Cormorant-Diaspora

Yeah, I have no clue as to what is going on with this album cover.  Horses bandaged to tree stilts.  Cool.  People bandaged to mini-castles.  Also, cool.

OK, forget the cover.  Just go listen to this damn thing.  This album is a remarkable step forward for the guys in Cormorant.  This is firmly still in the progressive blackened death metal realm, but there is just so much growth on this release from their previous album, Earth Diver.  The previous album was good, but this is downright inspired.

Diaspora is only a collection of four extremely long songs, but all four are adventurous journeys that never leave the listener bored or feeling like the songs are just unnecessary filler.  There is serious meat to delve into in each song.  A nice touch is the incorporation of some clean vocals that recall the melodic side of John Baizley of Baroness.  The melodic interludes woven into album closer, Migration, are simply entrancing.  For some reason, this just feels like the perfect album to put on during a rain storm, which is perfect with Hurricane Harvey bearing down us this weekend.

I really hope that this is the album to push these guys to a wider audience and I really hope to see them out on the road this year.  This is a special album and one not to be missed.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

 

The Tangent-The Slow Rust of Forgotten Machinery (or Where Do We Draw the Line Now?)

Calling all prog nerds!  Send me your huddled masses of Yes, ELP and Genesis fans.  Bring me the broken spirit of Pink Floyd mavens and King Crimson devotees.  Here’s a nice new album to sooth your geeky little hearts with keyboard flourishes aplenty and songs approaching the 20 minute mark.

I’m new to the soundscapes of The Tangent.  This is a prog rock project masterminded by keyboardist Andy Tillison along with a few members of The Flower Kings that has been plugging quietly along for some time now.  After hearing this latest platter, I’m kind of upset that I’m just now stumbling upon them.  This is a well crafted platter of keyboard driven prog that covers the gambit of rock and jazz fusion in equal measure.  Plus, it really offers some serious political critiques lyrically, especially focusing on the Brexit measures and the whole wave of anti-immigrant sentiment and nationalist fervor sweeping over Europe and America.  It gets a little preachy in places, but overall, as long as you aren’t a fucking Nazi, you should be able to handle it’s message.  I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that your typical Trump voter should just stay away because this thing is going to make your entitled sense of misplaced rage explode.  Buck up, little snowflake.  It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Anyhoo, if you fancy yourself a fan of prog in the vein of Spock’s Beard and see your political leanings a little more of the left side of things, give this thing a listen.  I think you’ll find a fairly enjoyable ride.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Doom Side of the Moon at Emo’s, Austin, TX, 8/5/2017

Well, this ended up being something kind of special.  What we have here is a side project masterminded by guitarist Kyle Shutt of local metal heroes, The Sword.  It seems as though this thing started as a bit of a lark by Shutt and some friends talking about coming up with a doom metal version of the Pink Floyd album, Dark Side of the Moon.  Instead of remaining on the cutting room floor of random ideas, Shutt decided to work on a metal interpretation of the album and enlisted the rhythm section of The Sword and Brownout’s vocalist to help his vision come to fruition.

Normally, I have to say that I’m not a real big fan of covers.  Most of the time they are just lazy carbon copies of the original versions and they usually just end up sounding flat.  However, in this case, consider me seriously fucking impressed.  Not only did they bring something original to their versions of these classic songs, but they really went above and beyond to create a live spectacle in the presentation of it.  This was a cover band on steroids.  Everything on the stage was white.  White guitars, white drums, white drapery over the keyboards, white bongos and every member of the group dressed entirely in white.  It was a really cool look and gave the stage an almost heavenly appearance.  Combined with the music, they went the extra mile to have an extra trippy Floyd-esque light show to accompany the show (which was enhanced even further if you forked up the $5 for the amazing Life Altering Glasses).  All in all, this ended up being a really special show, especially with the added bonus of a few other choice non-Dark Side of the Moon Floyd cuts.  I’m not sure if this ends up just being the one-off show.  If it does, you should feel great shame for missing it.  If they end up setting more dates in the future, don’t miss this.  If you are a Floyd fan, you’ll really dig it.  They really nail it.

Some samples to give you a taste.

Time

Money

Have a Cigar (with added intro, “I only want to live in this world” from the punk rock fiancée after viewing the show aforementioned Life Altering Glasses)

Pigs

Byzantine-The Cicada Tree

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m always rooting for the underdog.  In the metal world, there are a ton of bands who for a myriad of different reasons never seem to become as big as I personally feel they should be.  Byzantine is one of those bands who has put out solid album after solid album throughout their career and they have just seemed to miss out on breaking into mainstream/commercial success.  Part of it may be due to the fact that they hail from West Virginia.  Part of it may be that they really don’t look the part of a metal band.  However, viewing them solely from the musical production they have amassed over the years, there is no reason why these guys shouldn’t be one of the bigger metal bands going today.  I know that’s a bold statement, but I stand by it 100%.

