Posts Tagged ‘Progressive’

Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The arrival of this album in my inbox gave me pause for thought. Their debut album, the brilliantly-titled Iron Balls of Steel was a full five years ago. I reviewed it, and raved about it. And I realise I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. Over that time, bands – great bands, shit bands, mediocre and forgettable bands – have come and gone. And now, Loincloth, whom I praised for their ‘megalithic chunks of undecorated, heads-down behemoth guitar riffage and earth-shuddering rhythms hewn from colossal slabs of basalt’, are entering the catalogue of bands gone.

The press release includes the following statement: “Loincloth is no longer a live band, so this record is our final offering not only to the great horned one below, but to the committed ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth.” Still, what a sign-off. Never mind the ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth: the nine shuddering riffcentric sonic barrages that form Psalm Of The Morbid Whore are terrifyingly heavy, dingy and gut-churning enough to leave the listener close to touching cloth. As such, while their departure is sad news, the delivery of this awe-inspiring musical gift is a cause to rejoice for those who like their shit heavy.

The press release pitches Psalm Of The Morbid Whore as ‘packing nine new instrumental passages of white-knuckled twists, and by-the-throat percussion, into a half-hour’.  But this fails to convey, even slightly, the grungey riffs which jolt and jar, shuddering through a stop/start chug of thick distortion. Between the blastbeats and thunderous culminations of bass and rhythm guitar twist sinewy lead guitar lines that spread and unfurl like foliage spreading in a mystical forest. Also emerging from the swamps are fleeting moments of prog-hued illumination.

It also overlooks the progression between Psalm Of The Morbid Whore and its predecessor. While the tracks are, on the whole, short, there are a number of longer workouts, with the final cut, ‘Ibex (To Burn in Hell Is To Refine)’ running to almost eight minutes (twice the length of the lengthiest piece on Iron Balls). And, significantly, the tone has shifted, from the slightly jokey or flippant-sounding ‘Underwear Bomb’, ‘Shark Dancer’ and ‘The Moistener’ of the debut the to the subterranean savagery of religious / pagan coloured titles like ‘Necro Fucking Satanae’, ‘Pentecost Dissident’, ‘Bestial Infernal’. Psalm Of The Morbid Whore is dense, dark, and heavy, and while in some respects less claustrophobic than its predecessor, it feels more focused, less metal, more grunge, and also more groove orientated.

But most importantly, Psalm Of The Morbid Whore retains the dirty, unpolished primitivism worthy of a band named Loincloth.

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Constellation

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been 29˚C in the shade today. I’ve been awake since 4am for the second day in a row, and at work in the day-job since 7:30am. I’m a flustered, strung-out sticky mess, dying of hayfever, trying to hold it together and keep myself cool and hydrated with a constant flow of Scrumpy Jack. It’s not working. But I am: instead of kicking back or chilling out, I’m desperately trying to chisel out words in my cramped home office space where it’s so humid I can barely breathe. And instead of taking the easy option of one of the million mellifluous ambient works in my never-ending to-review pile, or taking a soft hit with some straight ahead metal or whatever, I’m battling with this dizzyingly diverse effort by Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

Sold as a kraut-rock ensemble, Montreal collective Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche (which translates, I believe as ‘with the sun coming out of his mouth’) pack myriad influences into their second album. Although containing ten tracks, it’s ostensibly an album built around three primary movements.

Psychedelic rock, krautrock, desert rock, punk rock, noise rock, afrobeat, experimental pop, post-rock, electronic; all are touchstones for Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche.

The album’s first track, ‘Trans-pop Express I’ manages to combine hypnotic psychedelic desert rock with wibbly analogue retro-futuristic spacey electronica and some kind of warped gospel/country infusion. It bleeds invisibly into the hypnotic pulsating riff-trippery of ‘Trans-pop Express II’

The opening minutes of the second movement ‘Alizé et Margaret D. Midi moins le quart. Sur la plage, un palmier ensanglanté’ (of which there are three parts) marries a martial beat to some skittering world music vibe and tops it with a desperate, yodelling vocal holler that’s far wide of carrying a corresponding melody, or even a tune. Over the course of the piece as a whole, the band push into new territories by unconventional roads. This is essentially the key to the pleasure to be found in Pas pire pop. Avec le soleil sortant de sa bouche are clearly a band who please themselves first and foremost, and enjoy themselves in doing so. And yet they largely swerve indulgence by virtue of their sense of movement: the tracks build and bed, trip and transition: the explosive crescendo at the end of the aforementioned first part of ‘Alizé et Margaret D’ is killer, and immediately loops back to the opening proggy motif on the second part. It’s like skipping back in time, like a glitch in the time continuum. It’s a minor detail in many ways, but it’s also a minor work of genius.

