Saturday, February 16, 2013

Best somewhat metal(ish) albums 2012

The Pirate Ship Quintet

Rope For No-Hopers
Preview: You're Next

The Pirate Ship Quintet is a six-piece post-rock band from Bristol, England playing post-rock / contemporary classical / screamo. I found these guys a few year back with their self-titled debut EP. Especially the Pirate Ship song stuck in my head for weeks, mostly due to the astonishing combination of cello, trumpet and the ordinary instruments. Mostly their songs are instrumental, but there are subtle screams in the background and they sound a bit sludge in my ears. The contrast may sound strange, but it actually works. 

Rope For No-Hopers is their first full length featuring five compositions and a total running time of 48 minutes. The songs are pretty much guitar driven, but the cello arrangements are done masterfully and the flow of the songs is interesting. These guys won me over with their stellar musicianship, atmosphere and songwriting. If you crave for post-rock with a new twist, you should definitely give these guys are try.

Les Discrets
Ariettes oubliées...

Image yourself sitting in Paris (actually Lyon as this is where the band originates) sipping your precious red wine with baguette in some small cafeteria where the pale brick-walls accompany your quiet moment and the subtle autumn wind tickles your chin. That's pretty close how I feel when I put Les Discrets on. There are hints of shoegaze / post-rock but the sound is very fragile, light and airy. They are masters in painting a world where the atmosphere is soothing and dreamy.

The mastermind Fursy Teyssier is a very artistic person and a talented painter. He has e.g. created Alcest's Écailles de Lune album cover and has also played bass in Alcest's live in 2010. You can find some of his other works from this location. Ariettes Oubliées features astonishing sounds and extraordinary artwork (ordered myself the art book version presenting Teyssier's fabulous paintings). It is a gentle journey towards the night where you gaze at the sky as the last rays of sunlight fade out and disappear in the horizon.


Anathema like Katatonia changed it's style a long time ago from death doom to atmospheric/depressive rock. They blew me away with their previous album, We're Here Because We're Here, and I thought he couldn't top that...well, I was wrong. Weather Systems would be in my TOP5 releases if I would combine the metal and not-so metal albums together, but as it is a really tough job I decided to keep the genres apart from each other. Maybe next year I can blend them all in one single list and cover 50 to 60 albums. 

Weather Systems is the finest non-metal Anathema album to date. The opening duet, Untouchable Part 1 & 2 are the finest songs Danny Cavanagh has created and in my books two of the finest songs created last year. However, I firmly believe they can only get better. Weather Systems has received a lot of praise in the media and these guys really deserve it. Anathema is now in top form with Cavanagh brothers on fire and the beautiful voice of Lee Douglas. I cannot wait to see what they come up with next. It's like what Vincent Cavanagh, Danny's brother, said at the end their last concert in Tampere: "Go and check our merchandise over there at the end of the concert. There is so much we have done already, but there will be so much more we will do in the future. Thanks."

Killing Joke

Preview: In Cythera

I had no idea who Killing Joke was when I accidentally found myself in their gig in Ilosaarirock a few years back. At that time they didn't connect with me totally, but there was something about them that stuck with me. In 2010 their previous album Absolute Dissent received a lot of praise and it also ended on my album rotation. Especially The Great Cull, In Excelsis, European Super State and the last song, Ghosts Of Ladbroke Grove, with its reggae kind of sound was great. 

MMXII is their 15th studio album to date featuring ten post-punkish tracks. They follow the same sound created in Absolute Dissent, which is a good thing if you ask me. To some extend the synthesizer melodies are dark and doomy, the guitar is a bit down-toned and the overall vibe is industrial. Coleman's vocals are top notch and the production is great. Most memorable songs for me are Pole Shift, Rapture and In Cythera.

One funny thing I have to comment here. As these guys have been around from 1978, they have stripped down all unnecessary tricks from their live act and the guitarist Geordie Walker with his ridiculous hat looks like he's in a wrong concert. The live act pretty much relies on singer Jaz Coleman's charisma and energy. I've seen them now three times and so far they have delivered every time. I'd say they are pretty much respected as they have been in many festivals together with the nastiest black metal acts. If you happen to spot Killing Joke on a rooster, be sure to check them out, you might be surprised.



