Look, you’re busy, I’m busy, we’re all busy, so why not take a small break and read a couple (or ten) mini reviews of some solid music? That’s what we’re all about with Review Rundown, and today we bring you Volume 5 of the feature, unofficially known as the Water Edition (you’ll sea what I mean if you read on). It should be stressed that pretty much all of the music we review for this feature has already been released to the public by the time the article publishes, so don’t just take our word for it. Dive into the music with us and see what you think!
We will avoid making jokes about ‘sea men’ in this review. Oops, failed that one! No matter; it’s odd for a melodic, death-y thrash metal band from Michigan to take on a nautical motif for their music. I’ve been to Michigan and I mainly recall a sea of despair otherwise known as ‘Detroit in 1996,’ but I digress.
Jokes aside, the guys in Dagon really know how to write a catchy tune. I coin the term ‘Death-Thrax’ to describe them. Back to the Sea’s 1h9m runtime is replete with memorable hooks and riffs that beckon erstwhile listeners to headbang ‘till it hurts. “The Battle of Lepanto,” “A Feast of Flesh for Silent Death,” and the title track are only the best examples of the delightful nautical oceanic feast on Back to the Sea.
It is too easy to dismiss an ‘old school’ band as one that banks on an exaggerated sense of nostalgia for the veneer of authenticity. Dagon are authentic. The writing, the guitar solos, the dynamics, and the overall vibe of Back to the Sea make this album an absolute joy to listen to.
One word: grit. Or, as they say in France, ‘le gravier.’
A few more words: math-y grindcore from France with the ever-so-slightly blackened edge, these beastly Gauls mete out torture in precision without sparing the atmosphere. Viscères means ‘viscera,’ as in ‘visceral,’ adding yet another adjective to this already overly-descriptive pocket review.
In all seriousness, Bind Torture Kill has to be one of the most angry-sounding bands that ever crossed my desk at It Djents. Anybody who ever thought of hardcore in terms of Hot Topic™ and radio-friendly metalcore bands will find in BTK a reminder of hardcore’s roots, back when the music was actually dangerous. Think more along the lines of Converge than Miss May I. Viscères might cram its 9 songs into only 35 minutes, but these are very intense minutes.
It isn’t all hardcore. Viscères has moments of sludge on “Sanguinaire” and absolute noise on “Pestilence.” Bind Torture Kill made a lovely slab of random filth that Converges together in a pleasing way.
CONTENT WARNING: intravenous drug use, nudity; definitely NSFW
Having caught Poisonous Birds at Arctangent (podcast here), I was excited to hear what was next, having enjoyed their debut effort so much. Big Water is a short EP comprising of 3 songs and a strange 1 second interlude. To help our readers understand the style being played, let’s say art-rock with lots of synths, but live drums to add some authenticity to the sound.
The title track will go down well with fans of Arcane Roots‘ latest record Melancholia Hymns, whilst track 2 will win acclaim from fans of Boards Of Canada or even The Black Queen. The aforementioned synths shroud the listener in a fuzzy electronic layer, whilst the drums echo with powerful hits that, coupled with retro sounding synths, would even be interesting to fans of the synthwave craze. The vocals from frontman Tom Ridley evoke memories of Thom Yorke from Radiohead too.
That being said, I didn’t really enjoy track 3, but it was a bit too far off the deep end for my personal tastes. This extremely repetitive track almost feels a bit too pretentious, even for art-rock, but it was made up for in the excellent first 2 songs.
Somali Yacht Club’s The Sea is a brilliant stoner rock album which dabbles in psychedelia and explores the shoegaze side of the genre. Long, winding distorted riffs roll around the mix from the beginning to the end, with slow rhythmic drumming letting you slow down from the hustle and bustle of life during these fantastic 53 minutes of run time.
The Sea is a follow up to Somali Yacht Club’s The Sun and, after my short time with both albums, it really feels that the band have developed as musicians and songwriters between the two. I particularly enjoyed the intro track “Vero” – it manages to be cool and smooth while shifting through and combining so many influences.
I liken this record to the monstrous album pushed out by Weedpecker at the start of the year, with its dreamy, twisting sections suddenly broken up through the use of a change of pace, more bass or post-rock distortion. I certainly see this album ending up on AOTY lists and would highly recommend that you give it a try!
It’s not often that I come across an album that genuinely surprises me. This is the case with the most recent Locktender album, Friedrich. This is a concept album where each song is based on the paintings of Caspar David Friedrich, so the pervading themes are sadness and melancholy, reflection and resolve. This band’s flexibility with their style allows them to accurately weave their way through complicated emotions that are really and truly captivating.
It’s difficult for me to pick out moments in this album that rise above the rest or choose a song that represents the remainder. What I can say is that the atmosphere is dense, the vocal range is among the best that you’ll hear, and the power of each composition stands on its own. The aggression comes out in all the right moments, and everything clicks into place time after time. If you’re looking for some genuine art to pipe into your brain, look no further. With post-rock, screamo, skramz, and hardcore all wrapped up into a cohesive package, this is an album that I’ll not soon forget.
