Archive for the avant-garde Category

Mark Mothersbaugh – “Muzik For Insomniaks” Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, electronic, experimental, Mark Mothersbaugh with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 3, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

My friend and I have an odd running joke of finding “Donkey Kong” vibes in music.  Somehow, we constantly encounter music that is similar in melody or overall atmosphere to the music in the Donkey Kong Country/Land games, normally a sound akin to that of the underwater or snowy mountain levels.  I’ve heard everything from black metal to trance conjure up this very precise ambience.  Now, I can add one more set of albums to this ongoing trend, Mark Mothersbaugh’s Muzik For Insomniaks.

Never played the Donkey Kong games, you say?  Well, don’t fret.  Muzik For Insomniaks’ infectious nature may latch onto you for a number of other reasons.  According to Mothersbaugh, its original purpose was to be music that you could do work around the house to.  If that was the only purpose of these albums, then he has succeeded.  A solely keyboard release, the two volumes are low-maintenance material, not demanding your full attention at all times to pick up on the melodies.  I’ve tested this out by doing household chores to these albums.  Lo and behold, the pairing is fantastic!  Dynamic enough to keep me from being bored but not so complex as to side track my natural thinking.

Though minimalist in terms of its repetitious nature and sole use of keyboards, the muzik is really quite addicting and the melodies are surprisingly complex and ever-changing.  The albums just drip with a whimsical child-like feel too.  This is what a creator of the children’s show Rugrats felt as well.  For, if you’ll recall, Mark Mothersbaugh did the music for that show.  These are the albums that got him that job.  If you don’t pick up on the Rugrats feel throughout Volume One, then first track “ugo” of Volume Two will no doubt give you instantaneous Rugrats theme song flashbacks.

I could see this album turning a lot of people off.  It’s really quite experimental in the overall lack of any verse-chorus song structure as well as the aforementioned constant repetition.  I urge you to give it a try though.  In the time that I’ve been listening to this album, I’ve found it perfect for going on a run, doing chores, childhood nostalgia, Rugrats nostalgia (I was/am a huge fan), thinking, driving a car at night, and allowing me to remember Donkey Kong games and other good 90s video game soundtracks.  Is there any reason not to give this a try?  Well, it is pretty rare.  Good luck finding it!

-Max

Naked City – “Torture Garden” Album Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, Grindcore, Jazz, Naked City with tags , , , , , , , , on July 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Pleasure through pain is an experience oft connected with the BDSM fetish scene, with the term “algolagnia” specifically used to describe this sort of kink.  How fitting it is then, that Naked City’s Torture Garden, with its album art taken directly from a Japanese BDSM porno, tackles this specific perversion in both concept and sound.

Whoever thinks that jazz is limited to the “elevator music” played off dusty old 10”s has never heard Naked City’s destruction of not only jazz music, but the overall restrictions of a typical musical band: consistent song structures, verse or chorus patterns, and lyrics.  Perhaps a big “fuck you” to these musical standards or an ode to Naked City’s hardcore/grindcore influences, the songs on Torture Garden are incredibly spastic and sometimes contain three or more genres within one sub-minute grindcore track.  Notable pieces include “N.Y Flat Top Box,” a primarily country music song whose twang is interrupted by hiccups of blast beats, “Cairo Chop Shop,” an aptly-named romp that serves as a brief yet disturbing glimpse into the Egyptian underground, and “Kaoru,” with a musical box lullaby strangely evocative of the prologue from Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander.  This genre hopping style can be dizzying and definitely a turn-off for the casual listener.  But then again, when has avant-garde jazz/grindcore hybrids ever been aimed at the masses?

Most commonly labeled as “too loud” or generalized by the layman as “screamo,” extreme metal and grindcore somehow find a target audience that hears something compelling hidden behind the cacophonous sound.  Seemingly, Torture Garden is an experiment in this idea.  If we can derive enjoyment from this music that breaks most, if not all, musical standards and should prove a “painful” listening experience, then aren’t we algolagniacs?  Perhaps hidden within any adventurous music fan is this innate desire to test our limits.  What may initially be painful can turn into a pleasurable experience.

