Into Eternity-The Sirens

From the outside looking in, band layoffs can be hard to understand.  We fans are selfish bastards by nature.  We love our bands and we crave new material from said bands.  It’s hard to understand how a creative unit of people aren’t able to produce new content on a regular basis and when a band goes years without producing anything new, it can be frustrating for fans.  However, there is no telling what is going inside of the collective unit.  Personal things happen.  Personnel changes happen.  Life gets in the way.  Now, sometimes a fan’s irritation can be justified, such as in the cases of Tool and Metallica, who are both notorious procrastinators when it comes to producing new songs.  It seems some bands that reach a level of mega-success can afford to rest on their laurels and coast making a living as mainly a touring nostalgia act.  For bands residing further in the underground, I’m sure it is a daily struggle to simply keep the band going as an active entity in this era of the music business.

In the case of Into Eternity, it has been ten years since their last album release.  Part of the reason for this delay was due to some key personnel changes.  Lead singer Stu Block left the band to take the same position with Iced Earth and officially left the band in 2013.  However, it was announced that the band had found a replacement in Amanda Kiernan relatively quickly.  From there, it was announced by the band that a new album was in the works and would be released around late 2014 or early 2015.  And then nothing.  No news.  No updates.  No album.  I have no idea what happened.  Whether it was personal or business issues holding up the progress of this band is just unknown.  And it is really a shame because the buzz on these guys before their extended hiatus was really starting to grow.  They had coveted opening slots on Megadeth’s Gigantour and were a handpicked opener for Dream Theater on their Chaos in Motion Tour in 2007.  It really seemed like things were looking good for these guys and then their progress just hit a brick wall.  It’s one of those stories in the music business that truly makes me sad.

Well, finally, the long-talked about album has come out.  The Sirens is a rebirth for the band in more ways than one.  First, it is the first new music from the band that we have heard in ten years.  Second, the addition of a female vocalist in the form of Amanda Kiernan supplies a new fabric to Into Eternity’s sound.  The weird thing is that, at its core, it still sounds like Into Eternity.  This album is a direct progressive thread from The Incurable Tragedy.  You’ve still got the ambitious guitar licks.  The blending of progressive and death metal.  You’ve got the multiple vocals of Kiernan, lead guitarist and head honcho Tim Roth and death gutturals of bassist Troy Bleich.  It’s good to have these guys back as an active entity.  I hope the layoff wasn’t too long and that people still remember them.  They have a long of ground to regain.  This album is a good start.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Bloodbath-The Arrow of Satan Is Drawn

I really find it kind of strange that Bloodbath is still a viable entity.  When this project first started, it really felt like a simple outlet for death metal dudes whose main gigs had started to pull away from their original gritty death metal roots into more respectable and proggier death metal bands.  For those not familiar with Bloodbath, this started as a side gig of Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth, Katatonia’s Jonas Renske and Anders Nystrom and all around death metal guru/producer/drummer/guitarist Dan Swano.  Swano and Akerfeldt dropped out a few albums past and has been replaced by Opeth drummer Martin Axenrot and Paradise Lost vocalist Nick Holmes.

I like the fact that the guys in the band are really embracing their dark roots on this one.  Renske and Nystrom have reverted by to their early Katatonia nom-de-guerre of Lord Seth and Blakkheim, respectively.  Axenrot is simply Axe and Holmes is going by Old Nick.  They are also living true to their name by basically bathing in (fake?) blood for every appearance/photo shoot they do.  It’s really become quite the spectacle of a band.

Musically, this new one is exactly what you have come to expect from Bloodbath.  Any niceties have been stripped away from this one.  It’s death and gore and apocalypse and a little more death for good measure.  The guitar tones have this odd gritty sound to them.  They are definitely playing to the early 90s sound of the early wave of Scandinavian death metal bands.  This music isn’t for the prog nerd who have latched onto Katatonia and Opeth’s current output.  This is music for the gutters and the morgues.

Also, that album cover is just perfect.  So very Rosemary’s Baby of them.  I love it!

Another tidbit is that they were able to get Jeff Walker of Carcass, Karl Willetts of Bolt Thrower and John Walker of Cancer to provide guest vocals on one track.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Chthonic-Battlefields of Asura

I’ve got to believe that there are other metal bands from Taiwan, but the only one of which I am aware is Chthonic.  Chthonic is a breed of band that proves that metal is one of those art forms that truly transcends national borders and that each new region that metal touches brings their own distinctive style to the proceedings.  Chthonic can primarily be seen as a death metal band with theatrics and symphonic elements combined with the use of traditional Taiwanese instruments and lyrics drawing upon the folklore of Taiwan and their struggle for independence from China.  Chthonic is also one of those bands whose interests in promoting human rights issues is as paramount as the craft of their music.  This is evidenced by lead singer Freddy Lim’s recent election to Taiwan’s legislative body in 2016.  Think of that.  This would be like James Hetfield being elected to the House of Representatives.  Bizarre and cool.