Melodic death metal is one of my favorite subgenres on the metal landscape and having a brand new In Vain record to review is a boon to any fan. Opening with “Seekers Of The Truth”, we are treated to a solid melo-death song that hits all the right notes and gets things started with a nice groove. Following this one, we get “Soul Adventurer” with Trivium’s Matt Heafy guesting on the track. While I wanted to like this track more than I did, it’s pretty solid, albeit a bit generic overall, and leans too hard into modern metal tropes and riffs to be terribly exciting.
The second half of the album kicks off with “En Forgangen (Times of Yore Pt.II)” and this is where the record really picks up for me. The tone shifts, and the songs from here on out tend to be more progressive and expansive. Currents closes with “Standing on the Ground of Mammoths”, a seven-minute track which features orchestration, saxophone, and some of the best vocals on the album. The lack of consistency holds this one back a bit, but it’s a solid death metal record with some standout tracks and nice moments.
More jazz, you say? No problem! Free jazz is always a fickle thing; you don’t know what exactly you are going to get. And when it comes from Japan no less, the bets are off completely. The Land of the Rising Sun has brought forth a wealth of wildly imaginative and astounding jazz records over the last few years (and decades), and although it offers quite a lot to take in, Proton Pump is definitely one of those.
Four songs (two of them over twelve minutes long) make up this album, adding up to a runtime of roughly 43 minutes. Over the course of those 43 minutes, we get to experience an untiring, almost frenzied drumming performance (one of the best things about the record for sure), frantic horns, baffling vocals and a diverse utilization of the piano, with all elements interlocking in a veritable storm of versatility. As I said before, it can all become a bit much, and I’m kind of sad that the bass doesn’t get all that much love on Proton Pump, but overall, it is an interestingly weird and compelling piece of experimental jazz music.
Victor Assis Brasil – Esperanto
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear bossa nova? If it’s lounge music and Tiki torches, you might want to use those torches to chase me out of town, because even though the music on Esperanto (a re-release of the original 1970 album) has the obvious bossa-inspired swing at times, it’s way more indebted to the American jazz tradition than anything else. Despite the obvious affection Victor Assis Brasil had for the music of his home country of Brazil, his own compositions lean heavily on the hard bop/early free jazz idioms of his time.
From the opening cover of Jimmy Heath’s “Ginger Bread Boy”, a twisting and winding tune that is as danceable as it is intricate, to the emotional and deliberate closing “Ao Amigo Quartin”, we are treated to a wonderfully nimble and passionate 37-minute jazz delight full of rhythm, complexity, and splendid musicianship. One can only hope that this re-release might help shed some light on an artist who could have gone on to be one of the genre’s greats had he not tragically died so early.
Post-jazz is a thing, right? If not, no one told Sunwatchers, who meld the sounds and tones of experimental jazz with post-rock elements into a psychedelic swirl of buzzing saxophones, off-kilter percussion and massive atmosphere. It’s never too wild for its own good, but the combination of music here still isn’t the easiest to digest.
“There Are Weapons You Can Bring to School” is a slow burn, and I mean that as literally as possible. The soundscape brings forth images of the baking sun touching the earth, conjuring teasing mirages in all directions. The hectic midsection offers little reprieve. “The Hot Eye” is about as discordant as the album gets. Squeaky, off-key saxophone is your entryway into what eventually becomes a repetitive parade of sunny synthesizer noise and jazzy drums. “The Works” is perhaps the band at its most palatable. Synth-led arpeggios and guitars that sound like howling wind give the song nice texture and the instruments stay in relative order throughout to make for a smooth, but still busy and rewarding listen.
Sunwatchers’ II is weird and worth your time if you like expansive sound, noise and atmosphere served with some psychedelia. Genre purists will likely find it grating.
Astrakhan’s music is a melting pot of metal and heavy tones pulling from prog, doom, sludge and groove metal. To this effect, Without New Growth Process is Bloodshed is an album that goes in nearly any direction it chooses, yet remains just as confident and musically tight as it was in the last movement.
There’s some nice Mastodon and Baroness vibes here. “Heaving Receiver” has an energetic midsection with yelled vocals, crashing drum fills and punctuated riffing much like the two aforementioned bands. The intro to “Dominion” also pleases in this fashion with prominent double bass percussion. Later on, the track has vocal effects that give it a neat ethereal feel.
Calmer moments evoke Katatonia with somber, slower guitars and increased atmosphere. These sections come and go, which gives songs room to breathe between the up-tempo sections and allow for much needed variance in the tracks. “Black Tourmaline” is my favorite instance of this. It has wavy, washy vocal effects and playful guitar passages at the beginning before it locks into a catchy metal fury.
This will apparently be Astrakhan’s last album, but it’s a good note to go out on. There’s not much to complain about. It’s quick, fierce and worth a listen if you like groovy prog metal!