-Max

Sigh – ‘Scenes From Hell’ Review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 4, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With each album, Sigh has consistently shown their listeners that they will never be pigeonholed into a specific genre.  While the origins of their music are rooted in black metal, orchestral, jazz, and avant-garde influences are also present.  Imaginary Sonicscape was a bizarre trip through a psychedelic atmosphere.  Gallows Gallery, the band’s foray into melodic metal, proved that they could retain a high level of musicianship and varied influences while creating songs that were instantly catchy and accessible.  With 2007’s Hangman’s Hymn, Sigh incorporated a large amount of orchestral influences, resulting in a highly symphonic and intriguing listen.  However, for the first time, Sigh overdid it.  The tracks themselves were fantastic, but long orchestral breaks made the album a chore to listen to.

Enter Scenes from Hell.  For the first time, Sigh does not completely reinvent themselves.  Rather, they have taken the winning formula from Hangman’s Hymn and stripped the filler from it, resulting in a cohesive and wildly enjoyable album.  The orchestral influences are back and more prevalent than ever, but the band has truly perfected their incorporation into the song structure.  Unlike other symphonic bands, who simply write metal songs and layer violins and trumpets over the riffs, Sigh make the orchestral atmosphere an integral part of the music.  Saxophone solos follow guitar solos, loud trumpets punctuate heavy passages, and violins and keys mingle with distorted riffs and blast beats.  Never have classical instruments sounded so normal in metal.

Don’t worry, Sigh have not lost their avant-garde side.  ‘Normal’ does not mean that you have heard this before.  ‘Prelude to the Oracle’ opens the album with a thrash riff, quickly bombarding the listener with a chorus of trumpets.  Songs run the gamut from intense blackened thrash to slow, doomy dirges, such as the exceptional ‘Funeral’ songs in the center of the album.  Of course, Mirai’s trademark howls and keys are backed up by Shinichi’s furious guitar shredding, but Scenes from Hell also boasts the addition of saxophonist and vocalist Dr. Mikannibal.  Her deep growls and solos, especially on ‘Musica in Tempora Belli’ add a new dimension to Sigh’s music.

Despite excellent song structures, insanely catchy melodies, and a new level of orchestration and experimentation, Scenes from Hell is not Sigh’s best album.  It remains a blast to listen to after repeated listens, unlike its predecessor, Hangman’s Hymn.  However, the production is strangely muddy – the bass is inaudible, more or less, and the guitars occasionally sound as if they were recorded underwater.  Considering Sigh’s popularity and the quality of the production on previous albums (Gallows Gallery notwithstanding), this is bizarre.  And, while it’s great to hear the band perfect the style that they dabbled in on the previous album, it is somewhat disappointing.  In today’s metal scene, with two-bit metalcore acts and ‘bedroom black metal’, it is always refreshing to find bands like Ulver and Sigh who constantly reinvent themselves and progress.

Even with poor production and a lack of progression, this is certainly one of the best albums of 2010 thus far.   Sigh’s brilliant combination of blackened metal with symphonic elements is one of the best that has been recorded, and is not to be missed.  While no one can predict what Mirai and crew will come up with next, it is fair to say that, considering their track record thus far, it will certainly be another monumental landmark in the evolution of black metal.

Adam

Metal Songs That Make Me Lose My Mind (Part 1)

Posted in Absu, avant-garde, black metal, death metal, Drudkh, Equilibrium, folk metal, Mayhem, Suffocation, viking metal with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 19, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Everyone knows the feeling.  You know…that feeling when a song just clicks.  You get a rush of adrenaline, a shiver runs up your spine, and little goose pumplets form on your skin.  From that moment on, that song will always make you want to sprout wings and soar above everything or unsheathe a weapon and lay waste to all evil fiends in your path.  Nearly uncontrollable energy is bursting from the aura surrounding your body.  Well, I personally cherish the moments when a song can elicit these powerful emotions.  Thusly, I present you with a collection of songs that truly make me lose my mind.  (As an aside, I limited it to one song per artist.  I also included the specific time in the song that gets me excited/turned on.)

