Friday, May 4, 2018

Best of April 2018

As we head into May, let's take a listen back at the shower of solid soundscapes April allotted us. Below are my favorites from this past month. Enjoy!

Honorable Mention: "Hugsjá" - Ivar Bjørnson & Einar Selvik

In 2016, the duo of Ivar Bjørnson (Enslaved) & Einar Selvik (Wardruna) released, "Skuggsjá"; an incredible compilation of folk and extreme metal. Their followup "Hugsjá" is a stripped down album where choral and acoustic elements take center-stage. The album maintains the adventurous, story-driven lyrics and the instrumentation provides gallant background to the seafaring themes. If you happen to have a galleon, then this is your soundtrack.

Honorable Mention: "Tid" - Fedrespor

Fans of Heilung, Forndom, or other Scandanavian groups going for organic folk need to listen to this immediately.

5. "The Sciences" - Sleep

Sleep released this LP out of nowhere on the gospel 4/20. It's been roughly 20 years since, "Dopesmoker", graced grassy knolls and these guys still know how to impress with a piece of sci-fi stoner perfection. Below is one aptly titled track from the album.

4. "East of Sun" - Gatekeeper

Epic power metal performed exquisitely.

3. "Stars Swept into the Sea" - Unreqvited

A gorgeous synthesis of atmospheric black metal with symphonic and folk-infused undertones.

2. "Melted on the Inch" - Boss Keloid

Grizzled vocals and heavy chords converge with progressive components.

1. "The Scars of Man on the Once Nameless Wilderness Pt. 1 and Pt. 2" - Panopticon

Panopticon (Austin Lunn) has released a breathtaking double LP that goes above and beyond anything I've personally heard a solo artist release before. Part one is filled with aggressive, atmospheric black metal injected with Lunn's brand of Americana, while part two contains primarily country-folk flourishes. Take two hours and either go for a hike or drive through the countryside and let this album become you.

- The Catalyst

Friday, September 1, 2017

Weekend Playlist: September 1st, 2017

This week we have the stateside release of a magnetic female japanese power metal effort, the next album in Gothic metal band Paradise Lost's catalog, the new Anubis Gate, a desert trip with Red Mountains, a symphonic death metal epic by Septicflesh, and an ambient pop outing by White Moth Black Butterfly. Before we start though, I try to find posts by the band or label on Youtube, the Official Bandcamp page, or some other venue, but Mary's Blood is hard group to nail down as their YouTube currently only showcases tracks that are 3+ years old. Instead of posting nothing, I wanted to post a Deezer playlist, but that comes with its own issues. Hit the "expand" button in the top right corner to play and view the album. Deezer is a great service... when it works. They use old protocols for just about everything web-based so it's hard to get it to work. I am looking into getting a Spotify account instead to make this a bit easier. Of course, if you have an account on a streaming service I highly recommend checking these tracks out in full. Enjoy!

The Playlist

"Fate" - Mary's Blood

Mary's Blood released "Fate" back in October 2016 in Japan, but it took until this past week for the album to be officially released to the rest of the world. For those unfamiliar with Mary's Blood they are an all-female japanese power metal band -made up of several ex-Destrose members- with incredible talent, particularly Saki, whose guitarwork is up there with the leading talent in the genre; seriously, Gus G, Marty Friedman, and Kai Hansen might need to take down some pointers here. The band absolutely kills it, and deserves far more spotlight from genre aficionados and fans of heavy metal music as a whole.

"Medusa" - Paradise Lost

Over the years, Paradise Lost, has had plenty of variations on their gothic metal brand from more hardcore outings to more pop-gothic signatures. On "Medusa", the follow-up to 2015's incredible, "The Plague Within", the group nestles itself right in the middle of it's diverse catalog. "Medusa", could be seen as a "greatest hits" of sorts as songs vary from the high tempo "Blood and Chaos" to the slower ballad-esque "The Longest Winter". It's another solid outing from a band that continues to experiment without alienating.

"Covered in Black" - Anubis Gate

Anubix Gate is dead. Or alive. Er... kinda both. The band has been through so much trauma over the years from record contracts to health issues that no original member exists. Still, the group's overall sound hasn't suffered. Sure, "Covered in Black" could be considered a bit of a retread for the band, albeit with some heavier doses than usual, but it never once gets dull. The band may expand their horizons (pun intended, look up the band's discography) with future albums, but for now the group is sitting just fine sticking with what they know best and playing the hell out of it.

"Slow Wander" - Red Mountains

Red Mountains open "Slow Wander" with a slow torrential riff that pours over the listener like the setting sun in a hazy desert. The album breathes both psychedelic moments and romping desert/stoner rock, with vocalist/guitarist Magnus Riise, guitarist/vocalist Jostein Wigenstad, bassist Sverre Dalen and drummer Simen Mathiassen striding meaningfully towards the top of the peak. This is a triumph of a sophomore album. For now I only have a link to the debut single "Rat King", but will update with the full album once they post it so keep an ear on this space. Edit: Full album is up!

"Codex Omega" - Septicflesh

On their tenth album, "Codex Omega", Septicflesh offer another solid symphonic death metal outing. Besides the addition of a new drummer, Kerim "Krimh" Lechner, the outfit remains the same, along with their signature use of a real orchestra and chorus to back up the pulverizing death metal. This is a major step up from "Titan", and worth a look for fans of death and symphonic metal genres.