Byzantine has always crafted their own brand of new era thrash coupled with a melodic accent that blends into a unique sound.  Vocalist/guitarist Chris Ojeda is equally capable of delivering a harsh death metal-esque vocal and an angelic clean vocal within the same song.  The easiest comparison to make is that they sound like Lamb of God with more melody.

The latest album is a bit of a sneaky one.  The first time through I wasn’t really sure that it measured up to some of their past work.  However, the second listen revealed a very nuanced album.  This one is a little more on the melodic side than previous releases.  A lot of the songs start out a little softer and then build into a crushing wall of metal.  There are simply some very atypical rhythms throughout the album that result in a final product that challenges the listener.  The song structures don’t force feed the listener, but rather invite the listener to have a seat and spend some time to fully embrace the journey.  I have a feeling that this is an album that is going to reveal new aspects will each listen and I think this is one that will stand the test of time.  It is definitely an album that I haven’t forgotten about 5 minutes after spinning it.

4.5 flip flops out of 5

Wintersun-The Forest Seasons

One of my favorite means of describing a band to someone is using the love child method.  You know, such and such band makes hot passionate love to another band and the resulting love child is the band at hand.  So, in this vein, Wintersun seems like the product of the love coupling of Helloween and Dimmu Borgir.  You’ve got a nice melding of the jolly power metal ramblings of Germany’s purveyors of pumpkin with a dash of the theatrical black metal menace of Norway’s gothy ghouls.  Lead dude Jari Maenpaa’s shrieks really remind me of Dimmu’s Shagrath, but he is able to combine some nice clean vocals into the mix which adds a little more diversity to the overall presentation.

This latest album sees Wintersun crafting a four-part yarn set to the four seasons.  Each track is well over 10 minutes in length and are full of fantasy and bombast.  The tracks offer up enough diversity to keep them from getting repetitive or stale.  I’d say that this is probably a good record to start in on if you’re new to the black metal game.  Overall, this is a very accessible album in that it combines some of the black metal stylings with some of the more traditional power metal sounds.

3.5 flip flops out of 5

Decrepit Birth-Axis Mundi

Hey there!  I’ve really missed all of your grimy little faces.  I’m back after a bit of an absence.  Things have just been a bit slow on the album release front and there just hasn’t been much to write about.  Luckily, we’ve had a few worthy albums come out the past week or so and I’m back to discuss.  Let’s dive into the metal goodness, shall we?

So, what we have here is another barn burning super technical death metal release.  Once again, I’m left with the feeling of being super impressed with the presentation and musicianship, but feeling a bit wanting in the overall impact this one left with me.  To put it another way:  you know when it’s a Friday night and you’ve had a few pops and you’re starting to feel a little loose.  You want something you can jam.  You want something that’ll make you pump your fist in the air.  You want something that is going to make you want to pull out all of your best air guitar moves.  You’re pulling out Van Halen I or Screaming for Vengeance.  I’m not so sure that you’re going to immediately think of Decrepit Birth.

This sounds like I’m slagging on our boys from Decrepit Birth.  That is not my intent at all.  This thing is an absolute blitzkrieg of frenetic riffs and just insanely complex drumming.  My main reaction during the first couple of listens is “How in the hell is it physically possible to create music like this?”  The technical ability of these guys seriously blows me away.  I would love to see the creative process that goes on when something like this album is gestating.  What drives one to make something this extreme and aggressive?  How is it possible to meld all of these riffs into something coherent?  I’m not sure, but I do enjoy it.  This isn’t going to be something that I put on everyday, but dammit, it really hits the spot when I’m in the mood for something completely intense.  As with many albums that have come out this year, my main hesitation in giving this one a higher grade is that I’m just not sure how much staying power this one will have a year or two down the road.  Am I going to have a moment where it hits me, “Damn, I really need to throw on Axis Mundi!” ?  I really don’t know.

3 flip flops out of 5

Decapitated-Anticult

Decapitated is one of those bands that I just can’t help but root for because they just seem like a band that is going to be forever relegated to underground status.  And, it’s a damn shame, because these guys simply have the talent and the infectious energy that should warrant them a wider audience.  These guys have plugged away in their native Poland since they were teenagers and have suffered through the loss of a drummer and singer due to a tour bus accident early in their career.  Their sound has always kind of taken a technical death metal template and added a measure of groove to the proceedings.   Death metal you can dance to, if you will.  Kind of like a Polish Lamb of God with a dash of Sepultura.

Seeing as though I always view an upcoming Decapitated release as a reason to celebrate, my expectations for the new album were fairly high.  Their last release, 2014’s Blood Mantra, was a downright barn burner of an album.  The new album is really, really good, but doesn’t quite make it into the great category.  Songs like Kill This Cult, Earth Scar and Impulse are going to shine in their upcoming live show.  The new album just seems a little light overall.  There are a total of eight songs with one of them kind of acting as an outro for the album.  So, really seven full songs.  The album just seems to fly by.  I think this is the main thing keeping this one from truly reaching the heights of some of their past efforts.

Decapitated will be making the rounds across the State this summer and will be hitting Austin on August 26 at Come and Take It Live.

4 flip flops out of 5