Absu – The Coming of War

The Sun of Tiphareth is an odd album in the Absu discography.  It marked a departure from the death metal sound of their prior album and early demos in favor of slower, epic black metal.  Immediately after The Sun of Tiphareth, Absu added a thrash element to their albums.  While they were able to execute this black/thrash sound in a most excellent fashion (Tara…holy shit…), the sheer quality of this release makes me wish they would return to the slower sound for at least a song or two.  I’ll always remember Absu playing “The Coming of War” as the finale to their set when I saw them play live.  Despite the sound being utter ASS in that venue, the ridiculously epic riff broke through and made me a fan of this track.  My favorite Absu song?  Perhaps.  “She Cries the Quiet Lake” and “Night Fire Canonization” provide some competition, but it’s definitely up there.

Moment in particular: 2:44-4:13

Suffocation – Effigy of the Forgotten


I don’t gravitate towards death metal all that often.  However, when I’m feeling the need, I usually order up some tech-death.  Suffocation wholly fulfills my tech desires with their seminal Effigy of the Forgotten album.  While the album is full of moments that blow me away, it is the tempo/riff change during the title track that wins out in the end.

Moment in particular: 1:23-1:58

Mayhem – Key to the Storms


Does Ordo Ad Chao stack up to De Mysteriis or Deathcrush?  Many say no, but I wholly disagree. De Mysteriis perfectly captures the atmosphere and the madness of the Norwegian black metal scene and consequently, has been one of the most lauded black metal albums of all time.  Mayhem made the correct decision though and moved forward.  Every consecutive album was an entirely new creation that built upon their established formula and took risks.  And now Ordo Ad Chao, arguably their most disturbing album and the first to feature Attila Csihar since De Mysteriis.  The songs have a raw, improvisational feel that is executed flawlessly.  Whether it be the surprisingly technical drumming, the avant-garde riffs, or the unsettling vocal performance by Atilla, I always find myself consumed by this album’s sound, time and time again.  “Key To The Storms” contains some of the most profound moments of sheer madness and raw emotion that I’ve experienced in any album.  Perhaps some may find Attila’s descent into insanity during the latter half of the track silly.  I do not…  In fact, I find it believable and therefore all the more unnerving.

Moment In particular: 1:57-end

Equilibrium -Des Sängers Fluch

While Equilibrium’s first album Turis Fratyr maintained a delicate balance between creating epic melodies and crafting a beautiful atmosphere, Sagas focused way too much on usurping the already perfect epic vibe of Turis Fratyr.  The result was a whole lot of sugary sweet and familiar folk metal melodies that sounded overblown and consequently, ruined the awesome vibe that could have been created.  That being said, I cannot deny some truly epic moments hidden within.  “Prolog Auf Erden” always sends chills down my spine and the single off the album “Blut Im Auge,” is undeniably catchy.  However “Des Sängers Fluch” is probably the only song on the album that recreates the atmosphere of their first album.  Brilliantly paced, the song takes its time building up to the various explosive, high-energy moments.  And, oh my…they are beautiful.

Moments in particular: 3:37-4:36, 7:08-end

Drudkh – Sunwheel

I believe an explanation of my recurring fantasy with Drudkh will help explain my love for this song.  Whenever listening to Autumn Aurora, Drudkh’s second full-length, I imagine myself experiencing them live in concert.  I’m standing near the stage outdoors, the band and the crowd is surrounded by nature, the skies are grey but sunlight is shining through a hole in the clouds, there is a light rain and the air is warm.  Let me tell you…If I were to experience this in real life, my body would cease to function because of the overload of positive stimulus.  To have the full effect though, they would have to be playing “Sunwheel,” my favorite track off Autumn Aurora.  The riff that breaks through about a quarter of the way though, as well as the ensuing guitar solo, are legendary.  These evoke a feeling of pride and happiness in me that is insurmountable.

