It’s sorta amusing that I find these opening paragraphs the hardest sections to write of my monthly round-ups. Who’d have thought it? So, I’ll open this month’s by saying how incredibly excited I am that SubRosa are touring the UK in October. More Constant Than The Gods is one of my favourite albums of the past forever, and if I could go to more than one show, I would. Sadly though, work commitments mean I can only attend one performance, but I expect it will still be an excellent experience.
Anyway! This month’s short reviews take in some American power metal from Iron Fire on Among The Dead; blue-collar punk from Bong Mountain on You’re Doing Great! (For The Record); the oddly named Boobs Of Doom and their 07. (((White Noise))); Plenthora by Michael Anoia, which is a head-spinning tech-grind/hardcore/noise mix; crushing death metal from Warfather on The Grey Eminence; and ambient noise/drone/black metal from ||| (Three Parallel Lines) with their debut demo Lines And Lands.
Iron Fire – Among The Dead
Label: Crime Records
Regular readers may have noticed that I’ve not reviewed a power metal record before now. There’s a few reasons for that, the chief one being that it’s one of the metal sub-genres about which I know (and listen to) little. I’ve been making steps to rectify that though, which is why I took the time to give Among The Dead a few spins rather than passing it by. Despite Iron Fire hailing from Denmark, this album has an American power metal-style muscularity, full of heavy riffs and moments designed with headbanging and raised fists in mind; it almost verges on thrash metal at points. There’s a vague concept here about a zombie apocalypse, but the storytelling is secondary to simply writing good songs, of which there are plenty. It’s only ballad “When The Lights Go Out” that lets things down for me, but then, I’m not a fan of ballads at all. Otherwise, it’s a very solid ride with plenty of punch, power, and aggression.
Bong Mountain – You’re Doing Great! (For The Record)
That name. That artwork. Song titles like “Pariah Carey” and “Don’t Shred On Me”. I wouldn’t blame you if you ran a mile. But wait, stay, there’s actually something here that’s worthwhile. You might be forgiven for thinking Bong Mountain are a joke band, but You’re Doing Great! (For The Record) is an example where a lack of seriousness and being a joke are too different things. Pulling together their previous demo and split releases, it’s a remarkably consistent half hour that mixes pop-punk and Against Me! style punk rock, with the odd indie hint. There’s an honesty to it that’s quite charming, and helps demonstrate that the band aren’t taking it too seriously not because of anything bad, but because that’s fun to them. That sense of fun transmits over the record, making any initial protests seem redundant. It ends up sitting somewhere between early Against Me! and Hot Water Music, which is a combination I’m very much in favor of.
Boobs Of Doom – 07. (((White Noise)))
This is so close to being brilliant; so very, very close. You probably wouldn’t expect that from a band called Boobs Of Doom, but 07. (((White Noise))) is a pretty adventurous piece of work that is sold short by presentation. The music itself is quite wonderful – at various points it recalls Ulver’s Perdition City, the Ghost records by Nine Inch Nails, and the kinds of post-rock and trip-hop artists who specialize in dystopia and despair, as well as Sunn O))), of course.. But when it’s presented with titles like “Know Yr Place, Stupit Hyoomaan!” it’s hard to make the emotional connection that the very best music has. It feels as if the band are almost scared of putting too honest a face on things, so treat it as something of a joke, not wanting to risk any over-sincerity or emotional bloodletting; which is really frustrating, as what they’ve offered is so very, very good. If you can look past the presentation though, you’ll find a very special duo here, making some bleak, yet beautiful music that I more than recommend.
Michel Anoia – Plenthora
If you’re looking for something challenging, then this record from French band Michel Anoia should serve nicely. It’s as confusing as The Dillinger Escape Plan were on first listen all those years ago, and is comparable to their earliest releases, albeit even more violent and jazz influenced. Add in some moments of pure noise, as on “Rage Noire”, and it makes Plethora an incredibly intense half hour of music. It does sometimes run the risk of sensory overload, but then a track like “Two Mountains” comes along which manages to recall Mayhem’s Ordo Ad Chao more than anything else at points and attention is successfully retained. It’s far from easy though, and a few spins are mandatory before it really reveals its strengths. Even if it’s not the kind of thing I’m often in the mood for these days, there’s no denying how impressive Plethora is.
Warfather – The Grey Eminence
Label: Greyhaze Records
There’s no avoiding some comparisons, so might as well face them head on. Warfather feature Steve Tucker in their ranks, and The Grey Eminence was produced by Eric Rutan, so that it recalls both Morbid Angel and Hate Eternal is absolutely no surprise. If you’re the sort who still hasn’t forgiven Morbid Angel for Illud Divinum Insanus, then this album is bound to appeal. Pummeling, merciless, and so very heavy, They Grey Eminence is very difficult to argue against. Tucker is in commanding form, his vocals as powerful as ever, and the band lay down some very solid death metal. It does feel much longer than its 50 minute run-time though, but whether that’s a good thing or not depends on how much you care for this kind of death metal. Can’t help but feel that the band are yet to hit the heights they’re capable of, though, but They Grey Eminence is still an album I’ve had a lot of plays out of.
||| (Three Parallel Lines) – Lines And Lands
In stark contrast to the last two records reviewed above, Lines And Lands is a rather beautiful, almost relaxing piece of music. Largely instrumental atmospheric black metal is the main thing on offer, and I really do mean atmospheric – the tracks here are songs in the loosest possible sense, more an attempt at putting across images and emotions than anything tied to conventional structure. The use of short “reprise” tracks is a clever touch, giving the listener the opportunity to reflect on what they just heard, from a slightly different angle; and closer “A Sleeping Mirror” is more sparse dark ambient than anything. That’s not to sell the black metal aspects short though, as they are excellent at building up an atmosphere and feeling, but it’s the use of non-metal aspects that makes ||| really exciting. Will certainly be interesting to see where this project goes in the future.