Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Clamfight - I Versus the Glacier (2013)

Clamfight [ Website | Facebook | Bandcamp ]
I Versus the Glacier
The Maple Forum

Clamfight - I Versus the Glacier
The New Jersey music scene doesn't necessarily conjure up thoughts of Southern-styled stoner rock. Nor does the name Clamfight, for that matter. The two taken together tend to make me think of something punk or riot grrl in nature, but these four fellas from the Jersey side of Philly offer up a sound that shares a close kinship with bands such as Clutch, Kyuss, and The Sword. I Versus the Glacier, the band's sophomore full-length release, is a groovy slab of heavy with a dash of sludge thrown in for character.

Clamfight's overall sound is rooted in the classic guitar stylings perfected by some of heavy metal's progenitors - Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, even a hint of Thin Lizzy can be heard now and again. Sean McKee and Joel Harris, Clamfight's two axeslingers, excel whether in tandem or breaking out for an individual lick or solo. Lingering primarily in the lower reaches of the six-string spectrum, the riffs on I Versus the Glacier are muddy, groovy, and varied enough to easily avoid the pitfalls of stagnation. McKee and Harris routinely add yet another layer of appeal by tossing around classic, blues-influenced solos to give the album a strong connection to the familiar sounds of the NWOBHM movement. "Sandriders", a song written in homage to Frank Herbert's Dune, exemplifies Clamfight's marriage of stoner rock and classic heavy metal. The urgency to the riffs stands in sharp contrast to drummer/vocalist Andy Martin's mellow beats, lending the song a sort of multifaceted charm that's tied together by a few crisp solos. On "River of Ice", Mckee and Harris rely predominantly on crafting hypnotic, reverb-laden riffs to generate a muscle-relaxing groove. Heightening the "chill" factor are some barely discernible leads, making this track my favorite mood-enhancing ride of the album (next to the instrumental "The Green Gods of Yag").

The more psychedelic elements typically associated with the stoner style are actually quite rare on I Versus the Glacier. Besides "Rivers of Ice", Clamfight's only outright foray into the tangled forest of trippiness occurs during the final moments of the title track. Initially, the swirling, nicely varied riffs fit in perfectly with the album's overall classic metal feel - even parting the veil to allow for a couple of brief, bass-heavy breakdowns. Without warning, however, the straightforward structure melts away to be replaced by a synthesized sensory explosion.

As enjoyable and relatively familiar as the music is on I Versus the Glacier, one crucial element to the band's sound sets Clamfight apart from many of their peers - the vocal style of drummer Andy Martin. Existing somewhere between sludge and black metal, Martin's voice is a raspy reminder that Clamfight is consciously working to carve out their own niche within the genre. Martin enunciates well and isn't as abrasive as some of the sludge-slinging singers out there, but for me the appeal of I Versus the Glacier was checked just a bit by the caustic contrast. Album closer "Stealing the Ghost Horse" does finally find Martin interjecting a clean, doomy style to his performance, but the record as a whole would have been stronger if that element had been introduced earlier.

I Versus the Glacier is an admirable addition to a stoner rock genre that has benefited from a recent swell of newcomers. In an attempt to bridge the distance between sludge fans and fans more accustomed to no-frills heavy rock, Clamfight blends in a number of heavy elements to create a potion that is certainly intriguing.

Track Listing
1The Eagle6:10
3Shadow Line3:43
4I Versus the Glacier5:37
5Age of Reptiles4:02
6River of Ice6:16
8The Green Gods of Yag4:59
9Stealing the Ghost Horse6:56
Total Runtime48:15

Monday, March 25, 2013

Review: Altaar - Altaar (2013)

Altaar [ Facebook | Bandcamp ]
Indie Recordings

Altaar - Altaar
The self-titled debut long-player from Norway's Altaar contains just two songs, but its thirty-four minute existence treats listeners to a somber processional consisting of plodding riffs, post-metal atmospherics, and tastefully placed howls.

Altaar was spawned in 2007 by bassist Andreas Tylden as a means of giving voice to the varying musical ideas that could not be expressed within the confines of his black metal outfit One Head, One Tail. After releasing an EP in 2009, Tylden was joined by noise-crafter Sten Ove Toft, drummer Kenneth Lamond, bassist Didrik Telle, and guitarist/keyboardist Espen T. Hangård to begin work on what would ultimately become Altaar.

The two songs on Altaar offer a differing, but complimentary, listening experience. The first, entirely instrumental track - "Tidi Kjem Aldri Att" - is a mesmerizing interpretation of classic and funerary Doom. Hints of occultish keyboard accents are interwoven with plucky guitar leads and an oppressively sluggish pace in a veiled homage to the founding bands of the genre. Almost halfway through the song the fairly traditional sounds fade away to be replaced by a heavily synthesized, post-metal soundscape. If the first 9+ minutes weren't enough to lull you into a sense of morose self-reflection, this interlude will certainly induce a semi-hypnotic state of contemplation before the weighty riffs make a crushing return.

"Dei Absolutte Krav Og Den Absolutte Nåde", the album's second and final song, opens with a bit of an Eastern/sci-fi ambiance before, nearly four minutes later, rumbling fuzzed-out riffs herald the arrival of Tylden's raw-throated vocals. A little bit of black metal urgency seeps into the composition to underscore the vocals, but by and large the song remains true to an overall Doom style. In its later moments, however, "Dei Absolutte Krav..." devolves into a sonic haze of feedback and reverb that hints at Tylden's more experimental tendencies.

Altaar draws on elements of drone, noise, post-metal, and even black metal to build upon its Doom foundation for a result that packs a lot of experiences into a relatively short runtime. While traditional Doom enthusiasts may find this album too tedious for repeated listening, open-minded aficionados of experimental and noise-oriented artists will be pleased with Andreas Tylden's vision.

Track Listing
1Tidi Kjem Aldri Att19:58
2Dei Absolutte Krav Og Den Absolutte Nåde14:13
Total Runtime34:11

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Results of Introspection

This may not come as a shock to the three people who read this blog regularly, but Harvest Moon Music has been on a bit of a hiatus for almost almost three months now. The reason for this is simple - loss. Someone very important and influential in my life succumbed to the ravages of time, which cast me into an emotional and spiritual nose dive from which I haven't yet recovered. Probably never will. For a long while, blogging became irrelevant.

I never stopped thinking about Harvest Moon Music, though. Should I just let it wither and fade into the untended depths of the Internet? Should I at least post a farewell message? Should I resume regular posting, feigning business as usual? I guess I'm writing this post because I've decided that none of those outcomes feel like the right thing to do.

What I've decided, then, is to reshape the blog a bit. It's no secret that most of my favorite styles of heavy music tend to be of the darker sort. Within those artistic avenues I find, personally, the greatest comfort - especially now. So in order to keep blogging about music that truly means something to me on aesthetic, emotional and intellectual levels, Harvest Moon Music will no longer be a generalized heavy metal blog. From this point forward, darkness will prevail. Expect to read about bands that sail the gloomy seas of dark, melancholy music, but note that this will not include the vitriol of the black and death metal scenes. Some symphonic black metal bands will sneak in and most likely many purveyors of the Doom/Death sub-genre will be showcased (and almost certainly the "stoner" styles will be represented), but the purist forms of the most extreme styles will no longer be welcomed here.

If that sounds good to you, then I look forward to hearing your opinions about what I share on these pages. If not, then I bid you farewell and sincerely hope that you find the plethora of other metal blogs out there to be more to your liking.

Regular publishing will resume shortly.