Moment in particular: 2:29 – 4:03

Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3.  Coming soon!

-Max

Master’s Hammer – “Mantras” review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal, experimental, Master's Hammer, metal reviews, progressive black metal, progressive metal with tags , , , , , , , on April 2, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

When the news of a new Master’s Hammer album broke last year, I was more than a little excited.  Their 1991 classic Ritual had already turned me into a Master’s Hammer fanboy, so the prospect of a new masterpiece had me eagerly looking forward to Mantras.  Being that their catalogue is ripe with innovation and experimentation, it comes as no surprise that Mantras continues in this genre-defying fashion.

“Typograf” starts the album off strongly with explosive energy, a simple yet brutal riff, and atmospheric guitar solos.  The next few songs follow in a similar fashion, including simple (and dare I say, predictable) guitar riffs combined with a dash of guitar or keyboard oddity.  If I had to pick a low point in the album, it would be these few songs.  Moments of glory shine through when they break from their traditional old-era riffs and throw something odd into the mix.

Luckily, beginning with “Bodhi,” Master’s Hammer begins to fully explore these experimental tendencies that were only hinted at in the prior tracks.  The songs are not as heavy, with many arguably not even being metal, let alone black metal.  However, I embrace their heavy usage of diverse keyboard sounds, nearly danceable beats, and odd song structures because it’s simply a joy to listen!  The songs all continue in this fashion, except for a cover of their old song “Jáma Pekel.”  However, even this track isn’t spared from the album’s weirdness due to its incredibly funky keyboard solo near the end.

Mantras has been a very difficult album for me.  When I first heard the samples offered on their website, I was ready for a new classic.  Does this album reach that status?  The stumbling in a few songs early-on does not help its case. However, it contains so many eccentricities and new sounds that my perception of the album is constantly changing. Who knows?  Perhaps the future will be kind to this unique piece of work. -Max

Prog Promulgation #2

Posted in avant-garde, iceberg, prog promulgation, progressive rock, van der graaf generator with tags , , , , , , on March 28, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Note: Prog is often called ‘pretentious.’ Thus, so are our personas. Although on the surface this may seem overtly insulting towards most musical genres, we only wish to immerse the reader in the pretentious lifestyle of prog. The music is still fantastic and necessary, and the pretention is (usually) meant with good humor.

Brother Bartholomew is currently fencing in the Tuscan fields, fighting for the good of prog overseas.  Unfortunately, this means that he is not here to preach to the prog-thirsty masses of Pantheon.  Never fear, aficionados of good music!  The Red Barron is more than qualified to introduce you to a few wondrous prog gems.

Van der Graaf Generator, while critically acclaimed, is often ignored when compared to Genesis, Yes, and other symphonic bands.  Eschewing traditional instruments such as guitar in favor of saxophone and keys, the eclectic prog band manages to create a dark and occasionally menacing atmosphere.  Lead by virtuoso Peter Hammill, Van der Graaf Generator released a series of brilliant and genre-bending albums throughout the 1970s.  While all are necessary if you are to call yourself a true prog fan, the 1975 release Godbluff is a masterpiece that commands your full attention.

The album begins with “The Undercover Man,” a song which slowly builds to a brilliant chorus.  As you will soon find, Hammill’s vocals sound quite odd at first, but, given time, they prove to be awe-inspiring to the true music lover.  After moving through the scorching “Scorched Earth,” the listener is struck by “Arrow,” surely a highlight of the album.  With lyrics more macabre than most of the metal in this magazine (How long the night is, Why is this passage so narrow? /How strange my body feels, impaled upon the arrow!) and eerie howls by Hammill, this would be the centerpiece of the album if it was not for “The Sleepwalkers.”  Be warned; this track may be too much for lowly prog initiates, especially after the aforementioned three songs.  Go ahead, listen to the album, but Brother B and the Red Barron are not liable for the shock and awe that comes from witnessing such a brilliant piece of music.

