Monday, March 30, 2009

Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains - All Power to the Wingnuts! EP

This is an early release by one of my favourite folk-punk acts, Johnny Hobo and the Freight Trains. Two out of the three songs here would be re-recorded and re-released on the Chaos Infiltration Squad! EP, but All Power to the Wingnuts!, while immature in sound and demeanor, has a much better recording going for it.

While this certainly isn't the best Johnny Hobo release (that would be Love Songs for the Apocalypse), and while Pat's vocals come off even more abrasive than usual, All Power to the Wingnuts! is still a good example of the same anarchistic passion and teenage discontent that re-appear throughout the band's work. Apathy has never sounded so good.

All Power to the Wingnuts!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

we draped ourselves in noise

just got back from a show (see above). to recap the night: I got drunk in advance for the sake of practicality, got headbutted during a circle pit, bled profusely for about five minutes afterwards, and spent the rest of the time just generally jumping around like a fucking spastic while people in pull-over hoodies stood around motionless staring at their cell phones, thinking about which friend they should text next. hard-fucking-core, guys

there's not really a point to this post, I guess, considering I don't remember which band was which, and can't really analyze the show in any depth aside from "it was awesome". if anyone checked out that Black Ships link I posted here a while back (as an aside there was a guy wearing a Black Ships shirt there, which was cool to see amidst the almost comical number of people clad in Have Heart apparel - which isn't to say they aren't good either), the bands were mostly in that vein (i.e. fucking loud, fairly abrasive, and in some cases, surprisingly technical), blending hardcore with sludge with post-metal with crust with feedback and distortion and VOLUME. my opinion is likely biased by the amount of alcohol I consumed (I am the kind of guy who brings his own spiked water bottle; I am also the kind of guy who uses too many parentheses), but still


also, I picked up a pretty cool split of some bands I saw a while back that I'll probably post here once I figure out how to rip vinyls onto a computer (my current hypothesis is I just don't have the necessary technology, but if anyone wants to educate me on the manner, that would be swell). usually I just download anything I buy on vinyl so I can listen to it on my computer as well, but this one may be hard to find considering both bands are locally based.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Corpse Paint Not Included

Okay, so recently I made a black metal mix for a messageboard I frequent, and I figured that as long as I was writing (however sloppy) I might as well post it here as well. I haven`t really talked about metal much here as I haven`t been listening to it as much as I used to, but in case you`re unfamiliar with black metal, this is a fairly good mix for beginners to get into. Since I was making it while under the assumption that most of the people who would listen to it would not have had a lot of experience with black metal previously, I tried to make it as accessible as I could by focusing on the diversity of the genre, as well as the experimentation with different styles that occurred following the rather homogenous second wave (not a knock, just an observation). It also has a fairly low number of songs (nine total, as any more would have kept me from being able to use Mediafire as a host), so there's not much in the way of filler.

As such, there are no Darkthrone, Mayhem, or Immortal songs included, although these bands were all crucially important to the explosion of the genre in the early to mid 90’s. Still, a few of the important second wave bands are included at the beginning of the mix as a way of defining the genre and forming a template for what black metal is. From then on, the mix veers off in a number of somewhat radical approaches that, while often different in tone and sound from traditional black metal, are still firmly rooted and influenced by it. As a result, I think this mix should be a lot more accessible for listeners unfamiliar to the genre, which makes it a good introduction to an often suffocatingly insular brand of music.

1. Ulver - Capitel V: Bergtatt - Ind I Fjeldkamrene
Bergtatt - Et Eeventyr I 5 Capitler (1994)

Now then, let’s get right into the thick of it. This song begins with a blaring metal riff, and it continues in that same unwaveringly strong, insistent fashion for most of its duration. While Ulver may be most known for their experimentations blending metal and folk (they would eventually detach themselves from the genre, moving on to more experimental pursuits), this song is pure black metal in all its glory. Powerful, intense, atmospheric and lighting fast, this is a great song from one of the most heralded bands (and deservedly so) in black metal.

2. Burzum – Hvis Lyset Tar Oss
Hvis Lyset Tar Oss (1994)

Nearly every negative pre-conception held against black metal can be traced back to this guy right here: Varg Vikernes, the sole artist behind Burzum, and a fairly prominent part of the Norwegian black metal scene back in its heyday. Incidentally, he just got out of jail, where he spent the last sixteen years (and from where he released this album) for murder.

Regardless of his actions, Hvis Lyset Tar Oss is considered by many to be one of the classic albums of early black metal, a landmark of the genre alongside the works of other luminary artists as Ulver (above) and Emperor (below). Thick, unyielding guitars and a strong understanding and control of ambience make this one of the darkest and most atmospheric albums you’ll ever hear. And yet, it’s also one of the most inaccessible albums you’ll hear, if only because of the unique vocal approach, which are divided among listeners on a love/hate basis, where some feel it gives the album a tortured, almost evil feel to it, and others feel that it’s just fucking abrasive. The reason for this is that Varg doesn’t so much ‘sing’, as he does ‘scream like someone is tearing apart his genitals with a rusty penknife’ (sorry for the mental image). Either way, it’s a must-listen for its influence.

