's alright by me because Backspacer was a breath of fresh air in the band's catalogue. Despite the heavy theme of the inevitability of aging and the consequences of reason, wisdom and ultimately the death that comes with it, PJ sound like they're having a lot of fun on Lightning Bolt. I must admit I was never drawn to this band for the harder rocking songs they put out, and always enjoyed the slower, seemingly more crafted efforts they write - so Lightning Bolt may be a bit more up my alley than for most. But I'm getting older, they're getting older, and the route they're taking sonically in the last decade is a parallel line for me to travel along as I go. Dig a little deeper into some of the songs on here and you'll get a lot more out of it - always a trait of a really good album.

4. True Widow - Circumambulation

True Widow continue to creep along in their dark and engaging vortex of smokey reverb and distortion, a sound I hope they never try to do anything new with. I'd honestly be hard pressed to tell you what album what song came off of at completely random listening to their discography, but it doesn't matter when it's as sonically infectious as this. Circumambulation, however, showcases the band incorporating - dare I say - a bit more of a groove in their stalking rhythms. I don't think I'll ever tire of new material from True Widow, especially if it continues to sound like everything they've ever done before it.

3. Bleeding Rainbow - Yeah Right

What sounds like well produced, free-spirited Grunge-Punk straight out of 1994 turns into a layered haze of Shoegaze at the drop of a hat on 'Yeah Right'. When the band combines the two you end up being served a thick and fuzzy dose of chromatic sugar pop rock that is both driving and hypnotic at the same time. It's the kind of thing you'd think would congeal from the afterbirth if Sophia Coppola and Kevin Shields sonically procreated. It's a fun album to listen to in it's spirit, and a pleasing album to listen to in it's sound. Picked it up completely on a whim with no preconceived notion and was very pleasantly surprised. It is both nostalgic and forward thinking in it's delivery.

2. Mazzy Star - Seasons Of Your Day

I'd be hard pressed to pick a favorite Mazzy Star album; though I can say 'She Hangs Brightly' is easily out of the running, the fact that the group's first release in 17 years stands as tall - if not taller - than both 'So Tonight That I May See' and 'Among My Swan' is impressive, and all the more so if you consider the two grand Hope Sandoval releases that floated about during their hiatus. Which means it wasn't necessarily an album that was 17 years in the making.  Mazzy Star sticks to the formula of snow falling on strummed guitars and warm, fuzzy, soft power chords reverberating under what has become one of the most iconic female voices in alternative rock (despite the imitators beginning to surface - I'm talking to you Widowspeak). The nuances that separate this album from the rest of the group's discography are subtle to say the least. Unseasoned ears will tell you it's more of the same, but like most bands on this list you don't need to prove yourself when you're king of the mountain - especially when you're a band who's less is more and a whole lot more than the people trying to pull your flag. 'Seasons Of Your Day' does echo from a sort of 'Welcome home' vibe considering the aforementioned hiatus, meaning the traditional and original sound that Mazzy Star have etched is always nice to hear in the manifestation of new material especially when it's been so long. But I'd like to think that even a casual fan of the band, which I consider myself to be, would be forced to admit that this album would be just as good today as it would be if it were released in 1999.

1. Deafheaven - Sunbather

Gripping the buzzsaw speed and dissonance of traditional Black Metal, and twisting it out of it's fixed distorted positioning in the dark recesses of bleak coldness and forcing it upward towards the sky, Deafheaven are spearheading the evolution of a yet-to-be-named subgenre and thusly pissing off thousands of corpsepaint donned, spiked-gauntlet wearing, Dark Lord worshipping virgins across frozen tundras worldwide. There has always been an appealing ambience to even the most decent yet still purposely under-produced Black Metal, that merging of speed and tremolo guitar that turns itself into something more than it's simplistic parts, but Deafheaven actually use that formula to drive riffs and (dare I say) melodies that are already uplifting in their original form. The end result winds up sounding something like Marduk covering My Bloody Valentine.  While the band's previous record, 'Roads To Judah' leaned more towards Explosions In The Sky-esque canoodling as the juxtaposition to the dark shredding, Sunbather's movements are much more cohesive, giving a subtle element of winding shoegaze shimmering beneath it's surface. Throw in a couple of strategic, ambient droning pieces that could easily be mistaken for anything from Godspeed...You Black Emperor, and in it's entirety you have an epic, exciting, emotional and introspective journey into sound that has Black Metal elitists quivering in their bullet belts at the whiplashed cracks of Hipster heads turning a listening ear. Whether or not you can file this record and/or this band away as Black Metal is a whole 'nother discussion (and probably not one worth having), but there is one thing I am certain of - This album alone has the potential to send waves of imitators into the studio to pump the very vitality of it's essence from the veins of it's amniotic sac and into an ocean of diluted run-of-the-mill mediocrity. And when that begins to happen we musn't lose sight of how it once was, and who it was that honed it's craft best.