While you have undoubtedly not heard of Iceberg (I have already assumed that you live under a rock), you most certainly should have.  The seminal fusion band released Sentiments in 1977.  Iceberg goes above and beyond the usual trappings of the genre to create a pastoral and whimsical atmosphere while retaining a technicality that simply annihilates other fusion bands.  While “Joguines” must be mentioned due to the fantastic, flamenco-influenced guitar work, the true centerpiece of the album is “Alegries Del Mediterrani.”  Featuring meandering keyboards and sublime solos, the song truly encapsulates the feel of the Mediterranean coast.  I am sure that as you read this, Brother B is listening intently to this album as he gallops across the Tuscan plains on his valiant steed.  Compared to Van der Graaf Generator, Iceberg is indeed much more upbeat and, dare I say, happier, but this in no way makes it less worthy of your attention.  Prog legions, I command you to go out, improve your music tastes, and listen to these two magnificent recordings.  Surely, you will be better for it, and may even one day ascend to become a true progressive luminary, like Brother B and the Red Barron.  -Adam (the Red Barron)

Two Mini-Reviews – Ihsahn “After” and Fear Factory “Mechanize”

Posted in album review, avant-garde, black metal, Fear Factory, Ihsahn, Industrial Metal, metal reviews, progressive black metal, progressive metal with tags , , , , , , , , on March 22, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Ihsahn – After

Ihsahn, Emperor (R.I.P.) frontman and guitarist extraordinary, completes his magnificent solo album trilogy with his finest opus, After. His previous solo efforts, The Adversary and angL, feel relatively standard. After, with a little help from an eight-string guitar and saxophonist Jørgen Munkeby, feels like a tour de force in comparison. The black metal torrent that is “A Grave Inversed” not only shows Ihsahn’s ability to bend eight-string guitars to his will, but also showcases the fantastic free-form jazz saxophone present through out the album. In “Austere,”  Ihsahn presents some truly refreshing Deep Purple-sounding organ synth that is so deserving of his name. Finally, the vocal chorus in “Heavens Black Sea” brings to mind stoic, tormented angel chanting that literally sends a shiver down my spine. If you’re into all things “Kvlt” or “Tr00,” this album is definitely not for you. If you like bands that break the rules and make their own in the process, I highly recommend you add this masterpiece to your collection. – Cameron Davis


Fear Factory – Mechanize

If you are one of the Fear Factory fans who, like me, was left feeling betrayed by the band’s most recent breakup and reformation; get over it.  It becomes obvious before you even finish the first track on this album that everything has worked out for the best.  On this album, Fear Factory manages to recapture the sheer intensity and brutality of their older works without sacrificing the musicality found on the more recent “Transgression” and “Archetype”.  And, while not particularly innovative, “Mechanize” is easily the closest that Fear Factory has ever come to perfecting their unique brand of Industrial Metal.  -Matt Neri

Between the Buried and Me – “The Great Misdirect” review

Posted in album review, avant-garde, between the buried and me, metal reviews, metalcore, prog reviews, progressive metal, progressive rock with tags , , , , , , , on March 18, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

With their magnum opus, Colors, Between the Buried and Me stretched the already distorted limits of progressive music. This included the insertion of many conflicting musical genres into one continuous album. The Great Misdirect picks up where Colors left off, but takes the sporadic passages and streamlines them into a transcending record. The band’s eclectic style makes the transitions seem very cohesive. The Great Misdirect is a transcendent experience, the majority of the album examining the mind and our own human perception.