Preview: Bermuda Riviera

AtomA was created from the ashes of Slumber a few years ago. Slumber had only one album in 2004, Fallout, but I am sure all death doom lovers remember it quite well. It is one of the finest albums in the genre and I strongly recommend to check it out!

AtomA is a totally different chapter and the sound is atmospheric and electric. The hardcore metal heads probably stay away from this record for that reason, but give it a chance. I have been spinning Skylight close to 20 times now and I like it very much. The title song is the only one featuring harsh vocals and fast drumming, the others are more synthesizer driven with clean vocals. The genre label could be post-rock or space/atmospheric rock I would say. Why do I care about the genres so much? Actually I don't, but if you are reading this I am trying to save you some time by trying to describe what you are about to experience. 

Skylight is a great album from start to finish. The message here is sinister: the world is about to end due to humanity's greed, deceiving and loathing. We need to find a shelter for the survivors and fight for our existence. My personal favorites are Skylight, Highway, Bermuda Riviera and Cloud Nine. This a great disc to have in your car. I urge you to put it on when the first rays of spring are about to blind you. As the atmosphere surrounds you, within minutes you'll find yourself tapping the steering wheel and painting landscapes in your head. If you find yourself speeding due to the music, do not blame me! Drive carefully.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Best metal albums 2012 - Album Of The Year

Preview: Xenoflux

When I first stumbled across to And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope about a year ago, I thought my head exploded. It was a song I had never heard before: it started with flamenco theme, then changed to progressive death metal, then the most impressive violin I've heard in metal took over again and it finished with progressive black metal. I googled these guys immediately and what do you know: Melbourne, Australia strikes again! I became so obsessed with Ne Obliviscaris that it didn't take long until I had their debut album, Portal Of I, in my hands. NeO had released their self-released demo in 2007 where Tapestry of the Starless Abstract, Forget Not and As Icicles Fall were present already, but they have been rearranged and recomposed for Portal Of I along with four completely new songs. The overall running time is more than 71 minutes and the shortest clocks just under six minutes

Portal Of I features some of the most imaginative, talented, epic and complex songwriting I have heard in a long, long time. What strikes me the most is that the violin is as important as the guitar, bass or drums which is extraordinary to me. It hasn't just been mixed in, on the contrary the arrangements have been built around the violin. It is quite clear that this album is not for everyone cause it requires your full attention to understand all the hooks, breaks, interludes and transitions. There are five songs which are over 10 minutes long, so these guys don't let you go easy. For me that is the beauty of this album: you will always find new perspectives and angles and I can guarantee it is not monotonous, simple or boring. Lineup consists of six young lads with two vocalists, Xenoyr responsible for harsh vocals and the brilliant violinist Tim Charles doing the clean vocals. NeO manages to exploit this duality extremely well and the contrast works very well. On emotional level I feel the vocals are better than on technical. That is only a minor flaw and as these dudes are only in their late 20's and can only improve over the years.

This was my album of the year in the fall 2012, but there were a couple of others I was waiting to be released before my final judgement. I thought it was a wise choice to linger with my final verdict and with songs like Xenoflux, And Plague Flowers The Kaleidoscope and Of Petrichor Weaves Black Noise, Portal Of I is my Album Of The Year with flying colors. The creativity, songwriting and musicianship really blows me away and I have to give credit where it is due. Sometimes I still cannot believe this is only their debut album. On the other hand, if I would have missed out these guys I would have been super pissed. The album in its entirety is so strong, ambitious and different that looking back now it feels like I never really had a choice. 

Now if only I could witness Ne Obliviscaris and Be'lakor together...that doesn't even have to be a dream, it has already happened in Australia. Hot damn, I have to start saving money again for my Tour Australia & New Zealand.