I’m honestly kind of surprised to see Chthonic releasing an album in light of Freddy’s political duties.  Freddy is still screaming in full bloody death metal style and the band is still providing the same theatrical style of death metal they are known for.  I’m not sure that this latest album is breaking any new ground for the band, but it’s a solid effort and fans of the band should be pleased with the result.

3 flip flops out of 5

King Buffalo-Longing To Be the Mountain

Ted Nugent is a dick.  ‘Tis true, ’tis true.  Even you gun freaks know he’s an asshole.  But I’m going to the Nuge well of witticisms to start this review because I think it sums up this album perfectly.  Nugent sucks as a human being, but dammit, I have to admit he did come up with some pretty riffs in the 70s and I’m a pretty damn big fan of Double Live Gonzo.  When you’re putting out decent music, it is a lot easier to look past an artist’s failings as a human being.  It becomes hard to do so when you are Numero Uno NRA apologist and Trump butt-licker and you haven’t had anything relevant to add to the musical world since said 1970s era.  At any rate, I digress.  Let me get back to the whole reason of bringing up the Nuge.  On the aforementioned Double Live Gonzo, he has a lengthy intro to the song Hibernation (righteous classic rock jam) which he ends with, “If you bear with me, I’m going to see if I can let this one melt into your mouth.”  Honestly, now that I type it, it sounds gross.  Especially coming from Nugent.  But, still, this is the phrase that popped into my head when I first heard King Buffalo’s new album, Longing To Be the Mountain.  It’s so cool and so chill and so stonery that it absolutely melts into your mouth and makes everything…..mellow.

King Buffalo, for the uninitiated, is a three-piece outfit from upstate New York.  I’d call them a power trio, but they just never really get all that powerful.  That’s not a knock.  Their music is definitely in the stoner jam band space.  Their songs sort of meander here and there and they usually build into something approaching rocking status.  But, overall, it’s chill music.  And it is really, really good.  Longing To Be the Mountain builds upon the sound that was established in their previous release, Orion.

I’d be remiss not to issue a PSA that these dudes will be playing in Austin at Hotel Vegas this Friday evening.  It’s going to be cold as shit, but come out and check them out.  I don’t want to hear any excuses.  I already know that you don’t have any plans.  We can huddle together and let this one melt into our mouths.

4 flip flops out of 5

 

Beyond Creation-Algorhythm

I honestly came close to purposely not purchasing this album simply because of the title.  Algorhythm.  See, it’s clever.  Algorhythm.  It sounds like algorithm, but they spelled the “rithm” portion of the word as “rhythm”.  Because music has rhythm.  And, see, Beyond Creation is a technical death metal band.  So, they do a lot of weird time changes and shit that involves fractions and other math type shit.  Just like algorithms involve math type shit.  See, it all coalesces perfectly.  Algorhythm.  Music and math and shit and Beyond Creation.  It all comes together in the Rick Grimes’ dad joke of album titles.  Algorhythm, Coral!!

So, let this be another piece of evidence for not judging an album by its cover or album title.  Because in spite of the not so great title, this thing rips.  I’ve seen Beyond Creation open up a couple of times and they have always impressed with their technical skill.  However, I’ve never completely embraced them because their past material seemed to focus more on the technical proficiency of their performances rather than crafting some really memorable songs.  It seems that with Algorhythm that the band has finally found that balance between the two.  The album has all the flash and brilliance in the performances, but the flash never feels overindulgent and doesn’t overshadow what are some very strong songwriting.  This feels like an exciting album and one that the band can hopefully capitalize on.  Let’s just hope the album title doesn’t end up being a hindrance.

4 flip flops out of 5

Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats-Wasteland

Hard to believe that this is now album number five for Uncle Acid.  This one is right in line with past Uncle Acid releases.  You’ve got this weird channeling of an evil intentioned post-summer of love burned out hippie vibe through fuzzy guitars and strangely recorded vocals.  These bands that trade in this throwback sound walk a very fine line between rehash/copying and creating something new that is merely influenced heavily by the past.  There are some bands in this sub-genre who sound great their first couple of albums, but seem to stagnate by album three or four (I may or may not be looking at you Kadavar).  I’m not entirely sure why, but Uncle Acid keeps with a fairly formulaic sound structure and still manages to sound different and fresh with each release.  They are one of the few bands in this sub-genre that has managed to avoid any missteps in their career up to this point.  Wasteland continues on with this progression.  Compare the way the guitars and vocals sound on Blood Lust or Mind Control to Wasteland and you’ll find them pretty much the same.  But each album retains its own specific feel and vibe.  I’m really not sure how they manage to pull this off, but it is an impressive feat especially in light of how many bands seem satisfied with rehashing what is essentially the same album over and over.

4 flip flops out of 5