Although not extremely technical, “Mirrors” opens the album by creating a preparatory listening experience. The listener is able to relate to their own existence through the calming mood created.  “Obfuscation” relays the overall theme of the album with these lyrics; “As humans we could never be content with knowing all, yet we can’t be content with the fact that our brains will never know.” Throughout the entire album, the band exhibits a knack for creating haunting vibes of mind control (“Disease, Injury, Madness”), questions of existence, and even UFOs (“Fossil Genera- A Feed from Cloud Mountain”).

Musically, the greatest evolution can be heard through Blake Richardson, the drummer. Prior to recording, Blake had been collaborating and working with Dream Theater virtuoso Mike Portnoy. That being said, Blake stays true to the heavy side of BTBAM by pounding out barrages of brutal drumming. Picking up from where he left off in Colors, bassist Dan Briggs plays with an enormous amount of talent and emotion, and should be considered one of the premier young bassists on today’s scene. Tommy Rogers is not the exclusive vocalist on the album. Guitarist Paul Waggoner’s takes the lead on vocals for “Desert of Song,” which is the low point of the album in my opinion. The 18-minute closing epic, “Swim to the Moon,” features Chuck Johnson, light tech and merch coordinator for the band.

Overall, Between the Buried and Me continue to exemplify the progressive label by adapting with each album and constantly reworking their personal goals as musicians. The Great Misdirect is a chilling, magnificent representation of what the band is capable of doing musically and lyrically. Though everyone may not approve of the eclectic shifts present in the latest albums from the band, BTBAM brings something new to the table with each release. One can only hope they continue down the road paved by Colors and The Great Misdirect.Matt Karow

Here be Ryan’s Top 24 Metal Songs…

Posted in avant-garde, black metal, death metal, GRAMPS, Hirilorn with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 20, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

When I sat down to compose a list of my favorite metal songs, let’s just say it was a labor of love. After digging through tens of thousands of songs totaling over 60 solid days of music, what you see before you represents my absolute favorites from a decade’s worth of musical digestion. In all honesty, I could have easily filled the list with songs from my favorite band, Agalloch, but in order to remain credible they had to be excluded from consideration. Hopefully, you have the opportunity and pleasure to listen to some of these masterpieces and perhaps discover a new favorite yourself.

Forest of FogWalking the Endless Path

A one-man Swiss black metal band, Forest of Fog’s 2003 demo “Rabenflug” presents a completely instrumental tour through a slightly fuzzy woodland auditory landscape. This particular song incorporates a good variety of riffs interspersed with piano and traditional tremolo picking. The bass is barely present at best, but the song stands on its own with simply guitar and drums.

Abyssic HateDepression Part I

Countless metal greats have come from down under, and Abyssic Hate certainly keeps that tradition alive. The Australian band’s last full-length, “Suicidal Emotions”, features this nearly 13 minute track which becomes simply entrancing. Nothing fancy, but effective in evoking the minimalistic atmosphere of despair.

Windir – Mørket Sin Fyrste

Valfar, the mind behind the Norwegian band Windir, is widely respected as one of the greatest minds black metal has entertained. The track in question comes off the bands 1997 debut album “Sóknardalr”, and features one of my favorite Windir riffs throughout the song. Clocking in at over seven minutes, it’s one of Windir’s most epic songs both in length and content.

OpethDemon of the Fall

From 1998’s concept album “My Arms, Your Hearse”, this song contains some of Mikael Akerfeldt’s best screams and lyrics. I had the chance to see Demon of the Fall performed live this summer, and it blew my fucking mind. It definitely shines most when flowing into the next song, Credence; in fact, listen to the album in its entirety if possible.

Woods of YpresThe Ghosts of Summers Past

While it’s debatable whether this song is even metal, not even the cheesy lyrics can make the crescendo at the halfway point any less memorable. The Canadian band has been somewhat hit-and-miss with their full-lengths, but I honestly enjoy the eclectic variety of tempo shifts in this track.

Satanic WarmasterCarelian Satanist Madness

Switching between traditional tremolo picking and more melodic sections, this Finnish outfit produces some pretty standard in-your-face black metal. Coming off of the 2005 full-length by the same name, frontman Satanic Tyrant ties this eight minute track together with his shrieks, which range from entertaining to downright chilling.