3. Emperor – Ye Entrancemperium
Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk (1996)

No other black metal band has quite the resume of the pull of Emperor. While other bands were adopting a rougher approach, attempting to make their sound even more distorted and poor than it already was in order to appeal to some misnomer about what ‘true’ black metal was, Emperor added keyboards and symphonic elements to their attack. Judging by their current influence and status as one of the defining bands of black metal, they made the right call.

Anthems to the Welkin at Dusk was the band’s second album, and while many would agree they created a classic with their debut, In the Nightside Eclipse, they still managed to not only live up to that standard, but in fact exceed it with their follow-up. “Ye Entrancemperium” is a fast-paced song that shows their innovative and influential blending of keyboards and dark metal, an idea which would be expanded upon by other bands on this list.

4. Summoning – Elfstone
Dol Guldur (1996)

Called ‘atmospheric black metal’ due to their tendency to slow down the pace and to introduce elements alien to traditional black metal into their approach, Summoning are possibly most well known for the fact that almost all of their lyrics are based on the novels of J.R.R. Tolkien (except on Stronghold, which finds itself drawing from the unfamiliar well of the poems of J.R.R. Tolkien). That may sound exceptionally nerdy, but come on; can you honestly say you never thought about forming a band (possibly in high school) for the sole intention of singing about Lord of the Rings? Think of all the chicks you would get, and then get back to me.

(They would be numerous, is what I am saying)

5. Windir – 1184
1184 (2001)

Windir was fucking amazing. They played vicious, relentless black metal, and they did it with a speed and precision that was unsurpassed by any of their contemporaries. What this band utilized that perhaps made them better than any other black metal outfit however, was the way keyboards were blended so seamlessly into their approach (much better than with Emperor), taking the dense and menacing ‘wall of sound’ technique used by so many black metal bands and soaring above it with expertly constructed melodic sections befitting of an electronica artist. Never does the amalgamation sound overdramatic or cheesy like with so many sub-par ‘melo-death’ bands; instead, it adds a power to their music, an emotional resonance that appears so rarely in black metal.

Unfortunately, the band ended prematurely in 2004 after singer and group mastermind Valfar died of hypothermia at only 25 years old (considering that he had been releasing music under the name for ten years prior to his death makes his accomplishments while alive all the more impressive). Still, we have four albums he wrote as Windir that stand as a testament to his strength as a songwriter and performer (there was no full band line-up until Windir's third album, the aforementioned 1184).

6. Arcturus – Collapse Generation
The Sham Mirrors (2001)

And now we are all but entirely distanced from traditional black metal. Arcturus was a collaboration between a number of influential metal musicians, including Garm, the singer for Ulver, and Hellhammer, the guitarist for Mayhem. Often called ‘avant-garde metal’ for the unique and frankly bizarre approach of their last couple of releases (including this one, The Sham Mirrors), they still retain some of the black metal qualities inherent to their earlier works.

For example, listen to the drums on this song. Holy. Sh*t.

7. Woods of Ypres – The Sun Was in My Eyes: Part 1
Pursuit of the Sun and Allure of the Earth (2004)

Woods of Ypres are a melodic black metal outfit from Toronto that combine folk, doom (much like the next band on the list) and black metal into a heavily atmospheric package. They are one of many modern black metal-leaning bands today that are looking to nature as a form of musical inspiration, rather than the somewhat questionable influences that guided the second wave of black metal. They are also exceptionally good, and are one of the most easily accessible bands on this mix.

8. Agalloch – Falling Snow
Ashes Against the Grain (2006)

Possibly the most well-recognized band on this list, and also one of the furthest to depart from traditional black metal, Agalloch take a similar approach to Woods of Ypres (which is more likely due to their influence on WoY, rather than vice versa). On their earlier releases (especially The Mantle), Agalloch take on an Ulver-inspired folk metal approach, wherein a natural atmosphere is emphasized and electric guitars are often eschewed in favour of acoustics. On Ashes Against the Grain, they rely on that sparse folk aesthetic a lot less, instead creating a thick, commanding, almost ethereal sound. “Falling Snow” is one highlight of many on this album, and the opening guitar riff is among the greatest I have ever heard. This song is a lot slower than most of the other stuff on this mix, and the atmospheric stance taken is one heavily dissociated from the common idea of black metal (you can occasionally even hear the bass). Yet the influences are apparent as well, especially in the vocals, and Agalloch serves as a strong example of what can be produced when creativity and artistic inspiration are stressed over following the norms of already well-defined genres.

