I’ve long had a thing for the gothic/darkwave sound, and although I don’t seek it out as rabidly as I do metal, some great bands in this style have been coming my way of late. Last year saw Ghost Noise releasing a promising debut album and the past few months have been all about Bad Psychic’s stunningly beautiful Soon. Now we have Gainesville, FL trio Ars Phoenix gracing us with yet another must-hear take on the genre in the form of Violent Rain.
It’s been a little while since we last heard from Sygil Records, in fact it’s been just over a year since I reviewed one of their releases (Charnel House’s excellent Black Blood). I’m pleased to say that after an all-too-lengthy silence, the label is back with yet another recording that challenges our perceptions of what dark and heavy music can be. That recording is Soon, the debut full length from Bloomington, Indiana’s Bad Psychic.
When I first started thinking about how to approach THKD’s year end shenanigans for 2013, I tried to come up with ideas for different types of lists that would get away from the traditional top albums countdown. Turns out I’m more scatterbrained than creative, because what I ended up with was a bunch of stuff that really didn’t fit together or adhere to any sort of unifying theme. Instead of giving up on the idea, I decided to gather a few of these things together under one banner even though it didn’t make any sense whatsoever, just for the sheer joy of it, in addition to a more traditional year end list. So here it is, the second year end “bonus list” prior to the top metal albums countdown, which will be published on 12/13/13; THKD’s top 10 random-ass things I enjoyed in 2013.
Continue reading “THKD’s top 10 Random-ass things I enjoyed in 2013”
According to my calendar, Winter doesn’t start until December 21st. I call bullshit. It’s dark when I get up to go to work in the morning, it’s dark when I get home from work and it’s freezing out. It’s fucking Winter. When this time of year rolls around, all I want to do is eat, sleep and listen to depressing music. I’m not allowed to hibernate, so I cope with the darkness of the season by listening to music that’s equally dark. Not wanting to keep the displeasure all to myself, I’ve selected ten of the most depressing albums in my Winter rotation to harsh your mellow and keep you appropriately bummed out until Spring rolls around… if you make it that long.
2012 has been more stressful than a motherfucker; probably one of the most all-around stressful years of my life. Buying a house + assorted family and work-related issues that I wouldn’t even dream of getting into here managed to turn the year into a goddamn pressure-cooker. I’m pretty sure the only things that kept me alive were my wife’s unwavering love (and limitless patience) and an avalanche of incredible music. In 2011 I was feeling pretty jaded and dissatisfied with the state of heavy metal, this year I found myself feeling better about things than I have in years. That isn’t to say there weren’t great albums released in 2011, there were, but in 2012 I felt like there was so much greatness that I couldn’t possibly keep up with it all.
In a recent conversation about music, my wife pointed out that I tend to gravitate towards stuff that is very raw and simplistic. I believe “garagey” was the term she used. She’s absolutely right. I guess this has long been the case, but I had never really thought about it consciously until she brought it up. I mean, I’ve certainly done my fair share of writing and espousing the virtues of raw, primitive music, but I never really considered just how much my listening preferences are dominated by these characteristics.
Continue reading “Blitzkrieg #8: Oooh Baby I Like it Raw (from the Trashmen to Transilvanian Hunger)”
It’s taken me quite a while to wrap my head around Morne’s Asylum. I’ve been listening to it off and on for a little over a month now and I’m still not sure I fully comprehend the band’s intent. But I’d like to think that I come a little closer every time I put the album on. I recently found a quote by Victor Hugo that makes me think I might be on the right track.
As a means of contrast with the sublime, the grotesque is, in our view, the richest source that nature can offer.
Metal is often grotesque. So many metal subgenres revel in ghoulish imagery, content to wallow in their own filth, espousing the virtues of death and decay. But heavy metal can also be sublime. Nowhere is this more evident than on Asylum, a recording that can best be described as a search for the sublime through heaviness. It’s the kind of album I want to get lost in, to totally immerse myself in its mesmerizing sonic realm.
It’s something about the guitar tone. Milosz Gassan and Jeff Hayward somehow channel ghosts through their amplifiers, pushing air that crackles with spectral electricity. The unearthly distortion comes in waves, crashing against the rhythms before crumbling into the aether ever so slowly, leaving phantom trails in its wake. The effect is haunting. I find myself thinking about it long after the album is finished, like faded memories of past lives.
As hypnotic as those guitars might be, they aren’t the only key component of Morne’s audial alchemy. A layer of keyboards lingers just below the surface, an oh-so-subtle embellishment to Asylum‘s wraithlike atmosphere. There’s more than a bit of the Peaceville Three in those keys, lending the music a stately, gothic quality. Gassan’s hoarse, bellowing vocals recall both post metal and the crustier side of hardcore, adding a touch of grit and aggression to Morne’s otherwise heavy-yet-ethereal approach. Simple, propulsive drumming keeps the rest of the band anchored to the Earth, while the bass guitar rumbles away like thunder muffled by thick windowpanes.
Ultimately, Asylum is like a flower, slowly coming into bloom to reveal untold beauty, only to wither away and die, its wilted petals scattered to the four winds. Over the course of the album’s hour long duration, Morne proves that heaviness can be a means for achieving an end other than the grotesque. Whether or not they have truly achieved the sublime is up to the individual listener.