Carpathian ForestCold Murderous Music

This Norwegian quartet would easily be one of my favorite black metal bands solely based on the number of inventive and curiously disturbing non-metal tracks they have produced. Featuring absolutely no guitar and focusing more on the haunting combination of raspy vocals and jazz-inspired saxophone, the lyrical content seems even more sinister than it would under the normal yoke of black metal.

HirilornWhere Lightning Strikes Eternally

The French scene has produced some of the most outstanding black metal bands of the past decade, and I think the predecessor to Deathspell Omega may be my favorite. Their use of catchy, cascading melodies makes its most prominent appearance on their 1997 demo “A Hymn to the Ancient Souls”. Luckily for consumers, some of the band’s best work has been repressed on vinyl. A must-listen for anyone who enjoys metal.

Black ForestDisappearing Pain

The oldest of the eight Black Forest members was 17 when they recorded “Sadness” in 2000. Seriously. My knowledge of doom metal is limited, but Russian bands normally do not have the level of maturity and quality that the band demonstrates. The song progresses so much over its duration that by the end I was simply in awe. While hard to find, the song leaves an indelible mark on a metal connoisseurs’ musical palate that will not be forgotten.

NargarothSeven Tears are Flowing to the River

Controversy surrounding frontman Kanwulf’s attempt to fabricate the band’s starting date aside, his ability to compose a purely mournful song cannot be denied. 2001’s “Black Metal Ist Krieg” shines mainly due to memorable covers of some pretty heavy black metal hitters (Moonblood, Root, etc.), but this track outshines all others on this album due to epic length (15 minutes!). Thankfully, monotony works for rather than against the song. Grab a scotch and enjoy this one.

In FlamesMoonshield

Mentioning this band to anyone remotely versed in metal these days will likely elicit a negative, condescending reaction. However, before their dissolution into uninspired shit-metal, this Swedish band was one of the pioneers of the Gothenburg melodic death metal style. This track kicks off their 1996 full-length “The Jester Race”, and perfectly embodies what to expect for the rest of the album. After the acoustic intro, your eardrums will be thanking you long after the song ends.

Nokturnal MortumGlass Coffin

For a first demo, this Ukranian black metal band does a fucking awesome job. If I had heard this song in 1995, I would have probably equated it with some evil rendition of Snow White’s funeral procession, and the multiple solos are much appreciated and sadly rare in most black metal. This release is a big departure from their recent work, so if you are not a fan of their symphonic releases, DO NOT immediately write this one off.

ArcturusAlone

Featuring Garm of Ulver fame on vocals, this song from the 1997 album “La Masquerade Infernale” can be described as nothing short of amazing. A recitation of an Edgar Allen Poe poem, the band pays a charitable homage to the spooky man by setting his words to their avant-garde musical stylings. Periods of intense riffing chaos are met with broad, sweeping astral/symphonic passages. Not one to pass up, and Garm’s clean vocals are simply a treat on top of an otherwise thick, richly-composed masterpiece.

MoonspellAlma Mater

One of the most passionate performances I have ever seen was when this Portuguese band struck up the intro to this song at a show… and immediately the crowd went nuts. Off of their 1995 debut album “Wolfheart”, the band’s shift toward more of a Gothic metal vein does not detract from the fraternal bond that the song evokes. And who does not like a good operatic verse or two? Fuck yeah.

Forgotten TombSolitude Ways

More generally associated with their long tradition of great prog, Italy’s Forgotten Tomb combines doom and black metal in a form I did not think possible. Herr Morbid’s shrieks sound like they come from some cavern deep within his chest, and the guitar work melds the two styles seamlessly. For a good romp through the mindset of depression, definitely check this one out.

