Friday, May 17, 2013

Review: Surgeon - Chemical Reign (2013)

Surgeon [ Website | Facebook ]
Chemical Reign

Surgeon - Chemical Reign
It's a bit of a stretch to consider Surgeon's new album, Chemical Reign, to be a Doom or Gothic metal release, but there are just enough hints of those two styles in the band's progressive sound to warrant a few sentences here at Harvest Moon Music. Hailing from Philadelphia, the band - which includes ex-Rumpelstiltskin Grinder drummer Ruston Grosse - generated considerable praise for their 2008 debut album and elicited comparisons to outfits such as Pharoah and Slough Feg. While I think Surgeon is quite a bit more progressive in nature than those bands, there's certainly enough similarity present for fans to take interest.

Besides riffs that tend to linger in mid-tempo territory, the Doomiest aspect to Chemical Reign is to be found in the vocal style of singer/bassist Sean Bolton. He sings with a sense of despair that will seem familiar to fans of traditional Doom. Though there isn't much variety to his style, Bolton adds depth to his performance through effective layering and the occasional use of harsh vocals - such as on album opener and highlight "The Creeple". His presence on "Animals" is also quite interesting and is one of the most engaging aspects of Chemical Reign.

The gloomy atmosphere of tracks like "The Creeple" is bolstered by guitarist Lydia Giordano's menacing riffs. Her style is a little more flashy than you'd expect if Surgeon were to bill themselves as a Doom outfit, but she tends to forgo technical wankery in favor of pure metal sizzle. The latter half of Chemical Reign does find Giordano delving deeper into what I consider progressive territory - somewhat experimental and slightly disparate riff patterns - but her comfort zone seems to be in laying down crunchy, biting riffs accentuated by swirling leads and sharp solos. She's got chops, no question.

Aside from "The Creeple", the songs that will most appeal to Doom/Gothic fans include the urgently paced "Watching You" and the pseudo-Gothic "Greed". "Tomorrow" possesses some very atmospheric riffs, but is one of Surgeon's more progressively-leaning compositions. There's just enough here for Chemical Reign to be of interest to Doom fans, though I think much more exciting things are yet to come should Surgeon further embrace that aspect of their sound.

Track Listing
1The Creeple6:31
2Watching You4:22
3Deadly Are The Words5:06
5Chemical Reign5:15
7Hamburger Factory4:49
8The Only Constant4:45
Total Runtime55:48

Friday, May 10, 2013

Review: Zolle - Zolle (2013)

Zolle [ Website | Facebook ]
Supernatural Cat

Zolle - Zolle
Marcello and Stefano, two self-professed farm boys from the fields of northern Italy, have taken a bit of a break from their many bands and projects to concentrate on a two-man riff-oriented entity they've dubbed Zolle (derived from the Italian word zòlla, meaning clump). For the past year, Marcello (guitars) and Stefano (drums/percussion) have worked tirelessly to create an instrumental album that not only encompasses many of the avant-garde principles learned from their past efforts but also appeals to the groovy, laid back tastes of the stoner/doom rock community. And so it is that Zolle, the band's eponymous debut release, delivers an Imperial ton of blurry riffs and a large drum sound - not to mention a few touches of tasteful synth atmospherics.

It can be argued - as I have often done - that an album without a vocal presence provides little more than chamber music for whatever activities the listener(s) might wish to engage in. That certainly holds true for Zolle, but it would be a mistake to allow such a thing to happen to this album without first taking the time to focus on identifying its intricacies and experiencing the variation among the songs. Although only 28 minutes long, in my opinion making it more of an EP than a full-length, the album is mostly pure head-bobbing delight thanks to Marcello's conscientious attention to his multi-tracked guitar harmonies and seamless riff patterns.

As with most instrumental albums, it's difficult to settle upon songs that really stand apart from the rest and are thus worthy of mentioning in detail. Zolle does, however, contain a couple of exceptions. While the vast majority of the riffs on the album are soothing in a fuzzy sort of way, the song "Forko" is constructed primarily upon the notion of discordance and abstraction. Marcello applies a liberal portion of pinch harmonics to his performance, while Stefano seems stubbornly reluctant to settle into a single time signature. It's not that "Forko" is complete chaos, but compared to the righteous groove that possesses most of Zolle, this song feels oddly misplaced.

Aside from that particular track, Zolle exists primarily to shake loose the clods of dirt from your boots and help lift those late-afternoon cold brews. The guitar sound exhibited on "Heavy Letam", arguably the grooviest song on the album, for some reason reminds me of the theme from Batman (the classic television series, kiddies, not the movies). The use of what I imagine are farm implements as percussive accents is a nice touch, as are the spacey synth contributions. The synth atmosphere is actually at its best during the waning moments of album closer "Moongitruce". A classy, slightly psychedelic way to round out what I wish was a lengthier release.

Zolle, the band, isn't interested in turning the world of heavy rock on its side with their debut album. They've put together a collection of songs that, quite simply, they enjoy playing. And in the end, shouldn't that be the origin of every album? If you're looking for a soundtrack for the next time you raise a pint, light one up, or just drive from here to there, give Zolle a try.