The final movement – in a colossal five parts – begins with a sweeping orchestral cascade which gushes every whichway over a thumping dance groove. It’s merely the beginning of a crazy journey through jazzy math-rock and noodlesome post-rock via some hefty noise and some Talking Heads-y post-punk oddness that works its way to a nifty finale by route of a tightly-woven funk groove meted to some clattering drums while whizzing electronic details fly like comes into the distance.

I’m oozing perspiration from every pore, especially the backs of my various joints: the knees, the elbows, the groin, and I find myself contemplating the complex musical conjunctions within the framework of the shifting tubular geometry of my limbs in context of the insane, overwhelming heat and its effect on my capacity for focused, linear thought, as if existing in some stylized Ballardian landscape of the mind.

 

Avec le Soliel

Season of Mist – 4th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Bronze is the sixth album by Crippled Black Phoenix, the current musical vehicle for Justin Greaves, who has a remarkable CV which features Iron Monkey, Electric Wizard, The Varukers, and Earth 2 referencing drone supergroup Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine. They’ve spent a good few years mining a fresh seam of dark progressive music, and Bronze is an album which qualifies unreservedly for the label of ‘epic’.

As the pre-release blurb helpfully points out, ‘Bronze consists primarily of copper, but it is the inclusion of other metals and non-metals that gives this alloy its specific characteristics. Ever since mankind discovered the secret of its making thousands of years ago, the golden and shining bronze has changed the course of history, spawned destruction and war, yet also been crafted into desired objects of extreme beauty.’

And so it is that the first track, the expansive organ-style synth-soaked instrumental ‘Dead Imperial Bastard’ opens the album with a darkly funereal instrumental. ‘Deviant Burials’ locks into some solid riffing which contrasts with some surprisingly easy-going vocals, and the contrast between melody and driving guitars calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age in their poppier moments, before veering off into more overtly progressive territories with some expansive post-metal dynamics.

‘Rotten Memories’ is the album’s shortest track, and offers something approximating a dark pop song, albeit in the vein of the piano-led power ballad beloved during the 80s. it is, of course, but an interlude before the immense ‘Champions of Disturbance (pt 1 & 2)’, which segue together to form a nine-minute epic. It’s prog, for sure, but in the post-Oceansize sense, a sinewy, riff-led behemoth. ‘Goodbye Then’ brings wistful melancholia, which contrasts with the psych-tinged hard rock of ‘Turn to Stone’, and it’s clear that on this outing, Greaves has brought a whole host of stylistic elements to the party to produce an album that’s got range and depth and which brings emotional evocativeness as well as cinematicism and bombast.

The emotional depth is no fabrication: Greaves recently ‘went public’ about his personal fight against severe depression, and as the press release notes, ‘for him, not letting the “black dog” devour you is a big message mixed within his songs.

That doesn’t mean that Bronze is an easy or entirely uplifting album. In fact, it’s an album of remarkable range, and an album which is often awkward and emotionally bleak. While downtempo epics like ‘Losing a Winning Battle’ bring an expansive, progtastic darkness, what really shines through with ‘Bronze’ is its immense range, as well as its scope and ambition, which is matched by its ambition and production, this is a big album and perfectly executed.

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2nd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With seven tracks and a running time in excess of half an hour, it’s one hell of an EP. ‘Elderflower’ is also a whole lot more than the prescriptive ‘post-rock’ tag attached to the duo. Much as I appreciate labelling as much as the next time-pressed music journo struggling to place a band and clutching for pointers for pitching a band in a review, and much as I like a lot of what slots into the post-rock bracket, Defy the Ocean are a band who create music that simply cannot be readily classified on their expansive and accomplished new release.

For a start, it’s more rock than post rock. It’s pretty loud. It’s pretty heavy. There are a lot of vocals. None of these are bad things, and ‘Elderflower’ is a work of depth, range and power. From the get-go, they demonstrate a knack for shifting between segments and moods with real panche, dragging the listener along with them: ‘Rest’, the first track may only clock in at two minutes and fifty-five, but it’s got more twists and turns and ideas and emotional range than some bands’ entire albums.

‘Veils’ is restrained, darkly atmospheric, moody and is perhaps the most post-rock track of the set. But it’s got a bleak, metallic edge that also tips a nod to the mid 90s alternative rock sound.

The title track breaks into full-on grunge mode, the quiet / loud dynamic and brooding atmosphere more Alice in Chains and Soundgarden than I Like Trains, and the crushing power chords are thick and heavy, and paired with a drawling vocal delivery, it calls to mind Melvins – the mellow piano breakdown notwithstanding. ‘Brine’ is serpentine, stripped back, and provides a distinct contrast with its chiming guitars which does call to mind I Like Trains – but then again, the burst of powerchords, distorted vocal and full driving climax, alludes to millennial progressive acts like Oceansize, Amplifier, Porcupine Tree, Anathema, and if anything, ‘Vessel’ amalgamates neoprog with the desert rock vibe of Queens of the Stone Age and their ilk. There’s a lot going on here, and it’s all well-assembled and musically articulate.

Everything about ‘Elderflower’ points to a band who aren’t confined to any one format or bank of instruments, which makes for a refreshingly varied collection of songs, and one which demands repeated listening in order to reveal its full richness.

 

Defy the Ocean EP

Swedish progressive rock/metal innovators Pain of Salvation will release a very special reissue version of their 2002 album “Remedy Lane” entitled “Remedy Lane Re:visited (Re:mixed & Re:lived)” on July 1st, 2016 via InsideOutMusic.

They’ve unveiled a statc audio clip of ‘Rope Ends (Remix)’ on YouTube  by way of a taster. Check its epicness out here:

 

Pain of Salvation

Christopher Nosnibor

Having only recently found TesseracT on my radar through their latest album, Polaris, which is vast in its ambition and the scope of its realisation, I arrived with no real knowledge of their back catalogue, or what to expect from a live show. I realise, on arriving well after doors to find a queue halfway down the Brudenell’s car park on a soggy Sunday night, I’d also no real idea of their popularity.

The crowd are unexpectedly hip; lots of dudes with beards and plaid shirt, but then, also multitudinous hoodies and gothy / metal chicks. I’m 40 and very much in the older minority – along with the guy in the Europe T-shirt, who must have at least 10 years and 5 stone on me. I say unexpectedly, because the meaning of the band’s name perhaps gives a fair indication of what the Milton Keynes quintet are about, and their progressive / mathematical inclinations: ‘In geometry, the tesseract is the four-dimensional analog of the cube; the tesseract is to the cube as the cube is to the square. Just as the surface of the cube consists of six square faces, the hypersurface of the tesseract consists of eight cubical cells. The tesseract is one of the six convex regular 4-polytopes.’

Is prog cool now? The one thing to be clear on here is that progressive rock has, in fact, progressed. The new breed – the neo-prog brigade, if you will – are a world away from the indulgence of the likes of Yes, ELP, early Genesis. Tonight’s lineup places the emphasis very strongly on the rock element, and it’s perhaps too not difficult to unravel the appeal of music that’s cerebral and articulate, but packs a real punch at the same time.

I only catch a fleeting glimpse of Nordic Giants, but it’s enough to remind me of what a spellbinding live act they are. Resonant bass and rolling piano fill the room while the feathered duo play before a backdrop of dramatic visuals which accentuate the cinematic qualities of their expansive progressive / post-rock instrumentals.

I usually do a spot of research into the support acts prior to turning up to review bands, but The Contortionist are a completely unknown quantity to me – and I’m clearly in the minority. But then, the fact a band from Indianapolis of some considerable standing are supporting a UK band around Europe is in itself quite a deal. And they’re certainly not slack as a live act.

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The Contortionist

While they’re very much a technical band, with intricate guitar parts defining their sound, they’re paired with a thunderous bass sound that’s pure metal – and corresponds with the preponderance of beards and leather jackets on display. When they go for the heavy, The Contortionist do heavy, and there are many epic chug sections propelled by some powerful double-stroke kick drumming during the course of their 45-minute set. As impressive as the music is, I’m also impressed by vocalist Mike Lessard’s vascular arms. At times, it does feel a shade pompous and that there’s a lack of engagement between band and audience, but I don’t see any of those pressed into the front rows complaining.

Some may argue that TesseracT aren’t so much a prog act as exponents of djent, or at least exemplars of the bands who emerged from the microgenre which itself grew out of progressive metal in the wake of bands like Meshuggah and Sikth. The point is, it’s heavily technical, and yes, a bit muso – the stage is cluttered with eight-string guitars and five and six-string basses, which are used to create some of the most bewilderingly complex music, both in terms of notation and time signatures, not to mention the tempo changes and dynamic leaps between the multiple sections of each song. But they sure as hell know how to let rip in the riffage stakes, too.

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TesseracT

Benefiting from a big lighting rig to illuminate their vast arena sound, they perform like an arena band, and pull out all the stops. Daniel Tompkins’ return to the fold has clearly had an impact on both the sound and the style of the performance: he spends the set at the front, leaning over the crowd and projecting, while switching effortlessly between thick, throaty vocals and a clean, melodic range. They manage to lift a fair chunk of their debut album, while also fairly representing both Altered State and Polaris – as you might expect from a set that runs for around an hour and a half, and much to the delight of the packed-out audience.

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TesseracT

Again, there are times when I feel the rock posturing actually builds a significant separation between band and audience, who standm rapt, as Tompkins postures and powers his way through the songs. But then, I see just how happy everyone is. It may be a 450-capacity venue, but it feels like an arena show. TesseracT play like they’re rock deities, and the audience respond in kind. And that’s cool. Certain bands require a degree of inaccessibility, of otherness to really work, and that’s very much the case with TesseracT. They’re a band with big ideas, a big sound, a big lighting rig and some big tunes, and they pull the whole deal off with aplomb.