Archive for the experimental Category

Cryptopsy – “Once Was Not”

Posted in album review, cryptopsy, death metal, experimental, technical metal, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2010 by GRAMPS Pantheon

Perhaps it’s a worn topic by now.  Cryptopsy’s surprising foray into trendy deathcore simplicity threw their fans, and most of the extreme metal community, for a loop.  Their pseudo goth/bondage attire and feau-hawks, though appalling, served as the perfect compliment to their new-found bitchy attitudes and staunch assurance that deathcore was their new genre of choice.  Now, I have this idea.  Maybe I should say, a hope.  A hope that their latest musical output, The Unspoken King, is nothing more than an elaborate hoax, meant as a parody to the recent surge of so-called heavy and brutal deathcore bands.  For, how could a band that had just released Once Was Not, one of the most exhausting yet ultimately beautiful death metal albums, spit out this simple garbage?  Every time I listen to Once Was Not, I’m forced to ponder this baffling phenomenon.

Once Was Not is not without its detractors though, something else that I can never quite understand.  Being that extreme metal is such a revolt against typical music, it is surprising to see this album continuously lambasted for its experimental nature.  To recreate another Blasphemy Made Flesh or None So Vile would be a disgrace to those albums and is always behavior typical of a band that is burning out (Immortal, I’m looking at you!).  Though, based on many of the critical responses for this album, it seems that people wanted and expected this, especially given Lord Worm’s triumphant return as vocalist.  To me, Once Was Not is the necessary evolution of Cryptopsy, capturing the brutality of their older works while instilling a greater sense of scale and complexity.

The overarching theme of war is both sonically and lyrically conveyed without fail.  Their use of unorthodox sounds and composition, while the butt of most criticism, are probably the most integral characteristics to this album’s believability as a testament to war.  How else should war’s unpredictable and chaotic nature be conveyed than by instrumentation set to the same tune?  Starting with the framework of death metal, Cryptopsy takes the genre’s staple characteristics – blast beats, growled vocals, heavily distorted guitars – and re-imagines them into the context of the album.  Riffs are highly unique for death metal, conveying anything from impending doom (“Angelskingarden”) to contemplativeness (“The Pestilence That Walketh in Darkness”).  Flo’s drumming is at it’s best, working alongside the guitars with unyielding complexity. Meanwhile, Lord Worm’s raspy snarls are in top-form as he narrates the various atrocities and eventually forces the listener to grasp the utter horror that results from war.  Perhaps the most perfect symbiosis of music, lyrics, and consequent imagery comes with the final track “Endless Cemetary.” We are presented with the end of a battle, perhaps even the war itself:

“Cold blue lips frame (a) yard-wide grin
that Calls to flesh, to let it in,
and thus indulge its Yearning
come the unDawn

Roam the endless Cemetary of what once was,
(where) the Allfeeling is never truly Gone”

As if he were speaking from the cold and blue lips of Death itself, Lord Worm changes his vocals to a shrill, black metal shriek after the music builds in order to deliver his final, horrible message:  Ultimately, Death has won.  Just as he finishes screaming, the music immediately ends, with this abruptness being yet another reminder of the randomness of death in a war environment.  In effect, we’ve become another member of the endless cemetery, experiencing the suddenness of death in musical form.

Maybe in retrospect, after the horror of The Unspoken King, some of Once Was Not’s harshest critics can look back and see this experimental and technical Cryptopsy in a new light.  Here we see a band that set out to tackle the worn topic of war in a holistic approach, embodying the topic’s spirit both in concept and in sound.  Rather than the “experimentation” that occurred on The Unspoken King, Once Was Not actually pushes the boundaries of death metal.  Not through implementing trendy pig squeals and slower Korn-esque songs, but with immensely difficult and complex songs that force the listener to dig deeper in every consecutive listen to fully appreciate them.  Here’s to hoping that the next Cryptopsy album follows in this fashion!

Max

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

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