EmpyriumChapter 2: Waldpoesie

This German band produces some of the most emotional music I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. From their 2002 neofolk album “Weiland”, the mix of orchestral elements, a capella, acoustic guitar and black metal vocals lends itself perfectly to a session of deep personal reflection. Transitioning from a slow combination of chords to a horn section may seem bizarre; within the scope of the song, its unexpected and yet strangely fitting. Again, enjoyment with a nice spirit is optional, but highly recommended.

Borknagar Colossus

Colossus remains one of my all-time favorites if for nothing else than Vortex’s fucking STELLAR vocal performance throughout the song as well as the entire 2000 album “Quintessence”. The song is solid all around, but the clean singing that emanates from his mouth sounds, at times, like the deep, rich tone from a bell. Coming from a scene that elevates a raw sound to greatness almost automatically, the pride taken in the production value of this song is greatly appreciated.

SuidakraWartunes

I might just be partial to intro songs, but the first track from Suidakra’s album “The Arcanum” certainly makes up for the lack of creativity present in the band’s name. The riffs are solid and the drums evoke a battle thundering onwards. Resting firmly in a melodic black/death realm, the song entertains from beginning to end and serves as a showpiece of German metal musicianship.

Deströyer 666The Eternal Glory of War

Comprising members from other Australian bands like Bestial Warlust and Razor of Occam, K.K. Warslut’s blackened thrash juggernaut churns out some seriously powerful tracks. I rank “Pheonix Rising” as one of the premier albums of the past decade, and the Chicago performance of this song in October changed the entire tempo of the show. People transformed into frenzied beasts, myself included, as their crunching riffs ushered us on towards an epic conflict. Listen. To. This.

Cirith GorgorWinter Embraces Lands Beyond

Normally I discount bands whose names are taken from Lord of the Rings immediately, just because of the overused, cliché association there. However, this band is far too musically talented and diverse to be overlooked. Their intro to this song, off the 199 debut full-length “Onwards to the Spectral Defile”, paints a picture before your eyes, something I dearly value within a song.

NachtmystiumDesolation

Before changing their style and hooking up with the Century Media label, the band used to have some clout within the underground black metal scene. The particular song discussed here comes from a 2004 split with Xasthur in which Xasthur’s frontman, Malefic, provides his haunting, ghostly vocals. Complimented by a fuzzy but heavily melodic riff progression, the elements come together into an intensely depressive journey.

DissectionMaha Kali

Rest In Peace, Jon Nödtveidt. Dissection was one of the pioneers of the Swedish death metal scene, and their 2006 album “Reinkaos” marked the end of the band’s history after Jon committed suicide. Citing that he had fulfilled everything he could accomplish in life, it is an epic note to go out on and comparable in quality to their earlier gems. This song oddly foreshadows his death, invoking the goddess Kali and death-worship. Definitely worth a listen to appreciate the influence Dissection had on the scene.

BathoryA Fine Day to Die

Do not be fooled by the acoustic intro… this song, from one of the most influential metal bands ever, will kick your ass. After hell creeps forth on the 1988 release of “Blood Fire Death”, frontman Quorthon evokes the best from the black and Viking metal genres. If you have not heard it before, you owe it to yourself, for the sake of metal history, to listen to this song.

Vital RemainsDechristianize

Glen Benton is a crazy man, but what this band brings to standard death metal leaves me in awe. Their 2003 album by the same name provides the usual apocalyptic riffs and impressive drumming, but when this song breaks into a melodic section it becomes a completely different beast. You can hear the high-pitched demonic shrieks alongside Benton’s guttural utterances, urging listeners to rid themselves of religious poison. And I did, as my brain exploded all over the wall.

GRAMPS in 77 Square!

Posted in 77 Square, avant-garde, black metal, death metal, Erebus, GRAMPS, Lords of the Trident, Madison Metal Scene, Madison Prog Scene, progressive rock, Uncategorized, Wisconsin State Journal with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

GRAMPS and local metal acts Lord of the Trident and Erebus have made the cover story of the Wisconsin State Journal offshoot 77 Square!

GRAMPS Article