Best metal albums 2012 - 2nd Position

Preview: Abeyance

I have been a huge fan of these guys from 2007 since their debut album, The Frail Tide, was released. There was just something fresh, vibrant and immediate headbanging likability about this band. Be'lakor (a demon from the tabletop game Warhammer) hails from Melbourne, Australia and plays melodic death metal in the vein of Insomnium and Dark Tranquillity, but they have a developed their own unique, progressive sound and it sets them apart from the mass if you ask me. When I first heard about them, I was pretty sure they come from Europe. I was pleasantly surprised learning they come from Australia, cause really didn't know Australian metal scene that well. Later I have hooked up with a couple of Aussies via music network only to find out that the metal scene there is vast, intriguing and of high quality.

Of Breath and Bone consists of eight songs and duration of the album is 56:15. The songs are long, melodic, epic and versatile with many tempo changes, hooks and highlights. I don't know the story why this cover art was chosen, but I know some people don't even listen to the music cause it doesn't have skulls, crosses upside down, blood, black forest or other things usually expected in metal album cover. Don't let that fool you. The music is still what matter at the end of the day. What they master the best is the epic songwriting combined with stellar musicianship, memorable riffs and melodic flow of the songs. My favorite songs are Abeyance, Remnants, Fraught, In Parting and The Dream And The Waking. I could easily name all songs, cause there are no fillers on this album. There is not really much to complain about this album and I have been going back and forth whether this should hold the number 1 position or not. However, I still believe that these guys are capable of creating even better albums, so that is my only excuse to rate this on second position. Then again if you ask me tomorrow, I could have another opinion.

I could go on and on how frustrated I am not seeing them live yet, but then again bringing these guys from all the way from down under to Finland requires much more than a few enthusiastic bloggers. Luckily they are rapidly becoming more popular (however on a metal music scale) among metal community and they have been playing in Middle European Metal festivals in summer 2011 and 2012. I hope to catch them live soon and until that happens I keep spinning their discography, so should you!

Best metal albums 2012 - 3rd Position

Napalm Death has been around from the beginning of 80's. At that time they were labeled as hardcore punk, which later became the famous grindcore act we know. As I was doing my homework, I was surprised to see Lee Dorrian (Cathedral) doing the vocals on the first two full lengths. Mark Greenway or "Barney" as we know him, took over the vocals duties in 1989 and appears in the third album Harmony Corruption for the first time. I am writing this mostly to myself in order to learn my history, I know there are many of you who know this much, much better.

I really recognized them in the mid 2000's as The Code Is Red...Long Live The Code was released in 2005. Their signature trademark is still the same: short, ferocious songs filled with raw energy and attitude accompanied with Barney's angry vocals. For me the most difficult thing was to get used to the idea that the songs do not build up slowly reaching over ten minutes, they are straightforward, in-your-face and simplified. For some reason I've thought the guys to be much older being around more than 25 years, but Shane is now 45, Danny 43, Mitch 43 and Barney 43 so they are not relics by any means. In fact Utilitarian only proves that these guys are on top of their game and while they have refined their sound like adding saxophone and clean vocals, they are still very much the Napalm Death you fell in love with.

Utilitarian grew on me little by little like a malignant tumor and finally took over my entire body. What I really like about the album is that sound is sharp, clear and heavy. There are 16 songs altogether, but they don't wear you out. The energy and power are very dominant and carry the album beautifully from start to finish. One thing that I have to also mention here is that  Barney is really on fire! Judging by his performance in Tuska Open Air 2012 he delivers with ease without any studio reproduction. His stage present is like a school teacher: no tattoos (none that I know of), short & decent haircut and a shaved face. However once the intro is over, it is like a beast or unholy spirit possesses him and he starts jumping around the stage, shivering and delivering the angry message. He seems to be enjoying it anyway and remembers to thank the audience between the songs. One thing I learnt in the summer too was that Napalm Death do not use roadies, they do that themselves. I don't know why, but it makes me respect them ever more.

So without further ado Napalm Death is here to stay and I hope they remain healthy and motivated, I am ready for another assault!!