"Atone" - White Moth Black Butterfly

Founded by Daniel Tompkins (TesseracT) and Keshav Dhar after forming Skyharbor, White Moth Black Butterfly follows a different musical course from those two aforementioned groups. A passionate progressive pop outing, "Atone" continues where "One Thousand Wings" left off but with a bit more flair; branching out from the ambience that defined the first album. Acoustic guitar drives "The Serpent", and "Tempest", while more in line with "One Thousand Wings", glides with a pounding drumbeat. The whole album builds on the original sound with rich textures and addicting lyricism. If you need a bit of a break from the earlier albums in this post, or need something to relax to, White Moth Black Butterfly has you covered with their gorgeous, ethereal sophomore effort.

Hope you found something to listen to and have a great weekend!
- The Catalyst

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Weekend Playlist: August 25th, 2017

This week we have a new summer soundtrack by Queens of the Stone Age, a crushing return from The Haunted, a magnificent farewell from Pagan Altar, a folktronica album by relative newcomer Gordi, a journey into space with Howling Giant and another with Ruby the Hatchet, and plenty of others. This is a big weekend so let's get to it!

The Playlist

"Villains" - Queens of the Stone Age

When the singles for "Villains" released I was skeptical as the mastering seemed to hide the guitars low in the mix. Luckily, that seems to be a fluke, and streaming it upon release Homme's and Leeuwen's licks are as prevalent as ever. Homme's vocals at times feel almost Bowie-like as some tracks filter through space rock stylings; synth is utilized more than on previous QOTSA outings. The tracks are the perfect mix of fuzzy and frenetic, and despite coming the last week of August the album might easily be considered the soundtrack of the summer. Play it now, play it loud, repeat. See below for the complete playlist on Youtube posted by the band.

"Strength in Numbers" - The Haunted

The Haunted has always been on the precipice of greatness. 2004's "Revolver" was the closest they got when Peter Dolving took over vocals from Marco Aro who then returned to the group with a brand new lineup in 2012. "Strength in Numbers" shows the new band coming together nicely after a couple of releases with crushing riffs and solid song structure. Fans of melo-death/groove should plug this one in asap. Check out the music video for "Preachers of Death" below posted by label Century Media Records.

"The Room of Shadows" - Pagan Altar

Pagan Altar have had a fairly obtuse career starting things off with a demo in 1982, then laying dormant for nearly 20 years to return with a decade string of some of the best NWOBHM/Classic Doom albums ever released (1998-2006). In 2014, the group was to release another masterpiece, but things were put on hold when singer Terry Jones was diagnosed with cancer. He eventually succumbed in 2015, and the album seemed lost forever. Thankfully, the band didn't want to see Jones' legacy end on such a note so they pieced together the vocals he had recorded for the 2014 album, and re-recorded the accompanying music. From this process, "The Room of Shadows" was built, and it is as glorious an album as one could expect. While there are times the limitations of such an effort show up with some repeated lyrics, the music is so well composed and performed that it feels like a minor footnote. Alan Jones (Terry's son) fires on all frets, while Diccon Harper (bass) and Andy Green (drums) keep the momentum moving. It's a stellar release that not only shows the talent of those involved, but acts as the perfect swansong for Terry and Pagan Altar as a whole.

"Reservoir" - Gordi

On her debut EP, "Clever Disguise", Gordi melded electronica and folk, and with her first LP shows how powerful and mesmerizing lyrics can mean more than the music behind it. This isn't to say that Gordi's approach isn't also musically inclined with inventive takes on percussion in "Heaven I Know" backed by powerful piano chords. The album's a very personal journey from an artist who's just beginning a strong career.

"Black Hole Space Wizard: Pt. 2" - Howling Giant

Begin Transmission: Howling Giant are simply massive as they travel the galaxy creating rich textures with their instrumentation and combating the evil forces bent on destroying time, space, and fun. Join them on their quest to bring the breakdowns of the Druids to those less fortunate, and spread knowledge across the 'verse of this extremely brave and talented band: End Transmission.

"Planetary Space Child" - Ruby the Hatchet

Ruby the Hatchet continues to push the boundaries of psych rock, and "Planetary Space Child" is chock full of spacy riffs, psychedelic grooves, and plenty of satisfying synth. Not to mention Jillian Taylor's epic croons which blend splendidly with the music and continue to be a highlight.

"Amain" - Crimfall

A sweeping folk metal epic with very good production values and impeccable storytelling. Be warned there are death growls, but the band melds choral and female vocals alongside it so don't let it steer you away.

"Finisterre" - Der Weg einer Freiheit

"Finisterre" is an album full of atmospheric black metal that hits hard; if that makes any sense. Der Weg einer Freiheit knows when to slow things down, when to add in a few driving riffs, and when to let all hell break lose.

"Ett Fjärran Kall" - Fornhem

Fornhem executes a more traditional take on black metal intertwining folk elements similar to groups like Bathory. The dichotomy produces an album that's both cold and warming. If you're a fan of classic black metal stylings give this one a listen.

"Burn the World" - Portrait

In case you didn't have enough NWOBHM with Pagan Altar's release here's a more straight up heavy metal album in the vein of Judas Priest. Portait shred, and sometimes that's all it takes.

Hope you found something to listen to and have a great weekend!

- The Catalyst