Track Listing
5Man Ja To Ya!2:33
7Heavy Letam1:49
Total Runtime27:49

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Review: Antipope - 3 Eyes of Time (2013)

Antipope [ Website | Facebook | Bandcamp ]
3 Eyes of Time
Violent Journey Records

Antipope - 3 Eyes of Time
There are very, very few things in life that I am certain of. Now that 3 Eyes of Time, the latest album from Finnish Gothic metallers Antipope, has arrived I can add one more thing to that tiny list - fans of late-period Tiamat will absolutely love this album. The band built the album around a crafty use of atmospheric keyboards, engaging riffs, and dark vocals that, combined, result in an experience that isn't necessarily the most unique but is unquestionably very addictive for the average industro-Goth fan.

Right from the opening notes of "Close", which linger somewhere between Marilyn Manson's "Sweet Dreams" cover and just about everything on Tiamat's Prey release, Antipope makes no pretenses about the audience they're playing to. The likenesses to Tiamat even extend beyond the purely musical, as you'd be hard-pressed to discern frontman Mikko Myllykangas' voice from that of Johan Edlund. Myllykangas delivers an admirable impersonation, though there are times - such as on the standout "The River Standing Still" - where he adds a bit of a Peter Garrett (Midnight Oil) flair to his style. This emulation of one of the most recognizable crooners in Gothic metal is justifiable, considering the overall ambiance of 3 Eyes of Time.

While much of the album blends together for a highly atmospheric, melodic joyride, there are a couple of tracks that stand apart due to a recognizable shift in style. "Last Chance", which presents some of the most melodic choruses on the album, ratchets up the NIN industrial influences to sweltering levels. Antipope closes out the album with "Guiding Light", a song that exposes the band's black metal roots through furious riffs, thunderous double-kick, and discernibly heightened aggression in Myllykangas' vocal style.

Those songs aside, Antipope spends the album experimenting with varying synth effects and guitar melodies that - though they never stray too far from the formula - keep the album flowing at an interesting pace. "Exposure", with its scream-a-long choruses and heavy use of atmosphere, is perhaps the song that finds Antipope truly firing on all cylinders and an ideal example of what can be expected from the band.

Originality is not what you'll find on 3 Eyes of Time, but the album is nevertheless an excellent example of atmospheric Gothic metal that has been custom-designed for fans of Tiamat - intentionally or otherwise.

Track Listing
2Last Chance4:35
3The River Standing Still4:18
5White Summer Night4:40
7The Fear of Fear4:57
8A Decomposing Ritual of Absorption5:10
9Them Cacti1:37
10The Logic of Self-Discovery5:25
11Guiding Light2:56
Total Runtime47:06

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Review: Thinning the Herd - Freedom from the Known (2013)

Thinning the Herd [ Website | Facebook ]
Freedom from the Known
Saint Marks Records

Thinning the Herd - Freedom from the Known
Thinning the Herd, the New York City doom/rock/stoner hybrid outfit founded by frontman Gavin Spielman, rocketed into the collective stoner/doom psyche with their 2011 debut album Oceans Rise. A plethera of positive reviews followed, many of which name-dropped outfits such as Motörhead, The Stooges, Black Sabbath, and the MC5 when describing Thinning the Herd's sound, but Spielman felt a retooling was needed and so recruited a new line-up for the recording of the band's sophomore effort Freedom from the Known. Not long after the new material was recorded, tragedy struck when drummer Rick Cimato was killed in a head-on collision the night after Christmas. The devastating loss of a bandmate and friend has understandably had a profound impact on what should be a lofty time for Spielman and bass player Wed Edmonds. In Rick's memory and honor, then, Thinning the Herd has decided to move forward with the release of Freedom from the Known and the doom/stoner community will be the better for it.

At it's core, the Thinning the Herd sound is built upon the juxtaposition of mellow, groovy riffs and vocals that have an anti-everything attitude. Spielman judiciously applies distortion to his multi-tracked guitar performance for just the right amount of psychedelic ambiance, though at times he draws upon a distinctively post-rock guitar sound to maximize the warmth of the album. "Dr. Reed", the album's second track, is one of the songs that best illustrates Thinning the Herd's devotion to creating a mind-altering sound without softening the impact of the aggressive vocals. The nice, elaborate soloing heard here - which in fact runs rampant throughout Freedom from the Known - sits well with the song's bass-heavy, classic rock elements. "Never Wanted", the groovy opening track, and "Rabbits" will also sit well with the retro-rock crowd.

Thinning the Herd
Thinning the Herd is at their doomiest on the aptly titled "Sludge". The song, with its weighty riffs, noodling leads, and rumbling bass is a delectable doomy treat that is only made better by the nifty use of fade effects and extensive instrumental passages. "Path of Gold", which harbors some very exotic sounding riffs, is another track for traditional Doom fans to take note of.

The showcase song on the album comes in the form of "Gaikatt Mountain". It's here that Spielman's songcrafting prowess, and the entire band's talent, is laid out in the form of an ultra-groovy instrumental adventure. Stripped of the punkish vocals, the music is fully empowered to elicit an unfiltered response from the listener. Within the varying tones can be heard anger, hope, sorrow and resolve... be it by design or a reflective coincidence. In any case, Freedom from the Known is a stronger album for it.

Freedom from the Known is not a groundreaking album that transcends multi-genre differences, but it is an excellent collection of groovy melodies that makes for a joyful listening experience. More than that, though, it's a fitting and appropriate memorial to one of rock's fallen brethren.

Track Listing
1Never Wanted3:44
2Dr. Reed4:29
7Dying Star3:45
8Path of Gold3:51
9Gaikatt Mountain4:15
10In Front of Me3:16
Total Runtime43:51