9. Wolves in the Throne Room – Cleansing
Two Hunters (2007)

Dark. Overpowering. Suffocating.

All of these are accurate descriptors of the last ten minutes of this mix, courtesy of one of the most important bands in black metal today (and one of the only USBM bands to get it right). Though their personal beliefs often overshadow their music (think Thoreau), there can be no doubt as to the strength of that music, which takes ambient cues from Burzum while still retaining a forceful and progressive musical complexity (Varg was never quite lauded for his musicianship).

click here for EVIL

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Mischief Brew - Jobs in Steel Town 7"

Since I haven't really had the time to do any full posts of late, I'm going to continue to half-ass it (well, sort of) while posting various 7" recordings until my schedule becomes less unrelenting.

Mischief Brew is the undertaking of singer-songwriter Erik Peterson, a project which combines elements of the protest singers of the 60's with a highly varied assortment of musical influences, including Celtic, swing, and early jazz. The Jobs in Steel Town 7" was released just last year, and thematically, it focuses on the effects of business on working-class towns; namely, the reliance of the latter on the former and the almost indifferent relationship that exists on the other end of the scale. Peterson's lyrics on the title track paint a somber picture of what happens when the fruits of industry dry out - a picture which becomes especially resonant when looking at the current status of the American auto industry, which has shed workers by the tens of thousands just to stay afloat - as he traces the downfall and failed revitalization of a former industrial center. On the B-side, however, Peterson's tone is more hopeful, as he chooses to revel in the "beautiful decay" he sees rather than lament it. "The Barrel" focuses on the idea of finding yourself in a bad situation and seeing in it an opportunity for solidarity, growth and self-fulfillment, like when a flower peeks through a crack in the pavement. Jobs in Steel Town doesn't contain the strongest songs ever penned under the Mischief Brew name, but it does contain some of the most resonant, and it stands as a sympathetic ode to the trials of the working-class as the importance of labour continues to diminish in the face of a globalized world.

Jobs in Steel Town

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bauhaus - Bela Lugosi's Dead 12" Single

"Bela Lugosi's Dead" was Bauhaus' first single, originally released in 1979, and it stands as their most prominent and well-regarded song to date, as well as a landmark in the evolution of post-punk. Lasting over nine minutes, "Bela Lugosi's Dead" takes on a starkly minimalist approach, experimenting with a purposely sparse sound and accentuating atmosphere over musical complexity. The grinding, reverb-drenched guitars, the fidgety, echoic drums, the hypnotic, throbbing bass, all of it combines to create the overwhelming sense of foreboding gloom that teems throughout this track. Singer Peter Murphy's vocals have all the solemnity of a funeral dirge, as his trance-like drone carries along the drifting desolation of the instruments.

Morbid, eerie, and ominous, this single is a classic in every sense of the word. If you haven't heard it before, consider this an absolute must-listen. (The B-side isn't bad either.)

Bela Lugosi is dead

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Thursday Afternoon Music Videos: Matthew Good - Weapon

I haven’t been posting much recently – part of this is due to an increased workload, part of it is just general apathy – but in the interest of maintaining some semblance of activity, here is one of my favourite music videos by my favourite artist, Matthew Good. "Weapon" was the first single off of Good's first solo album, the brilliant Avalanche, and it marks a noticeable shift in his style of song-writing, moving from the aggressive, angst-ridden post-grunge of the Matthew Good Band to a slower, more ethereal sound. Orchestral flourishes give an almost heavenly air to a song that already feels deeply immersed in inner struggle, with the blaring din of the guitars representing the conflict that surrounds the speaker. Like a lot of Good's songs, lyrically, "Weapon" doesn't so much as follow a strict narrative or have a clear meaning to it as it does present a kind of poetic imagery, relying on the strength of its singer to convey the emotions of the words as they relate to the mood.

It is perhaps because of this that Good's music videos are often as beguiling as they are. Without having to push a particular story as it exists within the song, he (as well as whoever happens to be helping direct the video) is allowed to instead go the direct route of appealing to the mood of the song, rather than follow some pre-conditioned meaning that may not fit as well. Indeed, this is both an artfully and satirically adept music video that follows an entirely different path than the song, and yet, manages to enhance it beautifully. Through a bleak yet enrapturing collage of images and colours, the video provides a cynical and subversive backdrop that impresses upon its viewer the same feelings of desperate, mocking dissonance that resonate throughout Good’s material (albeit much moreso in his pre-solo career). At first, the video may appear to go the traditional route of "band pretends to play song while you listen to song", but that standard is immediately subverted through sarcastic and self-depricating editing, quick cuts filled with pseudo-subliminal messages, and a potent yet subtle sense of irony that takes nothing sacred.

But enough of my rambling: